“So I can kill Leonard Grady.”
“Jesus!” Jay flinched like I’d just shot him. “What did he do to you? Why would I help you out? And now we’ve been seen out walking in public…”
“You talk like I’m going to get caught, Jay. I’m not.” I squared around to face him. “Leonard killed Maggie.” I tried to keep my inflection flat. I wanted him to think I could keep my emotions together. But my voice cracked on her name.
He stared first. Then he looked around for a bench. And after he sat down, he fixed his eyes right back on my face. “You’re sure? Because Maggie… God Maggie…”
“You think I want to ask her ex-husband for favors?” I pulled out a printout from my blazer. Jay flinched again, but he took it. He understood. He was a scientist, after all, one of the most brilliant stars of our generation and a member of the SciArt collective.
“How did you get his semen sample?”
“Paid a hooker. Can we skip this part? I’ve got a short window to get in position.”
“But how did he get to Maggie?” Jay looked so damned confused. Just like he had when she served him the divorce papers.
“Same way I’ll be getting to him,” I said. “He tunneled.”
“When I saw it in the news, I thought you did it.” He spoke rapidly, his voice running into hysteria. “But then it didn’t make sense for you to kill her on your honeymoon… But this… this is right back to graduate school.”
“Not quite,” I said. “In graduate school, you and Leonard tried to woo her with genetics. I guess he got sick of losing out.”
“He was always unstable. But she liked that. You know she only ever went with me in the end because I have viable sperm.” In fact, I had known that. I didn’t know that Jay knew it, though. “I thought I could make her love me like I loved her, but it doesn’t, just doesn’t work that way.” The longer he stared at the lab report, the more he stammered.
So I took it away. But he kept talking, now watching his hands instead of me, squirming on the bench like a kid in the principal’s office, “I thought she was resigned to me. But then you showed up…”
“Jay. I don’t have time. I need your tunneler. Leonard’s collective is scattered right now for the holiday. They’ll be back in their bunker again by tomorrow, and all of your colleagues will be back at SciArt. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance this good again.”
Jay brought his head up sharply. “You’re going after him at home?”
“It’s probably the last time this year he won’t be behind protected walls. I wasted my shot in the big city making sure, hooking him up with the whore. Maggie was my wife, you know.” Again, I tried again to keep my voice level; again, it cracked on her name. “I’m so close now, I can…”
“I’ll do it.” Jay came to the decision suddenly, and all the twitching stopped. “Come on. You can leave from the office basement. SciArt is clean. There won’t be any record.”
He drove us to the collective. But he had to take an anxiety pill before he showed me how the tunneler wand worked. I brought in my gear from the car and changed into a turtleneck and ski mask. We targeted Leonard’s home address, then scrolled around on the tunneler’s little screen. There was only one person home, a woman by the body waves. Leonard’s wife. I said, “I can use her.”’
“I said use, not kill.”
“Take this.” It was a syringe. “Sedate her.”
He helped me aim the wand at a blank wall in his collective. The tunneler’s screen showed Leonard’s basement. “Come back here,” Jay said. “I’ll wait.”
I fired the wand into the wall, and my body hurtled forward at a speed that threatened to dislodge my stomach contents. I landed in a heap at exactly the place Jay and I had determined, 300 miles from where I started. Travel time, less than a second. Recovery, however took several minutes. No wonder those damned wands were only allowed in the collectives. Bending space hurt.
I checked my equipment one last time and used the tunneler to find Leonard’s wife in the house. It looked like she was upstairs napping. This was a distance I could walk. I mounted the steps on cat feet and slipped into the master bedroom. I taped her mouth before she was fully awake, and I bound her to the bed.
She thrashed, but I had a good two hundred pounds and a lifetime’s training on her. As soon as she was tied, arms above her head, legs splayed out, I leaned in close to her frantic eyes. “Shh,” I said. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not even going to undress you. In a few hours, you are going to go on with your life. But when your husband comes through that door, he dies.” I showed her my gun.
She tried to scream something around the tape. I showed her Jay’s slender needle. “The question is whether you want to watch him bleed, or whether you’d rather sleep through the whole thing. Blink once for the needle, and blink twice for the viewing theater to remain open.”
She screamed some more then, but eventually she believed me. And then she looked at me, as if she could memorize the features of a man in a mask. And she blinked twice. “Brave girl.” Then I sat down beside the bed, waiting for the front door to open so I could relieve her of a husband.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.