"Stop!" The guard swung the baton at Curran's back.
Curran whipped about, too fast to see. His hand locked on the baton. Metal crunched, sparks burst, and the crushed mess of metal and electronics fell to the floor.
The guard took a step back. His lower jaw dropped. He looked at the torpere, looked back at Curran, and took off for the door.
Curran turned around.
Behind him a second guard edged outside.
What are you doing, Curran?
The Beast Lord surveyed the cars. His face was calm and cold, as if carved from a glacier. The amount of money tied up in those cars had to be enormous. The warehouse would have to have been well protected from the outside. I wondered how many guards he had chased off.
A muscle in Curran's cheek jerked.
His eyes burst into gold. Curran grabbed the Porsche on his left, ripping the car door off as if it were tissue paper. He grasped the car from the bottom. Monstrous muscles bulged on his arms. The Porsche went airborne. It flew up, flipped over twice, and crashed atop the red Lamborghini. Glass snapped, steel groaned, and a car alarm went off in a sharppitched wail.
Curran lunged at a silver Bentley. The hood went flying. He thrust his hand into the car. Metal screamed, and Curran jerked a twisted clump out of the hood and smashed it into the nearest car like a club.
"Did he just rip out the engine?" I asked.
"Yes," Saiman said. "And now he's demolishing the Maserati with it."
Ten seconds later Curran hurled the twisted wreck of black and orange that used to be the Maserati into the wall.
The first melodic notes of an old song came from the computer. I glanced at Saiman.
He shrugged. "It begged for a soundtrack."
Curran ripped the remains of a car in two. He raged through the warehouse like a tornado, smashing, crushing, tearing into the metal and plastic, so primal in his fury that he was frightening and hypnotic at the same time. And while we watched him rage, some long-gone man sang about being kissed by a rose at someone's grave.
The song ended and still he kept going. Saiman's face remained passive, but his eyes had lost their usual smugness. I looked into them and saw a shadow of fear hidden deep beneath the surface.
Saiman was terrified of physical pain. I'd seen it firsthand--when injured, he panicked and lashed out with remarkable violence. He had watched the recording, soaked up the full extent of the devastation Curran could unleash, and waited, wondering when the Beast Lord would show up on his doorstep. He'd watched the recording over and over. He'd attached a lyrical soundtrack to it, trying to diminish its impact through the sheer absurdity of it. One glance at his expression told me it hadn't helped: the cold face kept relaxed by sheer will, the haunted eyes, the tense mouth. Curran had made Saiman paranoid, and it wore him down. He would do anything to avoid Curran's wrath.
Curran stopped. He straightened, surveying the heap of tortured metal, ruined plastic, and torn rubber. He turned around. Gray eyes looked directly into the camera. The cuts and gashes on his hands and face knitted closed.
Curran's clear, cold voice rolled through the room. "Don't call her, don't talk to her, don't involve her in your schemes. She doesn't owe you anything. If you hurt her in any way, I'll kill you. If she gets hurt helping you, I'll kill you."
It was about me. This epic devastation was all about me. Curran must've thought Saiman had something on me and was using it to force me to help him, so he'd sent a message.
The Beast Lord walked out of the warehouse. The screen went dark.
My knight in furry armor.
Saiman opened his mouth. "This is why I didn't. Personally, I think your smile is inappropriate."
I caught myself and switched to a scowl. "Give me the recording, and I'll mend this fence."
"At what price?"
"You will tell me everything you know about the device and Adam Kamen. You'll turn over all documents, notes, everything, and you will help us find it."
Saiman braided the fingers of his hands together and rested his chin on his fist, thinking. "That homicidal maniac you're in lust with will want more."
"If he does, then I'm sure the two of you can come to an understanding," I ground out. "In Atlanta, you're a person of substance. Outside it, you're an unknown. You'll have to start over. It's in your best interests to stop the destruction of the city. I will intercede on your behalf with Curran. Take it, Saiman, because that's all I'm offering." Saiman frowned. A long minute passed. He rose, pulled the disk out, slid it into a thin plastic sleeve, and held it out. "Deal."
I took the disk and slipped it into my pocket. "The documents?"
Derek grabbed us and ped to the floor, knocking over the couch.
The door behind us exploded.
BULLETS BIT INTO THE COUCH, CHEWING THROUGH the steel and cushions. The world went white in a blinding flash. Thunder slapped my ears, shaking the brain in my skull. All sound faded. Derek jerked, clamping his hands over his ears.
A stun grenade.
Next to me Saiman trembled, hugging the floor.
Steel shutters dropped, covering the floor-to-ceiling windows--Saiman's defense system kicking into high gear.
The electric lamps on the ceiling shone bright, illuminating us. The couch wouldn't hold. We had to move.
To the right, the lab door gaped wide open. Twelve feet. If we had a distraction, we could make it. I looked around, trying to find something to throw. Clothes--no, too light--clothes, more clothes ... Table. The heavy glass-topped table.
I lunged for it and tried to lift it. Too heavy. I could heave it upright and maybe throw it a couple of feet. Not far enough, and they would cut me down while I struggled to lift it.
The roar of the gunfire penetrated the wall in my ears, soft like the noise of a distant waterfall.
A dark canister rolled into the space to the left of us, between the couch and a bar, and belched a cloud of green gas. Shit. I held my breath. Derek pressed his hand over his nose. Tears streamed from his eyes.
Derek's shapeshifter senses couldn't take it. We had to go now.
I grabbed Derek's shoulder, pointed at the table, and made a throwing motion with my arms.
"Saiman!" My voice was a faint echo. "Saiman!"
He glanced at me and I saw a familiar blank look in his eyes. He would snap any second. I grabbed his arm. "Run or die!"
Crouching, Derek grasped the table and hurled it at the muzzle flashes.
I jerked Saiman to his feet and ran. Behind me glass shattered in the hail of gunfire. I leaped inside and spun around in time to see Saiman pe through the doorway, with Derek a hair behind. Derek slammed the thick reinforced door shut and stumbled, like a blind man, his eyes wide open, tears streaming down his face. Blood gushed from his leg, staining the jeans inside out.