Shape of Fear [Arbiter Series Book 3]
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by Matthew L. Schoonover
Description: Detective/Incubus Augustus Pilot meets the vampire Moineau at last in Shape of Fear, another thriller from Matthew Schoonover. This time Internal Affairs is after the Special Services Squad in general and Pilot in particular. His new partner, a georgeous black woman known as Danny Rodriquez, is supposed to get under his skin and search out his secrets. But Danny, victim of a blood ritual plot, is more attracted to the vampire....
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, 2003
eBookwise Release Date: June 2006
17 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [282 KB]
Reading time: 192-269 min.
Night came on owl's wings; thick and heavy, swift and silent. The sky darkened as lights winked on in buildings across the metropolis, eyes of yellow and white, some shaded and curtained in reds and blues and greens like the mascara-covered lids of harlots. It was hot and humid, and sweat came as readily to those venturing out into the somber night as from the heavy sloughing whine of air conditioners.
Angelina shook her head at these thoughts. "I've got to stop reading those Romance novels," she griped to herself. The black man beside her stopped looking at the sky and turned his attention to her. She shook her head to indicate the unimportance of her thoughts. He smiled.
He was a strong and healthy-looking young man, self-importance written all over his demeanor, with close-cropped hair and sharp copper eyes. Angelina knew that her own ebony, seductive good looks went well beside the man's. They could have been companions, perhaps lovers. But one look in her watery brown eyes told the real story. He was the candy man and she had a sweet tooth.
"Satan Black," he said.
Angelina shifted nervously from foot to foot, feigning attention. He smiled patiently. "My dad used to call nights like this Satan Black," he explained.
"Whatever," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
"I didn't want you to misunderstand," he added. "What I said wasn't meant as an insult."
She didn't bother to shrug. "Do you have it, Milo?"
Headlights flashed up the far side of the alley. Milo slipped back between dumpsters and disappeared expertly into the shadows. The car pulled in a short distance and stopped, splashing Angelina with its Halogens. She stared into the headlights like a doe caught in mid-leap. There was a pause as the driver shifted gears and then the car backed into the street and drove off the way it had come.
Milo emerged from between the dumpsters and snagged the woman's attention with a hand that swung leisurely by his side. It held a cellophane packet with a whitish-yellow powder in it.
Angelina began salivating and impulsively reached for it.
Milo pulled it away, placed his other hand on her shoulder to ward her off. "What you got to trade?" he asked.
She was shocked. "You never asked for anything before," she protested.
"I'm asking now."
"Now, now." He brought the packet up so she could see it. "Reminding me of my good qualities won't get you what you want."
"I don't have any money," she cooed, acting sexy.
Although he didn't show it, Milo found her ploy working quite well. No wonder she was so good at her profession, he thought. He forced himself to laugh and shake his head.
Pissed, she said, "What do you want?"
"A trade," he answered. "One Bliss for another."
She eyed him eagerly, desperately.
"I want you to meet someone."
"Who, where, when?" The questions leaped over each other as she eyed the packet.
Milo slapped her. She rocked on fragile feet and bounced against one of the dumpsters. He caught her before she could fall and held her tightly by both shoulders, forcing her to look into his eyes. "Pay attention," he hissed, suddenly serious and emitting an aura of danger Angelina had never before experienced around him.
There was satisfaction in his eyes at the fear on her face. Milo laughed harshly. "Only a week and already hooked. Ready to sell your soul yet?" His smile was wolfish, predatory. "Are you listening?"
She nodded, her eyes never leaving his.
"Good! I'm going to give this to you--" He waved the packet at the corner of her eye, "--but I don't want you to use it yet. Do you understand?" She nodded eagerly, her eyes shifting to the packet. "If you use it now, I won't give you any more. Ever. Do you understand?"
Again she nodded vigorously.
"There is a door at the end of this alley, a metal door with a neon yellow stripe on it. It's not locked. You will take this packet and you will go through that door. Go straight through that room and you will find a set of stairs. Take those down to the basement. You will find a small room to the left of the stairs. Go in there and sit on the bed. Do you understand so far?"
She moved her head in the affirmative, but he made her repeat everything just to make sure. She repeated the instructions almost word for word.
"Good. There's a large box with a shaded window to one side of the room. Don't look at it. Ignore it. Once you're on the bed you can take your Bliss."
