Following the explosive events of book one, Pleasure Model, Detective Rook Venner, Mistress Julia, and Plesur are on the run from the government troops trying to kill them and from a shadowy group that wants to capture Plesur alive for its own purposes. What secrets have been implanted in Plesur's headand why are they worth killing for?
Caught between these two powerful rivals, the trio hides out in the lawless New Jersey territory. Betrayed by gang members looking to collect the bounty on Plesur's head, the three are separated, and Rook and Mistress Julia find themselves in mortal danger. Julia, given as a prize to a gang member, finds herself in chains, but not without her own means of fighting back. Rook, forced to fight for his life in the gang's bloodthirsty gladiatorial games, must stay alive long enough to rescue Plesur, but time is running out.
The Bloodstained Man is a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled ride through a future where pleasure has a price, and Plesur holds the key to a secret that could rock the country to its very core.
About the Author
Interior artist Justin Norman's design for graphic novels includes the critically acclaimed Elephantman comic series. Norman lives in Seattle, Washington.
Cover artist Gregory Manchess has produced covers for Time, National Geographic, and Atlantic Monthly, as well as spreads for Playboy, Omni, Newsweek, and Smithsonian.
Read an Excerpt
The Blood-Stained Man
By Christopher Rowley
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2010 Heavy Metal Unloaded, LLC
All rights reserved.
New York City was getting hammered by the storm. Relentless rain and wind sent water firehosing along the streets.
Rook Venner, Senior Investigative Officer from the Hudson Valley Police Department, knew he was in a tough situation. All hell was going to break loose as soon as the cops found what the trio had left behind at former president Marion's penthouse.
Rook glanced down East Forty-second and saw police lights, lots of them, where the Gotham Tower loomed in the night sky. Thoughts went spinning wildly through his mind. The image of ex-president Marion's head exploding all over the luxurious penthouse apartment. The smell of fresh brains and blood. The urge to puke. Rook had ignored the man's frantic waving hands, his face turning ash-white at the words "Taste Imperative."
Not thirty-six hours ago, Rook had been a homicide detective assigned to a routine case, his biggest problem a car that wouldn't start. Now he was on the run, a rogue cop targeted by military, government black ops, and God knew what other organizations with access to big weapons, gunships, and killer robots. The key to any hope for survival were the two women who walked beside him.
He glanced at the young blonde, a gene-grown human pleasure model. Her former owner, Manuel Sangacha, was the murder victim, an ex-general with a dark past. Rook had rescued the mod on a wild hunch she was vital to the case. He was more right than he knew. He replayed in his mind the image of her spinning like a superheated top as she kicked the crap out of a full-armored tac-team. A five-foot-eight, 120-pound pleasure model shouldn't be able to do that. But Plesur had been transformed, upgraded into a fighting machine by a military earback taken from the ex-president's apartment.
"I'm soaked," the other woman complained, her ash-blond hair slicked down on either side of her face.
Rook glanced at the tall woman's leather bustier and spiked heels, not the preferred rain gear for 2068. They'd met the mysterious, leather-clad dominatrix, who went by the name Julia, at Marion's penthouse. She had paid a visit to her now ex-client looking for a different set of answers. Who had killed her fiancé twenty-five years ago, and was she still on the hit list?
Rook supposed he should be grateful. He'd thought Plesur was dead. He had left her at a clinic to get an earback upgrade, but the place had sold her to a local pimp. Julia had acquired Plesur for the late president.
"I thought leather was waterproof." Rook's mouth twitched in a smile.
"Not unless you're a cow!"
Three fugitives on the run, inextricably tied together by one fucked-up murder case. They had two clues: one, a set of geographical coordinates planted in Plesur's head by Sangacha. The other, a piece of a government file with the words "Taste Imperative," and four names, all of people missing or dead according to his Nokia superphone, a high-end computing device named Ingrid.
The wind gusted again, forcing them to take shelter in a doorway. A cop car went north on Third Avenue with the rack lit up.
Rook hunched deeper in the shadows. "We have to get off the street."
"Brilliant plan," Julia snapped. "Where to?"
