Chapter 10

The moment I am out the door I switch into hyper-mode. Using the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator, I reach the condo in less than one minute. In the distance I hear the cry of a dozen sirens. Yet the police are not really late to respond. Since the beginning of the attack less than seven minutes have elapsed. Kalika was definitely not sleeping.

Standing outside the building is a tide of moan?ing souls in pajamas and robes. Somebody should at least turn off the pool lights, I think. The floating bodies create a particularly gruesome sight. A few of the people, all men in their forties, have guns in their hands. They are arguing with one another as I dash inside the building.

I take the stairs to the eighteenth floor. Between the sixteenth and seventeenth floors I find two brutally slain bodies, their heads literally torn from their bodies.

"Would you be upset if I ripped this bird's head off?"

"Why do you ask these silly questions?"

"To hear your answers."

The sight of these poor people upsets me greatly, but it makes me pause to ask myself the question: what am I doing? Am I trying to save Lisa in order to bandage my shattered conscience for the other deaths I have caused? Not that Lisa is not worth my effort, but I know she is as James said, as good as dead. And if I die with her who will be left to stop Kalika?

But these questions, like most, are academic.

I hear cries above me. Lisa, in the claws of a jackal.

Picking up an automatic rifle, I continue up the stairs.

Kalika is waiting for me in the center of her living room. I have to walk over a glut of slashed bodies to get to her. The place is not as neat as it was that afternoon when Seymour and I investi?gated. There is hardly a square foot of wall or ceiling or floor that is not splattered red. Appar?ently my daughter let them come as far as they wanted into her home before she welcomed them as only she knows how.

Yet Lisa is still alive. In Kalika's arms.

I level my gun at the two of them.

"It's a coward who hides behind another," I say to my daughter.

Kalika smiles. Her face, her arms, even her hair are drenched in blood, and she has never looked happier. Tightening her hold on Lisa, she lifts the young woman a foot off the floor. For her part, Lisa is half in shock, with at least one foot in the grave. Yet she continues to struggle against my daughter, all the while making feeble whimpering sounds. The fight in her is instinctive. I believe Kalika has already shattered her mind.

"We did this once before," she says. "But you were not carrying a weapon that night."

"I am not going to put the gun down," I say.

Kalika chuckles. "Then I should kill her now?"

"No." I take a step forward. "Let her go. Show your mercy."

"Drop the gun. Show your courage."

"You will just kill us both."

"Perhaps," Kalika agrees.

"You set me up. You wanted me to bring them here. Why?"

"I would think the answer to that question is obvious."

"The police will be here in minutes," I say.

"The police do not concern me." She raises a sharp nail to Lisa's throat. "I cannot let you shoot me, Mother. I have a mission yet to perform."

"What is it?"

"To protect the righteous and to destroy the wicked."

I sneer. "Tonight is a fine example of that mis?sion of yours."

"Thank you." Kalika presses her nail into Lisa's neck. A drop of blood appears and traces a line down the young woman's throat. Lisa, even though in shock, suddenly gasps and struggles harder. But Kalika's hold is stronger than steel. She speaks casually. "You remember this part, don't you, Mother?"

I begin to panic. I cannot let this girl die. She is almost a stranger to me, true, but she is all that Dr. Seter has left. If I can save her, I think, I can save the doctor. I know his heart will give out soon after this night. You will see prophecies fulfilled. Yeah, right. The Satanic Prophecies. How could I make him such promises? Kalika is right about one thing. I lie to suit my needs. It is an old habit of mine.

"You promised me this morning that you would not kill unless it was necessary," I say.

Kalika digs her nail in a little deeper. The red line on Lisa's throat thickens. Soon the blood will gush. Lisa's eyes are as round as overripe strawber?ries. Her breathing sounds labored. Or is that her heart I hear, skipping inside her trembling chest? Lisa is almost gone but still her expression begs for me to save her.

"This is becoming necessary," Kalika says. "Put down the gun."

"I can't."

"I will open her throat. She will go the way Eric did. You know how much that upset you."

Now I shake. "But this young woman is inno?cent."

"She came to kill me. Innocence is hardly the word I would apply to her."

"I brought her here. I am to blame. Please, Kalika, for the love of God, let her go."

Kalika pauses. "For the love of God? How can you say that to me after you have gazed into my eyes? Don't you know I do everything for the love of God?"

