Liu's screenplay-worthy dialogue, vivid action and gift for the punchy, unexpected metaphor rockets her tale high above the pack. -Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
When Blue, an electrokinetic and a member of the Dirk & Steele detective agency, is sent to Las Vegas to track down his half-brother, he finds himself embroiled in an organ smuggling plot - and protecting a young beauty who is more than she appears.
“Once again, Liu has managed a brilliant blend of fantasy, action and romance in her latest Dirk & Steele novel, which follows the members of a paranormal detective agency…Liu brings her skewed universe to life with skill and conviction, grounding the comic-book plot with fully realized personalities and the workaday details of circus life…this entry will undoubtedly please fans of the series and should provide a fresh thrill for newcomers in the market for an extraordinary romance.”—Publishers Weekly
“This amazing series is brimming with multifaceted characters forced to play for huge stakes. With each new book, Liu adds more depth and dimension to her world and more credence to her reputation as an exceptional talent.” —Romantic Times Book Reviews
Death was an inconvenience that Blue could have done without, and if it hadn’t been for the two highly moral individuals breathing down his neck, he probably would have pretended amnesia and simply ignored the news. After all, he was practically an invalid, newly awakened from a coma. Barely out of the bomb-blasted woods. He had an excuse. And for Christ’s sake, if his father was dead, there really wasn’t much that Blue could do about it now.
No such luck, though. Three days later, Blue found himself bundled onto a commercial airliner, flying solo to San Francisco. He was the only person seated in the First Class Cabin—not a surprise, knowing Dela and her freewheeling credit card—but Blue did find it rather disconcerting to discover that the flight crew had been given…instructions…on how to handle him.
As in, with kid gloves. Which meant that for fourteen hours straight, Blue found himself under the carefully pressed and brightly smiling care of three women, who—though he objected strenuously—showered him with books, magazines, hot towels, a private DVD player—and one very large box of chocolate chip cookies that resembled, in the most vague way possible, large and bloated zoo animals. Blue felt like a stinking rich twelve year old being sent on his first airplane ride. Only thing missing was a tour of the cockpit and a pair of those little plastic wings. If kids even got those anymore. Airlines were turning into cheap bastards.
More unfortunate than all of the unwanted attention, however, was the fact that the flight gave Blue a lot of time to think. As in, about all the different ways he was fucked till Sunday. Going home to his father’s funeral was just the icing on the cake. And so very convenient.
Convenient enough that he briefly considered the possibility of a conspiracy between his mother and Roland. Something—anything—to keep Blue from running away to continue his—now fruitless—hunt for Santoso and the core leaders of his organization. His mother, God bless her, was capable of such deception, and Roland—well, he was a master at games of manipulation, especially for good causes.
Like keeping his people alive.
Because Dirk & Steele is a family, Blue thought, hearing the echo of Dela’s voice inside his head. All we have are each other.
Misfits, outcasts—even some pillars of the community—hiding in plain sight, brought together by an uncommon bond formed by nothing more than the odd genetic quirk—and an unbending devotion to helping others. Living lives less ordinary—off the beaten path inside another world where telepaths and telekinetics and honest-to-God shape-shifters rubbed elbows with the mundane. Secret lives standing in line at the grocery store, at the gas station, sitting on the toilet in the stall next door, flying in an airplane—this freaking airplane—concentrating the entire time to prevent an accident, a short in the system, one tiny glitch that might send everyone down in a massive ball of flames—
Breathe, Blue told himself, gripping the arms of his seat. Breathe in, breathe out. Relax. Just…relax. Your mind knows what to do. This is nothing. Nothing.
Yeah, and there was nothing like thinking about nothing to make a person fixate utterly and completely on something.
He was so screwed.
And yet, halfway into the flight, with the lights turned down low, he finally began to relax. His shields felt strong, solid and tight, and though he could feel the hum of power surrounding him like a cocoon, it did not rattle his bones or buzz his tongue. Everything was quiet inside his head. Safe and very still.
And feeling very safe, and very still, he began to think, again, of Santoso Rahardjo. As well as the woman who worked for him.
