I still feel nasty when I wake up. Tired, slow, reflexes dulled, brain soggy. This shit better not be permanent.
Jacob's still asleep. He looks like a wax doll when he's sleeping. I don't feel like moving yet, so I play lazily with him for a while, petting him, exploring his skin. I wonder what his eyes look like when he's not looking out from behind them. I pull up one of his eyelids to check, and he reflex-punches me off the bed.
Laughing hoarsely, I cross my arms on the edge of the mattress and look up at him blinking down at me. "Reckon you're safe from Van Helsing, then," I tell him.
"Huh?" He rubs the eye I touched.
"Van Helsing. Dude from 'Dracula' who staked vamps in their sleep. Couldn't do it to you cuz you wake up swinging."
"Oh." He keels over like a felled tree, setting the whole bed bouncing.
"I take it you feel like shit too."
"Uh-huh." He smacks his lips and wrinkles his nose. "My mouth tastes like Satan's asshole. Get me some water."
"Get it yourself."
"Sudo get me some water."
"Internet humor. Nevermind." He waves a hand in front of his face as if shooing gnats. "How the hell are we going to go bite anybody in this condition? I can't drive. I'm not even sure I can walk."
"Can you phone?"
"Why, does the blood bank deliver?"
"No, but Domino's does."
He has to think about that for a few seconds before he gets it; he must have the stupids too. "Oh. Let's order a delivery guy from every pizza place in the phone book, then. I could eat an army."
Walking sounds like way too much work right now, so I kind of crawl-flop over to where I dropped my jacket so I can get my phone. I toss it to Jacob. He misses, and has to chase it across the bed with flailing tard-hands. Then he has to get the phone book off the bedside table, which involves vague groping and nearly rolling off the bed. By the time he's ready to start calling, we're both laughing at our little festival of fail.
"I'm gonna go boil my head," I announce. "Should be back before pizza time."
"Wait. What's the address here?"
"Fuck if I know. Ain't it on the thing by the phone?"
"Oh. Duh. Nobody better come after us right now, because our combined IQ is like minus four."
"No shit, man. Next time we blow something up? We're standing way farther away."
The shower helps more than I expected it to. Even though we're not cold-blooded the same way reptiles are -- sluggish in cold, active in heat -- warm water seems to loosen us up, and today the effect is dramatic. I start out sitting in the tub, waving the showerhead vaguely at myself, but after ten minutes or so I feel well enough to not only stand up but wash my hair. A lot of grit comes out of it. I thought I washed out all the pulverized hotel before bed, but I guess not.
I don't bother shaving, even though I'm starting to really need it. Tonight is not a night for looking good. Tonight is a night for biting people, chainsmoking, and bitching about how nasty I feel. And also leaving town.
When I come out, Jacob's still lying where I left him. I consider just flopping down on him, but that'd probably lead to lazing around all night, so I go for my bags instead. "One thing about being dead," I point out as I get dressed, "you don't gotta do laundry very often."
"Sorry about the shirt and shoes I borrowed. They got blown up."
"They were in Michelle's car?"
"Yeah. Not that it's my fault, I mean, I was tranced. But it still sucks."
"How many pizza places did you call?"
"Just one so far. Figure we don't want them meeting at the door, you know? By the way..." He holds up my phone.
"Oh. Yeah. Wrong area code. You gotta use the room phone. Shit, my brain is moosh."
He gives a dry laugh. "Mine too. I actually tried it twice before I figured it out. Also, you got an email while you were in the shower. I didn't look at it."
"I know you didn't, it's encrypted." I take the phone and shove him off the bed. Slowly, so he has time to get his feet under him; apparently I love him now, so I'm not going to just heave him onto the floor, even though it would be funny. "Go shower."
"What if the guy comes --?"
"Then I'll eat first and you can have the next one. Go. The hot water helps a lot."
He goes. I check the message. It's from Abe. I screw up typing in the decryption code the first time. My fine motor skills are shot to hell. Hope I don't need to fight tonight.
Glad you're all right. I worried when the bond broke. Very unpleasant sensation. Send me a more complete report as soon as you can.
