C1 A Brewing Storm: Chapter One
The sky was clear, the stars crisp against the blue-black heavens. It made the approaching clouds seem closer than they were. The two men stood side by side and watched those stars circling overhead. They enjoyed their brightness and mourned their impending loss. Never again would anyone view those stars from quite this perspective. It was definitely a sobering thought, and one of the heavily robed men sighed deeply in acknowledgement of the impending loss.
“You know what they intend?” the taller of the two asked his companion, his tone measured, as though he didn’t want to voice the thoughts swirling in his head.
“I do,” his companion replied, his face impassive.
“And you agree?” There was a hint of incredulity in the tone.
“No. You know I don’t. But what else is there?”
“The truth? Honesty?”
The other man laughed, millennia of experience in his voice. “Won’t work. They need to be in control, and they need to have control, otherwise nasty, visceral real stuff might get in the way. You know we don’t do that anymore.”
The swirling clouds were closer now, and both men could just make out a mountain range some miles ahead of them. Wherever they touched, once they’d passed, the landscape was just…gone… The two men stood and watched as the clouds encroached upon the towering mountain range. Five minutes later, or maybe fifty, it was difficult to tell, they’d moved on. All that was left was… Well, an absence of light was what it was best described as, but it didn’t even come close to acknowledging the emptiness that followed. They left…nothing. They shifted their perspective, and all that could be seen was just a deep empty void crawling across what had once been a landscape, leaving a hollow in its wake, with nothing to speak of left behind. A deep ravine falling into the emptiness of space was all that was left from their touch.
“We can’t let our people die, Damian, but we can’t let them do this either.”
“Do we have a choice?” Damian’s voice was helpless, somehow bereft.
“We do. Or I do. I won’t ask you to be a part of this, Damian. I just need to know you know why I’ll be doing this.” There was a plea for understanding, and something more. A plea for forgiveness.
“I know.” Damian’s voice was heavy with regret. “Brother, if I could…”
The other man laughed, his bitterness not quite hidden. “I know. You’d be there by my side.” His glance slid sideways towards his companion. “But I won’t let them do this, not even to save our people. Especially not to save our people. No matter what it takes.”
“I know, and for what it’s worth, I agree.” The leaden weight in the pronouncement silenced them, and they fixed their eyes on the horizon. The swirling mass was now close enough that both men could see that they seemed less like clouds and more like a growing, fetid bruise. The blue streaks were dull and old, and the purple streaks were mottled and dim. As they watched, poisonous streaks of yellow shot with black danced across the surface. They appeared almost sentient, a sense of malevolence emanating from them.
“We will die unless we do something,” Damian remarked casually, as though the death of his race was something barely worth mentioning.
“Then we somehow do something else.” His companion was adamant. “We don’t destroy a world, and we don’t just let a multitude of worlds die while we stand there and do nothing! We’re better than that, Damian. You know that!”
Damian huffed out a laugh. It was an obvious effort, and there was no humour present. “Are we? Aren’t we just like every other species facing its demise? We’ll do anything to survive. We have done anything to do more than just survive. So this is nothing to our people.”
“Doesn’t mean it’s right. We must try to prevent this. You know it. So do I.”
“I know.” There was a beat, a pause, as both men viewed the approaching horizon again. “You attempt it first. I will try if you fail.”
The other man laughed hollowly. “Always the politician, Damian. Fair enough. I will attempt to halt them. If I fail, and you do not try to stop them, I will haunt you.” The threat wasn’t an idle one. Damian knew his companion was perfectly capable of being that vindictive.
The clouds grew closer—slowly, steadily closer. They were the end of everything, and they were getting closer every day. In a few hundred years, they would challenge even the Weavers’ seat of power.
And so the two men met in the death throes of one world to discuss the future of another. And in that meeting, deadly murder and mayhem were planned. All to save a world they had not even seen yet.
* * * *
Sometimes it didn’t really matter, he knew that. The decisions he made didn’t really change anything. The difficult decisions were always the easiest. It was the little decisions, the daily choices that were the hardest. For Jamie, hiding in the shadows in a nameless alley, there was never any choice, never a decision to make. Don’t do it. Don’t get involved. I could wind up dead that way. Well, even more dead .
