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Authors: Marcus Wynne

Warrior in the Shadows

BOOK: Warrior in the Shadows
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Warrior in the Shadows

Marcus Wynne

A Tom Doherty Associates Book

New York

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.

WARRIOR IN THE SHADOWS

Copyright © 2002 by Marcus Wynne

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

A Forge Book

Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

175 Fifth Avenue

New York

NY 10010

www.tor.com

www.ebookyes.com

Forge® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

eISBN 0-312-70806-8

By Marcus Wynne from Tom Doherty Associates

No Other Option

Warrior in the Shadows

Acknowledgments

I want to thank my agents, Ethan Ellenberg and Michael Psaltis of the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency and Brian Lipson of the Endeavor Talent Agency. At Tor/Forge, I want to thank my editor, Brian Callaghan; my great publicist, Elena Stokes; and the rest of the Tor/Forge crew: "Buttercup," Jennifer Marcus, Kathleen Fogarty, Linda Quinton, and Tom Doherty.

I'm indebted to the work of Percy Tresize, the great Australian artist and author whose work has brought the world of Quinkin country to life for those of us who live far away from that dark dreamland. While I've drawn on his work, any mistakes or misinterpretations are mine alone. I also owe thanks to Andrew Dineen of the Adventure Company for his help in setting up my tour of the Jowalbinna Bush Camp in Quinkin country, and to Allen and Mick, my guides to the rock art.

And of course I owe my usual great debt to my wife, Caprice. Without her support none of this would be possible.

Part 1

1.1

The man who would soon be eaten had enjoyed a superb supper. Broiled fresh scallops, with a hint of lemon and butter, a small filet mignon, a side of steamed vegetables— not enough to go over the strict limit of carbohydrates allowed on his diet— and a carafe of a very respectable Chilean cabernet sauvignon had left him feeling comfortably full and warm, a pleasant feeling in the chill of the late September Minneapolis night, where the hint of the bitter winter to come was still just a suggestion in the crisp cool air.

The man's name was Madison Simmons. The slightly fussy tone of his name suited him, a chubby man who seemed older than his thirty-two years, ten of which he'd spent as an international loan officer for First Bank International specializing in overseas investments in Southeast Asia and Australia. He'd been quite successful, and he was surprisingly popular with the Australian businessmen who approved of both his business seriousness and his hidden streak of fun.

While Madison enjoyed his work with the Australians, he needed time for his solitary pleasures. A bachelor who lived alone in an expensive home on the shore of Lake Harriet, his secret joy was his state-of-the-art home theater and his extensive collection of exotic pornography. His frequent visits to Southeast Asia had given him the opportunity to expand his collection into some extremely specialized areas and even, once or twice, to cast and star in a small production of his own.

He had some new videos that had been delivered to him by a discreet friend with the Australian consulate, as way of special thanks for some delicate work he had recently done. Review of those tapes would be the perfect cap to his evening.

So he walked briskly, his tailored suit coat open and flapping over the protuberance of his belly, down the wide sidewalks of Nicollet Mall to the multistory parking garage where he kept his car. There were many people out: street people jingling spare change cans, students with backpacks slung over one shoulder, couples strolling arm in arm from an early dinner.

There is a comforting buzz of background noise in a city during the hours before night becomes midnight, and Madison Simmons enjoyed those familiar sounds. He went into the corner entrance of the parking garage, paused with the caution of an urban dweller for a moment to make sure he was alone, and then went up two flights of stairs onto the level where his Lexus was parked.

"Wonk, wonk."

He stopped for a moment and looked around him, puzzled by the peculiar sound. It seemed as though it came from somewhere in the long lines of cars still parked on this level, the empty gaps between the cars like missing teeth in a grinning skull.

"Wonk, wonk."

What was that?

Madison hurried to his car, his keys jingling and ready in his hand, huddled into his overcoat, looking only straight ahead at his car gleaming under the fluorescent lights. He hit the remote unlock on his key chain and watched his car lights come on and heard the reassuring click of the doors unlocking. He paused for a moment, and looked carefully around him, even allowed himself the paranoid urge to look in the backseat of his car before he hurried in and slammed the door shut. He fumbled his keys into the ignition slot and turned them, then looked to each side and began to back out.

"Wonk, wonk."

