But then he shifted to ease the stress on his knee, and the moment was gone. “Shouldn’t be long now,” he said. “If we’re lucky, we can make our flight. Bill will never know but for guessing at the obituaries.”
She wanted this—wanted it badly—but still … “Did it ever occur to you that we’re doing a non-Opti-sanctioned task?” she asked.
“One job on our own doesn’t make us dirty.” Allen turned to the interstate, the strip of glowing lights feeling as far away as the moon. “It’s not as if we’re doing it for money.”
If you’re not doing it for money, then you’re doing it for kicks echoed in her thoughts, lingering to make her uncomfortable. “He’s like a sliver I have to get out. Once he’s dead, I can let it go and move on, but I don’t feel like me. He took three years of my life and shoved you off a balcony. I need … closure,” she said sarcastically, thinking she sounded like Sandy.
“Let’s make it fast, okay?” Allen said. “No talking. Not even ‘You’re being held accountable for what you did.’ We do it and get out. He doesn’t even need to know we’re there until he’s dying on the floor. Three minutes—in and out.”
Peri nodded, her gaze on the black branches of the dead tree above them. “I can’t believe he hasn’t left the state, much less the city.”
“Maybe he’s calling us out.” It had almost been a whisper, and Peri snorted. “I’m serious,” Allen grumbled. “The alliance may have started an assassination corps.”
Silas doesn’t have the build, she thought, hunching down. A car was coming, the headlights bouncing across the abandoned streets marking the empty lots. “Right on time,” Peri said. It was like an itch. If she could just do this one thing, the rest of her life would fall into place, she knew it. “Why does he do this at night? It’s not like he’s got to punch a clock.”
“They only have one car, and the woman works at night,” Allen said. “The guy with the dreadlocks drops him off on the way to taking her to her mall job. He sits in the food court, soaking up the Internet until she’s done, and then they pick Denier up on the way home. Until they come back, Denier is on his own.”
And vulnerable. She jumped at the slamming of a car door as Silas got out. The darkness made Peri and Allen invisible. “See you later!” a woman called, and Silas half turned and waved at the car as it did a one-eighty and started back the way it had come.
“Let’s give him a few minutes,” Allen said.
Jaw clenched, Peri watched Silas unlock the thick padlock to get through the razor-wire fence. He left it unchained and used a second key to unlock one of the barricaded twin doors and slipped inside. Almost immediately the faint thrum of a generator rose. New light leaked out of the high glass windows that still remained.
Slowly Peri’s mood shifted. She was intentionally going to kill someone. But the need to do something was almost unbearable. “I want this done,” she whispered.
“Then let’s go.”
She stood, feeling exposed under the dead tree. In the distance, traffic sped in two lines of colored light—so many lives, and none of them would know what she did tonight. Steady, she touched her belt pack and then the Opti-issued Glock. The thrum of the generator echoed, hiding the tiny sounds of their soft-soled shoes on the old concrete. Allen was first to the razor-wire gate, carefully manipulating the chain so it wouldn’t clank. She slipped in past him, then hesitated at the main door.
“Ready?” Allen whispered.
Anticipation was a sudden, bright wire snaking through her. Breath held, she scanned the fallow lots, the city looking like mountains. There, at the far end of the street, was a man. At least, she thought it was a man. Or was it a shadow…. Her eyes narrowed, and doubt made her hesitate.
“What is it?” Allen whispered, lips inches from her ear, and she shook her head.
“Nothing.” Resolute, she shifted the door just enough to slip inside. Allen was right behind her as they entered the scarred lobby. Grit ground between her and the marble floor, the sound muffled by the drone of the nearby generator. Power cords snaked deeper into the building. Barren walls and gouged marble swept clean by hazmat teams had left a scoured beauty. She couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the old building, a shell with only fragments and pieces left to rebuild itself, and her doubts pushed to the forefront. For the first time, she felt like a killer.
He has to die.
Peri’s heart clenched in ache when she looked past a dented, modern door and into the auditorium. There wasn’t much left. The musty blue seats were gone, leaving only a massive, echoing space with barren walls, lorded over by the broken balcony. Most of the Neo-Renaissance carvings and relief had been chipped or were missing. Water had damaged the once polished wood, and the white marks where the rot had been cut out of the stage were stark in the bright lights hanging from scaffolding. But her skin tingled as she remembered the power of three thousand people crushed into space designed for half that, all of them living to the same sound for just that moment in perfect understanding.
A card table desk with a metal chair was dead center on the high stage. A laptop was open on it, looking like a prop in an apocalyptic play. The scent of rotted carpet mixed with the clean smell of cut wood. Her eyes rose, and she blinked fast. The dome was intact where the water from the leaking roof hadn’t reached, the colors and gilt looking as bright as the day they’d been painted. Eastown isn’t gone yet, and neither am I.