Now, for instance, there was a harassed-looking woman at the ATM opposite the alley. Jamie didn’t feel anything for her, for anyone, but he had an intellectual understanding of morals, and he’d long ago decided to impose that code on himself. It was all that kept him from devolving into the animal so many thought he was. So he wouldn’t rob her of the hard earned money she was withdrawing. The guy behind her, though? Well, he was fair game, thousand-dollar suit and all. Jamie briefly wondered why someone dressed that expensively was bothering with an ATM, but then decided he didn’t really care. It was probably money for drugs. Jamie didn’t know of many drug dealers who’d graduated to accepting AmEx. Cash was still the payment method of choice on the streets—all the more reason to take him down, in Jamie’s opinion.
He shrank back farther in the alley’s shadows, briefly wrinkling his nose at the smells that assaulted his heightened senses. He really needed to find better places to lurk, but the alley hid his ‘unusual’ appearance very well, especially with how he looked at the moment. The drunks who stumbled across him just thought he was a figment of their delirium, dismissing the eerie glow from his eyes as something caused by their cheap alcohol. It suited him.
Jamie watched as the suit guy withdrew his money. It was a fair distance away, but Jamie had very good eyesight, especially at night, and it looked like a hefty wad of cash. Enough to see him through a few weeks. The guy shoved the money into his wallet, which he then tucked into his inside coat pocket, and scurried off down the street. Jamie smiled grimly to himself. He knew the back alleys of this stinking city better than anyone. He’d been here for the best part of seventy years, living in the shadows, and he knew every alley, and every dead end.
Jamie caught up with him two blocks down. He let the guy get past then pulled him into the alley with a firm tug on his coat and an arm around his throat. A few seconds of pressure on his carotid artery was all it took for Jamie to take him down. Sometimes it was just too easy, and there were times when he longed for the thrill of the chase. Not often, but sometimes. Old habits and all that. He opened the suit jacket and felt for the wallet. There was at least five grand tucked away in there, and it all hadn’t come from the ATM. Suit guy must’ve been after a big score, and Jamie had struck it lucky. No more lurking in alleys for a few weeks. He patted the guy down quickly, looking for any other disposable income he might have on him. There were about fifty dollars in loose notes in his trouser pockets, but nothing more. A Cartier watch on his left wrist—the classics were always the best. He checked for inscriptions and couldn’t find any. That was good, it was always more difficult to fence something with an inscription. Jamie tucked the money away in his jacket, along with the watch, and left him where he lay. He’d wake up soon enough, and Jamie planned to be long gone by the time that he did.
A sudden shiver ran down his spine, and he spun, looking for the source of the danger. He couldn’t spot anyone, or anything, but he’d only managed to exist for so long because of his well-developed survival instincts.
There, across the street.
A group of men stood there, not much more than boys really, at least not to Jamie. There were four of them, but one stood out. He was tall, well over six foot, and Jamie sensed the power radiating from him. The kid turned suddenly, peering across the street, and he caught a glimpse of his face. Longish dark hair and sharp features, his eyes a greenish blue, and he had high cheekbones. Very good-looking, Jamie noted in a detached kind of way, but he reeked of power—the sort of power he didn’t want noticing him.
There was a moan from the ground behind him and it broke his trance. Suit guy was coming round, and he’d stood there for a dangerously long time. Swiftly, silently, he turned and headed deeper into the alley. He scaled the chain link fence at the end of it, seemingly without effort, and headed off across the city, towards home, a moon tinged with orange lighting his path.
“C’mon, guys, this’ll be fun!” Brandon wasn’t whining, he really wasn’t.
“No way, dude. Your father finds out you went to a gay club, and that we actually let you, we’re all dead.” Alex was firm, but there was some sympathy in his eyes. Brandon was pretty sure that the remark about them all being dead wasn’t so much a joke as it was a very possible scenario.
“He won’t find out.”
“Really? The guy’s scary at the best of times, Bran. Finding out his one and only heir is cruising for ass?” Lucas shook his head. “Sorry, buddy. You’re the great white hope, and you’re only allowed to hang with us ‘cause your father knows we’re Tied, but even that won’t stop him if he thinks we’ve encouraged you in your ‘sexual deviancy’ for even a second.”