Blue’s gut ached, as did his ribs and right leg. His knee popped when he straightened it. His left hand was weak. The backs of his eyes felt odd, which coincided with the occasional bout of stars bursting in his vision. No complaints, though. He was still walking, talking, and if he had his way, he would be doing more than that in no time. Because even though Dela and Roland had assured him that someone was going to take over his investigation—that all his work ferreting out the hierarchy of body parts and money would not go to waste—Blue was not going to be satisfied until he was back in the game, danger or no danger.
You’re a control freak. A micro-manager. Trust your friends. They know how to do their jobs.
And if they got hurt? Better him than them. Besides, it seemed to Blue that despite his miraculous survival, there was still a big fat target painted on his head. And sooner or later, someone—probably that blonde—would come and finish the job.
Stop it, he told himself, digging into the box beside him for a cookie. Focus on now. What you have to do when you get home.
Which was all very simple. Heal up, take care of his mother—if she would let him—and attend a funeral where no one would know his name.
Easy as pie.
Or not. Because soon after landing in San Francisco and hobbling through customs, Blue encountered a long row of mounted television monitors, all of them tuned to CNN, and it was like watching—in awful visual stereo—one long eulogy. He did not notice at first—was too busy trying to act like he wasn’t in pain—but through the chatter and crush of the airport crowd, the background noise crept in. A woman, with a deep pleasant voice. Blue heard her say the words “tragic loss,” and “a great man,” and then, quite suddenly, there was a name to go with those adjectives, a memorable name, a name Blue knew as well as his own, because it was his own.
Felix Perrineau. Dead at the age of seventy. Heart attack in his sleep.
The lights in the terminal flickered. Blue clamped down hard on his emotions, fighting himself, but it was too late: sparks shot from the ceiling fixtures, the electrical sockets, raining down as people ducked and shouted. Static leapt like baby lightening bolts from the carpet.
Blue said nothing. His hands curled into fists. He closed his eyes.
The lights did not go out.
But a moment later, his cell phone began to ring.
The call was from a stranger, a man who knew his real name. Blue did not like that, but he agreed to meet the fellow because he also knew his mother’s name—and he had a message from her In her native language.
The stranger’s Farsi was bad, or maybe that was the cell phone connection, but Blue caught enough and all the worry he felt for his friends transferred in one gut-wrenching second to his mother.
“Sleep,” said the man, his voice cracking, his accent poor. “Sleep, my son. I wish that sleep come to your eyes and you’ll sleep like a stone in the water.”
Words from an ancient lullaby, one that Blue had not heard for years on end. His mother did not sing anymore. She did not speak her language. She did not do anything that reminded her of Kandahar, of Afghanistan. Too much pain. Her sisters had died there.
But if his mother had shared that lullaby with a stranger—a song he knew meant a great deal to her—
Something’s wrong, Blue thought, dialing her home number. And it sure as hell isn’t grief.
She was not at the house. She was not at the law office, either, and her secretary was no help, confessing only that Mahasti had been gone for the past several days, away on a family emergency.
Some emergency. Blue tried her cell phone. No luck there, either.
Limited options. No time to call in the agency. Damn. What a time for an ambush.
And if it is Santoso involved? If this really was a ruse?
Time for a fight, then. No holds barred. No misguided ethics or hesitation. No tricks or subterfuge, either. Blue gathered up his strength and walked through the airport terminal. He did not try to slip away without being see—or better, wait out the man and follow him. Instead, he marched straight into baggage claim, searching for an older gentleman wearing a blue suit and purple tie.
Blue found him easily, the man standing out like a diamond in the rough of straggling airport humanity. Tall, elegant, and lean—waiting quietly beside carousel one. All easy strength, easy class, good breeding melting from his pores. The man’s silver hair was thick and full, his jaw set, his keen eyes a very bright shade of silver. He looked remarkably like Blue’s father.
“You’re family,” Blue said to him, when he was close enough to say anything at all. Introductions on his part, he thought, were completely unnecessary—and somewhat of a relief. Because maybe Santoso wasn’t involved, after all, and this was just what it seemed to be—a family matter, overdue and difficult. Nothing Blue needed to kill over. Not yet, anyway.
