"Hey, Anna? Where are your parents?"
"Out," she said, sitting in front of her computer--a hunk of metal that had been dissected with what seemed like surgical care. "They're usually not around. Gone for days, even weeks at a time."
I sat up in the bed, steadying myself. I was still incredibly hungry--but I didn't want to be rude. I tried to distract myself by prodding her for more information. "When you came and picked me up--what happened? Did you see the guy I'd been fighting?"
"Yeah," she said. "I hit him with the car, actually."
"He was getting up," she said. "'Sides, he looked like a power. He wasn't dead when I left him."
It occurred to me that I might have traded one mad man for another. But at least this one wasn't threatening to use my skull as a toilet.
Anna stood up, walking toward me. She seized the skull on the bedpost and started to finagle with it--I heard a soft click. Suddenly, the skull shimmered, going from a bright, polished white, to the same textureless black color that the suit had been.
I blinked, staring.
She threw the skull to me.
"You really don't know how half of this stuff works, do you?" she asked.
"I--I kinda know," I started, trying not to blush as I fiddled with the now-black skull. That trick would have been really useful in the woods--running around with a big bright white target on my shoulders--yeah, going all-black would have been a much better idea.
"I was going through the stuff in your backpack. Hope you don't mind," she said. "You've got a lot of gear in there, but I bet you haven't even touched most of it."
"I used some of it," I said, feeling defensive.
"Well, I'll make you a deal. I've got Sumerset's number. I'll give it to you. On one condition--you let me help you figure out what this stuff does."
I gave her a look. "I could probably get Sumerset's number on my own."
She made a face. "Yeah, probably. But this'd be totally easier. And besides, it's in your best interest to know how this stuff works. I'm really good with technology."
I sighed. It didn't feel like I had much of a choice; Anna knew my secret. On top of that, I really didn't understand my mother's equipment--she had apparently figured out the helmet's stealth option in less than a few seconds.
"Okay," I said. "But no dissecting any of it." My eyes drifted to the gutted remains of the computers at the base of her desk.
"Scout's honor," she said, crossing her heart. And then she picked the phone off her desk, punched in a number, and threw it into my lap.
I brought it up to my ear, listening to the ring. He picked up on the fourth.
"Sumerset," a gruff voice said.
"Hi," I said. "Um, you might not remember me--this is Sue Daysdale. Susan Daysdale's daughter?"
A moment of silence. And then:
"Yeah, I remember you. What can I do for you?"
"Um. You were my mother's lawyer, right?"
"I retired from law," he said, but then he added: "But yes. Why?"
"I found some... property of hers, recently. Something I think I might need your help sorting through."
Another long, dreadful pause. And then:
"Whatever it is, if you can't sell it, throw it away."
For some reason, that response made me bristle with indignation. "What if it's important? Like, really important?"
"Then burn it," he said.
"I--it might be a little too late for that, Mr. Sumerset." I was playing it careful; I didn't know how much this man knew about my situation, but if I dropped enough hints...
Again, there was silence on the line. And then:
"Please don't tell me that you drank it."
"I might have--"
"Jesus fucking Christ, girl," he said. "What the hell do they do with kids in schools these days? You stumble into the goddamn bat-cave, come across a row of red vials that smell like blood and have skulls on them--universal symbol for poison, may I remind you--and what do you decide to do? You decide, 'mm, that looks delicious, I think I'll take a sip!'"
"I--it didn't happen that way!" I said, feeling panicked. Anna gave me a curious look, but I couldn't communicate what was going on to her without breaking off the conversation.
He growled. "You still live at the Montgomery place?"
"Anyone else going to be there for the next six hours or so?"
I thought of my aunt, still in the hospital. "No."
"Good. Two hours. I'll meet you there. And don't touch another goddamn thing, you hear?"
Anna was nearly bursting with questions when I hung up the phone. I gave her a mournful look. "He's coming," I said. "Two hours. My house."
Anna clapped her hands. "That's just enough time for you to show me where you found this stuff."