9.12 Rob Thurman Downfall (Cal Leandros)

ISBN 13: 9780451465290

Downfall (Cal Leandros)

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9780451465290: Downfall (Cal Leandros)

I let it go—all of it. Everything I’d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free.

But so was everything I’d fought so hard not to be....


Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it—and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal’s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm—Cal’s savage doppelgänger—wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it’s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them.

Even if he must fall forever...

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About the Author:

Rob Thurman lives in Indiana, land of cows, corn, and ravenous wild turkeys. Rob is the author of the Cal Leandros novels, the Trickster novels, the Korsak Brothers novels, and several stories in various anthologies.

Besides ravenous wild turkeys, Rob has three rescue dogs (if you don’t have a dog, how do you live?)—one of which is a Great Dane–Lab mix that weighs well over one hundred pounds, barks at strangers like Cujo times ten, then runs to hide under the kitchen table and pee on herself. Burglars tend to find this a mixed message. The other two dogs, however, are more invested in keeping their food source alive. All were adopted from the pound (one on his last day on death row). They were all fully grown, already house-trained, and grateful as hell. Think about it the next time you’re looking for a Rover or a Fluffy.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

(Rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances.)

Goodfellow

Ten days ago

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Engrave that on every brain cell. Write it on every neuron firing in your . . . Wait.

Was that a sniper on the roof? Across the street from the bar where I was reaching for the door handle, what was that I saw in the deepest of shadows? A sniper with a gun that could destroy a tank? Yes, it was. Ares, God of War, save me from human idiots who’d kill a newly born rabbit with a nuclear warhead to overcompensate for their one-inch dick and the shriveled raisins that made up their testicles. It was beyond annoying.

And the night had only begun. I had drinking ahead of me, along with a gloriously dire internal monologue that I’d been planning for days. One that had it been external rather than internal would make all those about me fall to their knees at the glory and the tragedy of it. I’d taken the precaution of writing some of it down to prevent what would be a catastrophic loss to history if I somehow lost the future opportunity to speak it aloud.

Gamou.

Nonetheless, it seemed there were other things to take care of first. I’d return to the bar and my soliloquy . . . now that I considered it, some would think that sounded somewhat conceited even for me. Soliloquy . . . hmmm. My thoughts, then, for the judgmental, I meant, and they were barely self-centered thoughts at that. No, not egocentric and narcissistic at all. Thus, I merely had to do away with the sniper while keeping the opening line of my fateful and earth-shaking contemplations prepared in my mind. . . .

There’s a sucker born every . . .

Hephaestus’s sweaty pits and fiery forge, did the streetlights deceive me? Was that a rocket launcher propped up beside the roof-dwelling idiot sniper?

I let go of the doorknob and made my way across the street, loved and hidden by the dark as I ever was when I wished to be. Obviously this train of thought would have to be continued later. Although suckers and idiots . . . They weren’t all that different, were they?

I didn’t have to memorize that.

(Goodfellow: the rest of the chapter has been rescheduled due to oblivious Cal’s irritating and unforeseen circumstances and my solution of them—as always.)

2

Caliban

Ten days ago

It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Remember that.

It’ll come up later. Pop quizzes aren’t out of the question.

Not that I was thinking that now. I had other things on my mind. Someone trying to kill me was one of them.

It wasn’t that someone was trying to kill me was anything to get excited about, not really. That had been happening half of my life. Most of the supernatural world didn’t like me—or didn’t like my kind. To them we were one and the same and were treated as such. Attempted murder, mutilation, or a one-Cal massacre, it was part of life. Truthfully, it was hard to scrape up any actual annoyance, much less get pissed off about it anymore. It was the same as complaining about rush-hour traffic: pointless and likely to make things worse when your cabdriver lost his shit and tried to stab you in the eye.

As someone was already doing their best to stab me in the eye or close enough, I didn’t need to add to that particular theoretical scenario. Yeah, it wasn’t the homicidal mayhem aimed at me that had my temper exploding. It was the large shard of mirror thrown at my face that disturbed me—disturbed me enough in fact that while I’d only planned on using the axe I was carrying for a threat or two, I’d now changed my mind. If they wanted to play “Here’s Johnny!” then who the hell was I to deny their scaly little bitch hearts?

If they weren’t Stephen King fans, I’d be damned disappointed.

Here’s a fun fact about me: I wasn’t into mirrors, whether they were bolted to the wall, mounted on an oversexed puck’s ceiling, or broken in a bathroom with a large triangular-shaped piece of it flying toward me like a quicksilver blade.

Mirrors. Not a fan.

Nothing ever good could came of one. For that matter nothing good came in one or out of one.

But this was my luck we were talking about, and it always took a nosedive at the Ninth Circle, a supernatural bar where I worked. The place put the fight in bar fight; that had been a fact from day fucking one. I had things thrown at me and my face in particular all the damn time. Occupational hazard. It was usually beer bottles, chairs, or even other patrons—you never knew. So, normally, having anything, knives included, tossed at me with vicious accuracy wouldn’t faze me.

