The revenger, p.17
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       The Revenger, p.17

           Debra Anastasia
 
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  “Please come back. Tell me what the hell is going on!”

  The gold in his aura flowed through her; she could almost hear the goodness under his skin, mixed with the red. At least she still had that. She could still sense the auras.

  Savvy turned in his arms, shaking her head. “It’s just…I lost something. And I might not get it back.”

  “Your wedding ring? We can get that for you if you need it.” His handsome face searched hers as his arms held her tight, his gold getting stronger.

  “No, it’s not that.” She looked away, locking her gaze on the doctor. He looked back at her hungrily. She felt like a specimen, part of a science experiment he’d like to conduct.

  “Can you take me somewhere?” she asked Boston suddenly.

  “Depends...yeah…sure.” He put his arm around her.

  Savvy ignored the doctor and went through Boston’s room to her own. She changed out of the soft pajamas someone had put her in, gently touching the gunshot wounds that were now just faint circles peppering her torso and leg. She dressed and pulled her hair into a ponytail.

  Sneakers on her feet, she leashed up Trooper while Boston waited with his car keys.

  “Where are we headed?” He stepped aside as she led the way.

  “I need to go somewhere with good people for a few minutes. Just down the road, maybe to the boardwalk?” She reached the garage and yanked open the door. Trooper bounced around happily. The dog seemed to love the car, which wrenched Savvy’s heart considering the ride that had brought him to her.

  Boston got in the driver’s seat and hit the remote. Unlike a house garage, he had to maneuver around the other cars parked there to exit. Opulence as usual. They took one of the black SUVs that hadn’t been part of the Cassos convoy.

  “How many guys died last night?”

  “It was two nights ago, and on our side or their side?” Boston asked. He put the blinker on before entering the road that led to the boardwalk. It was less than a 20-minute drive to the populated tourist spot.

  “Does it matter?” She reached over and smoothed Trooper’s head, which balanced on the armrest between her and Boston.

  “How are you feeling?” He looked at her carefully.

  “Reborn—again, relentlessly. I thought I would get to see them.” She rolled down her window and let in the morning air. “I didn’t.”

  “I’m sorry. You saved him. And me.” Boston adjusted his rearview mirror.

  All she could to was nod. That was what she had to do. For Tobias. For Boston’s wayward brother.

  “He’s thankful.”

  She shook her head at the thought. “He’s entitled. And an asshole.”

  “He can hear you. Probably.” Boston pointed to the car’s fancy interior.

  “And I bet he has one of those micropenises.” She gave the interior of the car the finger.

  “And that’s how it is.”

  Boston didn’t ask any more questions, and Savvy was happy with the silence.

  Since the accident, she’d avoided places that would remind her of her family. It was like balancing on a blade with bare feet; all she could do was switch from one foot to the other. The pain would always be there. But hugging Boston this morning had warmed her a tiny bit. Just a fraction. So she wanted to try to stand near other people who weren’t so evil. She wanted to feel better. She let her fingers dance in the breeze her open window created as the boardwalk drew near.

  Was it only two years now? Was it two years ago already? Since she’d scolded Sara for doing the same thing…

  “You’re going to get your hand chopped off by a passing truck. Pull your hand inside!”

  She’d given her daughter a hard look until she did as Savvy had asked. The boardwalk was always a favorite. Kal wouldn’t admit it, but he was a fiend for the saltwater taffy they had there. And Sara always loved the ocean. She’d worn her bathing suit under her clothes even though the water would still be ice. It had been only May.

  She remembered the moment, the way she’d stolen that gentle joy from her daughter. Yet while complying with the direction, Sara had smiled. “Daddy’s a good driver, Mommy. Seriously.”

  “Seriously? That’s a new one.” She’d looked at Kal. He’d tried to hide a smile and failed.

  Sara had turned her attention to two of her dolls, using them to act out a scene on her lap. The window was still down, and the wind had lifted her hair, pushing it into her face.

