By Gil Hale – email@example.com
Disclaimer: All disclaimers, usual or unusual, apply.
Author’s Notes: Lots of thanks to Susan Foster for permission to use elements of her sentinel universe.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no!” was Blair’s mantra of the moment. It ricocheted through his mind in neat unison with the way the truck seemed to be bouncing off any objects too solid or too stupid to get out of the way.
He clutched on to anything available. He hadn’t signed up for this. Nobody had warned him about sentinel driving… or maybe it wasn’t a sentinel thing, maybe it was a black ops thing… death driving… yeah, that certainly fitted.
“Look out!” he yelled as the car they were chasing swept around a corner, and Jim appeared to head the truck directly for a stack of cans in the corner store window.
Yelling was a bad move. Reminded of his presence, Jim took one hand off the steering to hold him in place, while the truck proved it was possible to go around a corner at high speed with three wheels out of contact with the ground.
“Don’t worry, Chief. We’ll have him in a minute,” Jim said, as the truck bounced back into full contact with the road surface. Blair had, as a matter of fact, lost interest some time before in the fate of the criminal, saving his concern entirely for their own chances of survival. He didn’t have the time to say so, however.
The man they were chasing—in common with a lot of completely innocent road users—was by now thoroughly intimidated. Panicking in his desperate search for some escape, he miscalculated a gap and clipped the bumper of a large and indifferent delivery vehicle. He was going so fast it was enough to spin the car into the air.
Blair saw it was going to land upside down right in the path of the truck.
“Jim!” he managed in a strangled squawk.
There was a lot of brake squealing, metal crunching and eloquent cursing before Blair opened the eyes he’d instinctively closed. Jim’s arm was once again protectively across his chest; miraculously neither of them seemed to be hurt. His sentinel—and right now he was thinking of scrapping that possessive—was looking mournfully at the concertinaed front of his truck.
“Can you believe that guy’s driving?” he asked Blair with honest indignation.
For a moment, Blair was speechless, and before he could recover Jim was out of the truck and dealing energetically with the aftermath of the accident. Uniformed police and recovery vehicles were arriving and Blair had no choice but to keep a low profile; his preferred option would have been to take himself off and get a strong drink, but the noise and flashing lights and reek of gas and burnt rubber warned him to stay around in case Jim needed some support.
The scene cleared surprisingly quickly. No one but Blair seemed to have any sympathy with the bruised perp, or his ravings about lunatic, kamikaze, vehicle—smashing cops. Except perhaps Jim’s auto mechanic—from what Blair could hear of Jim’s phone call to him, this wasn’t the first time Jim had totalled the truck and then expected it to be miraculously restored to its normal, only slightly battered condition.
Jim put the phone away and looked irritably round the emptying road. The conversation with his mechanic had evidently not gone well, but Blair could see there was more to Jim’s mood than that. The Sentinel had a stiff-jawed, pinch-eyed look Blair had already learned to recognise. He could guess Jim’s head was pounding and that he was struggling for control.
“Okay, Jim, you know the routine,” he said quietly, putting a hand on Jim’s arm. “What’s the worst? Hearing?”
“I don’t know,” Jim snapped. “Everything. No—smell. That stink of fuel…”
Slowly, Blair took his irritable and uncooperative sentinel through the steps necessary to regain control.
“All right,” Jim said at last. “That’ll do. That’s fine.”
Blair looked at him pointedly, waited, and said at last, “You know, every culture I’ve come across has some kind of expression for ‘thanks’ in their vocabulary. It’s a very useful word. ‘Thanks’. You ought to try it some time.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Jim muttered. “You sound like my kindergarten teacher.”
Blair looked at him. “I would HATE to have been your kindergarten teacher,” he said with fervent honesty.
Jim blinked, returned the look, and finally, reluctantly, smiled. “You should have seen me on the trikes,” he said. He put his hand on Blair’s shoulder and steered him towards a small cafÈ. “Come on, we’ll have a coffee while we wait for the tow truck. Or maybe you’d better have tea. Your heartbeat was way too fast back there.”
“That was an entirely natural reaction,” Blair said firmly, but even after a month of being Jim’s guide he felt the same surprised warmth that anyone would consider it worth the time to notice.
As they went into the cafÈ, a man sitting in a car across the street picked up a cell phone. “Brackett here,” he said briefly. “Yes, I’ve been watching Ellison all morning. It’s as good as a circus. But it seems our information about him is a bit out of date. He’s got someone riding along with him. What? No, it’s not that I think it’ll be a problem. If what I’m thinking is correct, then it’s more likely to be an opportunity, but I’ll need to look into his recent past a bit more carefully and spend some time watching the two of them. What I want you to do, is find out if anyone else is coming with your man, and if so, who… and why. I’ll check in with you in a couple of days.”
Doyle rolled urgently out of the way of the huge coloured man swinging the bike chain. To his left, Bodie’s movement matched his own. No good worrying about the fact they were already stiff and aching, no one was going to call time. Least of all the sadist sitting on an upturned box and watching them with a marked lack of approval. Macklin, head of the training branch of CI5, was popularly reputed to be more ruthless even than Cowley himself. ‘Adequate’ was the greatest compliment he normally paid anyone; ‘satisfactory’ was his equivalent of fulsome praise. He wasn’t finding Bodie and Doyle even adequate, though.
“Come on, Doyle. My grandmother’s less arthritic than that,” he said impatiently as they finally managed to outflank their assailant. “All right, Towser, I’ll take it from here.”
Towser, a man of few words, dropped the bike chain and went to put the kettle on the camping stove—there were few comforts in the empty warehouse Macklin used. He grinned sympathetically at his victims as he went. Doyle considered it one of the more machiavellian parts of the training system that Macklin should have an assistant it was very hard to hate.
“All right, Bodie,” Macklin said. “Back to basics.”
Temporarily reprieved, Doyle stumbled back against the rough wall. He was grateful that Macklin was taking Bodie first. His own fitness had suffered during his recent weeks undercover and he was fairly near his limit. Gradually getting his breathing under control, he watched Bodie circling Macklin and slowly beginning to react to Macklin’s goading.
This was something where Doyle, even from the sidelines, could help his partner.
Macklin had told them to ignore the sentinel and guide thing for the moment, that it probably wouldn’t help them and it might make matters worse. Once they’d been trained like any other partnership he’d begin to deal with this extra factor. But they were getting fed up with being knocked about, and what Macklin didn’t know…
Softly, much too softly for normal hearing, he began a quiet litany of encouragement. “Don’t let him get to you, mate. He’s had his own way for too long. Let him say what he wants—filter it out. Watch his movements, but listen to me, not him. You’ve got the edge…”
He knew that Bodie’s sentinel hearing, already, after a month, tuned to his guide’s voice, would quickly focus on his words, while they would remain inaudible to Macklin. He saw with satisfaction the change in Bodie. The slight edginess disappeared. Bodie began to move with absolute control, to watch his opponent with an almost deadly concentration. The difference in him was tangible.
That was Doyle’s undoing. Macklin didn’t have sentinel hearing, but he had a sharp intelligence. He was aware, even momentarily approving, of Bodie’s greater focus. Then he evidently deduced what was causing it.
“All right, Doyle,” he said. “If you want to join in, come and take your turn in the open.”
That hadn’t been what Doyle had in mind at all. Reluctantly he pushed away from the wall and took his partner’s place. His mental shields were down a little after his attempt to help Bodie out, and he didn’t raise them. Maybe he would be able to pick up the moment when the trainer was going to make his move.
As far as it went, his idea worked. His anticipation was fine. It was his sore and aching body that let him down.
In a humiliatingly short time, he found himself doubled up on the floor, clutching his ribs and trying to gasp in some air, while he rolled out of the way of whatever further pain Macklin had in store for him. He hurt everywhere, his face was full of dust, he felt as miserably incompetent as the trainer no doubt meant him to feel, and he thought things could hardly get any worse.
Then, as he managed to suck in a breath, he realised they could. Much worse.
Even through the pain, he’d been aware of Bodie’s anger and Bodie’s savage protectiveness, burning darkly through the bond, but until he rolled out of the way of three pairs of trampling feet, he didn’t realise what was happening. In complete silence, his partner was struggling with both Macklin and Towser, and getting the upper hand.
Dizzily, Doyle forced himself to his feet. He’d started this—he should never have opened up the link—and he was the only one who could stop it.
“Leave it out, Bodie,” he said, trying to add his grip to the others but only really managing to accept Bodie’s support. “It’s what we’re here for. Let them do their job.”
He’d never been aware before of the extent of the darkness in Bodie. He could feel it now, though, as Bodie’s arm tightened around him, something black and dangerous, though not for him. He did the only thing he could think of, opening up the link between them further, so that Bodie could feel past his pain to the reassurance he was trying to give him.
It took the last of any energy he had, but to his enormous relief, it worked. He could feel Bodie regain control. The silent struggle abruptly stopped. Macklin released Bodie’s arms and nodded to Towser to do the same. Doyle straightened up and knew he’d made more of a mess of things here than he could hope to sort out.
For a long moment nobody spoke. Then Macklin said calmly, “Five mile run, Bodie. Towser will time you and run with you. I’ll take Doyle later.”
Bodie nodded curtly. Doyle could see how much it bothered him that he had lost control; he was making up for it now, his face cool and shuttered, entirely professional again. Normally he’d have made some sort of joking protest about the run, but now he simply turned and jogged out of the building and Doyle knew he was glad to be doing it alone.
Wearily he stumbled across to the mat and sat down, letting his head drop onto his knees. He expected—and knew he deserved—a tongue lashing from Macklin, and was surprised when it didn’t come. Instead Macklin brought him a cup of coffee and squatted down beside him. Doyle’s empathy was still too wide open, and he was disconcerted to sense a mixture of compassion and exasperation.
“That fiasco,” Macklin said, not unkindly, “is why we’re not training using your sentinel and guide abilities until you’re established as a normal partnership.”
Doyle had no answer to that. “Sorry,” he managed, almost too tired to lift the cup to his mouth. “When’m I doing this run?”
“When I think you’re ready.”
“I’m ready now,” Doyle said, knowing that all that would get him round was determination, but prepared to go for it anyway.
“You don’t have to prove anything to me,” Macklin said quietly. “Or to yourself. We all accepted that you’d be working your way back to full fitness during this week. Anyway, you’re not running round the streets of London without full mental barriers. You can take an hour out until your partner gets back.”
He took the empty cup from Doyle’s hands and put a thin blanket round his shoulders. Doyle let his head drop back onto his knees. In spite of the aches and bruises all over him, and the fact that he’d be hard pushed right now to stand up without falling over, he’d rather have forced himself round the road circuit than be sitting still trying not to think about the look on Bodie’s face as he left.
Or about the darkness so close to the surface of Bodie’s mind.
He’d been shocked when he felt it, not because it surprised him, but because Bodie’s self control was usually so complete. He’d known, in a way, that those depths were there, a part of Bodie that he’d accepted along with the rest when they started this partnership, but this was the first time he’d felt the amount of pain and horror that lurked in them. What the hell had Bodie lived through to cause that?
He shivered in spite of the blanket. He couldn’t seem to recreate the barriers that normally protected his mind, and as the sweat dried on him he was aware of a multitude of bruises and protesting muscles. At least there was no one but Macklin to see him, and Macklin seemed to be busy about other things; probably writing up a less than complimentary report, though Doyle couldn’t even find the energy to worry about that, then later answering a phone call.
After a while, when the worst of the discomfort had eased a little, he found his eyes closing. There didn’t seem a lot of point in fighting it. Bodie wasn’t back and Macklin was having an argument on the phone in too low a voice for Doyle to make out the subject. He slid into an uneasy doze, and only stirred when his partner returned and dropped down onto the mat beside him.
“That had better be it for today,” Bodie grumbled, low enough not to catch Macklin’s attention. “I’m knackered.”
“My turn, I suppose,” Doyle said, uncoiling stiff muscles and getting slightly unsteadily to his feet.
“You’ll have to wait,” Macklin said shortly. “George Cowley just called; he’s coming to see the pair of you.”
Doyle looked up, interested. So that had been the Cow that Macklin was arguing with. Usually the two of them got on well—like Torquemada and his chief torturer in the opinion of most of the younger agents.
Bodie groaned. “Coming to gloat,” he muttered. “He just likes to see people suffer.”
There was certainly no sympathy for them in Cowley’s expression when he strode in a few minutes later. Doyle had slumped back into his previous position, and Bodie was lying flat on his back. It was possible they looked more like the survivors of a road crash than a couple of top agents. At any rate, the sight annoyed their boss.
“Good lord,” he snapped. “I was under the impression that you might be training. Get up, the pair of you. I’ve got some news you’re not going to like.”
Who could resist an invitation like that? Doyle tried to sit up smartly. Bodie did it slowly enough to provoke Cowley further. “Or maybe you will like it, Bodie. If you think I’m hard on you, another stint for Willis may suit you well enough.”
Bodie sat up. “Willis, sir?”
“You seem to have made a deep impression on the man. He obviously sees a different side of you from the one I have to put up with. He has a special assignment for you, and he wants you back in Cascade.”
Doyle waited for Bodie to ask it, but Bodie didn’t. “What about me, sir?”
Cowley glared at him. “I’ve plenty of jobs you could be doing here; I’m short staffed enough. But I suppose you’ll have to go along.”
“They aren’t ready to go out into the field,” Macklin said. Perhaps that was what the argument had been about.
“They certainly don’t look it,” Cowley said. “Willis was most insistent, however. He wants Bodie. We’ll have to work out something else for Doyle. Luckily Barry Martin is our man in the North West and he notified me a couple of weeks ago that he was going to be in Cascade for a while. We can send Doyle out to him in some capacity.”
Doyle wasn’t sure if he was actually picking up a mood, or if it was just his impression that Macklin wasn’t happy with that either. For himself, he was moderately relieved. He’d done a little training with Barry Martin when he first came into CI5, and remembered the older man as bluff and good-natured with a weakness for expensive blondes. He’d be easy enough to work with.
“He doesn’t know Doyle’s a guide?” Macklin asked.
“No. Very few people in CI5 do, and I dealt with the other records when he joined.”
“Then I suggest you keep it like that,” Macklin said. “Doyle and Bodie will have to work out the details of where they meet and how much contact they have…”
“We’re not exactly joined at the hip,” Bodie put in quickly. “I think I could manage to function for a few weeks without Doyle’s help, and he can always go back to the pill bottle.”
Doyle winced. Bodie obviously hadn’t got over losing his cool earlier that afternoon. Cowley frowned. “That had better not be necessary,” he said shortly. “You’ll both go to Cascade, damn it, and Macklin had better spend the next couple of days on some intensive work to make you appear less like a pair of layabouts. You’ll continue with your training ’til you leave on Thursday. I’ll contact Martin and make the necessary arrangements for Doyle.”
Later, in Cascade, Barry Martin picked up the phone. “Brackett? Yes, you were right. Cowley is sending out another man, though he doesn’t seem to have any particular reason for it. What? Yes, I worked with him a bit when he came into CI5. Ray Doyle. I told Cowley I hadn’t much for him to do—it’s hardly the time to have another agent under foot, but luckily Cowley’s going to set him up with some sort of exchange with Major Crimes. Yes, I suppose he was reasonably insistent about him coming, but frankly you don’t argue with George Cowley anyway. He didn’t say anything about him working with Bodie though, and he barely mentioned the fact Bodie was coming. No, I don’t think it means anything, he just lives by ‘need to know’. It’s time you shared whatever it is you’re thinking Brackett. I feel as if I’m working in the dark here. You need my help, and you’ll need it more as other players start coming in to Cascade, so I think it’s time to get the cards down on the table. I’ll meet you in the usual bar, okay?”
Jim Ellison, not in the best of moods, opened the door to the loft and blinked slightly. A month ago his reaction would have been to go for his weapon—papers and files littered the place everywhere, flung around and tossed here and there as if some criminal had ransacked the place in search of a particular item. A month’s experience, however, gave him a good idea as to the identity of the criminal.
“Sandburg!” he yelled.
Blair appeared from behind the sofa, dropping another handful of A4. “Oh… hi, Jim.” Sentinel sight and hearing could not find one trace of guilt. “You are early, aren’t you, because if not, I am way late.” He went distractedly back to strewing paper.
“What are you doing?” Jim asked in the sort of tone that normally had people backing for an exit.
“I’m writing this assignment and I know I had an amazing interview with an Ibo anthropologist—he was really one of a kind—and it would be the perfect… JIM! Don’t do that.”
Jim ruthlessly swept paper into neat piles so that he could cross the floor. “These are the ones you’ve looked at, right.”
“So it would be logical to put these on one side, then you’d know you’d already checked them.”
“I know I’ve checked it if it’s on the floor,” Sandburg said. “The piles on the furniture are waiting.” He was busily turning over one and suddenly let out a howl, which turned out to be triumph not cramp. “Got it!” He went into a peculiar series of movements which might have been some tribal celebration dance, but then again might just have been Sandburg being weird. “Now where’s the lap top?”
Jim smirked, silently. He could hear it purring under the chaos, but it would be more satisfying to watch Sandburg look for it.
“Why’re you here, anyway,” Blair asked, absently handing him piles of anthro-jargon. Then he did something that always got through Jim’s defences and made him realise what a cold place life had been before Blair’s arrival. He stopped and looked at Jim as if he was the most important person in existence and well worth being the focus of every ounce of vibrant Sandburg attention. “Jim? You are okay? You’re not back because there’s a problem? Is it your senses?”
Jim turned the handful of pages into a perfectly rectangular pile, all the corners aligned. “Nothing like that, Chief. I hope it won’t be a problem at all. Though Simon’s not happy.”
“Simon not being happy isn’t news. So what’s going on?”
“I’ve been co-opted to Security One again.” Jim didn’t need to explain any more than that. That was another of the aspects of Blair that more than made up for the disorganisation he brought into Jim’s life. He understood things at all levels. Now, for instance, he would see with quick academic comprehension the implications of the recall, and more important, he’d understand how Jim felt about having to return to the covert and morally ambiguous atmosphere of the international security organisation.
Blair nodded slowly, his eyes meeting Jim’s in silent support. Jim felt as if he’d just been relieved of at least part of a heavy load.
“You don’t know what they want you for?” Blair asked.
“No, except that it involves some foreign VIP. I’m to report to Willis this evening, then we’re meeting his guest at some upmarket restaurant.”
“No. Apparently he’s pulled Bodie back from the UK.”
Blair thought about it, sitting down on a heap of paper. “You know what that means.”
“That he thinks it’s a job a bonded sentinel can’t do,” Jim said. “Or else that it involves some kind of follow-up to that business with Kincaid. But I don’t think it is that; there’s been no hint of him coming back. No good worrying about it, anyway. I’ll find out tonight.”
Blair was considering the ramifications of this news. “What about Doyle?”
For the first time, Jim’s mood lightened a little. “Oh, he rang me at the PD before I left. He’s coming to call on you and eat seaweed or whatever while we dine in style.”
He looked round at the chaos in the room. “If you start tidying up now, he might be able to get in the door when he arrives.”
He abandoned Blair to the mess and went to get a shower. In spite of his words to Blair, he found it hard to avoid feeling disturbed about the recall by Willis. Whatever it was for, he had a feeling it was going to be something he really didn’t want to do.
Bodie looked out of his hotel room window across the lights of Cascade, waiting for Ellison to call and take him to the meeting with the controller of Security One. A glance in the mirror had assured him that he presented exactly the image Willis was no doubt looking for to impress his visiting dignitary. The thought of the job didn’t particularly bother him, he assumed it would be some kind of glorified bodyguard work; his mood was dark for quite other reasons.
In the three days that had passed since Cowley gave him the assignment, he’d hardly spoken to his partner. It hadn’t been difficult to achieve that; they’d both been extremely busy, and Macklin had seemed to feel it his duty to fill their spare moments with as much extra training as he could cram in. Doyle had accepted the detachment without a word. Bodie reckoned he’d been relieved. Must have been an eye-opener for him when he glimpsed the darker depths of Bodie’s character.
They must all have been shocked, come to that, and Bodie hated the thought of it. He’d expected to feel Doyle flinch, to see the revulsion on his face, and was surprised at the strength of will his partner must have had not to react. Macklin and Towser too. They’d seen him totally out of control, angry enough to kill, and they’d just carried on afterwards as if nothing had happened. It didn’t make him feel any better about it, or any less humiliated.
It should never have happened. It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t let Doyle get too far under his skin.
Distant in the street he watched Jim coming, spotting him easily in an unfamiliar truck from far too far away for normal eyesight. That part was okay; he could use his senses now, he was free from the constant strain of keeping them level. Doyle was better off, too. Bodie hadn’t meant that crack about the meds; he’d keep up enough contact to see Doyle didn’t have to resort to chemicals to keep his empathy at a bearable level. But that was as far as it was going to go. He’d keep the partnership distant. Better for both of them; he didn’t want to feel the way he had when Doyle was hurt, and he didn’t imagine Doyle wanted to find out any more about what was hidden under the cool and charming Bodie faÁade.
Jim had parked, and Bodie shook off his thoughts and went down to meet him. As he’d expected, Ellison knew little more than he did about why they were wanted.
“Has to be because we’re officially unbonded,” Bodie said. “Maybe whoever we’re babysitting has some sort of pathological dislike of guides.”
“Be nice if it’s that simple,” Jim said.
“Or perhaps it’s just that he was impressed with our success rate last time,” Bodie added. “Anyway, how bad can it be?”
He ought to have known better than to ask that sort of question. Half an hour later, standing respectfully in Willis’ large suite, he found out.
Willis made a perfunctory and entirely insincere apology for taking them away from their normal duties. “This entire assignment is classified,” he added. “You’ll be under my command, and report only to me. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Bodie said. “I understood it was a matter of providing security for a visitor from Eastern Europe.”
Willis nodded. “You will be providing protection for Dr Serensky, who we will be meeting shortly. Dr Serensky is a renowned scientist in his own field and he is here to undertake a project that has been concerning us for some time. As you are aware, shortly before the unfortunate incident with Kincaid, an important prototype at the Security One research establishment was destroyed.”
“The Resonator,” Jim said, his voice so controlled as to be almost toneless.
“Exactly. The original resonator was built using principles developed by Dr Serensky, and although it was limited in its range and effectiveness, it was a useful tool. After its destruction, and the problems at the laboratory, the decision was taken not simply to rebuild it but to employ Dr Serensky himself to build a new and greatly improved version. The matter has been highly classified from its inception, but nevertheless we are getting intelligence reports which suggest that there has been some sort of leak of information. There is an obvious danger of attracting hostility from extreme human rights groups, and there are organisations in the world who would pay a great deal for this technology. You will be responsible for the personal safety of Dr Serensky, and also for the security of the new Resonator.”
It was lucky, Bodie thought, that they both had had so many years of enforced self-control. He saw the rigidity of Ellison’s expression, and knew that his own matched it, but there was nothing beyond that which could have alerted Willis to the fact this news was disastrously unwelcome.
Willis spent little time on the details of their assignment; that apparently would be dealt with the following morning. Dr Serensky, accompanied by two of his own security staff and two more from Security One, was already at the restaurant by the time they arrived. Willis sent his own two men to take up unobtrusive positions in the room; the others sat at a nearby table.
Bodie looked with interest at Dr Serensky. He looked more like an artist or anarchist than the man whose research was probably about to condemn a lot of potential guides to a lifetime of miserable drudgery and mental pain. His face suggested he was in late middle age, but his hair was still almost without a trace of grey in its black, and he wore it surprisingly long. He was bearded, and had an accent which Bodie could not place. He quite rapidly heard a lot of it, because Dr Serensky began to talk about the non-classified aspects of his research even before the drinks had arrived.
Bodie’s strategy for these situations was to look attentive, make the occasional bland comment and concentrate on enjoying the food. The odd remark slipped through his defences though.
“My speciality is the wave manipulation of neural pathways,” Dr Serensky mentioned conversationally as they waited for the first course. “I have extensive experience in the abnormalities in these pathways caused by unusual genetic inheritance.”
Bodie took long enough to decipher this to be uncertain whether he had just been insulted or not. The increased tension he could sense from Ellison suggested the use of the word ‘abnormalities’ hadn’t been popular with him either. Dr Serensky, however, had moved on to describing at length some esoteric research he had undertaken in his youth, and even Willis looked slightly relieved as their plates arrived.
The conversation, if it could be called that, continued along the same pattern as the meal progressed. Dr Serensky had an apparently limitless desire to communicate the subtleties of his subject, and wanted nothing more than polite listeners. Somehow though, and Bodie could not pinpoint the moment when he began to be aware of it, the sense very gradually came to him that there was more to this man than met the eye. If Bodie had been undercover, playing the part of a very clever, rather unworldly professor, this was exactly how he’d have handled it, right down to the assumption of their attention and the occasional hint of naivety about the possible applications of his experiments.
So Bodie began to listen, after all, to what was being said, and took his attention from the lavish meal for long enough to watch Dr Serensky quite carefully. For a while he learned nothing except that the man’s movements and manner were entirely in keeping with what he was supposed to be, but as he continued to study him covertly, he became certain that he and Ellison were being watched in return.
It wasn’t obvious. Dr Serensky would turn to them occasionally as he gestured to illustrate a point, and when the talk turned briefly to Cascade and its environs he listened to them patiently. But Bodie watched his eyes and slowly became convinced that Serensky was studying both of them intently. He was good, too. It took all Bodie’s skill to be certain of what he was doing, and then Serensky quickly picked up the fact he had noticed something and turned his attention unobtrusively to Ellison alone.
