In Black We Trust

Quentin Black Mystery #8

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“This strike you as a particularly wise idea, brother?” Manny asked under his breath. “Striking a deal with vampires?”

 

Black gave him a look. “No. But all my other ideas were worse.”

 

*

 

A coup is underway.

 

That coup threatens the entire United States––possibly the whole of the human race.

 

Psychic detective, Quentin Black, has no idea who’s behind it, what their goal is, or what they want with him. After the funeral of one of his oldest friends, he finds himself on the run from the very people he used to work for in the Pentagon.

 

With his wife, Miri, he’s forced to flee the country, then to seek allies in the most unlikely of quarters to try and clear his name.

 

Together, they return to the center of the conspiracy, Washington D.C., and face the architect of what might be a terrifying new world.

 

Will Black be able to stop history from repeating itself in the worst way imaginable?

*

IN BLACK WE TRUST is book eight in the QUENTIN BLACK MYSTERY series, a paranormal mystery series starring brilliant but dangerous psychic detective, Quentin Black, and his partner, forensic psychologist Miri Fox. It’s also a spinoff of the BRIDGE & SWORD SERIES.

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Sample Pages

Prologue: COUP

THE COLONEL NODDED grimly to the security guard as he passed, giving him a cursory salute with a slight tightening of his lips.

The uniformed corporal jumped hastily to his feet once he recognized who it was, saluting even more hastily, but the Colonel was already past him, striding down the gunmetal gray corridor with long steps.

 

Gripping the paper draft of the orders that just fell on his desk a few moments before against his side, still in their manila envelope, he was nearly gritting his teeth as he approached the next set of locked doors in the high-security facility.

 

That time, the men working the doors were Marines.

 

They saluted him as well, but they were all business, their expressions grim as they looked over his ID and checked on the computers to make sure he was cleared for entry.

 

As they went through the song and dance to ensure he was cleared, the Colonel had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from barking at them.

 

Hell, he was the reason this damned facility existed in the first place.

 

Eventually they let him through, giving him an escort to the cell for which he’d requested access, and informing him the prisoner in question already had a visitor.

 

Scowling, the Colonel acknowledged that with only a nod, as well.

 

It couldn’t be a coincidence that more than one branch of the military oversaw this part of the installation now, whereas before it was all army, most of them handpicked by the Colonel himself. It shouldn’t have surprised him, given the orders he’d just read, but it made that feeling of misgiving significantly worse.

 

Minutes later, he found himself walking a narrower, newer-looking corridor with one of the two Marines walking stiffly by his side, complete with sidearm and full dress uniform. Neither of them had spoken, not even to exchange the usual pleasantries. They passed the first segment of doors, then reached another locked security door, which the Marine got him through with a key card, a hand print and a voice-recognition passcode.

 

It took them two more doors and a security elevator to reach the correct cell.

 

By then, enough time had passed for the Colonel to calm down some.

 

He at least managed to come at this thing from a more strategic frame of mind.

 

They might have a perfectly legitimate reason for giving this project over to a private contractor, versus doing it through the usual channels. That contractor, Silver Industries, might even have a perfectly legitimate reason for wanting to relocate that same creature to one of their private, high tech facilities down south.

 

Better facilities. Better security.

 

Less likely to attract the attention of the political establishment, compared to housing them here, so close to Langley and the Pentagon.

 

The Colonel knew all manner of legitimate-sounding arguments could be made to support such a position. Even so, knowing what he knew, and knowing a bit about the father and son team that controlled the private research and military contracting firm, he had his doubts he would agree with that “legitimate” rationale.

 

More and more, he’d seen his superiors bow to the whims of Silver Industries and its consultants, despite the fact that it was privately owned and currently burdened with little to no official oversight. The Colonel knew people in the intelligence community who’d raised actual alarms about this fact, internally at least. In private conversations he’d had just this past week, some of the most experienced intelligence agents he knew voiced serious doubts about the Silver family, and not only in terms of how elusive their financial backers were.

 

For one thing, the company grew bizarrely fast.

