Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 32
“Okay?” Lima asked.
“He’s hanging in there. Hey, can you get a message to Bubba for me?”
“Can you ask him if he could check on my sister when he gets a chance?”
“No problem. What’s her info?”
Uni gave it to him.
“Kind of funny about Victor’s brother, huh?” Lima noted. “I take it that’s what’s prompting this?”
“Yeah. I just want to make sure she’s safe. That they’re all safe.”
“Roger roger. I’ll let you know once I hear back.”
“Thanks.” Uni pulled on his jacket and stepped outside onto the lanai. The cold shocked him. It’d been a while since they’d had to deal with frigid temps, and how ironic it was in Georgia, of all places?
He stared up at the black velvet clouds blanketing the sky and hiding the stars. His breath frosted in front of him, a stark contrast to the furnace burning within him. Anger—rage. Blind rage.
He’d never get that scene out of his mind.
He could never tell Donna what they saw, what they found. The obvious sadistic pleasure their attackers had taken with her friends.
How, thankfully, Donna had been safe with them when it happened. Had they not found her when they did, how she’d be dead now, too. Once they’d discovered she really was innocent, it would have been three lives, not two, destroyed.
All because of what Hannibal Silo had planned.
He returned inside, going up to Ax, who recoiled in his chair. “Show me.”
“The videos Mary Silo sent you. I want to see them.”
“Dude,” Lima said. “You really don’t.”
“Yeah, I do.” Uni clenched and unclenched his fist. “I want to see that animal in action. I want to see him at his worst so that if I’m ever face-to-face with him I won’t be tempted for even a second to hesitate to blow his fucking head clean off his shoulders.”
Monday morning, Kali was shocked to find an e-mail from her contact asking her to get in touch with him. That he had important updates and information to give her.
That her husband had sent a team of killers to Atlanta, and they’d murdered two innocent women in an attempt to find her.
And now she had a name for her contact—Ax.
He told her about the military unit he was being protected by, the work they were doing. How they’d hacked into the church’s computer system and were silently combing through data that way, and how they wanted to take down Hannibal.
He sent her a link to horrific videos, the other side of conversations she’d heard between Hannibal and that horrible little weasel, Jerald. The effect of the LA “project” they’d euphemistically referred to.
He told her everything, about how the unit had traveled to the other side of the globe and back and now had five scientists in their care working on a Kite vaccine.
But they couldn’t take Hannibal down unless they were sure he wouldn’t release more of the virus in the process. They needed her help.
She sat back, stunned. All of this started in North Korea, yes, but it had been multiplied a thousandfold by Hannibal’s greed and pride.
He’d given her a burner cell phone number to call. She took one of the burner phones she’d bought in Denver and quickly got dressed. This latest winter storm had bypassed them, only dumping snow on St. Louis, not ice. She made her way to her car and then took her time driving north to Springfield, Illinois.
Fortunately, she was able to quickly find another store that sold cheap phones and bought one there for cash. Driving east across the city, she made another cash withdrawal while she was there before crossing the city again, west, and finding a busy shopping center in which to park.
There, she made the call.
She wasn’t sure who she expected, but the young man who answered the phone didn’t match her mental picture.
She thought about it. “Yes. You don’t want to use my new name, do you?”
“I haven’t told them your name, no.”
“Why not, if you trust them?”
“Because they are trying to prove they’re good guys.”
Her heart raced. “What do they want with me?”
He told her basically the same thing he’d said in the e-mail. “They can protect you. They can move us someplace safer than…here.”
“Where are you?”
“Atlanta. But they have a safe house somewhere else. I can’t tell you where yet.”
“And they want to take me there?”
“Take you there and help us take him down.”
She thought about it. It was tempting.
“I’m not ready to give up my freedom yet. Do you understand what forty years has done to me? You understand I plan to kill him, right?”
* * * *
In the living room, surrounded by six silently watching men and women, Ax nodded. “I know. I want to help you. They don’t have a problem with killing him, but they’re worried he might have other plans.”
“I don’t know all his plans. I only know what I told you.”
“Please, think about coming in. About letting them help you.”
“You sound like I have a choice in the matter.”
“You do. They won’t force you to come in, but they want to help you. Protect you. If Silo’s men find you, they’ll kill you, or worse.”
“Worse,” she said. “They’ll need me alive so Hannibal can call off the cops.”
“Exactly. Then they’ll kill you.”
“Maybe I want Hannibal to bring me in. To the lion’s den. So I can take him down myself.”
“You don’t understand how dangerous he is right now.”
“Please. I spent forty years under the monster. I think I understand how dangerous he is.”
“Not like this. It’s worse now.”
She seemed to be considering it. “I’m not ready to come in just yet. I need to do some things first.”
