The Judas Strain Page 46

They were too slow.


Lisa choked in water, mouth opening and closing like a fish, as darkness swallowed her away.


9:07 P.M.


From the shelter of a boulder and heavy jungle, Monk watched as Lisa was hauled from the water by her hair. Limp and boneless. Her head lolled back at an impossible angle. Rakao tossed aside his spear.


"Some sort of cattle prod," Ryder said. "Shocked the ink right out of the wankers."


Rakao bent Lisa over the rail and pushed on her back. A wash of seawater splashed from nose and mouth.


One arm lifted and swatted at him.


Alive.


The pirate hauled her around and dumped her to the floor. He stared toward the jungle, then higher up the cliffs. Lightning crackled in a shattering display across the roof of the island. Winds gusted up with a whip of rain, sheeting over the lagoon.


Rakao lifted an arm and made a circling motion.


The speedboat swung around with a surge of wake, then sped back out, trailing a rooster tail of water. They were returning to the ship.


Taking Lisa with them.


But at least she was alive.


"Why are they leaving?" Susan mumbled.


Monk glanced over. In the darkness of the forest, the woman's face and hands shone with a whispery glow, barely noticeable, but there. Like moonlight through thick clouds.


"Not like there's exactly anywhere we can go," Ryder said bitterly. "By morning, they'll be hunting us."


Monk pointed deeper into the forest. "Then we'd better get going."


With Susan at his side, Monk headed into the higher jungle. He glanced one last time back to the lagoon. "What were those things?"


"Predatory squid," Susan mumbled with some authority. "Some bioluminescent squids hunt in packs. Humboldt squids in the Pacific have attacked and killed people, swarming out of the deep. But larger specimens also exist. Like Taningia danae. The isolated lagoon here must be home to such a subspecies. Rising to feed. At night, when their luminescent communication and coordination work best."


Monk remembered a story from one of the pirates, about the island, of witches and demons in the water. Here must be the source of the story. He also remembered another story of the island.


He craned up toward the jagged cliffs, framed against the dark sky. Heard past the rumble of thunder, drums pounded.


Cannibals.


9:06 p.m.


Monk allowed himself to be pulled farther into the jungle. He had no choice. There was nothing he could do.


Through a break in the foliage, he stared back toward the black water.


The pirates' boat had slowed near the beach. Rifles bristled toward shore, searching. But Rakao stood braced in the bow, a dark silhouette with long spear in hand.


With a heave, the Maori hunter drove the length of steel into the lake.


Arcs of blue lightning sizzled outward from where it struck, brilliant in the darkness, lighting up the night and the depths of the lagoon. Waters hissed with a bubble of steam around the spear's shaft.


What was he doing?


Barely conscious, Lisa gasped the last of her trapped air. A painful shock clenched through her. The squid's embrace locked harder, experiencing the same agony, possibly even more sensitive.


Then its arms released her with a final savage twist.


Seawater burned into her nose.


Her eyes open, she saw the creature streak down into the dark depths, an arrow of emerald fire. Others followed.


Buoyancy floated her up.


Then hands grabbed her, pulled by her hair.


They were too slow.


Lisa choked in water, mouth opening and closing like a fish, as darkness swallowed her away.


9:07 P.M.


From the shelter of a boulder and heavy jungle, Monk watched as Lisa was hauled from the water by her hair. Limp and boneless. Her head lolled back at an impossible angle. Rakao tossed aside his spear.


"Some sort of cattle prod," Ryder said. "Shocked the ink right out of the wankers."


Rakao bent Lisa over the rail and pushed on her back. A wash of seawater splashed from nose and mouth.


One arm lifted and swatted at him.


Alive.


The pirate hauled her around and dumped her to the floor. He stared toward the jungle, then higher up the cliffs. Lightning crackled in a shattering display across the roof of the island. Winds gusted up with a whip of rain, sheeting over the lagoon.


Rakao lifted an arm and made a circling motion.


The speedboat swung around with a surge of wake, then sped back out, trailing a rooster tail of water. They were returning to the ship.


Taking Lisa with them.


But at least she was alive.


"Why are they leaving?" Susan mumbled.


Monk glanced over. In the darkness of the forest, the woman's face and hands shone with a whispery glow, barely noticeable, but there. Like moonlight through thick clouds.


"Not like there's exactly anywhere we can go," Ryder said bitterly. "By morning, they'll be hunting us."


Monk pointed deeper into the forest. "Then we'd better get going."


With Susan at his side, Monk headed into the higher jungle. He glanced one last time back to the lagoon. "What were those things?"


