The revenger, p.12
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       The Revenger, p.12
 

           Debra Anastasia
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  “Mommy, you wrecked the castle.” Sara looked confused as she reached up, her little hand wiping away her mother’s tears.

  “I’ll build you a million more. I just needed your hug.” Savvy held her daughter tightly as she turned to look at her husband’s face. He smiled like he always did when he saw her unexpectedly.

  “Kal, I’m so sorry I turned the van the wrong way. It should have been me.” Savvy leaned into him and kissed him.

  Their kiss tasted like home and tears.

  Kal moved Savvy’s hair behind her ear. “It wasn’t a mistake, beautiful Savvy. You had to survive.”

  “No, no this is not surviving. Without you guys, I’m nothing. Life is nothing worth fighting for.” Savvy hugged Sara tighter. “Tell me I’m here with you, that I’m done now.”

  Sara coughed. “Mom! I need to breathe!”

  Savvy let her go reluctantly, and Sara turned to rebuild the sand castle. Kal held open his arms, and Savvy rushed to place her heart next to his.

  He spoke to her forehead between kisses. “You know I’m always with you. We both are.”

  Savvy’s chin crumpled a bit; she was afraid of what he would say next. “I get to stay here with you, right? Just tell me that.”

  “Not yet, baby.” He rubbed a soothing hand on her back.

  “No! Kal, don’t make me—this is where I need to be! I can’t lose you again.” Panic took a foothold in her stomach, bubbling and growing.

  The beach was empty now except for the barking dog and her family.

  “Mommy! You have a puppy! What’s his name?” Sara grabbed Savvy’s hand.

  The dog jumped and spun around like he knew he was the topic of conversation.

  “I didn’t name him, sweetness. What do you think his name should be?” Savvy always made time for Sara, even if the conversation with Kal was important.

  “He looks really special. He looks like a Trooper!” The dog accepted Sara’s excited hug.

  Kal touched Savvy’s face. “You have to go back and fight. It’s very important.”

  Savvy shook her head. The sky over the beach grew darker. “I don’t even know what to fight for.”

  Sara smiled and scratched Trooper behind his ears. The dog let his tongue loll out the side of his mouth.

  “You just fight the bad guys and keep the good people safe,” Sara said.

  Savvy didn’t like the idea of Sara knowing about the evil she’d just been facing.

  “I was fighting to be here with you.” Savvy’s voice cracked. “Unless I’m not supposed to be?”

  The horror of reality crashed over her. Of course a woman selfish enough to let her family die in an accident didn’t deserve sun and sand castles and hugs.

  Kal must have read her thoughts. “No, you do,” he said. “You deserve every damn thing we have here and more. Know that we love you—you’re not alone.”

  The sand in the distance began falling away, the horizon coming closer and closer.

  Dread filled Savvy. “Come with me. Sara, come here.”

  The little girl walked over calmly, as if the whole world wasn’t crumbling around them.

  Kal whispered, “We aren’t in danger. You’re just going back. Trust yourself, okay? Stop trying to die. You’re there for a reason.”

  Pain climbed her body like a ladder, rung after rung of increasing physical torment.

  Her daughter held her hand as it began to go numb and shake. “We love you, Mommy.”

  Savvy closed her eyes, and when she opened them, she was looking again at a dark sky. The moon highlighted the relief on Boston’s face—and the evil of Sagan’s.

  Boston brushed the sand off her cheek. “Stay with us, okay, badass? Did you have to take on three men?”

  Savvy tried to ignore Sagan’s presence. The stifling pressure his ring put on her was back in spades.

  “Looks like I’m not bulletproof after all. The dog stays with me.” Her words were hushed, but they caused her whole chest to ache. She decided not to say any more.

  Much to her annoyance, Sagan carried her like a baby back to the house, and Boston carried the dog’s limp form behind them.

  His jaw clenched. “I knew I shouldn’t have let you go. Now you’re broken and maybe dying, for God’s sake.”

