The following morning, Jacob Stock met them, driving a Ford Taurus with darkened windows. Control sat in the front passenger seat, minutely studying the contents of Reva’s papers while she sat in the back seat next to Robert, bristling.
Over the course of the previous evening, under Robert’s instructions, she had forged several key pieces of paperwork incriminating Jason Masur. Then she had painstakingly drawn three different scenes from the ill-fated party she had attended four years previously.
Control was carefully scanning those drawings, his own quirky memory recognizing several of the figures involved. Neatly drawn into the scenes was Masur himself.
"Our pigeon should’ve dropped his message off to Jason by now." Jacob was murmuring as he drove through the sluggish traffic. The snow had never let up, creating a driving nightmare in the Nation’s Capitol.
Control snorted softly. "The secretaries are already complaining that he’s been pacing the hallways this morning."
"He has had to adhere to a number of conditions he has to follow since he’s returned," Jacob said. "He’s been extra careful not to leave DC, since he’s been back."
"Excellent. This will play into his paranoia very well," Robert said. Reva glanced at him a moment, then continued staring out the window, watching it snow.
Before too long, Jacob was driving the car down into the lower level of the Company parking garage.
"West side elevators," Control murmured to Stock as he slipped the papers back into their envelope. Robert frowned as he looked at Control.
"I talked to Kostmayer briefly this morning. He’s inside." Control replied, answering Robert’s unspoken question. He twisted around in his seat and looked at Reva, as Jacob found a place to park near a huge concrete support to the building. Directly across from them was a bank of four elevators.
"Kostmayer will meet you in the left side elevator," Control said, handing her the folder. "You’re to go up, get your identification, go back into the same elevator, drop this off with Masur, then back to the same elevator to go down to get your gun. When you finish that, you’re to come back to this car. Robert has to stay out of sight, but he’ll be waiting here for you. Under no circumstances are you to deviate from that routine."
Reva only raised an eyebrow at him and smirked, taking the folder from him. Control studied her briefly.
"Do you understand?" he asked.
"Yes Dear…" she whispered sarcastically. Robert caught a flash of anger mingled with hurt seconds before a cold, stoic mask dropped over Control’s face.
"Don’t change the plans…" Control started to growl as Robert reached up and gently gripped Reva’s shoulder. She looked at him and saw a stern warning in his hazel eyes. She sighed.
"Go on…" Robert said gently. Reva smirked again and let herself out of the car.
"Stock, go and finalize your set-up…" Control said, as both Robert and Stock got out. Stock nodded and strode away from the car as the other man swapped places with him. He settled in the seat and looked at Control.
"This had better work," Control growled as he watched Reva cross the expanse of the parking garage.
"That depends on her…" Robert replied dryly, "And on what she remembers from what you taught her."
"She’ll not have forgotten that," Control replied bitterly. "She doesn’t forget a thing."
"Considering what she’s been through? She’s had four years to think about it." Robert shot back. Control didn’t respond; he just watched as Reva reached the elevator, punched the button, and waited.
As the door whooshed open, Reva shivered against the cold of the garage and wrapped her coat around her more snugly. She stepped inside, turned left and poked the button that lead to the lobby floor. She turned back and looked at the Ford Taurus, sealing it away into her memory. The door slid shut and for a moment the elevator didn’t move. She frowned, looked warily at the door then reached over and poked the button again. Still it didn’t move. About to reach for it again, a suspicious sounding thud jerked her head up. Reva stared at the ceiling.
The sound of someone knocking on a front door thumped from the corner of the elevator ceiling furthest from the panel over her head. Reva’s heart nearly landed in her throat as she backed up towards the wall. The panel abruptly lifted, revealing the unnatural brightness of a car light before being blocked by a pair of scruffy work boots. A pair of dark blue, coverall clad legs followed, before Mickey dropped into the car. She nearly sagged into the wall behind her in relief as he looked at her with a sly smirk.
"Thought I’d drop in…" he remarked as she looked at him. Several well-applied grease marks streaked both the coveralls and his face. He had worked his stocking cap on past his scalp wound, hiding the angry red welt. Reva sighed, smiling back at him. Mickey grinned.
"Got a few things to do before you go back to work," he said as he stepped up to her, working off a pair of gloves. He gently pulled her forward, wrapping his arms around her. Reva sagged into him, closing her eyes as she hugged him close.
"Scared?" He asked, whispering into her ear as he stroked her hair.
"Terrified," She whispered, nodding her head.
"Good," he replied, then he pulled back and looked at her. His lip quirked a little. Despite the situation surrounding them, Reva almost laughed.
"Mickey…" she whispered, waggling a finger at him and looking up.
"I disabled all the cameras," he murmured, drawing her up. She looked a little bit surprised as he bent and kissed her. She let herself get lost for a moment in his embrace, before she began to laugh softly. Mickey drew back, stroking her hair gently away from the stitches on her forehead. He smiled at her as he pulled out a screwdriver from one of several pockets.
"Sleep all right?" he asked, reluctantly letting her go and turning to the control panel.
"No," she whispered. "How are you doing?" she asked, motioning at the side of her head and looking at him in concern.
Mickey glanced at her as he began systematically tearing apart the control box. "The graze? Nothing to it. It’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened." He smiled slightly at her look of consternation.
"You look worn out," he said, pulling out wires. He absently reached into his back left pocket and pulled out a tiny, extremely flat, cassette recorder. As he studied the wires before him, he handed the device to Reva as his hand dove into another pocket. He pulled out a roll of white gauze, handing that to her also, as his other hand pulled out a set of wire cutters.
"I’m sick of all this," she whispered, taking the recorder and gauze from him.
"When this is over with…" Mickey hinted. Reva just smiled sadly, studying the cassette case.
