The sound of a man coming down the corridor jerked her abruptly awake. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was 12:30am. Barely, she heard Mickey's low voice in the living room and realized McCall had returned, putting something in the other spare room. Reva listened as he rummaged in the closet a moment, then came out and joined Mickey in the other room.
She had claimed a pounding headache and fatigue, in order to go and lay down again after the extraordinary conversation she’d had with Mickey several hours earlier. It wasn't really a lie, either. Too much stuff banged around inside her skull, especially concerning what he had asked her to do and she had needed some sort of respite. Mickey seemed to understand and had sat himself on the floor, leaning against the couch to built card castles from a pair of decks he had scrounged up from somewhere in the house. Not long afterwards someone had telephoned, but by then, fatigue had caught up with her and she drifted off to sleep. Until McCall had come back.
Sometimes, one just knew when a situation wasn't very good. Despite the blow to her head, Reva instantly awoke when the older agent returned, and she knew something was wrong. Quietly, she slipped out of the bed, cautiously making her way down the hall, staying out of sight, but close enough to listen. McCall seemed to be holding in check a great deal of anger.
"Well?" Mickey asked
"Well, indeed." The older man retorted. She heard him drop something on the table and pick something else up. She knew he had the drawings.
"Did she do these?" he asked Mickey sharply.
"Earlier," Mickey replied.
"Control was her handler." Robert stated, sounding disgusted.
"That's what she said."
"And what else, besides?" She heard Robert shuffle the drawings.
"Masur's got a grudge." Mickey distinctly sounded pleased.
"Masur's back in the States."
"What? I thought he was banned to Beirut?" Mickey sounded surprised.
"Got a hold of a Senator's ear, he supposedly is in D.C., but I've a hunch he's not obeying orders. Control said he returned in October; that was about the same time that the disc disappeared from the Company store. And if I'm not mistaken, that was about the time your Miss Cheney started noticing other watchers. Masur's the only other person who knows about her agency training. And with what I learned from Control tonight," (She heard the sound of a paper being snapped.) "She knows far more than she ought."
Reva felt that sinking feeling of dread at the mention of Jason Masur's return to the States. He knew what she could do, and he was not welcome in Company circles for the acts of his extraordinary ego. He had run contrary to everything Control had established and it had earned him banishment in one of the world's hot spots. If he was back in the United States, there was no telling what he'd do to get at Control's position in the Company. Ruthlessness, deceit, and who knows what else, being no object. There was no love lost between Masur and Control. The same applied to herself also, especially with what she knew of the man. Reva swallowed uncomfortably, how on earth was she going to keep away from that maniac?
She backed up silently, straining to listen, pausing at the junction between the two guestrooms.
"Jimmy called from Bath," Mickey stated.
"Yes," Robert sounded disgusted. "Control had the report with him. Said the corpse was an ex agent named Robbins, he tried to convince me that the investigation is a possible homicide, with an aiding and abetting charge leveled at you. Seems Miss Cheney knew him."
"What?" Mickey sounded incredulous. "There's no way she could've known that. She told me herself that she didn't see the guy."
"All the same, it is suspicious and lends itself to being used. Control warns that he won't hide your Leavenworth history either."
"You cleared me on that!" Mickey snapped.
"I did, but he threw it up in my face all the same, which tells me that your files are still available to him somehow."
"I don't believe this!" Mickey exclaimed.
"For some reason, Control wants you away from Miss Cheney. Did she tell you about a Code Yellow?"
"Control wants you at his office by 3:00am."
"Control can go to hell…" Mickey retorted
"I figured you’d say that. He's hiding something. I've told Jonah to hang all the red flag warnings, I just want him to get whatever information out of the Company computers he can get on her. What I don't understand is why he even involved himself with this girl in the first place." She heard Robert begin to pace.
"What I want to now is why he abandoned her afterwards." Mickey growled.
"There is that..."
"If he thinks he's gonna get me to heel, he picked the wrong dog to kick." Mickey sounded a little too calm. There was a pause.
"Mickey..." Robert warned.
"You haven't heard what she's told me, McCall," Mickey said. "He's a snake. Lies, deceptions, manipulations are nothing to him, but what he's done with her..."
"I'm aware, Kostmayer," Robert replied sternly. "It's inexcusable, but he is, technically, your boss. He was adamant about you returning to the compound and me returning Miss Cheney to Wiscasett."
"I can always quit," Mickey replied coolly.
"And put yourself under a Red classification? The girl has literally become a pariah, because of him. Take a look at this..." Reva felt as though a sinkhole was opening up underneath her. She heard paper being rustled, then Mickey barked out a laugh.
"Congratulations," he joked.
"I'm not laughing, Kostmayer." McCall replied caustically. "If Miss Cheney hadn't signed the back of this letter, there's no telling what Control would have done with it. How she's able to duplicate my handwriting is beyond me. What I want to know is what else has he had her do? I also intend to put an immediate stop to it."
Reva stopped breathing. A shot of adrenaline jolted her system. He had that letter! She hastily backed up into the room, staring around in confusion. She spied an overnight bag on the bed, then glanced into the closet. Without hesitating, she stepped up to the lone overcoat hanging inside and searched the pockets. Her fingers found a still warm set of car keys. What little she knew of Robert McCall had come directly from Control himself, he had told her he was one of the most dangerous men in the world, and now he knew that she could forge not only his name, but his own letters, in his own handwriting. Near terror spurred her on, if Robert McCall was on her tail... she took the keys and put them into her pocket.
"She said he showed her some pretty wild stuff, but I got to admit, that's pretty damn outrageous," Mickey replied, mirth in his voice.
"That is not my letter!" Robert snapped, angrily.
"Could've fooled me."
"That's exactly the point, Kostmayer, it can fool anyone. Whatever that girl knows, if she fell into the wrong hands, there is no telling how many people's lives could be destroyed, including mine."
"So what are you gonna do with it?"
"Burn it. Then find out if there are any more. Control undoubtedly has something else."
"What about Masur?" Mickey asked.
"I thought I'd give you the pleasure of looking him up." McCall sounded sinister. Reva didn't hear his response as she quietly slipped back into the master bedroom.
"I'm going to have a very serious discussion with that girl, then take her back to Wiscasett. She'll be safer there. Once Jonah can get the information together about her, we'll figure something out to get her out of this mess that Control has put her in."
"We?" Mickey asked.
"Yes, we! I've been dragged into this thing far enough, now. With my life at stake I'm going to see to it that she never writes one of these letters again!"
Silently Reva eased the bedroom door shut, their conversation still going on. She went to the bed, pulling one of the blankets off and bunching it up at the bottom of the door, to muffle noise. Finding her coat and the spare clothes, she made her way to the window. With great care, checking every few seconds, she eased it open, and then moved the nightstand over for a step. She was out of the house in a heartbeat.
The temperature hovered near freezing, but the combination of fear and adrenaline kept the girl warm as she made her way around the house to the black car that sat in the driveway. Fishing out the keys, she opened it up, but before climbing in, she rifled under the drivers seat. Her fingers found cool metal and she brought out the Walther semi automatic McCall kept under there. Without another moment’s hesitation, she slipped into the driver’s seat, shot it forward as she inserted the keys into the ignition and fired it up.
McCall's hearing knew the sounds of the Jaguar almost supernaturally. At the initial keying over, his head snapped around, abruptly cutting short his conversation with Mickey, who had heard it, too. Both men moved at once, Robert running for the front door, Mickey for the bedroom.
His shoulder hit the door, caught hold against the blanket, jarring him, before the pressure moved the blanket. The door slammed against the wall and he instantly spotted the open window. He cursed once and ran to join Robert.
He met him in the middle of the road in time to see the taillights of the Jaguar disappear around the corner. McCall looked at him, ice-cold calm.
"Kostmayer..." he spat. "That is my car." He pointed down the road as his eyes bored into Mickey’s. "She just stole my car," he added a little too calmly. Kostmayer stood frozen.
"She just stole MY CAR!" he roared. Mickey scowled, spun on his heel and raced back into the house.
"Where the hell are you going?" he demanded, following him.
"I have a 3:00am appointment, remember?" Mickey replied as he snatched up his faded old army jacket. He checked to make sure the other weapon was in the front pocket.
"What's that got to do with my car!"
"If anyone knows where she would run, it'll be him!" Mickey snapped back. "She's scared, McCall! She obviously heard what we said! She can't go home, it's watched and she won't go to him, where else will she go? He'll know." He shrugged into the jacket looking at the angry Robert.
"You just gonna stay here or come with me? We got to get a ride." Robert snorted disgust, retrieved his coat and joined him.
"So help me Kostmayer, if one scratch..." he started.
"She'll buy you a new one," Mickey snapped back in disgust.
"If she's alive long enough to do it!"
She could only think of one place to go. With in an hour she was on I 95 headed south…
It wasn't often that Control got caught with his guard down. The man seemed to have an extraordinarily long "good luck" streak upon which he had capitalized most of his life. Yet there were times when it abandoned him. In the aftermath of his discussion with Robert, he had spent several hours exercising his authority in trying to clean up the mess that swirled around himself and Reva Cheney. He knew Jonah was in the Company mainframe and had barely gotten Reva's medical history downloaded then wiped out of the hard drive. That history now resided snugly in his office safe.
Anticipating that Mickey would not show up at the set time, he decided to leave, knowing at that time there was nothing more he could do at the office complex. He intended to head for Washington, to continue finding what he could on Jason Masur, independent of what he had asked Robert to do. Donning his overcoat, he stuffed the bow tie he had been wearing into his pocket and headed for the underground parking garage, where he had asked his driver to meet him.
Thoughts of the girl that he had taken a personal interest in training had left him irritable and just a hair distracted. That distraction was enough.
Climbing into a waiting, silver Lexus he didn't bother checking the driver. He had no sooner sat down when the locks on the doors engaged with a suspiciously familiar click. A slightly startled glance up and a grab for the handle revealed that the doors were locked from the inside.
