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Authors: Scott G. Mariani

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BOOK: Uprising
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All the next day on the ski slopes, Lonsdale had looked out for him – but no sign, nor the next night.

Finally, on the last evening of the holiday, Lonsdale caught sight of the man again. And this time, nothing was going to stop him from going up and introducing himself.

The man’s name was Gabriel Stone. They’d talked until late in the night and, when Stone had invited Lonsdale to be his guest at his mountain home in Romania, Lonsdale had been straight on the phone the next morning to advise his staff in London that he’d been struck down by a virus and wouldn’t be back in the country for another week.

Two days later, Stone’s helicopter had flown in to land at his home, with Jeremy Lonsdale on board, flanked by the two burly bodyguards his host had provided for his security. Snowy mountains stretched as far as the eye could see. The chopper banked over the towers and ramparts of the old castle, and Lonsdale had been blown away by the power and majesty of the place.

For the rest of the day, he’d been attended to by a tall, bald and cadaverously gaunt man who introduced himself as Seymour Finch, personal assistant to Mr Stone. Lonsdale found Finch’s presence uncomfortable. There was something strange and unsettling about him.

It was only after dark that Lonsdale’s host appeared, apologising that his business affairs tended to occupy his entire day. The two men had dined together in the great hall, drunk fine cognac and smoked cigars. Stone had been not only a charming and affable host, but a man of culture and intellect. Lonsdale had never met anyone able to quote so extensively from classical literature, the Bible, the Greek philosophers. He knew history as though he’d virtually lived it.

That night, Lonsdale had been woken in his luxurious bedroom by the sound of strange music. He climbed out of bed, opened his door. The music seemed to be drifting up from somewhere below. He pulled on a satin robe and followed the sound, treading quietly through the castle’s cold, dark halls and passageways. The music was like none he’d ever heard before and it seemed to lure him, as though it had some hypnotic quality that whispered in his mind.

He came to the door of what looked like a wine cellar. It creaked open to reveal steps leading down. At the bottom of the steps, another door lay half open. The music was coming from inside.

Lonsdale couldn’t help himself. He had to see what was in there. Peeking through the gap, instead of a cellar he saw a decadently opulent room richly decorated with tapestries and exotic rugs and gold-threaded cushions scattered across the floor. On a huge bed was the naked figure of Gabriel Stone, his physique lithe and muscular and perfect, surrounded by three beautiful women who were making love to him.

As Lonsdale watched from the shadows, a hand had touched his shoulder and he’d nearly screamed in terror. He’d turned to see a woman even more beautiful than the ones on Stone’s bed. She smiled and put her finger to her lips. Beckoned him away from the door. ‘Come,’ she whispered. The look in her dark eyes meant just one thing.

Lonsdale had followed her back through the passageways. She was bewitching. Her raven hair was tangled and wild like a gypsy’s, and when she glanced back at him with that smile, her lips were red and glistening. The way she moved drove him wild. Every nerve in his body tingled with lust for her as she led him back to his room. Inside, she shut the door with a smile. He was almost panting by now.

‘W-who are you?’ he stammered.

‘I’m Lillith. Gabriel’s sister.’ She walked him to the bed and shrugged the gown from her shoulders. She was naked under it.

Lonsdale tore at his robe. ‘You’re beaut—’

‘Shh. Quiet.’ Then she kissed him, and pulled him down onto the bed.

It had been a memorable night.

When Lonsdale had awoken next morning, Lillith was gone. He’d searched the castle obsessively for her. Returning to the room below, he’d found the door heavily padlocked. He’d spent the whole day thinking about her. She was like a drug, and he wanted more.

Lillith had come back to him for the next two nights. Two more nights of wild, dizzy passion. She was incredible. She did things to him that he’d never imagined possible.

Then, on the third night, just when he thought he was completely spent, Lillith opened up a whole new world for him. The candlelight gleamed on her skin as she knelt there on the bed – and flickered across the blade of the dagger she’d drawn from under the pillow. He’d watched, speechless with excitement, as she held its sharp tip to her chest and slashed herself. A rivulet of blood tricked down her breast. Her lips had opened a little wider, and Lonsdale had seen the white fangs, long and curved. She’d cupped her hands behind his head and pulled him in closer. ‘Drink me!’ She threw back her head and gasped in anticipation as he lowered his face to her breast and put out his tongue to lick up the flowing blood. Every nerve in his body had been aflame.