"Robert forgot to add wiring you up, last night. Control reminded me this morning," he said as he glanced at her. She shook her head, smirking as he turned back to the spider’s web of wires hanging from the control panel. Mickey began quickly and systematically cutting wires. He looked back at her as she raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I got the most sensitive one available, just wrap it in gauze on your leg. With you already looking like a car accident victim, when they go to search you for a weapon, you’ll just have another owie to show off," he smirked. "Besides, the guy searching you has already been told to let you through."
"And who told him that?" she asked.
Mickey only smiled as he hauled out two sets of hemostats and a handful of wire nuts. Holding several implements at once, he appeared for a few seconds like he was braiding wire together.
"Who else?" he asked as he began cross connecting wires.
Reva shook her head and knelt down to attach the recorder to her leg, pulling up the leg of her jeans. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Disabling all the buttons but four. Only Reception, the Garage, the 12th floor and the Range will work. That’s why you’ll need to stick to this elevator, plus it’s my excuse for being where I need to be." He began screwing wire nuts into place as he repositioned the hemostats.
"See, someone’s going to come along and punch one of these other buttons…" he reached around and poked a button at random on the panel. A small explosion of sparks blew up from the unit, showering all over Mickey and causing Reva to sit back with a thump as she gasped in fright. Mickey never moved as the smell of burnt metal, singed hair and smoke began to rise from the mass of wires.
"And it will do that…" he grinned at her. Reva sagged her shoulders, closing her eyes and dropping her chin to her chest.
"Warn me next time…" she whispered, pausing to run a shaky hand through her hair.
"Don’t poke the other buttons," he said, then tipped his head as he looked at her. She was trying to reach for the gauze, which had rolled away, to finish wrapping the recorder around her leg. He paused a moment in his manipulations. He knelt down in front of her.
"Sorry…" he murmured as he took the gauze from her fingers. He quickly wrappedher leg, tore a section of the gauze in two neat strips and tied it off. She looked at him and sighed.
"I’m tired," she whispered.
He smiled at her, tugging her pant leg back down over the makeshift bandage. Slipping his hand along her cheek he lightly stroked the soft skin under his thumb.
"It’ll be over before you know it," he murmured. "It’s a simple in and out. Just don’t deviate from the plan and we’ll be out of here before you know it." He looked earnestly into her eyes. "Nick might be a little surprised to see us, but he’ll mellow out."
"I hope you’re right," she whispered, reaching up to touch his hand.
"Just trust me…" he murmured back, gently kissing her cheek. He smiled and asked. "Still got our Beanie Buddy or whatever you call those things?"
Reva blinked a little at his question, then slipped a hand in her coat pocket and pulled the otter Beanie out.
"I see Okee is still with us," he grinned.
"The Otter?" Reva suddenly asked, looking at him in surprise. "You didn’t…" she started.
"I read the book as a child… why am I not surprised that you’d know that one?" Mickey answered for her. Reva looked at the otter for a second then reached up and poked it down one of his pockets.
"No, wait…" Mickey protested.
"You hang onto him until this is over with," she said. "Please…"
"Reva," he started.
"Please," she said as she searched his eyes.
Mickey looked perplexed at her for a moment and then nodded. He scrambled to his feet and helped her up.
"Let me get this finished and get this show on the road," he said. "This is voice activated so anything anyone says to you for the next half an hour or so, is going to get recorded on that tape. Control and myself will be listening in." Mickey reached into another pocket and pulled out a device that looked exactly like a hearing aid. Another hand reached in and pulled out what looked like a pager. He pointed it down at her leg, poking a button on it as he slipped the aide into his ear. He winced as he scraped the edge of his wound.
"You’re now going live," he said. He winked at her as he signaled her to sign. Reva just snorted softly and shook her head.
"Let’s see, we’ll connect the blue wire, with the grey wire, with the yellow wire," Another fountain of sparks erupted from the panel. "Whoo hooo! Caught a hot one there…" He snatched his hand back quickly, waggled his fingers a second before he stuffed two of them in his mouth, then he winked at Reva.
Minutes later, and holding the door closed button on the reassembled panel, Mickey looked gravely at Reva.
"Show’s about to start. Keep calm and keep your head," he murmured to her.
Reva, licking gently at suddenly dry lips, nodded her head, then flipped her hair over one shoulder to hang down to the middle of her back. She glanced at Mickey as he let go of the button. Drawing in a steadying breath, Reva stepped off the elevator.
Head up, she looked quickly around the large hall, spotting the bank of security devices that preceded the actual reception area. Several people, heavily bundled against the cold, milled around the lobby either looking at the falling snow or bustling about somewhere on business. Several people could be heard muttering about the lousy weather.
Ignoring them all, Reva squared her shoulders, her hands slipping into her pockets and headed straight for the only person on duty who was manning one of the airport style metal detectors.
Mickey, in the elevator, acted like he was pulling the panel apart again when he suddenly did a double take as Reva walked away. He’d have sworn she mimicked one of Control’s own quirks as she straightened her shoulders, slipped her hands into her coat and stalked towards the metal detectors. He had to refrain from smirking outright.
At the detector, the man on duty took one look at her and paused. Reva looked him in the eye and could see that he recognized her instantly. She smiled wanly, setting her wallet on the conveyor then she stepped up to the device and walked through it. It immediately beeped.
"Must be a belt buckle or something like that," the man said with a smile as she stepped to one side. He rose with the detecting wand as she held out her arms for him to begin scanning.
"Button fly jeans," she said in her raspy voice, watching as he surreptitiously thumbed his device off and continued scanning her.
"Sets these thing off all the time," he said trying not to look at the stitches on her forehead. Kostmayer warned him that she looked like something the cat dragged in. He finally cleared her and she retrieved her wallet. Reva whispered a thank you to him and headed for the reception desk.
One of the women behind the bank style counter looked at her and tried not to stare.
"I’m here to pick up my ID?" Reva asked, trying to get her gravelly voice to cooperate.