  She closed her eyes and tried to picture her time with Kal and Sara. She supposed she’d earned it by eliminating the men with red auras, but it had felt final—like she wouldn’t see them again, wouldn’t feel them again, no matter how hard she killed Sagan.

  She prayed she was wrong as they laid her on a huge bed in a room on the second floor. She petted Trooper’s fur after Boston laid the dog within her reach.

  Moments later, a plain-looking man began examining her as he introduced himself. “Hello, Savvy. They call me Doc. I’ll be helping you recover.”

  Chapter 20

  Watching

  The next day, Silas looked at his ring as the helicopter lifted off. The last thing he wanted to do was retreat. But his conversation with Doc ran through his mind again as the pilot maneuvered the ’copter over the water.

  “You want the honest truth?” he’d said. “She should be dead. Easily. There’s no way an injury like hers would ever heal. Somehow she’s still fighting, but her vitals drop when you’re around. There’s something about your presence that seems to change how her body responds. She gets worse, instead of better. You’ve told me she lives or my family dies. So I’m going to have to be direct here: I think she needs time away from you.” The doctor had clasped his hands behind his back.

  Silas had touched his fingertips together as he sat at his desk. He liked immediate gratification. And Savannah was anything but. He’d dismissed the doctor without giving the man any mental release from his torment.

  Boston was next, called to the carpet in front of him like a misbehaving child.

  “And you think?” Silas had looked sternly at his best man.

  “I think she’s suicidal half the time. If you want her to fight to live, you have to make sure she has a desire to do so.”

  “Suggestions?” Silas watched as surprise registered briefly on the former Marine’s face. Opinions were not something he often sought.

  “Let her recover. And let her keep the dog. A glimpse of her brother alive would do wonders.” Boston shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

  “That sounds like kindness. I like the fight in her.” Silas stood and walked toward Boston, but the man just nodded. He’d shared his view and seemed to have nothing more to say.

  And now Silas was in the air, essentially with his tail between his legs. The ring he wore to protect himself was powerful, disorienting, and ultimately harmful to the girl. And until he could pump a few of his soldiers with Compound E, she was his best weapon and favorite toy. So he would let Savannah heal, watching her remotely and more closely than he would admit to anyone. And he’d have his chemist make a few adjustments to the ring.

  *~*~*~*

  Two days after he’d met her in the middle of the night, Toby sat with Teresa in his apartment. Good thing he’d kept it even while living with Savvy, as he couldn’t bear to be in her place while she was missing. It kept him on edge, thinking every moment she might walk through the door.

  Teresa had been a ghost until his phone had buzzed today with the message to order a pizza with pepperoni. When he called the number she’d given him, a pizza did indeed arrive with an address slipped under one slice. The hijinks he and Teresa had then committed in bringing her here bordered on slightly insane. He’d followed a ridiculous number of clues to end up in this very room with her. It might have been fun had she not been so serious. She’d been adamant that they were being followed, and that they not be caught together.

  She finished a sweep for whatever she thought Silas Sagan might have planted in his apartment and came up empty. “Just know, anything you say on your phone is subject to review by someone.” She handed him back his cell.

  “Noted. Now what ab
out this plan you have?” Toby motioned to the chairs at his kitchen table, some of the very few pieces of furniture he had. Decorating hadn’t ever been his top priority.

  She sat, and he joined her so they were across the table from each other.

  “I think my bosses are right. I think Sagan needs to think you’re dead. But I would like to figure out a way to get in and tell Savannah you’re alive. I’d like to work with her on the inside.” She tapped her fingers on the table.

  “Okay. What’s it like in that house?” Toby’s gaze drifted and landed on a picture his niece had drawn him on the refrigerator. Pain lanced through him.

  “Hard to know. There are many, many regulars; whether they’re all employees or a good group of hangers-on we don’t know. Drugs. Weapons. Lavish parties, orgies. And a ton of fear.” She turned in her seat to look at what had captured his attention.

  “From my niece.” He shrugged when she looked back to him.

  “I’m sorry for your loss.” She twisted her hands together.