Good question. For the first time in his life, Rook had no direction. He had been a good cop, always put the bad guys away. What was he supposed to do now? This time the bad guys were government, military — or both. It seemed someone wanted Plesur dead and someone else wanted her alive. Who was who? Freddie Beckman from Sable Ranch, the political juggernaut that had run the country for the past fifty years, had helped them, giving Rook a warning that saved his life. But whoever had tried to kill him and Plesur had used heavy military gunships. Who else but Sable Ranch had access to that kind of hardware? They were caught in the cross fire but he couldn't see who was holding the guns. How could a rogue cop, a pleasure mod, and adominatrix crack this case? And better yet, live to write the screenplay about it.
Plesur pressed close beside him. She looked exhausted, no doubt from the adrenaline spike of her newly acquired fighting skills. Thanks to the implant gleaming behind her right ear she had taken down the tac-team sent to kill them. Rook had a handful of other implants in his pocket, taken from the ex-president's penthouse. He had no idea what they might turn Plesur into.
Rook went through the list of people who could help them. It didn't take long. The only person he trusted was his partner, Lindi MacEar, but it was too risky to contact her. Everyone thought he was dead, but by now he surely had been ID'd by the surveillance tapes in Marion's apartment. Freddie Beckman was the only other candidate, but who knew how he felt about Rook's blowing up a relative.
Suddenly the mod turned wide blue eyes to him and said, "Ronald Clampen, Lydia Trenchard."
"What?" Rook leaned forward.
"I know these names. Like the number I told you."
"Wait." Rook fished out the piece of paper he had retrieved from Sangacha's apartment. On it was the name Dr. Clampen. Seemed Sangacha had planted more than numbers in her pretty head. "We have a match."
"They can help me, us," Plesur insisted.
"That's just great, sugar." Julia shivered. "I hope they run the Four Seasons."
Rook flipped open his phone. "Say those names again," he told Plesur.
She did, and the Nokia responded instantly in its cool, female Scandinavian voice, "Two matches. Dr. Ronald Clampen, senior executive, Synodyne Genetics, California. Deceased."
"Lydia Trenchard, vice-presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in this year's election. Running with Paula Perez."
"What do they have to do with Sangacha?"
"Unclear. Most likely the information is triggered under crisis mode," Ingrid deduced. "Lydia Trenchard is holding a fund-raiser at the NooZoic Gallery. It's on Thirty-sixth Street, west of Fifth Avenue."
Julia glanced at the nearest street sign. They were at Park Avenue and Thirty-seventh. "That's two blocks from here."
Rook glanced at Julia. "Let's take in a little art."
Julia arched an eyebrow, glancing at the array of automatic weapons they carried. "We're a bit overdressed."
"Trash them here. Some lucky citizen can start his own revolution."
They pressed on, making their way west, the gray tower of Grand Central Terminal looming behind them like a tomb.
Plesur gripped his arm. "Why do I know these things?"
Those incredible blue eyes were brimming over with confusion. Plesur had gone from subnormal intelligence to being like anyone else when they'd snapped that earback into the socket behind her ear. She wasn't just a pleasure model anymore. She was intelligent, trying to deal with being only three weeks old with a lifetime's worth of questions and emotions.
"Maybe Lydia Trenchard has some answers." Rook tried to sound soothing.
Another crazy gust of wind drove rain sideways across the street. The gutters were overflowing, an awning down by the corner had torn free and was flapping like the wing of some huge, captive bird.
"Come on," said Rook, pulling Plesur close to his side. "Just one more block."
They ran to the pool of light in front of the gallery. NOOZOIC read a sparkly sign across the front. The windows were pink and opaque, the people inside visible only as silhouettes. Sounds of applause and cheering drifted through the door.
"Must be the place." Rook ran a hand over his slick hair, noting he needed a trim.
A limo drew up at the curb beside them. Several people came running out of NooZoic as the car's rear door swung open.
A massive guy in black neoprene emerged and sprouted an umbrella from one hand.
In a sudden swirl of lights, a police car shot past, heading south. The sight galvanized Rook, and he shooed Plesur into NooZoic, Julia right behind.
