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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
When I left our room, I went looking for Tori. She’d taken off after the planning meeting, saying something about cleaning, so we hadn’t had time to update her on Royce and Dr. Banks. On the main level, I followed the vacuum cord in the hall and found her in the library, at the bookshelf, dusting off the old, leather books.
“I don’t think you need to do that anymore,” I said. “We’re leaving tomorrow.”
“I don’t mind.”
She pasted on a smile, and I don’t know what tipped me off-that smile or Tori claiming to enjoy dusting. I stepped in and looked around. A light flickered as the kaleidoscope screensaver started up on the open laptop.
“That’s Margaret’s computer,” I said, walking over to it. “Were you on it?”
“Just trying to email some friends and let them know I’m okay, but there’s no internet.”
“You don’t believe me? Check. No wireless and I can’t find an outlet, not surprising when this place doesn’t even have the phones hooked up.”
“That’s not what I meant.” I turned to her. “Endangering us by emailing your friends? No way.”
She settled on the edge of the desk. “See, now that’s progress, because a week ago, you would have totally bought it.”
I jiggled the mouse. It brought up a file system window. I looked at her.
“It’s not what you think,” she said.
“What do I think?”
“That I’m a spy for the Edison Group, gathering intelligence. Or trying to contact them, let them know where we are.”
“You aren’t a spy.”
A wry smile. “I don’t know if I should thank you for the vote of confidence or blast you for being too nice to accuse me to my face. I know that’s what the guys think. Especially Derek. And I bet I know why they think that, too.”
“Because I got away too easily at Andrew’s house. They’re right. I did.” She eased back on the desk. “I didn’t think so at first. When I escaped, I was all, like, ‘God, I’m good. Those idiots didn’t know who they were dealing with.’” She laughed, but it wasn’t an easy laugh. “Once things cooled down, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m good, but not that good.’ They knew I had magical outbursts when I got mad. So they knew I wasn’t some helpless teenage girl. If I got away that easily, maybe it was because they let me.”
“That’s the question, isn’t it? At first, I thought they’d planted something on me. I was shaking out my clothes, washing them. I even ironed them, to be sure.”
“That was a good idea.”
“No, it’s nuts. I’ve been hanging around you guys too long. But I also figured, if the Edison Group could catch only one of us that night, planting a GPS and releasing me would be a good idea. I wasn’t about to be the one who led them to us. So I went overboard making sure there was no transmitter.”
“And there wasn’t.”
“As far as I could tell. That leaves option two: they released me because I’m the small fish in the pond. I wasn’t worth keeping.”
“I can’t imagine-”
“Think about it. They get word that werewolf boy is on the rampage. Then they hear that Andrew has escaped. Suddenly, I’m not double-guard worthy. They leave me with one and hope he can keep me. He couldn’t.”
“Okay, so”-I waved at the computer-“what are you doing?”
“Trying to prove I’m not a spy. By spying.” She turned the computer toward her. “Doing some intelligence work of my own is the best way to show I’m not a complete waste of space. When Andrew said they couldn’t get in touch with Gwen that got me thinking.”
She typed as she talked, fingers flying over the keyboard. “Russell obviously didn’t act alone. Maybe Gwen was in on it, but I don’t think so. She didn’t like him.”
“He thought she was a ditzy blonde. The only time he got near her was when he was trying to look down her shirt. He’s not evil genius material, either. Someone else masterminded the scheme to capture Derek, and they’re also behind the plan to get rid of the rest of us. I nominate Margaret. I’ve gone through her files and email. Now, I’m digging into the stuff she deleted-or thought she did. Even after you empty your deleted folder or recycle bin, it’s still there, if you know how to find it.”
She started typing, flipping through folders so fast I got dizzy watching.
“You really are a computer-” I began.
“Say ‘geek’ and I’ll use you for spell practice. I’m a software designer. But, yes, I know a few things about hacking, courtesy of a loser ex-boyfriend who used his talent to change his grades so he could spend more time gaming. Like World of Warcraft is going to help you through college. I had him teach me the basics, though, before I dumped him. You never know when it might come in handy.”
I’m sure it had come in handy before now. I remembered how Tori had blackmailed Dr. Davidoff into letting her leave the lab.
“Okay, I’ve got some deleted emails. I’m searching on all our names and Simon’s dad’s. Who were those werewolf guys Russell hired?”
“Liam and Ramon, but Liam was the contact. That’s L-I-”
She gave me a look. I shut my mouth and let her type. Nothing came up.
“Are there any to or from Russell?”
“Yep, he’s MedicGuy56. I found him in her contact list. I’ll take a look.”
She was flipping past one sent to Russell when I caught a word that made me tell her to stop. Syracuse. Home of the werewolf Pack. The note gave instructions for finding a house outside a town called Bear Valley, near Syracuse.
I read on.
Tomas says not to go to the house. Wait and approach them off the property, preferably in a public setting, and definitely when the children are not present. If possible, approach the Alpha or the woman. Tomas says he cannot stress these things enough. Do not go directly to the house. Do not approach when the children are there.
“Alpha?” Tori said.
“It’s a wolf term. It means the pack leader. These were instructions for turning Derek over to the Pack.”
“Well, then, we’ve got our evidence.”
“Keep looking. The more we can find, the better. Search on Alpha, Pack, Bear Valley, Tomas…”
At a sound in the hall, I scurried to the door. It was Margaret, but she was heading the other way. Behind me, Tori murmured, “No, that’s…” She trailed off, then swore under her breath.
