|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.37(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By BC Furtney
Comet PressCopyright © 2010 BC Furtney
All rights reserved.
She was barely thirty and hardened, a stone fox frayed at the edges, hairline scars slashing her brow and the bridge of her re-set nose, but still wildly attractive on anyone's 1-to-10 scale. The john was thrusting into her sloppily, with poor rhythm at that, his face buried in her neck, whiskey-fueled breath on her flesh. She made the requisite sounds, the sounds he'd paid for, while watching the ceiling and waiting for it to happen. She knew it would, and soon. The pill lent her the intuition to spot it a mile away, like a dog finding its way home. She studied the ceiling, imagining how his brains would stick to the aged paint. He wasn't bad looking. Middle-aged, greying hair, slightly paunchy but still fit. Nothing to write home about in the sack, but better than some. Like the guy on the riverbank. She'd been wrong about him, but hadn't taken the pill when she went out. They did it in the backseat of his rust-bucket Plymouth and he didn't turn. She left feeling cheaper and worse than if she'd put him down. Or the guy in the guard shack at the textile factory. He did turn, and she painted the windows with his blood. It made up for the Plymouth. She pushed them all from her mind, focused on the task at hand, waiting for it, so she could deliver her own special money shot. And suddenly, there it was.
He shivered, his temperature dropping with light-switch suddenness. She'd never get used to the jolt of pain when they ran cold inside her. By the light of the bedside lamp, she could see the blue creeping up his neck veins into his face, the ice coursing through his wiring all the way into the brain. She snaked her long legs around his torso and squeezed tight. Seatbelts fastened. His eyes rolled-back white, glowing like backlit holes punched in a cardboard face mask, and he bared razor-sharp teeth, splashing hot drool on her chest. His muscles coiled like a cobra set to strike, but he'd never get the chance.
Before he could do any damage with those grotesque choppers, she slid her hand under the pillow and placed the barrel of a .38 Super between his eyes. It was a split-second before the bang that sent a hollow-point through his face, and she'd rolled him off before he started twitching, the back of his head blown-out, most of his brain adorning the ceiling. She jammed a wad of bills in her purse. She always kept her winnings. Perk of the job. She strode to the bathroom, nude and bloodied. She knew it'd be messy when he said he liked missionary, and she was right. Messionary. If the motel's owners were indifferent to their five-minute not five-star rep, she was happy to repaint. And if the cops thought they'd have a quiet night, she was happy to make some noise. On the record, it was just another scumbag who crossed the wrong person. But off the record was where the truth turned tricks, and so did she. Her name was Scarla Fragran, and she knocked the bathroom door shut with her hip.
* * *
The Starlite Motel. Silently-flashing red and blue lights. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Fucking ambulance chasers. It was a scene she'd gotten used to, but given her role with the police department — vag for the badge, she liked to quip — she didn't stick around to explain the splat mark. Her job description, writ simple: fuck, kill, run. It was a clear night and the joint wasn't far, so she walked. Nobody saw her slip out the motel's bathroom window in her short skirt and beat it down the side street, but someone called in the gunshot pretty quick, because the cops hit the lot about the same time she rounded the corner. The chaos was behind her, nothing but the sound of her fuck-me pumps click -clacking the concrete and the flick of her Zippo. She lit a cigarette and eyed a text on her cell: @ Pinto's. Cars lined the boulevard, stuck waiting for the cops to clear the crime scene. She drew catcalls from some of the less-reserved motorists, while others stared silently. Husbands imagining what they'd do with a chick like that, wives imagining what a chick like that does, children not knowing one way or the other. The only thing she had on her mind was coffee. And sleep. Two things.
* * *
A bell rang too loud when she opened the door, alerting the waitress, who scowled at the sight of her. Pinto's Diner was bright, red leather stools and booths, everything in stainless trim. Red leather was her favorite. Clothes, furniture, gloves, shin guards, didn't matter. She spotted a lone figure watching from the counter. He was forty-something, unshaven, with ringed eyes and a world-weary-but-intense gaze. He was Lieutenant Facil LeTour. She slid onto the stool beside him and the waitress delivered his cup.
"One more, black," Scarla rasped, a voice like brandy on crushed glass. The waitress reached under the counter and came up with a cup, filling it silently. "You look like shit, are you sleeping?" she asked Facil.
"No. You ok?" He sipped his cup, kept his eye on her.
She exhaled, propping herself on an elbow. "Tired."
"We found a body off 32nd tonight. Runaway. We'll hit the area tomorrow."
Scarla stared at her reflection in the coffee, dejected. "You mean tonight."
"Get some rest," he offered, looking over his shoulder at the duo of black-and-whites zipping by. "You've been burning it at both ends."
"That's my job," she mumbled, reaching into her purse and setting an empty and unlabeled prescription bottle in front of him. "I need a refill."
He palmed it. "Going through these kinda fast, aren't you?"
"What the fuck's that supposed to mean?"
"Just what I said. How often are you taking them?"
"Whenever I go out, like always. Nothing's different," she hissed, irritated by the insinuation.
