In the Hands of the Unknown
Excerpt from Chapter 1
The heat of the day faded away, slowly, and at the middle of the bridge the air had already cooled down. Miriam wished she had a jacket to cover her bare arms with. Goosebumps appeared on her sunburnt skin and made it stretch uncomfortably. She should be home, taking a shower, putting on sun lotion, and heating up the leftover Chinese food from yesterday. Instead, she stood here, three hours after work, trying to think of nothing while watching the water lazily drifting by some twenty yards below her. Behind her, the traffic flowed slowly but steadily, copying the river below. ‘Rush hour’ was such a wrong term for the phenomenon going on around her, she thought.
On her left, the city skyline reflected the dying sun in glass and metal, but on her right, the city skyline was already hidden in shadow. It was not logical, of course, but the fact that she was heading towards the sunlit part of the city made her breathe easier. She turned her head towards the golden skyscrapers, followed every single one of them with her gaze, counting them as she always did when she walked this way from work.
“… twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two.” Thirty-two visible with their windows viewing her mindlessly. Miriam’s sense of relative security disappeared, and she shuddered involuntarily. The unexpected sound of her cell phone made her jolt. She grabbed it hastily to silence it. “Yes?”
“Claire?” Henry’s deep voice caressed her, even though he used her Field Researcher name, which meant that he called for some job-related issue. It didn’t matter. It never did. She might be silly, but the mere sound made her heart dance in her chest. She smiled.
“I need you down at the morgue. The autopsy is finished.”
Something in his voice changed, made the air feel even cooler, and vigorously she rubbed her upper arm to stop the hair from standing up.
“Have you called Cyrus, or should I?” Her own voice was calm and steady, much to her amazement.
“Don’t worry about him. I’ll call. Just get over here, will you?”
“I’m on my way.”
“And Claire…?” Henry’s voice became emotionless. “Don’t eat.”
Excerpt from Chapter 1
The air was filled with a dark-gray smoke that smelled of chemicals and dust, and a sweet, burnt odor he hadn’t smelled in nearly four years, except in his nightmares. He closed his eyes for a moment and swallowed, gathering strength to push away the past and concentrate on the present. Determined he opened his eyes, pushed himself through the crowd and finally reached the cordoning. Before the police officer in charge could tell him off, he put up his ID badge under her nose.
“Where’s HQ?” he asked when she opened the barricade slightly to let him slip through.
“At the end of the parking lot. You’ll see it. The big van.” She pointed down the smoky street, and he nodded, leaving her behind as he half-jogged towards the scene. When he turned around the last house, he stopped mid-step. The smell and the smoke were overwhelming here, but it was the absence of the well-known store that stopped him. He’d been here shopping numerous times with Miri during the past two years, and now there was only rubble and some walls left standing. It looked like a war zone.
Silently, he tried to take it all in. That image he had had of just a couple of damaged walls would have been laughable had the sight not been so shocking. He had no knowledge of explosives at all, and it bothered him that he felt so clueless about the situation. How much was needed to create such damage in the first place? How many people were involved in this? How many casualties were there? Several ambulances stood around with the crews tending to more people than he expected to be alive after seeing this disaster.
“Carl!” Special Agent in Charge of his unit, Alan Bai, hurried towards him. His usual proper demeanor looked dirty, and his face was soiled with sweat and ashes. “You’re here!” he said unnecessarily. “Great! You can join Sharon and David. They’re interviewing the victims at South Side Hospital.”
He nodded, relieved that his two elder colleagues were somewhere safe, and looked around, feeling dazed. The magnitude of it all eluded him, it was impossible to grasp it; the dark-gray smoke that clawed in his throat and lungs, the screams of injured people, the blood on the rubble, the frantic voices of the rescuers…
“This looks really bad, boss,” Carl remarked, shaken. Even though he tried, it was impossible to hide the shocked and unnerved tone in his voice.
Of Darkness Born
Excerpt from Chapter 3
When they got to the dark stairs leading down to the basement where the chemistry lab was located, they glanced at each other.
“It’s a basement, all right…” Tony dragged out the words in a considerably lower volume than he usually used. “… but it’s really dark…”
“There has to be a light switch somewhere,” Jack said resolutely and looked around. “Or not,” he added when he couldn’t find one.
“It’s probably handled from the office,” Henry said. “I guess none of you have a flashlight?” Jack and Tony shook their heads. “Okay, let’s go down.” When the other two stared at him, he shrugged. “As long as we find the right door, there’s a light switch in the lab.” They didn’t answer, and he squinted when suspicion rose in him. “Are you afraid of the dark? Get lost!”
Tony scowled at him. “Look, big boy Henry’s talking again. You know what? I don’t mind admitting the thought of masked and cloaked cats hiding in the dark down there scares me.”
Henry flinched when the thought hit him, and suddenly he didn’t feel so amused anymore. With a grimace, he brushed the ominous feeling off.
“They’re not going to hurt us. They’re part of the ceremony, and, if their job is to scare us, we won’t die from that.”
“If you don’t have a weak heart,” Tony said sarcastically, and Henry raised his eyebrows.
“If you have, Jack will save you, and if he doesn’t, I will take care of your dead body,” he said dryly.
Beside him, Jack burst out laughing and even Tony grinned reluctantly. Then Jack suggested, with the amused smile still playing on his lips, “Let’s go to the handyman’s closet. I bet there’s a flashlight there.”