"Predatory squid," Susan mumbled with some authority. "Some bioluminescent squids hunt in packs. Humboldt squids in the Pacific have attacked and killed people, swarming out of the deep. But larger specimens also exist. Like Taningia danae. The isolated lagoon here must be home to such a subspecies. Rising to feed. At night, when their luminescent communication and coordination work best."


Monk remembered a story from one of the pirates, about the island, of witches and demons in the water. Here must be the source of the story. He also remembered another story of the island.


He craned up toward the jagged cliffs, framed against the dark sky. Heard past the rumble of thunder, drums pounded.


Cannibals.


"What now?" Ryder asked.


Monk led the way. "Time to meet the neighbors ... see what's cookin'."


9:12 P.M.


Supported on the tender dock, Lisa hung from the arms of one of the pirates. She was too weak to fight, too tired to care. Sodden to bone, bleeding from a score of lacerations, she awaited her fate.


Rakao was in midargument with Devesh.


In Malay.


Beyond her comprehension.


But Lisa suspected the fight was about the tattooed pirate not pursuing Susan Tunis into the jungle. Lisa understood only one word.


Kanibals.


Behind the men a robed Surina stood at the entrance to the boat, out of the rain, arms folded, back straight, patient. Her eyes were fixed on Lisa. Not cold—that implied some emotion. Surina's eyes were a total void.


Finally, Devesh turned and pointed an arm at Lisa. He spoke in English as a courtesy to their captive. "Shoot her. Now."


Lisa straightened in the pirate's arms. She coughed her voice to a hoarse mumble.


She offered the Guild scientist the only thing she could.


To save her life.


"Devesh," she said firmly. "The Judas Strain. I know what the virus is doing."


 


 


 


 


II


Broken Glass


July 6, 1:55 P.M. Istanbul


Shock slowed the scene down to a breathless, silent stretch.


From a second-story window of Hagia Sophia, Gray watched the back of Balthazar Pinosso's head explode in a spray of blood and bone. His body crumpled at the waist from the impact. His arms went wide to the side. His cell phone, at his ear a moment before, went flying from his fingertips, struck the pavement, and skittered away.


The large man's body struck next.


Vigor gasped at Gray's side, breaking the tableau. "Oh, my Lord... no...


Sound crashed back: the echo of the gunshot, screams from the plaza.


Gray drew back, taking an extra breath to realize the implication. If Balthazar was shot. . .


"Nasser knew about him," Vigor said, finishing his own slow thought. Stunned, the monsignor caught himself on the ledge of the window. "Nasser knew Balthazar was here. The monster's snipers killed him."


Gray fared no better, dazed with incomprehension and guilt. He had sent the man out to a firing squad.


The screams and shouts grew worse outside, spreading inside. People ran—most fleeing to the nearest shelter, the sanctuary of Hagia Sophia.


Minutes ago, Gray and Vigor had climbed to the church's second floor, where there was less traffic, keeping hidden. Before heading out, Balthazar had informed the museum curator that Gray and Vigor had already left, denying the need for an ambulance. They had come up here to make sure all went well.


"The police will swarm here," Gray said. "We've got to hide."


Vigor grabbed Gray's sleeve. "Your mother and father. . ."


He shook his head. He had no time to consider that. Nasser had warned against any ruse. But once voiced aloud, Gray could not escape the terror. His breathing grew heavier; he became light-headed. Gray's parents would also suffer for this mistake.


How had Nasser known about Balthazar?


Vigor continued to stare out the window. The monsignor's fingers tightened on Gray's arms. "Dear Lord . . . what's she doing now?"


Gray turned his full attention back to the open plaza below the western facade. As people fled the square or crouched in fear, only one figure ran straight through all the confusion. She limped slightly, favoring her left side.


Seichan.


Why was she coming here?


Almost to the church, a chatter of sparks struck at her heels. Someone was shooting at her. Nasser's men. But her sudden appearance had caught the snipers off guard. With orders to keep Gray and his companions from leaving the church, they hadn't been expecting someone running toward the church.


Siechan sped faster, racing death.


1:58 P.M.


Blindsided, Seichan cursed. So Nasser did have a sniper or two positioned out here. She had missed picking them out earlier. Then again, the snipers had plenty of time to hide well. Seichan had not anticipated a traitor among their group. Balthazar had already been at Hagia Sophia all morning, setting up a snug snare.


She dashed through the Imperial Doors and ducked against the inside wall. Were gunmen in here, too?

Prev Next