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“Shhh,” she said, and pressed her hands, fingers splayed, against the dog’s chest. She drew in a shaky breath as the cold flooded up her arms.

“Come on,” she whispered. “Come on, Dol.”

But nothing happened. Her heart sank. Sydney Clarke gave second chances. But the dog had already had his. She’d fixed him once, but she didn’t know if she could do it again. She pressed down harder, and felt the cold leeching something from her.

The dog still lay dead and stiff as the planks in the construction lot.

She shivered and knew it shouldn’t be this hard as she reached not with her hands but something else, as if she could find a spark of heat within and take hold. She reached past the fur and skin and stiffness as her hands hurt and her lungs tightened and still she kept reaching.

And then she felt it, and took hold, and between one moment and the next, the dog’s body softened, slackened. Its limbs twitched and its chest rose once, paused, fell, and a moment later rose again, before the beast stretched, and sat up.

Dominic scrambled to his feet. “Dios mío,” he whispered, crossing himself.

Sydney sat, gasping for breath, and rested her head against Dol’s muzzle. “Good dog.”

* * *

VICTOR smiled. He was having a fabulous time killing Eli. Every time he thought his friend had given up, he pulled himself back together, and gave Victor the chance to try again. He wished it could go on awhile longer, but at least he was quite certain, as Eli’s body buckled in pain, that he had his full attention. Eli gasped, and staggered to his feet, nearly slipping on the blood.

The floor was slick with it. Most of it was Eli’s, Victor knew. But not all.

Blood ran down one of Victor’s arms and over his stomach, both shallow cuts made by a wicked-looking kitchen knife Eli had managed to recover from the floor the last time Victor shot him. The guns were both empty now, and the two men stood bleeding, across from one another, each armed—Eli with a serrated knife, and Victor with a switchblade.

“This is a waste,” said Eli, adjusting his grip. “You can’t win.”

Victor took a deep breath, wincing faintly. He’d had to turn his own threshold down because he couldn’t afford to bleed out, not yet, and certainly not without noticing. He could hear the distant sirens of the cop cars. They were running out of time. He lunged for Eli, and managed to skim his shirt before Eli knocked the blow away and drove his own blade down into Victor’s leg. He hissed as his knee buckled beneath him.

“What was your plan?” chided Eli, reaching out, not for Victor, but for the chair, for something coiled on it, something Victor hadn’t noticed until Eli’s hands took hold of it. “You hear the cops coming? They’re all on my side here. No one’s coming to save you.”

“That’s the idea,” coughed Victor as his eyes focused on the thing in Eli’s hand. Metal wire. Razor sharp.

“You and your ideas,” hissed Eli. “Well, I’ve been planning, too.”

Victor tried to find his feet, but he was too slow. Eli looped the wire in the air, and brought it down around Victor’s wrist, the one with the knife, pulling hard. The wire dug in, slicing through skin and drawing blood, forcing Victor to drop the blade, which clattered to the concrete. Eli caught his free hand in a crushing grip, and wound the wire around that one, too. Victor pulled back, but the cord only bit deeper into his skin.

The wire, he noticed then, was threaded through the chair itself, which Eli must have fastened to the ground because it never moved, not during the fight, and not now when Eli yanked his end of the cord and the slack drew in, forcing Victor’s hands toward the bars of the chair back. Blood ran down his wrists, too fast. His head was beginning to spin. He could hear the sirens now, loud and clear, and thought that he could even see the red and blue of the police lights through the plastic curtains. Color danced before his eyes.

He smiled grimly, and shut off the last of the pain.

“You’ll never kill me, Eli,” he goaded.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Victor. And this time,” he said, cinching the wire, “I’m going to watch the life bleed out of your eyes.”

* * *

MITCH watched Serena’s body burn, and tried not to listen to the sounds of gunfire coming from inside the high-rise. He had to trust Victor. Victor always had a plan. But where was he? And where was Dominic?

He refocused on the body and the task at hand until red and blue lights began to flash beyond the wood walls, colors cast up against the darkened building. That wasn’t good. The cops weren’t in the yard yet, but it was only a matter of minutes before they swarmed the place. Mitch couldn’t risk the broken gate of the front entrance so he rounded the building toward the gap in the walls, only to find Sydney leaning over a half-dead Dol, and Dominic standing over both, praying silently.

“Sydney Clarke,” he snapped. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“She told me I had to go somewhere safe,” whispered Sydney, petting Dol.

She, thought Mitch. The same she, he guessed, that was burning on the other side of the building. “And you came here?”

“The dog was dead,” whispered Dominic. “I saw it … it was deader than dead … and now…”

Mitch took Dominic’s sleeve. “Get us out of here. Now.”

Dominic’s eyes drifted up from the girl and the dog and seemed to register the flashing lights bouncing over the wooden walls and up against the high-rise for the first time. Car doors were slamming. Boots on pavement. “Shit.”

“Yeah, exactly.”

“What about Victor?” asked Sydney.

“We have to wait for him somewhere. Not here, Syd. We were never supposed to wait here.”

“But what if he needs help?” she protested.

Mitch tried to smile. “It’s Victor,” he said. “There’s nothing he can’t handle.”

But as Sydney took Dol, and Dominic took Sydney, and Mitch took Dominic, and they all vanished into the shadows, Mitch had a horrible feeling that he was wrong, and his curse had followed him all the way here.

* * *

ELI heard the footsteps, the men shouting orders as they tore toward them, through room after room of the plastic sheeting. Victor slumped on the floor, the area around the chair slick with his blood. His eyes were open, but losing focus. Eli wanted this kill to be his, not the Merit Police Department’s, and certainly not Serena’s.


He saw Victor’s knife on the floor a few feet away and took it up, crouching in front of him.

“Some hero,” he heard Victor whisper with his two last, labored breaths. Eli rested the blade carefully beneath Victor’s ribs.

“Good-bye, Victor,” he said.

And then he drove the knife in.

* * *

DOMINIC buckled.

He went down on his hands and knees in an alley four blocks from the high-rise, a safe distance from the flood of cops and the burning girl and the guns. He cried out, and at the same time, Sydney clutched her arm, and Mitch rubbed at his bruised ribs. Pain swept over the three like a current, like a breath, something held back and now returned. And then, one by one, they realized what that meant.

“No!” shouted Sydney, turning back toward the high-rise.