JFK International Airport, New York
The next day dawned cold and painfully bright. At the end of a nearly deserted section of the gigantic airport, a Lear jet came to a stop and began to throttle down. Head pounding ferociously, Reva climbed out, eyes squinting at the glare of the sun, her lungs seared by the cold and a waft of jet fuel. She felt sick to her stomach. Mickey followed after her, silent and grim, his eyes searched around the airfield warily. A jumbo soared over their heads and nearly deafened them as the daily routines of a huge international airport continued on. Several yards away, a lone black Jaguar sat parked; a well dressed older man leaned patiently against the passenger side and waited.
Reva had never met him before, but she most certainly had heard about him. Robert McCall. He wore a long, grey wool coat, a muffler, and she barely made out a business suit as they approached him. His silver hair was neatly combed back, his own eyes squinted against the sun.
Mickey breathed a sigh of relief next to her as laid his hand against the back of her neck, between her shoulders. He looked utterly worn out to her, and she knew she looked worse. He guided her gently towards the car.
She swallowed the nausea she felt and clamped down tight on the panic she wanted to cave in to. She still reeled in shock that Mickey was tied to the Company. She could hardly bring herself to look at him. She had known he was an operative, they had established that very early on, but for them? She wondered how he would react when he found out that she also had...
Reva shoved the thoughts away and scanned the airport. What difference would it make? They were doomed before they even had a chance to start. She now knew exactly why Mickey had been gone for six months. What she wondered about now, was how had he been found out? Who had seen them? And how long would it take for him to send Mickey off again? For that matter, what would this mean about her current status with the Company? She knew far too much to be left alone, and with Mickey involved, she knew everything would be on the line. Reva felt dizzy… and now Robert McCall was involved.
She had known of his position and its slim, risky ties in the Company echelon. She also knew how dangerously close he had come to being terminated. With her around, neither Mickey nor McCall were safe. She knew her Yellow status carried with it a death sentence to any Company agent who got near her, she'd been warned of that. The hideous reality of being designated Code Red made her literally sick with dread. Her own status was equally in question.
"Mickey," Robert greeted. Reva looked a little surprised at the accent, not recalling anything about his being British from her scant few days in the Company. He had certainly never said anything to her about it. Then again he hadn't revealed much about anything at all.
"Robert," Mickey responded in kind as they came to a stop before him. "This is Reva Cheney. Reeve, this is Robert McCall." McCall was peeling off a glove, holding a hand out to her.
"A pleasure," he said by way of greeting, smiling gently. Reva accepted his hand and tried to avoid his hazel eyes. She couldn't speak for more reasons than one, but nodded and shook the firm hand offered her. Robert successfully hid his own reaction to the purple-black bruise across the top left of her skull and the line of stitching that stood out along her hairline. To put it mildly, the girl looked like hell. She looked like she hadn't slept at all. He glanced at Mickey, a silent question in his eyes, but he was inscrutable, and looked equally exhausted. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out something was up. Robert squelched the urge to say something. The girl looked very uncomfortable.
"You must be very tired," Robert said soothingly, turning to open the front passenger door. "It's much warmer in here." He offered her the front seat. Reva cast a wary glance at Mickey, then looked at Robert.
"Thank you," she whispered in her damaged voice. Mickey gently squeezed the back of her neck and let her go. She slid into the seat as Robert's eyebrow shot up at the sound of her voice. She felt grateful for Mickey's scarf, hiding her scarred throat. She clenched at the beanie in her coat pocket and settled wearily into the warm leather seat. Robert gently shut the door and turned to gaze at Mickey.
"Can't speak very well," he said by way of explanation to Robert's quizzical gaze. "Nerve damage to her throat."
"From the carjacking?" he asked. Mickey shook his head, his own hands now clenched into fists inside his jacket pockets.
"Further back than that," Mickey stated. He met Robert's level stare.
"Anything more happen after your rather dramatic exit from the hospital? It's been all over the papers this morning," Robert commented, a shade terse. Mickey didn't react.
"Not a thing," he drawled. He never broke eye contact. Robert eyed him and accepted it.
"Well, Thank God you're here in one piece now. Although I dare say she looks worse for the wear."
"It's been a rough week on her," Mickey admitted, feeling a strange sense of relief. "She just left the hospital from some surgery on her throat when the attack occurred," he explained. Robert looked at him, his eyes intense.
"Dear God!" he breathed. Mickey only nodded.
"She hasn't really reacted to killing the guy either," he added. "She seemed to be in shock still when I arrived last night."
"And the disc?" Robert asked.
"Left it behind, don't want 'em to find us that easily." Mickey pointed out. Robert nodded approval.
"Get in, Mickey," he said, seeing how really tired he was. "We'll talk more later. I've barely had time to get some inquiries going. It'll be a while before anything comes up. In the mean time, you both could use some sleep."
"Amen to that..." Mickey drawled and climbed into the car.
Robert took them to Long Island. When he had checked into Reva's bibliographical history in one of the books she had illustrated, he learned she lived near the water. That helped him to decide that the beach safe house he maintained would be the best place to go, if just to help her to relax some. He kept a place near Long Beach, not too big or too small, within easy walking distance of the beach itself. He'd had Jimmy thoroughly check the place over, laying in supplies, getting it ready for them.
For a few minutes, Mickey filled Robert in on the events he knew about. From the time Reva's house had been watched and entered, to the carjacking attempt and the discovery of the positioning device in the truck. That device prompting Mickey's decision to get Reva out of the hospital and into safety. They fell silent afterwards, each lost in their own thoughts, Reva silently staring out the window. Before too long Robert pulled into the driveway of a three bedroom home perched a block off the sandy windswept beaches.
The boom of pounding surf met their ears, along with a stiff, knifing breeze and the tang of salt air. Robert opened her door as Mickey climbed out. Reva shivered, letting Mickey take her arm gently as they followed Robert to the door.
"Jimmy stopped by your place and picked up some clothes," Robert said noticing Mickey's low-key possessiveness.
"And he survived?" Mickey asked.
"He looked green.," Robert admitted as Mickey looked around the room, carefully steering the girl along.
"Master bedroom's at the back. It has its own washroom." Robert suggested, nodding down the hallway. He looked at Reva. "I don't have much in the way of clothes for young ladies, but I had Ginger gather some thing's together. Jimmy will have set them in there."
She gave him a wan smile, nodded her thanks and let Mickey guide her along. For a moment, they disappeared from Robert's sight, then Mickey reemerged, shutting the door behind him. He glanced in at the spare room, saw his duffel lying on the foot of the bed, then joined Robert in the living room.
Robert stood staring out the sliding glass doors at the view of the beaches. He hadn't removed his coat yet.
"Do you suspect any kind of assassination attempt here, Mickey?" he asked.
"Nope," he replied, peeling off his jacket. He began unloading weapons. Robert glanced at him, raising an eyebrow. "At least not yet anyway."
"What do you want to do? Rest now or tell me about Miss Cheney?"
"What do you want to know?"
"Why would someone put a Global satellite positioning device in her truck?"
"That's the $100,000.00 question," Mickey replied, unclipping his holster and peeling it off.
"Mickey..." Robert gazed at him with a familiar stern, steady look. "What is it you aren't telling me? If we're to help this girl, we need to know everything. That girl..." He nodded his head towards the Master bedroom. "Is terrified of something. Why would somebody bother with a Children’ book illustrator?"
"How does forgery sound to you?"
"Forgery?" Robert exclaimed. "In what?"
Mickey only smirked slightly, picked up his .45 and popped the clip out.
"Handwriting, signatures..." He heaved a sigh. "Reva worked at one of the federal buildings in New York five years ago, as a paper shuffler, trying to make ends meet as she tried getting on with one of the big publishing companies."
"That led to forgery?" Robert snapped.
"No... One of the staff told her she'd never amount to anything, so Reva signed her way into the job he wanted," Mickey looked like an overgrown kid, despite absently tearing his .45 to pieces. "Jimmy didn't bring my cleaning kit did he?" he asked McCall, who stared at him in a mixture of surprise and disbelief.
"How would I know? Mickey... what position did she get?"
"Staff driver..." he said as he rose and headed down the hall, he reemerged seconds later, smiled in delight, and held up a black leather case. He came around the couch, sat down and began laying out the pieces of his gun. Robert pointed his finger towards the far bedroom.
"Kostmayer, that girl is no staff driver!" he snapped, watching Mickey unzip the case and haul out the various implements needed for cleaning a gun.
"That's what I told her."
"Then how did she get away with it?"
"It didn't last long, she got caught a week later by one of the head honchos, who told her it could mean prison, and he wanted to know how and why she did it." He began to carefully clean the various pieces of his .45 with a small, clean, white rag.
"He uh, kept her on... and began training her in other things as well."
"McCall, until you see how fast Reva can draw... no pun intended," he nodded at what he was doing. "You'd appreciate what that guy saw. She's got a photographic memory and can draw really good. Funnel that talent in the right direction..."
"And you'd get a formidable forger. Able to sign anyone's signature."
