It didn’t matter what I’d felt. I had always understood they’d acted for Ruby’s protection. After her father had been shot shielding her from some hateful monster’s bullet while they took a walk through the park, the threats against Ruby had gone from being something to scoff at to something to actively worry over.
Her father had survived, but Ruby’s faith in the world hadn’t. She had a power, and a control of that power, that set her apart from the rest of us. It put her at the very top of our food chain and ensured there would always be a bright red target on her back for everyone who feared her and what she could do.
“You can rule out the government,” I said. “Don’t forget how many former Children’s League kids work in it. One of us would have heard about her capture or seen something come up in the various systems.”
We had friends at every level of the government, in every department. Not to mention Nico had monitors set up in the system to flag anything like that. Plus, the government was the leakiest ship out there. You couldn’t keep the capture of the most powerful Psi secret for long. Someone’s ego would eventually demand credit.
“I think they would have made an announcement,” Lisa said. “Ruby always said that the fact that she’d gotten away was more harmful to the government’s reputation than anything she could actually do to them.”
“What are you thinking?” Miguel asked me.
“I’m thinking…” I took a deep breath. “Is it a coincidence that Ruby goes missing and then someone targets me shortly after?”
“There might be something there,” Jacob said. “The timing is suspicious, and the two of you are high-profile. It could be a message to the wider world—no Psi is untouchable.”
It wasn’t just that Ruby was powerful, it was her story that mattered. She had completed the circle and destroyed the place that had held her prisoner. She was a symbol. Our symbol.
I shook my head, frustrated by all the missing pieces. “She really didn’t tell any of you what was going on, or give any clues about why she was pulling back? Was she working with any of the kids one-on-one before she left?”
“Owen,” Lisa said softly. “She’s been working with Owen. But he’s…fragile.”
“In what way?” I pressed.
“He’s a Red,” Jacob clarified. “Project Jamboree.”
That brought me up short.
“I want to talk to him,” I said, “if it wouldn’t be too hard on him.”
“You probably won’t get much,” Miguel warned. “Owen is not what we’d call a talker.”
“Would you be if you’d been subjected to that?” I said. “Not much is still more than nothing—”
The sudden, sharp ring of a phone blasted through the room, launching all of us to our feet. Jacob let out an uneasy, awkward laugh, but still darted for it. “Betty Jean Pizza, can I take your order—? Oh, yeah. She’s here. Hang on.” He turned and held out the phone to me.
With a deep breath in through my nose, I pushed myself away from the desk. I took the phone and unwound the coiled cord, drawing it back out of the Batcave and into the kitchen for a modicum of privacy.
Even with another deep breath, my words still shook. “Did it even occur to you—”
But it wasn’t Chubs.
“Shut the fuck up and listen to me. I only have a few minutes before they realize I’m gone.”
“No,” I shot back, “you listen to me for once, Vi. What the hell is going on? Ruby and Liam have been missing for two weeks and you didn’t think I would want to know? Don’t pretend like that’s brand-new information. Chubs tells you everything.”
“Of course I know,” Vida said, her tone hushed. “What do you think I’ve been doing these last few weeks? I’ve been hauling ass all over this country looking for them.”
I gripped the phone, ignoring the current of static that brushed over my fingers. My anger deflated, just slightly. “Did you find them?”
“No,” she said. “Not yet. But I’m not calling about them—I’m calling about you. Are you all right?”
“Not really,” I told her. Mel, Agent Cooper, the reporters…the memories cut through me like a hot blade. Admitting it was enough to bring tears close to the surface again. “But I’m not hurt.”
“Tell me, as fast as fucking possible, what happened.”
“You saw the footage?” I asked. “The angle—”
“It was jacked as hell,” Vida said. “I’ve seen meth labs less suspicious than that camera angle.”
The story burst out of me, the words rolling over each other in a rush to get out. “I have a phone. I took photos of the people who grabbed us—how should I get them to you?”
“I need you—and those photos—to stay planted right where you are until I get there. Don’t send the files anywhere. I don’t care how secure their network is, we can’t risk anyone tracing them back to Haven.”
