When Veil Kendry dreams, he possesses a clarity normal people never experience, along with the power of volition, which allows him to enter the minds of others. Veil’s strange gift was invaluable as an operative for the CIA, but now he’s left that life behind and instead channels his unusual ability into art. When needed, though, he still applies his supernatural and clandestine skills to helping those in trouble.
So when Veil crosses paths with a thief who stole a K’ung tribe religious idol from the same midtown art gallery that exhibits his dream-paintings, he’s compelled to get involved—despite threats from a corrupt cop named Carl Nagle.
Using his dream powers, Veil attempts to enter the mind of the thief in order to apprehend him. But there are others on the hunt, desperate to possess the artifact— and soon, Veil will find himself fighting just to stay alive.
Jungle of Steel and Stone is the 2nd book in the Veil KendrySuspense Novels, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Vivid dreaming is his gift and affliction, the lash of memory and a guide to justice, a mystery and sometimes the key to mystery, prod to violence and maker of peace, an invitation to madness and the fountainhead of his power as an artist.
Now vivid dreaming is also his passport to the land where his love is lost.
"Come to me," Sharon whispers. "Love me, Veil. Tango with me on the edge of time."
"Yes," he replies, and begins his dream journey through no time and across no space to the place beyond the Lazarus Gate, a perilous state of consciousness a sigh from death that only Veil can reach and return from safely. Sharon had gone beyond the Lazarus Gate to be with him at his time of greatest danger, and now she is trapped there.
As he approaches death he becomes pure blue flight, an electric pulse with no differentiation between body and mind. There are no fixed reference points, no sound, only the conviction that he is traveling at great speed. Then light arcs through him, flashing like lightning down his spine. He explodes and is reassembled, floating weightless, before the shimmering white radiance of the Lazarus Gate. As he unhesitatingly passes through there is another flash of blinding light and a great, booming chime sound that he feels in his head, heart, stomach, and groin.
Sharon Solow, naked like Veil, waits for him in an infinitely long corridor bounded on both sides by walls of swirling gray where ominous, toothed shapes lurk, melting away and re-forming, sighing, beckoning. Although there is no wind here, Sharon's waist-length, wheat-colored hair billows behind her as she comes toward him, and her glacial-blue, silver-streaked eyes gleam with love and desire. Her laughter, like their voices, is a chime scale that bounces off the deadly surface of the surrounding walls and falls around them in a cascade of fluorescent sparks.
"How am I doing down there?" Sharon chimes as she touches his mind and blends her dream-body with his.
Veil laughs. "Down where?"
"Down, around, over, under, between — whatever. What's happening to the rest of me?"
"You're as beautiful as ever," Veil says, reacting to the anxiety in her voice, gently caressing her mind.
"Yes, Sharon. Obviously you're being fed intravenously, but you're breathing on your own. You're bathed every day, massaged and moved into a different position every six hours."
"Am I still at the Institute for Human Studies?"
"You're being cared for in a CIA clinic in Langley,
Virginia — it's the best."
"You've never mentioned that before."
"You've never asked before."
Sharon frowns. "But the CIA is your enemy."
"Not the CIA — just a man by the name of Orville Madison."
"He's the 'fat fortune-teller' you once mentioned to me, the man who wants you dead, isn't he?"
"Yes. He was my controller twenty years ago, but he's moved up in the world since then; now he's the CIA's Director of Operations."
"I don't understand. If this man hates you so much, why would he allow me to be cared for in a CIA clinic?"
Veil does not reply. He tries to draw Sharon even closer to him, but she resists, moving back slightly in the endless corridor. In the wall to Veil's left, something moans.
"Tell me, Veil."
"It's not important."
"Please tell me."
"He's the man I made the arrangements with. Madison supervises your care."
"But he wants to kill you!"
"Yes, but in his own time and in a place of his choosing. For now it gives him pleasure to have power over me."
"And he has that power over you because of me, doesn't he?"
"What have you given him, Veil?"
My soul, Veil thinks. He says, "I've agreed to carry out certain special assignments for him when he asks — and if I approve of the assignments."
"I'm sorry, Veil."
"You've delivered yourself to a man who hates you in order to save me."
Veil shrugs. "I consider it a small price to pay for the woman I love. Besides, if not for what happened at the Institute, he might have put a bullet in my brain by now."
"But he intends to do that anyway!"
"One day, yes. But not now."
"You won't be free from him until I'm well, will you?"
He would never be free, Veil thinks as he glances to his right at the gray, chiming wall beyond which he had seen Sharon's flesh begin to glow and melt from her bones. His soul would belong to Orville Madison for as long as the CIA Operations Director allowed him to live.
"Madison is keeping his part of the bargain," Veil replies easily. "You're being kept in good health, and a team of specialists is constantly trying to work out ways to bring you back to consciousness."
"One day, maybe, I'll just be able to follow you back through the Lazarus Gate."
"Does this Orville Madison know that you can contact me?"
"Does he know anything about this thing you can do?"