  Instead of closing the window, Sara had just kept moving it out of her face to play. So tenacious and impractical. Savvy remembered the simple things: the tiny dimples by her knuckles were a miracle, the way she was so quick to hug—strong too. The hugs were so strong.

  Savvy stopped herself. She could be lost forever in the memory of her daughter. She wanted to be lost forever in it. But she took more deep breaths and closed her window, craving Kal and Sara again.

  “You okay?”

  She didn’t answer Boston as he pulled into the parking lot. At 10:00 am, the beach was fully awake; families unpacked their chairs and towels, getting ready to have fun. She reconsidered her impulse. Nothing would give her the fix she needed. It took effort to fill her lungs, and remembering to exhale around the loss of them required concentration.

  Nevertheless, they got out with Trooper. Boston put a tennis ball in his pocket. He watched her like a bomb that might go off.

  The casual conversation she overheard about homework was the first knife in her psyche. And then the next family they passed was joking about dinner. That was another knife. She increased her pace as they went from the boardwalk to the sand, the dog trotting happily next to them. He recognized the beach as a play spot.

  It happened in a second, and her system was so primed for red, when it was eclipsed by gold, it was a shock.

  Trooper reared up when the four children approached, and Savvy took to her knee so he wouldn’t accidently hurt one. They formed a square around her, surrounding her. The pure gold filled the air as they asked questions about the dog. Boston filled them in, lying easily to create an invented past for Trooper. Meanwhile the gold filtered through Savvy’s system, taking the edge off her raw nerves. After a minute she lost her grip on the dog, who happily licked the little hands surrounding them. She could feel Boston’s hand on her shoulder, blocking a bit of the golden auras that enveloped her. Savvy brushed his hand off.

  After a few minutes Trooper ran off after the ball Boston had thrown. The children turned to watch, and he pulled her to her feet.

  “You okay?”

  She nodded, though her legs felt weak. Too stubborn to use him to stabilize herself, she concentrated on staying upright.

  Trooper was amusing the kids, yet they remained positioned around her in a square. She could see Kal’s favorite taffy shop in the distance, and instead of overwhelming sadness, she smiled.

  The sensation here wasn’t like mainlining her family—the way it had been after the beatings—but it was okay, still a reward. Savvy decided to pretend this was a gift from them. The thought that having killed those men had altered her favorite drug still scared her. She clasped her hands in front of her. Maybe before she’d killed she’d had a shot at getting to where Kal and Sara were. Somewhere on that otherworldly beach. Maybe the door was closed now. She bit her lip. The soothing balm the children provided seemed like first aid, so she pushed her deepest concerns away and just watched as the dog made the kids laugh.

  It was over too soon. Trooper collapsed at her feet and chewed the ball as the children wandered away, back to their beach towels. Boston gave her the respect of silence as she stood in the sand long after they had left.

  “I need to find out more about what’s in me.” She looked at his sunglasses, seeing her own reflection in them.

  He nodded once. “A lot of people want what’s in you, so you know.”

  “Let’s go back.”

  Trudging back to the car, she was grateful for Trooper, who seemed to have bits of the kids’ good
ness tangled in his fur.

  “How do you feel?” Boston unlocked the door with the remote while they were still yards away. “You look better.”

  “I feel perfect, physically.” She picked up a sandy Trooper and helped him into the backseat after Boston opened the door.

  “The chemist will be by tomorrow,” he added when they had closed the doors.

  She didn’t ask any more questions, knowing he’d tipped his hand to give her as much of a heads up as he could. The chemist had to be the one who’d created Compound E.

  Chapter 27

  Essential Ingredient

  On her third full day of work, Teresa finished cleaning the last room on her list, and her mind turned to her other tasks. As far as she knew, the microphone she’d planted was still live. She stepped into Sagan’s office to empty the trashcan.

