Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 25
“Do we at least have tonight?”
He smiled. “At the very least, tonight and tomorrow night. I promise.”
She relaxed a little. “Okay.”
They joined the others inside. In the light of a battery operated lantern she saw the guy. Donna now recognized him, since she’d gotten a good look at him. He sat zip-tied to a chair in the middle of what must have been an office at some time. The power wasn’t on, and the room was barely warmer than outside, the damp chill settling in.
She crossed her arms over her chest and shivered. “Thanks for screwing up my life and putting my job at risk, asshole,” she said to the guy.
“Can I slap him?” she asked Uni, who’d walked over to kiss her.
“No, babe,” Victor said. “Let us handle this.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Chief said. “I heard that before I joined there were some good castration fantasies being discussed.”
The other men laughed, except for the fish in the chair, who started struggling. “Please! I…I don’t know anything, I swear!”
“Relax,” Lima told the guy. “We’re not going to hurt you. It’s an inside joke, long story.” He looked at Victor. “We just got here and settled in. We didn’t have any tails. You?”
Victor held up three fingers. “Shook them, gave it another hour. We’re clear.”
Omega stepped forward. If Donna didn’t know the enormous black man was actually a really nice guy, she’d be scared shitless if she was in the fish’s position.
Mostly because she had been in the fish’s position before.
“Listen,” Omega said. “We know you been piggybacking through her computer. We know you’re the one posting the videos to that blog and selling them to the networks for Mary Silo. We’re cool with all that, and if you work with us, we’ll make sure you can keep doing that, safely.”
“Yeah,” Lima said. “As I told you when we grabbed you, we’re no friends of Hannibal Silo. We want to find Mary and get her in, safely, and find out everything she knows so we can use it against him.”
He stared at them for a long moment. “Why should I believe you? Any of you?”
Lima pointed at Donna. “You should believe her. We grabbed her on Monday thinking she was the one who’d done all of that.”
She flipped the guy a bird. “Fucker.”
Uni chuckled. “Calm down, babe. Some good came of it.”
She immediately felt bad. “That’s true, but it would have been nice not to have the scare of my life in the process. Or have to lie to my friends.” She turned on the guy again and stepped forward, only to have Victor haul her back. “I had to lie to my friends because of you, asshole!” She tried to kick at the guy, but Victor pulled her out of range.
Lima snorted. “Wow. She’s feisty. She fits right in.” He returned his attention to the guy. “What will it take to convince you we’re the good guys?”
He still looked unconvinced. “Untying me’s a start.”
“Yeah, see, that’s not going to happen yet,” Chief said. “Not until we know for sure we can trust you.”
Donna blew a raspberry at the guy. “They untied me right away. Asshole.”
Uni chuckled but drew her close to him. “Stop tormenting the subject, babe.”
She couldn’t help it. The Drunk Monkeys had made her feel like part of the team. That they’d been put at risk by some unknown people after this same yayhoo—who’d also put her at risk—recklessly used her just pissed her right the fuck off.
* * * *
Ax wasn’t even sure where the fuck he was at that point. And now that he’d gotten a look at all these people—even the other woman with them—he realized trying to run wasn’t going to be an option.
His only recourse was to try to divert them, to lie to them, stall them, and hopefully get a message to Kali to run.
He’d wiped all the data off his laptop after getting her the new ID. He used a data shredder in his trash that not only scrambled files but made sure they were quickly overwritten so the data couldn’t be recovered.
“I can’t tell you where Mary Silo is,” he said, “because I don’t know. Run me through a lie detector if you want, but I made sure to tell her when she first contacted me not to give me details.”
And that was the truth.
Someone brought in another chair and Lima sat in it. He had a tablet with him and started swiping through it, looking for something. When he found it, he turned the tablet around and Ax realized it was a video player.
“Get comfy,” Lima said. “I think after watching this, you’ll realize we’re the good guys.”
He hit play.
It didn’t take Ax long to realize that not only were these guys genuinely not fans of Rev. Hannibal Silo, but what Mary had sent him only scratched the top of the toxic iceberg Silo was trying to use to crush the nation and bend it to his will.
And it nearly made him sick.
* * * *
Donna turned, not wanting to see it. Hearing it was bad enough.
Hearing it again.
It was the same info they’d shown her. It would start with a tour through the LA Preachsearch Building, ending in the cooler with the bodies. Then it would show the bodies, the body bags unzipped and the people identified by the narrator. At times it was different men narrating. She couldn’t remember who, but they’d told her at the time who they were when they showed it to her.
Followed by the Barstow video, and Korey.
As the video played on, she fought the sick feeling in her gut and bowed her head, trying not to cry as she thought about all those people, dead. Guinea pigs. The innocent victims of Barstow.
Chief’s ex’s pregnant and terrified girlfriend.
Uni hooked his arm around Donna’s waist while Victor draped his around her shoulders and they held her.
She slowly shook her head, remembering it all and feeling especially horrible for Uni, who’d lived it.
