Authors: A.B. Gayle,Andrea Speed,Jessie Blackwood,Katisha Moreish,J.J. Levesque
“Please, Flynn, have a seat. I understand you’ve been causing as much trouble as a coma patient possibly could.”
“If I could have made a bomb, I’d have blown up your fucking hospital.”
One of the muscle queens tightened the grip on his arm so it became painful, but the woman seemed unfazed. “Yes, your reputation proceeds you. Please, have a seat.”
Although it was said in a mild, bland way, he got the sense it was an order. When it felt like the Beige Hulk number one was going to force him down into a seat, Flynn simply sat down. The shaved apes stood behind him, python arms crossed over barrel chests. “What reputation is that?” Flynn asked, curious.
“That you’re an asshole.”
That actually startled a laugh out of him. “Well, yeah. I could have told you if you just asked.”
She made a dismissive gesture to the shaved apes. Her fingernails were well manicured and painted a pale pink. “Wait outside. I’ll let you know when we’re done.”
There was some hesitation, but the goons left as they were told. She had some power, and since she was not afraid of him, he had a feeling she either had a panic button or was armed. Not that he had any plans to attack her, he wasn’t a maniac … but was the table nailed down? He was curious.
Flynn watched the thugs go, and then asked, “So who are you? Prosecutor, attorney assigned to me by the state, what?”
Her lips curved in a thin smile that wasn’t too convincing. “You still think you’re a prisoner?”
“I am. I can’t leave this place, I can’t talk to my boyfriend, apparently I can’t call an attorney, and I haven’t the slightest fucking idea why I’m here or where I am.”
“Beyond killing Henry Vale, also known as Heinrich Petrov, with a fountain pen?”
“Wow, German and Russian? I bet he was fun at parties.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “It was self-defense, you know. He kidnapped my boyfriend, and he was trying to kill us both.”
“True, but pounding a pen through his eye? Even the most sympathetic jury is going to see that as somewhat egregious.”
“It was all I had. I’d have killed him with a gun if I had one.”
She reached beneath the table and brought a suitcase up to her lap. He heard the solid click of opened locks, and she took out a single manila folder, which she put on the table in front her. She made a small show of shutting the briefcase and stowing it away again before resuming her pitch. “We appreciate resourcefulness. So does the Russian mafia, although in a very different respect.”
“Was that a threat?”
“No, not yet.” She opened the folder. He couldn’t see what was in it, but he took some comfort in the fact that it was rather thin. “But the Russian mafia doesn’t look too fondly on people who kill their members, especially if that person in a two bit street punk. It makes them look bad.”
“Hey, two bit? I’m easily four bit.”
“Does that work for you?”
That question caught him off guard. “What?”
“Aggressive, immature humor. Do people find that amusing?”
He glared at her. “I’ve gotten this far, haven’t I?”
She smiled, and this time it seemed genuine. “Indeed. It seems that if the Russian mob didn’t get you, the police would. Were you aware that Anders didn’t deactivate all the security cameras? He forgot one.”
“What? What are you …” Flynn trailed off as he remembered Anders, the oxy junkie given the responsibility of taking out the cameras on the pharmacy break in way back when. It seemed like a lifetime ago now. He’d almost successfully forgotten the second worst night of his life. “I was just cracking a lock. I had no idea that Butch was gonna get his ‘roid rage on and take out that security guard. By the time I even knew there was one, he was already dead. I don’t do violence.”
“Except when it came to killing Heinrich Petrov.”
“That was different and you know it.”
“I absolutely do. But you’d be surprised how few prosecutors and judges will make that distinction.”
Flynn sagged back in his chair as he sighed heavily. This conversation was going nowhere good. “What do you want from me?”
“You have a choice to make, Mr. Archer. Or should I say Mr. Ashton. Which name do you prefer?”
“No one calls me Ashton.” His real, dorky name was Errol Ashton, a name he never felt fit him at all. Now that he’d had a dozen different identities in a similar span of years, it seemed as unreal as all the rest.
“Archer it is, then. Would you rather be released into police custody, or turned over to the Russian mafia?” She asked the question lightly, as if she was asking him whether he’d like soup or breadsticks with his meal.
“Door number three.”
“This is your lucky day, Flynn. There
a third option.” She slid the manila folder down the table. It stopped short of him, but he reached out and brought it towards him. “Work with us, and we’ll make all your problems go away.”
“Who’s we?” he asked, opening the folder. He was greeted by a cover page with some kind of vague starburst symbol on it, a diamond shaped set of jagged, irregular black lines on crisp white paper. Beneath it was a single word: Eidolon.
“The people who only want to utilize your natural talents to help people, not hurt them.”
That sounded wonderfully sinister. He’d have laughed, except she was perfectly serious.
“And if I say no?”
“Then it’ll be interesting to see which group gets you first. Although I imagine the Russian mafia will get you in the end. They always get their man.”
Flynn’s stomach felt like it had turned to ice-coated lead, and was now plummeting through the floor, heading for the center of the earth. He was completely, utterly fucked. And not in a good way either.
Sunday 23rd January, 4.10 am, Lyle’s house
Lyle woke early. Discovering that he was still fully dressed was a relief when he realised Breslaw must have put him to bed. He would change later, once Breslaw was up and about. He had things to do before then and didn’t want the sound of a running shower to disturb his overseer.
Checking he hadn’t missed anything important when he’d got his belongings together, Lyle looked around at his home. It really had become a home in the few weeks he’d been here. He would miss the place. The memory of making love with Gil—Lyle’s first time making love as a man—was the best memory associated with the place for him. He supposed his next residence would be a lot different, though he had no idea in what ways as yet.
