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Shadow Unit 5
Shadow Unit 5
Shadow Unit 5
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Shadow Unit 5

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Contains "The Sin Eater" and "Getaway" by Emma Bull, and more.

Erscheinungsdatum16. Sept. 2011
Shadow Unit 5
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Emma Bull

Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Her subsequent works have included Falcon, the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-finalist Bone Dance, Finder, and (with Steven Brust) Freedom and Necessity. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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Shadow Unit 5 - Emma Bull

Book 5

Emma Bull

Elizabeth Bear


Publishing Information

La Befana






Disintegration 1

The Sin Eater by Emma Bull




Getaway by Emma Bull


Sufficient 2



Publishing Information

© 2007-2011 Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, Stephen Shipman, Amanda Downum, Leah Bobet, & Holly Black. Cover design and photo @ Kyle Cassidy.

First edition. Published by CatYelling.

Smashwords Edition.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

All seasons of Shadow Unit are available online at

La Befana

J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, D.C. December 2007

LA BEFANA. Sofia Akadiou, 32. Former UNICEF health worker who survived an attack on a village in the Central African Republic that left her blind in one eye and required the amputation of her right foot. After her release from the hospital, she began to relive childhood trauma in which she tried to shield her brother and sisters from their abusive, tyrannical mother.

She was particularly agitated by her inability to walk quietly, first with crutches, then with her prosthesis. She said to nurses and to a physical therapist, on several occasions, that her mother worked nights and required silence during the day. When reminded that her mother had died several years earlier, Akadiou apologized for her confusion. A hospital psychologist diagnosed PTSD.

After conversion, Akadiou entered the homes of her victims (usually through an unlocked entrance) and, while the parents slept, suffocated the children. Afterward, she tidied the children's rooms—hung up clothes, put away toys, straightened book shelves, pulled the bedcovers smooth and tucked them in under the mattress.

Akadiou targeted her victims in supermarkets, shopping malls, and other public places: a parent responding with anger and impatience to a child's tantrum could trigger her memories of her mother's rages. Akadiou believed that by quieting the child and cleaning up, she could save the child from punishment.

Poughkeepsie homicide detectives nicknamed her La Befana during the search for the children's killer, based on the character from Italian folklore. She was responsible for the deaths of nine children.

After taking Akadiou into custody, ACTF agents obtained family records from her childhood. When Akadiou was twelve, her younger brother died from an overdose of barbiturates. The death was ruled accidental. In light of Akadiou's trauma and subsequent acting-out of her delusion, it seems likely that Akadiou drugged her siblings to keep them quiet and out of her mother's eye.

Sleet hissed against Stephen Reyes's office window. It sounded like home: winter driven sideways off Lake Michigan and down the streets of Chicago. Through his open office door, he heard Esther Falkner venting the day's violent impulses on her keyboard (the only real proof that she had any). Daphne Worth's crepe-soled boots laid down an almost sub-audible beat on the carpet in the bullpen as she jogged down the aisle to Hafidha's sanctum. Just beyond Reyes's office door, Brady declared, It's not a copycat. Y'all got yourselves one UNSUB, not two, and the moment of drawl told Reyes he was hearing the phone consult with Houston PD.

Each weight of paper in the file on the desk in front of him had its own voice: bond shushed against bond, tissue copies crunched and crackled. The heavy photo paper made a dull thrum, like a slack guitar string, when it flipped past his thumb.

To hear criminal investigators tell it, evidence spoke; all one had to do was listen well. But in photographs and printed records, sound was only speculation. Audio tapes of interviews carried no visual information. Video recordings of witnesses, suspects, and crime scenes had sight and sound; but they lacked the smell of bleach, the vibrating tension of the person just outside the frame, the subject's reaction when the red light went dark.

Sometimes evidence spoke like a parakeet: language without context or continuity.

Reyes turned the pages of the file (shush, shush, crackle, shush) until he reached the photo of Sofia Akadiou taken after her arrest. It said nothing about her face when she opened her door to Reyes and the arresting officers: how her eyes showed their whites, and her sallow skin lost what little flush it had. It didn't note her terror, not of the men on her doorstep, but of something behind her, something that made her press a finger hard to her lips, begging them to make no noise.

