TRAVELER, SEASON TWO
This follows the aired episodes of Traveler.
EPISODE 1: THE AFTERMATH
(With many thanks to ETRNL, who kindly beta-ed this chapter.)
The easiest period in a crisis situation is actually the battle itself. The most difficult is the period of indecision - whether to fight or run away. And the most dangerous period is the aftermath. It is then, with all his resources spent and his guard down, that an individual must watch out for dulled reactions and faulty judgment.
Richard M. Nixon
Each step was etched with anguish as Special Agent Jan Marlow wended her way through the office with her partner's FBI badge clutched in her hand. It wasn't the first time the New York Office had lost one of its own in the line of duty, and it no doubt wouldn't be the last. But that didn't ease her misery.
Jan could feel the well of empathy from her fellow agents as she placed Borjes' badge on his desk. It was a kindness that they kept their thoughts to themselves. Nothing anyone said would have lessened her grief or changed what had happened. Borjes had been her partner. Now he was dead.
"Agent Marlow." The young man from the evidence department approached her, his hand extended, offering a small slip of paper. "You wanted the last incoming number off the dead suspect's cell phone."
"Yeah, thanks," she said, grateful for the diversion.
Her trip to Westchester seemed like a lifetime ago. Yet, less than half a day had passed since she'd tracked down Joseph Langdon and paid a visit to his stately house in the suburbs. While she was questioning him about the Drexler bombing, he'd received a phone call. Immediately following that call he'd pulled a gun and opened fire on her.
She was certain that the phone call he'd received had triggered the attack. Now she was going to find out who had initiated the call. She punched in the number and waited with anticipation to hear the voice of Langdon's associate. The phone was picked up after the second ring.
"Hello." On hearing the familiar voice Marlow almost dropped her phone. Tightening her grip, she lowered it, staring at the small rectangle with stunned disbelief. "Hello, who is this?" the man on the other end asked.
Her eyes shifted across the room, to the windowed office that was almost directly across from hers. She could read Chambers' lips as his voice flowed again from her phone. "Hello," he repeated.
Reeling with shock, Marlow cut the connection and spun about, slumping against the wall of her cubicle. It felt as if the air had been sucked from her office, leaving her weak and breathless.
Nothing in her career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation had prepared her for this brutal change of perception. The organization she'd served long, and she'd hoped honorably, was compromised. Her immediate superior, Fred Chambers, had made the call directing Joseph Langdon to kill her. Chambers!
Tyler Fog's words echoed through her head: The FBI is involved.
She hadn't believed him. After all, Fog was one of the chief suspects in the Drexler bombing. But now... now anything was possible.
She remained with her back to the inner office window, sure that if Chambers should glance over and see her face he'd realize the cause of her distress.
Taking slow, deep breaths she forced her body to relax. When her heart stopped beating as if it were powering her through a marathon, she considered what to do next. Her cell number wasn't blocked. It would show up on Chambers' phone. At any time he might check his incoming call list and see that she'd called and hung up.
While the official eight-hour day had ended, several agents were still at their desks, as had been the case since their unit was given responsibility for hunting down those responsible for blowing up the Drexler Museum.
Should she tell one of her co-workers what she knew? Or should she confront Chambers herself? She didn't have much time to decide.
She wished she could consult her partner. He was always the voice of cool, calm reason. But she'd never have Guillermo Borjes at her side again. He'd been chasing Otis Whaley–a suspected accomplice in the Drexler bombing, and a man who had somehow managed to escape from an FBI holding cell-when he'd been gunned down.
Chambers had been with Borjes when Whaley had shot Carlton Fog. Chambers had been in on the chase to recapture Whaley. Chambers had found Borjes' body.
Abruptly, she made her decision. She picked up her office phone and punched in the four numbers that connected her to internal security. "I need a security team in Fred Chambers' office. Now."
Not wanting to wait the five to ten minutes it would take Security to process the request and get to the floor, she opened her door and crossed the short distance to Chambers' office. He saw her approach and nodded that she should enter.
"How are you feeling, Marlow?"
The bastard actually sounded like he cared.
She whipped her gun out of its holster and pointed it at him. "Hands in the air."
After a brief hesitation he lifted them slowly and carefully. "Whatever the problem is, put down the gun and we'll talk about it."
"I know you made the call."
"You're upset. You lost your partner today. But, please, put the gun down. Borjes wouldn't want this."
"This isn't about Borjes. You called Joseph Langdon and told him to kill me."
"I what?" Chambers said, as two security guards with guns drawn burst into the small room.
Their focus was on Marlow. "Drop your weapon," the taller guard ordered.
Marlow obeyed, stepping away from it and turning so that she could watch both Chambers and the security team "You don't know what's going on," she told them. "I suggest you lock up both of us until an investigation can be launched."
