Destinies Entwined DE Press Stories Kathy's Manips KAM's Manips Multimedia Slash Loft Library Gen Loft Library
Dotty Kathy Lvblair Mary Ellen Ophelia KAM Ronnee Kathy 'n Mary Ellen
Envelope Series 6
Thanks to ToniRae for her patience in betaing yet another of this series.
Disclaimer: The guys and gals of Major Crimes and Cascade are not mine. Neither are the villains. I played nicely, returned them relatively unharmed, and made absolutely no money off them. ;-( AJ, Cage, Zeliniski, Cam, and Ian are mine though. Please ask before borrowing – I’m happy to lend them, I just like to know where they are. ;-)
Leer U251KS chartered flight New York to Cascade
The man strode up and down the airplane’s narrow aisle angrily. His black hair was liberally streaked with gray, but neither his eyes nor his manner reflected his age. "I still can’t believe you’re going to do this! Neither of us has been physically involved with a mission in years and you’re just waltzing into an unknown situation! And all of this just for a possible problem from thirty years ago?”
“Sit down, my friend." Bright blue eyes laughed at him as the younger man slid a file into his briefcase. "James Ellison is not a threat, unless you plan on threatening his partner?”
That made the pacing man stop. Curious, he turned around to face the blond. At the other man’s gesture he sat down, still trying to fathom his friend’s ironic words. "Why would I do that? Blair's a good kid, he always has been.”
“He’s not a kid any longer." The cool, dispassionate voice chided him. "Blair Sandburg, PhD, Special Consultant to the Cascade PD, Detective in the Major Crimes Department, child of numbers 132647 and 130298, experimental group 1093, is now an adult, thirty years of age. We have little information on his development as his mother preferred we stay as far away as possible.”
“Unless she needed something." The dark haired man grumbled. "And now her son is doing the same thing. I didn’t like Willow’s arrangement back then either.”
“She only came to us for help once." The blond watched his partner, eyes measuring the other man. "You ordered her to stay in touch and she vanished. I wiped every bit of information I could trace from our files to let her go." At the shocked question that appeared on his friend’s face, he smiled sadly and nodded. "She's the one who sent me what little information we have on the scientists who ran the experiments. It wasn’t enough to catch them but it was enough to thwart them and we know how their bosses handle those who fail to produce results.”
“She earned our help, then." The older man frowned thoughtfully. "Why didn’t she come to us directly?”
“I’m not sure. What little I know of Blair’s dissertation fiasco suggests she was desperate and too scared to contact me directly. And we both know what happened to Grace and her sisters. If Ellison’s father hadn’t been the consummate liar that he is, both of his sons would have disappeared too." He closed his briefcase, carefully setting the locks before handing it to his bodyguard. Still pensive, he tilted his seat back and closed his eyes. "The consortium missed Naomi by less than an hour in Lima. Whoever arranged for her to be escorted by Fortaleza was a genius.”
“Why do you say that?”
“No one messes with anyone involved with the Silence groups or with Cage’s ex – it isn’t healthy." The blond smiled. "She passed through Customs and vanished. The consortium posted a reward for sighting information but nothing came of it.”
“Why does the consortium want Naomi after all these years? Why not just go after her son? Blair is an easier target.”
“That’s what I want to find out.”
A cabin outside the Cascade City Limits
The gray-haired man grinned mercilessly as he glanced at the note. The photograph made him chuckle. Taking a swift drag on his cigarette, he stared out the window thoughtfully. Since Naomi Sandburg’s most recent disappearance, he had been plagued with trouble – most of it centering around his inability to complete the projects in and around Cascade. Now, finally, he had something he could use to control Cascade’s guardians.
“Krycek.”He barked the word, knowing he would instant attention. He watched the man’s moves in the mirrored surface of the window. Behind him, the leather-clad man stopped his silent perusal of the library shelves, turning and taking a step forward. There he stopped, just within easy reach, waiting for his instructions. Taking another drag on his cigarette, he considered the silent man. From all the signs, Krycek was starting to chafe at the consortium’s control and he wanted to measure the assassin’s obedience personally. "I want Brackett to deliver something in Cascade. Make sure he understands the importance of delivering it to the appropriate people.”
The calm smoky green eyes that had been staring over the smoker’s shoulder swiftly turned to meet the cigarette smoker's. There was nothing to be seen in them Krycek’s voice was just as calm as his eyes. "I'll take care of it.”
“I have another job for you." The man paused to take another deep breath of smoke from his cigarette. This was the order that would tell him whether or not Krycek was about to break. "Arrange a meeting with Fortaleza. Just the three of us – in a place she considers safe for such a meet.”
Krycek’s eyes narrowed and he frowned at his superior. "That won’t be easy. Ellison and Rafe will both be keeping close eye on her whereabouts now. And she doesn’t trust us enough to meet us anywhere.”
The craggy faced man turned around to face his subordinate. He wasn’t sure but he thought he’d seen more than simple unease in the reflection and he wanted to double check. He held out the Polaroid photos. "Show her these and she’ll agree to the meeting." Again he thought he saw something flicker through the assassin’s eyes. “ Tell her she can bring her detective but not Ellison. In fact, it would be better if she brings Detective Rafe. He’s controllable.”
Krycek’s eyes flickered over the photo impassively and he nodded. "And if she still refuses?”
“Do whatever you have to do to get her to agree to the meeting. But the meeting must be tonight." He lowered his voice ominously as he continued, “and Krycek – be very careful not to damage her this time. She's much more valuable to us unharmed.”
