Don came out of the cot room to check the monitors. The three racers stumbled beneath a camera, two of them with wild, terrified eyes beneath headlamps. The infected girl seemed to be crying and fighting to get loose from the other two as they ran. A few moments later the man Vince had labeled The Mechanic came into view, dragging a half-eaten body with him. He wasn’t in a hurry. Don shuddered at the thought of sharing those tunnels with him.
“How’s our girl?” Vince said.
Zeek sat on the cooler. He leaned back and could see the bottom of Trish’s feet making a V at the end of the cot. They were filthy.
Vince nodded. “Might be a good time to send her on a little trip, yeah? Drop her down while she’s out of it. Might be less trouble that way.”
“She’s not going down,” Don said without looking away from the screens.
Vince shared a glance with Zeek. “Say again?”
“I gave her the antidote. She should be back to normal in a few hours.”
Zeek snorted a laugh. “Jesus, how whipped are you?”
Don ignored him.
Vince said, “This falls into the column of Shit to Discuss Before Doing.”
“There wasn’t time,” Don said. “She needed the treatment immediately, and a conversation about it would have rendered the entire process moot.” He turned to Zeek. “That means it wouldn’t have mattered.”
“I know what it means. Asshole.”
“Donny,” Vince said, “look at me. What happens now? We drive her to grab a bite to eat, put her on a bus to the nearest cop shop?”
Don frowned. “No. She’s staying here. With me.”
“Ah. And she’s gonna be okay with you—with us—trafficking people into an abandoned mine shaft so we can test a cannibalistic drug on them. She’ll think that’s just peachy.”
“We can sequester her in another building. I’ll run some tests to see how her blood looks post-antidote.”
“Tests,” Zeek said, air-humping from the cooler.
Don took a deep breath. “We’ve never worked with a subject who was infected as long as she was. This will be good information to have.”
“That gets us through the next few hours,” Vince said. “What about after that?”
“I think she’ll be open to a conversation about the benefits of this work continuing.”
Vince couldn’t help grinning. “You hear that Zeek? Donny’s gonna put a ring on it.”
Don laughed, feeling the tension in the room lift a bit. “Well, I don’t know about that. But she could certainly use some new clothes.”
“A shopping trip?” Vince said. “That’s nice. Where?”
“Wherever she wants to go.”
Zeek stood up.
Don looked at each of them and realized he’d said the wrong thing. “Or nowhere. What can’t you get online these days, right?”
Vince said, “Here’s what I see happening. You get Trish all dressed up, repainted, hydrated, all that good shit, and one day she runs into somebody she used to share needles with. Or cans of beans, whatever. They say, Holy shit Patricia, what happened to you? My man Don has a shit-ton of money, that’s what. Oh? What’s he do?”
Vince stared at Don, waiting for him to finish the story.
“I see,” Don said.
Zeek said, “She’s seen too much, man.”
“She won’t remember any of this.”
“Even if there’s a chance,” Vince said. “Hey, you’re gonna be rich beyond measure. You want to get laid, make a phone call. Shit, I’ll make a call for you right now. I’ll pay for the hotel, all of it.” He glanced into the cot room. “I’m guessing you want a blonde? Zeek will drive, you relax a bit, come back and we’re right back on track.”
“Meaning you put Trish in the elevator while I’m gone.”
Vince shrugged, helpless. “We all signed up to make and distribute a pharmaceutical. Not love connections.”
“I see,” Don said again.
On the monitors, the three racers came to a T-intersection. The woman went right but the man wanted to go left. He was practically carrying the infected girl. After a few seconds of screaming at each other the man hauled the girl around and followed the woman down the tunnel on the right.
The Mechanic stepped into the tight intersection and watched their headlamps dance away. He went left, dragging the body by its uneaten arm. The body grinned and stuck its tongue out through exposed teeth.
Don knew where they were in the tunnels, and it seemed The Mechanic did too. The left and right paths looped toward each other and reconnected in a rough O shape at another T-intersection. The tunnel on the left was slightly shorter. The Mechanic would get to the junction first. Don wanted to see what happened.
Mostly, he wanted to stall for time.
He told Vince, “I think I’ll take you up on that offer. And you’re right, a blonde would be good. Don’t call yet though. I want to see how this plays out.”
Don leaned forward on the table to get a close look at the monitors and keep Vince and Zeek from reading anything in his face. Behind him, the two men shared a look.
Vince flicked a finger across his throat as he crossed his arms.
Zeek nodded, touched the knife clipped to his pocket and waited to see what The Mechanic was going to do with the racers.