Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 3
Raised by a single dad who’d died of the flu during her freshman year in college, she’d been too busy studying to try to figure out how to do more than nuke leftovers her dad kept in the fridge. From ten on, when her mom had died of the flu, Ginny had basically raised herself while he’d worked two jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food in their mouths.
Lisa was black, light brown skin and gorgeous green eyes reflecting her mixed-race heritage of her black mother and white father. She kept her curly, naturally reddish brown hair close-cropped by both choice and financial prudence. Ginny was a pale, freckled redhead with blue eyes the color of a winter Georgia sky.
Between Lisa and Donna, they managed to keep Ginny from starving to death. In the six years they’d shared the apartment since graduating from college, the three twenty-eight-year-olds had become more family than just friends and roommates. The sisters none of them ever had growing up, even better because they were sisters by choice.
“You missed Donna lying to her mom on the phone,” Lisa teased. “Twice in the same phone call.”
Ginny turned. “Oooh! Put that one in the record books. Are they still insisting the world’s going to end?”
Donna groaned. “Yeah.”
That was another reason Donna wouldn’t leave. No way she’d leave her two besties behind, even if there was a damn good reason to go. The one time she’d slightly humored her mom and asked questions about her uncle’s crazy bug-out plan, her mom had flat-out told her there wouldn’t be room for Ginny or Lisa at the cabin. Family only, in not so many words.
That alone was reason enough for Donna not to want anything to do with the plan.
Because as far as she was concerned, Lisa and Ginny were her family. No way in hell would she ever leave them behind.
* * * *
None of the three women had to work weekends. Donna had worked at the bank long enough to gain seniority to move off weekend shifts, especially since she was willing to work an odd split shift that had her at the bank from nine in the morning until nine at night, with a three-hour lunch break in the afternoon.
After dinner was finished and Ginny washed dishes, the three of them settled in the living room to watch TV.
Lisa had the remote and the TV ended up on a news channel.
“Reverend Hannibal Silo of the Church of the Rising Sunset today announced that he’s increased the reward amount to one hundred thousand dollars in the—”
“Nooo!” Donna groaned. “Come on, we agreed Friday nights are news-free zones. Please?”
Lisa smirked. “Fine.” She started channel surfing again. “What if a disaster happens?”
“Then I’m sure you two will tell me, but please, not tonight, huh?”
Ginny giggled. “I’ve never seen someone so desperate to not be informed of the world’s events.”
“I have enough stress to deal with at work. I don’t need useless information cluttering my brain. They tell me a boat full of Kite-infected people showed up in Savannah, okay, I’ll listen. Or if they end up carting several people into the CDC facility here with Kite, maybe. Right now, it’s ‘out there’ and I don’t need bad news in here.” She waved her hands in a circle in front of her. “This is a bubble of positivity. Come on, you guys promised.”
Ginny worked as a claim processor at a health insurance company call center. “In all seriousness, I haven’t heard of any calls coming in locally about Kite,” she said.
“See?” Donna felt vindicated. “Look how everyone panics when a new flu strain is identified. The media goes batshit stirring up fear about vaccine shortages to boost their ratings and bolster the pharmaceutical companies’ bottom line. That’s all this is now, except there’s some pretty dramatic shit going on for them to raise their rabble about.”
Lisa arched an eyebrow. “Raise their rabble?”
“You know what I mean.” Donna pointed at the TV, where Lisa had landed on a rerun of a popular sitcom. “How about that? That’s good. Fun. Laughter. That’s what the world needs right now is way more laughter. Laughter is the best medicine, right? I’ve worked my ass off to get to a point in my life where I can choose to laugh and focus on the positives if I want to.”
Mary Silo stared into the mirror and laughed.
A stranger laughed back. Someone who felt like a stranger for now, at least, but a woman she was coming to know better with every day that passed.
Every day of freedom.
The garage apartment she’d rented three weeks ago wasn’t exactly ritzy compared to the home she’d left behind when she’d escaped New Mexico, but she loved it. The homeowners had illegally converted the space into a furnished efficiency apartment to bring in income. It had a working sink, toilet, and shower. She had a hot plate, a small refrigerator, a microwave, a bed, a dresser, a closet, and a small desk. Heat and air-conditioning. It was clean and bug-free.
And that’s all she cared about.
More importantly, it was within walking distance of downtown St. Louis, where she spent most of her days. As far as her landlords knew, she worked for a cleaning service. She still had her car but kept it parked over a half a mile away. She could easily get to it for emergencies and she moved it every couple of days to keep it from getting towed. She didn’t want it parked close to her hideout. That way, if someone managed to track it to her, they couldn’t easily find her.
She spent most of her time away from the apartment, either in a coffee shop or some other building with free Wi-Fi, or sitting on a park bench and enjoying her freedom, staring at the Mississippi river.
