Read Brainrush 03 - Beyond Judgment Online

Authors: Richard Bard

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Brainrush 03 - Beyond Judgment

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Text copyright © 2013 Richard Bard

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Thomas & Mercer
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140

ISBN-13: 9781611099768
ISBN-10: 1611099765
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012922580

Dedication

For my wife, whose unconditional support frees my time and fuels my imagination.

Contents

Part I

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Part II

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Part III

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Part I

Humanity is in “final exam” as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the universe.

—R. Buckminster Fuller

Chapter 1

Le Focette, Marina di Pietrasanta, Italy

H
E HAD NO
past. But the future held promise.

The woman seated across from him was in her late twenties. An American tourist who’d blushed when they’d met. Her Italian was broken. Her alluring curves and inviting smile had inspired him. A sip from her cappuccino left a thin line of foam on her upper lip. It disappeared behind a slow lick of her tongue. Her eyes never left his.

He wore an open linen shirt, casual slacks, and three-day stubble. His skin was tan. They sat at an outdoor café and
ristorante
in Le Focette, a quiet Tuscan enclave situated a block from the beach resorts of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a warm and sunny afternoon. A salty breeze stirred the thick canopy of trees overhead, dislodging a pine nut that bounced off a nearby Cinzano umbrella and skittered to the ground. He leaned over and picked it up.

“They used to serve these at the outdoor cinema down the street,” he said in Italian. Her expression told him she hadn’t understood, so he brushed off the nut and popped it in his mouth. “Mmmm…
buono
!” he said.

Her eyes widened. He winked. She smiled.


Bella
,” he said. His hand patted the air as a signal to hold the pose. The pastel stick in his other hand moved swiftly across the canvas. She blushed and it was his turn to smile. He wondered if she would be the one.

The café was filling up for lunch. A group of local teens crowded around their customary tables not far from his corner. Two of the boys strummed guitars while the rest chatted with an infectious effervescence. A middle-aged couple sat nearby. German, he thought, judging from their stiff demeanor. That would change after they’d been in the area a few more days. The magic would set in: the easy pace, the food, the friendly smiles—impossible to resist.

He switched sticks, working a blend of colors into her luminescent eyes. There was eagerness in her stare that stirred him. His movements were automatic. His brain orchestrated a talent that he’d discovered when he’d awakened four months ago. When he had asked how long he had been in a coma, no one had any answers. The doctor who cared for him told him his name was Lorenzo Ferrari. Everyone called him Renzo.

His mind wandered, but his strokes didn’t falter. The closer the portrait was to completion, the faster the pastel stick moved—as if it had a life of its own. The doctor had told him what little he knew. Renzo had been wheeled in by an anxious young American man. Renzo had been unconscious. His skin hung loose on his 180-centimeter frame. His muscles had atrophied. Money had changed hands, a room in a local
pensione
had been leased, and the doctor had accepted the assignment of restoring the patient’s health. The American had left in a rush, leaving final instructions for Renzo in a sealed envelope.

The hiss of the latte steamer brought his attention back to the sketch. When he took in the final image, his shoulders slumped. The portrait was perfect in every detail—except for the eyes. They belonged to someone else. Instead of sky blue like those of the girl seated across from him, they were liquid chocolate, filigreed with rings of gold dust. They were penetrating.

The girl sat forward. “Is it ready?” she asked in broken Italian.

“No,” he said, flipping closed his art tablet.

She frowned.

“I must apologize,” he said. “I’m having an off day.” He pushed back his chair as if to leave.

“Wait,” she said softly. Her hands reached out and cupped one of his. Her touch was tender. Her gaze was an invitation. “I go with you?”

Renzo faltered. How long had it been? Longer than he could remember—like everything else. She was beautiful. And his
pensione
was only a block away. All he had to do was ignore the feelings of guilt. His free hand absently patted the pocket of his slacks. The wrinkled envelope from the American was there—his only link to the past. The hastily scrolled message had been brief:

Trust no one. Lives hinge on your ability to remain anonymous.

Surely, this young woman posed no risk, he thought. He was torn.

The decision was made for him when he noticed two men stop short on the opposite side of the street. One of them stared his way. The other had a hand to his ear. He seemed to be speaking to himself. They were dressed in casual clothes. But Renzo’s artist’s gaze narrowed at the incongruence of the matching pair of rubber-soled shoes and dark glasses. The hand dropped from the man’s ear, and a whisper was exchanged. They started toward him.

A buried instinct set off alarms in Renzo’s head. He rose. His chair toppled, the girl yelped, and the tablet fell from his lap. The pages fanned on the way down, and a corner of his mind saw the same pair of brown eyes staring back at him from each portrait.

They all shouted the same command in his mind:

Run!

He shouldered through the woody hedge beside the table. Brambles caught on his shirt. He pushed through, shredding his skin. Angry shouts behind him. A girl’s scream. Rapid footfalls. He raced down the tree-studded lane, thankful for the snug fit of his running shoes. He headed inland. Past villas, the old church, and the rows of stone counters that had supported
the fish market for a hundred years. The
pineta
was four blocks ahead. They’d never track him through the myriad paths in the forty-acre forest. He filled his lungs with the pine-scented air and dashed toward it. He knew the men behind him wouldn’t be able to keep up. He’d yet to meet anyone who could. Sure, Renzo had memory issues, but his physical rehabilitation had revealed that he had remarkable endurance—thanks to a heart that the doctor had proclaimed a miracle of science. According to him, it had been formerly owned by a seventeen-year-old female athlete.

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