The man did not smile. “My name is Brandon. I’m here to take you home, Mr. Perrineau.”
Mr. Perrineau. Blue could not remember the last time he had been addressed by his given name. He thought, perhaps, never.
“You can call me Blue,” he said cautiously. “That’s good enough.”
“Good enough,” Brandon echoed, mouth crooking upward. “If you like. Though I can assure you there’s no need to hide from the other. It is your legal name.”
“Really.” Blue tried not to laugh. “If you spent any time around my father, Brandon, I think you would understand why it would be totally…inappropriate…for me to take his name.”
“Bygones,” murmured the man, and pointed toward the double doors leading out of the airport. “If you don’t have any bags…”
Blue did not. What he did have was a burning desire to go home to his apartment and get his gun.
“Where are we going?” he asked, unmoving. “And why would my mother pass on a message to you, instead of calling me herself? Where is she?”
“At your father’s house.” Brandon walked slowly backwards, towards the exit behind him. “She is safe, she is healthy, and the only reason she did not call you herself is that she wanted to make a point. Something that would make you…sit up and listen.”
“My mother doesn’t need messengers to make me sit up and listen,” Blue replied sharply. “Something else is going on here.”
“Of course,” Brandon said. He turned around and walked through the exit. This time, Blue followed.
It took them two hours to drive to his father’s estate. A rambling drive, over winding roads that curled and curled into the mountains. Blue occasionally caught wild glimpses of the sea, heard the cries of gulls mixing with the rasp of ravens. The air was sweet. Beyond the confines of the Audi, his mind encountered only silence.
Brandon did not talk, nor did Blue encourage him. No energy to waste. His body hurt. He could not stop thinking about his mother. Santoso was there, too, but more distant. For the first time since waking up in Malaysia, Blue was ready to hand the case off to his friends.
“We’re close,” Brandon finally said. His posture was relaxed, voice easy and deep. The road ahead of them cut through deep forest, shrouded from the sun.
“Are you his brother?” Blue asked, because sitting beside Brandon was like being next to his father, and that was more disconcerting than he wanted to admit. Even more so than the sudden spike of electricity buzzing his brain. Close, yes. Damn close.
“Does it matter?” Brandon replied. “I thought you wanted nothing to do with the family.”
Blue pushed his nails into his palms. “I don’t believe I ever had a choice. I know my mother didn’t.”
Brandon said nothing. Merely tapped on the brakes, slowing the car to a crawl until he pulled onto a narrow turn-off that appeared, quite suddenly, on the far side of a massive cedar. Blue glimpsed a blinking red light—some laser sensor set in the ground—and knew that ahead of them, someone had been alerted to their presence.
“This is your first time here,” Brandon said.
“Yes,” Blue lied.
Brandon glanced at him, and for a moment Blue wondered if he knew the truth. But all he said was, “Your mother arrived several days ago. I promise you, she’s safe.”
“Safe’s not enough,” Blue said, unclenching his hands. “She better be healthy, happy, ready to dance the tango—because if she’s not any of those things, if my father has hurt her, all of you are fucked and good.”
“So little trust?”
“No trust. At all.”
Brandon’s only response was a grim smile—which Blue did not find comforting in the slightest.
The house looked the same as he remembered; a mansion made of logs, some California dream of rustic wonder that had always caused Blue to speculate how a man like his father—who had a heart as small and hard as a hollow walnut casing—could possibly appreciate, or even want to live, in a place of such wild beauty. The mind boggled.
Men in dark clothing moved along the periphery of the house, deep in the woods. Blue saw some of them with his own eyes, but there were others waiting out of sight. They carried radios, earpieces, tazers; Blue could feel the electrical currents in his head. He thought about shorting them out, but held back. Later, maybe.
Brandon parked the car in front of the house. Blue glimpsed movement behind the windows. He began to open his door, but Brandon caught his arm and said, “Careful now.”
Blue stared at his hand. “I thought this was supposed to be safe.”
Brandon released him, but his eyes were hard. “For your mother,” he said, and Blue could not read the terrible emotion that swept through his face. “But for you? Be careful.”