The house, when they searched it, was empty.

The photo couldn't tell how Akadiou had trembled and flinched in the interview room where she was cuffed to the bracket under the table, how she squeezed her eyes and mouth tight closed and shook her head hard when homicide detectives came to get a statement. They swore they asked questions. On the video of the interview, their lips move. But there are no voices recorded, no scrape of the shifted chair, no clink of the cuffs on the metal bracket.

Akadiou's photo was mute, too, on what happened when Reyes asked that she be moved to a quiet, empty office, or when Reyes joined her there twenty minutes later sock-footed and careful to muffle the closing door. On the desk in front of her he laid a pad of wide-ruled, fibrous paper, so soft it was halfway to being cloth, and a new blue crayon.

No rattle of paper or the scratching of pencil or pen.

You know, her face had said. You will take this weight off me. You will protect them. You will keep them safe from her.

Evidence could only speak of what it knew. Evidence never knew everything. Justice ought to be based on more than evidence. Mercy had to be. If Sofia Akadiou had understood that, she might have been able to silence the voice inside her. The parents of nine dead children in Poughkeepsie understood it sometimes, when the quiet in their second bedrooms and backyards and the mutter of If only I hadn't... in their heads didn't overwhelm it.

So it was up to Reyes to understand it for them, to keep faith with Akadiou's silent charge to him.

You will protect them. You will keep them safe.

He listened to the sounds his team made as they did their work, and hoped his best would be enough.


Ashton, Virginia, August 2008

Special Agent Lau kept her promise.

This amazes Henry Clark. Reyes knows because Henry tells him so, every time Reyes comes to visit.

Henry Clark isn't his real name. Or, rather, it isn't the name he was born with. It's the name on his dogtags. Or, rather, not his dogtags, since CLARK HENRY J died in Vietnam and is buried in a cemetery in Florida along with at least three generations of his ancestors. Todd checked that, and double-checked it, and nearly (he claims) got brained by an angry old lady with a shotgun for daring to suggest that she might have buried the wrong body. Open casket funeral, he says gloomily on his return. She says she doesn't know what happened to his dogtags. Says maybe her daughter took them, but she hasn't talked to her daughter since the Summer of Love and doesn't have the least idea where she might be. Beat. But Reyes is waiting for it, because Reyes knows Todd. Also, the Henry J. Clark who died in Vietnam—the J stands for Jericho, by the way, because I know you were wondering—was African-American.

The Henry Clark in Idlewood is not. He's fair-skinned, blue-eyed. He's probably older than Henry J. Clark would be, although that's another thing they can't tell for sure. Henry doesn't know, any more than he knows what his name was before it was Henry Clark.

He lost a lot of things to the ice, he tells Reyes.

His file lists some of them: three toes, part of his right ear, patches of skin on hands and feet that are scar-shiny and insensate. The cognitive impairment may be the result of hypothermia, or it may be the result of something else. Likewise the fissures and failures in his memory, long-term and short-term both. He can name most of the presidents, but has no idea where he was born. If he ever had a family, he doesn't know who they are, and Reyes can't find any evidence that they're looking for him.

How he ended up in Minnesota is anybody's guess.

Idlewood is the best thing that's ever happened to Henry Clark. His room is comfortable, the food is good, the nurses are nice to him. And they let me have two blankets, he says to Reyes, blue eyes wide. They say I can have three if I need them, and I don't want to be greedy, but sometimes I do.

It's all right, Henry, Reyes always says. There are plenty of blankets for everyone.

Even in Idlewood, even in the summer, it's hard for Henry Clark to stay warm. He wears sweatshirts over flannel shirts over turtlenecks, long underwear and flannel lined jeans, two pairs of socks and enormous fleece-lined moccasins. He has a wool hat, and the nurses say he sleeps in it, but he won't wear it in front of Reyes; he says it's rude to wear a hat indoors.

The therapists have taught him to knit, and Henry nearly bursts with pride when he tells Reyes he's knitted himself a scarf. Reyes admires it. It's purple and magenta and wildly uneven, and it's already unraveling in places, but it's something Henry made to keep himself warm, and that makes it beautiful.


