Jane could ramble, but she was never distracted, and Bryn knew it was a fool’s errand to assume differently. She walked to the bed, sat down, and took off her jacket. Then she pulled the sidearm from its concealment, using two fingers, and dropped it to the primary-colored throw rug. After a second’s hesitation, she added the knife from the small of her back, too. Then she kicked them both across the room toward Jane’s booted feet. She was hoping Jane would take a split-second’s attention from her to pick them up, but Pat’s ex was wiser than that; she just kicked them onward, toward the far wall. “Facedown on the bed,” Jane said. “Hands laced on your head, ankles crossed. Any struggle, and you get a bullet in the skull.”
There wasn’t much choice. Jane was too good to make a careless mistake. She’d chosen the bed instead of the floor to avoid having to alter her center of gravity so much, and to make it that much harder for Bryn to react fast; mattresses and springs were designed for comfort, not for precise motion. Any attack she’d try to mount would flounder, and she would die.
So Bryn, seething with fury, silently got on the bed, turned facedown, laced her fingers together on the back of her head, and crossed her ankles. Only when she was still did Jane approach and dig a knee painfully into her back, then drag her wrists down and zip-tie them firmly.
The bony knee went away, thankfully. “Up,” Jane said. “Slow.”
It wasn’t as easy with her hands pinned, but Bryn rolled over and put her legs out, and leveraged her way to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. “What now?” Bryn asked, without getting up. “You march me into an oven somewhere? Problem solved?”
“You’re the kind of problem that doesn’t get solved any other way,” Jane said. “Take that as a compliment. Up.”
Bryn shook her head. “Why should I?”
“Bitch—” Jane checked herself as she started to take a step closer, and a slow, demented smile spread across her lips. “You’re buying time for Patrick. You think he’s going to figure it out.”
“Why not? I did.”
That wiped the smile from Jane’s lips, and she activated a hands-free radio with a tap on the choke-band around her neck. “Who’s got eyes on McCallister and Reynolds?” She continued to stare straight at Bryn as she listened to the reply. “How do you know they’re still there? . . . Shit. Get somebody in here to watch this bitch.”
That sounded promising. Bryn kept her attention close on Jane, but there wasn’t any kind of a slip she could take advantage of. . . . Jane stayed very still until another soldier—dressed in the same nonuniform rugged clothing that Jane favored—came in the door and took up a position with his MP4 at the ready and trained on Bryn.
“Watch her,” Jane said. “She makes a move, even a wiggle, you shoot her in the fucking head a whole lot, understand? Bryn, you play nice, now. I’m going to see what my beloved hubby’s up to.”
“News flash, you’re still divorced!” Bryn called after her. “And he still hates you!” She gave the soldier guarding her a full-on eye roll, bringing him into it with the motion. “Bet he’s not the only one in this house. So do you hate her guts or are you just terrified of her? You can pick both.”
“We’re not chatting,” the guard said. He was handsome, in a vacant kind of way—close-cropped brown hair, steady dark eyes, a square, strong chin, and some impressive cheekbones.
We already are chatting, Bryn thought. “Suit yourself,” she said aloud. “But she is such a bitch. You really can’t deny that.”
He didn’t, and she saw a little bit of a relaxing of his shoulders.
“Are you, you know . . .” She lifted her eyebrows. He frowned at her. “Revived?”
“Shut up,” he said. “I told you, we’re not chatting.”
“I only ask because she’s got a bad habit of killing people and bringing them back, for fun. I know. She did it to me about”—Bryn thought for a second—“ten times, more or less, in the space of about a day. That’s not counting the torture. There was a lot of that. Have you noticed? She’s got a taste for it.”
“Shut up.” She’d rattled him; she saw it in the muscle jumping in his jaw. Jane spooked him. Not surprising; she spooked everybody, sooner or later, or at least Bryn would assume she did.
There was a thump, a loud one, on the wood above their heads. Her guard glanced up, a single involuntary movement, and Bryn didn’t, because she’d been pretty sure that would happen.
She launched herself at him in a blur of speed, crashed into him in a crush of flesh, bone, and spraying blood from where her skull met his nose, and the two of them rolled to the floor, tangled up in a messy knot. His gun went off in a roaring burst, and the bullets tore by close enough to leave heat trails and powder burns on her skin, but somehow, she was able to keep the barrel off target just enough to matter.
