“So you can finally kill yourself?”
I held my breath, waiting for Noah to answer. He never did.
“You are sick, Noah. The consequences of your affliction could destroy you, the way they have destroyed other sick children, and I will die before I let that happen,” David said.
Maybe I could help him with that.
“The more time passes, the stronger she’ll become, until she fully manifests, and I can’t predict when that will happen.” David turned to me. “After that stunt you pulled on the subway platform, I figured you must be close.”
So he knew about that. Hmm.
“We can’t afford to wait any longer,” David said to Noah. “Do you understand what I’m saying? There’s a bomb ticking inside of her, waiting to go off. With one thought, one wrong thought, she could end millions of lives.” He took a cautious step forward.
“If you don’t stop it, your mother will have died for nothing. You would exist for nothing,” David said, his voice cracking. “I loved your mother, and she died to save you so you could be the answer to illness, to aging, possibly even to death. I couldn’t have cared less—all I wanted was her. But I wasn’t given a choice. However, I will give you one.”
David Shaw drew in a shaky breath composing himself. Then he lifted the leather bag and opened it. He withdrew a gun and a syringe and set them on a table in front of me next to the knife.
Jude wasn’t here to hurt me, and Noah wasn’t here to save me. I knew that now.
“I didn’t know how you and she would prefer to do it.”
“Do what?” Noah shouted.
I waited until the echo faded before I answered for his father. “Kill me.”
An obscene laugh bubbled up from Noah’s throat. “If you could think that there is anything in the world that could possibly make me do this,” he said to his father, “you have no idea who I am.”
“I don’t need to know who you are. I know her.”
David withdrew something else from his bag. A laptop. He typed something, and then propped the laptop up on an empty cardboard box, positioning it so I could see.
My brother lay in a bed, in a room, hooked up to a thousand machines. Jamie sat next to him in a chair. He was tied to it, and conscious. My brother was not.
IT ISN’T REAL,” I SAY. I try to sound certain, and fail.
“It is very real,” my father replies. “Daniel has been given a variant of a venom that will cause him to go into shock, and then his organs will fail in an hour or two unless he receives the antivenin. He’s being monitored very carefully right now, but I will need to make a phone call to make sure he gets it, once Mara has expired.”
“Mara?” Jamie says, squinting through the laptop screen. A bruise shadows the left side of his face.
“Jamie,” she whispers. Then, “Jamie, is Daniel—”
“He’s alive,” Jamie says. “We got whacked in the subway tunnel or something, woke up here. He’s sick, though.” Jamie flicks a glance at Mara’s brother, wincing at the movement. “He’s—he was foaming at the mouth before. These people, they came in and used a crash cart on him. I saw everything. I tried to make them listen to me, but . . .” He shakes his head. “It was like they couldn’t hear me. Like I was on mute.”
Mara is silent. I used to be able to read her thoughts on her face, but now, nothing.
“Where are you?” she asks him. Clever girl.
Jamie tips his face to the ceiling. “Generically bland room, as always. I woke up with a hood over my face. I don’t know.” Jamie’s eyebrows furrow, and he tries to lean forward in the chair. “Wait—is that fucking—is that Jude with you? And Noah?”
Jude doesn’t respond. I do.
“We’ll find you,” I say to him.
Jamie looks over at Daniel, whose lips are pale and chapped. Daniel has a cannula beneath his nose, and there are IVs attached to the backs of both wrists. Then Jamie says, “Whatever you guys are being told to do, you should do it.”
My father watches me. Jude watches me. Jamie watches me. Mara does not.
She watches her brother. Her eyes never leave him, even as I reach for the gun.
I COULDN’T TEAR MY EYES away from my brother, and so I didn’t notice at first when Noah pointed the gun at his father.
“You could kill me,” David said. His words drew my eyes up. “That is certainly an option.”
“It certainly is,” Noah said. The gun looked familiar, like one I’d held before.
“I’ve been expecting to die because of you someday. I wouldn’t have revealed myself if I weren’t expecting that. Though I did assume she would be the one to do it.” His father smiled slightly, and met my eyes. He didn’t once look at the gun.
“Maybe I’ll save her the trouble,” Noah said.
“Well then, I should warn you that you would be ending four lives with one bullet.”
“How do you figure?”
“Your death will not prevent Mara’s. If you don’t take responsibility and end her, then Jude will.” He caught Jude’s eye. “For Claire, yes?”
“For Claire,” Jude repeated robotically.
David sighed. “If an original carrier is killed by anyone besides its foil, the anomaly will manifest again along the affected bloodline. In this case, Joseph Dyer; he is a carrier as well. And then he would eventually either kill himself or be killed by someone else. That’s the pattern of the afflicted.”
“And of course Daniel would die, because I would not be able to make the call to save his life. So, four.”
Noah was silent, and I was stunned.
“And I should probably mention that if you miss, and I don’t die instantly, you could trigger Jude’s ability, which seems to make him rather . . . unpredictable. I honestly don’t know what he might do if that happens. Noah, please listen to me.” His father met Noah’s stare head-on, unflinchingly. “Whether it happens today or tomorrow or some other day, like the archetypes you parallel, you will play out your roles whether you want to or not. You don’t have a choice.”
“You always have a choice,” Noah said, and clicked the safety back.
David turned his blue-gray eyes on me. “Are you willing to let him bet Daniel’s life on it?”
I tore my gaze away from them and looked at the laptop. At my brother in the bed, at Jamie in the chair. “Don’t,” I said to Noah. “Please.”