Brandon wasn’t happy at being reminded of that. He was well aware of the reasons behind his being allowed to have human friends. His father was powerful, some even said all powerful, but he couldn’t change the fact that Brandon didn’t want to fuck girls, or that he wasn’t going to settle down like a dutiful son with some handpicked brood mare and churn out heirs to the great Mariette legacy. His father just ignored his behaviour, unless it was likely to embarrass him, and only then did he deign to notice his son, which was something Brandon found he always regretted after the event.
But that was a battle for the future, once Brandon was sure he had a chance of at least coming out of it on an even footing. Right now, he was twenty-four years old, had just finished grad school and he wanted to have some fun. “Guys, we’ve just graduated, we’re young and fit and beautiful. We’re the Masters of the Universe! We can do anything we want.” He punched the air in emphasis.
Chad rolled his eyes, “And you’re She-Ra. We know. Dude, anywhere else but Garters, and we’ve got your back, but that place is too conspicuous.”
Brandon stopped suddenly, not even hearing Chad’s words, his scalp prickling. He could feel someone’s eyes on him, and he didn’t need any extrasensory perception to know there was danger in that. He swung round, peering into the shadows of the alleys across the street. For a second, he thought he saw a piercing green glow deeper in the passageway directly across from him, but then it was gone. The shadows appeared to shift and reassemble into simple darkness. The sense of menace he’d felt lingering there had faded with the disappearance of the strange glow. Brandon ran his hand through his hair, looking down as Alex placed a questioning hand on his arm.
“Bran? You okay?”
Brandon smiled. “Yeah,” he replied. “Just someone walking over my grave.”
Chad drew back in mock alarm. “Dude, don’t even joke about that!”
Brandon rolled his eyes and slung an arm around Alex’s neck. “Okay, where’re we headed then?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “Somewhere decadent, please!”
He heard the other men groan, but they didn’t resist as he strode forward. He knew he was irresistible.
* * * *
Jamie let himself into his warehouse apartment. He owned the whole building, under a pseudonym, of course. He’d bought it using some of the cash he’d managed to take from Master James’ last property, just before the Weavers’ teams had arrived to burn the place down. Jamie had fled to a prearranged safe house in Los Angeles, a city the Weavers hadn’t really been interested in at the time, as it wasn’t a centre of politics or commerce. The building had been a garment factory in the thirties, but with mass production coming into its own, the small family garment firms had been declining. The Bitermeyers had been only too pleased to sell the warehouse for cash to pay off their staff and creditors. It allowed them to start again somewhere else. It wasn’t like the place had been in a fashionable part of the city, after all. His apartment really just consisted of the converted top floor of the warehouse, to which he’d added an industrial grade steel front door and several heavy-duty locks. He could never be too careful, not given his past.
He took the money out of his jacket and put it into his wall safe in the bedroom, next to his emergency stash of five hundred thousand, all that was left of the five million he’d managed to accumulate from Master James, before dropping the jacket across the end of the king-sized bed. He headed back to the living-cooking-eating area and gazed around his almost bare apartment. For the first time in a long time, he was thinking that it was time he moved on. He didn’t want to, though. Los Angeles had become the closest thing he’d known to a home for a long time, the anonymity of the city hiding him from prying eyes. He could get anything here without necessarily interacting with anyone in person. He could live as a recluse, and no one thought there was anything weird about it. Perfect for what he was.
He wandered back through to his bedroom, and into the bathroom off it. The only mirror in the place was in there. Jamie used it occasionally as a reminder of just what he was. Not that he was in any real danger of ever forgetting. He walked to the sink, the mirror hanging over it, his hand held out in front of his face. Slowly, he let the hand drop, his features coming sharply into focus. Revenant. The name echoed in his head. A dead man walking. Yet so much more, and so much less. A slave to his Master, with almost everlasting life and beauty. No heart, no emotions, and, for Jamie, a life lived in the deepest shadows he could find, because he was also the Abomination.
He saw pale, almost white skin, with blue-tinged lips reflected back at him. He’d need dialysis very soon, he noted absent-mindedly. The arrangement of his features had been called beautiful, but it had been a long time since he’d been involved in anything other than petty theft, and his days of being admired were long gone. His days of beauty, deception and murder were over. Thank God.
