City of the Lost Page 130

“Um, no. I brought you to stop you from searching for me.”

“That was probably part of it, but if you’re going to pretend that we weren’t friends? Bullshit. You don’t hang out with someone for years because they’re useful. But slant this your own way, if it makes you feel better. We’ll pretend you only brought me along because you couldn’t afford to have me search for you, though I’m sure that was Graham’s idea.”

I’m about to say he was the brains of the operation and she was the twit who stood by him, but I’m not going there. I realize Dalton’s word for her is perfect. Pathetic. And I do feel pity. I know she’s lashing out to protect herself. I’ll let her have that.

I turn to Dalton. “She’s all yours.”

I walk to the door as Val steps in and says, “Diana’s still here? Good. There’s been a change of plans.”

We’re at Val’s listening to Phil on the satellite radio. I’m there with Dalton and Diana. Isabel is there, too—summoned by the council, though no one seems to know why.

“We’ve changed our mind,” Phil says. “Diana is staying in Rockton.”

I’m not sure who says “What?” first—or louder.

Phil continues, “It is the decision of this council that Diana Berry is clearly unstable and poses a serious exposure threat. She will remain in Rockton until that risk assessment changes. Isabel will assist in Diana’s rehabilitation.”

Isabel opens her mouth, but Diana cuts her off. “You can’t make me stay. That’s kidnapping. Unlawful confinement.”

“No, it’s not,” Phil says. “Eric? The council wishes to officially inform you that Ms. Berry is exempt from all laws regarding personal freedom of movement.”

“What the hell does that mean?” she snaps.

“That you’re allowed to leave,” Isabel says. “If you want to walk into that forest and find your way home, Eric is not allowed to stop you. So this isn’t unlawful confinement.”

“No way,” Diana says. “No fucking way.” She spins to me. “Casey, say something. Tell them they can’t do this.”

Isabel bursts out laughing. “Really, sugar? You are indeed a piece of work.”

I turn to the radio and say, “So how much is Graham paying you to keep her here?”

Phil doesn’t respond, and that silence answers my question.

Diana wheels on Dalton. “It’s all true. Everything you’ve accused me of. I had sex for money. I did dex more than twice. I can get witnesses to both. I wanted to have fun and I broke the rules doing it, and you don’t want me here.”

“Yeah, I really don’t. But it doesn’t seem like I have a choice.”

“I might hurt Casey,” she says. “I’ll blame her for this and—”

“We believe Detective Butler can take care of herself,” Phil interjects. “But if you do cause trouble in that regard, you are subject to double penalties or more if needed. This matter isn’t open for discussion. You will be assigned a new job and new quarters, which will improve as your attitude does. Isabel will be in charge of making that determination. Now, good day.”

He disconnects before anyone can respond. Even Val stands frozen for at least ten seconds before she says, “All right, then. The council has decreed—”

“Yeah, heard it,” Dalton says. “Don’t need the replay. Diana—”

“Fuck, no,” Diana says. “Fuck, no. I won’t stay. You can’t make me. You can’t.” She stomps her feet, and Isabel sputters a laugh. Diana flies at her.

Dalton hauls her back, and when she won’t stop struggling, he strong-arms her toward the door. “Guess your first new residence will be the cell.”

“You aren’t allowed to restrict my movement. The council said—”

“Pretty sure that’s not what they meant,” he says, and as he passes me, he gives me a nod and mouths that he’ll talk to me as soon as he can, and then he’s gone, escorting a still-fighting Diana out the door.

“Well,” Isabel says. “This should be entertaining.”

I give her a look.

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll leave you alone,” she says. “She’s stuck here, and the only person who’ll listen to her badmouth you is Jen.” Isabel’s lips twitch. “This really could be entertaining. And you never know. She might see the error of her ways and become a vital member of the community.” She looks toward the door as Diana starts shrieking outside. “Or not.”

I don’t even know how to process this. It’s not what I want, by any means, but a small part of me says I’m actually safer without Diana wreaking revenge and informing on me down south.

“Ever had Rey Sol A?ejo?” Isabel says before I can leave. When I turn, she says, “It’s tequila.”

“Oh, I know. Top, top shelf tequila.”

“I have a bottle in my house. A gift from a past resident. I know Petra was planning to meet up with you after Eric and Diana flew out. He’ll still be busy for a while, so I’m inviting you ladies to help me crack the bottle.”

I check my watch.

“It’s never too early for Rey Sol A?ejo,” Isabel says. She looks at Val. “I’d invite you too, but I know socializing isn’t your thing.”

I catch a look on Val’s face that says if we did invite her, she might actually come. I should extend the invitation … and the olive branch. Another time.

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