Mickey Kostmayer turned in the driver’s seat to look back at him.
"Kostmayer..." Control started then stopped. He did not like the glint in Mickey's dark eyes.
"You wanted to see me?" he said in a very low tone of voice. His face was totally blank.
"Is this your idea of a joke?" The agency head asked, forcing himself to sit back in his seat and relax.
"You tell me."
"Tell you what?" Control asked, his own features setting like concrete.
"Oh, little things, like," Mickey shrugged. "Why you’re screwing around with my files."
"Your files? What are you talking about?"
"Don't lie to me, Control."
"What makes you think I'm lying?" The older man shot back. Mickey smirked at him.
"It's what you do for a living," he replied. Control's head tipped slightly as he scrutinized Kostmayer. This was something that needed fast thinking.
"What are you doing here, Mickey? Kidnapping your boss?"
"Boss?" Kostmayer responded, raising an eyebrow. Control just stared impassively back at him. Mickey snorted softly in derision.
"Some boss you've turned out to be," he said and raised up the bulletproof partition between the front and back seats of the car.
"What are you intending on doing Kostmayer?"
"Take you for a little ride." Mickey responded and drove off.
"Where's McCall? And Reva?" Control asked.
"McCall we're picking up, Reva is..." Mickey waved a hand and shrugged as he gained the road and set off into the night.
"Are you telling me you don't know where she is?" Control asked softly, his blue eyes stared unblinkingly at the back of Kostmayer's head. This wasn't looking good.
"Vanished, in Robert's car." Mickey replied and glanced into the rearview mirror in time to see Control look momentarily away, scowl, and look back.
"He's pissed about it, too," Mickey added.
"Where did she go?" Control demanded, suddenly needing more time to think.
"That's what we want to know."
"We? If anything, it's something for McCall to know. He can find her faster, you, I want out of this thing."
"Sorry, I'm involved."
"I don't believe I heard that." Control said carefully, his voice full of intent. A feral smile played slightly on Mickey's lips.
"You heard it and don't even think of trying to ship me out of the country this time."
"What are you getting at?" Control demanded, trying to gain more time.
"I happen to care about Reva, which is something you do not. I intend on finding her." Mickey said, glancing into the rearview again. Control barely hid the flash of anger.
"Cheney is a Code Yellow agent, Kostmayer. A special designation at that. You get anywhere near her and the agency chiefs find out, you're a dead man."
"I'll take that chance." Mickey responded calmly.
"I'll not have one of my best agents involved with Reva Cheney," Control snapped.
"Whatsa matter? Jealous?" Mickey shot back. Control snorted contempt.
"Even if it was jealousy it'd be none of your damn business. For your safety as well as hers, you’re best just to leave well enough alone."
"Funny you should mention alone..." Mickey drawled negotiating through traffic.
Control heaved a sigh and glared out the window. "You're starting to sound like Robert," he growled.
"I think I'll take that as a compliment."
"Just what is it you want?" Control asked.
"Where would she go?" Mickey asked. Control shook his head, eyes wary, but watchful, Mickey was headed towards the harbor.
"How am I supposed to know that? Haven't seen or talked to the girl in four years."
"Convenient, huh?" Mickey drawled. "Spend a year training someone to do forgery, then shuffle 'em out the door and forget about 'em when they get messed up. Something really stinks about that, Control. You do what you do with her and then dump her like yesterday’s garbage, without even an explanation why. She trusted you, man. You didn't even stick around to help out."
"You're treading a very thin tightrope, Kostmayer." Control's voice became glacial, the blue eyes dangerous. Mickey had struck a nerve.
"Am I? Who's driving?" The car abruptly accelerated, wending it's way amongst what little traffic was left at that hour of the morning. They worked their way deeper in amongst the piers and warehouses. Control gripped the armrest, bracing himself.
"I know I can get out my window," Kostmayer said conversationally, urging the car to go faster. "Gonna be interesting to see how you get out." He suddenly spun the wheel, feathering the brakes. The Lexus skewed sideways, tires screaming like a banshee, pouring out smoke as he spun the steering wheel in a hard left turn. He stomped on the accelerator as the car hit the start of a very long and empty pier.
"Kostmayer..." Control warned icily. "You are going to regret this."
"You're a funny one to talk." Mickey replied lightly, the speedometer rising as the Lexus picked up speed. "C'mon boss, where would she go?" he asked again. "She can't go home and she won't come to you, where else?"
"You think I'm going to answer that?"
"I can hold my breath a little over two minutes last time I went through scuba training." Mickey said jovially, like a kid trying to show off an accomplishment. The car flew down the pier. Control's fingers were making dents in the backseat and door handgrip. "I can wait that long," he added. The pier’s end rapidly approached. Control scowled. He knew Kostmayer was nuts.
"Kill me, and you’ll never find her in time…" he replied calmly
The Lexus suddenly swerved right, and slid nearly uncontrolled across the ancient creosote soaked decking. A sickening shudder racked the vehicle as it slid towards the edge. Control hurled himself across the passenger seat, bracing for impact as he expected the car to go sailing into the air. Skidding haphazardly, the vehicle turned around then lurched as one back tire slipped off the edge, grinding the axle into the wood. The jarring of its sudden stop crashed down on them as silence reclaimed the night. Control, lying on his back, didn't even breathe as he realized the car had come to a rest on the pier. It did however lean precariously to one very uncomfortable side. Kostmayer slowly lowered the window between them, laid his arm across the seat, and looked back at him with a disgusted smirk. Control struggled to maintain the passivity in his features but failed miserably in keeping the anger out of his eyes. At that moment there was a rapping on the window above his head. Jerking his head around Control stared up at a highly amused Robert McCall.
The door latches unlocked.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Control burst as he scrambled out of the safer side of the car. Mickey followed suit, only on the unsafe side of the car and looked appreciatively at what he managed to accomplish. He stood on the very edge of the pier gazing down some twenty odd feet into the dark oily looking waters. A few inches more and the Lexus would have been reef material. He smiled at Robert.
"Nice night for a drive," he cracked.
"You cut it a little close there, Mickey," Robert chided, good-naturedly. "At least I brought another car for us to drive, I'm afraid this one is out of commission."
"Would you mind telling me what you two are doing?" Control asked, trying to rein in the pounding of his heart as he straightened out his coat.
"Mickey would you mind getting that car for me? It's up on the road. A Mercedes. I'd like to talk with our mutual friend. Did you find out anything?"
"From him?" Mickey snorted in disgust, easing his way around the car. Robert tossed him the keys.
"I didn’t think you would…" Robert said, looking at Control. Mickey caught the keys, nodded at Control and walked off. Control straightened his two-three inches of extra height over McCall. Robert just tipped his head back and squared his shoulders.
"Why the theatrics, Robert?" Control snapped.
"You messed with his girl."
"His girl? You've got to be joking, I won't allow it."
"Oh I assure you I am not joking..." Robert replied with icy calm. "I also am not joking when I tell you your little protege' stole my car tonight." Robert fished out a manila folder he had been holding inside his overcoat. He slapped it into the others chest who involuntarily reached up to grab it.
"I want the truth Control, Reva Cheney isn't even Reva Cheney! Who the hell is she?" he shouted.
Control just stared grimly at Robert, holding the file to his chest, not moving, barely even daring to breath. How much did he know?
"Douglas and Cindy Cheney don't even exist. Jonah found the blind in your Company files." Robert snapped. "I want to know who that girl is and what your connection is to her…"
McCall could barely see Control's jaw clenching. "And why are her medical files missing?"
"All right, Robert, all right!" he said quickly. "I have her medical files in my safe, where they are staying. As for Douglas and Cindy Cheney... yes, they are a blind. A very carefully prepared blind, which I intend to keep in place for however long I have to," he snapped irritably.
"Who is that girl?" Robert nearly shouted.
"That girl is Reva Cheney," Control growled. "And so help me if anyone tells her that she isn't, I'll kill them." His intent was all too clear.
Robert snorted derision at the man.
"I want to know what that girl's connection is to you and why you've created a fake family for her. And why you've taken it upon yourself to up and abandon her on top of it all!" Robert roared. Control only looked at him impassively.
"Photographic memories run in the family, Robert," he murmured, glaring hard at the other man. Robert's stared at him, his eyes growing wide. The implications were suddenly becoming obvious.
"This information doesn't go past you, do you understand?" Control growled.
"I'm not your lackey to order around!" Robert snapped.
"I will not allow this information to reach her, do I make myself clear?"
"Oh, you make yourself perfectly clear!" Robert shouted. "What I want to know is why you dumped her?"
"I had to!" Control shouted back and uncharacteristically lost his temper. "I am pure poison to that girl. I can't allow anyone else associated with me near her either. I had to get her out of the Company. It was a hideous mistake..." he stopped and glared at Robert.
"Dammit Robert, I can't let her get near me…"
"Then why did you allow it in the first place." Robert growled back. Control started to answer then stopped. Suddenly he looked away from Robert’s accusing eyes, for a second his head dipped, looking anywhere but at Robert, then he looked back.
"I needed to know..." he said simply. "I needed to know. It was the stupidest thing I ever did in my life and it nearly cost me hers." He thumped himself once in the chest. "I have to live with the knowledge that it was my fault for getting her into that mess and I have to live with the knowledge that I can no longer have anything to do with her. I'll not say another word on it, Robert. You know too much already. What I want to know is why she ran and how the hell are we going to get her back?"
Robert glared hard at this strange, ruthless individual he had long called a friend, in spite of all the deceptions and lies he had endured from him. Even he knew when he was hitting too close to the man's core. Control didn't reveal a lot about himself to anyone; it simply wasn't healthy. He knew far too much and he didn't even know Control's real name. This, however, carried other implications he didn't dare ask about just then.
