Monday, July 25, 2011

Deadly Dreams excerpt by Victor J Banis

In this excerpt from Deadly Dreams by Victor J Banis - #3 in the Deadly Mysteries series - Stanley’s sociopathic brother, Andrew, has Stanley and Tom come to rescue him. A painful past. A mysterious stranger. Footsteps vanishing in the fog. All Stanley wants is just to hear Tom say, "I love you." All Tom wants is Stanley safe. And the stranger? Ah, there's the rub--what exactly is it that he wants?

Be careful what you wish for, fellows. You may get it. Dreams can be deadly.

Deadly Dreams
MLR Press (April 24, 2009)
ISBN: 1608200388


"Satisfied?" Andrew asked, smiling.

"I will be. When I see Stanley. Where is he?"

Andrew ignored the question, said instead, "You're wearing your piece, I suppose." Tom said nothing. "Of course you are. I can see the holster. Why don't you take the gun out of it, very carefully, and toss it on the floor in front of you, in my direction. And, before you resort to any heroics…that's propane in those tanks along the wall. A lot of propane, which is highly explosive, in case you didn't know. And this is what we call the igniter."

He splashed gasoline from the can, making a trail of it over to the metal stairs, leaving a pool of it to puddle around the propane canisters.

"A single shot is all it would take to ignite the gasoline. The gasoline, when it reaches the canisters, will set off the propane. You can imagine the result."

"This place will blow sky high."

"Exactly. At the moment, Stanley is very much incapacitated. He's behind that partition over there, sleeping like a baby. Don't do anything, please, to place him in jeopardy. He'd be very unlikely to survive the resultant holocaust."

Tom wasn't entirely sure about the threat, of a gunshot setting off the gasoline, but he wasn't confident enough in his doubts to want to risk it. Andrew solved that for him by taking a handful of matches from his pocket. One match would certainly do the job.

Tom reached under his jacket with his right hand, took the Sig by its handle and drew it gingerly from its holster. He weighed it in his hand for a moment, consideringly, and then tossed it in Andrew's direction. It ended up midway between the two of them, only a foot or so short of the metal stairs.

Andrew smiled approvingly. "Very good," he said. "Now, let me see. You must have a back up weapon. Where would that be, I wonder?" He looked Tom up and down. "The waist of your trousers, perhaps. Take off your jacket. Turn around. Well, that's not it, then. Let me see." He puzzled for a moment. "Your leg, I suppose. Pull up your trousers. Ah, there it is. I think we'll have that, too. Carefully, now." He struck on of the matches against the metal of the stairs. The little flame came and went, tiny, but it looked altogether enormous in the warehouse gloom. Tom sucked in his breath, half expecting the gasoline to ignite, but the flame was gone in an instant.

Helplessly, Tom bent down, took the twenty-two from his sock, and tossed it after the Sig, his mind racing. Stanley was behind that partition. So near and so far. How long would it take the gasoline to set off the propane canisters? And what did Andrew have planned, once he'd ignited the gasoline. Surely he didn't plan to stay around to die himself.

"Those stairs," he said aloud, glancing at them. "Your escape hatch? I don't imagine you're planning to stay around for the bonfire."

Andrew shrugged. "I don't see why you shouldn't know. Yes. The stairs will take me to the roof, and there's a catwalk to the warehouse next door. My car is there. When your rescuers arrive…oh, yes, I just suppose you've alerted Homeland to where we are—Mister Hannibal, isn't it? I’m sure they're on their way at this very moment, but they won't be in time, not to find me here. In another minute, I'm going up these stairs. I'll be driving off in the opposite direction even as they're rushing to the rescue."

"After you've killed me, of course."

"Yes, after that, of course. And it may surprise you to know that I regret that. I truly do. Stanley thinks so highly of you. But, I have no choice, do I? I have to kill you."

"You're going to kill Stanley, too." It was a statement, not a question.

"I love Stanley." Which skirted the issue, didn't it?

"You don't even know Stanley."

Andrew's eyes flashed, destroying the mask of calm he wore. "Fool! I know him better than you do. You only know his body. I know his blood. It's my blood, too, I run in his veins. Fuck him all you want, you'll never be in his heart the way I am."

"I'm in Stanley's heart too, in a way you'll never be."

"And he in yours? Tell me that you love him. You haven't said that yet."

Tom hesitated for a second, no more. "Stanley's heart is mine," he said.

Andrew gave a dry snort of laughter. "And Shelley's heart was Trelawney's, so he thought. I don't suppose you know that story?"

"This isn't the time…"

"Trelawney snatched Shelley's heart from his funeral pyre. He was fond of saying, later, that he had Shelley's heart, but Mary Shelley was just as fond of saying that Trelawney had only a dead organ, Shelley's heart was still hers."

"What are you trying to tell me? You're going to start a funeral fire for Stanley, and at the last minute, you're going to snatch his heart from it?"

Andrew smiled. "What an intriguing idea, that. I confess I hadn't thought of it. But, no, this fire will be quite a different sort, and I have places to go, things to do. I'll leave Stanley's heart to you."

"You bastard."

Andrew was saved from answering. Stanley's voice came weakly from beyond the screen in the corner: "Tom? Is that you?"

