Bruja

Bruja

by Mel Odom

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Overview

Bruja by Mel Odom

Los Angeles is stunned when a priest is attacked by a woman who confesses to having murdered her own son. At the same time, Angel Investigations turns up reports of a madwoman floating in and out of gang fights, playgrounds, and flophouses populated by teen runaways...she's everywhere. She is a bruja -- a witch, and the embodiment of La Llorona -- the "Weeping Woman" of Spanish lore. In any place she alights, a trail of death lingers.

The priest soon lapses into a coma, but Angel and company have their hands full with other matters: Doyle is wracked with a vision of a young mother and her son in danger, out by the docks. Meanwhile, Cordy is busy searching for a big-shot producer's missing wife. The trio is running out of time. Angel has to find a possible connection between the wife who's gone MIA and the mother on the docks before he himself is stopped -- by a phantom whose mere touch brings death itself....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743407014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/31/2001
Series: Angel Series
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.30(w) x 7.74(h) x 0.82(d)
Age Range: 16 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Angel pulled his black Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible to the curb and glanced at the two-story building half a block down on the other side of the deserted two-way street. The neighborhood looked like a war zone, complete with uncertain flickering streetlights and bars over the windows of empty buildings.

"So this is the building, is it?" Doyle leaned forward slightly in the passenger seat.

The building resembled a fireplug squatting between another two-story building on the right and a three-story building on the left. Green letters on white paint spelled AKHURST HARDWARE.

Angel took Cordelia's hastily scribbled note from the pocket of his black trenchcoat and checked the address by the dashboard lights. "Yeah." He put the note away and scanned the building. Plywood covered the windows and someone had painted smiley faces on all the first-floor ones. "She told me that Devin Matthews called and I needed to check out this address." He switched off the ignition, got out, and strode across the deserted street.

"Okay, fine. We've got the right place. Now, do we have a plan?" Doyle asked as they reached the midpoint of the street. He was thin and wiry with black hair that seemed permanently mussed. His complexion was sallow from too many nights and not enough days. He wore a light jacket over a green bowling shirt and khaki pants.

Angel reached the other side of the street and stepped into the alley beside the target building. "Pizza guy."

"Angel, man, come on," Doyle groaned. "Twenty minutes we spent driving over here -- and I'm not saying you didn't drive like a bat out of hell itself, I'm telling you -- and in allthat time all you can come up with is 'pizza guy'?"

The shadows seemed to crawl into the alley from the street, masking the other end of it. Angel glanced up through the metal fire escape ladders on the three-story building next to the one they wanted to enter. Only a few stray cats moved on the landings. He scented the air. As a vampire, there were a lot of things he could smell.

"You had the same twenty minutes," Angel pointed out. "Have you got anything better than 'pizza guy'?" He turned back to his Dumpster-diving, finding plenty of garbage but no empty pizza boxes. His irritation grew for a moment, then his curiosity started chiming in. Why aren't there pizza boxes? With these guys, there should be pizza boxes.

"You see there, I didn't know planning this job was going to fall to me," Doyle said. "If I had, maybe I would have paid a little closer attention to who was asking us to come out here."

Angel glanced at Doyle and saw that the half-demon wasn't kidding. It wasn't unusual for Doyle not to pay attention if a situation or problem didn't directly involve him. In fact, in a time when it seemed everybody wanted to be involved in everyone else's problems, Angel had found Doyle's attitude a little refreshing -- except during those times that he had to recap situations in the middle of potentially dangerous action.

"Devin Matthews owns a video game design company outside L.A.," Angel said. "Calls it Brutal Dog Productions. He came into the office last week and said an ex-employee ripped off some of his game engine designs before he left. He's now creating games and posting them on the Net, charging fees for access to the games. So far, there hasn't been enough Internet exposure of the game engine to impact prospective sales of the games Matthews has in development. He hired us to recover his stolen game designs and put his ex-employee out of business."

"So this video games thief is supposed to be here tonight?"

Angel nodded. "Matthews has been trying to hack the Web server that posted the games. When he peeled back the shell companies and fake addresses to locate the physical address, he was supposed to let me know."

"And that was the subject of Cordy's note?"

"Exactly."

Doyle glanced over Angel's shoulder into the Dumpster. "All this looking around and you haven't found any pizza boxes?"

"No." Angel stepped back to show him.

"Now you see there, that's strange. Computer nerds and pizzas go together like a shot of whiskey and a beer chaser." Doyle looked back at Angel. "Curious that there aren't any pizza cartons. Or Chinese take-out. Or golden arches. Or diet soda cans."

"That's what I was thinking."

"You know what we're needing here then, don't you?"

"What?"

Doyle walked out of the alley and headed down the sidewalk. "A little bit of improvisation, that's what. Kind of like the method con. Without props, you see."

Angel followed, scanning the building. Power lines ran to the building's roof. Shutting down Internet access temporarily would be easy enough. However, getting the software back could be difficult. Devin Matthews hadn't been certain how many copies of it might have been made.

