Home > The Death Code (The Murder Complex #2)

The Death Code (The Murder Complex #2)
Author: Lindsay Cummings

PART ONE

THE SHALLOWS

CHAPTER 1

ZEPHYR

It’s going to be a dark night.

Weeks ago, the darkest nights were the worst. Bodies dropped like flies around the Shallows, and blood dried in rivers all over the streets. The Dark Time meant dread. It meant the Murder Complex and its Patients came out to play.

That hasn’t changed. If anything, the deaths have gotten worse.

But something good will happen tonight.

It’s a new moon, and black clouds are gathering over the tops of the crumbling buildings. The thunder and lightning and the Dark Time combined make for the perfect distraction, the perfect storm.

And that means Lark Woodson will come out of hiding.

I’ve been tracking her for weeks, but every time I’m about to find her, she disappears. Like the wind.

Not tonight. Tonight, I’m going to catch her.

As I run, I see Meadow’s face in my head. Her gray eyes, determined and cold as steel. Her dagger in her hand, slicing Patients and Leeches as she fights her way through the Leech Headquarters from the inside out.

It’s been three weeks. She has to be alive. I’d know it if she were dead, wouldn’t I?

Maybe not. Maybe she is dead. Like Talan.

Oh, god, Talan. My best friend. Dead, because of me. I try to shove the guilt away, but it’s too strong.

“Damn it!” I growl and sprint harder, faster, down the streets of the Shallows. The gun sheathed at my thigh bobs with every step. I skid around the corner of an alleyway and stop. Fade into the mass of people heading for safety before the Dark Time takes over.

The Leeches are out in packs, searching, but they won’t find me easily.

I pull a baseball cap low over my eyes. My arms are covered in temporary tattoos, drawn on just this morning.

Hiding in plain sight is exactly what the Leeches wouldn’t expect me to do.

The crowd moves along, and I walk with them. I keep my head on a swivel, searching. Always searching, for the woman who created me. Turned me into a monster.

Five minutes, and the Night Siren will go off.

There’s a crackle in my left ear, the only good ear I have left, where a stolen Leech earpiece sits. Take the alley directly across the street. And hurry up. My little sister runs faster than you.

It’s Rhone, the guy from the Resistance who was so interested in sending Meadow into the Leech Headquarters in the first place. Now she’s gone, stuck inside. And I can’t reach her.

Zero, move! Now.

I do what he says, shove my way through way too many people. Running is still hard since losing my ear, and my balance isn’t quite right. But I can’t stop now. I wobble on my feet before I leap over the train tracks, then dive into the alley to my left. The setting sun disappears, and suddenly it’s dark.

And quiet. Too quiet, almost like it’s the Silent Hour.

I stop and look around.

There’s a Leech lying all bent and broken up against the brick building to my right. His rifle lies on the concrete at his side, and there are empty bullet casings all over the place. But no other body, which means if Lark was here . . . she’s gone. I take a step closer to him. Fresh blood drips from a slit in his throat, a perfect line of red, like a smile. The Leech chokes, lifts a hand for help that he’s not going to get.

“She was just here,” I say into my wrist mic. “Slit throat, like all the others.”

We’ll get her next time, Zero, Rhone says, and I want to believe him, but he’s been saying the same thing for weeks. 21 days, and 7 hours, to be exact. I’m on my way.

I sigh and run a hand through my hair. I have to find Lark. When I do, I’ll take her to the Leeches, knock down their front door, and hand her over in exchange for Meadow. I’ve thought about killing Lark instead. But in the chaos that will come afterward, I might not get to my moonlit girl.

Trading Lark for Meadow is best. We’ll be together again, and we’ll find some way, any way, to leave the Shallows behind. Find where the Leeches have taken her family, set them free.

I promised her I’d rescue them.

But I won’t leave without her. I refuse.

The Leech groans, one last time. He takes a rattling breath and dies.

“You deserved it,” I say to his body. I lean down to grab his rifle, and that’s when I see it.

A bloody footprint, just a few feet away from him.

And then another, and another, heading out of the alley, toward the exit that leads to the beach. The footprints are small, but not small enough to be a child’s. They could be Lark’s.

I lift my wrist to my mouth. “Rhone, I think she’s hurt. She couldn’t have gone far from—”

The Night Siren goes off.

It starts as a whoop, dipping low, and then goes so high it’s like a piercing scream. I cover my ears and drop to my knees. My whole body shakes, all the way to my fingers and toes. I hear a voice in my head. Lark’s voice, welcoming me to the Murder Complex.

And suddenly I want to kill, destroy, give in to the pull of the system in my mind. I feel myself slipping away, feel my heart turning cold and solid as stone, see a victim in my head, their Catalogue Number, 65098, in bright red numbers.

But I think of Meadow. I think of one word, with four letters, and it’s stupid as hell but I don’t care.

Because love is what saves me and sets me free. It’s still working, for now, but each night it’s becoming harder. If I don’t save Meadow soon, I’m afraid of what I’ll become.

I shake the Murder Complex from my mind and sprint into the darkness.

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