|Home > Kelley Armstrong > Darkest Powers > The Reckoning (Page 28)|
|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
COLD METAL VIBRATED AGAINST my cheek. A car roared past.
“How’s his blood sugar?” A distant woman’s voice. Margaret.
“Low.” A man’s voice, closer. Russell. “Very low. I can give him a glucose shot, but we really should-”
“Derek.” Simon’s voice now, the name coming out as a moan.
My eyes fluttered open. We were lying on the floor of a van. Simon was a few feet from me, still asleep, face screwed up, like he was in pain.
“And give him more sedative,” Margaret called back from the driver’s seat. “I don’t want them waking up.”
“He really shouldn’t get too much-”
“Just do it.”
I closed my eyes to slits, so they wouldn’t realize I was awake. I tried to look around without moving my head, but all I could see was Simon and, over his head, Tori’s sneaker.
Derek. Where is-?
My eyelids closed again.
The van stopped moving. Cold air rushed over me, exhaust fumes blasting in. The engine rumbled, then died. Another rumble, like a closing garage door. The wind disappeared and everything went dark. Then a light flicked on.
Simon retched beside me. The stink of vomit filled the van. I pried my eyes open to see him, sitting, supported by Russell, who held a plastic bag for him.
“Simon.” My voice came out thick.
He turned. His eyes met mine and struggled to focus. His lips parted and he rasped, “You’re okay,” then he gagged and hunched back over the vomit bag.
“What did you give him?” a man’s voice snapped.
I knew that voice. Cool fingers wrapped around my bare arm. I looked up. Dr. Davidoff’s face hovered above mine.
“It’s all right, Chloe.” He smiled. “You’re home.”
A guard rolled me through the halls in a wheelchair, my arms and legs strapped down. Tori rode beside me, also restrained, pushed by another guard.
“It’s a temporary measure,” Dr. Davidoff had assured me when the guard bound me to the chair. “We don’t want to sedate you again, so this is our only alternative until you’ve had time to reacclimatize.”
Dr. Davidoff walked between the guards. Behind them, Margaret and Russell walked as they talked to Tori’s mom, who hadn’t said a word to her daughter since we’d arrived.
“We decided this was the best place for them,” Margaret was saying. “They need a level of control and supervision that we just can’t provide.”
“Your compassion and consideration are overwhelming,” Diane Enright said. “And where did you want us to deposit your finder’s fee again?”
I could feel the chill in Margaret’s tone when she answered. “You have the account number.”
“We aren’t leaving until we’ve confirmed the deposit,” Russell chimed in. “And if you get any ideas about not paying us-”
“I’m sure you’ve taken precautions against just such a possibility,” Mrs. Enright said drily. “A letter to be opened in the event of your sudden disappearance, exposing us all?”
“No,” Margaret said. “Just someone waiting for our call. A colleague with a direct line to the Nast Cabal and all the details of your operation. I’m sure Mr. St. Cloud wouldn’t want that.”
Dr. Davidoff only chuckled. “Threatening a Cabal with a Cabal? Clever. But that won’t be necessary.” The good humor drained from his voice. “Whatever Mr. St. Cloud’s interest in our organization, we remain an independent operation, meaning we do not operate under the auspices of his Cabal. You made a deal with us-a sizable payment in return for our subjects and the disbanding of your little rebel group. You have earned that payment and you will get it without treachery or threat of violence.”
He glanced back at them. “However, considering it is, ultimately, Mr. St. Cloud’s money that is paying you, I would suggest that when you leave the safety of our walls, you get as far away as you can, as fast as you can.”
When Tori’s mom led Margaret and Russell away, I asked about Simon. I hated giving Dr. Davidoff the satisfaction of hearing the tremor in my voice, but I had to know.
“I’m taking you to see him now, Chloe,” he said in that condescending fake-cheerful tone I knew too well. Look how good we are to you, it said. And look how you treat us. We only want to help. My fingernails dug into the arms of my wheelchair.
