The blood underneath her nails bothered her. Cheap, stupid, useless gloves,
the girl thought in annoyance. She had even worn two layers of them tonight, but a rare errant slash from the knife had sliced through both layers, and now the blood had gotten on her hands. Stupid.
On any other night, she would have stopped and—carefully, methodically—scraped the scarlet flakes out from under her nails, one line after another. But she had no time right now. No time, no time.
Moonlight cut across the floor of the mansion, illuminating part of the man’s naked body. He bled strangely, the girl thought, compared with the others. The blood just pooled beneath him in a perfect circle, like a disk of smooth frosting on a cake.
She sighed again and stuffed her canister of red spray paint into her backpack, then grabbed a few of the rags strewn on the floor. On the wall beside her was the symbol she had just hurriedly finished drawing.
They had mistimed everything tonight, from the unexpected complications of Sir Robert Grant’s security system at the entrance of the mansion to the surprise of him seeing them first instead of being sound asleep. They were running late. She hated running late.
She hurried around the bedroom chamber, gathering their tools and stuffing them all into her backpack. The moonlight illuminated her features in regular intervals as she moved past the row of win- dows. Her mother used to tell her that she had doll-like features, had been doll-like since birth—large, liquid-dark eyes; long, long lashes; a slender nose and a rosebud of a mouth; porcelain skin. Her eyebrows cut straight and soft across her brow, giving her an expression that looked permanently vulnerable.
That was the thing about her. No one ever saw what mattered until it was too late. Until their blood stained her fingernails.
Her hair had come undone in all the rush, tumbling in a river of black over her shoulders, and she paused to whip it back up into a knot. No doubt a strand or two had come loose and were now ly- ing somewhere on the floor, leaving a clue for the police to follow. But no matter—if she could just escape from here in time. What a messy getaway, so uncharacteristic of her. I’m going to kill them,
she thought bitterly. Leaving me to clean this up—
Somewhere in the night came the wail of sirens.
She froze, listening intently. Her hand flew instinctively to rest on one of the knives strapped around her thigh. Then she started to run. Her boots made no sound—she moved like a shadow, the only noise being the faint bump of her bag against her back. As she went, she pulled her black scarf up across the bottom half of her face, hiding her nose and mouth from view, and fitted her pair of dark visors over her eyes. Through the visors, the mansion trans- formed into a grid of heat signals and green lines.
The sirens were closing in rapidly.
She paused again for a breath, listening. They came from differ- ent directions—they were going to surround her. No time, no time.
She darted down the mansion’s staircase, her figure lost entirely in the shadows, then made a sharp turn at the bottom to head not for the front door but for the cellar. The security system had been rewired to seal the front door’s lock from the inside, but the cellar was their getaway route, all alarms cleared and window locks ready for her command.
As she reached the cellar, the sirens outside turned deafening. The police had arrived.
“Window A open,” she muttered into her mouthpiece. At the other end of the room, the rewired window unlocked with a soft, obedient click. The police would gather at the front and back doors, but they wouldn’t think to look on the side of such a huge house yet, not without knowing there was a tiny window at ground level. She ran faster.
She reached the window and started pulling herself up and through it, snaking her way out in the span of a second. On the front lawn, she could hear a police officer shouting into a mega- phone, could see the heat signals of at least a dozen guards in heavy body armor crouched around the mansion’s perimeter, their faces hidden behind helmets and their assault rifles all pointed toward the door.
She leaped to her feet in the darkness, pulled her visor up, and prepared to dart away.
A blinding light flooded over her. “Hands in the air!”
Several voices were shouting at her at the same time. She heard the clicks of loaded weapons, then the furi- ous barking of police dogs barely restrained by their partners. “On your knees! Now!”
They had found her. She wanted to spit out a curse. No time, no time.
And now it was too late. At least the others on the mission had already fled. For a fraction of a second, she thought about pull- ing out her knives and throwing herself at the closest officer, using him as a hostage. But there were far too many here, and the light had blinded her enough to make her vision inaccurate. She didn’t have the time to make such a move without the police unleashing the dogs, and she had no desire to be mauled to death.
So instead, she put her hands up.
Officers shoved her hard to the ground; her face scraped against dirt and grass. She saw a glimpse of herself reflected in the police’s opaque helmets, and the barrels of guns pointed directly in her face.
“We got her!” one shouted into his radio, his voice hoarse with excitement and fear. “She’s in custody! Stand by—” You got me,
she echoed to herself as she felt cold cuffs snap onto her wrists. But with her cheek pressed against the ground, she still allowed herself a small, mocking smile behind her scarf. You got me . . . for now.
Copyright © 2018 by Marie Lu. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.