“Sometimes mothers hurt their children. There’s a whole Web site about it—www.homicidalmothers.com.”
Now that he thinks about it, he realizes that the poor children never suspect what’s coming. They trust their mom. She says she loves them, and they trust her. Then she chops them up in their beds or drives them in a lake and drowns them.
“Randal sure hopes you’re a good mother,” he says. “But maybe you need to answer a lot more questions before Randal unties you.”
“All right. Come back. Ask me anything.”
“Randal needs to talk to Arnie first.”
She says something, but he tunes out her meaning. He steps into the hallway.
Behind him, Mother is talking fast again, faster than ever, and then she is shouting.
Randal Six has been in this living room previously. When Mother first regained consciousness, she chattered at him so hard that he had come here to calm himself. Now here he is again, calming himself.
He hopes that he and Mother don’t already have a dysfunctional relationship.
After a minute or two, when he is ready, he goes in search of Arnie. He wonders whether his new brother will prove to be Abel or Cain, selfless or selfish. If he is like Cain, Randal Six knows what to do. It will be self-defense.
Carson parked in her driveway, shut off the engine and the headlights, and said, “Let’s get the shotguns.”
They had put the suitcases and shotguns in the trunk before they’d driven Lulana and Evangeline home from the parsonage.
After hurriedly retrieving the Urban Snipers, they went to the front of the sedan and crouched there, using it for cover. Peering back along the driver’s side, Carson watched the street.
“What’re we gonna do for dinner?” Michael asked.
“We can’t take the kind of time we took for lunch.”
“I could go for a po-boy.”
“As long as it’s sleeve-wrapped to eat on the fly.”
Michael said, “The thing I’ll miss most when I’m dead is New Orleans food.”
“Maybe there’s plenty of it on the Other Side.”
“What I won’t miss is the heat and humidity.”
“Are you really that confident?”
The night brought them the sound of an approaching engine.
When the vehicle passed in the street, Carson said, “Porsche Carrera GT, black. That baby’s got a six speed transmission. Can you imagine how fast I could drive in one of those?”
“So fast, I’d be perpetually vomiting.”
“My driving’s never gonna kill you,” she said. “Some monster is gonna kill you.”
“Carson, if this is ever over and we come out of it alive, you think we might give up being cops?”
“What would we do?”
“How about mobile pet grooming? We could drive around all day, bathing dogs. Easy work. No pressure. It might even be fun.”
“Depends on the dogs. The problem is you have to have a van for all the equipment. Vans are dorky I’m not going to drive a van.”
He said, “We could open a g*y bar.”
“I wouldn’t have to worry about guys hitting on you.”
“I wouldn’t mind running a doughnut shop.”
“Could we run a doughnut shop and still have guns?” he wondered.
“I don’t see why not.”
“I feel more comfortable with guns.”
The sound of another engine silenced them.
When the vehicle appeared, Carson said, “White Mountaineer,” and pulled her head back to avoid being seen.
The Mountaineer slowed but didn’t stop, and drifted past the house.
“They’ll park farther along, on the other side of the street,” she said.
“You think it’s going to go down here?”
“They’ll like the setup,” she predicted. “But they won’t come right away. They’ve been looking for an opportunity all day. They’re patient. They’ll take time to reconnoiter.”
“Probably ten,” she agreed. “No less than five. Let’s get Vicky and Arnie out of here yesterday.”
When the Mountaineer was out of sight, they hurried to the back of the house. The kitchen door was locked. Carson fumbled her keys from a jacket pocket.
“Is that a new jacket?” he asked.
“I’ve worn it a couple times.”
“I’ll try not to get brains on it.”
She unlocked the door.
In the kitchen, Vicky Chou was at the table, tied in a chair.
Benny and Cindi carried pistols, but they preferred to avoid using them whenever possible.
The issue wasn’t noise. Their weapons were fitted with sound suppressors. You could pop a guy three times in the face, and if people in the next room heard anything at all, they might think you sneezed.
You could try shooting to lame; but the Old Race were bleeders who lacked the New Race’s ability to seal a puncture almost as fast as turning off a faucet. By the time you got the wounded prey to a private place where you could have some fun torturing them, they were too often dead or comatose.