With a curt nod, the young man straightened his leather jacket and left the office. Behind him, the cigarette smoker crushed the package of Morleys in his fist. He didn’t like his people to be free thinkers and Alex Krycek was showing too many signs of independent thought. He was going to become a problem if this kept up and the older man hadn’t gotten to his position by allowing problems to become dangerous. Maybe it was time for him to find a new assassin.
The Court House Cafe
“You won’t believe what he told the judge!" Detective Felicia Jean Sanders was fighting off laughter as she picked at her dessert. She shared the table with the other women of the Major Crimes Department. She was sharing lunch and court stories at the Court House Café with Inspector Megan Connor, Executive Secretary (and life-saving-department-mediator) Rhonda Green, and Sergeant Catherine Grayson. "He said – to Judge Leona Scalia – it was women in their prime years should be home, raising children, caring for their men. Once they were more mature, then and only then, they should turn their eyes to other matters. Since all the women he attacked were young, high-powered executives, he should be pardoned for his ‘chastisement of the short-skirted hussies’.”
“He didn't!" Megan burst out laughing at the thought. Judge Scalia was known for her no-nonsense approach to the law and her intensely active stance on women’s rights as well as family values. The Australian couldn’t understand why the defendant thought his appeal to the judge would work, especially since the Judge had kept her career while raising two children and was now a happy grandmother. Beside her, Rhonda smothered her giggles.
Catherine choked on a mouthful of cake. After a frantic swallow of coffee, the quiet ex-Marine shook her head at Felicia. "Please tell me Leona took his head off,” she purred in her surprisingly husky contralto.
The Texan grinned cheekily. She'd learned that Catherine seemed to know just about everyone in the business – cops, lawyers, judges, guards, and fed – if Catherine didn’t know them, they were either brand new or suspect. And all of the detectives in Major Crimes got nervous when Catherine didn’t know someone. "She sat up straight and gave him this look that woulda made my daddy shake. Then she announced that she felt perfectly justified in throwin’ the book at him. He got 20-25 for the assault on each of the counts and she tacked on another sixty days for contempt of court.”
As the four women laughed, a waiter approached. He quickly refilled their coffee and set the check in the middle of the table. Still laughing, Catherine picked up the check, waving the others off. As she read the short note on the check, her face went ashen and she glanced up at the others. "Don't drink the coffee!”
The harsh whisper and the blank expression on her face made the others freeze. Unfortunately, she was too late. All three had already taken at least a sip of the tainted beverage.
“What’s wrong?" Ever the calm, efficient executive assistance, Rhonda quietly set down her coffee cup. Her eyes were fixed on the older woman as she pulled her cell phone from her purse.
“That wasn’t our waiter." Catherine kept her voice calm – trying desperately to control her panic. "We need to get you to the hospital, real fast.”
“Why?” “What happened?" Megan and Rhonda spoke together.
“Guys?I doan’ feel so guid.” Felicia murmured, her accent thickening and her eyes becoming glassy. Her cup was empty and the poison was quickly overcoming her body’s resistance.
“My car’s the closest. Rhonda, take my keys and open the door. Megan and I will –.“Catherine spoke rapidly, handing her keys to Rhonda.
“You don’t have much time. She went down a little too fast." A warm male voice at her side made them all look up. "Don't go for your weapons ladies, this is a public place. Innocent people could get hurt." Bracket smiled gently as Megan and Catherine placed their hands on the table. "If you want her to live, you’d better call an ambulance. For the antidote, you have to give up Naomi Sandburg.”
Quickly picking up the coffee cups, placing them on his tray, Brackett slipped a piece of paper into Catherine’s hand, while distracting they were distracted. "Your friends will be sick for the next six hours. Then the pain begins. At twelve hours, they will slip into comas. After twenty hours, the antidote won’t help. Between thirty-five and fifty hours from now the three of you will die." An uncomfortable look crossed his face and Brackett looked pained. "The antidote in exchange for Naomi Sandburg’s location. We'll call Ellison’s cell phone in an hour. I'm very sorry about this… it wasn’t my idea or my preference.”
Catherine wasn’t quite sure which thing shocked her more – the genuine remorse and regret in Brackett’s voice or the note he tucked into her hand. If she hadn’t been the recipient of the note, she would have missed the move. She held herself still as she watched him leave, carefully pouring the remaining coffee into a flowerpot. As soon as he was out of sight, she slid her hand into her purse, dropping the note into it and pulling out a cell phone. Her voice was shaky as she spoke into it, “Officers down, the Court House Café, according to the messenger, its poison.”
422 Ridge Ave, Cascade
Detective Brian Rafe was planning on enjoying the rest of the day. It was a nice day – especially for mid- March. It was unusually warm, clear, and he’d been told to take the rest of day off, spend it anywhere but in the bullpen, fidgeting and driving his friends crazy. Thank goodness he’d already caught up on all of his paperwork. He had enough comp time built up to relax a bit – at least until the criminals decided to start causing trouble again.
He frowned as he saw the unfamiliar car in the parking area. He knew just about all of the people who normally visited and this car didn’t belong to any of them. He frowned thoughtfully as he turned opened the wrought iron gate. One look at the tableau in front of him and he froze in shock. Only the fact that there were no obvious threats being made kept him from grabbing his weapon and leveling it at the man speaking to AJ.
Krycek was not sure about this. In fact the only thing that made him more nervous was meeting with Agents Mulder and Scully. After the events of the past week, he had planned on avoiding Cascade like the plague, but he had his orders. He kept his eyes locked on the woman who was dusting potting soil from her fingers.
