I jerked awake and the world started its mad tango. Again. Cotton batting shrouded my thoughts while stray memories struggled to poke through. This wasn’t quite the do-over I’d imagined, especially if it cost my meeting with Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Latino. Light colored my eyelids pink right before the air conditioning unit kicked on. Cold air washed over me and mingled with the scent of cat litter.
Happiness trickled through my confusion. So I wasn’t in the park and Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Latino had carried me home.
Behind me, a cat meowed.
Relief relaxed the tension biting into my shoulders. That’s right. I’d been in Vivian’s apartment to feed her cat. My tongue slipped over the fuzz coating my teeth and I swallowed the sourness in my mouth. I’d given the darn cat the bottled water and had walked to the door when…
Silence rang inside my head.
Oh snap. I must have passed out again. Now, I’d have to visit the doctor. Mentally I tried to tabulate my savings but the gauzy swirl spit random numbers at me. Hoping to still the whirling, I reached up to grasp my head.
Except my hands didn’t move.
What the heck? Opening my eyes, I glanced down. Bands of blue light bound my wrists to the arms of the cane back chair. What in the world? I blinked. Nope, still bands of light. I tried to lift my hand. Nothing doing. Fear coiled low in my stomach. Leaning forward, I noticed similar manacles chained my legs to the front of the Vivian’s dining room chair. This was not good.
Vivian would be mad at the abuse of her antique furniture. A chill wormed down my spine. The heck with Vivian. How had I gotten here? And where had these light thingies come from?
“Ah, you’re awake.” Low and throaty, the man’s voice resembled a growl more than civilized speech. Movement whispered behind me.
Oh, God no! The hair on my neck pricked. Instinct drove my knees together despite my bound ankles. A shadow drifted across the wedge of light seeping through the thin part in the curtains. How had this happened? I was normally so careful. I turned my head. Bile rose in my throat, choking me.
“You can’t pass out. We haven’t had any fun yet.” One large hand cupped the back of my head as he walked to the front of my chair.
His hold was firm but gentle. Maybe he didn’t plan to harm me. Idiot. He’d fixed me to a chair like a photo in a scrapbook. Whatever he was up to couldn’t be good. I jerked on my left hand. The motion transmitted through the wood and into my body but those funky light cuffs didn’t give an inch.
He grasped my chin and turned my head toward him. Green eyes stared at me.
Ah shit! I flinched at the mental cursing. Who cared about a swear jar contribution? Mr. Parks and Rec Supervillian made no attempt to disguise his identity. Yet hope bubbled up at the clear maroon firebird embroidered on his breast pocket.
Maybe he wasn’t here to rape me.
Maybe he was here about some mischief my parents had gotten into. Heaven knew their protests for the cause of the day always accompanied a lecture on Big Brother’s ubiquitous oversight and the length of its evil tendrils. It also explained the light manacles. The government hoarded its technology and made up lame excuses to keep their secrets—things like Sasquatch, the Jersey Devil, and alien abductions. I tried to move my wrist. My belief had become incontrovertible fact.
Now I just had to remember the details and I’d start with my kidnapper. His blond hair was cut with military precision around his high forehead. A bump on his otherwise straight nose indicated a break in the past. Deep grooves bracketed his lips already thinned in disapproval.
He raised a fist.
I flinched and jerked back. Then again, maybe I had been right the first time. Instead of trying to contain the vomit chugging up my throat, I aimed for his face. The sad little lump of bile landed on my tongue. Fudge bunnies! How was I supposed to make myself unappealing if I couldn’t even throw up properly?
“Relax.” He pinched my chin tightly and tugged my head forward a bit then he opened his fist. A silver, triangular keychain fob rested against his palm. Nestled in a bed of filigree, a fiery opal winked in the kitchen light.
Rape or Big Brother interrogation? Neither would be pleasant. I locked my bones against a shiver of fear. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me squirm. Not yet anyway. Surely someone had seen him sneak inside and there was always Mrs. Roberts. The old snoop was bound to notice I hadn’t come out of Vivian’s apartment. All I had to do was bide my time until help arrived.
His lips twitched. “Decided to cooperate, have you? Good. This shouldn’t hurt. Much.”
Green light shot from the opal and washed over my forehead. The James Bond gadget confirmed it. I was in for an interrogation by a government douche. Would I survive it? Or would I end up as one of those losers who screamed alien abductions?
