I see you, Marcie thought. Her target was at the center of the fray, a head taller than anyone else, a mane of silver hair haloed around his face. He was smiling, that fond, accepting smile that never warmed his eyes. She’d felt the chill of that gaze pass through her. She was glad he’d never seen her back.
For eight months, Marcie Ross had been watching Jerry Sunshine and his friends, recording everything she could, describing everything she couldn’t. She’d taken the assignment after she’d helped blow open the biggest terrorist cell in the bureau’s history. Marcie was still riding that high when the assignment crossed her desk, and the more she read, the lower she fell, until her mood was positively subterranean. I’m an agent of justice, she told herself, but it was harder and harder to believe it. How many times can you watch something terrible happen before you become an accomplice?
Last week, at the end of a routine debriefing, her boss had turned on the sonic scrambler and leaned across the table. Marcie already knew what he was going to ask.
“This is coming from very, very high up the ladder,” he had said. “Immediately, if not sooner. You understand me?”
“I understand you,” she said quietly.
“I would never ask you to do this if it wasn’t essential. If it wasn’t from…” he looked upwards, lifting his chin for emphasis. She wondered what it was like to communicate with your body. To respond without saying a word. It had been so long, she’d forgotten. She folded her hands in her lap.
“We have enough to put him away for forty lifetimes,” Marcie said, shivering at an unwanted memory. “He comes back to New York in two weeks. If that’s too much time, we can extradite him from the Bahamas. A few bribes, and we could have him back in under…”
But her boss was already shaking his head, over and over again, a tight smile on his face.
“That’s how I’d like to play it. But like I said. The order is the order. His story must come to an end. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not upset. I’ve done worse.”
“Worse than Sunshine? I’d hate to see who’s worse than him.”
“You really, really would.”
An awkward silence bloomed in the air between them. Her boss smiled—he was smiling at the empty space behind her left shoulder—and straightened his stack of papers, ends down, on his desk.
“Where is he now?”
“Sunshine Cay. His island in the Bahamas. They’re throwing a birthday party for him on Saturday.”
“No toil for the wicked, eh? Can you do it after the party, make it look like an accident?”
Marcie had told him she could; now, she wasn’t so sure. She looked at the scene unfolding in the room around her. The two men closest to her, nearly unconscious with drink, were the CEO and CFO of J&R Fashions. There were two senators she’d seen here before. Had one of them given the order? Maybe that British Secretary who almost always came to these parties—only tonight, he hadn’t. What about the senior advisor to King Salman, currently talking to the founder of Nikola Computers? Or the table full of politicians, each with a girl on their lap, slurring Chinese curses Marcie wished she didn’t understand? No—it wasn’t them. Her employer would never obey an order from a rival superpower.
Then who the hell was it?
A few “appetizers” wandered through the room, girls in bikinis or even less, holding trays of food, cocaine, or champagne. None of them were a day over twenty, if even that; and down the hallway, past two demon bouncers with the blackest eyes since William Sargent, and down stairs into the basement, was another party, parallel to this one, where the girls were even younger. Marcie had seen them this morning, children some of them, and heard Jerry laughing about it on the phone.
Lava flooded Marcie’s veins. Even if she killed him, all of his customers would still exist, still find children to hurt. A red curtain fell over her eyes. She should kill every guest in this room and in the basement, give all his money to Sunshine’s girls, plus the families of the ones who…
Focus, Marcie ordered herself. You are here to do a job. Rid the world of one evil man. Then you can play hero all you want.
Jerry Sunshine was holding court at the table in the center of the room. Maëlys Gaal, his forever girlfriend, was leaning against him, laughing performatively at the joke of some oil baron. A ring of admirers and hangers-on surrounded them, now laughing as one. One of her undercover agents was sitting there, the founder of a nonexistent app company called Psyche Unlimited. Was he recording as well? Sunshine had his own sonic and visual scramblers; she wondered if he’d read her memo, or if they’d have more useless evidence at the end of the night.
Focus, Marcie. You have one job to do tonight.. After that, you disappear. She couldn’t reach Sunshine now, not with the dozens of people floating around him. She could trail after him when he went to the bathroom, assuming no one else joined him. One of her agents could try luring him away, but that was a gamble. She could wait in his suite, all night if need be. But he had three bedrooms, and sometimes he didn’t sleep in any of them; there were seventeen bedrooms in this house alone, and he’d been doing coke all night.
