The Drafter

Page 40

The sleek white cashmere sweater she had on fitted tightly in all the right places and the wide collar fell off her shoulder to show her neck, but it would be problematic in a fight. She remembered buying the fitted jacket, lined with silk to be light and free-moving as well as warm. A matching black cap sat atop her carry-on, the red embellishment accenting her earrings, necklace, and nails. Black traveling pants finished it off, the traveling designation meaning they had pockets deep enough for her to stuff her ID, ticket, and phone for easy access. The boots from last night were still on her feet, but no knife in the sheath. She looked good—good enough to feel good—but the only thing on her mind was worry.

Fingers fumbling, she looked down at the soft red as she worked. I killed my own anchor? No wonder I lost three years.

“What was I trying to do?” she muttered, unwinding the red yarn from her fingers and spreading the scarf flat on her leg. It was nearly done, which was why she’d brought it with her. The completed end had a dagaz made of raised purls against a flat background of knits, but the end she was working on had a weird band of odd stitches she couldn’t figure out. There was no pattern apart from three flat rows between nine individual rows of knit-and-purl nonsense.

Head tilted, she angled the nine odd lines to see if she’d been hiding an image in the knits and purls, but that would’ve needed a pattern, and there hadn’t been one in the knitting bag Bill had brought from her apartment in his attempt to give her psyche something familiar to build on.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” she mumbled, sliding the stitches off the needle to unravel it. She’d just repeat the dagaz pattern and bind it off.

Her focus went distant as she pulled the stitches out, her faint grimace deepening as she looked at the black, cheap fabric bags on tiny plastic rollers that she’d bought this morning, Allen patiently walking her through how to do it with her phone. Apparently no one used cards anymore since the system-wide hack in ’28. She was sure she had better luggage at her apartment, something with thick leather and big wheels that turned when she did. She’d tripped on her new stuff twice going from the car to security. Their escorts weren’t happy about having to check their weapons, but her knitting needles went through with no problem—the smug satisfaction of which helped rub out her embarrassment at not knowing how to pay for things.

They were on their way somewhere warm that required a passport, and she kept shoving her vague unease down. Bill had blamed the alliance as the reason to avoid her apartment, but Peri suspected that Bill knew that she, like most drafters, kept a private diary. They wouldn’t let her in until they found it and ascertained if she was dirty, or if it was just Jack. Sighing, she wrote off finding her past that way. She wasn’t on vacation, she was on paid leave while they investigated her.

The only thing that had come from her apartment besides her knitting had been a cat named Carnac whom she didn’t remember. He remembered her, though. Bill was watching him while they were gone, though it was likely his secretary who was checking the cat’s food and cleaning the litter pan.

Her head hurt, and she felt the bumps and hesitations of the knits and purls of one of those odd rows pulling out all the way to the backs of her eyes. Who names their cat Carnac?

Bump … bump, bump, bump, and a smooth patch of knits pulled from the scarf, and then bump … bump, bump, bump again, the knots thumping like dots and dashes.

Shit. Peri froze, recognizing the Morse code end symbol knitted into her scarf. Panicking, she looked at the yarn spilled on her lap like the wasted message it was. She’d knitted herself a message in Morse code in case she drafted, like writing a message on her palm. And like an idiot, she hadn’t recognized it. She’d never done that before. At least, not that she remembered.

This is wrong. Pulse fast, she looked up. Impatient businessmen and parents wrangling toddlers fought for the chance to preboard. The two security stooges across from her were oblivious, one stretching as he looked for Allen, clearly anxious now that the area was getting busy. Suddenly, she didn’t want to get on that plane.

Her mouth went dry, but her fingers moved smoothly as she carefully put the needles back on what was left. Three lines. Three out of nine.

Exhaling, she ran her fingers across the first row of knits and purls, feeling the sporadic purls as dots and dashes.


Harry? She knew him. He worked out of the Seattle office.


Shit, that was Harry’s drafter. It was a list, and most of it was gone.


Peri’s breath caught, and it was as if the world turned sideways. Bill is corrupt? My God, her world was falling apart, and if she couldn’t trust Bill, she couldn’t trust anyone.

Slowly Peri pulled the last three lines of the message out and into oblivion. Fingers winding it back on the ball, she sent her eyes over the terminal as options flashed through her. Were they people to contact? Avoid? One thing was sure: she wasn’t getting on the plane.

Giving her security detail a bland smile, she stuffed the needles and yarn into her carry-on and took out her phone. Her first delight at the new glass technology had waned somewhere between trying to find her address book and the look the saleswoman had given her when Allen had shown her how to use the purchase app. She thought it ridiculous that she could change her car’s color but didn’t know how to access her voicemail.

Muscle memory would eventually triumph, though, and she scrolled through the dialed numbers to see whom she’d been talking to. Her brow furrowed when she realized her mother’s number wasn’t on it. Allen had said she’d called her Friday. Her frown deepened at an odd exchange, and wondering if her mother had moved, she hit callback, flicking her short hair out of the way as she looked up at her and Allen’s security. They weren’t here to keep her safe. They were here to keep her from running.

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