Ellison had spent the meal doing an exact impression of the sort of hard jawed military officer that was the stereotype of most sentinels. Bodie wasn’t sure what had got to him, but something had. It was only when Serensky unexpectedly asked about the role of Major Crimes that Jim advanced from monosyllables to reasonable answers. Willis didn’t seem to mind. He’d brought them along as a demonstration of the level of security he could provide, and Ellison was definitely giving the impression he was capable of being either an unstoppable force or an immovable object, or quite probably both at once. Bodie felt honour bound to balance this with some attempt at civilised conversation, in case Serensky thought they were purely muscle but even as they relaxed over coffees he never really lost the sense that the scientist was making mental notes about the pair of them.
It was after the meal was over, though, and they were parting politely, that Bodie finally realised one thing Serensky had been looking for. As they reached the door, emergency vehicles screamed past with a sudden flurry of piercing sound and flashing lights. A month ago… yeah, it had only been a month… it would have shattered his fragile control of his senses, and from what he remembered of their early meetings, Ellison would have found it even more unendurable. Now though, their control enhanced by being bonded and trained a little by their unorthodox guides, they could cope, even if it wasn’t pleasant.
As the sirens and lights disappeared into the distance, he caught something in Serensky’s expression. The man had certainly noticed their control, but it wasn’t surprise Bodie saw there fleetingly, and it certainly wasn’t admiration—it was something more like suspicion. Serensky, he was beginning to think, might be a dangerously intelligent man.
Willis dismissed them for the night; it was the security at the laboratory which was to be their chief responsibility. They walked back to the truck in silence and Jim leaned on it without getting in. Bodie waited.
“We can’t do this,” Jim said shortly. “Blair was one of those brought on line by the original resonator. He suffered enough. This one’s going to be worse.”
“We can do it at the moment,” Bodie said. “It’s not going to be built in a day. We wait, and maybe we get some advice from Cowley, and we see how things progress before we do anything drastic.”
Jim nodded reluctantly, accepting the sense of this. “I’m going to have problems telling Sandburg though.”
Bodie had already gone one step further than that. There was no way he was telling Doyle. He got the guide liberation speech often enough as it was. “Yes, well I’m not about to go and tell Ray that they’re rebuilding the one he blew up, all new and improved, and that I’m making sure nothing happens to it. We can’t tell them; not yet, anyway.”
Jim frowned. “They’ll ask about the evening.”
The possibilities of the situation stretched out in front of them, all potentially disastrous. In the end, Bodie shrugged irritably. “We don’t have to tell them anything except that we’re on a job bodyguarding a VIP. If they want to know more than that we say it’s classified.”
Even as he said it, he was aware of the tugging sense of connection that would make it hard to shut Doyle out. It made him angry. He didn’t want this feeling of being answerable to someone other than himself. The fact Ellison looked doubtful annoyed him even more. “Have you got something against not telling them? Scared of what Sandburg might say?” he goaded.
Jim wasn’t rising to it. “Of how long he’ll go on saying it,” he said, only half joking. “I live with him, remember. But you’re right. I can’t tell him. Not ’til I can see some way out. I just don’t want the kid to think I don’t trust him.”
“Cuts both ways,” Bodie said shortly. “We won’t have a problem if they’re prepared to trust us.”
There was the sound of footsteps on the landing outside the loft door. Blair looked up from the conversation he’d been involved in. Below the friendly current of their talk, he and Doyle had both been waiting. Blair was hardly sure what was making him uneasy; maybe it was just the re-intrusion of Security One into their lives, but he felt the sort of prickling foreboding he was sure his ancestors would have taken seriously. He said as much to Doyle, expecting him to dismiss it, and was disconcerted when Doyle said, “Yeah. Can save your life knowing when to trust your instincts.” Somehow, given that he had no idea what he was apprehensive of, that wasn’t a comforting thought.
Jim and Bodie came in talking about basketball, and sounding casually normal. Blair wasn’t fooled for a second. He could feel the shutters that were up in Jim, blocking all but the deliberate surface emotions, and he could see the look in Jim’s eyes that gave the lie to his easy tone. Bodie had it too: behind the smile there was something much harder, almost intimidating. Don’t ask or you’ll regret it, that look said.
Blair glanced at Doyle and got no help there, so he played along. “Hi, Bodie. Good to see you back in Cascade. Was dinner good?”
“Boring,” Jim said briefly. “Food was okay.”
“That was it then, just a meal?”
“Willis wanted to show us off to his eminent visitor,” Bodie said. “Wants us to bodyguard him, make sure nothing happens to him while he has a look round Cascade.”
“Must be very VIP to warrant the expense of bringing you over here,” Doyle said, perfectly catching Bodie’s tone of casual interest while pointing out the obvious flaw in this story.
“Coffee?” Jim offered Bodie, rescuing him from the need to answer that. “You two want some? Or Sandburg does a nice line in herbal teas that smell strange and taste worse.”
Blair glanced at Doyle again, and this time got a look which warned him to back off. Reluctantly he did, while Bodie accepted the coffee, and chatted about the changes to the loft, joking with Blair that he’d given it a better ambience for bringing a girl back. Blair had studied people and their interactions long before he developed the empathic abilities—or disabilities—of a guide. He didn’t need any sort of a link with Jim to see that neither he nor Bodie wanted to talk about what had gone down that evening. Instead the two of them put up a sort of thin surface of natural conversation; it appeared okay, but step on it too heavily and the cracks would soon show. Well, he’d played this sort of social charade in more situations and cultures than he cared to think about. He could do it. But he didn’t like the feeling it gave him when he and Jim acted like strangers.
Doyle had apparently chosen to ignore all the undercurrents of unease in the room, and began to ask Jim about Major Crimes, where he was supposed to show up the next day. Reluctantly Blair acknowledged that it was probably the best way out of the situation; he could sense both of them become more at ease as they talked ‘cop-shop’. He gave in to the fact that everyone else in the loft was going for denial, and regaled Bodie with the long and lurid story of the time his mother tried to liberate a harem. When Bodie and Doyle had gone, then he’d try again.
It was very late before that happened. Both sentinels seemed reluctant to break up the party. When the door finally closed behind the British pair, Blair wasn’t really surprised by Jim walking out onto the balcony without a word to him. Every line of Jim’s body was taut, an angry tension in him that showed from his jaw to his hands clenched on the rail. So why the hell wouldn’t he let Blair in on the problem?
He stepped outside, to stand with him and look over the lighted streets.
“You know the old saying, a trouble shared is a trouble halved,” he said tentatively.
“It wouldn’t hold up in court,” Jim said. “Not even circumstantial evidence for it, Chief.” He put his hand on Blair’s shoulder, and Blair felt the troubled mixture of his feelings, and strongest in them an angry protectiveness that was at once comforting and frustrating.
“I really think we need to talk about whatever it was Willis wanted you for tonight,” he said more plainly.
“I don’t,” Jim said shortly. “If you’re going to work with me, you’ll have to understand that some things are going to be classified, even between us.” He gave Blair a not-too-gentle push in the direction of his own room. “Anyway, I need some sleep and you’re supposed to be teaching first thing. Go to bed.”
Blair could feel the mental doors slamming down, leaving him on the outside helpless in the face of their unyielding solidity. The worst of it was that he felt sure the main reason Jim was doing this was too protect him. No. On second thoughts, the worst thing was he was sure it was a really big mistake. So sure that he decided to risk pushing it.
“Jim, you have to tell me something…”
Oops. Bad choice of words. He knew it as soon as they slipped out, but Jim had already picked up on it before he could retrieve the situation.
“I don’t see any ‘have to’ Sandburg. What part of the word classified fails to make sense to you? This evening isn’t up for discussion. Leave it at that.”
There really wasn’t any point arguing it further, not when Jim used that tone. But Blair felt such a mix of hurt and anger and frustration that he would have gone on anyway. Only before he could say any more, Jim turned back at the foot of the stairs and said in quite a different tone, “I don’t want this job, believe me, but telling you about it is only going to make things worse for both of us.”
Blair sighed. He was completely unconvinced, but… “What’s the evidence situation on ‘Don’t let the sun go down on your anger’? ” he asked, holding out a hand.
Jim pulled him into a half hug, further evidence if he’d needed it that the sentinel was worried about his ability to protect him from… something. “I’m not angry with you,” he said, and Blair realised it was more or less the truth. He looked up at Jim for a moment. The barrier that had somehow formed wasn’t really the fault of either of them, he realised. But the fact remained it was there. He had a feeling it would stay there ’til Jim saw that the only way they could handle this trouble was together, and although they parted with a friendly enough goodnight, his sleep was uneasy and full of vague apprehensions.
Doyle arrived in Major Crimes early enough to join Simon Banks in the first cup of coffee of the day. He enjoyed it in silence; Banks looked tired, and Doyle himself hadn’t bothered to go to bed. Instead he’d spent the hours while he might have been asleep renewing contacts from his previous months in Cascade. There were a number he hadn’t been able to reach at that sort of notice, but he’d managed by dawn to ‘borrow’ a motorbike and despatch rider get-up, and had been in position very early in the morning outside Bodie’s hotel.
He’d decided he was entirely justified in following Bodie; there wasn’t supposed to be any classified information between partners in CI5 unless the orders came from Cowley himself. Bodie was making it pretty clear—as he had been doing before they ever arrived in Cascade—that as far as he was concerned this partnership only went so far. Doyle didn’t intend to acquiesce in this viewpoint by letting himself be shut out.
His conscience was not quite so easy, though, about the steps he’d taken to make sure Bodie didn’t detect him. He’d been confident enough in his ability to follow Bodie unseen, but he hadn’t been so certain about whether the sentinel in Bodie would sense the closeness of his guide—even though Bodie hadn’t given any indication of noticing either his presence or absence for the last few days. His contacts in the guide liberation movement naturally enough assumed he was still the unbonded activist he’d appeared to be when Cowley first set him up with cover there. He’d asked for the bike, guide meds and something to mask his distinctive body signs, and they’d let him have all three—the destruction of the Resonator and liberation of some facility guides had ensured his status in the guide movement in Cascade.
He wasn’t sure it had been a good idea, but it had worked. He’d followed Bodie’s car through the early morning traffic, and Bodie had suspected nothing. It hadn’t been long before he’d realised that they were headed for the facility and labs, and with increasing suspicion he had watched from a distance as Bodie went through the easily-recognisable motions of checking out the security of the site. Uneasy about any assignment in such a place he had taken note of the numbers of all the cars that had subsequently entered, including delivery vehicles of any sort, and all the time he’d had the growing sense that he was somehow breaking faith with both Bodie and the guide freedom movement in what he was doing. Now he was about to add to his general unhappiness with himself by being less than honest with Simon Banks.
“Maybe I could spend the morning having a look at how your computer databases work,” he said as he finished his coffee. “I think Cowley’s got me all the clearance I need.”
Simon Banks didn’t quite hide his relief at the fact that Doyle would be quietly and constructively occupied and out of his hair. “More than enough,” he said. “Major Cowley must have made a deep impression on the mayor.”
“Probably better not to ask how,” Doyle agreed. “Well, if you’ve got a computer free, I’ll leave you in peace.”
“You can use Jim’s,” Simon said. “God knows when we’ll be getting him back on duty.” He opened the door of his office. “You know Joel? He’ll give you any help you need getting started.”
The busy activity of the day had already begun, and no one had time to pay much attention to Doyle—for which he was thoroughly grateful. It took him a little while to find his way round the systems, and then he set to work. Slowly, running the plates first and then following up what he found out, he began to find a thread running through his miscellany of information. It was a thread which led not so much out of the maze as straight in to the monster’s mouth.
And the monster, he gradually began to believe, the man who was the clue to what was going on at the labs, was the man whose name he finally tracked down just as Major Crimes was emptying for lunch. Dr Serensky.
It had taken Doyle several hours just to track down the man’s name, following links from hired cars and their times of use to entrants to the country and security arrangements in Cascade. But there weren’t many foreign visitors in Cascade, and only one who seemed to fit the few clues he’d gleaned from Bodie. Dr Serensky was certainly being treated as a VIP, he was a guest of Security One, and the level of protection he was being afforded had called for some support in routine matters from Cascade PD. More significantly, a hired car which had entered the laboratory area that morning had been used to bring a guest from the airport to Security One headquarters.
Of course, identifying the man was only the first step. Knowing what he was doing in Cascade would be more challenging; but Doyle tracked down research papers he had published on empathic abilities, on genetic variations in the neural pathways and their possible manipulation—by machine. The possibilities arising from that filled him with a growing sense of foreboding and a building anger so great he decided to take himself out of Major Crimes before anyone noticed anything abnormal in the furious intensity of his concentration on what was supposed to be data handling.
He decided to go and make contact with Barry Martin.
He ought really to have done that already, but he’d compromised by ringing the previous day at a time when he knew Barry, unless he’d changed his habits a lot, would be out socialising. To his relief, the answerphone had been on and he’d simply left a message to say he’d arrived in Cascade.
Now, as he made his way through the Cascade traffic, he had to face up to his uneasiness at seeing the man. It was Macklin’s fault. Doyle had had no concerns about working with Martin ’til he’d had a parting conversation with the CI5 trainer that had totally thrown him. Macklin had warned him not to let Martin know about his connection with Bodie. “And Doyle,” he’d added, “use your empathy. You’ve got the ability to look below the surface in these situations. Use it.”
Doyle, realising what he meant, had hardly believed it. “You what? You reckon I should check out Barry Martin. You’ve got to be joking. Martin was a founder member of CI5, Cowley’s old comrade-in-arms and all that guff. He’s got to be above suspicion.”
Macklin had frowned. “Nobody’s above suspicion, Doyle, and you know it. That’s exactly the sort of thinking that will get you hurt. You’re not a fool, not usually anyway. Now you’re bonded your empathy could be an asset. You should be working out how to use it to give yourself an edge.”
“Even with our own?” Doyle had asked. Judging by the look on Macklin’s face it hadn’t been an intelligent question. All the same, he would have dismissed the advice as closer to paranoia than common sense if it hadn’t been for a lurking respect for Macklin’s opinion.
It had troubled his thoughts on the plane over, and in the end he’d decided it could hardly hurt to take Macklin’s advice. If Martin was the bluff and good-humoured person Doyle was convinced he was, it would be easy enough to read that and the matter could be dismissed. Now, though, he had a further problem. Partly to avoid detection while he was following Bodie, and partly because he had absolutely no intention of having to beg to see Bodie at any time over the next few weeks, he’d obtained some entirely illegal guide meds from the underground, and the ones he’d taken had damped his empathy down to a point where he wouldn’t be able to sense much anyway.
He hesitated a moment outside Martin’s rooms when he reached them. Damn Macklin anyway. He’d sense what he could, but it probably wouldn’t be much.
Barry Martin greeted him with an easy friendliness. “You look as if you’re keeping fit. So why has George sent you all the way to Cascade? To check up on me? See if I’m getting too old for the job?”
“Nah. When he was over here before he promised some sort of exchange with the PD here. Part of his dealings with the mayor I expect. I’ve got a police background, so I got the job.”
“George isn’t thinking of coming back himself then?”
“No; he had too much trouble last time trying to train them not to put ice in his scotch.”
Martin laughed and went to pour them both some coffee. Doyle was slightly disconcerted to find that what he was sensing was somehow ambiguous. He was sure there was some warmth there, but other underlying elements he couldn’t define clearly at all. Annoyed with himself, he gave up trying and reverted to Ray Doyle, CI5 agent. To hell with the guide stuff.
It was easy to chat to Martin. They reminisced a bit, and then Doyle gave him what he knew of the London gossip. “Murphy’s dating a Swedish model, Jax might get a try out for the national team at distance running—oh, and you’ll like this one, Anson’s trying nicotine patches!”
“How the devil did you find that out?”
“I didn’t, Susie did. He’s not denying it though. Not much other news. Things are surprisingly quiet on the work front.”
“That’s why George has sent you over here to broaden your education?”
“More or less. As you know, he’d still like to find out about what happened to Kincaid.”
Martin shrugged. “He can’t expect miracles. All my contacts say he’s lying low, somewhere in Colorado. That’s not why Bodie’s over here is it?”
Doyle caught a flash of something with the question, but nothing he could pin down. Maybe Martin was annoyed he’d been given so little information about it.
“No,” he said. “Willis sent for him. I don’t think Cowley knows a lot more than that.”
“Oh, he’ll know something,” Martin said. “Well, I hope they’ve plenty for you to do at the PD, unless you’d rather do some sightseeing. No—I forgot, you probably know the place better than I do. You were here for some time weren’t you.”
“It was one of those jobs that was report to the old man only,” Doyle said. “What made you move here anyway? I thought you were settled in Seattle.”
“Oh, a hint of a few things going on CI5 might be interested in. Anyway, my girlfriend lives here—you’ll have to come and have dinner with us. I’m going to have to scarper now though. I’ve got a meet with a very nervy contact, definitely not one I want to take a stranger along to.”
Doyle nodded. “Mind if I use the computer here for a bit?”
“Help yourself. The security lock on the door’s automatic, so don’t worry about anything but closing it when you leave.”
Doyle shrugged off the feeling that there had been anything to add to his unease in the conversation. Without Macklin’s input he was sure he would have noticed nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn’t even as if Martin had pushed the questions about Bodie. He turned with relief to the computer and the familiar search mechanisms of CI5. He had a much better chance here of finding out something about Serensky and his research.
Jim Ellison made his fourth security check of the day, and was glad that it would be the last. Everything was monotonously correct. Everyone saluted him in a way which would have greatly amused his colleagues in Major Crimes and which made his mood even worse than it already was. There had been only one bright spot in the day, and that had been the moment in the morning when they discovered that Serensky didn’t expect to take more than a couple of weeks to complete his work.
“It is not a question of invention,” he’d told them, rather condescendingly. “The thinking and planning I completed in my home country. Here I am assembling and testing. If the parts being delivered function as they should do, most of my time will be spent on testing and calibration.”
It was going to be a long two weeks though. Jim had cravenly avoided Blair that morning by the simple method of getting out of bed before dawn and moving reasonably quietly around the loft—it didn’t take stealth to avoid waking Blair. He’d left coffee for him, and put a spare alarm on the floor outside the spare room door. Blair would understand the gesture.
Now as he extended his senses to check the area he was observing, he thought he might suggest to Bodie he came back to the loft. Anything rather than spend the evening dodging conversation. He found nothing at all amiss around him, but as he ended his scrutiny he was aware of a scent he vaguely recognised and associated with some other place. It came from beyond the boundary of the lab area. He strolled over to the gate into the guide compound and nodded to the guard who, inevitably, saluted and smartly opened the gate. He wondered why Security One had preferred to take its ethos from the army rather than the police.
The scent proved to belong to a girl he’d once known quite well; he remembered as soon as he saw her that she had a French grandmother who sent it for her from some tiny French perfume firm. Louise, that was her name. She’d worked at Major Crimes for a while, then been co-opted to Security One back in the days when Kincaid was in charge. She hadn’t wanted to go, which made her okay in Jim’s book.
“Detective Ellison!” she said. “It’s good to see you again.”
She obviously meant it, and showed no sign of being about to salute. Jim thought back to the lists he and Bodie had studied. He would have recognised her name if it appeared.
“It’s good to see you, too,” he said. “You’re not on duty here, though, are you?”
“No, sir. I’m just delivering files to the facility. I’ve got a pass from Dr Andros.”
“You’re still at Security One headquarters?”
“Yes—every time I applied for a transfer Kincaid turned it down, and of course now we’re sorting out the mess he left. Once that’s dealt with though, I’ll apply again.”
“I’ll have a word with Captain Banks,” Jim promised. “Maybe if he requests your return at the same time that would help.”
“I’d be really grateful. You are still with Major Crimes, then?”
“Yes, this is just a temporary assignment.”
Louise hesitated. “I wonder if I could mention something to you… I mean, it’s probably not anything the PD could take up but… it’s to do with the facility.”
“You could go into the facility if you wanted, couldn’t you. Especially now, if you’re the senior sentinel in charge at the site.”
“I could do, yes,” Jim agreed, wondering where this was leading.
Louise finally got to the point. “I’ve been going there for a while now. There’s a room, second floor, third door along, which is always kept locked and where I’m sure someone is being held. Once or twice I’ve heard sounds that definitely sound like someone in pain. I asked once and got brushed off with the answer that it was a safe room for guides who were distressed, but I’ve never seen a guide near it, and there’s always some sort of guard on that floor.”
Jim thought for a moment. “Security One do hold people for questioning. I’m not sure why they would use the facility, but it is possible.”
“It didn’t sound like someone being questioned, it was more like an animal in pain.”
That didn’t seem to Jim beyond the bounds of possibility for Security One’s interrogation methods. “I’ll look into it if I get a chance,” he promised. “But what Security One can do legally is pretty extensive.”
“Tell me about it,” she agreed. “Well, I’d better get these back to central. I hope I’ll see you again.”
Jim glanced at his watch and realised the day was, thankfully, almost over. Back at the lab, Serensky seemed to be packing up. He waited to speak to Bodie until they’d safely handed him over to his own men who would drive him back to his hotel with a Security One escort in unobtrusive attendance.
Bodie listened to the story with the same reservations as Jim. “She didn’t look the sort to jump to conclusions,” he said slowly.
“You noticed her?” Jim asked.
“Oh yes. She’s the only attractive sight I’ve seen all day. Anyway, you broke your usual routine to speak to her.”
Jim nodded. Even when he was bored, Bodie was professional. “What do you think then?”
Bodie shrugged. “However nasty it is, it’ll be legal,” was his opinion. “But it wouldn’t hurt to know what’s going on. We could go over and call on Dr Andros some time in the next few days—that would just be a polite gesture.”
They called at the hotel to see if there were any messages for Bodie. There was a brief one from Doyle, to say that Martin would report in to Cowley for them and say that Bodie was babysitting a VIP and Doyle had begun at Major Crimes.
It sounded bland, impersonal and very convenient. Jim could see it made Bodie highly uneasy.
“Maybe he’s just decided to play it your way,” he said slowly.
Bodie shook his head. “He didn’t buy the VIP story for a minute. I was expecting one hell of an argument.”
“You didn’t get one?”
“Not a word about it. Said he’d see me around, and went off.” He paused. “He didn’t go back to his hotel last night, either.”
Jim didn’t always listen to Blair, but bits of what he was saying generally filtered through. He’d picked up a fairly clear idea of what Doyle had been doing before they met him. “He’s got a lot of contacts in Cascade,” he said.
“Yeah—and what sort of contacts?”
Jim got the point. “Well, if he finds out for himself what’s going on we’ll be in a worse position than if we’d told them,” he said.
In the end they also called around to Doyle’s hotel, and found they hadn’t seen him since the previous day when he booked in. Jim called Simon Banks, ostensibly to keep up to date on what was happening at Major Crimes, and found that Doyle had been there that morning—showing an absorbed interest in the PD’s computer systems.
“He couldn’t find out anything classified,” he told Bodie.
“I wouldn’t underestimate him,” Bodie muttered. “That was probably just his starting point.”
“You think he’ll report what he finds to your boss? That might help us in the long run.”
Bodie shrugged. “I’ll have to find a away to inform Cowley; that’s not the problem. It’s if he decided the direct method worked well last time…”
Jim pulled up to a halt outside the loft. “Last time no one was expecting trouble or any threat to the Resonator, and Doyle was working under Cowley’s orders. Cowley wouldn’t sanction him trying to destroy this one even if he found out about it; not with all the security. He’d guess we’re the ones guarding it. Doyle’s no vigilante. He wouldn’t go it alone.”
He just about convinced himself but he could see he hadn’t convinced Bodie. When he entered the empty loft he felt a sudden and completely irrational urgency to know where Blair was and what he was doing.
Blair was in a busy wine bar with a crowd of young grad students and a few other academics. He’d had a bit more to drink than usual, he was involved in a fascinating conversation with a man who actually seemed interested in discussing native tribes, and he’d just about managed to forget the things that had been worrying him.
It had been a strange sort of day. First of all, he’d staggered out of bed that morning and tripped over Jim’s alarm clock positioned neatly outside his room. It had obviously been meant as a helpful gesture not a booby trap, as Jim had also left coffee. All the same, it was not like Jim Ellison to run away from any confrontation, and it added to Blair’s sense of unease.
Then, after successfully forgetting about his worries during a packed day of teaching and writing, he’d just been tidying up—well, piling up so they didn’t fall over—his papers, when there was a knock on his basement office door and Doyle had lounged in looking exactly like the explosive, pre-Bodie Ray Doyle that Blair had first known.
He decided the only accurate name for what he was starting to feel was a sense of impending doom. It might be a clichÈ, but it was a horribly uncomfortable feeling.
Doyle had cut ruthlessly through his attempt at conversation. “I’m not stopping; I just wanted to catch you before you went home, to tell you not to push it with Ellison.”
“Not much chance of that,” Blair had said. “Do you mean you know what’s going on?”
Doyle had ignored that. “Just let it go for now. Don’t ask; don’t talk about it; give him some space.”
“And you’re going to do that with Bodie?”
“I won’t be seeing Bodie at all, so I won’t have a problem.”