“They want us to keep baiting him, keep the pressure up. Keep putting videos out about him. They’re on our side.”
“Then you keep doing that. I’ll keep watching. See if you’re telling the truth about that.”
“Can you please stay in touch with me at this number? And in e-mail?”
“Maybe.” She hung up and shut the phone off, pulling the battery from it. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to get rid of it yet, because she might be able to use it again.
No, she wasn’t ready to turn herself over to some unknown group, even though she did trust Ax. The anguish in his voice as he told her what her husband’s goons had done to the woman’s friends ripped at her.
There was no hint of faking it. And again, she was an expert in seeing an expert faking it.
As she headed back toward St. Louis, she pondered her options. She was here, just miles from the beast now. She could easily get inside the compound and kill Hannibal before he realized what was going on.
It could mean jail for her, if she was caught, but it would be worth it.
But wouldn’t it be more satisfying to slowly take him apart, piece by piece, in completely safe leisure? Helping the very people Hannibal hated?
She’d have to give it thought.
But first, she wasn’t ready to come in from the cold.
Literally or figuratively.
* * * *
Monday morning dawned cold, grey, and with Atlanta once again entombed in winter’s icy claw. Victor barely processed that as he stared out the small window in his room. It overlooked the roof of the building next door, which looked slick with ice.
Everything hurt. Take the worst hangover of his life, add to it a migraine headache, and horrible food poisoning from really bad sushi…
That would begin to give someone an idea of what i
His fever raged, his body alternately feeling like a furnace would roast him from the inside out, and then waves of chills making him shiver uncontrollably.
Clara and Mama both remained guarded, their expressions neutral when he talked to them. He had no appetite although Clara forced him to sip a protein shake to keep something in his stomach.
Weak, he still made Clara listen to him. “When you gonna restrain me?”
“Not yet. Even I could kick your ass right now.”
“But if this shit gets worse—”
She pointed at the window, where two guards, and Jim, stood watching. “They’ll help me. I’d rather not restrain you yet. Doc never got violent.”
“You said this is a different strain than what he had.”
“And it’s a different strain than the one people get violent with. That’s end-stage. You’re not even close to that, so let those of us with the medical knowledge do the diagnosing, okay? You’re a flyboy, not a doctor.”
He raggedly laughed, which devolved into a coughing spell that left him even weaker and wracked by more pain.
“Can I call them?”
“Of course you can.” Overnight they’d moved his tablet and phone away from the bed, not wanting him to randomly make fever-induced calls. She punched in Uni’s phone number and handed Victor the phone.
His partner answered. “Hey, you. How you doing?”
He struggled not to sound weak. “Had better days. How’s Donna?”
“Hanging in there. Doc gave her a milder dose this morning, but she’s awake. Want to talk to her?”
“Of course I do.”
A moment later, her weak voice came over the line and he was desperately glad he’d chosen to phone. As crappy as he felt, he wasn’t sure he could deal with seeing her looking as distraught as she sounded, and knew if she broke down over seeing him, he’d likely start bawling, too.
“It’s me, babe. Still hanging in there.”
She softly cried. “Are you okay?”
“So far, so good. Running a fever, and still have a headache, but nothing I can’t handle. You stay there today.”
“I want to come see you.”
“The roads are closed, honey. Nothing you can do here except stare at me through a window. I won’t let him risk your safety coming here just for my lazy ass.”
“No buts. I’m telling you, stay there. Let’s see how the roads are tomorrow. I’m not going anywhere, and frankly, all I want to do is go back to sleep. I won’t be good company today anyway. And you want me to get better, right?” He hated playing that card, but it had the desired effect.
“Right,” she softly said.
She didn’t even sound like herself. He knew it was partly due to the meds Doc had given her, but it also sounded like she was still deeply buried in her grief. Understandable. She’d have to learn how to set it aside and function.
He only hoped he got to be there to help her learn that.
“Now I’m going to get off here. I might call you guys later, if I’m not asleep. Don’t worry if I don’t call, okay?”
“Love you, babe. Let me talk to Uni.”
“Love you, too.”
His partner came on the line after what sounded like walking into a different room and closing the door. “Gee, we gonna start getting mushy now and talking about our feelings?”
“Don’t make me laugh, asshole. It hurts. And yes. I love you.”
Uni chuckled. “Love you, too. You really okay?”
“I’m stable, is what they said. I just gave her marching orders to stay there today.”
“I figured.” Uni paused. “You’re not lying to me, are you?”
“I’m telling you what they’re telling me. They don’t know anything except I’m stable.”
“Okay. Get better, goldbricker.”
“I plan on it, slacker.”
Victor ended the call and handed the phone to Clara, who put it back with the tablet. When she turned to him, he noticed the stress in her expression, even behind the protective hood.
