The Drafter

Page 39

Memory tried to rise, shredding even as she focused on it. “I shot my own anchor?”

“You lost everything.” Allen made a helpless gesture. “It seemed cruel to bring him up. Maybe … you forgot on purpose.”

Never, she thought as two men ran down the hallway. Peri sat, stunned as her world shifted and resettled. Jack had been her anchor, and now he was dead. What it meant was that apart from the memories tied to her talismans, the last three years of her life were beyond recall. She was probably suspected of being a turncoat as well. “He’s dead?”

His hands still cradling hers, he nodded. “I’m so sorry.”

The subtle clues that had been telling her Allen was wrong now added up. Ruth’s words in the reception office, her pity. Hell, Ruth knew more of her past than she did. “Did I love him?” she asked softly. Emotions never die, even when the memories tied to them are erased, and judging by the amount of bitterness in her, she must have loved him deeply.

“Yeah,” Allen said tightly, as if it bothered him. “Yeah, you did.”

Something in Peri snapped. Maybe it was the drugs wearing off, but she was suddenly ticked. “I want my memory of tonight back,” she said. “You were there. I want everything you saw. Now. Right now.”

She tried to stand, falling back into the chair when the pinpricks rose in a new wave. Silas had accused her of being a dirty operative, and the only one who knew if she was—Jack—was dead.

“It’s going to get better, Peri,” Allen said. “I promise. Give it some time.”

Time? Peri started when Bill came in through the open door. “Peri.” The head of Opti’s agents looked both irate and comforting, his hands extended. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

Peri blanched, feeling the strength in his hands as he took hers. “Tell me you got him.”

But his creased brow said otherwise. She watched Allen closely as he stood, deciding that he was truly upset, not acting, and something in her eased—just a little. No wonder Allen had been pinging her paranoia meter. She’d probably known him less than a day.

“Not yet, but we will.” Bill gripped her shoulder reassuringly. “We know who he is.”

“Silas, right?” she said to shake a reaction from him. “From the alliance.”

Bill hesitated, his hand falling away. “How … He told you his name?”

Two lab techs went by, talking excitedly. Peri looked up at both men, feeling out of control. “He also mentioned Jack. My previous anchor?”

Bill’s eyes darted to Allen. Allen raised his hand as if to say “What could I do?” adding, “Bill, I know you wanted a clean break for Peri, but Denier told her she killed her last anchor because he had her doing non-Opti-sanctioned tasks. She doesn’t know any more than that.” His hand found hers, giving it a squeeze.

“Am I a dirty operative?” she whispered. Damn it all to hell, how could I love someone who could try to kill me?

“Good God, no. But Jack was,” Bill said, surprised. “I never would have guessed it. Maybe it’s good you lost the last three years. Start fresh with Allen. This might be a blessing.”

Allen’s fidgeting became obvious. “I’m not taking her home until I know that alliance nutcase is apprehended.”

“I agree,” Bill said sharply. “I was going to check you in for observation—”

“I’ll regain more at home than in the hole,” Peri protested, but Bill had a hand in the air, asking for patience.

“But if the alliance has gained access here, the entire campus is suspect. You need some time off. Both of you,” he said, voice demanding obedience. “Go to Allen’s tonight, try to get some sleep, and we’ll get you an early a.m. flight out to somewhere warm.”

She didn’t want to go to Allen’s, but a hotel would have been worse. Someone was lying to her, and all she could do was trust her gut.

Too bad her gut was telling her to run.



Peri hated the airport chairs in the Detroit terminals. They were not made for the comfort of passengers, despite what they claimed: the worst of them had a severe slope that was supposed to be relaxing but wasn’t. She had to believe the open back was there so security wouldn’t have to worry about what people were leaving behind.

Knees crossed, she sat out of the late-morning sun glinting through the windows, fingers swift as she knitted, purled, knitted, purled the edge pattern of a scarf she didn’t remember buying the yarn for. It was easier than she remembered, and she didn’t even have to watch what she was doing. Clearly she’d been knitting a lot the last three years—which wasn’t very cheering since it was an Opti-encouraged activity to relieve obsessive-compulsive stress.

Across from her, two Opti security agents bitched about the Big Ten being renamed to include an expanded twenty teams. A projected, muted TV hung over them, the code to listen in on an intuitive phone flashing for attention. Peri sourly glanced at her glass phone, wondering if it was intuitive or just smart, and how long it would take to find the right app to change the station. Good Lord, when did Twitter get its own TV channel?

A third female guard had accompanied Allen in search of coffee. It was the second trio of security they’d had since leaving the hospital. That the detail had camped out in Allen’s hallway was probably why she hadn’t slept well, but at least she knew why she and Allen weren’t cohabiting. He’d been her anchor only a day, and she wished Bill had let her return to her apartment to at least pack a bag. What Allen had come back with looked great but lacked functionality.

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