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Family . . . it is a fucking bitch.
Just like he was a bitch. I had seen him—wallowing amongst the game, but never tasting of the herd. More perverse, he lived with prey, had been raised by prey, had been taught the ways of the world by prey when I’d had to teach myself. Clawing myself along, I had chewed my way through knowledge as grimly as I’d once chewed discarded putrid meat and bone. Everything I’d earned, I’d earned with blood, mine or someone else’s. I had done what no one else could do.
The castoff failure, but look at me now. Damn right, look at me. Look hard and look good—right before I gut you.
Then there was him, the golden boy, yet look at what he had done.
Naughty and bad, bad and naughty. But much worse: disobedient. Not what they’d expected of their one true success at all.
I laughed at the irony of it.
I laughed, but I hated him, hated him, hated him, hated him, hated him.
Not for what he’d done, but that he’d been the one instead of me to do it.
That was all right, though. That was fine and fucking dandy, as someone I used to know once said. Fine and fucking dandy, because I hated everyone anyway. The only difference was, I was related to this one . . . and that made the hate sweeter. Hate was all I’d known. All I had ever been given and all I had ever had. I was created from it, molded by it, lived by it. Hate was like air, necessary to life. I wore my hate as a second skin and let it warm me when nothing else did.
I saw him through binoculars where I lay atop a roof far enough away that he wouldn’t know I was there. It was night, but I saw him clearly. Light was for the fearful herd; the night was for me. Not that it was ever truly dark in this immense mound of misbegotten roadkill waiting to happen.
Yes, I saw him. He had black hair, pale skin, lightcolored eyes. Nothing like I was at all. That I didn’t hate. That I liked—I was better, purer, closer to the truth.
It was all about the truth.
The new truth.
And he was part of that, whether he wanted to be or not.
Family was a hateful bitch; it was. I had the hot poker scars of that burned into my flesh to prove it, but, scars or not, sometimes family was all you had worth playing with. Maybe he would see that. Maybe he would want to play too. I played rough. I played to win.
I’d bet he did if given the chance, not that this boring scuffle I was watching was anything to go by. It wasn’t a fraction of the challenge I’d give him.
The Unmaker of the World, they had called him.
Unimpressed, I waggled black gloved fingers in a mocking wave. We’d see. Sooner or later, we’d see exactly what family and blood meant to him. He might look like one of the cattle, but he would never be one.
Besides, if he could unmake the world, how much more fun would it be for me to remake it instead?
Family . . . it is a bitch.
The thought came out of nowhere.
Or maybe not, considering my current situation. There was no denying that it was true. Everyone thought it sooner or later, didn’t they? If there’s only you, you’re good—lonely maybe, but good. You can’t fight with yourself. If there’re two of you, it can still be good. Your options are limited. You make do and appreciate what you have, unless it’s the stereotypical eviltwin scenario. Then you aim for the goatee and blow his ass back to the alternate dimension he popped out of.
A kishi—better known as my paycheck in the form of a supernatural hyena—hit my back with staggering force. I flipped it over my shoulder and put a bullet between its eyes.
Yeah, normally two was a doable number for family. It was when you hit three and higher that things started to go bad. That was when the bitching and moaning started, the pitting of one against another, the slights that no one forgot. No one could tell me that Noah didn’t pitch a few of his relatives kicking and screaming off the Ark long before the floodwaters receded. It was no familialLove Boat, and I believed that to my core.
Which brought up the question: Did that wrathful Old Testament God kill the sharks? I don’t think he did. You can’t drown a shark. I think they were snacking on biblical inlaws right and left. Noah, Noah, Noah . . .
I swung around and kicked the next kishi in the stomach as I slammed another clip home before putting three in its gaping, lethally fanged mouth as it jumped again. It sounded easy, but considering the one I also had attached to my other leg . . . it was a pain in the ass.
