Long Lost Page 70

I ran past Taylor. Dead. The door was still open. Erickson\'s body was on the front porch next to it, the knife still deep in his chest. I stepped over him and dived into the foyer.

Silence.

I didn\'t like that.

I still had the leader\'s gun in my hand. I pushed my back against the wall. The place was in total disrepair. The wallpaper was peeling. The light was on. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw someone sprint by, heard footsteps going down the stairs. Had to be a lower level. A basement.

Outside I could hear gunfire. I could hear someone calling through a bullhorn for surrender. Might have been Jones. I should wait now. There was no chance I was going to get Carrie out of here anyway. I should sit tight, cover the door, not let anyone in or out. That was the smart play here. Wait it out.

I might have done that. I might have just stayed right there and never gone into that basement if the blond boy hadn\'t come racing down the stairs.

I called him a boy. That wasn\'t fair. He looked to be about seventeen, maybe eighteen, not much younger than the dark-haired men I had just shot without hesitation. But when this teenager with the blond hair and khaki pants and dress shirt came tearing down the stairs a gun in his hand I didn\'t shoot right away.

’’Freeze!’’ I shouted. ’’Drop the gun.’’

The boy\'s face twisted into some kind of hideous death mask. His gun hand rose toward me, and he took aim. I jumped, rolled to the left, and came up firing. I didn\'t go for the death shot, as opposed to what I had been like outside. I went for his legs. I fired low. The teen screamed and fell. He still held the gun though, still had the twisted death-mask expression. He aimed for me again.

I jumped out of the foyer and into the hallway where I came face-to-face with the basement door.

The blond teen had been hit in the leg. There was no way he could follow me down. I caught my breath, grabbed the knob with my free hand, and opened the door.

Total darkness.

I kept my gun against my chest. Pressed myself against the wall to make myself a smaller target. I slowly started down the stairs, feeling my way with my front foot. One hand held the gun, the other searched for a light switch. I couldn\'t find one. With my body still turned to the side, I took the steps slowly, left foot down a step, right foot meets up with it. I wondered about ammunition. How many bullets did I have left? No idea.

I heard whispers below.

No doubt about it. The lights might be off, but someone was down in the darkness. Probably more than one someone. Again I debated doing the wise thing just stopping, staying still, moving back to the top of the stairs, waiting for reinforcements. The gunfire outside had stopped. Jones and his men, I was sure, had secured the premises.

But I didn\'t do that.

My left foot reached the bottom step. I heard a scuffling sound that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My free hand felt along the wall until I found the light switch. Or to be more precise, switches. Three in a row. I put my hand underneath them, got my gun ready, took one deep breath, and then I flipped up all three at the same time.

Later I would remember the other details: the Arabic graffiti spray-painted on the walls, the green flags with the blood-soaked crescent moon, the posters of martyrs in battle fatigues carrying assault weapons. Later I would remember the portraits of Mohammad Matar during many different stages of his life, including the time when he worked as a medical resident named Jiménez.

But right now, all of that was little more than backdrop.

Because there, in the far corner of the basement, I saw something that made my heart stop. I blinked my eyes, looked again, couldn\'t believe it, and yet maybe it made perfect sense after all.

A group of blond teenagers and children were huddled against a pregnant woman in a black burqa. Their eyes were ice blue, and they all stared at me with hatred. They began to make a noise, a snarl maybe, as one, and then I realized that it wasn\'t a snarl. These were words, repeated over and over . . .

’’Al-sabr wal-sayf.’’

I backed away from them, shaking my head.

’’Al-sabr wal-sayf.’’

The brain started doing the synapse thing again: the blond hair. The blue eyes. CryoHope. Dr. Jiménez being Mohammad Matar. Patience. The sword.

Patience.

I bit back a scream as the truth rained down on me: Save the Angels hadn\'t used the embryos to help infertile couples. They had used them to create the ultimate weapon of terror, to infiltrate, to get ready for global jihad.

Patience and the sword will defeat the sinners.

The blonds started coming toward me, even though I was the one with the gun. Some kept chanting. Some just shrieked. Some dived back behind the burqa-clad pregnant woman, looking terrified. I moved faster, heading up the stairs. From above, I heard a familiar voice call my name.

’’Bolitar? Bolitar?’’

I turned my back on the ice blue, hell-spawned monstrosity below me, scrambled to the top of the stairs, dived through the basement door, slammed it closed behind me. Like that might help. Like that might make it all go away.

Jones was there. So were his men in bulletproof vests. Jones saw the look on my face.

’’What is it?’’ he asked me. ’’What\'s down there?’’

But I couldn\'t even speak, couldn\'t make out words. I ran outside, toward Berleand. I collapsed next to his still body. I was hoping for a reprieve, hoping that maybe in the confusion, I had made a mistake. I hadn\'t. Berleand, the poor beautiful bastard, was dead. I held him for just for a second, maybe two. No more than that.

The job wasn\'t over. Berleand would have been the first to tell me that.

I still needed to find Carrie.

As I ran back to the house, I called Terese. No answer.

I quickly joined the house search. Jones and his men were in the basement already. The blonds were brought upstairs. I looked at them, at their hate-filled eyes. None was Carrie. We found two more women dressed in face-covering, traditional black burqas. Both were pregnant. As his men started bringing the captives outside, Jones looked at me in horror and disbelief. I looked back and nodded. These women weren\'t mothers. They were incubators embryo carriers.

We searched some more, opened up all the closets, found training manuals and film clips, laptops, horror upon horror. But no Carrie.

I took out my phone and tried Terese again. Still no answer. Not on her cell. Not at the apartment at the Dakota.

I staggered outside. Win had arrived. He stood on the porch, waiting for me. Our eyes met.

’’Terese?’’ I ask.

Win shook his head. ’’She\'s gone.’’


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