"Able to lay out entire rooms, schematics..." Mickey added.
"Able to draw anyone she sees, including people of interest to a government organization." Robert began to pace the room, looking thoughtful.
"Which is where Reeve's budding espionage career came to an abrupt end." Mickey selected a long, thin, wire brush and began to stuff it in the barrel of his pistol. Robert looked at him.
"Go on..." The older man, sighed.
"Reeve stayed with this fella for a year, I reckon workin’ part time at her job and the rest of the time for him. He did train her in the use of firearms, and some hand to hand stuff, but apparently she was needed when there were some terrorists invited to a media party, where she could get in and get a good look at them. She was to do only that. She admitted to actually taking the time to draw up the pictures and was spotted by the wife of one of the men. She went after Reeve with a broken wine carafe..."
"Which nearly tore out her throat?" Robert asked grimly
"Severin' the nerves to her vocal cords." Mickey replied, nodding his head.
"What happened afterwards?" Robert asked as Mickey began to stuff the rag down the barrel with the slender brush.
"Apparently she was retired, moved to Maine and pursued her drawing career. You should see the awards she's won." Mickey paused, thinking about the house in Wiscasett. He tugged the rag out of the barrel. "She says she knows someone is watching the place all the time, but in October she says people were entering the house, looking for things. She had some scar tissue removed from her throat the other day and on her way home knew somebody was following her."
"Where the truck then broke down, the two men assault her and she kills one of the assailants..." Robert’s eyes narrowed as his mind raced. "We need the identity of that attacker," he murmured.
"We need to figure out who spotted me in Wiscasett, to have me hauled off my vacation."
"What do you mean?" Robert glanced sharply at him.
"It's been buggin' me since I met her, Robert. We were just starting to get to know one another, when my leash gets jerked. Control offered me a plum job taking out supply routes in the Balkans, with a hefty bonus pack upon completion. Only I was gone six months in doing it..."
"You think someone spotted you and spoke to Control?"
"Possibly..." Mickey drawled, carefully oiling strategic locations on the various bits and pieces. He began wiping the excess oil off with another bit of clean rag.
"What are you thinking, Mickey?"
"MI5, the Israelis and the Company… They are the only three organizations I know of with access to those global discs. Whoever wants Reeve, wants her bad enough to go through the trouble of spending a lot of money on locating her. My guess is an insider, or someone she may have seen at some point in time."
"Like one of the terrorists?" Robert mused.
"Could be... my guess is it would be someone who knows about her ability to forge."
"Who was the fellow she usurped for the driver's position?"
"She didn't say..." Mickey replied. He began reassembling the gun.
"We need to find out. We also need to know who she worked for..." Robert looked in the direction of the master bedroom.
"McCall," Mickey said carefully, gazing steadily at the other. "We need to let her get some sleep..." His hands moved swiftly as he slapped the clip in, jacked the slide, loaded a shell into the barrel, and pointed the weapon at the opposite wall while his thumb hit the safety. He ejected the clip again, slipped his hand into the leather case before him and began reloading those rounds he spent earlier in Maine. Robert's eyes narrowed, as he looked back at the other man.
"Mickey, we aren't going to have a problem here are we?" he asked. Mickey slapped the clip back in as his dark eyes lifted to meet McCall's.
"No problem at all," he said, carefully setting the .45 on the coffee table. He reached over and pulled the guard’s .38 revolver to him.
"I can't help but notice a little more regard on your part for Miss Cheney."
"If you're referring to Sydney, this isn't the same," Mickey replied flatly, his voice lowering. Robert's chin came up, his shoulders squaring as he stiffened. He leveled a steely gaze at Kostmayer.
"You've taken responsibly for this girl's safety upon yourself, Kostmayer," his voice alone could have dropped the temperature a few degrees. "If you think you've lost your objectivity, I want to know about it now!" he snapped. An electric tension filled the air.
"This is not the same," Mickey repeated, his voice low and calm. "Sydney was an accident. Which you've already chewed me out about several years ago. Reeve is different. It won't happen again."
"How different?" Robert demanded.
"Sydney happened!" Mickey snapped back at the lash in Robert's voice. "Reva, I..." he glared at Robert. "Reva, I care about. And if you think for one minute I wouldn't fight to the death to protect her, guess again!"
"I'll remember you said that," Robert replied in a low dangerous tone.
"I wasn't working for you when I met her, Robert!" Mickey growled, nodding towards the master bedroom. "This is a different situation altogether!"
Robert scrutinized Mickey, hearing the conviction in his words. It was one thing to commit a breach of ethics when working for someone, but it did become a different matter entirely when the person you cared about was the one who needed protection. Robert knew he'd fight to the death too, if anyone harmed his children. He knew also that Mickey had already jeopardized his very existence in removing Reva from the hospital.
There were, however, too many unresolved questions about Reva Cheney and Kostmayer really had not had much time to get to know the girl.
"Remember this also, Mickey," he warned sternly. "We haven't established yet if anything she's said is true."
"You want to go in there and tell her that?" Mickey's hands moved again, tearing the .38 apart as if the metal was on fire. "After having just killed a guy trying to bash her brains in?" He held up a warning finger. "You even think about going into that room to wake her up and I swear I'll take a kneecap out." His delivery was decidedly calm and relaxed. Mickey's entire face had gone blank, only the eyes showed a scary certainty. Robert eyed Kostmayer back and very slowly, an approving smile lifted the corner of his lips.
"All right Mickey," he replied, his voice gentler. "You've proven your point. However, there are things about your Miss Cheney which still need to be cleared up." He relaxed his shoulders, straightening his coat.
"I'm going to see if I can talk Jimmy into going to Wiscasett for a few days. He'd probably welcome the opportunity to get away from fighting with his ex-wife. I also want to see what the coroner came up with." He fished his car keys out of his pocket and didn’t see Mickey drop his head slightly in relief. "Get some rest until I get back, then I'll spell you a while. I shouldn't be more than two, three hours." He looked up to see Mickey run his hand through his hair, his eyes lowered.
"McCall," he said as Robert headed for the door. The older man paused, looking back at Kostmayer. "This time I won't let you down... I promise." He met Robert's eyes. The older man smiled slightly.
"I know you won't, Mickey, I know you won't." With that, he turned and left.
Mickey sat for several long minutes after the front door had been locked and the Jaguar had driven away. He stared at the dismantled .38, then heaved a relieved sigh and rose. He tapped softly on Reva's door. Not hearing a response, he opened it a bit, looked in, and frowned in dismay.
Robert's choice in the beach house had proven to be a wise one. Still in her coat, Reva had simply laid down on the far edge of the bed, her back to him, and was now completely out. One hand hung over the bed, the other, still with bandages on her fingers, gently pillowed her head. Dark gold hair lay in disarray clear past her shoulders. Mickey disappeared for a moment, going back into the spare room he had claimed, and stripped the blankets off the bed. He smiled slightly to himself that he had already done this chore not quite eight hours previously.
At first Reva never noticed him as he knelt across the bed and slipped off her shoes. She did however groan as he eased off the coat. As she started to roll towards him, he shushed her quietly and stopped her with a hand to her shoulder. He tucked the blankets around and paused to stroke away the hair off her face. A soft plaintive moan met his ears, then she slowly relaxed, dropping off into a deep, exhausted slumber.
Mickey waited until her features relaxed and the frown between her brows disappeared. He started to get off the bed and remembered something. Diving into her coat pocket he pulled up the otter beanie baby. Smiling at it, he tucked it under her chin, then slipped quietly out of the room.
Robert's first stop that morning was at Jimmy's. It took him a considerable amount of time to convince him to go to Wiscasett. The unhappily divorced man finally conceded, when offered a stiff cash advance and enough to keep him occupied on his errands in Maine. His instructions were clear, go to Reva's hometown, see who could have been watching the house and who'd have recognized Mickey. Then to Bath, to find what he could on the coroner's report. Robert then went in search of his computer hacker.
Jonah, having been previously notified, had the chore of finding out anything he could on Reva Cheney with a side warning not to let any of the three espionage networks know what he was up to.
Bank accounts, financial statements, employment and hospital records, education, activities, anything the computer whiz could bring up and print. It all waited in a thick manila envelope by the time Robert appeared on his doorstep. Jonah had obtained much of the information under the auspices of writing a biography on the girl for her publishing company.
Having instigated a few more lines of questioning, Robert returned to the beach house. As he unlocked the front door he was cautious enough to announce his presence to Mickey. With good reason...
Disheveled light brown hair falling into his face, Mickey had come up off the couch in less than a heartbeat. One knee dug into the armrest, the other foot planted firmly on the floor, leaning hard into a two handed pistol grip with the .45. On seeing Robert's face, he closed his eyes with a sigh, dropped his head and allowed the gun to swing loose in his hands by its trigger guard.
"Good thing you said something," he said dryly. Robert only smiled slightly as Mickey thumbed the safety back on. He ran a hand through his hair, pulling it back off his face, then dropped down on the couch. Robert locked the door behind him, glanced down the hall and saw the door slightly ajar.
"Have you been checking on her?"