Familywise, I had no pain in the asses. I was lucky. I had one brother and he was a damn good one. Once we were on our own, I’d escaped the curse of screaming Thanksgiving dinners. . . . I had a turkey pizza; Niko had a vegan one. No bitter arguments around a Christmas tree . . . Niko gave me a new gun; I gave him a new sword. Absent was the awkward discovery of first cousins shacking up at the summer vacation gettogethers at the lake. I didn’t have to wait for summer. I saw my brother every day when he winged my sopping towel off the bathroom floor at my head or I asked—after the fact—if I could use his priceless seventeenthcentury copy of some boring book no one but him and the author had read to prop up a wobbling coffee table.
Summer vacations . . . if you thought about it, what kind of people actually gathered together at a lake with cabins and all that crap anyway? Hadn’t they ever watched Friday the 13th? Jason? Hockey masks? Machetes? A good time for me, yeah—oh hell, yeah—but not as much for the members of your average Priusdriving middle class.
Stupidity is everywhere.
But for me, right now, things were good. My brother and I kicked supernatural ass for fun and profit. I had a shirt that said that with our phone number. Humans wouldn’t take it seriously. Humans didn’t know what the world really hosted. But the kind that hired us—nonhuman—they knew a walking billboard when they saw it. Running your own business is a bitch. You have to advertise. Promo. Market. Niko did that. I couldn’t be bothered with that crap—unless it resulted in my offensive Tshirt slogan. He and I had been doing this for four years now. Before that we’d done the same, but it had been a hobby, not a career.
Okay, I say hobby, but it was selfdefense, pure and simple. When you’re half human and half of the worst monster to walk the earth—a creature that ate the supernatural for appetizers without putting hardly any effort into it—you weren’t popular with the other monster types. And there were thousands of different kinds. Some immediately attacked me, sensing the half human in me and assuming it would make me weaker—they were wrong. Some ran—they were smart. And some didn’t care either way—we hung out and had a beer.
Good family. Interesting and wellpaying career. Half monster . . . well, everything couldn’t be perfect, but otherwise right now things were good. I was hoping they stayed that way. Except for Niko. I didn’t have to hope when it came to family.
The rest of my life might be challenging in some other areas, like at the moment as an adolescent kishi was either trying to eat my leg or hump it to the bare bone, but family? I knew I had that under control. I watched my brother’s back; he watched mine. We were a Hallmark card dipped in blood and made of unbreakable steel. I’d never had a doubt about my family and I never would—no matter what the kishi, who had brought the topic to mind to begin with, were doing to annoy me on the general subject.
No, it was all smooth sailing, rather like this current job, until my cell phone rang. “Niko,” I said, shooting another adult kishi with jaws stretched wide enough to swallow my entire head. It had leaped downward at me from a fire escape of a condemned tenement apartment building long crumbled in on itself—no demolition crew needed. Gravity worked for free. “Can you get this one off of my leg before I need sexual assault counseling?”
Niko said to not kill the babies, although at one hundred and fifty pounds “baby” was pushing the definition, but I was doing my best, more or less, to be a good boy. Although it would’ve been much easier to be a bad boy.
So very bad. So very fun.
For my brother, however, I reined in that part of me—that nonhuman half of me, chokechaining it with a practiced grip. It was the price I paid to keep my brother satisfied. Bearing in mind that if it weren’t for him I’d be dead or sanitychallenged ten times over, I owed the man. I was also fond enough of his bossy, analretentive ass to die for him.
More important, to kill for him.
And to have chosen the darkest of roads to make that happen.
All that made ignoring a giant baby with an equally giant bite easy enough. As I fished for my cell, Niko was less than awed at my babysitting skills and said so: “If you can’t do a minimum of three tasks at once, I have failed you with all my training and instruction. I’d blame myself, but clearly it’s entirely your fault, your laziness, your total ineptitude.”
Not that we shared the fraternal fondness out loud. How manly would that be?