With that Kalika scratches her sharp nail all the way across Lisa's throat, opening two of the young woman's major arteries. The blood shoots out as if fired from a hose under tremendous pressure. But I am hardly given a chance to react, to fire through Lisa's body now that it has ceased to be a viable living shield. My daughter is swifter than Eddie Fender was. Lisa gags on pieces of throat as Kalika throws her at me. The blow is enough to knock me over and send my weapon flying. The back of my skull strikes a wall as Lisa slowly slips from me and everything is a blur to me for a moment. There is blood on the back of my own head. I reach up to feel the extent of my injury when I see a figure out of the corner of my eye. It is my daughter holding my gun. She speaks in a kind voice.

"Are you in pain?" she asks.

The room continues to spin. Lisa's body weighs heavily on my lower legs.

"Go to hell," I mumble.

"I am beyond heaven and hell." She reaches out and grabs my arm. "You have friends in the other building. Save me time and tell me what suite they're in."

Finally my eyes begin to refocus. I stare at her.

"You've got to be kidding," I say.

She smiles. "Just thought I would ask. Do you know how to swim?"


"Do you know how to fly?"

Sounds like a trick question to me.

I don't answer it but it doesn't matter.

Tossing aside the gun, Kalika grabs me by the chest and with one hand drags me outside and onto the balcony where she dealt with the first three members of Alpha Top. Far below the bodies continue to float in the red-stained pool. The police have finally arrived. Numerous black and white units are jammed into the valet parking area, their search beams pointed at us. I would wave but I'm afraid they might shoot me. Kalika sighs in wonder as she sweeps the city night with her dark eyes.

"I told you the view was stunning," she says.

"I am pleased that my only daughter should be so successful that she is able to afford such a nice place," I say sweetly.

Kalika leans over and kisses me on the cheek. Her lips are soft and gentle. She speaks in my ear and there is a trace of concern in her voice.

"Can you survive such a fall? Tell me the truth."

"I honestly don't know."

She pulls back slightly and strokes my hair. "Krishna loves you."

I am having trouble breathing. Her grip is cruel.

"It is good somebody does," I gasp.

"Did I ever tell you that I love you?"

"No. Not that I can remember."

"Oh." A deadly pause. "I must have forgotten."


I am not given a chance to finish the sentence.

My own daughter throws me over the side of the balcony.

The moon is out, it is true, and it is very bright. But there is no time to allow its gentle rays to pour into the crown of my head and fill my body to float me safely away as it did when the nuclear bomb threatened to kill me. At the moment I could be a mortal. Certainly I fall as fast as one. Kalika has thrown me toward the pool. As the bloody mess rushes toward me, I can only pray that I land in the deep end.

When I hit, my arms and legs are spread as far as they will go. I reason that this will give me more of a chance to break my fall. But I know even before I strike the water that something else will break when I strike the bottom of the pool.

The shock is crushing. There is a flash of red followed by an agony so searing I lose conscious-ness. But the oblivion is cruel; it does not last. When I awake my face is pressed into the floor of the pool. Indeed I have cracked the plaster, and half the bones in my body. My nose seems to have been obliterated, my face is a pancake of gross tissue. Inside my torn mouth I feel a lump of crumbled teeth. My chest feels as if ribs poke through my lungs and my shirt, pouring more blood into the pool.

Honestly, I don't think I can live through this.

Especially under nine feet of water.

The dead float above me, their expressionless faces inviting me to join them. The water seems to swim with nightmarish creatures. One of my black boots floats by. My sock, covered in red, is still inside. My spinal cord is possessed by a pain demon. He has brought sharp tools. I throw up in the water and blood and teeth come out and form a-ghastly cloud over my head. I start to lose con-sciousness again, and I know if I do, I will never wake up. Yet my eyes refuse to remain open. They are broken as well. Closing them, I sink into a deeper level of darkness.

Krishna. Let me have one more chance. That is all I ask.

To stop her. To save the child.

My heart keeps beating. The agony keeps throb?bing.

Time goes by but pain counts it at a different speed. This time is what is called hard time by all those who have suffered. And hard times bring hard truths. My brains may be leaking from my ears, but I finally understand that Kalika cannot be defeated by guns and bullets. Twenty people, may?be more, had to die to make me understand that.

But I will never understand how she can be so cruel.

