Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

Washington D.C., February 2009

You turned away from some Boy's appraising eyes in the mirror and curled your hands around the glass, wondered if you should drink. Would a real girl drink now? A wooden girl pretending to be a real one might, so you picked up your glass and pushed it against numb lips. Your numb face worked, your numb tongue stung, your numb throat swallowed.

Your belly wasn't numb. That burned, empty, and when the gin fumes rose up your throat you felt your face convulse into a grimace. Gin. You fucking hated gin. Why did you order it again?

Because the DJ was playing white boy rap--the angel and the gin and the beast within fight to take control--and the Boy in the mirror was staring and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And because wooden girls went where the strings pulled them.

Conspiracy theories were inherently ridiculous. Until you were on the inside of a vast government cover-up, looking out. Then, you had to admit, they started to seem a little more reasonable.

Erik would have taken one step inside the door of this place and his lip would have curled in amused contempt. He would have died before ordering a drink here.

Died. You wished you would. Dead would be okay. Dead would mean you didn't have to maintain anymore. You wouldn't have to be sprightly or cute or sharp. You wouldn't have to live with the emptiness, the pain of abandonment you swore you would never let yourself feel again. You wouldn't have to toss in bed at night, chewing over the gnawing knowledge of connection, articulation, how the evidence inexorably fit together in ways even your baby bruddah couldn't see.

Or won't admit to himself that he can see.

The Boy staring at the back of your head was all about admitting he could see you. Wooden girl or not, you made a pretty puppet.

Reyes might understand. But if you could have told Reyes once, there was no way you could ever tell him now. He must have broken, when they had him, or they wouldn't have let him live. You had to operate on the assumption that he might be theirs now, and that he'd put you away for good if he even suspected you were onto the conspiracy. He was theirs, and you had to accept it. Stay Alert. Trust no one. Keep your laser handy.

And as long as he was theirs, and Chaz was his, there was nothing you could say to either of them. You could trust Duke--you thought--but Duke was working his own angles, and you didn't want to influence him. And you didn't want to lead them down on him if you got caught. So there was nothing you could say to anybody, except the boy--Notaboy--who wasn't there to hear it.

They got him. And if they know you're on to them, they'll get you too.

The eyes in the mirror hadn't wavered. If they were even the same set of eyes: you hadn't really been paying enough attention to be sure. It didn't matter. One Boy was just like another, and the boy--the Notaboy--that mattered wasn't about to walk through the door.

You must have drunk the gin fast, despite the fact that it tasted like Pine-Sol, because your glass was empty and the DJ was still stuck on that fucking Everlast: The angel and the gin and the beast within say I'm gonna die.

"Hit me," you said, and touched the glass. Gin, rocks, lime slid in front of you. Maybe you should have asked for tonic to kill the taste, but Pine-Sol was good enough for puppets.

Mama said love can't be trusted: it's just another weakness.

Strings pulled, you lifted the glass, feeling the ice click. You downed the drink, nose wrinkling just as before. You smiled through the mirror at the faceless eyes behind, watching him teeter on the edge of his decision. Follow me, Boy.

He started forward, and you watched him come.

(song lyrics from Everlast, "Mercy On My Soul" and "We're All Gonna Die")