The Drafter

Page 38

“You can … put it in a pipe and smoke it,” Peri said, staring at the ceiling as the wonderful lassitude took over.

Silas stood, his motions fast and angry as he unplugged his tablet from both the wall and Peri. The electrodes were still stuck on her, and she suddenly felt violated. “I could almost be sorry for you,” he said. “So worried about not looking stupid that you walk out of a bar with a man you don’t even know simply because people assume you will. Intuition can only take you down a path you already know, and right now you know nothing.”

“It’s all I’ve got, ass-hat,” she said. The IV drip hung between them, and she stared at it, thinking it would be easy to rip it out of her arm. Painful, but easy. With a small nudge, she got the fingertip pulse monitor off. Silas looked at it as it thumped on the carpet tiles, clearly surprised she’d managed even that. He took a breath to say something, freezing when a voice in the hallway shouted, “He’s in there with her right now!”

“Security!” bellowed a familiar voice, and Peri smiled smugly.

“That’s Bill,” she said. “He’s almost as big as you. You’d better run, rabbit man.”

“What a waste.” Silas was shoving things in his pockets, his motions full of grace. “You didn’t see me tonight,” he said as he tucked the tablet under his arm.

“The hell I didn’t.” Peri’s pulse quickened as she shook the drug off. It had been a psychoactive sedative, not a hypnotic suggestion drug.

Frowning, he leaned over her. She drew back, thinking his skin looked … irresistibly smooth. Her focus blurred as she imagined it shining with sweat, muscles moving evenly as he pumped iron. “You didn’t see me,” he repeated, his brown eyes scrunched up.

“You’re the one who filled me up with drugs that make me want to talk, doofus.”

He pushed back, clearly frustrated. A rattle came at the doorknob, followed by a shout for the key. Jumping, Silas went for the second door, flinging it open to show a dark, tiled room beyond. “If you’re smart, you’ll keep your mouth shut.”

“Screw you!” she exclaimed, then fell back, lethargy taking its toll. Who the hell is Jack?

Allen shouted and hammered on the door. Silas ran out, his lab coat furling, shoes silent. Slowly the door arced shut.

Peri rolled her head to look when something crashed into the hall door. The frame began to split, and with another blow gave way. Allen and Bill rushed in, two security guards behind them. She wasn’t corrupt. The creep had been fishing for information.

“Where did he go!” Bill exclaimed as Allen knelt beside her.

To stay silent would take too much effort. “Through there,” she said, looking at the door.

Bill bolted, security tight behind. A buzzing alarm began in the hallway. Peri didn’t care, and she watched dispassionately as Allen took the IV out of her arm with more finesse than Silas had used putting it in. His hand was red where he’d hit the door, making it easy to see where his fingers had been broken in the past. Martial arts? she wondered, having seen the same damage on Bill’s thick hands before. Not on Silas, though. For all his size, his hands were baby soft.

“I shouldn’t have left. Are you okay?” Allen said as he bent her arm up to keep it from bleeding. “Did he touch you?”

“He drugged me,” she said, the blood seeming to rush to her head to clear it. “All he did was ask me questions.”

Suddenly still, Allen looked at her over his glasses. “What did he say?”

Peri’s focus sharpened. He was more concerned with what Silas had said than with what he might have done to her? Suspicion flared. “Who is Jack, and why did I kill him?”

Allen’s mouth closed, and he looked at the door Bill had gone through. “Ah …”

Angry, she sat up as the drug filled her with the sensation of pinpricks. So worried about not looking stupid that you walk out of a bar with a man you don’t even know simply because people assume you will. “Who is Jack?” she insisted, and Allen stood. Men ran down the hall, and the alarm cut out and started again. “Allen?”

“What did he tell you about Jack?”

“He was more asking than telling,” Peri said, then started at a distant but loud bang. The hall alarm cut out again, this time for good. “He wanted to know if I was taking side jobs and who the orders came from. Jack’s name came up. Who is Jack? Was he dirty?” Oh God, what if I’m a corrupt agent? How would I even know?

Allen pulled the rolling chair close and sat in it, elbows on his knees. “I’m sorry, Peri—”

“Stop it!” she exploded, and his head snapped up, eyes wide. “Just stop it! Everyone keeps saying they’re sorry, and I don’t know why. Who is Jack?”

Allen’s eyes searched hers, the pity in them scaring her. “Your previous anchor,” he said, and her breath caught. Silas had said she’d killed him….

“A few days ago, while on task, you found out some of your past missions weren’t Opti-sanctioned,” Allen said, and her heart pounded as she grasped another truth. She wasn’t corrupt—Jack was.

“Jack tried to kill you when you found out,” Allen continued, and Peri’s vision sharpened as she looked for the lie but saw only his regret that he hadn’t told her sooner. “We thought you were safe, but he followed us to Overdraft.” Allen’s hand was warm as he took hers. “He shot you. You jumped. Peri, I’m sorry. I wasn’t there for all of it. I can’t bring it back.”

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