The Drafter Page 112

“Peri!” the large man called as he strode onto the stage. “I knew it. I knew it! I never should have okayed you. Was this Allen’s idea? Was it?”

Peri thought the real question was how Opti had known they were at Eastown. She took a breath to tell him what had happened, that the alliance had been here and claimed that he was corrupt and that he had filled her head with lies.

But then she fisted her hand, hiding the number. If Silas was lying, keeping silent would hurt no one. She thought it telling that she’d come here to kill Silas, but now … the feeling was utterly gone.

“Go ahead and put me in the hole, but yes!” she shouted. “Allen and I were going to off him, since no one at Opti cares! You got a problem with that, fat boy?”

Bill scowled when someone snickered and walked quickly away. “Did you get him?”

“No.” Arms over her chest to hide the picture, Peri cocked her hip to keep her legs from trembling. “Allen’s recon sucked. Denier’s ride came back and surprised us. Has Allen always been this inept, or did Silas fracture his thinking bone, too?”

Bill laughed, and Peri stiffened when he put an arm around her shoulders and led her down the stage’s stairs. “You are grounded, young lady,” he said as they trekked up the incline and out to the lobby, bright with flashlights. “No California coastline for you. I want you back in Opti tonight. Bring your toothbrush.”

“Bill,” she protested, grimacing as Allen was toted out between two Opti agents. “I don’t need a full workup. I’ll go in tomorrow morning. Promise.”

Bill drew her to a stop just outside. Black Opti cars lined the street, their flashing lights and headlamps making an unreal glare. Agents rushed about to justify their presence, and Bill bodily shifted her so the light fell on her face. “You’ll stay at Allen’s?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll stay the night at Allen’s,” she said, temper bad as she stomped to the nearest car and got in the front seat, waiting for someone else to drive her. She didn’t know what to believe, but there was one thing that was irrefutable. Jack had been dogging her steps the last five minutes, and Bill hadn’t commented on him even once. Either she was crazy, or Silas was telling her the truth. That the truth meant she was crazy didn’t make her feel any better.

The proof that Opti is corrupt is in my old apartment, she thought. She didn’t want it to be true, but she had to find out.

“You can trust me, Peri,” Jack said, and she jumped, swearing when she realized he was sitting in the backseat. “You loved me, once—before you killed me.”

Frowning, she wiped at the ink on her palm to make it less obvious. Fingers curled to hide what was left, she put her fist to her mouth and stared out the windowat Detroit’s distant lights. Oh yeah. That helps a lot.

CHAPTER

THIRTY-ONE

Rain made the nearly empty streets shine under the streetlights as Silas waited in the dry shadows behind the massive pylons making up the grocery store’s front façade. It was a questionable place to be this late at night amid the gum wrappers and empty nicotine caps, but Allen’s car was parked in the nearly empty lot. This was the only place that carried Peri’s cat’s food that was open after midnight. Silas knew she’d sent Allen out for it twenty minutes ago. It was likely she’d wanted some time alone in the apartment to poke around, and a quest for cat food was an excellent excuse.

He had to talk to Allen, and though jimmying the door of Allen’s Lexus and waiting there for him would have been less obtrusive, there was a perverse pleasure in lurking in the shadows. They’d have a quiet chat amid the dirt and cold brick. It would get his attention—make him listen. Peri’s mental state was ready to crack, but his terse, one-sided conversation with Fran today had made one thing very clear. Until Allen vouched for her alliance loyalty, she’d be treated as a traitor—and Allen had flatly refused to give it.

Silas fidgeted in a slow anger, hands shoved deep in his pockets. Peri was vulnerable—because of her strength and abilities, not in spite of them. Some of this was his fault, but the Jack hallucination shouldn’t have survived Allen’s latest mental butchery. After seeing her shout at empty air and her expression change to horror as she realized her life was a lie, he knew the risk wasn’t worth anything they could gain anymore. The task was over. They’d get their intel another way.

Leaning, Silas glanced inside to see Allen flirting with the old woman at the register. Slowly he dropped back, fingering the pistol in his coat pocket. He was having serious doubts about his old friend. Plausible deniability was a sword without a grip, and Silas had never liked the idea of sending her into Opti with no memory of her past, a double sleeper agent. He’d liked it even less when Allen had remained with her at Opti, dedicated to keeping her safe while she found what they needed. It didn’t surprise him that Allen had somehow twisted things so that he would be the one to break the truth. Allen was all about the glory of the job, not caring much whom he hurt getting there. It was what had attracted Peri to him in the first place.

Stress pulled his shoulders up as the twin glass doors, their e-boards flickering with the week’s specials, slid open. Breath held, Silas strode out of the shadows. “We need to talk.”

Allen’s head snapped up, his brief shock making Silas smile. “Jeez, Silas. You gave me a heart attack.” He pushed his glasses back up his nose. “What are you doing?”

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