Odin Remby held a rolled-up washcloth in the young woman’s mouth as she thrashed in chains on the narrow motel bed. Cade Holt had thrown his torso across her bucking legs, and Cruz Perez was trying to restrain her flailing arms. The harder she struggled against her bindings, the more she’d bleed, and the yellowed sheets were already striped with blood.
“Careful, careful, let’s not make it worse,” said Twist. He was standing back from the bed, leaning on a gold-headed cane, watching the struggle. The curtains were drawn, and the TV was turned up. “It’s okay, sweetheart, you’re almost through it.”
Another seven or eight seconds, and the woman’s thrashing limbs began to slow. She went still for a moment, then began to tremble, went still again, suffered another fit of trembling, and finally went still and stayed that way.
She was wearing a gray hospital smock and sweating heavily, and the stink of her sweat saturated the room. When he was sure the fit had ended, Odin pulled the washcloth from between her teeth. Her lips were crossed with healing wounds made when she’d bitten herself in earlier, unprotected fits. Cade and Cruz both backed away.
Twist looked at Odin. “We’ve got to get the chains off her. Where in the hell is your sister?”
“She’ll be back,” Odin said. He was thin and pale, breathing heavily. There were vicious purple bruises across his cheeks and hands, as if he’d been patiently and thoroughly and repeatedly beaten--as he had been.
“She’s been gone for almost an hour,” said Twist. “If she needed to cry, that’s fine--but we’ve got things to do and crying’s a luxury right now. We don’t know what Singular’s doing, we don’t have any communications, we--”
A key rattled in the lock, and the door banged open. Shay was there with X, backlit by the Reno sun, carrying an orange Home Depot bag. She kicked the door shut with the heel of her boot and pulled a heavy set of bolt cutters from the sack. Her eyes were dry.
“Let’s cut her loose,” she said to the men in the room, who were all thinking a version of the same thing: the red-haired, camera-friendly beauty of a week ago was gone. Standing before them was a fugitive with a harsh black hack job of a haircut and a smoldering fury in her hazel stare.
Twist tipped the head of his cane toward her. “Don’t leave us in the lurch like that.”
They locked eyes, and after a few seconds, she nodded, snapped open the blades of the bolt cutters, didn’t bother to apologize. “We’ve got things to do.”
“Like what?” asked Cade. He was a tall, tanned kid, seventeen, with shoulder-length Jesus hair.
For a long moment, everyone in the room just looked at her. Then Odin slowly stood, body stiff, moving as though his bones hurt, and did something he hadn’t done in weeks--he smiled.
Cruz, the ex–gang member from East L.A., simply held out his hand, and Shay passed him the bolt cutters.
“These’ll work,” Cruz said, snapping the heavy jaws.
Shay was studying the woman on the bed. She was Asian, with delicate features gone gaunt from months of stress and pain. “She looks worse than when I left.”
“She had another seizure,” Odin said. “They’re so violent. That was the third since--”
The chained woman was coming around: she tilted her head up at Odin and whispered, “Water.” Odin grabbed a cup off the nightstand and held it to the woman’s lips. She drank it all, greedily, then lay back on the bed.
“Where’re we cutting?” Twist asked.
The woman was bound in a twelve-foot chain, a cold metal boa constrictor that circled her slender waist and looped like handcuffs around her wrists and ankles. Each set of loops was cinched with a U-shaped padlock.
“Start at her waist,” Shay said to Cruz. Shay pulled the chain as far off the woman’s body as she could, about three inches, and Cruz carefully gripped a link in the blades and squeezed. It broke in half with a quiet pop.
Twist: “Cade, pick up the chain and the padlocks, wipe them, stick them in a pillowcase. We’ll dump it in the trash somewhere.”
Cade grabbed a pillow, and Cruz moved on to the woman’s wrists and then ankles.
“Please don’t move,” Cruz said, positioning the blades on the chain. “I don’t wanna cut you. . . .”
When the woman’s chafed and bloodied wrists were free, she groaned in relief and said, “Thank you” and “More water, please?”
Odin got her another cup of water. Twist packed a pillow behind her back and said, “Better?”
She took another long drink and looked around the bed at the six of them: four men, a girl, and a dog with mismatched yellow and blue eyes. The dog sat away from her, but his nose was working hard, sniffing at the blood on her ankles.
As a group, her rescuers looked more than a little tattered: teenagers, mostly, the girl had a swollen lip, the long-haired kid had recently been hit in the face, the heavily muscled Hispanic had a bandage wrapped around one hand, the older man, perhaps thirty, was leaning on a cane. Her grateful gaze settled on Odin--Odin, the boy with gingery whiskers who’d been imprisoned in the same Singular warehouse. He’d cradled her head in the back of a truck as they’d fled from the scene. Now he patted her arm awkwardly and said, “You’re safe.”
Twist asked, “Can you talk?”
She nodded and put the cup down. “Yes.”
Shay: “What did they do to you?”
“They put an American woman into my mind,” she said in precise, heavily accented English.
“Into your mind? You mean . . . What do you mean?” Twist asked. He sat on the end of the bed, his cane between his knees.
The woman rubbed at her sore wrists and said: “I have memories that are not my life, I know things that are not my knowing. . . . I am unable to think only for myself.”
The rescuers looked at each other, and Twist said, “They’re that close. This is science fiction.”
“It’s depraved,” Odin said. “They drilled into her head just like they did all those poor monkeys--”
“Monkeys?” the woman asked.
Shay gave her brother a look that said not now, but the woman had a flicker of understanding.