Just enough to roll them over to where Jane had kicked her knife. No easy job of it, but she nicked the plastic zip tie enough to make it possible to pull her hands apart with one violent tug. She picked up the knife on the next roll over it and jammed it straight into the guard’s chest.
His eyes went wide and blank, as if he were struggling to understand, and she twisted, ripping his heart wide-open.
Game over, at least for a while. She was hurt too—strains, a broken rib or two, and her head hurt like mad from the impact with the guard’s skull—but she’d live. She controlled her impulse to groan and roll away, and instead tugged the knife free and gave him a few more fatal wounds to worry about, including leaving the knife buried in his eye socket. Sawing through bone with this particular knife would be time-consuming, and she couldn’t afford the effort—but the knife in the brain would keep his nanites plenty busy, particularly if the knife was still in place.
More thumping from upstairs.
Bryn rolled to her feet, staggered, pushed away the damage, and ran for the stairs.
She was halfway up the steps when Jane’s limp body came crashing through the door, sending it spinning off its hinges. Jane hit the railing and spun like a rag doll, folding over the barrier and sliding off and down to plummet to the floor. She landed on her neck with a crack that sounded like a stiff branch being broken.
“Patrick?” Bryn raced the rest of the way, hardly feeling the steps, and stopped fast when she ran into the still-hot muzzle of a gun. Jane’s. It was in Patrick’s hands, and his eyes were wide and a little wild, but he took a deep breath, lowered the weapon, and nodded to her.
“Are you hurt?” she asked breathlessly. There was blood on his face, and after a second she spotted the cut on his head. It looked gruesome, but it probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed. He wiped at the mess impatiently to get his vision clear.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Is she down?”
“For now. I need to go put her down for longer. Are you sure—”
“Fine,” he said again, so flatly she wasn’t at all sure that he meant it in the least. “Check Reynolds.”
Reynolds—and there was no reason for Jane to have lied about it being the real man, not a double—was cowering in the corner. Broken arm, she noted without any sympathy; as a Revived, he’d heal. He just wasn’t enjoying himself. He curled in on himself defensively when she approached him, but she struck aside his flailing keep-away hand and checked the pulse on his neck. “He’s fine,” she said, and grabbed the man by his collar. “Get up.” She put the MP4 at his back to encourage it, and he practically sprang to his feet in a convulsive leap.
“You’re crazy,” he blurted. He looked scared, all right, scared and sweating and thoroughly convinced she’d shoot. “You’re all crazy. They’ll kill you. Don’t you get it? You’re surrounded. There’s no way out!”
He may have been right, but Bryn wasn’t convinced, not without some first-person recon. She pushed Reynolds back to Patrick, who took him in a hold that must have really hurt that broken arm more than a little. Good. Without any words exchanged, Bryn took the lead on the way down. One good thing about an open-plan modern house—there were very few blind corners or places to hide.
Jane was still down and motionless on the floor, but they’d have very little time before the rest of her team descended. . . . Bryn could hear them outside, running feet on stone and grass. “Knife!” she said to Patrick and he tossed her his; she plucked it out of the air and, in the same motion, slammed it down and into Jane’s left eye. The corpse jerked just a little bit in reaction. Maybe she’d only been playing dead. That would have been typical.
This time, she pulled the knife out and started grimly sawing through the skin, muscle, gristle, and bone to separate Jane’s head from her body.
“No time,” Patrick snapped. “Leave it.”
“I can’t. We have to finish her!”
“They’ll finish us first.”
He took the knife away and slammed it back into Jane’s already-healing eye, and hauled Bryn up by the elbow. She regretted losing not one but two knives in rapid succession, but he was right—they couldn’t wait, not even another breath. Speed and ruthlessness were their only allies right now. Reynolds didn’t look as if he was inclined to give them trouble, but he wasn’t helping, either. Her brain clicked through plans, rejecting each one. . . . The front was obviously out, the side where Jane had come in would be covered, and the back of the house . . .
Bryn took a single breath to consider it—those giant plate glass windows showed off the house’s best feature: its view of a sharp drop to the valley, and the glittering ribbon of the river. She didn’t ask Patrick. There wasn’t time for debate.
Instead, she grabbed one of the end tables—a blocky, heavy, square affair, very new modern—and whirled, lifting as she put her momentum into it. Then she let go.