Safely inside his car, he gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles stood out white against his skin. Must be damn kids, or some drunk lunatic who thought it would be funny to frighten him. He threw the car into gear, turned into the descending ramp, and squealed his tires as he went too fast for the descent to the exit gate, where a bored Sikh man, his red turban wound tight on his head, watched a miniature television set in the brightly lit glass booth.

Madison handed the attendant his validated parking ticket and said, "There's someone up on the third level, shouting, trying to scare people."

The Sikh man said nothing while he fed the parking ticket into a scanner on the cash register, printed out a receipt, and handed it back to Madison.

"Did you hear me? There's someone wandering around up there trying to frighten people," Madison said again.

The Sikh man smiled a smile that stopped at his eyes. "Thank you very much, sir. I will tell the security when they come through," he said. "Good night to you, sir."

Madison snatched the receipt and shoved it into the seat console beside him. The Lexus surged forward with his foot heavy on the gas. He pulled out onto Nicollet Avenue and drove away. Just outside the parking structure, there was a man dressed in black leather, sitting on one of those motorcycles you had to practically lie down full length on. He watched Madison drive by before he pulled out behind him. Madison looked in the rearview mirror, but he could barely see the man's figure through the glare of the motorcycle headlamp. The rider was wearing a black helmet that gleamed in the light.

The banker's enjoyment of his dinner seemed ruined by the sudden stabs of adrenaline in his belly; fear was not an emotion he'd experienced much in his adult years. This reminded him of the schoolyard bullies who'd tormented him as a boy when he was young and smart and hadn't learned the necessary lesson of keeping a low profile in the herd. But anger was something he knew how to use, and he stepped on the gas and reminded himself that in future he would park his car closer to the attendant's station.

He had to brake sharply as a stoplight hurried through yellow to red. The motorcycle rider pulled into the left-hand lane and stopped beside him. Madison stared straight ahead, but his peripheral vision was enough to give him some idea of what the rider looked like: black helmet with full face visor, long kinky hair in a ponytail hanging beneath the helmet and down his back, black leather jacket and snug black denim pants, heavy black boots and gloves.

The motorcycle rider looked over at Madison for a long moment. Madison continued to stare straight ahead. When the light changed, the rider raised his right hand from the throttle and waved at Madison, who finally looked at him before the rider put his hand back on the throttle and revved the motor, then accelerated forward and pulled a wheelie through the otherwise empty intersection and roared away. His red tail lamp disappeared around a turn in the next block, the bike at such a sharp angle in the turn it seemed as though the rider's leg would touch the pavement.

Madison drove slowly through the intersection. The light turned yellow as he passed beneath it. He took a deep breath and said, "What a weird night this is."

The rest of his drive home was uneventful. There wasn't much traffic along his normal route home to his palatial house on Lake Harriet Parkway. He drove along Forty-third Street, past the crowded sidewalk tables outside Java Jack's coffeehouse, and pulled up in front of his gated driveway. He touched the remote on his dashboard and kept the front bumper of his car right up against the opening gate, as though he meant to ram it open if it stopped.

He made sure the gate was closed behind him before he got out of the car. The driveway, the garage, and the side-door entrance were all brightly lit with movement-activated lights. He left the car in the driveway and let himself in through the side door. Madison hurried to the alarm console and punched in his code, then hung his keys on the pegboard beside the door, dropped his coat into a chair, and stepped out of his shoes.

Madison's house was his pride and joy, and he decorated and designed it as best as a wealthy Minneapolis banker could. Polished hard-wood floors gleamed under track lighting, expensive Persian and Turkish rugs lay artfully arrayed, with gleaming wood and glass furniture and expensive artwork set off by carefully arranged highlight lamps. Home was his refuge and his castle, it was where he came to relax and unwind.

He needed some relaxation now.

He padded up the carpeted stairs to his bedroom suite, which had his private entertainment room adjoining it. The entertainment room was a good-sized room with a state-of-the-art digital big-screen television, DVD and videotape players, stereo equipment and the very best speakers money could buy all positioned carefully in the walls. Long racks of commercial DVD movies filled one wall, along with racks of music CDs. Classical, baroque, and early jazz predominated his music collection.

