So why Metias? Day could’ve made his escape without killing him. Did Day hold some sort of grudge? Had my brother done something to him in the past? It couldn’t have been accidental—that knife went straight through Metias’s heart.
Straight through his intelligent, stupid, stubborn, overprotective heart.
I open my eyes, then lift my hand and study the pendant necklace again. It belongs to Day—fingerprints told us that much. It’s a circular disk with nothing engraved on it, something we found lying on the floor of the hospital’s stairwell along with the stolen ID. It’s not from any religion I know of. It’s worth nothing in terms of money—cheap nickel and copper, the necklace part made of plastic. Which means he probably didn’t steal it, and it has a different meaning for him and is worth carrying around with the risk of losing or dropping it. Maybe it’s a good luck charm. Maybe it was given to him by someone he has emotional ties with. Maybe this is the same person he tried to steal plague medicine for. It has a secret; I just don’t know what.
Day’s exploits used to fascinate me. But now he is my matched enemy—my target. My first mission.
I gather my thoughts for two days. On the third day, I call Commander Jameson. I have a plan.
I’M DREAMING THAT I’M HOME AGAIN. EDEN SITS on the floor, drawing some sort of loopy shape on the floorboards. He’s about four or five years old, with cheeks still round with baby fat. Every few minutes he gets up and asks me to critique his art. John and I are crouched together on the sofa, trying in vain to fix the radio that we’ve had in our family for years. I can still remember when Dad brought it home. It’ll tell us which quarters have plague, he’d said. But now its screws and dials sit worn and lifeless in our laps. I ask Eden for help, but he just giggles and tells us to do it ourselves.
Mom stands alone in our tiny kitchen, trying to cook dinner. This is a scene I know well. Both her hands are wrapped in thick bandages—she must’ve cut herself on broken bottles or empty tins while cleaning out the trash cans around Union Station today. She winces as she breaks up some frozen corn kernels with the flat edge of a knife. Her injured hands tremble.
Stop, Mom. I’ll help you. I try to get up, but my feet feel glued to the ground.
After a while, I lift my head to see what Eden’s drawing now. At first I can’t make out what the shapes are—they seem jumbled, littered in random patterns under his busy hand.
When I look closer, I realize that he’s drawing soldiers breaking into our home. He’s drawing them with a bloodred crayon.
I wake with a start. Dim streaks of light, gray and waning, are filtering in through a nearby window. I hear the faint sound of rain. I’m in what looks like a child’s abandoned bedroom. The wallpaper is blue and yellow, and peeling at the corners. Two candles light the room. I can feel my feet hanging off the end of a bed. There’s a pillow under my head. When I shift, I let out a moan and close my eyes.
Tess’s voice drifts over to me. “Can you hear me?” she says.
“Not so loud, cousin.” My voice comes out in a whisper through dry lips. My head throbs with a blinding, stabbing headache. Tess recognizes the pain on my face and stays quiet while I keep my eyes closed and wait it out. The pain goes on, like a pick slamming repeatedly into the back of my head.
After an eternity, the headache finally starts to fade. I open my eyes. “Where am I? Are you all right?”
Tess’s face comes into focus. She has her hair pulled back in a short braid, and her lips are pink and smiling. “Am I all right?” she says. “You’ve been knocked out for over two days. How are you feeling?”
Pain hits me in waves, this time from the wounds that must cover me. “Fantastic.”
Tess’s smile fades. “You pulled a close one there—closest one yet. If I hadn’t found someone to take us in, I don’t think you would’ve made it.”
Suddenly everything comes rushing back to me. I remember the hospital entrance, the stolen ID tag and the stairwell and the laboratory, the long fall, my knife thrown at the captain, the sewers. The medicine.
The medicine. I try to sit up, but I move too fast and have to bite my lip from the pain. My hand flies to my neck—there’s no pendant to grab. Something aches in my chest. I lost it. My father had given me that pendant, and now I’d been careless enough to lose it.
Tess tries to calm me. “Easy, there.”
“Is my family okay? Did some of the medicine survive my fall?”
“Some of it.” Tess helps me back down before leaning her elbows on my bed. “I guess suppressants are better than nothing. I’ve dropped it off at your mother’s home already, along with your gift bundle. I went through the back and handed them all off to John. He says to tell you thanks.”
“You didn’t tell John what happened, did you?”
Tess rolls her eyes. “You think I can keep that from him? Everyone’s heard about the break-in at the hospital by now, and John knows you’re hurt. He’s pretty angry about it.”
“Did he say who’s sick? Is it Eden? Mom?”
Tess bites her lip. “It’s Eden. John says everyone else is fine for now. But Eden can talk and seems alert enough. He tried to get out of bed and help your mother fix the leak under your sink, to prove he felt strong, but of course she sent him back to bed. She ripped up two of her shirts to use as cool cloths for Eden’s fever, so John said if you find any more clothes that fit Mom, he’d be happy to take them.”