I hurried over. She was staring at an email with only a few terse lines from Margaret, assuring the sender that she’d conveyed Tomas’s instructions to the “person Russell has hired to resolve the situation.”
“Great, more proof,” I said. “So what’s the problem?”
She just pointed to the recipient’s email address: [email protected].
“A-Andrew? No, that can’t be right. Is there another Carson?”
“That’s Andrew, Chloe. I checked her contact list and other emails. And there’s a response, too.”
She flipped to a second email. Another short one, basically an “okay, thanks” from Andrew.
“Check the date,” she said.
It’d been sent the day we’d first met Liam and Ramon. A day when Andrew had, supposedly, been in the Edison Group’s custody.
TORI KEPT SEARCHING. THERE wasn’t much more-just enough to confirm what we’d already figured out. Andrew had been part of the plot to turn Derek over to the Pack. And he hadn’t been anyone’s hostage.
“So Andrew is part of the Edison Group?” Tori said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“No, it doesn’t.” I pushed the laptop back and sat on the desk. “You were with me at the laboratory. Between the two of us, we saw a lot of staff members. Did you recognize any of them that night at Andrew’s?”
“That was a security team. We never got a chance to see them before.”
“Sure we did. Simon, Derek, and I did on the night we escaped Lyle House. You and I did after we escaped the Edison Group. What we saw, both times, was mainly staff with only a couple of guards. If they had some high-powered security team, wouldn’t they have called them in for that?”
“Maybe it was the staff and the guards. How would we know? They were wearing…” She looked at me. “They were wearing things on their hats, covering their faces. They didn’t do that at the warehouse when they were chasing us.”
“Or the night Derek and I escaped Lyle House. Why hide their faces when we’d already seen them?” I thought back to that night. “You weren’t the only one who got away too easily.”
“Andrew, you mean.”
“Not just him. I was hiding up in a tree. One of the women found me. I dropped on top of her. Stupid thing to do, but it worked-she was knocked out cold. Or so I thought.”
“See, we’re both just that good.”
We tried to exchange a smile.
“The Edison Group didn’t track us to Andrew’s,” I said. “That’s what my mom was trying to tell me.”
“If you guys are going to talk about that, you might want to go up on the roof,” Derek rumbled from the doorway. “Or be a little quieter. I could hear you from down the hall.”
“Because you’ve got bionic hearing,” Tori said.
I started to say something, but Derek beat me to it.
“Simon had to go talk to Andrew. I thought maybe you…” He glanced at Tori, annoyed, like she was eavesdropping. “I thought there might be old files in the attic. You want to come up and see? Maybe get some more info on Dr. Banks?”
I had to stifle the urge to say “Sure!” So what if we’d just discovered that the people giving us refuge were the same ones who tried to kill us three nights ago? Finding out whether Derek liked me was so much more important.
“I can’t,” I said. “We-”
“That’s okay,” he cut in, starting to retreat.
I stepped forward to stop him. “I would. But-”
“But Chloe can’t come out to play right now,” Tori said. “She’s in the middle of helping me unravel a conspiracy, a matter of life or death. Our life or death.”
“The Edison Group didn’t attack us at Andrew’s place,” I said. “He did. Andrew and the others.”
I told Derek what we’d found. For once, I hoped he’d say I was wrong, that my logic was flawed and there was a perfectly reasonable alternate explanation.
But when I finished, he swore. Then he paced, swearing some more, until he stopped and shoved his hair back.
“We’re wrong, aren’t we?” I said. “We misinterpreted the data.”
“No, you didn’t.”
It was my turn to swear then, making Tori arch her brows.
“I’m just mad at myself,” Derek said. “I saw the possibility. I wondered whether we all got away too easily that night at Andrew’s. I wondered why they shot at us when they used darts before. I wondered why they covered their faces. I just never thought it could have anything to do with Andrew. I did think he might be behind the kidnapping attempt last night, though.”
“But you said-”
“That I trusted Andrew. I did. But he thinks I’d be better off with my own kind, so I wanted to see his reaction. That told me he wasn’t involved. Or so I thought.”
“He seemed genuinely surprised,” I said. “Furious, even.”
“Guess he’s a good actor,” Tori said. “Okay, so am I the only one who’s wondering why they went through the trouble of that fake Edison Group attack when we were already going to Andrew’s place?”
“Going doesn’t mean staying,” Derek said.
“We might not stay with Andrew,” I said. “If things didn’t quite go our way. We’ve already run away twice.”
“So if they convinced us the Edison Group had tracked us down and was lurking out there, prepared to shoot to kill…”
“That would trap us better than guard dogs and barbed wire.”
I quickly looked at the door. “You said Simon was with-”
Derek swore. “Right. He’s with Andrew. I’m sure whatever’s going on here, hurting Simon isn’t part of the plan, but I’ll go get him. I’ll remind him it’s past his snack time. He needs to have morning and afternoon snacks for his blood sugar, so that won’t sound suspicious.”
I nodded. “We need to be careful.”
“Screw caution,” Tori said. “I’m outta here.”
We looked at her.
“Well, I am. As long as someone comes with me.”
We kept looking at her.
She sighed. “Fine, but when everything goes to hell, just remember, I get to blame you guys, because I wanted to leave right away.”
“We are leaving right away,” Derek said, “just as soon as we know as much as possible about their plans. You said that was Margaret’s laptop, not Andrew’s, right?”
I nodded. “But I know a way to get Andrew’s, if you want Tori to search it.”
“Good. Do that. I want to know exactly what they have in mind.”