Madison's private videotape collection was locked in a discreet safe locker hidden behind wooden paneling, the keypad for the electronic lock set behind an adjoining panel. Madison spared no expense on his security, as examination of some of those hidden videotapes might cost him considerable time in a state or federal penitentiary. But he was willing to run the risk, minimal that he judged it to be. He was a slave to his tastes, like any other addict.

He undressed quickly, hanging his handmade Italian suit back in the huge closet with the rotating rack. There was a persistent squeak in the rollers that annoyed him; he'd have to call the contractor again and have them come out and adjust that for him. The system cost too much to have to put up with annoying sounds. He hated annoying sounds.

Naked, he looked at himself in a full-length mirror: pudgy, over-weight, his pale skin reddish at the face, neck, and hands, pale blue indentations on his calves where his snug stockings had cut into his flesh. He wouldn't be appetizing to any woman that he knew, but then his tastes didn't run to women, or adults of any kind.

He shrugged into a thick terry-cloth robe and took a large washcloth from a stack of them just inside the closet door, then returned to the entertainment room and set the large washcloth on the arm of a large leather recliner chair that sat perfectly positioned in front of the big-screen television.

On an end table beside the neatly arrayed racks of CDs and DVDs he set the new VHS tape his friend from the Australian consulate had given him over lunch.

"Something special, this here, mate," the young commerce officer had said. He winked at Madison across the table.

"Really?" Madison said coolly. He looked around at the crowded tables in the bistro.

"No need to bung it on with me, mate. Nobody here's the wiser," the Australian said.

"I look forward to it. And the other thing we discussed? Have you got that, too?"

"Too right, mate. Our mutual friend likes the strip club."

"We refer to it as a 'gentlemen's club.'"

"Too right, mate. I'll expect some passes, then, for me and me mates."

"I don't go there anymore. Not a good idea for me."

"You silly old bastard. Be good for you? It would be. But just look after me and my mates, eh?"

The hearty all-men-are-equal buddy talk the Australians were most comfortable with irritated Madison, though he hid it well; he had worked too hard in his life to put social distance between him and others. He found the breezy familiarity of the Australians sometimes offensive. Of course, his straight-up ventures run through the bank were more formal. The nature of his private dealings with the contacts he'd cultivated through the consulate required him to tolerate a certain amount of offensive familiarity. The men whose money he handled expected that, and they paid well.

And then there were the perks, like this videotape.

"Wonk, wonk."

Madison froze, crouched before his VHS tape player. It sounded as though the sound had come from right outside in his driveway. He left the tape in the player slot and hurried into his bedroom. In the nightstand table was a small .38 caliber revolver that had belonged to his father. He kept it loaded, although he had never fired it, for just this sort of thing. He grabbed the revolver and went cautiously down the stairs, then peeked out the windows to see who might be there.

Nothing.

He waited, listening.

Nothing.

He started back up the stairs when there was a sudden loud thump against the side-door entrance. Madison jumped in fright. Then anger took over and he ran to the side door, brandishing his revolver. He threw open the door and shouted, "Who's there?"

There was a smear of something dark on the white paint of the side door. He looked down, then stepped back in disgust. The body of a squirrel curled limply on the step. The head was missing and blood still pulsed from the body cavity. The motion lights were all on, brightly illuminating the garage, the driveway, the side door. That was a long toss from the street, he thought.

"Who's there? I have a gun, I'm calling the police," he said.

Silence.

Emboldened by his anger, he stormed out in his bathrobe, looked on the other side of his car, and around the back of his garage. There was nothing there. He went back to the open door and slammed it shut, hurrying back upstairs. He went into the master bedroom suite and for some reason locked the door behind him. The rough fabric of his robe rubbed against his suddenly sweaty legs as he strode to the cordless phone beside his bed and picked it up.

No dial tone.

He hit the POWER button again and again.

Nothing.

Madison stared at the phone as though by willing it he could make it work. He threw the phone on the bed and went into his entertainment room, clutching the revolver like a talisman, looking for his cellular phone.

There was a motion he barely caught in the corner of his vision, a sudden dark blur, and then the revolver was snatched from his grasp, twisted out of his hand in a movement so fast he couldn't comprehend what was happening. Then he was gripped by hands stronger than he imagined a vise might be like, spun and whirled and shoved down into his recliner with such force that the heavy chair slid back a full two feet.

BOOK: Warrior in the Shadows
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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