"Just a minute, " Chambers held out his hands, "Agent Marlow's had a stressful day. She's jumped to an erroneous conclusion. If everyone will be patient, this can be worked out without putting another blemish on her record."
"You can't explain your way out of this. The Evidence Department has Langdon's phone; it has the record of your call." But even to her own ears, she sounded close to hysterical while Chambers appeared to be calm and reasonable. She wasn't surprised when the two guards lowered their weapons.
Chambers was the picture of innocence as he spoke. "Yes, I called Langdon. But did it ever occur to you that I was following the same leads you were? Which led me to Langdon. I called to request that he come in for an interview. My notes are here on my desk if you'd like to look at them." He thumbed through a stack of paperwork, pulled out a tablet and pushed it to where she could see it.
The notes supported his claim. Was he telling the truth? Or had he been clever enough to provide himself with an alibi before contacting Langdon?
Marlow's head was reeling. How had she ended up on the defensive? "He shot at me. After your call."
"Maybe having two FBI agents on his case spooked him. We'll never know. Since you killed him, we'll never get any information out of him." He waved to the guards. "You can go now."
"We're required to make a report."
"If you must," Chambers said, "but I want it noted that Agent Marlow's partner was killed in the line of duty today. It's understandable that she's not thinking clearly."
An urgent voice tickled at Jay's consciousness, but the shock of the explosion had numbed his mind to where it didn't process the words.
A secondary eruption burst from the limo. The resulting flames climbed as high as the top of the building that housed The New York Citizen. They hung there for brief seconds before disintegrating into fading sparkles that fell back to earth. The hope of moments earlier faded with them.
"Come on." The second command, accompanied by a tugging at his jacket, caught Jay's attention. The wail of emergency vehicles, a sound that had come to signify personal danger, provided additional motivation. He responded instinctively. He began to move.
As quickly as that, the three of them were back on the run.
Of the dozen or so people on the street, half were rushing toward the burning limo while the other half scurried away. "Not too fast," Will cautioned. "We don't want to call attention to ourselves."
"Like at the Drexler?" Tyler said in a voice tinged with bitter recrimination.
There was no reaction from Will. Jay wasn't surprised. Whatever Will felt–guilt, remorse, indifference, or none of the above–he'd kept it to himself during the seventeen odd hours since they'd reunited. There had been no repeat of the apology he had made moments before the Drexler exploded.
"Left. Here." Will turned into a quiet side street and began to jog. He remained in the lead, as they snaked a path away from the newspaper building, keeping to less-trafficked streets whenever possible. They'd gone at least a mile, to where the swirl of sirens was less shrill, when Will darted into a deserted alley and slowed to a walk. Security lights dotted the way, presenting an alternating pattern of bright circles and blurred shadows.
Halfway down the block, Will directed Jay and Tyler to a recess between two buildings.
"Catch your breath," he said, joining them in the dark canyon.
"Who did that? Who killed Freed?" Tyler asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Who? No one knew what we were doing or where we were going to be... except... us." With the last two words fury replaced puzzlement in his voice. He grabbed Will's shoulders and slammed him into the side of the nearer building. "Fk you, Will. You did it. You wanted him dead. You killed him."
Will didn't struggle or fight back. "You were with me the entire time."
"With you, but we weren't watching everything you did," Jay said. He took hold of Will's right wrist and pinned it high against the brick wall, away from the gun tucked in his jeans.
"If I wanted him dead," Will said, slow and deliberate, "I would have killed him in less spectacular fashion. Or do you think I wanted to attract the attention of the entire borough's police force?"
Tyler turned to Jay. "He has a point." With unspoken accord they released their holds.
"If you have that out of your systems, I need you to shut up and stay out of my way." Will's voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "Someone's been following us."
Jay hated that Will was once again bossing them around and not allowing them any input. Hated more that Will had kept the information that someone was following them to himself. But he had to trust Will's instincts and remain quiet, for now.
Will pulled his gun and positioned himself at the corner of the building. He gestured for Tyler and Jay to flatten themselves against the nearer wall.
One to two minutes later, something-and Jay couldn't begin to guess what that something might have been-prompted Will to explode into the alley, where he collided with another figure just as it edged into view. There was a brief, fierce scuffle, followed by a clatter as a weapon dropped to the street. Then Will spun free and brought his gun to bear on the other man.
"Hands on your head. Down on your knees," Will barked. "Jay, Tyler, stay back."
Despite the directive, Jay took two steps forward. "You."
As soon as security left his office, the calm that Chambers had maintained was replaced with barely restrained rage. "Marlow, you've gone too far. You've compromised my investigation for the last time. I don't need a rogue agent on my team. I want you to take personal leave, a week, two weeks. After that I'm going to have you reassigned."