"Every two hours in cases of concussion," he replied as if reading the textbook. "Only I figure she'd been at the hospital about 24 already, so I've been making sure she's sleeping all right." Robert nodded, and entered the dining room were he set the folder and began peeling off his gloves.
"I've sent Jimmy to Wiscasett, he's going to stop in Bath and check on that coroner's report. I'll be here going through what Jonah came up with for me." He took off his overcoat, folded it neatly and laid it over the back of one of the chairs. "If the phone rings, it will be Jimmy." He looked at Kostmayer.
"Go and get some sleep, Mickey. I'll look in on her," he said, loosening his tie. Mickey didn't have to be told twice, he just got up, still carrying his .45 and retreated to a spare bedroom. Robert brewed tea.
Settling down on the couch with his cup and the folder, he balanced the file on his knee, pulled out his reading glasses from inside his suit jacket and began to read…
Reva Cheney had a reasonably blissful, normal life. Her birth records showed her to have been born in Seattle to Douglas and Cindy Cheney. He, a Boeing engineer; she, an accountant. The only bump at first to appear in the girl’s life happened less than three weeks after her birth when her parents were killed in a car accident. Custody transferred to Douglas Cheney's parents, Admiral Thornton Cheney USN and his wife Lois. For all intents and purposes her grandparents, were her parents. Robert frowned slightly, Admiral Cheney had been a highly distinguished Navy man, he had heard of his accomplishments in both WWII and Korea. Aside from that early tragedy, Reva lived the life of a normal child, normal that is for being a lightning artist.
From the age of six she began winning contests and awards from local grocery store shopping bag coloring contests to national competitions. By the time she reached high school, several scholarships had been offered and upon graduation she had accepted the offer of one of the most prestigious commercial and graphic arts institutes in the country, located in New York City.
The next set of tragedies to come along had been the death of her grandparents. Reva had been 16 when Lois Cheney died of natural causes in her sleep. Three years later Admiral Cheney succumbed to cancer. Reva had postponed entering college to care for him. Robert frowned again.
He had been at Thornton Cheney's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Cheney had been buried with the full military honors, complete with 21-gun salute. Robert counted the years back. Reva had to have been 19 or 20 years old then. Like a will o' the wisp a memory came back to him. A small slender girl dressed head to toe in black, silently accepting the folded flag that had draped the casket and looking a hundred years old. Robert's eyes squinted as he recalled the reason why he had been there. He had never met Admiral Cheney. Control had asked him to go along with him…
Control. The man had been as vague and mysterious as always at that funeral. He had hardly spoken a word and insisted on staying back, refusing to mingle with the crowd. A bony ice-cold finger began to trail its way up Robert's spine. He continued reading.
Reva entered college the following semester after Cheney's death, settling on Long Island itself, only further east, just past Mastic Beach. She graduated cum laude and began working for various ad agencies as she pursued the publishing houses for a permanent job. She finally succeeded four years ago and won the Caldecott Award two years later. She soon settled down to a successful career in Wiscasett, able to work at home, doing what she did best.
There was no mention of her ever working as a filing clerk for a federal building in New York or anywhere else in the United States. Robert paused, sipping at his tea, his mind racing. Presently he heaved a sigh. The situation was beginning to circle more and more around the Company. He continued reading. What he read about her financial situation raised both eyebrows.
The girl never needed to work again.
She had it made. With the inheritance from her father and grandfather, their mutual life insurance policies plus Navy benefits from the Admiral’s death, shrewdly invested, Reva could have lived comfortably off the interest, alone. The $40,000.00 a year she made from the publishing company paled in comparison to that and the royalties coming off the sales of any of her books, lithographs, and originals. It was where Reva had special accounts set up that caught Robert’s attention.
No secret Swiss accounts existed for this girl. Though world famous for being the place to keep secret accounts, there was one other place even more renowned than Switzerland and even more private and inaccessible. A place where not only Robert himself had an account or two, but most any British or American agent in their particular game had them also.
The Isle of Man.
Robert dug deeper and found in the cache of papers the only information available on Reva's transactions at home. Starting four years back, once a month, a consistently regular deposit was made to her home account from the Isle of Man accounts, along with the royalty checks, paychecks, and quarterly interest deposits. Professionals strictly handled her income tax returns and any accounting practices were also handled on the legal up and up. Why was there a regular deposit coming to the home account from the Isle, starting from four years ago?
Robert sat back, lifting off his glasses and rubbing at his tired eyes. Something did not ring right with this girl, but what was it? Did she have some sort of secret yearning for forgery and espionage? Was he dealing with a danger freak? Was she lying to Mickey, drawing him in? Who had she worked for and why wasn't it on the public records? Why would someone want to track her? Too many questions, and now he had been getting that uncomfortable feeling that he was going to have to go to Control to get any answers.
He slipped his glasses back on and read the remainder of her files. Once settled in Wiscasett, Reva hadn't traveled, although she had gone to Europe and the Polynesians during her college days. She had a yearning to live near the water. He dug some more. According to Mickey, an irate terrorist’s wife had attacked her. The broken wine carafe doing severe damage to her vocal chords. So where were the medical records? He found her birth announcement and vaccination records... and nothing else. Robert shuffled through the paper work, searching it over again. There were no medical reports. Nothing. Robert's teeth set. There weren't even any records of having been in any hospital in the past two weeks, let alone being readmitted for the assault. Robert dragged the glasses off his face, dropped the file on the coffee table and rose. He headed straight into the master bedroom.
Silent as a cat, he came around the bed and looked down at Reva Cheney. The bruise across her skull and the stitches along her scalp were certainly not faked. He looked puzzled at a little otter toy that lay on her pillow. Reva had rolled onto her back and was sleeping hard. Robert reached down and gently pulled the blankets past her neck.
There was no mistaking that kind of damage. The three angry red claw marks that reached across and down her throat made his eyes widen in surprise. Parallel to where her vocal chords should have been was an old scar from a tracheotomy, next to which were the current stitches from the operation to remove the scar tissue. She was permanently wearing the proof of extensive medical treatment on her throat. Who knew how much went into the rehabilitation, and whatever kind of compensation she took to handle the loss of her ability to speak. None of which was accounted for.
Robert knew Jonah had been very thorough. So why had Reva's medical files vanished into thin air? He gazed thoughtfully at her. Mickey's instincts very rarely ever led him wrong. He had had to trust him on those instincts many times. Would they be any different now, seeing Mickey actually cared for someone? How could so many difficult questions be bundled up in one small, slender young woman? Robert heaved a sigh and knew he wasn't going to like the answers.
The first few came in that night.
When Mickey had awakened around 6:00pm, he first checked Reva, who was still out, then joined Robert in the dining room. Robert handed him the files on Reva and went about to make them some dinner. As Mickey read, Robert pointed out that he had been at the funeral of the Admiral with Control and remembered seeing Reva there. Mickey confirmed to Robert that Reva had mentioned her grandfather had been in the Navy. When he hit the financial records, Mickey let out a low whistle, explaining to Robert about the house in Wiscasett being expensive and immaculate. He agreed with Robert that the Isle accounts were strange, but if she had indeed worked for one of the federal agencies, it wouldn't be totally unheard of to have them. Which agency being the question. The regular deposits from the Man accounts certainly coincided with the timing of her tragedy.
As for no record existing of her employment with one of them, most everyone had at some point in time worked "under the table". Robert agreed that could be it, but didn't think so in light of the missing medical records. Mickey was also struck by Reva's lack of any family. Even he had a brother and several dozen cousins. Reva had nothing. He was beginning to understand more her pain and resignation. Still, Mickey felt disturbed when he finished reading. He explained to McCall the situation with her throat needing the surgery, and of her mentioning the need for extensive training in Ameslan in order to "speak", when need be. Why no medical and therapeutic records existed of it escaped him at the moment.
Not an hour after Mickey got up, Jimmy called in, with Robert catching the call. He was silent as he listened, Mickey watching, as Robert grew increasingly somber. An air of tension and pent up stress began to fill the room. When he hung up the receiver, McCall looked at Mickey.
"Jimmy found something," he murmured. Kostmayer raised a curious eyebrow.
Robert studied him a moment.
"You're hunch was right." He narrowed his intense eyes, lightly rubbing the fingers of his left hand against the thumb, thinking. "You were spotted, and she has been watched..."
"By who?" Mickey growled.
"Jimmy knows the vet. Dr. Richard Laskar." A cold dread began to fill Robert. He stared hard at the wall as his mind kicked into high gear.
Mickey frowned, startled. "Knows him how?"
"They were in training together." He glanced at Mickey. "Jimmy says he worked for a short time for the Company." A pin could've dropped in that house and have been heard. Mickey's face had gone totally blank. His eyes locked with Robert’s, as he cursed under his breath. His mind recalling the vet in his office, three days before his vacation had gotten cut off.
"You realize what this implies don't you?" Robert warned. Mickey didn't answer.
"We need to wake her up..." Robert said softly.
"She couldn't have worked for the Company…" Mickey protested quietly. Robert saw the pained look flash briefly in his eyes.