Doyle walked to the front door without hesitation. A steel security door covered the entrance. "And there's quite a door," Doyle commented. "Looks new. Notice how there's no graffiti."

Angel noticed. The door did look like it had been recently installed.

Doyle took a deep breath, adjusted his coat, ran his hands through his hair, and pressed the buzzer. "Now pay attention here and I'll show you something. Technique." He glanced back at Angel. "And try not to look so damned suspicious."

A sinking feeling grew in Angel's stomach. "What's the plan?"

"Me," Doyle answered. "Got to be one of the ten simplest plans in the world."

"Me?"

Doyle nodded and frowned. "C'mon. You got a guy inside here doing something illegal, right? He knows people are after him, 'cause he's doing illegal stuff, right? However, no man -- or criminal -- is an island. Do you see?"

"Maybe," Angel agreed cautiously.

"Stand back," Doyle said. "I'll show you how these things work. A guy goes into hiding, see? He's doing illicit business and what-have-you, but he still needs things from the outside world. There's always guys these guys have to rely on if they want to remain anonymous."

"Who's there, man?" a voice demanded from the small speaker beside the security door.

"Me," Doyle said, making his voice hoarse and furtive.

"Who's me?"

Angel thought quickly, realizing they should have walked around the building first and found out how many different ways out there were. How long did it take to grab everything inside the building and run? Especially software? If the people inside got away, Angel was certain Devin Matthews wasn't going to be a happy camper.

"Guy who's got your delivery," Doyle said, "that's me."

"It's about time," the voice grumbled. "You're late, too, so that means the pizza is free, dude. And don't be expecting no tip." The speaker died in a staticky discharge.

Angel looked at Doyle. "Me?"

Doyle shrugged and held his hands up. "Me could be anybody. Tonight, me happened to be 'pizza guy.' So who are we going to find inside the building?"

"Tech heads," Angel said. "Computer gamers. Maurice Welker was a lead designer for Brutal Dog Productions. Devin Matthews said the guy was a hothead."

"A hothead as in somebody who gets royally pissed, or are we talking about a guy who'd push you off a rooftop? There's a lot of leeway there, you understand."

"As in hard to get along with." Angel watched a car roll slowly by. "One day Welker stopped showing up for work and Matthews discovered his game engine designs had been copied."

A Papa Georgio's Pizza light glowed on the top of the car. The brake lights flared and a white, pimply face pressed up against the driver's-side window.

"He could be a problem," Angel said. "Go pay for the pizzas and get him out of here."

Doyle reached into his pocket and came out with a single bill. He glanced hopefully at Angel. "I bet it's more than five bucks."

Angel took folded bills from his pocket and peeled off a hundred-dollar bill.

Doyle intercepted the pizza guy, made the money/pie exchange, and was headed back toward the building in less than a minute. The delivery driver didn't hesitate about hurrying back to his car and driving off.

"I'm thinking," Doyle said as he rejoined Angel, "that I've already come up with a refinement on the 'pizza guy' con. Next time, you can always order a pizza and have it sent to the address. You know, that way you won't have to be rummaging through Dumpsters."

Locks ratcheted on the security door from the inside. Then the door swung open a few inches. The guy who answered the door was thin and pale. His shaved head gleamed from the light behind him, showing an intricate design tattooed onto his head. Piercings decorated his lips, ears, and eyebrows. He wore a peroxide-blond French tickler, wraparound amber-tinted sunglasses, and a Punisher T-shirt.

Doyle held up the pizzas.

The guy looked at Angel. "Two pizza guys?"

"What I'm doing," Doyle said, "is breaking in a trainee."

The guy's pierced eyebrows raised. "A trainee?"

"So what were you thinking? That pizza guys just fall out of trees?" Doyle asked.

"I've seen some that looked like they did." He reached for the pizza boxes.

Angel pulled the box back. "No money, no pie."

"It won't take just a second."

"In the meantime, I have to stand outside here? No. I want my money. And your pies are getting colder by the minute."

The guy looked slightly irritated. "Come on in. I'll take you to the guys who ordered the pizza. They can deal with you because me, I didn't order any pizza."

Angel felt the barrier over the door drop away and he followed Doyle inside. The open warehouse floor had been divided into cubicles. No lights were on, but the soft blue-white glow from dozens of computer monitors left pools in the darkness. Angel scented the air, drawing in the stink of unwashed humans, blood, pizza, stale beer, Chinese food, incense, citrus...

...and something decidedly demonic.

Dozens of eyes watched him from the cubicles. Some of them held curiosity and wariness, but others gleamed with predatory alertness.

"You guys don't look like pizza guys," the pierced guy said as he threaded through the irregular path leading through the cubicles. "And, like, aren't you supposed to have protective wrap on the pizzas? To keep them from getting cold?"

