This is a picture of a New York black squirrel.
In this week's Telepaths: Maggie and Elise's adventure looks different from Andrew's point of view. Who got thrown against the window? Did Andrew get a good look at who he was shooting at? Why is he in such a hurry to get Smith back to the labs?*
*This chapter contains strong language, a tackle, four bullets that miss their mark and chocolate Häagen-Dazs.
20. Full Disclosure
Ray Smith rattled around in the front room and I started to get edgy. I should've waited in there, but I didn't like the big windows that faced the courtyard or the flimsy curtains. The bedroom had thick blackout curtains.
He shut off the lights as he came into the bedroom and I jumped out of my chair so he could see the gun in the light from the courtyard. "Stop there, Smith." No one wants to get hurt.
His eyes went from my hands to my face and without breaking eye contact he grabbed my arm and used his body weight to swing me into the front room. I hit the desk and was slammed into the window by a low tackle. I felt the air leave my lungs in a grunt and I managed to bring the butt of my gun down on his neck. He stumbled back, panting.
"I will fucking shoot you if you try that again,” I said and aimed the gun at his face. What you're going to do now is turn around so I can cuff you.
He watched me, out of breath with his hands on his knees. "What do you want? Money? I've got a couple thousand on me, but I don't get paid until-"
"Shut up and turn around.” I'm not a thief. I jabbed his shoulder with the end of the silencer when he wouldn't move.
His eyes darted from the gun to me. You're not a cop. Who're you with? He straightened, his hands loose at his sides. "I can get more if we hit a bank. I've got a lot in the bank, more than you're getting paid."
I put the end of the silencer in the hollow of his ear. "The bullet will blow your eardrum and take most of your ear with it if you don't turn around and show me your hands." You won't even be the first one I've shot this week. I pressed it harder into his ear and tightened my finger on the trigger. I was waiting for him to try and read me so he'd be easier to handle.
Instead he turned and held out his wrists. I kept the gun in the small of his back and cuffed him one-handed. "Better. Now I'm going to walk you downstairs. Try making a break for it, try making some noise, and I'll just start with your ears." I draped a sweater I'd found in his closet over my arm to cover the gun and the silencer. Open the door.
Tell me how much they're paying you, he thought as he scanned the hallway for help.
Walk. I prodded him down the hall.
He hesitated at the door to the stairs, eyes roving again. Give me a number, I can match it, I promise you.
"Open the door," I said and dug the metal into the small of his back so he jerked toward the door. Dig it out. That's how you blackmail all those people isn't it? You go digging?
He pushed the door open and went down the stairs as fast as he could with his hands behind him. Don't try and tell me you aren't getting paid. He picked up his pace as though he anticipated a blow. You've got a silencer on that thing so you can't be a cop. Cops in this town don't have silencers.
I wondered which one of us he was trying to convince. What if I am and my job is to clean up little messes like you, Smith? I taunted. I needed him to reach for it, to try and read me.
He didn't reach—he didn't open himself up at all. Government? Private? At least tell me who arranged the hit.
We'd reached the bottom of the stairs. Shut up and walk. From here I can carry you if I have to. I jabbed the silencer into his spine. I didn't like his caution or his constant pushing. I felt unprepared and uncomfortable, questioning whether or not I should have watched him a day or two before I went in.
Definitely not a cop. He opened the door without being asked, shoving it with his shoulder and slamming it hard against the wall. The sound of metal on concrete echoed through the parking garage.
It's like you want me to shoot you. Keep making noise and you'll get a free hint about my training. I kept the silencer tight against his back and rearranged the sweater over it as we covered the few yards of open ground between the door and the van.
He was silent until we were feet from the van. Who is that over-
There was a flicker to the right, a flash of something shiny, a scope or a camera lens. I shot instinctively at it and fired off three rounds before I realized that I had seen two heads over the top of the truck. I shoved Smith into the side of the van and sent another shot in the direction of the truck as I wrenched the door open and elbowed him into it. Get in there god damn you. I pushed harder and my eyes darted over the rows of cars seeing nothing. I heard shoes hitting concrete but there was no return fire.
"You fucking shot them." Smith scrambled across the bench seat when I climbed in after him. I can't believe you shot them.
"Half right. I shot at them." I shifted into reverse and pulled out fast, sliding into drive and tearing down the narrow aisle, feeling eyes on me. My hands were wet, one against the wheel, the other on my lap pointing the gun at Smith. I have five shots left for you.
Hey I've got it, I'm cool man, I'm cool, Smith assured me, no longer collected but wide-eyed, feet braced on the floorboards to keep from sliding out of his seat when I made the turn to the parking gate.
