Chapter 9

The attack has yet to begin but already I realize something is very strange. I had initially gone to Dr. Seter and James because I knew I was physi?cally and emotionally ill-equipped to kill Kalika. She is too strong for me, and I can't imagine hurting her. All I wanted to do was send in twenty people with guns, close my eyes, and be told it was all over. Your daughter is dead, the world is safe for democracy again. Yet the Suzama Society seems to be much more than twenty people with guns. It should reassure me that they are better prepared than I imagined, yet it does not, and I puzzle over this. I stand in Suite 3670, in the commercial building across the street from Kalika's condo tower. Olym?pic Boulevard lies between us and my daughter, but at this time of night--three in the morning--it is rare that a car drives by. Beside me are Dr. Seter, Seymour, James, and two sharpshooters with laser-assisted rifles. They have cut away a circular panel in the glass and now are focusing their weapons on Kalika's windows, which are visible, barely--for we are eighteen stories above her. All of Kalika's windows are covered with vertical blinds, however. We have better views of her two balconies and the large pool far below. Of course, we have a dear view of the roof of the tower. It is at this spot that I stare as my doubts continue to grow.

Dr. Seter and his son have not assembled a group of spiritual fanatics and trained them how to aim and fire automatic weapons. Instead they have managed to construct the equivalent of a highly trained commando unit. I am staggered by the way they go about surrounding Kalika, who, by the way, is definitely at home. Their attack is much more coordinated than the attack the LAPD and the FBI sprang to capture me and Joel.

There are two units: Alpha Top and Alpha Bot?tom. The former has somehow managed to make it onto the roof of the building with ropes and pulleys. Alpha Bottom is already on Kalika's floor. The security guards are apparently unconscious, if we are to believe the radio reports that are con?stantly streaming in. We're all tied together with short wave. Both Alpha Top and Alpha Bottom have ten members each, male and female, all dressed in black. They have night goggles, gas grenades, even grenade launchers. Where they bought all this stuff, I have no idea.

I watch as the last of the Alpha Top team assembles on the roof.

"How do they plan on getting down to Kalika's balcony?" I ask James, pointing at the people on the roof. James is also dressed in black, a radio in his hand. His face shines with excitement. Appar-ently he likes playing soldier. The whole situation strikes me as odd, and yet I am the one who instigated it--I think.

"The same way they got on the roof," he says. "We will lower six of them onto the balconies before we attack, three onto each balcony. We won't attack until everyone is in position. Why?"

"She will hear them on the balcony," I say.

James peers through a pair of binoculars hung around his neck. "We have pretty much deter-mined that she is asleep."

"I wouldn't count on that," Seymour mutters.

"We must give her a chance to cooperate," Dr. Seter says for perhaps the tenth time. Although the doctor is supposed to be the boss, it is clear to me the attack units are taking orders only from James.

"She'll be given every chance she deserves," James says. He clicks on his radio. "Alpha Bottom, this is Control. Are you still holding by the eigh?teenth floor elevators? Over."

"Control, this is Alpha Bottom. We are near the elevators. Over."

"Alpha Bottom, this is Control Alpha Top will be swinging onto the balconies momentarily. Do not move toward Suite Eighteen Twenty-one until you are ordered. Over."

"Control, this is Alpha Bottom. Understood. Out."

James studies the top group through his binocu?lars. Then he clicks his radio back on. "Alpha Top, this is Control. Any signs that Kalika is in the living room or kitchen area? Over."

"Control, this is Alpha Top. We have detected no activity in the living room or kitchen area. Over."

"Alpha Top, are your ropes in place? Over."

"Control, we are ready to swing down. Over."

"Alpha Top, this is Control. You may start down. But hold on the balconies until you hear from me. Over."

"Control, understood. Alpha Top out."

"You guys seem to know what you're doing," I say.

James smiles. "You sound disappointed."

I give a wan smile. "I always have a thing for the underdog." More than a thing. Watching them all converge on Kalika, I feel sick to my stomach. I have to keep telling myself that Kalika is totally unpredictable, that they have to be careful Dr. Seter puts a hand on my arm.

"We have trained for this day for a long time," he says. "But we will not shoot first, I promise you that. She will be given every chance to surrender."

I shake my head. "She will never surrender."

