A message courier pushed into the path of a train. A young woman commits a terrible act of violence. A family man puts a gun to his head.
John Smith suspects these aren't random events — someone engineered them. But who — or what? And why is John Smith their next target?
Praise for Legion:
“Legion is an excellent thriller that does what most thrillers set out to do. Keep the readers hooked with a fast paced story, sprinkled heavily with jaw-dropping twists that end on a climax, which will leave the readers wanting more.” —Fantasy Book Critic
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Read An Excerpt From Legion
Talk about bad luck.
I’m in some office building on Fifth Avenue—after a while they all start looking the same—on the twenty-seventh floor, and I’ve just picked up a package that needs to make it downtown in forty-five minutes. It’s only eighteen blocks, so it’s really no sweat, and I’m in the hallway headed toward the elevator when the lights briefly flicker and an alarm starts going off. I look around, just like everyone else, wondering what the hell this is about, when a voice comes on over the intercom, one of those calm but scary voices, informing everyone in the building to please stop what they’re doing and go to the nearest stairwell and head down to the street.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” says a guy in a suit in front of me, standing right in front of the opened elevator.
My sentiments exactly.
So then everyone’s up on their feet, headed down the hallway, past the elevators toward the stairwell. And, for the most part, everyone does so in a nice and orderly fashion. Except we’re twenty-seven stories up, and there’s another ten stories or so above us, and the stairs, they’re not very wide. Everyone could probably squeeze two at a time going down, but for some reason everyone goes single file, and the lights keep flashing and that alarm keeps blaring and that calm but scary-as-fuck voice keeps asking everyone to please stop what they’re doing and evacuate the building right this second.
I’m conscious of the time as we descend, checking my watch every thirty seconds, as if that will move things along any quicker.
Murmuring works its way up and down the line, people speculating what could be wrong—fire, terrorists, the usual bit of scariness—and to break the tension I contribute the possibility that we’re in the midst of a zombie attack.
Nobody seems to think that’s very funny.
The stairwell quickly fills with the overbearing stink of aftershave and perfume, the combined odors making it almost impossible to breathe. One of the suits in front of me, bored now with the speculation of what’s causing the evacuation, mentions Timothy Carrozza, and like that, it starts off a chain reaction of questions and comments, these jokers being lawyers, after all, even if they are corporate. One of them mentions ADA Baxter, and another says he saw her on the news and boy oh boy is she a fox, and something inside of me starts to stir, a big brother impulse to stand up for his little sister, which is strange because she’s three years older than me, and besides, I don’t even know her well enough anymore to feel as if I need to stand up for her in the first place. And besides, this guy isn’t badmouthing her; he’s just commenting on how good looking she is, and really, is that a crime?
Still, the last thing I want to think about is my sister and her big career-making case, so I tune out the guys in front of me and listen in on what the women behind me are talking about, which happens to be a bachelorette party one of them attended over the weekend. Okay, now we’re talking. Only, it seems, this bachelorette party is the lamest bachelorette party of the year, the girls going shopping and having dinner at a fancy restaurant (the kind, one of the girls says, where they use a brush to wipe the breadcrumbs off your table), then going to the movies to see the new Matthew McConaughey flick, because, apparently, the bride-to-be is a recovering alcoholic (one year next month), and the girls wanted to make sure she had a good time.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” I mutter without realizing it.
Behind me, the women stop talking as we continue our exodus (what floor are we passing now, the seventeenth?), and I glance back and see a few of them giving me the kind of glare that’s supposed to signify just how much of an asshole I am.
I smile back and shrug. “Fucking zombie attack, huh?”
Nothing. Not even an eye roll.
I glance at my watch, just like I did thirty seconds ago.
Like I said, talk about bad luck.
* * *
Except no, I’m wrong. Bad luck isn’t getting stuck on the twenty-seventh floor of an office building, moments before getting on the elevator, before an emergency alarm sounds out and then being forced to hoof it down those twenty-seven floors with a bunch of suits to the street. No, bad luck is going through all of that to come outside to find someone has stolen the wheels off your bike.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!”
Nobody even notices my outburst. Why would they? They’ve all just escaped the terrifying clutches of their office building, and no, the reason is not a zombie attack but a fire. At least I have to assume it’s a fire based on the two fire trucks parked out front, their rooftop lights flashing, a couple firemen directing people out of the building while a few others head inside, decked out in all of their gear.
