“No need,” he said, and gestured to Jeremy. “Let the dog go. Outside the gates.” He gave Bryn an apologetic half smile. “I love dogs. I’d have it brought inside, but we really don’t have any facilities for animals, other than in the labs. I assume you don’t want it there.”
“Hell no,” Bryn said. The idea of seeing the dogs, especially her dog, in those cages made her shudder. She watched Jeremy pick up Maxine’s crate and hold it at arm’s length while the dog barked and snarled, and walk it toward the fences where the other dogs had disappeared. “He should watch out. She’s in a bad mood.”
“Mine isn’t doing too well, either, so why don’t you tell me what you want, Bryn?”
“Do you really want to talk about this now? Right here?” Bryn asked. “Because I can promise you, there will be something I say that all these people aren’t cleared to hear.”
Zaragosa considered her for a long second, then nodded and turned to Robinson. “Search and clear them, then bring them down to the conference room. C-17. I want badges on both of them, and two escorts each. Armed.”
That seemed extreme, but Bryn could see his point; she and Annie had just obtained access by threat to what should have been a highly secure government facility. If he was taking them inside, he’d do it cautiously. That was only good sense.
Of course, the safest thing to do would have been to shoot them in the heads and drag them back outside the fences to recover, but luckily, Zaragosa wasn’t quite as cold-blooded as Bryn herself was.
Not yet, anyway.
She and Annie didn’t resist the searches, although Annie made some smartly worded comments about hands in places she hadn’t invited them to go; Bryn, who’d recently undergone a cavity search by Patrick McCallister’s wife, didn’t much care. She listened to the lectures on security procedures, indicated her agreement, and got escorted to the elevator along with Annie and four armed personnel.
She expected to go up to the executive offices.
Instead, the elevator went down. Instead of showing the spacious atrium view, suddenly the glass walls were full of views of concrete. Bryn felt claustrophobia setting in, and a scraping sense of worry. “I thought we were going to a conference room,” she said. Robinson was one of the four security personnel, and he sent her a sideways glance.
“You are,” he said. “C-17. It’s belowground.”
It was part of the lab complex. As the doors opened on thick glass, white walls, familiar awful white walls, Bryn felt the worry turn to a sickening flood of dread and panic, but she breathed in slowly and tried to keep it at bay.
They walked right past the white room with the drain, the one where she’d been confined to rot. It was sparkling clean. If anyone had died there, had their decayed flesh scrubbed off the tiles and washed away, there was no sign of it.
This was not right. Bryn felt it stinging all over her, and the sharp, bitter taste of fear filled her mouth like acid. “I want to talk to Riley Block,” she said, and resisted a little when they tried to hurry her along. “Get her!”
Robinson said, “No can do. Agent Block has been reassigned to another project.”
“Reassigned?” Bryn repeated. “When? By whose order?” There was no way that would happen, unless Riley herself had requested it, or something spectacularly bad had blown up in her face, politically speaking—bad enough to need a scapegoat at the highest levels. Riley might hate the assignment at Pharmadene, but she’d never walk away from it—and the government wouldn’t let her, because they didn’t need more eyes on those top secret files than were strictly necessary. Riley was read in. She’d stay.
“Sorry—don’t know the details, lady. Above my pay grade,” Robinson said, and led them past doors marked with lurid biohazard stickers, secured with keypads and scanners. Nothing was marked, except with numbers. He paused at C-17, which didn’t have any warnings on it, and keyed in a code to open the door, then ushered Bryn and Annie inside.
This isn’t right, Bryn thought. Not right at all. She had a terrible, sickening sense of having made the worst choice of her life…and it was too late, way too late, to change it.
To Bryn’s huge relief, it was a conference room, after all; she’d been half-expecting some kind of vivisection lab with autopsy tables. Or that furnace, that horrible furnace.
This wasn’t the showroom conference room, either; it held a battered long table, some less-than-new chairs, and whiteboard walls with dry-erase markers scattered randomly over every surface. Some of what had been scribbled there remained ghostly on the surface, even after cleaning. Formulas. Equations. Molecular drawings.
Zaragosa, already seated at the table, nodded to Robinson and said, “You stay, Pete. Bryn and—Annalie, right?—please sit down. The rest of you, outside.” Meaning that the three extra security guards were firepower, but not cleared all the way for the kind of conversation they were about to have. Robinson obviously was.
