For the next six months I lived my life on autopilot, imitating my former self, my innocent self when I could throw myself into a grueling work schedule without giving the ethics of the company I worked for any thought. But that ability I’d had to act the part was failing me. I wasn’t managing all that well, feeling scatterbrained and unusually incompetent, but I blamed it on chronic migraines, which had actually become a thing.

I rarely traveled anymore. Adam had suggested I delegate sales and field visits to the more experienced members of my team so I could focus on hiring and training additional staff to grow my unit. When it came from Adam, it wasn’t optional, it was an order. It made me nervous—was he getting suspicious?—but he may have simply been doing a favor for Robbie, who didn’t like me being on the road.

His big project continued to falter, and he was growing increasingly vocal about it with me, sometimes wanting an audience for his venting, other times wanting someone to blame. I wasn’t supportive enough. I was trying to show him up. I was dragging him down. I was flirting with that engineer in the galley, he saw me. I had betrayed him by siding with Aurora. Nobody else mentioned her name, but for him it was a scab he couldn’t resist picking when we were alone.

With no trips to give me breathing room, without anyone I could talk to, I was retreating into an interior part of myself, a place of solitary confinement, listening to him rage, speaking only if he insisted on a response. Waiting it out until those moments that usually came after a storm, when the script would flip and he would tell me how much he loved me, how much I mattered to him. This usually happened as we lay in bed after sex, which was the pivot from being pissed off to cosplaying a rom-com. The next day, flowers would be delivered to my desk at work, a public display of his affection, of what a good guy he was, a signal that I was his. Don’t touch.

A doctor prescribed yoga sessions for my migraines, so I would take my mat and a change of clothes to a studio twice a week. Some mornings before I left for work I would slip the burner phone I kept hidden in a box of tampons into my yoga bag so I could check in with Brian. He would queue up questions for me and I would work through them, sitting in a toilet stall, careful to avoid spending so much time in there it drew attention. Occasionally I would  schedule an acupuncture treatment on the other side of town and, while outdoors and surrounded by ambient noise, would take ten minutes for a Signal phone call with Brian, who would fill me in on his progress.

He was getting more and more excited about the story, and I was getting increasingly nervous. After he had digested the contents of the document dump, he started to contact experts in AI, big data, political communication, and tech ethics to round out the story, though I begged him not to. He swore they wouldn’t leak, but that didn’t reassure me. It was clearly getting back to Adam that there was a disturbance in the force.

We all saw signs: A memo went out from the company’s lawyers reminding everyone of the legal implications of violating our non-disclosure agreements. They were dire, and it caused a ripple of anxiety throughout the office as people read through it. After scaring everyone, Adam recorded a pep talk, rallying the troops by trumpeting our successes but reminding us all that competitors were at work, trying to steal our intellectual property through covert means. He needed our loyalty and commitment.

The two engineers who had attended Aurora’s funeral were let go. One went to work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, taking a financial hit that led to snide jokes and the general opinion that he just wasn’t good enough. The other was taking a gap year to go off the grid and hike the Appalachian Trail. That roused a combination of envy and disdain. What a loser. Eventive didn’t need people who weren’t fully committed. Robbie made sure I knew that he was personally protecting me from the same dismal fate.

One day in late April I was summoned to Adam Barton’s office. He had a couple of others in there with him, a man in a suit and tie who I had never seen before, standing beside Adam’s desk just behind his right shoulder. The other, slouched in an armchair, was a bearded man with a ponytail and full sleeve tattoos. I didn’t know his name, but I thought he worked in cybersecurity.

“How’s your health?” Adam asked me.

“Good.” I folded my hands and trapped them between my knees to control the shaking.

“No more migraines?”

“I still have them, but they aren’t so bad.”

“The yoga helps?” Of course he knew about the yoga sessions.

“It does.”

“How’s your team doing?” He tapped a pen against the edge of his desk, looking bored.