"I didn't say it was, but these shouldn't go empty. It's just you and me. One of us starts slipping, only one other pair of eyes is gonna notice."
She sipped her coffee. He dropped the bottle in his coat pocket, studied her profile. There was still a softness in her face, and if you looked at just the right time, a spark that hadn't been extinguished by life. Not many people saw it. She didn't give them the chance. He looked away. He was her field officer, and to think of her in any other way than as his charge could be fatal, and he knew it. It wasn't his first time around the block. Wasn't hers either. The last year-or-so of Scarla's life could equal his entire tenure on the force, and he'd seen some shit. Gruesome crime scenes and harrowing investigations were one thing. Rollercoaster court battles and backroom deals that undermined all that hard work were another. But the cumulative effect of a life on the frontline — the night sweats, the haunting memories, the twisted-gut nausea, the gnawing hindsights that never went away, but only got worse and worse as time moved on while you never seemed to — that was the hard medicine nobody with just six months experience could take, no matter how bad their time was. Except Scarla. He couldn't help feeling protective. The operation was anything but run-of-the -mill good guys vs. bad guys, they knew it going in. But who could describe the psychological toll? She could. Facil knew enough to know he didn't want the answer. She was managing, but if she were to slip, she'd be the last to know. If he was last to know, she'd already be dead.
"Any news from the lab? Has he learned anything from the bodies?" she asked, half-knowing the answer.
"I'm dropping by there later. I'll let you know."
She didn't hide her disappointment. "It's been over six months, we were supposed to go three. I'm burned out, Face." She paused. "Is it me?" She paused again, thinking. "What if it's me?" Then, scoffing at the idea. "Fucking fed scientist." Another pause. "Does that guy even know I exist?" Facil didn't reply. Didn't have to. She downed her coffee.
"You need anything else?" he asked.
She gave it some thought. "There's a pair of red leather thigh-highs at Max's I'd look great in. Perfect for a switchblade or a small caliber. Four hundred bucks, department can foot the bill."
He smirked, finished his cup and stood, peeling bills off a wad. "I'll drop off the cash and pills later. Hopefully, you'll be asleep." He dropped the money on the counter.
She watched him. "Y'know something, Face? You make a great pimp."
He didn't react. "Great. C'mon, let's get you home."
She trailed him out the door, her purse twirling low to the ground. Just a bit like a little girl.CHAPTER 2
Facil stood watching the floor numbers tick by in the elevator's digital window. 3 ... 2 ... 1. He used the call numbers to input a six-digit code, and the car descended two more floors. -1 ... -2. The doors opened on a scene that existed somewhere between the city morgue and Dr. Frankenstein's lab. The temperature had dropped noticeably. A wave of pungent antiseptic hit him. There were no rooms, no hallways, just open floor space with one single agenda. Rows of autopsy tables sat two deep on either side of the elevator and ran the length of the room, which was as wide as the building. No need for a headcount, he knew the tally by heart. Forty one males and five females, age span twenties to fifties, representing four races. The thought occurred to him that an untold number of perpetrators were responsible for the crimes they were fighting — many of them present and accounted for — but one woman was responsible for all this death. He'd met some tough SOB's in his day, had been accused of being one himself, but nothing like Scarla Fragran. She took it to a whole new level. A level he wasn't sure he wanted to be privy to.
A bespectacled black guy in a doctor's coat stood at the far wall, an industrial rotary tablet press machine cranking out pills behind him. He was past his wrists in the bowels of a male cadaver under a crane-neck light in gore-drenched latex gloves, carving diligently with a scalpel. He was Dr. Calvin Harris, and if you didn't know him, he'd introduce himself as The Calvin Harris just to fuck with you, and fair enough. He'd gone from precocious-med-student to master-of-everythinghe-surveyed in less than ten years, and his very presence in the secret lab, not to mention his salary, reflected it. He was forgiven a little eccentricity, as his brand of genius rarely came without it. With the exception of the Chief and Bureau Chief, not a single person upstairs knew that Harris was on the premises, nor would they. Unless, of course, something went terribly wrong.
Facil came off the elevator and strode through the room eyeing bodies. They were arranged by severity of transformation, the ones nearest the elevator almost normal until you pried the lips apart and glimpsed the teeth. As he moved along stages of transformation, they grew more grotesque, less human. A guy on the left bore an elongated, curved spine that created a skulking, coyote-like posture and necessitated lying the body on its side because it wouldn't lie flat. It had a bullet crater where an eye used to be. One on the right had an extended snout, also dog-like, complete with elongated incisors. And a throat slashed ear-to-ear. None of the so-called innocent victims were on display. Those bodies — what was left of them — had already been processed and, invariably, tested for dental imprinting and/or bite radius.
Facil reached Harris' table, eyed his work. The cadaver had a freakishly-widened mouth, revealing multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth. "I'll take a bottle of pills when they're ready, Harris." Harris glanced up, said nothing. Facil peered into the man's gaping abdominal cavity. "What do we have here?"
