Specialist Jade returned to the interview room with a mug of hot coffee warming her hands. She sipped it, looking through the rising steam at the man bound to an old metal office chair. He was wrapped in a blanket of cold-packs that brought his temperature down to just above dangerous levels and was beyond shivering.
Jade read from the open folder on a small table.
She set the coffee down next to the man’s face. He was head down like a kindergartner taking a nap on their desk. He blinked slowly as the full mug gave him a small amount of comfort and warmed his cheeks.
“Do you know why you are here, Miles? Hmm? Do you?”
The man only stared at her.
“I think perhaps you only can guess. This certainly isn’t the kind of detention you expected, was it? Nope. No it is… not.”
She picked up the coffee and took another small drink and then set it back down in front of him.
“In any case, none of that matters. Nothing you have ever thought about anything at all matters at this moment. I want you to forget everything you think I need to know and simply listen to me ask this one question:
“Are there actual, physical blueprints for the ‘Tudor Rose’? I don’t even want to know where they are. But whether they exist or not is so very, very important to me and the people I work for, that I am going to give you a little time alone, to really be sure before you speak.”
Jade signaled the MP’s outside the room and they buzzed the door open for her.
“Take the blanket away and bring his temp back up, please. I’ll be back in fifteen.”
She turned back to the man. “Miles, get your head on straight. Warm up. Have some coffee and be prepared to tell me the truth when I come back in here, because if I have to bring in the Dogs, none of us is going to end up very happy.”
Aubry was as surprised as anyone to be sitting next to Henry again. Unlike most of the people under her care in hospice, Henry had somehow bonded with her beyond her comfort zone. She just didn’t get too close to those she knew would be gone soon, but Henry was different and they became as close of friends as the situation allowed.
When he was moved to the Psych wing, she followed.
When he dropped into a coma, and was put in terminal housing, she stayed and was prepared to be there until the end, which never came.
Even after the facility burned to the ground, leaving only the perpetually unconscious Henry and faithful Aubry alive, it was not the conclusion of their time together.
She was under paid-leave during the investigation of the fire, when someone offered her old job back… Specifically attending Henry. Henry who just wouldn’t die.
He had been moved to a posh, private hotel, someone told her and even in his comatose state, he asked for her from time to time, so, if she wanted, it certainly might be to everyone’s benefit if she would consider coming back to Henry in his last days.
She couldn’t believe her luck, so quickly agreed, packed her bags, got in the unmarked SUV where things went black for quite a long time.
“Come on, Kyle. Is it possible or not?”
Kyle tried to keep things light, although the he was instinctively getting a little uncomfortable with the tone of the conversation.
“I don’t know,” he said, “You tell me: Is it possible? How confident are you that Tudor did it?”
“Pretty sure,” came the response.
“So, what you are really asking me is ‘Can I reproduce his results?’”
“Yes, Kyle, that’s what we’re asking.”
He sat calmly and stared at a large, blank dry-erase board as if he could see numbers there that no one else could. His sigh was heavy and the silence following even more so.
Finally Kyle met the Colonel’s unwavering, hopeful stare again. “I don’t know, Dricksy… I mean I can, I suppose. I just don’t know if I want to. We’re talking about rabbit-hole math, mythematics and only Henry has a clue what is at the bottom… I don’t want to end up like Henry.”
The Colonel made his friend Kyle a promise that he wouldn’t… which, of course, he had no business making.
“Have a seat, will you, Corporal.”
Kelly did. This was her first official meeting since getting out of the hospital. A land mine in Chechnya had misfired miraculously and while the concussive wave broke bones in every part of her body, the mine failed to produce significant shrapnel, saving her from being torn to shreds.
The mingling of Suits and Uniforms in this room made her terribly uneasy.
“Before we continue, Corporal” said Colonel Hendricks, “Let us be perfectly clear… As far as everyone outside of this room knows, that land mine ripped you apart 13 months ago. You died that day. So, it will be no trouble at all to make sure you stay dead.”
L’Enfant sat in stunned silence until one of the Suits spoke up.
“Relax, Corporal, no one is stabbing you in the back here. The Colonel is just trying to make a rather ugly and heavy-handed point. Your sacrifices have been duly noted and while we have no official course to reward you for what happened in Argun, we can offer you an opportunity to escort a team of VIP’s through some rather rough territory.”
Hendricks got back into the conversation. “This is 100% off the books and way beyond your paygrade. Protect 2 civilian experts and one Army Interrogator for 3 days and there will be a full resurrection for you with accompanying promotions. Say ‘no’ and we’ll make you do it anyway, but it will hurt much, much more.”
It is very difficult to tell if the Dogs are damaged by the rifle-fire or not. They definitely are reacting to it though, and seem if not frightened or hurt then at least disrupted somehow. The growing and consolidating pack (or perhaps pack of packs?) is caught somewhere between attack and defense. They actually have more of the feel of a school of predatory fish than of canines. One darts in as another retreats. Every dog for itself, and yet somehow still paying attention to a ‘bigger picture’.
L’Enfant is a solid shot and is expending very little ammo as she ushers Chandra back into the Cafe. Despite everyone’s personal agendas and trust issues, the Cafe falls silent as all eyes look through the windows into the intersection toward Benjamin and the Cathedral.
Dogs snap at the glass after Aubry closes the Cafe door behind her. (Did they back off of her just a teensy little smidge?) They circle uneasily and the superpack breaks into three fluid units: Those Dogs committed to watching the front, a few that seem to be heading around the rear of the Cafe and a couple that slink behind Benjamin as if wondering what he might have up his sleeve.
The Samaritan makes a quiet line around the back of the Cafe, up and over the Dogs sniffing around the alley and sleekly in through an open window of the Hotel.
No one is exactly sure what to expect when Ben opens the Cathedral doors, but everyone probably could agree that something other than nothing would happen.
And while it is not exactly nothing… it certainly lacks a kind of fireworks.
The choir ceases immediately, however… gone… gone gone… and the warm light of candles fills the great open doors and as if that light sucked all of the oxygen out of the air, the wreckage of the Bus and Jet stop burning instantly.
The Dogs stop moving, too. They do not run toward or away from anything. They merely stop and all turn to face the Cathedral, heads low, ears back, teeth in various states of baring.
Some of the candlelight appears to get stuck as it passes by Benjamin, hanging on his clothes like flickering bits of glitter, and some hangs up on the Dogs. But where the flicker doesn’t seem to hurt the Rabbi, wherever candle-light particles touch a Dog, it pierces its dark and steals it away.
L’Enfant watches the light go through the shadow dogs like bullets and begins firing again. Pop, pop, pop… not as if the shells themselves are deadly to the dogs, but more the light they create.
One of the beasts catches L’Enfant from behind and drags her down, but it has no packmates that are willing or able to support the attack, and it is Alexa that wrestles the shadow off of her before both she and the Corporal fire into it, L’Enfant with the SCAR and Jade with the flipped up and open FMG9.
Within seconds, the Intersection is quiet.
Still shadows of the Dogs blend into the twilight one by one and are broken up, disbanded by ripples in the puddles that haunt every nook and niche in the slow drizzle.