"And you are?"
"Revekkah Cheney," Reva replied and flipped her wallet open to her driver’s license. Behind the counter she couldn’t help but see two other ladies look her way, then begin whispering. She ignored them, but caught the name of Masur being bantered about. The woman she had approached took her wallet and turned to begin locating her identification. Reva slipped her hand into her pocket and extracted the half curled manila envelope holding the documents for Jason.
Several minutes passed and the woman returned, holding several cards, a clip-on pass and her wallet. She was frowning and looking at Reva in puzzlement.
"Top level security clearances…" she murmured. Reva smiled coldly, holding out her hand. The woman slid her items to her, watching Reva closely. Reva clipped the ID tag on her coat lapel then began slipping her new identification cards into her wallet.
"I understand Jason Masur is in the building?" Reva asked.
The woman started, then nodded. "Yes he is, 12th floor. Would you like me to have him notified?"
"No…" Reva whispered as she slipped her wallet away, she smiled at the woman, straightened out the large envelope and turned away.
Seconds later, she reentered the elevator that was being worked on and sighed with relief when the door shut. Mickey looked her over.
"Perfect," he murmured encouragingly as he poked the button for the twelfth floor. He glanced at the ID badge hanging off her coat, saw the thin orange border around it and let out a low whistle.
"Damn, same clearances as me…"
She smiled at him and shook her head. Just before reaching theirfloor, Mickey looked at her carefully. The corners of her mouth were nearly white with fright. He reached over and held the door closed button in.
"You’re doing fine, Reeve," he murmured. "This will be the tough one, just don’t let Jason get under your skin. Deliver your papers to him and get back here. I’ll be leaving the door open on this level, too, I’ll be watching you every step of the way… Stock tells me his office is in view of the elevators."
Reva nodded, drawing in a careful breath. She smiled wanly at him and lifted the papers.
"Let’s go see what happens…" she whispered.
Mickey nodded and released the button to the door. To their surprise the doors opened, allowing a cold blast of air to whoosh into the car. The two blinked at the cables, piping, metal works and wall of the building as the car stopped mid way between the 12th floor and the floor below. Mickey stood in shock, his nose level with the tiles of the 12th floor.
"Oh shit…" he murmured looking at the control panel in surprise. Reva looked at him in alarm. He instantly grinned and said loudly, "Not to worry Ma’am!" He grabbed the ledge to the floor and hoisted himself up and out of the elevator. "I’ll have this elevator fixed in no time flat! Just give me your hand and I’ll pull you on out." He instantly dropped to his knees and offered her a hand. Reva took it, looking at him in concern and let him haul her up onto the 12th floor.
She turned and looked at the pulleys, cables, and various mechanisms that hauled the elevators up and down. Bitter cold air flooded onto the twelfth floor as the sounds of the other elevators could be heard whirring and engaging in their tracks.Mickey peered around the edges of the disabled car, looking at the huge cavernous hole disappearing into blackness both up and down the four different shafts. His feeble car light did nothing to penetrate the gloom.
"Damn, it wasn’t supposed to do that…" he said as Reva straightened out her coat. He looked at her and winked as he withdrew a screwdriver from a pocket. "Sorry for the inconvenience, Ma’am." He said genially. "I’ll have this car back up and running by the time you get your business done." With that, he turned towards the up/down control panel for calling the elevator car to that particular floor and began to tear it apart. Reva took her cue and started walking away.
Again, she lifted her head, squared her shoulders and walked confidently down the hall. Mickey turned towards the disabled elevator and jerked the panel loose. Bent over the bewildering array of wires, he glanced cautiously in her direction and shook his head slightly at the vague resemblance to Control.
"Must’ve picked that up out of osmosis," he muttered as he withdrew his wire cutters from a pocket. Another quick glance revealed a few offices within sight of the elevators. Hearing footsteps, he dropped his head and set about looking busy as Reva made her way down the hall…
Her throat had gone completely dry as she looked into a few doors, but something irrevocable drew her to an open doorway farthest down the hall. She spotted the name Masur blazoned across it; however, as she approached the open door, nobody was inside. Reva stopped, looking carefully around the room, fingering the manila folder. She turned, looking down the hallway, seeing a few people mingling here and there. She didn’t see Masur. Backing up she looked down the other way.
"Shit…" She softly hissed, looking carefully around as she tried to squelch a suddenly twisted knot in her stomach. She began walking back towards the bank of elevators, seeing a few people peering at the disabled car and Mickey as he tinkered with the panel.
Ignoring them, she walked past the elevators, past a group of people milling about what appeared to be a break room and headed towards another series of offices. The door to one of them abruptly jerked open and Masur stepped out behind her.
"Well, well, well…" Jason almost purred. "Just look what the storm blew in…"
Reva turned in the hallway and stopped.
He had hardly changed, except maybe a hardness around his dark brown eyes. Dressed in slacks, white shirt, tie and heavy sweater, he stood looking down at her. His hair was close cropped and curly and he still had the arrogance about his features which seemed to be permanently a part of his bearing. He had placed his hands on his hips and smirked at her.
He let out a mocking half laugh as he looked her carefully over.
"Scuttlebutt has it you came back on board…" he said snidely. "Thought you might come back into the ring and try another few rounds? You screwed up so bad last time, what makes you think you can succeed this time? You can’t even talk! This is no game for amateurs to play in."
From behind him a man emerged from the office and walked casually away down the hall. Masur smiled at Reva as she stood and looked up at him. Her eyes narrowed as she scrutinized his face.
"Some things never change…" she whispered, seeing the group of people behind him, stop and look, their voices suddenly growing hushed. She held out the envelope to him.
"You might want to look at these, Jason," she said. "They’re part of the reason why I agreed to come back."