 

Despite having only made its mark on the D.C. scene in a real way around six months earlier, the consultants at the military defense firm seemed to know everyone on the Hill and in the West Wing already.

 

Granted, some of that was undoubtedly due to the fact that Malcolm Silver, the senior Silver, also happened to be a United States Senator. Although Silver Industries had no official tie to the senator from Oregon, the buzz was that he’d taken over and redesigned the company after it had been badly mismanaged by his son.

 

Even so, the Colonel found the amount of power they’d amassed on the Hill worrisome, especially since Silver Industries more or less languished as a third-tier contractor for years. From what the Colonel could tell, that was increasingly true of the Pentagon, as well.

 

Most of the people he answered to already had Silver Industries consultants as their golfing buddies, dinner companions, advisors at conventions and military trade shows. One of the generals he knew even went on vacation with a top Silver executive and their family over the recent three-day weekend.

 

Increasingly, those same superiors acted as staunch advocates for Silver Industries inside the system, bringing them into even more areas of operation, granting them ever higher security clearances and access to classified intelligence.

It made the Colonel nervous.

 

Even before he’d done some poking around among his friends in intelligence circles, it hadn’t escaped his notice that Silver Industries appeared to have nearly unlimited sources of funding, even apart from the lucrative contracts they’d signed with Uncle Sam.

 

Clenching his jaw as the security elevator gave off a final ping, the Colonel followed his marine escort through the thick metal doors, entering a featureless corridor with dark gray walls. Doors broke the expanse every so often, labeled with etched numbers, but otherwise, the corridor had no other features or signs, not even those placards indicating emergency exits.

 

None of the doors had windows or slots.

 

The marine finally stopped at the last door in the first corridor, right before it make a ninety-degree turn to the right.

 

Pulling out a thick set of cylindrical keys, he thumbed through until he found the particular key he wanted. Sliding the cylinder into the panel to the right of the door, he leaned over that same panel when a red light flickered on.

 

The Colonel watched the security system scan his irises a second time.

 

The marine placed his hand on a flat glass panel next, letting it scan his fingers and palm.

 

The Colonel watched all of this with a frown on his face.

 

He couldn’t say he disapproved of the precautions. At the same time, he wondered when all the protocols he’d put in place were changed––and why he hadn’t been consulted, or even informed. No one on his team had been informed either, at least that he was aware of.

 

He was still frowning, watching the scanner outline the other man’s hand, when the light on the panel clicked off and the marine reached down to open the door. Yanking down on the L-shaped door handle, he pushed the heavy panel inward and stepped through, holding the door for the Colonel to follow.

 

Still frowning, the Colonel did so without speaking.

 

They walked down another short corridor, then stopped in front of another heavy door. The marine went through another security protocol, that one involving a blood prick that likely included a DNA test, and voice recognition software.

 

Finally, after all that, they were through.

 

The Colonel finally found himself inside the right room.

 

Two sets of eyes turned as they walked through the door. Those eyes and faces stood close to one another, despite the thick sheet of transparent plexiglas standing between them.

 

The Colonel paused long enough to take in both faces.

 

Logan Silver.

 

He’d expected one of the Silver employees, but not the younger Silver himself.

 

Even so, the Colonel barely hesitated, but walked right up to the blond-haired man with the thick neck and muscular body. The other man’s dark blue eyes followed him every step. The Colonel couldn’t help but notice the faint curl of contempt that came to the younger man’s lips. He suspected that contempt stemmed from several sources, from what he knew of this man.

 

His age. His race, as a black man.

 

His attachment to the principles he’d vowed to protect.

 

His refusal to play the game.

 

Logan Silver was a man who had nothing but contempt for anyone who wasn’t riding at the very top of the only ladders he cared about––money, fame, power, influence, control, status, sex. He didn’t care if those things were earned, stolen, inherited, embezzled or gotten in some even more reprehensible manner.

 

All that mattered was having them.

 

Logan Silver viewed anyone outside that value system with pure disgust.

 

Even so, the younger Silver made at least a minimal effort to mask that contempt as the Colonel walked closer, replacing it with a somehow even more offensive smile.

