Dark Hunger

Page 32

“The source no longer exists.” It wasn’t the truth, but he had no intention of allowing the doctor or anyone on his staff to know from where he had obtained the sample. “Don’t worry about it. Lawson isn’t a complete idiot; he knows how valuable it is. He’ll either try to sell it or use it as a bargaining chip. Put the acquisition in stasis for now, and we’ll do what we can to keep Lawson alive.” He glanced out at the technicians working at various stations. “I’ll send the engineers up to modify the testing chamber. One more thing—has anyone not assigned to the lab been coming here or talking to you about the acquisition lately?”

Kirchner’s expression became shuttered. “As I told Chief Delaporte, unauthorized personnel are not permitted entry to the lab. As for me, I don’t discuss the work with my staff; I wouldn’t answer questions from an outsider.” His cold eyes shifted. “If internal security has been compromised, it didn’t originate here.”

Genaro nodded. “Thank you, Doctor.”

Genaro spent the next hour in his office studying Lawson’s medical tests and the projection reports on the transerum.

Delaporte knocked once and ducked his head inside. “I’m sorry to interrupt you, sir, but I need to speak with you.”

Genaro gestured for him to come in and set aside the chart. “Is it the detective?”

“No, sir, I handled that and went about my business. We have another situation.” His security chief took out a handkerchief, unwrapped it, and placed it on Genaro’s desk. In the center of the linen was a high-capacity USB memory stick. “Housekeeping found this in one of the men’s rooms. It was taped to the back of a commode. I copied the contents onto a duplicate stick and swapped them out.”

Genaro didn’t touch it. “What’s on it?”

“Internal memos, acquisition reports, accounting information, and transportation schedules, all dated within the last five weeks,” Delaporte told him. “There’s also a copy of every document we have on Bellamy. That may explain how she anticipated our retrieval. Someone working on the inside here could have warned her.”

“Perhaps.” Genaro regarded the memory stick. “Did you find any prints or DNA on it or the toilet?”

Delaporte shook his head. “No one has tried to retrieve the duplicate yet, but we’ll continue to monitor the traffic in and out. The public has access to this restroom; it could be a handoff from the thief to an outside courier.”

Genaro grew thoughtful. “This thief doesn’t bother to encrypt the files he’s stealing, but he takes great care not to leave any trace evidence. What does that tell you?”

“He knows we keep prints on file for everyone who works here,” Delaporte said.

“If he has an ounce of intelligence, he’s already switched out the prints in his personnel files.” Genaro used the handkerchief to pick up the memory stick and sniffed it. “No, this man was concerned with only one thing: not leaving behind a single trace of his DNA. Can you guess why, Del?”

His security chief frowned. “He knows we can use it to figure out who he is.”

“I would say our thief can’t afford for us to obtain a sample of his DNA,” Genaro said as he gently wrapped up the stick. “And there is only one reason for that.”

Rowan paid a visit to the library before Jessa, flopping down in a chair and watching in silence as Matthias collected the books he needed from the shelves.

At length she spoke. “First we trust her with the run of the place, and now we’re going to tell her about the super-freaks of the Dark Ages. Dragging your feet a little, don’t you think, boss?”

He lifted one of his feet. “I walk as I always do.”

“I’m being sarcastic again,” she told him. “What I mean is, you’re rushing into this too fast.”

“Jessa is one of us.” He turned to look for Brother Ennis’s journal. “She should know all of it.”

“I guess that means you’re going to tell her about you and your adventures. Too bad we don’t have a lab like GenHance’s.” She glanced up at the glass-encased sword over the fireplace. “A microscopic examination of the blade would definitely sweeten things up between you two. Unless she decides it’s all too much and flips out, like I almost did.”

She never needled him unless she had a purpose. “Is there something you want, Rowan?”

“Besides her out of here?” She spread her hands. “Not a damn thing, boss.” She removed a folded paper from her back pocket and showed the front page to him. “Genaro has upped the stakes again.”

He took the paper and read the front page quickly. “He must have killed him to arrange this.” He noted her mulish expression. “You know that she cannot leave us now. Or is it that you want her dead?”

