Zaragosa looked grim, and nodded. He sat back, folded his arms, and looked down, clearly deep in thought. “That’s very troubling,” he said. “You heard them say that. That exact term.”
No, she’d heard that part from Jonathan Mercer, but she couldn’t disclose that; the FBI had always made Mercer their primary target, and just now, she couldn’t afford them splitting their focus. Jane and her crew were the first-order danger, not Mercer. “Yes,” she said. “I did.”
“Incubators for what, exactly?”
“That I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound good, does it?”
“No,” he agreed. “Not at all.” There was a buzzing sound, and the locked conference room door swung open. Robinson was back, and he’d brought a small laptop, which he put down on the table in front of Bryn. She navigated the map to the area she wanted, then zoomed in and switched to the street view. It took her all of three minutes to find the right place.
“There,” she said. She zoomed in on the sign in front. “Arcadia Nursing and Rehabilitation. A division of the Fountain Group.”
Robinson nodded, closed the laptop, and stood up. Zaragosa motioned him out the door. “What do you know about the Fountain Group?” he asked Bryn.
“Nothing. It’s probably some kind of holding company—that’s all I can guess. Why, do you think they knew what was going on there?”
“If their patients are disappearing, then I’d assume someone knows. It’s unlikely all this would happen without significant funding and approval from higher up.” He seemed deeply troubled now, and tired. Zaragosa scrubbed his face with his hands, as if trying to will himself awake, and Bryn realized that he looked as if he’d not been home in days—a wilted suit, a fresh shirt that looked as if it had been taken out of the package, crease lines intact, and a wicked growth of beard that wouldn’t have been out of place on a streetlight-hugging drunk. Maybe Riley had broken under the strain. Bryn wouldn’t have blamed her, really; the trauma and emotion of any of these jobs was brutal, and so was the toll they took. “Please wait here, ladies. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Zaragosa stood and walked to the door. Annie said, “Um, if we’re taking a bathroom break, I could sure use one myself.…” Her voice trailed off, because Zaragosa had kept on going, and the door clicked shut behind him. “Wow. Rude. Is this guy some kind of friend of yours?”
“Not really. I don’t think he’s rude, just got a lot on his mind. He’s in charge of this place. It’s a lot to manage, and I just dropped some significant info on him he needs to look into.”
“Well, I think he’s rude.” Annie went to the door and pulled the handle. It didn’t open. “Huh. Did he press a secret button or something? Because it’s locked.” Bryn came to her side and tried it, which made Annie give her a roll of the eyes. “Wow. Yeah, I tried that. Like I said. Locked. There must be some sort of trick to it.…”
But there wasn’t. It was a simple lever system—push down, and the door was supposed to open. Only it didn’t.
Bryn looked around the room with its clean floor and whiteboard walls, and started feeling that bad, old claustrophobic impulse click in again. Another white room at Pharmadene. Bad, very bad. Get out. That was her panic talking; they were safe in the heart of a very strong facility, and nobody meant them harm. If Jane or her employers wanted to get to them here, they’d have a pitched battle on their hands, one that would draw public attention. Not even Jane would want that.
Bryn knocked on the door. “Hey! Bathroom break?” No one answered. She tried the speakerphone on the counter, and when the reception desk picked up, she said, “We’ve been accidentally locked in conference room C-17, and we need someone to open the door.”
“Of course,” the woman said, in a soothing, calm voice. “Let me page someone for you. You’re wearing ‘Escorted Visitor’ badges, correct?”
“Well, that’s why the door won’t open, then. Your encoded escorts aren’t with you at the moment, so you’re on lockdown until they return for you. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m sure it will only be a few moments.”
Right on cue, Bryn heard the door lock buzz behind them, and smiled in relief at Annie. “Thanks—they’re here,” she said, and hung up the phone as she turned. “So, can we have a bathroom…” Her voice died, locked tight in her throat.
Because Jane Desmond Franklin walked into the room, and behind her came Mr. Robinson, and his three armed security guards. Jane had on basic black that mimicked fatigues, and she’d tied her hair back in a sloppy bun, but it was definitely her.
She can’t be here. She can’t.
Jane smiled in slow delight at the look on Bryn’s face. “Awww,” she said. “That’s really adorable. You just don’t get it, do you, sweetie? Frying pan, fire? Escaping into prison? I have to hand it to you, it would have been a really good strategy, except for, you know, being entirely wrong.” She turned her gaze on Annalie, and the smile widened. “And who’s your little friend? Oh, that’s right. Annalie. Your sister. Nice to meet you, Annie.”
