The Drafter

Page 107

“Good!” Bill said, satisfaction—and maybe relief—etching his few wrinkles. “See you in a couple of days, kiddo.”

“Yes, Dad,” Allen said cheerfully, and then his gaze went past Bill to include Frank and Sandy. “Thank you. I think this is going to be better than I ever thought.”

A warm feeling came over Peri, as if her life was finally oriented to the right place. Bill inclined his head, spinning on a heel to the door. She was going back to work, and it felt good.

“So …,” Peri drawled as Allen gathered everything into a pile. “Where are we going?”

“Not what are we doing?” he said, scanning a highlighted map.

Her hand touched the screen and it blanked, forcing him to look at her. “Where are the tickets to?”

Allen’s expression went wary. “The West Coast. Why?”

Excitement stirred. West Coast. Opti wouldn’t check on them until they were a day overdue. “You can get on that plane if you want, but I’ve got other plans.”

Allen’s brow furrowed. “Peri.”

She leaned in, her voice hardening as she said, “I want the man who took three years of my memory and tried to kill you. I want Silas Denier. He is the reason I’m having nightmares, and as long as he lives, I’ll never be able to.” Heart pounding, she leaned back, watching Allen think it over. “I don’t think you’ll be able to, either.”

Allen’s long face was a bank of emotion. “I know where he is,” Allen said, and her breath caught. “You aren’t the only one who wants to see him in the ground and forgotten.”



Peri crouched amid the dry, waist-high grass, settling her weight onto her ankles in such a way that her feet wouldn’t go to sleep or her legs tire. She could hold the position for hours, and anticipation trickled through her, bringing her alive as she studied the black silhouette of the abandoned building against the lighter darkness of the sky. Silas worked there. It was the only building standing within a mile, and looking away from Allen’s shadow shifting about the foundations, she lifted her gaze to the tree above her, seeing the first stars among its dead branches.

In the near distance, the interstate made a dull-roar ribbon of light, but here, amid one of Detroit’s deconstructed zones with the discarded fast-food wrappers and cigarette butts, it was utterly dark, the waning crescent of a moon giving no light. There was no electricity, no water. Everything that could be stripped had been. Everything not of historical value had been knocked down. New surveys had redrawn lines and sunk markers for parks, public transportation, and adequate parking. The bulldozers and train-car Dumpsters had come and gone, to leave the quiet stillness of waiting in the empty streets and vacant lots. Even the gangs avoided the deconstructed zones, needing something to break, deface, or steal.

But Peri liked the feeling of latent strength and endurance that lingered in the weedy gutters, especially when the occasional historical building was left to anchor the coming new development, the structure stabilized and wrapped with razor wire until enough backers could be found to turn the water and lights back on and the buses and new elevated tram brought life back to old Detroit.

Eastown, she thought as her eyes returned to the ugly stone and marble building behind the razor wire. The 1930s movie palace turned music arena had been little more than a crime trap and a place to get and use recreational drugs. Most of Eastown’s elegance had been stripped by the time she’d stood among its blue musty seats and screamed with the rockers, but the ceiling had been exquisitely painted in a Neo-Renaissance style, and the common areas in marble had an elegance that couldn’t be obscured by graffiti and misuse.

Silas, she thought, won’t be the first to die under the dome.

As if her thought had pulled him, Allen’s dark shadow darted from the broken edifice, his steps almost silent on the gritty street, then vanishing utterly as he found the ruined soil choked with bits of broken building and beer tabs from the seventies. In the distance, a drone passed between her and Detroit, illegal at this hour but too far away to be of concern.

“Well?” she asked when he joined her under the tree with his weight off his bad knee.

“Not bad. Some razor wire. But once we get past the chain-link fence, it’s an easy in.”

“Good.” The feeling of being a team that had begun in Overdraft had strengthened, and Peri waited, easy, enjoying the sensation of coming action. Allen was almost a different person as he crouched beside her and used his night glasses to scan the top of the old building: his anxiety was gone, the hesitation. He had, she realized, the same drive to action that she did, the same need to prove to himself that he was capable. Together they were going to get the job done, Bill be damned.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she whispered, and he lowered the glasses, his eyes in the dusky light showing his surprise.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze.

The need to apologize swam up, but she didn’t know how to frame it. Instead, she lifted her gaze to the few stars that had braved Detroit’s light pollution. “Orion is nice tonight,” she said, remembering a sky so filled with stars they took her breath away—but not who had been with her or where they’d been. It was enough.

Sighing, he looked up. “You were always better than me at finding your way in the dark.”

Her chest hurt with the need to make this work, to become whole again.

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