The Intern: An Orphan X Short Story

The Intern: An Orphan X Short Story

by Gregg Hurwitz

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Overview

The Nowhere Man is a figure shrouded in secrecy—a near legendary figure who helps the truly desperate, those with nowhere else to turn who are lucky enough to be able to reach out to him. When darkness closes in, the Nowhere Man is your last, best hope.

Before he was the Nowhere Man, Evan Smoak was a highly trained government operative known to a few as Orphan X. But he now lives by hiding in plain sight, keeping his head down and his eyes clear. So when a local summer intern for a tabloid news site finds herself trailing an aggressive reporter into a crime zone, things go terribly awry. The only person who can help her is a man with the background and the skills of the Nowhere Man.

From New York Times bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz comes an electrifying, original story in his “nerve-shredding” internationally #1 bestsellling Orphan X series.

Also contains an extended excerpt from the Orphan X thriller—Out of the Dark.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250225573
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2018
Series: Orphan X Series
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 16
Sales rank: 16,288
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

GREGG HURWITZ is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the #1 international bestseller Orphan X, the first in a series of thrillers featuring Evan Smoak. He has also written young adult novels: The Rains and its sequel, The Last Chance. Hurwitz's books have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been translated into twenty-eight languages.

Hurwitz is also a New York Times bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, The Punisher) and DC (Batman). Additionally, he has written screenplays for many major studios and written, developed, and produced television for various networks.

Hurwitz resides in Los Angeles with two Rhodesian ridgebacks.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"They say this is the last place anyone saw him," Lucas said.

He never used the name, like he was afraid it was some spell that might conjure the man himself. And Aurora had learned implicitly to do the same. After all, this was Lucas's pursuit; she was merely in tow. And like most pursuits of urban legends, it was filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

"I heard from a source that after what he did here, he keeps an eye on this place," Lucas continued. "Whenever there's a vacuum on the streets, crime moves in, fills the void. Which is, like, his thing, right?"

Aurora nodded knowingly, like she was familiar with talk of sources and the streets.

They peered from the mouth of the alley at the church across the street. Yellow crime-scene tape, long dismembered by weather, curiosity seekers, and criminals, fluttered about the perimeter, snared on scraggly dead bushes like spiderweb strands. The steel front door, scorched from an explosive charge of some sort, hung crookedly from a bent hinge. The stained glass windows were blown out, pebbled glass teeth rising from the frames. A rusting drainpipe dangled at a slant from the roof, a patchwork of rot texturing the shingles beyond. The spire was slumped over at the top, like the tip of a witch's hat.

A haunted church pinning down a street corner north of Pico, within earshot of the 101.

According to the reports, a lot of people had died there.

Because of him.

A breeze cut through the graffiti-tagged alley, rippling Aurora's trying-too-hard-in-hindsight professional blouse and tightening her skin. The wind made a sound like a low moan, and she shuddered once, quickly, locking down her muscles before Lucas could notice and deploy that knowing smirk that made her feel eight years old.

He leaned against the corner, staring across at the church and sucking a nonfilter American Spirit, a guy who'd watched too much James Franco. He had a neatly trimmed beard that was full — too full for his age, like he was trying to rush the process of growing into his face. The V of his first two fingers had taken on a faintly jaundiced pigmentation at the web, testament that the cool-guy schtick had ossified into something more permanent, that running a bad habit through your early twenties could leave a permanent stain.

Still, Aurora thought, he was cute in a full-cheeked, blue-eyed way, the boy still in there, peering out, lending a blush of purity.

She was a Lowly Unpaid Summer Intern logging hours to pad out her college apps, and he was a capital-R Reporter, which meant she was supposed to look up to him. And she did, sort of. He was brash and tough and swore with a kind of entitlement, like he owned the words themselves. Just yesterday, out at coffee with perennially single Bridget, her co-editor-in-chief at the Beverly Hills High newspaper, Aurora had caught herself emulating Lucas's loose-limbed cynicism.

Bridget had leaned over her steaming flat white, eyes round and earnest: "You hear about that senator from one of the square states who got busted accidently sending a dick pic to his own wife?"

"Oh, Bridget," Aurora had sighed, one arm flung over the metal curve of the chair back. "They all do shit like that."