Robert sighed and reached for his coat. "I'm going to leave you to find out what and who she worked for." Robert said gently. "We need to know soon..." He drew the coat on and pulled out his gloves. Mickey broke eye contact, looking suddenly troubled.
"Where are you going?" Mickey asked.
Robert set his lips, grim. "To ask an old friend some questions."
For a long time Mickey sat in the chair in the dining room and couldn't bring himself to move. The thought of Reva being employed at the Company filled him with a vast, empty ache. He struggled with himself, his growing feelings for her, his Company loyalties, the insistent instinct that Reva had been telling him the truth, all collided with that thought. Reva, a Company agent? He focused his anger towards Laskar. There'd be a reckoning there, one way or another. Other thoughts crowded into his mind, but Mickey refused to contemplate them, horrible as the thoughts were. He forced himself up and went into the master bedroom.
Reva winced and gasped out loud at the pain in her skull, as she jerked her head away from the bedside lamp being turned on.
"Sorry..." Mickey said quietly as he sat on the bed next to her. She only groaned in response and rolled away from him. He rested a hand on her shoulder. "Reeve..." he said. "Wake up." The soft tone in his voice did more to penetrate her sleep-drugged mind than anything else. She rubbed at her eyes with her good hand and struggled to push away the blankets with the other. Blearily, she looked at him.
Mickey’s face was blank and grim. He had showered at some point and had changed into clean jeans and a dark blue sweater with snowflakes and two deer on the front of it. His hair was swept back off his face. One look at his dark eyes told her enough. Reva shoved the blankets down, shrugged off his hand and pushed herself back against the headboard. She wrapped her arms around her knees, literally curling herself into a tight little ball. Mickey hated seeing it. He could tell by the look in her grey eyes that she knew something was up.
"You've got to tell me everything," he said quietly, gently.
Reva swallowed hard, eyeing his face. "What happened?" she whispered thickly.
Mickey looked away, he couldn't stand the sight of the hopelessness filling her eyes.
"Your vet in Wiscasett is a Company spy," he said softly. He didn't see the shock that registered in her eyes right away. She denied it.
"That's impossible!" she hissed, shaking her head.
"We found out tonight." Mickey said gently, looking at her sadly.
"No!" Reva gasped out harshly. "I've known him for years. There's no way."
"Reva..." Mickey sucked in air. "He's the only one in Wiscasett who saw me with you. A friend of ours recognized him for what he was... I had to leave shortly after, it adds up."
"No!" Reva snapped, her voice unable to rise. She began to shake.
"Reva..." he said, trying desperately to be careful. "You've got to tell me who you worked for…"
She literally exploded off the bed. The gasp of fear and horror that came out of her nearly tore him in two as she gained her feet and staggered against the opposite wall. Mickey dove after her, his hand barely catching her forearm.
"No!" she 'shrieked' wrenching her arm from his grasp.
"Reva!" he snapped, trying to cut through the sudden panic.
She braced herself up against the wall, looking anywhere but at him as he scrambled across the bed and stood up. He knew better than to try and grab her. She shook her head no, her hair obscuring her face. She gasped in fright.
"Reeve," he pleaded forcing composure on himself. He didn't make another move towards her. She raised a shaky hand to her face, trying to overcome her own panic, fighting hard not to succumb to threatening tears.
For several minutes, silence reigned as Mickey let her regain herself. More than anything, he wanted to just reach out and wrap her in his arms.
"You know about me don't you?" he asked softly, referring to himself being a Company operative. Shaking with fright and adrenaline, Reva nodded.
"When did you figure it out?" he asked.
"Last night..." she whispered in a tone sounding so utterly lost. "When you mentioned McCall..."
Mickey saw her jaw setting, her eyes huge, dark, and full of dread. Mickey barely nodded.
"Who did you work for Reva?" he asked gently.
She sucked in air, lifting her head, staring down the hallway, and grabbing her arms, her knuckles white.
"The Company..." she whispered, her thoughts far away.
Mickey closed his eyes in despair. "Under who?" he prompted, looking back at her.
Reva struggled, her jaw clenched tight. Her whispered response was filled with bitter anger.
"He never told me his name!"
Mickey would have taken anyone but him. As the knowledge sank in, he slowly sat back down on the bed. Speechless, he could only stare at Reva. She sucked in air again, pulling her hair back out of her face, still braced against the wall, the open collared shirt she wore clearly displaying the angry scars and stitches on her throat. Mickey stared at them, more and more realization stirring in him waves of emotions threatening to rip him to pieces.
"Control..." he said so quiet she barely heard him, but she nodded her head yes.
"He was your escort that night." Mickey said flatly. Reva nodded again. He met her eyes.
"He trained you in forgery..." Another nod. Mickey's voice began to get dangerously low.
"He abandoned you to that..." he nodded at her scars. Reva could only nod. It grew uncomfortably still in the house.
It was making a horrifying sense. She had mentioned the man who had been her boss as being very scary. He had seen a lightning artist literally cross his path and had taken the advantage as it came. So much like the man. He had spent the time training her, no doubt in anything possible, knowing one look from her quirky memory would seal it into her brain, able to be recalled and redrawn instantly and at will. Keeping it hushed up was Control's standard operating procedure. It staggered Mickey's mind knowing that Reva had been under his direct training for nearly a year. He himself had never spent more than a few days with the man and was constantly reminded of the immense power the man wielded. Control frightened everybody, except maybe Robert and himself.
Having Reva watched, made sense. Her practiced use of firearms made a sickening sense. Her knowledge that he was some sort of spy began to make sense. Knowing about Robert McCall also made sense. Even the foresight to request the object in her truck's fuel tank fell into the same category. His being offered the Balkans job... Things were beginning to fall into place, rapidly and in a wholly ugly direction. What didn't make sense was the disc in her truck, the assault, and the abandonment after the terrorist attack on her.
"Why?" he whispered in horror, "Why did he abruptly leave you like this?"
"I... don't... know!" she grated out, unable to hide the anger. "I never saw him again. All I see is a regular deposit into my account to pay for the mess that's been left behind!" The bitterness cut the air like a knife. Mickey stared at her as another piece fell into place. Coldness swept through him. Mickey abruptly stood up, moving past her into the room he had been sleeping in. He emerged seconds later, carrying his pistol and heading into the front room. Reva frowned, following him.
"Go get your coat and shoes," he said with icy calm as he retrieved his holster from the living room end table.
Reva stood rooted in the hallway as he shrugged it on. He glanced at her as he clipped it into place.
"Mickey..." she started.
"If you think he ain't going to explain himself on this, guess again!" Mickey barely hid the rage building up inside of him. "That SOB sent me packing when Laskar reported I was with you!" he growled. "Go get your things on!"
Reva refused to move. "He'll kill you," she said simply. "You're Red just being in my presence..."
Mickey's head snapped up to glare at her.
"What?" he hissed.
Reva swallowed and gazed steadily at him. "Code Red," she whispered.
Mickey stuffed the gun into its holder, his eyes never leaving hers. A huge hole was opening up underneath him.
Reva clutched at her arms, looking scared, uncomfortable, and old. "Because of my status after I agreed to work under him.. .I was placed under Yellow." She blinked and looked down. "He told me no other Company agents could get near me because of what I carry up here..." She pointed at her skull. "I'm literally a risk to national security if anyone had access to what's in here." She looked down, swallowing the knot in her throat. "I can't live with the knowledge, Mickey, of someone I care about being killed because..."
She looked up at him. The suddenly pronounced unhappiness in her face was like a slap in Mickey's own. Someone she cared about, resounded in his ears. Mickey could only stare at her, numbed to the core. Reva shook, her eyes wide but certainly not seeing what was around her, memories swirled like smoke in her grey eyes.
"How was I to know?" she whispered, her words sounding lost. "I was naive as a rock. I didn't know this was a life sentence to spending the rest of my days alone..." Her voice caught a moment. Reva stuffed a knuckle between her teeth, biting so hard she left visible marks. Mickey tried to speak, feeling the waves of anguish coming off from her, but couldn't. She slowly dropped her hand to grip her arms. Resignation filled her words.
"It's the way it is... I've no one, Mickey. My Grandpa was my last living relative. He died 10 years ago. My parents died when I was a baby. I had no idea, that when I agreed to work for him, it would cost me any chance..."
"No!" Mickey snapped and snapped her out of her reverie. He pointed a finger at her. "That's not going to happen." He was past the couch in a flash, taking her by the arms, turning her to face him.
Reva shrank back, bringing her arms up but his grip was tight, insistent...
"Listen to me..." he said, forcing her attention. "I won't let that happen," he said, emphatically. He searched her weary, bruised, scared face. She hunched her shoulders tighter and trembled under his grip, the hopelessness in her eyes refusing to die. He swallowed hard, struggling with his own emotions. He slowly relaxed the grip in his hands, released one and set it gently on her cheek.
