There was a blossom of red, and her lips parted, but he’d cut deep, and no sound made it out.
“And Ulysses stopped up his ears against the siren’s song,” recited Victor, pulling the plugs from his own ears as Serena collapsed to the dirt lot, “for it was death.”
“Jesus,” said Dominic, looking away. “She was just a girl.”
Victor looked down at her body. Blood was pooling beneath Serena’s face, glistening and dark. “Don’t be insulting,” he said. “She was the most powerful woman in the city. Aside from Sydney, of course.”
“About Sydney…,” said Mitch, looking down at the dead girl. From this angle she seemed smaller, and with her face turned like that, her hair caught in the collar of her coat, the resemblance was disturbing. “What are we going to do about this?”
Dominic set the plastic gas tank on the dirt beside the body.
“Burn the body,” said Victor, closing his knife. “I don’t want Sydney seeing it. And I certainly don’t want her getting her hands on it. The last thing we need is Serena coming back to life.”
Mitch had just taken up the gas canister when a gun fired within the building, lighting up the bones of the high-rise like a camera flash.
“What the hell?” growled Victor.
“Looks like Eli got here first,” said Mitch.
“But if I’m out here,” said Victor, “then what’s Eli shooting at?” He grabbed hold of Dominic’s shoulder. “Take me in there. Now.”
* * *
THE sound of Eli’s gun rang off the concrete as Dol’s body buckled, and even though he didn’t seem to feel the pain of the shot, he fell onto his side, panting for air. His chest went up and down and up and down and then … stopped. Eli saw the girl reach for the dog but he recocked the gun and leveled it on her.
“Good-bye, Sydney,” he said.
And then the darkness moved around her, and a pair of hands reached out of nothing and jerked her backward into nothing with them. Eli pulled the trigger and the bullet hit the plastic sheeting where the girl had been.
He let out a frustrated sound and fired two more shots into the space that had been Sydney. But she was gone.
THE FALCON PRICE PROJECT
SYDNEY felt someone take hold and pull her into the dark.
One moment she was looking down the barrel of Eli’s gun and the next she was standing hand in hand with the man from the profile she’d given Victor. She looked around, but didn’t let go. They were still in the plastic-sheeted room, and yet they weren’t. It was like standing outside of life, stuck in a too still world that scared her more than she would ever admit. She could see Eli, the bullet from his gun hovering in the air where she had been, and Dol, lifeless on the ground.
He hadn’t been there a moment before, but now he was, standing several feet behind Eli, unseen, one hand reaching slightly forward and out, as if about to rest on Eli’s shoulder.
Sydney tried to tell the man holding her hand that she had to get Dol, but her lips made no sound, and he didn’t even look at her, only dragged her through the heavy world, winding back through the curtains of plastic until they reached the place where the building gave way to the dirt lot. There was a bright light across the lot, casting shadows up against the metal bones of the high-rise, but the man pulled her in the other direction, leading her to a darkened corner in the back of the construction site. They stepped back into the world, the bubble of quiet bursting into life and sound around them. Even just the sound of breathing, of time passing, was deafening compared to the quiet of the shadows.
“You have to go back,” snapped Sydney, kneeling in the dirt.
“Can’t. Victor’s orders.”
“But you have to get Dol.”
“Sydney … it’s Sydney, right?” The man knelt in front of her. “I saw the dog, okay? I’m sorry. It was too late.”
She held his eyes, the way Serena had held hers. Calm and cold and unblinking. She knew she didn’t have her sister’s gift, her control, but even before, Serena got her way, and she was Serena’s sister, and she needed him to see.
“Go back,” she said sternly. “Go. Get. Dol.”
And it must have worked because Dominic swallowed, nodded, and vanished into nothing.
* * *
ELI emptied the gun into the air, but all signs of them were gone. He growled and ejected the magazine. It clattered to the ground as he dug in his coat for a full one.
“I watch you, and it’s like watching two people.”
He spun at the sound of the voice and found Victor leaning back against a concrete pillar.
Victor didn’t hesitate. He fired three times into Eli’s chest, mimicking the pattern of the scars on his own body, the way he had imagined he would for the last ten years.
And it felt good. He had been worried that after so much waiting and so much wanting the actuality of shooting Eli wouldn’t live up to the dream, but it did. The air buzzed around them and Eli groaned and braced himself against the chair as the pain multiplied.
“It’s why I let you stay,” said Victor. “Why I liked you. All that charm outside, all that evil inside. There was a monster under there, long before you died.”
“I’m not a monster,” growled Eli as he dug one of the bullets out of his shoulder, and dropped the bloodied metal to the floor. “I am God’s—” But Victor was already there, burying a switchblade in Eli’s chest. He punctured a lung, he could tell by the gasp. Victor’s mouth twitched, face patient but knuckles white around the blade’s grip.
“Enough,” said Victor. Behind his eyes, the dial turned up. Eli screamed. “You aren’t some avenging angel, Eli,” he said. “You’re not blessed, or divine, or burdened. You’re a science experiment.”
Victor pulled the knife out. Eli went down on one knee.
“You don’t understand,” gasped Eli. “No one understands.”
“When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.”
Eli struggled up to his knees, reaching for the makeshift table as his skin knit together.
Victor’s gaze shifted to it, taking in the row of knives. Just like that day. “How nostalgic of you.” He put a foot on the table and knocked it over, sending the weapons scattering across the concrete. The dog’s body, he noticed, was gone.
“You can’t kill me, Victor,” said Eli. “You know that.”
Victor’s smile widened as he buried his knife between Eli’s ribs.
“I know,” he said loudly. He had to speak up over the screams. “But you’ll have to indulge me. I’ve waited so long to try.”
* * *
A breath later, Dominic reappeared, half carrying half dragging a very large, very dead dog. He sank to the dirt lot beside its body, breathing heavily. Sydney hurried over, thanked him, and then asked him to get out of her way. Dominic sagged back, and watched as she ran a soothing hand over the dog’s side, brushing the wound lightly. Her palm came away dark red, and she frowned.
“I told you,” he said. “I’m sorry.”