The Drafter Page 110

“Allen?” she called, and the silence was thick with the unknown. Lifting her chin, she glared at the blond man. “You guys are all dicks. Just let me kill him, and I’ll be fine.”

Breathing hard, Silas felt behind him and put the gun on the ladder. She watched, hungry for the feel of it in her grip. “Jack is here?” Silas said, his voice thick with wonder.

“You mean the Opti psych guy? Are you blind!” Peri exclaimed, pointing at the man.

“Oh, babe, this is so bad for your asthma. I don’t think you should kill Silas anymore,” the man said, and Peri’s breath came in a heave. She knew his voice. She knew it!

“I’m so sorry, Peri,” Silas said as if he’d never tried to kill her, never laid a hand on her. “Opti messed with your mind. That’s not a real person. It’s a hallucination I stabilized to keep you from going insane when you overdrafted while remembering Jack’s death.”

“Excuse me?”

Jack looked down, his fingers splayed over his Armani shirt. “Seriously? I’m not real?”

This is not happening. “Allen?” she called, and the woman who had dropped Silas off rushed into the auditorium.

“Is everyone okay?” the blond young woman called as she ran forward, ponytail swinging. A thin man with dreadlocks bolted after her, clearly trying to catch her before she made it to the stage. “Thank God you’re here!” she called, a faint southern accent coming through.

“Stay back!” Silas warned, and the woman slid to a frightened halt. “She doesn’t remember you, Taf. You’re scaring her.”

Scaring me? Peri thought, but the woman’s expression had gone sad, and Silas’s hand slowly dropped when the man chasing her pulled Taf back a few steps.

“Where’s Allen?” Silas asked, looking nervous.

Immediately Taf brightened. “Out cold,” she said, sounding as if she liked the fact. “The car is running. Are we taking her with us?”

Jack swung his head up, alarmed. “You touch me, and it will be the last thing you do,” Peri threatened, and the thin man pushed Taf behind him. Allen’s gun was tucked dangerously in his front pocket, and Peri eyed it, wanting it badly.

Silas glanced at his watch. “No. Opti tagged her.”

“Opti doesn’t chip their personnel like dogs,” Peri said indignantly, and the guy in dreadlocks chuckled. “What’s so funny, Sherlock?”

“That’s exactly what you said the first time.”

“Peri, just listen,” Silas said, his broad shoulders hunched. “Opti used my research to give you false memories, but if you can see Jack, then that means they’re starting to break apart.”

Jack slowly sat back against the table.“That’s me,” he said, but no one looked at him. “At least, I’m pretty sure that’s me.”

Peri held her breath, trying not to hyperventilate. “I’m going crazy.”

“No, you’re becoming sane,” Silas said. “We’re going to leave in a minute, and you can tell Allen whatever you want.”

“Oh, there’s a good idea,” the blonde said bitterly, and Peri couldn’t help but admire her. “Give her right back to the people who brainwashed her.”

“I never said she had to tell him the truth,” Silas said. “It’s up to Peri. And Jack, I guess.”

Uneasy, Peri looked at the man in the suit, deciding she’d known him before she’d lost three years. “You’re not an Opti psychologist? How come you were at the bar this morning?”

But Silas was moving, and she fell back to keep space between them. “Howard, will you and Taf wait in the car?” Silas said. “I need to talk to Peri alone.”

“Sure,” Howard said reluctantly, and the woman waved her fingers at her as they left.

Peri could hear their voices discussing her even before they got out the door. “You’ve got them well trained,” Peri said, and Silas looked startled.

“I’m trying to help you,” he said, sounding peeved, and she cocked her head when Jack cleared his throat in rebuke. “Okay, I’m trying to find out how far the corruption goes in Opti,” Silas amended, neck reddening. “But I’m trying to help you, too.”

“Opti isn’t corrupt,” she protested hotly, but doubt took her when Jack flicked his suit jacket aside and resettled himself on the card table. He was dressed better than Allen ever was, attractive with just the right amount of stubble and charm. The perfect mistake …

“Jack was your anchor until almost two months ago,” he said. “You found out he’d been taking you on non-Opti tasks, then traded your memory of it for the chance to kill him.”

Peri’s eyes slid to Jack—who grinned at her like an idiot—then back to Silas. It sounded like something she might do.

“This Jack, the one here, is a hallucination. One I designed to keep you from going into overdraft when you tried to remember it.”

“Liar!” she exclaimed. “I wouldn’t kill my own anchor.” But she had only Bill’s and Allen’s word that Allen had been her anchor the last three years, and doubt began to gnaw at her. Shit. Who the hell am I?

“You might if you found out he was working for Bill, not Opti,” Silas said, looking toward the dented doors when a car horn blew. “They’re both corrupt, and I’m not so sure about Allen anymore, either.”

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