Blue heard the crunch of gravel; Brandon looked away and quickly got out of the car. Blue stared at his back for one brief moment, gave up the question on his lips—and, gritting his teeth, opened up his own door to follow. His knee popped; the entire right side of his body felt stiff. His confinement to the plane—and the car—had not done him any favors. He tried not to hobble.
A security guard stood nearby, rifle in hand, a pistol strapped to his side. Blue thought about shattering the man’s eardrum—one high voltage shock from the radio device in his ear would do it—but again, control won out. Caution, being prudent. Timing was everything.
Brandon gestured to Blue, and together, the two of them walked up to the house. The front doors—carved and embedded with stained glass—opened wide as they neared. Inside, shadows, the outline of hard wood furniture. No lights. The curtains were drawn. Blue caught the edge of movement, and a woman stepped into the light.
“Mom,” Blue said, and his relief was nothing less than a sucker punch. He forced himself to breathe.
“Felix,” she said. Her voice was soft but firm, no sign of fear or weakness. She wore a dark gray gabardine suit, closely tailored to her full figure. Her thick black hair—courtesy of a good dye job—curled in smooth waves to her shoulders, framing a round face that might have been sweet if her eyes had been as soft as her body. Instead, here gaze was black, sharp, narrow—closer to an eagle than a dove—and Blue did not miss the shadows in her gaze, the appearance of a new wrinkle in her forehead.
Mahasti glanced at Brandon. “Did you explain anything to him?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “It wasn’t my place.”
“Not your place,” she echoed sarcastically, and shook her head. She held out her hand to Blue. “Come here. Let me look at you. Your employer said there was an accident.”
“Mom,” he said firmly, ignoring her scrutiny. “What’s going on?”
“Your father,” she said, and the disgust in her voice was profound. “Your father and his tricks.”
“He’s dead,” Blue said, searching her face. “Tricks are for the living.”
Brandon stepped past them and entered the house. The moment he disappeared around the door, Blue moved in close and grabbed his mother’s shoulders. She was a short woman; he had to bend over to peer into her eyes.
“We can leave right now,” he told her quietly. “Say the word and we’re out of here. No one will be able to stop us.”
“Ever the optimist,” she murmured, looking away. “I am so sorry, Felix. So very sorry. If it was just myself involved, I would never have allowed this to go so far. Would never have agreed to anything. But it is not just me, and I cannot…I cannot find a way out. Not this time.”
“No.” She pulled away from him. “I am a poor mother. I am a terrible mother, for this. A mother who cannot protect her child—” Her mouth tightened, and the fear that Blue had pushed away returned again, hard and strong. Stars danced in his vision; he tried not to sway.
They entered the house. It was not the first time Blue had been inside his father’s mountain estate, but the previous occasion had been uninvited, of the breaking and entering kind. Under the cover of darkness—a teenage exercise—creeping through the woods, disabling security measures with nothing but a thought. Shutting down the grid for a mile around. A reckless act, but one that Blue knew could never be traced back to him. No fingerprints, no tools, no explanation. Just a faulty system. A glitch.
Nothing had changed. Blue felt the security cameras tracking their movements as they walked through the main living area—an open space divided by pieces of expensive furniture and sculpture—vases and statues that were distinctly Asian in origin. They looked very old. Illegal acquisitions, probably. Blue had learned more about that sort of thing over the past three months than he had any interest in knowing, but a man had to be polite—and his best friend was newly married to an archaeologist who had strong opinions on the theft and sale of ancient artifacts on the black market.
Better rocks and glass than flesh and blood, Blue thought. Better those things, any day.
Their footsteps echoed; the house appeared empty, but Blue felt security lingering just out of sight. An odd feeling began rumbling through his gut; a terrible suspicion. He said nothing, though—simply watched his mother walk with a straight spine, watched as she turned her head to stare at Brandon, watched as Brandon slowed to look back at her with an expression that could only be called unhappy. It was a look of familiarity, as though Brandon had known his mother much longer than a simple handful of days.
