The Sentry

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Writing is solitary, but bringing a book to life requires a team. The author would like to thank Patricia Crais for her hard work and long hours improving the manuscript, and Lauren Crais for legal research and information.

Additional thanks go to Steve Brown for sharing his knowledge of the Venice Canals, as well as for providing guided tours and contributions to the story.

Marilyn Ducksworth, Michael Barson, and Matthew Venzon proved themselves to be the best in the business. Their efforts and innovative ideas were not only outstanding, but inspirational. Thank you.

Dittos to Kate Stark and Lydia Hirt for pushing the author and his work into emerging realms, and to Ivan Held and Neil Nyren for their belief and commitment.

In the UK, thanks go to Tim Healy Hutchinson, Jon Wood, Juliet Ewers, Helen Richardson, Susan Lamb, and Malcolm Edwards.

Also, thanks and respect to Aaron Priest and his team at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency—Lucy Childs, Nicole James, John Richmond, and Lisa Vance—for building it bigger and making it happen.

And for my friend, David Thompson, a book and a margarita.

New Orleans

2005

Monday, 4:28 A.M., the narrow French Quarter room was smoky with cheap candles that smelled of honey. Daniel stared through broken shutters and shivering glass up the length of the alley, catching a thin slice of Jackson Square through curtains of gale-force rain that swirled through New Orleans like mad bats riding the storm. Daniel had never seen rain fall up before.

Daniel loved these damned hurricanes. He folded back the shutters, then opened the window. Rain hit him good. It tasted of salt and smelled of dead fish and weeds. The cat-five wind clawed through New Orleans at better than a hundred miles an hour, but back here in the alley—in a cheap one-room apartment over a po’boy shop—the wind was no stronger than an arrogant breeze.

The power in this part of the Quarter had gone out almost an hour ago; hence, the candles Daniel found in the manager’s office. Emergency lighting fed by battery packs lit a few nearby buildings, giving a creepy blue glow to the shimmering walls. Most everyone in the surrounding buildings had gone. Not everyone, but most. The stubborn, the helpless, and the stupid had stayed.

Like Daniel’s friend, Tolley.

Tolley had stayed.

Stupid.

And now here they were in an empty building surrounded by empty buildings in an outrageous storm that had forced more than a million people out of the city, but Daniel kinda dug it. All this noise and all this emptiness, no one to hear Tolley scream.

Daniel turned from the window, arching his eyebrows.

“You smell that? That’s what zombies smell like, brought up from the death with an unnatural life. You get to see a zombie?”

Tolley was between answers right now, being tied to the bed with thirty feet of nylon cord. His head just kinda hung there, all swollen and broken, though he was still breathing. Every once in a while he would lurch and shiver. Daniel didn’t let Tolley’s lack of responsiveness stop him.

Daniel sauntered over to the bed. Cleo and Tobey shuffled out of the way, letting him pass.

Daniel had a syringe pack in his bag, along with some poppers, meth, and other choice pharmaceuticals. He took out the kit, shot up Tolley with some crystal, then waited for it to take effect. Outside, something exploded with a muffled whump that wasn’t quite lost in the wind. Power transformer, probably, giving up the ghost, or maybe a wall falling over.

Tolley’s eyes flickered amid a sudden fury of blinks, then dialed into focus. He tried to pull away when he saw Daniel, but, really, where could