Bridget had straightened up. "What does that even mean? Senators? Midwesterners? Men?"

Aurora had no idea.

Now she shuffled forward next to Lucas and snuck a glance at him. He scowled into the breeze, his eyes picking across the dilapidated church as if hoping that he would appear suddenly, in a ghostly float at one of the windows.

"What do you want to do?" she asked. They'd been huddled in the alley for almost an hour.

Lucas ignored her. Were it anyone else, she would have taken offense, but she chalked it up to his well-cultivated midtwenties ennui, that hard-bitten affect she assumed he'd earned working a hard beat.

A shitty beat, sure. But also a hard one, as she'd learned quickly enough.

TMN!, an online-only tabloid operation run out of a beat-to-hell apartment in the same Beverly Hills-adjacent neighborhood Aurora had grown up in, ran a lean operation, deploying two-person teams in place of camera crews. It was simple. And cheap. One Reporter armed with brashness and nerve, willing to interrupt celebrities enjoying their gluten-free lunches to ask about divorces, affairs, a recent stint in a recovery facility. And one Lowly Unpaid Summer Intern armed with an iPhone, at the ready to memorialize the confrontation with shaky footage befitting the site's catch-as-catch-can vibe. The videos were purposely low-res, easily downloadable and shared across social media platforms. Throw in a click-bait headline to chum the waters, and the advertising revenue trickled in, just enough for Today's Maximum News! to squeak out a profit.

For not the first time, Aurora wished she belonged to one of the shiny, rich families her classmates originated from — families that bought you German cars when you turned sixteen, vacationed in Turks and Caicos, and had lots of important friends who could get you real internships at places you didn't have to lie about when people asked you what you were doing this summer. She was used to it, the lying. What was she supposed to say when her classmates asked what her parents did? I never knew my dad and my mamá cleans houses — maybe even yours?

So Today's Maximum News! it was, staking out AA meetings, trendy cafes, after-hour clubs, hoping to catch someone looking great, feeling ragged, showing off a new baby bump.

This assignment was different though. This was a real assignment, like the kind she wanted to do if she could scholarship into a decent journalism program somewhere. Lucas had been working the story for months, waiting on a break.

So here they were.

"Why's he fascinate you so much?" she asked.

He squinted across the street some more. She thought he was going to ignore her again, but then he flicked away his butt, shot streams of organic tobacco smoke through his nostrils, and favored her with a glance.

"He says he helps people," Lucas said. "But no one really helps anyone. I mean, I got into USC on my own, got a communications degree on my own."

"You paid for college yourself?"

He looked away quickly. "Look, all my friends got down payments on their own houses when they graduated college. All I got was a fucking watch."

He showed off a stainless steel Breitling, worth half of what Aurora's mom made in a year, jiggling it around his muscular wrist with disdain.

She nodded, feeling that dumb-girl urge to fit in, to want him to like her, to be worldly and cooler than she was. A tangled mess of stupidity in her chest, inflamed with guilt cuz she should know better. Her mamá didn't raise her to agree with nonsense like this. Or — especially — to have any part of her that wanted to agree with it.

What she'd give to not care.

Lucas was so effortless at it. And he seemed to know so much that she didn't.

About everything.

He flicked his chin back at the church. "You see the autopsy report?" he asked, as if there was any way she had. "Gang leader's name was Freeway. Crazy fuck tattooed the whites of his eyes. The medics didn't know what they were looking at when they retrieved the body. They thought he was, like, diseased. Or possessed."

She made a noise in the back of her throat that even she didn't understand.

"They found the other bodies sprawled all over the church," Lucas said. "But —" He caught himself, almost having spoken the name. "But he stalked Freeway. Out of the church. 'Round the corner. To some bodega. Cut him up. And our guy, he knows where to cut." He seemed to enjoy her discomfort. "If I can get anything of this guy on film, do you have any idea what that'd do for my career? I'd finally get out this shithole job, move on to a real paper."

He smoothed down his hair and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

"Wait," she said, "where you going?"

"We been waiting here two hours," he said. "Time to look inside."

"Are you sure that's safe?"

He grinned at her. "That's cute."

