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By F. Paul Wilson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1991 F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
It was an uneventful evening until it got crazy. Craziness had been the farthest thing from Ed Bannion's mind when he invited his younger brother into the city.
Phil came in through the Lincoln Tunnel from Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and Ed met him at a midtown parking lot. No special occasion, just keeping in touch. They went downtown and then began a steady march back up: Before-dinner drinks at The Airplane in SoHo, and off-off-Broadway play in Kips Bay, shrimp in green sauce at El Quijote in Chelsea, and finally a nitecap in the Oak Bar at the Plaza. And it was there in the Oak Bar, there in the heart of the jewel in Ivana Trump's tiara, while they were standing side by side, each with a foot on the brass rail, staring at the misty painting of the Plaza fountain behind the cash register, that the young blonde squeezed between them and ordered a double JD on the rocks.
"Hi, guys!" she said, bright and cheery with a smile that made Ed wince in its glare.
A real piece. She looked around twenty-five but she could have been thirty. Either way, she was younger than Ed. Her wavy blond hair was like a pale cloud around her head, and her face had a fresh, All-American look that contrasted sharply with the high-slit leather mini-skirt and the low-cut sweater that exposed smooth, bouncy crescents of her breasts. She had what they call a bod that wouldn't quit. Sexy as all hell, and not the least bit shy.
"So, what's happening here with you Plaza-type dudes?"
"We're not —" Ed began but Phil cut him off.
"Just hanging out," Phil said. "Waiting for something to happen."
"Yeah?" she said. "My name's Ingrid, and I'm waiting for the same thing. Isn't that something?"
"That's something, all right," Phil purred.
Ed stared at his brother who had suddenly become cool, smooth, and seductive. He hardly recognized him. Ed was a bachelor, but good lord, Phil had a wife and child back home in Jersey!
"You guys look alike. You related?"
"We're brothers," Ed said, feeling he should add his two cents. The clash of her bold and brassy attitude with her angel-soft good looks excited him. "I'm the older one — but not by much."
"Yeah?" she said with a seductive smile. "You never could tell. You guys come here often?"
"This is our headquarters whenever we're in the Apple," Phil said.
Ed struggled to keep from laughing out loud.
"Me, too," Ingrid said. "I've got an appointment with Mike Nichols this week. He's shooting his next feature right here in Manhattan, you know, and my agent's got me an audition with him. So I'm just killing some time while I wait for Solly to firm up the exact time and place. What're you guys in town for?"
"We're in textiles," Phil said with this oily grin. "Y'know ... rugs and stuff? We sell textiles by the mile."
Ed was shocked by his brother's facile way with a lie. Phil was a Wa-Wa manager. He wouldn't know a broadloom from a flying carpet.
"Really?" Ingrid said. "That sounds boring as shit. Can you guys fuck?"
Ed saw his brother's eyes bulge as he felt his own jaw drop. That sweet face, those innocent eyes. And talking like that!
Phil glanced quickly at Ed, then back at Ingrid.
"Sure we do. What do you think we are, queer?"
"I don't know," she said. "I've been crammed in between the two of you and neither one of you has even tried to feel me up. Something's wrong here."
"My brother and I were raised to be gentlemen," Phil said.
"I kinda like that," she said, slipping a finger inside Phil's shirt, "but you can carry that polite shit too far. Want to come up to my room? It's got a great view of the park."
"I don't know about that," Phil said. "What's it gonna cost me?"
Her smile was sweet. "Cost? Nothing. My treat. But there's a condition."
Ed didn't like the sound of this.
"Phil, uh, maybe you should —"
"The both of you have to come," Ingrid said.
Ed swallowed and wet his dry lips.
"You want both of us?"
She looked at him and laughed. His expression must have reflected the excited turmoil within him.
"Yeah! Guys always run out of steam before I do. One ain't enough, know what I mean? So I like to have a back-up along. That too kinky for you fellows?"
Thoughts of herpes, syphilis, the clap, and AIDS ran through Ed's mind. Then she ran a hand over his crotch. From the startled look on Phil's face, Ed guessed that she was doing the same to his brother.
Phil's voice was strained. "What floor?"
Before long they were twelve stories above Central Park South. Ingrid wasted no time once they were in the room. She offered them each a toot from the small vial of coke she produced, took a good snort herself, then knelt down between them and unzipped their flies.
And as the interlude progressed, it got crazier and crazier. This was one hungry lady.
Eventually it came to a point where Phil was sprawled back on the hotel bed, naked, moaning as Ingrid worked on him. She knelt on the carpet with her thighs spread wide as her head bobbed up and down over Phil's pelvis. And Ed ... he knelt behind her, gripping her black garter belt like a rodeo rider hanging onto the reins of a bucking bronco, his pelvis slapping against her smooth buttocks as he slid in and out of her.
She paused and lifted her head from Phil.
"Baby, don't stop now," Phil said. His voice was thick, hoarse.
She turned her head and looked over her shoulder at Ed. In the dim light filtering across the bed from the open bathroom door, he could see her face. Her eyes glistened and her cheeks were flushed. Beautiful, and as insatiable as she was uninhibited.