"She ran because she's scared, and how we..." he laced that last word with heavy sarcasm. "Are going to get her back, I don't know yet. But, I will tell you this…" He locked gazes with the man. "I want a full accounting of this from you when we are done. Everything. The truth. All of it! And if my car comes back with so much as a single scratch..."
"Deal! She’s gone to Arlington. I've a shuttle flight for Washington leaving in an hour, I can easily book another seat." Control agreed.
"Another two seats..." Robert sharply added.
"Absolutely not. I won't have Kostmayer around her." Control shouted.
"You just try and stop him... I'd suggest you cave in; allow him to come, he's dead set on protecting her, among other things, and you know he's the best at what he does, plus…" Robert held up a finger. "He dearly wants Masur's hide. Masur is in deep with the Senator from Arkansas who doesn't seem to like you very much. Reva would be his ticket into upsetting the entire structure of the Agency if they coerce her into utilizing that talent you used in her. How could you do it, man?" Robert demanded. "How could you involve her?"
"Like I said before, Robert..." Control replied sounding a bit wearied. "Photographic memories run in the family... she was so willing to allow me to train her," he looked reflective a moment, a memory slipping past his inscrutable blue eyes. "I actually thought I could get away with it. The talent there is extraordinary... she just proved to be a little unpredictable. And I proved to be an enormous fool!"
"Calling your self a fool is the least of your worries if Masur is able to get at anything from her..."
"You don't have to remind me," Control barked.
"Oh, someone has to remind you," Robert groused back. "Unfortunately, it's fallen upon me!"
Morning on the Virginia side of the Potomac was near freezing and foggy, threatening snow. A crust of an inch or less lay in patches all over the gigantic historic gravesite of America's presidents and war dead. At eight o'clock sharp, a gate attendant just opening up for the day, huddled against the cold, noticed a lone, expensive black Jaguar approaching her post. She wasn't in the mood to have to tell people this early that no private cars were allowed in the hallowed grounds unless it was by special permission and a relative of one who was buried there. The car came to a stop at her booth, the window slipping silently down as the exhaust curled away in wraith-like streams behind the gently purring automobile.
"Ma'am, I'm afraid cars aren't allowed on the site unless... " The girl started to say. Reva, in the car, looked at her with grey eyes that threatened to tear her soul out. Wordlessly, she slipped out of a fairly unused section of her wallet a folded letter and passed it to her. Puzzled, the girl took it. Reading it surprised her. Not only did she have signed permission, she had visitation rights after scheduled hours. She stared back at the girl in the car, who looked utterly exhausted and then noticed the stitches on her forehead.
"Uh..." she stammered as the girl held her hand back out. "May I ask who the relation is?" She fumbled blindly for the automobile pass. Handing the permission waiver back, Reva slipped a card into her hand. The gatekeeper looked at it. Admiral Thornton Cheney, USN, it read with the plot listing. Underneath that was the single word, grandfather. The girl held her hand back out waiting for both the card and the pass. The gatekeeper hastily wrote on the pass and handed it to her.
"Do you need a map to locate the site?" she asked. Reva gazed at her with barely a smile on her face, looking tired and aged. She tapped her forehead indicating she had the map in her head, then shook her head no. She nodded at the bar preventing her from driving through.
"Thanks for coming to Arlington..." She again started to say but the window was rolling back up. She stared as she lifted the bar, watching the Jaguar slowly make its way into the site and disappearing into the fog. She shook herself, the girl in the car looked like something the cat dragged in and hadn't said a single thing to her. She heaved a sigh. It was starting out to be one of those mornings...
Reva's entrance into the site did not go unnoticed.
She spent 15 minutes driving carefully past the hundreds of sites and monuments to this historic and revered place before finding a small copse of trees and slowly pulling the Jaguar over to the curb. She slipped the pass onto the dash, patted her coat pocket to make sure the Walther still resided there, then gently turned the engine off, pocketed the keys, and sat, staring out over the sea of crosses and tombstones. Click, click, click her mind ran through the pictures, she followed the line of markers nearest the trees. Click. She narrowed her searching eyes to the line farthest away. Click. Third site on the left. She popped open the door, slipped her hand to the latch and locked it, carefully shutting the door. She looked a moment at the car. She'd have to make some sort of contact with Control, soon. She knew it was inevitable. She needed to get McCall's car back to him. She frowned, flipped her long, dark blonde curls over one shoulder and shuddered, looking around the enormous cemetery. She hunched into the coat, turned, instantly located the grave, and set off towards it.
"Well would you look at this?" A groundskeeper remarked to his partner. The second man, who sat inside a maintenance truck, glanced to where the first man was looking.
"Masur said there was a remote possibility that Cheney gal who shot Robbins the other night might show up at the old man’s gravesite."
"Where?" The second man snapped, all alertness. He'd been Robbins’ partner and it still stung his ego to have had the girl pull a gun on him in the first place, not to mention slabbing his partner permanently. He spotted her walking determinedly towards the copse of trees. Without hesitating, he reached under the dash and pulled out a mike to a CB unit.
"T22 to base, Masur?" he asked. There was a burst of static, then nothing. He repeated his request. Presently a voice came back.
"Base to T22, Masur's busy, what do you need? You shouldn't be calling here."
"Tell him his girl just showed up." The 'caretaker' snapped sarcastically, never taking his eyes off her.
Presently, a slightly sarcastic voice came back.
"Well. what are you waiting for? Go get her! Didn't I tell you we'd hit pay dirt sooner or later? Patience, boys, patience. It'll reward those who wait… Bring her to me and don't go getting yourself killed this time, all right? And make sure you don't kill her either. I don't want a repeat of last time."
"Gimme a break, Masur," the caretaker griped. "I'll bring your little chickie to ya."
"You better damn well bring her to me this time. I’ve got no room for incompetence. Base out." The receiver went dead.
"T22 out." The caretaker tossed the mike with contempt. "That guy is a real horse’s ass," he growled.
"Yeah, he is, but he pays well."
"'Bout the only thing he does well!" The other muttered. "C'mon, there's a big bonus for delivering this one alive."
It had been everything but a pleasant flight. Delayed twice by weather, the shuttle had finally gotten them into D.C. around 5:30 am. And the companionship was sadly lacking. Robert had managed somehow to keep Control and Mickey apart. Control sat next to him, staring moodily out the window, looking at nothing, a briefcase resting on his lap. One aisle over sat Mickey, apparently catnapping, but Robert knew his ears were fully tuned to any conversation they might have. He had steered their conversation strictly to the activities of Jason Masur, knowing that the subject of Reva needed only the slightest spark to set of an enormous explosion between the two men. As for himself... Robert steered for equal ground, his particular specialty. He mulled over their situation. Mickey, on the one hand, seemed to have fallen in love with a girl with more to her past activities than met the eye, one who was going to have to live with its consequences for a lifetime. A girl Mickey was bound and determined to not only protect but also defend and get to know even better.
Control, though. was just as determined to make sure Mickey got nowhere near her, or anyone else for that matter. Whose involvement went back much farther than merely stumbling across a lightning artist who had forged her way into a job. The strange request, nearly 10 years ago, to attend the funeral of a man he hardly knew suddenly had become clear. Coupled with the fact that there never was a couple named Douglas and Cindy Cheney, made their current concern even more enigmatic. Robert sighed for the umpteenth time. Control certainly knew how to weave tangled webs. Robert pondered on what the man had admitted to him on the pier just hours before, and it left him feeling numb. It simply couldn't be another Yvette? Impossible, absolutely impossible, Robert surmised as he thought about his adult daughter whom he had known only a few short years, now.
Robert turned his thoughts over to Reva, herself. Strangely, he was beginning to forgive the girl already, for taking his car. Running from fear was, after all, a common reaction. He reviewed over and over what he had been talking to Kostmayer about in the moments before she had bolted from them and realized that she had jumped to conclusions. The girl was already scared, injured and traumatized, plus the burden she had been carrying all these years… Robert's promise of stopping her from forging his letters ever again certainly had not helped. He scowled slightly, chiding himself. Somehow he had to get to her and explain that he was not going to hurt her. Then he began to wonder how he was going to help extract the girl from her rather precarious position.
One thing he already knew. He cast a sympathetic eye at Mickey, lounging in his first class seat. He didn't stand a chance, not with Control as deeply involved as he was. He had known from the beginning when Kostmayer had showed up at his apartment just a few days earlier, that these kind of things in their profession did not last. Reva's situation was even worse. It wasn't even going to be allowed to start. Robert's mind tackled how he was going to help Reva Cheney.
"I wish you'd stop that," A low growl issued in his left ear. Broken from his thoughts, Robert glanced at Control.
"I beg your pardon?" he asked.
Control had sat back in his seat, his head tipped against the window, eyes closed, face set. "Sighing. That's the fourteenth one since we took off."
"Oh, well, pardon me, I wasn't aware you were keeping track." Robert quietly, sarcastically replied.
"Keep it down, Robert. Radar over there is listening in."
"And no wonder, he's in a hell of a situation, not to mention Miss Cheney." Robert hissed back.
"I'm aware of both." Control murmured, expertly pitching his voice to Robert's ears only. "Any more thoughts on Masur?"
"Other then how much larger has his ego grown? No, it's that Senator I'm wondering about."
"I've sicced Stock on him. If he and Masur have any kind of collusion going on, Jacob will find out what it is, where it is, and how much of it there is. If Jason has managed to get to her before we do, Jacob will know where they’ll take her if anyone will. If Masur or that Senator so much as sneeze, we'll know about it. All of Arkansas and the Eastern Seaboard is covered."
"Well, that's a slight measure of reassurance," Robert growled. Control could pull all the stops out when he needed to, and apparently had in this case.
"She must not fall into his hands..." Control said very quietly, letting a colder meaning drift into his words. He barely opened his deep-set blue eyes, staring unblinkingly at Robert. Robert only shook his head.
"She won't be allowed into Arlington until 8:00," he stated.