  The man himself hadn’t been seen in days, so the trashcan was as empty as she expected. She gave a brief glance at the transmitter and found it was still in place as she tilted the can into her garbage bag. Just as she righted the can she heard Silas Sagan clearing his throat.

  “Do you have instructions to be in this room?” he asked.

  She took care to look at her feet. “Sir, this floor is on the general cleaning list.”

  He tilted her face up toward his. “I’m betting you weren’t paying attention to the instructions very carefully.”

  Teresa made eye contact, doing her best to appear timid. He seemed amused.

  “Usually when I find someone in my office unexpectedly, there are ramifications. Your name?”

  “I’m no one, sir.” She found it was better not to lie.

  “You’re pretty. You like this job?” He dropped his hand.

  “It’s a good one. The pay is amazing.” She crinkled the trash bag in her hand.

  “My other girls make much, much more. Let me know if you’d consider it.” He nodded at her, a dismissal.

  “I’m surprised it’s a choice,” she blurted. She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. Stupid, stupid to taunt him.

  He looked at her. “Is that a wish or a criticism?”

  “Maybe both.” She covered her mistake with a shy smile and hurried from the room.

  This wasn’t her first undercover assignment, and hopefully it wouldn’t be her last. But seeing Savvy covered in blood and carried in by Boston a couple nights ago had tripped a switch in her head.

  Yet the woman had bounced back from damn near dead and was walking the dog not two days later. Her bosses wanted to stop Sagan, but she knew the power source the woman held in her body called to them as well. In her head she could see Toby’s anguished face, his losses too great for more pain. Teresa wanted to return his sister to him. Whole. And her desire to see that happen had tainted her tongue. She’d offered a quick retort when she should have kept silent. Making Sagan suspicious would only end badly.

  *~*~*~*

  The chemist brought in his own folding table and set it up in Silas’s office. Assorted results and numbers were now spread out on the hard plastic, and Silas had been listening intently. But then he drifted off, knowing Savannah was in the house somewhere. She was better, according to Boston and the doctor.

  The Cassos meeting had been a giant fuckmare, but their explosive gathering had stirred the pot, so to speak. They’d tipped their hand, and he now obsessed over who might be leaking information. Finding the new cleaning lady tits deep in his office was a wake-up call too. Savannah hadn’t been discreet—jumping banisters and tearing apart the whole Cassos organization. Now there was word that the Cassos were simply a pawn, that they’d been fed the information that Silas was ready to deal a weapon.

  He wasn’t. Not yet. Not even close.

  “So the blood samples were rendered completely useless,” the chemist was saying. “Any attempt to separate the Compound E from Savvy’s cells, whether done chemically or by centrifuge, actually incinerates the biological material.” The chemist pointed to a few pictures of melted test tubes. “It explains why it was so easy to fuse the ring’s potency to your DNA.”

  Silas collapsed back in his chair, feeling a surge of panic as he imagined that happening to Savvy herself. “And how are you on finding another store of the essential element?”

  “As you know, the volcano is currently active in the area where we found the original deposits. No one’s created anything that can stand up to lava yet. So we wait.”

  The man paused, but when Silas said nothing, he continued. “And of course I have crews out at two other locations with similar conditions, but as I’ve stated before, I do believe the essential element in Compound E formed as a direct result of a meteor strike.”

  “So the only bit of it we have left lives in her?” Silas steepled his fingers and touched them to his lips.

  “Well, yes. And since it can’t be extracted from her, if we kill her—or someone else does—that’s gone.” The chemist began stacking up his papers and findings. “And after this last incident, I had the doctor attempt to put her in a medical coma—”

  “I know. Her system burned through it.” Silas ran his hand under his desk, an old habit he’d picked up from his father. He’d assumed it was a nervous tick, but as his fingers ran over a small bump under the lip of the drawer, he finally—in that moment—realized what his father had been doing: looking for unwanted technology.

  Silas put his hands in his lap, tamping down the urge to rip at the bump with his fingernails. He mentally reviewed the conversation he’d just had. Way too personal, way too confidential.