Ashton, VA, January 2008

Reyes wishes they wouldn't call her Mrs. Chow.

It's disrespectful, for one thing, and surely the woman has little enough dignity left already. Not to mention that there is something faintly ludicrous about her manifestation. In a period of between eighteen and twenty-six hours, she ate her husband, her three children, her elderly parents, her children's gerbils (number unknown), and part of her mother's cocker spaniel. There's no need to compound the injury with the insult of a demeaning nickname.

Mrs. Chow sounds like something out of a comic book, and if there's anything Eileen Cho isn't, it's a comic book villain.

They did interviews, he and Todd, with neighbors, with friends, with the staff of the local organic co-op where Mrs. Cho had volunteered, with priest and congregation of the Episcopalian church where the Chos had worshipped, and the picture was close to unanimous: a perfectly pleasant, perfectly ordinary woman. She'd worked to put her husband through law school and then had stayed home with the children (and eventually her parents), although her friends said she'd been talking about going back to school.

In what? Reyes said.

Oh, I don't think she knew, said one friend.

Another, leaning closer, said in hushed tones, She said once she wanted to be a nutritionist. Under the circumstances, Reyes couldn't even blame her for saying it as if Mrs. Cho had announced she wanted to be a Satanist.

The priest, a soft-handed, soft-eyed man in his early forties, had been almost incoherent with distress. She was a regular communicant, he blurted finally.

Take, eat; this is my body.

Todd blinked. (Reyes remembers it distinctly because he so rarely sees Solomon Todd taken aback.) Then Todd said gently, We don't believe there was any, ah, religious dimension to Mrs. Cho's aberration.

But how would they have known?

There had been no chance to interview Eileen Cho, no chance to ask about the importance of food in her life. No chance to ask about traumas in childhood, periods of privation. An eating disorder? He wonders about bulimia and binge eating, but he doesn't even have enough evidence for a responsible speculation. All he and Todd could resurrect was the image she had shown to people outside her family. Everyone who could have told them more was dead. Most of them, Mrs. Cho had eaten.

She was interrupted in her consumption of the cocker spaniel by a very very nervous rookie cop, and his testimony was clear:

She looked up, and I saw there was blood all down her front and all around her mouth. It was thick as spaghetti sauce. And then she fell over like I'd shot her. But I never fired my weapon. Not even a warning shot.

By the time Reyes made the scene—and if God exists, he's got a mean sense of humor, because, really, did the day Eileen Cho went over the top have to be the only day that year that Stephen Reyes was even in Pasadena?—Mrs. Cho had already had a string of grand mal seizures and been taken to the hospital. A stroke, but whether it was a result of her conversion, or whether perhaps a microstroke the day before had been the cause, there was no way now to tell. The rookie cop and his backup were all standing in the street, showing the whites of their eyes like spooked horses. And the dog was crying in the backyard.

Poor stupid cocker spaniel. It tried to wag its tail when Reyes approached. And he stroked its head, tugged gently on one floppy ear, said Good dog, good dog, while he drew his gun.

How the dog had lived that long, he didn't even know. She'd started eating in the middle.

Take, eat; this is my body.

And now Eileen Cho's body is in Idlewood. Aside from the aftereffects of her massive stroke, it is perfectly healthy, the body of a woman in her active middle-age. Her metabolism runs hot, as the metabolisms of betas and gammas do, but not abnormally so (Can you have a norm of the abnormal? Todd wrote in the margin of Reyes' report: Also, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck?). Her aberration has not repeated itself.

Most of the time, her body seems empty to Reyes, even though it moves and reacts. Sometimes it answers questions. Sometimes the answers even make sense. But they tell him nothing about who Eileen Cho was before the anomaly got its claws into her. This body contains nothing, or almost nothing, of the person Eileen Cho was, the person who went to church every Sunday, volunteered twenty hours a week at her co-op, wanted to be a nutritionist. He's not even sure, really, who he's talking to. Is it some echo of Eileen Cho, as the moon echoes the sun's old light? Is it a person, no matter how damaged, no matter that it does not remember who it is? Is it the thing that ate its young, the thing that did not kill the dog before beginning to devour it? He wonders—and he knows Todd wonders, although they try hard not to talk about this particular unanswered question—if the dog was typical of her M.O.