Dr. Davidoff strode ahead and opened a door. We went up a ramp and found ourselves in an observation room overlooking an operating room. I looked down at the shining metal operating table and the trays of gleaming metal instruments, and I gripped the chair tighter.
A woman was in the room, off to the side of the observation window, so I could only make out a slender arm in a lab coat.
The door to the operating room opened, and a gray-haired woman entered. It was Sue, the nurse I’d met last time I was here. She wheeled a gurney. Simon lay on it, strapped down.
“No!” I flung myself against the restraints.
Dr. Davidoff chuckled. “I don’t even want to know what you think we have in mind, Chloe. We’re bringing Simon in to hook him up to an IV. Being diabetic, he’s easily dehydrated by vomiting. We don’t want to take any chances, not while that sedative is still upsetting his stomach.”
I said nothing, just stared down at Simon, my heart thumping.
“It’s a precaution, Chloe. And what you’re looking at is simply our medical room. Yes, it’s equipped for surgery, but only because it’s a multipurpose room.” He bent and whispered. “If you look closely, I bet you’ll see dust on those instruments.”
He winked, the genial uncle humoring the silly little girl, and I wanted to-I don’t know what I wanted to do, but something in my expression made him flinch and just for a second, that genial uncle vanished. I wasn’t the docile little Chloe he remembered. It would be safer if I was, but I couldn’t fake it anymore.
He straightened and cleared his throat. “Now, if you’ll look down there again, Chloe, I believe you’ll see someone else you recognize.”
I turned toward Simon, still lying on the gurney, pale as the sheet pulled over him. He was listening to the woman in the lab coat, but I could only see her from the back. She was slender, below average height, with blond hair. And it was that hair, the way it swung as she leaned over Simon, that made my breath catch.
Dr. Davidoff rapped on the window. The doctor looked up.
It was Aunt Lauren.
She shaded her eyes, like she couldn’t see anyone through the tinted glass. Then she turned back to Simon, talking as he nodded.
“Your aunt made a mistake,” Dr. Davidoff said. “You were so upset when we brought you here that she panicked. She was under a lot of stress and she made some bad decisions. She sees that now. We understand and we’ve forgiven her. She’s a welcome member of the team once again. As you can see, she’s back to work, happy and healthy, not chained in a dungeon or whatever horrible fate you’d imagined befalling her.”
He looked down at me. “We aren’t monsters, Chloe.”
“So where’s Rachelle?” Tori’s voice made me jump. Her chair was next to mine, but I’d forgotten she was here. “She’s up next on the happy-friends reunion tour, I suppose.”
When Dr. Davidoff said nothing, the sneer fell from Tori’s face.
“Wh-where’s Rae?” I asked. “Sh-she is here, right?”
“She’s been transferred,” he said.
He forced a jovial note into his voice. “Yes. This laboratory is hardly the place for a sixteen-year-old girl to live. It was only temporary lodgings, which we would have explained if you’d stayed long enough to let us. Rachelle has been moved to-” He chuckled. “I won’t call it a group home because, I assure you, it’s a far cry from Lyle House. More like a boarding school. A very special boarding school, just for supernaturals.”
“Let me guess,” Tori said. “You can only get to it by a magical train. How stupid do you think we are?”
“We don’t think you’re stupid at all. We think you’re special. There are people, as you’ve discovered, who think special means dangerous, which is why we’ve designed a school for your education and protection.”
“Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters,” I said.
He smiled at me, completely missing the edge in my voice. “Exactly, Chloe.”
Tori twisted to look at him. “And if we’re all very, very good, we’ll get to go there and live with Rae and Liz and Brady. Is Amber there, too?”
“As a matter of fact-”
The venom in Tori’s voice made him flinch. The empty chairs rattled and the guards glanced over at them, and fingered their sidearms. I barely noticed. All I could think was: Rae. No, please, not Rae.
“Liz is dead,” Tori said. “We’ve met her ghost-seen her throwing stuff, using her powers. Even my mother saw it. She knew it was Liz. Or didn’t she mention that?”