"But..." She bit her lip in protest.
"If you don't like it, request a hearing. But if you go that route, I promise you won't like the results."
Damn him. He'd twisted the situation and made her look emotionally unbalanced. But she wouldn't cower before him. "I'll keep that in mind," she said, maintaining a posture of threat.
He gave her a long, cold stare. "Before you leave, I want the report of your encounter with our three fugitives on my desk. Then you're off the case. Understand?"
"The press are demanding answers, why we haven't caught them when we've had so many opportunities, and..." Chambers' cell phone interrupted whatever he'd been about to say. His eyes widened as he listened to the voice on the other end. "What! Where?" He flipped the phone closed. "There's been another explosion. I have to go."
Marlow watched him run out.
The FBI is involved. Every instinct told her that was truth and that Chambers was very much in the thick of it.
Tyler moved forward until he was standing next to Jay. He rubbed his right hand over the watch on his left wrist, feeling guilty and contrite. "Jay, I kept it. I thought we might need his help."
"That guy put a tracking device in Tyler's watch," Jay said, pointing at the man kneeling on the ground. "Back when all of this began, he helped us get out of the hotel ahead of the police. At the time I still thought he was a hotel employee, a simple porter. But later that same day he blew up an FBI van and killed two agents to free us."
"The agents were shooting at us," Tyler added. He didn't want to look like a complete idiot for having kept the watch. "We were handcuffed, no threat to them, and they opened fire. If he hadn't been there, we'd be dead"
"Flip open your watch and show me the inside." Will took a quick glance at the watch, then returned his full attention to his prisoner. "That's a sophisticated device. I assume it's a match to the one in Deer Harbor."
"We're on the same side," the porter said, speaking for the first time.
"Which side would that be?" Will asked. "Hometown? The Fourth Branch? The United States of America?"
"The side of those who want to find the people who planned the Drexler."
"He knew Jay and I weren't involved," Tyler said. "He was following us to find you."
"He was following us before that," Will pointed out. "That's why he was at the hotel."
"We knew something was going down," the porter said. "We didn't know exactly what. But we suspected you were involved."
"I was at the hotel to keep an eye on you. I searched your room while you were out partying, but I didn't find anything suspicious. I couldn't locate your car, so the plan was to plant trackers in your luggage the next morning, but someone entered your room as soon as you left. They took all of your things, Traveler. That's when I knew I was too late to stop whatever was going to happen."
"You still haven't told me who you work for."
"Come on, you know the routine. Everything is on a need-to-know basis. You don't need to know anything except that I can help you. We can help each other."
"That's not good enough. Tyler, turn your watch upside down."
Tyler flipped the still-open watch. A thin, metal disk dropped to the pavement.
Will waved to Jay and Tyler. "Get moving. I'll be right behind you."
"What about him?" Tyler walked toward the porter. "Shouldn't we make sure he doesn't have another gun, or tie him up, or something?"
"Stay back." Will's shout stopped Tyler in his tracks. "If you get within reach, he'll have you as a hostage in half a second." Will sidestepped to where he could kick the gun on the pavement toward Tyler. "Take that. And go. Both of you. Now."
"You're making a mistake," the porter called after them. "You need me. When you come to realize that, give me a call." He rattled off a telephone number that echoed down the length of the alley.
Chambers walked to where he had privacy before quick dialing a number in his cell phone. "I may have found Freed."
"May have?" questioned the voice on the other end.
"You said he went missing along with a black limousine. I'm looking at the charred remains of a black limousine that blew up outside the offices of The Citizen. The fire inspector thinks there's a body inside. Just before the limo exploded there was an anonymous call to the news desk. The caller said the person responsible for the Drexler was in the back of the limo."
"Who made the call? Traveler?"
"We don't know, but the paper routinely recorded it. We'll do a voice match."
"Call me when you have more information."
"I'll do that."
Chambers had one more call to make. He punched a preset code and waited while the phone dialed the number. It rang five times before transferring to voice mail. "Jessica, it's Dad. I'm sorry. I won't be able to meet you for dinner. Call me and we'll reschedule."
"I'll get out here," Will said as Tyler inched the sedan toward the northern end of Times Square. They'd stolen it shortly after their encounter with the porter.
Will pulled the knife from the sheath on his leg and the gun from his jeans and put them on the floor of the backseat. "Come back for me in forty minutes."
Tyler swung to the curb and stopped the car. "That should be one circle of the block the way traffic isn't moving."
As soon as he was clear of the car, Will slipped off his jacket, rolled it about itself, and wrapped the bundled result around his waist, effectively hiding the bloodstains and bullet holes on both his jacket and his shirt. Even in a city where the bizarre was so normal that it typically went unnoticed, his bloody clothing might have attracted attention.