 

“Colonel Holmes,” he said, holding out a hand. “This is a surprise.”

 

The Colonel accepted the handshake, making his face expressionless.

 

“Is it?” he said, his words flat. “I’m the reason this prisoner is in our custody in the first place. You must have known I’d take an interest in any changes regarding his status.”

 

The younger man looked at him, his lips curling in a whisper of a smile.

 

“Interesting take,” he said, motioning casually with a hand. “…That you’re the reason we have this particular specimen in custody, I mean.” He paused, his words musing, holding the faintest hint of contempt. “It’s not the story I heard.”

 

The Colonel frowned. “Really?”

 

Silver shrugged lazily, somehow conveying a lot with the simple gesture.

 

That condescending smile still played at his lips.

“My father told me it was someone else who brought him in,” he said only.

 

Lifting an eyebrow, Silver glanced at the form standing like a statue behind the plexiglas wall. Despite the thickness of the material making up the cell enclosure, the Colonel had seen the creature’s eyes flicker between the two of them as they conversed.

 

It definitely looked as if it was listening to them speak.

 

Now the creature stared solely at the Colonel, his crystal-colored eyes unnervingly still.

 

Glancing up at the overhead lights, the Colonel frowned. The brighter of the two sets of lights were on, the ones designed to mimic actual sunlight, to weaken the thing living in there. Those weren’t supposed to be on all the time.

 

“Have you been feeding it enough?” the Colonel said, frowning. “It looks pale. More pale than it should be.” Turning, he frowned at the blond man. “You should shut the sunlamps off, Silver. They aren’t necessary, certainly not right now, with both of us here.”

 

Logan Silver acted as though he hadn’t spoken.

 

“What do you say, friend?” He addressed the animal itself, his smile twisted with a colder humor. “Is this old man the reason you’re in there? Is he the arch-nemesis who single-handedly brought you down? Who locked you up in this overly bright and unfriendly cage?”

 

The vampire’s eyes narrowed.

 

There was a long-feeling silence where he only looked at Holmes’ eyes, his stare flickering mechanically from one eye to the other.

 

“No,” it said.

 

The creature’s voice came out loud, the faintest lilt of a Louisiana accent audible, even in that single word. It was loud enough to make the Colonel jump, even as he looked up, that time glancing at the speakers embedded in the room’s walls. The comm system inside the cell was obviously switched on, connected to the wider room.

 

Silver had definitely been talking to the thing.

 

He frowned. He would pay good money to know about what.

 

Even as he thought it, Silver turned to the Colonel, holding out his hands as his smile broadened, turning openly condescending once more.

 

“Well, there you have it, Colonel,” he smirked. “I hate to dispute your take on what occurred during that thrilling showdown in New York… but it seems the relevant parties have weighed in. You seem to hold the minority opinion on a few key details.”

 

“What are you and your father up to, Logan?” The Colonel frowned. “Why do you even want this thing? More to the point, how in the hell did you get clearance to take this project from the military? Particularly given the national security issues at stake?”

 

Again, that wide-lipped smirk stretched the man’s fleshy lips.

 

Silver nodded towards the manilla envelope still stuck under the Colonel’s arm.

 

“I was under the impression you already knew the answer to that question, Colonel. As for how and why we got clearance––why is any project taken from the government and given to the private sector to manage?” Pausing, he answered his own question. “Because the private sector can do it better, Holmes.”

 

Holmes grunted, not even trying to hide what he thought of that notion.

 

In this case, the idea was laughable.

 

“Either way,” Logan Silver said, louder. “It’s done, old man. As of last night, Silver Industries has taken over management and research related to the sub-population of homo sanguis, as well as any other… shall we say… aberrant or sub-genus populations that might be uncovered in the course of our research.”

 

His smile hardened.

 

“You wouldn’t want to save us any time on that last part, would you, Colonel? I’m told you have a lead on another, as yet unnamed sub-population within homo sapiens. One that might be even more interesting than our blood-obsessed friends here…?”

