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The Animal: The Luke Titan Chronicles #5, page 1

 

The Animal: The Luke Titan Chronicles #5
 

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The Animal: The Luke Titan Chronicles #5


  The Animal

  The Luke Titan Chronicles

  David Beers

  Contents

  Mailing List Invitation

  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

  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

  Letters from a Killer

  Chapter 33

  On Purpose and Other Things

  Also by David Beers

  Mailing List Invitation

  Chapter 1

  Christian sees Luke. He sees him a lot now, and that’s because there is more light inside his head than out. He retreats to his mansion often, especially when the pain grows too great to bear.

  As it has now.

  Luke is 18 and his brother, Mark, is a year dead. His mother died seven years earlier. Luke was born with a different last name, but he is now Luke Titan.

  After his brother’s death, Luke spent time burying his history, the final piece being his name change. The boy that left Mexico—a body and a burnt down cathedral behind him—no longer exists. Not legally, nor practically.

  Luke Titan is what remains of that person, and Christian watches him sit on a bench in front of a gorgeous building. A book is closed on Luke’s lap; he hasn’t opened it since taking a seat. It’s a book for a philosophy class, an introductory one that outlines Kant and Descartes, as well as a few other notable figures.

  Luke does not need to read the book. He is well versed in all the philosophers. He goes to class, though, because he knows it is expected of him and expectations are important.

  Luke is an attractive young man. Thin and well dressed. He did not naturally have impeccable taste, but has spent much of his free time learning what clothes are both in style and fit him well.

  He notices the women passing him, or rather—notices when they glance over at him. Many do. Even professors. He can read some of their thoughts, almost as if he is a telepath. He isn’t, of course—it’s just their thoughts are basically written across their faces.

  There is something stunning about Luke Titan, even sitting on a bench underneath the autumn sun. Christian can see it, too.

  He’s beautiful, Christian thinks.

  Luke watches the girl approach him—she is not beautiful in the same sense he is (Timeless, Christian thinks), but she’s very pretty. Long blonde hair with dark blue eyes.

  “You sit out here every day,” she says as she arrives at his bench. “Why?”

  “I have class in the building behind me.” He smiles; it looks both cocky and friendly.

  “But why do you sit out here not talking to anyone?”

  “I like the view,” he says.

  “Do you like it now?”

  Luke’s smile widens. “The view, at this moment, isn’t bad at all.”

  “Then why don’t you take this view on a date?” the girl asks. “I’ve watched you sit here for two weeks and you never once open that book. So instead of sitting here, get something to eat with me.”

  “Are you asking me to ask you, or commanding me to take you out.”

  “Both,” the girl says.

  “Well, would you like to get some food?”

  “I thought you’d never ask.”

  The television turned off, leaving Christian sitting on Luke’s floor inside his mansion.

  “I haven’t seen this one yet,” the other said—the negative of Christian. He looked exactly the same, except for the endlessly dripping blood seeping from his eyes, his hands, and sometimes even his mouth. The other was something Luke left behind; one of many things, Christian supposed.

  He could never tell, however, whether the other was more Luke … or more himself.

  “Neither have I,” Christian answered.

  He spoke to the other now, and had been for the past few days—if days had actually passed. Christian didn’t know, his usual grasp on time failing between the pain and darkness that waited outside this place, this mansion. He spoke to the other because he thought he might go insane if he didn’t.

  “Did Luke write you any letters about this?”

  “No,” Christian said.

  “So are you just making it up? Trying to entertain yourself so that you don’t have to go back out there with the fat man?”

  The fat man was Charles Twaller, and the question wasn’t a bad one. Charles had captured both Christian and his FBI partner, Tommy Phillips. Captured and was now in the process of slowly torturing them to death. That’s where the pain outside originated from, and why Christian spent so much time inside his mental mansion—even if he only had this floor now.

  “No, I don’t think I’m making it up.”

  “Ha!” the other shouted. “There’s no way you know any of this for sure. You can’t go downstairs anymore, and you certainly don’t want to be out in reality, so you’re just making up stories to tell yourself.”

  Christian stood from the chair, ignoring the other’s taunting.

  He walked across the top floor of the mansion. He didn’t look at any of the sights on his left or right. He knew them all intimately: each video or hologram a piece of Christian’s life that he spent with Luke Titan.

  Right now, he wanted to see how far the water had risen.

  He made his way to the floor’s balcony and looked down the stretching staircase.

  Christian was stuck up here; a flood was happening beneath, and the water had filled half the stairwell, which meant the rest of his mansion was already flooded. Christian knew the water was only a metaphor for his own death, his mind’s best approximation for how much more torture he could take from Charles Twaller. When the water reached this floor, Christian would drown—though, he doubted it would matter much at that point. He’d probably be close to brain dead by then.