"He knows about my brain damage and vivid dreaming, but not the rest of it."
Sharon laughs. "Wouldn't he be surprised!"
"I imagine so."
"But what does he think happened to me?"
"He just thinks you're in a coma."
"But he must have seen my EEG. Nobody in a simple coma spikes like that."
"He knows about the Lazarus Gate, but he thinks it's nothing more than a fleeting state of consciousness a very few people pass through just before death. He's right, of course."
"Except for you and me, Veil."
"Except for you and me." He could come and go at will; Sharon's mind was trapped there.
"If he ever found out that you can do this, he'd try to make you use it for him, wouldn't he?"
"Of course. Fortunately for me, Orville Madison's main interest is in controlling everybody around him and screwing his enemies. He loses interest quickly in things for which he can't see a practical application to his primary goals."
"Could you actually spy for him with your dreaming?"
"No. My dreams are just that — dreams. They're projections of my own mind, not an entry into anyone else's."
"But what is this?"
"This is an exception. Yours is the only mind I can actually touch; that's because you're here and because I'm able to reach this place in dreams. I always dream vividly and often imagine myself living other lives, experiencing things with somebody else's perceptions. But those dreams are nothing more than extensions of my imagination — a kind of sorting-out of things I know, or believe to be true. Except for what happens here beyond the Lazarus Gate, I can never be certain that what I experience in dreams has any basis in reality."
"You can be anyone you want to be."
"I can imagine myself as anyone."
Sharon is silent for a long time. "I want to be with you, Veil," she says at last. "I want to be with you back there — wherever 'back there' is. The other reality."
"You will be."
"I love you, Veil."
"And I love you," Veil says as he embraces Sharon, then rolls away from the dream into deep sleep.
The short, stocky black running up East Sixty-ninth Street toward Fifth Avenue was holding Victor Raskolnikov's statue under his right arm and carrying one of the art dealer's African spears in his right hand. His white shirt was stained red over the area of his left shoulder, and that arm flopped limply as he ran.
Pushing aside his thoughts of Sharon Solow, Veil Kendry took the wrapped painting he was carrying from under his arm and set it down against a fire hydrant. He was about to angle across the street to intercept the runner when he heard a car door open and slam shut close by. He glanced to his right in time to see a gaunt, pockmarked man in a purple T-shirt and grease-stained chinos skip around a late-model black Pontiac and start across the street. Then he saw Veil watching him — and froze. He licked his lips as fear moved across his face like a ripple in water, then abruptly turned around and got back into his car. He turned on the engine and backed down the street in a screech of burning rubber.
Veil sprinted across the street and was loping easily ten yards behind the injured, burdened man when he suddenly realized that the black did not intend to turn at the corner. "Jesus Christ," Veil muttered as he surged forward in a renewed burst of speed. He was only a step or two behind the runner, reaching out for the man's collar, when the black, without hesitation, sped under the red traffic signal and leapt off the curb into the alley of steel death that was Fifth Avenue at 8:50 on a summer Friday evening.
Veil almost stumbled into the traffic, but he broke his momentum by grabbing the pole supporting the traffic signal. He swung out over the pavement, then just managed to pull himself in toward the sidewalk as the side of a taxi brushed against his spine and a loose sliver of chrome caught and tore his shirt. An instant later there was a deafening cacophony of blaring horns and skidding tires, and then, like a discordant echo, the screeching of locked brakes and the crashing of colliding, crumpling metal. Headlights popped, glass shattered. The din slammed against Veil's senses like a physical blow as he spun away from the pole, then watched and waited for almost two minutes before the mammoth chain collision finally ground to a halt.
Now Veil stepped out into the street, carefully picking his way across what resembled a lava flow of broken machinery, vaulting locked bumpers and rolling over crumpled hoods as he searched for what he assumed must be the crushed, lifeless body of the black. But there was no body; somehow the man had made it safely across the street and into the dark green forest-gloom of Central Park.
Veil turned back and immediately went to the aid of an injured motorist in a nearby car. The woman had banged her head on the windshield and twisted her ankle, but did not appear to be seriously injured. Veil wrapped her in his light jacket, then moved on to look for others who might need help. Sirens wailed as police and ambulances converged on the scene from all directions. On Sixty-ninth, a police car's siren died with a loud whoop as two patrolmen jumped out. Veil knew both of the men; one glared at him with open hostility, while the other offered a barely perceptible smile and nod, which Veil returned.
Openly displaying a friendly attitude toward Veil Kendry was not something a policeman in any of the five boroughs of New York City could afford to do without risk of career damage, Veil thought with vague amusement.
"Excuse me, sir."
Veil turned in the direction of the rich baritone voice and found himself looking into the dark brown eyes of an olive-complexioned, heavily muscled man dressed in a brown gabardine suit. "Yes?"
"Detective Vahanian," the man said, flashing a gold detective's shield. "What's your name, sir?"