 

He trailed, quirking an eyebrow back towards the vampire in the cage.

 

When the Colonel didn’t speak, Silver chuckled.

 

“No matter.” His voice grew soft, a near-murmur as his eyes flickered over the vampire. “My new friend here has been most helpful on that subject already. We were just discussing terms for his continued cooperation to that end.”

The Colonel frowned, looking from Silver to the vampire.

 

“You can’t make deals with this thing.” His voice grew an edge of alarm. “Surely you can’t be that naïve. You can’t trust anything it tells you, Silver. Granting it any kind of access to intelligence information gleaned through covert operations is out of the question. That would entail a security threat to this government unprecedented in our history––”

 

“I’m sorry,” Silver said, still smiling faintly. “You no longer have the security clearance necessary for me to share the details of any negotiations underway with this detainee or any other of his particular genetic makeup. Much less any terms we may be contemplating with the as-yet unofficial governmental body he represents––”

 

“Governmental body?” The Colonel stared at him. “You can’t be serious. The leading vampire clans run an organized crime syndicate at best… more accurately, they traffic in human beings as a food source, utilizing the underground economy to cover their tracks. You can’t open ‘negotiations’ with a body that exists to farm humans like cattle––”

 

“Colonel.” Silver turned, raising an eyebrow. His voice carried a thread of warning now. “This is no longer your problem. Moreover, it’s above your pay grade. You have no idea what’s at stake at this point… or even what’s truly going on.”

 

The Colonel found himself watching Silver’s blue eyes, however, noticing where the younger man trained them as he spoke.

 

Those eyes flickered to the corners of the room, and the Colonel instinctively followed his gaze, almost without noticing he’d done it, much less thinking about why. He found himself seeing the cameras there.

 

Something about those cameras bothered him.

 

Then it hit him. The red lights weren’t switched on.

 

The cameras also weren’t moving, despite being mounted on swivel arms meant to pan through the whole of the room.

 

They were completely dead.

 

The Colonel frowned, turning back to face Silver. “Why are the cameras switched off? They should be on at all times. The control room needs to know what’s going on in this room.”

 

A faint surprise touched Silver’s eyes.

 

The Colonel found himself thinking it was because the other man didn’t expect him to notice the cameras. The realization only made Holmes frown more.

 

If the young idiot wanted to hide something from him, maybe he shouldn’t be staring at the very damned thing he was trying to hide.

 

More and more, the Colonel had seen Silver’s type invading the ranks of the Pentagon and the White House. Young. Arrogant. Positive they were the smartest guys in the room, even though they refused to learn a damned thing about anyone sharing the room with them––much less the history of the institutions and the accumulated knowledge they were exploiting, usually for their own private, personal gain.

 

Maybe for the first time in his life, the Colonel was beginning to think he was getting too old for this. His wife joked he’d never retire, that he’d die with an armful of classified briefs clutched to his chest, but Colonel Harrison Hamilton Holmes III was beginning to wonder.

 

Truthfully, he’d endured one too many arrogant thugs like this one––mercenaries who were willfully ignorant of the world yet convinced they were somehow entitled to make it over in their image anyway.

 

He glanced at the vampire as he thought it.

 

The creature’s throat had mostly healed from what Black had done to it.

 

A thick white scar provided a lingering reminder, crossing its throat just below the creature’s Adam’s apple. Otherwise, it looked more or less healthy, if somewhat underfed and significantly less coiffed than the Colonel remembered from the video footage from that research lab in Louisiana.

 

He wondered what they were feeding it exactly––and how often.

 

When he turned back to Silver, the other man held a gun in his hands.

 

The Colonel tensed.

 

Silver wasn’t aiming the gun at him; he cradled it in his palms, looking down at it, a distant look on his broad, wind-burned face. Even so, adrenaline shot into the Colonel’s bloodstream as he studied the other man’s face.

 

“How the hell did you bring that in through security?” The Colonel glared at him, his words a half-growl. “No weapons are allowed in this facility whatsoever. Doesn’t matter who you are. You can’t have that in here, son.”

Silver looked at him, his blue eyes thoughtful.