And it made Blue nauseas all over again. A sensation that worsened as he pushed his mind ahead and found a fat wad of electricity—a collection of circuits and power so concentrated, so tangled and twisted, his teeth buzzed on the energy. Close, so close—they rounded a corner in the hall, a hall with only one door, and Blue thought, You’re there. Goddammit, but you’re there.
Brandon did not hesitate when he reached the door. He opened it, and there on the other side was an electronic fortress, a web of wires and monitors and flashing screens, which provided the only light in the room; a blue glow, shimmering. The monitors surrounded, covered, and were suspended over a giant bed dressed in creamy satin sheets and overstuffed pillows.
And on that bed, snug within the cocoon, lay a familiar man who was, unfortunately, very much alive.
“Huh,” Blue grunted, staring at his father. He looked the same as his pictures, and almost the same as the last time Blue had seen him. Only thinner, with more hollows in his face. A fine resemblance to Brandon’s aged elegance.
The old man did not look at them. His fingers skimmed the keyboard in his lap, his gaze flickering over the screens in front and above him. His mouth moved; he spoke silently to himself. Off to the side, a flat-paneled television broadcasted a muted CNN. Blue saw his father’s picture flash briefly, followed by overhead shots of a funeral in progress. Men in dark suits were carrying a casket. Blue recognized the faces of several heads of state.
“I’m being buried in France,” his father suddenly said, voice low and sardonic, still with that elegant soft edge he remembered so well. His fingers never stopped moving, and his eyes remained trained on his computer screen, which cast a blue glow on his face. “Nice little show, isn’t it?”
“Only if you’re psychotic,” Blue replied. “But oh, wait. You are.”
“I prefer being referred to as complex,” said Perrineau. “Besides, a diagnosis of actual psychosis is dependent on the perceived normalcy of the rest of society. And to everyone outside this house? I am—or rather, was—as sane as apple pie.”
And richer than God. Which, in Blue’s opinion, mattered more to most people than morals or loose marbles.
“Felix,” Mahasti said, stepping toward the bed. “Don’t play word games with your son. I want this over and done with.”
“My son,” murmured the old man, finally looking at Blue. His eyes were small and hard; the dim lights of the room only accentuated the shadows on his pale skin. His fingers stopped moving. “I don’t believe he ever wanted to be my son.”
“I had a good reason,” Blue replied, refusing to look at his mother. “And even if I didn’t, I don’t believe you ever wanted to be my father. I wasn’t…white enough for you.”
Perrineau narrowed his eyes. “God doesn’t love whiners, boy. I love them even less.”
“Felix,” Brandon murmured.
“Felix,” Perrineau mimicked. He tossed aside his keyboard, but it did not land far. Not for any lack of effort, either. Blue was surprised at the show of weakness, but before he could comment, the old man said, “Wipe that look off your face, boy. I didn’t bring you here to gawk.”
“Could have fooled me. But since we’re on the subject, why did you go to all the trouble? Because pretending to be dead? That’s rather…extreme.”
“Maybe I want to reconcile,” Perrineau said, but there was a sly glint in his eye, and Blue shook his head, folding his arms over his chest. His ribs ached. His heart ached, too, and that was unexpected.
You should have been cold to this. Should have expected it. You can’t let it bother you anymore. Not after all these years.
Years spent telling himself he did not need a father, that his mother was enough, that his friends were family and that nothing else mattered. But here, now, a mouthful of words—and the old storm was back, with all the same disappointment. It made Blue sick with anger.
“Forget this.” He reached for his mother’s hand. “We’re out of here.”
“You leave, you pay,” Perrineau said immediately, voice hard. “Trust me when I say the price will be steep.”
“You better not be threatening my life.”
Perrineau smiled. “And your mother?”
Brandon made a small sound. Mahasti pulled her hand away. Her eyes were hooded, dark.
“Do not use me against him,” she said to Perrineau. “Felix. I thought we had an understanding.”
“You’re a lawyer, my dear. And I fucked you. Surely you know me better than that.”
Blue’s hands spasmed into fists. “Don’t talk to her like that.”
“Or what? You’ll kill me?” Perrineau bared his teeth. “Good, boy. You be good and do that. See what it gets you.”