“What do you care?” And just exactly what did the green flashlight do? A frigid cold burned across my forehead. Tears pricked my eyes. I hissed through the pain and my breath fogged the air. Crap on a cracker! Even the battle of the punk metal bands seemed to fade before this torture.
Crouching before me, my abductor shifted his weight but his attention remained riveted on my forehead. In the jade light, he resembled a goblin. Or an ogre. Repulsive creatures both. Maybe I wouldn’t be left with alien delusions after the G-douche finished his experiments. Maybe he’d brainwash me into believing this was some sort of demonic encounter.
“Your repeated incapacitations interfere with me finishing my mission.”
“Mission?” I snorted then waited for the cranial payback. Nothing. Even the racket had faded. Maybe my head was so numb I couldn’t feel anything anymore. But what about the skullquakes? I ignored the questions and confusion. That could wait until he was gone. Hopefully in jail with a fellow named Bubba that wanted to give him a proctology exam. Too bad his buddies in the government would spring him. Still, he didn’t need to know that I was on to him. “Is that what they’re calling kidnap and rape these days?”
He blinked then his green eyes lasered onto mine.
I swallowed the lump in my throat. Egging him on wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done in this century. Yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself. He was undermining my civil liberties. I’d been to the protests, read the literature my parents had gotten.
Of course, Mr. Parks and Rec had picked me for his experiment because of my free-thinking parents.
Taking a deep breath, I boxed up my anger. My situation called for a calm rational approach. So what could I do? My self-defense classes told me to be cooperative until I could find a way to escape. I mentally reset my brain. If I played docile maybe he’d untie me. I had a better chance of escaping.
Unfortunately, my personality seemed entrenched in stubborn and willful.
His eyes narrowed for a moment and a muscle flashed in his clenched jaw. The green light clicked off exposing the red suffusing his high cheekbones. “Just what nonsense has Konstantin filled your head with?”
Konstantin? The name bounced off the silence. I thought my parents had hooked-up with Moonbeam Hartsucker or some such nonsense. Another thing to worry about. Later. Much later.
“I don’t need Konstantin or anyone else to tell me what happens when a low-life scum-sucking toilet-feeder breaks into my apartment and ties me to a chair.”
A flush stained his cheeks before his teeth dug into his bottom lip and he glanced down. With exaggerated care, he set his key fob atop the gold placemat on the dining room table. A devilish light blazed in his green eyes as his attention switched back to me. Smirking, he cupped my knees.
I pressed my thighs together until my muscles trembled. Good Grief. What had my big mouth gotten me into?
His calloused palms rasped along my kneecaps before inching up my thighs.
I stopped breathing. The silken touch shot an arrow of pleasure straight to my core. Holy Toledo! Had the knock on the head screwed up my morality or had I been mesmerized by the funky green light?
His blunt fingertips dug into the soft skin of my inner thigh and pried my legs apart. Before I could snap them closed again, he surged forward and wedged his hips between my knees. His face was so close he brushed the tip of his nose against mine. Releasing my legs, he tilted my face up with one hand. The other traced my jaw, trailed down my throat and teased the cleavage created by my sports bra.
I inhaled a shaky breath as my body temperature spiked. Definitely some sort of mind control. No doubt developed by the CIA and given to the city employees to test on unsuspecting civilians.
“What happens to a beautiful woman tied to a chair?” He leaned in close to my ear and his warm breath cascaded down my neck.
I licked my dry lips. Shouldn’t I be doing something to put off his attack? No. No. I was supposed to cooperate to get released from my restraints. My body tingled where it brushed against his. Parts of me might be a little too cooperative. “Nothing good.”
“Pity,” he whispered before easing back. “I’m exceptionally good at whatever I put my mind to.”
Then he smiled. The corners of his eyes crinkled and his lips parted to reveal even white teeth.
So the douche bag amused himself by exploiting my fear. Or had he figured out I was on to his government mind games. Anger pulsed in my blood. My hands curled into fists and my bonds cut into my forearms. Just let him come near me again. I’d bite off his nose and spit it back at him. “There’s nothing good about you. You’re the villain of the piece.”
“Not me, obecht.” Releasing me, he dug into his front pocket and pulled out an MP4 player. The three-by-four inch display remained black as he set it on the table. “You’re the one who’s on the wrong side.”
“Obecht?” The word resonated in my memory. Foreboding squatted in my stomach like a lead toad. Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino had called me that.
Could my actions and not my parents’ be the cause of Big Brother’s surveillance? Nonsense. I’d become a model citizen since graduating from UC Berkley.
