Corrupt

By: Penelope Douglas


The SUV roared to life, vibrating under me, and I rolled onto my back, letting my head rest on the floor, not sure if I should feel good that I hadn’t gotten caught or sick that I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.





Present



“THIS WAY, MISS FANE.” The man smiled and took a set of keys, leading me toward some elevators. “I’m Ford Patterson, one of the managers.”

He held out his hand, and I shook it.

“Nice to meet you,” I replied.

I looked around the lobby of my new apartment building, Delcour, as we walked. It was a twenty-two-story skyscraper in Meridian City, built to house apartments and penthouses, and even though it wasn’t nearly as tall as some of the buildings surrounding it, it still stood out. Entirely black with gold fixtures on the outside, it was a work of art, and the interior was just as lavish. I couldn’t believe I was living here.

“You’re all the way up on the twenty-first floor,” he explained, stopping us at the elevator and pushing the button, “which has an amazing view. You’ll be pleased.”

I gripped the strap of my bag over my chest, barely able to wait. Nothing sounded so good as to wake up in the morning and gaze over the vast city, a horizon of buildings that touched the sky and millions of people working and living.

While some felt lost in large cities—the lights, noise, and action too much—I couldn’t contain the thrill of being part of something bigger. The energy excited me.

I checked my phone again, making sure I hadn’t missed a call from my mother. I was still worried about her. And kind of worried about me, too, even though I didn’t let it stop me from leaving Thunder Bay this morning.

After Mr. Ferguson had left my house last night, having found nothing inside or around the premises, I’d crawled into bed with my mom and stared at the note that had been left in the box with the dagger.

Beware the fury of a patient man.

I’d Googled it to find that it was a John Dryden quote, and I knew what it meant. Those

who are patient, plan. And beware the man with a plan.

But a plan for what? And who was that at my house last night in masks? Could it have been the Horsemen? Would they have sent me the dagger?

I woke up this morning, ignored a curt message from Trevor who was angry with me for leaving the party early, and questioned my mom and Irina, our housekeeper, both of whom knew nothing about the mysterious gift or who’d left it.

The note wasn’t signed, and no one knew how the box got there.

I’d caught the momentary flash of worry that crossed my mother’s face, so I’d hid the note and brushed off the dagger as something Trevor had probably left for me as a surprise. I didn’t want her to be scared for me.

But I definitely was.

Someone had been in my home, right under my mother’s nose.

In the rush to get on the road this morning, I’d slid the slender box, with the dagger, into the car and drove off not knowing why I’d brought it. I should’ve just left it at home.

The soft bell dinged, and I followed Mr. Patterson into the elevator, seeing him press twenty-one. But I narrowed my eyes, noticing that there were no floors higher than that.

“I thought there were twenty-two floors,” I inquired, standing next to him.

“There are.” He nodded assuredly. “But that floor houses only one residence, and he has his own private elevator across the lobby.”

I turned my head forward again, understanding. “I see.”

“Your floor only has two apartments,” he explained, “since the apartments are quite a bit larger. And the other apartment on your floor is currently vacant, so you’ll enjoy lots of privacy.”

The apartments were quite a bit larger on my floor? I didn’t remember anyone saying anything about that when I’d emailed the management to set up the lease.

“And here we are,” he chirped, stepping forward with a smile as the doors opened. He held out an arm, inviting me to go first.

Stepping out of the elevator, I looked left and then right, seeing a narrow, well-lit hallway with black, marble floors and walls the color of a sunset. He veered left, leading me to an apartment door, but I cast a quick look over my shoulder, seeing another massive, black door with the gold numbers 2104 on it.

That must be the empty one.

We reached the other apartment door—mine, apparently—and the manager immediately slid the key in and swung the door open, walking right inside.

I watched him saunter off into the apartment, while I remained standing in the doorway, frozen.

“Um…” Okay.

This didn’t make sense. This apartment was huge.

I slowly stepped inside, my arms hanging limply at my sides as I took in the high ceilings, spacious living room, and a full wall of windows, giving away the beautiful patio courtyard, complete with a fountain and actual grass outside. The same black marble floors carried in here from the hallway, but the apartment walls were cream-colored.

“As you can see,” Mr. Patterson began as he went to the window-wall and unlocked the glass. “You have a full gourmet kitchen with top of the line appliances, and you’ll love how the open floor plan preserves your view of the city.”