“No.”The steel edge in Fortaleza’s voice wasn’t a surprise. In fact, he’d expected it.
“He has something for you." Alex held himself very still as he watched her movements carefully. He didn’t want her to consider him a threat. The nightmares from her yaje darts were not something he wanted to face again. Ever.
“I won’t make any bargains with him. He has nothing I want or need.” AJ half turned away from him, fine tremors wracking her body as she purposefully exposed her back. "Get off my property.”
“Fortaleza, take a look at this. Please." Alex carefully pulled the photograph out of his pocket. He didn’t particularly like doing this, but he couldn’t fail. He let his eyes flicker to the garden gates and they narrowed as he noticed Brian Rafe standing there. He shifted, letting the detective see that his free hand was empty and unthreatening. Fortaleza might not kill him but he wasn’t so sure about the detective. "If you don’t look at it, you will regret it.”
After a long silent moment, AJ turned back to him and took the picture. When she saw it, her face paled and she swayed alarmingly. Concerned and startled, Krycek caught her arm and helped her settle on one of her workbenches. Rafe quickly covered the distance between them. Just as he reached her side, AJ spoke, "When and where?”
“Five o’clock.” Krycek stepped back, letting the detective take his place. He looked over at them and his regret was obvious. "I guarantee that there will be no traps. For Tommy’s sake.”
Rafe nodded, his eyes straying to the picture that was clenched in AJ’s hand. The shock of seeing the pair of gray-eyed children made him stiffen. He glared at the messenger. "How did you get to them?”
“I don’t know.” Krycek’s answer was swift and truthful. He turned and quickly headed over to the gate. "The invitation is for both of you, but no one else. The location is your choice as long as it’s neutral ground.”
AJ looked up, her eyes shuttered as she met his. "The museum.”
Alex nodded and slid out the open gate. He kept his back to them as he went to his car. He was not about to let either the detective or photographer know how much this one simple assignment was getting to him. It almost made him glad his older brother couldn’t see him now – Tommy would never let himself be involved in something like this. How had he gotten here? He opened the car door and dismissed the thought. Alex Krycek didn’t have time for introspection. He had a museum to check out and a meeting to arrange. Gravel spun as he roared out the drive.
“Kyrie?”Brian Rafe’s voice was hoarse as he took the picture from her. "It'll be okay, love.”
Despair welled in the green eyes that turned to him. "I know these people, Britney scare me.”
Ignoring the spilled potting soil on the bench, Brian sat beside her, lifting her chin to see her eyes. They were haunted. "I'd better call this in.”
“No.”AJ’s fingers traced over the two children in the photo. "If the museum is staked out, we’ll never see them again. We wait.”
Brain’s response to that was colorful enough to make her wince. Heedless to the damage being done to his suit, he pulled her into his arms, his thoughts far away. They sat there quietly, AJ with her unbroken arm wrapped around his waist and her face buried against his chest. Brian rested his hand protectively over her stomach as he tried to find another solution to their problem. His free hand clutched the photograph as tightly as if it were a lifeline and he were a drowning man.
Neither of them paid attention to the shrill ring of his cell phone.
“The entire Willow Tree operation?" The question resulted in a curt nod from the man by the window. "What about Famine’s group?”
“They were raided before dawn their time. The word spread fast, an hour later the entire network was closed and moved." The calm voice was punctuated by the sound of bullets being added to a clip. "On the East Coast, two major players cancelled all their appointments and vanished. Their Leer was seen leaving New York. By now it’s landing in Cascade.”
“If it was heading there." The intelligence office grumbled. His opinion of the American agencies was well known. "They might have a different agenda.”
“Someone tried to grab every Sandburg, including my wife." The crisp accent was the only sign that the man was furious. "She's in the hospital. My children and grandchildren were frightened. My daughter is in premature labor because of the assault on my home a few hours ago.”
The other men stiffened. They had not gotten the word that anyone had moved against the Colonel or his family. This was indeed trouble.
“Sir, we can.—.”The young officer began only to be silenced by the older man’s headshake.
“If a man named Nick calls asking for my Willow files tell him they are en route to his office in New York." The ex-SAS officer smiled. "My old team is guarding my family, you will stay out of their way. Is that understood?”
“What about you sir?”
“You don’t want to know." The man smiled and waved toward his companion. The two SAS officers frowned as they watched the American join him. Briefly they wondered who the computer geek was and why he was being escorted around England by one of their deadliest retirees. Then again, maybe they didn’t want to know that either.
“Detective Ellison, Captain Banks, Blair." The blond man greeted the trio waiting in the airport lounge. They were watching the people disembarking through the gate and hadn’t seen the approaching group. The swiftness with which the two senior cops turned, their hands going instinctively for their weapons made him regret the deception.
“Nico!Andy!”Blair’s boisterous grin and enthusiastic greeting made both men relax. "You're the one from Mom’s letter?”
The blond nodded, his blue eyes steady on Jim Ellison, measuring his reactions. The slight tightening around the eyes and mouth told him that the ex-Ranger not only recognized him but he’d noticed everything about the approaching men… including the fact that they were all armed.
“This isn’t the place for family reunions, Chief." Jim's quiet words were interrupted as all three of the Cascade men’s beepers went off. As one, detective, consultant and captain pulled out their pulled out their pagers. Simon quickly pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed dial while his detectives waited for news.