And the statute of limitation should have expired on anything I did before that.
My blond kidnapper tugged his cell phone out of his back pocket and set it next to the MP4 player. “Obecht means baby—spoiled brat and unbelievably helpless in your case. Konstantin doesn’t choose any other type.”
I stiffened at the derogatory description. I was neither helpless nor spoiled. Okay, maybe I was a little too trusting and naive. He didn’t know that and I refused to give him the satisfaction of learning his words stung like pebbles—really tiny and insignificant pebbles.
I raised my chin and forced all the contempt I felt for him into my glare. That’s twice he’s tossed a man’s name around like it was a mutual acquaintance. Maybe if I knew who he was talking about, I could convince him to release me. Or formulate a good story. I wouldn’t tell the G-douche anything. In that I was my parents’ daughter.
“Who on Earth is Konstantin?”
My kidnapper patted his shirt pockets before pulling out a slim brass pen. He clicked the top once and the ballpoint emerged. Another click and it disappeared. The pen joined the other stuff on the dining room table.
“Victor Konstantin. Thirty-five years old. Six foot two. Black hair. Blue eyes.”
Oh God, no! I closed my eyes and immediately Mr. Tall, Dark and-Latino’s face popped up. This was my fault. But that didn’t mean he was the villain. No, absolutely not, Parks and Rec was the bad guy here. He’d broken into Vivian’s apartment, tied me up and laughed at my fears.
“Konstantin hides behind females. Without fail, he finds one and gets her to cover for him. Same story, different city. There’s one on every planet. Did you think you were special, obecht?”
“Stop calling me that. I am not a child.” But I’d been a fool over men before. Made a complete idiot of myself on occasion. I opened my eyes and stared beyond my kidnapper’s broad shoulders. I didn’t believe it. I refused to believe it. Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino deserved the chance to defend himself. If he was this Victor Konstantin.
My kidnapper tugged on my tee-shirt. The ribbing on the vee-neck stretched until he hooked the fabric against my upper arm and exposed my right shoulder and a red welt just above the swell of my breast. “No. You’re not a child.”
His thumb swept over the raised spot.
Pain radiated up my neck to thunder inside my skull. Tingles needled my right arm. I sucked air through my teeth. Holy Toledo! That hurt. “What did you do?”
My kidnapper cleared his throat and slid the rectangular MP4 player toward him. “What Konstantin might have neglected to tell you is that he’s also a mercenary. Sure, he claims to be loyal to the Astral Presidium, but don’t delude yourself. He happily kills for the one with the most money. And he’s good—very, very good. Fortunately, I’m better.”
Mr. Parks and Rec flipped open the top of his MP4 player. Gold circles glittered against the shallow black case.
At killing or something else? I swallowed despite my dry mouth. If that wasn’t an MP4 player, what was the phone and pen? And what did they do?
He stabbed a finger into the dots. One clung to his skin when he pulled back. He rolled it between his thumb and index finger before placing it on the red welt.
My heart rate kicked up three notches and my blood heated to a low simmer. Son of a monkey’s butt! What was he doing? The question bounced on my tongue but I couldn’t utter it out loud. Finding out might be worse than wondering.
“You’re not too bad at this spy game.” He eased my shirt back on my right shoulder before exposing the skin on the left. Another dot mirrored the first. “I bought the act the first time, obecht. You played the part well, running away and falling to damage yourself. Unfortunately for you, I had to return for Pescal’s datapad and saw you and Konstantin. Together.”
Mr. Parks and Rec’s lips hung down at the corners. Reaching over my leg, he ran his thumb down the dark display of his fake MP4 player. No sooner had he pulled his hand back than a cone of blue light shot out of the display. Wavy symbols scrolled through the air until they reached six inches above the surface, then they disappeared.
“It’s a hologram.” A pocket hologram. When had they invented such a thing? Right after the mind controlling device silly. Crap on a cracker! My parents’ information didn’t even come close to the truth. Wait until I tell them.
If I remembered this. Usually Big Brother covered the missing time with other explanations, all of which put into doubt the victim’s credibility. Oh, he was clever. And I’d gnaw off my arm before I said so.
“You won’t get away with this you know.” Only my restrained arms prevented me from smacking myself upside the head. I should have been able to come up with a better retort than that. Perhaps his mind-controlling device had an obedience sub-routine. I definitely felt the affects of something. Heat flamed across my skin and a chill sunk into my bones.