"I plan on heading to the complex to find out what Jacob has come up with. We can meet at the Memorial before heading into the Cemetery. You and Kostmayer can get settled first. However, under no circumstances is he to go off on his own, I want a tight leash on him." Control murmured. Robert smirked slightly, raising an eyebrow.
"That is going to be difficult."
"Just do it, Robert. "
"Control, let me make one thing perfectly clear to you," Robert hissed back as his own eyes drilled holes into the other man’s. "I am not a babysitter and when this debacle is done and over with, you are going to owe me." His own tone dripped intent. Control only nodded.
"At least keep him out of my way," he growled. "And help me keep that girl alive," he added in a softer voice. Robert snorted slightly.
"Now that, I can do."
The pilot suddenly interrupted their conversation to announce their imminent landing.
Eight in the morning found the three men inside Arlington, waiting on the opposite side of the trees from the grave of Admiral Cheney. The fog made visibility almost nil and the temperatures kept all three inside the car. Though it was near freezing outside, more than just the car heater kept things warm for them.
"I don't give a rat's ass what either of you think," Mickey snapped. "Reva knows me and won't run."
"Absolutely not." Control stated flatly again. "If any of us go, it'll be me."
"If she's got McCall’s gun on her, you can kiss your ass good-bye," Mickey shot back with a sarcastic laugh. "She's suffered enough at your hands. One look at you now and she'll be gone for good. But if she does try plugging you one..." he smirked, his eyes reflecting a certain macabre humor at the thought.
"Kostmayer, I don't recall asking for an opinion on the matter." Control calmly shot back
"Oh please!" Robert griped. "Enough, both of you." He dug his gloves out of his coat pocket. "Neither one of you is going out there. I will handle this."
"You?" Mickey exclaimed. "You've already scared her half to death, plus she's taken your car. She'll just rabbit again when she sees you."
"I'll risk it. She's been gone several hours now. Maybe she'll have had some time to calm down. Neither one of you is impartial enough to this mess. I, on the other hand, am. Both of you stay here, and please..." Robert popped open his door, as he had been driving. "Don't kill one another before we get back." Disgusted, he climbed out of the vehicle, swung the door shut and disappeared into the fog. Mickey heaved a sigh and nervously cracked his knuckles.
Control barely managed not to roll his eyes. "I don't like this..." he murmured restlessly.
"You don't," Mickey snapped, as he flexed his shoulders, "Nothing feels right… Especially your involvement."
"Kostmayer, I would delight in nothing more right now than sending you back to the place he found you." Control murmured threateningly, nodding towards the place where McCall had last been seen.
"You just go right ahead and try..." Mickey just as calmly replied.
"Sniping at each other isn't going to help Reva one bit." Control cuttingly responded.
"You aren't helping her one bit," Mickey snapped. "You haven't since the day she got attacked."
"Son, you haven't the slightest idea of what you are talking about." Control responded coldly.
"No idea what I'm talking about?" Mickey asked. "That girl is lonely, scared, and bitter, because of you… I've seen the fear in her eyes. I've seen the bitterness there, the bewilderment, the pain. I've dealt with her when her throat starts bleeding and she's nearly gagging to death on the scar tissue… And you're telling me I don't know what I'm talking about?"
"Exactly… You weren't there when the attack happened, you didn't see what was going on and you weren't there dealing with the aftermath."
"I've dealt with the aftermath of your involvement. That girl hates you… And with damned good reason."
"And she's better off hating me..." Control responded coldly. "I'd rather have her hating me, not be around me, and alive, than dead. Robert is right. Neither of us is impartial. Sniping at each other isn't helping."
Mickey sorely bit back a comment on sniping at Control. He just sighed his own disgust and squirmed nervously in the back seat. That intuitive itch of impending disaster refused to budge from between his shoulder blades.
"Screw this," he muttered and popped open the door.
"Kostmayer!" Control snapped, heaving every ounce of his authority into his voice.
"I'm only circling around… Something’s not right and I'm not going to get caught sitting around if when it happens." With that, he slammed the door and jogged off, adjacent to the direction that Robert had walked in.
"Damn," Control snapped, sliding over into the driver’s seat and firing up the engine. Then he too climbed out, deliberately leaving the door open and moved off in the opposite direction.
Reva certainly was distracted enough that she didn't see Robert until he was within a few feet of her. The fog by then was so thick that he had approached to within thirty feet before she heard his footsteps as they crunched on the snow. The Walther appeared magically in her hands, held steady, as the imposing figure appeared out of the gloom. Robert had both hands held out before him as he stopped at the sight of his gun. She looked pale enough to pass off as a ghost in her own right, as she stood before Cheney's grave. Wisps and drifts of nearly frozen fog swirled eerily around both figures as Reva stared at him in a mixture of surprise and fear.
"Whatever you do, dear..." Robert said gently. "That particular gun has a very delicate trigger, a little too sensitive, if you know what I mean." He pointed a finger to one side and looked at her hopefully. "Would you mind aiming it that way?"
All he got in return was her eyes narrowing, the fear and shock vanishing as she started to back up, her hands shifting on the gun for a firmer grip.
"Wait!" Robert called, still keeping his hands visible. "I'm not here to hurt you, Miss Cheney…" he paused. "May I call you Reva?" he asked. She didn't reply, she just stared straight into his hazel eyes and very slowly put one foot behind the other.
"Reva… I don't know what you heard me say last night but I assure you, I am not going to hurt you. Don't keep running away." He made no move forward, only hoping that she'd listen.
"I know what kind of position you’re in, Reva. I'm in it myself. I want nothing more to do with the Company and I wish to stay retired, but it is a permanent part of me and occasionally I get dragged back into it. However, in your case, I am more than willing to help you get out of it altogether. I can do that you know, I can help you." She finally stopped backing up and just stared hard at him, skeptical.
"Look, just put the gun away. You can keep it if it makes you feel safer. Just listen to what I have to say, all right?" he asked. Reva didn't budge. Finally she loosed her steadying hand, put the three main fingertips on her forehead and drew the hand down sharply into a "Y". Robert frowned.
"I don't read sign language, Reva," he said gently. Reva scowled, then very slowly lowered the gun. One handed she pointed it to the ground and moved forward to within a few feet of him but not close enough for him to grab her. Robert could see her knuckles were white on the grip of the Walther.
"Why?" she whispered.
"I live under the same designation as you. I know what it's like. Plus I understand how scared you are. I've been working with people in fear for several years now, who have seemingly impossible situations and have been helping them. It's my specialty, Reva. Here..." He dug into his breast pocket and withdrew a card. He stepped forward to hand it to her, but she just as uneasily backed up, the gun came up, also. Robert reached out and set it on top of Cheney's gravestone. He then stepped back and allowed her the option of taking it or not. Hesitant at first, she slowly lowered the gun again and approached the grave. Carefully, and never taking her eyes off of him, she picked up the card and read it, then backed up again.
"That's what I do. I no longer work for the Company, no matter what Control or anyone else may think. I can and will help you Reva, if you’ll let me. I promise I will not hurt you," he added. "I don't know what you know about me already, but you know that being a senior operative didn't happen without experience."
"He helped you get here didn't he?" she asked, looking at him, fingering the card.
"Yes, he did." Robert replied and appreciated how quickly the girl could put two and two together. "He asked me to help you..." For several minutes Reva just stared at him then she snorted in disgust.
"He's providing help? That's rich," she dryly responded, her voice barely audible. Robert smiled slightly, nodding in agreement.
"Yes it is, isn't it," he gazed at her. "But more than that dear, Mickey is my good friend and he cares about you. He wants me to help you as well." Reva stared a moment at him. He could see the tightness of her shoulders slowly begin to relax.
"I uh..." she started, and looked away, gazing out over the fog enshrouded tombstones. She gently engaged the safety on the pistol. "I apologize, Mr. McCall, about taking the car. It's parked over there. It's got a full tank, too." She reversed the pistol, fishing with her other hand in her coat pocket for the keys. Stepping up to him she handed them over. Robert studied her tired, bruised face, smiling very gently.
"That's quite all right," he murmured, taking the items with relief and making them vanish into his own coat. Reva sighed and ran nearly blue fingertips across the top of the gravestone.
"Grandpa was my only father," she whispered. "My own Dad died when I was very small." Reva didn't see the flash of pain cross McCall’s eyes as she spoke. "We talked about everything. He was my best friend. He's been gone a long time but when I need someone to talk to I come here."
"Admiral Cheney was a great man." Robert murmured, inwardly wincing at the deep lonely gulf the girl revealed in herself to him. She glanced at him, a slight frown between her eyes.
"Did you know him?"
"Not very well, dear, but enough to respect him. I was here the day of his funeral."
"You were?" she whispered, surprised.
"In the background, yes. I was in Washington at that time and needed to pay my respects." It was the truth, if not all of it.
"It's been ten years, Mr. McCall. I still miss him," she whispered it so quietly he barely heard her.
"Reva, you look very tired. Why don't you come with me? Mickey is here with me; we've a room at the Hilton. He's very anxious about you. You also look frozen through."
She gazed sadly at the marker, then looked at Robert with such a haunted pain that McCall would have gladly hit Control with every ounce of energy he had. She nodded. With a warm smile, Robert gently lay a hand on her shoulder.
"If you need someone to talk to, Reva, I am more than willing to listen," he added. Reva stared at him, her jaw suddenly tightening, as she fought against tears welling in her eyes. The sight nearly tore Robert apart. Half of him wanted to wrap his arms around this lonely little creature and make all the pains go away. The other half wanted to tear Control into shreds.
He felt Reva’s shoulder relax under his hand as she decided to trust him.
A strange metallic click floated eerily in the fog, snapping both to attention. Robert’s hand instantly slipped around her arm as his other pulled out his gun.
"Not now!" he cursed under his breath, pushing the girl forward as he began moving them in the direction she had come. Reva looked at him, startled, seeing a grim, determined look on his face. "Foolish rookie mistake!" he growled as he propelled her ahead of him.