In that moment of enthralling wonder, Gabriel Stone had walked into the room, interrupting them. He’d shouted harshly at Lillith, and she’d retreated in fear, covering herself up with a sheet.

Then Stone had turned to Lonsdale. ‘You’re not so afraid of us, are you, Jeremy? That’s interesting.’

‘Who are you?’ Lonsdale breathed.
‘What
are you?’

Stone smiled. ‘Do you not know? We are the ones with the power. The power to change your life forever. And I do mean
forever.
You can become one of us. Become everything that a human isn’t. You like that idea, don’t you, Jeremy?’

‘What do I have to do?’

Stone gave another smile. ‘You will be contacted.’

Then he was gone, and when Lonsdale looked around, he saw that Lillith had disappeared with him.

He hadn’t seen them again for a long time.

The following day, Lonsdale had reluctantly returned to London. Life had gone on – but it held little appeal. He’d tasted something infinitely more rewarding, and it preyed on his mind until he thought he was going to go insane with frustration.

For three long months, he’d heard nothing. Then one day in early June, the strange man called Seymour Finch had paid an unexpected visit to his London office. Inside the slim briefcase he carried with him was the agreement drawn up by his employer Mr Stone.

As contracts went, it was extremely simple. The price would be twenty million euros, to be wired to a Zurich bank account. Within hours, Lonsdale had arranged the transfer and was choking with anticipation to hear from Stone’s people again.

Nothing. As the summer turned to autumn, Lonsdale was beginning to think he’d been the victim of an elaborate con trick. He’d become so agitated that he’d been virtually unable to conduct his daily affairs.

Nothing, until late September, when the man called Finch had returned. Mr Stone’s end of the deal would soon be honoured, he said. There was to be a ceremony.

‘What kind of ceremony?’ Lonsdale asked nervously.

‘An initiation,’ Finch had replied. ‘The first stage in your induction. But first, Mr Stone requires a service from you. A ship will be arriving in London within the next few weeks. You are to use your influence to ensure that its cargo arrives safely, unexamined, unquestioned.’

And Lonsdale, helpless, hooked and counting the days to the ceremony, had seen to it.

But now, as he sat here in the warm Italian sunlight, sipping the last of his iced lemon vodka, he was beginning to have second thoughts.

The initiation had been horrible. It hadn’t only been because of what they’d done to the poor young girl they’d slaughtered. It had been the look on Lillith’s face, like a wild animal that hadn’t fed for days. He kept seeing it in his mind, and it brought a taste of revulsion into the back of his throat.

Was that really the kind of creature he wanted to become?

Sitting here gazing out at the Tuscan hills, he couldn’t stop thinking about how all this was going to change when Stone finally took him over the edge. Turned him. The turning point from which there was no return. He’d never again be able to sit outside and enjoy the golden autumnal colours of the trees. The glow of the sunshine on his face would become a distant memory. Not just for a lifetime, but for a whole eternity of darkness. Was that what he really, truly wanted? He’d have to renounce his whole career. Spend the rest of time lurking, hiding, in the shadows. Like a criminal.

Power. Limitless power. But at what cost?

Worst of all, he might never be able to visit Toby again. Lonsdale closed his eyes. Saw the boy’s bright, smiling face in his mind, heard the sound of his laughter.

When he opened his eyes, they were moist.

How could I have been so stupid?

It wasn’t too late. Stone hadn’t even told him when the next stage would take place. He could still back out. It would mean having to confront Gabriel Stone face to face at his home in Henley. The idea chilled Lonsdale utterly. But it was the only way, and he was suddenly gripped by a pressing sense of urgency.

He tinkled the little silver bell on the table in front of him, and seconds later the butler came running out of the house.

‘Roberto, have my jet prepared. I have to return to Britain as soon as possible.’

Chapter Nineteen

The John Radcliffe Hospital

4.25 p.m.

‘You again,’ the staff nurse sneered at Joel. ‘Visiting hours are over.’

‘Don’t give me that,’ he said and marched by her.

Dec Maddon was sitting up in bed reading a comic book as Joel walked into his ward.

‘What happened to the old guy next to you?’ Joel asked, pointing at the empty, neatly made bed.