“We’ll have to meet later.” Simon growled as he disconnected. “Brackett just attacked Major Crimes. Sanders, Connor, and Rhonda are on their way to the hospital. Rafe and Fortaleza aren’t answering their phones, a unit is on its way to their place.”
“Felicia Jean Sanders?" Nick's companion whispered. Simon and Jim both shot the other man startled looks. At Blair’s unhappy nod, the group from Washington followed the detectives through the airport.
“If Brackett went after your coworkers, he’s working for the consortium." Nick spoke up. He glanced at one of the two young men following them. "Brad, get to Fortaleza. I don’t care how. She might know something we can use. Andy, arrange a safe house.”
“And what about me, old friend?" The man with gray streaked hair asked as the two bodyguards headed off without protest.
“You’re my partner, even if you’re getting old." The quick grin belied the serious implications of the words. "I can’t just order you out of the way, can I?”
“Seeing as I outrank you, no." The tired brown eyes were amused as the older man shrugged his shoulders.
Blair shot a quick glance at the two men and then looked over at his partner. The rapidly moving jaw muscle told him he needed to get the sentinel’s mind off Cascade’s problems. "Do you think H and Rafe will be like them when they grow old?”
Startled, Jim glanced back at them. The older man, his graying hair impeccably styled and cut, ready smile, and fitted Armani suit did bring Brian Rafe to mind. His partner, although younger, wore loose fitting trousers and a pullover sweater, almost exactly matching the ones Henri Brown had worn into to office that morning. The way they interacted did heighten the similarity. “Yeah. Only, by then H will be more like Joel than Nick.”
Cascade General Hospital
“What do the doctors say?" Simon asked Catherine Grayson quietly. Jim watched quietly, wondering when they’d get any news. The waiting are was quickly filling up with police officers and the constant movement was getting on his nerves.
“It’s a slow acting poison, sir. They can trace its affect on them but they can’t find it in their tests." The strain of the past hour showed in the woman’s eyes. “Brackett also handed me this, but it doesn’t make any sense.”
Jim stared at the note, trying to make sense of the symbols through the plastic evidence bag. After a moment, he passed the note to Blair, asking, “Recognize these symbols, Chief?”
“Not really.” The dark blue eyes looked puzzled. "They might be chemistry symbols or they might be a message – I don’t know Brackett well enough to know.”
Nick stepped over to them. "May I see that?”
After a quick glance at Jim, Blair handed it to the older man. They watched silently as he pulled out a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and studied the symbols. A frown creased his forehead and he turned away abruptly. "Which office is most likely to have the antidotes from the old arsenal of poisons?”
The sad brown eyes of Nick’s partner became thoughtful and the graying man limped over to glance at the note. He blinked and frowned. "That's an old one, all right. Don't think anyone’s used it since the early seventies – too many side effects to be useful." He closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. "All of the offices should have enough of the antidote to take care of the ladies. Seattle is the closest office – and Erickson actually has experience with the stuff.”
The blond nodded and turned his attention to the waiting detectives. “Dr. Erickson is one of our best bio-chemists. He can fly here within the hour with the antidote to this particular poison. If you’ll allow us to assist in the matter.”
Even as Simon began to protest Nick’s acceptance of Brackett’s information, Jim cut him off. The sentinel had been keeping his senses locked on the two men and knew they were on the level. He also remembered who vouched for Nick, today it was Naomi Sandburg and Blair’s dim memories, in the past it had been a sealed directive from a three star general. "We can trust him, Simon.”
Simon glared at his detective, wishing, like he always did, that Jim would just leave him out of the more bizarre parts of having a sentinel. Finally he nodded, “We appreciate anything that you can do for them.”
Immediately, the two men nodded and turned away. They pulled out cell phones as they stepped out of the waiting room and headed for the door.
Simon waited impatiently until the two men were out of sight before turning his attention on his chief detective. He watched as the younger man kept his eyes and presumably his incredibly sensitive hearing on the agents’ conversation. Only when the sentinel relaxed did he growl, "Are you going to give me an explanation, detective?”
“I met Nick under another name, a long time ago. No one knew who he was, we all knew his name was fake – John Smith-- a British accent, spoke fluent Spanish, Russian, and Quechua, expert in too many disciplines, and more battle scars than any of our drill sergeants. We were ordered not to ask questions about him, only to learn everything we could from him." Jim grimaced fiercely. "He taught us jungle warfare and survival. Without his training I would have died before the Chopec found me.”
Blair’s eyebrows rose and he shook his head in confusion. "No way, man. Uncle Nick is a pacifist. No matter how much Uncle Chris teased him, Nick wouldn’t even spar with him. The one time I saw him get mad – he told Chris to handle the problem and walked out, didn’t see him for days.”
“I don’t know about that, Chief, but I know him." Jim's voice was soft. "He's the man who taught me and the only person I ever saw who is better than him was Yuri.”
“Yuri? As in the Russian assassin?" Simon asked, eyes flickering from one man to the other. "We're dealing with CIA?”
“No, sir." Jim replied. "I don’t think they work for the CIA – I don’t think the CIA would be claim him or his friends.”
“Who then?" Blair asked.
“Someone who can fight off the group that’s been hunting Naomi for thirty years, Chief.”
The three men became silent as they thought that over.
A secured computer center, London.
“Frohike?”The old man straightened slowly. "Can you do it?”
The middle-aged computer nerd nodded solemnly. “Yeah. I’ll take care of everything from here. We didn’t think they’d come after your side of the family.”