He couldn’t unremember any of it, even if he tried.
That made her even sadder, that this man she admittedly loved held a head full of horrible things that he’d never be able to shake.
She couldn’t stand it. Despite the chill she felt hot, stifling, and ducked away from the men, bolting from the room.
Uni and Victor followed her as she ran, blindly, down the corridor and through a double door that opened up into a large space.
The men were there, gathering her into their arms as she cried. Uni stood in front of her, Victor behind her, their arms around her.
They didn’t speak.
When she finally could, she asked it, not opening her eyes. “Am I going to see you two after Friday? Forget what you promised me. Really. Tell me the truth.”
Uni nuzzled the top of her head. “We’re going to do our damnedest, babe. We won’t be able to have contact with you once we move out, but Bubba will keep you posted.”
“What if something happens to him?”
“He’ll have backups in place.”
“Shh,” Victor gently said. He kissed the nape of her neck. “We love you. You can’t promise us you won’t slip in the shower and crack your head open and die of a skull fracture next week. Or choke on popcorn while watching a movie alone in the apartment on your day off. But we’re going to live with the assumption that we’re going to fix this shit, survive the process of doing it, and show up on your doorstep with a dozen roses, a ring, a gallon of lube, and a few hundred condoms.”
That finally pulled a snotty snort of laughter out of her.
Victor turned and made her look up at him, wiping her cheeks with his thumbs. “Babe, we meant it. We’ve got a job to do, but we’re vested in you. What happens after we’re together again, none of us can be sure. But we’re not looking at another woman until we at least have a chance to be happy with you.”
“I’m scared you’re going to walk out of my life and I’ll
“That won’t happen,” Uni said, sounding choked up. “I swear.”
“Don’t promise me something you can’t promise me,” she said.
“I can promise it the same way you can promise us that you’ll probably be either at work or at the apartment when we come to find you.”
“I wouldn’t recommend going back to that coffee shop,” Victor added.
“Ever,” Uni punctuated.
“That fucker,” she muttered. “He ruined my happy bubble time for good.” She sniffled. “Is it even going to be safe for me? Do they know who I am?”
“We’ll get you a new laptop,” Uni promised. “Before we leave. Lima will retrieve your data for you.”
“He’ll need to figure out whatever it was on there first.”
“Do you have backups of your data?”
“Yeah, I have a cloud account. I think at the most I’ll lose a few days of receipts for reconciling with my bank account, but that’s nothing. Tell him if he can’t get the data back, it’s okay. Don’t jeopardize the mission over that.”
Victor cupped her face in his hands as he smiled down at her. “See? Spoken like a soldier. Part of the team. You’re one of us and you always will be, even when you’re not with us. Just like Bubba is.”
“Maybe I can still help out,” she said. “Maybe he can send me data to go through for you guys. Got a long lunch break. I’d have plenty of time.”
Uni chuckled, his chin resting on the top of her head. “That’s our girl,” he said. “See? This’ll be okay. We’ll miss you, too, believe me. Before you know it, we’ll be together again.”
“I want to take her to Colima,” Victor said.
“Mexico,” Uni said. “Where we met Clara and picked up Sin. Nice and warm.”
“I don’t have a passport.”
Both men softly laughed. “We’ll take care of that,” Victor said. “Don’t worry. Not a problem.”
* * * *
When the men coaxed Donna back into the office, which was admittedly a few degrees warmer than the larger warehouse/production area, the guy had been untied and looked like he’d been gut-shot.
She could sympathize.
If she didn’t hate his fucking guts.
“Donna,” Lima said, “meet Ali Xavier, aka Ax.”
She flipped the guy a bird.
“Look, I’m sorry! I didn’t think anything would happen to you. I figured if anyone found you, they’d see that you were obviously innocent and let you go.”
“Yeah, how’d that work for ya?”
“Hey, you should have used a better password.”
She started forward, fists clenched. “Fuck you, buddy!”
Uni and Victor pulled her back. “Dude,” Victor said, “you have a really poor sense of self-preservation, doncha? I might not let her hit you, but I wouldn’t be averse to slapping you around a little myself.”
“I don’t dare open up his computer, or hers at the safe house,” Lima said. “I need to pull them apart and yank the hard drives on them both and see what’s up.”
“I shut my computer pretty fast,” Donna said. “Wouldn’t that have stopped it?”
“Maybe, but we can’t risk it.”
“So what now?” Uni asked.
“Weather’s deteriorating pretty fast,” Omega said. “We need to get out of here and get back to base or we won’t get out of here at all. Frankly, I’d prefer not to be stuck here for a couple of days without supplies or heat or running water. This is going to turn into a massive ice storm. We were going to have the power turned on tomorrow. Think that’ll have to wait.”
“Guess I would have been off work tomorrow anyway,” Donna said.
“See?” Victor smiled. “There’s a bright spot.”
There were several accidents that slowed their progress home. They still took a roundabout way to get there. Nearly two hours later, they were all safely inside the safe house and grabbing a bite to eat.