Dec shut the comic with a surly look. ‘Died.’

‘How’s the wrist?’

‘Getting better, so it is. What are
you
doing here? More questions?’

‘Good news first,’ Joel said, sitting in the chair next to the bed. ‘Your blood tests came through negative. Which means there’ll be no drug driving charge. You’re not supposed to know that yet, so keep it to yourself, okay?’

‘Told you, didn’t I?’ Dec raised an eyebrow. ‘So what’s the bad news?’

‘The bad news is I need you to look at something for me. And again, this isn’t something you should be seeing. It’s strictly between you and me. Understood?’ Joel took out his phone.

‘What is it?’

‘Something not nice, Dec. You’re going to have to be brave.’

‘I saw a girl get her throat slashed and a bunch of vampires taking a shower in her blood,’ Dec muttered. ‘I think I can handle whatever you have to show me.’

Joel scrolled up the photo he’d taken at the recovery scene. Without another word he handed the phone to Dec. The young guy’s face drained of colour as he stared at the image on the screen.

‘Scroll down. There’s another.’

Dec thumbed the button and his face grew even whiter. He dropped the phone in his lap, then sank his head into his hands. ‘Shit. That
is
bad.’

Joel took the phone back from him. ‘You okay?’

‘Yeah, I’m okay. Don’t think I’ll be wanting dinner, though.’

‘Well?’

‘It’s her,’ Dec mumbled through his fingers. ‘The girl from the party. The one they killed.’

‘Dec, we need to be completely sure.’

The young guy looked up sharply. ‘You don’t forget something like that. I’m sure.’

Joel nodded. He was silent for a few moments as he got his thoughts together. Confiding in Dec Maddon was going a long way out on a limb – but Dec was all he had right now.

He took a deep breath. ‘This isn’t a regular murder investigation, is it, Dec? This is something different.’

Dec looked at him. ‘Does that mean you believe me?’

Joel paused a long time before he replied. ‘We need to keep all this between us. I’m taking a big chance on you. Don’t let me down.’

Dec nodded solemnly. ‘I won’t let you down.’

‘You’re going to be discharged from here tomorrow morning, and you and I are going for a drive. I want you to help me find the house. You need to think hard.’

‘Things are coming back slowly,’ Dec said. ‘Details.’

‘Like?’

‘Like those weird birds.’

‘What weird birds?’

‘On the gateposts. Like sculptures, you know? Stone birds. Ravens or something. I can remember their claws and beaks. Ugly fuckers.’

Joel patted him on the shoulder as he rose to leave.

‘Keep it coming. Write down everything you remember. I’ll see you in the morning.’

Chapter Twenty

Evening was falling by the time Joel rode into Lavender Close on the edge of the market town of Wallingford. He cruised slowly past the gate entrances looking for number sixteen, but couldn’t find it until he realised that the Hawthornes’ place was the only house in the street with a name instead of a number. The fancy slate sign on the wall read ‘The Willows’.

He rolled the big Suzuki up onto the kerb by the gate and killed the engine. Unstrapping his helmet, he looked around him. The houses looked like they could have been made of Lego, all sitting in neat ranks in the amber glow of the streetlamps, each with its crisp little garden. Two of them even had gnomes. The house next door to the Hawthornes’ place was the only property that lacked the compulsory manicured lawn and perfect hedge, and instead of a Rover or a Volvo in the drive, there was a builder’s van and a couple of go-faster hatchbacks. That would be the Maddon place, then.

He walked in the gate of The Willows, brushed his fingers through his hair at the door, and knocked. A few seconds later a light came on in the hallway, then the door opened and a sour-faced woman appeared on the front step. She eyed the bike and his leather jacket with obvious distaste, and crossed her arms.

‘If it’s the Maddons you’re looking for, it’s the next door along.’

‘I’m not. Are you Mrs Hawthorne?’

‘I’m Gillian Hawthorne,’ she said uncertainly. Her eyes opened wide as he showed her his police ID. ‘You’re a Detective Inspector?’ She made no attempt to mask the scepticism in her voice.

‘Incredible though it may seem,’ he felt like saying. Instead he adopted his most polite tone and said, ‘It’s your daughter Kate I’ve come to see. Is she in?’

BOOK: Uprising
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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