"God, who are these people?" Julia pushed her way through the crowd.
"Together we can take back America!"
A lady in a striped gray suit raised her arms. She stood on a podium at the rear of the gallery. She was older gen with carefully tinted auburn hair.
Applause erupted as people waved signs that read PEREZ/TRENCHARD FOR A NEW AMERICA!
"Everyone knows what we've been through in this country. But what we want to know is, when will it be over?"
There was a good crowd, maybe 150 people. Rook noted men in high-end suits, pale gray and blue, women in ultrafashionable tiny miniskirts and high heels. The humid air was full of expensive fragrances.
"What Paula Perez is saying," the woman continued, her voice impassioned, "and what the Democratic Party is saying, is that enough is enough. We want our country back!"
The crowd broke into prolonged applause, cheering and whistling as Lydia Trenchard stepped off the podium. She shook hands, waved to friends, accepted hugs.
Rook saw Plesur staring at the artwork exhibit. "What is it?"
With a start Rook saw the walls were covered with large portraits of pleasure models, dozens of them. An entire row of Pammies, six foot by four, cascaded over the far wall. They seemed to move, ghost-dancing across the arid desert. On the other side of the gallery, a row of AfriQueens hypnotically swayed against the lush veld. At a distance of twenty feet each group looked identical, but as Rook drew closer, he noticed slight differences. Some were obviously older, with lines around their eyes and mouths. Some had nothing but innocence in their eyes, others had nothing but sorrow.
"So many," said Plesur, struggling with the new understanding of what she was. A genetic construct, a product, with thousands of identical models out there, all around the world, designed for one purpose.
Rook could sense her confusion and agony.
"Why so many?" she asked him.
"You're very popular."
"Life lesson number one." Julia shook rain from her hair. "Men are fucked-up."
Plesur had tears in her eyes. "I am just ... that." She pointed to the portraits.
Rook wanted to help ease the pain, he didn't really know how. "You're your own person now."
"For how long?"
"Oh my fucking Christ!"
He felt another presence at his elbow and found a gorgeous young woman wearing a way too tight sparkling silver minidress and high heels. She looked like a virt star. Her orange hair streamed down her back.
"You must be the artist," Rook surmised.
"Eve Euridiki." She circled Plesur, taking her in from top to bottom. "And you are perfection."
"Her name's Plesur."
"That's the default." Eve's eyes flicked from Julia to Plesur, then back to Rook. "You on some kind of slave fantasy trip?"
Julia laughed. "I wouldn't piss her off, if I were you."
"Plesur is smart," Rook said.
"Fan-fucking-tastic! You had an upgrade. So tell me, what do you think?" Euridiki waved a hand at the paintings of Pammies.
Plesur thought for a minute. "I am them, but then I am not."
"That is the point of my work," Eve approved. "Mods are all identical, but as they age, they change, just like we do. And yet we deny them human rights, we deny them humanity."
Suddenly Rook remembered where he'd seen the name Euridiki before.
"I've seen some of your work. A desert scene."
"My Arizona series."
"They were on the walls of Manuel Sangacha's apartment."
Euridiki's head snapped up at that name, and she focused on Rook much more intently than before.
"You know Manuel?"
"Not really." Rook bit his lip for a moment. "He's dead." He searched her eyes for a reaction. He got one.
Euridiki took a step back, shook her head. "They killed him."
"Who might 'they' be?"
"Who else, Sable Ranch."
Rook felt his eyebrows rise involuntarily. How much did this woman know? "That's the popular theory. How well did you know him?"
She gave a shrug. "Manuel was a steady client. Bought a lot of pieces. He loved art."
Rook's mouth twitched. "Who'd have guessed."
"He hid behind a lot of walls."
Yeah, Rook thought. Too bad they weren't made of lead.
The crowd parted as Lydia Trenchard strode up to Eve.
"Crowd loves you," said Eve as the two hugged. "Meet my new friends, love."
Lydia extended her hand to Rook. "Thank you for coming."
"Name's Venner, Rook. Plesur."