“Do you need to contact your brothers?” Lima asked Ax.
“No. We hardly ever see each other. They might end up stuck at work in this anyway.”
“Then I’ll hold your phone for you and monitor it.”
“You guys really going to find a cure for Kite?”
“Not us personally,” Echo said, “but the scientists, yes. We’re keeping them away from Hannibal Silo so he can’t bogart a vaccine just for him and his special little friends.”
“The government will make sure it gets widely distributed,” Quack said. “Full transparency. You heard about the data dump website, right? For researchers?”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t sure if that was real.”
“I heard the Kite numbers are a lot worse than what’s been reported. That true?”
“Unfortunately,” Chief said. “We don’t even know how bad it is out there. Guaranteed it’s worse than what the media’s reporting.”
“I…” He studied them. “I have a contact. Someone in a group that escaped from the LA area and missed Barstow because they were lucky enough to get wind of it beforehand. They’re hiding out in Salt Lake City but they’re moving. They said that thousands have been killed on the road by the military and National Guard, not dozens. Kite-positive people. And I don’t have any reason to doubt their info.”
“Who is he?” Lima asked.
“She. I call her Tank. Her name’s Noel Tanaka. Her group is pretty good with hacking, but they think they’re an anarchist brigade. They want to out the real data the military is trying to withhold about Barstow.”
“Let them,” Lima said. “It’d do the world a favor.”
“We’ve put our asses on the line,” Quack said. “Literally, in some cases. Our mission objective at this time is to protect the scientists while they work on a Kite vaccine. Right now, we’re OTG. We have a contact, but our commander is pretending he doesn’t know where we are or what we’re doing. And the truth is, he doesn’t, exactly. He’s got the President in his pocket now, but even he isn’t sure who is and isn’t safe. When we tell you we don’t have a problem with you doing any of that kind of BS, of exposing shit, as long as you aren’t doing anything to jeopardize this mission and us, or our location, knock yourself out.”
“And I’ll need copies of all the data you have from Mary Silo,” Lima said.
“I meant it. I don’t know where she is.”
“And I believe you,” Lima said. “But we need you to believe in us and help us talk her in. We can’t knock Silo out just yet. Not unless we’re sure he doesn’t have a failsafe.”
“Revenge,” Donna flatly said. “A final fuck-you to the world because we spoiled his fun.”
She realized she’d said “we” as if she really were one of them.
“I know what it is. But you mean like more Kite?” Ax asked.
“She hasn’t said he does. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something like that. Is that why you don’t just go kill him?”
Lima touched his nose. “Not until we’re sure it won’t trigger something really, really bad.”
“You said your guy’s inside the church’s system?”
“Pulling data down literally faster than we can go through it. It’s like trying to use a teaspoon to eat the damn moon.”
“I can help with that.”
“You can help by helping us get in contact with Mary Silo,” Lima said. “How’d she manage to find you, anyway? And how’d you work out the deal to sell the videos?”
“This is more than just about the money for me,” he said. “I run the blog for a reason. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew one day, I would get back at Silo.”
“Why?” Chief asked. “What’d he ever do to you that’s got you so hot and bothered?”
The guy’s answer startled Donna. “He killed my parents.”
Donna grudgingly found herself feeling badly for Ax once she heard his whole story. Yes, he had a valid…
Well, ax to grind.
They ran his particulars by Bubba, who had a full workup of his deets for them by midnight. Ax was who he claimed he was, his story—once he told all of it—checking out.
“She offered to let me keep the money from the video clips,” Ax explained. “That was all her. She left with enough money to keep her set for life.”
“But you don’t know where she is in St. Louis?”
“No. I’ve been teaching her a crash course in paranoia and hiding her tracks.”
“Sounds like you should have taken your own advice,” Chief snarked.
“It was a stupid mistake,” he said. “I was trying to save time. I rented a storage locker and was going to start stockpiling supplies for me and my brothers so when we had to get out we’d be able to.”
“How do we talk her in?” Lima asked. “She’ll listen to you.”
“You don’t understand,” he said. “She doesn’t just want him taken down. She wants him dead. That shit you’ve seen that I’ve posted so far? That’s the G-rated stuff.”
“Holy fuck,” Omega muttered. “You’re kidding?”
“No. I wish I was. Made me sick to my stomach looking through it all. He’s trying to claim the audio portion is faked. I’ve got news for you—it’s all real. Silo’s one twisted fuck.”
“Tell us something we don’t know,” Echo said.
Outside, the weather had deteriorated even more. When they turned on the TV, local channels were reporting power outages in some places as ice built and took down power lines, or took down tree limbs that took down power lines.
Omega set the house’s thermostat at a comfortable temperature for them. “Well, this place has a backup generator, so we’ll be okay even if the power goes out tonight.” He arched an eyebrow at Donna and her men. “Or some of us can rely on body heat.”
Ax looked miserable. “I’ll take the sofa, if it’s okay with everyone.”
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
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