A one way ticket to hell and back, Blue thought, forcing himself to breathe. His uncurled his fists, but that was all; the knot in his chest simply got tighter and harder, like some bitter plug pushing up against his heart. Blue tasted his shields; they were still strong, but much more of this, and that could change. And if it did, with his temper running so strong…
He felt his mother watching him, her careful mask fracturing; the cool woman gone into fear. She knew. He could see it in her eyes. Blue wondered if she still remembered the feeling of the shovel in her hands, digging those graves.
“Boy,” Perrineau said, drawing out the word, saying it like a slow hammer fall. One word, one statement, one question—all of which demanded a response.
“Yes,” Blue said, swallowing his pride.
His father relaxed against his pillows. “Better. No room for indulgence, here. No room for anything of the sort. You come here, you listen, you do as you are told. If you don’t, I have a remedy. I have an answer. Might be I’m dead to the world, but that doesn’t mean no one will hear me. I’m a Perrineau, boy. I’m the goddamn Good Samaritan. People think angels kiss my ass.”
Blue said nothing. His mother did not move. Brandon stood near, a shadow at her shoulder.
Perrineau looked him dead in the eye. “I have another son. Did you know that? He is twenty-seven years old. His mother was a waitress in one of my New York restaurants. She was beautiful and stupid and I married her because she looked like she would be a good mother. And she was. Very good. My son? His name is Daniel. Thanks to you, Felix was already taken. So, there. Thanks to your mother, you have another piece of me. Blood and a name. Felix, Jr.” He shook his head, smiling. “Your brother, though, is legitimate, legal, and my heir. The only problem is that he doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“Smart,” Blue said, fighting his emotions, schooling his face—trying not to reveal how shaken he was that he had a brother. He glanced at his mother, but her mask was back in place: cool, quiet. And, he thought, unapologetic. She did not look at him, which was a clue—but Blue was in no position to pin her down. He could feel his father watching, resting still as a corpse, and it almost seemed as though his pale skin glittered beneath the light of his electronics, sharp as diamond. Cold and perfect.
“Daniel is smart enough,” Perrineau finally replied, quiet, his gaze unflinching. “Smart enough to evade me for the past six months. I kept his existence a secret, you know. Until now. I worried about enemies, kidnappers, bounties. A rich man’s son is never safe. Never really himself until it is time to take his father’s place.”
So what does that say about me, you son of a bitch? What does that say about how you feel toward me?
A whole damn lot.
“So you lost him,” Blue said. “Another son went bye-bye. So fucking what?”
“I need to find him,” Perrineau said. “Right fucking now. I’ve certainly poured in enough money. Hired all manner of discreet professionals. A wasted effort. Daniel is…slippery.”
Slippery enough to make his father desperate. Very truly desperate. Reckless, even. For a moment, all Blue could do was stare, wondering if the sudden chill on his skin was a sign of Hell freezing over.
“You staged your own death draw him home,” he murmured. “All of this…just to lure him out into the open. Goddamn. You are crazy.”
“Maybe,” Perrineau said, just as softly. “But it hasn’t worked. Which implies that my son either hates me more than I thought, or he isn’t in any position to return.”
“If he’s dead, you mean.”
The old man narrowed his eyes. “I’ll be dead soon enough and that’s no lie. So if Daniel is gone from this world, and I join him…”
“Brandon will be a very rich man.”
His father laughed. “Clever. You don’t even act tempted.”
“Because I’m not.” Not tempted in the slightest. Blue did not want his father’s money. He did not want the power or the name. All his life, struggling to be his own man—I don’t want your place, never, not ever—and he was not about to turn and tuck tail now.
Blue glanced at his mother. She had been quiet, which was unusual. Mahasti was not a timid woman. She was not shy or easily cowed, and even now, when she returned his gaze, he saw that the fire, the sharpness, had not dulled in the slightest. Yet still, silence—and he could not imagine it, even if Felix had threatened her.
We could leave here, he thought again, ready to tear down his shields. Disable the network, the grid, and if anyone tried to hurt them—
No. Blue clenched his jaw. No, not that.
