Authors: A.B. Gayle,Andrea Speed,Jessie Blackwood,Katisha Moreish,J.J. Levesque
Gil resisted the urge to put an arm round Lyle. He figured it wouldn’t be all that welcome right now. He was himself a little unnerved by the summons. “So, anyone know why we’re here? What do we know, apart from the fact that we are, or were, linked by a common enemy?” Nobody said anything.
Not a surprise
, Gil thought. Something occurred to him. “Flynn wasn’t his real name, was it? Any chance the hospital had him under his real name?”
Miles shuffled his feet on the floor; he’d checked that, too.
Would Flynn want the others to know his real name was Errol Ashton and the dismembered hands that had caused all this kerfuffle had belonged to his father?
Aiden seemed confused which wasn’t surprising. Given he’d been kidnapped and imprisoned in a tiny room under the mortuary, he probably still thought of Flynn as a knight in shining armor coming to rescue him, by slaying the dragon with a fountain pen through the eye. Pity Flynn had nearly killed himself in the process, by falling and hitting his head on the edge of a shelf. But Miles was on pretty good terms with his counterparts at Asher Bay, and they wouldn’t give him a bum steer. Flynn definitely hadn’t been in the hospital an hour ago.
Aiden shook his head. “No, he’s listed under Flynn Archer. I was there when they checked him in, and I gave them what I knew.” He hesitated a moment, lightly tugging on Dante’s ear as the dog whined. “I… put myself down as next of kin, just in case something happened. He doesn’t have any other family….”
“That was…kind,” Gil responded quietly. He met Aiden’s gaze briefly and sympathised with what he saw. At that moment the door opened and the now-familiar bulk of Marshall Breslaw blocked the entrance. His gaze swept round the room taking in the sight of the assembled company and he nodded, once, and moved out of the way. As he did so, he revealed another figure behind him, a woman dressed in brown, her blonde hair pulled severely back from her too-thin face. She reminded Gil far too much of one of his teachers at primary school, Mrs Atkinson…He shuddered. Her eyes were such a pale washed-out blue there was hardly any colour in them at all, and her smile, he was disturbed to see, was almost pasted on; it didn’t reach her eyes.
“Gentlemen,” Breslaw said, without hesitation. “This is Ms Sandra Pierce. She has something she would like to discuss with you.”
, Gil thought,
“Gentlemen, hello. It seems you have a problem. Are you all aware Henry Vale, or as he was known to most law enforcement agencies, Heinrich Petrov, was a high ranking member of the Russian mafia?” She smiled blandly.
Shit. Looked like the mentions of Bratva, the Russian mafia, in the bloody diary Flynn found were accurate then. Miles sighed to himself. Given the insincerity of the woman’s smile, getting involved hadn’t been the smartest thing to do, but if they hadn’t done their own sleuthing, Flynn would probably be dead by now. It was only his and Gil’s arrival on the scene that had stopped him bleeding to death, and Aiden had been an emotional wreck if not a physical one.
“As you might imagine, they’re not terribly happy with what’s become of Vale. They’re the kind to hold grudges. We could hand them Archer, he’s nothing, but I don’t think they’d be satisfied with simply him. You’re all involved. You’re all targets.”
Miles winced at the word ‘target’ and her offhand dismissal of his cocky friend, but kept quiet.
Who was this bitch?
Her accent was almost non-existent.
Was she even an American?
“Are we ‘nothing’ also, then?” Gil had gone cold at her reference to Flynn.
“No, clearly you’re something, or we wouldn’t extend this offer to you. We can give you new lives, out of the reach of the Russian mob. We’re the only ones who can.”
“So what are we supposed to do, fall at your feet in grateful thanks?” Anger was forcing itself through Gil’s carefully maintained exterior and he was having a hard time pushing it down. Now was not the time to lose it.
“Hardly. Just be ready to catch our plane out tomorrow. Follow our rules, and I can guarantee you will be safe.”
“Your rules? Do we get to find out what those are before we make the decision?” Gil frowned at her. “And what do you mean, catch your plane tomorrow? What’s the urgency?”