The fragment of mirror did.

What I thought I saw reflected in it was worse.

Shit.

One moment I was investigating—otherwise known as hoping to break up a fight and kick ass—in the bathroom, and the next I was dodging impalement. We only had the one bathroom. Paien—monsters—didn’t care about separation of gender when it came to dumping bodily fluids, and as many species had more than two genders anyway, you couldn’t please everyone. One bathroom would have to do.

I walked in with the fire axe, the one used frequently but never for fires, which we kept behind the bar, and ended up in a four-way bitch-fest between two succubae, one lamia—better known as a leech on two legs in my book, and one wildly grinning shirtless puck. I didn’t care he was bare from the waist up. I counted myself lucky he had pants. I’d unwillingly—so very unwillingly—seen more than my fair share of naked pucks in my life. Only half-naked, like this one, that was a gift from above.

I was guessing from the trickster’s grin, the succubae’s bared snake fangs, and the lamia’s pulsating . . . You know what? Here’s an interesting evolutionary fact that most natural creatures and supernatural creatures have evolved from the same blob of cells before taking different forks in Darwin’s path. A swamp leech is distantly related to the paien humanoid leech masquerading as a woman, at least in how they both feed. Wide-open circular mouths ringed all the way around with teeth and a blood-seeking, hungering pulsation behind those teeth that would make you think more than twice about swimming in anything but a perfectly clear pool with an incredibly high saline content . . . and with a spear gun.

Or like me, who’d seen far too many mouths of lamia attached to their victims and sucking them dry, I didn’t swim at all. Trust me, I didn’t miss it.

Back to what I’d been thinking when I first walked in: The succubae wanted payment for services rendered to the puck. The lamia had been taking a bathroom break and simply wanted to eat the puck, as they are uncommon and the uncommon are generally considered a delicacy; and the puck was doing as all pucks do. He was skipping out on his bill, wreaking fucking havoc, and enjoying the hell out of himself.

The two succubae, covered in glittering midnight blue snake scales with storm-cloud black and silver hair, grabbed the lamia and tossed her into the large rectangular mirror on the wall—some paien are vain, but mostly they like to know what’s sneaking up behind them. Hence the mirror. As the lamia was thrown through the air to hit and hit goddamn hard, the mirror shattered explosively. I ducked, the puck—pucks always know the better part of valor is watching their own ass—hid in a stall, and the lamia ended up lying crumpled on the floor. “Ladies,” I drawled. “You know the rules: Charging clients or eating clients”—no one cared which—“is done in the alley outside the bar. Leeches and sex slurpers are no exception.”

The lamia took offense to the leech remark, not that I knew why. Once they fastened those round mouths and latched on, they paralyzed you and then they liquefied and sucked out everything contained in your sack of skin that wasn’t bone. If you don’t like the name, don’t spread the fame. Regardless, they never seemed to see the truth in that, and this one was no exception. Hissing in a lamia’s customary homicidal outrage—which I admit they did damn well—seven on a scale of one to ten in making your eardrums ache, she oozed up to a sitting position and snatched up a large shard of mirror to fling it at my face.

That was when I saw it.

There it was—maybe—in the shimmering surface before it tumbled and I threw myself to one side. I ended up with a painful slice across my forehead and a complete lack of patience. “Fine,” I spat. “You’ve been downgraded from ladies to bitches.” I lifted the axe, often used, well sharpened, and shining as bright as the edge of a brand-new guillotine. The lamia’s anger fled at the silver gleam, leaving her oddly deflated, her black eyes showing wild wariness as she peered up through the long dark hair that covered most of her face to cascade along with her floor-length black dress like a pool of poison on the dirty tile around her.

“You know what a friend once told me the Good Book says?” I grinned with dark cheer. “Thou shall not suffer a bitch to live.”

“That’s not quite how the quote goes,” came a deep, disapproving voice from behind me that I really didn’t want to hear right now. “Trust me, Caliban.” I didn’t. I went with ignoring him instead.

The succubae were running. I didn’t care about them. They started this, but they’d been smart enough not to throw anything at me that might slice off my face . . . or make me feel something more painful. They got a freebie this time. The lamia? No freebies for her and her mirror and what she’d made me see.

Making me see? Making me see that?

It wasn’t that. It wasn’t. Nononono.

Death was too easy for her, but it was all I had.

I had started to heave the axe downward when a large hand caught the wooden handle just below the metal head and yanked me backward. “Let her go,” Ishiah ordered. “I can’t keep docking your pay whenever you maim or kill a patron. You’ve been working for free for three weeks now.”

“Pigeons like you are cheap. What can I say?” I muttered under my breath before turning and letting Ishiah, my boss, an ex-angel or peri as the paien called them, take the axe. “It wasn’t my fault that she’d started a fight with a piece of glass and I was going to end it with a four-foot-long axe. That was purely poor planning on her part.” I waved a hand at my T-shirt. It was black with small red letters you’d have to be way too far into my personal space to make out. They spelled out IF YOU CAN READ THIS . . . YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD. I took my personal space seriously. “I’m responsibly labeled. What more do you want?”