"Stick close to me and do exactly as I tell you…" Robert said to her, sternly. "That was a pistol round being chambered, definitely by someone not Company related," he said by way of explanation and sounding disgusted.
Reva, who had begun to tense under his hand, found herself obeying the tone in his voice. She began moving towards the Jaguar.
As they hurried past a large, fog-enshrouded tomb, Robert caught the barest glimpse to his left of a ghostly figure in the mists bearing a resemblance to Control. He felt Reva tense again, took a quick glance at her and could see a frown of recognition appearing on her face. As she paused, Robert hurried her on…
"Let them handle this!" he urged. Out of the gloom, his Jaguar appeared along with a grounds maintenance truck parked in front of it. As they both heard the sounds of someone getting slugged hard in the gut off to their left, Reva started, moving faster for the car.
From their right, an unfamiliar man loomed out of the fog and began to run towards them, shouting "Hey!"
"It’s all right," Robert said as she gasped in alarm, looking in the direction of the noise. The fog distorted the sounds of a brief struggle. He pushed her forward.
"Hold it right there!" The strange man yelled, lifting a gun. "I only want her!"
Robert twisted, putting himself between Reva and the stranger as he pulled out his keys. Ignoring the threats, he shoved them into the lock and swiftly opened the door, guiding her inside. "Lock it!" he snapped, shutting the door. He jogged to his side, climbed in, and inserted the keys into the ignition as Reva scrambled to obey.
"I said hold it right there!" The man bellowed, rapidly gaining on them.
"It’s time to get you out of this mess," Robert said, as Reva stared in horror at the approaching man. McCall started the car, rapidly shifting into reverse.
"Ohh…" She began to gasp as the man raised his gun to fire. Robert had just begun to back the car up when another figure loomed out of the fog, running low and fast towards them.
Reva barely had time to recognize Mickey’s green army jacket as he bodily tackled the man, literally catching the stranger low on his legs and lifting him up off the ground. Both men hit the hood of the Jaguar hard then rolled down the hood as Robert abruptly floored the accelerator.
"Mickey!" Reva gasped. Horrified, she watched as both men crashed to the pavement, beginning to struggle for control of the gun. The grappling was furious, as Mickey quickly succeeded in getting his opponent onto his stomach, one hand clenched around the other’s wrist, holding the gun away. The other man tried twisting away as Mickey’s other arm wrapped itself around the stranger’s throat.
For a split second time seemed to stop as Reva watched Mickey abruptly let the stranger’s gun hand go. His arm clenched the man’s neck tighter as he reached up and grabbed his head. With his knee firmly planted in the man’s back and his other foot solidly on pavement, Mickey snarled at the man. A mask of cold certainty had transformed Mickey’s face as the stranger violently struggled, trying to swing the gun back at his opponent. The stranger’s face contorted, his struggles became desperate as Mickey’s fingers clenched his hair and his chin.
Mickey began to speak, his lips moving as a strange smile crept across his face. Only Reva could make out what he was saying, chilling her to the bone. The stranger aimed his gun back over himself with a combined look of determination and hopeless realization.
"Mickey?!" Reva gasped in surprise, reaching for the door handle. She could see his arms and shoulders tensing in preparation to…
"No! He’s doing his job, let him!" Robert barked roughly, his arm coming out, holding her into the seat.
"No," Reva protested, as the two men continued to struggle furiously. "That guy still has his gun!"
Robert jerked the wheel of the Jaguar left, whipping the car around, tires screaming in protest. It muffled the sound of the gun as it went off…
"No!" Reva cried, twisting around in the seat, trying to look back as McCall shifted gears. Robert’s arm reached back up to grip her shoulder.
"Do not look!" he snapped, forcing her attention towards him as the Jaguar picked up speed. "For God’s sake, don’t look!"
By the time Robert reached the hotel, Reva had collapsed back into the seat, fighting for her breath and shaking like a leaf. She was staring at the dashboard, not seeing it, as pictures flashed across her vision. He said nothing, letting her regain her composure. As he pulled into the parking garage, he caught sight of a tall, almost gangly figure, recognizing it as Jacob Stock. The man nodded at Robert as he passed, looking calm and composed. Robert refrained from sighing in relief. Stock’s presence meant the place was secure.
He parked the Jaguar near the elevator and climbed out, searching the surrounding cars a moment before walking around to open Reva’s side. She hadn’t moved. "Reva?" he asked gently.
Feeling the cold air against her face, she blinked, frowned, and looked up at him. Robert was smiling gently and holding out his hand.
"It’s safe, dear," he reassured. "We can rest here. Come along, I’ll take you up to the suite."
She paused for several minutes, her grey eyes inscrutable, before reaching up and taking his hand. He helped her out of the car, settled her hand on his forearm, gently shut the Jaguar’s door and led them to the elevators.
On the way up, McCall noticed two other Company agents, discreetly being low-key, before he guided Reva into the suite. He didn’t relax until he had the door closed and locked.
"Allow me?" he asked Reva, setting his hands on her shoulders. She frowned in confusion, looking around the huge room. Realization colored her face and she let him divest her of her coat.
"Master bedroom is to the left." Robert said gently as he neatly folded her coat before setting it on the armrest of a couch. He nodded to indicated the way. "If you’d like, I’ll have room service bring us up something to eat?" Reva looked at him sadly and barely shook her head.
"Reva?" he said as she wandered away from him. She paused, looking back at him, haunted and weary.
"I know Mickey. He’ll be all right."
She stood still a moment longer, then nodded again and vanished into the bedroom.
Not quite an hour later, Robert, having shed his own overcoat, was slowly pacing in front of a set of sliding glass windows, a saucerin one hand, cup in the other. His brain had latched onto the situation like a tenacious bulldog, refusing to let go. He was just setting the cup on the plate when he heard the keys in the lock. Kostmayer abruptly stumbled in. Disheveled and still exuding pent up energy, he took one look at Robert and immediately turned left.
Finding sleep impossible, Reva had simply sat on the edge of the bed, gazing out the window, her thoughts a thousand miles away. She quickly rose, however, at the entrance of Mickey through the door.
"Reeve?" he asked, walking up to her. She didn’t move as his gloved hands reached up and cupped her face, tilting her head to look at him.
Two things struck her as she stared back into his worried eyes. The smell of gunpowder and burnt hair, a light coating of soot and the blood trickling down the right side of his head, matting his hair and staining his jacket.
"Don’t ever," he said low and urgently. "Don’t you ever take off on us like that again…"
A frown crossed her features as her hand reached up to touch his collar. She stared at the blood on her fingertips. "You’re bleeding…" she barely whispered.
"It’s not the first time…" he replied. "Reeve? Don’t run off on me like that again, understand?"
"Mick…" Robert’s softly cautioning voice floated in from behind them. Mickey barely turned his head to the side, listening. He looked back down at Reva, who had leaned her forehead into his chest, her still bandaged hand resting on his arm.
"I’m tired of this," she barely whispered, sounding weary. The faintest of smirks appeared on Mickey’s features as he slid his hands to her shoulders, pulling her in closer.
"Ain’t that the truth…" he muttered, wrapping his arms around her. The sound of movement behind them brought Mickey’s head back up.
"Well?" Robert asked, but not addressing them. Mickey frowned, keeping one arm around Reva’s shoulders as he turned to look.
Control had entered the suite and stood in the hallway, he looked right past Mickey and directly at Reva…
Control’s hand lifted and waved, like warding off a moth at Robert’s question. His face was set in concrete as he looked at Reva.
"It’s cleaned up," he said distractedly, before his gaze shifted to Kostmayer. "Though I hardly need remind you how unnecessary your actions were…"
Mickey felt Reva, under his arm, go completely rigid and tense.
"Didn’t seem like that at the time." Mickey replied with a smirk, raising a blood splattered and powder burned eyebrow. He felt movement and looked at Reva.
Her face had changed, looking angry and pale.
"Get out!" she hissed, her eyes locked on Control’s.
"Reeve…" Control started. Robert glanced at him, noticing the use of her nickname.
"Get out!" she grated out sharply, livid ire tainting her already damaged voice
Mickey could feel the tension getting ready to boil out of her and he gently gripped her shoulder, preventing her from moving. She grasped his arm, trying to pull it away.
"I think the lady would like you to leave…" Mickey said, gently holding her back, as he began to smile.
"Kostmayer…" Control started, shifting his gaze away from Reva and looking at Mickey with a barely tolerant glare.
"Get out!" Reva repeated, trying to get past Mickey. Feeling his resistance at letting her go, she looked at him. "Get him out of here!"
Mickey’s quirky lips curled even more, as a glint lit his dark eyes. "My pleasure…" he murmured to her, with intent.
"Mickey," Robert’s voice cut through the tension. Kostmayer glanced at McCall. The older man was looking directly at him, lightly pointing at his temple and nodding once towards the living room. There was enough steel in his eyes that he’d accept no question of his request. Mickey smirked at him, snorting in disgust.
"C’mon," he said to Reva, as he gently steered her past a silent and brooding Control into the living room. Reva bristled the entire way.
Robert turned in towards the kitchenette. "Let’s take a look at that mess, Kostmayer," he said to Mickey as Reva turned from him, towards Control.
Control had stepped back to let them pass and silently shut the door to the hallway. He said nothing as he watched the two carefully. He tugged back his trench coat and shoved his hands in his pants pockets, shoulders hunching, brow furrowed in thought, as Reva turned from Kostmayer to face him. When was the last time he had seen her? His own memories began to replay inside his head, which he promptly clamped down on and shoved away. The girl before him was white-lipped in anger, pale, bruised, scarred… his eyes drifted a second across the two sets of stitches before settling a moment on the ones marring her throat.
"Get out," she was repeating, her voice catching, hand reaching up.
"Watch the voice…" Mickey cautioned as he let her go.