The colonel nodded his acceptance of the younger man’s words. "Good enough. I'll give you forty minutes to play with the computers and make all the additions you need. Don't make any copies or download anything. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Frohike ran his hand over his head. "It shouldn’t even take too long. And there will be no record that can be traced to back to Naomi.”
The colonel straightened his uniform, smoothing the few creases that had come from his sojourn behind the desk. Then he glanced again at the other man before walking out of the secured area.
Frohike began typing up files from memory, carefully constructing an identity and a background. The majority of it had been already decided – thirty-one years earlier. A last ditch effort only to be used if all else failed. The paper copies of everything were already in place. The little details, ones he had created on a regular basis just to keep the identity in step with the rest of the world, had been memorized just as thoroughly. It only took him a few moments.
The hard part was finding Jane Doe. She had to be someone who fit Naomi’s description, didn’t raise too many questions from the cause of her death, and could have been her if he hadn’t seen her just a few hours ago. He switched the dental information and double-checked the medical stats. There -- a perfect match. Within a few hours, the id would be made and the news would travel the world – Naomi Sandburg had died twenty-four hours ago on a cliff side in Dover, England.
God, he hoped Blair would be able to forgive him. Carefully and very thoroughly, the computer expert removed all trace of his presence. Before the colonel could come in and tell him his time was up, Frohike was stepping out the door. He wanted to get out of there before he began vomiting. He still had to tell Naomi.
Cascade General Hospital
“Captain Banks? How are they?” The question brought Simon’s head up and he gave a relieved smile. Detective Brian Rafe moved quickly into the waiting room. The normally immaculate suit was slight rumpled and even had traces of dirt on it. "I just got the news.”
“You weren’t answering your cell phone, detective. "There was a trace of menace in Simon’s voice. He'd been worried about the dapper young detective and his lady. "Are you and AJ all right?”
“Yeah, we’re fine, sir." The younger man flushed slightly at the implied reprimand. Then he noticed the honest worry in his superior’s face. "She's in the chapel, if you want I can go get her.”
“Let her pray, son. The ladies will be fine. The antidote in en route from the airport along with a specialist." Simon gentled his tone. “We just worried that Krycek or Brackett got to you two.”
“I haven’t seen Brackett since he got Krycek free.” Rafe looked away, not wanting to go into this now.
“Have you seen Krycek since then?" Jim Ellison slipped close to the younger detective’s side. He had noticed Brian’s unease and something about it clicked. The poison was a diversion.
Brian Rafe looked over at the pale detective and saw the menace and the barely controlled irritation in the steel blue eyes. He pulled out the photograph and handed it to his superior. "They want to see us – just Kyrie and me. No other police.”
“Shit.” The terse curse was Simon’s only response as he gazed at the children in the picture. The resemblance to his detective was uncanny. “Are they yours?”
“Does it matter, sir?” Brian looked at the floor. “Krycek’s boss has them and is holding them over our heads.”
“Brian.”The soft whisper from Blair made detective look at him. “The fact that they’re kids in the hands of madmen is the only really important thing. The fact that they might be family is important in another way.”
He ran his hand through his hair, making the perfectly groomed style disappear. “Don’t know. It’s a possibility. Remember Melody? We broke up because I refused to quit being a cop? They look like they’d be the right age – if something failed. Then again, they could be Andrew Thomas’ kids.”
The three men looked at each other with identical winces. They didn’t even want to imagine any children raised by Brian Rafe’s cousin. The man was the kind of criminal law agencies feared – intelligent, but insane, sociopath. “So when’s the meet?”
“You aren’t going.” Brian stared at his friends.“ You need to be here – visible and noticed by anyone passing by the windows.”
“Aw, h***! That’s why Brackett slipped us the note with the poison type.” Blair shook his head. “I should have known it was too good to be true.”
“I don’t think that’s the reason Brackett gave us the information." Jim was thoughtful. "I doubt he knew Nick would know where to get the antidote in time to counter effect the poison. This isn’t the first time he’s tried to help us since he started working with Krycek.”
“But whose side is he on?" Simon asked quietly.
“His own, of course." Jim grinned. "Lee Brackett doesn’t like involving innocent civilians – agents and police officers are a different story though.”
“So why give us the information?”
“Captain Bank’s secretary, Rhonda, isn’t a cop. She’s an innocent.” The clipped words came from Nick’s friend. “I don’t believe we were ever introduced, I’m Marcus Jones.”
“I’m Simon Banks and these are my detectives, Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg, and Brian Rafe.” Simon quickly introduced his people. “Did your man arrive?”
“He’s upstairs with Nick. They’re running a spectrograph analysis of the ladies’ blood right now.” The man leaned on his cane and smiled. “Between Nick and Dr. Erickson, your friends will be on the road to recovery shortly.”
Brian looked from Marcus to his friends in confusion. “I think I missed something.”
“Nick is my godfather and he’s someone who knows about Naomi and problems we’ve been having.” Blair explained.
“Why would Brackett worry about Rhonda being an innocent when he kidnapped Ms. Fortaleza?” Simon asked, hoping to get an answer from the gentleman watching them so very closely.
“I doubt Mr. Bracket had much choice in the matter of her kidnapping.” The man looked around the waiting room and nodded to an empty set of chairs. “Perhaps we could move this discussion? I fear that with my bad knee, I am unable to continue very comfortably if I must remain standing.”
The group moved to the chairs and the older man quickly made himself comfortable. “How much do you know about Willow?”