He’d gone as abruptly as he’d come, shutting the door hard enough to jolt the table. Blair’s pile of papers had cascaded to the floor. The thought of the loft seemed very unappealing, and at that moment Kirsten, a pretty TA he was working at getting to know, had looked round the door to say a group of them were going out for the evening. It hadn’t been a difficult decision to go along.
It had been a pleasant evening. Less than a year ago he would have taken it for granted: friends, an evening out, a buzz of lively conversation. Even now, it was so easy to slip back into the college atmosphere that he could almost forget how dramatically his life had changed over the last year. It was like having two identities—Blair Sandburg, grad student, working for his thesis; and Blair Sandburg unregistered, unlawful—and currently feeling unwanted—guide to Jim Ellison.
He tuned back in to the words of the man he was talking to. Lee, he’d introduced himself as. He wasn’t from Rainier—Blair assumed he’d come with one of the girls—but he was remarkably well-informed about all sorts of interesting subjects, and seemed to have picked up from somewhere that Blair was studying anthropology. At the moment he was telling Blair about something he’d seen in West Africa. “They have little houses, like shrines I suppose, at each gate for the ashes. Kind of different from a mailbox.”
“Did you get to know the people?” Blair asked.
“Not really, not the way an anthropologist would. I spent more time in central southern Africa. Have you ever been there?”
Blair shook his head regretfully. “It would be interesting. Did you spend any time with tribal groups?”
“Oh, a bit. Some are very influenced by Western culture, but in some areas an anthropologist would find years of study. Take the whole western approach to sentinels and guides, for instance. That’s radically different from the attitude in some tribes.”
Blair couldn’t believe his luck. If there was anything he valued, it was first hand accounts of the sentinel and guide roles in other societies. “I’d really like to hear about that,” he said.
Lee glanced at his watch. “I’d be glad to tell you about it, but I have to go tonight. I’ll be in Cascade for a couple of weeks though. Is there a number I could phone you on? Maybe we could meet up for coffee.”
Blair was vaguely aware of sensing a surprising eagerness in the man, but his mind was slightly fuzzy after several glasses of wine. Anyway, it was natural enough to find the subject interesting; Lee seemed an educated and intelligent person. He gave him his cell phone number. “Or you can always find me at the University,” he said.
“I’ll be in touch,” Lee said.
The party was breaking up now anyway. Blair and several of the others decided to leave their cars on campus and share a taxi. It was latish, and he wondered if Jim would already be in bed. If he kept up the early to bed, early to rise routine they wouldn’t have much trouble avoiding each other.
Jim, though, was just saying goodbye to Bodie at the door as he got there. He thought he caught a flash of disappointment from Bodie when he saw him, and wondered if he’d hoped Doyle might be with him.
Jim looked in no mood for a discussion of anything. Once Bodie had gone, he walked through to the balcony as he had done the previous night and stood outside, staring across the city. Maybe he did need space. Blair poured himself some coffee and wandered out to join him. The view was a jumble of lights in the darkness, some distinct shapes of windows, others too far to define. He wondered what Jim saw, but he didn’t ask.
In the end, it was Jim who broke the silence. “Did you see Doyle today.”
“For a couple of minutes, that was all. He just looked in on me at Rainier.”
“What did he want?” There was a harshness in Jim’s tone that belonged in the interrogation room, not the loft.
“He told me to leave you alone,” Blair said. “That’s what you want, right?”
He turned to go back inside, but there was something about Jim’s silhouette that held him in the doorway. Partly it was the reminder of the first time he’d met him, but more that for the second night in succession the most noticeable thing about him was the tautness of the line of his body, like some piece of metal bent and tense. If someone had sculpted the shape, it would have spoken of anger and pain.
“Jim?” he said softly, turning back. “He didn’t tell me anything except that. Not to push you, not to try and make you talk, just to give you space. That’s all he said, then he went.”
Jim sighed and straightened up. He no longer looked like metal, or even much like a sentinel, just human and tired. “He say if he was going to talk to Bodie?”
“He said he wouldn’t be seeing Bodie.” Blair hadn’t thought much about it then except as meaning Doyle had no plans to see Bodie that evening, but now he wondered. There had been something in Doyle’s tone…
Jim beckoned him to the railings, one hand dropping warm across Blair’s shoulders, the other gesturing out across the night. “You know what I see when I look out there? With you here with me, I can see street after street, home after home. I can look out across the harbour. I can stretch out my hearing and know who’s safe and who’s in trouble. I can hear a mother trying to get her baby back to sleep, and a few blocks from her a pusher threatening some kid for not bringing enough cash. And all I want to do is make a few more people safe, give that baby a chance to grow up without knowing what a pusher sells. I don’t want this job for Security One, and I don’t know what the hell to do about it.”
Blair felt an ache in his chest at the defeated note in his sentinel’s voice; he couldn’t remember ever having felt quite so useless. He couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Through the bond and through his growing friendship for Jim he could feel every nuance of the burden on him, and could do nothing at all to lift it. At least, it seemed like that to him. He was so taken aback when Jim said quietly, “Thanks, Chief,” he almost said ‘what for?’ He was doing nothing but stand there. Jim’s arm tightened around his shoulder, though, and he stood silent and let the sense of the bond between them deepen and grow. If all he could give Jim was simply to be there, he’d give him that.
Later, as he sprawled on his unmade bed on the edge of sleep, he wondered if that had been part of what Doyle had been trying to tell him. And why Doyle obviously felt it wasn’t something he could give Bodie.
Late though it was, Bodie had gone from the loft to the building that housed Barry Martin’s rooms. Martin would be there by now; possibly accompanied by his current girlfriend, but Bodie had no scruples about using his hearing to assess the state of play inside. He had no particular desire to see Martin for himself, but the man was his only safe way of getting information to CI5 in London, and he no longer felt he had an option on letting Cowley know what was happening at the labs.
He didn’t hope for much from the old man; it was pretty clear there was going to be no clean way out of this situation. But there was a good chance Doyle would make his own contact with Cowley and he didn’t underestimate Doyle’s ability to ferret out the truth of what was going on. He wanted to get in first with his assessment. With any luck, whatever Doyle had found out Cowley would forbid him to do anything precipitate about the Resonator.
As it happened, Martin was only just arriving back as Bodie pulled up. For once he wasn’t with a glamorous blonde but a man around Bodie’s own age. Bodie made no move to get out of the car—at first because this might be some contact Martin wouldn’t want spooking, but then because as he looked at Martin’s companion, some faint memory stirred.
He’d met this man.
He extended his hearing cautiously—the street noises were unpredictable—and while he did so he struggled to remember. Africa. Some legit mission, but a nasty one. Martin’s companion had been CIA. But he’d heard something about him since then. He wished he could remember the man’s name.
He picked up their conversation mid-sentence, and struggled to make sense of it.
“… no good moving too early,” Martin’s companion was saying. “Your girl will let us know how things are progressing.”
“As much as she knows,” Martin said. “It won’t be to the day.”
“No, but it seems we’ve got nearly two weeks. Let’s stick to the game plan.”
“Maggie says security’s tight as a drum.”
“Don’t worry about it. It won’t be proof against two motivated sentinels who’ve had a hand in setting it up. You’re sure you weren’t seen tonight?”
“No it was a clean job.”
“Good. Keep an eye out for any developments though. I’ll be in touch.”
Bodie hastily drew back his hearing as the car door slammed and the man drove off. The conversation had been… interesting. He wondered exactly what Martin might be up to, and why he might be hand in glove with the CIA. Cowley had implied that nothing important was happening in the Northwest office at the moment.
He gave it five minutes and then went up to Martin’s door and carried out his original intention of telling him about the new Resonator and asking him to get a secure message through to Cowley.
“I want to know if he’s going to authorise any sort of action,” he added.
“Can’t imagine he would,” Martin said. “He’ll handle it at a political level. That’s what he did last time, isn’t it.” He caught Bodie’s reaction and understood it. “You’re not telling me CI5 had something to do with that explosion at the facility?”
“I’m not telling you anything,” Bodie said. “But I’d like to know if Cowley sees any possibility of this one being blown up.”
Martin grinned. “Yes, I bet you would. All right, Bodie, I’ll be in touch. Will you be seeing Doyle?”
“I doubt it. You’ll have to leave some sort of message for me. And make it subtle, I don’t want Willis on my back.”
He went back to his hotel, more bothered than he had been before he called on Martin. There was something at the back of his mind, some half memory, about the man Martin was dealing with, and he had picked up physical signs of wariness from Martin that didn’t fit with his welcome.
He wondered if Doyle had picked up any sense of something wrong from Martin. Unless he was prepared to swallow his pride and ask him, which he wasn’t, he was unlikely to find out. He slept badly, his dreams filled with dusty African roads that led nowhere, only to carnage.
Barry Martin tapped impatiently on the desk as he waited for Brackett to pick up the phone and listen to this latest bit of news. They hadn’t known of CI5’s involvement in the destruction of the previous Resonator. He wondered how the hell the major had managed it. He and Cowley had never seen eye to eye on the whole sentinel guide thing, and he wasn’t particularly surprised he’d been left out of the loop, but it certainly gave him reservations about passing on Bodie’s report. He’d have to play his hand very carefully now, though. When Brackett had first approached him with the prospect of a staggeringly high price for the resonator, he’d been willing enough to offer his co-operation. Brackett had the buyers, and a game plan. Martin had the inside information from Security One headquarters and easier access to other security information. It had seemed like the perfect partnership. Maybe it still would be, if they could deal with all the complications as they arose. But it would be a couple of weeks before the machine was finished, according to Maggie, and until then he needed to look like an honest CI5 man working towards his pittance of a pension.
Doyle began his second day in Cascade as he’d begun his first, in the Major Crimes bullpen. He slid in behind Jim’s desk, and flipped on the computer, but without any urgency this time. He’d got all the information he was likely to get that way; now he’d got it he hardly knew what to do with it. There was just a chance he was wrong in his guesses, and Dr Serensky was in Cascade for some harmless purpose. Even if what he suspected was true, and Serensky was developing a new and worse version of the Resonator, he had no idea of a time scale. He could go to Cowley, but he needed more facts, some proof and ideally some sort of plan to propose. It was going to be a lot more difficult this time.
It was going to be a lot more difficult not just because of the greater security but because his own loyalties were less clear.
He’d known the moment he saw Bodie and Ellison walk in from the dinner that it was bad news, and he hadn’t needed to do a lot of detecting to work out that if they wouldn’t talk about it, it was probably bad news for guides. Bodie and Ellison—officially unbonded—would be an obvious choice for Willis in any development of his systems for monitoring and controlling people with ‘guide’ abilities. They had a proven record of reliability compared to other unbonded sentinels, and would be assumed not to be influenced by any sympathies as a bonded sentinel might be. He wondered if a month ago this would have been true, and they would not have had any reservations about their assignment. Ellison might have done, but he would have been ignorant about guides; Bodie… well, even now he wasn’t sure how far he’d trust Bodie…
He registered abruptly that this wasn’t the first time his name had been called from the captain’s office—and that the volume was getting louder. Embarrassed, he jumped to it, picking up a certain amount of sympathetic amusement from the Major Crimes detectives. Although he wasn’t exactly in the position of Megan Connor, on exchange, he certainly wasn’t supposed to be ignoring Simon Banks.
Banks was evidently already part way through a briefing. “Doyle—you know Brown and Rafe?” he introduced the two detectives already in the room.
Doyle nodded. He had only made their acquaintance briefly, but the one thing he did know about them was that Jim Ellison trusted them, and he respected Jim’s judgement.
“I’d like you to go out with them, take a look at a homicide they’re just getting out of the bay. It doesn’t look like an ordinary killing—in fact I think there’s a good chance Security One may take over the investigation, but so far it’s ours.”
“You said it hadn’t been in the water long,” Brown asked.
“No—we were lucky there. The body was well out and it was sheer chance it had snagged on a piece of driftwood. That kept it afloat just enough for a fishing boat to spot it around dawn. Apart from that, what I’ve got so far is that the victim had been shot once in the chest and once in the back of the neck, and although all ID seems to have been removed from his clothing someone with sharp eyes down there noticed his shoes were unusual, and the heels contained several devices not normally supplied by shoe manufacturers.”
Rafe was looking over the notes on the desk. “Says here clothes look European.”
“Yes, not that that necessarily means much these days. But I thought you might like to go along, Doyle; it’ll give you a chance to see how we go about things, and it’s probably closer to your normal work than most of what we do.”
“Thanks,” Doyle said, grateful for the chance to be involved, and relieved to be able to shelve his own problems for a while.
Brown and Rafe were likeable company, treating him as a colleague rather than a ride-along. He didn’t expect to be able to contribute much, especially as they got a message while they were on their way to say that they could do the preliminary work of the investigation, but Security One would be sending an officer down to assess things. He was, consequently, taken aback when he realised he could identify the corpse.
He looked round the busy scene. Cars, uniformed men, someone from the coastguard and a forensics team were all going about their work. Brown and Rafe had left it to him to decide what he would look at and how far he would tag along with them as they collated the information so far. He looked down again at the pallid face of the dead man, and thought it was unlikely he would appear on their database, though Security One might have something on him in Europe.
No one was paying him any attention. He went back to the car, and called Simon Banks on his cell phone.
“You know him?” Banks asked, startled.
“Only from an investigation a long time ago. He was calling himself Donatti then. I doubt if he’s on anything Interpol will have, because he’s no record. But he’s believed—by CI5 anyway—to be a procurer of new technology for a whole set of loosely linked terror organisations. We have him down in the UK as having been on the spot before the disappearance of new aircraft technology; in France he was in the area before a biolab raid at Poitiers; Cowley had information from MI6 that he was also in Stuttgart before the failed attempt to kidnap a scientist developing a form of nerve gas. All circumstantial, but we’d have been watching him very closely if he’d come into the UK.”
“Hell,” Banks said, evidently quick to see the possible implications of this. “I suppose he may have been on his way anywhere in the state, though.”
“I don’t think so,” Doyle said slowly. “I think there may well be something being developed at the facility here.”
There was silence for a moment at the other end, then to Doyle’s relief Simon got the point. “Ellison and Bodie are looking after a visiting scientist.”
“I don’t know what he’s visiting for, ” Doyle said, “but I doubt if it’s just to give a few talks. And if Donatti is over here, others might well be. In fact, he’s probably been put out of the way, very professionally, by one of his rivals. There’ll be other organisations, or maybe those just out to make a profit.” He glanced out of the car window. “I think someone from Security One is arriving. What do you want me to do?”
“For now, just come back with Rafe and Brown, and you can tell me what you think is going on,” the captain said, clearly guessing Doyle suspected more than he’d said. “Oh, and Doyle… Security One were sending a sentinel down… It might be better if you wait in the car.”
Doyle was still assimilating this when Banks rang off. The big captain had never even given a hint ’til now that he had any idea Doyle was a guide, but the warning could have no other point. Even with the cocktail of drugs Doyle had taken that morning, an experienced sentinel might pick up on his presence. He stayed in the car, and watched as a young officer with a rather bullying manner arrived. Chemically enhanced sentinel, he decided, and probably no threat, but there was no point taking risks. Anyway, the man was being obnoxious to his shadowing guide, and it was easier to keep his temper by keeping his distance. It wasn’t long before Brown and Rafe returned and they were all heading back to Major Crimes.
Simon Banks looked harassed, as well he might at the prospect of adding the international element to Cascade’s usual villains, but he invited Doyle out to have some lunch and over the meal Doyle told him broadly what he thought might be happening.
“All I got from Jim was that he had to escort this VIP about,” Banks said. “Not that he could have said much else, I suppose. If you’re right it puts him in one hell of a position with Sandburg.”
Doyle nodded. “You know then?”
“Someone needs to cover their backs,” Banks said rather grimly. “You’re all playing a dangerous game. This is a good example of how it could come unstuck.”
Doyle couldn’t deny that. He was all too aware of very divided loyalties and a growing distance between himself and Bodie.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“The investigation’s out of my hands,” Banks said slowly. “Officially, anyway. You, on the other hand, are a relatively free agent. If you could get a few more facts about the research at the facility, or about any other interested parties, perhaps we could avoid worse trouble than we’ve got already.”
Doyle glanced up from his meal. In its way, this was a vote of confidence, and he appreciated it.
“I’ll get on to it,” he promised.
Jim Ellison found his week passing painfully slowly. Although he and Bodie carried out their work professionally, once their security set up was in place and minor improvements had been carried out, there was really very little to do. On the fourth day Willis visited Serensky and before he left they pointed out to him that in fact any reasonably competent officer could do what they were doing.
Willis disagreed. “Dr Serensky specifically asked for unbonded sentinels,” he pointed out, “and most of the others available are too young or inexperienced. He’s very satisfied with your work. I gather he’s making good progress so that his estimate of about two week’s work remains good. In addition, it appears possible there has been some breach of security about his work. We have a homicide victim who appears to have arrived in Cascade from some illegal European organisation, though we don’t have an exact identification. If he knew about the doctor being in Cascade, others will. You will remain on duty gentlemen, and as well as your normal vigilance, look into the possibility that information leaked from here. I will deal with the other possible sources.”
When he’d gone, Bodie said softly, “Know where I’d look for a leak?”
“Nah. That well-groomed blonde Willis has in his office. She has a surprisingly high security clearance because she works for him personally. There was something about the way she looked at us when she showed us in…”
Ellison shrugged. She hadn’t shown any interest in Bodie, but that hardly constituted grounds for suspicion. They had a number of people who might have known or guessed about Serensky’s assignment and could have talked, perhaps simply carelessly.
“We’ve got this place sewn up tight anyway,” Bodie added.
Ellison nodded. Not only was the place extremely well guarded, but only he and Bodie knew the details of some of the measures put into place at night. Dr Serensky had been slightly put out about that; apparently it was the breath of life to scientists to be able to wander into their labs at ungodly hours, but they’d managed, politely, to suggest that if he didn’t like it he could request their replacement. Ellison wondered slightly why he’d told Willis he was satisfied with them.
He wondered even more at the end of the day. Before they escorted him down to his car and his personal bodyguards, Dr Serensky said curtly to them, “Tomorrow I need to calibrate certain details. Please arrange for some guides to be brought to me, so that I may check the machine’s measurements.”
Ellison knew the look of outrage had shown momentarily on his face, though he schooled it quickly to the stiff-jawed military appearance he usually presented to the scientist.
Bodie said with equally careful lack of expression, “We’ll need to check that with the Controller and with Dr Andros.”
Dr Serensky took a folder of papers from his document case. “It surprises me that you should feel concern about this. The purpose of the guide facility is surely that guides should be available for use. But in fact I have all the necessary documents here. Dr Andros’ permission is not necessary, although it might be helpful if she chooses individuals with some degree of self possession.”
“You’re not…” Jim felt Bodie’s grip on his elbow, painfully tight and managed not to finish it.
“We’ll need to see your protocols,” Bodie said, still stalling.
Dr Serensky smiled, and produced two thick volumes of closely worded text. “Certainly. However, in case you do not have time to consider all the details, I assure you that nothing I intend to do will cause any pain or distress. I am sure Controller Willis can arrange this if you do not wish to.”
Ellison looked at Bodie and saw that they were thinking the same thing. If they couldn’t stop it, it would be better if they handled it themselves, and did their best to see the guides were treated with some dignity.
“We’ll see Dr Andros this evening,” he said slowly.
They had in fact been planning to call in at the facility, partly to follow up Louise’s concerns and partly out of courtesy—they’d liked Dr Andros at their previous brief meeting, and both Doyle and Sandburg had said she did her utmost for the guides under her care.
It couldn’t have been an easy task. When they were welcomed in to the facility after, thankfully, handing Serensky over to the evening shift, Jim was rather shocked to discover that Dr Andros remembered both of them from their previous visit mainly because of what she saw as their outstanding consideration to the guides there. It was nice that she was so pleased to see them, but Jim couldn’t help thinking that if he and Bodie had come over as memorably kind then the general treatment of guides must be even worse than he’d thought.
They got proof of it while they were still standing in the entrance hall listening to her greetings. The outer door opened abruptly and a young officer flung a girl into the hall so forcefully she tripped and stumbled over. The two guards behind him stood there with stolid approval. The young man, the badge on his sleeve indicating he was in the second stage of treatments to enhance his senses, followed her in. “This guide must be punished and retrained,” he demanded. “She’s completely incompetent.”
Jim glanced at Bodie, saw his slightly resigned agreement, and then they moved as one. Bodie closed the door firmly on the two guards outside. Jim took the officer in a hold that could easily have broken his arm and rammed him up against the wall. He heard Bodie lifting the girl to her feet and saying, “Up you get, sweetheart. No one’s going to hurt you”
Doyle would have blasted him for being patronising, but in fact there was a surprising gentleness in his tone, which the girl seemed to respond to, getting to her feet and going to stand beside Dr Andros.
“She was incompetent,” the officer protested again, his indignation still audible although he could barely get enough breath in to speak. “I zoned twice during today’s reconnaissance.”
“Zones happen,” Jim said, remembering uncomfortably how angry he always felt himself at the lack of control when he zoned. “She brought you back?”
“How quickly?” He turned to the girl, who was more likely to know.
“It was no more than a couple of minutes, sentinel,” the girl said nervously. “His hearing was his first sense enhanced, and there were no problems with that. Sight is newer…”
She was understandably nervous, and her face was blotchy with tears, but Jim could detect a trace of that daunting interest in the subject that characterised Sandburg.
“Sounds fair enough to me,” Bodie said. He came and joined Jim and the last traces of the young officer’s arrogance disappeared as the two older and more powerful sentinels crowded him.
“I’m sorry, sir,” he said, and Jim realised with surprise that he actually was.
“What’s your name?” he asked, relaxing his hold a little.
“Cardew, sir. Enhanced sentinel, second class. Number…”
“All right,” Jim interrupted this hastily. “We want to speak to you, not to arrest you. Now, what’s the name of this guide who has been helping you?”
Cardew blinked. As Jim knew quite well, he would have addressed her all day simply as ‘guide’ not offering her the dignity of using her name. Now his eyes flicked to her for help, and she would have given it, but Bodie shook his head at her.
“I don’t know, sir,” Cardew said eventually.
Jim let him go, and turned to the girl. “I’m sorry you’ve had such an unpleasant day,” he said. “I’m Jim Ellison, this is Bodie. You’re…?”
She was visibly taken aback at being spoken to as some kind of equal, but she handled it, straightening up and managing a smile. “Frances, sentinel Ellison, Frances Levison.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Levison.” He was being a lot more formally polite than came naturally to him, but there was something about Cardew that suggested he might still be capable of learning a better route than Security One’s training had taken him on.
Bodie looked as if he was finding all this chivalry a strain, but he said to Frances kindly enough, “Dr Andros was just offering us coffee. Maybe you’d like to join us. Though in England we’d say you probably need a nice cup of tea.”
Apart from the lingering trace of redness round her eyes, Frances had recovered. She looked, Jim thought, like a thoroughly nice, ordinary girl. “My grandparents are English,” she said. “I’d love a cup of tea.”
Dr Andros, who looked as if she’d like to applaud, or possibly nominate Jim and Bodie for sainthood, showed her approval of this arrangement by ushering Frances and Bodie down the hall to her sitting room. Jim turned Cardew towards the door. He was about to explain to him in unpleasant detail exactly what would happen to him if he tried to take out his humiliation on Frances or any other guides at the facility, but Cardew took him aback by saying, “I’d like to apologise, sir. I didn’t realise… that is, in training…” He took a deep breath, and finally met Jim’s eyes. “I didn’t really think of her as a person ’til you spoke to her like one.”
He was actually ashamed, Jim realised, and warmed to him a little. “All the guides here are people,” he said, less sternly. “You’ll find you’re a hell of a lot more successful if you remember that and work with them, rather than bullying them.”
“I won’t forget, sir,” Cardew said, rubbing at the bruises on his throat.
Jim allowed something like a smile to reach his eyes. ” No, I don’t suppose you will.”
He walked with Cardew as far as his car, and talked to him about the work he’d been doing. No need for the guards to get the impression their officer had just had a dressing down.
Bodie, wishing his coffee was something stronger, made small talk and hoped Ellison would get a move on. Not that he had anything against Frances; in spite of the odd smudge where she’d swiped tears away she was a pleasant girl, and although he didn’t run to the sort of morality that seemed to come naturally to Ellison he didn’t like seeing women knocked around. It was Dr Andros’ gratitude that had him wanting to run for cover.
He managed to turn the conversation to England, and chatted doggedly about it while he waited for Jim to return, though he’d spent more of his adult life out of the country than in it. Doyle would have done better, he thought; he had deeper roots, liked the place and the people… He really needed a drink if he was starting to think like that.
The door opened and Jim came in, looking less grim and accepting coffee gratefully.
“I don’t think you’ll have any more problems,” he told Frances, “but if you’d rather not work with him again we can arrange that.”
Frances finished her tea. “I wouldn’t be unhappy about working with him,” she said slowly. “I need to read more about the different stages of sense enhancement though. It’s a fascinating topic.”
Bodie tried not to sigh. Ellison said, “You know, if you’re interested in the history and development of sentinels, I know someone who would probably be happy to come and give you some lectures.”
“That would be wonderful,” Frances said, with genuine enthusiasm.
“Everyone would appreciate it,” Dr Andros agreed, glancing suddenly at her watch. “But I must leave you a moment, and see Frances to her room… the curfew, you know. We only have one guard at night so it has to be early.”