"Just took it off. Left it out in the car so it'll still be warm for next trip." Doyle lifted the pizzas. In the gloom the steam wafted from the cardboard boxes. "See? Still steaming."

Angel glanced from side to side as they passed the cubicles. Devin Matthews didn't know how big Maurice Welker's operation had grown in the last three months. Judging from the state of undress and verbal content spewing from some of the cubicles, the underground computer network was also pushing bandwidth of a decidedly adult nature.

"What do you think?" the tattooed guy asked, waving at the cubicles. "Quite a setup, huh?"

"What do you do here?" Angel asked.

"Man, we do it all." The guy seemed really proud of his job. "We contract out for telemarketing, offer adult bandwidth that will blow your mind, host websites, and rent you cutting-edge, pay-for-play online games billed directly to your credit card that are the bomb."

Doyle looked around. "I'm looking around here, and I'm thinking maybe two pizzas ain't going to be enough, you know?"

"Man, that's no problem. Not everybody here eats pizza."

A cubicle door on the right opened and a horned Fyarl demon dressed in a lime-green Speedo stepped out. A cordless phone headset clung to the side of the demon's broad head. He wrapped long-taloned fingers around the pencil microphone by his fang-filled mouth. His mottled gray-pink skin glistened in the computer monitor lights. "Hey, Randy, we got any more beef jerky?" he said in English. "I ran out of mill worms." He shook an empty container.

"Aren't you supposed to be working?" Randy pointed to the small camera mounted on top of the computer monitor. At the moment, a rather unlovely view of the Fyarl demon's backside occupied center stage on the monitor. "The client is paying to see your body on the camera."

The Fyarl demon grinned, still holding the pencil microphone. "The client is seeing my body. She says this is my best side. Want to hear?" He offered the headset.

Randy held his hands up. "No way, man. I'm going to try to eat something later."

"Well, either get some beef jerky out here or I'm going on break in the middle of this phone call." The Fyarl demon stepped back into the cubicle and slammed the door.

Randy looked back at Angel and Doyle. "Performers. They're all prima donnas." Then, as if realizing what the two "pizza guys" had just seen, he shook his head. "Don't let that look fool you. That's Bill. Bill's into special effects in a big, big way. I mean, that horned demon thing? Looks pretty authentic, doesn't it?"

"Very," Angel agreed. Although he'd already seen several large demon-friendly operations in L.A. and expected there would be several more, he was still surprised to see them in action.

Randy continued leading them through the maze of cubicles.

"You want to tell me you were expecting an operation this big?" Doyle whispered.

"No," Angel admitted. "Devin Matthews thought this was a four- or five-man operation, tops."

"Yeah, and I'll bet he didn't mention demons, either."

"No. I'm sure he didn't know about them." Devin Matthews had come across to Angel as a young, intense guy who'd staked everything he had on the company he'd founded. Maurice Welker's theft of the game engine design could ruin him.

"I'm thinking maybe we should just deliver the pizzas and scurry away to make a new plan," Doyle suggested, trying to gaze around nonchalantly. "We're kind of at ground zero for Web-based Demon Central here. And, drastically outnumbered."

Angel started to agree, then they were through the cubicle maze. A stairway to the left led up to the second floor. More demons and humans were headed in both directions on the stairs. They barely gave Angel and Doyle cursory glances, but a svelte demon with snakes for hair grinned at Angel enticingly.

"You can put the pizzas in the break room," Randy said, waving toward one of the offices built into the back of the building.

Angel glanced through the window and saw a group of men seated on tables and chairs watching a hockey game on a television hanging from wall mounts.

Doyle set the pizzas on the table, his eyes glued to the screen. "Hey, the Kings are playing. Mind if we sit and watch for a minute? I've got a small wager on the game."

Angel was instantly aware of how he and Doyle had become the objects of interest to the dozen men and women in the room. The break room was totally dark except for the soft glow of the television. He got a really bad feeling.

"Sure," Randy said. "Pull up a chair and watch the game." He started for the door. "I'll just go get -- " Without warning, he sprinted through the door and slammed it shut behind him.

The men and women in the room got to their feet.

"You know," Doyle said quietly, "all of a sudden, I'm thinking maybe I'm not so keen on watching the game." He started backing away.

Angel backed with him, thinking if they could just put the wall to their backs they might have a chance.

Randy reappeared on the other side of the large window overlooking the cubicles in the middle of the warehouse. He slammed both palms against the window repeatedly and roared with laughter. "Come and get it! Two pizza guys for the price of one! Who says I don't deliver?" He fisted his hands and cabbage-patched on the other side of the glass.

The faces of the men and women approaching Angel and Doyle morphed, switching to savage, bestial features as their canines elongated. Without a word, the vampires launched themselves at their prey.

Copyright © 2001 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

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Bruja 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'ts suprising theres la llorona and guess who's connected to her and who's going to be her next victim and it's shocking when you find out who let the llorona out who that person was!