The Drafter Page 113

“Avoiding the bugs in your car,” he said, shoving Allen to the shadows and pulling his gun out. “And deciding if I should pop you or not,” he added when Allen’s back hit the brick. “She could have killed me!”

Unperturbed, Allen looked past Silas’s weapon to the rain-emptied parking lot. “You should get some sleep. You look like hell,” he said, the bag with the cat food crackling in his grip as he started for the lot. Silas shoved him into the shadows again, and Allen looked up, peeved. “If she didn’t shoot you the first second she saw you, she wasn’t going to,” he said tightly.

Silas’s lips twisted. “I’m calling it. You’re going to help me pull her out. Now. Tonight.”

Allen’s disgust snapped to disbelief. “I wasn’t going to let her kill you!”

“This isn’t about her pointing a gun at me,” Silas whispered harshly, his grip on the Glock tight. “You think she’s never done that before? I’m talking about ending this. We can’t win, Allen. She’s too fractured. Tell Fran she’s clear so I can pull her out.”

Allen’s eyes slid to the gun. Three feet away, a cold spring rain hissed down, but here it was dry and dusty. “We have a real chance at this.”

“Chance?” Silas gestured wildly. “There was never any chance. We’re never going to get what we sent her here for. She needs to be pulled out. Fixed.”

Allen’s focus sharpened. “Is that what this is about? Her not remembering you? Peri is not broken.”

“You call what you made her into whole?”

“Hey! I did what I needed to do for both of us to survive,” Allen said. “Bill trusts me. He doesn’t like me, but he trusts me. I can salvage this.”

Dropping back, Silas sent his gaze to his gun, and then he shoved it into his pocket. “She’s falling apart.”

“She’s fine.”

“She remembers Jack,” Silas said, and Allen’s expression went blank.

A woman was approaching, and Allen drew Silas deeper into the shadows. “How? There is nothing there. I’d swear to it,” he whispered.

They were silent until the woman went in, never having seen them. Satisfaction lifted Silas’s chin. His manipulations had held, had given Peri something to find the truth with. His fix never would have lasted if she hadn’t trusted him. “I used the latent memory of Jack as a mental cop to prevent her going into MEP,” Silas said. “Sort of an interactive hallucination.”

Allen’s lips parted. “And she knows it’s fake?”

Silas nodded. “She does now. You can’t keep her ignorant. Your false memories are flaking away like cheap paint. She knows you’re lying to her. That’s whyshe sent you out here for cat food. I hope you didn’t leave anything you don’t want her to find.”

Allen pushed his glasses back up his narrow nose. “Nothing she would be surprised at. What did you tell her?”

“When you were out cold on the floor of Eastown?” Silas smirked. “Not much. But Jack is filling her in. Sandy had one thing right. You never forget, you just don’t remember.”

Silas jerked when Allen poked him with a stiff finger. “My life is in the open here, not yours,” he said, eyes virulent behind his glasses. “What did you tell her about me?”

Silas smiled bitterly. “Everything except who you work for, because I don’t know anymore. You keep saying Peri’s gone native, but you’re the one doing ugly things. I don’t even remember why we agreed to this.”

Uneasy, Allen shifted the grocery bag closer. “Because she was going to do it with or without us. Hell, Silas. You don’t have to scare me. I’m scared enough already. I watched her fight what Opti did to her, is still doing. I had to remind myself she agreed to it when she was screaming at me, threatening to kill me. It took three weeks to turn her from a raving knot of defiance to what you saw walk into Eastown, and she’s still shaky. You think I liked that?”

Silas stiffened. “She’s everything you ever wanted. Proud of yourself?”

Allen’s lip curled. “Will you get off your pity pony. There is nothing more I’d like to do than call Fran and tell her Peri is with us a hundred percent, but I can’t tell where her loyalties are. I can’t give her the green to come in. She likes who she is—a little too much.”

“You like what she is.”

“Shut up and listen to me. I’m telling you she likes who she is. I don’t care if she’s fighting it, she likes the power and ability, the status that Opti gives her. The feeling of superiority after every task. She enjoyed what she did with Jack, enjoyed it to the point where she ignored the lies and obvious incongruities until they were rubbed in her face. That’s why they keep scrubbing her and starting over. She likes it. They know it. And that’s why that Jack construct is still there. She won’t let herself forget.”

Silas backed up until a pylon hit his back. “She agreed to help the alliance fast enough.”

“Which is the only reason I’m continuing with this farce. That, and we’re in the best position we’ve been in for the last five years. You think I enjoyed stripping her down to nothing? Listening to her rave at me? Knowing I deserved it? She knew this might happen, and she agreed to it, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Her core hasn’t changed. But how she expresses it has.”

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