She hurried the girl off.
Bodie glanced at his watch. It was still early evening. “Wonderful social life they must have.”
Ellison was looking thoughtful. “You know, we’ve got almost complete control over everything on this site for a fortnight. I don’t suppose Willis was thinking of the running of the facility, but we’ve got the authority.”
Bodie suppressed another sigh. “Willis will notice if you suddenly arrange for them to go out and hit the town every evening.”
“There’s no need for them to be locked down like criminals. Doesn’t this place have any social rooms of its own?”
Dr Andros, on her return, answered that question. There were two large rooms that she would have liked to use, perhaps with a TV and music. “Even if they could just make a cup of coffee and sit and chat, it would be more cheerful for them,” she said. “I’ve brought it up at a couple of meetings, but no one seems willing to sign the permission for it—in case there’s some later problem I suppose, but I’m sure there wouldn’t be. And now the guard says it’s a security necessity to have this curfew, and his recommendation gets priority.”
Some lazy bastard who wanted to make his shift as easy as possible, Bodie thought cynically. He looked at Ellison. They really weren’t do-gooders. Spreading sweetness and light wasn’t on the covert-ops training sheet. On the other hand…
With a certain level of cynical amusement at his own actions, he joined Jim in signing the necessary papers authorising Dr Andros extremely moderate requests, and in going to pay a call on the guard. They found him with his feet up, in a small room well equipped with TV, kettle and snacks, adjoining the larger office where the security cameras showed empty hallways and grounds.
He jumped to his feet when they came in. “Detective Ellison,” he exclaimed, with what looked like very unhappy recognition.
“Roberts,” Jim said. “I heard you’d moved to Security One. Perhaps you know that I’m now responsible for all the security on the site—with my colleague here.”
Roberts looked at Bodie, obviously found him no improvement, and said sullenly, “No one told me I’d be being inspected.”
“You’re being reassigned,” Ellison told him. “Report to us before you go off duty tomorrow morning.”
Leaving the unhappy Roberts to make the most of his last night in comfort, they returned with Dr Andros to her office, where they had to explain to her the real reason for their visit and the request for some ‘guinea-pigs’ for the new Resonator which was being built. She didn’t raise any protest; as a physician she seemed to understand the processes involved better than they did. “It shouldn’t cause any problems for a guide who’s already fully online,” she said. “It was those who weren’t online who suffered. I’ll probably send Frances as she’s met you and she’s not a nervous person, and perhaps one other with her. It’s good of you to let me know in advance.”
There remained, then, only the other reason for their visit, which was less easy to tackle. In the end, Bodie played the sentinel card. “I hope you don’t mind us asking,” he said diplomatically, “but there have been some… unusual sounds… audible to us from one of your second floor rooms. Have you any problem there?”
Dr Andros was not suspicious by nature. “Oh, of course, you would have heard him. I’m surprised the Controller didn’t mention it—although perhaps he thinks it shouldn’t be mentioned…”
Seeing complete blankness on both their faces, she hurried on, “I’m sorry, I’m rambling. It’s just such a sad case, and we’re not having any success with the treatment. A sentinel, quite a young man really. He suffered, well we hardly know what, but he was with a covert group in the Balkans so we think it was some kind of attack. The hospitals couldn’t treat him, and I think the Controller was worried that it would be bad for morale. There’s no publicity here, and I specialised in the treatment of sentinels as well as guides, so he was placed here. At first I thought our guides might be able to calm him, but in fact there’s something very odd about his problems, and they seem to be quite damaged if they try.”
Bodie had the feeling long before she finished that he was going to regret ever having found out about this.
“His senses are wild?” Jim asked.
“No—well we don’t think so. We hardly know what’s wrong with him to be honest. If you don’t object, I’d be glad for you to come along with me when I go to check him in a few minutes. It’s just possible you as sentinels would see something in his symptoms.”
“He’s not reacting to other sentinels?” Jim asked.
“He doesn’t seem to be reacting to any outside stimulus. If he did react to you, I would see it as progress. He suffered no head trauma, but he does have signs of neurological damage and we’re not quite sure how he is perceiving reality.”
With gut-deep reluctance, Bodie followed her. What he expected was bad, but when he saw the man, the reality was worse. He was huddled in the corner of the room, and was more like an animal than a human being—a wild, rabid thing only made harmless by a total lack of co-ordination. He rolled over when he saw them and made violent efforts towards them, but his limbs would not obey him. It seemed to be mindless hostility at first, an unfocussed desire to kill or maim. Strip the control and the personality, Bodie thought, and maybe that darkness was all that remained.
Then the man seemed suddenly to register something different in his surroundings. Dr Andros, who had been moving towards him, paused. His hands swung wildly towards Bodie and Ellison, and a keening, desperate wail came from him.
Shaken, Bodie said, “Looks like he’s reacting to something.”
It wasn’t the sound; he’d never heard anything like that before, but the look in the man’s eyes. He’d seen it in men badly wounded, who nevertheless believed their officers would get them home. This wreck was asking for their help. Ellison had clearly seen the same. He dropped on his knees beside the man. “We’re on it kid. We’ll get something done.”
“Like making sure someone pays for doing this,” Bodie muttered.
He helped Ellison get the man up onto the low cot, where Dr Andros gave him an injection she said would help him rest overnight. Bodie wanted nothing better than to get as far and as fast as he could from this living image of his most unpleasant nightmares, but some sort of reluctant compassion held him briefly until the man settled and they left him to wake up to his misery the next day.
They didn’t linger over their farewells. Outside, they looked at one another. “I need a drink,” Bodie said bluntly.
Jim looked at his watch. It was still barely nine o’clock. “I want to call Louise,” he said slowly. “I think I can get her to do those night shifts for now; she wants to get away from Security One, and being out of headquarters would be a start. She used to room with a friend, Sarah I think—they might be free to come out if you aren’t in any hurry to get back.”
Bodie had learned—at an age when most people were still struggling with quadratic equations—how to live on the surface and refuse to acknowledge the darker depths. He shut away thought and enjoyed his evening. It was pleasant and sociable and without commitment, and the girls were good company. Louise was enthusiastic about moving to the facility. Although it meant night work, the guard there was allocated a bedroom, and was on the premises on call rather than on duty. Roberts, Bodie thought with satisfaction, would be regretting the loss of such a sinecure.
It was only when he was returning to his hotel in the early hours of the morning that his thoughts were harder to escape. He’d drunk more than usual, and everything seemed rather too loud and too bright. In the dimness of his room he struggled to control that and keep away other memories at the same time. It was several days since he’d seen Doyle; the thought tugged at him uncomfortably, his own words to Cowley coming back to mock him.
He could manage, he told himself angrily; and Doyle could no doubt find a supply of whatever was needed to damp down empathy. All the same, he found himself reaching for the phone, before second thoughts stopped him. He still had no idea what was going to happen about the Resonator and that would be too much of a stumbling block, he was sure now that Doyle had guessed its existence somehow. But worse than that, though less clearly acknowledged, the thought haunted him that maybe Doyle had sensed in him the raw savagery he’d seen tonight in the poor bastard at the facility. Didn’t sign up for that, did you, Goldilocks, he thought bitterly.
Blair looked at the essay he was marking, tried desperately to find at least one encouraging thing to say about the muddled logic and inadequate content, then gave up and pushed it away. He wasn’t exactly feeling positive anyway. If he’d drawn graphs in his carefully guarded ‘Jim’ notes, the one for mood would have been a black line, going downwards with ever faster plunges for the last seven days.
Jim knew it too, and that was making it even worse. He was trying much too hard not to take it out on Blair. At first Blair had been vaguely grateful for it, but now it was definitely making him suspicious. This wasn’t Jim being considerate—a concept which would anyway boggle the minds of most people who knew him—this was into Jim feeling guilty, and that was a worrying thought.
Also worrying him was the feeling that either he was developing a very specialised sort of paranoia or everyone else knew more than he did about what was going on. He hadn’t seen a lot of Ray Doyle, and what he had seen had been very unsatisfactory; Doyle was shutting him out at least as much as Jim was. Then yesterday he’d dropped into Major Crimes, and Simon, instead of bellowing at him about the department camera he’d totally forgotten to return, had called him into his office and given him coffee. And proceeded to talk to him in a manner more like an uncle than a police captain. It was very unnerving. No one had talked to him like that since he’d been too old for Naomi’s boyfriends to try to act as substitute fathers, and that could hardly be Simon’s motivation.
He looked again at the pile of marking waiting for his comments and decided to go out. He’d a call to make he’d been putting off for too long. Bobby O’Connell would think he’d forgotten him.
The O’Connell’s lived in a quiet street. Ryan O’Connell worked for a large garage; his wife, Jess, had worked with children. They had a married daughter who’d moved to Seattle, and Bobby, who had once been studying at Rainier.
Jess opened the door to Blair, and in spite of the tiredness round her eyes, brightened in welcome. “Blair! Come in, we’ve missed you. I’m so glad you’ve got a research grant though. How did you manage it?”
Blair gave her a hug. “It’s great to see you, too.” He followed her into the house and through to the bright kitchen.
“I was just giving Bobby his lunch,” she said.
Blair pulled out a chair and sat down with her as she returned to her interrupted task of spooning some kind of puree into the mouth of the young man in the wheelchair, whose head and limbs jerked with enthusiasm when he saw Blair.
“Hey, Bobby,” Blair said.
Bobby, with an enormous effort at control managed to lift a hand and drop it onto Blair’s. There was frustration in his eyes at his own spasming movements, but Blair, who knew how good he’d been at all sports before this bizarre side effect of the first Resonator sweep damaged his brain, thought he was coping better than most people would have done.
He’d brought him videos of lectures, and some books that Jess would patiently read aloud. Bobby had been an A grade student and in many ways he still seemed to keep his interests—the damage had been more to his motor controls as far as anyone could understand it. Not that anyone had tried very hard. The general doctors had been kind but baffled; Jess had been trying for more than a year now to find some sort of specialist who might be able to offer them more hope.
Jess made coffee, pouring some into a lidded cup for Bobby and holding it for him while she chatted. “Bobby really enjoyed the last set of lectures you brought. Oh, and I might have a bit of good news, though we aren’t sure yet. Father McGuire, who’s come to help Father Jervis since he had his stroke, knows the lady doctor at the facility. He says she’s a kind woman; he’s going to ask her to come and meet Bobby, though whether she’ll be able to help we don’t know. Ryan was a bit doubtful about it, but we haven’t had anyone here for weeks, and it’s not as if she’s really a security person.”
The O’Connells provided a safe house for guides trying to keep away from the authorities. Blair had first met them when he and Doyle had been involved in the escape of guides from the facility, and as he got to know Bobby and found out what courses he’d been on, he’d stayed in touch and tried to bring him some study material from time to time. He liked the O’Connells, anyway. They weren’t natural militants, just good people. One of the things he liked best about them was the certainty that if there was some amazing upheaval in the scheme of things and sentinels became a persecuted minority, the O’Connells would offer them the same shelter they’d offered the guides.
“I’m sure it’ll be okay,” Blair said. “Dr Andros won’t be looking to make trouble. She does her best for the guides in the facility—if she wasn’t there they’d get someone a lot worse.”
Bobby tried to say something that to Blair was just a sound, but after a moment Jess got it. “Yes, Ray did say the same. I forgot to tell you Blair, we saw Ray in church yesterday. Did you know he was back from England?”
“Oh yes—he’s been kind of… busy, though. I haven’t seen much of him.”
Jess nodded. “We wondered… Well, it’s only rumours of course, but we wondered if perhaps he was back in Cascade because of the work going on at the labs.”
Blair had no idea what she was talking about, and it must have showed.
“It’s just there have been a lot of people connected with the movement saying something’s being built there at the moment, and naturally the fear is it’s a new Resonator. Seeing Ray Doyle back here, I just thought it might be true.”
“It couldn’t be,” Blair’s mouth said, while his brain was telling him to face up to the fact that this would make sense of a lot of things. “There’s no way it could be. Doyle hasn’t said anything.”
Jess took his empty cup, then stooped and gave him an unexpected hug. “I know, I felt like that when I first heard. It just seemed too horrible to contemplate. Perhaps it’s just a rumour after all.”
Blair knew she didn’t believe this; he didn’t either. He looked at Bobby, and Bobby managed to fling an arm towards him, sympathy in his eyes. If he’s coping with this, why the hell can’t I? Because I’ve just realised how many people have been lying to me this week, or obfuscating or whatever the hell you want to call it. Damn, Jim…
Suddenly, all he wanted was to get out and be on his own with his thoughts. He was rescued by the unexpected arrival of a neighbour, bringing some plants she’d been splitting. As Jess went out into the garden with her, he said a hasty goodbye. “I’ll come on Thursday,” he promised. He wanted to apologise to Bobby, but Bobby managed a sort of grin and he knew he was forgiven.
He drove around the streets completely aimlessly for the next hour, trying to think.
The result wasn’t very impressive. It must be a Resonator. He couldn’t face going home without knowing. He needed to talk to Doyle. Beyond that his mind just seemed to refuse to go. He realised with detached surprise that he actually felt sick.
In the end, he went back to the University. He marked his stack of essays in a sort of haze and with frank comments that would probably make his students toes curl. He sorted some papers, turned down an invitation out, decided he didn’t want anything to eat and phoned Ray Doyle six times without getting an answer. The seventh time, he caught him at the hotel, in a hurry and just going out.
“I need to talk to you,” he said quickly.
Doyle didn’t ask what about, he just told him to come to the hotel. “I’ll arrange for them to let you into my room. I won’t be back ’til late,” he said hastily. “I’ll have more time to talk to you then I hope, anyway. Wait for me there. ”
Blair put the phone down, feeling slightly better. Doyle would know what was going on. Anything was better than rumours and guesswork.
Kirsten looked round the door again. “Just came to see if you’ve changed your mind,” she said. “We’re all going to the Spittoon and Bucket.” She looked at him more closely. “Come on, Blair. If those essays made you feel that bad, you definitely need a drink!” She slid a persuasive hand round the back of his neck.
Blair reconsidered. For once, he’d really welcome a drink. Quite a lot of drinks. He didn’t want to do any more thinking. Anyway, he had nothing better to do, and a low resistance to the persuasion of pretty girls. “Spittoon and Bucket?” he asked in disbelief as he followed her out.
Doyle strolled through one of Cascade’s rougher areas, feeling more at home than he did in the prosperous district round his hotel. He’d built up his cover here for several months earlier in the year: people recognised him and a few called a greeting. Anyone in organised crime knew he had powerful friends and left him well alone; the locals didn’t ask about his business, but he’d somehow got to know a lot of them. Ray from London, he was to them, and he’d never managed to convince anyone that the London he really knew consisted of streets as rough as these.
“Where you been, Ray?” a girl called across the traffic. She was standing in a doorway with a couple of friends. The skimpy top she wore emphasised her gauntness; her bare arms already had veins collapsed from over use.
He crossed to join them. “Had to go back to the UK. See some soccer, do some business, call on the queen…”
They giggled. “Are the girls there as pretty as us?”
They had layers of make-up on, and provocative clothing, and were out on the street to work.
“Nowhere near,” he said.
“Why don’t you ever want us then?”
They said it every time he saw them. Making up new excuses had become a sort of sort of game.
“Promised my old mum,” he said, making them giggle again. “But I brought you a present from London.”
He pulled out a teddy dressed in a union jack. It was designed so that its paws clasped tightly—to hold onto pockets or rucksacks—and he’d wedged more than two hundred dollars into them. “Did some good deals there. You don’t need to work tonight—go and have a girl’s night out.”
They snatched the bear laughing, the hard lines that already made their faces too old softening a little at the absurdity of the phrase and the prospect of a more carefree evening. As they ran off, he heard them bickering, not about the money but about who would get to keep the bear.
“You’re a fool, Ray Doyle,” a voice drifted to him from a shadowed corner where a passage led to a bar. This he knew was the man he’d come here to meet.
“Jako,” he acknowledged coolly, joining him. “Got to keep my cover up.”
“We could have used that money,” Jako said, leading the way to a side-entrance. “They’ll squander it on drink and drugs.”
“Not all of it. Annie’s got young brothers; Maria’s got a grandmother who doesn’t even recognise her any more. They don’t work just to feed a habit.”
Jako made a noise of disgust. “There’s plenty like them on every street. You’ve been hanging round the priests too much. Wanting to be a little saint and make a difference. You need to keep your mind on the movement.”
“What the hell do you think I’ve been trying to do?” Doyle said. “I put out I had urgent news. Why has it taken so long to get a meet?”
He followed Jako through the side of the smoke-filled bar and into a back room. There was a man already there, a stranger to Doyle. Jako got a new bodyguard? he wondered idly. The man was certainly big enough.
Jako closed the door on the noisy drinkers, and motioned to Doyle to sit down. “I know what you think you’re on to,” he said.
Doyle stayed standing, lounging against the wall.
“The research at the labs isn’t what you think,” Jako said. “There isn’t going to be a new Resonator.”
Doyle was taken aback, but he knew better than to let it show. Jako might be on the opposite side to Willis at the moment, but their views on power were similar, and Jako was always aware of any hint of weakness in anyone he was dealing with.
“Word on the street is that a big bidder is interested in buying one,” Doyle said, leaving out his own findings about Serensky.
Jako looked mildly interested. “Vultures gathering are they? Well, they’re going to be disappointed.”
“Security One seem to think they’re getting a Resonator,” Doyle persisted.
Jako smiled. “They do, don’t they. You see, Ray, Security One aren’t as thorough as they’d like us to believe. Dr. Serensky is well known in his field for having published the research and plans that led to the first resonator. Willis should really have looked a bit more closely at that work.”
Doyle was beginning to be interested. “It’s not exactly easy to read,” he said. “‘Scientist Today’ don’t seem to have produced the chatty version yet.”
“And the earliest work wasn’t written in English,” Jako agreed. “Add to that the fact that Dr Serensky comes from a small and obscure country in a part of the world that hasn’t particularly interested Security One; and the tendency of officials worldwide to tell authorities what they think they want to hear.”
“So what should Security One know about Dr Serensky that they failed to find out?”
Jako turned to the silent man in the background. “I’ve told you about Doyle. He blew up the previous resonator, and he’s a guide. Tell him about Dr Serensky.”
The man stood up and held out a hand. He had a crushing grip. “Mikkel,” he introduced himself briefly. “Serensky is my wife’s cousin. I have known him nearly all my life. What I am going to tell you is personal”
Doyle met the man’s eyes. “I’m used to keeping secrets.” There was rather too much truth in that—he didn’t like to think what would happen if Jako found out he was secretly bonded to a sentinel in the security forces—but Mikkel seemed to come to some sort of satisfactory assessment of him.
“Dr Serensky is a good man, a clever man. I do not understand the details of his work, but I have been with him to meetings and seen him explain to some of the leading scientists of important countries. He has for a long time been one of the world’s experts in… I don’t know your word… minds that have unusual patterns. He wanted to help.”
He said it bitterly. Interested, now, Doyle moved to sit down near him. “Help in what way?”
“There was a girl we knew, one of our community. When she was in her teens, she became part a guide. Do you understand what I mean? She could feel too much of the emotions around her to live comfortably, but her mind could not open enough to make the link with a sentinel. It made her life miserable. She knew the study Pieter was already doing; she begged him to find a way to help her. It was his first big research project. To find a way to open the paths of the mind, or to close them down again completely.
“He worked on it for more than two years. He went away to study in Paris and Cambridge. In these places he lived among people whose love was learning—they did not like Security One, but they did not fear them enough. Pieter learned from the best, and he came back to our country and made a device. It would not close the mind; even now I do not think he can do that; but it would open it fully.”
“He used it on the girl,” Jako put in, impatient with the length of the story.
“Esther,” Mikkel said. “Yes, he used it on her. Her family were very happy, because in my country it is a rare talent, and such people are highly valued. Then they made a very big mistake. Thinking she would have more opportunities, they sent her to the capital, where a new school had been set up especially to train guides.”
“There was no one local?” Doyle asked, completely involved by now.
“That is the worst of it. There was a local boy with some of the gifts of a sentinel. But he would have stayed local—he was with the herdsmen in summer and the rescue organisations in winter. We had all believed she would be his guide if the treatment worked. But her mother was ambitious.”
“We haven’t got all night,” Jako said irritably.
They ignored him. “What happened to her?” Doyle asked.
“The training place was a recruiting point for Security One. She was sent abroad to work with any sentinels who needed guiding. She was not very happy working in such a way, but perhaps she would have survived. Then a bond was forced upon her without her choice—the sentinel was needed urgently, she was utilised… In my country that is like rape. The sentinel was little more than an assassin for the military; all his gifts were used to kill. She could not live with the forced bond and what she was being made a part of. She killed herself.”
“But of course, that wasn’t the story the family were told,” Jako said. “It takes a while to ferret out the truth of these things. By the time Dr Serensky knew what had happened to her, his research was already well-known, and the first prototype resonator had been built here in Cascade, by a scientist who had studied with him. That one failed after a few sweeps. You dealt with the second. There was no one at the facility after the recent shake-ups qualified even to assemble a third. Willis, in his clean sweep after the Kincaid fiasco, decided to bring in Dr Serensky himself. Only, by now Dr Serensky knows exactly what Security One are. And what he’s building is not a Resonator.”
“What is it?” Doyle asked.
“That’s something you don’t need to know,” Jako said swiftly. “What we need you for, is to help get it out when it’s finished. The security at the facility is incredibly tight. Dr Serensky himself has no access without the sentinels responsible. But your way in might still work, and he thinks he can deal with the internal alarms and door codes. When he’s ready, we want you to get him in and do whatever’s necessary to get the machine out.”
Doyle heard the rare enthusiasm in Jako’s voice, something normally reserved for a decisive blow against the establishment. He wondered what on earth Serensky had put together. All he said, however, was, “What timescale are we looking at?”
“Less than a week with any luck,” Jako said. “Keep in touch, Doyle… and remember, this one’s going to be really big.”
Doyle made his way back to his hotel trying to make sense of this new twist. He hardly knew what to think. That it wasn’t a Resonator was good news, and he was prepared to believe he’d misjudged Serensky. But what the hell was the man building, and what was it going to mean for Ellison and Bodie. Too many loyalties were pulling him in different directions.
He glanced at his watch. It was late, but he could try to get hold of Barry Martin and through him to London. He couldn’t understand why there was no response from Cowley to his reports, and that afternoon when he’d tried to get through to CI5 direct he’d been automatically re-routed to Martin’s office.
Martin, however, was out; perhaps with the girlfriend Doyle still hadn’t met, and when Doyle tried to get through from the office he discovered the equipment was voice coded so that only Martin could use it. Vague unease in Doyle was beginning to harden to suspicion. Admittedly they’d only been in Cascade for a week or so, but this was definitely odd. He didn’t like feeling cut off. Somewhere he had Murphy’s private number and probably Jax’s; tomorrow he’d make a few private calls.
He arrived back at the hotel in the early hours of the morning, and only then remembered Blair. Well, he didn’t exactly remember him; he turned on the light in his room and was briefly startled to find him sprawled asleep on the bed, fully dressed. Doyle shook him slightly to wake him, and he rolled over and started snoring. He was flushed, and there was a distinct smell of something alcoholic spilled on his shirt. That was very unlike Blair. He shouldn’t have brushed him off so firmly when he rang.
Anyway, he’d have to wake him up to find out what was wrong, and that didn’t look like being easy. He shook him again, more ruthlessly.
Blair briefly opened his eyes. “Wha’ you doing here?”
“It’s my room. The important question is, what are you doing here?”
Blair frowned, obviously thinking hard about this one. Then he made a rather uncoordinated effort to sit up. Doyle could sense waves of confusion and misery now. “I went to see Bobby,” Blair said, as if this made things clear.
“Was he all right?”
“Uh huh. But Jess said… she said it might just be a rumour though… I thought you would know for sure.” He blinked at Doyle as if this made everything clear. Unfortunately, it probably did.
Doyle sighed. He’d really hoped this wasn’t what had brought Blair to him. A lot too many people seemed to have heard rumours. He wondered if Jako was behind some of them to help keep the secret of the real nature of Serensky’s work. That didn’t explain men like Donnatti, though. Meanwhile, Blair was looking at him as if he ought to have some answers.
“She said they might be building a new resonator?” Doyle said, making sure of his ground.
Blair nodded. He looked a mess, dishevelled and red-eyed and still not very coherent. Doyle decided that he’d have to go for something simple right now, and discuss the rest in the morning. He sat down next to Blair and made sure he’d got his attention.
“There isn’t going to be a new resonator. The scientist at the labs is building something different.”
To his surprise, Blair looked at him doubtfully, as if he thought he might be lying. “You sure about that?”
“I’m sure.” He let the certainty be tangible.
Doyle wished he knew. “To guides, anyway,” he said.
Satisfied now, Blair yawned. “Cool,” he said, with drowsy relief. He looked round as if he’d suddenly noticed where he was. “I wanted to know before I went back to the loft. Hey, it’s late. Did you know it was late?”
Doyle knew he was going to have to tackle at some point the fact that both Jim and Bodie definitely thought the thing was a resonator, but he wasn’t trying that ’til they’d both had some sleep and some coffee. “Yes, it’s late, and you’re still drunk,” he said, giving Blair a slight push which toppled him easily back. “You’d better stay here tonight. Go back to sleep.”
