Georgia looked at her coolly. The sunglasses helped. She was better at maintaining a neutral expression when her eyes couldn’t give her away. “Georgia Mason, journalist. You are?”
“Me?” The Fox blinked at her, then cocked her head. “I’m Foxy. I used to be called Elaine, and everything was boring, and I was sad all the time. But things are better now. I wouldn’t ask that question again, if I were you.”
George frowned. “No? Why not?”
“Oh, because if you ask it where the Cat can hear you, she’ll tell me I should shoot you in the head a couple of times to teach you not to pry. And then I’ll probably do it, because she makes the best cookies, and I don’t like remembering that I used to be someone who was sad.” The Fox said this as if it were entirely reasonable. In her scrambled little head, it probably was.
I broke in before George could say anything else. “Foxy, we’ve finished the errand we agreed to do. Can we come inside and talk about what happens next?”
“Oh, sure.” The Fox smiled, taking two short hop-steps back from the van. “Come on in. I bet the Cat’s going to be thrilled to see you!”
Behind me, I heard Becks mutter, “Only if she’s got a really good idea for ways to skin people alive.”
“You heard the lady, gang,” I said, hoping the Fox hadn’t heard that. If she had, it didn’t seem to have bothered her. She was rocking back on her heels and looking at the sky, with the gun still in her hands and pointing at the car. I was pretty sure her crazy wasn’t an act, but her clueless definitely was. “Let’s get ourselves inside.”
“Don’t forget to leave your weapons, or I get to shoot you all,” said Foxy blithely. “I’ll start with the shouty girl. She probably needs shooting more than all the rest of you combined.”
“I do believe she likes you, Rebecca,” said Mahir.
“Shut up,” snarled Becks, and began disarming.
The Fox turned and wandered toward the house, apparently dismissing us. George, meanwhile, grabbed my shoulder and demanded, “Are we actually going to get out of this van without any weapons?”
“That would be the plan.” I removed both guns from the waist of my jeans, putting them on the dashboard. George gasped a little. I paused, really looking at the guns for the first time in a long time. “Oh. I guess this one’s yours, isn’t it?”
“She can get it back after we finish dealing with the happy neighborhood psychopath brigade, okay?” said Becks, dropping three clips of ammo onto the floor. “Right now, I want to get in, get what we came for, and get the hell out of here. Seattle is not a good place for us to be anymore.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” I opened the van door. Still looking unsure about the whole thing, George followed Mahir out the side door. Maggie walked around the van to meet us, and the four of waited as patiently as we could for Becks to finish disarming.
“What are you carrying, an armory?” I called.
“I’m prepared,” she shot back, and slid out of the van. Part of the reason it had taken her so long was revealed; she had already unlaced her combat boots, making them easier to remove. Seeing the understanding in my expression, she smirked. “See? Prepared. You should try it some time, Mason. You might discover that you like it.”
Mahir snorted. “And swine may soar. Now come along.”
“Yes, sir,” said Becks, in a lilting, half-mocking tone. She was still chuckling as we walked toward the house.
I dropped back, letting Mahir and Maggie lead George as I asked Becks quietly, “You okay? You’re all… chipper… all of a sudden.”
She shook her head. “I’m not, really. I feel like I’ve been put through seven kinds of emotional wringers in the last year, and I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel right now. Thing is? It’s not going to change, and it’s not going to stop, and it’s not going to go away. The dead are coming back to life, and this time, they want to give us a piece of their minds instead of taking a piece of ours away.” Becks nodded toward George, who was walking up the porch steps. “The more I talk to her, the more I think she’s for real. That’s terrifying. That’s my whole life, falling down, because my parents are the kind of old money that funds politicians who fund places like the CDC, and now the CDC is bringing back the dead, again. So no, I’m not okay. I just don’t have the energy left to be miserable about it all the damn time.”
“So you’re in a good mood because it’s easier?”
“Yeah.” Becks gripped the crumbling remains of the banister, holding it as she started going up the stairs. “You went crazy because it was easier. So what’s so bad about deciding to stop scowling for the same reason?”
I didn’t have a good answer. I shrugged and followed her into the house. The others were waiting for us there.
Once we had all removed our shoes, we proceeded into the living room. George hung back to walk beside me, our hands not quite touching. Her presence was almost reassuring enough to make up for the fact that none of us were armed.
The Cat was sitting on one of the room’s two couches, feet up on the coffee table and a tablet braced against her knees. The Fox was nowhere to be seen. I honestly couldn’t have said whether or not that was a good thing.
“You know, I did not think we would be seeing you again,” said the Cat, not looking up from her tablet. Her fingers skated across the screen with the grace of an artist, making connections in some pattern I couldn’t see. “If there’d been a bet, I would have lost.”
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