"I..." he started, paused and plunged. "I care about you, for the past few months all I could think about was you..." he murmured. "I haven't felt this way towards someone in so long that I'm not even sure it's for real!" He let go of her arm to hold her head in both hands, tilting it up, studying her eyes. "All I know, is that I want to find out if it is! And I won't let anyone stop me in finding out, least of all him." Reva's hands came up to grip his, her own eyes searing into his soul, hardly believing what he was saying to her. "I will not abandon you to a life with no hope."
A wild thought stuck him, helping him to redirect the tidal wave threatening him. His entire face reflected it, causing Reva to frown in confusion.
"There's a way out of this, Reeve. You've got to trust me. You know that Robert lives under a Code Yellow, don't you? He probably knows more about the national security than you and I combined, yet he's still around. I work with him, and I know my own status is secure."
"Around me your status is gone!" she whispered in protest. Mickey could feel the panic beginning to surface in her. He asserted calm.
"Listen to me, you've got to trust me!" he urged. "There's a way around this thing. I know there is." Suddenly he smiled, ever so slightly, and she could see a crazy certainty dancing in his dark eyes. He pulled her closer, wrapping his arms tightly around her, suddenly radiating out strength and comfort. Reva felt baffled by it.
"Trust me on this one, Reeve, just this once," he said into her ear, laying his head gently against hers. He pulled her arms around to encircle his waist and hugged her close. He cupped her head gently in one hand and worked at the knots of tension in her neck with the other.
Scared and reluctant at first, Reva closed her eyes and finally wrapped her arms around him to grasp her wrist at the small of his back.
"It'll be all right, Reeve, you'll see," he murmured, feeling her grip tighten. Slowly the shaking left her, as he murmured in her ear, until finally she sighed, the wave of tension and panic passing. Mickey just held her close.
"You trusted me on the beach last summer when you told me about what happened to your throat, remember?" he said.
"Yeah..." she whispered.
"You trusted me last night to get you out of the hospital and I did." Mickey smiled slightly, still working out the knots in her neck, recalling just how he got her out of there.
Mickey drew back and looked at her worried face, his lopsided smile crooking into a smirk. "I'll have to tell you about that later, you were kinda out of it," he murmured.
She sighed dropping her head. "I'm sorry..." she started to apologize.
Mickey chuckled slightly, drawing her back to him. "Don't be." He hugged her tight, then pulled away, making her face him.
"Listen to me, okay?" He searched her eyes. "I'll get you out of this mess, but first I want you to go and get a shower, I'll make you something to eat, and we'll talk about this thing with Control, all right? Just trust me...Don't be so scared, Reeve, there's a way out of this, I know there is."
The smile on his face was gentle and tender, his words certain and sure. She gazed at him, the thoughts tumbling around in her brain.
Her light grey eyes studied him a few seconds longer, then she nodded her head in agreement. Mickey gently lifted her head, kissed her lingeringly, then let her go...
Some twenty minutes later, she emerged from a hot shower. Her damp hair was flipped over and back to one side, spilling haphazard dark curls all around her. It fell nearly to the bottom of her shoulder blades. She had put her jeans back on, no shoes and socks, and struggled with the sleeves of an overlarge, light blue, camp-shirt. Mickey, having finished grilling cheese sandwiches, glanced over at her as she came into the kitchen, still rolling cuffs onto the shirt.
"Bit large?" he asked.
"They didn't know..." she whispered.
Mickey grinned, flipped the last sandwich over, relieved to hear a little humor in her 'voice'. "Better?" he asked.
Reva looked at him and smiled slightly then glanced at a pot on the stove full of tomato soup. She suddenly realized just how hungry she was.
"How'd you know I like tomato?" she whispered questioningly.
"Been in your house, remember? Besides..." He picked up a can opener. "When it comes to a kitchen, this is the only thing I know how to use!"
Reva looked at him and surprised him with her response. She began to laugh. "Why do I find that hard to believe? I remember that pick set you hauled out last night!"
"Locks are easier than a kitchen," he drawled.
She folded her arms and looked at him skeptically. "And what about my grill, last summer... the fish?" She reminded him.
Mickey waved the spatula at her.
"Fish, I know. Fish is my expertise. Fish I can grill, that’s outside, not in a kitchen."
She laughed again and shook her head slowly. He smiled his lopsided smile and glanced at her.
"You need to do that more often." he said dryly.
She blinked a surprised response. Mickey scooped the last sandwich up, joined it to a stack of six and shut the stove off. He noticed the goosebumps on her forearms.
"You look cold. You want a sweater?" he asked, rummaging around in the cupboard for two bowls and two plates.
"Yeah, if there's one around," she whispered.
Mickey nodded, setting the table. "Dig in, I'll be right back." He vanished down the hallway.
Reva served for both of them, noticing the pile of dishes in the sink already. He returned, shaking out a dark burgundy sweater.
"Have you eaten already?" she asked.
Mickey nodded, and handed her the sweater. "Yep, but I'm always hungry."
She pulled the sweater on, flipped the long hair out with a practiced move. It was too big, but roomy and comfortable, and smelled very slightly of a man's cologne. It hung clear past her hips.
"I could practically curl up in this," she remarked wryly, not seeing Mickey's look of amusement as he bit back a response. She shrugged her shoulders, smoothed down the front and glanced at him.
"It's not bad..." he commented. "Looks better on you than on me." Reva only snorted, smirking a bit. Mickey pulled a chair out and nodded for her to sit. Before eating, he took her hand in his, looking her in the eyes.
"I know you're scared, but just trust me, and especially trust McCall. He's the best at what he does. Between us, we'll get this mess straightened around, okay?"
She nodded, trying to maintain a bit of levity. Mickey squeezed her hand reassuringly.
"I'm gonna have to ask you a lot of personal questions, but if we're gonna get you out this mess, I have to know every angle involved. Understand?"
"Yeah, I do." She nodded. "It's okay, Mickey. I've lived with this Damocles Sword so long, that I've gotten used to it hanging there." She gave him a brave smile.
"Let's start with who it was you beat out in getting the staff driver's job," he asked, snagging a sandwich. Reva shook her head.
"He was an obnoxious ass named Jason Masur," she whispered, spooning soup.
Mickey nearly choked, looked at her, then burst out laughing. "You got in past Masur?"
Reva looked at him confused. "You know him?" she asked, appalled.
Mickey continued to laugh, his head tossed back, "Know him? I'd like to kill him."
She stared at him. He had a devilish sparkle in his brown eyes, enormous mirth all over his face. She had the distinct knowledge that he'd do it, too.
"He's the only person on the planet I'd gladly take my time in killin'." He shook his head, his smile beaming. "I love it!"
Reva looked at him a moment longer, then smiled deviously, herself.
"He pushed me a little too far that day he told me I wouldn't amount to anything. I couldn't let it slip by me. I'd let enough of his obnoxiousness by me as it was. His come on was pathetic, looking for camp followers."
"He came on to you?" Mickey grinned and chomped into his sandwich.
"What girl in the office didn't he come on to? He has this enormous ego..." Reva's eyes rolled. "Anyway, he knew I sometimes did drawings for people around the office. Portraits, you know, celebrities, politicians, then I'd sign their name if I had an autograph to look at. It was kind of an office joke amongst us girls. Well when Jason found out about it, he tried "recruiting" me to help him advance in his position in ways I just couldn't accept. Apparently he had been demoted for some reason or other. I refused and he got mad." She paused, thinking.
"So, I got the girls in the office to get me the necessary paperwork for the advancement to the job he had been after. He wanted so bad to get back in with the top brass. I got the forms all filled out, then I got a hold of the signatures of certain folks and signed away..." She stopped, leaving off the 'my life', from the end of the sentence. Mickey smirked, still shaking his head.
"I'd loved being a fly on the wall when he figured out who got the job," he drawled.
"He wasn’t very happy," she reassured.
"So you drove a while until you picked up Control." he prompted.
Reva took a deep breath, forcing calm.
"I had no idea of his level in the Company. All that day I kept getting the feeling he was watching me, but when I'd glance back in the rear view, he'd have his face buried in paperwork. We drove all over town, he'd get out, do this do that, hardly said a word, other than give directions. I was really glad I glanced through a detailed map of New York City before tackling that job!" she sighed.
"He finally had me pull over in Central Park. He just sat there for a few minutes, staring at the back of my head and finally asked me who the hell I was."
"Sounds about right." Mickey commented.
"I didn't know quite what to say." She shrugged. "He then systematically and in very great detail told me every single thing I did wrong that day." Reva smiled slightly. "You're right, I was no staff driver! He was very explicit. Funny thing about it was, he didn't act mad."
"You don't ever want to see him that way..." Mickey reassured her.
"After only being with him a day I figured that out real fast!"
"He very pleasantly told me that I was a lousy imposter, that I was going to be facing a court martial and he would guarantee me 10 years in prison for a few dozen felony's if I didn't start explaining myself to him right away." She toyed with a sandwich, occasionally breaking off a piece and eating between pauses.
"I told him everything. It just all tumbled out. I was scared stiff..." She looked a little distant then shook herself. "He didn't say anything for a long time. He just stared at me. I felt like a bug on display. But then he got a notepad out from his brief case and handed it to me." She looked at Mickey, one corner of her lip twitching as she recalled that day so long ago.