In teams of three, dropping off from two points on the roof, the Alpha Top people begin to slide down toward the balconies. They land in seconds; I watch as they unclip the ropes from their belts. Each carries a weapon, has a radio in an ear, and night goggles. The guy in charge of Alpha Top comes back on the line, speaking in hushed whis?pers.

"Control, we are in position. Over."

"He shouldn't be talking," I say. "She'll hear him. In fact, they should be ready for her to attack. Now. Tell them to get their weapons drawn. She could come at them any second."

James ignores me. He talks into his radio.

"Alpha Top, this is Control. You will go on my command. Stand ready. Over."

Separated by a corner of the building, neither group of three can see the other group. This is a major weakness in the plan. They should know to the split second what every one of them is doing. Their radios are not fast enough. James continues to bark instructions.

"Alpha Bottom, this is Control. Move toward Suite Eighteen Twenty-one. Alpha Top is in posi?tion on the balconies. Over."

"Control, this is Alpha Bottom. Understood. Over."

The ten people on the Alpha Bottom team will crowd one another as they move along the hallway. I point this out to James and suggest he hold back half of them by the elevators. He brushes aside my comment.

"They know what they're doing," he says. "They won't accidentally shoot each other."

"You don't understand how fast she can move," I say. "The more room they have, the more chance they have of getting off a clean shot."

"I want Alpha Bottom to knock at the door first," Dr. Seter says. "She has to be told that she is surrounded and that escape is impossible."

"She doesn't think in terms of impossibilities," Seymour mutters. "I think it will be a mistake to knock."

James checks with me. "Do you agree?"

I think of Kalika riddled with bullets while she lies in bed.

"I agree." I turn to Dr. Seter. "There is no point in talking to her. Honestly."

Dr. Seter trembles. "But this could be cold-blooded murder."

"I say we listen to Alisa," James says. Before anyone can protest he clicks on his radio. "Alpha Top and Alpha Bottom, this is Control. We will move on the count of five. One... two... three..."

He does not reach five.

There is loud screaming.

We hear it over the radio and through the air.

We look down to see that the balcony farthest from us is empty--of Suzama people, that is. Kalika, alone, is out there, her hair hanging down the back of her white robe. Below her, three indi-viduals in black float down toward the large swim?ming pool. Float is perhaps too kind a word. They are falling to their deaths, and they know it. The few feet of pool water are not going to absorb their falls. Their horrified screams rend the air and I scream at myself for believing that Kalika would just lie down and die.

The three hit the water, landing on top of each other, crashing through to the bottom. Their limbs and skulls explode on contact. The pool is well lit. Within seconds a red wave expands across the blue water. The screams cease. I turn to James.

"Call off the attack!" I yell. "Get your people out of there! She may let them go if they pull back now!"

James stares down in horror as blood fills the pool.

"This is incredible," he mumbles.

I grab him. "I was wrong! She can't be stopped this way! Tell them to back off!"

He looks at me and frowns. "No. We have only started to fight." He touches his two sharpshooters on the shoulders, the two that crouch below us. "Open fire."

Their bullets begin to ricochet off the balcony. Kalika moves inside.

"Alpha Top!" James shouts into his radio. "She is coming."

No, she has come. Before James can finish speak?ing, Kalika attacks those on the second balcony. Only my eyes are fast enough to see exactly what she does. The person closest to the balcony door is a woman with long red hair. Kalika grabs her and twists her head all the way around. Catching the dead woman's weapon as it falls, Kalika then shoots the otter two in the face. One, a handsome guy with no top skull, falls over the balcony and lands on the sidewalk seventeen floors below. The third one, a short dark guy, simply sits down and dies. Before our sharpshooters can readjust their aim to the nearer balcony, Kalika has retreated inside. And now she has an automatic weapon with her. James struggles to turn his radio back on.

"Alpha Bottom!" he yells. "You must attack!"

"What has happened to Alpha Top?" the guy wants to know.

"Those on the balcony have been taken out!" James says and forgets all the "Alpha" this and "over" that. There is no time for such formalities. "She is still inside! Get her!"

"Tell them she has a gun!" I say.

"She has a gun!" James yells. "Alpha Top, you must get down to the balconies! Alpha Bottom is going in!"

The four still on the roof are peering over the edges. They see that the pool is full of bodies and so is one of the balconies. Why, there is even a body down on the sidewalk. They don't want to go anywhere. I wish they would go back the way they came. I know they are in extreme danger just by being on the roof.

"We have to stop!" Dr. Seter cries to his son, his face ashen. "Alisa is right! Don't send any more people."