Masur snorted derision, refusing to take the envelope. "What are these? More of your forgeries?" he turned and looked at the group behind him. "She’s an artist…" he said loudly, making quote marks with his fingers. "A two bit hustler who used to forge autographs to pay her way through art school…" He looked back at her mockingly. "I’m not falling for any of Control’s tricks either," he smiled an oily smile.
"I don’t need Control to get reinstated. I came back on my own, to talk to the upper level management." She whispered, still holding the envelope out. "I found evidence implicating you of violations to your returning to the U.S., not to mention violations of a Yellow Code. I fully intend on giving them the evidence and letting them decided what to do with you."
"You’re bluffing," Jason laughed. "Anybody in this complex will tell you I’ve stayed one hundred percent away from New York and I’ve kept every condition imposed on me since I came home. Conditions I might add, which aren’t necessary, as I never violated anyone’s standing in the Company hierarchy to begin with! Between Control and his Kangaroo court, McCall and you, you’ve all seen to it that I got dumped in a hell hole for the last four years!"
"Believe what you want… I’m asking them for Arbitration to settle this mess once and for all," Reva replied, pulling the envelope back. "I’m only delivering these because I do believe you need fair representation before they hang you out to dry. Rest assured, the Committee will be getting a set of these as well. I needn’t tell you where I have the originals."
Jason snatched it from her hand, his mocking laugh echoing down the hall. "Oh they primed you really good, Cheney! That’s an academy award performance," he leaned in towards her, forcing her to back up. "But if there is one thing I am not, it’s a fool. I know only too well you were Control’s little pet," he made a hard emphasis on ‘pet’ as he forced her towards the wall, his hands tearing the top of the envelope off.
"I’ve had evidence stashed away for years about him letting a civilian be a Staff Driver for him while he played his little ‘games’ with you," he said snidely, "I’ve been collecting evidence like that against him for a long time!" He jerked the drawings and paperwork out, glancing at them as she stopped up against the wall. He barked out a laugh.
"Oh these are priceless! Drawings of me supposedly being somewhere I wasn’t? Any artist could have done these! And what’s this?" he looked over the paperwork and paused.
Reva smiled coldly. "Not only can we place you at the party, we also have the evidence needed to prove you’ve been stealing from the Company and issuing orders for actions that are a little bit too suspicious to ignore," she whispered harshly.
Masur shot her an ugly look, crumpling the papers in his hands.
"Forgeries," he said flatly. "Control has always been out to eliminate his competition and everyone in this complex knows he’s gotten so outdated that only the younger, more sophisticated personnel can out-dohim. He knows I’m his only threat and will sink to all time lows to see to it I’m discredited." He leaned in closer to Reva, slapping his hand with the paperwork on the wall beside her head, causing her to jerk involuntarily away. He smiled sadistically.
"And everyone in this complex will know…" he said loudly for the group behind them to hear. "How you slept your way into your so-called position. Personally, I’d like to know which position suited the old man best? Flat on his back? With you riding on top? He wouldn’t have the stamina to be the dominant partner. How much did it cost him? I can just bet you asked him for the moon for your services…" He leered into her face. "Bet I wouldn’t have to pay you at all, for services rendered. What do you say huh? I bet I could do things to you that would make you scream…" Jason sniggered. "Then again you can’t scream so I could just do things to you that would make you beg me for more." His other hand reached up to touch her throat…
Reva’s reaction was fast. He was already leaning towards her. Swift and hard she kneed him in the groin, shoving him to the right. Masur’s mouth opened in an ‘oh’ of shock as she dodged past his arm. He began to sink to his knees as she bolted down the hallway.
"Stop her!" Jason managed to croak out as he sank to the floor, slapping a hand against the wall as paper fell in a clutter around him. One hand slipped to his crotch as he let out an unearthly moan.
In the crowd of shocked onlookers, the man who had left the office behind Masur suddenly made a lunge for Reva. She saw the movement and dodged in her flight, running past the elevators. Two other men suddenly appeared from nowhere further down the hall. Seeing the commotion, and Reva running, they immediately began rushing towards her.
Reva skid to a stop, looking around her frantically, searching. She saw one door and dove for it. STAIRS stood out in bold black lettering.
Mickey, hearing the tumult, glanced up in time to see Masur sinking to his knees and Reva beginning to run.
"Shit…" he breathed softly as he flipped the screwdriver around in his hands. He spotted the man in the crowd begin to break away from them, attempting to stop Reva as she darted past him. Mickey tucked in a shoulder, turned slightly and rammed himself hard into the man, knocking him sideways as his hand flashed down.
He sunk the screwdriver deep into the man’s thigh.
Shoving him away hard, Mickey scrambled after Reva but saw her diving down the Stairs. Behind him the man he had stabbed was grabbing his leg and letting out a scream as Masur was scrambling to his feet. He began a painful limping run, one hand holding himself as the other slapped against the wall to keep upright.
"Somebody stop her!" he yelled angrily, as he stumbled to the elevators. He stared in disbelief at the disabled car. "Sonofabitch!" he snarled suppressing another groan, as he slapped the button to call another car.
Mickey, in the meantime, had confronted the other two men.
"Go on!" One said to the other as he squared off with the scruffy looking elevator mechanic. He lunged towards Kostmayer, diverting his attention, as the other dove for the stairwell.
It really wasn’t a fair fight.
As the other man jerked open the stair well door and plunged inside, Mickey just looked his opponent straight in the eye and smiled a cold, deadly smile.
"Today’s your lucky day," he said casually, standing up straight and relaxing his stance, dropping his hands. The other man ignored his comment and plowed on in. Mickey wasted no time. Brutal and fast, he spun around once in a roundhouse kick, planting his booted foot hard in to the man’s solar plexus and knocked the wind clean out of him. Kostmayer was on him faster then anyone could blink. Wrestling him down to the floor, Mickey planted a knee into his back, pinning him down and began working his thumbs into the base of the man’s neck.