Her landlords hadn’t asked her many questions, other than if she could pay her rent in cash, in advance, every month. No security deposit, either.
For backstory, she claimed she was an abused wife who’d escaped her husband in Chicago, and she was in hiding until she could save up enough money to file for divorce.
Close enough to the truth.
The fake ID her contact had obtained for her had her new picture, the one with her short, blue-black hair spiked a little, and the wide smile. She’d also worn reading glasses for the picture, which changed her looks even more dramatically.
She didn’t need to work. She had a considerable cash cushion so that, if she was careful, she wouldn’t need to make any withdrawals for a while. That money she kept hidden in a money belt around her waist.
Shopping in thrift stores for clothes far younger in style than the boring, matronly dresses Hannibal had forced her to wear was also fun.
I guess I should thank him for the restricted calorie diet.
Hannibal had always insisted her weight stay within a certain range. Hard to do when he’d kept her doped up for so long and physical exercise was damned near impossible for her.
Now she could still fit in sizes and styles designed for much younger women.
Apropos, because she felt like a much younger woman.
Hell, she even looked like one now. She could easily pass for mid-forties instead of almost sixty. All the walking she was doing every day helped tone her muscles in ways they hadn’t been in years.
Most importantly—no one would take a second look at her and even think she might be Mary Silo.
She didn’t even think of herself as Mary Silo any longer.
Her new chosen name fit her much better, in her opinion.
Yes, she was well aware of the symbolism of both the names.
It wouldn’t be long before Hannibal Silo was crushed beneath her feet, annihilated for his sins.
* * * *
Kali, as she thought of herself now to make sure she didn’t screw up, took precautions. Her contact had pointed her to websites educating her on how to disguise her electronic tracks.
She never contacted the man from the Wi-Fi at home. She always used public connections and cloaked her presence through IP masking, using incognito browser windows, and never from the same location two days in a row.
Not even that man—she guessed it was a man—knew exactly where she was. She’d used a couple of mail drops outside of St. Louis to receive the fake ID and other paperwork from him. She wouldn’t go back to those, either.
With every passing day, she grew more convinced she could trust him, but she wasn’t an idiot. Had he been working for Hannibal, he would have ratted her out long before now and cashed in on the ever-increasing reward her husband was offering for any information on her whereabouts.
Which was another issue. She’d needed to learn how to take care of herself. Protect herself.
That’s why she’d attended a gun show the week before and bought, for cash, a 9mm handgun from a private seller standing outside and holding up a sign, meaning no background check needed.
She didn’t even know if the gun was legal.
She also didn’t care.
After visiting a couple of different gun ranges and practicing with it, she felt comfortable enough handling it. She bought extra ammo and mags and carried the gun in a holster concealed under her shirt.
A nearby gym was holding a self-defense class for women next week. She’d signed up for that, too.
All of that, of course, played into the whole story of her having been an abused wife.
Her landlords were, fortunately, not followers of Hannibal Silo and his Church of the Rising Sunset. Both of them worked two jobs and barely had time for sleep, much less religion.
As long as she paid her rent in a timely fashion, didn’t disturb them while they were trying to sleep, and kept the apartment clean, they didn’t care what she did.
They damn sure didn’t suspect she was worth over a hundred thousand dollars in reward money at that point.
Luckily for her.
Shortly after Kali had arrived in St. Louis, her contact helped her create a new account at a totally different offshore bank.
She’d taken a risk—a huge one—on trusting him with her money. But when she’d first initiated contact with him, she told him she’d let him make whatever money he wanted off the evidence she’d provide him with as long as he helped her stay hidden.
Fair trade. He stood to gain a lot from the transaction, and fortunately her trust hadn’t been misplaced.
He’d made the transaction look like it originated from a server based in Dallas, sending the money to a Swiss account.
Then he’d handed that back to her, allowing her to set up yet another account in her new identity.
He warned her it probably was safe to make withdrawals from the account he’d created, but to never use the same ATM twice, try to drive far from the places she frequented to use ATMs to keep people from getting close to her, and to space the withdrawals out as far apart as she could. That if she needed credit cards, to use cash to buy pre-paid ones locally and use them sparingly, dumping each card once the balance on it was used up. He’d also tried to educate her about MacCoin accounts, that she should learn how to use them and transfer funds to there and then back to herself to help hide the money.
She would, eventually. But for now she didn’t need those steps.
So much for Kali to learn. Being an eager and willing student, she felt light years away from the mousey, cowed, abused woman she’d been just a few months earlier.
Her awakening complete, all this budding goddess had to do was patiently bide her time and wait things out.
Oh, she was still Mary Silo, heir to the Church of the Rising Sunset’s fortune. Legally, she could walk into an attorney’s office, file for divorce, and take Hannibal to the cleaners.
She didn’t want to do that, though.
She wanted his heart in her hands.
