Because Max had made his decision. Whatever it was that burned between him and this J with her haunted eyes and secrets, he wasn’t about walk away. “No,” he said, making his voice deliberately relaxed, nonthreatening, “I meant why can’t another J re-scan a memory?”
“We’re not certain.” Sophia’s voice was steady, but with a husky undertone that brushed a kiss across his skin. “However, the strongest theory is that whatever mental ‘door’ we enter to take the memory has the flow-on effect of permanently closing that door the instant we leave.”
“So with Bonner . . . ?”
“Scans were attempted at his trial but never completed. His mind is still ‘open’ in that sense.”
Pulling out into the traffic, he put the car into hover-drive, but retained manual control. “There’s no enforced automatic navigation here, right?”
“No. Manhattan is unusual in its rules—likely because of its geography.”
“Hmm.” Feeling the powerful vehicle purr under his hands, he relaxed into the seat and turned his mind to the case . . . and to a truth he wasn’t blind to, no matter the power of what she incited in him. “Are you planning to f**k with me?”
To Sophia, the question was a rapier sharp thrust between her ribs. “Please explain your words, Detective.” He’d been so easy a companion over the past few minutes she’d almost forgotten the lethal man she’d met outside that interrogation room in Wyoming. A mistake.
“You’re meant to act as a filter”—a stroke of the steel that lay below the beautiful surface—“but fact is, I can’t be effective if you’re hiding things I need to know.”
Sophia wondered how many suspects he’d fooled into dropping their guard before striking with that precise blade of a voice. “You’ve just called me stupid.”
“Did I, Miss Sophia?”
Again, he unbalanced her, made her uncertain how to respond. Humans asked her for information, for insight into their cases, sometimes making small talk in the process, but this, what Max was doing . . . she didn’t understand it. “Be blunt, Detective,” she ordered. “I don’t handle subtlety well.”
Max shot her a look she couldn’t read, but he followed her order. “I need to know whether to treat you as a partner or as a stooge for Councilor Duncan.”
She thought of the cold-eyed woman who would one day sign her death warrant, ensuring her last days on this earth would be spent as a fugitive; thought, too, of this piercingly intelligent, complex man who made her wish—for one broken second—that she was normal. But she’d lost her chance at any kind of normality in a fracture of razor-sharp glass and screams twenty years ago. “Councilor Duncan wants you to find the mole in her system,” she said in a voice that came out coated in ice. “I’m to do everything I can to assist you. That is the extent of my brief.”
“So,” Max said at last, “this suicide. Kenneth Vale.”
Sophia brought up the information on her organizer even as she closed the door gently on the past, so as not to awaken the slumbering otherness inside of her. “He was the Councilor’s specialist in stocks and bonds,” she said, finding an anchor in what she understood, words and data and fact.
“What were the consequences of his death?” A practical question, but his voice had shifted again, the timbre warm, disturbingly intimate in the confines of the car.
Her hand slipped a little as her palm turned damp. “She lost a certain amount of money when news of Vale’s suicide got out. You have to understand, such an act is highly unusual among Psy”—among most Psy—“and is considered a sign of severe mental illness.”
Max’s next words hit her without warning. “You’re not telling me everything.”
How had he known? She stared at the clean lines of his profile, her eyes lingering at his temple. He was human. All his records proved that without a doubt—and yet the way he read suspects, the way he’d just read her, it reminded her again that she’d have to be very, very careful around him.
If he realized the extent of the fractures inside of her, if he understood the things the otherness had done . . . She took a slow, careful breath. “It has no bearing on the case.”
The look he shot her was brutal in its demand. “I’ll decide what’s relevant.”
“Suicide,” she finally said, “is considered an acceptable choice in some circumstances. However, in those cases, the suicide is usually undertaken in a quiet, unobtrusive way.”
“Suicide’s never quiet or unobtrusive.” His voice was a whip, cutting across her skin. “I’ve seen enough shattered families to know that. But . . . Psy don’t do love, do they?”
“No.” Emptiness in her soul, an echoing nothingness where there should’ve been family, should’ve been connection, even if only of the coldest kind. “Often, in cases of severe mental deterioration, the choice is between suicide and rehabilitation.”
Suicide is the better option, Sophia. Another J, speaking to her two months before he was discovered dead in a hotel room, having overdosed on a carefully calculated cocktail of drugs. At least, you’ll die whole. If they take you, they’ll leave an atrocity behind—a creature that should not exist.
The minor’s parents have willingly surrendered full custody to the state as she does not appear to have the capacity to manage life in the regular population.