  “Her not being here is everyone’s loss, not just mine. The world was getting a good one. Incredible little human being.” He bit his lip. “Anyway, sounds like a place that would be fairly easy to sneak into with all those bodies.”

  Teresa waited until he made eye contact. “This hasn’t been easy on you.”

  He stood. “What? My sister being missing? No. Not at all.”

  She stood too. “No, the whole thing. The accident, your sister. You’re stronger than anyone should have to be.”

  “Let’s talk about your plan.” He leveled a hard stare at her. He was in no mood to make nice with a stranger about the most challenging parts of his existence. “I have one goal: get my sister back. I’ll help you any way I can as long as that’s the endgame.”

  She nodded. “Understood. I feel like I have to tell you this is a ridiculously dangerous situation. We are far out-moneyed by Sagan. We may even be outmanned. I’m hoping we aren’t outsmarted by him as well, because that’s our only advantage. Well, that and you. You’re our wildcard that he won’t see coming.”

  “What do you know about Silas Sagan?”

  “Psychopath. Spoiled. Deadly. Young for all he has. Abused by his father, mentally and physically. His mother was the help. Has a need to dominate in every situation, have the last word. He gains pleasure from pain. Or at least that’s what we’ve gotten from the few who survived employment with him and were willing to talk to us.”

  Teresa opened her phone and scrolled through her messages. “Listen, I have to go. Put this number in your phone.” She showed him the screen. “When you call, order a large pizza, triple cheese, and then hang up. Either I’ll call you back from a burner phone or find you. For now? Go to work, continue to look for Savvy, but make sure you don’t go too hard. Keep your eyes open. The second I leave here, assume this place is bugged. I can’t emphasize how important your discretion is to your sister’s survival.” Teresa headed toward the bathroom. “Lock this window behind me.”

  “Wait. How long until I hear from you?” He watched as she jumped to his fire escape.

  “Soon. But probably not soon enough for your nerves. Just trust me.” She went down the fire escape like a gymnast. When she was out of sight, Toby closed and locked the window.

  Knowing Savvy was alive was good. Knowing she was shoulder to shoulder with evil people who for sure would tempt her into beating them gave him no peace at all.

  *~*~*~*

  Savvy felt the dog licking her hand before anything else. She could hear the helicopter lifting from the house and felt the intense rubber-band feeling in her chest again. She began to gasp, and the dog began to whine as Boston arrived at her side. She couldn’t even tell him what was wrong; she could only point toward the noise.

  “He’s leaving,” Boston told her. “With the ring. He’ll be out of range in a few minutes, maybe less. Just breathe—focus on that. In and out. In and out.”

  The snap came swiftly, and her body actually recoiled when power raced into her system like dam being breached. She released Boston the moment she realized she was hugging him so hard his face was purple. Then she scooted back so the gold and red marble of his aura didn’t overwhelm her.

  Propping herself against the headboard of her bed, she clung to a pillow as her chest fused itself back together. Her vision blurred and her senses cranked up. She began to cry as the pain reversed, until it was just the tiny pinpoint of the bullet’s entryway.

  And then it was over. She could see Boston watching her with wide eyes. Trooper tummy-crawled his way over to her, flipping her now-relaxed hand onto his head. She petted him absentmindedly.

  “Better?” Boston sat and took some measured breaths.

  Nodding, she wiped the tears from under her eyes, still unsure exactly what had happened. She had healed so quickly. And she felt stronger than before…possibly.

  They were quiet for a while before the doctor came in, eyes wide at Savannah’s obvious good health. After running through a basic checkup and a bewildered removal of her bandages, he left her with two Tylenol and directions to drink more water.

  Boston took a cold bottle out of his mini fridge and offered it to her after he removed the cap. She took it and swallowed the whole thing in just a few gulps. The memory of her time with Kal and Sara came to the forefront in a rush. She needed air. She pushed herself off the bed, and Boston steadied her when she teetered.

  “Careful, Lazarus. You might need a minute before you fly off the handle.”

