The Drafter

Page 83

“I’m sorry,” Jack whispered in her dream, blood at the corner of his lips. “I don’t want you to remember me like this.”

Suddenly she realized the branch she was holding was really a rifle. Tears spotted it. She was crying. Had she shot him?

“I love you, Peri,” Jack said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t stronger.”

“Jack!” she shouted, horrified, as she dropped from the tree. Her feet landed on the scuffed wood of a dance floor, not the loamy lumps of earth. The air stank of gunpowder, and her ears were ringing. Blood covered her hands as she reached for Jack, but his eyes were empty. He was dead—dead on the floor of Overdraft.

Peri snorted awake, jerking violently. Her yarn was in a pile on the table, and beyond it was Silas working with his phone, the empty cookie plate beside him. He met her gaze, clearly startled. “Did I draft?”

“No, you fell asleep sitting at the table.” He looked at his phone. “Fifteen minutes ago.”

Her heart was pounding. Sitting up, Peri put her elbows on the table and hid her face in her hands. “I dreamed about Jack. I shot him. I shot him at Overdraft. I killed my own anchor.” I don’t want to remember this. But if I don’t, I’m going to go crazy.

Silas shifted, his shoes scuffing the faded linoleum. “It was a dream, not a fragment. Peri, please let me render something back before this gets worse.”

Maybe he’s right. Peri wiped a hand under her eyes, exhausted and drained. But what if she had been the corrupt one and she’d killed him to keep it quiet? Sniffing, she wiped a hand under her eye again. Doesn’t this place have any tissues?

Silas reached across the table and took her hand. “Let me help you remember.”

His fingers among hers were rough, and she jerked away when they were suddenly red with blood, her mind painting them with a memory she didn’t want to realize. Silas stared at her as her heart thudded. She was hallucinating, and he knew it. She couldn’t work like this. She had to find out, no matter how much it scared her.

“You’re right,” she said suddenly. “I need to go to Overdraft.”

“Now?” Silas leaned back, a hand running over his hair in worry.

“Yes, now. You’re the one who just said I needed to remember.” She had to go now, before she chickened out, and she stood, striding over to snatch up the coat Taf had picked out for her.

“I meant with careful exploration techniques, not dumping your psyche into a morass of confusion. I don’t know if I can defragment something that emotionally charged all at once. You might get nothing back, or I might fix something that really didn’t happen.”

Pulse racing, she checked the safety on Allen’s Glock, then the one on Taf’s rifle. “If we’re going to find that list, I need to know what happened last week. I need something real.” She looked over the room for more assets, finding only Silas. Breathless, Peri peeked through the blinds: people walking, Sity bikes weaving through cars, the homeless man on the corner playing music, two low-Q drones monitoring traffic.

“And you’re right. I need to render something, or I’m going to go crazy,” she said, still scanning the street. “And then how will you get your damn list? You can text Howard and Taf where we are. It’s Sunday. No one will be at Overdraft until tomorrow. Coming?”

Silas stared at her. Her stomach was in knots, the feelings of fear and exuberance a tight slurry of emotion. She was going to get some answers, whether she liked them or not.

Finally he gestured helplessly and stood. “Okay. I get Taf’s rifle, though.”



Cold, Peri shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her coat with the sour realization that the black jacket was the fourth one she’d had in as many days. Silas was working at the lock of Overdraft’s rear door, and she wished he’d hurry up about it. They were in back, where the deliveries came in and obnoxious drunks went out, since it was less obvious than the main door. The CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS sign at the front was better than the cops’ DON’T CROSS banner she’d expected. Opti was good on details.

“Are you sure there’s no alarm?” Silas’s brow was furrowed and his fingers were red from the cold. She thought they should just kick the door in, but they could try it his way.

“There wasn’t one three years ago.” Peri leaned back against the Dumpster wall and scanned the service area. The security lights were coming on, humming just off her hated 741 MHz. She was getting the weirdest sensation. She knew that she’d been here only a few days ago, but her last memory was of summer. The snow flurries and gray nothingness were disconcerting. The gas station across the street was a different vendor than she remembered, and the coffee place at the end of the strip was new. Sometimes it was easier to pretend that she’d been gone for the time she’d lost and was coming back after an extended trip. “Got it,” Silas finally said as he picked up Taf’s rifle, and she pushed away from the wall, toes cold and dread filling her. Tense in anticipation, she followed him in.

It was dark, the door to the huge walk-in cooler to one side, an unused time clock on the other. The smell of beer-soaked wood was strong, and she shivered when Silas closed the door behind them. Allen’s Glock was an uncomfortable bump in her sock, easy to reach if she was pinned to the floor.

Silas pulled, then pushed on the fire door, grunting in surprise when it shifted four inches and clanged to a padlocked stop. “It’s illegal to chain fire doors like that,” he said, but Peri stared at the cold gray links as if they were important. Her nose wrinkled, and she thought she smelled gunpowder. It wasn’t coming from their borrowed weapons.

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