You have no idea why you're getting picked up, do you? I let him lean against his cuffed hands while I swiped the card and watched the gate come up. "I find that funny. You've been committing thought felonies since you were seventeen. Didn't you think someone would catch up to you?" I asked, still trying to get him to reach out and feel my block. He was too alert for me to deal with all the way back to Vegas. Even with his hands cuffed behind him I didn't want him in the front seat with me.
He swallowed hard and kept his eyes straight ahead. He cringed away from me when I stopped the van in the alley across from the hotel. I won't be any problem. "Really man, I don't want to get shot." He wasn’t going to sit on his hands for the hour long drive to the air field, not after he'd jumped me in his room. You spent all that time trying to buy me off and now you're playing nice? I turned the van off and opened my door. "Get out." Slide across the seat. I slipped off the seat first, feet on the ground, gun pointed into the cab.
I stepped back and he hesitated a second before he hopped awkwardly to the ground. What's in the back of the van? he asked as I guided him around the side.
I nudged him with the silencer until he stood against one of the doors. "It's a cargo van. No seatbelts, but you'll survive." I opened the other door. Now get in.
There was a moment before he got a good look into the empty van, when I was sure he was going to run. Just look, he told himself, tensing as he faced the open door. Then his shoulders dropped and he gave me a look that was almost sarcastic. "You sure this is worth what they're paying you?" he said with the same calm he'd shown upstairs.
He was stalling, sure that if we stood around in the alley long enough someone would see us and call the cops. "Three weeks vacation a year, a three month sabbatical everything three years and I get to take care of guys like you." Now get in the fucking van before I take that ear off like I promised.
He got into the back as fast as his cuffed hands would let him. I closed the door and locked it from the outside. I glanced up and down the alley—there was no one in sight, no sparkle from a camera or a shadow that could hide anything larger than a cat. I felt exposed and tucked the Glock back in the holster under my coat. I swung myself into the front seat and turned on the engine, putting the heat on full blast. I had been warm waiting in the hotel, now I was so cold my chest felt tight.
What kind of lock is this? Smith thought, already trying his escape from the back. I opened up enough to feel that he was kneeling by the door.
I smiled and turned out of the alley with a sharp left. I heard a muffled thump from the back.
The rest of the ride was quiet.
Twenty miles out I called the transport team.
"Robbins." He was one of Kepler's guys, quiet and competent.
"Mark, it's Piken. What's the status on the chopper?" Watch it get delayed like the last one. I don't want this guy sitting around waiting to escape when someone takes a smoke break. Then I will have to shoot him, I thought for Smith's benefit. I could feel the presence of his mind on me, not digging but listening. Intent and cunning like some of the patients at The Slope.
"It's here, we're waiting on fuel. Maybe another hour. What's your ETA?" he asked over the noise of a truck driving by.
I frowned. I wanted to get Smith on the chopper and back to Nevada fast. I had better plans than spending all night in a hangar waiting for them to fuel and prep. "Twenty minutes. This one might be loose by the time I get there, how many guys do you have?" I asked him hoping to put a jump in the prep work.
"It's me, Warren and Curran. Should I call the locals for backup?" he asked with more interest than worry.
I rolled my eyes. If four of us can't take one unarmed path we're doing something wrong. "I think the four of us can handle it. Which hangar?"
"Six. He give you any trouble?" he asked with the kind of eagerness that came from boredom.
"Threw me around," I admitted, sure that he would be on the phone the second I hung up to try and get the chopper ready faster.
"We'll be ready when you get here." His tone was firm and I could picture him standing at attention, ready to prove himself.
"Good. Let me know if there are any updates on the chopper." I closed the phone without waiting for a reply. At this rate I'll be back to the base by 11:30. Plenty of time.
I kept my phone on the seat but it didn't ring the rest of the drive. Smith was just as quiet. He didn't even start kicking the side panels for attention when I stopped at the security gate to show my ID.
By the time I pulled around hangar six I was sure he had something in mind for whoever opened the door to get him out. I saw Robbins waving me inside the hangar and parked to the right of the door.
"The fuel truck should be here in fifteen minutes," Robbins said and offered his hand. Hope this isn't as bad as Sorenson.
I shook his hand and pulled out the Glock, unscrewing the silencer before I led him around the van. He tensed at the sight of the gun and pulled his own piece. "He's been blocking the last fifteen minutes or so. He might have slipped his cuffs." I stopped when I saw Warren standing at the back of the van with a smirk on his face.
Can't even get them home alone anymore. He raised an eyebrow at the drawn guns. "Expecting trouble?"
"He might have gotten out of his cuffs." I nodded at Jack Curran who had pulled his piece and held it at his side. "Jack, why don't you get the door." I tossed him the keys and smiled at Warren. "Phil here can get Smith out while we cover him."
