13 – Zac
Zac sent the video, slightly edited, to Berent using Myranda’s tablet. Within minutes, Berent sent a buzz.
Zac smiled. “Showtime, everyone.” Myranda began crying and Meris struggled against her bonds. He opened the video-call app and tapped on Berent’s name. It rang once before Berent answered.
The Riekan man’s hard-featured face filled the screen. “Who are you and what are you doing with my wife and Meris Brand?”
“Retract your accusations against Darius Alazar.”
Berent laughed. “Do you think kidnapping my wife is going to help your boss? All it does is show I’m right about him.”
Zac panned the camera until Wyll’s body was in frame. “Tell your husband what I did to your brother.”
Myran fixed a glare so full of hatred on him that he almost forgot she was pretending. “Berent, don’t do anything he says. He killed Wyll.”
“Your husband is the one behind all this, Myranda!” Meris sounded just as convincing. “Tell her the truth, Berent. Tell her how you ordered Ellias murdered.”
Berent looked at them all. “Why is Meris tied up if she’s on your side?”
Crap. “Because I can’t trust her to not interfere with what I have to do if you don’t cooperate.” Did that make sense? Yes, yes that could work.
“Which is – what? – kill my wife?”
Zac shook his head. “No. No, I’m going to torture her. And I’m going to make you watch. Unless you recant and confess to what you’ve done.”
“Why kill Wyll? I mean, thank you for that, but he was Alazar’s biggest supporter.”
“Did you just thank him for killing my brother?” Myranda sounded hysterical.
Zac smiled. “You see, sweetness? I told you that you married a monster. He’s as good as admitted it.”
“Wyll was a rabble-rouser, Myranda. He was turning people against me so the real monster, Alazar, could escape justice. With him gone, the truth can finally be told.” He affected a sympathetic expression. “I’m sorry, honey.”
Myranda began sobbing, and this time Zac was pretty sure it was for real. “How can you say that? How can you talk about him like that? He’s my brother.”
“Myranda, honey, listen to me: you are going to be fine. This coward is not going to hurt you.”
From behind him, Meris suddenly shouted, “Zac, get down!”
Zac dropped to the ground just as the window behind him shattered. Searing pain ripped through his back,then only numbness. Meris and Myranda screamed.
“Meris, get Myranda and Wyll out of here!”
He couldn’t see her, but knew she’d have already slipped the cords off her wrists and ankles as planned. “I’m not leaving you!” She was right next to him now, trying to help him to his feet. Another airbolt shot flew over their heads, breaking the dishes on one of the kitchen shelves.
“Make sure Myranda’s free first.”
She grunted in frustration but started across the room. “Stay down!” Zac shouted to her as more shots tore through the apartment.
He tried to roll over and crawl to Wyll, but his legs weren’t obeying him. Paralyzed. Panic threatened to overwhelm him. If he couldn’t get up and run, Berent would end him here and now. The door to the apartment came flying open, Berent behind it. Zac turned his head further and fumbled for the handgun in his leg holster.
Meris and Myranda were in the line of fire. “Get down!”
The women started to crouch down, but Berent brought his gun up and aimed at Meris. Myranda pushed the Sindrian girl aside as he fired.
Myranda dropped like a broken toy.
Zac screamed and opened fire at the Riekan. One bullet hit him square in the chest, but he was apparently wearing body armor. The second bit deep into Berent’s right shoulder and he dropped his airbolt gun with a yowl of pain. Meris flew at him, clambering up on his back and grappling to get her arm under his chin to choke him.
Berent turned side to side quickly, clawing at her arms to try to dislodge her. She changed tack and dug her fingers into his bullet wound. Berent growled through gritted teeth and slammed backward against the wall, pinning Meris in between. He slammed her against the wall twice more before she let go and rolled to the floor.
Zac shot again, but Berent dodged, running out the door instead. Sirens were approaching. He could hear Meris crying and calling out Myranda’s name.
The tablet – if the police saw the video, they’d believe Zac really had kidnapped the two women. He reached down and scooted it across the floor to where he could forcefully bring his elbow down onto the screen over and over. Once the device had shattered, he fished out the memory card.
“Meris, how is she?”
She was sobbing too hard to answer. His heart nearly stopped. No, she can’t be dead. “Wyll? If you can hear me, you’ve got to start moving.” Zac craned his head back to see his friend still lying immobile. He looked over at Meris. “Meris, get Wyll out of here and get this back to Alazar.”
He held the memory card out to her; she didn’t look up. The sirens were getting closer. “Meris! You have to get out of here!”
She looked at him then. It took a moment, but recognition of what he was telling her finally dawned on her face. She crawled to him and took the card. “What is it?” Tears streamed down her face.
“The card from Myranda’s tablet. Her statement against Berent. Take it and get Wyll out. Get to Alazar.”
“No, you’re coming with us.”
“I can’t. I can’t move my legs.” His tears came involuntarily. “I’m so sorry, Meris. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”
She started crying again, words that sounded like a prayer coming brokenly between sobs. Then a change came over her expression, like something just occurred to her. “Wait, let me see.” She pushed his arm and he helped as she rolled him over. With a relieved laugh, she said, “It’s just a Stinger.”
“What?” His heart started to pound as hope flooded him.
“Yeah, let me just get it out.” She grunted lightly as she pulled the device from his back. “There.” She held the bloody object for him to see. Shaped sort of like a corkscrew, the Stinger had a needle that penetrates the target’s skin to hold it in place while the body of the device delivers a neuro-disrupter charge that renders the victim paralyzed from the point of entry down until it is removed.
“Oh, thank God.” Already, sensation was returning to his lower body. He ignored the pins-and-needles feeling and rose to his hands and feet. “Get Wyll, I’ll get Myranda.”
“Zac.” Meris touched his arm and gave him a look. She shook her head as tears slipped down her face.
He got to his feet with her help, then lowered his voice to whisper to her. “We can’t leave her here.” She can’t be gone…What will Wyll do without her?
“We have to. Maybe this way Berent will go down for her even if we can’t prove his involvement in Stell-Ore.” She looked over her shoulder as the sirens grew louder. “Come on, they’re almost here.”
Tears blurred his vision. “This isn’t right.” He shook his head, surrendering. “All right, let’s get Wyll and get out of here.”
She sniffed and nodded, and the two of them lifted Wyll to his feet. Zac couldn’t even look at Myranda’s still form as they passed her on the way out of the apartment.
This isn’t right…
Wyll is going to hate us.