Her wounds would heal and her physical perfection be restored in but an hour or two.

Spent, he left her on the bed, sobbing. She wept not merely because of the pain but also with shame.

His wife was the only member of the New Race designed with the capacity for shame. Her humiliation completed him.

He showered with much hot water and a verbena-scented soap made in Paris. Being thrifty about disposing of dead mothers and wives, he could afford some luxuries.

Chapter 3

Having just closed the case on a serial killer who turned out to be a police detective in her own division, with the usual chasing and jumping and shooting, Carson O’Conner hadn’t gotten to bed until seven in the morning.

Four dead-to-the-world hours in the sheets and a quick shower: That might be the maximum downtime she could expect for a while. Fortunately, she had been too whacked to dream.

As a detective, she was accustomed to overtime whenever an investigation approached culmination, but this current assignment wasn’t a typical homicide case. This was maybe the end of the world.

She had never been through the end of the world before. She didn’t know what to expect.

Michael Maddison, her partner, was waiting on the sidewalk when, at noon, she pulled the plainwrap sedan to the curb in front of his apartment house.

He lived in a bland apartment in a plain slab of a building, on a nondescript block just off Veterans Boulevard. He said the place was “very Zen,” and claimed to need a minimalist retreat after a day in the perpetual carnival of New Orleans.

He dressed for the Apocalypse the same as he dressed every day. Hawaiian shirt, khakis, sport coat.

Only in footwear had he made a concession to doomsday. Instead of the usual black Rockport walking shoes, he wore white. They were so white they seemed radiant.

His sleepy-eyed look made him more delicious than usual. Carson tried not to notice.

They were partners, not lovers. If they tried to be both, they would wind up dead sooner than later. In police work, kick ass and grab-ass don’t mix.

After getting in the car and pulling the door shut, Michael said, “Seen any monsters lately?”

“In the bathroom mirror this morning,” she said, accelerating away from the curb.

“You look terrific. Really. You don’t look half as bad as I feel.”

“You know how long it’s been since I had my hair done?”

You take time to go to a hairdresser? I thought you just set it on fire and burned it off now and then.”

“Nice shoes.”

“The box said they’re made in China, or maybe it was Thailand. Everything’s made somewhere else these days.”

“Not everything. Where do you think Harker was made?”

Detective Jonathan Harker, who had turned out to be the serial killer that the media dubbed “the Surgeon,” had also turned out not to be human. Neither a 12-gauge shotgun nor a four-story fall had fazed him.

Michael said, “I don’t quite see Helios building his New Race in the parlor of his mansion in the Garden District. Maybe Biovision is a front for it.”

Biovision, a cutting-edge biotechnology firm founded by Helios when he first came to New Orleans more than twenty years previously, was the holder of many patents that made him richer year by year.

“All those employees,” Carson said, “all those outsourced services coming in every day — you couldn’t conduct a secret people-making lab in the middle of all that.”

“Yeah. For one thing, being a walleyed hunchback in a cowled cloak, Igor would really stand out when he went for coffee in the vending-machine room. Don’t drive so fast.”

Accelerating, Carson said, “So he has another facility somewhere in the city, probably owned by a shell corporation headquartered in the Cayman Islands or someplace.”

“I hate that kind of police work.”

He meant the kind that required researching thousands of New Orleans businesses, making a list of those with foreign or otherwise suspicious ownership.

Although Carson disliked desk jockey sessions as much as Michael did, she had the patience for them. She suspected, however, that she didn’t have the time.

“Where are we going?” Michael asked as the city blurred past. “If we’re going to Division to sit in front of computers all day, let me out right here.”

“Yeah? And what’ll you do?”

“I don’t know. Find somebody to shoot.”

“Pretty soon you’ll have lots of people to shoot. The people Victor’s made. The New Race.”

“It’s kind of depressing being the Old Race. Like being last year’s toaster oven, before they added the microchip that makes it sing Randy Newman tunes.”

“Who would want a toaster oven that sings Randy Newman?”

“Who wouldn’t?”

Carson might have blown through the red traffic light if a refrigerated eighteen-wheeler hadn’t been crossing the intersection. Judging by the pictorial advertisement painted on the side of the truck, it was loaded with meat patties destined for McDonald’s. She didn’t want to be hamburgered to death.

They were downtown. The streets were busy.

Studying the swarms of pedestrians, Michael wondered, “How many people in this city aren’t really people? How many are Victor’s… creations?”

“A thousand,” Carson said, “ten thousand, fifty thousand — or maybe just a hundred.”

“More than a hundred.”


“Eventually Helios is going to realize we’re on to him.”

“He knows already,” she guessed.

“You know what that makes us?”

“Loose ends,” she said.

“Totally loose. And he seems to be a guy who likes everything tied up neat.”

She said, “I figure we’ve got twenty-four hours to live.”

Chapter 4

Carved of marble, weathered by decades of wind and rain, the Virgin May stood in a niche, overlooking the front steps of the Hands of Mercy.

The hospital had long been closed. The windows were bricked shut. On the gate in the wrought-iron fence, a sign identified the building as a private warehouse, closed to the public.

Victor drove past the hospital and into the parking garage of a five-story building that housed the accounting and personnel-management department of Biovision, the company he had founded. He slotted the Mercedes into a space reserved for him.

Only he possessed a key to a nearby painted-steel door. Beyond lay an empty room, about twelve feet square, with concrete floor and walls.

Opposite the outer door, another door was controlled by a wall-mounted keypad. Victor entered a code, disengaging the electric lock.

Past the threshold, a hundred-forty-foot corridor led under the hospital grounds, connecting the adjacent buildings. It was six feet wide, eight feet high, with block-and-timber walls and a concrete floor.

The passageway had been excavated and constructed by members of the New Race, without publicly filed

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