Will walked the short distance to where the side street he was on intersected Broadway and turned right. He slid into the moving stream of pedestrians, maintaining the same moderate pace as everyone else. The sidewalks were as packed with people as the streets were with cars. Late as it was, it would be hours before the crowds in Times Square thinned. It made for good cover. And the still-open businesses would allow him to purchase some of what they needed.
His first stop was a brightly lit store with an almost life-sized cardboard cutout of Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter in its window. While souvenirs were its primary offering, it had a few bins and shelves dedicated to more practical items that tourists might require. He filled a shopping basket with bulk packages of socks and underwear, first aid supplies, and snack foods. At the checkout counter he added a pay-as-you-go phone to the mix.
Further down the block he spotted an electronics store and eased out of the traffic flow a second time. The windows were filled with items priced so ridiculously low that even the most naive tourist should have been made wary. But they weren't, or this place, and many others like it, wouldn't be in business.
He entered through the store's gated door and went directly to the computer section. The high end laptops were displayed in a glass-enclosed counter. He tapped on the case until he caught the attention of a clerk. "Let me see that one."
"An excellent choice." The clerk used a key to open the display case and brought out the laptop for inspection. "This has..."
"I can look for myself." Will powered it up, briefly ran through the menu, and popped the broadband access card in and out of its slot. "I'll take it."
"Very good. We have them boxed and ready to go. Let me put this away, then I'll get you one from the back."
With one hand Will kept a tight hold on the computer, while he used the other hand to extract the wallet from his back pocket. "This one is fine. The tag says $599." He unfolded the wallet and fingered the wad of currency tucked in its pocket. "I'll want a spare battery and a DC to AC power inverter to go with it."
"But... it's a display model. It's been handled. I'm not sure the warranty..." The clerk's words cut off as he caught sight of the FBI badge displayed in the open wallet. "But if that's the one you prefer..."
Will paid him in hundred dollar bills. At least they weren't short of cash. He'd give Jay and Tyler credit for that. They'd not only recovered his stashes from New Haven and Boston, they had close to fifty thousand dollars provided by Carlton Fog. It beat using bump and swipe to build a bankroll.
After three quick stops for additional phones Will returned to the meeting place. There was no sign of the silver four door. That didn't surprise him; the heavy traffic made navigating within a precise time frame next to impossible.
Will leaned against a building, out of the way of pedestrian traffic. He set his purchases on the ground and tucked them behind his legs for security.
Martin had told him that Hometown had shut down two years ago, and Jack Freed had taken over to pursue his own agenda. That made it around the time he'd started the grad school assignment. Which went a long way toward explaining things that had puzzled him.
20 months before the Drexler...
While the bulk of the heavy snow from a week earlier had melted there were still patches scattered about the lonely beach. But none here on the wooden pier, where Will stood and stared out at the blustery Atlantic. Wind carrying the scent of salt whipped through his hair. Gulls screeched in the sky above. It was a gray, windy, nasty day, the third in a series where the sun failed to make an appearance.
A particularly large wave crashed into the bottom of the pier. It almost masked the faint vibrations of approaching footsteps. A figure took up a position next to Will, gloved hands moving forward to rest on the rail.
"Do you have something for me?" Joseph Langdon asked.
Will passed him the padded envelope that contained his written report and a DVD.
"Everyone is pleased with your work."
Will couldn't imagine why. "I've lived with them for four months. They aren't terrorists. They don't belong to any organizations that deliberately or inadvertently support or fund terrorism." He turned to face Joseph. "Fog and Burchell are just what they seem to be: two graduate students with only one shared obsession. While supporting the Cubs might indicate a degree of fanaticism, I don't think it poses a threat to our country."
Joseph smiled warmly. "Just keep doing your job." He turned and walked away, calling back over his shoulder, "See you next month."
A honk jerked Will back to the present. Tyler and Jay had returned.
It was surprisingly difficult to push off the wall, pick up his packages and walk to car. As he slid into the backseat, he gave his head a shake to clear his brain. This wasn't the time for distractions, or weakness.
Hearing the click of the lock, Kim Doherty jumped to her feet. She didn't know how long she had been in this small windowless room with a cot, table and single chair, but it felt like an eternity.
"Here's your dinner." A heavyset man in a dark sweatshirt placed a fast food bag and a bottle of water on the table.
"I want to call a lawyer," she said, using belligerence to mask her fright. "It's my right."
"Tell it to the judge." The man chuckled and went out. The loud click indicated that he hadn't forgotten to lock the door.