I was trying to distract myself by bitching to Ish, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t forget what I might have seen in that glass. It could’ve been a trick of the light. It could be nothing. There was time enough for that later. Like maybe never. If I was lucky. Unfortunately I was never lucky. I pushed it all away and moved on to dealing with my boss.

“What I want, but doubt I will ever get, is an employee who is less bloodthirsty than all my patrons put together.” Ishiah had let the weight of the axe carry it to hang inches above the floor. He was swinging it slowly, barely moving it, all in all, but I got the picture.

“Yeah, yeah. Ruin my fun.” I walked over and knocked on the stall door where the puck had fled. “You in there. We already have one puck in town. Robin Goodfellow. I don’t know whether he’d throw you a party to reminisce about the orgy days of yore or kill you for poaching on his territory. Want me to call and ask?”

Pucks didn’t care for other pucks, being identical physical clones of one another. With the enormous ego each and every one of them had, two of them in one city was one too many. They either disliked each other, loathed each other, or hated each other with a homicidal fury. It depended on the pucks and their particular past. Added to that, Goodfellow, he was old. He said he’d been around before dinosaurs, when the stars were the size of your fist, and the daytime sky was purple with the birthing gas of a new world. Or so he said. He could’ve been lying. To a puck, a lie was a work of art. Truth, except on rare occasions, was an insulting lack of effort on your part.

I hadn’t been sure about the dinosaur issue, but I’d finally accepted it was true enough. My kind, half of what lived in my genes, had also apparently hunted dinos for sport. Not for food, for fucking fun. When it came to telling tales, there was one thing and only one that Robin didn’t lie about: the Auphe. When Nik and I were kids and hadn’t known what the monsters were that followed us from town to town, we’d called them Grendels thanks to Niko’s love of Beowulf. When we were a little older, we’d been clued in to what the true name of the bogeyman that did more than follow us; that had hid under our bed, in our closet, and outside every window of every house we’d lived in.

Auphe.

What humans had once hilariously, maybe hysterically painted into mythology as elves. See an Auphe face-to-face and survive it . . . that would make you hysterical, delusional, and more than a little mad. Storybook elves were as to Auphe as goldfish were to great white sharks—sharks with a thousand metal teeth in a hypodermic needle grin. They weren’t pretty, they didn’t ride horses, they didn’t wear golden armor. They didn’t wear clothes at all. The only use for a horse they would have would be to eat it. They had roamed the world, an albino, scarlet-eyed, clawed naked animal that Mother Nature had for some reason gifted with a brain. A twisted, psychopathic brain, but with the talent of cunning and speech and plans for genocide all the same.

Too bad that hadn’t worked out for them. On the other hand, lift a cold one that it had turned out for me. Genocide didn’t look too good on most résumés, but in this case, I didn’t have one goddamn qualm. No one cried a single tear over their extinction.

I most definitely hadn’t. They had been what had birthed the half of me, what had stamped my monster card and let me mix with the paien while bringing my human half along as my plus one. Paien thought humans were boring and often only good for eating, but they absolutely hated the Auphe. It could be because the Auphe had thought the same thing about paien—they were a meal, nothing more and nothing less. No better than a human. No more challenge than week-old roadkill. Although the Auphe, like cats and three-year-olds, did like to play with their food. That explained that while paien might loathe that half of me, they didn’t often fuck with it either.

Thanks to Robin’s history lesson to my brother and me on everything that we didn’t know about the Auphe, which was that selfsame everything, I’d learned several years ago that if I stood up to a monster, most would slink away before I needed to pull a weapon. Goodfellow might lie for fun and profit, but I believed him about my murderous ancestors. If he said he’d once seen an Auphe rip off the head of a velociraptor, turning it into a prehistoric Pez dispenser, then he had.

It meant something that there was someone to go to who knew the truth about the beginnings of my family tree—the first killers to walk this rock. It meant something that a born con man had taken two overgrown wildly suspicious delinquents, picked up on their clueless nature, their panicked need to escape the monsters that followed them, and filled them in on what was really watching them with scarlet eyes. What was watching me.

Who I was.

What I was.

Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is being a defenseless pigeon right as the hawk hits you in a splatter of blood and feather. With the truth, if it was possible to survive, you’d have a chance to...

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Rob Thurman
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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. I let it go--all of it. Everything I d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free. But so was everything I d fought so hard not to be. Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it--and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm--Cal s savage doppelganger--wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them. Even if he must fall forever. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780451465290

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. I let it go--all of it. Everything I d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free. But so was everything I d fought so hard not to be. Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it--and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm--Cal s savage doppelganger--wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them. Even if he must fall forever. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780451465290

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. I let it go--all of it. Everything I d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free. But so was everything I d fought so hard not to be. Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it--and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm--Cal s savage doppelganger--wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them. Even if he must fall forever. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780451465290

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