“I want to do something more than sit here and wait…” I began, frustrated.
Suddenly there were voices crackling in the background on the other end of the line.
“I didn’t realize stupidity scorched retinas, Murphy,” Vida snapped at someone. “It’s a personal call. Give me a goddamn second. Yeah, to my dead mother. No, I don’t give a shit—”
“Vida?” I said. “Vi?”
“You still there?” Vida’s voice sounded thin, so unlike her. “I have to go, I’m sorry. Listen, I love you, okay? Don’t do anything stupid. Just stay where you are, and one of us will be there soon. Okay?” She paused. “Okay?”
Nothing about that was okay.
“I’m not going to just hang out while the killers are out there and Ruby’s—”
The line went dead. The shock of the dial tone wormed through me, hollowing out my core.
“I love you, too,” I whispered. I leaned against the kitchen counter for a moment, pressing the receiver to my forehead. Just as I set it down, I noticed a stack of newspapers on the counter.
The top one was from a month ago, and featured a bold headline: CEO in Chief? I picked it up, reading the first lines: As corporate fixer Joseph Moore purchases another shipping company to add to his empire of cable, cars, and containers, his supporters make the case for him to fix the highest office in the land.
I threw the paper down in disgust and turned back to the Batcave, where the three of them weren’t figuring anything out so much as arguing about it.
“It’s not the craziest idea, if they’re trying to frame her—”
“Frame who?” I interrupted.
Jacob swung around, the hands he’d been using to emphasize his words falling back to his side.
Miguel jerked his thumb toward him. “This adorable clown thinks we should bring in the two from the hole and see if they’re willing to tell us anything about the Psion Ring.”
“The only problem with that is that I don’t think they were ever actually in the Psion Ring,” I pointed out. “I really believe their story was made up on the fly.”
“I could question them,” Jacob offered. “See if they’re willing to ask me to stay, or about whoever Lana is?”
“No,” Miguel interrupted, looking unhappy about the risks associated with that. “If they lied to Zu, they’ll lie to you. I can’t keep a secret from you, but, unfortunately, that superpower only works on me.”
“We can’t keep them in there forever,” Jacob argued. “And while they don’t know exactly where the house is, I’m pretty sure they could figure it out now.”
“I’m sorry,” I told them. “I thought Ruby might be able to help with that.”
“You didn’t know.” Miguel shrugged.
Lisa passed by his chair, bringing her face close to one of the monitors. She pointed to it—to the image of Roman waving his arms and Priyanka shouting something. “They wrote something on the ground….”
Miguel swiveled back to the screens, sending the footage to the largest screen at the center. The film was grainy, but the words were still clear.
r /> TURN OFF THE PHONE
“Shit,” Miguel said, unmuting the feed.
“Turn off the phone!” Priyanka was shouting. “Turn it off!”
“What phone?” Lisa said. “What are they talking about?”
Miguel seemed to figure it out a full five seconds before the rest of us. He swept the cell phone I’d brought in off the charger. Its face glowed as it was turned over. He only needed one look at it to start breaking it apart. “Shit!”
“Wait!” I cried. “The photos—!”
The walkie-talkie on Jacob’s belt suddenly flared to life with crackle of static. “Jay? They’ve been going on for ten minutes—”
I felt it then, the flare of sudden heat against my nerves, the electricity moving through the nearby wires as it intensified from a hum to a scream.
A second later, Haven’s power shut off.
IN THAT MOMENT, IN THAT darkness, no sound could possibly have been more terrifying than the clang of bells as the old-fashioned trip wires surrounding the house were set off.
But then I heard a little girl scream.
Miguel shot to his feet and started for the door that led outside. I caught him, holding him in place.
“The generators—” he began.
He was so much taller and heavier than me, I struggled to keep him in place until Jacob helped me. “We don’t know what’s out there.”
“Yeah, and we won’t if I don’t get the cameras and emergency floodlights on!” he said, finally wrenching away.
Lisa blocked the door, holding out both arms. “We don’t have time. You and I need to get the kids and get to the trapdoor.”
“The power—” he protested.