  “This Twaller man is pretty ruthless, huh?” the other said, stepping up behind him.

  “I love it when you state the obvious.”

  “Did you think Luke was going to save you?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe,” Christian said. He had considered it, especially after Luke told Twaller to ask about his brother. “ … No, I didn’t expect him to save me. I expected him to kill Twaller.”

  “You don’t anymore?”

  “ … I don’t know …,” Christian said. “If Luke was coming, he should have been here already.”

  “You don’t even know how many days have passed. How can you say he should have already come?”

  The other was probably right. It was the torture causing him to lose hope. The unending pain that would return the moment he left this place. Christian was capable of blocking it all out from his mansion, of somehow severing the brain/body connection … for a time at least. He didn’t know how it worked, was only grateful that it did.

  “I have to go back,” he said.

  “Tommy?”

  Christian nodded. He could come here and hide from the pain, from Twaller. Tommy could go nowhere. Tommy stayed in that small area they shared,
lying on his cot as his body died.

  “I’ve got to go,” Christian said as if talking to a friend. The other was no friend, though. He had no place in this mansion, no real place in Christian’s life at all—yet, right now, he was all Christian had.

  “I’ll be here when you get back,” the other said.

  “I know you will. At least until the water reaches you.”

  “I’m as invested as you, Christian. I’d like Luke to save us all.”

  “Luke doesn’t save,” Christian said. “He just stretches his torture out over a longer timeline than Twaller.”

  Christian might have been giving up on rescue, but Charles Twaller felt certain someone was coming. He didn’t know if it was Titan or the FBI, but someone would be here sooner or later.

  The problem was, Charles had made up his mind to kill Titan as well as these two FBI agents, and so he had to wait. The longer he stayed, though, the greater his chances of being apprehended.

  Charles looked through closed circuit television at the two men he’d captured, angry at the predicament. He had the lights on over them, although he kept them off most of the time. He only illuminated their area when he wanted to see them.

  “This isn’t good,” he said. Charles was alone in the Baltimore warehouse. Other people were here, of course, but they were either on prisoner detail or ensuring preparations were ready for when someone did show up.

  “It’s not goddamn good,” Charles repeated. He knew he was talking to himself, but he didn’t care. He certainly wasn’t going to call his mother and talk to her. She was just worrying, and what could he tell her? Ma, remember those FBI jackasses that came by the house? Well, I’ve got them here and I’m looking at them right now; Lordy, I wish you could see this.

  No. That wouldn’t help ease her worry much.

  But, Charles had to talk to someone, especially with what he saw now.

  The invalid was near death, and the genius prick was getting close. The invalid—Phillips was his name—lay on the cot without moving. Charles had stripped him naked and large burn marks sat on his chest, arms, and legs. There was one on his nuts, too, though he only did it once. Charles didn’t think it too cruel, only putting the wires to Phillips’s groin had caused his balls to swell after. Charles wasn’t a doctor and didn’t know if they might swell to the point of bursting—which in all likelihood, would kill the crippled fuck.

  So, now he just kept the electrical wires on other parts of the invalid.

  It was funny, watching someone who couldn’t move twitch around on the floor like a paralyzed insect. Tommy jigged and jerked across the cot, would fall onto the floor and just keep on going until he either stretched the wires too far or Charles put an end to it.

  When the shocks were over, he’d lay there unmoving again, smoke coming up from his body.

  It was also odd, watching someone whose body was dying be unable to feel the pain. The crippled was being tortured to death, yet the real issue for him was mental. He knew his body was being destroyed, dying before his eyes, but yet couldn’t even feel it.

  Still, there were some nice parts to watch. His mouth would clamp shut, spittle dripping from the corners of his lips, and a raspy noise escaping it all. Charles giggled each time it happened. He just couldn’t help it.

  The other one, Windsor, was receiving harsher treatment, though his body was stronger.

  He’d been stripped naked too, but Charles was simpler in his methods. Large strips of flesh were ripped from his chest and back, both sides bruised and swelling. The whip had done it. Charles even took a few swings at the young man, but eventually his giggles overwhelmed him and he had to quit. It was how the whip removed the skin so quickly; he only had to bring it down on the prick’s back, and like a magical cleaning formula—the skin just disappeared.

  He’d also had his men start flaying Windsor’s arms. He was losing skin across large portions of his body. Charles enjoyed watching his men put the antibacterial salve on Windsor as well—it seemed to hurt him just as bad as the actual torture. They used the salve for infections, but Charles didn’t know how long it would work. He’d had them four days already, but they would die soon, and he knew it.

