“I don’t have time for this,” I said. “Give me the key so I can unlock my sister and you can start chasing us again.”
“She’s not your sister.” With a twist of her arm, she brought a gun up from beneath her desk. She fired first at me, then Matt. I leaped out of the way, the bullet buried itself in the wall behind me instead. Briana leaped to her feet and shoved Matt out of the way. The bullet intended for him submerged itself in her chest. She crashed to the floor. Her heart stilled instantly, her breathing shallow. The life fluttered away and her blood spilled across the floor in a river of crimson.
I planted my feet, aimed and fired in the same movement. The bullet hit Sharnee in the chest, below her right shoulder. Her body jerked as she fell back in the chair.
“Killing me won’t change anything” she said weakly. “Except maybe I might finally find some peace.”
“You don’t deserve peace. Do you have any idea how many lives you ruined?” I asked, unable to hold the accusing tone back.
“No more than I created.”
I shook my head and turned my eye caught on a huge glass tank to the side of the room. Huge heat lamps were suspended above it, leaving the entire room warmer than comfortable. Something moved. I stepped closer to see what it could be. It took a moment for my eyes to distinguish between the landscape of the tanks and the creature within it. Then I saw its eyes. The rest of the body as it unwound itself and slithered along the length of the glass.
“Gale… Oxyuranus microlepidotus, I presume,” I said dryly. My anger throbbed again. I lifted my gaze back to the woman behind the desk, my mind working furiously. Was this the woman responsible for my mom’s death, too? And Jake’s mom?
“Kayla,” Matt’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “We don’t have time for this. We have to go.”
“Just like your mother, always running away.” Sharnee sneered at him.
“Just get the keys,” he warned me.
The woman held one up, an ornate key that matched the locks below. Before I could tell what she was doing, she had slipped it into her mouth and swallowed it.
“You’d better have another, because if that’s the only one, I’ll cut your stomach open and pull it out.”
For the first time since we’d arrived, the woman showed an expression that might pass for fear. “There’s no point. By the time you do, they’ll all be here. You can’t escape.”
“Want to bet?” I leaped over the desk and punching her square in the stomach. I jumped back as she doubled over in her seat. She leaned forward and vomited all over her shoes.
I tore the silk scarf from her neck and, covering my hand, used it to pick out the key. The bitter stench of bile made me retch. I scrunched it into a ball within the fabric and shoved the entire thing into my vest.
“They’ve done a fly-over but can’t land. I don’t know why. You’ve got to hurry up and get out now!” Mouse urged.
Sharnee leaned forward, coughing and gagging. A fine spray of blood splattered the floor in front of her.
I skimmed my hands over her pockets and pulled another ring of keys from one of them. Because of her, Briana would never leave this place, so neither would she.
“What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon but falls asleep before evening?” I asked, my voice trembling.
“Me. You’re a true Greek sphinx, treacherous and merciless. It doesn’t matter that I’ve answered your riddle. I’ll never leave this room again,” she said. It seemed to take a lot of effort to speak. “Remember what I said. Things aren't how they seem.”
I backed away from the doctor, knowing she was right. At the threshold, I shot half a dozen bullets into the giant glass tank.
As I turned to leave, terror suffused her face. The snake, twice as large as normal, unwound itself from its cage. It was pissed.
I shut the door and told Mouse to lock it. No remorse or regret dogged at my heels as I descended the steps, just grim satisfaction.