The radio is screaming.

Now Alpha Bottom is dying.

They have kicked in her door, violated her space. There are gunshots, sounds of tearing flesh, splat?tering blood, breaking bones. And over it all I hear Kalika laughing. She is unstoppable and knows it. It is only then I realize that from the very beginning this has been a trap. Seymour was right. Kalika let me hear enough to figure out where she lived. She knew I would try to get help, and since she obviously doesn't like the Suzama group, so much the better that they should come to her to die. I hear one woman begging for mercy and then it sounds as if she is smashed against a wall. James trembles with the radio in his hand. "Alpha Top!" he shouts. "Help your partners!" The four still on the roof look at one another and shake their heads. They would be better off getting down from the roof, yet they must think they are safe up there because they hardly move while the screaming continues. But when it stops, and the firing stops, I finally grab the radio from James's hands.

"Alpha Top," I say calmly. "She knows you're up there. Try to go back down the way you came up. Don't wait for her to come to you. Please, listen to me. Swing down to the nineteenth floor and get in the elevator. There's still time."

But what time there is they squander. A precious minute elapses while they seem to argue among themselves. At the end of that time, Kalika, her white robe now soaked red, peeks over the edge of the roof. They see her, and those left of Alpha Top are too scared even to level their weapons. As Kalika climbs up onto the roof, they slowly back into the corner farthest from her. Even the sharp-shooters at our knees stare in awe. James slaps one on the head.

"Shoot her!" he shouts. "She's an easy target!" But my daughter makes nothing easy. As a bullet sparks at her feet, she leaps forward and grabs one of the men and holds him as a shield in front of her. The other three continue to stand immobilized by fear. But now Kalika is looking our way. The sharpshooters cease firing. James throws a tan?trum.

"Don't stop!" he screams. "Kill her!"

"But she's holding Charles," one protests.

"Oh God, this can't be happening," Dr. Seter moans.

James shoves the guy aside. "Give me that gun!"

But I stop James. "Let me," I say quietly.

He glares at me. "What do you know about sniper rifles?"

"She knows a lot," Seymour says.

James continues to glare at me, but finally lets me take the gun.

"Just don't miss," he says bitterly.

Kneeling behind the stationary rifle, I peer into the telescopic sight. Kalika is standing relatively motionless, but she still has the guy held neatly in front of her. Only her face is visible behind the guy's right shoulder. The laser guide is helpful, even for someone like me who can hit a dime-size object at two miles if I have the right gun. For a moment I am able to plant the red dot precisely in the center of Kalika's forehead. My finger sweats over the trigger. I merely have to pull it and put a bullet in her brain and the night can still be considered a success, at least as far as the world is concerned.

But then I catch sight of her eyes, and I hesitate. She seems to be looking directly at me. Who am I fooling? Of course she knows who tracks her. The fact seems to amuse her because she smiles ever so faintly. Her lips move to form a soundless word, yet I hear it, hear it inside.


I  momentarily lose my concentration. In that time Kalika moves swiftly and with deadly pur-pose, vanishing from the field of view of my laser scope. Pulling back from the weapon, I watch her throw her human shield off the side of the roof. She tosses her victim straight at the pool--perhaps it amuses her to see the big red splash the screaming people make--and a moment later there is that much more blood to clean out of the filter.

In quick succession she grabs two of the three who are left. These she kills by smashing their skulls together. They are unrecognizable as she lets them fall onto the rooftop, their brains hanging over their collars. Then her attention turns to the final member of the Suzama Society, and I recog?nize her. Lisa, the accountant from North Dakota, whom I met last night. So great is Lisa's fear that she backs away from my daughter, right off the side of the roof. Kalika does not let her fall, but grabs her at the last instant. James yells at me.

"Why don't you shoot!" he says.

I set the gun down. "No. I can't kill Lisa."

"Lisa is as good as dead!" James cries. "Shoot!"

But Kalika has already disappeared with her prey, a spider crawling back into her web with a kicking insect in tow. The roof is now empty except for two virtually headless bodies.

I stand and look at all of them. "Stay here. I am going to speak to her."

Dr. Seter grabs my arm. "You can't go over there, child. It's a bloodbath."

I gently remove his hand. "I am responsible for this." I turn to Seymour. "I have to go."

Seymour is devastated by my decision. "There's no point."

"That is probably the understatement of the year," I agree.

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