Vengeful (Page 62)

She didn’t draw a weapon, but she had one hand to her ear and her lips were moving.

A group of cyclists whipped around the corner and Victor cut across the path just before they passed, a sudden, whooshing barricade that bought him just enough time to step between two carts and out of the park.

Victor moved swiftly, cutting across traffic and down a side street, seconds before an unmarked van skidded around the corner at the other end. It drove straight at him. He reached for the man behind the wheel, turning the dial up until the driver lost control and the van veered, slamming into a hydrant. Victor heard more footsteps, the hiss of radio static. He ducked into the nearest subway stop, swept past the turnstile and down the stairs, taking them two at a time toward the train pulling into the station below.

He made his way to the very end of the platform, but instead of boarding the train, he slipped past the pedestrian barricade and into the mouth of the tunnel, pressing his body against the wall as the bells chimed and the subway doors hissed shut.

A man reached the platform just in time to watch the train slide by.

Victor lingered in the tunnel, watching the man scan the cars, hands on his hips, his black hair edging to gray.

Stell.

Even after five years, Victor recognized him immediately. He watched as the former detective turned around, finally, and stormed back up the stairs.

Victor knew he should try again to get to the Kingsley—but first, he needed to have a word with the director of EON.

The next train pulled in, and Victor slipped into the press of bodies following in Stell’s wake.

X

THE LAST AFTERNOON

EON

DOM stared at Stell’s bank of computer screens.

Figure it out.

His mind spun like tires in mud, searching for purchase, his attention flicking from the desk to the door to the grid of camera footage on the far wall. There, upper right, three soldiers in full gear moved down a white hall. In another window, the familiar shape of Eli Cardale sat waiting.

F**k.

Dom turned toward the trio of screens on Stell’s desk. He didn’t know the first thing about hacking into computers.

But he knew someone who did.

Mitch answered on the second ring. “Who is this?”

“Mitch, it’s Dominic.”

A shuffle of movement. “This isn’t a good time.”

Footsteps sounded in the hall beyond Stell’s office. Dom pressed the cell to his chest and held his breath. When they were gone, he raised the phone, talking quickly. “Sorry, but I’m working on Victor’s orders.”

“Aren’t we all.”

“I need to hack a computer.”

The metal sound of a zipper sliding. “What kind?”

“The kind at EON.”

The line went quiet, and Dom assumed Mitch was thinking, but then he heard a laptop click open, a booting sound. “What kind of encryption?”

“No idea.” He tapped the computer away. “It’s just a password screen.”

Mitch made a sound like a muffled laugh. “Governments. Okay. Do exactly what I tell you . . .”

He started speaking a foreign language—that’s what it sounded like, anyway—but Dom did as he was told, and three agonizing minutes later, a green ACCESS GRANTED appeared on the screen, and he was in.

Dom hung up, brought up the grid of folders, each one marked by a cell number. Every other computer in EON had a folder like this one. And every other folder started with Cell 1.

But Stell’s computer had another option—Cell 0.

Dom opened the drive and Eli Ever—Eliot Cardale—appeared onscreen, sitting at a table in the center of his cell, turning through a black folder. As Dom keyed in the codes, his vision sharpened, his focus narrowing the way it had when he was in the field. Time seemed to slow. Everything fell away except the screen, the commands, and the blur of his fingers across the keyboard.

A second window appeared with the cell block controls, scanning past lighting and temperature to security, emergency, lockdown.

Dominic couldn’t prevent EON from letting Eli out. But he could slow them down. He was just about to key in the codes Mitch had given him, send the whole cell into lockdown, when someone cleared their throat behind him.

Dom spun around, and saw Agent Rios standing there, looking unimpressed. He didn’t have time to wonder where she’d come from, didn’t even have time to step out of time—into the safety of the shadows—before Rios slammed a cattle prod into his chest and Dom’s world went white.

* * *

ELI was getting restless.

He scanned the images in the black folder one last time as he waited for Stell.