The detective uttered a soft, almost imperceptible grunt of surprise. Shadows of uncertainty moved in the man's eyes, then were blinked away. "Did you see what happened here?"
"A man ran across the street against the light."
Vahanian looked out over the wreckage clogging the street and shook his head in disbelief. "How long ago?" "Maybe twenty, twenty-five minutes," Veil replied as he glanced at his watch. "If you're also investigating a theft from the Raskolnikov Gallery, he's your man. He was carrying the idol they call the Nal-toon, and a spear he must have snatched off the wall."
"Obviously you read the papers."
"On occasion. Also, Victor Raskolnikov handles my work. I'm a painter. I know about the Nal-toon; it's been the bane of Victor's existence for the past two months. I don't think he'll ever handle another piece of primitive art."
"I wouldn't blame him. Where did this man go?"
"Into the park," Veil said, pointing across the street. "He was short, maybe five-five or six. Mid-twenties, black — but I don't think he was an American black. He had an Oriental cast to his features."
"It was almost dark twenty minutes ago."
"The streetlights were on."
"Just a minute," Vahanian said curtly, then turned and walked back to his unmarked car, which was parked up on the sidewalk. He spoke for a few moments into the car's two-way radio, then returned to Veil. By now, dozens of police cars, ambulances, and tow trucks had arrived at the scene. "Where do you live?" Vahanian continued as he removed a cheap ballpoint pen and small notepad from his inside breast pocket.
"Three eighty-five Grand. It's a loft on the Lower East side."
"How close were you to this man?"
"He was across the street, but I got a pretty good look at him. He was wearing a white shirt without a collar and dark slacks a size or two too big for him. He'd been injured — maybe shot — in the left shoulder, and it looked like he couldn't use the arm."
"No. It happened pretty quickly."
The detective replaced the pen and pad in his pocket, then studied Veil for a few moments. "You're very observant," he said, raising his eyebrows slightly. "It looks like you've earned your reputation."
"What reputation?" Veil asked carefully.
Vahanian shook his head. "It's not important."
"Victor Raskolnikov is a friend as well as my dealer. If there's a police line outside the gallery, I'd appreciate it if you'd take me past. I'd like to see if he's all right."
The detective nodded in the direction of his car. "I was going to ask you to come along, anyway. My partner may want to ask you some questions."
"Give me a minute. There's something —" Veil glanced down the sidewalk toward the fire hydrant where he had left his painting, and sighed with resignation.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Veil said, walking toward the detective's car.
Vahanian got in, turned on the engine. He backed off the sidewalk, made a tight turn, then made his way slowly back down Sixty-ninth, weaving through an obstacle course of police cars and emergency vehicles. He pulled up on the sidewalk around the corner from the gallery, and Veil followed him through the throng that was gathered at the front and struggling for position in order to see in through the huge display window. There were audible gasps from some of the men and women. As they entered the building a helicoper flew overhead, heading for Central Park.
The long and narrow room inside the entrance — one of four display areas comprising the gallery — was filled with an eclectic mix of primitive art and modern paintings, including three of Veil's. At the end of the room, to the left of a vaulted archway leading to another area, the pedestal on which the Nal-toon had been displayed stood empty, like some wooden creature that had been decapitated. Victor Raskolnikov, impeccably dressed in a dark blue suit and gray silk vest, was standing in a pile of broken glass, steadying himself by leaning on the pedestal. Ashen-faced, obviously badly shaken, the portly Russian was trying hard not to look across the room to where the sagging corpse of a young, uniformed security guard was pinned to the wall by the long, razor- sharp head of an African ceremonial spear that had skewered the man's chest almost in the exact center; blood had spattered over one of Veil's paintings, hung to the left and slightly above the guard's head.
To Veil's right, a few yards inside the entrance, a huge, hulking man who he assumed was a detective was questioning a frail, trembling woman whom Veil judged to be in her mid- or late twenties. The man's back was to him, but he could see the woman's face — and she was clearly terrified. Her face was virtually bloodless, made to seem even whiter by the shimmering blue-black of her long hair and her large black eyes. She kept shaking her head, as if she were denying something. Occasionally a thin, tapered hand would brush away a strand of hair or pluck at her thin lower lip in a curiously birdlike motion.
The woman saw Vahanian, reached a trembling hand out toward him. "Is Toby all right?" she asked in a quavering voice.
Vahanian turned to her, but before he could answer, the huge man took a step to his left and, like some tropical moon, eclipsed the woman from sight. The man's voice came across the room to Veil's ears as a low, slightly menacing rumble.
"Veil!" The Russian who was his friend and mentor lumbered like some circus bear down the length of the room, threw his thick arms around Veil, and kissed him on both cheeks. "God, I'm glad to see you here. This is a terrible, terrible thing."
Veil once again glanced over to where the hulking detective was questioning the woman. Something was wrong, he thought; he was becoming increasingly certain that the woman was terrified of the man, not the situation.
Excerpted from "Jungle of Steel and Stone"
Copyright © 2017 George C. Chesbro.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.