Not that Kim knew what she would have done if he had left it open. She was in an anonymous building with bare walls and floors. She knew there was a bathroom two doors down to the right, because they'd let her use it once since her imprisonment. And she knew the door to the street was somewhere to the left. But they'd brought her here through a maze of corridors that twisted and turned, and she wasn't sure she could find her way out on her own.
The cold fear that had been building inside her heightened to where a shiver set her body to quaking. She had to hug herself to quell it. She was frightened, more frightened than she'd ever been in her life. When she'd agreed to help Jay, she hadn't considered the consequences.
Following her arrest, she'd been taken to FBI Headquarters where Chambers had questioned her about Jay's whereabouts. Which told Kim that Jay had escaped. But she truthfully didn't know where he might be. Chambers hadn't seemed to believe her, which was when Kim had been moved to this isolated and unmarked location. There was nothing to suggest it was a government facility. It was as if she'd been dropped into a black void, where she was at the mercy of anonymous thugs who didn't answer to any known laws or codes of decency.
Where was Agent Chambers? Where was Jay? Where was her Dad? Didn't anyone miss her or wonder where she was?
Stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Tyler glanced over his shoulder as Will pulled a computer from one of the bags he'd brought back to the car. "Tell me you didn't buy that at one of the ripoff joints on Broadway."
Will pressed a button to turn on the machine. "I bought the display model."
"The display model." Tyler chuckled. "That should be all right."
"Does someone want to fill me in?" Jay asked.
"Those stores pretend to sell state-of-the-art computers at bargain prices," Tyler explained. "Once they have the customer hooked, they pull a switch and give him or her an old, refurbished model. The clientele tend to be from out of town or even out of the country. By the time they realize they've been duped, they might be too far away to fight it. Even if they aren't, the sales receipt matches the computer they took home. All of the locals know to avoid those places." Tyler pressed the accelerator as traffic began to move. "I can't imagine they were too happy to be on the losing end of their scam."
"They didn't complain," Will said. Tyler could hear his fingers clicking over the keyboard. "We've got broadband access and I've set up an account. User name is HDBright. Password is ernie, all lower case, 36. I'm booking a suite at a hotel I know on the Upper East Side. There are ways in and out where you don't have to pass through the lobby."
"A suite on the Upper East Side..." Tyler switched on his turn signal to get them headed in the right direction. "At least we won't be slumming it."
Back at FBI HQ Fred Chambers freshened up in the rest room before returning to his office. It had taken over an hour for the fire department to cool the limo and pry apart the twisted metal to confirm that there was a charred body in the back. DNA analysis would take a couple of days, but Chambers already knew it was Jack Freed. The license plate matched the limo sent to pick him up. He'd failed to answer his phone or respond to his pager since he'd left for the meeting with Traveler.
"Damn it." Chambers pounded the desk with his fist. How could everything have gone so wrong? Burchell and Fog were amateurs. And while Traveler was a professional, he was only one man. Yet it was almost a week since the Drexler, and the three were still running free
How had they managed that when the full resources of the FBI and Homeland Security had been committed to catching them?
Now it was up to Hometown operative Otis Whaley. If Whaley didn't find Traveler and his companions in the next twelve hours or so, they'd have to dangle Doherty as bait. And Hometown had never hesitated to turn its bait into chum. While it was her own fault, Chambers couldn't help but feel a moment of regret. Kim reminded him of his daughter. Both girls were energetic, bright, and attractive. It was a pity that Doherty had fallen in love with the wrong man.
As his eyes scanned the spacious suite Jay had a momentary sense of deja vu. It wasn't as elegant as the luxury suite they'd stayed in the first night of their supposed road trip, but it was similar in size and design.
"Well, Will, are we going to stay put for a minute or two?" Tyler asked as he dumped the pack and shopping bag he'd been carrying on the floor. "We've been driving around half the night, then we waited in that service area for next to forever before you called to give us the room number. I was beginning to think you'd been arrested at check in."
While Tyler's time estimates were an exaggeration, Jay had to agree that their path to the hotel had been less than direct. After booking the room Will had brought them on what felt like a driving tour of Manhattan. First they'd cruised the neighborhood near the hotel until Will decided on a second car, a late-model SUV, for them to steal. He drove that, with Jay and Tyler following in the sedan, to Chinatown. They'd abandoned the first car there, loaded everything into the SUV, drove it back to the Upper East Side and parked it about a block from its original location, where Will had popped the CD system, which he'd dumped in a trash can they'd passed during the five-block walk to the hotel.
Jay understood what Will was trying to do. An abandoned, stolen car might connect to fugitives on the run and give the authorities a focus area to search, while police would assume that an SUV taken for a joy ride and vandalized was the work of teenage miscreants.