The most unusual aspects of his features were his eyes. They shifted colour even as he studied them, from green to an opaque grey, reflecting the downturn in his mood. He wondered if they were what had drawn the Weaver’s attention earlier. If so, he’d need to start wearing opaque glasses even when he went out at night. That would be a real pain in the ass, and draw more attention than he’d like, even in LA. After all, he didn’t ever hang out in A-lister haunts, where conspicuous was all anyone wanted to be. A guy who haunted the places he did would be noticeable wearing dark glasses at night.
With a heavy sigh, Jamie headed back out into his living area. He sank down on the couch and grabbed the TV remote. He was pretty sure that, after the events of the evening, the dreams would come around again, but maybe he could stave them off with some mindless TV.
Turned out, not even America’s Next Top Model could keep the nightmares away.
* * * *
When Brandon finally arrived home his father was still awake, waiting for him in the ornate room he used as his study. Or maybe he should rephrase that. It was more like lying in wait. Brandon hoped he didn’t look like he’d just had a very satisfying blow job from a pretty twink in a public bathroom, but he knew he didn’t look as pristine as he had when he’d left. He prayed his father would put it down to alcohol and dancing.
“Brandon,” his father, Francis, called from behind the half-open door. “Come in here a minute, please.” The ‘please’ was perfunctory. Brandon knew he was expected to obey. Despite his father’s opinions on the subject, Brandon knew his responsibilities. He might not like them, but he knew what they were. He’d been taught that family was all, that loyalty to them only ever came second to his allegiance to his people. That sentiment chafed him sometimes, because he was pretty sure he wasn’t getting the same devotion back, what with the secrets within secrets held by the Council and the most powerful members of his people. Despite his dissatisfaction, though, he did understand that some things, some Weaves, were just too powerful to allow just anyone access to them. He’d become more disenchanted with the way his people operated, as he’d got older and more involved with his training and his father’s world.
Brandon crossed the study’s threshold. The only lights on were the reading lamps on the three oak desks in the room, and their glow was almost swallowed by the heavy oak shelves that lined the walls, themselves loaded with ancient tomes of unimaginable value. The rich, black velvet curtains shut out all light from outside, and the fire in the open grate burnt low, more like embers really. All in all, a room meant to intimidate, which it did, and very successfully at that.
“Father,” Brandon acknowledged politely. “You’re up late.”
“It seems the only time I can catch you these days is after you’ve come home from an evening out.” The emphasis wasn’t lost on Brandon. It seemed that he did look like he’d just had sex.
Damn. He really didn’t feel like a lecture. “Just a few drinks with the guys, celebrating graduation.” He tried not to sound defensive.
“And I’m sure you did.” His father’s tone was even colder than usual, and Brandon winced. “I need to talk to you,” Francis told him, dismissing the evening’s activities with a wave of his hand.
Brandon blinked. This was new. His father never just dismissed any chance he had to rail at his son for his sexual preferences, and the need to perpetuate the Mariette dynasty. “What’s wrong, father?” he asked.
Another dismissing wave of the hand as Francis said, “Possibly something important, I don’t know yet, but I need you to be available to attend the Council meeting next week.”
Brandon nodded slowly. “Okay,” he said. This was nothing unusual. He’d attended a few meetings since he’d turned eighteen, in preparation for taking on more responsibility in the shrouded world his father inhabited on a daily basis. He turned to leave the room.
“Damian Price is missing.” His father’s words halted Brandon in his tracks.
“Isn’t that the third Master Weaver gone in the past year?” Brandon asked.
“Where did you hear that?” his father snapped, all of a sudden looking extremely forbidding.
Brandon shrugged. “It’s doing the gossip rounds, father.” Not even the all-powerful Council could halt the gossipmongers.
Francis appeared even more irritated. “I don’t expect you to listen to gossip, boy!” he growled.
“Are you telling me the gossip’s wrong?” Brandon asked, knowing he was chancing his arm.
Francis brought his thumb and index finger up to pinch the bridge of his nose, a sure sign a headache was brewing. Francis’ headaches were legendary. Brandon determined to make a quick exit, hopefully with all his limbs intact. He wished he hadn’t asked the question.
Brandon started, surprised at Francis’ answer. He hadn’t expected the truth. His father was so mired in power games and politics that it was rare to get a straightforward answer from him. This had to be serious.