Everyone crowds around on the sidewalk, while taxis and buses and cars go zooming past, while tourists and the usual Manhattan hustlers and bustlers walk on by like there’s nothing wrong.
I hurry over to the bike, fall to my knees, grab hold of the titanium frame, as if it’s just an illusion that both of my wheels are missing. Nope, they’re still gone. The son of a bitch who did this—and who the fuck does something like this, really?—used wire cutters. No, not wire cutters—bolt cutters. Surprisingly, they didn’t even touch the chain keeping the frame secured to the pole. Sure, my bike isn’t the most expensive piece of equipment currently gracing the streets of Manhattan (it’s not even halfway expensive, really), but I’ve had it for two years and, fuck, it’s mine.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit!”
Again, nobody notices my outburst. Well, that’s not true. One of the women who was behind me on the stairwell, one of the women from this past weekend’s lame bachelorette party, notices, and is she trying to suppress a smile? That bitch, I think she is! I’m half-tempted to give her the finger, but I have to remember I’m representing my company right now, and the last thing I need is for her to complain to Hank, my supervisor, because he’d just love a reason to get rid of me. I’m good at what I do, no doubt about it—in fact, I’m one of the best, always deliver my packages on time, never lose my manifest—but I’ll admit, I’m not the easiest person in the world to get along with, and Hank is the kind of supervisor who would love for his entire crew to be trained yes men and yes women. My only saving grace is Reggie, my dispatcher, who like most dispatchers is a retired courier who knows the city, who knows the streets, who tracks our locations when we pick up and drop off, so we don’t have to go far out of our way when he sends us to the next client.
My mind races. What am I supposed to do now? Take a taxi? It could work, but we’re talking about the noon rush hour, and quite honestly, all day is rush hour from here to my intended destination. There’s a subway entrance three blocks up, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s headed downtown. Won’t let me off right on the block I need, but it would be close enough.
Fuck it. I reach into my pocket for my cell. I dial Reggie’s number, and listen to it ring two times in my earbuds before he picks up.
“Yo,” he says.
“I have a problem.”
I fill him in.
He says, “Shit, dude, are you serious?” I hear voices in the background, typing, the usual dispatcher noises. “That sucks.”
“Tell me about it. I’m pretty much fucked for the rest of the day. But this package, someone needs to come pick it up.”
Reggie’s silent for a long moment as he types. “Sorry, dude, but I don’t have anyone near your location right now.”
“So what should I do?” I close my eyes, take a deep breath. “Can you call and tell them I’ll be late?”
Reggie doesn’t answer right away. I don’t expect him to. My request isn’t something I’m proud of. In fact, it’s something I really hate to ask. In this business, you deliver packages on time. That’s it. Your reputation—and, more importantly, your company’s reputation—all hinges on the fact that you’re faster and more prompt than the other guy. Because there’s always another messenger company to hire, and if a business gets screwed over enough times by a company they’ve grown a relationship with, they’ll cut ties and go elsewhere. So calling and telling them their package won’t arrive on time, even if there is a valid excuse? Not a good idea.
“I’m thinking, I’m thinking. Who’s the package going to again?” Before I can answer, he says, “Shit,” no doubt reading the name off his screen.
I nod, knowing exactly what he means. The firm I’m taking this to—Bachman Payne—is one of the top firms in the city. They’ve been using us for the past five years, if not longer. They’re always satisfied, because we always deliver on time. But one screw up? They’re a business that’s apt to walk away just on principle.
Through the phone I hear typing and voices, but I also hear a new voice, a deep, throaty voice tinged with a Brooklyn accent, sounding like it’s coming closer.
“If that’s Hank, don’t tell him it’s me.”
It’s a risky move, trying to keep the supervisor out of the loop on an issue like this, but the truth is I just don’t want to deal with his bullshit right now.
“Who’s that?” Hank says, and before Reggie can voice a coherent response, the phone is taken away (I picture Hank ripping the headset off Reggie’s head), and Hank’s voice booms, “Who’s this?”
I swallow. “It’s John.”
“What do you want?”
A hundred smart ass replies flash through my mind, but instead I say, “Someone jacked my wheels.”
Cold son of a bitch.
