Senator Will Sullivan and his wife Gwen are a golden couple—brilliant, beautiful, charismatic, and powerful, facing a glorious future few Americans will ever know. Only one important piece is missing from their lives: a child. But now their dream is about to become areality—at a price too terrible to imagine. After years of heartbreaking disappointments, Gwen is finally pregnant, thanks to a special procedure performed at a private clinic. But the small life that grows within her may not have been created by her husband. Instead it could be the spawn of an imprisoned psychopath responsible for an unspeakable slaughter—a twisted cult leader whose powers extend far beyond his prison cell, a dark messiah whose acolytes are everywhere.
|Publisher:||Velvet Elvis Entertainment|
|File size:||832 KB|
About the Author
Doug Richardson is the author of two previous novels—Dark Horse and True Believers. A well-known, respected screenwriter, his film credits include Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Bad Boys, Money Train, and Hostage. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two children and four mutts.
Read an Excerpt
Ten Years Ago
“Oh, Jesus!” she cried. “I'm alive!”
Isadora wanted to be dead. Like all the others, she'd expected to be sleeping in the sweet afterglow. But she'd screwed up. She must've. But how? Sorting through the buzzing in her head, she hadn't a screaming notion. The narcotic mixture hadn't yet worn itself out. It left her half-paralyzed, in the same fetal shape in which she'd chosen to end her broken life.
No, Izzy. You aren't dreaming.
Heaven couldn't look like this. Izzy's eyes flickered open to a disturbing vision. It was daylight still. Sometime after five. Four stories up, the late afternoon sun busted through the hanging dust of the abandoned movie soundstage. Thirdhand mattresses had long ago been tacked to the walls for cheap soundproofing. Forty feet high of used Orthos, Sealy Posturepedics, and Simmons Beautyrests. The mattresses were riveted and rippled, torn and bleeding stuffing of yellowed feathers and polyurethane foam. The dying sun cast the mattresses in yellows and oranges, an unearthly texture. The gargantuan space resembled a massive padded cell more than a former movie soundstage.
Before Izzy lay all her brothers and sisters. A hundred dead. She knew because she'd counted. Her eyes scanned madly, clicking off the bodies and adding the numbers. Each one lay on a cardboard mat, naked and dead, just as she should have been. But the peaceful sea of death had been broken by a single ripple. Izzy was alive. And though her body remained nearly as fixed as the dead, her mind was cramping with questions. Why me? All the mixtures were the same, albeit a bit more narcotic was added forthe men. Two parts Seconal, one part barbital, ten milligrams of Valium, a quarter-cup of strawberry-flavored Jell-O, and a tablespoon of sour cream. That was the recipe. She'd happily taken hers with all the others.
But I'm alive! God, no, I'm alive!
She reasoned it must've been all the drugs. It had to be. A lifetime of experimentation had bolstered her tightly muscled body into a narcotic-resistant vessel, immune to some of the hardest dope cocktails. She'd always been able to out-drink, out-snort, and out-shoot the men in her life. All but her beloved Dean. And now he was dead and gone with the rest of them.
A shudder of loneliness overcame Izzy. She lay there, motionless, eyes shutting out the horror that lay before her. They'd left without her. Brothers and sisters. Left their bodies, left the earth, and crossed over into the mysteriously wonderful beyond. The ultimate trip. The afterglow.
“Fuck!” retched a voice. A man's voice, sounding more like a guttural howl than a curse at the heavens. There was no echo. The sound waves shattered and died when they crashed into the mattresses. Once again, Izzy's eyes burst open, scanning the room for her brother. Any brother. The one who cried out. Yet she saw nothing. Just death. A mass of bodies lying in their final state. Then she heard sobbing. A woman's cry. A sister, somewhere to her right. Slowly, Izzy pushed herself up onto her hands, arched her back, and scanned the dead for some kind of movement. Something to tell her the drugs weren't playing tricks. Otherwise, it could just be a dream. The feared shitty ride that might come before death.
“I'm alive!” she called out. Her voice ached before being sucked into the mattress fiber.
“So am I,” said a sister. Izzy recognized the sound of little Starr. But where was she? Where had she laid herself down to die?
More sobs rose up from among the dead. Some bitter. Others doleful. Far across the space, Izzy saw Clem sitting up and rubbing his face. Then Sheila. And Markus. Izzy struggled, found her feet, at once happy that she was not alone, yet afraid that she'd made some terrible, horrible mistake.
She shouted at the heavens as if looking for an answer, “I'M ALIVE!”
“Yes, you are. Arise and come sit at my feet,” said a voice in soft and familiar phrasing. Izzy wheeled and saw him, his translucent, unblemished skin glowing. Pale, thin, and naked but for a bedsheet wrapped about his waist, the familiar blue tattoo of a medieval sword stretching like an inverted crucifix from his navel to the top of his breastbone. His arms beckoned wide, spread open with an alien grace.
Come to me.
Dean stood at the rail just outside the upstairs offices. The abandoned loft. That's where Dean slept. And that's where he'd chosen to die. She'd watched him herself. He was the first to have swallowed the poison. After which he had demonstrated to the others how they were to lie down and wait for death to come and sweep their souls away. Izzy had cried tears of joy at his bravery. Then, as per his wishes, passed out Baskin-Robbins cups filled with the magic Jell-O to the others. Each waxed container was indelibly marked with a name. That was Dean's idea. His final, most personal gift to his family.
“Come,” he repeated to the resurrected.
Twelve naked bodies rose from the dead. Empty souls, ready to be fitted with a new message. One by one, they climbed. As Dean embraced each one, he recalled the shattered people that they once were.
First was the slight and gentle Starr with her flaming red hair and sugar-green eyes. Used, abused, and cut off from her family, she'd turned her first trick at fourteen.
Clem, with his dead-blue eyes, rotting teeth, and bleached dreadlocks, had suffered through more foster families than there were eggs in a carton.
And Sheila, always regal inside her Latina-brown skin. And Madison, another prostitute he'd served up then later saved from the street. There were the twins, Timothy and Jack, heads always shaved to a domed shine; they were the unwanted children of a long-past incestuous liaison. Then came Asia, and Markus with his permanently retarded grin and bulging gray eyes. Arletta and Kris and Jane.