Authors: John Farris
Hackett indulged his curiosity by dropping around to the viewing room where Haman, in the adjoining room, was under constant watch through one-way glass.
"What has he been doing?" Hackett asked the agent who was one of two men assigned in half-hour shifts to keep an eye on their covert.
"Crossword puzzles. About every fifteen minutes he gets up and pours another cup of coffee. Drinks it, goes to take a pee. Standing up, I might add. He doesn't close the door is how we know that. Comes back, does another crossword puzzle. Hasn't touched the sandwiches we provided. Oh, and watch this."
Haman had put down his pencil and book of puzzles. Something had come over him, a lurking fear. He raised a hand to his throat, where there was evidence of a rope burn. He looked left slowly, then right. Then he turned in his chair and studied the room in its entirety. Table, three wooden chairs, a freestanding bookcase with nothing on it but the Mr. Coffee machine and plastic bowls containing packets of artificial sweeteners and a nondairy creamer. There was a water cooler in one corner with a blue tinted five-gallon bottle upside down on it. Blinds on the east-facing windows. The door to the small bathroom stood open. Haman continued to massage his throat. Then he suddenly bent over and looked under the table. He straightened immediately and looked around again, moving his head and upper body instead of just his eyes.
Finally he was still. His gaze became fixed on the mirror behind which Hackett and the other FBI agent were watching. He seemed to know someone was there. A strange chilling smile appeared. Then he picked up his pencil and crossword puzzle magazine and settled back into his routine, sipping coffee while he worked a puzzle.
"What do you make of him?" the subordinate asked Hackett.
"Bit of a fidget, as my English nanny used to say."
"Yeah. Wonder what he looks like under all that makeup? Are you going to talk to him?"
"No. He's not our deal. Leave him be until IS takes him off our hands."
The water cooler in the interrogation room belched. The pencil in Haman's hand snapped in two. He looked at the cooler and then at the pieces, reached out and placed them on the table along with the puzzle book. He appeared to be making up his mind about something. Then he stood and began deliberately to undress, beginning with the Rona Harvester wig. The padded bra and Jockey shorts came off. Then the false eyelashes. He walked into the bathroom and began to remove the makeup with a damp towel. When he returned bare-assed and bare-faced to the interrogation room the agent watching with Hackett gasped.
"Jesus, look at that! He's all bone and scar tissue."
Hackett said with a grimace of disgust, "Tell Leona to go out and get him something to wear at Target. A pair of overalls, anything. One of those Stetsons with a bulldogger crease that'll hide some of his face."
The assassin temporarily known as Phil Haman sat down and folded his arms across his bony chest. His eyes closed almost immediately. He took three deep breaths by mouth and his head nodded forward. Just that quickly he was asleep. His mouth remained open. Some drool ran down from one corner and dripped from his chin. They heard a raspy snore.
Dolph Hackett shook his head and went back to the conference room in use as a command center while the Director was personally conducting an operation close to the Sacramento FO. The next time he had occasion to think about Haman, one of his agents had a separated shoulder and a concussion, another had a crushed larynx, and Haman was nowhere to be found.
MOBY BAY â¢ MAY 29 â¢ 4:28 P.M. PDT
hauncey had come to the door of her bedroom a couple of times to check on Eden while she was sobbing her heart out. On her third trip all was quiet inside. She knocked, and Eden answered in muffled tones that Chauncey interpreted as an invitation to come in. She shut the door behind her because the house was getting noisy, particularly in the kitchen. Nearly everyone in Moby Bay seemed to be arriving at the same time for the barbecue and, after dark, a patriotic fireworks display at the edge of the Pacific. The music on the outdoor speakers was loud and rocking: Linda Ronstadt's cover of Chuck Berry's
Back in the USA
Eden had curled up on Chauncey's bed. The shutters were closed. Chauncey slipped down beside Eden, dabbed under her eyes with a tissue, held her hand.
"What did you find out?" Eden asked.
"You know hospitals. They don't get specific. The computer has Betts listed as serious but stable. No visitors, no phone calls."
