By the time I get back to my apartment, I'm exhausted. I've leapt out of a window, peppered myself with explosives, and gotten punched hard enough to dent metal. I imagine I must look like shit.
"You look like shit."
Agent Duncan is waiting for me. She's sitting at my desk with a new folder placed out in front of her.
"It's been a long day," I tell her.
"I really don't care." She slides the folder toward me. "You're fifteen minutes late. Be thankful I waited."
I pick the folder up and flip it open. Inside are some pretty gruesome photos--a crime scene. Woman with her brain splattered all over her kitchen floor. Gunshot wound. Sniper rifle, by the look of it.
"You know who that is?" she asks.
"Yes. Her name was Dove. It was a nasty piece of work." I put the folder down.
"It was your piece of work," she said. "And there are dozens more just like that. I've got cabinets full of it. Six years of assassinations--of murder and mayhem. Not just capes, either--military targets. Government targets. Civilians."
When someone drops that sort of weight on you, there's not much you can say back. So I don't say anything at all.
She pulls out another folder and puts it on the table. This one's a bit thicker. I can see newspaper clippings peeking out from the edges. "You're something nasty, alright," she says. "So when the analyst gets finished connecting the dots on all these articles, I have to wonder--just what the fuck are you playing at?"
"I'm not playing anything, Agent Duncan," I tell her.
She stabs her finger down into the folder. "Is this some sort of sick joke?"
"A kidnapped heir, returned unharmed. A bank robbery foiled without a single shot fired. A terrorist cell shows up at the police station, hog-tied and with all the evidence needed to convict strapped to their chests. All these crimes inexplicably solved--with no pattern, no explanation, no connection. Except for you."
I fold my arms and lean against the wall. Partly, it's because I don't know what to say, but partly, it's because I'm just so goddamn tired.
"You've been saving lives," she tells me, and then, for a moment, she looks like she's about to vomit. "Please tell me you aren't trying to make up for what you did."
"If I saved every man, woman, and child on this planet, it wouldn't make up for one life I took," I tell her.
"Then what the hell are you doing?"
"Right now? I'm trying to save a girl."
"You deserve to be in prison," she tells me. "You deserve to be dead."
"Probably," I agree. "But it'd be a lot harder to save her if I was."
"If the Agency knew about all this--"
"Then, yes, they'll revoke my immunity and put me in prison," I tell her. "Or they'll just shoot me. But if that's where this is going--if that's what you plan on doing--please tell me first, so I can try to find some way to save her life before I disappear."
Agent Duncan hasn't looked at me with anything besides raw, uncloaked hatred since the very moment we met. But for a moment--just a single, spurious moment--I see something else slip into her expression.
"A year ago, you disappeared," she says. "You were gone for three months. What happened?"
"If I tell you, will you let me finish this job before turning me in?"
"I'm not making any promises."
"You hear of Project Vigilance?"
"I read the file," she says. "Some sort of bizarre attempt to turn operatives into sleepless soldiers. Everyone involved either died or went insane."
She stares at me with a look that can strip you bare to the bone. "I told you not to bullshit me, Jack."
"You've been tailing me, right? You must have noticed. I don't seem to stop, do I?"
"So you don't sleep much."
"I don't sleep at all."
"Fine. Let's pretend what you're saying is true. What's this got to do with anything?"
"Project Vigilance was more involved than just cutting out a piece of your head." I pull out a chair and sit down across from her. "They had to create a whole new structure--new architecture. Most of the volunteers didn't survive; those that did either went insane or turned into vegetables. But my case was special. Doctors said I didn't go mad because somehow, the process reset my brain."
"Reset your brain?"
I take in a big, healthy breath.
"The man I was died on the operating table. When I woke up, the doctors realized I'd lost all my memories."