Did she eat them all that way, still alive and starting from the middle?

It's not a question he can ask Mrs. Cho, either. He can't ask her about anything that isn't there in the room with them; she has no ability to distinguish between past and present, no ability for abstract thought of any kind. Even at her most coherent, on the days when there's almost a human being behind her eyes, she never knows his name. She never knows her own name. He asks her, Who are you? Sometimes she doesn't answer. Sometimes she gives a random noun: soap or table. Most often, echolalic, she says, Who who who.

She may not remember her aberration at all, and that is, in fact, the most likely hypothesis. But sometimes he thinks she does remember. Sometimes he thinks something in her is laughing at him.

Which is nonsense, and he knows it. Subterfuge is as far beyond her reach as the moon.

And those are her good days, when she can feed herself and seems to recognize her nurses. On bad days, she reminds Reyes of the old joke about how turtles divide the world into two categories: Food and Not-Food. Except for Mrs. Cho, there's no division. She eats facial tissues, her own hair, dirt from the potted plants. She has been interrupted trying to eat plastic cups, pillowcases; once a nurse came in and found her gnawing on the upholstery of her room's only chair. On other days, she seems not to know how to eat at all. Even if they put the food in her mouth, it just falls out again.

Is she refusing food when she does that?

Reyes doesn't know; the Idlewood doctors don't know. If she is refusing food, should they let her die? It wouldn't take long. And, crucially, she has the right. Reyes itches to say yes, to let her go in the only way he can, but two things hold him back:

1. The possibility that they can learn something from a living gamma—even one as tenuously alive as Eileen Cho—that they will never learn from the dead ones. He has a crushing weight of dead gammas, both suspected and confirmed, a filing cabinet full of autopsy reports. Living gammas are a rare commodity, and he can't bring himself to waste one, even while he despises himself for thinking of a human being as a research tool.

2. The possibility that leaving her to starve will trigger another aberration. How much of Idlewood's staff could she eat before she was stopped? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?

And then there's the superstitious reason, the one he won't admit even to Todd: his feeling, when he looks at Eileen Cho's husk of a body, that the anomaly wants him to kill her. That it has offered her up as a sacrifice expressly in order to force him to take it. That having consumed her, and consumed through her, it now wants her to be consumed—metaphorically, if it can't manage better.

Projecting, Stephen, he scolds himself. There's no evidence that the anomaly is AWARE. There's certainly no evidence that it's aware of YOU.

But still, no matter how hard he fights the stupid, tired impulse to anthropomorphize, Eileen Cho's all-but-empty body looks like a taunt.

Take, eat; this is my body.

Reyes really wishes they wouldn't call her Mrs. Chow.


Ashton, Virginia, June 2007

Joseph Lawrence Hakes hasn't seen a live human face in three years. Daniel Brady wonders if that's better than the only possible alternative.

We should never have brought that one in, he thinks, not for the first time.

Brady watches on four high-res monitors at the guard station as Hakes finishes dinner. Hakes can't dawdle over his food, not when it's served in a potato-starch-based paper dish that begins to soften as soon as it's filled. His shovel-shaped spoon is waxed cardboard, like a Dixie cup. It's a place setting reserved for the most dangerous sons of bitches in Idlewood, the ones who know what they are and like it just fine, thank you.

Other residents eat off (break-resistant) china with normal forks and spoons. The doctors on staff say normal is calming, reassuring, safe. People who feel safe are more willing to consider the possibility that, just maybe, the thing that prompts them to hurt and kill and destroy might be wrong.

Besides, Brady reasons, anything else would remind the residents they're big damn scary monsters. That's not the kind of pep rally a place like Idlewood needs. Brady suspects the doctors share his reasoning and just won't admit it.

The food itself is pretty good. Most of the inmates haven't been sentenced in open court by a jury of their peers, so they can't justifiably be tortured at mealtimes. Besides, the nutritionist and the supervising cook are part of the research staff. How to feed a gamma, and why, and whether it makes a difference in what they are: that's their part of the experiment.