A small cough from the doorway drew their attention back to Agent Breslaw, whose color had heightened somewhat. “I’m sorry, but circumstances have altered since the other night. We have reason to believe Agent Tyler may have been working with Vale for some time and may now have wholly turned to the Russian Mafia. This is why a decision was made to involve Eidolon. They specialise in protecting people and creating good cover stories for their disappearance. We don’t want to alert the Bratva to our suspicions about Tyler, but we do want to get you out of harm’s way. I gave you my word we would keep you safe, remember?”
“We all have jobs, people relying on us,” Gil protested. “People who will ask questions if we simply leave. What can we bring with us? I cannot imagine that Miles or Aiden will want to leave their dogs behind…”
“You’re right. I’m not leaving my dog behind. But what I want to know is if this offer, or whatever it is, extends to Flynn. What do you plan on doing with him? Are you really going to turn him in?” Aiden’s eyes were narrowed at the woman, and he held on tightly to Dante’s collar.
A flick of a well manicured hand indicated that Ms Pierce thought these were only trivial concerns. “Your cover story is that you are joining Eidolon International to assist with rebuilding on Rapatoka Island, which was recently affected by a cyclone. You will be helping them, if that is acceptable to all of you. But you will, in actuality, be staying in the resort village on a nearby island we are calling “Mystery Island”. You can bring dogs, but do be careful. It’s a tropical island, and there’s all sorts of brand new hazards to manage.” She smiled, showing all her perfect white teeth in a canned beauty queen grin.
“Island? Where is this island then? Will we need vaccinations?” Gil was alarmed. These arrangements seemed way too sudden.
“Simply typhoid shots, which we will happily provide. We’re not asking you to join the Peace Corps. We’re all civilized people here. You’re not going to be living in mud huts.”
“I don’t care if I’m living in five star luxury, what do I do about my family?” Gil knew his mother would start to panic if she couldn’t call him. “They’ll worry if they can’t contact me, and I was only here on secondment from the UK for a year. Exactly how long are we going to be working for this Eidolon thing? If it’s longer than a year I might not have a job to go back to…”
“But you would be alive to go back.” Pierce said pointedly. “You will have email accounts that I advise you use exclusively. They randomize IP addresses so you’ll be impossible to trace. I’d also advise you keep your location vague. We are trying to protect you, after all, and if you tell your family precisely where you are, they’re in danger too. Keep it quiet. Make it sound as if you want to go there to aid in the humanitarian effort. We will liase with the agency that brought you here, Mr Gillespie.”
“But you didn’t answer the question, how long do you expect us to be working for Eidolon?”
“Before you answer any other questions, you never answered mine,” Aiden said forcefully. “What about Flynn? What’s going to happen to him?”
“We will bring him with us, if you insist. Although it might make it easier on all of you if you left him behind.”
“Frankly, after the way he’s behaved…” Gil looked at Aiden. “Still, I wouldn’t feel right leaving him to a bunch of wolves…”
“He saved my life. I’m not leaving him anywhere.”
“Let’s be honest, whether he is with us or not, I doubt we could be in more shit than we already are. Aiden, Flynn got you into this in the first place, he got us all into it, but having said that, I’m not even sure he knew how much shit he was in, and he did save you, can’t deny that.”
Despite how much I would like to.
Gil grimaced at the thought. “None of us is in this by choice. Shit happens, fact of life.”
Aiden gave Gil a blank stare before shaking his head. “Shit happens? No, this is more than that. Way more. Shit happens when you lock yourself out of your car, or when you lose twenty bucks. Shit happens when you’re walking down the street and a bird flies over you and shits on your new jacket. Getting kidnapped and watching your… watching someone die and another person get hurt? You can’t even begin to categorize that unless you place it along the lines of… oh let’s just say Hell. That’s what this is. Hell.”
Gil sighed. In his line of work he saw people die and others get hurt almost every day.
Aiden wasn’t inured to it like I am though, and let’s face it, I wasn’t kidnapped and tortured and in fear for my life either.
It’s all relative
, he thought, looking at the young man’s distress.
Aiden hasn’t experienced anything like this before.
He hoped Miles had noticed the first signs of PTSD.