But still, escape. The problem was what to do afterwards. His mother had a life. She had a career, friends, a home she had paid for after years of hard work. Her freedom meant everything to her; a testament to everything that had been denied the family left behind in Afghanistan. Live life on the run? Never.
Blue looked at Perrineau. “What do you want?”
His father briefly shut his eyes. “Isn’t it obvious? I want you to find him. I want you to ferret out your brother and bring him home.”
“And you think I can do it?”
Perrineau laughed. It was a weak laugh—a choke, a gasp—and the slight undertone of a wheeze sounded sick, tired, like there was not enough breath left in his lungs for anything so strenuous.
“What is wrong with you?” Blue asked softly.
“Age,” Perrineau replied flatly.
“No,” Blue said. “No, it’s more than that.”
“More is not your concern,” the old man snapped, spittle flecking the sides of his mouth. “I want you to find your brother.”
“You think I can do it?”
“I know you can. I know you can and I know you will, no questions asked.” Perrineau shoved his hand beneath his pillow and pulled out a thick brown file. He tossed the paperwork to Blue, who caught it against his chest and flinched. More cold swept over his skin.
He opened the file. Read the first line, “REGARDING THE OPERATION OF DIRK & STEELE,” and stopped cold.
His father began to laugh. Mahasti stepped in front of Blue and pulled the file from his numb fingers. She flipped through the pages and returned it to his hands, pointing. Blue saw his name and a candid shot of his face. Below the picture was his military history, age, and address—as well as speculation, but no conclusions, about his ‘extrasensory ability.’
“He knows almost everything,” his mother murmured. “There are dossiers on your friends. Pictures, too. The proof is all there. I examined it myself.”
“Impossible,” Blue hissed. “Most of what we do isn’t visible to the naked eye.”
His mother stared. “There is photographic evidence of a man turning into a crow. And another, of a cheetah.”
Blue tasted blood; the inside of his cheek. He looked over his mother at Perrineau. “No one will believe this. No one. They’ll accuse you of falsifying the pictures.”
“Certainly,” said his father. “If I intended to disseminate them to the general public. Fortunately, I have better contacts than that.”
Blue’s vision blurred; he could barely see past the stars, the spinning. He bit down on his tongue, hard, and tasted more blood. The pain helped. “And if I find your son—my brother? What then? You won’t share the pictures? Right. Forgive me if I don’t trust you.”
His father’s smile widened. “I must admit, the temptation is considerable. I have never, in my life, considered the possibility of such…wondrous things. The military applications alone…” He stopped, sly. “Well, it makes me wonder about what you can do.”
“Stop this,” Mahasti said. “Stop.”
“I can make it stop,” Blue said, and he meant it. He would do it, if he had to. For his friends, for his mother. For himself.
Perrineau’s smile turned brittle. “I have copies of everything. And if I do not call my agent within the next thirty minutes, I can promise you that everything in that file will be released to the proper authorities. And by authorities, I mean my contacts at the Pentagon. Which, I confess, has its own ailing program of psychic warriors. Pitiful creatures. Barely able to bend spoons. Nothing at all like my own flesh and blood. Or his friends.”
Breathe, Blue told himself. Calm down. You have options. You’re not alone. You are not alone.
“Time frame?” he asked. He could do this. He could say yes, which would give him time to stall, to call Roland, to get a fix on this thing. He could eat his pride and anger a little longer. Anything for the people he loved. Anything.
“Quick. No more than a week.”
“Be realistic. It’s taken you at least six months.”
“And I don’t have that long. Not anymore.”
Good. “A month, then.”
“Two weeks, and that is generous on my part.”
Blue hesitated. “Why do you want him?”
“A father can’t say goodbye to his son before dying?” Perrineau smiled and closed his eyes. “No, you don’t think well enough of me for that.”
“You’re going to hurt him,” Blue said quietly. “I’ll bring him here and you’ll hurt the hell out of him.”
“Just bring me my son,” said the old man, voice dropping to a whisper. “Let me worry about the rest.”
Eye of Heaven - Book 5 in the Dirk & Steele series