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t heard that all before. If adults heard lullabies when they slept, that would be mine. I shook my leg again, shot another kishi bounding down the side of the next building, equally as dilapidated as the first, putting three bullets between its blazing silver eyes. They shone brighter than any streetlights in this part of town . . . until their life seeped away and left only the dull gray of death. I felt bad for them—almost—but they had turned a block that had once hosted scavenging homeless, thriving drug dealers, and sullen hookers into a desolate wasteland. In my opinion, I didn’t have a preference for one over the other, kishi or human. The mayor wanted the city cleaned up. The kishi clan was doing the job one block at a time . . . even if it meant eating quite a few people.
Were those people good people? If I knew anything, I knew that these days, starting four months ago, I wasn’t in the position to make the call on whether certain people were worth saving or leaving to the predators. That I left up to Nik. I simply stepped over their bodies and went on with the job.
Regardless of whether they were good or evil, those people belonged, whether they knew it or not, to the Kin. The Kin, the werewolf Mafia of NYC, weren’t pleased to be sharing their money or their snacks with Johnnycomelately supernatural hyenas from the depths of . . . um . . . I should’ve paid attention to where those depths were during the premission rundown—maybe Africa, but Niko knew. That was enough. I didn’t think it mattered much. They were encroaching on Kin territory, and the Wolves didn’t like that.
Unfortunately for the Kin, the kishi, as a race, howled at a decibel level that would have any Kin Wolf’s ears bleeding ten blocks away. Curled up in homicidal furry balls, moaning for their mommies, they hadn’t had much success in taking down the kishi. Luckily for Niko, me, and our bank account, human ears couldn’t hear notes that high.
And although I wasn’t entirely human, my hearing was. That made us the goto guys for this job. It had seemed easy from the hiring and the half our fee slapped into my palm—if it hadn’t been for Niko’s research, finding out the kishi were highly intelligent preternatural hyenas, if extremely malevolent. That meant the adults were fair game, but the younger kishi we had to pat on the head and find a goddamn supernatural foster and rescue organization for murderous fur babies to raise them right, socialize their asses, put rhinestone collars on them, and take them off our hands.
How many of those do you think were in the phone book? Nada? Good fucking call.
But the bottom line was, it was all about family, which had to be where that thought had originated. The adult kishi taking down prey for their young, which luckily was only one at this point, feeding him or her, setting up a nest, claiming this place for their own. They were doing what evolution had bred in them to do. Evolution worked the same for nonhumans as for humans. Kishi were predators to their bones. They would slaughter anything they thought they had a chance of bringing down, but to give them credit, they looked after their family.
That’s where family became a bitch in yet another way. You eat people for your family, you piss off the Kin for your family, you die for your family.
As a random bully had once said to me when I was a kid in the fourth grade as he demanded my sneakers and backpack, life isn’t fair. I agreed with him by punching his annoying teeth down his equally annoying throat. If that’s the way the world wanted to be, I’d go along. I didn’t make the rules. I only played by them.
This wasn’t a schizophrenic voice; at least, I hoped not. This was just my subconscious, my new subconscious. Since I’d let a small piece of me wither and die months ago to save my family, the swamp in my mind that made up the subliminal me was considerably more shadowed. It was more prone to the bad thoughts people think, normal people too, that they shouldn’t, don’t like to admit to, and don’t act on. But as I wasn’t normal and wasn’t exactly the Webster’s dictionary definition of a person, my bad thoughts were much badder than most and I wanted to act on them. Sometimes or often or frequently or very frequently, depending on my mood . . . no judgment needed or wanted. If I thought it, I absolutely wanted to do it.
But I didn’t.
The voices/thoughts were almost as much a bitch as family could be, the squabbling, but I’d learned to mostly tune them out. Many psychotherapists would be proud of my progress—the ones who hadn’t met me and, if they had any sense, wouldn’t care to.
I wasn’t good or bad. I was only me, and I was neither.
They’d have to invent a new bizarrely long German psychological description for what I was. How did the German say, ’To see him is to piss your pants in fear’? Freud would’ve known.