"You can sleep, shower, order room service, if you want," Will belatedly answered Tyler's question. His primary attention was on the open computer on the desk. He'd returned to it immediately after letting Jay and Tyler in the room. The scrunched list of Holloway Insurance transactions was next to the computer. Will's fingers danced over the keyboard as he continued, "There's food in one of the bags. Clothes, though not much–socks, underwear-in another. We should do laundry before morning. There's a washer and dryer in a room near the elevator."
Jay looked at the clock on the end table. "Morning isn't that far away. I'll shower, then do the wash."
"Twenty-four hour room service," Tyler read from the menu. "I'll order dinner, breakfast, or whatever missed or upcoming meal you want to call it."
Marlow fingered the printed copy of her report as she crossed to Chambers' office. She hadn't expected to have to see him again, but he'd returned before she'd finished.
Given what she'd overheard, and by asking a few direct questions, she'd learned quite a bit about the explosion that had sent her boss rushing from the office. While evidence was still inconclusive, it was more than likely that Burchell, Fog and Traveler were involved. Also of note was the probable victim: Jack Freed, currently with Homeland Security, formerly with the FBI.
The FBI is involved.
She tapped on the door before letting herself into Chambers' office. "Here's the report you wanted."
He scanned it with critical eyes. "Damn it, Marlow, if you had told us about Doherty we could have had the area blanketed. We would have caught them."
"I didn't want to spook her."
"It was poor judgment and improper procedure." He flipped to the last page. "You don't know which one was shot?"
She shrugged. "I don't know that I hit anyone. It was dark; they were running away." As much as it was the truth, it wasn't a truthful answer to his question. If it was anyone, it could only have been Traveler. But she wasn't going to tell Chambers anything she didn't have to tell him.
Chambers threw the report on his desk. "Go. Leave. Some of us have work to do."
Marlow left his office without looking back. She felt adrift in a whirlpool of deceit and confusion. Chambers was dirty; she was sure of it. But she didn't have any proof. And she had no way of contacting the people who might have that proof: Fog, Burchell and Traveler.
As she passed Borjes' desk an ache welled in her chest. He'd been more than a partner. He'd been a friend and a confidante. Five years her junior, she taken him under her wing two years earlier when he'd been fresh from the FBI Academy in Quantico. With no significant others to fill their spare time, they had found themselves spending more and more time together, going to movies and sporting events and meeting each others' families. He couldn't have been closer if he'd been a blood-related younger brother.
She could have told Borjes about Chambers and he would have believed her. As much as Borjes was a product of his chain-of-command military background, he was also a damned fine agent who could see beyond the obvious. He always kept an open mind, and that had been especially true in regard to the Drexler bombing, where the case against Burchell and Fog had sometimes not made any sense.
Sighing, she reached for his folder on the Drexler and flipped it open. She wanted to feel close to Borjes, if only through his neat, precise handwriting. There were his notes, carefully scribed on lined paper, the complete opposite of her scribbled, seemingly disorganized scrawls.
Her eyes were drawn to a single line of writing near the center of the top sheet. It was separated from the paragraphs above and below by multiple blank lines. And it was circled in red.
Will Traveler. Iraq. Nightingale.
She read it again and again. Nightingale. Where had that come from? When had Borjes written this and what did it mean? She read the paragraphs on either side of the line, then skimmed everything on the following pages. The reference was never mentioned again.
Marlow wasn't religious, but she almost felt as if another power had led her to Borjes' desk and the note.
The FBI is involved.
Will Traveler. Iraq. Nightingale.
It wasn't much, but it provided new leads to pursue. Chambers might have taken her off the case, but he couldn't take the case away from her.
The vibration of the silent alarm on Jay's watch woke him from an exhausted sleep. Five o'clock. Their clothes should be dry. He needed to retrieve them before the other occupants of the floor began to stir. Not wanting to wake Tyler in the other bed, he picked his way through the darkened room as quietly as possible.
The lights in the outer room were on and the sofa bed unopened. Will was working at the computer. Jay suspected he had never left it.
The closet of the suite had yielded two terrycloth robes. Will was wearing one; Jay slipped into the other. He stuck his bare feet in his shoes and headed for the door, picking up the room key and a plastic dry cleaning bag on his way out.
The trip to the laundry room was uneventful. Except for the bloodstains on Will's shirt and jacket, Tide had worked its magic well. He tossed the fresh-smelling clothes into the bag and started back. The ping of the elevator sent him ducking into the alcove that housed the ice and snack machines. He huddled in the corner while a series of thuds moved along the hallway in the direction of their room.
FBI? Police? The Porter?
Bracing himself, he edged to the opening and took a quick peek down the hallway. Giddy relief flowed through him when he realized it was only a hotel employee delivering complimentary morning newspapers. But it was still someone who might identify him, so he stayed where he was until the man moved to another floor.
