Iced - Page 9/120

I wad it up and throw it at him. “Nice try. Not.”

“Ah, well. It was possible you would sign. It was the simplest solution.”

He’s completely unperturbed. I wonder, does anything shake him up, make him lose his cool, get hot about something, scream and yell? I can’t see it. I think Ryodan glides through life in the same coolly amused mood all the time. “What would it have done to me if I’d signed it?” I ask. Curiosity. I have it in spades. Mom swore it was going to be the death of me. Something’s got to be. There are worse things.

“Some secrets—”

“Yeah, yeah, blah blah, participating and all that bunk. Got it.”


“Didn’t want to know anyway.”

“Yes you did. You can’t stand not knowing things.”

“So, what now?” We’re at an impasse, him and me. I suspect his “application” was really a contract. A binding contract, the kind that knits up your soul and tucks it in someone else’s pocket. I heard of them but never believed they were real. If anybody had a way to sew up a soul in a business deal, it would be Ryodan. Jericho Barrons is an animal. Pure lawless beast. Not so Ryodan. Dude’s a machine.

“Congratulations, kid,” he says. “You passed my first test. You may just get the job yet.”

I sigh. “This is going to be a long day, isn’t it? You serve lunch around here? And I’m going to need more ice.”

A door I didn’t even know was there in the glass wall of his office opens, revealing a glass elevator.

Chester’s is way bigger than I thought. As we ride the elevator down, I’m riveted by the view.

And a little worried.

That he’s letting me see so much means that whether I signed his stupid application or not, he thinks he has me buttoned up.

Ryodan’s glass office isn’t the only place he can watch things. It’s the tip of the iceberg, and, dude, I do mean iceberg, as in megatons of stuff hidden beneath the surface. The central club part of Chester’s—the interior half, a dozen levels the public sees—is barely a tenth of it. That main part where everybody hangs out and dances and makes deals with the devil is constructed inside a much larger structure. Ryodan and his dudes live behind the walls of that club in what’s beginning to look like a vast underground city, from where I am. All the walls are two-way glass. They can go to any level, by elevator or catwalk, and watch anything that’s happening at any time. Serious thought went into designing this place. There’s no way they built it all since the walls fell last Halloween. I wonder how long it’s all been here, beneath the polished, glitzy, glamorous Chester’s that used to exist, hot spot for movie stars and models and the überrich. I wonder if, like our abbey, their underground world has been beneath a changing exterior for millennia.

I couldn’t be more impressed. It’s so brilliant I’m jealous. This is snooping elevated to a whole new techno-nerd level of expertise.

“Like what you see, kid.”

I pick at my cuticles, pretending to be bored.

The elevator stops and the doors swish open. I figure we must be at least half a mile beneath Dublin.

First thing that hits me is the cold. I pull my coat tighter but it doesn’t do a lot of good. Love the look of leather. Hate the insulation of it.

Second thing that hits me is the quiet. In most parts of Chester’s you can hear faint strains of some kind of music or conversation, 24/7. At least some kind of white noise. This level is still as death.

Third thing is how dark it is.

Ryodan is waiting for me outside the elevator.

“Can you actually see out there?” Does he have another superpower on me? I see good in the dark, but not in pitch-black.

He nods.

I hate Ryodan. “Well, I can’t. So, turn on some fecking lights. Besides, Shades much?”

“They don’t bother me.”

The Shades don’t bother him. Shades eat everything. They don’t discriminate. “Bully for you. They bother me. Lights. Pronto.”

“The lights aren’t working down here.”

Before I can dig one out, he removes a flashlight from his pocket and hands it to me. Coolest one I ever seen, shaped like a bullet. It’s tiny, sleek, silver, and when I turn it on lights up the hallway beyond the elevator like the sun came out.

“Dude,” I say reverently, “you got the best toys.”

“Off the elevator, kid. We’ve got work to do.”

I follow him, my breath frosting the air.

I used to think there were only six levels in Chester’s. Now I know there are at least twenty; I counted on the way down. The level we’re on holds three very different subclubs. I glimpse things through the open doors of clubs that no fourteen-year-old should see. But then, that’s been the story of my life.

The cold is getting worse the farther down the hall we go, as we make for a pair of tall doors. It slices through my long coat, cutting into my skin. I shiver and my teeth start to chatter.

Ryodan glances at me. “How cold can you get before you die.”

Blunt and to the point. That’s Ryodan for you. “Dunno. I’ll tell you when I think I’m pushing it.”

“But colder than most humans.”

As usual with him, it’s not a question, but I nod anyway. I can take more of everything than most humans.

Still, by the time we stop outside the pair of closed doors at the end of the hall, I’m hurting. I’ve been stamping my feet with every step for fifty yards. I begin to jog in place, to keep the blood from icing in my veins. My throat and lungs burn with each breath I take. I can feel the cold pressing at the other side of those doors like a presence. I look at Ryodan. His face is frosted. When he raises a brow, ice shatters and hits the floor.

I shake my head. “Can’t.” No way I’m going in there.

“I think you can.”

“Dude, I’m awesome. I’m even All That sometimes. But I have limits. Think my heart’s getting sludgy.”

Next thing I know his hand is on my chest like he’s feeling me up.

“Get off me!” I say, but he’s manacled his other hand around my wrist. I shake my head and slant my face away like I can’t even stand to look at him. I can’t stop him. Not with words or actions. I may as well let him do it, and get it over with.