His victim barely had enough time to open his mouth to gasp for air as Mickey appeared to be choking him. However Kostmayer just drove his thumbs in deeper. Seconds later the man collapsed underneath him.
"Just be glad I decided not to kill you…" he muttered grabbing the back of the man’s head and shoving his face back into the carpet. As he scrambled to his feet, he spotted Masur stumbling his way into the open elevator next to his disabled one, viciously stabbing at the button panel inside.
"You might want to gag him," Mickey yelled to the shocked on lookers as he ran to the malfunctioning elevator car. "He’s gonna wake up screaming…" he scrambled through the hole leading to the top of his elevator, just as Masur’s car dropped past his. Mickey grabbed a few cables and swung out into the darkness, let go and vanished from sight.
Downstairs, in the parking garage, Robert and Control had sat in stony silence, waiting. At one point in time, Control had slipped a miniature receiver into his ear and was now able to hear everything that Reva’s recorder was picking up. He had briefly rolled the window down, repositioning the rearview mirror on the passenger side of the car so that he could see what was happening behind them, which happened to catch a good view of the ramp leading down to their level. He even refrained from saying anything to the snort of amusement that came from Robert.
He carefully rolled the window back up, stopping the cold air from coming in as he listened to what was happening. However, as he heard Mickey muttering something about the elevator not supposing to do something he spotted a large Lincoln Towncar, windows darkened, coming down the ramp. He was instantly opening his door.
"Stay low, old son," he said to Robert. "One of my superiors just pulled in…" He was out of the car in a flash as Robert looked at him in consternation.
"Well isn’t that just impeccable timing…" he commented dryly as he reached over to shift the handle to his own rearview mirror.
"It happens…" Control replied, shutting the door. Slipping his hands into his pants pockets, he hunched his shoulders and began striding off towards the other car. Robert watched it stop in the middle of the parking garage as Control stepped up to the driver’s side window, his back to the West Side elevators.
Robert glanced that way, feeling edgy. He was persona non grata amongst the Company Hierarchy and they wouldn’t be amused in the slightest if they knew a certain retiree was in the building. Still… Robert shifted, watching the elevator doors nervously. He glanced at Control, rolled the window down and listened.
Control appeared to wiggle a finger in his ear as he half bent to talk to the people in the darkened Towncar.
"Actually sir, he’d be the best one to send to Costa Rica…" Control was saying. "His record of successful removals is unparalleled in the Company. He also just happens to be in DC," he paused, his head lifting, glancing towards the Stairs. Robert saw the direction his attention turned and looked towards the stairs; he immediately began slipping out of the car.
Sticking to the support column, Robert maneuvered his way around, keeping the column between himself and the Towncar. He carefully positioned himself, keeping out of sight of both the elevator and the stairs. He pulled his Walther from out of his coat pocket and waited.
"I’ll let him know that you’d like him to go then, I’m sure he won’t have any objections," Control was saying to the car’s occupants. He was about to say something else, scratching at his ear when the door to the stairwell suddenly burst open.
A small, out of breath figure darted out, running full tilt in the direction of the support column just as the elevator doors opened and revealed Masur stumbling out of the car, a look of fury written plainly all over his features. Seconds later another figure appeared, fairly exploding out of the stairwell door.
"What the…" Control started, turning in the direction of the fracas. The words were barely out his mouth as when Jason began running to cut Reva off from her escape. The other man reached her before Masur could. He had grabbed a fistful of her coat, jerking her backwards. Reva tried to scream.
Hearing the person in the car speaking, Control looked up towards the elevator. Before the doors could fully close, a figure had dropped from the ceiling, shoving a foot into the door, forcing it to immediately reopen.
Spinning Reva around roughly, the man had forced her arm up behind her back before grabbing a handful of long hair and jerking her head back. They all could see the pain as she tried to cry out. Only a pitiful gurgle emerged, followed by the sounds of her trying to cough. Jason slid to a stop in front of her, reaching up to grab her throat in one hand. The other lifted and flew. Reva’s head snapped from the force of the blow
"Go ahead, try to scream, no one can hear you!" Masur was growling as he backhanded her. He pulled Reva in close,snarling into her face. "Think you can try and pin me for stealing that Satellite Disc? Guess again! I personally destroyed all the paperwork to get it! Not to mention any evidence of that little meeting you had out on Highway 95!" He drew his arm back to hit her again.
The resounding slap echoed across the garage as Control started to move forward, a look of utter fury darkening his features.
Kostmayer, however, had suddenly bowled himself into the back of Masur, knocking all three of them past the support column.
As they stumbled by, Robert dodged in, grasped Reva under one arm and pulled her to him as the man that held her tripped and fell backwards. Mickey pounced on Jason, his arm slipping around Masur’s throat as he hauled him back away from Reva.
Kostmayer’s face had gone stone cold as he dragged Masur off his feet, his arm gripping tightly, feet kicking Masur’s out from under him. Mickey worked his fingers into Masur’s hair.
"I’ve wanted to do this for so long," he hissed sibilantly into Jason’s ear as he began to smile a frigid smile. "You’ve handed me your head on a platter!"
Mickey ignored the sudden movement around him as he jerked Jason around, keeping the struggling man off balance. People were rushing into the melee, a few pouncing on the man who had fallen. Robert had pulled Reva to him, crouched protectively over her as she gasped for air, trying not to cough.
"It’s all right, It’s all right…" he murmured as he wrapped his arms around her. Reva sagged into him, trying to rein in her desperate panting.
Jason had reached up to grab Mickey’s arm with both his hands as he began to choke. He could feel Mickey shifting his grip, trying to tip his head.
Control moved forward. Hearing the sound of a car door being opened, he glanced back to see a man’s silhouette as he gripped the top of the door. Control raised a hand, motioning to the stranger to stay put, then he moved past the support column.