  He scribbled his next direction on a piece of paper:

  Go to the source of the essential ingredient and work from your lab there. Be on the next flight.

  He handed it over and nodded his permission for the chemist to leave.

  The man looked puzzled when he didn’t issue any more threats, as per usual, but Silas just pointed at the door by way of an answer.

  Someone was listening, and maybe even watching. It was time to bring in Bugs. The pretty housekeeper’s quick retort earlier echoed in his ears, and Silas gritted his teeth. Something was off about her. His gut was never wrong.

  *~*~*~*

  Toby had begun to feel like a bat…or something that lived under a rock. It felt like many, many hours since he’d seen daylight or smelled fresh air. The basement of the abandoned house wasn’t much of an office, in his opinion. And Mike, Teresa’s partner, wasn’t nearly the company she was. There hadn’t been much going on. Monitoring Sagan’s office had been mostly busy work. Until just a few minutes ago. The man had returned and seemed to be having a rather enlightening conversation in his office. Toby couldn’t hear everything, but he could tell it was good because of Mike’s sudden focus.

  Then a sound had caught his attention, and evidently Mike’s as well. The man had stopped typing suddenly as the loud tapping noise came through again. Toby didn’t know why that brief interruption caused Mike to lose his cool, but he began typing again and talking on the phone all at once.

  “Shit. Shit!”

  “What the hell?” Toby had watched as Mike’s head damn near popped off. It had seemed things were looking up. But now he’d launched what seemed like a cyber assault.

  As an afterthought, Mike had tossed an explanation over his shoulder. “That noise was Sagan finding the device under his desk. Fuck. Fuck.”

  “You’re sure it wasn’t just, like, interference?” Toby had sat down hard.

  Mike spared him an annoyed look. “Do this for fifteen fucking years and you learn shit. It was too deliberate. The man is onto us. Right now I’m installing a fatal virus and praying to everything holy that the tech guys on his end haven’t seen this one before. If they’re as good as I am? They’ll track that chip back to us in under twelve hours. And then Teresa’s dead.”

  Toby leaned back in his chair and gripped his kneecaps. “Let’s get her out. We’ll grab Savvy too.”

  “It’s not that easy. She knows what she has to do if s
he’s made.”

  That sounded ominous. Like it probably wasn’t run out the front door but more like some kamikaze bullshit.

  “How will she know?” Toby heard a knock on the door upstairs.

  Mike jerked his head toward the sound. “That’s what he’s here for. Go upstairs and help him. The faster you move, the sooner this gets done. We were supposed to have a few weeks to prep you.” Mike dismissed him and picked up a phone in between typing on two different keyboards at once.

  After hiding and being so careful here in this house, it seemed crazy to simply go up and open the door, but Toby followed instructions.

  Edgewood, as the new guy briefly introduced himself, barely said a word. He just sized Toby up and down after closing the door.

  Finally, the absurdity of it all hit him. “Listen, someone has to get my sister; someone has to get Teresa.”

  Edgewood sighed. “We’re going to have you die. That’s the only shot they have.”

  “Um, what?”

  “Remember we discussed faking your death? Today’s the day we do it. It’ll send a message to Teresa and your sister.”

  Toby took a deep breath. Finally he was going to help.

  Chapter 28

  Death

  The next day Silas had Bugs in his office—again—assessing the electronic bug. Fucking ironic. He’d already scoured the room for others and found none, but Bugs hadn’t been willing to remove this one until he was certain he’d stopped its transmissions.

  The technology on the little listening device must have been impressive, because Bugs had adjusted his ball cap and pulled out a small magnifying glass from his bag of tricks. “This is some next-level bullshit, boss,” he reported as he finally extracted it from underneath the desk.

  Silas’s mind raced. He had so many enemies. The information he’d leaked yesterday could have myriad consequences. He felt exposed and weak. And he didn’t fucking like it.

 
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