He kicked his own shoes off. At least the bed was huge, and Blair had closed his eyes as soon as he was horizontal. He rolled him over to one side, and Blair just grunted.
Doyle took three small yellow capsules from their hiding place, changed his mind and put them back. He’d already started to notice side effects from the quantity he was taking, though it was mostly just nausea and headaches. More irritating was the fact that the number he needed now to reduce his empathy to normal levels made him drowsy, which was why he usually took them last thing at night. It was unpleasant, and probably bad for him—but definitely preferable to the alternative of whinging to Bodie and proving he was a liability as a partner.
He would have slept better if he could have got out of his mind the image of Jako as a psychopath about to get his hands on a really big gun…
Jim Ellison woke at dawn. Well, dawn was when he decided to give up on trying to sleep, and got up; he’d woken at intervals all night. He’d got too much on his mind, and they spent too much of the day hanging about, inactive, he decided. Maybe he also vaguely wondered where Sandburg might be, but it wasn’t as if he owned the kid. They had their own lives.
Bodie appeared at what was still an indecently early hour. He didn’t look as if he’d slept well either, and he didn’t make any cracks about the fact that Jim was ready to go out of the door. He did ask where Sandburg was.
“No idea,” Jim said casually. “We don’t live in each others pockets.”
“He’ll probably be in someone’s bed.”
They’d fallen into a sort of routine of going in to the facility together, buying breakfast on the way. They’d got earlier every day. Bodie looked at his empty plate, and his watch.
“We’ve plenty of time. I might call in at Doyle’s hotel and leave a note. I’m having some problems getting in touch with our boss. He might be doing better.”
Jim refrained from pointing out that Cascade had had the telephone for a good long time. He knew what it felt like to want to avoid a conversation. Bodie scrawled untidily while the truck manoeuvred in and out of the traffic. “I’ll shove it under his door,” he said. “If I know Doyle, he’ll stagger out of bed at the last minute, and he certainly won’t think of asking if he’s got mail.”
Going where they wanted in the hotel was no problem—the armbands and passes they had at the moment would take them anywhere. He followed Bodie, who seemed to know his way, along landings that were still rather empty. He hoped no one thought they were going to kick in doors on a dawn raid.
Bodie paused outside a door, concentrated briefly and suddenly grinned. He turned to Jim and tapped his ear. Jim extended his hearing very cautiously, rather dubious about what Bodie might think it was okay to listen to. It was a week since he’d done this properly and it took him a moment to sort out the soft sounds, then a familiar quiet snore reached him. He listened more carefully. Two heartbeats, slow with sleep.
Bodie meanwhile had disappeared off down the landing to speak to a hotel employee. As Jim turned to see what he was doing, he returned with a master key. The employee hurried to be employed well away from whatever was happening. Very quietly, Bodie let them into the room. Reluctantly, Jim followed him. “Don’t wake them up,” he breathed. “I can do without being compared to the KGB.”
“You wouldn’t want to miss this,” Bodie said. “Wish I’d got a camera.”
“I’ve got a disposable in the truck. In case of accidents…”
“Go on—they won’t wake up.”
Jim looked at the two sprawled sleepers on the bed. Blair was on his back with his mouth open, his hair a tangled mess and his arms flung out widely. Doyle was on his stomach, his head on his arm. They both needed a shave. There was something irresistibly comic about the sight, though unlike Bodie he found it hard to switch off from everything else enough to appreciate it. He’d known men in the military like Bodie. They could be involved in the ugliest action with grim efficiency, then somehow leave it completely aside for crazy pranks back at base. Jim had never got the knack.
When he got back with the camera he found Bodie had picked the bed cover up off the floor and covered the sleepers so that it was impossible to see they were fully dressed. He’d also stuck a notice on the inside of the door:
|Sleeping Beauty Contest
All entrants failed to meet beauty requirement
“The flash will wake them,” Jim muttered.
“Not quickly enough.”
Bodie managed two shots before Doyle stirred and mumbled. He might have tried for another but Jim caught him by the arm and pulled him out of the room. “That’ll do.”
The manager had realised by now that his hotel had some sort of security crisis. “Is there a problem,” he asked, coming apprehensively to meet them as they entered the foyer.
“Not at all,” Jim said hastily. “We’ve… er… met with every cooperation.”
“You’re not arresting anyone?”
“No—your guests have been very helpful,” Bodie said, straight-faced. His good mood appeared to last until they were in sight of the facility, then Jim could feel the change as clearly as shadows falling.
They were met at the gate by the news there had been an incompetent attempt at a break in during the night. The criminals turned out to be two politically active students, who’d been rather drunk when they tried it, and were now sober and nervous. They had been sitting in an office for about six hours, waiting to be interrogated.
Jim glanced in through the window. “You want to be good cop or bad cop?”
“We always do bad and worse at CI5,” Bodie said. “Let them use the facilities before we start.”
It was good advice, Jim thought. The kids were practically wetting themselves at the sight of them. They really didn’t need to scare them much more. And in fact, after questioning them a bit, there was only one thing he wanted to know.
“You know,” he said, “you could be back at your studies in an hour with nothing worse on your records than a missed lecture.”
“Or we could stop wasting time here and take this conversation over to Security One headquarters,” Bodie put in. “Come on Ellison, stop pandering to them. If they want it the hard way, they can have it.”
“No, wait,” one of the students said hastily. “We don’t know what you want to know.”
“That’s it,” Bodie said with apparent impatience. “I’m calling the guards and getting them transferred.”
“We want to know how you knew about the Resonator,” Jim said more patiently. The youngsters were confused and frightened enough by now not to realise the Resonator hadn’t actually been mentioned before.
“Everyone knows about it,” one blurted out.
Bodie moved to the door.
“Not everyone,” the other said. “But honestly, sir, an awful lot of people are speculating about it. Lots of people who’ve got anything to do with the guide liberation movements are saying that must be what’s going on, and there’s rumours that some of Kincaid’s men are back to have a go for it.”
Jim looked at Bodie. Things were leaking badly by the sound of it, and he was sure it wasn’t from the facility. Bodie shrugged, and gestured to him to come outside.
“Kincaid’s probably still got a few friends at headquarters,” he said quietly.
“What about the liberationists?”
“The good doctor next door, maybe. She might think it was okay to drop a hint. The trouble is, we’re so shut in here we’d be the last to know even if all Cascade was talking about it.”
Jim thought a moment, then led the way out into the car park. There wasn’t really anywhere on the site where a call could be sure to be confidential, but this was the best option. He dialled Simon Bank’s cell phone, and was relieved when he answered promptly.
“Where are you, Simon?”
“In the car, why?”
“Because I want to know something off the record. I think we’ve got some leaks here or at headquarters. What do you know about my assignment?”
“Nothing officially. All right, Jim, I see what you’re getting at. It’s been suggested to me that there’s a new Resonator being built and you’re responsible for its security. I won’t ask you if that’s true. It came up in the context of that homicide in the harbour—which is a dead end that’s now been handed back to Major Crimes, by the way.”
Jim, not really confident about being free from unwanted listeners, wondered how to ask where the suggestion had come from. “Maybe we could arrange a meeting with you and with anyone who seems to have information.”
“Good idea,” Simon said. “You two certainly need to work on your communication skills. And Jim, my impression is that information is leaking pretty widely. One way or another, you need to watch your back.”
At that point the cars of Serensky and his security men pulled in through the gate. “I’ve got to go, Simon,” Jim said quickly. “If nothing else comes up, I’ll be in touch again this evening.”
When Serensky was safely settled into his lab, and the students, very subdued, had been sent back to their studies, he managed to find a moment to speak to Bodie. They could manage private conversations between themselves quite neatly, by speaking too quietly for anyone else to pick it up, while apparently both busy on other things.
“Sounds like that kid was right, and half Cascade knows about this thing.”
“Including Doyle, and probably Sandburg,” Bodie agreed. “I bet Doyle told Banks.”
“We made the wrong call.”
“We weren’t to know. Security One don’t usually leak like a sieve. And the problem’s the same, however many people know about it. Serensky’s going to have finished that thing in a few days, and we don’t have a way of preventing it. Unless you think we should blow the thing up ourselves, grab Doyle and Sandburg and head for the hills.”
Jim didn’t answer. Bodie might have been joking, but the idea had crossed his own mind, and was beginning to look a better option than most of the others he could think of. He decided to put a call through to headquarters and see if there was any truth in the rumour about Kincaid’s men. Absently he rubbed at his forehead as he did so. He had the weirdest headache this morning, odd spikes and troughs of pain, sometimes coinciding with the beginning of a spike in one sense or another which he had to make quite an effort to control.
Bodie listened to Ellison’s conversation. Not Kincaid himself, by the sound of it, just some hotheads wanting to show that their movement still had a hold in Cascade. It could still be troublesome. Catching Ellison’s eye he gestured at the guard rostra and went to make some adjustments. It would take his mind off the intermittent headache that was beginning to get on his nerves.
“You’re moving more guards to the facility?” Ellison asked, coming to look at what he was doing as he finished on the phone.
“They might go for hostages. I think we might bring in some extras anyway.”
Ellison nodded. “They sound as if they might go for some sort of all out assault to make a point.” He rubbed his eyes irritably.
Bodie, whose vision had reacted oddly at exactly the same moment, frowned. “You getting a headache? I know I am… odd sort of headache, too. Comes and goes.”
Ellison looked slightly relieved to discover it was happening to both of them. “Must be—what does Blair call it—something in the environment.”
“That’s labs for you. We could try opening a window.”
They went to put this low-tech solution into operation, and saw Frances and another girl being marched out of the facility as if they’d committed some sort of offence.
“Shit,” Bodie said. “Does everyone on this site think they need to treat them like delinquents. Come on.”
Neither he nor Ellison knew the two guards by more than name and appearance. Both men had shown up as quietly efficient ’til now. They were completely taken aback at the arrival of two annoyed superiors, when they were simply doing what was always done.
“We were told to bring them over to the labs,” one protested.
“I think you’ll find the word was ‘escort’,” Bodie said. “Not a forced march.”
“Go back to your duties,” Jim said. “We’ll take over from here.”
The guards went, one of them glancing back in surprise at the casual way the sentinels were talking to the girls. Bodie, automatically checking everything around him as he listened to Frances introduce her friend, noticed they weren’t the only ones. Serensky was looking down from the window of the laboratory, and when Bodie focussed in on his expression, he too looked as if he found the sight unexpected.
“Dr Andros says it won’t be a problem for us,” Frances was saying. Her companion, Krista apparently, was more silent and evidently more uncertain. “Will you be there?”
“We’ll be nearby,” Ellison said. “And we’ve got an extra guarantee.”
They were in the stairwell now, and he and Bodie stopped. Bodie took out a small electronic device. “We’re not quite sure how Dr Serensky is going to do these experiments, but it seems quite likely he won’t want us in the lab. We’ll listen if we can, but he may use white noise generators. If he does anything you don’t like, or says anything you don’t like I want you to press this. It’ll set alarms off all over the floor and we’ll be straight in there.”
Frances looked at it carefully and enclosed it in a small, capable hand. “Thank you.”
Krista looked at them as if she’d like to ask why, but couldn’t quite get the word out.
They introduced the girls to Dr Serensky, who ushered them into his lab, closed the door and locked it. They hadn’t expected that. Ellison rapped on it, but it didn’t open again. “Just a precaution against interruptions. This is a very delicate machine,” Dr Serensky said—he appeared to assume they’d be listening. After that there was the characteristic effect of a white noise generator.
Bodie shrugged. There was nothing they could do about that without Doyle or Sandburg. He looked at the door. There was nothing special about it—the secure part of the lab was a sort of walk in safe/cupboard at the back of that room.
“Wouldn’t stand up to two of us,” Ellison said, guessing his thoughts.
Bodie nodded. His headache had gone completely, he noticed. He went back to his work on rearranging the guard’s positions, while Ellison drafted in some extras and spoke to his captain in Major Crimes about the potential threat. And just as they had got fully involved in what they were doing and slightly relaxed their vigilance, their alarms went off like screeching banshees all over the room.
The door didn’t stand up to them.
They smashed into it together even before they’d got their reaction to the noise under control, and it came off both latch and hinges to crash flat onto the floor making the startled doctor jump out of the way. The girls looked not so much scared as impressed. And in Frances’ case, indignant.
“He took it away from me!” she said. “He wanted to know what I had in my hand, and when I said it was just something I needed he bent my hand over and forced it out, and then he set it off.”
“And I apologise,” said Dr Serensky hastily. Oddly, his bodily signs seemed to indicate it was the truth. “I had no idea… I was curious… Anything electronic could disrupt the work.”
He looked at Bodie and Ellison as if they were an equation that ought to work out and didn’t.
“I’ll continue with the door open,” he said, and to Frances, “If you’d rather go back, however, I’m sure these gentlemen would arrange it.”
Frances looked at Krista, and apparently speaking for both of them said, “No, we don’t mind. What you were doing seemed to have no effect at all.”
“It’s a matter only of infinitesimal adjustments,” Serensky said rather hastily. “We should be finished in another half an hour or so, anyway.”
“You can explain to Willis about the door,” Bodie told him, and they withdrew to the next room, satisfied now that there was no chance of the girls being distressed.
He went back to make some copies of the new arrangements to distribute immediately, and Ellison contacted each duty point with what little information they so far had about a potential assault. Bodie’s mind was on his work, and on the possible level of lunacy of the supporters Kincaid currently had in Cascade, and it was only at the edge of his consciousness at first that he became aware of thinking about his absent partner.
It was an odd sensation, once he noticed it, more of a sensory thing than a thought. It was as if all his senses had become slightly more alert, and their focus was missing. Why the hell should he be feeling like that? He dismissed it as best he could, but the intensity of it increased until he had to acknowledge it in order to control it. He found himself reaching for the phone to ring Major Crimes, stopped himself, and quite deliberately set his will against reacting. Now he was concentrating, he found the sensation came unevenly, almost overwhelming, then easing. Like the headaches.
He glanced, then, at Ellison. That muscle in Ellison’s jaw showed, a sure sign he was having trouble controlling something. Slowly Bodie stood, checked that nothing untoward was happening in Serensky’s room, and gestured to the door. Ellison followed him without question.
“You can feel it, can’t you?” Bodie said, as soon as they were outside. “Heartbeat not there, reaching for a scent that’s missing.”
“I can feel it,” Ellison said, uncomfortable but visibly relieved.
“When did it start?”
“I don’t know. In the last half hour. It’s got worse.”
“If it’s happening to both of us, it’s not real—just some sort of a blip. Maybe it’s having the girls around. If so, we’ve only got to live with it for a bit longer.”
The feeling became almost overwhelming when they went back inside. To Bodie, Doyle was a tangible absence. His anger though was directed neither at himself nor Doyle, but outwards. He didn’t know what was causing this, but he was going to fight it. He leaned on the desk beside Ellison.
“Right. Tell me something that really annoys you about Sandburg.”
Ellison looked at him blankly.
“Anything. Like Doyle has this look he gets if something comes up that’s a reminder of my less than stellar past, especially to do with being a mercenary—he won’t say anything, but he has this expression I always want to wipe off his face.”
“I get a bit of that about police methods sometimes. The worst thing about Sandburg, though, is he’s a total slob. I go in the bathroom after he’s been in, I catch myself thinking like my old man… you know, muttering about a few weeks at boot camp…”
Bodie grinned. “Bring back national service is our version,” he said. “Yes, I’ve seen Sandburg’s room. Right—keep that at the front of your mind. Hairs in the drain. The fact neither of them can shut up when it’s time to drop a subject.”
“Is there a point to this?”
“It’s like those damned dials. I can’t turn this down, I’ve tried, so I’m balancing it. Every sense tells me I want Doyle right here now, so I imagine him talking this whole resonator business to death.”
“If Blair was here, he’d want to analyse why I’ve got this feeling at all… I hate that…” He paused, and his face relaxed a little. “I suppose it does work in a way.”
“Common sense against the other five,” Bodie said, satisfied.
At that point Dr Serensky called out, “We’re finished in here.”
Bodie wasn’t sorry to have the prospect of getting outside. “Okay girls, we’ll walk you back, just in case you meet any more Neanderthals out there. I want to have a word with Dr Andros, anyway.”
He was aware of Serensky looking at them oddly again; in fact he was beginning to get the impression the scientist was having a frustrating morning as well. He hoped so. He glanced back as they reached the gate, and sure enough, Serensky was watching them. Well, they would be making his day worse soon, because they’d decided it was time to cancel research for the rest of the day, lock the resonator into the safe and go to security alert.
By the time they’d gone inside to talk to Dr Andros about the new arrangements, the sensory need for the guides had disappeared.
An hour after they’d got back to the lab, Willis called urgently, it was time to put their defences into action and they forgot about it completely.
In spite of the lingering headache and nausea that were by now a constant in his day, Ray Doyle’s morning began surprisingly pleasantly. Bodie’s note had removed his last doubts about trying to get some direct communication with London, and the daft joke on the door had amused him though it seemed to convince Blair the others were losing it.
When he got to Major Crimes they were roping in everyone available for an early morning bust. The wanted man had spent the night in a very seedy hotel. While they were getting into place they wanted someone he definitely wouldn’t recognise to be on the landing outside his door. Doyle and Megan Connor were the obvious choice for this, and a reason for loitering there was easy, given the nature of the place. He spent a happy hour enacting a passionate clinch with Megan on the landing. He could live with that sort of assignment.
It was only after the man had been successfully arrested that he had to turn his mind to his own problems. He was deeply uneasy about Barry Martin by now—Bodie had made it clear that he’d expected a fairly urgent response from Cowley, and he could guess why. If it had only been the blocked communications, he might just have gone to confront Martin about it, but he had a darker suspicion he hardly acknowledged even to himself.
Donnatti had been a very low profile player. Beside Doyle, there was only one man in Cascade who would have recognised him easily, and that was Martin, who had also been involved in the original CI5 case. He wasn’t happy with not mentioning this fact to Banks, but until he managed some sort of communication with Cowley he hesitated to go ahead.
He decided to go ahead with his original idea, and rang Murphy’s home number. Given the time difference there was a chance he’d be in, if not he’d have to leave a message.
Only this choice became hypothetical; the call was blocked.
He tried Jax’s number, the only other private one he had with him. The call was also blocked. He refused to believe that Barry Martin had that sort of ability to interfere with communications from the North West.
He sat and thought through the implications. This was a long way from his area of expertise, but he was fairly sure that this sort of security block on international numbers could only be achieved through Security One. Did that mean he was wrong about Martin, and Martin was genuinely having trouble getting through, or did it mean he had someone in Security One working with him.
He emailed Bodie with the basic information that he had had no contact with London since they arrived—unless Martin had sent his first bland message—and with the numbers that were blocked. He daren’t put more than that in such an insecure form of communication. Meanwhile he had one more number he thought he might try, which wouldn’t be on CI5’s normal records. He closed his eyes and pictured the scene at the warehouse where they’d been training, and Macklin on the phone. He could remember that number…
Before he could do any more about it, though, Simon Banks emerged from his office, obviously with urgent news. With the rest of the squad, he listened to the startling news that the remnants of Kincaid’s organisation might be planning an attack on the facility, and Major Crimes were wanted for support in the security operation.
“This goes no further than ourselves,” Simon finished. “Ellison doesn’t want them scared off, he wants to deal with them once and for all. We’re going to be there mainly as back up, but he wants some of us inside the guide hostel—Rafe, Brown, Connor, and Taggert, he asked for you specifically. The rest of you will get your orders directly from Ellison. Doyle, you’re with me.”
Doyle hesitated, then as the room cleared he said quietly, “Do you actually need me?”
“Is there a good reason for that question?”
“I’d like to go and get Sandburg. You said Ellison’s putting on extra guards at the facility because Kincaid’s men’s record of hostage taking. I think Blair could be a target. He was involved in the bust up of their previous attempt, and it’s not hard to find out he still works with Ellison. It wouldn’t be hard to track him down at Rainier.”
His empathy was barely half-blocked, and he felt Banks concern, surprisingly warm and immediate. “All right,” Banks said. “Reports are they’re just beginning to come in from places outside Cascade. With any luck, even if they’ve got him on their list they won’t have got that far yet. Call him and tell him to lock his door ’til you get there, and when you’ve got him, let me know.”
Doyle picked up the phone. At least Sandburg ought to be in his office. When he’d dropped him there that morning, he hadn’t looked as if he’d move voluntarily for quite a while.
Blair had, in fact, spent most of the morning resting his pounding head on a pile of objects on his desk and trying to summon up the resolve to get to his feet and put the kettle on. When he was busy, he thought irritably, there seemed to be an endless stream of visitors to his room. Now, when he could do with a hand—and make that a cool, sympathetic female one please—the door stayed obstinately shut.
“I can get up and make coffee,” he said aloud, trying to convince himself. “I can get up and… oh shit!”
He hadn’t moved far, but it had been enough to start a small landslide from his desk. Something had fallen off, landing with a crash that made him curl his arms round his head to blot out any further noise. When he recovered enough to look at the damage, he found his plaster cast of a Samoan fertility symbol was in fragments on the floor. He looked at the mess in dismay. Was it unlucky to break fertility symbols? Suppose you got seven years without…
No. Not from a replica surely. Anyway, he wasn’t going there. Coffee. That was the thing to concentrate on. An appealing vision of a steaming cup of coffee. If he thought of it long enough his body would get up and get it for him. Mind over matter, it always worked in the end.
In this case, it took nearly ’til lunchtime, and maybe the mind took a short nap somewhere along the way, but in the end he found himself actually on his feet and filling the kettle.
Slowly, blissfully, he downed a couple of cups of coffee, strong and black. By the time he’d reached the last drops of the second one, it had begun to work its magic. He felt, if not human, at least like some kind of sentient life form—something that could shuffle around upright and string together a couple of thoughts.
Evolution was reasonably rapid from then on. He drank more coffee, found he could move his head without wanting to yelp aloud and even picked up a couple of papers to read. He was just thinking he could cope with walking down the corridor to the facilities—the five cups of coffee were making themselves felt—when his telephone suddenly rang.
He just about coped with its noise, but he really wasn’t up to either the volume or the content of Ray Doyle’s rapid speech that poured out of the receiver.
“Hey, slower, man,” he complained. “I don’t get… oh… yes, okay, I get that part… Look my car’s here, why don’t I just get in it and… No, okay, cool down, but I really don’t think… Yes, it locks, but I was just going down the corridor… Well, because I’ve drunk five cups of coffee in the last couple of hours… Well, it depends what you call a matter of life and death… All right, I’ll lock the door, okay; just don’t be long… No! There is no way any self respecting anthropologist would do that to a Mayan urn!”
He slammed the phone down too hard and made himself wince. Fishing the key out of the CD player, he reluctantly locked his door, grumbling mentally at the fact he seemed to bring out wildly over-protective instincts in otherwise normal people. The Mayan urn caught his eye, and he firmly dismissed the thought. Mind over matter. He’d think about something else ’til Doyle arrived.
Ten minutes later, when he had just begun to be interested in what he was reading, someone tried his door. He almost called out, but realised in time Doyle would have announced himself. So would most people. He watched with sudden apprehension as whoever it was tried again, more forcefully. He thought there were voices, and moved to the door to listen.
“He should be in there,” someone was saying in a low voice.
“Well, we can soon get the door down then we’ll know one way or the other.”
“It’ll be noisy.”
“Doesn’t matter down here. Let’s get it down.”
Blair flinched slightly in anticipation. A moment later there was a brief sound of footsteps across the width of the corridor and something solid crashed into the door. It shuddered, and he could see quick signs of splintering round the lock. They were right. It wouldn’t hold. Thinking more quickly than he would have thought possible ten minutes before, he waited for the next impact, judging it from the brief flurry of footsteps. As the door creaked and shuddered, he unlocked it, hoping the sound of the man thudding into it would disguise the click of the key turning.
He waited, tense now, ’til he heard the first running footstep, then opened the door widely, protecting himself with its bulk. A large crew-cut man hurtled in, skidded on the priapismic pieces of plaster which still littered the floor, and crashed into the table. His head caught the edge as he fell, and he lay on the floor groaning under a shroud of falling pieces of paper.
It would have been very satisfactory if it wasn’t for the second man now framed in the doorway. He too was large and had cropped hair and a sort of pseudo-military uniform, and he looked pissed off. Blair backed, wishing the room was larger. Surely, somewhere he must have something solid enough to use as a weapon.
Before he could do more than glance frantically at his shelves, the man in the door way appeared to be struck down by divine wrath. At any rate, he suddenly grunted and toppled, filling what little space was left on the floor. Blair looked up from the wreck to see that it hadn’t been a thunderbolt but Ray Doyle, who was standing there cursing and rubbing the side of his hand as if it hurt.
“I thought I told you to lock the door,” Doyle said, stooping and cuffing one man’s hand to the other man’s ankle. “I’ll call Campus Security.”
Blair walked over the bodies and headed at full speed for the bathroom. He had every intention of explaining to Doyle that the manoeuvre with the door had been a stroke of genius and had probably saved the day, but some things were just more urgent.
Jim Ellison watched dusk fall with eyes which could see the most infinitesimal changes in the light. He and Bodie had set up their defences meticulously, and the only thing that worried him was the thought that Kincaid’s followers might realise they were walking into a trap and fail to come.