“Damian is the third Master to go missing this year.” Brandon didn’t miss the inference behind his father’s words, despite his father’s less than subtle attempts to hide it.
“How many last year?” he asked quietly.
Francis looked at him solemnly, as though searching for something. Brandon wasn’t sure what, but he stood up straighter and tried to give the impression of gravitas. He wanted to know what was going on. His father’s power base would eventually pass to him, and the sooner he learnt how to manage it, the easier he would find his life.
Francis must have found what he was looking for, because he picked up the half-empty brandy snifter from the desk in front of him and took a deep swallow. “Six.”
Brandon couldn’t hide his surprise. “Six? Who? How?” He hadn’t heard anything about this. How could six Master Weavers have disappeared without any kind of hue and cry?
Francis held up his hand, presumably to stem the tide of Brandon’s questions. “We don’t know. Anything. At first, we believed it was just that they’d gotten tired and drifted off to Peace. But then the numbers kept going up. Last year, we could keep it quiet. They weren’t particularly powerful, or well known, but this year… They’ve been some of our more prominent citizens.” Francis suddenly gave the appearance of being every one of his two hundred and eighty years. “Whoever it is, they’re getting bolder.”
Brandon couldn’t believe it. For all his people’s faults, Brandon believed that the Weavers tried to help all the Worlds, and that, as the most powerful beings in the Shadow Realms, they were the only ones that could do so successfully. His dissatisfaction with their secrecy and power plays was nothing compared to all the good they could do. They manipulated reality to the best advantage of all concerned, helping and organising, protecting the peoples of the many Worlds, even if they were drastically anal about it. How, why, would someone target them?
“Do you have no suspects at all?” he asked, bewildered.
“One,” Francis said heavily. “But it’s dead… Or, rather, extinguished.”
“A Revenant?” Brandon took his clue from the particular pronoun Francis used. “You think a Revenant could turn against its Masters, after all we do for them?” Brandon was amazed, shocked. He didn’t have the words for how he was feeling.
“This particular one could, but we thought it had been dealt with, over seventy-five years ago. It seems we may have been wrong. We’re attempting to track it down and find out.”
“Whose was it?” Brandon asked, not even noticing how his words relegated the creature he was describing to being something less than a person. ”Who could create such a dangerous creature and let it roam free? Who would dare?”
“James Hammond.” The damning words were delivered flatly. Brandon felt a shiver cross his body. It reminded him sharply of the shiver he’d felt earlier in the evening. James Hammond was a bogeyman, feared by all the Masters. A renegade who’d followed his own agenda, twisting and subverting the Master Weavers’ guiding hands. He was known for creating one Revenant only, a creature that had subverted all that the Weavers had achieved, before and since. A Revenant that existed on its own merits, somehow without its Master, because Hammond was dead—tried and executed for his crimes against his people.
“What can we do?” Brandon asked. “How do we find it? Better yet, if it is this Revenant, how do we stop it?”
“We aren’t sure. That’s what the Council meeting is about at the beginning of next week. I need you to be there, to show you’re ready to take up some of your responsibilities.”
Brandon was startled, all thoughts of his earlier activities that evening purged from his mind. This was Family business. This creature had attacked the Weavers in their homes. “I’ll be there, father. We have to stop this thing.”
Francis nodded in agreement. “We do. I need your help and support on this, Brandon.” Brandon held out his hand, his expression firm and serious. Francis grasped it in the ancient crossed palms Weaver greeting.
“You have it, father.”
“Get some sleep, son. We have some strategising to do in the morning.”
* * * *
The dreams came. They hit Jamie hard, as always. No matter what he did, he couldn’t wake up as his memories unfolded in front of him.
For Jamie, the year was 1866. It was always where his rare dreams started. They always ended as bleakly as they started, which, strangely enough, gave him some comfort.
“Well, well, such a pretty little addition to our little family.” The voice was low, taunting. “We’ll have such fun with you, won’t we, boys?” There was an avid murmur of agreement.
Jamie backed up against the bars of the cell. He shouldn’t be there. He was still bewildered at how fast everything had happened. One minute he’d been in love—the next that same love had accused him of being a conspirator in a plot he’d had no knowledge of.