One of my properties burned down during the day. Not your apartment. No casualties. They made it look like a fuel leak, but the timing suggests Club retaliation for last night. Hopefully this'll give us a lead.
I want you off the map for a while. Change your look, switch vehicles, etc. Sorry about your car, I know how much you like it. Head west. Call me when you're sure you're clear.
I grumble to myself about leaving my car while I delete the message and start my reply. Not that I care that much about the car. I've been nursing that stupid wagon along for like fifteen years, it's past time for a change. But I'm gonna hate saying goodbye to all those bumper stickers.
While I'm typing, I hear a car pull up outside. I slip off the bed and dig my gun out from under my jacket, just in case. Doors slam; voices. One male, two female. Laughing. A knock next door, second male voice greets them -- nothing to do with us. I hide the gun under the bedspread. Don't want pizza dude freaking out when he shows.
Music starts up next door. Rap, not familiar, obnoxiously loud. I envision firing a few rounds through the wall, but I manage to wrestle the impulse down and sit on it. I finish my report instead.
Jacob comes out of the bathroom just after I hit 'send', and the only towel he's got, he's using on his hair. I prop my chin on my hand and stare unashamedly. Goddamn that man is gorgeous. He gives me a crooked smile as he picks through the baggage in search of clothes. "You call for pizza number two?"
"No, I was writing Abe back. Looks like you get your wish re my hair."
"Abe wants us to change our look and lie low. And we need to switch cars. Buy something used, I guess. So our first stop after we eat should be one of those big all-night drugstores that have like three aisles of grooming products. You know how to cut hair?"
"Nope. We could get one of those electric clipper things."
"I thought for sure you'd know how to cut hair."
"Cuz you're a fashion fairy."
"Fuck you," he laughs from inside his white beater. Pulls it down and shoves his wet hair out of his eyes with both hands. Pauses with his fingers still tangled in it. "Oh. Crap."
"Fraid so," I shrug. "We both change our look. I'm thinking we'll dye yours. You'd be hot as a redhead." I hear another car stop outside. I pull the Eagle partway out from under the bespread, just long enough for him to see it, then shove it back, keeping my hand on it. He nods.
There's a knock at our door. I smell pepperoni. Jacob still checks the peephole before letting the guy in.
"I have a pizza for... Dorian Gray?" A skinny sixteen-year-old with acne and an eyebrow ring glances from Jacob to me and wets his lips.
Jacob stands aside. "C'mon in, it's like a sumo's armpit out there. Where'd I leave my wallet? I just got out of the shower..." The door clicks shut.
Pizza guy laughs uncomfortably. "I thought you gave us a joke name, but like, now that I see you? I kinda almost believe it."
"Aren't you sweet," Jacob drawls, and trances him.
I come get the pizza while Jacob's sucking on the bend of the boy's elbow. "No fair, I called first," I grumble.
The delivery boy's eyes roll up in ecstacy. I'm glad someone's having fun.
Once the kid's been sent on his way, Jacob leans back against the door and adjusts himself impatiently. "No time," he says regretfully.
"I can see where you're looking," he smirks.
"Who's Damian Gray?"
"Dorian. Book by Oscar Wilde. You should read it sometime. Tell me again about how we need a car. Can we afford that?"
"Not really." I sigh. He's right, we don't have time to go back to bed. I get up and start organizing our shit to leave. "There are ways to get cash, but they're all either slow or dangerous. I mean dangerous in terms of leaving a paper trail or being caught on camera, because obviously --"
"Yeah. Let's not end up in the FBI database. Most people don't carry a lot of cash these days, though..." He trails off, gaze slowly tracking to the wall the party noises are coming from. "I have an idea."
"Babe, there's at least four of them."
"So? Worse comes to worst, violence happens. It could be fun."
A smile starts to grow on my face. "Did I mention I love you?"
The guy who answers Jacob's knock has gangster written all over him, and his sweat reeks of cocaine. "Who ordered a fucking pizza?" he demands without looking away from Jacob's eyes. Then his face suddenly slackens.