"He began rattling off things to draw, moving from people, to signatures, to the floor plans of the office...each time he'd request the tablet back and check the work. Finally, he told me to draw him, only he warned me not to look back, and not to look in the rear view mirror." Reva shrugged, it not being a problem with her. "So I did, only I drew it of him looking at me like I was that insect." She looked at Mickey.
"Is there a tablet around here?" she asked. Mickey smirked.
"I'll find one." He got up and began searching around in the kitchen. "Keep talking."
"When I handed it back, he stared at it a long time, then he began to laugh. Finally he told me that I was a real fool in doing what I did, and could he take me out to dinner?"
"Dinner?" Mickey exclaimed, locating a notebook in an odds and ends drawer. He snagged out a pencil too and returned to the table. She nodded, looking at the tip of the pencil, like a surgeon would at a scalpel, then looking at Mickey, she began drawing on the tablet, not looking at it. Fascinated Mickey watched as she continued.
"He made a few phone calls, clearing his slate for the evening and had me drive him to this exquisite Italian restaurant in Manhattan. Where we had dinner and he made me a job offer I simply couldn't refuse." She glanced down at the tablet, satisfied it was coming along and continued sketching dividing her attention between Mickey and the drawing.
"From that day, he started in showing me things, he introduced me to his secretary, telling her that I would be joining him at night. He finagled upper class security clearances so I could come and go. He started in on the martial arts courses, arranged for me to start working part time at my publishers, and started training me in marksmanship, himself. I've spent many an hour in that shooting gallery in the basement..." She shot Mickey a knowing glance. Mickey smirked, he knew about that place. "I spent even more time in that office of his." With the implication that there was more to that room than met the eye. She lifted the pencil up and spun the notebook around for him to see.
Control stared back at him. It sort of rocked Mickey as he stared at it. That malevolent glare Control had long perfected, and used to intimidating heights, complete with his stern brow and trademark bow tie, his long chiseled face, everything. Add color and it could have been a photo. Mickey looked at it thoughtfully. Paint it just right, reproduce it on photo quality paper...no wonder Control had talked her into drawing the terrorist the night of her ill fated debut. He glanced at her noticing the pencil being jiggled in her fingers making it look like rubber. She smiled impishly at him, pulling the tablet back over. She tore off the picture of Control.
"This is for you..." she whispered, grinning conspiratorially. She looked at the sheet a paper, and he could swear he saw a Rolodex spinning around in her head, then she began drawing, surely and accurately.
Mickey studied her, this was the Reva he had originally met. Given pen and paper and free vent to her unusual talents, and she was content. She resumed her narrative.
"He really started in focusing this gift of mine into some pretty wild directions. It was a little scary at first, he'd keep warning me that what I was being shown was highly top secret and that governments would pay big money for the knowledge he was pouring into my head." She glanced up at him. "He has a photographic memory too, you know?"
"Oh yeah..." Mickey replied, laden with heavy intent. She kept drawing, only occasionally pausing long enough to eat something. Mickey happily scarfed down five of the sandwiches.
"He seemed particularly happy when I could write letters in other peoples handwriting."
Mickey blinked in surprise.
"Given a few examples to look over and here it sits." She tapped her temple with the pencil. "Although I must admit, he didn't seem too thrilled when I started signing some of the stuff he'd test me on with his signature."
"His signature? Nobody knows his name?" Mickey blurted. Reva nodded yes.
"The upper level folks he reports to all know his signature simply as Control. I had been around him so much, watching him write reports, his handwriting is locked away with all the rest." Reva lifted the pencil, paused, doodled something quickly, signed it, and turned it to Mickey to see.
He started chuckling. A man with a distinctly hooked nose, an arrogance about his eyes and dark curly hair stared back at Mickey with a look of high indignation. On the wall behind him was a fly. Under it was Jason Masur's own signature. Reva only smiled innocently, sipping at her soup as he shook his head.
"That's when he found out..." she whispered.
"Just like bein' there..." Mickey drawled. He was beginning to understand the scope and scale of Reva's ability. And the reason behind why she was such a risk...if she could write and sign Control's name to things...the implications left him feeling chill. He turned the notebook back to her. She tore off the picture, absently adding it to the other one, gazed at it a moment, and began drawing another one.
"So when did Control warn you about the Code designations?" he asked, reluctant to have to turn their lighthearted banter to the more threatening issue at hand.
"The week he started preparing me for that party, " she whispered. "By then, I had gotten so used to being around him. He sort of became...." She paused, gazing thoughtfully at the far wall. "I don't know, sort of like an older brother..." She glanced at Mickey, who gazed back at her, his features blank. Wondering in the back of his mind how anyone could think of Control as a brother?
"He made sure I didn't get around anyone except the immediate office staff, he seemed to be making an awful lot of concessions towards me. He mentioned Robert, once. He never mentioned you. For a year, we had dinner maybe three, four, times a month. When the situation with the terrorists came up he sat me down in his office and told me what he had in mind. When I agreed to what he had said, he explained that I would be getting a considerable amount of money and gave me some suggestions on what to do with it and were to keep it. Then he explained that once I began to work as an operative for him there came the attachments involved. That's when he told me about the Codes. He scared the hell out of me when he told me I was already living under the Yellow. Then he told me that if anyone from the Company were to entertain any thoughts towards me..." she trailed off, looking at Mickey with those haunted eyes. The pencil stopped moving.
"It'd be a death sentence..." Mickey finished for her. She nodded, quietly setting the pencil down.
"If I had known you worked for the Company last summer..." she whispered regretfully. Mickey reached out and took her hand, no longer shy about doing it.
"How were we to know, eh? I was just on vacation."
"But he had to have been the one to recall you Mickey," she said.
"Oh he did, gave me a job I couldn't refuse." He smirked. "But he didn't have me killed for being around you, did he?" He squeezed encouragement through his hand on hers. "He just got me out of the way..."
"I still find it hard to believe Dr. Laskar..."
"Believe it, Jimmy knew him in basic. And Jimmy is a good agent." Mickey confirmed.
Reva heaved a sigh, the worried frown reappearing between her brows.
"He'll know by now that I'm missing," she whispered.
"Yes, but he'll not be able to prove how, or by whom." Mickey winked, then looked a little dubious. "Although he is a shrewd guesser."
"And what about Mr. McCall?" she 'asked'.
"Robert? Oh I wouldn't worry too much about him, his designation changes weekly." Mickey drawled. He looked at her.
"What I can't figure out Reeve, is why Control abandoned you after the attack?"
"I can't figure that out either," she sighed, looking down at the paper in front of her. "I think maybe it was because I took things into my own hands, trying to get the pictures drawn too soon."
"That's no reason to leave an agent behind," Mickey growled softly.
"It's the only thing I can figure out, " she protested. "I did bend his orders..."
"Reeve..." Mickey looked at her skeptically. "I break his rules all the time, he hasn't left me hanging out to dry... especially having gone through what you've gone through? C'mon! I knew the guy could be heartless, but this takes the cake!"
"He's not totally heartless..." she barely whispered not looking at Mickey.
"Give me a break!" he growled. "If you could just hear some of the bitterness that comes out of you..." Reva drew in a deep breath, sitting back against her chair, looking off into the kitchen.
"Oh yeah, there's bitterness, and anger. And fear," she whispered. She looked at him then, her grey eyes weary. She clenched his fingers in her slim hand. "What are we gonna do?" she whispered gazing at his face. Mickey saw the tiniest flicker of hope...
"Trust me..." he said and began laying out to her his ideas of circumventing the rules.
By the time he finished, Reva began to get a full understanding just how crazy the man was, sitting next to her at the dinner table.
Robert first stopped at Jonah's. He wondered about the missing medical files, as did the computer hacker himself. Robert gave him another angle to try and had him start fishing up anything he could find on the Cheney’s, parents and grandparents. Then he went home.
The first set of watchers were trademark Company. Substandard, Robert groused to himself, irritated. The second set were a little trickier but there nonetheless. Robert nearly always had a debugger located both in the Jaguar and the apartment so didn't worry the slightest about those, but why two sets? The one was operating separate from the other, that much was apparent. He decided not to teach the agency pair a lesson in counter surveillance, though sorely tempted. He ignored both sets of them and went in to his apartment.
He spent several minutes checking the answering machine, not receiving anything on the present situation at hand, then went and began packing himself an overnight case.
As he ran errands, he went near Kostmayer's place, parking the Jaguar momentarily as he went to check the situation out on foot. Again, two sets of watchers, one from the Company, the other doing their best not to be noticed by anyone. Strange. Back on the road he kept a cautious eye out for tails, but none appeared as he headed for the one place he did not want to go back to...
The evening was still early, but most of the clerical staff had already left for the day. He knew he was the only one left on his floor. The halls and cubicles outside were dark and empty and lifeless. 'Things' roamed the halls of empty buildings, often making people wonder if they were haunted and giving one the sense of being watched if you were left alone in them. That feeling was generally made worse in the halls of this particular agency. Simply because, usually, you were watched, except in his office.