Some people might enjoy dismembering and decapitating a dead body, but not Benny Lovewell. Without the screams, you might as well be chopping up a roast chicken.
Once, when a gunshot woman had inconsiderately died before Benny could even start to take off her arms, Cindi supplied the screams, as she imagined the victim might have sounded, synchronizing her cries to Benny’s use of the saw, but it wasn’t the same.
Aimed at the eyes, Mace could disable any member of the Old Race long enough to subdue him. The problem was that people blinded by a stinging blast of Mace always shouted and cursed, drawing attention when it wasn’t wanted.
Instead, Victor supplied Benny and Cindi with small pressurized cans, the size of Mace containers, which shot a stream of chloroform. When squirted in the face, most people inhaled with surprise—and fell unconscious before saying more than shit, if they said anything at all. The chloroform had a range of fifteen to twenty feet.
They also carried Tasers, the wand type rather than the pistol type. These were strictly for close-in work.
Considering that O’Connor and Maddison were cops and already jumpy because of what they knew about the deceased child of Mercy, Jonathan Harker, getting in close wouldn’t be easy.
After parking across the street from the O’Connor house, Cindi said, “People aren’t sitting on their porches around here.”
“It’s a different type of neighborhood.”
“What’re they doing instead?”
“Probably making babies.”
“Give it a rest, Cindi.”
“We could always adopt.”
“Get real. We kill for Victor. We don’t have jobs. You need real jobs to adopt.”
“If you had let me keep the one I took, we’d be happy now.”
“You kidnapped him. Everyone in the world is looking for the brat, and you think you can push him around the mall in a stroller!”
Cindi sighed. “It broke my heart when we had to leave him in that park.”
“It didn’t break your heart. Our kind aren’t capable of any such emotion.”
“All right, but it pissed me off.”
“Don’t I know it. Okay, so we go in there, we knock them down, tie them up, then you drive around to the back of the house, and we load ‘em like cordwood.”
Studying the O’Connor house, Cindi said, “It does look slick, doesn’t it.”
“It looks totally slick. In and out in five minutes. Let’s go.”
When they came through the back door with shot guns slung from their shoulders, Vicky whispered urgently, “He’s in the house.”
Pulling open a drawer, withdrawing a pair of scissors, Carson whispered, “Who?”
“Some creep. Way strange,” Vicky said as Carson tossed the scissors to Michael.
As Michael caught the scissors, Carson crossed to the inner doorway.
Vicky whispered, “He’s looking for Arnie.”
As Carson checked the hall, Michael made two cuts in the bindings and put the scissors down. “You can do the rest, Vic.”
The hallway was deserted, a lamp on in the living room at the farther end.
“He have a gun?” Carson asked.
Vicky said, “No.”
Michael indicated that he wanted to lead.
This was Carson’s house. She went first, carrying the shotgun for hip fire.
She cleared the coat closet. Nothing in there but coats.
The creep wasn’t in the living room. Carson moved to the right, Michael to the left, until they were two targets instead of one, and halted.
Decision time. Farther to the right, beyond the living room, was Carson’s suite, bedroom and bath. To the left lay the front door and the stairs to the second floor.
The door to Carson’s room was closed. No one was on the first flight of stairs.
With his eyes, Michael indicated up.
She agreed. For some reason the creep was looking for Arnie, and Arnie was on the second floor.
Staying close to the wall, where the stairs were less likely to creak, Carson ascended first, shotgun in both hands.
Michael followed, climbing backward, covering the room below them.
She didn’t dare think about Arnie, what might be happening to him. Fear for your life sharpens your edge. Dread dulls it. Think about the creep instead, stopping him.
So silent, the house. Like the Christmas poem. Not even a mouse.
No one on the second flight, either. Light in the upstairs hall. No shadows moving.
When she reached the top, she heard a stranger’s voice coming from Arnie’s room. Arriving at the open door, she saw her brother in his wheeled office chair, his attention on the Lego-block castle.