“Uh—” Annie shot a look at Bryn, and was evidently unnerved and confused by her stillness. “Hi, I guess?”
“Sit down,” Jane said to both of them. “You aren’t going anywhere until I let you.”
“Where’s Zaragosa?” Bryn asked. She licked suddenly dry lips. No, no, this can’t be happening. He’s FBI. This is a government-run facility.…
Yeah, and you should always trust the government, right? She could almost hear Joe Fideli’s lightly sarcastic response in her head. They’re always so damn trustworthy.
“Mr. Zaragosa has delegated responsibility for this particular operation to me,” Jane said. “You won’t be seeing him again, which is probably a blessing, right? Boring man. Accountant, you know, all about the numbers. The funny thing is, nobody blames the accountants; they seem so unthreatening. But I guarantee you, accountants have killed more people in this world than soldiers.” She read the sudden wild impulse to fight in Bryn’s shift of body weight, and shifted her own to match, going from languid to feral in a second. “Don’t.” It was a blunt, cold word. No smile this time, no sweetie. “You’re both Revived, and so am I. You might be able to take me, Bryn—I’ll give you credit for your ferocity, if not your skills. But the fact is you can’t take me and make it out the door before one of my friends here shoots you dead. So let’s not play. If I was you, I’d bide my time, wait it out.”
That, Bryn thought, was good advice, even coming from Jane. She eased up, took a slow breath, and glanced at Annie. Her sister was milky pale, and very confused. “Bryn? You know her?”
“Oh, we’re almost related,” Jane assured her, and draped herself over a handy chair like a sun-drowsy lioness. “I’m Patrick’s wife.”
“Ex,” Bryn said. Just for the hell of it. That earned her a flicker of a cold glance.
Annie’s face was so blank that it strongly resembled the whiteboard. “That’s impossible,” she said. “You mean Patrick Patrick?”
“No, I mean the other one. Yes, dear, that Patrick. Under whose roof you’ve been living these past couple of days. The one who’s fucking your sister.” Jane outright laughed at the expression on Bryn’s face. “Do you really think I don’t keep track of who’s around him? That last was just a guess, by the way, but it was pretty safe. I knew you were playing house together, and since you aren’t five, I’d assume you were getting busy. Trust me. I know he’s hard to resist.”
Annie’s mouth opened, then snapped shut. Bryn thought about trying to rip Jane’s throat out, again, but the same logic that had held her still thirty seconds before still held true. Jane wanted her to attack, was prodding her to do it like a picador with a bull. She wanted Bryn angry enough to ignore opportunities, and she was waving the red flag of Patrick to do it.
You have to be smarter.
“What’s this about—the nursing home? No, I’ll bet it was something else,” Bryn said. “Zaragosa got nervous once I talked about incubators. He was asking questions to find out how much I knew, and once I knew those things, it was obvious I knew too much. Right?”
“Oh, don’t beat yourself up. He was going to kill you anyway, whatever you did or didn’t know; fact is, he called me at Arcadia and told me to just get rid of you. I was all for keeping you alive until we knew everything you knew. It’s Zaragosa who wanted you sent straight to the oven.”
“It’s been Pharmadene all along,” Bryn said. She felt a little numb, and bizarrely unsurprised. “Graydon was your janitorial staff. You’ve been eliminating the Revived. But if that’s true, why send me to them at all? Zaragosa could have killed that.…”
“Riley was the one who made the connection,” Jane said. “And she made it public above his pay grade. So Zaragosa had to be seen to take action. He figured by using you we could send you into a trap, get you blown to bits, and take care of two birds with one stone. Like I said, he’s an accountant. All about saving resources. And it isn’t Pharmadene, sweetie. Pharmadene doesn’t exist anymore, except as a name on a letterhead. The government controls it—you’re absolutely right about that—but you know what the government is particularly good at doing?”
“Screwing up?” Annie said.
“Huh,” Jane said, and gave Annalie a longer, more thoughtful look. “That’s a valid point. But no. They like to give work to contractors. The FBI is overworked and underpaid, and they’ve got terrorists to chase, not to mention interstate bank robbers and kidnappers and serial killers.”