Vivian’s cat padded across the carpet to leap onto the table. He plopped his oversized fuzzy butt onto the table and stared at me.
Fat lot of help you are. I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at the cat.
Ignoring my comment, he focused on the MP4 player. The words weak signal flashed on the hologram.
Weak signal? Did that mean he’d leave to get fresh batteries?
He tapped the display but the message remained the same. Muttering under his breath, he speared another circle on his finger. “Why did you injure yourself? Even Konstantin knows bashing in your head won’t prevent me from getting the information I want.”
I pressed against the back of my chair. He talked of smashing my skull a little too casually. Rising up on his knees, he eased forward, forcing my thighs farther apart. My stomach clenched as the denim rubbed the sensitive skin.
“You’re not going to get any information from me.” My muscles twitched with the need to cross my arms. The stupid light manacles held me in place. “Besides, I didn’t trip and bang my head on purpose.”
Perhaps I could use his paternal attitude to my advantage. That was if his brainwashing hadn’t usurped my free will. I didn’t exactly feel like he controlled me, but then I didn’t know that I would. After all, I hadn’t been brainwashed before.
At least, I didn’t think I had.
He combed my hair over to the left and touched a gold circle to the back of my neck. “It did add authenticity to your act. But playtime is over.” He taped my illuminated handcuffs. “Restrained, you can’t invent any other ways to harm yourself and prevent me from completing my mission.”
Mission. Konstantin. I had dots but no way to connect them. What did one have to do with the other? And how did I fit into the picture? Nowhere. I was innocent. I just had to convince him of that. “If you think I’m mixed up in something, you’re not just a sandwich short of a picnic. You’ve forgotten the whole dang food basket.”
He eased back and fished out another circle. His lips twitched.
Maybe I should have spent a little time formulating a better argument.
Before I could think of one, he added another circle to the other side of my neck.
Spears of pain lanced my head. Son of a monkey’s butt! My eyeballs rattled inside their sockets just as my teeth started to chatter. “Wh-what are you doing to me?”
His blurry figure moved over the table. The blue hologram blinked out then images materialized.
The blurry pictures looked like people. But despite squinting, I couldn’t tell for sure. My eyes refused to focus and the pounding in my head increased with the effort. I swear I felt each individual hair on my scalp.
“Hmm. Bad news. The Cee-Bees arrived too late to record the murder.” He raised his hand and held it over my eyes, blinding me. “Shall we begin?”
Begin what? He was already killing me. How much time did I have left before the gold dots snuffed me out? Time. Hope cut through the chills burrowing under my skin. His little show had cost him time. Maybe it was enough. Maybe help was close by.
“I have a better idea. Why don’t you leave?” My chattering teeth diluted the message but I didn’t care. Big Brother operated in the realm of reasonable deniability. Getting caught with gadgets exposed would remove that. My body warmed to the theme. “My neighbor probably heard you break-in and has already called the cops. No doubt the men in blue are approaching this apartment with guns drawn.”
Please God, let them be here soon. I held onto the hope despite the fever consuming me.
“Ms. Roberts won’t interfere.”
He knew my neighbor’s name? Of course, he did. He was the government. He also admitted to… Steel bands squeezed my chest. I jerked back and freed myself from his blindfold. Rainbow halos surrounded him, no doubt a side effect of the brainwashing. “What have you done with her?”
I may not have liked the crotchety old woman but I didn’t want her hurt or… I swallowed the lump in my throat. Don’t think about it Rae.
He set his hands on my thighs. “I think you should be more concerned with what I plan to do with you.”
Humanitarian of the year, I’m not. I had been thinking of what he planned to do with me when I mentioned Ms. Roberts and look where that got me. Still, I couldn’t give up yet and I had one friend who was far enough away to be safe. I hoped. “My roommate will be home soon.”
Mr. Parks and Rec rolled his eyes. He removed his hand from my leg and activated his screen. Vivian’s picture immediately appeared next to the Southwest flight logo. “The woman who owns this domicile will not make her connection.”
Despite the sweat trickling at my temples, I shivered. First, Ms. Roberts and now Vivian. Just my luck to get a douche bag with long, evil tentacles and the will to use them. An alien abduction looked pretty good right now. “How much blood do you have on your hands?”
“As much as it takes to complete my mission.” He glanced at his hands before switching his attention on the hologram.
Right. The mission. That still didn’t explain how I fit into the picture. On the hologram, a shadowy male stood next to a truck. Darkness obscured most of the details but it looked eerily familiar. My scalp tightened seconds before pins and needles blanketed my head. “You have the wrong person.”
