Read Mind Magic Online

Authors: Eileen Wilks

Tags: #Fantasy

Mind Magic (34 page)

BOOK: Mind Magic
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“And you did. Just like that?”

“Yes, but that’s not the important thing. You can see that Nicky did several things he would never have done if Mr. Smith weren’t controlling him somehow.”

“Is that why you think Smith has developed mind control? Because your friend did things that were out of character?”

“That’s part of it.”

“What’s the rest?”

“I can’t tell if you believe me about Nicky.”

“I can’t helping thinking that if your friend was under Smith’s mental control, he wouldn’t have told you to run.”

“He only managed that one word, and he couldn’t even say it out loud.”

Rule nodded. She still couldn’t tell if he believed her, and was about to ask again when he said, “I’m impressed with the way you reacted. Not many people would have the courage to take off like that, without money, without anything.”

“Oh, that’s because of my strategy. When you have an enemy who’s much more powerful than you are, you have to take him by surprise. What’s the one thing no one ever expects?”

“Aliens?”

She stopped and frowned at him.

“I never expect aliens. Demons, perhaps, but not . . . it was supposed to be a joke, Danny.”

“I don’t always get jokes. I have a sense of humor, but jokes often depend on context, and I often miss the context.”

“I see. So what is the one thing no one expects?”

“For you to use the maximum force to achieve a goal instead of the minimum.”

“That . . .” he started, then fell silent. When he went on, it was in a different kind of voice. “. . . is rather brilliant, actually.”

She smiled, pleased.

“Though there are exceptions. Suicide bombers spring to mind.”

“No, because they think they’re doing the minimum necessary to achieve their goal of martyrdom. You have to put their actions in context, which is hard for me, but I think that’s why I figured out that everyone always uses minimum force, because I’ve thought about context a lot.”

“Are you talking about social context or worldview?”

“Both, because for neuro-norms, social context is a huge part of their worldview. I didn’t understand that for a long time. It’s like the way a blind person lacks the context that sighted people take for granted. Blind people can do a lot of the same things sighted people do, but they have to use a different approach, and some things that are obvious to sighted people aren’t part of a blind person’s world at all. I’m socially impaired. I get surprised all the time by people saying and doing irrational things. Take gay marriage. Why would some people get so upset that people they didn’t even know wanted to get married?”

“For the same reason men denied women the vote for so long. It threatens their status and their understanding of the world.”

She beamed, delighted that he saw it, too. “That’s right! I had to think and think to figure that out. Though I still don’t see why they’re so scared of changing their minds.”

“Because the world is a dangerous place. If it doesn’t work the way we believe it does, the danger becomes unmanageable.”

The
ping!
of sudden understanding gripped Demi, holding her motionless. That fit. That fit so very well. “That’s why I was so shaken up about Amanda,” she breathed. “It wasn’t as if I’d ever liked Mr. Smith all that much, but when I found out he lied, the world didn’t make sense anymore. Then when I saw the guards at the Refuge . . . and when I saw Nicky there and knew the lies were even bigger and more terrible than I’d guessed—” She stopped and swallowed. It didn’t help. So many feelings clumped up in her throat that she couldn’t squeeze a single word past them.

She’d tried so hard! But she hadn’t made anything better. Instead, things were falling apart. She’d messed up. Nicky and the kids were still in Mr. Smith’s hands. Rule was an escaped prisoner. Lily Yu had been captured. And Mr. Smith had made Nicky kill someone. A homeless man.

How would he ever get over that?

“Danny?” Rule said in that soft voice he used sometimes.

She swallowed again and managed to answer. “What?”

“Are you okay?”

“Of course. I haven’t been hurt. Were you thinking of my blister? It hasn’t bothered me much today. The bandage protects it.”

“I meant emotionally okay.”

“Oh. I don’t know how to answer that.”

“I’m going to hug you for a minute so we can see if that helps. If it doesn’t, tell me and I’ll stop.”

Because he’d warned her, she had time to close her eyes. Sometimes that helped keep her from overloading. He put his arms around her the way he had last night. She ducked her head, eyes tightly closed, and was hit with so many sensations—the pressure from his arms, arms she didn’t control that were connected to a body so solid . . . he was taller than her, and stronger. Separate from her. His T-shirt was soft against her face. She could smell him, and the scent made her feel . . . she couldn’t find the word at first, then it came to her. Safe. She felt safe.

Maybe this was how a father’s arms felt. She’d always wondered.

His phone vibrated. It was in his pocket and set on silent, but she heard the faint hum from it vibrating. “Should you—”

“It can wait.”

But she felt tense again. She had to make sure he understood about Nicky, then tell him about the drug. “You can let go now.”

He did.

She automatically stepped back. Should she tell him his hug helped? He’d said to tell him if it didn’t, not if it did. Maybe she should say thank you. While she tried to figure that out, he took out his phone.

It had been a text, not a call, she saw when he opened the message window. And maybe it had mattered, because he frowned when he read it. “I have to call José.”

While he did that, she tried to line up clearly in her mind what she should tell him about the drug and how to say it so he’d understand her conclusions. She’d planned that out that last night, but she wasn’t sure she’d convinced him about Nicky, so she needed to—

“Shit!”

That interrupted her thinking.

“When?” he asked, and, “That was the exact wording?” And then he didn’t say anything for a while. He wasn’t frowning, but he’d cursed, so he must be upset. “How are people reacting?” A pause. “Not surprising, but not good. Not good at all. Carson should have called about this. He didn’t, so . . . yes. Try to reach him. I’ll call back in minute.” He disconnected and raised his voice slightly. “Come in close.”

“What’s happened? Who should come in?” Her stomach was jittering around like crazy.