The intruder was maybe eighteen, nineteen, solidly put together. He stood facing Arnie, only a few feet from him, his back to Carson.
If it came to shooting, she didn’t have a clear shot. The slug from the Urban Sniper might punch clean through the creep and hammer Arnie.
She didn’t know who the guy was. More important, she didn’t know what he was.
The intruder was saying, “Randal thought he could share. But now the castle, a home, ice cream, Mother—Randal wants it for himself.”
Carson edged to the left of the doorway as she sensed Michael in the hall behind her.
“Randal isn’t Abel. Randal is Cain. Randal isn’t Six anymore. From now on… Randal O’Connor.”
Still moving, circling, Carson said, “What’re you doing here?”
The intruder turned smoothly, so fast, like a dancer, or like something that had been… well engineered. “Carson.”
“I don’t know you.”
“I am Randal. You will be Randal’s sister.”
“Down on your knees,” she told him. “Down on your knees, then flat on the floor, facedown on the floor.”
“Randal doesn’t like loud talk. Don’t shout at Randal like Victor does.”
Michael said, “Sonofabitch,” and Carson said, “Arnie, roll your chair back, roll away on your chair.”
Although Arnie didn’t move, Randal did. He took a step toward Carson. “Are you a good sister?”
“Don’t come any closer. Get on your knees. On your knees NOW!”
“Or are you a bad, loud sister who talks too fast?” Randal asked.
She edged farther to her right, changing her line of fire to get Arnie out of it. “You think I don’t know you have two hearts?” she said. “You think I can’t take them out with one round from this bull killer?”
“You are a bad, bad sister,” Randal said, and closed on her.
He was so fast that he almost got his hand on the gun. The boom rattled windows, the stink of gunfire blew in her face, blood burst from the exit wound in his back and sprayed the castle.
Randal should have been rocked back on his feet or staggered. He should have dropped.
She had aimed too low, missed one heart or both. But at this close range, she had to have destroyed half his internal organs.
He seized the barrel of the shotgun, thrust it upward as she squeezed the trigger, and the second round punched a hole in the ceiling.
When she tried to hold on to the shotgun, he pulled her to him, almost had her before she let go, dropped, rolled.
She had given Michael a clean shot. He took two.
The reports were so loud, her ears rang and kept ringing as she rolled against a wall, looked up, saw Randal down—thank God, down—and Michael warily moving toward him.
Getting to her feet, she pulled the .50 Magnum from the scabbard on her left hip, certain she wouldn’t need it, but Randal was still alive. Not in great condition, down and staying down, but alive after three point-blank torso shots from an Urban Sniper.
He raised his head, looked wonderingly around the room, rolled onto his back, blinked at the ceiling, said, “Home,” and was gone.
The back door was open. Benny and Cindi hesitated, but then he went through boldly, and fast, and she followed.
An Asian woman stood in the kitchen, next to the table, untying a length of torn cloth from her left wrist. She blinked at them and said, “Shit—”
Cindi was quick. The stream of chloroform splashed nose-on. The woman gasped, choked, spluttered, and fell to the floor.
They could deal with her later. She would be unconscious for perhaps fifteen minutes, maybe longer.
Although the Asian woman wasn’t on their hit list, she had seen their faces. They would have to kill her, too.
That was okay. There was plenty of room for three in the cargo area of the Mercury Mountaineer, and Benny had recently sharpened his favorite cutting tools.
He closed and locked the back door. He didn’t want to make it easy for anyone to come in behind them.
On one job, a four-year-old girl had wandered into the house from next door, and Cindi had insisted on adopting her.
Now Cindi had the chloroform in her right hand and the Taser in her left. Benny relied on only the chloroform.
They weren’t worried about PD-issued sidearms. Basic guns for cops these days were often 9mm. He and Cindi could walk through a lot of 9mm fire if necessary.
Besides, if they were stealthy, their prey wouldn’t have a chance to draw down on them.
A laundry room opened off the kitchen. Deserted.
The hallway to the front of the house passed a coat closet. No one knew they were here, so no one would be hiding from them in the closet, but they checked it anyway. Just coats.