Jim looked Marcus in the eyes and kept his words calm. “She was kidnapped because she could sense things… understand emotions that didn’t belong to her. A whole lot of other kids were taken too. For experimentation. When she escaped, Blair’s father was killed.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow at the dry recitation. “That is part of it. But it’s not all of it. Most of the people who were taken were young, between the ages of 10 and 19.But not all of them, some were older. All of them had a gift, or maybe more than one, there aren’t enough records left to tell.” He looked away. “My partner was taken even though he was twenty-five. They managed to hold him for seventeen weeks and he still can’t talk about what he saw. He met his wife there. They weren’t the only adults but they were among the few to survive, but Holly was caught in 1975 and killed. The ones who escaped… they were hunted down. The teenagers, the ones who ran escaped, most of them stayed free until just recently. Blair probably knows more of them than anyone else.”
Blair looked at the man sitting so calmly in the plastic waiting room chair. His quick mind took the information and began trying to fit it in with the stuff he’d guessed about his mother’s friends and relatives. “The codes they used on the phone told Mom who lived and who got caught. Every place we stopped we ran into ‘friends’ and all of them were so very haunted. I thought it was paranoia.”
“Knowing someone is trying to find you doesn’t make you paranoid, son." Marcus responded. "I wasn’t there in time to protect Daniel and Naomi from being recaptured, but I was there to break them out. Daniel destroyed the lab and the records room. When he was done there wasn’t enough left for the scientists to start up again.”
“And they’re after the survivors now?" Jim asked, one hand resting on Blair’s shoulder.
“Word has it that someone saw Daniel take some microdots from the lab." Nick's voice spoke up from behind Simon. With a smooth ease that belied his age, the blond slipped through the group and checked on his partner. "It took them a long time to realize first that Daniel died in the escape, then that he passed the microdots to Willow. It wasn’t until last year that they managed to link Willow to Naomi Sandburg. If I had realized they knew that I would have gotten her out before the fiasco with your dissertation.”
“She knew they were close to catching her, didn’t she?" Blair's eyes were haunted as he thought about the pain they all had felt at the time.
“You’d have to ask her." Nick answered softly. "From the looks of things, they arrived in Cascade less than five minutes after Fortaleza got Naomi on the flight to Lima. Her friends in Peru managed to delay their agents long enough for them to vanish.”
“AJ is the only link to my mom?" Blair asked. "Is that why Krycek --?”
“No. Krycek knew better than to touch anyone related to Cage, the Silence groups, or better yet that infernal tribe.” Marcus chuckled. “The APB your police department put out on Krycek for grabbing her sent ripples around the globe. According to intelligence reports, Cage had the tribes moving within hours of her disappearance. Every agency that has worked with one of those groups was flooded with requests for permission to ‘visit’ the great USA. The first tribesmen should have arrived hours ago. If they’ve located Krycek, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now.”
Jim began cursing quietly. "Are you saying I’m going to be finding Chopec warriors in Cascade again?”
Nick looked over at him and shook his head. "No, I don’t remember seeing that tribe listed as sending help. They probably consider you enough of a presence.”
Jim’s eyes grew cold at the implied words. The idea that Nick or John Smith or whatever name he was using knew who and what he was made the sentinel uneasy. He stared into the pale blue eyes of the man standing across from him, locking his senses on the man. It only took a moment, but again he sensed no danger from him. Instead, he only noticed a sense of calm from him. “Right. If you’re here does that mean the antidote is working?”
Nick gave him a slight smile and inclined his head. “Dr. Erickson has administered the antidote. Now we wait.”
“I’ve got to leave. Call me if you hear anything.” Brian nodded to his friends and began to back away from the group.
“Detective Rafe, we can help.” Nick spoke up. Marcus gestured to the picture in Blair’s hand. The blond appropriated it deftly enough only Jim saw the move. Everyone heard the muffled words as he caught sight of the slim woman popping out by Brian’s side, “Bozhe moi!”
“Bri? We need to be –“ AJ slipped between Jim and Blair to reach Brian and at the soft words she froze. Slowly, she turned to face Nick and immediately all the color left her face. Her mouth opened but no words came out. Brian and Nick both dove to catch her as she fell to the floor.
“Anything?”Detective Brian Rafe paced across the narrow waiting room floor. He glanced at his watch, knowing that the time was going to be cutting it close.
“I’ll stay with her, bro.” Henri stepped in front of his partner. “Those kids are counting on you. If she can’t go to the meet, you have to be there.”
He nodded eyes bleak as he fought the despair of conflicting duties. “Don’t let any one get to her, H.”
“I won’t man. Lance and Joel are going to be my back up. Jim and Blair will be yours.” The jovial detective grinned. “It’ll be great, you and AJ are making Mom a grandma three times over. She’ll never complain about missing the pitter patter of little feet again.”
Brian nodded to his friend and turned to catch Jim’s eye. The detectives quickly said their goodbyes to the ones staying on duty at the hospital. The ER doctors and the nursing staff of ICU didn’t argue with the detectives and other police personnel who had invaded their territory. One glance at the somber faces and their arguments had vanished.
Someone had attacked the Major Crimes department and their dependants twice in the past week – the Cascade PD was rallying around their own, providing assistance in any way they could.
“Andy, follow them, discretely. Ellison’s better than I ever was, make sure he doesn’t see you.” Nick spoke softly as the detective climbed into his truck. “No matter what else happens, don’t let Krycek disappear with those kids. I want them safe.”
The young agent looked at Nick and nodded. He didn’t need to be told the problem they were facing. “Are they trying it again?”
