Home > Dust to Dust (Experiment in Terror #9)

Dust to Dust (Experiment in Terror #9)
Karina Halle

CHAPTER ONE

I was walking on the Brooklyn Bridge, the sky above me a black velvet blanket that was tinged with orange the closer it got to the horizon. There were no stars, not here with the city of New York right in front of me. The buildings acted like stars instead, their lights blurred and out of focus like Photoshop bokeh effect.

Though it wasn’t snowing, the bridge was covered in a light dusting of pure white snow. I was only wearing my jeans and a thin Slayer hoodie and yet wasn’t cold at all.

Everything around me was silent. There were no cars and there were no people. The river below didn’t lap and the sounds of the city didn’t carry. The snow was a blank sheet of paper except for the one set of tracks that cut down the middle.

I knew those footprints – made by boots – like I knew the back of my hand. They were what I had been searching for all this time. Why I was here.

I walked on, slowly, hearing the snow squeak beneath my Chuck Taylors. Suddenly the footprints veered off to the side of the walkway and stopped. I followed them and looked over the side to where the cars should have been driving past heading into the city.

There was a man standing at the side of the lanes, looking out at the Hudson River. I couldn’t see anything but his shadowy back, but I knew it was him.

“Dex!” I yelled after him. But he didn’t move. He didn’t turn around.

I yelled again. I knew it was him. Why wasn’t he listening? Just how long had we been apart?

I was so tempted to take off my shoe and chuck it at him but decided I’d probably miss. Instead I took in a deep breath and managed to climb over the edge of the walkway and onto one of the metal beams that spanned above the lanes. Somehow I was able to balance perfectly, like a tightrope walker, as I made my way across. When I was near Dex, I lay down on my stomach and then slid off the edge of the beam, hanging in the air like a child from monkey bars for a few seconds before I let go.

I landed with a soft thud, my knees aching from the impact. It was a long drop and I was surprised that I had even done it to begin with but there was no time to question anything.

I ran up to him and put my hand on his arm, my fingers wrapping around his elbow, afraid to let him go ever again.

He didn’t turn to look at me. He didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound.

I pulled back at him hard, panic coursing through me. What was going on?

He was immovable, stuck to the cold white ground.

“Dex?” I whispered and walked around him. He was staring forward at the inky water, his face startlingly handsome with his high cheekbones and strong jaw flanked by light facial hair. But he was pale as snow and his eyes were so dark they rivaled the sky. His expression was strangely blank and the wisps of his shaggy black hair swayed lightly in the breeze.

He wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t acknowledge me. I wasn’t even sure if he was real or a wax figure. I watched him, feeling the horror rising from deep within me, wondering if he was even breathing.

“That’s not Declan,” a smug voice from behind me said. I jumped and whirled around to see…no one.

“Up here.”

I looked up and saw a man in a business suit standing on the beam above me. The ends of his blazer flapped in the breeze and his face was obscured in shadow.

Still, I knew who he was. Every bone in my body told me who this was. I had met him before.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked the man. I grabbed Dex’s hand, squeezing it and staring into his face, trying to get a reaction, to get something out of him. He didn’t even blink. He was just still, his eyebrow ring glinting from the city lights. This was Dex, my Dex, my man, my love, my fiancé. This was him. I knew him better than I knew myself.

Then what was wrong with him? I couldn’t have traveled all this way to have failed in the end. I was supposed to bring him home.

“There is nothing wrong with him,” the man said from above. “He’s better now. He’s buried down below where he belongs.”

I looked up at the man, feeling his hateful eyes upon me. They shone like nickels in the shadows and my stomach steeled itself in protest. This man evoked nothing but primal fear in me.

“What did you do to him?” I whispered. My eyes flitted over to Dex again and I could only shake my head, no. This was Dex.

“The same thing I will do to you and your sister and your mother,” he said.

My breath caught in my throat and when I finally exhaled, it came out painfully cold. Glowing embers began to fall from the sky, turning to ash as soon as they hit my skin. It burned and the snow sizzled.

“What?” I managed to ask, feeling myself slowly being drained of strength.

He grinned at me and his teeth glowed white. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

Then he turned sharply and strode away along the beam, the metal creaking until he reached the walkway.