“We’ve made a few changes in the protocols since your time, old man,” he said. “I own this place now. In fact, you might even say this is my facility.”

 

The Colonel’s frown deepened. “Your facility? What kind of nonsense is that?”

 

Silver just looked at him for a moment.

 

Then he broke into a smile, like he couldn’t help himself.

 

“You really don’t get what’s happened, do you, old man?” he said.

 

Without waiting for an answer, he turned the gun on the Colonel, and fired, before Holmes could even think about moving out of the way.

 

He stared up at the younger Silver in disbelief, his hand on his chest.

 

It registered only dimly that he was no longer on his feet, that he’d sunk to his knees on the dark, green-gray metal floor. Holding his heart, feeling it beat under his fingers, he fought to speak, but his chest hurt so badly, he struggled to form words.

 

“You could have retired with grace, old man,” Silver said, aiming the gun at his head. “Hell, you could have retired rich. I would have been generous as fuck if you’d shared your files on Black and the other psychics with me. God knows my dad won’t share any of that crap with me, no matter what I do for this company. God knows none of those other assholes who work for you will, either… much less those who served with Black.”

 

A harder frown touched his lips as he studied the Colonel’s face.

 

“Instead, I find out you went behind my back. That you tried to turn other senators against me, against my company… against my dad. You went to the damned C.I.A., talked to your spook pals. You approached generals, members of the House Intelligence Committee, the N.S.A. Anything to protect your precious mutants.”

 

He smirked, but that harder, angrier look never left his blue eyes.

 

“Did you really think it wouldn’t get back to me? Are you that much of a fool, that you could work in the Pentagon for so long and still not know how things work?”

 

The Colonel looked down at his chest, at his bloody hand over his uniform.

 

His wife would be furious.

 

They were supposed to go to that charity gala tonight.

 

He’d promised Camille he’d go. She’d already accused him of trying to wiggle out of it. They’d had one of their bickering sort-of fights over breakfast about it, even as she served him blueberry pancakes, sausage and coffee.

 

The woman could cook like an angel, even while she laid into him.

 

Seeing her, in his mind’s eye, he let out an involuntary gasp.

 

“Don’t worry.” Silver cut into the Colonel’s thoughts, drawing his eyes back up to that cold, blue gaze. “You won’t go to waste, old man.”

 

Silver nodded towards the vampire, that smirk back on his lips.

 

“You’re right,” he added with a smirk. “He’s overdue for a feeding.”

 

The Colonel followed those blue eyes without thought.

 

The vampire was staring at him, its hands pressed to the thick plexiglas wall.

 

Its teeth were already longer. The Colonel saw that they’d lengthened when the creature licked its lips. It stared at him, pupils dilated, its chest moving faster, almost as if it panted as it watched his heart bleed down his jacket and towards the metal floor.

 

The look in its eyes disturbed the Colonel.

 

It disturbed him greatly.

 

More animal than person, it revealed itself in its hunger. Its true face appeared, dissolving that thinly-worn pretense of humanity it hid behind, like camouflage. The look there brought a wave of disgust to the Colonel’s gut, curling his lip.

 

It was lust, hunger, desire, a dense wanting that gave the creature a distinctly glazed look, one that implied it had already lost control of its mind, at least partly.

 

That look disturbed him greatly.

 

It disturbed him greatly indeed.

 

Even so, he couldn’t help but see the inevitability there, in its eyes.

 

He knelt there, panting, as Silver walked to the electronic panel that operated the locks and mechanics for the plexiglas cage door. Watching the younger man punch through the security code, lowering his eye for the retinal scanner to identify and authorize him to work the controls, the Colonel found himself thinking he should have called Black.

 

He should have called Black––and warned him.

 

He should have called Black first, before he came down here, before he made his last tactical mistake, in not recognizing how dangerous this man truly was.

 

He should have called Black.

 

But there was no point thinking about that now.

 

It was too late now, the Colonel thought, watching the transparent panel open slowly in front of him. After all this time, it was finally too late.

 

Black was on his own.

(End sample pages)

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