He glanced at Robert, nodding quickly at the car. Robert saw the move and began lifting Reva to her feet.
"Come with me, dear…" he said gently, pulling her up. He half supported her as he jerked the rear door of their car open. He carefully guided her in, climbed inside after her and shut the door. He pulled her back into the protective circle of his arms, slipping a hand into his breast pocket for a clean handkerchief, as she struggled to regain her composure.
Control looked back towards Mickey, seeing that Kostmayer was about to indulge himself in a long time desire. He almost hated what he had to do next…
"Kostmayer!" he barked out, sharply.
Ever the soldier, Mickey’s head snapped up as several men fell in behind him, each brandishing weapons. Stock appeared from out of the gloom of the garage. Mickey paused.
"As much as I might enjoy letting you finish what you’ve begun, there. I’m afraid I can’t allow you the pleasure," Control said, looking coldly at the struggling Masur.
"He tried to kill me! There’s regulations against that!" Masur instantly began shouting. Stock walked past him, nodding at Mickey and holding up the papers that had fallen, forgotten, on the 12th floor. He walked past Control silently and delivered the papers to the man standing behind the open door of the Lincoln Towncar. Jacob leaned forward, speaking quietly and quickly to the stranger.
Without a word, the silhouetted man took the papers and glanced at them, then nodded at Stock. He looked back at Control.
"Let him go, Mickey…" Control said gently, slipping the receiver out of his ear and holding it up. "We’ve got the evidence we need. Come on son, let him go…"
Mickey looked at his superior defiantly for a moment, then he snarled at Jason and shoved him away.
Masur stumbled forward, gasping and gagging as he reached up to grasp his throat.
"That’s a clear violation of conduct!" Masur gasped as he righted himself. He looked towards a glowering Control and past him. He froze.
The man at the car just looked at Jason for a few moments, then glanced at Stock. Stock nodded and two men immediately came forward, grabbing Jason by the arms.
"Hey!" Masur protested. "What are you doing. You can’t do this! This is all a set-up! Those papers are forgeries. What are you doing?" The two men began to drag Jason away. "Wait! It’s a trick, it’s one of Control’s set-ups!" He looked at the man at the car.
The silhouetted man said nothing, he just shook his head and climbed back into his car.
"You can’t do this! It’s a set-up, they want to get rid of me! They’re just jealous!" Masur began to struggle against his captors. He watched as the window to the car rolled up. The only thing now visible was Jason struggling against the grip of his captors reflected off the windows of the car.
Control turned back towards Kostmayer. He reached up and stroked the corners of his mouth, sliding his other hand into a pocket and looking at him from beneath his lowered brow. Stock’s men were hauling their other prisoner away as Control started to walk towards him.
Mickey was drawing in a deep breath, shaking his shoulders loose. He looked up towards the car he had barely seen Robert get into and immediately began to head that way.
"Mickey…" Control’s voice sounded out. Mickey ignored him, heading for the car as Control came to a stop almost in front of him.
"Reva…" Mickey said as he started to go around him. Control held up a hand, laying it squarely in the center of Mickey’s chest. He looked him straight in the eyes.
"I suggest you move that hand…" Mickey said matching his gaze. Control held up a warning finger.
"My superiorsjust gave me orders to send you to Costa Rica," he said slowly, softly, never breaking his gaze.
"Bullshit," Mickey replied flatly.
"They want the Herrera’s plantations and all their operations irreparably shut down," Control murmured, never breaking his gaze.
"Tough shit," Mickey started to walk past him, heading for the car.
"Kostmayer…" Control said simply. "It’s not my request. It’s their order."
"Like hell it is!" Mickey shot back, he glanced up when he saw movement. Stock’s men had never faded away like they were supposed to. Mickey glared at Control.
"You son of a bitch…" he hissed at him. "You’ve had this set up all along."
"Think what you like, Kostmayer," Control said, looking at him. "I’m just following my orders."
"Like hell," Mickey suddenly spat. "You’ve deliberately set this up!" He started towards the car again. Stock’s men began to move forward. Control backed up with Mickey, blocking him from the car.
"Forget it, Kostmayer," Control said coldly. "You have your orders. You will carry them out and you will not see Reva Cheney again."
Mickey suddenly blew. An ugly snarl crossed his face as he spun on Control, grabbing the Company head by the lapels of his coat. Control didn’t fight back. He just closed his eyes wearily, shaking his head.
"Stupid!" he hissed at Mickey. "Stupid move!"
"I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to do but if you think for one second you’re going to succeed in keeping us apart? Guess again!" Mickey snapped. Several men swarmed around them, pulling Mickey away from Control.
"Get your hands off of me!" Kostmayer yelled, jerking his arms away as Stock’s men split the two up. Control straightened his coat, looking at Mickey sternly.
"You better be damned glad he wasn’t in here to see that, Kostmayer…" Control replied coldly.
"I could care less!" Mickey snapped, starting forward again.
"Get a hold of yourself, Kostmayer!" Control growled back. "Before they send you someplace on a permanent basis!"
Mickey just glared at the man and started for the car again. Control nodded once and Stock’s men began to reach out for him. Mickey stopped, looking at Control with a hard dangerous glint in his eyes. "You son of a bitch…" he hissed as the men began to reach up to take his arms. He looked murderously at the closest man.
"You either go with them willingly, Mickey, or they’ll drag you out of here," Control said, resignedly. Mickey glared at him, his lip lifting in a snarl. He jerked his arm away from the nearest man.
"Touch me and you’ll lose that hand…" he growled, never taking his eyes off Control. He pointed a warning finger at him. "You won’t stop me," he said, his voice low and dangerous. "If you think you’re going to stop me from seeing her, guess again."
"I have stopped you," Control replied softly. "You don’t have much of a choice." His eyes flicked to the nearest man as he tipped his head.