“I think it’s a strong group, with a couple real standouts—Benny Liu and Jake Anderson are doing great work with the clients.” That pen tapping was mesmerizing. I watched it rise and fall, wondering why he had called me into his office. “I’m glad you recommended I delegate more, the team is getting stronger with the extra responsibilities. I still need to fill those three new lines I’ve been allocated, so that’s my priority now.”

“Sounds good. When’s the last time you talked to Brian Friedman?”

My heart stuttered and my pulse began to race. It was a good thing I’d had months to practice concealing my anxieties behind a facade. My voice didn’t shake when I replied. “Brian? The reporter? It’s been a few years, now. We went to a museum together one afternoon, like, three years ago? And he used to send me emails occasionally, asking about stuff going on in the industry, not about Eventive. He knew that was off the table. I haven’t heard from him in over a year.” Tap, tap, tap. Like a metronome. “No, that’s not true, I bumped into him last fall at a Stanford conference. But we just said hello. He might have been at some other events that I went to, but if he was there I didn’t notice him.”

Adam leaned forward and slipped his pen into a jar full of sharpened pencils and pens. “If you hear from him, let me know, would you?”


“Someone’s poking around. We’ll find out who.”

It seemed as if the conversation was over, but before I could rise, he added, “Oh, by the way, we’re locking down permissions as a security precaution. If you need to get under the hood for some reason, you’ll have to rope in the bug fix crew from now on.”

“All right. I’ll make sure the team gets the word.”

“Why? They haven’t been looking at the code. Just you. But if they bring an issue to you in future, or if you have ideas about making a change, it’s going to the maintenance unit, and if necessary they’ll escalate it to DevOps. All you have to do is file a ticket.”

“Got it.”

He studied me for a long minute. I forced my hands still, my expression placid until the cyberguy broke the silence with a juicy sneeze. He shifted in his seat, pulled a bandana out of a back pocket  and blew his nose loudly.

“Gesundheit,” Adam said. “You can go.”


I messaged Brian the next day from the yoga studio bathroom.


> I’m pulling out. Adam knows something’s up.

> What did he say?

> Enough. He’s keeping an eye on me. I can’t risk it.

> Can we meet? It’s shaping up. I just have a few gaps to fill.

> No, I’m out.


I shut the phone down and slipped out the sim card. The phone went into a trash can. I dropped the sim card into a barrel where some construction workers were burning trash. I was cautious and didn’t see anyone following me, but then, they were professionals; I wouldn’t see them if they didn’t want me to.

Over the next few days I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched, and it didn’t help that Connie Uys was suddenly crossing my path too frequently for it to be a coincidence, his vulpine gaze finding me from across the office or from down the street. Once, as I turned away from the coffee machine in the galley, I sloshed coffee over my hand, startled to find him right behind me, even though I hadn’t heard his footsteps or seen anything out of my peripheral vision.

If he was watching me so closely, he probably had others doing it too, men I didn’t know keeping me under observation. I couldn’t stop by an ATM, as I had been doing at irregular moments to withdraw a couple of hundred dollars here, five hundred there. I hoped I had enough money already squirreled away. When the time came I would have to use cash to avoid leaving a trail.


Two weeks after that meeting with Adam I was brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed when I heard Robbie’s voice in the bedroom. “What the fuck?

I hurriedly turned the toothbrush off, rinsed, and went to the bedroom. “What is it?”

He thrust my phone toward me. I took it from him and read the notification. “Oh. Adam wants to see me tomorrow.”

He knocked it out of my hand. “About that reporter.”

“It doesn’t say that.”

“But that’s what it’s about. He got a phone call today from that guy. Your guy, good old Brian. He’s writing a story about your girlfriend.”

“Is he? I don’t know anything about it.”

“Bullshit. You’ve been cooking something up with him. You’re working against the company, against Adam.” He buried his face in his hands. “Jesus.”

“No. That’s not true.”

“And what gets me most? You don’t care what happens to me. You fucking bitch.