The cell was barely large enough to hold three men, never mind the six it now held, and the other five of them stared at Jamie with the same sort of hunger he recognised from a hundred different ‘clients’. It made Jamie’s belly roil in fear, nausea churning deep inside him.
Five hours was all it had taken them to get up the nerve. Once they were sure that the Sheriff and his Deputies wouldn’t interfere with their fun, Jamie hadn’t stood a chance. The first time, they approached him cautiously. He could see their hunger, and their fear, and he backed up farther against the bars of the cell, calling for help.
He fought, long and hard, but overwhelming odds, and exhaustion and fear, wore him down. The five men stripped him, ripping his clothes beyond repair. Punches to his belly and his kidneys took his breath away. Hands grasped at him, rough and uncaring, only concerned with spreading his legs and holding him still. Two men held him down, pushing his face into the floor of the cell, as a third knelt behind him, his cock hard and ready, and pushing at the entrance to Jamie’s body.
He didn’t even get spit, was fucked dry and hard, the man moaning behind him as he shoved inside Jamie. “Jesus, boy, so tight! How the fuck is a whore like you still so tight?” his rapist moaned. Jamie couldn’t answer. He was too busy trying not to scream from the pain of being split open. He felt a trickle down his thigh, and knew that something had been torn inside him.
“Is it good? Does he feel good?” An eager voice by his head asked, the tone fervent and making Jamie feel sick.
“He’s so good, Jack. You’ll see. Don’t know how he’s done it, but he’s a fantastic fuck.”
Jamie knew how he’d done it. He’d taken care of himself. He was well known in the salons and ballrooms of Dallas, the whore everyone could have on his arm as a ‘friend’, because he was witty and beautiful and bright. He charmed the ladies in public and fucked their husbands and brothers behind closed doors. That had meant he needed to maintain his physical appeal, and he had. Long hours of exercises, internal and external, all of which he damned now.
The man behind him was ruthless, pumping into him hard and fast, getting rid of what must have been several months of sexual frustration. It hurt, was brutal, and Jamie was relieved when the man emptied himself, pulsing deep inside Jamie’s ass.
He was just the first.
With a blink, Jamie saw himself there, on the floor, as the other men took their turn with him. He always ended up shifting like that in this particular dream, switching suddenly after the first rape, so that he watched the rest as an observer. He never woke up until the end of his time in that prison cell, so he drew himself in, shut down his thoughts, and watched his abuse with empty eyes.
He came to know his first rapist as Hardy. The other men used each other’s semen as lubricant as they all took a turn, fucking into Jamie while their friends held him down. They taunted him with his reputation. A male whore doing the rounds in Texas? Oh yes, they’d heard all about him. He was an open secret in Texan society. He was also suspected of being a sympathiser with the disgraced Rebels, but Texas had a Union Government now, and any remaining sympathisers were summarily dealt with.
Especially by true patriotic Texans, who’d been imprisoned for such honest crimes as land grabbing and cattle rustling.
After he’d been raped for the twelfth time in twenty-four hours, Jamie had stopped caring, stopped fighting. He’d been a whore since he was fifteen, so what did these men matter in the scheme of things?
He’d deliberately shut out the memory of the sound of Eliot’s voice as he’d shakily pointed across the room at Jamie, the sheaf of papers in his hands. “He’s the only one who could’ve done this!” he’d cried. “I trusted him, I let him into my home, my life, tried to help him, and he’s done this!”
All the sweet words whispered as Eliot had fucked him, all the promises that the life he’d had was over had faded into nothing once the Union officials—now the Government officials—had found the plans to blow up the Courthouse during a strategic planning meeting. Eliot was rich, powerful and had accepted the Unionist Government with apparent open and enlightened arms once they’d marched into Texas some four months after the end of the war.
Jamie had been the perfect fall guy. A prostitute who’d fucked both Unionist and Confederate officers, with no apparent loyalty to either. He’d fallen for Eliot hard and fast after meeting him, breaking the cardinal rule of never falling for a client, but he’d been wooed… Something he’d recognised for what it was far too late.
The memories in Jamie’s slumber-tossed mind were bright and vivid. He relived each rape as though it was the first time, felt each push as his cellmates penetrated his body, taking any dignity or self-respect he’d managed to hold onto through the years. He felt each blow hit him anew, and the trickle of blood and semen between his thighs when they’d finished with him for the day.
