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“Only if it doesn’t make us dead,” I shot back, and then winced, waiting for Georgia to say something. She didn’t. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good sign or not.

Becks looked at me with concern. She’d clearly seen the wince, and was waiting to see what it was going to mean. “Boss?”

“I’m good. Come on.” I turned to head for the elevator, waving for her to follow me. With barely a moment of hesitation, she did.

Mahir met us in the elevator lobby. “Are we ready?” he asked.

“That is a question for the sages, not for us, Mahir,” I said. “But we’re going either way, so what the f**k does it matter, right?”

He took that answer in stride. None of us said anything as we got into the elevator and rode down to the lobby. The concierge smiled at us politely, like journalists stormed through his hotel every day. I waved, and we walked on, to the van.

I had unlocked the doors and was about to get inside when Becks caught my elbow, saying urgently, “The jammer.”

“… shit.” If the Masons could use that thing to track us—still unproven, but still likely—then so could other people. The Monkey’s people had known we had it. That made it a liability if we were going somewhere sensitive, like, say, the CDC. “Got a hammer?”

“I’ve got a better idea.” She picked up the jammer, dropping her backpack on the passenger seat, and turned to walk back toward the hotel.

I blinked. “Mahir? You want to logic that one out for me?”

“The concierge is supposed to be the hotel’s private on-call miracle worker,” said Mahir, hoisting himself into one of the rear seats. “Presumably, she’s gone to ask him if he has access to an industrial-grade furnace of some sort.”

“Rich people are weird,” I said, and got into the van.

Becks returned about five minutes later, looking smugly pleased. She hopped into her seat, pushing her backpack to the floor, and slammed the door before announcing, “The staff of the Agora is more than happy to dismantle any unwanted professional equipment we may have, and can promise the utmost discretion in the destruction of the individual components.”

“Is there anything money can’t buy?” I asked.

Immortality, said George.

I grimaced and started the van.

The Seattle branch of the CDC wasn’t technically in Seattle at all; it was across the lake, in Redmond. The facility was located on part of what used to be the main Microsoft campus, before the Rising demonstrated every possible flaw in their architecture. The CDC bought the site when the rebuilding of the area was getting underway; it was viewed as a major coup, since at the time, having a CDC installation nearby was seen almost as a magical talisman against further infection. That hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years. People would rather live near the CDC than in areas with good schools or excellent hospitals. The CDC will keep the zombies away.

I chuckled as I drove, largely because laughter stood a chance of keeping me from screaming. Becks kept herself busy cleaning and double-checking her guns, while Mahir monitored the GPS. The only conversation consisted of directions, given quietly and with calm efficiency, like we were going to be graded on how fast we got there. The Cat’s instructions included the location of a secure parking garage formerly connected to a grocery store. The store was long gone, but the garage remained, free-standing and abandoned. With the CDC so close, regular patrols checked the area for signs of zombie infestation. We’d be safe there, as long as the roof didn’t collapse on us.

No one was in sight as we turned off the road and into a back alley that led to the old employee entrance to the parking garage. I parked in the darkest corner I could find, despite the fact that every instinct I had told me to avoid those shadows. Our headlights didn’t catch any motion. I still signaled for the others to stay quiet as I turned off the engine. It ticked for a few seconds before stilling into silence.

Nothing moaned or shuffled in the darkness. We were alone. “Clear,” I said.

“This place gives me the creeps,” complained Becks. “Is there a reason we keep winding up in places that should have stayed in their horror movies?”

“I guess I just know how to show a girl a good time.” I opened my door, sliding out of the van. My boots crunched on the broken glass and gravel covering the pavement.

“Then what are you showing me?” asked Mahir.

“I’m not sexist. I can show a guy a good time, too.” I looked between them. “You all cool?”

“I’m cool,” confirmed Becks.

“I haven’t been ‘cool’ since arriving in this godforsaken hellhole you persist in claiming is a civilized nation. I am, however, ready to go violate a few more laws,” said Mahir. “I believe at this point we’re simply waiting on you.”

I’m ready when you are, said George.

“I thought you were supposed to keep me out of trouble,” I said, not caring that Becks and Mahir would hear me. We were long past the point where I could get any mileage out of pretending not to be crazy.

I gave up.

“Well, folks, even the girl who lives in my head says it’s time to go, so we’d better get moving. According to the directions, we have a quarter-mile to go before we even hit the fence.”

“Which means total silence and trying not to fall into any unexpected holes,” said Becks dryly. “This isn’t my first rodeo.”


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