There wasn’t any doubt at all that she meant every word of what she said.
Bryn shut her eyes for a second, then opened her fingers and let the cell phone drop to the floor. Damn it, damn it, damn it…
“Good choice,” Jane said. “I’m really pretty upset about losing Mr. Smith, but then again, nice use of the spoon. You’re learning. Now, just hold still.…If I do this right, it shouldn’t really hurt much at all.”
Oh hell no. Bryn let her knees go loose, dropped, rolled, and put the phone in her left pocket as she did. Her movement startled Jane into firing, but she missed, and Bryn shoved her right hand into her pocket, rose to her knees right in front of Jane, and fired, point-blank, through the leather of her jacket.
Jane fired back, which was an impressive feat considering Bryn had scored three direct chest hits, but her bullet hit Bryn in the shoulder—not enough to slow her down. She felt it, but pushed the pain aside. Jane had taught her that, too—how to push the pain away.
Jane stumbled back against the wall, and the fury in her dark eyes was unmistakable. Her black shirt showed the bullet holes, and beneath, Bryn saw the flash of blood. Jane caught her balance and aimed, not for Bryn, but at the old man on the bed. She was going to kill him out of sheer spite.
Bryn took the gun out of her pocket, advanced, and fired twice into Jane’s face.
The woman’s trigger finger still convulsed, but the shot went wild, into the floor on the other side of the bed, and Jane went down hard.
Dead for sure.
Bryn wanted to keep on shooting her, just for the hell of it, but there wasn’t time. She flipped open the cell—one of those easy-to-use kinds for older people—and quickly dialed Patrick’s number.
She was talking as soon as she heard the connection click in, even before his voice made it over the distance. “It’s Bryn. Don’t ask any questions right now, just trace this phone and come heavy; I’m leaving it on and hiding it. I’ll be around here somewhere. I have to find Carl and Chandra.” She didn’t wait for him to respond, just opened a drawer and dropped the phone in. She couldn’t talk to Pat just now; he’d infect her with his worry, make her less focused on sheer survival. It had hurt to even hear his voice begin to say hello; the idea of having him say anything else, anything to comfort her, made her think she might break apart into tiny pieces.
The old man was still staring at her with blank terror. He was gasping for air. She reached over and fitted his oxygen mask over his mouth and nose and said, “Sorry for all that, sir. You’ll be okay.”
Then she pushed herself up, opened the window, and headed into the darkness. There was nothing here now for her except the certainty of being caught by the staff of the regular, presentable side of the business; rescue was coming, and they’d find Jane’s body soon enough. Bryn didn’t have a whole lot of time, and although hiding out was a good option, she knew Carl, at least, was still being held on the lockdown side of the complex where she’d been kept.
If it had been secure enough for the two of them, it was a good bet that any other Revived individuals they’d taken might be kept there as well…and there were some more still missing. Chandra Patel, for one. And Bryn owed it to Chandra, too, to try to get her out of this horror.
The gunshots had drawn attention all over the nursing facility—lights blazing on, voices babbling—and as Bryn tried to make her way through the garden, she had to keep to the ever-sparser shadows. She’d just made it past the gazebo when someone thought to turn on the full security lighting in the garden, which lit it up like a football field; Bryn sprinted for the edge of the bushes and out into the darkness beyond.
She didn’t hear anyone yelling on her trail, so she headed straight for the cinder block building, slammed her back against the wall, and tried to think. She checked the clip, and controlled a burst of frustration—should have picked up that bitch’s gun, too—as she assembled a tactical plan. She’d have to go in through the front entrance, where two of the big male nurses were standing; either or both of them could be armed, and she didn’t know for certain if they were guilty parties or just innocent dupes. She’d rather have tried the rear exit, but the alarm had stopped sounding, which meant they’d closed the door. She didn’t have superstrength or anything. Being hard to kill didn’t qualify as much of a superpower.
If cockroaches were superheroes…
Someone spotted her shadow against the brick outside, and she heard a yell. A flashlight flared bright, and she moved for the reception area, fast, with the gun pointed at the two nurses. One raised his hands immediately. The other looked stunned.
“Open the door,” she ordered. No reactions. “Hit the button and open the door! You!” She pointed at the one who hadn’t raised his hands, and he reached beneath the counter.