"Have a seat, Mickey," McCall stated, as the sound of water came from the kitchenette.
"Revekkah…" Control heaved a sigh and looked away.
Mickey pulled a chair out from the kitchen table, keeping an eye on Reva, who had come to a stop in the living room and glared at the man in the hall. He peeled off his army coat and draped it carelessly across the back of the chair. Robert emerged a moment later with a bowl of water, a towel and a first aid kit. He glanced over at Control as Kostmayer was sitting down. For the briefest moment, Robert could see a deep gulf of pain and loneliness in the man’s blue eyes, that and a stinging hurt. He pursed his lips thoughtfully as Mickey sat back in the chair.
"Get out of here!" Reva snapped, her hands involuntarily moving at the same time.
"Take it easy, Reva… don’t strain your throat," Control said quietly. Reva stopped, staring at him in a mixture of anger and incredulity. She let out a half-laugh of disbelief.
"What the hell would you know about it!?" she rasped at him, her voice rapidly failing. She stifled a cough, scowling in frustration, her hands sharply punctuating her words where her voice couldn’t. She turned towards Mickey, looking at him in frustration as she began to move towards him. Robert watched them as he wrung out a wet cloth in the bowl and handed it to Mickey, who promptly began to wipe the majority of the blood and soot off his face.
"Enough to know that if you keep that up you’ll rupture the sutures and start bleeding again," Control replied. "Sign it, I’ll understand."
Mickey was looking directly at Reva as he wiped his face off. Her eyes went huge as an ugly snarl lifted her lips. "Oh boy…" he murmured as Robert took the cloth from him. Reva spun around.
"You what?" she hissed.
"Sign language," Control said wearily, "I understand it. Don’t stress your throat…" He barely had the words out of his mouth when she was across the room in a flash. He looked at her, startled a moment as she took a swing at him. Only his own hands moved a bit faster, catching one wrist then the other as she came around. For a brief moment she struggled against his grasp, an exercise in futility; not seeing the look on his face. Her own features contorted in rage.
"Whoa," Mickey murmured, smiling slightly, as Robert tipped his head to examine the wound.
"Kostmayer…" Robert said wearily, glancing at Control.
"Reva," Control sighed, bringing her wrists together and forcing them down, firm but gentle. " I knew ASL before all this…"
She paused in her struggling, looking at him in a mixture of confusion and disgust. He gazed steadily back at her.
"Now’s not the time to get into all this… If you want to take a piece out of me, we’ll do it later and in private," he said. She jerked her arms away, backing up, glaring at him.
"Like hell, we will…" she said, but nothing came from her throat, her hands flew. "You’ll just disappear. Just like you did before!"
"Reva…" he replied, patiently.
"What?!" she signed. "I wouldn’t be in this damned mess if it weren’t for you. This is your fault!"
Control looked away from her, sighing.
"You think I don’t know that?" he replied, looking back at her, "I am perfectly well aware of my responsibility in this situation."
"You liar," she snapped back. "You left me behind to face all of this. You left me behind, alone. You sentenced me to life in prison with nothing! Nothing but fear and loneliness! Always having to watch my back, always having to deal with this shit alone! You were never there! Nobody was!" Her hands moved sharply, quickly emphasizing the anger that poured out of the girl.
"Now I have to deal with people trying to bash my head in, people trying to attack me, people I have had to ki…" She stopped, her eyes reflecting anger and horror. She looked away from him, her face radiating conflicting emotions.
Robert glanced over at the pair as he finished examining the wound to Mickey’s head. Kostmayer had come excruciatingly close to getting his head blown off. "I bet that ear is still ringing," he said dryly, opening the kit.
"Not as much as his are about to…" Mickey smirked as Robert draped the towel on his shoulder then rinsed out the rag he had used.
"My responsibility…" Control said softly. "Who do you think took care of that?"
"Conveniently covered up an investigation?" Mickey asked. "So you can use it against us later?"
"Kostmayer, stay the hell out of this. It’s none of your business." Control hissed, never taking his eyes off Reva.
Robert had set the rag on Mickey’s wound and pushed, hard. Mickey jolted in his seat, reaching up and looking at McCall in wide-eyed hurt.
"Oww.." he started to say and looked at Robert’s eyes. McCall had set his hand on Mickey’s shoulder. Very softly, and almost in his ear, Robert said slowly…
"Mickey? Shut. Up."
Mickey’s chin tucked in as he looked at Robert’s no nonsense gaze. He heaved a sigh and relaxed, smirking in disgust and glanced back out at the drama unfolding before them.
"Reeve, remember three summers back when you found that tiger cat of yours? Out on the float? Half drowned? You rescued him, named him Toby?" Control said softly, his blue-eyed gaze fixed on her. Reva froze, staring at him in shock.
"You spent three days coaxing him back to health. Or how about landing the ‘Flying Dutchman’ Contract? Your Grandpa loved telling you his old sea stories and you’ve always been fascinated by that sea legend, you were beside yourself in joy when you got it…" he carefully pursed his lips, the room suddenly getting eerily silent.
"Or the time you hunted all over southern Maine trying to find a Japanese Full Moon Maple for the garden. Didn’t think I knew about those? How you blended in ornamental grasses at the back to coincide with the beach grasses? Or the Austin Roses you’ve been planting because you love the fragrance?"
"Better yet, how about the Caldecott Ceremony, when you received your award and Maurice Sendak sent you back that congratulation note? Which you’ve sealed behind that signed lithograph you have hanging in the dining room?" He raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her.
"I had to put distance between you and me, girl. But I certainly never abandoned you…" He glanced up at Robert to find both he and Kostmayer staring at him. He closed his eyes wearily and looked back down at an immobile Reva. "Would you like me to go on?"
Her hands moved, crisp, precise.
"You Son-of-a-bitch…" she stared at him. "All this time, you’ve known that? All… this… time?" she looked at him accusingly. "And never once bothered to say anything? You packed me up like a old trunk and stuffed me in a corner, to rot away and be forgotten?" She began to pace in agitation, hands moving…
"All this time you’ve been watching me? Like I’m going to do something? You were the one who dumped me off like some broken toy, never to be played with again and you’ve kept one of your pet spies around to watch me? For four years!? Never once bothering to come out and explain why?" She spun back around, glaring at him straight in the eyes. "Why?!" she signed, savagely. She drew closer, her face contorted with years of pent up emotions.
"Why?!" she demanded. "I haven’t seen you since… since…" She looked away from him, missing the well of hurt surfacing in his eyes. His face had gone grim, lips pulled downward as she unleashed her tirade. She began shaking, her signing showing her anger.
"You left me to bleed to death on that floor! You were never there afterwards. Hell, you weren’t even there when it was starting to go down. The last time I saw you, you were leaving the room. You were never around when they told me I’d never speak right again, you weren’t there when I had to go to all those classes, the rehabilitation. You weren’t there when I had to clean the wound and the dressings. You weren’t there when people started invading my home last month. You were never there!"
She looked back at him, hatred and hurt reflecting in her eyes as he closed his own, his head barely dipping down.
"You were never there. Only some proxy, but never you," she signed pointedly and angrily.
Tension and silence filled the room as Control opened his eyes and stared back down at her. He asked her a very simple question.
"Reva?" he murmured very softly, trying to pitch to her ears only. "Who do you think was holding your throat together and keeping you from bleeding to death that night?"
Both Robert and Mickey watched the two combatants closely as Robert tended to Mickey’s wound. Kostmayer had tipped his head sideways, allowing Robert easier access and totally ignored the pain involved as he watched Reva trying to carve Control up.
Robert kept a wary eye on both what he was doing and the situation unfolding before him. He could easily see that Reva was letting loose years of bottled up stress, but the response coming from Control held his attention.
For the briefest moment, Control seemed to deflate. Hurt and something far deeper under the surface lurked behind the man’s blue eyes. Reva’s anger was doing more to the man then simply met the eye. Robert glanced at Mickey, who was watching the entire proceeding in fascination and knew that Kostmayer could follow her signing.
Both strained to catch what Control murmured to the girl, hearing his voice but unable to make out the words. Whatever he said brought the girl to a standstill, frozen in place and completely speechless. Robert decided it was time to intervene…
He cleared his throat, looking at Control curiously.
"Control? Just who is after the girl and why?"
Control frowned at Robert, puzzled a moment by the question.
"We’ve been talking about it all night. You know it’s Masur, we just don’t have proof."
"We’ve been theorizing and conjecturing that it’s Masur. How do we get proof and what makes you think he’s behind it?" Robert reiterated.
Reva, already stunned, looked at Control accusingly.
"Jason Masur?!" she snapped. "You didn’t think it was important enough to tell me he’s back?"
"He’s back. Been back since October." Control replied brusquely, looking at Robert. "What are you thinking?"
"How do you know it’s Masur?" Robert bluntly asked, finishing with Kostmayer. He patted Mickey’s shoulder, who glanced up at him with thanks, reaching up to feel around the freshly cleaned wound.
Control heaved a sigh, looking at Robert a moment then down at Reva. His hands slipped back into his pants pockets as he began to rock back and forth on his heels.
"Senator Crowley has been thick with Masur for years. Several months ago, Masur finally got a message to him and Crowley went to my superiors to get Jason back into the States. At first they denied it, not only for his involvement with you…" He looked pointedly at Robert. "But also his suspected involvement in the situation with Reva."
He looked at her again, noting that she was watching his every move, at least until she caught sight of Mickey as he stood up. She immediately turned away from Control towards Mickey. Robert didn’t miss seeing the mask that slipped into place on Control’s face.
"His ties to Reva’s case sealed his banishment. Until Crowley managed to convince my superiors to let him come back under the stipulation that he never return to New York." Again he glanced at Reva.
"Which is when you started noticing people watching your house," Mickey said to her as she stepped up to him. She gazed at the wound on his head, her features reflecting strain and concern. He smiled gently, shrugging as he set his hands on her shoulders and looked directly at Control.