Dr. Davidoff unclipped his pager and pressed a button, undoubtedly summoning Tori’s mom, while using the delay to find the right expression-regret and sadness.
“I wasn’t aware you knew the truth about Liz,” he said carefully. “Yes, I admit it. There was an accident the night we brought her in from Lyle House. We didn’t tell any of you because you’re all in a very fragile state-”
“Do I look fragile?” Tori said.
“Yes, Victoria, you do. You look angry and distraught and very vulnerable, and that’s completely understandable if you think we killed your friend. But we didn’t.”
“What about Brady?” I asked.
“Chloe saw his ghost, too,” Tori said. “Here. At the lab. He said he was brought in to talk to you, saw her aunt Lauren, and then poof, game over.”
His gaze flicked from me to Tori, assessing the chances that Tori somehow had proof of Brady’s death as well.
“Chloe was still experiencing aftereffects from her sedatives,” he said. “She had also been on a regime of drugs to keep her from seeing ghosts, either of which may have caused hallucinations.”
“How did she hallucinate a boy she’d never met? Do you want her to describe him, because he sounded an awful lot like Brady to me.”
“I’m sure Chloe saw a photo of him, whether she remembers it or not. Brady was close to Rachelle. She probably described him-”
“You have an explanation for everything, don’t you?” Tori said. “Fine. Brady, Rae, and Amber are all living happily ever after in your superspecial boarding school. You want to calm us down? Get them on the phone. Better yet, set up a video conference. Don’t tell me you can’t do that, because I know Mom has the equipment.”
“Yes, we do, and we will let you speak to them just as soon-”
“Now!” Tori roared.
Sparks fizzled at her fingertips. The empty chairs wobbled. One crashed over backward. Her guard pulled out his sidearm.
“I want to see them now! Rae and Brady and Amber-”
“You can want all you like, Miss Victoria.” The door opened and Tori’s mother walked in. “But your wants no longer matter. You lost that right when you ran away.”
“So you still recognize me, Mom? Whew. I thought maybe I’d changed so much that you’d forgotten who I was.”
“Oh, I recognize you, Victoria. You’re still the same spoiled princess who ran away from her responsibilities last week.”
Tori’s fists clenched and her restraints snapped open. My guard lunged forward, but Dr. Davidoff waved him back and motioned for the other to put away his gun.
Tori got to her feet. Her hair bristled, popping and sparking.
“Sedate her,” Mrs. Enright snapped. “If she can’t behave herself-”
“No, Diane,” Dr. Davidoff said. “We need to learn how to handle Victoria ’s outbursts without resorting to medication. Now, Tori, I understand you’re upset-”
“Do you?” She wheeled. “Do you really? You locked me up at Lyle House and told me I was mentally ill. You shoved pills down my throat. You murdered my friend. You made me into this genetically modified freak, and yet you tell me it’s my fault!”
She slammed her fists against her sides. Tiny bolts sparked off them, making her guard step forward.
“Does that make you nervous?” she said. “That’s nothing.”
She lifted her hands. A ball of energy spun between them, barely bigger than a pea at first, then growing and growing…
“That’s enough, Victoria,” Dr. Davidoff said. “We know you’re very powerful-”
“You have no idea how powerful I am.” She tossed the ball of energy in the air, where it spun, shooting sparks. “But I can show you.”
Behind Tori, her mother moved out of everyone’s sight as they all stared at Tori. Mrs. Enright’s lips moved in a spell. As I opened my mouth to warn Tori, a bolt shot from her mother’s fingertips, whipping past Tori and hitting the advancing guard in the chest.
The guard dropped. Dr. Davidoff, Mrs. Enright, and the other guard rushed to his side.
“He’s not breathing,” the guard said. He looked up at Dr. Davidoff, eyes wide. “He’s not breathing.”
“Oh my God.” Mrs. Enright slowly turned to Tori. “What have you done?”
Tori jumped, startled. “I didn’t-”