"But anyone who sees through the veil of maya cannot fathom the divine will. The veil is stained and the absolute is without flaw. One cannot reveal the other. In the same way, I am your own daughter but you cannot fathom me."

No matter how many die, I will not understand.

From far away, I feel feverish activity. It comes, I realize, from deep inside me, in my muscles, be?neath my veins, and all around my joints. My supernatural body is trying to knit itself back together. Beneath my shirt, I feel my sternum grow back together into one piece. Next there are pops in my legs and ankles. The bones are resetting them?selves at a frantic pace. My jaw flexes involuntarily and I feel new teeth pressing up from beneath my mangled gums. Finally I am able to open my eyes, and I give myself a gentle push toward the surface. The beat of my heart has turned to a shriek. If I do not draw in a breath soon, especially with all the repair work going on, my chest will explode.

The night air tastes good. Never better.

On the surface, I am forced to float on my back for a minute before I am strong enough to make my way to the side. There is a crowd gathered, and some of the people in it are cops. I hear screams as I begin to pull myself out of the pool, but a brave cop rushes to my side with a clean blanket. He is fat with a bushy mustache. He carefully wraps the blanket around me.

"You're going to be OK," he says. "Just lie here on the deck. Don't try to move. You may have broken bones."

I wipe at the blood on my face. I know I don't have much time.

"You have friends in the other building."

"No, I'm fine," I say. "Don't worry about me."

I try to stand but he tries to stop me.

"But you were thrown off that balcony," he protests. "It's a miracle you're still alive."

I finish wiping my face and hair with his blanket and hand it back to him all bloody. "You're a kind man," I say. "But I have to get out of here."

I move too fast for him to stop me--yet I am far from healed. Even as I dash across Olympic Boule?vard, I feel the tissue inside my body struggling to recover. If I meet Kalika in the next minute I will be at a serious disadvantage. Not that it will make much difference. But it is fear that hurries me along, or maybe it is foolish hope. Hope that she might have let some of them survive.

In the office building, the elevator takes me to the thirty-sixth floor. The stairs are too much for me in my condition. When I stagger out of the elevator, the first thing I see is blood. For a moment all hope in me dies. The door to Suite 3670 has been pulverized. Yet there is a sound, soft words, faint moans. I hurry forward and peer inside.

Seymour and Dr. Seter huddle in one corner. My old friend appears to be taking care of the doctor, who's having trouble catching his breath. Twenty feet away from them, in the center of the room, the two sharpshooters lie in an ugly heap. It looks as if she kicked each of them so hard in the chest that she ruptured their hearts--an old Sita move. Yet Seymour and Dr. Seter appear unharmed. I almost weep I am so relieved.

It is only then I notice that James is missing.

"Where is he?" I demand.

They jump and look over. I am still covered with blood.

Dr. Seter gasps. "We thought you were dead."

I stride toward them and look down. "Where is James? Did she take him?"

Seymour stands and shakes his head. "He went after you, right after you left. We haven't seen him since." He hugs me; there are tears on his face. "Thank God you're alive. We saw her throw you off the-balcony. I thought it was all over."

I comfort him, but also catch his eye. "That was someone else you saw. Not me." I turn back to the doctor. "You have a heart condition. Will you be all right? Should I call for an ambulance?"

"I'll be fine." He reaches up. "Just help me up."

I do so. "What happened?" I ask.

Seymour gestures weakly. "The door exploded and she walked in. The guys tried to shoot her, but she didn't give them a chance. Then she pinned Dr. Seter to the wall and demanded he tell her where the scripture was."

Dr. Seter looks crushed. "And I told her every?thing. I tried to resist but I couldn't." He stops and he is close to crying. "Do you think she got James?"

"No." The voice comes from the door. James steps into the room. He surveys the dead sharp-shooters and a shudder goes through his body. "I am unharmed," he says.

I step to his side. "Did you see her leave?"

"Yes. She stole a cop car and drove away in it."

"Did you see anything else?"

I am asking if he saw me hit the pool and survive.

He stares at me. "No. I mean, what do you mean? It's a holocaust over there."

"Nothing. I am sorry about tonight," I say. "I know the words sound stupid but I must say them. At least now you can see why she must be stopped."

Placing my hand over his heart, as I had the previous night, I am surprised at how evenly it is beating. He got rattled during Kalika's attack but has quickly regained his cool. I add, "You have to show me the remainder of your scripture. If it is still there."

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