The Drafter Page 62

And a phone, she thought as her back pocket began to hum.

Guilt rose. She’d just walked out on Silas—no explanation, no nothing—but Liz’s unforgiving assessment of her burned. She was good at her job. She was not helpless alone.

Frustrated, Peri yanked at the broken casing around the column until it pulled free with a loud snap of plastic. Sucking on the edge of a pinched finger, she wiggled the phone out. She didn’t have to look at the number; only one person would be calling her. Hitting ACCEPT, she put it to her ear.

“Peri.” Allen’s low voice filtered out, the state-of-the-art technology catching every nuance in his anger.

Eyes flicking, she looked in the rearview mirror, then locked both doors, her shoulder tape pulling when she leaned across the long bench seat. Jeez. No power anything. “Hi, Allen.” She reached for the tumbler, bringing it—and the attached wires—out into the dimming light. If she was lucky, all she’d need would be the screwdriver. “How’s the hand?”

“Taped. It’s the knee that bothers me the most. Tore my ACL. I’ll be up and in a Flexicast as soon as the swelling goes down.”

“Ouch, that’s a bitch.” There was no background noise. She couldn’t tell if he was in a hospital room or a surveillance van.

“I’ve had worse, but usually a bike or parachute is involved. Running was a mistake.”

Phone tucked awkwardly between her shoulder and ear, she tried turning the tumbler, getting nothing. Why can it never be easy? “So I guess you have Silas if you’re talking on his phone.” It was all going to fall apart fast if she couldn’t get this thing started.

“Oh, yes.” It was smug. “It’s a shame I wasn’t there, or we might have you as well. No one moves like you, Peri.”

That plastic knife was less than useless, and she leaned, shoulder protesting, to rifle through the cluttered glove box for something to cut and strip the wires with. He was drawing this out, meaning the call was being tracked. She thought the best they could do would be to find the tower she was using, but she could be wrong. “Why are we talking?” she asked to cover the noise of pulling everything onto the floor. A jackknife glinted, and she snatched it up, brushing the grit off before snapping it open. Gold!

“Just sharing good news,” he said, and she heard background radio chatter. Great. He’s in a surveillance van. “But it’s not good for you. If it was my decision, I’d let you twist in the wind, but Bill thinks we can scrub you clean and start again. So here I am.”

“Scrub?” The word sounded foreign, and an ugly thought pinged through her—Opti could control how much she lost when she drafted? They had lied to her. Even worse, the anger now lifting through her was tooold for her not to have known this before. Allen took three years from me. I should have busted his jaw, not his knee.

Ticked, she found the starter wires, following them down from the tumbler until she had enough to strip the ends and twist them together.

“Personally, I think you’re more trouble than you’re worth,” Allen said. “But if I work this right, I get the best of both worlds, attached to a high-profile drafter and the chance to screw you every night.”

That was nasty, and she awkwardly held the phone to her ear as she touched the starter wires together, wincing as the engine turned over. It wasn’t the jolt so much as the burst of radio that startled her, and she dropped the phone to turn it down.

“Thanks to you, Bill has an alliance representative willing to testify that you’re corrupt,” Allen was saying when she got the phone back to her ear, oblivious that she’d dropped him. “Where are you, Peri? We can protect you.”

Like I’d tell you? “Silas doesn’t believe I’m corrupt.” The car was running, but three years’ worth of lost memories or not, she could tell it had been a long time since she’d hot-wired a car. Again, her anchor had probably done it on the rare occasions it was necessary. I am so stupid.

“Believe?” Allen said, and she closed the vents to let the car warm up. “That’s a funny word, believe. Right now he believes you set him up. He believes that you knew all along that Opti is corrupt to its core and that you were a part of it. A nasty little mole working your way up the alliance rank and file to get close enough to take out the top alliance operatives.”

Her face went cold. Opti was corrupt. She’d probably figured it out before her jump at Overdraft and Allen had scrubbed her. Bill, Allen … Jack? Oh God, she had killed him. She might not remember it, but if she’d found out he was dirty, she might have killed him. Silas had told her the truth. And I left him.

“We’re going to let him escape soon,” Allen was saying, but Peri hardly heard him, struggling to take it in. “He’s going to use you to bring Opti down.” He laughed. It wasn’t a nice sound. “You have to love his innocence. You can’t shut Opti down. Too many high-profile bank accounts want us right where we are. Hell, the government wouldn’t be able to wipe their asses without us. But if you bring yourself in and work with us to remove the last couple of days—”

“You can go to hell and die,” she said. “In that order.” The need to move was almost an ache, but the phone was too small to reliably hold between her ear and shoulder, leaving her one hand to drive. She couldn’t effectively drive stick with one hand in stop-and-go city traffic.

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