"Let me in," Jacob commands. "Take this." He shoves the pizza box into the guy's hands while he pushes into the room. The guy takes it awkwardly, juggling it with the gun he was holding behind the door.
A second guy pops up from one of the beds and stomps toward us in his underwear, the girl in the bed scrambles to cover herself, and the other girl comes out of the bathroom in a panic.
"Who the fuck you think you are?"
"Get out! Ohmygod!"
"What's going on?"
The next moment, they go still, right to left, as Jacob's gaze sweeps across them. "Go sit on the bed," he tells them, and all of them do it.
"Holy shit," I mutter. I shut the door, gawking at these people lined up on the edge of the nearest bed like marshmallow peeps. I'm sure Abe can trance four people at once, but how did Jacob do it? He hasn't been dead a month!
"Something wrong?" he says absently.
Nobody told him he shouldn't be able to. So he just up and did it. Maybe telling him how hard it is would be a bad idea. "Just impressed. Make 'em hand over their money and let's get going."
He takes their guns as well, three of them, though I would've left Naked Girl the eensy gold-plated .22 she had in her purse. It's useless to us. While they're turning out their luggage, they produce dozens of tiny green ziplock bags, each with a crumb of crack in it. Which explains why at the end of the proceedings I'm holding about four thousand bucks in small bills.
"Right, let's go." I don't know how long he can keep this up.
"How do you plant a false memory?"
"They're going to know they've been robbed."
"What are they going to do, call the cops?"
"No, they're going to get executed by whoever they're supposed to give that money to."
"So?" Crap, he's going to go all soft-hearted and try to save these crackheads' lives. The only reason I don't stop him right there is because I want to know what he even thinks he could do. Besides not rob them in the first place, which I note he is not suggesting.
"It's going to draw police attention. Contrary to popular belief, homicide detectives get very serious about murdered criminals -- not just whodunnit but why, if only to stave off gang wars. And it occurs to me I could give these poor bastards something to spread around while they try to save their asses. Something that implicates the Hunt Club."
"Oh!" That is so much better than the moral lecture I was expecting. I start to grin. "What did I say? Brains of the operation. Go for it. You just hold the connection and visualize the memory you want them to have."
I wonder if implanting one will break his concentration on the others? I don't warn him, though. I want to see if he can do it. I just position myself where I can smack down anyone who pops up.
He takes the first guy by the chin and stares into his eyes. The other three don't even twitch.
Jesus. That is some very serious psi he's got going on. This has implications. I snag one of the open bottles of vodka pop scattered around the place and sit down to think about it while Jacob works on their memories. Certain things I noticed before but didn't pay much attention to suddenly seem so obvious I want to bang my head on the wall.
For all I've ever heard, the novice bond is just shallow empathy and a vague tracking beacon, yet somehow he used it to send images and sound. Even while Michelle had him tranced. Come to think of it, back when I made him, he was tranced when he bit my hand, and I never did get an explanation for that. Did he maybe have psi already as a mortal? It's rare, but it happens.
He's not as strong as Abe, though, because he obviously didn't feel the hand surgery... or maybe he just wasn't fighting that one. And now he's got four crackheads under at once -- at least one of them currently high, and stimulants make it harder -- and he's holding them all even while doing what looks like some pretty extensive memory work.
This, after last night. He wasn't behind the elevators, either.
Oh fuck me.
I was so desperate to get the bond back. I was just grabbing for his mind like I was drowning. I didn't protect myself at all. I didn't even think of it. I just felt blind and went clawing after it.
And then suddenly the sociopath is in love.
I'm going to kill him.
I'm going to kill him for this.
I'm going to fucking kill him.
Wait. Can't explode yet. Have to think of one alternate scenario.
I can't think. I just want to rip him apart. He fucked with my head. Way worse than Michelle did to him or Alistair tried to do to me. He didn't just make me want, he made me care. And I don't do that. He made me be not Jack. I hate him. I hate him. I want him to scream and cry and beg and die. I want to kill him fifty times in a row.
