The Drafter Page 100

“I’m sorry, babe. I didn’t know this would happen.”

Frustration spun back into anger, and she rounded on him. “Where is it!” she shouted, her hands in fists as he picked up the silver frame and ran a finger down her pictured face. Tears pricked and she came close, wanting to take it from him but reluctant to break the illusion that he was holding it. For all she knew, the picture might not even exist. “Jack, where’s the list?”

He looked up, tears in his eyes. “I don’t think it’s here.”

Peri’s breath came in fast. Had it all been for nothing? “They have it?”

“No.” His gaze traveled over the destruction, clearly pained. “It’s just not … here.” Then: “You should have left. You waited too long. I’m sorry.”

The sound of the door opening spun her around and Jack vanished. “Silas!” Peri exclaimed as he stumbled through the door. “I can explain.”

Frightened, Silas caught his balance as Bill strode in after him. Peri slid to a halt, only now seeing that Silas’s hands were cuffed before him.

“Then he wasn’t lying that you’re here on your own. Curious,” Bill said, looking menacing in his three-piece suit and expensive shoes, a gun pointed at one of Silas’s kidneys. “If you jump, I shoot him in the new draft and he dies. Very fast.” Bill is an anchor? It was the only way he’d know if there was a draft or not.

“I shouldn’t have left you, Peri,” Silas said, his eyes haunted. “I’m sorry.”

From the hall, Allen’s irate voice rose, saying, “Is she down?”

Bill smirked, pushing Silas deeper into the room. “He’s afraid of you.”

“Maybe he’s the smarter man here,” Peri said as two unremarkable men in suits came in. She prayed that Howard and Taf had left. It had gone wrong, so very wrong.

The prick of a dart striking the back of her neck made her yelp, and she yanked it out, the drug taking hold as a chalky taste covered her tongue. She gripped the dart like a knife, unable to draft now if she wanted to. She turned, seeing the man she’d downed in the bathroom lower his dart gun, blood dripping from his nose as he leaned against the wall.

“Whore,” he breathed raggedly, and Peri backed to the bulletproof windows.

“Now, now,” Bill said jovially. “No need to be nasty. She’s doing what we trained her to do. Ready to learn a new trick, Peri?”

Her boots ground on the spilled dirt from her plants. “Shove it up your ass.”

Amused, Bill called loudly, “You can come in now, Allen. She can’t draft.”

Hunched awkwardly over a crutch, Allen peered in around the door. “She can still fight.”

“True.” Bill gestured to one of the men.

Adrenaline pounded through her as she spun. But it wasn’t enough. The drugspilling through her muscles like honey slowed her, and she gasped, wide-eyed, as the man shoved her face-first to the floor. He knelt on her, and her air huffed out. She was helpless as he pinned her wrist to the floor with one hand and with the other forced her free arm behind her, wrenching it up until she cried out in pain and went limp. The dart fell to the floor and was kicked away, her knife taken.

Please don’t dislocate it, please, she silently begged, as Silas protested. Her cheek pressed into the clutter, and a book she didn’t remember reading was wedged under her shoulder. She clenched her jaw, refusing to let the tears of pain blur her vision. The picture of her and Jack in the desert mocked her. Dagazes decorated the silver frame, and she felt betrayed by the happy expressions in the photograph. They were gone now. Maybe they had never really existed.

“You’re hurting her!” Silas exclaimed, and then her other wrist was cuffed to the first.

“Shut up,” Bill said, and then, lightly, “How about it, Allen? You feel safe now?”

Allen glowered. “You keep misjudging her, and she’s going to kill you.”

Peri struggled to breathe, that man’s knee still in the small of her back. She tensed at the scuff-pop of Allen hobbling closer. Working hard at it, he knelt down, and then she gasped as he pulled her head up by her hair so he could see her face.

“Hi, Peri,” he said, his anger obvious in the slant of his eyes, and suddenly she hated his smooth-shaven features and his dark gaze behind his glasses. “We could have done things the easy way. But this has its own pleasures.” Still holding her at an awkward angle, he looked at Bill. “She’s been conditioned never to work alone. Where are the rest?”

Bill turned to one of the men at the door. “Gone,” the man said, his expression suddenly worried. “We put all assets on Reed. You want me to send a car?”

“No. She’s all I really need.” Bill smiled at her, clearly pleased. “Aren’t you, kiddo.”

They got away, Peri thought, elated, and then Allen let her go.

Peri grunted as she turned the motion of her falling head into a bid for freedom. She twisted, and the man with his knee in her back sprang up and away. Allen scrambled backward, and she halted at a kneel, freezing when she heard the safeties click off. Her short hair was in her eyes, and she tossed her head, heart pounding. The drug was slowing her down, but she could still move.

“You think I won’t remember this?” she intoned, eyes fixed on Bill as she stood. “I’ll never accept Allen as my anchor.”

Bill looked at Silas as if they’d already had this conversation. “No matter. We’ll have this all fixed by tomorrow, thanks to Dr. Denier. We’ll have you up and working in no time. I know it’s what you love, and I’m going to give it all back to you.”

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