Jerry was getting up now, saying something like “Gotta take a piss.” The crowd answered with a boisterous laugh. Where was he going? She carefully weaved through the crowd—luckily, everyone was too drunk to notice the empty space jostling them out of the way—and followed him onto the balcony. If he walked onto the beach, past the lights, she could do it quick.
The wood of the balcony creaked under her foot. He looked behind him, frowned, then turned back and shook his head. He walked off the porch and onto the beach. Marcie followed, careful to step slowly into his footprints. Someone was probably watching him, and it wouldn’t do to attract attention.
For invisibles, Rule One was simple: don’t be seen. The bureau’s invisibles had been around for at least a quarter century; India and Israel already knew about the program in way more detail than the government would like. A sighting here, a leak there, and suddenly the opposition could find your entire roster, putting multiple investigations in jeopardy. With smartphones, following Rule One became harder and harder, and the training became more and more intense. Marcie used to be deliberately sloppy, pick up statues of the Virgin Mary and float them in mid-air, dare people to believe their lying eyes. She didn’t do that anymore.
As Jerry made his way down the beach, Marcie slowed her heart rate, her breathing, her footsteps, carefully treading in Sunshine’s own footprints. People could sense people, even when they couldn’t see them. The key to being truly invisible was to be less than human.
Jerry stopped just outside the halo of light from the building, coming up on a palm tree. He looked back at the party for a moment, listening and watching the revelry going on inside. After a moment, he smirked to himself and turned back around.
Marcie was already pulling out the syringe, uncapping it, throwing the plastic tip—also invisible—into the palm grove in front of them. In one fluid movement, she leapt on his back, yanked back his head by the hair, and sank the needle into his neck. She emptied the syringe before he could take a breath. He gurgled, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell.
Marcie got up, rolling Sunshine to his side. Very carefully, she leaned down and emptied the second syringe, this time into his chest. Then she took both syringes and threw them into the palms. They could comb through the island, but these syringes were also invisible, and made of glass; they’d break apart into nothing before anyone found them.
A chill went up her spine and down her limbs, ending in a tingle at her fingertips. Moments ago he’d been laughing in the light, his arm around Maëlys’s waist. Now he would never move again. He hadn’t suffered, not like his victims had. Not as much as he deserved.
The wind picked up, blowing hair in front of her eyes. It might not affect her vision, but it was still irritating. She looked up, pulling the hair away from her face, and was about to head to the dock when she saw the drone.
It was floating thirty feet up, rotors whirring into invisibility, black against a cloud glowing with moonlight. How long had it been there? It hovered above them, unmoved by the wind. Jerry’s body remained motionless under her feet.
You’re a fool, Marcie Ross. She’d been too focused on Jerry to look up. If a camera had been following her, it might have seen what a passel of drunk people hadn’t, noticed the footprints deepening a moment after Jerry made them. If so, she was fucked.
The drone descended.
She wouldn’t run. She wouldn’t even breathe. Breathing would violate Rule One. Worst-case scenarios flitted through her mind. The drone might have a thermal camera, sonar, electric field sensors, or some new space-age imaging technology she didn’t even know by name. If it did, she was already dead, and running wouldn’t help. But if it was just a camera, she had a chance. She might live.
The drone hovered twenty feet up, its glass lens shining with reflected light from the party. A flash blinded her. It held for five seconds, ten seconds, then the drone shot up and sped away.
“Jerry?” someone yelled out behind her. A red-faced man was coming down the beach, smiling a loopy drunken smile. Marcie tiptoed away from the body. Little specks of sand were already clinging to her, appearing to float in midair. Then again, this guy was so plastered, he might not even notice if she was fully visible. He came closer.
“I just got—” the red-faced man paused. Marcie backed up, slowly, the wind whipping a few more hairs out of her braid.
“Jerry, man, you okay?” He bent down. Marcie kept backing up, toe-heel, toe-heel, slowly, slowly, very slowly. The red-faced man was yelling before he stood up. She watched him turn, watched him get ready to run, his arms waving overhead.
Marcie looked around. The sand was dark all around her; for the first time that night, she was truly alone. She ran.