"The pleasure is all mine." Lydia smiled.
"My name is Plesur. I am one of those." The mod pointed to the Pammies on the wall.
Lydia's blue eyes studied Plesur. She seemed to understand everything about Plesur in an instant. "But you're a little different, aren't you?"
"I am smart now."
"That's wonderful, dear."
"This is Julia," Rook said.
"Hello." Lydia Trenchard stared at her for a moment. "I meet the most interesting people at these events."
A young lady appeared with a tray of champagne flutes brimming with bubbles. Lydia downed one and took a second.
Eve tugged on Lydia's jacket and bent her head down.
" ... belonged to the general," was all that Rook heard.
"My God." Lydia Trenchard stared at Plesur.
"Sangacha planted your name in her head," Rook told the politician.
Lydia stepped close to the mod. "Do you have a message for me?"
"Just this, 74 17 06 97."
"Location coordinates, interesting." Lydia's steel blue eyes focused on Rook. "Who the hell are you?"
"The information she carries is vital to my case."
"Perhaps the entire country." Lydia paused. "You sound like a cop."
Rook flushed. "I am, was, a cop. Homicide detective."
"But not anymore."
"Recently dead. I was assigned the Sangacha murder."
Lydia looked behind her, then leaned close to him. "So you know he was Louisa Marion's hatchet man."
"You mean the ISS."
Lydia's eyes went wide. "You've been busy, Detective."
Just then, one of her handlers interrupted, handing her a phone.
"What?" Lydia said. "Arkansas?"
Rook felt pressure on his left thigh. Plesur was standing close to him. She took his hand, anxiety clear in her eyes.
"What is happening?"
Plesur tugged on Rook's sleeve. "Lights outside."
Rook looked down the gallery to the pink, opaque window. Police lights were flashing. Men in tac suits were piling out of squad cars. Rook's heart sank. He turned back to Eve Euridiki. "We have to get out of here."
Her eyes flicked to the front doors. "Why?"
Rook shook his head grimly. "Somebody's trying to kill us."
"Get the fuck out!" Euridiki was immediately excited.
"The mod must be saved at all costs," Lydia said. Noting the apprehension in Rook's eyes, she glanced at Eve. "I have a feeling this party is about to get a lot more interesting."
Wheels spun in the artist's head for a moment and she made a quick decision. "Game on."
A sudden disturbance at the front door caused heads to turn.
Julia eyed the commotion. "We must have been picked by CCTV on the street."
"Come with me." Lydia spun on an immaculate heel and shouted orders to her staff. "Rosie, call Hugo. Set up a switch. Let's go, now!"
Her handlers were moving toward the back of the gallery. Eve Euridiki was shoving people out of the way. "Hurry!"
Bright lights blazed at the door, and suddenly armored tac suits were pushing inside. People ran screaming into the back of the gallery.
Rook met Julia's raised eyebrow. What choice did they have? With Plesur following, they were back on the run.CHAPTER 2
They hurried through the back office of the gallery away from the sounds of screams and things being smashed.
"You break it, you bought it!" Eve shouted, flinging open the doors to the rain-soaked alley. A green sedan was waiting in a narrow, brick-lined space.
"Get in!" Lydia slid into the passenger seat as Eve jumped behind the wheel. The other three piled in the back.
The doors closed, the car started. "Plan B," Lydia said in a firm voice, and the car, a Mercedes M-type Kombidrive, leaped forward like a sprinter out of the blocks.
Rook saw the brick wall fly by, inches from his face, and flinched. Plesur seemed nonplussed as Eve sprang open the glove compartment and tossed her a sleek handgun.
"Here ya go, Killa."
Plesur cocked the chamber as the car hurtled into the street and hung a sharp right, going over on two wheels. With a shriek of rubber, the Mercedes gunned itself to the end of the block. "Great car, huh?" Eve said.
"Programmed to override the rails, nice." Rook was jammed back into the plush seats like a baseball into a catcher's glove.
Excerpted from The Blood-Stained Man by Christopher Rowley. Copyright © 2010 Heavy Metal Unloaded, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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