Her face burned, a simmer she could feel beneath her full cheeks.

"I mean, not in a bad way. Just — you're so young."

"I'm not that young," she said.

"C'mon," he said. "High school's rough for girls. I mean the whole thing. Trying to figure out the world. It's a big place. Having to put up with guys who don't know what they're doing, pawing away at you. God, I remember we used to get drunk and have lipstick parties —"

"What's that?"

He laughed. "Google it." His eyes dropped below her chin. "Wait till you get with a real man who treats you right. Ever really been treated right?"

"Yeah," she said. "Sure."

He had that gleam in his eyes, the one that said he knew better. "Okay, then," he said, walking across the street.

They threaded through a break in traffic, stepping through the remnants of the crime-scene tape. She felt her heart juddering in her chest.

Lucas knuckled the crooked front door open. It moved about nine inches and screeched to a halt, jammed against the floor. He slithered through and she followed, her breasts compressing painfully against the frame.

She turned and blinked into the diminished light of the church.

The pews were knocked over, pocked with bullet holes. A few overturned tables lay awkwardly, metal legs stuck up like cartoon dead animals. Electronic scales, the types she recognized from her mala-influencia cousin's apartment, lay shattered to the side.

A camouflage pattern of dark stains textured the floor of the nave. The carpeted stairs to the back hall were torn up. The old wooden altarpiece, splintered in the raid, sported a spray of elliptical drops that cast a spotted veil across the Virgin Mary's face.

Aurora felt her gorge lift. "Is that ...?"

"What do you think it is?" Lucas stepped forward, toed a scattering of stained glass shards. "This is great stuff," he said, shoving his phone at her. "Start recording."

She fumbled with it nervously, touched record. "Are you sure we should be —?"

A boom startled them both, making a punishing echo off the high ceiling. They whipped around to see two figures behind them. One of them had kicked the front door shut, jamming it back into the frame.

Aurora instinctively took a step back, holding the phone low at her side. The dark forms regarded them from the shadows. Then eased forward into a shaft of light from the shattered window above.

Faux military boots, shirt sleeves torn off at the shoulders, shaved heads glistening with sweat. But that wasn't what put a lurch into Aurora's stomach. It was the swastika, inked in prison-blue, on the leaner man's forehead.

"Look, Ryan," the man said. "Looks like we stumbled across some tourists."

The bigger guy scratched at the side of his neck hard enough to leave red streaks. A tattoo lined down his bulky forearm read STURMER. He eyed them. "So, tourists," he said in a pack-a-day rasp. "You like the view?"

Aurora was painfully aware of her brown skin, her long eyelashes, her gold cross pendant. Her throat was frozen, seized up.

Fortunately, Lucas spoke for them both: "Look, man. We're not here to start any shit."

"Well," Ryan said. "That's a relief." He showed his teeth, something like a smile. "So then ..." His hand spun in the air. "What are you here for?"

"We're looking for ..."

The neo-Nazis side-eyed each other. "Looking for what?"

"Not what," Lucas said. "Who."

"Well then, chief," Ryan said. "Who?"

At Aurora's side, Lucas swallowed audibly, a dry click. "The Nowhere Man."

Sturmer laughed and Ryan pulled at his mouth, tugging his cheeks downward, making his eyes sag at the outer corners. "The Nowhere Man. You believe that shit?"

"Don't know," Lucas said. "I'm not a fan of his. I'm sure you guys aren't either."

"Oh, right," Ryan said. "We're on the same side, you and us."

Sturmer said, "But what about Conchita here?"

"I'm a reporter," Lucas said. "Looking into it. She's just the intern."

"Is she now?" Sturmer's eyes jittered left to right, which, along with the sheen of perspiration, showed he was riding some kind of high. "How nice that you employ her. When so many are out of work."

"It's unpaid," Lucas said, as if that was the point. "An unpaid position."

"This is our house now," Ryan said, spreading his arms to encompass the church. "The spics got themselves wiped out. So we moved in."

Lucas showed his palms. "Okay," he said. "That's fine with us. Really."

The two men stepped forward, and Aurora moved back again, stumbling over one of the broken scales. She was finding it hard to breathe. The phone was at her side, still recording, but the men didn't seem to notice. Turning it off would just call attention to it.