“Mike, Reno, and Eric. Danny, you know how you needed time to think last night? I need that now.”

She nodded. She knew how that was, how you couldn’t stand to have people talking at you when you were trying to think through something complicated. But it was hard to stay silent when she
needed
to know what was going on.

One second she and Rule were alone. The next, Mike was there, startling her so much she jumped. He nodded at her. A moment later, two more people joined them—Reno and Eric. At least, she assumed the chunky one was Eric. She knew the other one was Reno, having met him last night. She remembered because she liked his name and he looked kind of like her—skinny, with skin the color of caramel candy.

Rule didn’t seem to notice. He was still thinking.

Finally he nodded, but not really at them. At whatever he’d decided, probably. “I just heard from José. The national news is reporting that three people have been killed near Whistle. Eric Ellison from Homeland Security just held a press conference. He claims they’ve confirmed that the victims were savaged by a large predator or predators. Asked if he meant wolves, he said that was unconfirmed, but according to José, he made ‘unconfirmed’ sound like ‘hell, yes.’”

Killed
. Demi’s brain froze, wrapped around that word. Two other phrases battered at her:
three people
and
a large predator or predators.

By the time her brain thawed, Rule was back on the phone, giving instructions to someone. Probably José. He spoke crisply about evacuating the camp, paused, then said
shit
again. “Bring him along. All due courtesy, but bring him.” He gave instructions about what to bring, where to meet—Fallback Two? Where was that?—and about the sentries and search squads. He told José to keep an eye out for “that damn helicopter,” then asked about Carson, paused, and said, “They must have either picked him up or killed him.”

Killed him?

“No,” Rule said forcefully. “It wouldn’t help. Those people were killed to give our enemies reason to come after . . .” A short pause. “Yes. From what Danny’s been telling me, Smith’s got a Gifted youngster who could do it. Questions? All right. Don’t forget Danny’s backpack.” He disconnected.

“You heard?” he asked.

“No!” Danny said. “Who was killed? I know people in Whistle. I’ve got a friend there.”

“I don’t know. The names haven’t been released to the press. Danny, we’ll be running all or most of the way to the rendezvous. You wouldn’t be able to keep up, so Mike’s going to carry you. Piggyback, if you prefer, but you must be carried.”

Everything was happening too fast. She couldn’t think what to do. When Mike squatted and told her to get on, she just stared. Not refusing. Just unable to act.

“You’re still under my care,” Rule told her. “This is the best I can do to protect you.”

She must have believed him, because she did climb on Mike’s back. She felt awkward and shaky and unlike herself. She didn’t like any of this, not at all. Mike hooked his arms under her knees. His arms were thicker than Rule’s and very strong. “Hold on,” he told her. “Try not to choke me.”

Mike took off.

It wasn’t dark this time, so she could see how fast they were going—at least she could for the first couple minutes. After that she closed her eyes. As she was carried through the woods at a run for the second time in less than twenty-four hours, one thing was clear: piggyback was better than over the shoulder, but it was still scary.

TWENTY-NINE

RULE
set an easy pace, about that of a human marathoner. Fallback Two was less than ten miles away, but some of those were rough, uphill miles, and Mike was carrying over a hundred extra pounds on his back. Rule didn’t want to exhaust him getting there. They probably wouldn’t stay long.

He was buying time. Time to think. The authorities knew where they’d been camped, so they had to clear out. That much was obvious. What he should do beyond the obvious . . . Rule hoped like hell he’d have figured that out by the time he reached the rendezvous.

Fortunately, there was time for an orderly evacuation. José was sending watchers to keep an eye on all the roads. They should have warning well before the cops could reach them. Plus they’d have money. His first reaction when José told him the courier with the money had just arrived was that the timing sucked, but that was wrong. An hour ago might have been optimum, but now was better than not at all. Since the courier couldn’t give the money to anyone but Rule, he’d be brought to Fallback Two. They had to make sure nothing happened to the man. Rule didn’t want to damage his relationship with that organization.

One of the first things Rule had done when he joined his men at the camp yesterday was to establish three fallback points—two within the wildlife area and one in the federal forest that abutted it. Fallback One would have been quicker for Rule—it was north of camp, and so was he. But Claude hadn’t marked that route yet.

Most lupi were good at navigating, even in unknown territory. Lily claimed that Rule was like a migrating bird—equipped with a mysterious sense that wouldn’t let him get lost. That was an exaggeration, but he always knew where the moon was, and in a way he couldn’t put into words, that kept him oriented. But while most lupi shared his sense of direction, not all were good at reading a map. He’d wanted a rendezvous point even the map-impaired could find when they were two-footed—because he’d ordered that everyone go as men, not wolves.

Law enforcement outfits of all stripes had strict guidelines about when lethal force was allowed. Those guidelines weren’t always followed, especially with his people—court rulings were a muddle of inconsistency about what measures were reasonable with a lupus suspect—but they did create some reluctance to shoot first, ask questions later.

It was entirely legal to shoot wolves. No explanations needed.

Rule and the others had been running for about ten minutes when the land turned choppy. Fallback Two lay in rocky foothills, outriders to the Appalachian range. He had ten or fifteen more minutes before he reached the rendezvous. He wouldn’t be the first to arrive—those at camp were closer, and José would have sent some ahead quickly to secure the area. The rest would pack and bring a few basic supplies, so would take a bit longer.

He still didn’t know what orders to give when he got there.

Homeland Security seemed to be running this investigation, too—or at least HSI was heavily involved. Eric Ellison, the new head of HSI, had already held a press conference about the murders. Rule had run into Ellison once at a Washington party. An ambitious man, and one who liked cameras.

BOOK: Mind Magic
12.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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