"Do it faster," she said. "And harder! I want to come, damn it!"
Ed said nothing. He'd already come once himself, and was climbing the upslope toward number two. He picked up the pace, ramming deeper into her.
"Oh, yessss!" she said through a groan, and then went back to doing Ed.
I just don't believe this! Ed told himself for the hundredth time in the last hour.
This was the kind of thing that happened only in porno movies, in fantasies, not in real life. At least not in Ed Bannion's life. Fifteen years in this town — sixteen in August — and never anything even close to an encounter like this. When he'd got the job with Paramount he'd been a sex-starved law school grad dreaming of starlet sandwiches and orgies. Even if he was in legal and based in New York, Paramount was Paramount, right? Wrong. Nothing! He'd never even seen a starlet, let alone a star. Paramount — hah! He might as well have been working for Exxon for all the poontang he'd got through the company.
But tonight! Tonight made up for the long wait. He'd carry the memory of this to his grave. Maybe even beyond.
He felt the pressure growing within the basement of his pelvis, surging outward, building ...
He leaned forward and reached around her, grabbing her breasts.
... building ...
He buried his face in her fragrant, wavy hair, and nuzzling the nape of her neck.
... building ...
Suddenly he knew he was past the point of no return. He stiffened, cried out, then bit down hard as he exploded within her.
Ingrid screamed in pain. She straightened up and twisted, pulling free of Ed as she rose to her feet. She stood there, naked but for her garter belt and black stockings, staring at Ed and his brother, her hands to her mouth, her eyes wide with what looked to Ed like shock and horror.
"What's the matter, babe?" Phil said.
"Oh, no!" she moaned. There was no passion in the sound, only revulsion and unplumbed misery. "Oh, God, no!"
Ed turned cold inside. Something was terribly wrong here. What —?
She turned to run and immediately slammed into the wall. She bounced off it and blindly dashed toward Ed, accelerating as she passed him.
"Christ, no! The window!" Ed said and tried to grab her leg.
But she was moving too fast. He missed her and could only watch helplessly as she rammed into the lower pane of the big double-hung window. For an instant it looked as if she might bounce off that, too, but then came a sharp crash like a shot, like an explosion, and suddenly the glass was coming apart all around her and she was still moving outward, taking a million bright dagger shards with her. And then she was gone, a keening wail trailing behind her.
Ed remained kneeling on the carpet, frozen in shock, shivering in the cold wind pouring through the shattered window, thinking this couldn't be real, this couldn't be happening, listening to the terrified wail that continued long after she was gone from view, much longer than it should have. And then he realized that the sound was coming from him.CHAPTER 2
Kara felt the old tension come alive as the city hove into view. She had been able to hold it at bay during the express ride through central New Jersey, but after pulling out of the Amtrak station in Metropark and hearing the conductor call out New York as the next stop, she'd felt it stir. Now, with the spires of the Manhattan skyline poking at the morning clouds across the river, it came writhing to life.
Ten years ago she had walked out on the city, leaving behind the two most important people in the world.
Manhattan. The City That Never Sleeps. The City of Opportunity. She and her twin sister Kelly had arrived there fresh out of their respective secretarial and nursing schools, two ingenues, a pair of Pennsylvania hicks leaving home to take their bite out of the Big Apple.
Everything went swimmingly at first. They stayed at their Aunt Ellen's place while hunting for jobs. Kelly found a nursing position almost immediately — it was the late shift, but it was a job. Kara looked over the prospects and decided she'd do better starting out as a temporary, figuring that way she'd be exposed to a variety of companies and could see how they operated. When she found a good one that would pay enough to cover a few college courses, she'd hire on as a permanent. For Kara didn't intend to stay a secretary forever. She had plans. She wanted to write, wanted to work her way into advertising and copywriting.
So Kara started off as a Kelly Girl. She didn't like the "Girl" part but she went along. She preferred to think of herself as a secretarial gun for hire. There was no such thing as word processing then. The IBM Selectric was her weapon of choice and she wielded it with deadly efficiency. The Kelly people paid her well and kept her busy.
Who knew where she might be working now if she'd stayed on in the city? Perhaps she'd be a big name at Saatchi & Saatchi. Or maybe she'd have started her own temporary office help service. She had seen no limit to her potential in the Big Apple.
Until the Central Park incident.
That was when Kara learned that Big Apple bit back and she'd run for home.
Ten years later now, and she was on her way back to identify her sister's body. Alone. Mom was rushing back from Florida and so there was no one else to make this trip but Kara.
Kelly dead! She still couldn't believe it! And the way she had died! Naked, smashed on the sidewalk in front of the Plaza! How could someone have done that to her?
Kara's mind balked at the very question.
Since the call from New York yesterday afternoon, Kara's life had been a bad dream. Kelly, she'd learned, had been dead for more than half a day before the police had got around to calling her.
And it had been Rob of all people who'd made the call.