Not particularly caring about the 'eyes', real or imagined, he left the door open. The light from his desk lamp valiantly kept the darkness at bay, and he slowly tugged loose, the bow tie at his throat. He knew Robert was coming. A twist of the fingers unfastened the top button of his collar and he sighed as he gazed down at a folder and a few scribbled notes that had been handed to him at various points in time that day. His own sense of foreboding mingled with irritation and a tightly controlled anger. He wasn't going to let thirty years of hard work get flushed down the toilet because of an agent with a screw loose. He, himself, had already nearly messed it up, he wasn't about to let it happen ever again. His mind was already concocting ways of diffusing the situation. What troubled him was that Robert knew, and if Robert knew...
Jimmy had been the tip off. Laskar had promptly reported to Control's contacts at the publishing house that Jimmy had recognized him. Control knew Jimmy certainly hadn't been there by accident. Then there was Kostmayer. Why couldn't he just be like his normal agents? Handling Kostmayer was like trying to juggle eels, they were constantly moving, always slippery, and you'd never knew which one would electrocute you. Normally he'd let Kostmayer's actions slide by, but this... this was something else entirely. A chance happening he could let go, but not this time.
With Jimmy entering the picture, he had another problem to deal with, and that was one he really didn't want to have to face. Added to that was the satellite disc found in the hospital. It was one of theirs and had been missing since October. How had that ended up in her truck? Then there were his few superiors, if they knew one of his "special" codes was seen with a Company agent... Control smiled ever so slightly, looking sinister as his blue eyes focused on nothing in the office, but worked out plan after plan, detail after detail. He had a real basketfull of snakes on his hands, and it was about to get worse.
Sometimes he wondered if his first name should've been Damage…
Anyone with an ounce of brains automatically steered clear of Robert McCall whenever he appeared on the grounds of the agency complex. Even the security guards were given advance warning that if a certain ‘retired’ senior operative was to show up, they were to let him pass unhindered. To the few evening workers on other floors, there were nods of greetings, looks of surprise and respect and then there were the others, those who distinctly did not like him. They automatically vanished. Robert ignored them all. He just went straight in, got the elevator and went up.
In his office, Control heard his footsteps clear down the hall, casually slipped the notes off the file in front of him into his desk, then reached around behind him for a decanter half filled with liquid and two glasses. He wondered who needed it more.
Robert entered the room looking aggravated and stern, which wasn't very far from how he normally looked, especially when in Control's office. Blandly, Control glanced up at him, a curious look on his face.
"Robert?" he asked. McCall stood in the doorway, hands shoved into the pockets of his trench coat pockets, his lips set in disapproval.
"Expecting me?" he asked, his voice clipped. Control smirked ever so slightly.
"As a matter of fact..." He tipped his head towards the decanter. Robert's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"I didn't come here for a social call," he snapped.
"I didn't think you were," Control sighed, propping his head on his fist, looking at the other man, with a raised eyebrow. "Are you going to stand in the doorway all night or would you like to sit down?"
"As a matter of fact I think I'll stand!" Robert growled. "I want you to call your dogs off my apartment and Mickey's!"
"They're just there to keep an eye on things." Control placated. Robert clearly didn't believe him.
"I want them gone!" Robert barked. Control sighed, lifting his head up and holding out both hands.
"I'll call them off if you tell Kostmayer to get himself into this office within the next six hours."
"And why the bloody hell would I do that?"
"Because the damn fool has got himself mixed up with a homicide investigation!" Control's own voice carried acid.
"A what?" Robert snapped, surprised.
"You're here to ask me about Reva Cheney, are you not?" Control asked, his eyes holding McCall’s.
"Then I suggest you sit down, old son. I've a story to tell you."
"I'm quite sure you have," Robert sarcastically replied. "And if you think for one minute you're going to get me to believe that girl was capable of murder, guess again…"
"Not only capable, but more than able." Control replied icily. He still held Robert's gaze, his own features as implacable as stone.
"Prove it!" Robert barked. Control drew in a breath, sat back and shoved the file on his desk towards the empty chair across from him. He nodded at it.
"Coroner's report from Bath, Maine. The man Cheney shot the other night was a former Company operative of ours named Robbins. He was one of Jason Masur's buddies, way back when…" Control smiled thinly. "The night that Reva Cheney went in on her first assignment for us, Masur made sure Robbins got in on the security detail. Robbins failed miserably that night to keep an eye on Cheney, the results I'm quite sure you've seen for yourself by now."
"Who let an untried girl in on the assignment in the first place?" Robert demanded.
"A subordinate of ours, transferred to San Francisco, after the mess he left behind. He knew better than to let a trainee in on something this important. Damn near ruined six years of work trying to collar that Iraqi terrorist responsible for blowing up the agency headquarters in Jordan."
"And who was it that agreed to train this girl?" Robert angrily asked. Control's eyes narrowed, looking a dark stormy blue.
"Apparently you haven't heard what I am trying to tell you, Robert," he growled back. "Reva Cheney is wanted in Bath on a homicide investigation! Kostmayer's little exploit last night in breaking her out of there puts him squarely on an aiding and abetting felony, and I don't need to remind you he has that time in Leavenworth still hanging over his head…"
"Kostmayer was cleared on that. Any records should have been destroyed," Robert flared, "By you!"
"Get him in this office in six hours and they will be." Control retorted. Robert's jaw set, his nostrils flaring.
"I will not bargain with you! I cleared Kostmayer myself… I still find it very difficult to believe that girl capable of murder!" he shouted. Control, his entire face cold, reached out and flipped the folder open. Extracting the top photo he handed it to Robert.
"Cheney knew Robbins. She knew he was supposed to be covering her section."
"That still doesn't implicate her in a murder." Robert snapped, ignoring the picture.
"I'm quite sure some smart prosecutor will take one good look at her, claim bitterness and revenge and twist things around to make a jury believe she shot him on purpose."
"Funny you should mention 'twist things around'," Robert growled sarcastically.
"Dammit, Robert! Kostmayer's in hot water up to his ears on this! Cheney must be returned to Bath, and Kostmayer needs his carcass in this compound by 3:00am! He'd automatically go to you for help."
"This has got nothing to do with Kostmayer!" Robert snapped, smiling thinly. "I want to know just exactly who was responsible for Reva Cheney to begin with and why she would be watched and followed now!" Robert extracted his hands from his coat, slapped them squarely on Control's desk and glowered down at the man. Control glared back.
"I've seen that girl's condition. There's no way that she could have actively set out to kill anyone. She just had surgery on her throat, and shouldn't have been driving home by herself in the first place. Not to mention the damage done afterwards by your Mr. Robbins. I don't know what you're playing at, Control, but trying to lie to me about it being a murder investigation is not... going... to... work!" Robert’s voice cut the air like a knife.
"All right, Robert, try this one... Both you and Kostmayer are messing with a code Yellow designation that has certain... attachments. Namely if anyone from this office, retired or otherwise, gets anywhere near her, they're history."
"Code Yellow?" Robert exclaimed in disbelief, angrily beginning to pace the room. "I find that bloody hard to believe also!"
"Oh you can believe that." Control replied in a low deadly tone. "There's enough information locked into that girl's head to fill a Mainframe or two." His eyes followed Robert. Robert snorted disbelief.
"You're avoiding the subject. I want to know who was Reva Cheney's handler!" Robert snapped out. Control's eyes narrowed as he watched the other man. He dove down another path.
"I was," he said simply.
Robert rounded on him so fast that the breeze from his coat swept the file onto the floor. Anger, indignation, and moral fury blazed from his hazel eyes.
"What?" he hissed, freezing to the spot. Control raised an eyebrow, a slight crook in his lips, face set like granite.
"You wanted the truth, there you have it. I was her handler," he said simply.
"Are you out of your mind?" Robert shouted at him. Control snorted softly, the smile on his lips growing.
"You've done some reprehensible acts in your life, Control, but this goes beyond any of them all…" Robert jabbed a finger out the door and pointed for emphasis. "That girl has no business being a part of this God forsaken organization! What on earth were you thinking, bringing her into this sordid mess?"
"Ever seen what that girl can do?" Control asked quietly. He sat back in his chair, turning to an oak-paneled cabinet to his left, against the wall. He opened it, snaked out a file and closed the drawer while Robert wound up for another tirade.
"I don't give a damn what that girl can do! I want to know what kind of insanity affected your already twisted thinking to even think about bringing a girl like that into this organization!"
"You'll give a damn in a minute, old son." Control replied calmly and with promise, setting several pieces of paper out on the desk. He looked up at Robert, his eyes nearly lost below his prominent brow. "And as for Cheney? What the hell do you think I did when that little fool went and got her throat ripped out?! I actually took a piece of your advice, Robert," he replied sardonically. "I got that girl out of this agency as fast as I possibly could. She's been set up in a safe location, paid handsomely for her injuries, and is best off damn well left alone. Which is why I want Kostmayer here!" he snapped back, some anger drifting into his voice.