Unexpectedly, she felt herself being pushed away. She tripped on her own heel and fell hard to the ground, landing in a puddle of dubious origin. It reeked. She removed her hand from the puddle and forced herself to her feet. Milo laughed and tossed the packet at her.
She reached for it frantically but missed. It bounced off her forehead and fell into the puddle.
"Go!" he snarled.
She bent quickly, retrieved the packet. Wiping it across her blouse she hurried to the metal door, eager to get where she had to be to take her fix.
It took her mere seconds to find the door and open it. It opened on oiled hinges, making hardly a sound. From the backwash of a street light she could see the door on the far side of the room. She stepped inside and was half across the room when the door closed, engulfing her in darkness. Her steps faltered. She hit something metallic with her foot and stopped. She squeezed the packet in her fist tightly and scrunched her eyes shut, trying to pull up a memory of the room as she had seen it seconds before. Reaching out the hand that wasn't holding the packet, she moved it around in front of her. She stepped forward slowly, cautiously, unsure of where the door was.
Something brushed her cheek and she shivered, barely holding back a scream. She forced herself forward--too quick! First her hand and then her face rammed up against the door. She could feel her heart pounding madly in her chest and a warmth grow on the side of her face where she had smacked the door--felt blood pulsing to the area that would soon sport a bruise. She flailed for the doorknob, found it and pushed the door open.
Stepping into the stairwell, she was relieved to see a small light at the bottom, glowing a path that showed shadowy steps in a darker, more shadowy realm. The handrail was missing and she put one hand against the wall to support herself as she moved downward.
Her steps weren't as quick as they had been.
Heart beating madly, she felt a chill run up her spine, but she didn't shiver until her hand ran through something wet and thick on the wall. It felt like melted Jello.
To her mind, that equated to blood.
She shook her head, knowing that it couldn't be. Besides, it didn't matter. She squeezed the packet to her breast, feeling the smoothness of the cellophane against her sweaty skin. Her heart still beat wildly but some sense came back to her mind and she moved down the steps as one moves to the front of a firing squad. "What does it matter," she mumbled. "It's not my blood. And as long as I get mine, what else really matters."
When she reached the basement Angelina saw the room that Milo had told her about. She paused at the door, feeling the packet in her hand, pressed against her breast, wishing she could go back, wanting to leave almost as much as she wanted the drug. Almost. Taking a deep, long breath, holding it, and finally letting it out, she said, "What the hell," and turned the knob.
The room surprised her. After everything she had gone through to get here, she expected it to be in no better condition than the rest of the building. It wasn't.
Unlike the hot, sticky outside and the stuffy stairwell, this room was cold with air conditioning. It caressed her like a welcoming hand, inviting her in.
Once she was in, she looked around. The entire room was lit with candles, some black, some red and some a peculiar shade of purple. The walls were covered in soft brown paneling and the ceiling was painted a gentle shade of pink. It was spotlessly clean, spacious and held an aura of comfort. She saw the bed against the far wall, a king size mattress with red satin sheets, four fluffy pillows and a teddy bear sitting in the middle, staring at her with black button eyes.
Angelina smiled with a remembrance of her own childhood. Of course, she didn't have satin sheets or a king-size mattress, and instead of a teddy bear she had a furry, nose-tickling stuffed rabbit named Noonie. Despite the differences, there was much about this room that reminded her of better times.
She remembered the packet in her hand and moved eagerly toward the bed.
On the night stand she found a mirror and a razor, both spotlessly sterile, and a straw still in its paper wrapper. She carefully opened her packet and spread it across the flat mirror, then used the razor to build four lines of whitish-yellow powder. Removing the straw from its wrapper and cutting it down to size, she began to snort the drug. When she finished she lay down on the sheets, closing her eyes and feeling the rush of blood to her heart and head; the sense of euphoria washing over her brain, dropping like a chiffon curtain across her worries and fears, her wasted, desperate thoughts.
When the initial rush was gone and she floated in a sea of calm, she opened her eyes and looked around.
She saw the box. It looked like a confessional booth, like she'd seen in church as a child. The dark wood of the box was polished brightly and the screened window was black and open.
As she stared at it, she picked up on the noise she'd been hearing since she'd entered the room. It was the raspy breathing of someone. Someone watching from the box.