The blow knocked me against the wall, and I slid to the floor, clutching my cheek. “Robbie, no. I love you. I wouldn’t—”

“You don’t love me, you’re just using me. I got you a job. I got you this.” He gestured around the bedroom, another barely-furnished room in a barely-lived-in luxury apartment. “I taught you everything. I loved you. And you do this to me?” He aimed a kick at me.  “If I don’t get this program launched soon, it’ll get scrapped, and then what? I can’t let Adam down. You’re sabotaging everything, for what? Some reporter?” He took a shaky breath. “You’re fucking him, aren’t you.”

“Are you kidding me?” I was suddenly furious, acid anger eroding my caution. “When, exactly, would I have time to have an affair? I work constantly. Besides, you watch me like a hawk, you won’t let me go anywhere. You don’t trust me, but I’ve never given you reason to be that way.”

He yanked me up and shook me hard. “All I ever did was love you, and you do this shit.” His voice was twisted with anguish and fury.

“I love you, too, but—”

“Liar! You betrayed me.”

He slapped me once, twice, making a growling sound as he came at me, smacking me again and again as I retreated. I ended up in a corner, curled up with my arms over my head as he kicked screamed abuse at me.

When it stopped I heard he was sobbing, too. “I loved you so much,” he whispered hoarsely, the words broken. Then he left.

I heard him moving around in the kitchen as I assessed the damage. Nothing broken. I got up and shakily sat on the edge of the bed. Heard splashing as he filled a tumbler with whiskey. Prepared myself for the make-up sex to come. It was what always happened.

But not this time.


I came to on the floor of the living room. My scalp stung. My face was crusted with blood. I ached everywhere. I limped into the bathroom and washed the blood off my face, then bandaged the cut that was still leaking into my left eye. There wasn’t much I could do about the split lip. My nose, at least, had stopped bleeding.

Time to go.

I crept through the apartment. Robbie was sprawled across the bed, snoring, an empty bottle on the floor. He wouldn’t wake up anytime soon. I took some ibuprofen, stuck the bottle into my bag, and then gathered some clothes and the cash I had withdrawn and squirreled away over the past few months. It was only a few thousand bucks, but it made an awkwardly thick wad. I spent ten nervous minutes searching for a money belt that Robbie had ordered when we planned a vacation in Bermuda that we never got around to taking. I found it in his dresser, under his socks, moving as quietly as I could, feeling every one of my muscles sing out as if each one was separately sending a distress signal. With the bulk of the money zipped into the belt, I wound it around my waist and  fastened it, concealing it under my shirt. The rest went into my wallet.

By three a.m. I was slipping out of the apartment. I used the rear door of the building, where the garbage cans were stored. Nobody was in sight, not that it meant I was safe. Hugging the shadows, I took a roundabout path through the Seaport District. Every street I crossed, every parking lot I passed left me exposed. Walking the length of the Summer Street bridge was the worst of it, an exercise in keeping my panic under control. There weren’t many cars this time of night, but each one that passed brought my heart up in my chest. Across the bridge at last, I reached the South Station and made my way to the bus terminal. Only one ticket counter was open. I looked at the departure board and used cash to buy a ticket for the next Greyhound bus out of town. The man behind the counter gave my battered face a look as he counted my change, but slid the money and the ticket across the barrier without a word.

I spent some of the twenty minute wait hiding in a bathroom cubicle, but without a phone I had no way to tell the time. The ten minutes I had thought elapsed turned out to be less than five. I forced myself to calm down as I stood on the platform and watched the clock, trying to radiate confident solitude. Yes, I totally had planned to leave Boston at this hour of the night, I’m perfectly fine. The last thing I needed was for anyone, however well-meant, to start asking questions.

Once aboard, I took a seat by the window and set my backpack on the seat beside me. It wasn’t full, this time of night, and the other passengers seemed to want privacy as much as I did. I leaned my aching head against the cold window as the coach pulled out of the station, letting the rumbling rhythm of the motor lull me to sleep as I headed somewhere else, a destination with a name I could no longer remember.


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