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She mumbled something in disjointed Spanish, voice losing strength with every word.

“This would be a good time to drive a little faster, Georgia,” said Mahir. His tone was utterly calm. I recognized that for the danger sign it really was. Mahir only sounded that serene when he was on the verge of panic, or getting ready to pounce on some fact that every other reporter to look at a story had somehow managed to miss. That detachment was the way he handled the things that otherwise couldn’t be handled at all.

I pressed my foot down on the gas, envying that cool veil of calm. It was all I could do not to start hyperventilating as we blew through downtown Seattle, slowing down only when the lights forced me or I had to take a turn. I doubt I could have done it under pre-Rising speed limits, back when they worried more about pedestrian safety than they did about getting people from point A to point B as quickly as humanly possible. I was still running the very edge of “safe driving” when the GPS signaled for me to slow down; we were approaching our destination.

We were approaching our destination in a vehicle that was essentially a traveling biohazard zone. “Guys?” I asked. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

Maggie mumbled something. It must have made more sense to the people around her, because Mahir spoke a moment later, saying, “When we reach the gate, roll down your window but do not attempt to put any part of your body outside the car. Tell them Maggie is injured—use her full name—and that we need immediate medical assistance. The Agora has protocols that will take it from there.”

“Do those protocols include a full tank of formalin with our names on it?” asked Shaun. Nobody answered him. He sighed. “Yeah, I figured as much.”

The Agora gatehouse was in front of us. I slowed, finally stopping the van as the guards approached. The urge to slam my foot down on the gas and go racing off to anywhere else was overwhelming… and pointless. Driving away wouldn’t make things any better.

I rolled down my window when the first guard reached the van, careful to stay well away from the opening. “We have an injured hotel guest,” I said. “She was shot.”

The guard’s expression of polite helpfulness didn’t falter. “Would you like the address of the nearest hospital with field decontamination capacity?” he asked.

“I’m sorry, I said that wrong. Magdalene Grace Garcia is in the back of this van, and she has been shot. We need immediate medical assistance.” I hesitated before adding, “Please.”

The effect Maggie’s name had on the man was nothing short of electric. His expression flickered from politely helpful to shocked to narrow-eyed efficiency in a matter of seconds. “Drive through the front gate and follow the lighted indicators next to the road,” he said. “Do not attempt to leave your vehicle. A medical team will meet you at your destination.” Almost as an afterthought, he said, “Please roll up your window.”

“Thank you,” I said. He stepped away, and I rolled the window up before putting my foot back on the gas. The gate opened as we rolled forward, and bright blue lights began flicking on next to the driveway, indicating our route.

The lights followed the obvious path to the Agora for about a hundred yards before branching off, leading us down a groundkeeper’s road that had been cunningly surrounded by bushes and flowering shrubs, making it almost unnoticeable if you didn’t know it was there—or weren’t following a bunch of bright blue lights. I kept driving, inching our speed up as high as I dared. The road led us around the back of the Agora to a separate parking garage with plastic sheeting hanging over the entrance.

I took a breath and drove on through.

The garage was brightly lit, and already swarming with people in white EMT moon suits, their hands covered by plastic gloves and their faces by clear masks. I managed to kill the engine before they started knocking on the van’s side door, but only barely. The door slid open, and suddenly the van was rocking as EMTs poured through the opening.

Someone knocked on my window, making me jump. I turned to see another of the EMTs looking through the glass at me. I lowered the window. “Ma’am, please leave your vehicle and prepare for decontamination,” he said, voice muffled by his mask.

A chill wormed down my spine. The idea of going through decontamination—of going through any medical procedure, no matter how standard—was suddenly terrifying.

The others were climbing out of the van. Mahir and Becks were already in front of the van, being led along by more EMTs. I knew Shaun would wait for me as long as he could, unwilling to let me out of his sight if he didn’t have to. That was what it took to spur me into motion. I didn’t want Shaun getting sedated because I wasn’t willing to get out of my seat.

One of the EMTs grasped my upper arm firmly as soon as my feet hit the asphalt, not waiting for me to shut the door before he began pulling me toward the building. I didn’t resist, but I didn’t help him, either, letting my feet drag as I looked frantically around for Shaun. He was being led toward the building by another of the EMTs. He broke loose as soon as he saw me, ignoring the way his EMT was shouting as he ran in my direction.


He stopped in front of me. There was blood on the front of his shirt, but his hands were clean. Either he’d been wearing gloves, or he’d somehow managed to avoid touching Maggie. Given what I’d heard from the back, that seemed unlikely. He’d played it smart. For once. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Things were so hectic back there, I didn’t have time to—”


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