She had just enough warning to dive out of the way as a shotgun blast tore through the cheap wood. The nurse yanked the gun free and fired again, nailing her left arm with pellets, but she shot back, two fast bullets to his chest, and he went over backward and took the shotgun with him.
She switched aim to the other nurse, still frozen with his hands in the air. “Open it!” she screamed.
He slammed his fist down on a button, and she heard the harsh metallic buzzing as the lock clicked free.
Bryn hit it hip-first, and cried out at the agony that zipped up her arm and across her body from the shotgun damage. Didn’t matter. She had to duck to avoid a volley of shots from the other side. Another armed caregiver. That just didn’t seem safe, somehow, having all these guns around the elderly. She didn’t want to shoot back—too much risk of hitting a patient—but she didn’t have much choice, and putting him down with a bullet in his side had the benefit of getting her a handful of room keys.
She found Carl in the third room, strapped to a gurney. He hadn’t been tortured, or at least there was no evidence of blood, which was a mercy. No time to extract him, though. She left him and tried the other doors, looking for Chandra, the other Revived she knew was in their hands.
She didn’t find her, which meant either she’d never been here or it was far too late.
She just barely had time to make it back to Carl’s room and strip away his restraints fast before more gunfire sprayed her way. He was staring at her uncomprehendingly, and for a few panic-stricken seconds she thought they’d drugged him so thoroughly he wouldn’t be able to move, but then he snapped out of it and said, “Bryn? Oh my God, are you here to rescue me?”
She laughed. It rang hollow in the room, and had a bitter, wild edge. “Sure,” she said. “Why not? Get up, you ass. We have to get out of here.”
“I’m sorry about…you know,” he said, as he slid off the bed. They hadn’t let him keep his own clothes, either; he was wearing—of all things—some dirty pair of denim overalls that sagged around him, and an equally dirty T-shirt.
“Selling me out?” she asked. “They used your Protocol. You didn’t have a choice. Never mind. Get down in that corner.” She shoved him toward it and backed to cover him, facing the door. She’d locked it, but she couldn’t have taken the only set of keys, and even if by some miracle she had, these weren’t the type to play a waiting game. “Did you see Chandra in here?”
“I didn’t see anybody,” he said, “except that woman. Jane.”
“Jane’s dead now.”
“Thank God.” His voice was trembling, on the edge of cracking. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t. I couldn’t—”
Bryn couldn’t really blame him; she’d been forced to cooperate, too. That didn’t mean she had to like it. She checked the clip in her gun. Only three shots left, and she had the strong feeling that wouldn’t go far. Damn, she was missing her riot baton. It made a great close-quarters weapon.…
She spotted the aluminum cane in the corner a few seconds later, and laughed. It was the adjustable model—press in the round button, and the bottom section slid up and down. She slid it all the way out, weighed it, and then decided the top part of the cane was better weighted—more momentum from the heavy plastic grip.
She was back to being the spider, waiting for the fly…until the fly arrived.
The door banged open, and two tear gas grenades rolled inside. Bryn tried to kick them out again, but doubled over, coughing and choking on the fog, and through her tears she saw someone stride forward with a gas mask covering half her face.
Jane. There was no mistaking those eyes. Of course. How could it have never occurred to Bryn to think she was one of the Revived?
“Surprise,” Jane said, but it wasn’t really. And then she kicked her in the head, several times, until Bryn went dark.
When Bryn woke up, fuzzy and sick, it all seemed that much worse. She’d wasted a lot of bullets on Jane, and it seemed pretty annoying to be kicked to death by her afterward. But somehow, in the rearview mirror, Bryn couldn’t understand why she hadn’t just assumed it from the beginning, that Jane was Revived; half of those she’d met were clinging to sanity with both hands, and the other half had lost their shit entirely.
Jane was the same order of psychopath as Fast Freddy Watson…someone whose darker tendencies had been liberated by the drugs, who wasn’t afraid of death or pain or reprisals.
It wasn’t good news, and the worst part came when Bryn realized just where she was.…
Back in her original predicament.
Bryn’s gaze focused up on the same grimy ceiling light, the same cracked paint, the same fluttering spiderweb. The same spider sitting patiently in the center, waiting for a new, juicy snack to wander by.
She didn’t bother trying her restraints, or even turning her head to see if Jane was there. She knew the woman would be.
“Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to Revive you?” she asked the ceiling, but she meant it for Jane, and turned to look at the woman’s dim shape in the dark where it sat comfortably, legs crossed.