Charlie stood behind Haley. She leaned forward concentrating on the monitor. The date/time stamp rolled forward on an empty hallway. A shadow eased into view. It moved slowly, creeping forward from head to feet finally followed by a tall figure who kept his face turned from view.
“That’s him. That’s the guy I saw. Give it a minute and you’ll see me go inside Angel’s room.”
Charlie focused instead on what the man held in his hand. It was a cell phone. “Can you zoom in on that?”
“Dude, we’re not CSI. I can zoom in, but the pixels won’t change for you. It’ll zoom in on a blur.” The guard was a glorified security officer paid mostly to sit in a tiny room with a wall full of monitors and visually identify possible threats. He was one of three who occupied this room in uniform on shifts ordered to be back up only when called for and only called when everyone else on “patrol” were busy.
“Fine. Make a copy of this and send it here.” Charlie handed his card with Jackson’s info handwritten on the back. “Can you at least see where he went?”
“That I can do.” His fingers flew over the keyboard, two monitors flickered. One move fast, capturing the path the guy took to the exit. The other showed a smoother, slowed down version of the exodus. “I can also include footage of the girl taking down John and David for future entertainment purposes.” He grinned, apparently gaining personal merriment from his coworkers’ failure.
“Sure,” said Charlie, kind of getting a kick out of it himself briefly, “but don’t tell admin you’re making a copy for yourself.”
“Never, dude.” And his fingers flew faster over the keyboard, clicking in the dark room. Charlie saw the reflection of the guard’s face in the monitors and grinned tightly. Yeah, the FBI can’t train a sense of humor from the rare few who rail against conformity.
Therefore, Charlie got a uniform video from the time he’d brought Angel in the emergency room doors until he went to her room after visiting the dead body.
All they saw was the one figure passing through the hallway and much later guiding her to the stairs. There might have been a brief struggle until the door slid shut, but the camera angle showed nothing but the guy pushing open the door with one hand and a second later his other hand reaching up.
The floor above, where he ended up dead was under renovation. The cameras there were unplugged, ready for repositioning. So there was nothing that showed how the guy died. They did, however, see which door Angel exited when she left the hospital with the duffel bag and wearing Charlie’s coat.
So sending these recordings to Jackson would give him a starting point. Maybe, with any luck at all, Jackson would find some cameras somewhere that had picked her up and would give them if not a current location, at least a direction she might have gone and if she were alone or with someone, in danger or just wandering the streets.
But that would take time.
Haley turned to him. “Look, I’ll buy breakfast on two conditions.”
“Negotiating before dawn?”
“I’ve been up for two days, Charlie. You’re lucky to get an hour of my time right now.”
“OK. What do you want?”
“I want…for you to go home and get some sleep while you’re waiting for those guys downstairs to wake up and your guy at the bureau to pull some feed of this…Angel…walking the streets.”
“And the second condition.”
“I want to know what you know about this girl and what I should be keeping a look out for on tomorrow night’s shift. ‘Cause, Charlie, I really don’t think this hospital is in the clear.”
“Why would you think that? She’s not here anymore.”
“That thing the doc took out of her hand. If it is a tracking device, this is the last place she would have been located. And the dead guy didn’t report back with or without the girl. Someone’s going to come looking again.”
Charlie nodded with more than just agreement. He had an idea.
So…here I go…diving into Nick’s brain. Nick the reader, the researcher, the one hiding important information from his own brother. Oh, Nick, you bad boy with the angelic face.
After a bit, I move my hands to rest over his heart, beating softly. Hearts have power and memory too. Touching Nick’s heart takes my breath away. He hides so much pain from Logan…. Their mother, held for ransom…a choice…her or the world. Even though I know all of this…well, touching a heart is so much different from divining facts from the ether.
One hand on his head, the other sending magic through his heart, I bandage some hurt spots. I clear up a couple misunderstandings between the brothers, suggest Nick share what he knows, and leave an opening for the bomb that I will have to drop soon.
One last suggestion and a dabble into a few memories and I drape the quilt over Nick. I ruffle his hair absently before moving to restore neatness to Jim’s place.
I wash and put away used glasses. My hands shake so much I have to catch one with magic before it shatters on the floor.
Too long. I’d spent way too long in the last world. I hadn’t kept up with the flow of time in this one. The upcoming battle is still a bit away, but closer than I thought. I still have plenty of time, I keep telling myself, at least a season. Time for recon and ether-nudges that could have a decent effect on the outcome.
I gather bits of hair and blood from the boys. Touching their foreheads, I judge about six hours before they wake which will place it well after dawn. That will give them the rest of the day to find and enter my home.
Daylight is a little protection. Darkness hides all manner of ills, and most of the black knights and pawns utilize the night. Still, there are many others not affected by the sun or moon, many who can watch and act during the day.
Jim’s footsteps on the stairs are a nice reminder that someone will always care about me. Well, at least for as long as he lives anyway.
He enters, sees the boys asleep, one on his bed, one on his sofa and gives me a look that older brothers would give little sisters. I go to him and bury my head in his chest, soaking up the solidness of him, his living heartbeat.
I’ve done this a time or too, prepared for battle. It never ends exactly the way I want it to end. Sometimes I lose people I love.
“When I tell you, I want you and your family to go to my place. Don’t ask questions. Just take your wife and daughter to my home and wait there until I tell you it’s safe.”
He takes my shoulders and pushes me far enough away to read my face. Yes, Jim has bits of genetic magic. Yes, I’ve helped him practice his skills. Yeah, knowing me the way he knows me, does help him read things I don’t let others see.
He studies my eyes, well Chloe’s eyes since I had put her face back on before Nick returned.
“Just be ready when I tell you.”
He takes my hand and leads me to the closet. Pulling out one of five suitcases, he unzips it. Inside are weapons.
“We’re always ready, Kimi. That one has food,” he says pointing to another. “Those have clothes and hygiene stuff,” he waves his hand over the other three. One for each of them, Jim, Leslie and their daughter, Lily.
“I gave the boys your instruction book,” I warn.
“Don’t need it anymore and you know that.” He puts the suitcase back in the closet. “You’re going home now? Leaving them here?”
“Yes, but I’ll have to leave soon, maybe a week. I want to keep it from touching here.” I gesture to the boys. “They’ll come find me tomorrow. If you see them, send them to the high school.”
Jim grins. “Really? Still playing?”
“Always. You know what they say about all work and no play.”
He wraps his arms around me and I rest my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. One beat for Leslie, one for Lily, one for Leslie and one for Lily. He lives for those girls. It makes my heart warm to know that it is my fault they are together and happy. They are my weakness.
“I’ll try to remember that if the world ends.”
Have I mentioned I’ve known Jim for a very long time?
“That won’t happen.”
“There are no guarantees, Kimi. Haven’t you learned that already?”
I scrunch up my face. I refuse to believe that I cannot make everything right by mere will alone.
Jims laughs and puts his hand on the back of my head. He kisses my forehead.
“How old are you, girl? Centuries older than us mortals? You look like pure petulance.”
Finally, I did stick my tongue at him. “Silly human who knows too freakin’ much.”