* * *

Stanley was dreaming. He was in some plague-infected city, London, perhaps, or maybe only a city of dreams. He heard the rumble of the death carts, the voice calling, "Bring out your dead…"

Then, suddenly, another voice superimposed itself, a voice that brought him back in an instant from the swirling, smothering darkness of his nightmares.

He opened his eyes, blinked. "Tom," he called, "is that you?"

* * *

Tom turned automatically, took a step in that direction—which saved his life, at least for the moment. Andrew fired his gun just as Tom turned. Andrew was a fairly good shot; if Stanley hadn't spoken, if Tom hadn't moved, Andrew would certainly have killed him with that one shot. Instead of the chest, right in the heart, the bullet caught Tom lower, off center. Tom staggered and fell, pain piercing his side where the bullet had entered. But not dead.

Andrew struck all of the matches in his hand and threw them at the trail of gasoline on the floor. He would have shot Tom again, intended to shoot him with a more careful aim, but the flames surprised him, leaped up faster, more violently than he had expected. The heat was instantly intense, growing rapidly worse and still worse. It felt as if any second his clothes might ignite spontaneously, or his hair, even.

He hesitated for only a heartbeat. Tom was wounded, perhaps mortally. In any case, it would take no more than a minute at the most for the gasoline to reach the pile of propane canisters, seconds more for the tanks to explode. Wounded, there was no way Tom would escape in time.

A living dog is better than a dead lion. The instinct for self-survival that had served Andrew so well in the past came to the fore. He fired one more shot, wildly, and made his own escape while he still could, bolting upward, the metal stairs clanging as he ran.

Already, the metal was hot to the touch. He ran harder.

* * *

Tom staggered to his knees. The fire was spreading rapidly, the flames racing across the open space. When it got to the propane tanks…

"Stanley," he shouted. High above, a door opened and banged shut. Smoke blew into Tom's face, making him cough. He made it to his feet, clutching at his side. Blood seeped through his fingers. He held his hand tight over the wound and lumbered toward the wooden screen. Banged into it, knocking it over with a crash.

Stanley was sitting on the edge of a cot, shaking his head groggily. "Tom," he said. "I heard a shot. I…"

"Get up," Tom ordered him, "we've got to get out of here."

Stanley's eyes went wide, tried to focus. "You're hurt."

"Just a scratch. Come on." He got Stanley to his feet, his arm around him. "No, save your breath, we'll talk later." Staggering feebly, Tom managed to get with him to the main part of the warehouse. Already, the room was an inferno, the flames lapping at the tanks of propane. Tom's gut was on fire, the smoke stinging his eyes and his lungs. His knees felt like jelly. Behind them, the wooden partition burst into flames with a small explosion, like a popgun going off. Tom could see the open door—a thousand miles away.

He suddenly knew he wouldn't make it. He could only hold Stanley back—and if he did, neither of them was going to escape.

"Run, Stanley," he said, shoving a hand hard at Stanley's back. "The door. Go, fast as you can. Don't worry, I’m right behind you."

For a second, Stanley hesitated. "Go," Tom bellowed, shoving harder, "God damn it, Stanley, do what I tell you. Run."

Stanley ran. The flames were a flickering curtain. He could see Tom's pick up through them, and the open door beyond that. He put his arms up over his face and ran through the blaze, past the truck, out the door…and found himself, astonishingly, in Edward Hannibal's arms.

"Easy," Hannibal said, brushing at the smoldering sleeve of Stanley's jacket, "We've got you. Take it easy."

Stanley's laugh was just short of hysterical. "My God," he said, "Did you ever see…Tom, look, it's Mister Hannibal, talk about Johnny-on-the-spot. Whoo-eee, talk about…"

He looked over his shoulder. Cars were parked everywhere, police cars and dark government sedans, and already in the distance he could hear sirens. People were milling about; it looked like an army of them, men in dark suits and men in black SFPD uniforms.

Only…he didn't see Tom among them.

The warehouse exploded suddenly, a blast so violent that it shook the ground like an earthquake. Great tongues of flame burst out the door and flung the glass from the windows, scorching the sparse grass that ran along the side of the alley, driving the people closest to it back, to take shelter behind the vehicles.

"Where's Tom?" Stanley demanded, of no one and everyone, his voice ascending. "Tom? Where are you?"

"Take it easy," Hannibal said again.

Stanley looked into his face, back at the fire now leaping skyward, and into Hannibal's face again. "He didn't make it?" Hannibal said nothing. He didn't need to. His expression said everything.

"Let me go." Stanley struggled with the arms that were suddenly tighter around him. "Tom's still in there. Damn you, let me go."

"Hold him," Hannibal said, and all at once there were more arms, it seemed dozens of them, holding Stanley back when he would have rushed into that conflagration. Would have rushed into Hell itself if Tom were there. Didn't they know that? Couldn't they understand?

Stanley fought against them furiously, cursing and kicking and punching, but there were too many of them and they were too strong. His strength failed him then, and he surrendered to the arms, felt someone lifting him off the ground, carrying him away from the fire.

"Tom." It was a scream of pain, of anguish. "Tom!"">

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C. Zampa said...

I've read the first in the 'Deadly' series and LOVE Stanley and Tom. I've got to get busy and read the rest of the books in the series.

And the excerpt was certainly a tempting prompt!

Thanks for sharing!

Jardonn Smith said...

If tough guy Tom had to be taken out, I'm glad he died heroically. If he did die. Tricky Victor.