“Michael!” I screamed after him. “You can’t leave him like this. He’s your brother.”

He shook his head and for once I could see the glow of his skin from the light of the city. It looked burned and red. I blinked my eyes trying to see if it was some color was being reflected onto him.

“No,” he said. “He’s not my brother. And I haven’t been Michael for a very long time.”

He climbed onto the walkway and disappeared.

Suddenly the bridge quaked, jerking from side to side and throwing me off balance. I grabbed onto Dex to steady me and as I did so a terrific crash rang through the air. The bridge deck began to split from the end, a crack racing toward us in one dark, jagged line. Flames began to lick up through the split and the suspension cables along the bridge began to snap and fly out, whooshing through the air with a metallic noise.

Everything was still shaking, the bridge splitting right in two. It was heading right for us, right for Dex. The flames were higher now as they shot out of the crack and from the corner of my eyes the world was slowly starting to become lighter, the East River turning from inky black water to a living floor of fire.

“Dex!” I yelled trying to get him out of the way.

But he wouldn’t budge.

The damn man wouldn’t budge.

And the bridge continued to crack.

I had two choices and in that I had no choice. I was either going to go down with him and be swallowed whole by the inferno that was about to devour us or I could step aside, save myself, and let him die.

There really was only one choice.

I grabbed onto his stiff body, wrapping my arms around him from behind and buried my face into the back of his neck.

“I love you,” I whimpered. “Always. Beyond death.”

My legs started to wobble. The fire got hotter. The crack seemed to split my world.

But before I was sure the ground beneath us would fall, Dex suddenly moved.

He spun around to face me and kissed me, quick and searing on my lips, making my heart flutter and my body ache with need and love. When I opened my eyes, I saw his eyes brimming with intensity. Here he was, right before the end.

Then he pushed me backward. I stumbled and fell back on the deck just as the crack was split seconds from taking him away from me.

“Don’t let him in, kiddo,” he said gravely, his gaze freezing me. “Don’t let him in.”

I screamed, “No!” and tried vainly to get to my feet. “Dex!”

But the split rocked under him, the ground opening up with a deafening crack.

Dex slipped away from view, swallowed by the flames.

He was gone into a fiery hell while the embers continued to fall from the sky.

Turning to ash.

Turning to dust.

Just like my heart.

***

I awoke to something tickling my face. I groaned and moved my head. It felt like something was inside of my brain, pinching at different sections, impeding my ability to think. I couldn’t think – it was just all blank. All dull and grey.

I decided to keep my eyes closed and go back to wherever I came from.

Something wet swiped across my cheeks. More tickling.

Finally I opened my eyes, wincing at the bright light from the sky and yellow fur that was in front of my face.

“Kayla!” someone yelled from far away, a woman’s voice.

Suddenly the licking stopped. I slowly pushed myself up on my elbows and watched as a shaggy golden retriever ran away and into the bushes.

Where the hell was I? I looked around, feeling stupider than ever, like my mental ability had regressed back a few decades. What had happened?

“Oh my goodness,” came a voice above me and I looked up to see a middle-aged woman stop a few feet away, the golden retriever at her side. “Are you okay?”

I blinked and tried to get up but could barely get to my feet. The woman was at my side and helping me the rest of the way.

Her eyes peered at me inquisitively. “Do you need me to call an ambulance?” she asked, her dog sticking its cold nose into my hand.

Though I was dizzy, I knew I was okay. Physically, anyway. “No,” I said slowly, trying to step away from her grasp. My mind raced, trying desperately to hold onto the fragments of memory that were whizzing past.

I had gone for a walk by the river.

A man had been here.

He’d talked to me.

He knew my name.

“Are you sure?” the woman was repeating, while telling her dog, Kayla, to leave me alone.

I stared at her dumbly, absently noting how silver her hair was, as shock hit me with a million pin pricks.

Michael O’ Shea, Dex’s brother had been here. He knew my name, he’d mentioned my blood. He said he’d see me in New York.

Then he kissed me and I was out.

He was going after Dex.