"I can't call her? Why
"That's all the information I have."
Eden sat up. "But what about Dad?"
"I phoned all three funeral homes. He's at Brickalow's."
. I can't, I justâI've got to go home, Chauncey! I want to see Betts, there're arrangements to be made. People to call, Riley's brothers and sisterâ"
Chauncey gripped her hand more tightly. "Eden, listen to me. I don't know how you found out something had happened to your mom and dad. I'm sure it's not my place to know because you're the Avatar and your powers are beyond myâ"
? All I'm asking is for you to drive me to Innisfall, or if you don't want to, then loan me your wheels and I'llâ"
"Something's going on, I get that much, and I think you may be in danger. The man I spoke to at the funeral home, he ... sounded surprised when I asked about Riley. Surprised, cautious. Then he had too many questions. Wanted to know who I was, asked me if I knew where you were. Asked three times, was I
I didn't know how to contact you, and there was something about his tone, as if he thought I was lying."
"So what? It's a funeral home. They have my father. There are procedures to follow, I guess."
"He wanted to know how I knew Riley was, uh, deceased. Like it was privileged information. And why no visitors for Betts? If she were in critical care I could understand. I just have a creepy feeling about all this. What you might be walking into."
"Innisfall is my home. I was raised there. I have friends who will help me!"
"They were your friends yesterday. Before the plane crash. Are they your friends today?"
"That is an awfulâwhat do you
"I think you know what I mean. The last time I looked at the news on TV, there was still a mob scene outside your house. I'll bet there are some interesting messages on your answering machine. You're an instant celebrity, Eden. But there's a kind of religious hysteria building around your celebrity. You've attracted followers already. You're a source of inspiration to the gullible or the devout. And you could be prey for the wrong kind of people, the Bad Souls. Some of them work for governments."
"Thanks, I needed the shit scared out of me." Eden fell silent, breathing slowly. Her eyes were red from crying, but alert. Chauncey studied her, concerned. Eden resumed in a subdued voice, "I know, Chauncey. A lot of what you've said is true. There's a guy I loved and made love to, heâhe was spying on me all the time. I don't know what that's about. Who sent him toâto
and humiliate and betray me? But I will find out. And I swear
of them will get off easy." She looked up at Chauncey. "You're right. I need to be careful. I don't feel special but I know I'm different. Always have been. I've had dreams all of my life. Prophetic dreams. I dreamed about Portland. Three times. Then it happened. I couldn't
anything. Last night I dreamed about another city. For the third time. It's becoming clearer to me, but I still don't know where it is. There's a big university, close to downtown. A wide, wide river just outside of the city. Maybe it's a lake. Beautiful. The city is hilly and green, lots of churches. I think a bomb is on the way, right now, to this city. Thousands more will die. I can't allow that. I have to stop them, whoever they are. I'm so sick about Riley. Sad for Betts. But I know she'll be okay without me for a little while. And I have things to do. Things to do. Please help me, Chauncey. I feel so alone."
WESTBOUND/VALLEYHEART TO MOBY BAY â¢ MAY 29 â¢ 4:57 P.M. PDT
wo big, and largely unknown (to the general public), dark gray "Conan" I helicopters traveled seaward over the Humboldt redwoods southeast of Cape Mendocino, destination Moby Bay, California: specifically latitude 40Â° 28'19" N, longitude 124Â° 24'46" W, the precise location of a one-story, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home of redwood siding with a shake-shingle roof, one and three-quarter miles from the center of town, on a long, gently sloping, nearly treeless headland with an eye-filling vista of the ocean. The home of Wick and Mia McLain and their two children. Chauncey, twenty-one, and Roald, who has just turned thirteen.
The FBI did not have dossiers on either of the adult McLains. Routine stuff had turned up from the credit bureau computers. Wick, a self-employed artist, got behind on the Visa card occasionally, but he was punctual about his car and mortgage payments, so he maintained a fairly decent credit rating. The McLains appeared to be unremarkable small-town churchgoing Americansâexcept, oddly enough, Moby Bay had no church of any denomination.