I shook my leg futilely one more time and exhaled in irritation at the molten mercury eyes, the dark red coat dappled with silver spots, the milk teeth—as large as a German shepherd’s adult teeth—that continued to gnaw at my thigh. “Three seconds and he’s a rug under the coffee table. Your move, Cyrano.”
Did Niko have a proud, hawklike nose? Yes, he did. Did I give him hell over it? What do you think?
I answered my still ringing cell phone as I shot the last kishi that leaped through a boardedup window. Wood split, glass shattered, and bone splintered. The combination made for one dead kishi whose stomach was rounded and full with its last meal, which, I was guessing, had been the last occupant of this street. From the hypodermic the parahyena coughed up in its dying throes, that meal had most likely been a tweaker.
They say drugs kill, but does anyone ever listen?
“Yeah, Leandros,” I said into the phone. “Death and destruction by the dollar. The meter’s ticking. Go.”
I hadn’t had a chance to check the incoming number, not with Kishi Junior both seducing and making a meal of my leg. But it didn’t surprise me to hear a familiar voice. Five people total had my personal number. Our business number was an untraceable phone with voice mail lying on the floor of an otherwise empty storage locker. Niko and I’d been sorry before—we went with safe now. “Kid, thank Bacchus.” I heard the relieved exhalation. “I need you and Niko at my place now.”
The three seconds was up, and I had the muzzle of my Desert Eagle planted between toddler kishi’s moon eyes as it gnawed harder at my lower thigh. I had a high pain tolerance—you learned to in this business—but to balance it out, my tolerance for nearly everything else remotely irritable in the universe was low.Damn low. Contaminating part of your soul will do that . . . if you believed in souls. I hadn’t made up my mind, but either way it was too bad for baby. It was nightnight time. I might as well stop the pattern now. The same as its parents, it would grow up to be a killer anyway.
Like you did?
As if I didn’t know that.
But I was a done deal; the kishi wasn’t, not quite yet. “Goodfellow? You in trouble?” I started to put pressure on the trigger and tried to overlook the shadow of guilt. It was a kid. A killer kid, but a kid. Couldn’t I relate? On every single level? Then again, did I care if I could relate? Was I Dr. Phil? Hell, no. I was, however, Niko’s brother. That had me yanking harder at my internal leash while frowning crossly at Niko as I gave him a few extra seconds to move over and slide his katana blade between my leg and the kishi to pry it off with one efficient move.
“You owe me,” I grumbled at him.
While it squealed, barked, yowled, and laughed hyenacrazy through a toothy muzzle, Niko threw the last kishi down and hogtied its preteen fuzzy ass. My brother—he wasn’t a bleeding heart. There were more dead monsters and people in whatever version of hell you wanted to believe in who’d testify to that. He did like to give a break when he thought one was due, though—or when he thought their birthright shouldn’t automatically condemn them.
He’d learned that raising me and adjusting to my birthright—a lifetime of habits, right or wrong, was hard to break.
Robin’s voice was in my ear, catching my attention again. “Am I in trouble? Ah. Hmmm. It’s more like everyone else is in trouble with the exception of myself,” he hedged. “I’d rather explain it in person and give you the keys to the bar. Ishiah left them for you.”
Ishiah was my boss at my day job/night job/afternoon job, whenever I wasn’t out doing what pulled in the real rent money—disposing of monster ass. He owned a nonhuman bar—not that humans knew the supernatural existed—called the Ninth Circle, was a peri, which was a winged humanish type creature that had spawned angel legends, and was generally neutral on whether he should kill me or crown me employee of the month for making it a week without icing a customer while serving up their liquor of choice.
Why would he want to kill me? We had a lot of unpaid tabs because I hadn’t once made that said employee of the month. But hand held to the empty, godless space that filled the sky, if I killed you, you usually had it coming. Or you just weren’t that quick. In my world, the two were practically the same.
