Never Fade Page 67

She slid her hand up the length of her throat, hiding the tremor there.

Before, at East River, I’d only had a kind of passing acquaintance with Olivia. Most of our interactions were colored by whether or not Clancy or Liam were around; if they weren’t there, we barely acknowledged each other. She had been invested in both, in different ways. Liam was someone who had been easy to work with, who challenged her to think about what they could do for the camps instead of just biding their time deep in the woods. But Clancy—Clancy had been the one she had wanted to protect, impress.

Like every other kid at that camp, he had been her savior. Her everything.

“Fancy sort of suits him,” she said finally, stepping out of my grip.

We made our way carefully over the pallets, walking along the swaying trail of them. “When their hunting party found me, I only went with them willingly because I wanted to get to Clancy,” Olivia muttered. “I wasn’t even thinking it was strange he could set up another camp so fast or that he had gotten away at all. I just wanted to ask him why he did that to us. I think I would have killed him.”

“A totally reasonable response,” Chubs assured her. “Even more reasonable if you had done it slowly, with much fire and ice picks.”

Somehow, Olivia didn’t find that funny.

“Imagine my surprise when they dragged me in front of that hick,” she said. “The very first thing he told me was that the only way I’d get out of his tribe was if they decided to dump my body in the river.”

I shook my head, trying to dispel the angry buzzing between my ears and focus on the here and now, rather than what I was going to do to the bastard. “What’s his story?”

“Knox’s?” Olivia glanced around, but we were alone. “I can’t get a straight one. Supposedly, he broke out of PSF custody a few years back and was holed up in different parts of Nashville until the flood. I don’t know how he convinced the first kids here to join up, but I can tell you that most of us didn’t join the tribe by choice.”

Jude’s thick eyebrows were drawn together. “Why does he hate the other colors so much? What happened?”

Olivia lifted a shoulder. “Who knows? No one’s willing to risk his anger by asking. We already have to fight for every scrap of food as it is.”

“I was wondering about that. It seems like he doesn’t even treat the Blues he has here all that well,” I said. “Are they staying because they’re scared?”

She nodded to the trees at the other end of the parking lot, past the tents. “If you were to try to make a run for it, you’d run into the patrol he set up, and if you run into the patrol, you don’t come back. It’s already hard enough that he takes everything you own and forces you to ‘earn’ it back, but if you don’t work hard enough, or suck up enough, or entertain him, you get sent out here. Or you get traded.”


Olivia was as close to tears as I had ever seen her. “He… That’s how he gets food. You saw the blockades around the city, right? All the soldiers? He brings in the kids he considers worthless, and he trades them for smokes and food. Only now they’ve been asking for more kids and giving him less and less stuff to balance it out. I’m surprised they haven’t just raided us, but I guess he’s managed to keep this place a secret.”

I thought she was the one trembling until I looked down at my own hands.

Olivia bit her lip. “And of course—of course, he takes the kids in the White Tent, the ones no one would know to miss. He knows I can’t do anything about it and that they can’t fight back. The one time I tried, he took two kids out instead of one.”

“What about that kid—Brett?” I asked. “He stood up for you. Could you…”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Olivia said. “He’s different than Michael, but Michael’s second in command. Brett might bring me things for the kids here every once in a while, but if Michael were to catch him…he’d be the next one gone.”

The White Tent was exactly that—a large, crooked tent strung together with stained white tarp, set off from the others. The stench of it reached us almost before the sight of it did. Olivia lifted the red bandanna hanging around her neck to cover her mouth. The air was heavy, so thick with the stench of human waste that breathing became almost impossible.

“You just have to take him and get out while he still has a chance,” Olivia was saying. “As long as your friend is in the warehouse, you won’t be able to get her. But you can take him, at least. I can help you. You might be able to overpower the patrol together.”

Jude’s hand clenched around my upper arm. “It’s okay,” I told him. “It’s not an option. We won’t leave her behind.”

He nodded, his face pinched with worry as he glanced back over his shoulder to the warehouse. “Are they going to hurt her?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I’m a lot more worried about what she could do to them.”

“Olivia?” Chubs called softly. “Are you okay?”

She had stopped just outside of the tent, her hands bunching up the fabric. She bowed her head forward, resting it against the flap.

“He’s…I’m sorry, I tried, I’ve tried so hard, but…” Olivia’s voice was anguished. “I’m the only one who will help them. He tried for a while, but…”

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