She smiled, brighter than sunlight ricocheting off a sharpened blade. “Do you know where Senator Sykes lived?”
Nix knew everything about Evan Sykes. Not his hopes or dreams or childhood aspirations, but his date of birth. His last known address. The location of his office in D.C. The office space he rented in Iowa. The places he went for lunch. The streets he walked or drove down to get there.
“I know where he lived.” There were some things you didn’t forget. Files. Marks. Time of death.
“Okay, then,” Claire said, setting down her coffee. “Let’s go.”
The dead senator’s home was immaculate. Enormous. But more than anything, it felt empty.
She and Nix entered on the second floor. Walked straight through the Georgian-style windows and the handcrafted moldings on the walls. Landed in a hallway with wood floors and Oriental rugs.
Claire held tight to the fade as Nix led them to Sykes’s personal office. She sensed something the moment they stepped into the room. It wasn’t a smell or a taste or a sound, but it was something, in the wisps of solidity that made up the furniture: the muted brown desk, the faraway filing cabinets.
Faded Claire wasn’t sure why these objects were important. Why she should be looking at them, when her body and Nix’s were glowing, iridescent, everywhere. But they’d come here for a reason, and Claire, even though she couldn’t exactly remember why, knew it was important.
She closed her eyes. She reached through her brain with both hands and grabbed on to a fleeting image, guaranteed to bring her crashing back to earth.
How many times had she had to ask that darn towel boy for one? How many times had she mopped pool water off her face with the back of her own hand?
Crashing. Mayday, Mayday—
“Triggers,” Nix said, as he crossed back over to join her.
“You found a trigger. To fade, you have to stop trying to matter. You make yourself feel like nothing and you revel in it. But once you’re faded, you can’t think about reality. You can’t pay too much attention to the solid world, and you can’t let yourself remember wanting to matter. Triggers are things that make that impossible. They snap you out of the fade. Not exactly pleasant, but they can be useful.”
Claire wondered what Nix’s triggers were and decided it was probably better not to ask. They needed to move quickly. Two Nobodies. In a dead senator’s house. With aforementioned senator’s daughter and wife right downstairs.
“They won’t hear us,” Nix said, picking up on her thoughts. “And if they do, they’ll tell themselves it’s nothing. But we should be quick.”
Even Nobodies could be seen if the situation was compromising enough. Claire had talked to people before. She could make them take notice, if only for a few seconds, and something told her that even being maximally inconspicuous might not be enough to camouflage breaking and entering to this degree.
At the very least, she didn’t really want to put it to the test.
“You take the computer. I’ll case the rest of the room.” Nix’s words helped Claire focus, and she nodded, heading for the desktop.
What are the chances that Sykes kept incriminating, top secret files on his home computer?
Claire had a feeling that the answer was slim to none, and she wasn’t anything approximating a hacker, but all they needed was a lead. A teeny, tiny something to point them toward the next clue. The next step in dismantling The Society.
Claire wanted the people who’d raised and trained Nix to suffer.
She wanted The Society to disappear.
Claire slid into the leather armchair behind the antique mahogany desk and turned on the computer. She wasn’t at all surprised when it asked her for a password, and she was even less surprised when “Proposition42” didn’t work.
A Nobody could fool a security system.
Walk straight through walls.
Slip in and out of the most secured buildings unnoticed.
But those abilities didn’t extend to firewalls or computer security. The senator’s PC had no way of knowing that Claire didn’t matter.
Maybe if I faded …
But, no, if she faded, she wouldn’t be able to touch the keys.
On the other side of the room, Nix narrowed his eyes at a random strip of wall. Claire looked up just in time to see him fade and walk straight through the barrier in front of him.
A second later, he was back.
“Wall safe,” he explained, under his breath. “Nothing there but money and guns.”
Wanting some results of her own to report back, Claire made another stab at the password.
Caroline. The senator’s wife’s name.
Abigail. His daughter.
Caroabby. Abbiline. Frozenlemonade.
The last—Claire’s own password of choice—didn’t work any better than the first two.
The voice that chirped that name was high and sultry—and decidedly not Nix’s.
“Oh, like you’ve never gone there, Courtney. You know there better than I know bases one through three, and that’s saying something.”
Abigail Sykes—the senator’s daughter. And another girl—Courtney, apparently. They were close enough to the office that Claire could make out every word of their conversation.
“And you told him you’d bring it? The party stuff?”
“Trust me, Court. It won’t be a problem. This juice is way more potent than your mom’s zombie pills.”
“Those are for migraines!”
“Yeah. Right. And my dad’s stash was for his blood sugar.”
Claire didn’t let herself get caught up in the content of what the girls were saying, even though a part of her brain had registered the fact that Sykes’s drug habit was no mystery to his daughter. Right now she and Nix had much bigger problems.
The voices were right outside the door. The knob was beginning to turn.
Claire ducked down behind the desk. Nix followed suit.
“Have you been in here?” The voice—Courtney’s, Claire guessed—was subdued. Less overly dramatic than it had been a moment before. “You know, since your dad—”
“Shuffled off this mortal coil?” Abigail snorted, but her next words got caught in her throat. “No. But it’s not like things are that different now.”
“He was your dad, Abs.”
“No. He was the pod person who replaced my father the moment he became the junior senator from Iowa.”