The director had made the plan very clear—Eli would be escorted from the facility under guard and, upon completion of the mission, returned to his cell. If he disobeyed in any way, at any point, he would be returned to the lab instead, where he would spend the rest of his existence being dissected.

That was Stell’s plan.

Eli had his own.

Steps sounded beyond the wall, and he set his file aside and rose, expecting as usual to see Stell. Instead, when the wall went clear, he saw a fleet of EON soldiers dressed in black, their faces hidden behind sleek, close-fitting masks. Even with the visors up, only their eyes were visible. One pair green, one blue, one brown.

“All this fuss,” muttered Green Eyes, sizing him up. “Doesn’t look all that dangerous to me.”

“Oh,” said Eli, crossing the cell, “there are EOs out there far more dangerous than I am.”

“But how many people have they killed?” asked Blue Eyes. “I’m guessing it’s less than you.”

Eli shrugged. “That depends.”

“On what?” asked Brown Eyes—a woman, judging by her voice.

“Whether you consider EOs people,” said Eli.

“Enough,” said Blue Eyes, stepping toward the barrier. “Let’s get going.”

Eli held his ground. “Where is Director Stell?”

“Busy.”

Eli doubted Stell would hand over such a delicate task—unless it was truly urgent.

Or personal.

Could Stell have already found Victor?

Ships in the night, thought Eli grimly. But he couldn’t afford to worry about Victor Vale right now.

“Inmate,” ordered Blue Eyes. “Approach the divide and put your hands through the slot.”

Eli did, felt the heavy metal cuffs close around his wrists.

“Now turn around, place your back to the slot, and kneel.”

Eli hesitated. That wasn’t protocol. Cautiously, he did as he was told, expecting a dark hood to come down over his head. Instead, cold metal slid around his throat. Eli tensed, resisted the urge to pull away as the steel closed around his throat.

“The hunting dog gets a collar,” said Blue Eyes.

Eli stood, running his fingers along the band of metal. “What is this?”

Brown Eyes held up a slim remote. “Didn’t think we’d let you out without a leash . . .”

She pressed a button, and a single high note, like a warning tone, sounded in Eli’s ears before pain pierced the back of his neck. Eli’s vision went white, his body folding beneath him.

“And down he goes,” said Blue Eyes as he hit the cell floor.

Eli couldn’t move, couldn’t feel anything below the shard of metal driven between his vertebrae.

“Come on, Samson,” said Green Eyes, “we’re on a schedule.”

The tone sounded again, and the steel spike withdrew. Eli gasped, chest lurching as his spine healed and sensation flooded back into his limbs. He pushed himself to his hands and knees, and then up to his feet. A small pool of blood on the cell floor was the only sign of what they’d done.

Brown Eyes waved the remote. “You try to escape, you try to attack us—hell, you piss us off—I’ll put you down.”

Eli studied the slim remote in the soldier’s hand, and wondered if it was the only one.

“Why would I do that?” he said. “We’re on the same side.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Green Eyes, thrusting a hood through the slot. “Put it on.”

Eli was led, blind and bound, through doorways and down halls, a soldier gripping each arm. He felt the ground shift beneath him from concrete to linoleum, and then to asphalt. The air changed, a breeze grazing his skin, and he wished the hood were off, wished he could see the sky, breathe in fresh air. But there would be time for that. A few feet more, and then their progress halted. Eli was turned around, maneuvered until his back came up against the metal side of a van.

Doors swung open, and he was half dragged into the back of the van, forced a little too roughly onto a steel bench against one wall. A strap went around his legs, another around his chest. His handcuffs were locked to the bench seat between his knees. The soldiers climbed in, and the doors were thrown shut, and the van’s engine revved as it pulled away from EON.

Eli smiled beneath the hood.

He was cuffed and collared—but he was one step closer to free.

XI

THE LAST AFTERNOON

THE FALCON PRICE

A couple years ago, Mitch had taught Sydney about magnets.

They’d spent a whole day testing their effects, the attraction and repulsion. Syd had always thought of magnetic force as a pull, but she’d been shocked to discover the strength of their push. Even a small flat disc could exert so much force against another.

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