Taylor jogged off back to the doorway to follow out her orders and Pavelec stepped out into the open warehouse to make her phone call. SMS put his gun down on the table, grabbed the duffel bag out of the corner, and looked at Olivia. “So,” he said. “What do you want me to pack?”
The woman nodded towards a pile of folded clothing beside the TV, and SMS began layering it into the bag. There was a wool sweater at the bottom of the pile, and as SMS grabbed it he felt something hard and flat wrapped up inside. He hesitated as he lifted it, and looked over to Olivia. She got up off the couch and came over.
“What is it?” asked SMS quietly.
Olivia eyed him warily, then seemed to decide she could trust him. She unfolded the sweater and drew out a picture frame. Four shining faces smiled out of the frame, arms around each other’s shoulders with an ocean scene in the background. A warm smile flitted across Olivia’s face.
“Your family?” said SMS.
Olivia nodded. She touched each face with her finger in turn: father, mother, sister, self. Her own face was so much fuller and smoother in the photo. She seemed ten years younger, though something told SMS that Olivia was aging far more quickly than she ought to be, locked up in a place like this.
“They’re beautiful,” said SMS. “I hope you get to see them again soon.”
At those words Olivia’s face once again clouded over, and she threw the sweater back over the picture and jammed both into the duffel bag. Turning her back on SMS, she flung the cushions off the couch until she found an old purse underneath one of them. She threw the purse at the duffel bag, and as she sank down among the scattered cushions SMS thought he saw tears in her eyes, though none fell.
SMS picked up the purse and put it into the bag, on top of the clothing. It wasn’t full of the usual bulk and clutter that he tended to associate with a woman’s purse: instead there seemed to be quite a few hard, flat objects inside. Curious, but not wanting to invade the woman’s privacy, SMS slowly zipped up the duffel bag. As he drew the zipper over the purse, it shifted a bit and fell partly open. He glimpsed bundles of money, $20 bills, thousands of dollars’ worth. He quickly zipped the bag the rest of the way, hoisted it on his shoulder, and brought it over near the makeshift doorway. What a day this had been… He was finding more and more curious things all the time.
While Olivia continued to sit on the floor beside the space heater, SMS cast around the shelter for anything else she might want him to pack. There were some basic toiletries in the corner. He found a little pouch and filled it with the different items: toothbrush, toothpaste, hand cream, nail clippers, deodorant. At least the woman hadn’t been forced to live like an animal.
Quick footsteps slapped across the concrete floor outside. SMS stuffed the pouch of toiletries into one of the duffel bag’s side pockets just before Pavelec stuck her head through the opening.
“Time to go,” said the agent. “Come on, Olivia.” When the woman didn’t immediately respond, Pavelec stepped inside, grabbed her by the wrist, and hauled her to her feet. “Let’s go,” she repeated. “Grab the bag, SMS.”
SMS shouldered the duffel bag and followed her out of the shelter and back through the maze of crates and containers. Pavelec was practically dragging Olivia across the floor as the woman stumbled along after her, trying to keep up.
They came out into the open space at the end of the warehouse they’d entered through and Pavelec turned away towards the back of the building. Bailey and Baldwin were still keeping watch. Here, outside the steel jungle they’d just emerged from, the traffic noise was much more audible. Any one of those engines zipping by on the street ouside could be the Laurentians, ready to crash through one of the big bay doors, guns blazing…
Just as SMS had that thought, he heard tires squealing to a stop outside. Everyone else heard them at the same time. Brenda raised her gun to her shoulder and Baldwin tucked himself behind some cover and raised his hand, ready to use his ability to lock down whoever might come through the door.
Pavelec halted in a moment of indecision. Then she let go of Olivia’s wrist and shoved both SMS and the woman in the direction they’d been heading. “Take her out that door,” she instructed SMS, pointing to a green door with a broken EXIT sign flickering above it. “Get her in the truck and tell Taylor to start the engine. I’ll be right behind you.”
SMS nodded his understanding and hurried Olivia towards the exit, expecting to hear gunshots and explosions at any moment. Olivia tripped over a crack in the concrete and tumbled to her knees with a soft cry. SMS gathered her up, blood and adrenaline pounding in his ears. The door was just ahead… He reached for the handle.
“Stop!” someone called. “SMS, wait!” He looked up, instinctively—and uselessly—shielding himself with the duffel bag.
It was Pavelec, and behind her stood Cyber and Ian Innis.