She smiled at the little window and moved her body around on the sheets, enjoying the feel of them. "Hi," she said and let her head drop back against the pillows.
The room was silent except for the breathing.
"You going to join me," she asked.
The lights in the room began to soften even more as candle after candle went out in a pantomime of air where none was present, dimming until everything was in shadows.
The door to the confessional opened and a figure emerged. Even in the shadows and at that distance, she could see the boyish figure--no surprise there--and that the youth was wearing a black cassock.
A priest! she thought. She couldn't help but giggle. It was starting to make sense. "Milo, you pimp," she breathed to herself. "You set me up with a holy man!" Holy or not, she thought, he's still a man. And that was something she knew how to handle. And, thanks to Bliss, could now look forward to enjoying it.
She patted the bed beside her, inviting him to join her.
The shadow moved toward the bed hesitantly.
Shy, Angelina thought. She knew how to encourage that kind too. She smiled and closed her eyes. "Whenever you're ready," she cooed, and waited, expecting him to drop on the bed any second. Maybe even paw at her. Right now, under the circumstances, she found herself actually looking forward to it.
The time passed where she expected him to drop on the bed, forcing her to open her eyes out of curiosity.
He stood at the foot of the bed, a silhouette with white eyes and white teeth in a black shadow. For a split second, Milo's words came back to her. "Satan Black." Then the drug reminded her of Bliss and she let the thought float away.
One hand reached out to her and she saw it shake. She giggled. "Don't be shy," she murmured in a deep-throated way. "Join me."
The shaking hand moved forward, caressing her leg, massaging foot and ankle, and she was shocked to realize that her skin tingled pleasantly under those fingertips. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the pillows, floating in a euphoric world of dreams and pleasures where all was good and there was no evil. She felt his fingers move up her body ... exploring ... seducing her flesh ... probing ... and resting, finally, on her neck, tickling one ear lobe.
Even as she was enjoying the sensations a disturbing thought crept into her mind, one that she tried desperately to ignore, fighting and losing a mental battle to stay in the world where all was good and wonderful. She felt his presence, just as she felt his hand on her neck, his fingertips on her ear lobe, but she hadn't felt any pressure on the mattress as his body climbed on the bed.
Her body remained relaxed, no visible sign that the thought was winning, except that her eyes began to scrunch tight.
Her sensory perception increased even as an idea embedded itself in her psyche; feeling the hand and fingertips with a new awareness--how cold they were and how sharp and ragged the nails felt--the sudden awareness of odor, the foul smell of his breath as it washed against her cheek and the taste of his presence like bitter aluminum at the back of her throat. She moved her head, shaking it the way a dreamer might shake away a nightmare.
But the nightmare would not go away.
She was forced to open her eyes. The world had lost all color and everywhere she looked was in shades of black and white.
Her eyes continued to open, wider and wider as she saw the shadow floating over her body, one hand at her throat. It was a black shadow, hiding the man behind a darkness that should not have been there. She saw the white of his eyes clearly--eyes with no pupils!--and the glistening shimmer of light off his yellow-white teeth, yet she could not see the man!
The caressing hand abruptly changed to a vengeful claw. It clamped down hard on her throat.
Her eyes widened even more as she saw the glittering reflection of herself in the blade of the machete in his other hand.
He laid the machete on the bed, out of sight, and his free hand deftly stripped her of all her clothing. Then it began doing things to her body, things that made it respond in a way her brain would not, could not respond to in its terror stricken state. Part of it, she knew, was the drug in her system; part was a strange charismatic power that this man must possess, and part was an intangible something that escaped her consciousness. Despite her fear and terror she heard and felt herself responding to his caresses.
She was engulfed in a cocoon of ecstasy and horror, loving and hating every bit of it, her mind split and floating in a swirling, Sargasso sea of pleasure that knew no right or wrong. Her eyes, beyond her control now, focused on the one aspect of the man that was clear to her.
The white teeth parted as if in laughter but she could hear nothing. She found herself mesmerized by that mouth, looking through and around the teeth. The mouth was as black inside as out, revealing nothing but bodiless canines and incisors. And as the pleasure reached crescendo, the influence to laughter ceased and the teeth shifted. They moved closer to her face, a fiery furnace of breath spewing across her nostrils and lips.
She tried to scream, in horror or ecstasy she didn't know, but it was too late.