“You getting any rest?” he asked her.
“They’ve got us bunking up here. Me and Mama and Sin. Doc went back to the safe house. He’s got to help Omega get the satellite lab set up.”
“Do we really need it with all of this here now?”
“Yeah.” She stepped closer and lowered her voice. “No offense, your brother or not, they want to make sure.”
“That there aren’t any moles.”
“Right. A backup.”
“And one you don’t need to worry about. Get some rest.” She left him alone, turning the lights down for him.
He changed the TV channel to an old movie, turned down the volume, and closed his eyes. Hopefully he’d wake up feeling better.
Hopefully, he’d just wake up.
* * * *
By Monday night when Silo still couldn’t get in touch with his team, he destroyed the burner phone he’d been using and did his best to not look like he was ready to set fire to the world.
He had a routine, a schedule to keep. People to talk to, sermons to give.
He didn’t dare try to contact his friend in Indianapolis, either. He didn’t know what had happened, but it would seem that the Drunk Monkeys had struck again.
If not them, one of Arliss’ other SOTIF teams.
He was startled when the doorbell of his residence rang. He found Jerald standing there.
“About time you got here,” Silo said as he turned and walked back in, leaving Jerald standing in the doorway.
Jerald walked in and shut the door behind him. “I told you I had things to take care of before I could leave.”
“What kind of things?”
“Church things, sir.”
Hannibal turned and stared at Jerald, his gaze narrowing. “What’s up with you?”
“Nothing, sir. Business as usual.” Jerald’s eyebrow arched. “Why, is there a problem?”
“This charade is getting really old.”
“Get used to it, until we find Mary.”
“How are our computer people coming with that?”
“Nothing definitive yet,” Jerald said, steadily meeting his gaze.
It chilled Hannibal to realize he couldn’t tell if Jerald was lying or not.
Never an issue before, never a consideration.
His gaze dropped and he walked over to the couch.
* * * *
When Hannibal blinked first, Jerald knew he had the man. Hannibal was just enough off his game that he didn’t know what to think anymore.
The last thing he wanted was Hannibal able to read him or anticipate his next move.
“How is Houston?” Hannibal asked.
“They’re preparing to do as we asked,” Jerald said. From this point out, he’d be circumspect and not say anything that he wasn’t absolutely sure Hannibal couldn’t record.
From this point on, it would be Hannibal’s ass on the hibachi, not his.
Why, he was just an innocent assistant.
“It’ll be a few weeks before they’re at goal, but yes.”
“You’re not going to question me more about it?”
“No. You’ve given an order, and I’m following it.”
“What happened? Why are you suddenly not talking back to me anymore?”
“Sir, I’ve always been loyal to you. My years of service should show that. You were under a lot of stress and emotions were running high. I needed to get you to listen to me. We are a team. As long as we keep working as a team, things will work out the way they should. As you’ve planned.”
He stared at Hannibal.
Again, the man looked away. More confirmation that Jerald really didn’t need at this point.
What the man also didn’t know was that Jerald had
Before he finally took Hannibal down for good, he’d know every move the man made and would be able to counter it.
Then, finally, the Church of the Rising Sunset could put this miserable business behind it for good and get on with the business of saving souls and raising money.
Hallelujah, praise pocketbooks.
Donna spent Tuesday bundled up on the couch in the living room, working on a laptop with Lima in a chair next to her on one end, and Uni on the couch next to her on her other side. The distraction had been necessary to keep her from obsessing about what had happened, what was happening.
In another chair on the other side of the room, Ax sat working on a different laptop.
Other than them, the house lay empty, everyone else either over at the satellite location getting it set up, or over at the CDC working to save Victor’s life.
Lima had finally pulled apart her old laptop and took the hard drive somewhere else to go through it and found the trojan that had downloaded onto it.
Now they were trying to figure out who the person was who’d sent the e-mails in the first place. Whoever that was, they would be key to unraveling the mystery of any other moles who might be in hiding and feeding Silo information.
It’d seemed to startle the men when she spoke. “It was that fucker, Hannibal Silo, wasn’t it? He was behind killing them, right?”
Lima and Uni nodded. “We’re positive,” Uni said. “Bubba said SOTIF8 tracked them down at your uncle’s house in Atlanta Friday afternoon and took them out. They were pros, but they weren’t used to the kind of torture our guys gave them. Before the last one died, he finally gave Silo up. Said the fucker hired them personally. That he did work for both Silo and Silo’s right-hand guy, but this job came directly from Silo. And no, they didn’t have the location of your uncle’s cabin. Your family is safe.”
“Okay.” Her anger sharply pierced through the fuzziness of the medication to help her focus better.
She wouldn’t let her friends’ deaths be in vain.
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
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