Without asking, Robinson took the handcuffs off Bryn, and then Annie, and fetched them each a sealed bottle of water from a built-in fridge. He tossed one to Zaragosa as well, who thanked him and cracked the seal to drink, as if he knew they’d want some reassurance that it wasn’t drugged.
It wouldn’t have mattered, frankly; she didn’t waste a second in unscrewing the top anyway. Bryn was shocked at how good the water tasted. She hadn’t realized how thirsty she’d been.
Annie didn’t drink. She looked wary, pale, and terrified, and Bryn reached over and took her hand, drawing a startled flinch. “Hey,” she said. “It’s okay. We’re okay.” She turned her attention to Zaragosa. “I’m going to confess up front that I used you. I needed to get us somewhere safe, somewhere the people who were just holding me can’t reach. The only place I know is here, inside Pharmadene.”
“You’re talking about the same ones who slaughtered those people at Graydon,” Zaragosa said. “The ones who’ve been picking off our Revived employees, one by one.”
“You knew about that?”
“Yes. Riley kept me informed of the disappearances, and the developments at Graydon.”
Don’t trust Riley, he’d written on the back of his business card, yet he’d trusted her himself. Odd. “How many of your people have gone missing?” she asked.
“Twenty-three that Riley was able to discover,” he said. “It’s possible a few of those have run away instead of being taken, but if so, they’ve figured out how to beat the tracking nanites. Like you did when you first escaped.”
“I didn’t beat the trackers. I had them scraped off my bones. It wasn’t pleasant.”
“Evidently, they’ve grown back,” Zaragosa said. “Mr. Robinson says you’re broadcasting a signal, loud and clear.”
“That’s part of why I came here,” Bryn said. “Because I’m being tracked, and I can’t afford to lead the people who are following me anywhere else. You’ve got a hardened facility; you’ve got armed guards and security countermeasures, with the strength of the government behind you. Anywhere else would be vulnerable.…Where’s Riley Block?” It was a strange segue, but Bryn couldn’t keep her mind off the agent’s absence. It bothered her, deeply.
Zaragosa shrugged. “Agent Block was reassigned by her own request.”
“Agent Block asked to be reassigned when there were people she was in charge of protecting who’d gone missing? She never struck me as the type to break down and walk away from people in trouble. People she knew.”
“I only knew her professionally, not personally; I can’t tell you what was going on in her head,” he replied. “Only that the paperwork crossed my desk, I signed, and she left. It was the best thing, really. She wasn’t entirely trustworthy. Let’s get back to the issue at hand—what happened to you, exactly?”
Too much to tell you, Bryn thought, but she condensed it down, describing the failed attempt to abduct her at her funeral home, and then the successful coercive operation that had taken her to the nursing home. She skipped Jane altogether because even thinking about the woman made her also think of Patrick, and that was like putting her hand on a hot stove. Operative was a much less painful way to describe the woman. An operative questioned me at length.
“A nursing home,” Zaragosa repeated, when she was done. “You’re sure about this.”
“Completely. I can tell you approximately where it is. I wasn’t driven far before I was released from the restraints in the ambulance, so there can’t be that many possibilities. I’ll know it on sight.”
Annie hadn’t heard any of this, Bryn realized; now she had tears in her eyes, and grabbed for Bryn’s hand on the table. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “We were so afraid for you, but I didn’t know you’d be—”
“I’m all right,” Bryn said, and smiled. “Look, no scars.”
Zaragosa gestured to Robinson, who leaned over; whatever passed between them was said in a whisper, and then Robinson rose and walked out of the room. The door clicked shut behind him. “You’re sure you could recognize the location,” Zaragosa said.
“If you’ve got a laptop with Google Earth, I can show you the place right now. It’s vital you get a strike team out there and take the people that run it into custody before they have time to destroy more evidence. There was something terrible going on out there. The people, the actual patients, they’re in danger just by being around the staff. Trust me, nobody has their best interests at heart in there.”
“Robinson’s fetching help now,” Zaragosa said, and leaned forward, hands clasped on top of the table. “You said you were kept in a building that was separated from the main one. Do you have any idea what they were doing there?”
“Only vaguely,” Bryn said. “The patients kept there were in end-stage dementia, according to what they told me. They were using them as some kind of test subjects. No…” Bryn thought back, and frowned. The temperature of the room seemed to drop a few degrees. “Incubators.”