Home > Damaged (Necessary Evils #3.5)

Damaged (Necessary Evils #3.5)
Author: Onley James

 


About the Author

 

 

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Dr. Mulvaney.”

Thomas arched a brow, studying the young woman sitting in the tattered booth across from him. Saying he agreed to meet her was a stretch. Forced would be more appropriate. The coffee shop was near deserted. People didn’t want to eat in a place with sallow lighting, cracked vinyl booths, and vinyl floors that sounded like velcro when you walked on them. Once the place had probably been vibrant, but now, it was a shell of its former self—the coffee shop that time forgot. The smell of stale coffee, grease, and pancakes wasn’t unpleasant but did seem overwhelming.

Outside, a vicious storm raged, condensation blotting out the windows, making the outdoors seem post-apocalyptic when lightning crashed, illuminating everything on the other side of the glass. Thunder boomed ominously, rolling towards them, before dissipating again, creating this cozy pocket of anonymity around the back booth where they sat.

Thomas had thought a great deal about the kind of person who would dare to blackmail him, but never once had he imagined it would be the girl sitting across from him. She was young, but she had a wariness about her, a cynicism etched in her steely gaze that made Thomas both curious and uneasy.

She dressed like any normal teenager—jeans and a Kiss t-shirt, a black unzipped sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, leaving just a heavy fringe of inky black bangs visible. She was pale—not fair skinned, just lacking sunlight. She had husky blue eyes and a smattering of freckles across her pierced nose. She reminded him of his youngest, Adam, though she was much older.

She seemed…not nervous, exactly. More resigned. Like she didn’t like what she was doing but she had no choice. Blackmail was a tedious thing, no doubt. He’d expected his blackmailer to be some hulking ghoulish figure full of malice and rage. Thomas could have dealt with that easily. But this… This was far more unnerving. There was nothing so dangerous as somebody who had nothing to lose, and she looked like she had nothing to lose.

When she didn’t continue, Thomas said, “What is it I can do for you…” He let the question linger, hoping she would fill in the blank, but she just stared at him until he asked, “Do you have a name?”

She quirked up a well manicured brow, a small smirk curving across full lips painted the color of dried blood. “Doesn’t everybody?”

“Can you tell me yours?” Thomas prompted.

She thought on it for a moment. “You can call me Calliope.”

Thomas tilted his head. “Because that’s your name, or because you don’t want to tell me your name?”

“Yes,” she said, deliberately obtuse.

Thomas laced his fingers together on the scarred wooden table between them. “How can I help you, Calliope?”

The woman reached into her pocket and pulled a picture free, slapping it on the counter between the two of them. It was a picture of a young boy. He was clearly related to her. He had her same blue eyes and freckles, though his hair was a warm brown, not inky black. He might have been five or six.

Thomas frowned, picking up the photo and examining it closely. There was something…reptilian in his gaze, a calculating shrewdness that made the hair on Thomas’s arms stand up. He was all too familiar with that look. “Is this your brother?”

She shook her head. “My son.”

“Your…son?” Thomas echoed, unable to hide his surprise.

She nodded, picking up the wrapper that had once contained the straw now sitting in her untouched Diet Coke. “I had him when I was sixteen. His name is Dimitri. I need your help.”

Thomas watched as she proceeded to tie the straw wrapper into knots until it came apart between her fingers. She frowned, disappointed, before tossing it to the side.

Thomas struggled to understand the point of this meeting. Was she trying to blackmail him for money? If so, why show him the picture of her son? To garner sympathy? None of this made sense. Thomas had more money than he could spend in ten lifetimes. If all she needed was financial help, he’d be willing to give her whatever she needed to get by. “If you’re looking for money—”

“I’m not,” Calliope snapped, the venom in her tone evaporating almost immediately. “I’m not,” she said again, softer. “My son—” She swallowed. “My son is like your sons.”

“Like mine?” Thomas parroted cautiously, even though it was clear what she meant.

Calliope met his gaze. “My son is a psychopath.”

Thomas felt a shock of adrenaline rocket through him. Shit. “I don’t know what you’re implying—”

Calliope held up her hand. “Don’t bother pretending I’m crazy. I’ve hacked your system, read your files, your case studies, all of your sons’ dossiers. I’ve seen it all.”

Thomas’s mind reeled. It wasn’t possible. His research files were hidden behind software that would make the CIA’s look primitive. “Do you…work for the government?”

That didn’t make any sense. She didn’t look old enough to drink.

She stared at him sullenly. “Do you?”

Finally, he shook his head. “No. I don’t.”

Not exactly. There were several high-ranking officials among all branches of the government who followed his research. It took a great deal of time and money to do what he did, but more than that, it took connections. Connections that would disavow any knowledge of him and his experiment if those not in the know were to find out.

Her shoulders slumped. “Me neither.”

She gazed out the foggy window for a long moment before lifting a finger to trace a drop of water as it created a path through the haze.

“May I ask how you found me?” Thomas asked, taking a sip of his lukewarm coffee.

She was quiet for a long moment, stirring the carbonation out of her soda. “When I realized my son wasn’t…normal, I started researching. The usual stuff at first, but the more I tried to find help for my son, the clearer it became that there was nobody with any kind of definitive answers on my problem.”

She wasn’t wrong. “How did that lead to me?”

Calliope’s gaze met his. “It didn’t. At first. Then I found Dr. Molly Shepherd. Her research on sociopaths was groundbreaking but purely theoretical. So, I hacked her files and found…you.”

Molly Shepherd. She was the reason his whole project existed, the reason for the entire experiment. The reason he was raising seven psychopathic sons to become killers. He supposed the correct term would be vigilantes. Dr. Shepherd didn’t approve of his methods, but she kept track of his research just the same. They all did.

“Me?” Thomas asked.

“Are we going to do this the whole time?” she asked. “I know who you are. I know what you’re doing. I know what your sons are. I know who they are and where to find them. I know your bank account info, your social security number. I know the color of the last pair of underwear you bought. I know. Please, stop wasting our time.”

Before Thomas could question the validity of her statements, she slid a piece of paper towards him. On it was his social security number. Was that proof she had what she said she did? No. But why would he doubt her when she clearly knew more than anybody else?

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