His bags were packed. He knew the drill—approximately how much he could take, what to destroy, what to hang on to. For the first time his current identity papers were going with him, which seemed very odd. A lot about this Eidolon deal seemed off kilter, as he’d tried to tell the others the night before, but they had chosen not to hear him, or had been so shit scared they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t know he had done all this before and knew what the script should read like, and it was nothing like this.
Breslaw was still snoring, sprawled all over his sofa. Lyle hated the intrusive sound. The racket drove him into his panic room, which was, mercifully, sound-proofed. Bored, he started reviewing the recordings from the meeting with the Eidolon rep. It was a mistake; now he was seeing stuff that had him wondering whether he had completely lost his ability to judge people.
One particular scene was giving him especial pause for thought. He ran the recording through again, then twice more. There they were, making out in his very own kitchen, Gil and Miles. Of course he’d realised Gil liked Miles, maybe even wanted Miles more than he wanted Lyle himself, but this was reality picked out in black and white with neon signage. What a damn horrible week it was turning out to be.
Lyle pondered what to do with all the recordings. Whilst he knew about the panic room, Breslaw didn’t seem to know about the very elaborate audio-visual kit Tyler had gotten installed in the house when he had first moved in. That seemed like a good thing. The Eidolon recording was the most important, probably. That thought made Lyle chuckle; even though the scene from the hallway between Gil and Miles had sobered him; he was now thinking he felt like he was an actor in a sixties spy film, Harry Palmer, maybe.
He’d gathered from Breslaw that Eidolon had at least as much info about him as the Marshall did. Apparently once he reached the island and they had gotten through their first couple of weeks as ‘rescuers’ the organisation had some additional plans for him. So, time now to lay down some insurance for later; all very ‘Ipcress’.
Would he have a later? Hard to say. The idea of being beholden to Eidolon, of being sent to an isolated tropical island full of bigoted natives, and now realising he didn’t even have Gil’s undivided attention was too big a mess to contemplate. He’d been through relocation before, and changes in identity, and he hated it more each time. It was like he lost a piece of himself every time it happened; one day he wouldn’t even remember his own parents names. He’d almost forgotten his own original name already, though not just because of the repeated identity changes he’d endured.
Lyle’s fingers flew over the keys of the audio-visual and computer decks. It was a while since he’d needed to do this stuff, but he hadn’t lost his touch; he knew that. When you did it without permission it was called hacking and stalking. When you did it with an FBI stamp of approval it was called ‘computer forensic analysis’ and ‘audio visual security’. This was what had killed Lyle’s husband Richard, and had gotten Lyle himself into so much shit when he took on Richard’s burden of bearing witness against the mafia-linked accountants and bankers they had accidentally stumbled across one fine May morning nearly ten years ago. Using his talents and skills to protect the interests of himself and his friends felt good, even managing to push aside the angst that would come later when he let himself think about Gil kissing Miles.
If only I had just poked around in Vale’s computer systems I might have saved us all a lot of trouble
, Lyle thought to himself. He’d still been trying to live a quiet life then, though. Passing through without drawing attention had become second nature to him since he joined the witness protection scheme. Over the years he had learned how to turn a blind eye to a lot of stuff in an attempt to stay as safe as he could. This time had been different. This time there had been Gil.
The memory of their date, that damnably awkward conversation about his gender reassignment, their lovemaking–all that meant that the scene between Gil and Miles cut deep. I should just delete it and hope for the best.
Gil was so patient, persisting with me, not letting me go. Once he knew, once he understood, he took my current body in his stride. Then, when he and Miles came to me for help, I set aside my own rules. Stupid.
He shrugged mentally.
I could be staying here, oblivious and content, near to Richard’s remains.
That’s going to be the hardest thing to accept in all of this, leaving Richard behind.
Lyle had scattered his husband’s ashes here, in this small town he would probably never see again. The place held memories of their life together, which was why when he’d seen the advert for a trainee mortician job he’d pounced on it.
Too perfect. I should have realised. Just like Gil.
Lyle satisfied himself that the recordings were safely stored, as well buried as one of Vale’s enemies, but that he would still be able to get to them if he needed to. Then he shut down the house systems for a final time, making sure that the data left behind would be utterly useless and meaningless to anyone who might end up trying to unravel what he’d done on his last morning here. He really was
good, better than Eidolon realised, better than the FBI realised too. He chuckled again, contemplating the idea that if he ever was really up against it he could always offer to re-write the Bratva’s systems for them so that no-one could ever do to them what he and Richard had managed to do to the Italian Mafia.
That reminded him, he would need to strip some of the gear from the house to take with him. Would he be able to get it past airport security?
Then again, they aren’t likely to be taking us out through JFK…
Moving around without disturbing Breslaw was not easy. Lyle understood the man would be a light sleeper, being in his line of work. One of the things a woman learns, though, is how not to wake others, and once upon a time he had been good at it. He gathered his tools and quietly went about acquiring the parts he would need to set up surveillance at key points on the island once they got there. They made it look stupidly easy to bug a place on TV shows, but there were some items that Tyler had made sure were hidden more deeply, and he would need those bits too. Eidolon were not going to have this all their own way, he didn’t trust them enough for that. He’d been running long enough to know who his friends were, and this organisation wasn’t anywhere near making that list. Lyle figured that Eidolon might well search their bags, but there were places to conceal the small components he needed. The rest he could order in once they got there, using various excuses based around the ‘rescue work’ and general ‘home improvements’.