Outraged, she jumped to her feet and tore the paper from his hands. “You have the fucking nerve to say that to me? After everything I did for you?”

He knew she used her surliness and anger as a form of self-defense, but he imagined guilt was fueling her fury at present. “Was it so terrible, what you did? What you do now?”

The rigidness left her shoulders. “No. I bought into all this. I’m a good little soldier for the cause.” She sounded as if she hated herself. “I did a lot worse before I met you and Andrew.” She regarded the paper. “You want me to put this in her room?”

“Yes. You could also talk to Jessa and tell her the truth,” he suggested. “There is no need to conceal it from her now, and it would ease your conscience. It might help sway her opinion of us as well.”

“I’d rather be the nasty housekeeper, thanks.” She folded and stuffed the paper back into her pocket before she abruptly changed the subject. “By the way, Drew didn’t check in when he was supposed to this morning. He’s three hours overdue.”

He shrugged. “The demands on him will be many now. He will contact us when he is able.”

“What if he doesn’t?” she demanded. “What if he’s been caught or compromised? He’s all by himself down there.”

“Drew knows the dangers. He has planned for them.” Matthias found the last of the books and took it down, turning pages until he found the passage he wanted. “If he has been found out, he will take measures to protect himself.”

“From Genaro and his happy little army of Mengeles.”

She kicked the chair she had been sitting in. “We can’t lose him, Matt. I should go down there and make sure.”

Matthias looked up, surprised by the suggestion. “I need you here.”

“Really. Why?” A faint sneer distorted her mouth. “You and Queenie seem to be bumping along fine. I’m just getting in the way now.”

He put down the book. “I do not understand you. Say what you mean to me.”

“You want her,” she said flatly, “and if she gave you the green light, you’d be all over her. Shit, you had the perfect opportunity the other night when she sneaked in to search your room. Why didn’t you jump her then?”

He thought of the brief dream he’d had before he’d woken and felt almost amused. “How do you know I didn’t?”

“She came out of there too fast.” She realized what she had said and quickly stared at the toes of her boots. “Which I shouldn’t have been timing and I know it. Look, I know when I’m not necessary. Let me go down and see what’s happening in Atlanta.”

“No. For now, you will stay.” He went to her and took her cold hand in his. “Much of what you have said is true, Rowan, but whatever I want from Jessa, keeping her here and keeping her alive are the two most important tasks I have. We need her ability to continue the search. I cannot do this without you.”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll stick around for the duration.” She drew her hand from his and looked up at him with hurt in her eyes. “Just don’t expect me to kiss her ass, all right?”

“You do not have to kiss any of her parts,” he promised.

Rowan left, and by the time Jessa joined Matthias in the library he had finished arranging the books in the proper order. She had bathed and changed, and had woven her damp hair into a long braid; she smelled of Rowan’s shampoo and his own soap.

“Sit.” He gestured to a chair by the fire. “Was there enough hot water?”

“Yes, thank you.” She looked around as if deliberately trying to avoid his gaze. “You have a nice library. How long did it take for you to collect so many books?”

“Ten years.” He picked up a split length of oak from the wood basket and placed it on the fire. “Rowan found many of them for me from booksellers who use the Internet for their shops. They send books in packages now.” He still found that rather disconcerting.

“People don’t always have time to shop in the brick-and-mortar stores.” Her gaze darted from the books to his face to the floor. “You know, I would never have guessed you to be the bookish type.”

“I had no time for reading when I was a boy. There was always something more interesting to do outside.” And how much trouble he would have saved himself and perhaps the world if he had become a scholar, as his father had wanted. “Do you read any books about history?”

“I did when I was in school. I rarely have time, but when I do read I like fiction.” She seemed to forget her discomfort as her brows drew together. “Is this what you wanted to discuss? What books I read?”

“It would make things easier if I show you.” He had to go carefully now. “I have been collecting these since I came to know there were more in the world like me. When I came to America ten years ago, I brought them.” He carried the oldest manuscripts over to the table and set them in front of her. “I knew I would have to show the others proof of what we are.”

She shifted a fraction to avoid touching him. “Others like you and Rowan.”

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