"We’ve known that Robbins is one of Jason’s buddies. It was no surprise to find that it was he who ended up in the morgue the other night when you were attacked out on Highway One. It was Robbins who was slipped into the security detail at the last minute, four years ago. And it was he who disappeared at a convenient time."
Reva started a little at his mention of the Highway, then sighed in resignation, reaching up to grip Mickey’s hand with her bandaged one and dropping her head wearily.
"We’ve managed to trace Robbins’ partner to the theft of the Global Positioning device found in your truck’s gas tank." Control continued watching as Reva’s energy fizzled out. "And now we have him squirreled away for questioning…"
"You what?" Robert asked.
"There were two men at Arlington," Control replied, looking pointedly at Mickey. "The one you eliminated and the one I caught. I gave him to Jacob to play with."
"So we have Robbins as the man slipped into the security at the function in which Reva was attacked. We have his partner who was behind the theft of the GP device. We have Masur’s return from Beirut, the break-in to Reva’s home and subsequent attack. All pointing at Masur." Robert summed up.
"That’s the gist of it…." Control echoed. "What are you thinking, old son?"
Robert frowned thoughtfully as he finished putting away the first aid supplies. He looked at Control, then glanced at Reva and Mickey.
"Masur wants something. He either wants what Reva has locked away in her head or he thinks she knows something to incriminate him. And I am inclined to believe the latter."
Control frowned. "What makes you think that?" he asked.
Robert’s eyebrows lifted in thought. "The nature of the attack. Why not just kidnap the girl? Robbins was obviously out to inflict damage…"
"Good point," Mickey murmured, looking down at her. "If he just wanted to use her, he’d see to it she wasn’t injured."
"So he thinks you know something," Robert said as she turned and looked at him. "If he wanted to use you, he’d have been trying to get a hold of you, even while he was in Beirut. However, now that he is trying to get his foothold back in the United States, he sees you as some sort of threat. The question now is, why?"
"He knows better then to come right out and mess with an agent designated yellow, so he uses others who don’t know." Control looked over at her then, frowning in thought. "Reeve?" he asked. "What do you remember about that night?"
All she did was shoot him a glare. Control sighed.
"If we’re going to get you out of this mess, we have to know everything," he said patiently. She smiled sourly, turning around in Mickey’s arms to face him.
"We?" She signed. "You tell me… since you seem to know everything about me already," she replied. "The only thing I recall very clearly was you leaving the room."
"Reva," Robert asked. "Do you recall anything about the people assigned to watch that night? Anything different?" She glanced at him, and shrugged.
"I didn’t recognize one of the security personnel. He had made sure I saw them at least once before we actually went in to the party." She nodded at Control. "This guy I never saw. I just recognized the other two fellas with him."
"That was Robbins," Control confirmed. "John Jernigan was supposed to be the one there, somehow he wrecked his motorcycle the night before the party and was incapacitated."
"Convenient," Mickey drawled.
"A little too convenient," Control replied, stroking his upper lip thoughtfully, brow furrowed in concentration. One could almost see the gears spinning around in his head.
"What occurred with Robbins?" Robert asked, looking pointedly at Control. The Company head looked up at Robert.
"He was supposed to be keeping an eye on her whereabouts. When she went into the ladies room, he removed himself from his area. When she came back out, she began looking around for me. I had, however, gotten wind that something was going down. I couldn’t locate Robbins and by the time I got a message through to the other operatives, Bin Ismail’s people were culling her from the crowd…" he looked back at Reva, continuing to speak to Robert. "When I made my move to reach her it was far too late."
Under his hands, Mickey could feel Reva tensing up. He glanced at her as she turned her eyes away from Control and saw the look of confusion on her face.
"Yet there’s no connection between Robbins and Ismail’s people?" Robert asked sharply. Control shook his head.
"None. We’ve exhausted that route. Robbins was small time and known to be a buddy of Jason’s, and Jason had made it very clear to all comers how much he despised Reva. He arranged something between himself and Robbins to discredit her somehow. Instead she was attacked. Which reflected badly on him as it sealed his orders to Beirut."
"Does he know this?" Robert asked. Control shook his head, frowning.
"No way he could. We got him out as fast as possible. Are you thinking that he suspects she might know something which she could use to prevent him from whatever goals he might be after?"
"That, or he simply wants her removed. If he could get his hands on her, he surely would use what she might know against you, but it still seems as though he just wants her out of the way."
"Or temporarily out of the way until he’s in a position to use her."
"Why not just go after her for getting him sent to Beirut?" Mickey asked. Both men looked at him.
"There’s that, also." Robert replied, nodding thoughtfully. "Masur will know enough tricks to make sure his hands are one hundred percent clean. Especially in regards to a Yellow Code designation." He looked back at Control, his voice holding just a trace of sarcasm.
"So," he continued. "What we need to do is flush him out. Make him actually do something. And to do that we need to do one thing for certain."
"Which is?" Control asked.
"Remove the code designation on Reva." Robert simply replied.
The entire room went silent as three pairs of eyes looked at him.
"No way," A pair of voices chorused simultaneously. Control and Kostmayer glared at each other.
"Too dangerous," Mickey quickly recovered. Control, head tilted downwards, brows lowered, glowered at him and then looked at Robert.
"Now who’s out of their mind?" he demanded. Robert smiled like a Cheshire cat.
"We both know you can never retire from the Company," Robert said icily. "Reactivating her status will drop the Code and force Jason to make some sort of move. He knows there’s a death sentence attached to any involvements around her as it sits now. Remove that hurdle and he will do something to correct that situation. Only we will be there to make sure he gets caught this time."
"Absolutely not," Control replied
"Too risky, McCall," Mickey was shaking his head no, his hands reflexively gripping Reva’s shoulders.
Robert smiled tolerantly and looked at Reva.
"I wouldn’t suggest it as a course of action under normal circumstances, due to the risk factor involved, however, this is a Company operative we’re dealing with, on both ends. The decision ultimately is up to you."
"And if I object?" Control protested, looking back at Robert. "I do have a considerable amount of say in all this, you know."
"Not any more," Reva’s harsh whisper responded.
"Reeve…" Mickey started. She held up a hand, cutting him off.
Control shot an angry glare at her. "Think again, young lady."
"What are you thinking?" she asked Robert directly, pointedly ignoring Control.
"Reva," Control snapped.
She fairly exploded under Mickey’s hands.
"I didn’t ask you!" she signed rapidly, her voice nearly gone, eyes glaring back at him. "I didn’t ask you to get me into this mess, and I am certainly not asking you to get me out of it! You made your position with me very clear four years ago. I am asking for his help, not yours!" She pointed directly at Robert.
"I will not see your life sacrificed to the likes of Jason Masur…." Control started to growl.
"My life was sacrificed already when I agreed to your machinations! You were the one to talk me into this whole thing in the first place and you had a convenient threat to carry it all through. If going back into this business will help rid me of someone who seems bound and determined to do me harm, then I will go back into it, whether you like it or not!" She scowled at him, eyes challenging.
Control closed his eyes a moment, his mouth set in disapproval.
"I will not go back into that kind of isolation knowing that someone out there is set to either hurt me or use what I know in here," she seethed, pointing at her skull. "It’s bad enough being alone, but I will not be left alone with that kind of fear." She looked at Robert. "What do you have in mind and what do you want me to do?"
"Reeve, think twice…" Mickey started. As she twisted around to look at him, he was struck by the look of hopelessness in her eyes.
"I have to, Mickey," she whispered to his ears alone.
"Listen to him, for crying out loud!" Control snapped. Reva just shot him a withering glance and turned back towards Robert.
"What do you want me to do?"
"You do realize, don’t you, that you can’t get back into this business without my approval." Control snapped at her.
"Getting your approval is no obstacle," Reva retorted, very deliberately miming the actions of writing a signature. Control glared at her.
"Are you trying to blackmail me?" he hissed, straightening to an intimidating pose.
Reva only smiled at him in return.
"Now who’s caught between a rock and a hard place?" Mickey murmured, trying not to smirk. He looked down at Reva. "But think about this, Reva… There’s no telling what living four years in a war-zone has done to Masur’s head," Mickey paused, looking thoughtful for a moment. "Then again, there isn’t that much up there to work with."
"There is no question being over there for so long under those conditions will have affected him," Robert said. "Jason’s always been one to let his ambitions get ahead of him, despite the consequences." He looked at Control. "We need her credentials restored and a weapon issued. Then we need the man you gave to Jacob to play with sent to deliver a message to Jason that Reva is returning to full time duty, tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Control snapped at him. Robert just smiled at him.
"I’m sure you’ll have no trouble getting that arranged." He looked at Mickey. "Kostmayer, you need to get into the Company complex unnoticed, assuming you’ve been in the DC headquarters?"
"Often," Mickey drawled. Robert nodded his approval.
"Just what are you planning?" Control growled unhappily.
"Cover," Robert said. "You and I can’t be seen on the agency grounds. What we will do is have Stock bring us into the parking garage. From there, Kostmayer will meet her at the elevators and see to it she gets to where she can pick up her identification. At that point, he’ll fade back, keeping an eye on things while she delivers a packet to Jason." He looked at Reva. "Two things will occur at that point under which you must keep a level head," he said to her.
"Masur will make a fuss for certain. Then he’ll either call your bluff and arrange to meet you somewhere else, or he’ll make some sort of move before you leave the building. With his ego, I’m counting on it being before you leave the building."
"And we will be?" Control demanded. Robert smiled tolerantly at him.
"Waiting. Once Reva delivers her package to him, she’ll go straight to the elevator and down to collect her gun. Kostmayer, you’ll get back on the elevator shortly after she does and meet us in the garage. By then you should have enough of your people in place to have the garage covered in case anything should happen."
"And her?" Control snapped.