No. Still doing it Abe's way. Abe. Rules. Master-novice rules. Can't kill him. Abe would have to kill me. He'd be so disappointed.
Leave him. Walk out, get in the car, drive away. I have the keys, the money, the guns, what's he going to do about it?
He'd go to Philippe. Philippe likes him. He'd contact Abe, find out where I'm going -- if Abe won't tell? -- get a ride back to the TC, wait for me there -- Kiki would take his side -- everyone would take his side -- what is his side? Said he feels exactly the same.
Exactly the same.
Did he just print his feelings on me like I'm a blank fucking sheet of paper? Is that what he did? Just projected so hard it stamped onto my psyche right where I used to have an empty spot? Plenty of room for it. If he really does feel it. Would I know if he was lying?
He wouldn't show off for me like this if he did something with his psi he knows I wouldn't like. Way too smart to give me a clue like that.
God. Now what? This is so stupid. I don't even want to leave him anymore. Because if I did that, I wouldn't have him, and I have to have him because he's mine. Because I get bored when he's not with me. Because... because I like every single goddamn thing about him except the possibility he put feelings in me that shouldn't be there. That aren't mine.
They can't be mine, right?
Only... I can remember what I was thinking last night, when I was justifying it to myself, and I didn't lie. I started out interested, from the second I saw him lying there all fucked up in his stupid clubwear in that stupid parking lot where he had no reason to be. And I only got more interested the more I got to know him. Everything he does is like one notch more awesome than I expect it to be.
Anyway, so what if it's all him? That just means he's totally crazy for me. Which is really new and interesting, and to be honest, having everyone be scared of me does get really old. Even Kiki's a little scared of me, she's just real good at not thinking about it. But Jacob's not scared at all. He knows what I am and he's cool with it somehow. Trusts me somehow. I don't think I even care why.
But. On the other hand. Maybe I'm only thinking this because he changed my feelings. Maybe if he didn't have this monster psi, I wouldn't hate the idea of being without him. At most I'd just be thinking of him as a walking sex toy.
No. I can't see it. That's not really my style, is it? If people are interesting, I enjoy them, and if they're not I just ignore them. According to all the shit I've read about sociopaths, we're supposed to toy with people and manipulate them just for the hell of it, but of course none of that was actually written by sociopaths. There was always this kind of condemning tone to it, like the writer was butthurt about it. I always thought, Of course they manipulated you, you're a shrink. You play with people's heads for a living, I'd mindfuck you too if I got the chance. Me, I don't play with people. Too much work. Anything I want, either I can get it without all that complicated shit, or it's not worth the trouble.
Okay, I play with jerks sometimes, but I figure if they're giving me shit that means they're up for a game. Anyway, not the point. What was my point?
I'm so fucking confused. I do not like being confused.
Jacob steps back from the last of the crackheads. He gestures to Underwear Boy. "That one's not high, if you're hungry. They're all coming down now but he's the soberest." When I don't answer right away, he glances at me, brows drawing together. Worried. "Jack? Did you drink all those on an empty stomach?"
Funny, I don't remember gathering up all the open bottles and draining them, but there they are, four empties on the little table next to my elbow. Couple of cigarette butts, too, and another burning down between my fingers. I bark a laugh despite myself. This is what happens when you make Jack feel things he shouldn't be feeling. I'm surprised I didn't accidentally smoke the cocaine.
"Are you okay?" Jacob is saying. "I ask because you have this very disturbed expression on your face and you're sort of sliding out of the chair."
"I feel extremely shitty," I say, and it's true. The effects of the hot shower have worn off, and these guys have the AC turned way up. Right now, a morgue drawer sounds like a nice place for a nap. No wonder I'm confused.
"You need to eat. I'm hungry again too, actually. Are they safe to drink? I don't mind being kind of high if I can't get addicted. Do we even have a dopamine cycle anymore?"
Tempting as the floor seems, I make myself get up instead. "I think we should drink 'em dry, then go around thinking we're Sherlock Holmes for the next half hour."
"Just as long as we don't get so smart we accidentally rob the drugstore instead of buying hair dye," he laughs.