We had finished gearing up with weapons and were fitting ourselves with the throat mics when Donovan came back to the dining room several minutes later, a frown on her face. She sat down at the dining table.
"Everything okay?" I said.
She nodded and stared at a spot on the tabletop.
I said, "Why shouldn't these men get Danny?"
Donovan blinked and looked up at me. "What?"
"Before he died, your brother told me not to let them get Danny. Why not?"
She sat back in the chair. "I'm not positive but..." She paused, then went on: "There's something you need to know about Danny."
"He's not supposed to be alive."
Mouse, Jake, and I exchanged looks.
I turned back to Donovan. "Explain."
"A year ago I got a call from Jack. He told me they'd just come back from the doctor's. Danny had been diagnosed with ALS-4. It's a rare degenerative motor neuron disease that affects children."
"How rare?" I said.
"Only five other cases."
"Shit," said Mouse.
Donovan gave her a weak smile. "That's what Jack said." She let out a loud exhale. "The last time I saw Danny was about eight months ago. He was having trouble getting up from a chair. Standing. Walking."
"Why is Danny not supposed to be alive?" said Jake.
"ALS-4 is fatal. Works really fast. The longest of the five cases lived two years before she died. Jack said Danny had maybe nine months. A year was optimistic."
"Now look at him," said Donovan. "Like he was never sick."
"What did your brother do for a living?" I said.
"He was a biotech engineer," said Donovan. "Private lab in the NorFed States."
"Hart Labs," said Mouse.
Donovan nodded. "That sounds about right."
"Eddie mentioned that Hart Labs had tech and military contracts," I said.
"What're you thinking?" said Jake.
"Not sure." I called out, "Hey, Danny?"
"Yeah?" he yelled back from the living room.
"Could you come here for a sec?"
Footsteps came down the hallway and a few seconds later, Danny appeared in the doorway. "Yeah?"
"You were sick before, weren't you, Danny?" I said.
He made a face and shifted his feet then looked at Donovan. "Did you tell them?"
Donovan nodded. "Do you remember being sick, Danny?"
"Yeah," said Danny. "But Daddy gave me a shot that made me feel better."
We all exchanged looks.
"What kind of shot?" I said.
Danny shrugged. "A shot. Like what you get at the doctor's. Daddy said it was a new kind of medicine. Not like the ones they made me take."
"And it made you better?" said Donovan.
"Yeah. It hurt for a while afterwards. Then it went away and I was better."
"That's gotta be it," said Mouse. "Why they're after Danny. Miracle drug cures fatal disease. They want a lab rat."
Danny stiffened and his eyes went to slits. "I'm not a lab rat," he said and his voice took on a chilling tone.
The hairs at the nape of my neck saluted.
Just like back at the QuikShop--
My phone rang.
I put it on speaker. "Good?"
"Better'n good," said Specs. "Fan-fuckin'-tastic is what this is."
"There's a kid in the room, Specs."
Mouse snorted a laugh.
"Just keep it clean," I said.
"Okay okay. Look--I got a special deal. Only gonna cost 1.2 mill. Each."
"It'll be okay," I told her.
"Not bad," said Jake.
"No, it ain't," Specs said. "Like I said. Special deal. Guy owes me one. Anyway, it's the works. Cards. Backstory. Records. Even got a flat and a car for 'em."
"Where to?" I said.
"Central Free Zone. Santa Fe, New Mexico."
"We'll take them," I said. "Can you set that up?"
"Yeah. And my guy's gonna need biometrics to code the cards."
"Hang on," said Specs. I heard him talk to someone on another phone, then: "Says he needs another hour to finish his thing. The coding won't take long. He can do that last. Meet in an hour?"
"Sounds good. Where?"
Specs rattled off the address of an airfield ten minutes east of us, on the other side of Lake Wyndham.
"We'll be there," I said and hung up then turned to the others. "We'll wait half an hour and then we're out. Let's pack up what we don't need, get it in the cars, and keep--"
And the proximity alarms went off.
(to be continued...)