A Shade of Vampire 30: A Game of Risk (5 page)

Lawrence

B
y the time Grace
, Horatio and Ben left my room, there was not long to wait until dawn, when my father had instructed me to buzz him.

I, of course, could not even conceive of resting, even though my body needed it, given the task ahead of me. I needed to think through and plan my every step meticulously. I could not afford to slip up even in the slightest—not the slightest misplaced word, or the slightest uncharacteristic behavior. My father was sharp. Sharp as a hawk. And I could not afford to give him a single reason, however small, to suspect that a part of me might not be fully on his side. I had to continue being his enthusiastic assistant, his puppet, which was the role I had found myself in since the moment I’d woken up in this strange, powerful new body.

And so I sat on the edge of my bed, staring out at the mist-filled jungle. The mist was thick as ever, even hours after it had been let loose. I wondered how long it would take to lift—I was not sure of that exactly, but I
was
sure that when it did, the trees that it had engulfed would be as good as dead.

Once the first trickles of daylight escaped through the trees, I headed to the bathroom and hunched over the sink. Although, thanks to Grace’s waterboarding antics—which couldn’t help but evoke a small smirk even now as I recalled them—my face had received a thorough washing during the night, I spent the next few minutes dousing my skin with water in an attempt to freshen my appearance.

I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. I still looked tired and worn. I could see the worry behind my eyes, but I would have to do all that I could to camouflage that on greeting my father. I did have a legitimate excuse for looking unrested this morning, at least. My father had arrived in The Woodlands late last night, and I had been forced out of my room on an emergency rescue mission. I’d led a group of IBSI members riding atop mutants to locate my father and retrieve him from the grasp of The Shade’s people, whom at the time I had seen as simply rebels without a cause. So, even if Grace had not been here keeping me up, my sleep would have still been unfulfilling.

I allowed myself a few more moments to mentally prepare before moving to the phone near my bedside. I picked up the receiver and buzzed my father. He answered momentarily.

“Lawrence,” he said, his voice husky but alert, the way it sounded after he’d had his first two or three cups of morning coffee.

“Yup,” I replied.

“How did you wake up this morning?”

“Naturally, of course,” I said, frowning. “Nobody came in to wake me.”

“Good. Your sleeping is well on its way to getting lighter.”

“Right,” I said. I remembered at the start, soon after I’d woken up in this powerful body, it had been awful. It was hard to even wake up naturally. My body just craved sleep, as much as it could possibly get. My father had had to resort to similar methods to Grace’s, pouring water on me, and in one case even chucking me into a pool.

Over the past few days, I’d been sleeping more normal hours and waking up by myself.

“So what’s going on?” I asked.

“We’re leaving. I’ve packed my stuff and informed everyone else. Some have already traveled through the portal.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be outside your room in three minutes.”

I had virtually nothing to pack up anyway, just my toiletries and a few sets of clothes, and the gas mask my father had left for me. I put the mask on, stuffed the remaining items into a duffel bag, and hurried to my father’s room. His suitcase was propped neatly in one corner. I found him in the bathroom, applying the last fresh bandage to the wounds Benjamin had inflicted on him the night before.

He caught my eye in the mirror, his expression businesslike, before twisting around.

“We’ll leave now.”

I realized that I had been overly worried about him noticing something off about my appearance. He was preoccupied with the move.

He swooped for his case, put on his own gas mask, which rested on a shelf, and we headed to the jungle ground. Out in the open, he led me to a motorcycle, leaning against a trunk. He took the driver’s seat while I sat behind him. The motor roared to life and we began trundling through the smoky jungle.

We passed other hunters along the track that led to the portal—yes, I realized I’d started calling them “hunters” in my mind now, rather than IBSI members, thanks to Grace’s influence. All of them were in gas masks, too, and most of them were traveling by foot.

As we passed a group of mutants, splayed unconscious on the ground, I realized I hadn’t even thought of the effect the smoke would have on them. It had knocked them out, likely even killed them. But none of the IBSI batted an eyelid. The mutants, our monstrous slaves, were just casualties, like the trees.

My father spurred on the motorcycle at full speed along the track. On arriving at the wide hole in the ground, we slipped off the vehicle. He shoved it aside, discarding it in some bushes. It was clear that he had no further use for it.

Then the two of us leapt into the abyss.

It was hard to describe the first time I had leapt through one of these portals. At least, the first time that I remembered leaping through one. The utter astonishment that such things even existed in our world—portals to other dimensions—and the fall, the vacuum, sucking you down like a hungry beast, the smoky tunnel walls, the black canvas speckled with stars beyond. Utterly bizarre. I doubted I had the imagination to even dream of such things.

We shot out the other side, on the borders of the IBSI’s Bermuda base. My father began to jog toward the entrance, and I moved to match his speed. Discarding our gas masks, we overtook a crowd of hunters heading toward the base. My father was in a hurry. He was always in a hurry. Wasting time for him was like being drained of blood. He didn’t waste a second of his day. Never had. Not even on me.

But that sure suited me now.

We entered the compound and headed directly for the landing strip, where half a dozen helicopters were parked—all without pilots. My father led me to the smallest, fastest one and yanked open the door. We climbed inside and shut ourselves in before moving to the cockpit.

It was clear he had no intention of waiting for a pilot. My father was a master at many things, and aircraft navigation was one of them. I didn’t even know how he’d found the time to master the things he did. His brain seemed superhuman.

I knew a little about helicopter navigation, and I concentrated on helping him prepare to launch. Soon we were in flight, soaring over the ocean, on our way to Chicago.