He cleared his throat, picked up his Smartphone before running his thumb down the screen. “MaryJane Radiance Hemplewhite, born to Susan Glenda Schmidt and George James Hemplewhite. Your parents never married. You were homeschooled as it suited your parents’ nomadic and anti-authority lifestyle. Each of you has criminal records for various misdemeanors. You have one cousin, Thomas Edward Schmidt in Indiana, who has no ties to your unorthodox family.”
He could leave my family out of this. “Who the heck are you to judge our legitimate expression of our civil right?”
“Tobias Werner. UED.” He tossed the cell back on the table.
“Wow, Tobias Werner, UED.” I repeated his name and rank. Maybe it would survive the brainwashing. “I thought government douche bags would be given numbers instead of names.”
Tobias stood up and strolled behind my chair. With a grunt, he lifted me up and turned me to face the table. Next, he moved the hologram closer to me. “What was your part in Pescal’s murder?”
The image shifted to a silhouette of a man pulling weeds and exposing… The hair on my neck rose. Holy Toledo! I remember this. “I remember this exactly.”
“That’s because it is your memory.” With a sigh, he leaned over the table and tapped the MP4 player’s faceplate. The hologram froze on the body. Tobias poked his fingers through the display before moving his hands apart. The dead man’s face filled the image. “This is Pescal.”
The blue lips, the unblinking eyes and the still, flat nostrils. “Oh my God! The body was real. But how did the log get there?”
Was that proof I’d been brainwashed before? No. Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino hadn’t seen it. But maybe he was part of the conspiracy. Maybe he was Konstantin. But they were on separate teams. Of course, Tobias Werner UED could have lied.
“I put the log there so you’d think you’d tripped over it.”
And I had. But his actions made no sense. I was alone with him in a deserted park. Why would he let me go only to come after me later? Frustration clawed at my control. Obviously, I was missing pieces to give me a clearer picture. “Why would you do such a thing?”
He shrugged. “At the time, I thought you were innocent.”
“I am innocent.” I jerked my head toward the hologram. “I could hardly have killed the man if I’d just discovered his body. Actually, you discovered the body. Where is the body?”
As expected he ignored my questions to lob one of his own. “What is Konstantin’s plan?”
“I don’t know any Konstantin.” But I might. Tobias just hadn’t given me anything to prove it one way or the other. I’d been damned if I’d hand over an innocent person for interrogation.
And if Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino wasn’t innocent?
Hush. That’s the brainwashing talking.
Tobias sighed while his fingers danced over the MP4 player’s screen. The hologram morphed into whirlwinds of color. It stopped with a lurch.
Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino’s face stared back at me. Well damn.
“Victor Konstantin is recorded in your memories. It will condemn you in any court.”
I snorted. Like Big Brother ever brought witnesses in to testify. “Then my memories will show he never introduced himself, that we have no relationship and that I only know him as Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino. Case dismissed.”
I raised my chin. Let Tobias Werner UED put that in his pipe and suffocate on the smoke.
His eyes narrowed for a moment. “Victor Konstantin is not Latino and I am taller.”
I wanted to kick him. The douche completely ignored the fact that I was innocent.
“And if you and Konstantin aren’t involved why have you staked out the park for the last week?”
Embarrassment added to the heat engulfing my body. Good heavens. He made it sound as if I stalked the man.
He smirked. No doubt the knucklehead had misinterpreted my blush. “UED records indicate that you’ve lived in the neighborhood for more than two years and have never visited the park before. Yet on the very day when UED’s latest WitSec steward is murdered, you appear and appropriate his Cee-Bees.”
All this for ham radios? Blackness circled the rainbows surrounding my vision. I didn’t let that stop me from glaring at him. Unfortunately, I think the shakes vibrating my body undermined the effect. Either the knock on the head or the brainwashing had made me sick. I wanted nothing more than my bed and warm blankets.
And I was willing to admit to being a total loser to get it.
“I wasn’t at the park to meet Mr. Tall, D… to meet Victor Konstantin. I was there to get exercise, but my stupid personal trainer never showed.”
Tobias’s forehead wrinkled and his lips compressed as if he had swallowed something nasty.
I shrugged. So my confession didn’t exactly earn me brownie points. All I wanted was to go home and sleep.
“I had nothing to do with any murder or stealing.” I shifted on the hard wooden chair and leaned toward him. “Search this place if you don’t believe me. I don’t have your precious Citizen’s Band radio.”