The photo recon pictures generated by NSA's digital cameras aboard a K-234 satellite nicknamed "Jack Flash" and currently in geocentric orbit far above this two-acre plot of California coastline, showed a Memorial weekend cookout in progress at the McLains'. Sixty guests, with more arriving as the helos moved in: most of them were outside. Robert Hyde counted another dozen people circulating inside the spacious house; all of the bathrooms were occupied.
Hyde hadn't counted on a party. Too many people to sort through once they were on the ground, with Bravo chopper circling the LZ, checking for breakaways. They could have used some backup, but there wasn't time. And he had been forced to leave an agent behind in Valleyheart to make room for his son in Alpha chopper.
The Director didn't look at Geoff again, who was seated forward behind the pilot, his back to the corn station where the relayed satellite photos appeared on two computer screens. Knowing how close he had come to killing his son was a torment. Hyde had a bad headache, brought on partly by his efforts to ignore the memory of an angry pit bull, seemingly levitated, and a bodiless female voice demanding that he pull his Glock and kill the brute. This momentary departure from reality he had rationalized as a whisper of psychosis, a fleeting mental incapacity brought on by stress arid disorientation, the demands of flying at nearly Mach two for two thousand miles with, perhaps, a subtle defect in the delivery system depriving him of all the oxygen his brain required for optimum functionality.
That part of the paranormal experience he had coped with adequately. Explained it away. The rest of it still haunted him, like the voice from the radio in the stillness of his father's tiny cheerless room on visiting days. The mocking, nerve-prickling laughter.
The Shadow knows
. . .
When he had failed to act in the face of the pit bull's aggression, someone had acted for him. Someone had . . . no, some
. . . No. It was a presence, neither hellish nor quite human, a dark cloudlike but
presence with the strength of a fist pushing into his mind, pushing
aside. His persona, his ego, his will. Neutralizing him. Taking operational control.
"You killed my dog! Son of a bitch, what did you go and shoot my dog for?"
The next thing he was aware of, the next thing he heard.
Standing there in sunlight with the bloody dog at his feet, his Glock in his hand. His mind all there once again. Casually vacated, or perhaps
was the word, once her purpose had been done.
The power to cloud men's minds
. . .
Hyde thinking, with a tremor of anguish: You can'tâyou don't exist. Smelling the blood of the dog. His own perspiration popping out cold as winter rain. Seeing the sway of trees on a windy bright afternoon. Hearing her again, the uninsistent note of contempt in her voice.
Not within the bounds of your reality.
"Give me an ETA," Hyde said to the pilot of Alpha chopper. They were cruising at 170 mph at four thousand feet, easily clearing the modest peaks on this side of the Coast Range.
"ETA nine minutes and twenty seconds, sir."
"Roger that." The Director returned to the high res satellite cameras' meticulous scan of the people at the Memorial weekend cookout. Searching for the face of Eden Waring, which also was displayed, in the senior portrait from her college yearbook, in a window at the upper-right quadrant of one screen for instant matching purposes. Geoff should have been assisting him with the identification process. But Hyde didn't know what to do about his wayward, hostile son. Obviously Eden Waring had clouded the boy's mind as easily as she had clouded Hyde's. Turned his own blood against him. Deprogramming eventually might restore Geoff's mental equilibrium and his loyalty. For now he was just a nuisance and a potential hazard.
It would have been better, Hyde thought, if the canoe carrying Geoff beneath the Valleyheart bridge had come along just a few pulsebeats later. His own pulse rate was in the hammering hundreds at the moment he looked up and recognized the eyes of his son, appearing in the gloom like blue comets as the badly fitting sunglasses he wore slipped to the end of his snub nose. Hyde had just vomited at the edge of the river; he had gone there to get out of the sun and have a look for himself at the site where Deputy Rachael Humbard reported finding the girl's hockey jersey, shorts, and sandals. Where she had vanished. Not appearing again except in voice, in the Director's invaded, violated mind. That recent memory had brought up deep bile flavored with fear, set him to retching so strongly his stomach muscles cramped and he thought he might faint.