  She swatted his hand away. “Stop pretending to care.”

  “Do you need to go for a walk?” His voice was tense.

  The cameras and recorders were still in full effect. “Yeah.” Trooper had a bit of a limp as Savvy put on jeans and sneakers. “You know what? Let’s take the dune buggy in case I get winded.” Savvy brushed her teeth and hair and noted that she needed a shower desperately. But she wanted to hash things out with Boston more.

  He nodded and allowed Savvy to lean on him on their way to the buggy. It had only two seats, but Trooper settled in Savvy’s lap as Boston popped the clutch. The sun was high in the sky as they drove. She’d been out for a while, it seemed.

  They parked the buggy without speaking to each other. Savvy lifted Trooper, who turned out to be just a little too big for the treatment.

  Boston took the dog from her arms and set him on the ground. He limped down to the edge of the beach and flopped down, biting at the waves as they splashed over his brown-and-white paws.

  “Now you can speak.” Boston crossed his arms over his chest.

  “Thanks.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm.

  He was angry, but the gold in his aura glowed bright. “Tell me,” he demanded. “Tell me how pissed you are to still be here. Give me grief over trying to keep you alive while you drank your face off and made every bad decision you could to piss off Sagan.”

  Savvy shook her head. The party seemed so long ago. Everything was different now. She watched as Boston bent and rubbed the dog’s belly. The animal looked like it was in heaven, hardly any sign of his wounds remained.

  She walked down to stand next to them, leaving their previous conversation behind. “So does he belong to anyone?”

  “Nope. The guys in the Jeep found him in a cage outside the local shelter. They have a place for people to drop off dogs.” Boston stood, and Trooper pawed the ground, demanding more attention. “At least that’s what the witnesses we found told me. Fuckers.”

  “We should probably take him back to the shelter. God knows what Sagan will do to him.” Savvy bent down and stroked the dog’s shaggy head. He was a mix of shepherd and some sort of spotted hound. A good, adorable mutt.

  “Right now you can keep him. I told Sagan he needed to leave and let you keep the dog so you would heal. So downplay the miraculousness of this whole recovery. The longer you appear weak, the longer he’ll stay away.”

  They were close now, both huddled around the dog. He put his s
erious blue gaze on her face. “I thought you were a goner. I was sure you were done. That shot? Right to the chest. I saw it happen. I was coming, but not fast enough.” Boston looked from her lips to her eyes a few times. “Don’t ask me to shoot you ever again.”

  Savvy petted the dog, but managed to pat Boston’s hand in the process. Then she stood. “I have to stop him. I have to kill him.” She shielded her eyes and looked out on the water, at a sailboat bobbing in the distance.

  “Tell me something I don’t know.” He stood as well. “You’ve said that a few damn times already.”

  She shook her head. “No. Things are different now. I did die. I died on the beach. And I saw them. I spent time with them—my husband and daughter.” She closed her eyes for a minute, getting her wits about her. “They told me I have to help the good people and stop the bad ones. This whole thing happening to me? I might have a reason for still being here. Sagan’s whole shit show? It’s evil, but it’s magnetic to me. And as you know, he’s the reason they’re gone. I have to put things right. I think that’s my purpose.”

  “He’s got me on a short leash. And you too. Your brother needs to be protected, correct?” Boston kicked the sand.

  “That’s the truth. But it feels like there’s something more.”

  “Sagan has a weapon in you. Like, inside you. That’s what makes you so strong sometimes. The chemical compound—something his scientist created—they were delivering it to him when the truck crashed, and you were exposed to it. The rest of it was compromised or burned up. As soon as he can get more, he wants to inject all of us who work for him with it.” Boston rubbed his forearm as if imagining the poison seeping into his system.

  “Just another reason to pop his head off his neck.” Savvy faced him.

  “It’s not that easy. Shit. He’s got that ring to protect himself now, and once they have a way to make more of the compound, the whole way war is waged will change. And Sagan will be in charge.” Boston bit his lip.

 
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