I doubted it was from humor. In fact, I’d bet the rest of my savings that Red Riding Hood’s grandmother had seen that smile right before the Big Bad Wolf ate her.
“Yes. You do.” With a tap of his fingers, the hologram burped an image of three blue lights.
A memory shimmered to the fore. Aw snap. The lightning bugs spazzing on pixie dust. Arching my back I glanced down at my chest where the first one had hit. Where I had a welt and Tobias had given me a gold dot as a stripper’s pasty.
He obligingly held out my shirt to give me a clear view.
Definitely a douche. “You mean these Cee-Bee things are inside me?” I inhaled then my nose started to tingle and itch. Oh no. “They’re making me sick.”
“The cerebral bots, or Cee-Bees, cause an infection-like response while they’re incorporating.” He flashed his pointy canine teeth. “Obviously the Cee-Bees were not part of Konstantin’s plan.”
Plan. Schman. I shifted on the seat while my manacled arms twitched. The light bands dug into my skin. I yanked harder. I needed a doctor, antibiotics, and a blood transfusion.
Tobias crossed his arms and smirked down at me.
That was real helpful. Not! I jerked my body up and twisted. The chair hopped on the tile with a loud click and angled toward him. “Get them out of me!”
He shrugged, uncrossed his arms and reached for the fake MP4 player. “Right now the Cee-Bees are merging with every cell in your body and integrating their operating code into your DNA.”
The hologram fell dark and he snapped the gold circle filled bottom to the back of the display.
He couldn’t be packing up and leaving. Not after casually announcing he had infected me.
“No.” The chair’s legs screeched against the tile as I hopped sideways toward him. My muscles jiggled and my joints creaked but I didn’t care. He wasn’t going to leave me like this. “No. I won’t allow it. You put them in me; you need to get them out. Out, out Spam dots!”
I flinched at my father’s favorite interpretation of Shakespeare.
His mouth turned down at the corners. And for a moment, his blond eyebrows met in a vee above his nose. Clearing his throat, he turned away and tucked the MP4 player in his back pocket. “Can’t.”
“Yes. You can.” I’d become his personal cheerleader if he’d change his mind. I really needed him to change his mind. I sniffed up the unmentionables tickling my nose. I’d had a cold like this only once before and I’d ended up in the hospital for three weeks. This time I didn’t have insurance. “You created the Spam dots. You get them out or turn them off. Surely the fancy pen or cell phone can do that.”
I jerked my head toward the brass pen. He hadn’t used that yet. Surely Big Brother had a cure for something they created. Unless… Oh God. I stopped moving my chair. Unless they sterilized the infected.
“UED didn’t create the Cee-Bees. We stumbled across them on our first contact.” Tobias set his cold hand on mine. “As far as we know, they created themselves and keep on making more of themselves, improving and adapting with each generation. Although we’ve used them for nearly a thousand years, we have yet to understand how the Cee-Bees work.”
He lifted his hand and wiped it on his jeans.
First contact. A thousand years. Had the Spam dots effected my hearing now? Was I beyond curing? Tears stung my eyes. My fever disappeared under a wave of chills. “I don’t understand.”
“I know, obecht.” He tucked the pen into his shirt pocket, right above the city logo. “And maybe we could have left you alone but now that you’ve become involved with Konstantin…”
“I’m not involved with him!” My voice became hoarse as a dozen frogs played Cirque du Soliel with my vocal cords. Geez, if Mr. Tall, Dark and Latino stood between me and the cure… “I’ll give him up, swear off men, join a convent or take a vow of celibacy. Just don’t let those things kill me.”
Silently, he picked up his cell. He tilted his head to the right while turning the Smartphone round and round in his hand. “I’ve never heard of the Cee-Bee’s killing anyone.”
I collapsed against the chair’s wooden slats. Praise Buddha. I was going to live. My internal celebration died a quick death. Tobias didn’t actually seem filled with warm and fuzzy thoughts at the news. What was he not telling me? “But?”
“Given your association with Konstantin, UED cannot allow you to carry the Cee-Bees.” The screen of his phone lit up. He glanced at the name and ran his fingers through his short hair.
I sniffed. And that got him upset? Seemed like a win-win situation to me. “So they’ll remove the Spam dots and I’ll be okay.”
“The Cee-Bees can’t be removed.” Using his thumb he accepted the call and raised the phone to his ear. “The only viable solution will be your immediate termination.”
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