Warren scowled, he didn't like it when I used his first name. He should have to do it himself. It's not my fault the guy got loose. He moved near the door, to one side so Curran could open it.
Curran glanced back at me and I checked to see that Robbins was in position before I nodded, my expression calm. All set. "Let's get him out."
Curran opened the door and held it back.
Warren swung around and covered each corner in sequence, smooth and professional, stopping when he saw Smith against the driver's side panel. He kept his gun trained on Smith and used his free hand to open the other door. "Show me your hands and slide toward the door," he said, though Smith hands were locked behind him, cuffs still linking them together. Try anything and they'll have to take you back to the lab in five separate bags.
Smith shot me a look. They seem about as trigger happy as you are. He kept his eyes on Warren after that and inched forward until his legs hung over the bumper. Warren took his left arm in a vice grip and Curran took the other.
I slid the Glock back into the holster and turned to Robbins. Warren might shoot him. Maybe he does have some sense. “Is there a bathroom and some coffee around here?"
Robbins shrugged, his heartbeat slowing down. He pointed toward the far right corner of the hangar, past a small plane. "Yeah, we've got some coffee in the hangar office. Bathroom's back there too. Any special instructions?"
"Get us off the ground in under an hour. And have Warren stay with Smith." I watched them lead Smith toward the far side of the hangar.
Robbins nodded. It'd serve him right, he's been bitching all night. "Phil will love that. He's such a people person. Not so sure about getting up in the air, but I'll try."
I nodded. "All I can ask." I wonder if there are any vending machines around here. I thought as I walked ahead of Robbins, toward the door. I'd had lunch but I was starving.
I found the musty bathroom and had my pants around my ankles when my cell phone rang. “Something going on out there?" I yanked my pants up with my phone between my shoulder and my ear.
"We're fueled up, ready to go when you are," he said, smug through the crappy connection.
"Three minutes." I closed the phone and put it back in my pocket. Something had to go right today. I washed my hands and wiped them on my pants.
By the time I got to the main part of the hangar the chopper's blades were spinning and Robbins was ushering me toward one of the doors. Smith was sandwiched between Warren and Curran. Warren was still frowning and didn't look at me as I buckled in.
I counted the minutes until we got to the labs.
When the chopper landed I waited for Kepler's guys to open the door and got out without another look at Smith. I had an hour before I had to head to the restaurant to meet Reva. Plenty of time. I hurried to the equipment locker to turn in my mission piece and then to the locker room to have a quick shower and change. I called security from the phone near the lockers.
"Hey Chip, it's Andrew. Is C736 awake?" I buttoned my shirt with the phone between my ear and my neck. If anyone in the lab ate that ice cream I'll kill them.
"Let me check," he said, followed by a brief flurry of keys. "Yeah, watching Lifetime. I don't know how chicks can watch that crap. You want me to put her in six for you? That's open."
"That'd be great. I'll be down in five." Thank god White gave you clearance or you'd never have time to get down there. I tied my shoes, put my dirty clothes in my bag and locked it all in my locker. I checked for my key card and my keys and went down the hall.
Even in the middle of the night the hall to the lab door was bright white. The agent that manned the door during the graveyard shift always looked out of place at Gail's desk. His careful side part and the way his blazer bulged over his piece didn't fit with her candy dish and the little doily on top of the monitor. He stared at me as I swiped my ID and had my eye scanned.
The late shift meant more security guys than lab rats walking around, and not many of those. I saw one guard on his rounds on my way to the staff break room. I crossed my fingers when I opened the freezer. In the back, behind a stack of frozen dinners and a container of something that might have been frozen rats, was a blue plastic bag. Inside was a pint of ice cream and a plastic spoon, both quarantine cleared.
I had a spring in my step down to the interrogation rooms. When I turned the corner Chip looked at me, straightened up, and then turned back to staring at his spot across the wall.
"Hey Chip. How's business?" I asked, the pint of ice cream and spoon where he could see them. I hope White put this in the logs today or he won't know I'm cleared to bring it in.
"Pretty good, I hear you bagged another one tonight," he said eyes on the far wall until I was near the door. Chocolate must make it easier to get past all those hormones. Chip eyed my spoon but once he was sure it was plastic he opened the door. "Water and cups are all set up. I'll come get her in an hour if you don't knock first."
The door closed behind me and I set the ice cream with the spoon on top in the center of the table. "Told you I could get it." I sat and nudged the carton toward her so she could reach it. I was afraid one of the lab techs would eat it before I got back.
