Capri retraced her steps, using the stairs and counting on most guards, residents, and employees being distracted with the memorial on the sixth floor. The guard stationed outside of Marianne’s door was unavoidable, but Capri had the element of surprise. He was shocked to see her; her tracking device showed that she was by Briony’s side in the upper dining hall.
She used the last dose of propofol to subdue him. Her vision was blurred, her nerves electric. Her breath came in short, enraged pants. She took the guard’s gun and went through her own room to access Marianne’s apartment. She turned the doorknob. It couldn’t lock, since an attendant’s presence might be required at a moment’s notice, but something on the other side was blocking her from entering. She stood back and kicked. The force knocked what turned out to be a chair from its place beneath the doorknob.
The blond shrieked and threw herself on the bed, as if she were a child playing hide-and-seek and thought no one could see the yellow locks poking out above the pillows. It was pathetic, and it made Capri hate her even more.
Capri took aim and rested her finger on the trigger. She breathed in, just as Brody had taught her.
“Wait!” Marianne begged, holding her hands up in front of her. “I’m pregnant. You’ll kill him. You’ll kill him, too.”
She moaned—fear, nausea, or both—and hugged her stomach in a way that was too convincing for Capri’s liking. She took aim again, determined to ignore the woman’s protests. Then, to her dismay, she hesitated.
It should have been quick, a practical decision. The woman before her was evil, and she needed to die.
“You’re lying,” she said through tears. She had to be.
“I’m not. I’m not! Ekon chose me to bear him a son. The baby is healthy, but I’m just not…coping well. Please, Capri.”
The blond whimpered, and Capri felt her resolve melt away. She wasn’t far gone enough to kill a babe. Drained and defeated, she let the gun fall to her side.
“You know it’s a boy?” she asked dully.
“I do,” Marianne said, breath and voice coming fast. “It has to be.”
Capri nodded, tears slipping down her cheeks and stinging the places where Ekon’s blows had cut her skin. “I hope that’s true. You know as well as I do Ekon only has one use for girls.”
“That’s sick,” Marianne whispered. “He would never. She would be a princess.”
“She would be a commodity,” Capri corrected.
Marianne didn’t dare argue when the other woman had a gun in her hand.
“Your time is limited,” Capri continued. “Think about what the pregnancy will do to your body. The birth. You aren’t even a good breeder. He’ll never touch you again. You’re the cocoon for his butterfly, and that’s it.”
Tears tracked down Marianne’s cheeks. She shook her head. “That’s not true.”
“You know it is. You, of all people, know how cutthroat this place is. You, of all people, know why you should take your baby and run. If you care about him or her at all, Marianne, you’ll find a way out.”
The blond swallowed, her dainty Adam’s apple prominent against the thin, pale flesh of her neck. “I’ll live?”
“It will live.”
She turned and went back to her room, shutting the door behind her. She felt dizzy. Marianne was supposed to die. It was the perfect crime. She had an alibi. She could have gotten away with it. But the baby had thrown a wrench in her plans.
Maybe it would be a boy and grow up to be like his father. Maybe it would be a girl and grow up to be like her mother. Or maybe the baby would bring change with it.
There was no way of knowing, so she couldn’t do it. She would die in its stead.
She imagined Marianne would be calling the guards now. Capri would take Brody’s place on death row. Ekon already had the hired gun waiting; death would come quickly for her.
She dropped the gun suddenly and doubled over. She couldn’t breathe. In her mind, she sifted through the whirlwind of variables to find one, just one, that ended in her survival—but there were none.
Suddenly, someone pounded on the door, and she jumped. The guards. Then a familiar voice said, “Capri! Capri, open the door! It’s important!”
Briony. The fog disappeared, and Capri opened the door. She threw herself into the other woman’s arms.
“Oh, thank God!” Briony said, holding her tightly. “I overheard Ekon telling one of the guards to arrest you as soon as he could spare the manpower. You don’t have much time.”
Capri pulled away, wiping at her eyes, fighting the chattering of her teeth as the adrenaline left and hopelessness seeped in. “I’m already out of time.”
“Why? What’s going on?” Her friend was in earnest.
“I tried to kill Marianne.”
Briony’s eyes widened. “Kill her?”
Capri swallowed hard. “She convinced Sullivan to rape me. She tried to have Ekon do the same tonight.”
“She what?” Briony’s eyes filled with furious tears. “Oh, Capri…”
“I couldn’t do it.” Capri swallowed again, trying desperately to maintain her composure and failing. “I’m sure by now…the guards—”
“You have to go,” Briony said quickly, desperately. “Now.”
“There’s no point. I’ll just be going to them instead of making them come to me. It’s better this way.”
They held tightly to each other’s arms, tears streaming down both their faces. This would be the last time they saw each other. The door opened, and Briony shrieked. Capri shut her eyes, unable to face her fate as bravely as she’d hoped. Then her friend was shaking her, and she opened her eyes to find Brody, gun in hand, looking as wild and dangerous and unmoving as ever.
Relief crashed into her—and anger. “I told you to go!”
“Come on,” he said.
Capri turned to Briony, and she caught sight of the locket. “The necklace,” she said quickly, holding out her hand.
Brody was already pulling her in the other direction. She spoke as quickly as she could while Briony hastily unclasped the chain. “The vaccines you received. Ekon’s put trackers in all of us. Don’t tell them anything!”
They clasped hands one last time, and then she was out the door, stepping over the body of the guard she had incapacitated and two more that Brody had killed.
She tossed the locket down a garbage chute as they hurried towards the stairs.