After that first day, he’d spent his three months in that cell naked and covered in blood and semen. The men who fucked him changed every so often, but Jamie stayed naked and used. No one had acknowledged that. Not the Sheriff, not even the magistrate. He was a whore—moreover, a homosexual whore—and he’d been accused of conspiring against the new Government. Retribution was swift and harsh in Texas, especially for someone like Jamie.
By the end, all Jamie had wanted was death. Peace. He could still see himself curled up in the corner of that stinking, filth-filled cell, hugging his knees close to his body, back against the wall. He saw the Deputy entering the cell…
* * * *
It was the sight of the hangman’s noose dangling before his eyes that finally woke Jamie from his nightmares. He couldn’t breathe, and stumbled to one of the few windows in the room, pushing it open for more air. He hated these fucking dreams. They only revisited the past, in bright widescreen Technicolor, with Jamie standing there like a fucking observer of his own torture. They came hard and fast, churning everything up again and taking away what little peace Jamie had managed to find. While he didn’t really feel much anymore, the sense memory of the fear and despair he’d felt then could still chill him to the core.
It was all that damn Weaver’s fault.
* * * *
Jamie stayed inside for the next few days. He didn’t even prowl on his usual ghostly nightly patrols during the early hours, when he made sure everything was calm, and that nothing had happened that could disturb his peaceful existence. He paid his utility bills over the Internet, set up a drop with his usual grocery supplier by email and watched crappy TV. He didn’t want to admit how much the power he’d sensed from that alley had shaken him, so he tried not to think about it.
He’d wanted to continue with his copper work. He’d had patterns and designs swirling about in his head, had almost been able to touch them through the copper at the beginning of the week. The encounter with the Weaver, however, and the subsequent nightmares had distracted him enough that he knew he didn’t have the concentration and the precision to work on the delicate copper engravings and filigree work.
What Jamie really wanted was the mindless release that only sex had ever brought him, but he couldn’t take the chance, not with Weavers wandering the streets of LA. It was ironic that the only real appetite he had left was for sex, but that wasn’t really all that surprising, not considering what Master James had put him to work doing. He’d tried to keep himself pretty much celibate since Master James’ death, wanting the choice of whether to have sex to be his, not driven by the desires woven into his being. At first, he just hadn’t been able to help himself. Sometimes he’d needed to be ridden, and ridden hard, and he’d gone out and found himself any random someone, and had woken up in the morning, sweaty and aching, but no longer feeling as though ants were crawling under his skin. He’d managed to hold out for almost forty years this time around, though. He was kind of proud of himself for that, but then he hadn’t really come across anyone he’d wanted badly enough to break his self-imposed vow for.
He couldn’t take any chances until he was sure the Weaver hadn’t spotted him.
* * * *
Five days after his encounter with the Weaver, sheer desperation and jail fever sent Jamie back outside. After being incarcerated for three months in a cell with up to six other men, who’d done little other than fuck him, Jamie was somewhat claustrophobic. He couldn’t stay within four walls for long before needing to walk the streets and breathe the pollution-soaked air.
Not many people walked the streets at three a.m., even in LA. The drunks and drug addicts were curled up underneath their sheets of cardboard. The regular citizens had mostly headed home, and Jamie could wander the streets in relative safety.
It was a need for survival that had sent Jamie out there again, wandering, watching. It was rare for the past to have so much hold on him anymore, but the boy from the other night had shaken him, seeming to sense him, even though he was an expert at going unnoticed. He needed to know that all was calm, that the Weavers were still keeping just a subtle presence in LA, not a more overt one like they’d established in New York and Hong Kong. Oh, still not many knew just what they were—only the chosen few—but the major power brokers on Wall Street and on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange were Weavers hiding in plain sight, just biding their time. Jamie wasn’t sure what they were waiting for, but he knew it couldn’t be good.
It appeared just as calm as ever out there on the streets, and Jamie took comfort from that. He wandered familiar alleys and back streets, not seeing anything out of place. The displaced were sleeping off their excesses, and those like him, the lost… Well, they seemed to have developed a keen sense of self-preservation very quickly.
It wasn’t until he was heading home that Jamie’s sense of calm was shaken.