Preferably warm and still beating and freshly ripped from his chest, with his hot blood dripping down her arms.
Then, maybe, she’d call it a start.
She damn sure wouldn’t call them even. Not by a long shot.
* * * *
It was Friday night in St. Louis, so Kali settled in her apartment with a microwaved dinner and watched the tiny TV she’d bought for cash at a pawn shop. She got a cable connection as part of her rent.
This was heaven. She could watch what she wanted to watch, when she wanted to watch it, without it having to be approved by Hannibal Silo first. He used to tell her nurses not to let her watch any news or movies or shows that might “upset” her, meaning she was mostly limited to children’s shows or educational programming.
Now she could eat what she wanted, when she wanted, without it having to come from a pre-approved menu.
She could think and dress and move and act any damn way she pleased without fear of Hannibal punishing her later in bed.
Even knowing Hannibal was scouring the world for her, Kali could sleep easy. Bringing her in now would be the worst thing Hannibal could do.
Didn’t mean she wanted him to bring her in. She had no idea what instructions had been issued, if they’d dope her up and keep her restrained, or maybe even kill her.
If the police managed to capture her, she’d scream long and loud and demand to speak with an attorney and instruct him or her to give whatever media outlet paid the most complete and unfettered access to her.
And then she’d sing.
Oooh, how she’d sing.
The only reason she wasn’t singing now was that she wanted the pleasure of watching from the outside as she and her anonymous contact slowly dismantled Hannibal’s carefully constructed web of lies piece by piece. Watching Hannibal scramble to make excuses. Knowing that his unholy plans were now on hold.
Enjoying him looking increasingly unsettled with each interview he gave about her disappearance.
Oh, others might not notice it, but she did. She was an expert on the monster and his moods. Hannibal was now slowly coming apart at the seams because something he’d thought was a sure thing was no longer under his control.
Something he’d counted on was no longer guaranteed.
The flaw in his slaw.
The fly in his ointment.
And, hopefully soon, the knife in his back.
Or his balls.
She knew she had enough evidence to send Hannibal to jail for life. She didn’t want him in jail, if she could avoid it.
She couldn’t touch him in jail.
She couldn’t hurt him in jail.
She’d much rather watch the wounded animal run around in helpless circles for a while before gutting him and relishing the sight of him bleeding out before her.
Literally or metaphorically, she wasn’t choosy.
But putting him in jail right now wasn’t even a sure thing.
So she’d be patient and stalk the hunter, this former prey reborn as Kali.
* * * *
The next morning, Kali went to a library and used a public computer terminal there to do more studying on Internet anonymity, safety, and privacy.
She’d already backed up all her evidence from the original phone, and the video files she’d taken from Hannibal’s personal desktop computer, onto external hard drives and in the cloud.
One hard drive was safely stashed in a mailbox, paid up for two years. A “failsafe,” as her contact told her it was called.
Should anything happen to her, all she had to do was give the information out, and tell someone the location and combination of the mailbox, and it would be all over for Hannibal.
Even her contact had urged her not to give him everything at once. That doling it out little by little was far more effective.
He was teaching her, instructing her.
Wanted her to trust him.
He was right, of course. She wanted Hannibal to play into her hands, in her time and in her way.
Plus, right now, s
This made the months of terrible headaches and agony of weaning herself off the drugs well worth it.
After a horribly failed attempt stopping the meds all at once and making herself sick, she’d started eliminating a dose here and there, working through all of the crap, medication by medication. Trying to go cold-turkey on every drug she was on at the same time had been too much to handle, even though her body had started becoming far more resistant to the doses than Hannibal or Dr. Isley had thought.
Once she’d started the process of weaning herself from them, she refused to go back. That would have been ceding one more victory to Hannibal and she knew it, even if he hadn’t, at the time.
Hannibal Silo took a lot of things from her over the years, things she’d too easily surrendered.
Her freedom, her peace of mind, her trust…
Her ability to have children.
All that mattered was the end-game. The final result.
When all was said and done, she’d make sure that final result was the world knowing what kind of evil creature Hannibal Silo really was, and ensuring no one else had to suffer under him the way she had.
So help me God.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Victor quipped late Friday afternoon as they unloaded their gear from the Derring 82X at the small private general aviation airfield just outside of Macon.
“Thank Christ,” Uni muttered.
“Where’s our bird?” Victor asked. Ever since he’d heard they’d be picking up a helo, he felt perky, ready to go.
Sitting around did not set well with him. Yes, he was part of the unit, the team. Yes, he had other things he could do, like take watches.
It wasn’t flying.
Uni looked around. “I don’t know. Let me go find it.” He jogged off toward the small building that apparently functioned as the terminal.
They had a Johnson-Meriweather Gen 2 helo that had been obtained for them by Bubba and was supposed to be awaiting their arrival. It would hold eight and gear, meaning the five of them would have no problem fitting inside it.
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