Back in their room, Jay set the laundry aside and unfolded the newspaper. "We're the top story. Again." He read from the article, "At approximately nine o'clock last evening explosives destroyed a limousine parked outside the offices of The New York Citizen. While the FBI wouldn't confirm that Drexler suspects Jay Burchell and Tyler Fog were involved, Special Agent Fred Chambers did acknowledge that they were in the city."
He tossed the paper onto the coffee table. "Do you mind if I turn on the TV?"
Will had retrieved his clothes from the bag and was stepping into his jeans. "Go ahead."
Jay eased himself onto the cushioned sofa, then wiggled until he found the most comfortable position. Using the remote, he powered the TV and hit mute. He didn't need sound to scan channels.
"That was quite a fall you took from the flatbed."
Jay turned to his left so that he was facing Will. "Are you saying you could have managed better?"
"I'm saying that you've been creaking about like someone who is stiff and sore. There's a bottle of pain meds in the bag in the bathroom."
"There's some stiffness," Jay admitted, surprised that Will had noticed. He didn't think he'd been favoring his back that much.
After breaking the seal on the bottle Jay tipped two pills into his hand. He washed them down with a glass of water. As he went to throw away the plastic seal, he looked from it to the wad of bloody gauze in the waste can.
Will had returned to the computer. Jay rattled the bottle to catch his attention. "Don't you want some?"
"Bullet wounds don't hurt?"
"As long as I stay busy I don't think about it."
"What's so urgent?"
"Every..." Will started to say, then shrugged. "Nothing. Nothing's urgent. It needs to be done, but..."
"...not immediately," Jay finished. "Just like at Yale. You were the only grad student I knew who never crammed for an exam, because you always studied well in advance."
He picked up a still full glass of orange juice from the room service tray and brought it and the pills to the desk. "Take some. Get some sleep. You can use the bed in the other room."
Will stood, walked to the window, pulled back the curtain and looked out. There was an unmistakable weariness to his posture.
"A couple of hours that might not seem significant at the time can sometimes mean the difference between life and death."
Jay didn't have to be a mind reader to know that Will was talking about Maya, the pretty blonde bookstore owner who had been involved with Will professionally and romantically. Though he'd never said it in so many words, Will had intimated that his Hometown associates had killed Maya not long after Jay and Tyler had left her house in Deer Harbor, Maine.
"You couldn't have done anything for her if you had gotten to Deer Harbor earlier," Jay said. "They were waiting for you. They had two cars at Maya's house, three vans when they picked you up. And that's just what we saw. They weren't going to let you anywhere near her."
"I would have tried."
"You were trying. That's why you went back."
"Tyler was right. Freed got off too easily when that limo blew."
"Will, you look like hell; get some sleep."
Will stepped back, letting the curtain fall into place behind him. "All right. We'll do it your way."
Returning to the desk, he shook out two pills, hesitated, then added two more. "Weren't you going to watch TV?"
"Yes." But Jay continued to stare at Will. Despite everything that had happened, despite the betrayal, he couldn't look at Will and not feel the sense of camaraderie that he had thought defined their relationship for two years.
Will couldn't help but notice that Jay was watching him. "Do I have spinach between my teeth?" he asked, not in the humorous manner of the old Will, but with a defensive edginess to his voice that suggested Jay's attention made him uncomfortable.
"It's the bloodstain on your shirt," Jay said simply and wearily. "It's explosions and gunfire. It's hiding out in a hotel room. It's crazy. Not that long ago we were grad students. We shouldn't be here. It shouldn't be real. Real is studying for exams, morning runs, takeout pizza. At least for Tyler and me. Was it ever...?"
Will didn't let him finish. "What station do you prefer?" He quick stepped to the end table and snatched up the remote. "I won't be able to sleep until my brain slows down. TV is good for that."
Jay thought about the many questions he wanted to ask, but let them drop. For now. They were both too tired to dissect what Will had done and why. "CNN," he answered.
"Not the soporific I'd choose,"Will said "But it will do."
Marlow tossed her keys on the table by the door. FBI agents weren't overpaid, and a walk-up studio apartment on the upper West Side was all that she could afford. It beat commuting from Yonkers or Newark, or even further out, but it made for cramped quarters.
Five steps took her to the kitchen alcove where she poured herself a glass of milk. Three more steps and she was at the small dining table that doubled as a desk. A notebook and pen sat on its surface.
She opened it to a blank page and scribbled a note. Will Traveler. Iraq. Nightingale. The words had been grouped together as if they were dots waiting for connecting lines to form a complete picture, but she couldn't begin to imagine what the completed picture might be. Borjes had served in Iraq during his time in the marines. But how did that connect to Traveler? And was Nightingale a code? Maybe for an operation? Or a terrorist group? Was it something that Borjes had linked to the Drexler?
