The Operator Page 82

“Will both of you shut up? I can’t remember if the arena is up or down from here,” Peri said.

Silas gave Jack a look, clearly thinking he’d won something. “Down, but keep going uptown,” he said, and she shifted lanes erratically to take the next right. “We aren’t going to the arena. Thank God.”

“Why not?”

“LB doesn’t want you down there.” Silas gripped the door handle, clearly uncomfortable with how close she was to the bumper of the car ahead of her.

“He used it all?” she said in disbelief, but Silas was shaking his head.

“He doesn’t want you near his people. He’s waiting for us at Roosevelt Park.”

Peri exhaled in relief, not caring that Jack was learning just how freaked out she was about needing that Evocane. “Fine,” she said, thinking it was a good spot. Lots of ways out, lots of ways in. He’d find her.

But even as Peri drove crosstown, doubt began to trickle through her, born from a lack of intel. The interstate would be faster, but the entrance ramps had cameras. They’d sat too long in that parking lot. As much as she wanted to trust Allen, she knew that if someone was going to bug you, they’d find a way.

Rosa Parks Boulevard was busy, and no one would let her over, the dilapidated state of the Pinto doing her no favors. “I hate Detroit traffic!” she shouted, leaning on the horn. “We should have just taken the necklace. We would have been there by now!”

“You mind if I drive?” Silas offered, and Peri scoffed, shifting gears as if it was a race car. “No, really,” he said again, pale. “There’s a station right there.”

Jack spun to look out the back window. “No, don’t!” he exclaimed, tense as he looked the way they’d come. “I know that guy.”

Sweet adrenaline poured into her, banishing her worry like the extravagant luxury it was. Eyes bright, she looked behind her at the black car, meeting Jack’s gaze in the rearview mirror. The sly anticipation in his expression was familiar, kindling a long-muted desire to outlast the odds until they shifted to their favor. “Go. Now. Fast,” he said, and she quivered, the silver sensation born from a thousand forgotten tasks. It felt like home.

She couldn’t get into the right lane, but she could cross the boulevard to the other side. Teeth clenched, she jerked the wheel.

“Peri!” Silas shouted as she jumped the curb, tearing up the frozen landscape as she bounced into the eastbound lane, horns honking and tires squealing behind her. “God bless it. This was just what I was trying to avoid!”

“They echoed!” Jack exclaimed, and she hit the gas, the car hardly moving. “I told you we should have taken the BMW. This thing can’t run worth crap!”

“I didn’t want the fricking BMW!” Peri leaned on the horn, and people began to move. But it only made it easier for the guy behind them. They caught up fast, but she began to smile, her pulse fast and easy.

Silas braced himself against the dash. “Don’t antagonize them,” he said, seeing the gleam in her eye. “Please?”

“But that’s the best part, Silas,” she said slyly. The truth was, though, if she didn’t shake them in forty seconds, the cops would be on them as well. Which might not be a bad idea, actually.

“Stairs!” Jack pointed out, and Silas gasped when she jumped the curb and took the wide, shallow steps down into a new downtown commerce court. The smaller car might make it where the bigger car following them wouldn’t.

“Are they still with us?” she stammered in time with the steps, her breath coming in a heave when they hit the end with a scrape. She accelerated, people jumping out of the way and staring. A high-Q traffic drone swung in behind them, its stabilizers screaming louder than the siren. “Jack! Are they with us!”

Jack looked out the back window, ducking at the squeal of brakes and pop of weapons. “Dude, they’re serious. Can you squeeze out a few more miles per hour?”

“No.” Her hands were sweating, and it felt wonderful.

“Ahh, it’s a pedestrian mall,” Silas said, voice thick with panic as he realized where they were. “There’s no way out. Peri? Peri!”

“Then we make one. Coming about!” she exclaimed, jerking the wheel to the right to the new construction, blocked off with a temporary chain-link fence.

“Peri!” Silas shouted, and she locked her arms as they rammed it, hitting the gas to make the snow spurt up behind them as the gate flipped and swung. Bouncing over the ruts, they rocked through the construction site and back onto the service road behind it. The drone came even, and Peri waved when it got a good image of them and dropped back.

“They’re still there,” Silas said, slumping in his seat as they sped past Dumpsters and parked employee cars. “That didn’t slow them down at all. We need the interstate.”

“This car can’t run for shit,” Jack said in disgust. “The interstate is a death trap.”

“Which is exactly what we want.” Peri smiled as she recognized where she was. Roosevelt Park was a few miles up the road. Perfect. “We need to get rid of WEFT. Jack, full moon tonight?”

“Wha-a-at?” he stammered as she revved the engine hard, horn blowing as she skidded to a halt in front of a café, window rolled down as she screamed obscenities and waved a finger in the air at the cop car parked outside.

“Peri, you promised,” Silas complained as a second traffic drone joined the first, the human voice projecting from it demanding they stop and wait for Detroit personnel.

“No, I didn’t.” She was breathless, and the tires squealed as she took off in the other direction, headed for the interstate. They’d follow.

“That did it,” Jack said, arms braced as she swerved through traffic. “You got ’em.”

“You got them?” Silas exclaimed, his face pale. “You want the cops on our ass?”

“For the moment,” she said, grinning wildly. “Jack?”

He looked behind them, eyes bright. “Find some space. They won’t act if it’s crowded.”

“Expressway on the right.”

Silas’s expression brightened. “You’re going to have the cops get rid of WEFT?”

Her head bobbed and she milked a few miles per hour out of the puttering engine. Grinning, she waited until the last moment to turn onto the expressway, skidding to cut off a gold Cadillac. It lay on the horn, but she floored it, feeling the WEFT car creeping up behind her as the traffic drones fell behind, unable to keep up. Far behind were sirens, but they had radios, and once she was committed to one direction, they’d take steps.

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