Pierce just stood there, smiling, hands clasped in front of her. “So, is this an agreement?”
“What? That Flynn comes with us?” Gil glanced around at the others. “Looks like it, unless anyone else has a comment…”
“Yeah, actually, I do have some comments,” Lyle interjected. “We haven’t actually agreed to go anywhere yet, so whether Flynn is coming with us or not is a bit of a moot point right now. I also understand he’s still comatose, so how would he get the care he’d need? And what if he doesn’t like that he’s been transported to your Mystery Island without his consent? Are you happy to face a charge of kidnapping, Aiden?… And ‘Eidolon’? What is that for heaven’s sake? Phantoms Incorporated? And “Mystery Island”? Really? This is sounding more like an episode of ‘Scooby Doo’ than a plan, Ms Pierce! Do the dogs get Scooby Snax too?”
Gil smiled despite himself. “Guess that makes us a bunch of meddling kids?” he suggested. Lyle huffed a small laugh.
Pierce had the good grace to look a little affronted, although Lyle had seen statues with more emotion. She swallowed a retort and smiled her professional smile but before she could open her mouth to reply, Lyle was speaking again, this time to his friends.
“And another thing… Do you guys understand what ‘tropical island’ translates as? Rampant homophobia and Victorian ‘Family Values’. Might as well give us Hansen’s disease; we’ll all be about as welcome as lepers on this island of theirs anyway!”
“I can safely say you will be as welcome as any other aid agency operatives. These people have suffered a disaster, they will welcome your help.”
“As long as we conform to your rules, eh?” Gil sighed. “Doesn’t look as if we have much choice.”
”Cake or death,” Lyle muttered under his breath.
“Pardon?” Gil was close enough to have heard him.
“Eddie Izzard.” Lyle explained. Gil smiled in understanding.
“Exactly,” Pierce said, ignoring their muttered comments. “Just tell anyone who asks that you will be away at least six months on a Humanitarian mission.”
Aiden groaned and dropped his head into his palms, muttering to himself. “I’m going to lose my teaching certificate. Shit.”
“We’ll supply you with whatever you need,” Pierce said and added with another dismissive flick of her hand, “including any relevant documents…”
“Are there any decent roads where we’re going? I don’t want to leave my bike behind, but if there are no good roads there’s no point in taking it. I’ll need it shipped home if I can’t take it with me.” Gil glanced across at Miles. He noted that the doctor had been suspiciously quiet for a while. “Miles? Nothing to add?”
“Up to you.” Miles shrugged. “I ain’t going anywhere.”
“You are aware this will get you killed quite quickly?” Pierce asked.
“Miles?” Gil was concerned. He hadn’t foreseen this development.
“You’re making the assumption I care whether I live or die, Ms Pierce.”
“Do you care about your friends? You will most likely be tortured for information.”
“Well, I’m certainly not putting myself in the hands of a couple of people I don’t know from Adam who waltz in here and try to take over my life. If I need to disappear, I’m quite capable of doing that by myself, thank you very much.”
Pierce chuckled mirthlessly. “No, you can’t. You’ve worked overseas, yes? You know how truly corrupt most institutions are. For the right price, anyone is for sale.”
“You’re assuming that when I disappear I’ll keep working as a doctor. Australia is a big place, lots of ways a man can blend into the landscape. I don’t and won’t be going.” Miles stood and pulled at Roofie’s chain.
“Let me get this straight. You’re fine with yourself dying, your friends getting killed, and the natives of Rapatoka Island suffering horribly as well?”
“Spare me the melodramatics, hon. I’m sure once some photos of little kids with bloated stomachs hit the internet, the place will be swarming with volunteers let alone crews from the Red Cross and Medecins sans Frontiers. Been there, done that. I can’t for the life of me see how putting us in that environment will be any more secure than me finding a nice hidie-hole somewhere the back of Bourke and going native. Heck, until I cleaned up recently I looked the part anyway.”
“You will be dead the moment your foot touches Australian soil, presuming you’re lucky enough to survive the flight. As for the natives, no pictures will be hitting the internet. No one knows the island exists; it couldn’t be more off the map. They’ll simply die, unknown by the world. Much like you.”