BZRK: Reloaded Page 2

The president nodded solemnly. “Okay. Now I’m taking a shower. Want to join me?”

“You know I’m a bath man,” he said, his tone half reproach, half forgiveness.

She put her arms around him. “But I’m lonely in that big shower all alone.”

When they were under the spray she considered her options.

MoMo wouldn’t let it drop. He was nothing if not persistent. He loved her and he would keep pushing. And pushing.

Something was wrong with her—that was the hell of it. She had felt it. She knew it was true. Something wrong.

But she had a year until the election. This was no time to look weak. This was no time for doctors to be finding a tumor or a stroke or even just too much stress.

But what could she do? How could she stop MoMo from loving her right out of the White House?

Later she would recall that question.

Later she would ask herself how she had decided on the terrible answer.

But at this moment all she saw was that it would have to be a single swift blow. No second chances.

She pressed close to her husband. She kissed him. She ran her fingers through his wet hair, held both sides of his head tight, and with every muscle in her body smashed the back of his head against the tile wall.

MoMo sagged to the floor. Blood came with surprising force, more than she would have imagined.

She left the water running, stepped from the shower, crossed to the bathtub, and began filling it with hot water.

It took a couple of minutes before there was enough water in the tub.

MoMo groaned in the shower. Nonsense sounds, not words, but still she had to hurry.

She slid back the shower door, knelt down, put her hands under his arms, and dragged him the five feet to the tub. That much was easy: he was wet and soapy, and the floor was tile.

The harder part was pushing him up over the side of the tub. For the scenario to work it would have to seem as if he’d slipped and smashed his head against the side of the tub. It would be a long night of making sure that bloodstains were in only the exactly right places. The president would be scrubbing.

She manhandled MoMo into the rising water in the tub. Now he was moaning and moving feebly, like a sleepwalker, like a drunk, uncoordinated.

He splashed into the tub.

His eyes fluttered open as she ground the bloody wound against the back of the tub.

“Mwuh?” he managed to say.

Mustn’t leave handprints. Had to do this right. She pressed her palms against his chest and leaned her weight on him until his head was completely submerged.

His dark eyes blinked, seemed to gain awareness for just a moment, and his arms came up out of the water to push back . . .

Too late. His lungs filled.

He vomited into the water.

And then she no longer had to hold him down. MoMo wasn’t going anywhere.

It would be a tragedy. The nation would mourn. She would get a ten-point sympathy bounce in the polls.

Her secrets would be safe.

A sob heaved up from inside her. She loved him. She loved him with all her heart.

And she had just murdered him.

In an office in a building on the 1800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, a very short distance from the White House, Bug Man tore the gloves from his hands.

He was shaking.

He felt sick. He climbed out of the chair, made it five steps on the way to the very nice executive bathroom before falling to his knees, gasping as if he’d been running a marathon.

He had been.

Down in the meat, down in the nano, he had been racing his exploding-head-logo nanobots, laying wire like some demented lineman from elements of the president’s ego, her self-image, to images of MoMo.

Bug Man had long since cauterized a number of areas storing what might be called ethics or morality. In fact, they weren’t that, they were memories of books, sermons, lectures, and—much more powerful—the images of victimization from her childhood in San Antonio that formed the basis of her core decency.

Like most politicians, and all presidents, she had a strong ego. She’d always had well-developed instincts for survival, what some would describe as ruthlessness. But it had been balanced by pity, kindness, fellow feeling, love.

Bug Man had needed a less moral, more ruthless person. He had needed her simplified—the better to manipulate, the better to convince her to give Rios and his brand-new government agency free rein to quash any unhelpful investigations, to oppose any international action.

So Bug Man had made her that. He had needed her to be suggestible to paranoia; he had needed to be able to plug that heightened aggressiveness and ruthlessness into pictures of any and all whose actions might threaten the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation.

Yes.

Well.

Brains are subtle things. Some miswiring had created the twitches and tells that had alerted MoMo to changes in his wife. The president’s heightened aggression combined with weakened restraint had led now to murder.

But for the last desperate minutes Bug Man had not been trying to get Helen Falkenhym Morales to kill her husband MoMo. He’d been trying to stop her.

Once he’d seen where she was going he’d tried—way too little, way too late—to make her see MoMo as an extension of herself.

The only result was that later, too damned late, she would feel remorse. Guilt. Which would only create its own problems.

Bug Man was on his knees, blood pounding in his face, stomach churning with fear, waiting for the call.

When his phone did ring it still startled him.

He wondered how long he could go without answering. He wondered if he could keep from vomiting again. Or crying.

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