The two nearest men reached up and grabbed Mickey’s arms as Control stepped back.
"It’s not going to work!" Mickey bellowed in rage as they started pulling him backwards. He began to struggle as they hauled him towards the elevators. Control just stood calmly in place.
"An order is an order, Mickey…" he said softly, his gaze growing a little sad as the men dragged Mickey towards the elevator.
Stumbling and reluctant, trying to work his arms free from his ‘captors’, Mickey glared straight at Control.
"It’s not going to work! I’ll find her!"
Control didn’t reply. He just stood, silently, in the middle of the parking garage and heaved a sigh.
As the men pulled the struggling Mickey into the elevator, he saw movement from behind Control. Reva was scrambling out of the other side of the car. He felt himself suddenly sag in the men’s grip as he watched her start to make her way past Control. She looked desperate, disheveled, and frightened. She was looking at him, trying to say his name. The look on her face spoke volumes, she had heard every word of their exchange.
"Oh God, no…" he breathed in horror, as Control reached out and caught her. The Company head pulled her back, gently grabbing both arms as she twisted frantically around to look his way. Helpless, Mickey could only watch as the elevator doors began to shut. For a few seconds he caught sight of Control, slowly closing his eyes, lowering his head as he held on to Reva’s arms.
Reva looked desperately towards Mickey, again trying to call out his name. The look of pleading and hopelessness in her eyes and face seared itself into his brain. As the doors drew shut, Mickey let out an angry yell of rage and anguish, jerking himself free from the men only to slam his fist helplessly against the implacable, cold, grey doors of the elevator.
In the garage, men began to fade from sight, leaving Control to handle Reva. She was panting with exertion as she watched the elevator doors shut, sealing Mickey away.
"No!" she gasped out, beginning to cough.
"Reva!" Control snapped. She whirled around suddenly in his grip. Control looked down at her haggard features, appalled at the blue bruise forming itself at the corner of her mouth where a trickle of blood had dried. She saw the look in his eyes, the horror, the anger, the concern. She jerked her arms loose from his grasp. Shaking and bewildered, she glared at him.
"I hate you," she hissed as Robert silently drew near. "I hate you!"
"Reva…" Robert said softly, as he gently reached out to take her arm in his hand. "Come with me."
Involuntarily Reva stumbled his direction, never taking her eyes off Control who held his hands up in an almost placating gesture. A weary mask was settling across his features as Robert drew her away.
"I hate you!" she repeated. "I hate your guts!"
"Reeve…" Control barely murmured, closing his eyes in anguish.
"I hate you!" she whispered harshly, looking at him as Robert led her back to the car.
"You’ll never understand…" Control whispered softly as Robert opened the door to the car. Her hands suddenly flew up.
"I understand only too well!" she signed viciously.
Control looked at her, a flash of remorse appearing on his face. He flicked his gaze at Robert who was regarding him steadily. He didn’t have to say anything.
"Reva, please…" Robert said gently. "Sit down." She glared a little longer at Control, then looked at Robert.
McCall watched the hopelessness fill her grey eyes as she looked at him and, strangely, a very familiar mask dropped across her features. Robert hid the frown that threatened to cross his own face. She was closing her eyes, reaching up to touch the cut on her lip. Robert felt like he was watching a balloon slowly deflate. Dropping her head, Reva slowly climbed into the car. Carefully Robert shut the door, then he straightened and looked at Control. The man stood like a statue, not moving once, his cold impervious mask securely set back in place.
Robert’s look of contempt wasn’t lost on Control. He just gazed at Robert a moment. "Kostmayer won’t be harmed," he murmured softly. Robert’s lips set in a disgusted smirk.
"I think enough harm has been done already," he replied caustically, his voice acidic. Control closed his eyes. "And there’s no telling what harm Kostmayer will do to himself!"
Robert went around the front of the car, opened the door and slid behind the wheel. Even as he started the car and backed it out of the space, Control never moved. As Robert gained the ramp leading out of the place, he looked back in his rearview mirror.
Control remained standing alone in the garage, only now his head hung down in despair.
It was a long drive back to New York City. The winter weather didn’t help and the passenger in his car had suddenly crawled away to somewhere deep inside herself. Robert kept a wary eye on her as he took her back to his apartment. Not once had Reva broken down; she had just turned into a silent, small statue.
He explained gently that he couldn’t return her home straight away until he got word that the situation in Bath had been settled and it was safe for her to return. Reva accepted his news stoically.
The pent up anger he felt never abated as he watched the life slowly seep out of the girl. Try as he might to get her to talk about the entire turn of events, Reva refused. Robert felt as though a switch had been turned off in the girl and nothing could be done to get it turned back on again. He finally settled into reluctance acceptance of her silence, he knew it a little too well.
Three days after the events in DC, Jacob Stock appeared at Robert’s door. McCall stepped out into the hallway, gently easing the door shut, and looked sternly up at the tall, gaunt figure. Jacob raised a slight eyebrow as he looked at Robert.
"Can’t deliver his own messages?" Robert snapped. Jacob sighed.
"He’s on his way to Verhojansk," Jacob replied. He knew he had to face an irate McCall and the idea wasn’t pleasant.
"Northern Siberia?!" Robert snarled in disbelief. Jacob nodded.
"Masur’s been reassigned," Jacob replied softly. Robert looked at the man. Both knew the heavy implications which lay behind such a simple statement. Jacob continued.
"The situation in Bath has been settled. Miss Cheney can go home."
"And Kostmayer?" Robert asked.
Jacob paused, looking at Robert soberly. "He’s missing."
"What?" Robert’s voice cracked like whip. Jacob barely hid his flinch.
"He is missing, Robert."
"I refuse to believe Kostmayer’s gone AWOL! What the hell happened?" he demanded.