Hakes swallows the last of his chicken stroganoff over brown rice and pushes the dirty utensils through a hatch in the wall. Beside Brady, a woman in the discreet gray uniform of Idlewood's security staff taps a button that locks the hatch and turns the light on the console next to it from red to green.

This guard station is out of the direct line of sight (imagining lines of sight that pass through heavily-reinforced walls) of any of the cameras in Hakes's room. When Hakes stares unblinking at a camera lens, which he often does, he's not staring in the direction of the person at the console. The meal hatch doesn't lead straight to anywhere; the belt that rolls food from the kitchen to that opening angles in the middle. Standing in Hakes's room, there's no way to tell what vector has another human being at the end of it.

Overkill, probably. Nothing in Hakes's mythology or past murders suggests he can induce acute hemorrhaging in someone he can't see. But nobody wants to be the person at the guard station who learns the evaluation is wrong—who bleeds out through the ears, nose, mouth, anus, and eye sockets before he or she can get out of range.

And if Hakes can't do it now, who knows? He might learn. We're just making sure, Brady thinks, and feels his mouth twist as if he'd said it out loud.

Joe Lawrence Hakes is a monster. There's no sure where he and things like him are concerned.

Interviewing Bloody Larry, says the guard beside him. It's the first time she's spoken since he introduced himself and told her what he was there for. Guess you drew the short straw.

Her voice brings his attention back to now. The guard is tall and broad-shouldered, with cropped, curly black hair. Below her short-sleeved uniform shirt, her arms are ribbed with muscle. Her face shows sympathetic disgust, as if he'd told her about a container lost in the back of the refrigerator for six months.

As if his next half-hour can be thrown out, washed out, deodorized, and forgotten.

Brady looks at the monitors, where Hakes sits easy on the edge of his bed, his small, bony hands clasped on his lap, staring up and to the left at the camera in the corner.

If I didn't do it, somebody else would have to, he tells the guard, and leans forward for the microphone switch.


Ashton, Virginia, September 2008

Approximation: One in five children experiences some sort of sexual abuse. The rate is higher for girls than for boys.

Fact: Ninety percent of childhood sexual abuse victims never tell.

Fact: The most commonly reported perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse are fathers and stepfathers.

Fact: Ninety-five percent of such abusers were abused themselves as children.

Fact: Media portrayals aside, most abused children do not go on to abuse others.

Fact: Child sexual abuse is more common in alcoholic families, possibly because alcoholic families have permeable boundaries and confused parent-child relationships.

Fact: Children sexually abused by trusted authority figures grow up with broken boundaries and fractured senses of themselves. Consequences include biting, rocking, eating disorders, incontinence, dissociation, substance abuse, psychopathology, and inappropriately sexualized behavior.

These are the fact about abuse.

Fact. Sure. It sounds like hard statistics, the sorts of things Nikki Lau's colleague Chaz might spout without pausing... until the pretty, gaunt, brown-haired victim of that abuse came around the interview table and tried to curl up in his lap and nibble on his ear.

Fact: When she thinks about Jessi Kelly, Lau's fingernails pinch her palms. Abuse. She wants to shake somebody, slap them. Scream, Call it what it is. Long-term sexual exploitation. Slavery. Rape.

Fact: Jessica Kelly's father—the rapist—and her mother—the collaborator—do not come to visit her at the Idlewood Institute For Mental Health.

Fact: Jessi Kelly is twenty-six years old as of last August. She'll have been in Arkham for nine years, come April. A third of her life. She will never see the sky, except through barred windows, again.

Fact: Jessi Kelly is one of the good guys. She believes it deeply, passionately, with the conviction of the adolescent and the insane. She believes she is a superhero. She believes that she saved both herself and the man who—between the age of five and the age of seventeen (twelve years, half as long again as she's been in Idlewood)— repeatedly raped her. She believes she saved them both from the monsters who wanted to destroy them. Who wanted to keep them apart.

Facts are not truths, though, and Nikki Lau knows the truth about sexual abuse.

Truth: This is why Nikki Lau goes to visit Jessi Kelly in her internment. Interment. Both.

Every month. Without fail.


Ashton, Virginia, August 2006

Clemson McCain is no Hannibal Lecter.

Reyes saw The Silence of the

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