Where the original rumours had come from, he didn’t know, but as soon as they’d begun to follow them up, it had become clear they were true. Since Kincaid’s abrupt departure for Denver, there had been a large number of people on whom Security One had a close watch—sympathisers with Kincaid’s cause who apparently hadn’t been involved in his illegal operations or in the coup, but who nevertheless were potential trouble, and men out in the more mountainous areas who would almost certainly have come in to join him if he’d been successful. Quite a number of these were on the move, or at least not where they were expected to be.
Jim looked across the site. It looked exactly as it always did at this time in the evening; there was no hint of the extra manpower stationed all round. Dr Serensky was at Security One headquarters. His machine was locked into the safe. He had guards all round the guide facility, and the people he most trusted from Major Crimes inside.
“We’re ready,” Bodie said softly. “Hope they don’t let us down.”
“Willis is practically cheering. He wanted to put some of this lot away a month ago.”
“You think they’ll go for the hostage route?”
“Whichever way they go we’re ready for them. I can’t believe I didn’t think of Sandburg though.” He felt almost as guilty as if something had happened. He knew why he hadn’t thought of him. He’d put everything to do with this job in one compartment of his mind, and kept it entirely separate from Blair.
“He’s fine,” Bodie said. “Doyle knows what he’s doing.”
Jim nodded, and turned his mind back to the job. “What time do you reckon they’ll hit?”
“They know the times of the shift changes. I’d say they’ll give it ’til later. Maybe a lot later—early hours of the morning, when no one’s normally that alert. If they do go for hostages, they’ll expect everyone to be in bed and asleep, and only one guard on in the building.”
Jim had in fact arranged with Dr Andros to take everyone down into the basement, which was easy to secure for the Major Crimes team. With any luck, if the place was hit the guards would deal with the attackers before they even worked out where their victims had gone.
Meanwhile, everyone and everything was in place, and there was nothing to do but wait. Bodie was peaceful to wait with, capable of a sort of stillness that could turn in a second to explosive action. Night fell. Cautiously he extended his senses. Blair had done this with him quite a bit in the last few weeks, teaching Jim to map the night world with hearing and scent as well as reaching out with his sight, and he kept those lessons in mind. Withdrawing at one point he looked at Bodie. Bodie must have been doing the same, but it made his face hard with tension, and his hand was bleeding.
Bodie caught his glance and shrugged. “It grounds me,” he said. “Don’t rely on me too much. Have you got anything.”
Jim shook his head, and went back to his watch. He could focus his hearing more easily than any other sense. Guards, almost all doing exactly as they should be, but two very quietly discussing the previous night’s game. He muttered to Bodie, who went silently to deal with it, and looked amused when he came back.
“They won’t do that again. I think your hearing must be well ahead of the officers they’re used to.”
It was, as Bodie had predicted, the early hours of the morning when they finally heard something. Then Jim picked up the slight noises of men on the move outside the perimeter of the grounds—stealthy movements, whispered orders, the sound of a weapon being made ready.
The message was relayed to every point of the defences. He picked up a smallish body moving towards the main laboratory blocks, not enough to get in—more he suspected a diversion to ensure that the guide facility was even more vulnerable to attack. It was around the walls there that he could hear the most heartbeats and sense the main attack force.
He dialled his hearing down just in time, as something explosive hit the main gate.
Suddenly the night was full of noise and action. He and Bodie, coordinating, saw from very early on that their ambush had been a complete success. The men at the main gate, taken unexpectedly from behind and from the sides, as well as the direction they were expecting resistance to come from, went down quickly. They weren’t trained for this sort of fight.
Certain that the main force were now inside the perimeter, Jim called in the back up from Security One and the PD to take them away. The attackers at the guide facility were not taken quite so completely by surprise, but their whole strategy had relied on finding hostages. There was a longer and fiercer struggle, and some casualties on both sides, but they too went down.
It could almost have been a training exercise, except for the guards who were hurt.
“Willis is practically purring,” Bodie said, coming back from a hasty call to update headquarters. “We’ll never be more popular. How many do you think got away?”
Jim shrugged. “A few. I can’t hear anyone within quite a distance now. Eleven have been taken to Cascade General, and about twenty five locked up. There can’t have been many more.”
Bodie looked round at the clear up going on. “Safe to get the guides up now?”
“I’d say so. We’ll leave a good number of guards and the Major Crimes crew on the premises. As I said, I can’t hear anyone where they shouldn’t be.”
He followed Bodie through the gate into the facility grounds.
Inaudible to them, one of Kincaid’s men lay clutching at his bleeding leg in an outhouse he’d stumbled into. His name was Ross Holder, and he’d been carrying a white noise generator. He’d never got to use it for anything in the attack, but now he’d flipped it on to give himself some protection from the sweep he guessed the sentinels would be making.
His first thought had been simply to hide, and make his escape later, but Ross was a good hater. He hated all sorts of groups of people who didn’t fit his rather narrow views, but that was nothing to the hatred he felt right now for Ellison. He tied up the flesh wound in his leg, and looked at the floor of the outhouse. Judging by the tools piled up in here, it might have once led into the maintenance systems. He decided to wait ’til dawn. If the first light showed him nothing, he’d try to make his escape. If he could get into the shafts and tunnels that would lead around the building, then escape would not be nearly as satisfying as a chance for revenge on Ellison.
Jim and Bodie had decided it was not worth leaving the premises for what remained of the night. They had to be on duty again in the morning—Willis had made it clear that nothing should be allowed to interrupt Dr Serensky’s project. They borrowed a room at the facility, and settled in there to get a couple of hour’s sleep.
The satisfaction Jim had felt at the night’s work had drained considerably as the pace of things slowed. It was good so many more of Kincaid’s men were locked away, but now it was done he had time to realise how many of his other problems were still exactly the same.
Bodie, seeing his expression, said, “Go to sleep. Whatever’s bothering you, nothing’s going to change before morning.”
“That’s what’s bothering me,” Jim muttered, but it was good advice. He went to sleep.
Blair would have been surprised to know he was echoing Jim’s thoughts, as he said to Doyle the next morning, “Nothing’s changed you know.”
Doyle shrugged. “Jim and Bodie are okay and a lot of criminals have been locked up. Could have been worse.” He pulled into the car park at Rainier ready to drop Blair off.
“Hey, I’m not knocking it. But in everything else we’re back where we were. In fact, we’re worse off than we were. Now they think they’re keeping this secret from us and we know we’re keeping it from them.”
“There are a lot too many secrets in Cascade at the moment,” Doyle said. Blair vaguely knew Doyle had some sort of problem with both his official contacts and his unofficial ones, but he’d given up asking. “But I think it’s time we talked to Bodie and Ellison.”
“You told me to give Jim space,” Blair pointed out. “I wanted to talk to him.”
“I know, but that was a week ago, and we didn’t know then how quickly Serensky would be finished. I’m going to go and see Jako early this evening. I might know more after that. I’ll come straight from there to the loft.”
“You think Jim and Bodie will be there.”
“I’m going to have a word with Simon Banks. He… gave me his opinion about our ability to talk to each other yesterday.”
Blair grinned. “Bet that was good. I wish I’d been there.”
“Well, I gather he said something similar to Ellison, so I think we can guarantee at least he’ll be there. We don’t actually need Bodie.”
Blair, who’d been tactfully trying not to notice the increasingly gaunt look of Doyle’s face, or the fact that today he’d thrown up what little breakfast he’d eaten, thought this was one of the least convincing things he’d heard for a long time, but he stayed with tactful and hoped Simon had also noticed.
“All right,” he said, hauling his rucksack out of the back of Doyle’s car. “I’ve got enough work to keep me busy ’til this evening. I’ll make a decent meal for once. See you what—about eight?”
Blair watched him drive away, shook his head and went down to his basement where he discovered to his dismay that Campus Security had not simply removed Kincaid’s men, but had tidied up.
Bodie and Ellison, short on sleep but right at the top of Willis’ popularity list, made the most of their current status. Ellison rang headquarters and made sure the improvements in the guide facility went to the top of the priority sheet, and Bodie, troubled by Doyle’s email, called in all the records of blocks on calls to the UK, and for good measure got hold of the copies that went to Security One of the film from the various security cameras near Barry Martin’s rooms.
Serensky was silently busy in his lab, and the morning was very quiet. They worked methodically through the records and the videos.
And struck gold.
Caught quite recognisably on the fourth video they looked at, was the long-legged blonde PA from Security One headquarters, who had shown such a marked resistance to Bodie’s charms. She wasn’t showing any resistance to Martin at all. On that video, and enough others to prove it was a steady relationship, she was entering the building with him, entwined together.
“Should have known,” Bodie muttered. “That’s Barry’s sort of bird. He always went for blondes. Do we know what her name is?”
“Briggs,” Jim said. “Margaret, Maggie anyway. I’ve met her once or twice.”
“See if her name’s on those phone blocks.”
Jim glanced down the sheets, and as they’d both expected, it was there. “What are you going to do?” he asked.
Bodie looked at it. “What I don’t understand is why they’re doing it,” he said slowly. “I mean, it’s obvious Martin doesn’t want us in touch with London, but why? And how on earth could he imagine he could keep it up?”
“Maybe he doesn’t need to keep it up for long.”
Bodie shrugged. “Well, we’re going to have to ask one of them. Put a call through to headquarters and ask for Miss Briggs to be escorted down here.”
But when they rang headquarters, the lady was nowhere to be found, and it quite soon became obvious that she had bolted. That, if nothing else, made it clear they were on to something serious. Bodie put out an APB on Barry Martin.
He too was nowhere to be found.
Lee Brackett picked up his cell phone.
“Brackett? They’ve made us. I’ve got Maggie here. They’ve called in all the records of interference with the phones, and security camera footage of my place. We’ll have to move now.”
Brackett scowled. This was why he normally chose to work alone. However, it now seemed they had no choice. “All right,” he said shortly. “I’ll get Sandburg. You get Doyle. Even if he’s not Bodie’s guide, he’d be a bargaining piece.”
Blair had appreciated a slow and routine day, but he wasn’t sorry to pick up the phone mid afternoon and find Lee on the other end. He had very vague recollections from the other evening of having promised to go with him to see some African art. Those memories turned out to be correct. Lee was offering to pick him up and take him to see a friend who had an extensive collection. Blair glanced at his watch. There should be plenty of time to do that and still get back to the loft and put on a meal.
“Sure,” he said. “I’d love to see it. Where shall I meet you?”
Jack Kelso, wheeling himself across to a lecture, waved to Blair, who was standing in the car park evidently waiting for someone. He thought nothing of it ’til he happened to glance back, and see the man who was just opening the door for Sandburg to get into the car. Then he shouted and turned to wheel back in that direction, but by the time he’d swivelled his chair, the car was already pulling away.
He went straight inside to telephone Jim Ellison.
Ellison picked up the phone expecting yet another call from headquarters. He was surprised to get Jack Kelso, who’d been put through from Major Crimes. Soon as well as being surprised, he was alarmed.
He put the phone down and turned to Bodie. “That was Kelso. He says Blair for some reason just got into a car with a man he recognised as a rogue CIA agent—Brackett or something. Kelso thinks he’s bad news. He says Blair appeared to be waiting for him, and wasn’t forced into the car, but…”
“Brackett!” Bodie said abruptly. “Damn it. I’ve been trying to think of that name all week. Lee Brackett. You know I told you I recognised someone with Martin the other night. That’s who it was. Brackett. I knew him in Africa. I thought he still was CIA. I can’t believe it’s a coincidence he’s picked up Blair just after Martin’s found we’re on to him.”
Blair finished his coffee and put the empty cardboard cup down on the dashboard. Although it had been strong, he found himself yawning. Lee glanced at him. “Not far now,” he said.
Blair yawned again, more widely. It had been kind of Lee to stop at the outlet and pick up coffee, but he wished they’d just got on with the drive. He was feeling really tired for some reason.
He was aware of Lee looking at him again, and drowsy though he was, he felt he was sensing a strange mood in him. Before it had only seemed like eagerness; now it seemed something almost predatory. “Whereabouts are we going?” he tried to say, and began to feel really alarmed when the words came out oddly jumbled.
“Don’t worry about that,” Lee said. “You’ll be asleep before we get there.”
Blair blinked at him, wondering how he knew, but a tide of sleep was overwhelming him now. From a long way away he was aware of Lee saying something else, and then of his seat being tilted back, but his eyes felt too heavy to keep open any more. His brief alarm had faded into complete relaxation. His head rolled to one side, and he slept.
Doyle had gone in to Major Crimes after he left Blair at Rainier, and found the place rather empty and running on automatic. Most people who were there had been up all night and were drinking coffee and watching the news reports. The coverage was flattering, especially of Ellison and Bodie.
He made another attempt at dialling the numbers he thought he’d remembered from Macklin’s phone. He’d got a couple of wrong numbers the previous evening, but he was sure he had the right digits, it was just a question of order. This time he got a fish and chip shop, but he had the presence of mind to ask its address. He was in the right area.
He tried once more, and to his relief—almost overwhelming relief if he was honest with himself—he finally got the CI5 trainer.
Macklin listened without comment to his carefully edited story of what had happened since they reached Cascade, and more specifically, their problems with making any sort of contact with London.
“All right, Doyle, I’ll get on to it,” he said in the end. “Cowley’s at a big conference this morning—lots of politicians, lots of hot air. I’ll get him as soon as he’s free.”
“Thanks,” Doyle said. He hadn’t mentioned his actual suspicions of Martin, but since Macklin had been the first one to give him any doubts there he thought it probably wasn’t necessary.
“How’s Bodie doing with his senses?” Macklin asked, apparently casually, but Doyle knew Macklin was never casual.
“Okay. We haven’t been able to see a lot of each other. He’s pretty tied up with Security One.”
“How many hours would you say you’ve managed to spend working together since you’ve been in Cascade?” Macklin asked.
Doyle knew better than to answer that. “I should be seeing him tonight,” he said hastily, though he was far from certain of it. “Anyway, the job’s nearly over. That’s why we desperately need some feedback from Cowley—we’ve got some decisions to make before that.”
“I’ll let Cowley know the problem,” Macklin said. “His priority may be to find out what Martin’s playing at, but I’ll pass the rest on. And Doyle—you can call this number any time.”
“Thanks,” Doyle said again. He hadn’t felt able to mention the Resonator-which-wasn’t over an open line, so he’d concentrated on the communication problems. If he hadn’t heard from Cowley by the evening, he’d call again from somewhere else, and make sure the old man realised their problems. Maybe by then he’d have had a chance to talk to Ellison.
He decided he wasn’t going to be much use in Major Crimes for the time being, and anyway, he couldn’t take the risk of going straight from there to Jako’s. He looked in on Simon Banks, and told him that he and Blair were planning to be at the loft that evening. “I’ve got some information Ellison needs to have,” he explained. “I can’t let him know that, but you can. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get Bodie.”
Banks looked at him. Doyle had a feeling that if he’d actually been one of his detectives, the big captain would have had a lot to say to that, loudly. As it was, Banks just said, “There are four of you in this, and if you’re fooling yourselves about it none of you are fooling me. They’ll both be there.”
Doyle almost asked him how he was going to be sure of it, but common sense prevailed. He muttered his thanks and escaped.
It was some hours before he was meeting up with Jako, but he didn’t feel like going back to the hotel. If he went down to the area where he would find Jako he could meet up with a few acquaintances and maybe make a few enquiries of his own about Donnatti. He owed Banks, and he knew the case was harassing him with its total lack of leads.
Uncomfortably, the more he asked, the more it seemed that Donnatti had been a totally unknown player in Cascade. No one had heard of him until he turned up dead in the harbour. Doyle began to think the man would still be unidentified if he hadn’t recognised him—Simon’s one good moment on the case had been when he told Willis the name of the victim, something Security One’s resources hadn’t actually managed to discover.
This was bad news though for Doyle, because it made him look more and more uneasily at the possibility of Barry Martin being involved. He just couldn’t think of any reason why.
He wandered around the streets, tried to eat a bowl of soup for lunch. He’d skipped the meds last night and although he’d still been nauseous when he woke up he was feeling slightly less awful now. On the down side, of course, he was picking up a welter of mainly negative emotions, but he’d decided to live with it for the time being. He dropped in on the tiny mission that used a local basement and found Father Maguire there, dropping off some clothes.
“I did manage to get the doctor from the facility to come and look at Bobby,” he said, as they chatted about a number of mutual friends. “She wasn’t very hopeful, though. Oddly enough, she said she had a patient who had suffered a related sort of damage; she was surprised at the similarity of some of the symptoms.”
“Another from the first sweep?” Doyle asked.
“No—what was surprising was that this patient was a sentinel.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“No. Sadly, she hadn’t been able to help the man, and that made her doubtful she could do much for Bobby.”
Doyle helped him sort the clothes, and glanced at his watch. “I’d better go. Got to see Jako.”
“I’ll pray for you,” Father Maguire said dryly. “Be careful, Ray.”
“I always am.”
He found Jako in the usual back room, this time on his own. There was no chat here; Jako wanted to get down to business. “We’ve decided to go tomorrow night,” he said almost immediately. “Serensky is working flat out to get it finished by then.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“There are some other people with a serious interest in it, and they’re competent, not like those idiots last night. They’ve got a buyer, and they’ve shown they’re not worried about eliminating rival interests.”
“But they think the machine is a Resonator.”
“Unfortunately, their buyers would probably pay more if they knew what it really is. We need to get it out of there by tomorrow night at the latest.”
Doyle didn’t like not knowing the opposition. “So who are these people?”
Jako took out a series of photographs and spread them on the table. “This is Lee Brackett—rogue CIA agent. He’s good. And of course he still has a lot of contacts. He had no problem arranging a buyer. His partner we don’t know so much about. He only came to Cascade recently.”
Doyle found himself looking at a rather good likeness of Barry Martin. A lot of things suddenly began to make sense. This would hit Cowley hard, he thought.
“You know him?” Jako asked.
“He’s rogue as well. British organisation,” Doyle said slowly. “I imagine they make a dangerous team. I don’t see how they’re hoping to get in though. I mean, I’ve got a route and we’ve got Serensky to deal with things inside. How can they possibly do it?”
Jako frowned. “That’s what’s worrying me. I’ve got everyone out now, watching them and trying to find out. Brackett was well known in the business for always having some sort of complicated game plan. He must think he’s got a certain way in.”
Doyle went back to the photographs. One was from the docks area, simply a shot of a location he vaguely recognised. He held it out to Jako. “What’s this?”
“Part of my back-up plan. That’s where we think they’re going to meet their buyers. If the worst comes to the worst, we’ll try to take it there.”
The door opened without a knock, and he looked up irritably.
“We think we’re on to something with Brackett,” the intruder said without an apology. “He picked this kid up at the university. Our man thought it looked odd at the time, but he lost them. He says half the PD are down there now, and Kelso involved. Looks like some sort of a kidnapping.”
“Do we know who the student is, and why Brackett wants him?”
Doyle had heard all this with utter dismay. “I do,” he said shortly. “Ellison’s roommate is a TA at Rainier. Brackett’s just going to walk in the front gate, with Ellison opening all the doors.”
There was silence in the room.
Jako, for once completely disconcerted, stared at Doyle. “And you know this how?”
Doyle shrugged. “The kid used to live round here before he picked up with Ellison and got a grant. He’s an anthropologist. Helps Ellison with his senses I believe.”
“Ellison’s ex-military, hard as they come,” Jako said. “Why wouldn’t he just tell Brackett to get lost?”
“He won’t,” Doyle said. “And Brackett obviously knows it.”
Jako looked at him as if he’d like to go into this further. Doyle said hastily, “If we want to be sure Brackett doesn’t get in ahead of us, we need to find where he’s holding this kid and get him back.”
He’d have to be careful not to use Sandburg’s name. He’d always kept Blair well away from Jako and his followers, but it was quite possible they’d heard his name in the context of Doyle’s operation at the facility. As it was, both Jako and the other men who’d come into the room were looking at him doubtfully.
“We’re not getting involved in that,” Jako said definitely. “We’ll just step up our timetable. Rob, you get on to Mikkel. Tell him to make sure Serensky knows it’s going to be tonight, whether he’s finished or not. He’ll just have to collect any other stuff he needs at the same time.”
“I’ve equipment I need to get,” Doyle said hastily. He needed to get out of here, and do something about Blair, urgently.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Jako said. “We’ve got anything you could possibly need. Luke, Sammi, you take him to the armoury. On second thoughts, you can all take him, and bring him back here when he’s finished. Sorry, Ray, but there seem to be some things you’re not telling me, and I want to make sure you’re right here when I want you.”
Bodie and Ellison waited. As soon as the call had come through from Jack Kelso they’d known they were in trouble. It hadn’t taken a lot of thought to see that Blair could only be wanted in order to put pressure on Jim. What Brackett, and presumably Martin, wanted him to do was the only question—that and how they would get in touch.
Late in the afternoon, Jim’s cell phone rang. “Sentinel Ellison?” a voice asked.
“There’s an envelope waiting for you at your loft. Please read it as soon as possible. I’ll be in touch.”
Jim asked no more. There were too many recording devices in the labs. He glanced at Bodie and saw he’d listened in. Bodie nodded and went through to see how close Dr Serensky was to finishing his day’s work. The doctor seemed unusually busy, putting several components onto the trolley that held the Resonator before he and Bodie wheeled it into the safe but all that mattered to Jim was that he was ready to go. The relief he’d felt the previous day when he heard that Doyle had picked Sandburg up safely came back to mock him. He should have taken warning. He should have guessed there might be others who saw Blair as a potential hostage.
Bodie nudged him. “Don’t go there,” he said under his breath.
“I will not be taking my car tonight,” Dr Serensky announced. “My bodyguard will collect me in his own vehicle. This one may remain here ’til tomorrow.”
Ellison didn’t care what arrangements he made, just as long as he was quickly off the premises and they could get back to the loft. He’d heard the phone call from Serensky’s man, but it had been in a language he couldn’t recognise let alone understand.
Trying not to give the impression of the desperate urgency he was feeling, he saw Serensky safely into the bodyguard’s car, then he and Bodie headed rapidly through the evening traffic for Prospect and Brackett’s envelope.
The envelope had been pushed under the door, and contained only two things—a Polaroid photo of Blair, apparently asleep, and a phone number to ring. The photo had been carefully taken to offer no clues even to sentinel sight. Jim dialled the number.
“Ah, Ellison.” He was already beginning to hate Brackett’s voice. “I have a sort of business proposition for you.”
“What makes you think I want to do business?” Jim asked, searching frantically and not very efficiently through the background noises ’til at last he found a familiar heartbeat, and knew Blair was there.
“The fact I have your guide,” Brackett said. “I know he’s your guide; it’s amazing no one else has worked it out. You’re not really very careful.”
“He’s an anthropologist, who helps me with my senses,” Jim said, but he could see Bodie shake his head, and he knew it wouldn’t work.
“We haven’t time to play games,” Brackett said. “I have your guide; you have something of value to me.”
“The Resonator of course.” Brackett sounded mildly amused. “I want the Resonator, and as I suspect I have some competition, I want it tonight, whether or not it’s completely finished. My buyer can cope with a few final details to fix. Now, I need you to take me into the laboratory and remove it from the safe. When I have the Resonator safely outside the grounds, you can have your guide back.”
Ellison looked at Bodie who was scribbling something on a scrap of paper. ‘Tell him you need Sandburg to get in.’
“That won’t be as easy as you make it sound,” Ellison said to Brackett. “Even we can’t just walk in and come out with it. We’ll have to deal with the guards, and some of the security systems, and then there’s the matter of getting into the safe. I’ll need to use my senses, and that means I’ll need Sandburg.”
For the first time he sensed a hesitation at the other end. “You and Bodie seem to function adequately without guides.”
“We avoid using our senses, or bluff,” Jim said. It had, anyway, been true for a long time. “I can’t do that if you want to get the Resonator.”
“I doubt if he’ll be awake by then.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jim said. “It’s a sentinel guide thing. If he’s close enough for me to ground my senses on him I can use them.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bodie giving him a thumbs up.
Again there was hesitation at the other end. “Your colleague doesn’t have a guide. He can do the safe.”
Bodie grinned and held out his hand for the phone. “Hello. My guide is the one with the golly hairdo. Martin knows him. I gather you don’t have him there.”
Jim heard with satisfaction a whispered altercation between Brackett and someone who was presumably Martin. There was nothing like getting the opposition rattled.
Martin came on the phone. “Come off it, Bodie. The old man wouldn’t have a guide in the organisation. Anyway, I looked at Doyle’s record. Hell, he was shooting champion with the Met.”
“Talented little sod,” Bodie agreed. “But he also happens to be my guide. How do you imagine Doyle and Sandburg pulled off that business at the university? Kincaid’s sentinels may not have had much ability, but they could recognise a guide.”
The whispered argument at the other end went on for longer this time. As far as Ellison could make out, Brackett was furious with his partner. Again, this ought to work in their favour. He waited, and listened past them to the regular rhythm of Blair, sleeping.
In the end, Brackett came back on. “We’ll bring Sandburg to the site, but he waits outside with Martin while you do your stuff. Apart from anything else, we can’t drag him round with us while he’s doped up.”
Ellison had a feeling this was the best offer he was going to get.
“I’ll try it,” he said, making it sound a bit doubtful. “Where do you want us to meet you? It would be easiest to get in and out through the guide facility.”