"He’s not AWOL, Robert. He completed his assignment. Kostmayer is a mean son of bitch, you know? He abandoned the guy he was supposed to partner with when he got to Costa Rica. He loaded up his own equipment and took out his target as he was ordered to do…and a little bit more than was required. In the mayhem, he disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Robert snapped. Jacob scrunched his shoulders together as if that would help ward off Robert’s caustic inquiries.
"He was last seen driving a jeep off the compound property. It was found several days later in Golfito. Nobody has seen or heard from him since. We think he slipped over the border into Panama."
"You think," Robert said sourly.
"I’m just telling you what we know, Robert."
"Cold comfort!" Robert shot back. Then he closed his eyes, slipped his thumb and middle finger up under his glasses and pinched at the bridge of his nose. He rubbed gently before dropping his hand and sighing. "What the hell am I supposed to tell that girl inside?" he groused out loud.
"Control wanted me to let you know he’ll be at Pete’s on Thursday," Jacob said softly.
"All right," Robert replied and nodded his head "Go on, Stock, I know you’re just being sent as the messenger."
"Kostmayer’s too ornery to get himself killed…" Jacob started
"I know more about Kostmayer than everyone in the Company combined, Jacob," Robert replied tartly, turning towards the door. "His ability to self destruct would stagger any one of us." He waved Stock away. "Go on, Jacob, I’m sure Control’s got something better for you to do than playing errand boy." He opened the door and left Stock alone in the hallway.
The weather remained cold, grey and continued to threaten snow. Robert opted to return Reva home by plane. He picked up a rental car in Bangor and drove her to Wiscasett. He had told her before leaving New York, that Mickey was missing. Reva had taken the news without a flicker of emotion. She now sat in the car with him, silently staring out the window.
At her request, they had stopped at the post office to pick up her nearly two weeks of backlogged mail, then at the vet’s to pick up Toby. Robert had gone inside for the cat, determined to have a few words with Laskar, only to find that the vet had taken a week’s hunting vacation.
Two sets of tire tracks marred the smooth evenness of the snow leading down her street and into her driveway. Parked in front of the garage sat the old truck, wearing a mantle of white. Reva only shook her head in disgust as she climbed out of the rental car and looked at it.
She juggled the load of mail with the cat carrier as Robert retrieved her one piece of luggage out of the trunk of the car. It carried the few things she had gathered for herself while she waited to be allowed home.
Once inside, she deposited the mail on the bar counter, set the carrier on the kitchen floor and released Toby. Robert set her suitcase in the hall, then entered the great room, gazing around at the drawings on the wall. Reva stood in the kitchen, looking critically around.
Reva’s home had been thoroughly cleaned for her. Robert could smell the fresh clean scents as he turned and glanced at the fireplace. Several logs had been arranged to start a fire with. The temperature was comfortable. Someone had been in the house very recently, if only to have the place cleaned and ready for her return. Robert heaved a sigh and glanced at her.
A slight smirk of disgust had settled on her features as she looked things over. She met Robert’s gaze and nodded slightly, before coming around and moving over to her dining room table. She stared down at her drawings, rough drafts, sketches, pens and pencils. She carefully fingered through them and he could see she was mentally ticking each one off, accounting for their presence. She sighed as she finished and looked at Robert.
"Tea?" she whispered. He smiled slightly.
"Tea would be fine, dear," he said, gazing at her. "Are you sure you don’t want me staying over? Thanksgiving is the week after next you realize? You are more then welcome to come to New York and join my family… "
"I’ll be fine, Robert," she whispered softly, heading back into her kitchen. "Now that I’m home. Spending the holiday’s alone is something of a tradition now…"
Yet there was something empty in her words.
He stayed long enough for lunch and, out of courtesy, Reva explained to him the beginning-to-end process of what it took to illustrate a book. Robert watched her as she showed him the entire layout for ‘Ring of Bright Water’ and couldn’t help but see the sadness creeping in as she stared at the otter drawings.
She finally explained that she had gotten the actual drawings from the creature that had visited Wiscasett the previous summer. Robert understood. Mickey had been there at the time.
Finally, as the clouds turned the day grey and gloomy, Robert took his leave with a promise to call when he got back. He explained how his phone and answering machine were TTY compatible, due to the nature of his business. Reva accepted it quietly, seeing him to the door. Before leaving, Robert gently took her in his arms, reminding her again that he would maintain contact, despite anything Control had to say about it. Reva nodded.
"And don’t forget," Robert said, as he climbed into the rental car. "I expect you to come visit whenever you are in New York."
Reva smiled wanly and nodded her head yes, then watched as he drove away.
As the day’s light began to wane, Reva lit the fire, drew the curtains closed and stood for a moment gazing at the drawings on the table. She never felt so empty and alone in her life. She glanced at the pile of mail still sitting on the counter and wandered over, poking idly through the stack. A card caught her eye.
She pulled out a postcard, moving towards the fireplace and frowning as she stared at a sea otter bobbing contentedly in a bed of kelp. The creature held his fuzzy, yellow-white head in his paws and was comically yawning. Reva felt her entire body go numb. She stared at the picture, then flipped it over.
Scrawled across the back were the words… "Job got boring. Expect me soon." It was signed, "Mickey."
She never realized she had sunk to her knees, she just stared at the card, the writing, the signature, the message. Scenes began to replay through her head. Their meeting, their walks on the beach, the cookouts…
A shaking hand slid its way across her mouth as the first whimper escaped her lips. It was like a floodgate finally opening. Nothing she did could stop it. The sobs began to come forth, hard and wracking. Relentlessly, the pictures of Mickey flashed across her memories. Like a wounded animal, the cries broke forth as Reva curled in a ball on the floor. The card dropped, forgotten.
Only Toby was there to see Reva as she slowly fell apart. The only thing the big tabby could do was arch his back and rub his head lovingly between her shoulders.