She sat propped up against the headboard, her hair tangled, her face grazed and bruised. But it was the way she sat that worried him. Her head kept flopping to the side, and she seemed to have to force it back up. Her hands lay by her thighs, bare and unprotected from the monster who sat in front of her, his own hand stroking the air bare inches from her face. Torturing her.
Shoulders rigid with the need to put the stunner in his hand to Bonner’s skull, Max was about to chance a shot when Krychek appeared beside him. The Councilor gave him a single nod, and this time, Max was ready for the teleport. He found himself standing in front of Bonner, his stunner pressed to the Butcher of Park Avenue’s temple.
Bonner froze. “Detective.”
“Drop that hand,” Max said in a flat tone that left no room for doubt, “or I’ll press the trigger.”
Bonner’s blue eyes went wide. “You sound as if you mean that.” He jerked his arm.
Twisting, Max shot him through the palm of his f**king hand before he could touch Sophia again, exposing the whiteness of bone. Sophia wrenched herself sideways on the bed at the same instant. The situation under control, Max was about to shove the Butcher to the floor and cuff him when a screaming Bonner was slammed across the room to come to a crumpled standstill in one corner.
Max, having thrown his body in a protective curve over Sophia’s, raised his head. “He was no longer a threat.” He got on the bed, cradling Sophia to his side.
“He’ll be a threat as long as he lives,” Kaleb said, turning to watch Max and Sophia with a detached kind of focus that made Max wonder if he’d exchanged one killer for another. “It makes logical sense to get rid of him.”
“He’s not dead?”
“Close enough as makes no difference.”
Max made a ruthless decision. “Strip his mind. We need to know where he buried his victims so their parents can take them home, so they can grieve.” He wondered if a Psy would understand.
But Kaleb Krychek asked no questions. “It’s done. I’ll note down the locations for you.” A pause. “He’s dead. Are you sorry?”
Max looked at Bonner’s crumpled body and felt nothing but a savage kind of satisfaction. “No.” Maybe a better man would’ve answered differently, but Max had never claimed to be a better man. Holding Sophia tight, he looked down, “Sophie?”
She didn’t answer, her eyes closed, her lashes dark-moon crescents against her cheeks. “I need to get her to a hospital.”
Krychek didn’t move a muscle but an instant later, Max found himself standing in the middle of what appeared to be a Psy medical facility, Krychek beside him. The medics went motionless for a second before moving into gear. Answering their snapped questions as to what had happened, Max gave over his custody of Sophia—but refused to move from her side.
He had no awareness of when Krychek disappeared.
Kaleb looked at the body of the human he’d just killed, his fingers playing with the small platinum charm—a single perfect star—that was always with him, no matter where he went. Glancing down at the star, he said, “For you.” For the one person who he knew better than anyone else on this earth, and yet could not teleport to, no matter how many times he tried.
And he’d tried every single day for over six years.
If others had been present in the room at that moment, they might’ve wondered at the sweep of black that eclipsed the stars in his eyes, a black so absolute, it was beyond ordinary, beyond acceptable. But there was only a dead man in the room, so there were no questions.
Placing the star in his pocket, Kaleb contacted the authorities and made sure this incident wouldn’t cause any problems. Given Gerard Bonner’s predilections, he didn’t have to push at all.
Then, when he was alone, he teleported to every location he’d ripped from Bonner’s mind to ensure he had the correct coordinates. Cold and desolate, each unmarked grave reminded him of the lightless rooms used by another killer, a sociopath who’d groomed Kaleb to be his audience . . . and his protégé.
Kaleb. Nikita’s voice came into his mind as he teleported away from the final grave and to the deck of his Moscow home.
It’s done. Sophia Russo and Max Shannon are both safe. The gorge that fell away with jagged promise beneath the barrierless end of the deck called to him with the same whispered promise as the dark twin of the NetMind, the neo-sentience that was both the librarian and guardian of the Net. But Kaleb wasn’t going anywhere yet. Not until he’d tracked his elusive quarry, discovered what awaited.
Nikita’s telepathic voice fluctuated in strength for a second. I apologize. I was speaking with the medical staff.
She’s in a coma—the drugs they used appear to have had a serious side effect. A pause. Thank you.
Kaleb could have reminded her it hadn’t been a true favor, that he’d get his payment, but he didn’t. Not today. Are you certain, Nikita?
She didn’t ask him how he knew what she was going to do. There’s no use fighting the wave. Those who do will drown.
Some will say that you’re the one who’ll drown, smashed against a wall of Silence.
Kaleb looked down into the blackness of the gorge, but it was another darkness that he saw, the light blinking out in a woman’s eyes as she begged for mercy. I think it’s time.
Now that it’s come down to it, I find I can’t say good-bye after all, can’t bear the thought of letting you go. It’s a selfish, stubborn need, but it holds me hostage.