Before I get out of the car, I hand Nova my cell.
"Anyone you don't recognize comes toward this car, you start it, and you drive," I tell her. "Then you hit the 'send' button right here. It'll call the police."
"Where would I go?" she asks.
"Doesn't matter. Just tell the police where you are, let them track you down."
"I don't have a driver's license."
"Then drive slow." I leave the keys in the ignition and step out.
We've stopped in a parking lot about six blocks away from her apartment. She's given me a list of things she'll need, and I've got a duffel bag to put them in. Not the most ideal arrangement, but it'll do.
I'm not looking forward to explaining this to Henry and Jacob.
I don't get three blocks closer before I smell the smoke and hear the sirens. Suddenly, I'm running toward the sound--not just because I need to find out what's going on fast.
Vigil was looking after this place. What if someone else was looking after Vigil? And what if, when he left, they took that as an opportunity?
There are a lot of ways to assassinate a target, but inevitably, they boil down to two basic methods: Precision versus overwhelming force. Both will, with luck, get the job done. Professionals prefer precision. Thugs prefer force.
When I round the corner, it's made clear to me precisely which school of thought we're dealing with. Several floors around the sixteenth floor of Nova's hotel have been gouged open, with flaming debris dangling from the hole like a lulling tongue. Fire engines and police cars have sectioned the entire area off. In the distance, I can see the soot-plastered faces of emergency response teams and the people they're desperately trying to save.
Suddenly, I don't think Henry or Jacob are going to be much of a problem for me at all.
I pull out my spare cell phone and call Cassidy.
"Jack? It's kind of late," she says. "You change your mind?"
"Need a favor."
It's hard to hide my anger from the people I know. I try, but Cassidy picks up on the rage in an instant. That, and I wouldn't call her unless shit just met fan.
"Fuck. What's wrong?"
"Turn on the news. Hotel explosion."
I hear her rustle around her apartment for a moment. A few seconds later, and I catch her sigh. "Shit. Is that where--?"
"She's safe. I took her out on an errand. Her guardian followed. Think whoever did it was watching him, not her. Probably didn't realize that she wasn't still there."
"Fucking amateur hour. What do you need?"
"I need you to look after her for a bit."
"Jack..." Her voice is tense. She knows me. She knows what I might do.
Who knows how many people this explosion killed?
"Just look after her. Only for a bit. Need to follow a few leads." My phone beeps as I get another call. "I'll drop her by your place in a little bit." I hang up on her, then switch over to the other line.
"Hello, Jack." It's Marlowe. Not someone I'm in the perfect mood to talk to right now.
"Bad timing," I tell him, and I mean it. When you're undercover, the wrong emotion is your greatest enemy. Either find the right place to put it or get rid of it. Not sure if I can do either.
"I'm sorry to hear that. But this is important. We need to meet."
"Right now? I'm in the middle of something," I tell him.
"Yes. We're waiting for you at your apartment. Come as soon as possible."
"I'll be there in under an hour."
After he hangs up, I start back where I left Nova. I've got to tell her that her hotel blew up. And then I've got to drop her off at Cassidy's. And then...
Then, I've got a meeting with Marlowe, the man who arranged the hit that ended up in an explosion that might have killed dozens, if not more.
I've got to keep myself centered. As tempting as it is to just beat the name of whoever did this out of Marlowe, it'll be far more useful to keep in his good graces. If he hired one thug willing to blow up several floors of uninvolved civilians, who's to say he hasn't hired more?
I need all their names. More than that, I need the name of the person who hired Marlowe, too.
Still. It's going to be hard as hell not to shoot him in the face.
Maybe I'll just settle for the kneecaps.