“I have to go!” I told the woman, turning on my heel and running down the path that would take me to my street. I couldn’t run fast enough – even though I knew I hadn’t been hurt by the altercation, it still felt like a nightmare, like I was trying to lift my feet out of drying cement and I couldn’t move fast enough. Even my fingers were slow as I repeatedly tried to call Dex’s cell. It rang and rang and rang until finally started going straight to voicemail.

Somehow I made it to my house. My parents car was still gone but now so was the Highlander.

Shit.

I couldn’t exactly explain what it was that was making me panic, maybe it was the obtuse way Michael had talked to me, maybe it was Pippa’s warnings ringing in my ear and forcing me to connect the dots, or maybe it was the fact that when I looked into Michael’s eyes I saw the absence of humanity inside their depths – it didn’t matter. Every single nerve in my body was telling me to hurry now and ask questions later. The fact that Dex’s car was gone was not helping. It seemed like going for a friendly drive with his estranged brother would be the last thing he’d want to do.

The front door to my house was already open, though as I booked it up the driveway, I noted that there weren’t any signs of blood or struggle. I burst into the front hall and looked around wildly.

“Dex!” I yelled. “Dex!” I started running for the stairs but heard a slight moan coming from the kitchen. I paused. “Ada!?”

I ran inside and saw her lying on her side on the tile floor, trying to sit up, her blonde hair in her face. I immediately dropped to my knees and put my hands on her shoulders. She was damp to touch, though it was probably from the workout she had been doing in the living room earlier.

“Ada!” I said, trying not to screech. “What happened?”

“Perry?” she asked weakly. I helped her get into a sitting position.

“What happened?” I asked again, applying slight pressure to her shoulders. “Where is Dex?”

She put a hand to her forehead and slowly shook her head. “I…I don’t know. I…there was a man here.” Suddenly she looked straight at me, fear mixed with sweat on her brow. “Oh my god. He took Dex.”

I swallowed hard, trying my hardest not to let the terror take over me. “How do you know that? What happened? Think!”

She rubbed her lips together, her forehead creased as she tried to think. “I was just in the living room…working out. I heard a knock at the door and went to answer it. There was this guy. At first I thought he was selling something, he had this douchebag kind of smile, you know, and then I realized that there was something seriously wrong with this guy.” She took in a deep breath. “I can’t explain why I thought that, it was just a feeling or the way he was looking at me, I don’t know. He asked if Dex was home. And he was…I’m sorry Perry, I didn’t know what to say.”

I just shook my head, trying to get her to continue. I felt like we were losing time by the second.

She went on, sliding her hands down over her face. “I told him to hang on a second, that I would go get him. But Dex was already coming down the stairs, like he knew. And that’s when I knew I made a big fu**ing mistake by answering that door. The look in Dex’s face…I can’t describe it. He was angry. And then, then it was like he was fu**ing terrified, more than I’ve ever seen him.”

She paused. “The guy, he told Dex he’d been looking for him, that he finally needed him for something. And Dex, he didn’t say anything. I wasn’t even sure if he heard him at first. Then he looked at me and I knew how much trouble we were in. He yelled at me to run and get you.” She exhaled shakily and in her eyes I saw as much helplessness as I felt. “I was going to, I started to run. Then the guy reached out and touched my shoulder and that’s the last thing I remember. I guess he dragged me to the kitchen, I don’t know.”

I couldn’t even process it and yet my brain was attempting to. Dex was gone. Michael had him. He had managed to knock both Ada and I out with either a touch or some way of getting inside of our heads. What did he want with Dex? Did Dex go willingly? Where were they headed?

I’ll see you in New York, Perry. That’s what Michael had said to me.

“What is it?” Ada asked. “Who was that guy? What happened to me?”

I took in a deep breath, trying to hold it together in whatever way I could. “That was Dex’s brother.”

She frowned. “Huh?”

I slowly got to my feet and helped her to hers. “Michael O’Shea,” I told her. “I met him on my walk. Whatever he did to you, he did to me. He was able to get in my head and he was able to get in yours. And whatever he wants with Dex…it’s not good.”

“I figured as much.”

“Ada,” I said slowly, wishing she could feel my panic, know what Pippa had said to me. “Listen to me. As dramatic and bat shit crazy as this all is and all sounds, we have to get Dex back.”

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