They hadn't spoken in ten years, yet she had recognized his voice immediately. And she had known that it was something bad, something about Kelly. Why else would Rob call from New York after all this time?
Rob Harris. She had left him high and dry. When she first met him he'd been attending the police academy. She still remembered how cute he'd looked in his hated recruit grays. When she left him he was in regular blues, and she'd been convinced the city was going to kill him.
She wondered if he'd forgiven her yet.
And now she had to see him again. At the morgue. Over poor Kelly's shattered body.
God, how was she going to do this?
* * *
Kara shivered in the cold as she stood in the morning crowd outside Penn Station. The city hadn't changed much. The Penn Station-Madison Square Garden area looked older and dirtier. She noticed that the old Statler Hilton was now called the Vista. She felt the pedestrians crowd against her as they stacked up on the sidewalk, waiting for the Seventh Avenue traffic light to change. She clutched her pocketbook tightly against her. These people frightened her.
The Central Park incident came back to her in a rush.
It had been a sunny Sunday in June. She and Kelly were strolling along the Park side of Fifth Avenue on their way back from an exhibit at the Metropolitan, enjoying the day, enjoying the admiring stares from all the guys, killing time until they met the men in their lives later in the day. Kelly stopped to get a pretzel and a coke from a pushcart. While she was waiting on line, Kara wandered onto a path to listen to an old black fellow playing Delta blues on a portable electric guitar.
Without warning, she felt herself jerked off her feet, stumbling backwards as something hard and sharp tightened across her throat, digging into the soft flesh there. She fell, and it dug deeper as she was dragged backwards. She tried to scream but her air had been cut off. She heard other screams and blurred glimpses of staring, horrified faces. Yet nobody moved to help her.
And then with a snap, the pressure was gone as suddenly as it had come.
Gasping, choking, Kara rolled over in the dirty and saw the receding back of a man as he dashed down the path, saw people darting out of his way. Her hand went to her throat. Her gold necklace, the heavy chain her father had given her a year before he died, was gone. People tried to help her to her feet but she batted their hands away. She wanted to scream at them, ask them why no one had lent a hand when she needed it most, but her voice seemed paralyzed.
"Y'shouldn't wear gold necklaces near the Park, hon," said a middle-aged woman in a housedress. "Y'should know that."
Kara wanted to strangle her, but then Kelly ran up and Kara fell into her sister's arms and began to sob with reaction.
Nowadays she didn't cry so easily.
That was when the Big Apple began to rot for Kara. It never was the same after that. She found herself constantly looking over her shoulder. She became afraid to go out alone. And she never went near Central Park again.
Six months after the necklace-snatching she was on the train, outbound from Manhattan, never to return.
She looked east along Thirty-Fourth. Bellevue Hospital Center was that way, on First Avenue and Thirtieth. The morgue was in its cellar.
She shut her eyes.
Why am I here? I don't want to be here. I don't have to be here.
Which was true. Her presence here today would not speed Kelly's body back to Pennsylvania by a single minute. But she had to do this, had to make this trip. For Kelly. Kara had left her sister here, and now the least she could do was see her home.
She ignored the schools of cabs cruising the area and decided to walk. It would put off having to see Kelly.
She jumped as a hand squeezed her left buttock through her coat. She whirled and glared into the press of people around her but couldn't tell who'd done it.
God, she hated New York.
* * *
Detective Third Grade Rob Harris leaned against the wall in Bellevue's lobby, smoking a cigarette and listening to the couple over by the phones. Amazing. Somebody was in the middle of pulling a variation on the old Spanish handkerchief scam in the middle of a hospital. He'd become suspicious when he saw the pencil case, so he'd sidled over to listen.
"You got da money? Da fi' thousan'? Lemme see. Good! Here. Put it in this pencil case."
"Why?" the woman said. Sheathed in a shapeless old coat, she was chunky, fiftyish, with mocha skin.
"For safekeeping. No one wants a pencil case. An' you hol' onto it. I don' wan' even touch it."
The woman shoved the bills inside the case and then clutched it between her ample breasts with both hands.
"What do we do now?"
"We wait for Chico to call and say it's okay for you to go down to da main Lotto office and collect my money."
Rob shook his head in wonder. The gullibility of people never ceased to amaze him. This grifter was using the latest wrinkle on the Spanish handkerchief — a phony lottery ticket. It worked like this: The grifter has a state lottery ticket dated for, say, January 3 that has the correct lottery numbers for that date. Except that it's a ticket from January 31 with the "1" scraped off. The scam artist poses as an illegal alien who can't cash the ticket for fear of deportation. He corners some poor sucker, usually of similar roots, and pleads for help, promising to share the prize if the mark can prove that he or she is "a person of substance" whom the grifter can trust with his "winning" ticket. The mark checks with a local Lotto stand and confirms that, yes, the ticket does indeed have all the winning numbers. To prove her 'substance,' this particular mark had withdrawn five thousand in cash and shown it to the grifter. It was now in the pencil case.
Excerpted from Sibs by F. Paul Wilson. Copyright © 1991 F. Paul Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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