But his appearance did not go unnoticed.
Fiona crouched in her cage, putting as many bars as she could between her and Ischke. Plainly she had understood Ischke's earlier words in Dutch. We kill the girl now. Though the gunfire had momentarily distracted the blond twin, eventually her attention would return to Fiona.
From her low vantage, Fiona spotted Gray, a white-jumpsuited gorilla scaling the underside of the walkway, half-hidden by the foliage. She jerked in surprise, almost standing, then forced herself to stay low. Her eyes tracked him, their gazes met.
Despite her noisy bravado, Gray read the terror in her face. The girl looked so much smaller in the cage. She hugged her arms around her chest, attempting to hold herself together. Hardened as she was by the streets, he sensed her only defense against a complete panicked breakdown was her prickly blustering. It sustained her—barely.
Blocking with her body, she signaled him. She pointed down and slightly shook her head, eyes wide in fear, alerting him.
It wasn't safe below.
He searched the thick grasses and bushes of the glade. Shadows lay thick. He saw nothing, but he trusted Fiona's warning.
Gray estimated how far he'd come. He was about at the eight o'clock position along the circular walkway. Ischke stood at the twelve o'clock. He still had a distance to traverse, and his arms were tiring, his fingers aching. He had to move faster. Stopping and starting were killing him. But he feared going any faster would draw Ischke's attention.
Fiona must have realized the same. She stood and began kicking the bars again, rattling her cage, swaying it with her weight. The motion allowed Gray to increase his pace.
Unfortunately her effort also drew Ischke's wrath.
The woman lowered her radio and yelled at Fiona. "Enough of your foolishness, child!"
Fiona still clutched the bars and kicked.
Gray hurried past the nine o'clock position.
Ischke stepped to the inner rail, half in view. Luckily her focus was fully on Fiona. The woman pulled a device out of the pocket of her sweater. She used her teeth to extend the antenna. She pointed it at Fiona. "It is time you met Skuld, named after the Norse goddess of fate."
A button was pressed.
Almost directly under Gray's toes, something howled in anger and pain. It thrashed out of the shadowed eaves of the jungle and stalked into the grassy clearing. One of the mutated hyenas. Its hulked mass had to tip three hundred pounds, all muscle and teeth. It growled low, hackles high on its sloped back. Lips snarled back as it barked and snapped at the empty air, sniffing up at the cage.
Gray realized the monster must have been stalking him all along from below. He suspected what was coming.
He hurried, swinging past the ten-o'clock spot.
Ischke called to Fiona, enjoying the terror, prolonging the cruelty. "A chip in Skuld's brain allows us to stimulate its bloodlust, its appetite." She tweaked the button again. The hyena howled, leaped at the cage, flinging ropes of drool, driven into a ravening bloodlust.
So that was how the Waalenbergs controlled their monsters.
Subverting nature again to their will.
"It's time we sated poor Skuld's hunger," Ischke said.
Gray would never make it in time. Still, he rushed.
But too late.
Ischke pressed another button. Gray heard a distinct clink as the trapdoor in Fiona's cage unlatched.
Gray paused in midswing. He watched the trapdoor fall open beneath Fiona. She fell toward the slathering beast below.
Gray prepared to drop after her, to protect her.
But Fiona had learned from Ryan's demise. She was prepared. As she fell, she caught the lower bars of her cage and hung there. The creature, Skuld, leaped for her legs. She tucked up and hauled with her arms.
The beast missed and crashed back to the underbrush with a yowl of frustration.
Climbing up, Fiona now clung to the outside of the cage like a spider monkey.
Ischke laughed with dark delight. "Zeer goed, meisje. Such resourcefulness! Grootvader might have even considered your genes for his stock. But alas you'll have to satisfy Skuld instead."
From below, Gray watched Ischke raise her pistol again.
He swung beneath her, staring up between the planks.
"Now to end this," Ischke muttered in Dutch.
Gray pulled with his arms, kicked back his legs—then swung forward and over, like a gymnast on a high bar. His heels struck Ischke in the belly as she leaned on the rail, steadying her aim at Fiona.
As his heels connected, her pistol blasted.
Gray heard the ring of slug on iron.
Ischke was knocked back as Gray followed through and crashed to the planks. He rolled up, knife in hand. Ischke was down on one knee. Her pistol lay between them.
They both lunged for it.
Ischke, even with the wind kicked out of her, proved incredibly fast, like a striking snake. Her fingers reached the pistol first, snatching it up.
Gray had a knife.
He jammed his blade through her wrist and into the planks. She screamed in surprise, dropping the pistol. Gray tried to grab it, but the hilt bounced off the planks as Ischke thrashed. It flew past the walkway's edge.
The momentary distraction was long enough for Ischke to yank her wrist free from the planks. She pivoted off her other wrist and kicked out at Gray's head.
He lunged back, but her shin struck his shoulder as hard as the bumper of a speeding car. Gray rolled with it, bruised to the bone. Damn, she was strong.
Before he could get up, she leaped at him, swinging her arm at his face, trying to use the tip of the blade impaled through her wrist to blind him. He barely caught her elbow, twisted it, and carried them both to the walkway's edge.
He didn't stop.
Locked together, their bodies fell off the walkway.
But Gray hooked his left knee around one of the walkway's support posts. His body jerked to a stop, swinging by his leg, wrenching his knee. Ischke peeled off of him and dropped away.
Upside down, he watched the woman snap through some branches and crash hard into the grassy sward.
Gray hauled himself back up to the walkway, sprawling flat.
With disbelief, he saw Ischke climb to her feet below. She limped a step to steady herself, ankle painfully twisted.
A clatter to Gray's side startled him.
Fiona landed on the planks, swinging over from one of the cage's suspension wires.
During the fight, the girl must have crabbed her way atop the cage, then used the wires to reach the walkway. She hurried to him, shaking her left hand and wincing. Fresh blood flowed from where Ischke had cut her.
Gray searched again below.