Chapter no 19

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

Oren waited until I was off the phone with Thea to make his presence known. He stepped into view, and I forced my brain to focus.

“Anything yet?” I asked him.

“No luck tracing the courier service, but the team I sent to the rendezvous point where Toby was supposed to meet Eve reported in again.”

The memory of two words rang in my mind: shots fired. “Did you figure out who placed the nine-one-one call?” I asked, holding on to my calm the way a person dangling over a forty-foot drop holds on to whatever they can reach.

“The call was placed from a neighboring warehouse. My men tracked down the owner. He has no idea who placed the call, but he did have something for us.”

Something. The way Oren said that made my stomach feel like it had been lined with lead. “What?”

“Another envelope.” Oren waited for me to process before he continued. “Sent last night via courier, untraceable. The warehouse owner was paid cash to give it to anyone who came asking about a nine-one-one call. Payment came with the package, so it’s likewise untraceable.” Oren held out the envelope. “Before you open it—”

I wrenched it out of his hands. Inside, there was a picture of Toby, his face bruised and swollen, holding a newspaper with yesterday’s date. Proof of life. I swallowed and turned the picture over. There was nothing on the back, nothing else in the envelope.

As of yesterday, he was alive. “No ransom demand?” I choked out.


I looked back at Toby’s bruises, his swollen face. “Were you able to find out anything about the family of David Golding?” I asked, trying to get a grip on myself.

“Currently out of the country,” Oren replied. “And their financials are clear.”

“What now?” I asked. “Do we know where Eli and Mellie are? What about Ricky? Is Constantine Calligaris still in Greece?” I hated how frantic I sounded and the way my mind was jumping from possibility to possibility with no segue: Eve’s half-siblings, my father, Zara’s recently estranged husband, who else?

“I’ve been tracking all four of the individuals you just mentioned for more than six months,” Oren reported. “None were within two hundred miles of the location of interest when Toby was taken, and I have no reason to suspect any kind of involvement from any of them.” Oren paused. “I also did some checking into Eve.”

I thought about Eve slicing herself open for that game of Chutes and Ladders, about what Grayson had said about her in the car. “And?” I asked quietly.

“Her story checks out,” Oren told me. “She moved out the day she hit eighteen, went no contact with her entire family, siblings included. That was two years ago. She had a waitress job that she showed up to regularly until she and Toby went dark last week. From age eighteen until she met Toby a couple of months ago, she was living hand to mouth with what seemed to be some truly awful roommates. Digging deeper and going back a few more years, I found a record of an incident at her high school involving Eve and an apparently beloved male teacher. He said, she said.” Oren’s expression hardened. “She has reason to distrust authority.”

And who, Eve had asked me, is going to believe a girl

like me?

“What else?” I asked Oren. “What aren’t you telling me?” I knew him well enough to know that there was something.

“Nothing regarding Eve.” Oren stared at me for a long moment, then reached into his shirt pocket and handed me a square of paper. “This is a list of members of your security team and our close associates who have been approached with job offers in the past three weeks.”

I did a quick count. Thirteen. This couldn’t be normal. “Approached by whom?” I asked.

“Private security firms, mostly,” Oren replied. “Far too many of them for comfort. There’s no common denominator in ownership between the different companies, but something like this doesn’t just happen unless someone is making it happen.”

Someone who wanted holes in my security. “You think this is related to Toby’s abduction?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” Oren clipped the words. “My men are loyal and well-paid, so the attempts failed, but I don’t like this, Avery—any of it.” He gave me a look. “Your friend Max is scheduled to return to college tomorrow morning. I would like to send a security detail back with her, but she seems… resistant to the idea.”

I swallowed. “You think that Max is in danger?”

“She could be.” Oren’s voice was steady. He was steady. “I would be negligent at this point to assume that you weren’t the target of a concentrated and multipronged assault. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. But until we know otherwise, I have no choice but to proceed like there’s a major threat—and that means assuming that anyone close to you could be the next target.”

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