"That's a nice watch," Ryan said to Lucas. "I was gonna buy one of those. Think it might look good with, ya know, my skin tone."

The silence was deafening.

"Huh," Lucas said.

Ryan held out his palm. "Can I see it?" Lucas stared at them.

They stared back, Sturmer's head cocked a few inches to the left.

"My dad gave it to me," Lucas said.

"Very cool," Ryan said. "Intact families are important." He kept his hand steady. "What? I'm just gonna take a look."

Lucas hesitated another moment. When he undid the clasp, Aurora saw that his fingers were shaking. He placed the watch into Ryan's outstretched palm.

"Beautiful." Ryan admired it in the light, and Sturmer made a noise of approval.

"Look," Lucas said. "We gotta get going. Can I ... Can I have my watch back?"

Ryan slid the watch into his pocket. "What watch?"

Sweat beaded on Lucas's forehead. "Okay," he said. "Okay. We're just gonna be on our way."

"Are you now?" Sturmer's eyes clicked over to Aurora, piercing her.

She felt suddenly naked. She was perspiring, her blouse clinging, and she wondered how much it showed of her stomach, her chest.

Lucas stepped backwards toward the altar and the exit beyond, his shoes crunching glass. Aurora followed his lead.

The two men stayed put, staring at them.

They reversed up the carpeted stairs. Aurora's heart was beating so loudly she barely heard what Lucas was whispering at her: "... keep recording."

She kept Lucas's phone low at her side. Now they were halfway across the altar, almost at the door.

The men watched them, faint smiles teasing their lips.

Lucas and Aurora backed into the hall behind the altar before turning and running for the rear door. They spilled out into an alley, gasping for air.

"Holy shit," Lucas said, grinning and shouldering ahead of her. "Holy shit that was close."

The alley was narrow, brick walls pinching in on them. A few rusty fire escapes hung from loose bolts, crowding the view of the overcast sky. They hurried through the alley toward the big street beyond. Aurora hustled to keep up with Lucas, the phone swinging at her side.

They were ten yards from the street when a blocky figure pivoted into the alley, silhouetted against the street beyond. He put his beefy forearm up on the wall, leaning as if bored.

Also bald.

Bigger than Ryan.

Or Sturmer.

Aurora heard the door click behind them and closed her eyes. Panic flooded her chest, flushed her face. She was having trouble getting oxygen.

The familiar raspy voice carried through the alley behind them. "I see you two met Karl," Sturmer said.

She forced her eyes open. The wind blew hard and cold, the fire escapes creaking overhead. She turned and saw Ryan eyeing her like prey.

He zeroed in on the phone. "Bitch, you recording us?"

She couldn't find words.

"I told her not to," Lucas said.

The betrayal slammed into her like something physical. She stared at him in disbelief.

Sturmer's head was cocked back, looking down the length of his face at them. "Is that so."

"Karl's got a temper," Ryan told them. "You'd best get out of here while you can."

"Okay." Aurora gave a jerky nod.

"Not you," Sturmer said, and he aimed a finger past her to Lucas. "Him."

She could smell the panic sweat coming off Lucas, a hot stink. He looked over her shoulder at Ryan and Sturmer behind them. Then swung his head to take in Karl in front of them.

Lucas bit his lip. His cheeks had colored in near-perfect circles that made him look youthful. A noise escaped him, a soft whinny. He dropped his gaze to Aurora for an instant, but couldn't manage eye contact and broke it off. He was looking off somewhere above her, and she knew she was lost.

"Look, there's nothing I can do," he said. "I'm sorry. I'm ..."

Then he turned, put his head down, and strode up the alley. At the end, he neared Karl, who stared down at him, unbudging.

In a voice almost too soft to hear, Lucas said, "Please."

Karl shifted his torso to one side, just enough for Lucas to duck beneath his arm and scurry off.

Aurora felt her legs shaking and willed them to stop. Denial washed through her. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. Could it?

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Intern: An Orphan X Short Story"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Gregg Hurwitz.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Begin Reading,
Excerpt: Out of the Dark,
Also by Gregg Hurwitz,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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