"Reva will come straight back to the garage. At least that way she will be armed. By then Jason will have made some sort of move, or arrange to meet somewhere else. If such is the case we’ll prepare plans for that when the time comes." Robert looked at Reva again.
"Are we clear on what we’re to do?" he asked. She nodded. Robert raised a stern warning finger. "Under no, absolutely no, circumstances are you to deviate from that course of action. Am I clear?"
She nodded again. Robert maintained his steady, steely gaze.
"You made the mistake once of acting on your own, you cannot do that again now. Your life depends on doing exactly as I say. Understood?"
Wearily Reva closed her eyes, her shoulders dropping as she reached up to rub at her tired eyes. She nodded her head. "Understood," she whispered in her damaged voice.
Control heaved a reluctant sigh. "What package, Robert?" he asked. Robert looked at him.
"Package? Oh yes…" he looked at Reva. "We’ll need you to draw some pictures from the night of the party. Pictures that depict actual scenes you remember. Only you will add Jason to them. You will tell him that they, and other documents, all duplicates, will clearly show his violations of interfering in an assignment other than his own. Which is a clear violation of Company rules. You will tell him that you have requested active status to protect yourself and will have an audience with Control’s superiors to voice your concerns about his breaking of the rules."
"Which will force him into some sort of move…" Mickey purred.
"That’s the intent," Robert said. "Control? What we need are specific blank Company documents that she can use her skills on. I’m sure you’ll know which ones to get. Kostmayer, you’ll need to find your own way into the building." Robert looked at Reva. "And you and I need to have a little talk."
She frowned in confusion, looking at him.
"Control, would you mind picking us up a few supplies?" Robert asked moving towards the door, holding his hand out before him indicating that the other man should lead the way. Control scowled his annoyance, but his heeding of Robert’s request to leave was his seal that Robert’s plan was being approved.
In the hallway, Robert shut the door after him and gazed steadily at the other man.
"This had better work, Robert!" Control growled at him.
"Oh I have no doubt it will work. I just want to make damn good and sure that when this whole mess is finished, you tell me exactly what your connection to that girl is!" Robert tartly replied.
"Done," Control snapped, turning on his heel. He began striding down the hallway as Robert turned back towards the door.
In the room, Mickey was looking at Reva, his features devoid of expression, but nothing could hide the look of concern in his eyes.
"Reeve…" he started. She shrugged his hands off her shoulders, reaching up to grip her own forearms.
"Mickey, please…" she whispered, shaking her head.
"There’s no telling what Masur will try and do to you…"
"That’s why this needs to be stopped now," she replied. "And if it means taking a part in it…" she trailed off, looking at him sadly. The door to the room opened, causing both to turn and look at Robert.
"Mickey? A word with you…" Robert asked, remaining in the hall.
Mickey looked back at her and smiled a rueful smirk. His eyes lingered briefly over her face before he reached up and touched her cheek.
"I’m being dismissed…" he murmured. "Which means you won’t see me until tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you inside the building, just keep a sharp eye out." He looked earnestly at her.
She was gazing back at him, her eyes drifting along the angry looking graze across his temple. She looked sad and lonely.
"Reeve," he added quietly. "Trust Robert and remember…" He met her eyes, smiling encouragement at her. "Don’t forget what I told you last night at dinner." He leaned forward, brushing his lips lightly across hers, then he turned and left the room.
Back in the hallway, Robert pulled the door nearly shut and looked at Mickey thoughtfully.
"Kostmayer…" he said slowly. "Heed my advice, my friend. Don’t cross Control on this matter. He is your superior and this entire situation has made him very angry."
"There’s something deeper to it isn’t there?" Mickey asked. Robert blinked once, raising an eyebrow in surprise at Mickey’s astuteness. Mickey shrugged, slipping his hands inside his jacket pockets. "The room reeked of tension in there," he added.
"When isn’t something Control is involved in a lot deeper than what it actually appears to be?" Robert asked and snorted softly at Mickey’s assumption. "Just make sure you get into that building unnoticed and keep an eye out for her."
"Got no problem there," Mickey said as he started to pull his stocking hat out of his pocket. He reached up and felt the graze on his head, then shot Robert a rueful smirk and shrugged.
"Mickey…" Robert added as the other man began to leave. Kostmayer looked back over his shoulder. Robert drew in breath. "Think twice about getting involved with her, Mick. I know she’s young, pretty and in a hell of a mess, but it’s not worth the heartache this kind of business can bring."
With barely a lift to his chin, Mickey nodded and left. Robert sighed, then pulled the hotel room door open and went in to face the last hurdle.
Reva had wandered over to the sliding glass doors leading to a balcony and gazed out at the vista before her. Washington D.C. was getting another dose of winter weather as the freezing fog had finally turned to snow. She glanced up at him, still clutching at her arms as he shut the door and entered the room.
"Would you like me to order anything for you, dear? I know I would very much like some tea."
Reva just shook her head no, letting out a sigh of her own. Robert held a hand out towards the couch.
"Come have a seat, Reva," he said gently. She glanced at him, lifting one eyebrow eloquently, the smallest of smirks crossing her lips, before she slowly turned from the window and sat down.
He joined her, hiking the legs of his trousers up before sitting, then leaning forward to clasp his hands between his knees. He gazed thoughtfully at the coffee table.
"I want you to rest assured that every attention to detail of your safety will be considered before you go in there, tomorrow." He looked her way to see her watching him gravely as she nodded her head.
"Are you familiar with the layout of the building?" he asked. Again she nodded.
"All you need to do is go to the reception desk to pick up your credentials. Then you’ll locate Masur and deliver your message. Once that is done you’ll go to the Range, pick up whatever weapon you are comfortable with then you’ll get on the elevator and return to the parking garage. Between Kostmayer and Control, they’ll have enough security in place that when and if Masur attempts anything, they’ll be on top of it."
For the third time she nodded, then relaxed back, sinking into the couch, resting her hands in her lap. She gazed at him, expectantly. Robert smiled slightly, seeing she was obviously waiting on him.
"Forgive me, Reva. I find I hate dealing with Company screw-ups. Incompetence makes a grouchy old man out of me."
Reva smiled softly in return. Robert studied her weary face a moment, taking in the stitches, the bruises and the dark circles under her eyes.
"You really are going to create quite a sight when you walk in there tomorrow," he murmured.
"I’ll do exactly as you say," she whispered. "I’ll even make sure Jason thinks I am the only one there."
Robert smiled then, nodding his head in approval.
"It’s vital that you do. There is something else I’d like to discuss with you, along more personal lines, if you don’t mind. We’ve a bit of time to wait for those supplies to get here for you to work with." Robert replied, twisting to face her better. She just watched him carefully. He regarded her momentarily, then continued.
"Mickey is not only a colleague of mine, more importantly, he’s also a very good friend. I’ve known him for quite some time, now. I’ve seen him when he hasn’t exactly been at his best. He has never had anything close to a normal life, except, perhaps, for the past few years."
Reva regarded him for a few seconds and then said, "Mickey’s told me about his time in Leavenworth and why he was there."
"Did he?" Robert asked. "It’s never an easy thing for him to reveal," he murmured. "He’s told you about his brother?"
"Father Kostmayer?" Reva asked, raising an eyebrow. "Still working the old Polish section of Brooklyn. He comes from an Old World family, one son for God, one son for Country."
"If what you call working for the Company is working for the Country…" Robert replied dryly.
"But what you want to ask isn’t about what Mickey has told me," Reva whispered, regarding Robert frankly.
The older man looked at her a moment, then snorted softly as he smiled. "No, you’re quite right. What I would like to ask is personal."
"Just what are your regards towards him, Reva?"
She didn’t answer right away, she just sat back against the couch, still clutching her arms, the fingers of her right hand lightly stroking the fabric of her sweater. Her thoughts turned inward as she pondered the man’s question.
"I ask out of concern, Reva." Robert said gently. "I know it seems to be prying, but Mickey is a friend and I would like to consider you among my friends also."
She looked back at him, her lips set thoughtfully. "I like him…" she whispered. "We barely had time to get to know one another last summer, but I liked what I saw. I mean, he’s funny, he likes doing stuff… he’s very sweet really, considerate, you know?"
Robert smiled a little sadly as he nodded his head.
"Yes, I know," he studied her carefully, "Reva, what I am about to say is never easy. You may think I am being harsh and getting myself into your personal business. However, what I have to tell you is something I have lived. As well as many other people like Mickey and myself. It’s also something Mickey hasn’t ever dealt with before, either." Reva didn’t respond, she just watched him. Robert continued.
"Let me give you some words of advice to consider, my dear. I would hate to see you hurt further more than you have been already by this abominable business we deal with. Think very carefully Reva, about how you care for Mickey. Being personally involved with someone who does undercover espionage work is always a torture in never knowing what the other is doing. I speak from the heart, Reva. I have been involved with a few ladies in my lifetime and the relationships have never lasted. They never do. We’re not allowed to make commitments. What is worse is the particular part of Mickey’s work that he is involved in. His work is extremely dangerous and he operates around extremely violent forces. Mickey actually enjoys it, which can make this situation even worse. There comes a time when the possibility of the one you are in love with never coming home again and you never know the reason why."
Something about the look in Robert’s eyes stopped what threatened to spill out of Reva in irritation at his getting into her personal life. What he was saying was coming from his heart, something that had happened to him, something that he genuinely wanted to see her avoid. Reva could not refute the concern coming from the older man. That went further to dampen her irritation than anything else.
"Think twice about your involvement with him. You two are at an early enough stage that you can prevent yourself a lot of heartache later on. I could never forgive myself, Reva, if I didn’t say something to you about this before hand. It’s an ugly business we’re in, as I am sure you are more than well aware. It’s even worse when your heart is involved."
Reva couldn’t refute his words or his sincerity. She said nothing, just gazed steadfastly at him as he spoke. Robert’s words refused to leave her, even as she lay in the hotel room bed that night and thought long into the twilight hours about the situation she now found herself in.