  That’s why this wasn’t good.

  At all.

  Because he didn’t want them dying before Titan arrived.

  “Goddamnit,” Charles said. “God-fucking-damn-it.”

  He stood from his chair, done watching them through the television. He waddled across the dilapidated warehouse and then opened the door to the room holding his two prisoners.

  The lights were still on overhead.

  The invalid didn’t open his eyes, though the mental freak turned his head so that his good eye could see who’d entered. Charles moved with a penguin’s grace as he crossed the room. He stood in front of the chained man. Windsor hung against his chains, his arms above his head and his feet against the chainlink fence behind him. He was leaning forward, putting pressure on his joints, but taking them off his feet. He’d had to choose over the past four days what would hurt: his joints or his feet and legs, because Charles wouldn’t let him lie down.

  “You said Titan was coming to kill me,” Charles said. “Where the fuck is he?”

  Windsor breathed heavily, like a fallen horse which had been ridden too hard for too long.

  “Answer me,” Charles said.

  “I didn’t say when,” Windsor whispered, each word sounding harder to say than the last.

  Charles raised his hand, prepared to slap the hell out of the man, but only left it in the air. He didn’t bring it down because something occurred to him.

  “You.”

  Windsor swung slightly against his chains.

  “You’re going to talk to him. That’s what I’m missing here. You’ll tell him to come and he’ll listen. This has all been about you anyway, hasn’t it? This whole fucking war was for you, in some psychotic way. So, you’ll talk, and he’ll listen.” Charles brought his hand down. “You understand?”

  Windsor smiled, his swollen lips sliding slowly across his teeth. “I’ll talk to him, but Luke listens to no one.”

  Chapter 2

  Luke looked across the balcony at Veronica Lopez. She wasn’t returning his stare and hadn’t for the past hour. The two of them were separated by about twenty feet, but in reality, Luke knew universes were between them.

  He only cared because it kept him from getting inside her head. He would take more pleasure in her death if he knew what was going on in her mind.

  Though, in all honesty, what did Luke really think he was missing?

  The two of them were staying at a hotel just across the Canadian border. Luke had flown them to it the day he kidnapped her, after murdering her FBI escort. His own identification documents had worked fine, and given that Veronica hadn’t yet been reported as a missing person, hers worked as well.

  The past four days had been spent in this large, magnificent hotel room. A balcony that stretched 60 feet, with four bedrooms inside. They’d eaten the best meals and drank the finest wine, or at least had the opportunity to. Veronica ate enough to keep from starving, and she didn’t touch any of the wine.

  “What are we waiting on?” she finally asked from her side of the balcony.

  “I like when you use the term ‘we’, Veronica. It shows that you’re in this with me.”

  “You haven’t given me any choice. Now answer my goddamn question.”

  She hadn’t asked Luke any questions up until this point. Hadn’t said a word to him over the four days, though she hadn’t really needed to. The television spoke of nothing else. The news reported on the murders at the hospital, the kidnapping of two FBI agents. They did get one thing wrong: they put it on Luke’s shoulders, though he had nothing to do with it.

  “Are you asking to be let in on my plan?”

  “Fuck you, Luke. Tell me what we’re doing or don’t. I’m not playing games with you.”

  “We’re waiting.”

&nbs
p; “WHY!” she shouted, standing up from her chair and finally looking at him. The chair tottered on its back legs and then fell over, clattering to the stone floor.

  “Because, Veronica, the man who kidnapped them is going to hurt them, and I think that’s a good thing.”

  Tears were in Veronica’s eyes. They welled and spilled down her cheeks. “Why do you want to hurt them more? You can save them, Luke. You can save both of them. Why would you want to do this? What is wrong with you?”

  She was pleading with him, her face as unguarded and open as it had been when Luke was her therapist.

  Luke remained seated and leaned back in his chair.

  “What did Christian tell you about him and I?”

  “Enough for me to know that you’re insane.”

  “I understand you believe that, but I don’t think he does, even if he says it.”

  There was a brief pause. Veronica reached up to wipe the tears from her face. “Why won’t you go get them? Why won’t you save them? That’s your plan isn’t it? I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

  “Yes. I’m going to save them.”

  “Then why make them suffer?” she asked.

  “It is when we suffer, that we grow, my dear. I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t suffered greatly. And you? You would be incapable of loving Christian so deeply if not for the suffering you’ve gone through. Pain creates scars, but those scars create tougher patches of skin. Enough scars and perhaps we can become superhuman.”

  “You’re crazy,” Veronica said, an unbelieving half chuckle exiting with her words.

 
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