Chapter 7

We go back to his place. He offers me a drink. When I decline, he has one himself--a Scotch on the rocks. The food in his stomach has sobered him up some?what, but he quickly proceeds to get drunk again. He has a real problem, and now it is my problem as well. Granted, his intoxicated state makes his tongue loose and he tells me far more about his work than he should, although he has yet to mention Joel or vam?pires. Still, I will need him clear headed to help me. I have no time to repair his wounded psyche. I wonder what makes him drink so much. He lied when he said he didn't resent his boss. Obviously he hates the general. But I cannot read his mind, probably because he keeps it scrambled with booze. I sense only deep emotional conflicts, coupled with intellectual excitement. He is grateful to be working on Joel, analyzing his blood, and yet it bothers him that he is directly involved in the project. I have no doubt of this.

We sit on the couch in the living room. He riffles through his mail and then throws it on the floor. "Bills," he mutters, sipping his drink. "The hardest reality of life, besides death."

"The way you gamble, I hope the government pays you well."

He snorts softly, staring at the eastern sky, which has begun to brighten. "They don't pay me what I'm worth, that's for sure." He glances at my strand of pearls. "You look like you don't have to worry about money."

"Daddy made millions in oil before he died." I shrug. "I was his only child."

"He left it all to you?"

"Every last penny."

"Must be nice."

"It is very nice." I move closer to him on the sofa, touch his knee. I have an alluring touch. I swear sometimes I could seduce an evangelist's wife as easily as I could a horny Marine. Sex holds no mystery for me, and I have no scruples. I use my body as easily as any other weapon. I add, "What exactly do you do at your lab?"

He gestures to his office. "It's in there."

"What's in there?"

He takes another swallow of Scotch. "My greatest  discovery. I keep a model of it at home to inspire me." He burps. "But right now a fat taise would inspire me more."

Even though I know what's in his office, I walk over and have a peep at the two models of the DNA, the human one and the vampiric molecule. "What are they?" I ask.

He is enjoying his drink too much to get up. "Have you heard of DNA?"

"Yes, of course. I graduated from college." "What school did you go to?"

"Florida State." I return to my place on the couch, closer to him than before. "I graduated with honors."  

"What was your major?"

"English lit, but I took several biology classes. I know that DNA is a double helix molecule that encodes all the information necessary for life to exist." I pause. "Are those models of human DNA?" He sets his drink down. "One of them is." "What's the other one?"

He stretches and yawns. "A project my partners and I have been working on for the last month.*'

My blood turns cold. It was in the last month that Eddie began to produce his horde of vam?piric gangbangers. Andy has been able to duplicate Arturo's visions of vampire DNA because he has been analyzing the molecules for a while, long before Joel was captured. That can only mean one of Eddie's offspring escaped my slaughter.

"/ don't know. I destroyed your silly gang."

"You're not sure of that."

"Now I am sure. You see, I can tell when someone lies. It's one of those great gifts I possess that you don't. There is only you left, and we both know it."

"What of it? I can make more whenever I feel the need."

Eddie admitted that there were no others. He couldn't have tricked me, yet perhaps he himself was tricked. Maybe one of his offspring had made another vampire and didn't tell him. It's the only explanation. That vampire must have been caught by the govern?ment and taken to the desert compound. I wonder if the mystery vampire is still in the place. My rescue effort has just been complicated.

I have to wonder if I'm already too late. Andy has--at the least--an outline of the DNA code of the vampire. How long will it be before he and his partners are able to create more bloodsuckers? The only thing that gives me hope is that the general struck me as a man who keeps everything under wraps, until it is time to make his move. Andy has said as much about him. Everything connected to vampires is still probably locked up in the compound.

In response to Andy's comment, I force a chuckle. Boy, do I force it. "Are you making a modern Frank?enstein monster?" I ask, kidding, but not kidding.

My question hits a nerve, for obvious reasons, and Andy sits quietly for a moment, staring at his drink as if it were a crystal bait.

"We are playing a high-stakes game," he admits.

"Altering the DNA code of any species is like rolling the dice. You can win and you can lose."

"But it must be exciting to be playing such a game?"

He sighs. "We have the wrong pit boss in charge." I put my hand on his shoulder. "What's his name?"

"General Havor. He's a hard ass--I don't think his mother gave him a first name. At least I don't know it. We call him 'General' or 'Sir.' He believes in order, performance,  sacrifice,  discipline,  power."  Andy shakes his head. "He definitely doesn't create an environment for free thinking and loving coopera?tion." I am the understanding girlfriend.

"You should quit then."

Andy flashes an amused, bitter grin. "If I quit now I'd be walking away from one of the greatest discover?ies of modern time. Plus I need the job. I need the money."

I caress his hair. My voice is soft and seductive. "You need to relax, Andy, and not think of this stupid general. Tell you what--when you get off work tomor?row, come straight to my suite. I'm staying at the Mirage, Room Two-One-Three-Four. We can play the tables and have another late dinner together."

Gently he takes my hand. His eyes momentar?ily come into focus, and I see his intellect again, feel his warmth. He is a good man, working in a bad  place.

"Do you have to go now?" he asks sadly. I lean over and kiss him on the cheek. "Yes. But we'll see each other tomorrow." I sit back and wink. "We'll have fun."

He is pleased. "You know what I like about you, Lara?"


"You have a good heart. I feel I can trust you."

I nod. "You can trust me, Andy. You really can."

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