“Not if I can help it.” Nick replied. “Brad’s driving.”
A smile flashed across the other man’s face. “That means I get to handle the rifle. Good, I’m a better shot.”
The sound of his footsteps echoed through the empty exhibit hall. He glanced at the empty cases, wondering what new items were being unwrapped and prepared for display. Since joining the Major Crimes department he’d learned a lot about the museum and the exhibitions that came and went. Only a few months earlier, this hall had been filled with items from South America, detailing the lives of the indigenous tribes that still lived in the rich rain forests. Now, scaffolding and unfinished displays stood like ruins against the plain white walls.
“Where’s Fortaleza?” The gravely voice was not one he’d expected.
“In ICU.” Brian responded quietly. He turned to face the man who had stepped from an alcove.
He guessed the man to be closer sixty than to fifty but he was in fairly decent shape for all that. Except for the cigarette stained lips and hands that told of several decades’ worth of addiction. The eyes though were still bright, filled with intelligence and ruthlessness. He wrinkled his nose as the cigarette smoke drifted near him.
“Why is she there? Krycek said she was fine." The man took a deep drag on his cigarette before dropping it to the floor and crushing it with his shoe.
“A delayed reaction to the sedatives your hunters used on her." Brian didn’t move and tried to keep his face still. "Where are they?”
“Unfortunate timing, Detective Raferty van Holden." The man smiled grimly at Brian’s wince. "The children are fine where they are. I think we’ll keep them a while longer.”
“That wasn’t the agreement.”
“Did Krycek promise you anything? He doesn’t have the authority to do that, Detective." The man’s smile was wider this time. “I’ll contact you once she’s been released. I want a location in exchange for the boy. Willow in exchange for the girl. I trust you’ll make the arrangements?”
He bit back the words he wanted to say – they would only antagonize the man and that could be disastrous. "I don’t trust you.”
“That shows your intelligence, Detective." With that the man turned to leave.
“Wait! I want to see them, make sure they’re all right.”
“You’ll receive a video tape with today’s noon broadcast and this morning’s newspaper in the background." The man took a drag on his new cigarette. "Is that satisfactory?”
“Very well, Mr. Krycek, bring them in." The man didn’t raise his voice as he gave the order. A moment later, he frowned and stared into the alcove, as Krycek didn’t appear.
A voice came from behind Rafe. “Respectfully, sir, I think they belong with their family.”
“I am disappointed in you, Alex.” The smoking man turned to face his disobedient subordinate. "I suppose this means that Mr. Brackett is also cutting his ties to the organization? Have you warned him how hard a life that will be?”
“We’ll take our chances." Alex's voice was filled with bravado. "Don't reach for the gun, sir. You won’t make it.”
The man nodded and drew on his cigarette, his eyes glittering furiously. "You will pay for this Krycek. I won’t forget it." He turned his back on them and headed for the exit. After a few steps, the smoker looked over his shoulder at Rafe and smiled. "You do make beautiful children detective. It is too bad about their mother.”
Brian didn’t move as he heard the soft footsteps approach. He kept his gaze on the smoking man until the exit door slammed shut. Only then did he turn around. Alex Krycek stood just a few feet away, his hands held by the toddlers flanking him.
“What are their names?" Brian's voice was husky as he looked at the wide-eyed children.
“Couldn’t find anything with their names on it.” Krycek turned his green eyes on Rafe and he smiled wryly. "I took everything about them – all the files, computer disks, notes. It's all in my backpack.”
“She said she knew my brother. She could have killed me but didn’t – because of Tommy." A hard painful look crossed the assassin’s face. "I owed her. This was the only thing I knew she’d ask for.”
Rafe nodded and crouched down. A pair of hazel eyes that matched his looked at him, studying him before smiling crookedly. He recognized the smile and felt tears building in his eyes. He crooned softly, his accent thickening, “Come here, boy.”
The boy left Krycek’s side to clutch Brian’s arm tightly. The girl took a little more encouragement but she quickly joined her brother. Krycek grinned at them and slipped the pack off his shoulder. He let it drop onto the floor, saying, “Take care of them, they’re cute little beasts.”
“What will you do?" He wasn’t worried about the assassin or his partner, they had caused him too much pain for real worry. But he figured he owed them the concern.
“We’ll be fine, Detective. Tell Fortaleza I don’t walk with death any longer.” Krycek inclined his head and turned to leave. He froze at the sight of the glaring men standing at the doorway.
“Let him go.” Brian fought his own grin at the sight of the warriors and the three men standing among them. "We owe him a debt.”
Cage signaled and path opened to allow the assassin free access to the exit. No one spoke as he left the exhibition hall.
“Why is it I keep having to visit this cold city to help you out?" Cage complained as he came forward, eyeing the children curiously. "I thought I would be finished with all the rescue stuff when you married her.”
“Well, as long as the State department keeps refusing to accept the papers from Peru, she is technically your responsibility." Brian responded with a wry grin. He settled the two children comfortably in his arms and stood. "Between fighting the red tape and handling all your old buddies who show up asking why I think I can steal your girl – well I’m too busy to keep her out of trouble.”
“Aw, hell." Cage looked over to see Ellison conversing quietly with Blair and one of the tribesmen who accompanied the photographer. “Hey, Jim? You want to keep an eye on these guys for me? I have some phone calls to make, clear up some things.”
Jim Ellison grinned to himself. He had some places to visit and people to talk to about their refusal to accept foreign paperwork. He looked over at Blair, asking quietly, “Sandburg? Is your friend Devon still working at the Cascade Sentinel?”