Carol pulled the lid off and peeled back the plastic seal. It flashed in the bright lights when she tossed it on the table. "You're a man of your word, Slick," she said with a wink, digging the plastic spoon into the dark surface. Her eyes closed when she put the first spoonful in her mouth. Haggen Das makes the best chocolate.
I poured two glasses of water. "So you've said. You're lucky White is a pushover for food requests. Forrest would never let you have it." My shoulder twinged when I pushed the second glass of water across the table and I rubbed at it.
"Rough day at the office?" she asked and dug out another spoonful. You look tired.
I shrugged and ignored the pain in my shoulder. "My target did tackle me. Not nearly as cooperative as you were." How's your head anyway? The last time I'd called to meet with her she'd been down with a migraine.
Fine. She waved off the comment with the empty spoon. "Here." She stuck it back in the ice cream and slid it toward me. She pulled her glass of water closer and drank half of it. "So, you came to see me right away? Should I be flattered?"
I took the spoon out of the container and ate the ice cream off the end. I'm going off base for a few days. I thought I'd drop by. I don't have to if-
She shook her head. "And leave me with only the docs and techs to talk to? Not on your life." She accepted the ice cream as I pushed it back across the table. It left a wet track on the scratched metal, condensation starting to pool around the base. So what happened? You shoot another one?
My head shot up before I realized that she was talking about the last pick-up, not tonight. "What makes you say that?" I asked too fast. I felt my neck go red. You aren't supposed to know about him.
She grinned, her teeth whiter than her pale face. It's not my fault they think so loud around here. So did you? It pissed Forrest off last time, which was excellent. She took another spoon of ice cream before sliding the carton back to me.
I had another bite and let it melt on my tongue. It was good. It's worse than that. I was being followed.
Her eyebrows went up and she lowered the glass she'd been about to drink from. It rattled against the table. "That sounds like trouble."
"No." I took another bite of ice cream before I passed it to her. I sat back and stretched my legs out under the table. I was going to have a huge bruise where my shin had hit Smith's desk. Big trouble is finding out you're being followed, shooting at the bastards and then not being able to chase them down because you have to control your target. I don't even know who they were. I felt unexpectedly light telling her about it.
She had pulled the ice cream to her and poked the surface with the tip of the spoon. Her other hand was wet from holding the carton. I bet your boss was thrilled.
I shrugged. "Didn't tell him," I said and felt even lighter. I hadn't decided I wouldn't until I said it out loud. I hadn't called anyone in to check the area while I was there. Telling them now would lead to a lot of questions from Craig. No point getting nailed over it when I have no idea who they were, I added when she looked hard at me.
Carol's eyebrows went up again, then she shrugged and ate another scoop of ice cream. I don't doubt that at all, Slick. "I hope you're going off base because you're getting some R&R."
I was happy to let the subject drop. "Working from home and a trip to the DMV." No new pick-ups this week.
She nodded. "That's pretty sedate for you." She held up her spoon and examined it before looking at me. Do you think you can get some Girl Scout cookies in here next time?
I made a face like I was thinking hard. "I don't know. I can sneak into high security psych wards. Cookies might be out of my scope." Besides the crap desserts, how are things?
She put the lid on the ice cream and took a long drink of water before sliding the glass back to me. "I have to concentrate to read you right now, but the headaches aren't as bad." She shrugged and blew out a long breath. I hate to say it. I almost miss the Slope sometimes.
I frowned and almost dropped the pitcher I was emptying into her glass. "What could you miss about that place?" I asked and passed the glass back. You said yourself that it was bad. I know it was bad.
She gave me another sharp look, her features angular, her lips a surreal pink. "You're the only path I see. You're the only person I talk to outside of the lab staff. I'm used to more interaction." Her tone was defensive and she looked down at her water. Tell me they aren't going to keep me off by myself the whole time I'm on these treatments.
"Three weeks tops. I promise. They don't let anyone mix until they can't read each other." The prospect of six weeks in relative isolation had never bothered me, still Carol had been in a group environment for a long time. I can come by on Tuesday if you want. I have a meeting in the morning and an op outline to write. It shouldn't take long.
"Don't put yourself out." Only if it won't get you in trouble. She nodded toward the clock on the wall behind me. "It's late, you have to be tired."
I glanced at my watch and swore. "Sorry, I've got to go, I'm supposed to be somewhere in about half an hour and it takes forty minutes to get there," I said and knocked on the heavy door to get Chip's attention. Leave a note with White about the cookies. I'll try and get them before I come back.
"Thin Mints, Andrew. That's all you need to know," she told me, her tone amused as Chip opened the door.
"She's cleared to take the ice cream with her," I said to Chip on my way out the door. If I walk very fast and don't get a ticket on I-5 I can still make it to the Bellagio on time.