“The keys? Why did he . . . Ah, hell with it. We’ll get the story when we get there.” I looked down at Niko crouching on the street, rhythmically rubbing the kishi’s stomach. It crooned mournfully, my blood on its teeth, the silver of its eyes surrounded by the white of fear. “Fuck me.” I sighed. Before I let Goodfellow off the phone, I added, “By the way, do you know anywhere we could drop off a baby kishi to be raised up all good with God? Religious, righteous, and true? Oh, and nonpeopleeating?”
“Your imitation of a Southern drawl is pathetic, and yes, drop him off here.” He rattled off an address. “They take in strays all the time. But you’d better do it in the next hour or they’ll be gone.”
“Gone where?” I asked.
“Who knows? It doesn’t matter. They’ll all be gone. Everyone. Now hurry the hell up. I’m paying your bill this time. I’m a puck, a trickster, and a usedcar salesman. Don’t think I won’t squeeze every penny out of Niko’s wellshaped ass if you don’t perform this job to perfection.” His phone disconnected in my ear.
“Who was that?”
I grinned down at my brother. “Robin is hiring us for a job, and I’m thinking seriously about taking a dive in the fifth, because it’s your ass on the line if we screw up.”
“Goodfellow will be a good client. He wouldn’t cheat us.” He’d cheat anyone else—man, woman, or child, but not us. Niko finished the knot on the rope and slitted his eyes at me. “And let us leave my ass out of it. Why I claim you as my blood, I will never know.”
It wasn’t true. I didn’t know why he put up with me, but I took it on faith that Niko knew something that made me worth keeping around. Niko inherently knew extraordinary things that most others didn’t know and wouldn’t ever know. He was like that. Then again, very rarely, Niko screwed the hell up, wasn’t the infallible older brother—because no one was infallible. No one. I hadn’t kept count before, the times he was wrong, but if I’d known what was headed our way, I might’ve starting adding them up now.
Number one was a little over sixty minutes away and headed for us like a freight train.
Posted March 12, 2012
Hey, Supernatural fans? You've delved into the world of Cal and Niko yet? If not, do it! Start at the beginning though with Nighlife as it'll make everything make sense and then you get to enjoy this latest installment of the Cal books, Doubletake. With all our favorite players, Cal, Niko, Robin, Promise and the introduction of a great new villian in Grimm and add the spice of Niko's lost lost father coming into the picture...it all makes for another fun, action-packed and solid read from one of the best urban-fantasy authors out there.
I, like others, were a bit disappointed a couple books back when the Auphe were destroyed forever, but with the intro of Grimm into the series, and having that play into Cal's constant and accepted battle with his inner monster, I love the re-introduction of the old evil returning. It pushes Cal in and out of that Auphe part of him that grows and is now accepted, but that he still tries so hard to keep down. Cal and Caliban are now one in the same, but still distinctive and seperate.
At the core of Doubletake though, as with all the Cal books so far, is the brother's bond. It's just as strong and evident here as it ever was. Ms. Thurman treats us with a couple wonderful and always welcomed flashbacks to a younger Cal that succeed in deepening even further, the bond of Cal and Niko. Taking their co-dependence up another notch. It's that bond that cements me as a fan of this series. It's the core and the heart of what makes these brothers tick.
Thank you, Ms. Thurman for another great notch in a great book series.
Oh and kudo's to to Mr. McGrath for one of the best piece of cover artwork out there.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 9, 2012
Riviting from start to finish I couldn't put Doublletake down. Once finished it stayed on my mind for days after, it was that good.
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Posted April 25, 2013
Can't wait for more in this series and the the others. Love Cal & Niko. Rob makes the characters come to life. And Robin Goodfellow. Loved that she connected the pass with the present.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 14, 2012
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Posted May 19, 2012
A bit disappointed
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Verushka
I’ve always been a huge fan of Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series. I discovered it just as I discovered Supernatural on television and while I’ve since stopped watching Supernatural, I’ve remained a fan of this series. Cal and Niko remain in this novel fiercely devoted to each other, no matter what. That strength and Thurman’s adept touch at bringing their life together has made this series riveting reading, but I found this one to be somewhat uneven.