“Yeah… why?" Blair looked up from his stumbling conversation with Moi.He was definitely going to get Jim to teach him the high mountain dialects – if the Chopec and their allies kept showing up in Cascade he’d need it.
“Think he’d like a human interest story?" The sentinel gestured at the assembled men. "Technically they could be called ambassadors. AJ is one of their people --” Jim didn’t have to finish his thought as Blair began grinning.
“Oh, yeah. He’d love it." The younger man went over to grab the backpack Krycek had dropped. He looked over at the detective whispering to the children in his arms, “Ready to go?”
Two pair of hazel eyes blinked and looked at him and Blair nearly swore aloud. Up close, the resemblance was even uncannier than it had been in the photograph. “Whoa. Now that is a resemblance. You know Brian, they pretty good on you – you gonna make them a new fashion statement?" The two men headed for the rest of the group, quietly talking to the wide-eyed children.
As the warriors began following Sandburg and Rafe out of the exhibit hall, the sentinel and Moi saluted the unmoving figure standing in the gallery. Brackett nodded his acknowledgment and began taking apart his sniper rifle. He knew he could stay much longer before the smoking man’s hunters began searching for him. He half turned as a slim shadow slid into the area.
“Yeah.Feels odd, helping them." Lee quickly packed the rifle into its carry case. "Where are we heading?”
“New Mexico.” Krycek checked the hall before leading the way out the door. "I want to check out an old research complex.”
“You have got to be kidding me!" Devon Cheshire began grinning happily at his old friend. "And people asked me why I wanted to stay in Cascade. You guys are keeping me pretty busy with stories.”
“So you want to do the story?” Jim Ellison shot the younger man a glare. He didn’t dislike the journalist – Cheshire had always kept his side of any bargain they made, and more. He was just uneasy working with the press.
“Heck, yeah. So how is AJ?” The grin on his face dimmed slightly. His hands were rapidly checking out his camera. “I mean, she hates doctors and she’s in the hospital and all.”
“The doctors say she just wore herself out." Blair didn’t even want to explain why. It sounded too much like something from a TV show. "They'll be letting her go tomorrow.”
“Can I get a couple of pics of the warriors?" Devon looked around the packed waiting room.
“They’ll do anything that will help make the State Department realize the error of their ways." Cage's voice came quietly from where he was reading a thick file of papers. "I'll even sneak you up to get a picture of the room.”
Jim shot the other man a glare. Cage chuckled. "She's my sister too. I want this settled. I've already told the grapevine that both of us are looking out for her. I hate coming up to the cold wet city. I'd prefer only to visit in full summer.”
“Wait a minute… she’s related to Ellison?" Devon's eyes began gleaming. "And who are you?”
“Cage.” The one word answer was dry and menacing. The journalist looked from one man to another before nodding. This story was going to get really good. Major Crimes, a big group of tribesmen from South America, a photojournalist known for his candid war photos, a kidnapping and red tape… Maybe he’d even manage to get another award with this piece. Leave Cascade? No way. The stories just kept coming to him while he stayed here.
“You’ve got to be joking.” Marcus peeked into the room and looked for himself. “You’re not kidding.”
“Well, this just proves it to be genetic. The children of both Grace and Faith show signs of the heightened senses.” Nick sighed, leaning against the wall. “If we knew what happened to the other sister, we’d probably find more full and partial sentinels.”
“What does the consortium want with them?” Marcus looked at his old friend, seeing the new lines.
“Don’t know.” Nick pushed up from the wall. “Doesn’t matter. They can’t start the project again. I’ve got to go talk to Blair.”
“What do you mean … Naomi?” The old gentleman bowed his head as the meaning of his friend’s words sunk in. “Where?”
“Dover.Positive id.” He shook his head sadly, shaggy blond hair cascading over his forehead. “The charred remains of a briefcase of documents, looks like medical and scientific data.”
“I wish we’d been able to help her.” Marcus thought for a moment .“Giving the boy a free trip to the funeral?” His friend nodded. “She looks just like Faith and she recognized you. What are you going to do?”
“Drop it, old friend. Her doctors say she can’t handle any more stress … not for a long while. Besides, she doesn’t remember seeing me in the waiting room." Nick glanced in the room. "She remembers watching me and her mother die, I’m not forcing her to relive that again. Her cousin knows and so does Cage. They'll keep me in touch.”
“What does Andy say about this?”
“He’s opening an office in Cascade." Nick smiled. "Do you think he’ll let her vanish into thin air again? We can come back if she remembers… only then.”
Marcus shook his head. He leaned on his cane as he followed him down the hall. His partner was as stubborn as Naomi Sandburg in his own way.
Inside the large room, AJ slept curled around a small figure. Beside the bed, Detectives Rafe and Brown were arguing quietly with Henri’s wife and mother over where the family was going to be staying once the doctors released her.
Farther down the same hall, three women were grumpily complaining and plotting. They were feeling fine. They didn’t want to be half dressed (who would call a hospital gown flattering or even real clothes?) and stuck in the hospital.
Catherine Grayson shook her head. She was going to get Simon for this. Being ordered to keep an eye on the recovering women was not an assignment she appreciated. She wasn’t certain who was worse Megan Connor or Felicia Jean Sanders. Though she had to admit, Rhonda’s ideas scared her worse and with her access to the entire secretarial staff of the precinct – she could carry out her threats. She closed her eyes, wishing for a nice normal case – well, as normal as Cascade got, anyway.