When Saskia began to convulse, my heart revved up.
“Vexx…” I growled.
His typing skipped a beat and he erased a few characters. Saskia jolted and moaned.
“Lorelei,” Gabriel murmured, grabbing my arm. “Why don’t we wait outside?”
I couldn’t move on my own, and barely found the will to halt my instinct to fight Gabriel. He slowly escorted me out. Once Saskia was out of sight, my nerves relaxed, one breath at a time. The image of her convulsions still haunted me, though.
Vexx never let me down.
“Trust him,” Gabriel said, bowing his a little so his eyes would meet mine.
I shook myself loose of Gabriel’s hold. He couldn’t understand. My reason told me I acted like a child, that I could control my emotions better, but I couldn’t seem to find how. I was outnumbered. Alienated. The only feeling I could name was guilt and it packed all the other down my throat.
I leaned against the wall and crossed my arms. Gabriel chuckled. I decided to ignore him before punches started flying.
“I’m sorry.” He leaned next to me. “You just remind me of my sister’s husband when she gave birth.”
“That’s not helping.”
I closed my eyes and tried to find some inner peace. This wasn’t an actual hospital. There were no waiting area, supposedly distracting magazines and muted holographic projections. Just a long row of cells where criminals were locked in for life.
A few hours went by. Vexx worked alone under the surveillance of his FBI watchdog and I let time soothe my mood. The idea of losing Saskia still unnerved me, but I could somewhat come to terms with it as long as I didn’t see her suffer.
“Where the hell am I?” Saskia’s voice was faint yet commanding.
I barged into the room. The needle and the respirators were gone, but Saskia was still tied to the bed. The physical strain of the hack had left a coat of sweat all over her body.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She tugged on her bounds.
“There doesn’t seem to be residual handicaps,” Vexx announced.
“What have you done to me?” Saskia almost yelled. The stress couldn’t be good for her right now.
I cocked an eyebrow at Gabriel and he nodded.
“Saskia,” I said, moving closer to the bed. “This is a government facility where you have been brought for your care and security.”
“How?” She tried to sit, but fell back against the pillows.
“What do you remember?”
“Trying to kill you. And you calling me a Special Project.”
“That’s good,” Vexx chimed in. “I was afraid some memories would be damaged.”
I raised a hand to silence him; he had the geeky sparkles in his eyes.
“Saskia, you almost died.You’re not in a Merrilyn Technologies’ lab. Please, rest. I’ll explain later.”
“And I should trust you because?”
“I’m like you.” I looked up at Gabriel for another sign of approbation. “You know me as Nightshade.”
Saskia’s laugh turned into a cough fit. “Sure. You’ll have to do better than that, dolly.”
Dr Emmerson approached the bed and placed a hand on my shoulder. “This was a trying procedure. I don’t think you can reason with her until she recovers.”
Even then, it would take more than a wordy explanation.
I let Dr Emmerson corral us out of Saskia’s room, despite my desire to stay and make her listen to me. She found the strength to yell after us, but her anger receded fast and distance had nothing to do with it.
I waited until we were out of the facility to discuss the next step. “I’ll need hard evidence that I’m Nightshade to convince Saskia.”
Gabriel frowned as he unlocked the car’s doors. “What do you mean? You want to bring your face?”
Vexx chuckled. “Anyone can order one of those based on security footage.”
“As if we had any that was good enough for that,” Gabriel retorted.
“Saskia can’t know that.” I sat in the passenger’s seat and waited for the boys to stop their short staring contest and join me. “I could bring my antique guns, but she could always argue I’m rich enough to satisfy that type of quirky collection.”
“She wouldn’t be wrong.” Vexx leaned forward and I half turned on my seat to include him in the conversation. “What would be unique? Unarguable?”
“Something that predates my rise up the Most Wanted list, but that my extended network knows about.”
“I won’t like what you’ll say, will I?” Gabriel veered out of the parking garage.
“Even I don’t know what she’s talking about,” Vexx added.
I smiled. “Think you can convince your bosses to let me bring one bullet in the facility.” The guys looked at each other, and then back at me.
“Beginner’s arrogance. I had bullets made with Nightshade essence in them. Costly and fairly traceable. I ditched them pretty fast for something I could make myself.”
“Really?” Gabriel said. “We would have made the link.”
“I wasn’t stupid enough to start killing in the States before I got a hang of it in countries that weren’t as thorough in their investigations.”
“Hmmm…” By the look on his face, Gabriel was archiving the information for later use and/or questioning.
“But Saskia was artificially grown,” Vexx commented. “Was she even in the business when you used those bullets?”
I shrugged. “She must have heard about other specialists’ work before settling for her beads.”
For lack of other suggestions, Gabriel agreed to bring my request in front of his bosses. He dropped Vexx and I off near one of the sewers that led to the underground entrance of my house.
“What’s the plan?” Vexx asked as soon as we were off the street.
I chuckled. “We’ll fake Saskia’s death.”
“Get her out of the super secured wings.”
“And let her manage her breakout from there.”
I would need to rehearse my panic attack and cry-on-demand.
Strings of Retaliation – 18a – Bullet
When Saskia began to convulse, my heart revved up.