The book opens with Robin hiring Cal and Niko to police a Puck family reunion. Hot on the heels of this job, Cal and Niko have family reunions of a sort of their own. Niko’s father Kalakos reappears asking for their help in tracking down a monster called Janus who is homing in on those with Vayash blood and killing them, which means the brothers are targets. This metal monster was made by Haphaestus and, yes, he’s alive and Robin goes above and beyond in dealing with him. Cal’s “family reunion” is with another half-Auphe called Grimm who needs him to rebuild the Auphe race.
Don’t get me wrong – Thurman’s writing is in top form here. I got more of a sense of how Cal views his brother and how much he knows Niko has given up for him. Thurman also shows us in a tender, sad way why nothing and no-one will come between Cal and Niko through a small flashback that had me tearing up.
What didn’t work in this novel was the balance and focus on Grimm and Kalakos in the novel. While Kalakos plays an important part of the conclusion to the novel, he is barely a presence through the novel, he hovers in the background mostly, while Grimm has more of a presence instead. Had Kalakos had more of a presence, had we had more of an insight into him and Niko and that relationship fleshed out more – even if all Niko felt for him was hate – this novel would have been better for it.
Another consequence of this uneven balance in the focus afforded to characters is that Robin, despite having a strong presence in the beginning of the book, suddenly disappears and calls in with some information. On the one hand, this gave Thurman some chance to focus on Grimm and Kalakos and the brothers, but because the writing accompanying these characters was so uneven and Robin’s exit for this book just as uneven, in the end, none of it worked. Robin’s absence and the way Thurman explained was a glaring problem in the book for me, especially as Cal kept noting how Robin would never disappear on them. And as a reader of this series for seven books now, I couldn’t agree more.
In the end, a disappointing addition to the Leandros series.
This review and more at openbooksociety dot com
Posted May 1, 2012
I enjoyed this book, but it feels like a transition book to me--setting up the situation for the next Leandros' book. The Panic was hysterical, the sub-plot with Niko's dad was great, and Grim makes a wonderful villain. I'm torn between wanting Cal to waste him in the first chapter of the next book and wanting him to hand around for awhile to give Cal (and Grim) some play-time together. I'd also like Thurman to skip the next books in the Trickster and Chimera series and write the new Leandros book NOW!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 30, 2012
Posted April 18, 2012
Doubletake is the seventh book in the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman.
The boys are back!!! Cal and Niko are in parallel circumstances where outsiders try to wedge into their brotherly bond in one way or another. Niko's father pays him a visit for the first time in Niko's life, asking for help. Cal has an unwanted and unexpected visitor trying to pry his way into Cal's life and wont take no for an answer. And then there's the enigmatic puck, Goodfellow who's having a family reunion where anything can happen. Added to that, there's a big bad out there that's gunning for the brothers in the worse way.
I loved this book!!! Rob Thurman always packs her books with nonstop action from start to finish and this one is no different. These books have always been about family, about the brotherly bond between Cal and Niko and what they are willing to do and go through for each other. This book brings that theme to the forefront and really delves into the depths of their bond. There is some real character development on Cal's part as he has to come to term with what he's become. His love and respect for Niko has always pulled him out of the fire and now he wants to man up and find a way to be his own hero and be the man Niko has always told him he was. Niko is faced with an absentee father from the Vayash clan, the family that deserted him and Cal when they needed them most. He has to take a hard look at that part of his past and come to terms with it. Both brothers have been through so much since this series started, and it shows, but one thing that hasn't changed is what they are to each other. This book was just a terrific reminder of how important family is..and how much of a pain they can be =)!
Posted April 16, 2012
I love the Cal & Niko series. I have a sarcastic sense of humor so I thouroughly enjoy Rob Thurman and the wittiness that she adds to the characters. I also like how this book opens up the storyline to give you an idea of where it is going...and I am excited to see it when it gets there. Always a pleasure reading about Cal & Niko! Definitely recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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