* * *

A
s soon as we landed
, my father wanted to head straight back to his apartment. To his office. He had calls to make, he said. I was more than happy with this turn of events. My apartment was just next door from his. Rather than house me in the main residential building, he’d set me up in the apartment of his high-level associate, who was holding a conference in New York at present.

The two of us entered our respective apartments. I set down my bag in my bedroom before moving to the wall that separated my father’s quarters from mine. I held my breath, straining to listen. I should’ve known better. The walls separating the various apartments were practically soundproof. But the walls within the apartments
themselves
were another matter… Those were regular cement walls, from what I’d gathered so far.

In any case, relying on eavesdropping would be a losing strategy. Grace’s father had
seen
those FOEBA files. He’d seen them on my father’s computer, in his Chicago office. The office that was about thirty feet from where I stood right now. My father had a number of laptops—including lighter ones that he used specifically for travel. But his main powerhouse computer was kept in a hidden safe in his office. I was certain that was the computer on which Benjamin had spotted the files. That was the computer that contained my mother’s secret. Details of the Bloodless antidote. The key to Grace’s survival.

I have to get my hands on that laptop.

Lawrence

F
ortunately
, finding an excuse to hang around in my father’s office was not too difficult. Since I’d woken up from the coma, he had even asked me to sit with him so that he could talk to me while he worked, bring me up to speed on the various workings of the IBSI that I needed to be aware of.

I waited for a few minutes, not wanting to immediately spring an offer of help on him so soon after we had landed in case he thought it weird.

After about fifteen minutes, I left my apartment and pressed the buzzer outside his door.

He was on the phone as he opened it. He let me inside, leaving me to close the door as he moved through his apartment toward his office. I followed him, and on entering the room, my eyes fell on his laptop set up at his desk. His master laptop. My father was speaking rapidly—engaging in a discussion on distribution of the IBSI’s firearms. He sank into his chair and stared at his computer screen.

He leaned back, gazing up at the ceiling as he continued to talk.

I took a seat opposite him, trying to adopt a casual posture while I waited for him to finish his call.

“Yeah?” he said, on hanging up, his eyes trained on his phone screen.

“Well,” I said, “I figured I could make myself useful. Anything I can do around here?”

He tore his eyes away from his phone and glanced at a large stack of papers on his desk.

“Yes, actually,” he said. “One of our high-level ambassadors in Russia is under suspicion for overcharging us a gross amount for his expenses.” He pushed the wad of papers toward me.

“Those are all of them, for the past month, according to him. Go through them and flag anything that looks fishy.”

“Okay,” I muttered, scanning the first page. My father busied himself with his phone again, and then a minute later, he was talking to somebody else about establishing a new facility in Australia.

I tried to make myself look busy. Of course, I couldn’t concentrate on the task.

As my father remained seated in his swivel chair behind his laptop, I couldn’t help but glance at his face while his attention was elsewhere.

As I stared at him, it felt surreal. I just… couldn’t believe that this was my father. I couldn’t believe the lengths that I was having to go to, simply to do what was right. The lengths that he was willing to go to in order to conceal something that could potentially help millions of people.

How could you be like this, Dad?

Even now, I couldn’t help but wish that there was a way to get through to him. I wished I believed that he wasn’t as much of a monster as I feared.

My throat tightened.

Dammit.
How could you have killed your wife?

I averted my eyes to the papers quickly as he noticed my gaze on him.

He is what he is. Everybody makes choices in life. He made his, and now I have to make mine.

I made more of an effort to appear like I was working.
Bloody hell
. These high-level executives sure knew how to rack up bills. Fifteen thousand dollars, just on travel expenses, over a week and a half?

I wondered what my father’s expenses were. Though he’d never struck me as the type of person to frivolously waste. Although he obviously had money, material objects did not interest him much. The only thing that really got him going in life was his work.
His criminally destructive work.

What was actually going on in his head? Did he really wake up each day with the intent to be evil? Or was there something in him that made him believe he truly was doing something good? Could he actually think that his actions were for the benefit of mankind?

How did he live with himself?

My father stood up abruptly as he was still in the middle of a conversation.

And then I realized that he was heading to the bathroom. I waited until he’d exited the office, walked into the hallway, and I heard the bathroom door click. Even while inside the toilet, he continued to talk on the phone.

Glancing furtively at the CCTV camera in either corner of the room, I knew what I was about to do was risky. If somebody was watching it right now from the central security office, they would notice my strange behavior. But what choice did I have? I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to find his computer alone like this…
unlocked
! I didn’t know how long he was going to be in the loo either.

I stood up as fast as I could without scraping my chair and hurried around the table to face the laptop screen.

His inbox, choked with unopened emails, filled the screen. I navigated immediately to the laptop’s search function and began browsing for the files. I typed in FOEBA and any other keyword that I could possibly think of that might dredge the files from the ocean of other documents he held on this computer.

But nothing was coming up.

My palms sweating, I ran a search for the uncommon format the files were saved in—recalling the file extension that Grace had informed me of.

The blood drained from my face when, still, nothing came up.
Damn
.
Where are the other files?
Had he really deleted them from his computer?

The toilet flushed. As the bathroom door opened, I was forced to hurriedly bring back up his inbox and race back to my own seat, before busying myself again in the pile of paperwork and receipts.

My heart was beating rapidly as my father reentered the room. His loud voice filling my ears, he retook his seat behind his laptop.

I cursed silently. I had been so sure that I would find those files on his computer. If they weren’t there, then where were they? I couldn’t help but feel that he would have destroyed the USB stick where the files had originated from.

I tried to calm my racing nerves.

Okay. So they’re not here. I just have to keep thinking. I have to keep thinking.

Hold on, Grace… Hold on.

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