“So, I have a package that needs to get to Bachman Payne in”—I glance at my watch—“seventeen minutes.”
“Yeah, and why are you calling?”
“I’m not going to be able to make it. I was hoping”—I clear my throat—“someone could call down and let them know I’ll be late.”
“John, let me ask you something,” he says, and I picture him in his short-sleeved company shirt, crossing his hairy arms, bouncing back and forth on the balls of his feet as he stares up at the board tracking our pick-ups and drop-offs. “What is our company’s motto?”
Another fire truck arrives on scene, its lights blazing red and white, blaring its horn for cars to get out of its way.
“What is that?” Hank asks.
“Fire truck,” I say. “There was a fire in the building. The alarm went off right before I hit the elevator, and then I had to—”
“Our motto, John. What is it?”
I take another deep breath. “ ‘Never Late, Always Early.’ ”
“That’s right,” he says, like he’s an elementary school teacher and I’m a slow-learning student. “That’s our motto. That’s how everyone knows us. That’s what keeps us in business. And the people that hire us? They want their packages just like our motto says—never late, always early. They don’t care about fires, or missing wheels, or even if your legs are broken. They want their packages on time, if not early, but never … guess, John.”
I force the word out through clenched teeth: “Late.”
“Bingo. So my advice, John? Start running.”
* * *
I do start running. Only I don’t head downtown. Instead I head uptown, the three blocks it takes me to get to the subway station. In a split-second decision, I leave my bike behind. Right now it will only slow me down, and quite honestly, I’m not sure if I can take it on the subway. Despite all the years I’ve been living in the city, I rarely take the subway. I have a mild case of claustrophobia, and being trapped underground with a bunch of strangers in a tin can isn’t necessarily my idea of a good time. Besides, my bike is chained up, and I know where it is, and I’m confident it will still be there when I return.
Down the stairs, wait in line at one of the MetroCard kiosks, wondering briefly if I can charge it to the company, and then I’m hurrying through the turnstiles, looking left and right for the downtown train. Judging by the few commuters milling about, I’ve just missed the most recent train, which means for the next train I now have to wait, what, three minutes? Five?
I wander over to the nearest subway map, check where I am and where the train will be headed whenever the hell it shows up. The way it looks, the train will let me out four blocks from the firm. Okay, no problem. There are three stops in between here and there, so yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. As long as the train isn’t late. As long as my bad luck for the day has finally run out.
Then again, who am I kidding? There’s no way I’m going to make it on time. I would have a better chance if I just ran down the street.
I check my watch, wait thirty seconds, then check my watch again.
I wander over toward the tracks and stand by the pillars like mostly everyone else, angled toward the tunnel out of which the train will hopefully spit very soon. We stand there and stare, as if staring long enough will make the train appear. Actually no, that’s not true. I’m the one staring, while everyone else is looking down at their cell phones or tablets or e-readers, everyone a slave to their favorite technology. I shake my head, wondering what they all see in their senseless toys, when the distant shriek of brakes sounds out down the tunnel.
Everyone moves closer to the edge of the platform, which has flooded with more and more people.
Light fills the tunnel seconds before the train appears. The stuffy wind in the terminal changes direction. A single sheet of newspaper slips off the platform onto the tracks, caught up in the sudden rush of air, slow dancing like a tabloid tumbleweed.
Everyone takes their positions, including me. We all inch closer to the yellow line, watching the train as it screeches into the station, as the train—
I don’t realize I’m falling at first. I barely even feel the hand on my back until it pushes me off the platform. One second I’m standing there, the next second the world is on its side and I’m headed toward the tracks, the train’s light burning into me, the brakes squealing, people shouting and screaming.
I hit the ground hard, my head knocking on one of the rails, everything going momentarily black, and the squealing of the train fills the world so completely, like it’s about to burst, that for an instant I know I’m going to die, that the light coming at me is the light of Heaven or Hell or whatever afterlife there may be, and my body, it goes on autopilot, not staying still like it should, hoping that the train will pass over me, but instead standing up, first finding a knee, then raising to a foot, facing the train like we’re in a duel. I’m aware of the renewed screams and shouts in the same way I’m aware that I’m soon going to die, but it’s all faint, distant, white noise, and when the hands grab my bag and yank me up toward the platform I just go with it, letting it happen, a puppet content to have its strings pulled any which way it can.