“Done,” Jason said. “You should see certain lines growing fatter on the screen, indicating stronger hereditary weight.”
On the screen, the uniformity of the crimson threads slowly altered—some growing fainter, others more prominent.
Once the process finished, Painter asked Jason to pick the thickest line and trail it down to modern times. It should point to the power brokers of this generation.
On the screen, a small cursor ran down that fat pipe and stopped at a single name at the end. It glowed brightly on the screen for all to see.
“Fuck me,” Kowalski swore, voicing all of their sentiments.
Gray remembered the digitally masked voice on the radio, ordering the assassination. Here was the person who had been manipulating events all along. The Bloodline wasn’t planning for Robert to take the grief of a wounded nation and turn it into a presidential bid.
Her name shone on that screen.
Teresa Melody Gant
It would be the grieving widow who would tug at the heartstrings of the country and assume her dead husband’s mantle.
But that wasn’t the worst news.
“Director,” Jason said, “she’s here. The First Lady arrived five minutes ago with her Secret Service detachment.”
“The president called her. He’s due in an hour to come out of hiding. He wanted his wife to hear about his survival first, to hear it from him, but also to share the good news about Amanda and the baby.”
“Where is she?”
“Down with them now, sir. And her Secret Service detachment—they’re all women. I should—”
Faint pops of gunfire cut him off.
At the foot of their daughter’s hospital bed, President James T. Gant hugged his wife, balanced between grief and joy, mourning the loss of his brother but relieved to hear his grandson was alive and safe.
The loud blasts of pistols out in the hallway jerked him out of Teresa’s arms.
What the hell?
He was alone in the room with his wife and sleeping child. He had pushed his own Secret Service agent outside to give the family this private moment together.
He realized his mistake—from the black SIG Sauer in his wife’s hand pointed at his chest.
He searched her face and knew at that moment that the woman standing before him was not his wife. She wore the same face, but she was not the same woman. A mask had fallen away, hardening her eyes to a cold polish. Even her facial features seemed subtly different, becoming a wax version of the warm girl who’d won his heart.
She stood at the foot of Amanda’s bed in a protective pose. “Jimmy,” she said, her voice equally changed, flat and affectless, indicating how much of a consummate actress she had been. “You’ve ruined everything.”
He realized the truth at that moment. “You’re a part of the Bloodline. Like my brother.”
“Robert was nothing. He was ignorant of my involvement. Only a useful tool to hide behind. Nothing more. The Lineage will survive. We always do. It is our birthright. Born from exiles cast out into the desert wilderness—we still survive.”
He stood, stunned.
“And we have not lost everything. You’ve given us Amanda. Willful and unpredictable, she is unfit for the Lineage, but she is still clearly blessed. We failed with her first child, but she will give us more until we find that special female child, the one who will lead us out of the wilderness once again, more powerful than ever.”
He took a step forward, realizing they were planning on taking Amanda. He pictured the women floating in the tanks.
Teresa backed to the edge of the bed, never letting down her guard. “But first, to open a path back into the wilderness where we can hide”—she pointed her pistol at his face—“we need chaos.”
Like a dead president.
He flinched back as Amanda—seated in her bed behind Teresa—swung the IV pole and clubbed the weighted bottom into the side of his wife’s head.
Bone cracked and blood burst out of her nose.
She fell with a momentary look of bewilderment.
Her first real emotion since she pulled the gun.
Jimmy went for the weapon, realizing that the gunfire had ended out in the hallway. He started to bend—when the door crashed open.
Turning, he prayed it was his own Secret Service detail, that they had survived the ambush.
This was not his day.
Two women in uniform burst inside, weapons pointed.
They froze, seeing Teresa on the floor, unmoving.
Out in the hallway behind them, a small figure slid past the door on his knees along the blood-slicked floor. He had a pistol pointed.
Two clean shots to the back of the women’s heads.
Then he slid out of view.
Amanda still sat on her bed, holding the IV pole. “Who was that?”
Jimmy pictured the face of the young man, the analyst from before. He couldn’t remember his name, but he knew one thing about the boy.
“That was my new best friend.”
July 12, 10:10 A.M. EST
Painter stood at the foot of Amanda’s bed at George Washington University Hospital. He had his arm around Lisa’s waist as she reviewed the young woman’s chart. Mother and child had been here for a week, transferred shortly after the revelation of the president’s miraculous recovery following the assassination attempt.
James Gant was at the same hospital, two floors up, in his own secure wing, all the better to hide his feigned post-op recovery. Only those who knew the truth were allowed access. The shooter remained a mystery, more fodder to add to the myriad conspiracies surrounding presidential assassinations.
Off in South Carolina, the destruction at the Gant family estate was kept hushed and restricted from view by the no-fly zone. The official story was that a natural sinkhole had opened in the mountains on their property, accompanied by a quake strong enough to cause a gas leak and explosion at the Lodge. The report of the heroic death of Robert Gant—who died in the fire, while trying to rescue people—helped divert attention from the truth. A handpicked detachment of the National Guard, sworn to secrecy, still continued the cleanup of the dead pods that littered the surrounding landscape.
Lisa finally lowered the charts of Amanda and William.
“Happy?” Painter asked.
“Everything seems to be in order.”