Brackett named a street off the main road down to the facility. “I’ll expect you there at 22.00, both of you. I hope this will be as successful as your admirable operation last night. I’ve grown quite fond of Sandburg; I wouldn’t like anything unpleasant to happen to him.”
Escorted around by several large members of Jako’s group, Doyle had decided to bide his time. He found what he wanted in their ‘armoury’, though he took enough items to disguise his real interest, and when he was back with Jako the reports that started coming in suggested that Brackett was also going to make his move tonight. If Jim and Bodie played their cards right, that should mean there was a good chance of Blair being somewhere near the facility. He decided to stay with the original plan, and go there with Dr Serensky.
That gave him another, fairly urgent problem. He was finding it difficult to cope with the different moods around the room even now, his empathy too open to their tension and excitement. He was not going to be able to cope with the possible action at the facility without something to damp it down. The meds, though, in the quantity he’d need them made him sleepy as well as sick. He couldn’t afford to be anything less than alert. His solution was not one he’d really recommend to anyone. In a brief moment of privacy in the men’s room, he downed four of the yellow capsules, and one small tablet issued by CI5 for occasions when operatives needed to stay awake for long periods. He had a feeling the morning was going to be an appalling crash, but he reckoned the combination should get him through the night.
The timing of their operation became more and more rushed, as reports came in of Brackett on the move. Doyle was briefly introduced to Serensky. The doctor was calm and collected, and clearly not about to panic if things didn’t go smoothly. Mikkel, with him, was more uneasy, but Doyle thought it was because he didn’t trust Jako rather than any problem with Doyle himself.
“We don’t want an escort,” Doyle said. He was feeling slightly weird, but his empathy was damped down and he was still wide awake. “Especially if we don’t know how far Brackett has got. Mikkel will be enough. We’re going to leave in Serensky’s car once we’ve got the machine, so there’s no advantage to taking an entourage.”
Jako nodded, accepting that. No doubt he’d have men near enough to protect his interests. “All right. Mikkel will drop you off a short distance from the facility. After that you’re on your own until you’ve got the thing. You’re sure you’ll have no problem getting out?”
“Leaving the site is much easier than entering it,” Serensky said. “The guards naturally enough assume that the clearances were done by the previous shift when one came in. My car is well known.”
“All right. We’ll rendezvous with you outside the gates.”
“I’d rather take my own car,” Doyle said. “It’s only five minutes from here. I’ve been stuck here for hours now. Once Serensky and his device are outside, you don’t need me any more.”
Jako thought about it. “Fair enough, but Rob will go with you. He can come round with Mikkel to join the rest of us once you and Serensky are on foot.”
Satisfied, Doyle was careful to do and say nothing else to draw Jako’s suspicion, or Rob’s. They left the cars a fair distance from the facility, and he and Serensky walked down the silent streets. The doctor moved with natural stealth; Doyle wondered if he’d ever been trained.
He automatically glanced down the side streets before they crossed them, and at the third they came to his automatic caution proved its worth. He grabbed Serensky’s arm and jerked him to a halt, then slid down in the darkness towards the outline of the car he’d seen. “That’s the opposition!” he muttered.
“What are you doing?” Serensky breathed.
“I don’t know yet. I’ll tell you once I can see whether the car is locked. Just do exactly what I say.”
He had easily recognised Martin’s car at a distance; he’d noticed it when he visited Martin because it was a surprisingly expensive one for someone on a CI5 salary. Now he moved very carefully, until he saw both that it was unlocked, and that Martin was paying little attention to his surroundings. Sloppy. Still, it suited his purpose.
A minute or two later, Martin, who was growing bored with sitting there baby minding the sleeping Sandburg, was distracted by the sight of a man staggering along the sidewalk holding on to the wall for support. Some sort of drunk, he supposed, though this was hardly the area for it.
Just as the man passed the car, Martin’s own door was flung open and he was startled by the sight of Ray Doyle—holding a gun pointing very ominously at his head. The drunk staged an instant recovery and opened the rear door, to haul Sandburg out onto the street where he propped him against the wall.
“Tie his hands to the wheel,” Doyle said. “We’re taking Sandburg with us. That should finish Brackett.”
“If we are not too late,” Serensky said knotting Martin’s hands to the wheel with his own tie. “We will not be able to move very fast.”
“You won’t put anything over on Brackett,” Martin said. There was anger and contempt in his face that Doyle was grateful he couldn’t feel. “You know Doyle, I liked you. Even the paintbrush in one hand, gin and tonic in the other never gave me a clue. A bloody guide!”
To Doyle’s surprise Serensky leaned over and rammed his handkerchief in the man’s mouth. He was grateful, not because of the abuse but because he had an awful feeling that Martin had been about to make some reference to Bodie. He did not want Serensky to guess he had any connection to Bodie.
Leaving Martin to struggle to free himself, they collected Blair and tried to wake him up a little more as they hustled him along. He grumbled, eyes barely open, obviously quite unaware of his surroundings. Doyle paused a minute. “Blair!” he said urgently. “Listen to me. I know you’re sleepy, but this is important. Jim’s in trouble.”
It was the one thing, as he knew, that had any hope of getting through. He was aware of a curious look from Serensky, but he ignored it. Sure enough, Blair made a heroic effort to wake himself up. “Jim?” he asked.
“We’re going to help him, but I need you to walk faster. Can you do that?”
“Uh huh,” Blair said, moving with surprising determination though he was still unsteady. “Coffee?”
“No, I can’t manage that. You’ll feel better now you’re walking properly.”
They made better speed now, to the facility and to the side door which opened, thankfully, to the combination Jako had told him. Everywhere was silent and still and he knew the location of all the security cameras. Security on this part of the site was anyway concentrated on keeping people in or out of the main building, not on preventing them from reaching the outhouses.
He led the way through the quiet grounds and into the one which housed disused machinery. Once they were inside and the door closed he briefly risked a light. The trap door into the maintenance shafts was open. He stooped, startled and touched a mark beside it.
“What is it?” Serensky whispered.
“What do you think? Who would use this?”
“Ellison and Bodie wouldn’t know this route. I don’t know what to think. There was a fairly major battle here last night. It could be something to do with that. I think we’ll just have to go on and be alert.” What he really needed, he thought, was a sentinel, but he wasn’t sure what sort of a reaction he would get if he voiced that thought to Serensky.
He shifted the trapdoor more fully to the side, and shone his torch down. There were smears of blood on the metal ladder, but the access tunnel below was empty and quiet.
“It will not be easy to get this one down the ladder,” Serensky said, shaking Blair a little to keep him awake.
“I’ll go first,” Doyle said. “You help him on and I’ll take him down with me.” He was reasonably confident in Blair’s survival instincts. Even half asleep, if you put his hands on a ladder he’d hold on.
They got to the lower level without disaster. He took a firm grip of Blair’s wrist and said to Serensky, “It’s very easy to get lost in this system. Stay close.”
It was hard to estimate how long they’d taken. He wondered how far the others had got by now. Probably had to go in past one of their own guard stations; that would have slowed them up a bit. They would still be ahead though.
He tugged Blair along, through a narrow connection and into a shaft that led upwards. He didn’t really care if he lost Serensky, but the doctor seemed to have no problems in keeping up.
“Jeffries tubes,” muttered Blair.
“Something like that,” Doyle agreed. “Keep moving.”
“Going up Jeffries tubes to find Jim… that’s kind of funny…”
“It won’t be if we don’t get there in time,” Doyle said, but he hoped that if Blair was talking—even in a world of his own—he might be waking up a little more.
They’d got to a point now where he had to be careful not to lose his own way; the shafts were confusing at the best of times, and he was finding his spatial awareness oddly limited, perhaps some unexpected side effect of the cocktail of drugs he’d swallowed.
He tightened his grip on Blair slightly, letting the warmth of the contact help him to orient himself, and concentrated. They were close, now. He scrambled up a narrow tube and into a side shaft they had to slide along on their backs. He came to a metal grille, and stopped abruptly. With his hands braced on it, ready to push, he looked out into the lighted area of the main laboratory.
He’d found his way all right, and barely in time. In front of him he could see Bodie and Ellison wheeling out a trolley holding something large and electronic looking—and watching them with evident satisfaction was a man who could only be Lee Brackett.
Bodie wanted, more than anything else in the world right now, to wipe the smile off Lee Brackett’s face. He was sick of jumping to Brackett’s instructions, and more than sick of the urbane amusement with which Brackett watched him do it.
The trouble was, they hadn’t got a choice.
They’d met Brackett—as he ordered. At least Sandburg had been there, flat out on the back seat of the car, but unharmed as far as Bodie could tell. That had been the only positive part of the evening. Everything from then on had followed Brackett’s dictates.
It had been a sour counterpoint to the previous evening, in fact. They’d used their senses this time to mark and take out their own guards, bundling them senseless into the small lock-up room that was part of the main guard post. They’d taken them by surprise a bit too easily, he thought—the reaction from the previous evening had maybe made them overconfident. At least it meant he and Ellison hadn’t been seen or recognised.
Unexpectedly, as they’d crossed the car park they’d had to take out another intruder—one he suspected had got in by a fluke while he and Ellison were dealing with the guards. They didn’t take the time to find out who he was or what he was up to, just handcuffed him to a railing and left him for later. If he was another student, he’d be sorry he got in.
It had been straightforward from there, and Brackett’s superior grin had got bigger with every passing moment. They knew all the security codes, and any override codes needed to disable the systems. If he ever had this sort of assignment again, he was going to build in safeguards against himself, a sort of ‘quis custodiet’ thing. There wasn’t even any point in stalling. It was in their interests as well as Brackett’s to get this over with quickly and undiscovered.
The safe had been the only real obstacle, its codes changed randomly at night. But even there, sentinel hearing was enough to work out the combinations needed. He’d left it to Ellison, but he could have done it himself at a pinch.
So now he and Ellison were wheeling out the Resonator, and Brackett was standing there looking at them as smugly as if they were a pair of chimps he’d just trained to do something clever.
Ellison suddenly stopped pushing the trolley.
Bodie stumbled and caught himself. “What is it?” he asked, startled by the expression on Ellison’s face.
“Sandburg!” Ellison said shortly, turning round to an apparently blank wall. Bodie followed his gaze. His immediate assumption that Ellison was losing it was severely undermined by the realisation that he too sensed something, some combination of scent and sound on the edge of awareness that spoke to him of Doyle.
“Hurry up!” said Brackett impatiently. “What are you waiting for?”
Then a metal grille, just above floor level, suddenly crashed into the room. Doyle tumbled out, gun in hand, followed by Blair—and, to Bodie’s disbelief, Dr Serensky. Before he’d even taken this in, there was a crash behind him and he turned to see Ellison with his hands gripped round Brackett’s throat. That was the best moment he’d had all night.
Brackett briefly broke free, and Bodie moved in to grab him, but Ellison was already flinging himself back into it, and this time Brackett went down and stayed down. Bodie turned back to the others, who were still only just into the room. He saw that Dr Serensky had gone immediately to the Resonator trolley, and was moving some dial on the machine. Doyle was hauling Sandburg to his feet.
With shocking suddenness, the scene disappeared from in front of him to be replaced with blackness, and he realised that in some bizarre way he had just lost control of his sight, the dial down to zero and reluctant to move. Frantically he struggled to regain control, something close to fear chilling him, though he hardly understood why.
There was a series of thuds and crashes behind him. He heard Doyle, asking someone what was going on. Then as suddenly as he had lost it, his sight returned.
“Stand absolutely still,” said Dr Serensky, “or you’ll be blind again. Or possibly blind and deaf, or with a shattering headache. I can do all those things easily, so don’t move.”
Bodie stared at him and at the machine on the trolley, and was aware of something cold and sick in the pit of his stomach. He looked desperately at Doyle, who was just finishing handcuffing Brackett to the leg of one of the labs fixed tables. Doyle looked shocked, but he wasn’t pointing the gun at Serensky.
“Ray,” Bodie said urgently.
Doyle ignored him. Ellison, like himself was standing with almost statue-like stillness. Only Blair was moving, obviously still more than half asleep but stumbling with single-minded determination to Jim’s side. Jim’s face was grim and his attention like Bodie’s was entirely on Serensky, but he pulled Blair in close. Bodie realised with bitterness that Doyle really wasn’t going to act.
“What the hell is that machine?” he asked Serensky, and was surprised when his voice came out cool and normal.
“Not a Resonator, as you have no doubt now realised,” Dr Serensky said. “In some ways you might say it’s the opposite. This is the prototype of a device whose effects are directed entirely at sentinels. Redressing a balance I inadvertently disturbed.”
He had the rapt attention of everyone in the room, even the battered Brackett. Out of the corner of his eye, Bodie watched Doyle’s face. He looked gaunt and rather ill, but he was in control of the gun all right. If he was letting Serensky talk it was because he wanted to hear him.
“The machine is not completely finished,” Serensky went on, “but I have enough control of its function to cause you considerable discomfort if you try to prevent us leaving. I assure you, it is only because I have been surprised for your consideration for the guides here that it has caused you so little harm so far.”
Bodie thought of the headaches that had come and gone in waves, of the sense he had so often had of Serensky watching them. “You used it on us before…” he said.
“Not with complete success,” Serensky admitted. “You puzzled me.” He looked at Blair, propped half awake against Jim’s side. “I begin to see why. You, Ellison, are perhaps not so unbonded as the Controller believes. It would explain a great deal. And you, Bodie? You still puzzle me. Do you have a guide somewhere?”
“I don’t know,” Bodie said flatly. “I’m beginning to wonder.”
Serensky shrugged, not understanding. “Anyway, you may give the Controller this message from me. I will not be seeing him again. Tell him the supporters of the guides in Cascade now have a defence. If another Resonator is built, they will use this device.”
Bodie laughed without humour. “Only if another Resonator’s built? You don’t really believe that do you?” He was talking to Serensky, but his words were really fired at Doyle. “Put a weapon like that into someone’s hands, and they’ll use it, defence or not. I suppose it was something like that that blew the mind of that poor bastard in the facility.”
For a moment Serensky looked concerned, but he shook it off, and gestured to Doyle to come and help him with the trolley. Doyle went. It was obvious to Bodie that was what they had come for. The bitterness rose into his throat. He slid his hand into his pocket. He had a tiny bug in there he’d been hoping to have an opportunity to plant on Brackett. If Doyle went through with this, he’d hunt him and the machine down.
He moved so quickly he took Serensky by surprise, jumping at Doyle and knocking him to the floor. The pain he’d expected quickly filled his head, incapacitating him, but not before he’d embedded the tiny device in Doyle’s jacket.
He rolled over, clutching his head, and heard someone somewhere outside the pain shouting, “Stop it!” To his surprise, it did stop. Serensky, looking disturbed, said, “That was stupid. I don’t want to cause you pain. In many ways you have both been not at all what I had expected. My original intention—and this is why I asked for unbonded sentinels—was to leave you in the sort of misery the Resonator leaves the guides. But you do not deserve it, and I will only prevent you from stopping us leaving.”
Bodie had barely time for an ugly apprehension as to what this might mean, when he found himself focussing too closely on a sight, a sound, the smell of the room. He could not control all three senses at once. He knew he was being made to zone, and he was helpless to stop it. There would be no one to lead him out of it either. That desertion was his last, bitter thought before he was in the greyness, and lost.
Blair was trying to navigate through a world where reality and dreams merged confusingly, and there were few certainties. He wasn’t sure where he was, or why, but he was fairly certain that Doyle had brought him there and had said Jim needed him. He’d been slightly surprised by that, because fuzzily in his mind was the thought that Jim hadn’t needed him much recently, but he couldn’t quite get hold of the thoughts to remember why.
He wondered if he’d dreamed the route by which he’d got here. The narrow ducts seemed to belong more to fiction than reality, but he was sure his hands and knees had really felt the cold metal. Then there had been a confusing welter of violent action. The only thing he was absolutely sure of now was that he was next to Jim, and anger and, well, fear, were pouring from Jim as he looked at the man with the beard.
He saw Bodie freeze in position, and recognised the characteristic immobility of a zone. Doyle came over to Blair, and said with quiet urgency. “Stay here. As soon as we’ve gone, try to get them out of the zone.”
Them. He looked up, and realised with dismay that although he was right next to him, Jim had also zoned. That shouldn’t happen. When he looked back, Doyle and the other man and the trolley had all disappeared.
Understanding nothing, he turned to what he was sure he could do. “Jim,” he said quietly. “Come on, man. Come back to me. Listen to my voice, feel my hand on your arm. Make the connection again and come back.”
It took him a few minutes, then he saw the flicker of movement on Jim’s face. He wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Jim usually came out of a zone slightly annoyed and embarrassed. This time he came out of it with a startling violence, so ready to fight that he flung Blair across the room.
Blair was still too drowsy and confused to understand the reasons; Serensky’s speech had completely passed him by. He landed on his back several yards from Jim and only understood the anger and what seemed to be rejection. Before he could deal with that, the room shook to a fierce and prolonged explosion outside, and the windows blew in.
Blair was only a short way from the opening through which he’d first entered the room. With a muddled idea of getting away from the noise and the violence, and leaving Jim in peace, he scrabbled back through the hole and began to slide along the duct.
Jim Ellison picked himself up off the floor, his senses echoing painfully from the sound of the explosion, and his face and arms bleeding in several places, none serious, from cuts from the flying glass. He saw Bodie stumble to the empty window space, and Brackett sheltering under the table he was handcuffed to.
With a sudden shocked realisation of how he’d come out of the zone, he looked for Blair.
“Serensky’s car’s gone up,” Bodie said from the window. His forehead was cut, but otherwise he looked unhurt, just blackly angry. “No one’s in it though. I reckon they set it off as a distraction while they got away. We need to get down there.”
The immediate needs of the situation jerked them back into action. Handcuffing Brackett’s hands behind his back now, Jim pushed him ahead of them down the stairs. He called Simon Banks urgently as he went. He wanted Major Crimes for back up tonight, not Security One.
The scene in the car park was chaos. He could see… and smell… that Bodie had been right and no one had been in the car. There was no sign of Doyle and Serensky at all.
He tried desperately to listen for Blair’s heartbeat as he gave orders, but the events of the last hour had put too much of a strain on his senses and he couldn’t do it with any accuracy. Blair had been there when the explosion happened, he told himself. He couldn’t have come to any harm. He’d just been disoriented and sleepy. He’d probably found somewhere quiet and curled up. When he woke up a bit more he’d realise Jim’s anger hadn’t been directed at him, that Jim had just gone into the zone struggling and come out fighting…
His guilt didn’t lessen, but he managed to keep it in the background as he and Bodie began some urgent damage control.
They had Brackett, now sullen; that was one thing in their favour. Serensky had turned traitor, that was another. Willis would have to field the blame for that one. How much of the rest of their night’s activities could they keep quiet?
Those were problems that at least he could deal with. In the background of his thoughts, ominous, filling him something much too like fear, was the thought of the whereabouts of Dr Serensky and his machine. He clung to the hope that Doyle had still got some sort of plan for what to do about it.
He could see from the set of Bodie’s face and the hardness in his eyes, that Bodie wasn’t holding out much hope in that direction.
Bodie came up with the man they’d handcuffed to the railing and handed him over to a guard just as Simon Banks followed by a large contingent of the PD came in at the gates.
“You can cope with this lot now Banks is here,” Bodie said shortly. He opened his hand and showed Jim a small tracking device. “I’m going after their mind-fucking invention. This is working, so Doyle can’t have found the bug yet.”
“Doyle may have dealt with it,” Jim said. “He was about ready to shoot Serensky when he turned the thing on you.”
Bodie shrugged. “If he has, he won’t have a problem when I get to him.”
He turned and went without another word.
“Where’s he off to?” It was Simon Banks. Jim turned with some relief to the big captain.
“He’s dealing with some loose ends off site. Simon—as well as the clean up, I could do with a couple of people to look for Sandburg. He’s okay. Doyle got him away before we dealt with Brackett. He was here just now, before the explosion, but I came out of a zone a bit violently, and then the car went up, and he wasn’t really with it to start with. I think he might have wandered off somewhere and hidden.”
“We’ll find him,” Simon said. He looked round at the clear up which was being handled efficiently. “I’ll send Henri and Rafe to have a look round inside. You’d better stay out here now Bodie’s taken off. Is Willis on his way?”
Jim shook his head. “Luckily he was out of town tonight. It doesn’t look as though he’ll be able to get back for a few hours yet. That looks like one of his representatives, though.”
He turned to cross the car park to greet the man who had just pulled in.
Russ Holder rested his rifle on the low wall that ran round the roof of the laboratory block. Below him, the flashing lights and moving people looked a bit like a scene from a film. Somewhere down there would be Ellison. He was saving all his energy for the moment when he saw him.
He’d drifted into a heavy sleep the previous night, probably because of the blood he’d lost, and woken to find it nearly midday. The trapdoor in the outhouse was easily visible in the light. He’d retied the rough bandage round his leg, and although it throbbed he’d had no problem getting down into the maintenance network. He’d found it confusing, and he’d had to struggle sometimes, but after some false starts and enforced rests, he’d finally found his way onto the roof, though by then it was evening. He’d drunk some rainwater and settled down against the wall, expecting to have to wait for daylight before he’d get a chance of a shot.
Explosions and sirens had woken him. For a moment he thought he’d been wrong about the scale of the previous night’s defeat, but even before the scene was well lighted he saw there were no militia men down there.
He still hadn’t worked out what had happened, but he knew with all that activity Ellison would be down there somewhere. His attention and his aim were on the open space between the car park and the gates. As people crossed it, it was easier to make out individuals. If he was patient, sooner or later Ellison would step into that space. He lined up his rifle, and waited.
Blair knew he couldn’t be dreaming, because from time to time he knocked himself on pieces of metal, and his hands felt sore from climbing. These couldn’t really be Jeffries tubes either, but he couldn’t quite shake off the impression of climbing round in the bowels of the Enterprise.
That was probably why he decided to go up. Up felt right. Somewhere in the muddle of his thoughts was the vague idea that up led to the bridge, and that was where things got done. He knew there couldn’t really be a bridge, but maybe he’d end up somewhere he could help Jim.
He felt as if he’d been going for a long time, but in the shaft he was in there was nowhere to stop. A landing would have been nice. He wondered why they didn’t build in landings. He wondered why he felt so tired. He shouldn’t be, because he had the definite impression he’d been asleep for hours.
The monotony of the climb lulled him into a sort of waking dream. He was taken by surprise when his head hit a plastic cover, and for a moment he was completely confused as to where he was. Not the bridge, he thought, as he pushed the cover out of the way. Right out in space. He could see the stars.
Then the cold air woke him more thoroughly. He realised he was high up somewhere in the dark, and somewhere a long way down below were lights and a lot of noise. He clutched the wall of a low stack, and looked around him in dismay.
For a moment all he realised was that he was a lot too high, and the parapet was definitely too low. Then a shape on the far side of the roof solidified into a silhouette. A silhouette of a man holding a rifle and clearly about to use it.
Everything about the man, but especially his crude militia uniform, proclaimed that he was not one of the good guys. Blair was still only thinking at about half pace, but if this was one of the bad guys and Jim was down below, the man mustn’t fire that rifle. He picked up the plastic cover and hurled it at the man’s back. He jerked and the shot went wild.
“Jim!” Blair yelled, knowing Jim would hear his voice whatever other noise was going on. “On the roof.”
He’d prudently ducked back behind the stack, which proved to have been a good thing as the militia man swung round angrily. To his relief though, he saw that the man could barely stand. He might not be at his best, but he thought in those circumstances he could manage to dodge ’til Jim beamed up.
The shot was barely audible to Jim in the general noise, but he realised what he’d heard as the bullet hit the ground harmlessly not far from the gates. Blair’s shout, on the other hand, cut through everything else and he was running for the building and the lift before anyone else had fully understood what had happened.
Blair was on the roof with a gunman. He’d got him back by some miracle from Brackett, and thrown him straight into further danger. Fuelled by guilt, and fear for Blair, he ran up the final flight at breakneck pace and burst out onto the roof. The first thing he saw was a rifle swinging towards him. Its owner was just a bit too slow. He sent the rifle hurtling over the edge of the roof, and hauled the man back so that he didn’t share the same fate.
“Way to go, Jim,” Blair said, emerging from behind a stack.
He looked blessedly unhurt, and had apparently forgotten, or maybe forgiven, the fact that the last thing Jim had done was to throw him across a room. He seemed slightly surprised to be grabbed, hugged and checked over sentinel style, but he stood there patiently and put up with it. As far as Jim could tell, there was nothing at all wrong with him except a lingering trace of sleepiness.
Simon emerged, panting, from the door Jim had come through.
“Sandburg!” he said, with relief. “Where the hell have you been?”
“Climbing,” Blair said. “I’ve woken up now, though. I knew he wasn’t a Klingon.”
Simon looked at Jim. “Just don’t go there, sir,” Jim said kindly. “Brackett had him really doped up. Otherwise he’s fine. I think he might have just saved my life.”
Blair, who was comfortably using him to lean on, looked up at that. “Really?”
“Really,” Jim said. “I think he must have been waiting for me to cross the car park.”
Blair grinned. “Cool,” he said profoundly, and went back to leaning.
“Looks like one of the men from last night,” Simon said, stooping and checking the rifleman and getting a weak curse for his trouble. “He’s got quite a nasty leg wound. I think we’ll have to get the paramedics up here.”