"Oh how very noble you are," Robert shot back ignoring what Control was setting on the desk. "I hope that helps you to sleep better at night."
"Remember when you wrote me that letter?"
"What?" Robert snapped at him, sensing another effort to get him off track. Control steepled his fingers together, resting his elbows on the desk, pointing the two index fingers at him.
"Your resignation letter," Control replied, nodding at the papers. Robert glared at him and stopped his pacing.
"What about my resignation letter? You already told me it was of absolutely no use, no one is allowed to retire from the Company, I retired myself!" A cold foreboding suddenly knotted Robert's stomach.
"True, but have you ever read your reinstatement?" Control asked innocently, his face utterly blank.
The look of anger, surprise, and horror, which crossed Robert’s features, showed Control he got what he wanted. He casually reached down and picked up a paper, a simple letter, nearly the length of the entire page and handed it to Robert. He took it and, involuntarily, began to read. He paled before Control's eyes, but his anger burned on.
"I never wrote this…" he whispered tersely.
"That's your signature, Robert," Control replied casually. Robert scrutinized the page.
"I NEVER WROTE THIS!" he shouted, his voice thundering down the corridors.
"No, you didn't," Control affirmed. "Flip it over."
Robert whipped the sheet over, it snapped as he did. On the back was a girl's handwriting, stating 'not written by R. McCall.' and it was signed by Reva Cheney…
A torrent of emotions flooded McCall as he stood staring at the note, he flipped the paper back over, reading his 'request to be reinstated'.
"Given a bit of time to learn a particular person's syntax, with a photographic memory, coupled with her talents as an artist, Reva could write anyone's letters in their own handwriting and style." Control said quietly. "Take a look, Robert." He slipped out another page.
"This is the opening to the Constitution... if it weren't for the modern ink and paper, she could pass this off as real." Robert, dismayed and disgusted, retained 'his' letter and glanced down at the sheet. Control slid another into view. A drawing this time, on a small sheet of paper, of a man of obvious Arabian descent, done in frightening life-likeness.
"Mohammed bin Ismail, no known photo's exist of him, but this drawing collared him here in New York and helped us nail him to the wall for the murders of our agents in Jordan," Control pulled a few drawings of celebrities with their signatures. "This is what we collected around the office, in Reva's time here as a clerk, which I'm sure you noticed wasn't in her work history. I know you've consulted with Jonah," Control smirked. "If she wanted to, Reva could have sold these as authentic and reaped a mint." He pulled out a few more letters. "The girl even managed to get my style of writing down, too." He arranged the few letters on top of the other stuff.
Robert sat down.
"She knows the entire layout of this office building." Control replied. "Not to mention this office." Robert began picking up various letters, carefully studying them and growing colder by the minute. Control's voice, low and hypnotic, kept on going.
"She faked the signatures to get past Jason into a staff driver's job. That's how I found her. Once she demonstrated this talent, I sat her down and talked with her a good long while. She volunteered to let me "train" her, I spent a year doing it. She certainly demonstrated a surprising talent in firearms, until I learned that Thornton Cheney had a hand in her upbringing." Control watched as Robert, thin lipped, disapproving, and silent, kept on digging through the papers, his eyes sometimes widening in surprise.
"She absorbs information like a sponge. I worked with her a good long while Robert, she makes an extraordinary forger. A true lightning artist. She's good, Robert, too good. I ought to know, I trained her," He steepled his hands together again, tapping the index fingers absently against his chin, his thoughts momentarily drifting. "She has a certain unexpectedness about her that I haven't had time to work out of her. She'd do things that would drive me insane, showing off just what she could do with that handwriting skill. It's not so funny when it's your own writing and you're not doing it." He raised a knowing eyebrow at Robert, meeting his eyes a moment, daring to hope the spell he was weaving was working. "For the most part she's harmless, but if Reva Cheney ever fell into the wrong hands, one little shot of truth serum, a bit of coercion..." Control let it hang.
"She'd be the means of getting a lot of people killed, a total disruption of this continent, and quite possibly a war or two, hence a Yellow code. She cannot be allowed to be approached by anyone even remotely connected to a spy organization. So I retired her, under watch of course, both here and in Wiscasett. She's well taken care of, so long as no one goes anywhere near her. Least of all, Company agents. Mickey needs to get back into this compound and away from her before the designations on all three of you changes to Red. I can't stop it once it does." He carefully maintained his meaningful gaze on Robert.
"And now we have a stolen Positioning disc, and the knowledge that someone else is also watching her. That puts Kostmayer in a very bad situation, Robert. He has his hide in it up past his neck! His taking her from the hospital is not one of his more brilliant maneuvers! If we are to get him out of this mess and get him exonerated, he needs to get away from Reva Cheney as fast as possible. And so do you, old son, so do you."
Robert reached the last few papers at the bottom. They were drawings of Control himself, signed with his familiar ‘non-signature’, that Robert knew only too well.
"I suspect Masur is behind the disc theft. Washington okay'd his return from Beirut in October, over my objections. They agreed, however, never to let him back in New York City. We've kept a tight watch on him and so far he's behaving himself." He tilted his head slightly to one side and scrutinized the man he had long called his only friend. "I don't really need to tell you what could happen if her talent ever fell into his hands, do I?"
Robert's eyes met his at last, filled with conflict and rage. Silently he extracted his resignation letter and joined it with the other he still held. Folding them in half, he slipped them into his inside breast pocket.
"If you have any more of these letters anywhere in this office..." he said very softly, but colder than ice, his intent clear as crystal. "So help me, you'll wish you were never born."
"There are no more," Control replied softly.
"You've sunk to depths I cannot fathom in this, Control," Robert cuttingly sliced. "That girl's life is ruined because of you. You alone are responsible!"
"You think I don't know that?" Control responded tersely, showing his first glint of emotion. "Getting her away from me was the only recourse I had! The faster the better!" he added, gathering the paperwork up in front of him, finally breaking eye contact. "The opportunity at training another person with a photographic memory was a temptation I have regretted since the day she appeared in that car!"
"With your knowledge and capabilities… You've practically signed the girl's death warrant." Robert snapped angrily.
"Need you constantly remind me of that fact? I know what my actions have done! There isn't a day that goes by that it doesn't cross my mind! Getting Reeve away from me was the best recourse I had! Kostmayer's showing up on the scene last summer certainly hasn't helped the situation at all! Then his stunt last night? That girl needs to get back to Wiscasett and left there, before Jason or any other enterprising agent gets wind of what she can do!"
"Seems to me that Masur's already figured that out if he was able to slip Robbins into the security detail!" Robert barked. "Robbins reappearance the other night confirms it!" Robert abruptly stood up, again placing his hands on the desk, his eyes piercing the other man’s.
"What I still don't understand is why you let her participate in this wretched business to begin with!"
"Ismail was one of our prime leads in the Jordanian bombing. His arrival in the States was an opportunity I couldn't let slip by me. I had less then 48 hours to somehow get into that estate and get something about him. Reva was the logical recourse."
"Logic!" Robert nearly shouted. "That's the worst use of that term I've heard in decades."
"Sometimes logic needs to bend when it's the lives of seven other agents we're talking about," Control snapped back.
"At the expense of another?" Robert snapped, his entire face radiated disgust and anger.
"I want your dogs called off my home and Kostmayer’s. I also want that mess in Bath straightened out. No more homicide investigation. And I want everything and anything on Masur's activities since he came home. And..." he raised a warning finger at Control. "I want Kostmayer cleared of anything connected to Leavenworth or Bath."
"Only if Kostmayer agrees to come back to this compound and you take Cheney back to Wiscasett."
"Kostmayer I will not agree on." Robert argued. "Cheney will be returned to Wiscasett, but I will not bargain with you on Kostmayer." He locked eyes with Control. For a moment neither man relented, then Control sat back in his chair, a look of disgust crossing his own features.
"Agreed," he stated simply. "So long as Kostmayer stays one hundred percent away from her."
Robert smiled sourly at him, turned on his heel and left the room.
When his footsteps no longer echoed in the corridor, Control leaned forward across the desk, grabbing the decanter in one hand and a glass in the other. As he poured, his hand shook. Scowling, more at himself than the situation, he knocked the liquid back in one long, burning, swallow, then in a flash of pent up rage, hurled the glass against the opposite wall.
A few things registered on the angry Robert as he drove away from the agency compound. Control still hid something. In his rage he hadn't discovered why the girl's medical files had vanished. He knew Control was trying to manipulate him into finding out if Masur really was behind the disc theft and subsequent results, and he was downright relentless in trying to get Reva Cheney away from him and Mickey. Why? The two letters in his breast pocket explained enough of that. Then another thought crossed his mind. Why did he say he was still trying to work 'things' out of her and why had Control called the girl, Reeve? Robert clenched his teeth and tried to focus the disgust and rage he felt at the actions of his friend into a course of action. Why had the man even considered risking the girl's life to train her to begin with? The photographic memory excuse fell way too short. Something else motivated him, besides the girl's obvious talent. He set off for Jonah's. One way or another he was going to find out.