“He’s dead, isn’t he?” I ask the air, hoping Billy’s listening, so I can finally get the answer to the question I’ve been avoiding asking.
There’s no response.
“Billy?” I say quietly, hoping I’m not nearly as alone as I feel.
It’s still quiet. Maybe he’s not there. Maybe something happened to him. How did he even get safe anyway? The last I saw of him he was shouting after me telling me to come back, telling me I had two hours before they woke up. Two hours, I decided would be enough time to get me and the device far from their home and far from Alvin. Not to mention that coming back meant I would have to see him and what I allowed to happen to him.
“Billy?” I say again, praying he’s there. Praying he’ll tell me the answer I’ve been trying to keep from hearing. “Is he? Cyrus?”
“Yeah,” he finally answers. I can feel the pain in his voice. I hear him sniffle before he continues. “Yeah, he’s dead.”
“Those bastards!” I shout out. “I should have stayed, I could have helped, I could have—“
“It wouldn’t have mattered. They were already planning on killing him. On killing all of us. You got free and you got the device. That’s much more important.”
“But is it?” I ask.
“Yes, it is. Far more important. Cyrus knew that.”
“But it’s all my fault he was–”
“No, it’s mine. I’m the one who caused all this. I’m the one who got Miss Nile on our case. And I’m guessing I’m the one who caused Alvin to figure out who Miss Nile was and what she was capable of. This is all my fault. No one else’s.”
“After all we’ve been through. He’s really…”
“I know. He…”
There’s a long silence.
I’m not even aware I stopped talking.
I open my mouth to try to fix it, but nothing comes to mind. What can I say? He’s dead. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
I wake up to find myself lying on the couch. My brother is at his computer, typing away furiously. It takes a few seconds before I remember how The Corral is destroyed and am forced to convince myself it wasn’t all a dream. It feels surreal, being back here, on this couch, at home. And to not feel like I’m about to be killed.
Or am I?
“What happened?” I groan, getting up from the couch. My head is pounding and my neck is incredibly sore.
“Eve ran off with the device, I managed to use a sonic disrupter to take out Alvin and his men. Just in time, too, from the looks of it.”
“You used a what?”
“A sonic disrupter. It blasts out a series of high frequency blasts which causes a neurologic disturbance and causes those within range to be knocked out. Generally effective for about two hours.”
“A loud sound made you all fall asleep.”
“How in the world did you get one of those?”
“Next door at the Francis’s, just where I said I was going.”
“But I thought you were—you know what, never mind. So, Alvin and his goons?”
“The one is still in the panic room, panicking, but the other three are all upstairs, one outside by the mailbox.”
“And they could be waking up at any second?”
“Don’t worry, I tied them up. I considered dragging them all down to the panic room, but then I saw you were already using it for one of them, who, of course, is still awake, since that thing is sound proofed.”
“Are we safe?”
“For now. I don’t have a ton of experience with knots and I was flying blind without my systems up and running, but yeah, we’re safe.”
“Should I do something about them?”
“I’m working on that right now. It is taking me a bit to get my systems back since they tore everything apart, but I’ve gotten some of the key bits running. I think I’ve got an idea on how I can stop all of this once and for all, but for that, I need to get back into the Agora servers, which is going to take a bit of hacking now that we’ve become public enemies and all that.”
“And how will that help us with Alvin and his goons?”
“Well, um, it won’t. At least not immediately. Hopefully something in the long run, but it’s going to take me a bit to make it happen.”
“And until you make it happen?”
“Well, I guess we just hope that they don’t get out of their ropes.”
“Could we barricade the doors or something?”
“Not much left to barricade them with. We could try to push the couch up the stairs or something, but it won’t do any good.”
“I don’t like this.”
“Yeah, me neither, but we’re not exactly in our best situation here. All we can do is hope we can get all the things we need to get done before they get free.”
“What about Eve? Where’s she?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean she ran off without telling me where she was headed. I tried to stop her, but she just looked at me for a second, all sad-like or whatever, and then ran off into the distance.”
“Why didn’t you stop her?”
The Geek laughs. I scowl at him until he finally answers. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t think you were serious. You know who you’re talking to, right?”
“Fine,” I sigh. “So, what are we going to do about her?”
“I’m hoping I can locate her once I get my systems back up. It looks like she might have grabbed one of your backup backpacks on the way out, complete with a music player, so I think I’ll be able to track her on her way, but for now, no clue. I’m not even sure what she’s thinking she’s going to do.”
“So, I should run after her, right? See if I can help?”
“She’s got two hours on you, meaning she could be anywhere. She’s relatively safe right now, as long as we’ve got Alvin tied up here.”
“But what do I do?”
“I don’t know, you could see if you could find some food upstairs or something.”
“Aren’t the bad guys upstairs?”
“Yeah, but they’re tied up.”
“By you, who said he doesn’t really know how to tie knots. There has got to—“
“Cyrus!” The Geek cuts me off. He turns in his chair and looks at me for the first time in this entire interaction. He looks pissed. “I’m trying to save the world here. Could you please stop bugging me and let me focus?”
He stares for another few seconds, which feels like an eternity, before turning back around. I’ve never seen him so mad before.
I’m left looking at the back of his head.
Food might not be a terrible idea after all.
Go to Chapter Thirty-Four