(47North, September 2016)
In a darkly warped near future, lucrative disease cures are brokered on Wall Street’s Genetic Stock Exchange. And the hottest consumer products are artificially synthesized humans that serve as everything from domestic slaves to combatants in savage gladiatorial games. For Jack Saxton, the young heir to genetic design powerhouse Genico Inc., these Synthates are just a fact of life…until the murder of a high-profile genetic scientist leads a pair of seasoned NYPD detectives to Genico’s door.
As a small band of Synthate rebels steps up its attack on the status quo, Jack encounters a pleasure-parlor girl who opens his eyes to their cause. When he dares to sympathize with the rebels, Jack is hunted down and arrested for the murder. Sentenced to die in the brutal games on Bloomberg Island, Jack will be forced to fight—for his life, for the future of all Synthates, and for a chance to uncover the mind-bending secret buried in his past.
“Jesus, what happened?” Betsy hissed. “What’s wrong?”
Reynolds shook his head. “Quiet. He’s coming.”
He kept his eye on the library’s doorway. Watching. Watching. Then a figure appeared. The terribly long nose, the black eyes of the plague doctor. He stopped for a moment in the doorway, then turned and kept walking, disappearing from view. What was happening in Reynolds’s chest felt like a heart attack. But then the pain dropped so hard into his stomach he felt he was going to be sick.
“Who was that?” Betsy asked, her eyes wide and scared.
“Call the police.” Reynolds’s voice wavered and Betsy froze. “I dropped my sync. Call the police now!”
She looked around, thoroughly frightened by the tone of his voice.
Obediently she dialed the numbers. “Where’s yours?”
Reynolds looked out and saw his sync on the library floor. He stared hard at it, attempting to somehow will it back into his possession. Betsy handed her sync to Reynolds. The operator’s voice picked up after the second ring, curt and impersonal.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
Forced to speak, Reynolds breathed deeply and tried to gather his words. “We need help, there’s someone here, there’s a man, trying to kill us. I’m at 578 Fifth Avenue, the townhouse, fifth floor.”
“You need the police?”
“Yes . . . please . . . right away . . .”
“Stay on the line, sir,” the operator responded.
Betsy pressed hard against Reynolds, her mouth very small and tight as she stared at something through the glass and into the room beyond.
“What is it?” Reynolds asked.
Reynolds knew they had come for him. They had found out about his work. He had done his best to keep it secret, but he had always known this moment would come. He had just hoped it wouldn’t be when he was with Betsy. Reynolds reached into his waistband. They had left him no choice.
The 911 operator came back on the line. “Are you there, sir?” “Yes.” Reynolds whispered. “There’s been a murder. He’s here now. I’m looking at him.”
“Where are you and your wife hiding?”
Reynolds opened his mouth to respond, then a warning flashed in his mind. Something was not right. “What did you say?”
“Where in the house are you and your wife hiding?”
My wife. I never told the operator I was with my wife. His mind moved sluggishly. The voice on the sync. Someone who had seen him at the party with his wife. Someone who knew who he was. Someone who couldn’t be a 911 operator.
“Why do you want to know where we’re hiding?” Reynolds asked.
Reynolds felt suddenly calm.
There would be no more waiting. No more secrets.
He lifted the old Glock 9mm handgun from the bureau. The weapon felt strange in his hands. Betsy stared at him, her eyes wide. “What are you doing with that?”
“They found me out.” “Who found you out?”
“Who do you think?” Reynolds tried to remember how to flick off the safety on the weapon.
“Oh God. Where is it?”
“Hidden,” Reynolds said. “Safe for now.”
In the library, the masked figure stopped and stared down at Reynolds’s sync. Slowly he bent down, picked it up, and inspected the screen. He pressed the device with his thumb, then seemed to wait.
Reynolds suddenly knew what the man was waiting for, but he was too slow to react. In his hand, Betsy’s sync came alive and a shrill ring filled the small space. The man’s head slowly swiveled toward the sound as Reynolds’s sync fell from his fingers.
He approached the mirror and stared at it. Up close, Reynolds could see flecks of blood on the leather mask. Only feet from them, the man ran the point of the sickle over the glass. His wife pressed herself against Reynolds again. The little bells on her wings tinkled. The blade on the mirror screeched. Reynolds’s adrenaline surged as his focus narrowed to a single smudge on the unblemished glass. A fingerprint.
His own that he had left behind.
The man in the mask saw the mark at the same time. The movement of the blade stopped. Slowly, he lifted the sickle, then the blade hissed down. The glass shattered and the man stepped through the broken frame, gripping the blade in his hand.
Reynolds closed his eyes, his finger tightening on the trigger, and fired.
Excerpted from BLACK RAIN © Copyright 2016 by Matthew B.J. Delaney. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Matthew B.J. Delaney published his first novel, Jinn, in 2003. Winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the novel was optioned for film by Touchstone Pictures, was featured as People magazine’s Page-Turner of the Week, and received a Publishers Weekly Starred Review.
Delaney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public administration from Harvard. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he left a career in finance and moved from Boston to New York City to join the New York City Police Department. He has been a member of the NYPD for twelve years and has been assigned to precincts throughout Manhattan and the Bronx as well as within police headquarters and the Intelligence Division. He is currently a decorated Special Operations Lieutenant serving in a Brooklyn violent crime suppression unit. He continues to write in his spare time.