Jim waited while a team came up to the roof, then he and Simon and Blair made their way down.
“Want me to take him over to Joel?” Simon asked quietly.
Jim shook his head. Maybe a few people would think it odd he was walking round with an anthropologist apparently glued to his side, but he could live with it. Most people were too busy with their own jobs to pay any attention, anyway, and Blair had managed within barely more than a day to be picked as a hostage by two different sets of criminals and to find the only gunman on the premises. It was really in the public interest to keep him close.
He found one of the forensics team from Security One politely trying to get his attention. She had something in an evidence bag that meant nothing to him at all. “We think there might have been two explosions,” she said in explanation. “We’re finding a lot of debris that doesn’t seem to have come from the car.”
Bodie drove rapidly through Cascade, his eyes more on the tracking dial than the roads, which were quiet. That small, precious signal meant sanity to him at the moment. It should lead him to Serensky’s machine, one way or the other. Even if Doyle was no longer with it, he’d know where it was, and Bodie had every intention of persuading him to part with the knowledge.
Beyond that, he wouldn’t think of his partner. He’d been betrayed before, but never like this. That and the memory of the casual way Serensky had turned a dial and twisted his senses, filled his thoughts and made his hands grip the wheel so tightly they were almost numb with the force of it. A machine that could fuck with your mind. It was a long time since fear of anything had made him feel actually sick, but that did.
The roads he took were leading him to the docks, he realised. A buyer? No, Serensky, who had no reason to lie about it, had said the machine would stay in Cascade. Just a place to meet up with the local liberationists perhaps. It would be quiet enough in parts.
He went more cautiously now. The tracker, though small, was sophisticated, and he could tell Doyle was on foot and not too far away. As he’d expected, it was an area that was largely deserted at this time of night. He backed the car into a yard and went on foot.
Everywhere here seemed empty and still, though further in the distance there were lights and people at work. He followed the signal as he might have done a compass, and it led towards the water. It might have made sense to have reached ahead with his hearing, but he couldn’t face using his senses tonight. After the way they’d been manipulated against him, he wanted to forget they existed.
He didn’t, anyway, need more than normal ability to hear the sudden sound of a shot up ahead cracking through the silence. He glanced at the tracking device as two more shots sounded, from a different gun. Thieves falling out? Even after all that had gone down that night, he felt a treacherous twinge of concern for Doyle. What kind of fool did that make him?
He thought there might be more shooting, voices, some reaction to whatever had happened, but all he heard was an outboard motor, heading away fast. He drew his own gun and edged cautiously to where he could see the open area ahead.
It was a clear night, even a bit of moon. He had no difficulty in seeing there was only one person on the dock—the slight, solitary figure of his guide, standing looking down at a body.
It wasn’t anything like the scene Bodie had expected to see. Doyle stooped now—not as though there was any hope for the person on the ground, more perhaps as some kind of farewell. When he stood up again, he stumbled slightly, moving as if he was weighed down. Bodie refused to feel compassion. He hadn’t got time for this. What mattered was to find Dr Serensky and his prototype.
He stepped out into the open. Doyle didn’t see him until he almost walked into him, then he simply stopped. He looked pale and dazed, and the shadows emphasised the hollows of his face. He spoke to Bodie almost as if he’d been expecting him.
“Barry Martin,” he said, gesturing loosely at the corpse. “I didn’t shoot him, his buyers did.”
“You just came here after Martin?” Bodie demanded, suddenly realising why Doyle was at the docks.
“I thought he might go to his buyers for a way out of Cascade.”
Bodie didn’t care about that. “I’m not interested in Martin right now,” he said shortly. “Where’s Serensky? More to the point, where’s his damned machine? Which way did they go?”
Doyle looked at him blankly, as if the question didn’t make sense.
Bodie’s frustration and anger built at the apparent stalling. He grabbed him by the arms and slammed him against the wall to get his attention. “Where’s the machine?” he asked again.
Doyle made a slight sound of pain, and Bodie found his hands relaxing their grip on him as though they’d been scorched. Angrily he forced them to close again.
“Where is it?”
Doyle looked at him with eyes that seemed to be having trouble focussing. “I blew it up,” he said softly. “Nothing left of it now…”
His voice trailed off, and Bodie shifted his hold just in time to catch him as his legs seemed to crumple and he began to slide down the wall. He held him, hardly taking in what he’d said through the sudden heart-lurching concern he felt. Then the words made sense, and he had to know for sure.
“You blew it up?” he asked, probably sounding nearly as blank as Doyle had just done.
“Set off Serensky’s car,” Doyle added. “Probably saved his life.” His eyes were open, but he was still about to go down. Bodie realised he was telling the simple truth. He felt an almost overwhelming mixture of relief and shame, but even those were swamped by his growing alarm for his partner.
Forgetting any reservations about using his senses, Bodie searched for any reason for Doyle’s collapse. He wasn’t bleeding, not from more than the odd scratch, anyway. His heartbeat was slow but steady enough. He eased him down to the ground and checked with sensitive fingers for some kind of head injury. He was disturbed out of his normal control, and close to losing himself as he concentrated on the slight heat of bruises under the skin.
Doyle, who wasn’t noticing anything else, noticed this. “Hey,” he said softly. “Bodie?”
“Still here,” Bodie said, relieved to hear him speak. “Are you hurt? I can’t find anything wrong.”
“Nah. Pill bottle doesn’t work so well these days.” He closed his eyes, then opened them again, perhaps sensing Bodie’s reaction to that. “It was my choice. I could’ve come and found you.”
Bodie could scent it now, a sour smell of chemicals and sickness. Unsure what else to do, he opened up the link between them and felt Doyle shift a little as though it eased his discomfort. Bodie sat down on the concrete next to him, and hauled him into a sitting position, holding him to keep him propped upright. Doyle’s head rolled onto Bodie’s shoulder. There were tiny fragments of debris in his hair.
“We need to call Banks,” he said.
“I think Martin killed his harbour victim.”
Bodie could feel his regret for the mess that had ended Martin’s life. He glanced at the body a few metres away. “The old man’s going to hate this,” he muttered. “Better for CI5 if we could get to him first.”
“Better if Major Crimes get it than Willis,” Doyle muttered. “Anyway, I got Macklin today—yesterday—sometime. I need to sleep. You ever try those blue tablets? I thought they were supposed to keep you awake for hours. I don’t think they mix right with the meds.”
Bodie winced. “Sounds like a bad idea,” he agreed. He felt Doyle grow heavier against him. “Come on, Sunshine. If you want to sleep, I think we need to go somewhere more comfortable. I’ll ring Banks and see this gets cleared up.”
He stood up, pulling Doyle up to his feet with him. “Is your car here? I’ll get the PD to pick that up as well.”
He made the phone calls on the slow and unsteady walk to the car. His original thought had been to take Doyle back to the hotel, but Banks put him on to Jim Ellison, who offered a couch at the loft. It was a better option, and Bodie was grateful. He would have a chance to get some food and coffee into Doyle, and he and Ellison could make sure they told the same story in their reports.
He liked the loft well enough normally, but tonight it felt like a haven. He didn’t have to explain anything to Ellison or Sandburg. By the time he’d got Ellison on the phone earlier, forensics had already found traces of the machine Doyle had blown up. Now when he got to the door, he could see the same relief in Ellison as he felt himself.
“Is he all right?” Ellison asked, taking Doyle from him and half carrying him to the couch. “Blair says he’s hardly eaten for days.”
“I ate,” Doyle said without opening his eyes.
“I made you some soup,” Blair said from the kitchen. He looked much wider awake than when Bodie had last seen him, and wanted to know all the details of what he’d missed.
Doyle drank the soup and a mug of coffee, and filled in a few of the gaps. “Serensky helped get you away from Martin,” he added. “He… had reasons, personal reasons, for what he did. I didn’t want him arrested.”
Bodie was too relieved to see him looking slightly less ghost-like to argue with this. As far as he personally went, if he met Serensky again the doctor would regret it, but he refrained from saying that.
“It’s better this way anyway,” Jim said. “It will look now as though Brackett and Serensky were working together, and since Willis has only himself to blame for Serensky maybe he won’t look too closely into the details.”
“I don’t understand about the car, though,” Bodie said. “Who set that?”
“That was our intruder,” Jim said. “The one we picked up in the car park. The rumours about the Resonator had apparently caused a lot of hostility to the doctor in some areas. He’d been following Serensky about, but this was the first time he’d been able to get near the car. The fact we managed to arrest him and Brackett is going to be very useful. I think we’re going to get away with the rest.”
They’d got away with more important things, too, Bodie thought. Serensky’s machine was gone, and he hoped he’d never have to feel anything like it again. The Resonator had never happened. And there were things that mattered rather more even than that. He glanced at Doyle who had finished the soup and was sprawled comfortably in the corner of the couch, and Sandburg who was on his third cup of coffee and as wired now as he’d been sleepy earlier.
Ellison followed his look, and obviously understood his thoughts. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said.
Bodie settled on the floor with his back against the couch and his legs stretched out. Doyle had fallen asleep again on the seat. He closed his eyes, and listened to his partner’s steady breathing, to Sandburg asking a hundred questions and Ellison finding one word answers for nearly all of them. The labs and the day’s events seemed a long way away, and he was glad of it. The link between himself and Doyle was there again, as if it had never wavered.
On the edge of sleep, he realised that the sense of the darkness had ebbed, driven back by the strength of the bond and the knowledge that this time he hadn’t been betrayed. It hadn’t bothered Doyle anyway; he could tell that now. There was no trace of withdrawal there. Doyle was in it for the long haul, the good and the bad.
“Ray?” he asked softly, tilting his head back. “You asleep?”
“Good. While you’re talking in your sleep, tell me what it was got to you that day at Macklin’s.”
Doyle shifted a little. “Don’t like making a mess of things.”
“Macklin wasn’t blaming you.”
“Macklin was being kind. That’s really worrying.”
Bodie grinned. “He’ll make up for it when we see him again.” As an afterthought he added, “Ray?”
“I told you, I’m asleep.”
“You didn’t make a mess of things tonight.”
It was the nearest he could come to an apology, to the heart deep appreciation of what his partner had done. He hoped Doyle picked up the rest of it through the bond. Doyle chuckled. “I want that in writing tomorrow,” he murmured, and Bodie knew he’d understood. Satisfied, he let him sleep and drifted off himself. It was Ellison’s place. He’d keep an eye on things.
Blair, much wider awake than he normally was around dawn, was enjoying watching his roommate. Neither of them had really slept, and now Jim stood out on the balcony watching the morning spreading over Cascade. He looked as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. To Blair, he looked every bit the watchman.
Inside, Bodie and Doyle hadn’t stirred, and looked better for it. Blair went to put coffee on, and as an additional considerate thought, some hot water as well in case they’d prefer tea. The food available showed that no one had done the shopping for the last few days, but he could make pancakes, and there was slightly stale bread that would toast.
He was just thinking of getting on with it, when there was a knock at the door.
“Simon,” Jim said, coming in.
Bodie stirred and opened his eyes reluctantly. “I forgot you went in for breakfast meetings over here,” he said blearily.
In fact, Simon hadn’t been to bed at all. He stayed to breakfast, but he’d come mainly to give them the news about Barry Martin. “There’s no doubt about the homicide,” he said. “Believe it or not, he still had the gun on him. He must have been very confident he wouldn’t be suspected. I suppose without Doyle here, he wouldn’t have been. I held things up a bit ’til your chief had had a chance to get on to Willis and warn him Martin had gone rogue.”
“Thanks,” Bodie said, dumping a piece of toast in front of Doyle. “Looks better for us, keeping our own doorstep clean. Did anyone find out what happened to the girl?”
“She’s still missing,” Simon said. “A lot of people are looking for her, very thoroughly, though. Willis is taking it personally—first Serensky, then one of his own staff. He’s not too happy this morning.”
The mood in the room if anything brightened at this news.
“Did you speak to Cowley?” Doyle asked, eating the toast because that was less trouble than arguing with Bodie.
“Very briefly. I had an interesting talk with your training officer though—Macklin. He’s recommending to your boss that you put in another week at Major Crimes, together. I said I could use you.”
“You talked to Macklin,” Doyle said thoughtfully.
“Yes. He had some useful points to make about what you should be doing. Said you could consider the week part of your training.”
Blair couldn’t find a trace of a smile on the captain’s face, but he could tell Simon was enjoying this—and the expressions on the Englishman’s faces as he left.
“Talk about an unholy alliance,” Bodie muttered as the door shut. “This means Macklin can make us suffer even when we’re on the other side of the Atlantic. Oh well, anything’s better than Willis. What time do we have to turn up for him?”
Jim shrugged. “I haven’t had any orders. I assume we turn up at ten if we don’t hear differently.
At that moment the phone rang, and he picked it up, obviously expecting Security One. Blair was surprised when it was handed to him, and even more surprised to hear the slightly embarrassed voice of Jess O’Connell. “Blair? You did say I could get you on this number.”
“Yes, it’s fine—that was just my roommate. Is Bobby okay?”
“Yes. It’s just—something odd happened this morning. A man came to the door and gave me a letter for Ray Doyle, and he said that it would be in Bobby’s interests if I made sure it got to him. I didn’t know what to do.”
“He was threatening Bobby?”
“Oh no, I don’t think so. I think he meant it genuinely. But I don’t know how to get in touch with Ray.”
“Oh well, I can solve that problem; he’s here,” Blair said, handing the phone across the table to Doyle, who listened looking puzzled while Jess explained again.
“You don’t know who the man was? Okay. Look, I’ll be over as soon as I can this morning. We’ll open it together.”
He put the phone down, and Blair explained to the others about Bobby. Something occurred to him while he was talking. “Hey, we’ll have to borrow the truck. My car’s at Rainier, and I don’t know where Ray’s is.”
“It’s at the PD,” Bodie said, looking with amusement at the expression on Jim’s face. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we drop you on our way to Security One, and pick you up afterwards.
Blair had a vague impression this was like not being allowed out on their own, but he hadn’t really expected to get the truck, and it did seem practical.
Jess O’Connell was waiting in the driveway, and if she was surprised when the truck and Bodie’s car pulled up, she covered it well and invited them all in.
“They’ve got another appointment,” Blair said hastily.
“Oh, we can manage a few minutes, Chief,” Jim said.
Blair was reasonably sure he’d told her his room mate was a cop; he hoped she wouldn’t guess he was also a sentinel.
In fact, Jess O’Connell’s mind was more on the letter than on her visitors. She handed it to Doyle. “The man who left it was European, I think. Not American, anyway.”
Doyle slit it open, and Blair, not ashamed to be curious, read it over his shoulder. It was handwritten, the script neat and formal.
Dear Mr Doyle,
I expect the inventor of gunpowder believed it would only be used for man’s benefit. In retrospect, I believe your action last night was the wisest option. However, I have allowed our mutual friends to believe it was the bomb under my car which caused the destruction.
I am returning to my own country shortly, and to directly medical research.
I heard last night from Mr Bodie that there is a sentinel at the facility who has been damaged by something similar. This could only have happened in Eastern Europe, where a trial machine briefly existed.
If it is true, I suggest you try to arrange some contact between this man and Bobby O’Connell. The neurological damage will be in parts something like a mirror image. They may be able to help each other more than anyone else can help them. It will not be a miracle cure, but it may provide a starting point and some ease for their suffering.
I have learned some interesting things in cascade. I believe I know now who and what you are. Perhaps you four will be the future.
Doyle read out the relevant parts to his surprised listeners.
“There is a sentinel at the facility who was injured in Eastern Europe,” Jim said quietly.
Jess looked at Doyle. “I hardly know what to think. Do you know this man, Ray?”
Doyle nodded. “He probably knows what he’s talking about.”
“Then it could help Bobby. But how would we arrange it? I have met Dr Andros, but I can hardly just ring up and tell her we want to do this because of a letter from a man I don’t even know.”
“I can arrange it if you want,” Jim said. “The man at the facility though, the sentinel, is quite violently distressed. You might want to think about that.”
“He’s suffering a lot?” Jess asked.
“And it could help both of them.” She hesitated. “I’ll have to talk to Bobby, but I think, all the more because of that, we’d like to try the meeting.”
Jim glanced at his watch. “Well, if we could leave Doyle and Sandburg with you, we could talk about it again when we get back.”
He probably didn’t mean to sound as if he was leaving Blair with a childminder. Blair tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t help though when Jess said, “Of course. I’ll make them a drink, and Bobby will be glad to see them.” Blair could see Bodie laughing all the way down the drive.
Jim Ellison sometimes wondered about Bodie, who said to him as they arrived at headquarters, “Do you think we should have asked her to put them down for a nap?”
“We’ll be back by lunchtime,” he said, and could see no good reason for that to make Bodie laugh all the way up in the elevator.
They found they were still popular with Willis. This was a relief, given their activities the previous night, but he hoped it didn’t make future assignments more likely.
Brackett wasn’t talking, and the absent Serensky was being blamed for almost everything else. Jim had the distinct impression that Willis wanted to have the affair dismissed as quickly as possible, before the press got interested and started asking awkward questions. That suited Jim, anyway. He and Bodie were out of the room less than an hour later, unreprimanded and free to go back to their normal duties. Less than a day ago that hadn’t even looked a possibility.
Bobby was there in his wheelchair when they got back to the O’Connell’s house. Jim could sense some of the brokenness in his mind, but there was none of the anger and desperation he’d seen in the other man.
“We’ve decided to go ahead with it,” Jess said, looking with surprise at Bodie who’d picked up a pack of lollipops on the way back and was handing them out. “Can you really arrange it.”
Jim realised he was making it rather obvious he was not just a policeman as he rang Dr Andros and explained the situation, but Jess O’Connell was a pleasant and obviously kind woman and it seemed worth the risk.
Dr Andros was more than agreeable. “She says we can go straight over if you want,” he relayed to the O’Connells.
Jess, slightly flustered, nodded. “There’s not really any point in waiting, I suppose.”
Jim confirmed it to the doctor.
“If you don’t mind, we’ll all come,” he said to Jess as he put the phone down. “Bodie and I have met the sentinel at the facility, and we might be able to help.”
He ignored some odd gestures from Blair, but once they were in the truck he had to listen.
“Jim, we can’t do this. Dr Andros knows you as sentinels. I bet she always calls you sentinel, too. What’s Jess going to think when she finds out that my roommate’s a sentinel.”
“I’m tired of hiding from everyone,” Jim said. “The anthropologist story’s okay. Most people buy it. Does it really matter if someone like Jess O’Connell guesses what the real situation is.”
Blair thought about it. “You wouldn’t mind?” he said doubtfully.
“If it wasn’t for the hassle it would bring you, I’d be happy for everyone to know,” Jim said.
Blair went red, and had only just about found his voice again as they pulled into the facility.
Dr Andros had arranged for a quiet and empty room to be available, free even of furniture. Jim and Bodie went to fetch the soldier while the others waited. They found him huddled as before in a corner, this time clutching his head. He recognised them though, Jim was sure of it, and he didn’t fight them as they lifted him to his feet. There was a wheelchair available but they didn’t bother. In spite of his jerking muscles he wasn’t uncooperative with them. He didn’t seem to follow what they were saying at all, though. He obviously tried to listen, but it seemed to mean nothing to him.
“I suppose he does speak English,” Bodie said suddenly. “I mean, he was in Europe.”
Jim stared at him over the soldier’s head. “I don’t know. Come to think of it, I don’t even know his name. Surely they wouldn’t have sent him among people he couldn’t understand.”
Bodie shrugged. They’d reached the room now. This was the difficult bit. Bobby, Jim was fairly sure, understood what was going on. The sentinel had no idea. No one was quite sure of the best way to handle the introduction. He sensed as soon as they got into the room, though, that it wasn’t going to be a problem. The two, damaged as they were, seemed to know they’d have to handle it themselves.
Bobby flailed an arm at Jim and Bodie, the gesture wild but clear enough. “You want us to bring him over,” Jim checked.
Carefully, not quite sure how their burden would react, they approached the wheelchair. The sentinel was moving in their arms, urgent to get there, but still without violence.
“Bobby, this is Rudi,” Dr Andros said quietly.
Rudi jerked at the sound of his name, but his attention still seemed to be on Bobby. Jim and Bodie eased closer, until Rudi was directly in front of the wheelchair. Bobby flung out the hand he had most control over, and it landed clumsily on Rudi’s arm.
Jim felt the strength of the connection, almost like an electric shock, and he knew Bodie felt it too, because between them they almost dropped Rudi. After that nothing seemed to happen though.
Then he heard Jess say softly, “They’re still.”
She lived with the spasming movements all the time of course; she would naturally notice something like stillness. It hadn’t occurred to Jim. Dr Andros looked equally excited by it. She had a large foam mat brought in, and they lifted Bobby out of his wheelchair so that both men could rest on it. The involuntary movements had definitely stopped.
Jess and Dr Andros saw it as a huge leap in progress. Jim could only see what a long way there was to go, but maybe Serensky had been right and this was a first step on that road. Behind him, he heard Bodie asking Dr Andros about Rudi’s language.
“It says in his notes that he understands English,” she said. “I have wondered sometimes, because he seems to understand his name but little else. If I remember correctly he’s from either Holland or somewhere with a Dutch based language.”
Bodie glanced at Jim. “I could try Afrikaans.”
Jim shrugged, but watched with interest as Bodie stooped and said something to the man on the mat. Rudi almost managed to turn his head. He evidently understood it. Bodie said something else, and stood up.
“What did you say?” Dr Andros asked.
“Basically that he’d be okay now he’d got his guide,” Bodie said.
Jess O’Connell and Dr Andros were clearly getting on well, and it seemed time for the rest of them to be moving on, especially as Jim could hear Dr Andros beginning to explain how wonderful he and Bodie had been.
Blair began to laugh as he was almost bundled out. “It’s no good, Jim. We heard most of it already when you were getting Rudi.”
“Just great big softies at heart,” Doyle agreed.
“And look how they appeal to middle-aged women,” Blair added.
“All women,” Bodie said. “They go for the short-haired military look, you know. And of course there’s our natural charm.”
He made it sound a little like a challenge, and with resignation Jim saw that Blair was rising to it. “Hey, the long-haired look goes down all right for me.”
“Well, we could put it to the test,” Bodie said. “I tell you what. You remember the Coyote club?”
“Vividly,” Doyle said, looking suspiciously at his partner.
“We’ll go down there for a drink before dinner, and see who the hostesses pay the most attention to. Losers pay for the meal. To make it fair, we’ll go in separately—you and Doyle, me and Ellison.”
“Done,” Blair said, ignoring Doyle.
Jim shook his head. There was always a sucker. He didn’t know how Bodie was going to fix this, but he was quite sure he intended to.
Doyle was sure of it as well, and he said so enough times to make Blair heartily sick of the subject.
“He can’t fix it,” Blair protested. “What do you imagine he’s going to do? Bribe all the girls?”
“He wouldn’t spend money,” Doyle said. “But he’s got something in mind. I’m going to get my car and look for an ace in the hole. Want me to pick you up later?”
Blair was seldom without at least a couple of girlfriends. He didn’t see how they could lose. It was a while since he and Doyle had been in the Coyote Club, but the girls had always been more than ready to approach them.
He sat with Doyle and ordered drinks when they got there, and tried not to look at the others. It was early evening, and quiet. Three of the girls were soon sitting with Jim and Bodie.
He waited. And waited.
Conversation at their table wasn’t stimulating, consisting mostly of Doyle offering variants on ‘I told you so.’ Not one girl came near them. It was unbelievable. He made the mistake of saying so.
“I warned you,” Doyle said promptly. “Anyway, here comes my ace in the hole. We’ll find out now what’s going on.”
Blair looked up with renewed interest as Megan Connor walked in and up to the bar, where she began chatting with the girls. Five minutes later she was looking at a photograph, and laughing so hysterically she dropped it.
He stared at what he was holding with such an extraordinary expression that Blair got up to see.
It was a clear picture of himself and Doyle, neatly tucked in a double bed. They were both looking rather the worse for wear, but were covered with a very fetching bedspread.
“Bodie told them it was your anniversary,” Megan said when she could stop laughing. “He said you’d want to be alone.”
Bodie smiled over at them benignly. “You owe us dinner,” he said.
“There’s been a change of plan,” Doyle said grimly. “We’re just buying dinner for Megan.”
In the end, though, they all went. Megan seemed to have a soft spot for Bodie, though Blair hoped he hadn’t noticed it, and unspoken but acknowledged was the sense that they’d spent enough time apart.
Much later, after they’d dropped Megan off, they all went back to the loft for coffee. In a moment of quiet, Blair looked round the room. What had Serensky seen in them? That they were sentinels and guides, or partners, or simply friends? He wondered which one made the future.
At the guide facility, Dr Andros made her final round. Until tonight, her last task had been to make sure Rudi was heavily enough sedated to get him through the night. Tonight, she looked in with a sense of hope. Bobby O’Connell had stayed at the facility. He’d managed to make it very clear that was his choice. Now, he slept peacefully on a second bed that had been moved into the room. Rudi, stiller than she’d ever seen him, and on his bed rather than in the corner, was wide awake. He paid no attention to her as she quietly opened the door; his concentration was entirely fixed on Bobby. Pain-free for the first time since she’d known him, the damaged sentinel was guarding his damaged guide.
She went to her own room, and knelt to pray for them to the God of the broken.
~ End ~