Harris fondled a sloppy large intestine with intent. "Well, he hadn't quite digested his last meal," nodding to several chunks of what appeared to be flesh laid out on a nearby tray, "whoever that was. If you're hungry, you can rinse those off. I've confirmed them as human, but if you like pork it's not a big leap. Salt's in my desk drawer."
Facil watched him drop the intestine back into the body. "That what you do down here all day?"
Harris shrugged. "When I'm not beating off on them, sure. Days are long, LeTour, days are long." Lab humor.
Facil eyed the dual computer screens on Harris' desk. One showed dental and digestive tract diagrams of sharks. He raised a brow. On the other, a pizza delivery order confirmation. He grimaced at the toppings. "Anchovies? You might as well eat the pork."
Harris grinned. "Anchovy's a fine treat, my friend. Most people don't like it, so all the more for me."
Facil tucked his hands in his pockets, looking at the mouth again. A chill ran up his spine. Could've been the cold. When he looked up, Harris was watching him with an odd twinkle in his eye. Could've been the light. When he spoke, Harris' usually deep voice rose in excitement. "This one's unlike anything I've seen, you want to know about it?" Facil didn't answer. It wasn't like he'd showed up to bogart the pie, after all. Harris continued. "Look at his teeth." Facil didn't really want to look again, but did. "They look strange to you?" No, see it all the time.
"Cut to the chase, Harris." And he did just that.
"What you see here is essentially ninety-eight percent James Donnell, or what they called this dummy when he was alive." He pulled a pencil from behind his ear and began power-pointing his narration. "Caucasian, six-foot-one, hundred-eighty-three pounds, internal organs fine, blood type B positive, appendix out, old op screws in left ankle, genitalia normal —" Then, smirking, "— a little under-average, maybe. Eyes brown, hair brown, but the mouth ..." He stuck the pencil eraser in the subject's mouth, dragging it along silvery, serrated, pointed teeth. "That's not right. What you see here is a polyphydont dentition." Facil eyed him, ignorant of the term. "These teeth are being rotated-out and replaced by a row waiting behind, like a conveyor belt. A very fast conveyor belt. One comes out, another's there to take its spot. He has two rows of twenty-seven functioning teeth right now, and a third was just coming in. None of these teeth are attached to the jaw, they're all embedded in the gum tissue." Harris paused for effect.
"What about his old teeth?" Facil asked.
"You mean his human teeth? No idea. Just gone. Replaced by these things." Harris hit a computer key, cueing a video clip over the pizza order. A spotlight trolled murky waves around a white boat hull. A camera operator adjusted focus. Harris dropped the zinger. "These are the teeth of a tiger shark, specifically." A tiger shark's head suddenly broke the surface and bit into a shank of hooked meat with blinding speed, thrashing its body and ripping off a sizable chunk before circling back for more.
Facil thought of Scarla. He had the sudden urge to tell her what he was seeing. But she'd seen it before, up close and personal. And she was right. Harris knew black ops was responsible for his subjects, but that was all he knew. He didn't even know she existed.CHAPTER 3
32nd Street. Dusk. The city was a living, breathing thing. Hungry. Insatiable. The street wanted its pound of flesh, and would have it at any cost. Good people were scurrying around corners and down blocks, heading for the bridges, the tunnels, the parkways, the metro stops. A steady flood of humanity clawing to escape the dreaded downtown after-hours, rushing back to the pretend safety of the suburbs, the Prozac'd wonderland, where everything was alright and always would be, because nothing ever changed. Scarla emerged from the corner convenience store a full four inches taller, her new red leather thigh-highs gleaming in the streetlight. She opened a pack of cigarettes and drew an unfiltered Red. At the bar, there'd be some schmuck interjecting to offer a light, but on the corner a girl's on her own. She raised a lighter, shielding her mouth from the breeze. Flame on. She took a long drag and threw her head back, exhaling a smoke stream. Full moon. How appropriate. She started walking, passing an alley on her right. It snaked behind a row of bars and shops, giving proprietors a place to dump their trash. And dump trash they did. They found the girl in there, not twenty-four hours prior, folded inside a suitcase. The suitcase had been hanging out, said the report, and just happened to provide a convenient receptacle for a petite 17-year-old's partially-eaten corpse. A night on the town. Scarla knew the girl somewhat, had seen her on the beat. Daizee the meth-head, aka Dorothy the runaway. Didn't matter now. Maybe didn't matter before either.
A sharp whistle snapped her to attention. A late-model pick-up truck was creeping along the curb, obviously interested. She made eye contact. The usual: middle-aged caucasian, bespectacled, 9-to-5'er coming off overtime, hurried and uncomfortable with the pitch. She knew how to seal the deal with these guys, and nodded to the corner without breaking stride. He hit the gas and flashed his turn signal, pulling into her path and waiting for her at the curb ahead. She reached the passenger window and leaned in close, locking on his eyes. It was always in the eyes, the first hint of it in the look. She'd popped a pill earlier, felt sharp. She wouldn't miss.
Excerpted from Scarla by BC Furtney. Copyright © 2010 BC Furtney. Excerpted by permission of Comet Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.