Borjes. Dead. It was still a disbelieving nightmare.
She resolutely pushed her distress aside and continued with her notes. Chambers made call to Joseph Langdon. Why? To interview Joseph? No! To order Joseph to kill her. Who helped Whaley escape? How did Whaley's files and fingerprints go missing? Inside help. Chambers?
Who killed Borjes? She underlined the name two times as tears welled in her eyes.
Someone was shaking him and calling his name. Tyler reached for the extra pillow and jammed it over his head. "G'way."
"Tyler, it's important," Jay said. "It's about your dad."
Tyler rolled onto his back, squinting as light hit his eyes. "The only thing I want to hear about him is that he's dead."
Jay looked pained. "You might get your wish sooner than you think."
"What?" Much to his own surprise, Tyler felt sorrow and panic flow through him. "How? What happened?"
"He's been shot. Yesterday afternoon, in front of his club."
Tyler rushed into the sitting room and stared at the TV screen.
A reporter was standing at the entrance to a hospital emergency room. "Let me repeat. Carleton Fog's younger son, Lieutenant Gabriel Fog, arrived at the hospital a few minutes ago. He reportedly flew in from Iraq after the Red Cross arranged for emergency leave. He declined to answer any questions about his father or his fugitive brother, Tyler Fog, one of the chief suspects in the Drexler bombing. Now back to the newsroom."
"The stock market..."
The TV went mute as Tyler sank into a chair.
"They said he was critical but stable." Jay placed his hand on Tyler's shoulder.
"Who did it?"
"No information about suspects has been released," Will answered. "But someone killed Freed. And someone shot your Dad. They might be trying to tidy up loose ends. Which means your father is still in danger."
"Why should I care?" Tyler swiped at moisture that was pooling in his eyes. "He wanted me dead."
"He's still your father," Will said.
"And he knows the truth," Jay added. "We might need his testimony to clear us." He gave Tyler's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Tyler, Will wants you to contact Gabriel and have him hire someone to guard your father."
"Tell your brother he can't trust the police or anyone with ties to the Fog organization, including its private security team."
"Gabe... I should be there. He shouldn't have to go through this alone."
"No, no." Jay held Tyler down when he tried to stand. "The authorities will be watching him."
Will handed Tyler a phone and a page ripped out of the telephone book. He'd circled one of the advertisements. "That firm has a good reputation, and I've never known it to do business with Hometown. Tell your brother this can't wait."
Tyler clutched the phone. "I'll try his cell. If that doesn't get through, I guess I'll have to call the hospital." As he tapped out the numbers, Tyler considered how topsy turvy the world had become, because he almost wished Gabriel was back in Iraq. He might be safer there.
Even when Fred Chambers wasn't working on an urgent case he didn't spend much time in his West Village home. The three-story plus basement townhouse was lonely with his daughter back at school and living in a dormitory again.
While the demands of the Drexler case could have kept him in the office twenty-four seven, there were basic needs that required him to return home on occasion. Right now, he needed fresh clothes. He needed sleep.
When he arrived home dawn hadn't yet streaked the sky, which made the house even less welcoming than usual. The high-ceilinged living room was dark and shadowy when natural light wasn't pouring in the long, narrow windows. He kept telling himself he should buy more lamps, then promptly forgot the resolution when he walked out the door.
Tossing his briefcase onto an upholstered chair, he walked to the kitchen at the back of the house. It had been redone a few years earlier and was filled with gleaming appliances and fashionable granite countertops. Not surprisingly, the oversized stainless steel refrigerator was almost empty, but he managed to salvage a hunk of cheese that only had a thin coat of mold. He set it on a plate with a slightly shriveled apple and a two-day old muffin. After brewing a cup of tea, he sat at the breakfast counter, where he could consume his modest meal while listening to the messages on his answering machine.
The first four were over twenty-four hours old. All of the callers had already reached him through his cell phone.
The fifth was more recent.
"Fred, this is Rosalind." The familiar, cultured voice of Jack Freed's mother grew crude and strident as she continued. "I want those sons of bitches to pay, do you understand? I want the flesh stripped from their bodies while they watch. It's become personal." She paused to take a breath and sounded calmer as she completed her message. "Call me, but not until after ten. I'm taking a sleeping pill."
The next call was much briefer.
"Chambers. The younger Fog whelp is in town. I'm putting a tail on him."
Chambers nodded his approval before punching the advance button to listen to the final message.
"Dad, it's Jess. I know it's early, but you aren't home anyway, so I'm not waking you or anything. I couldn't wait to call because I'm meeting my film group at six. We're working on the most amazing project. I can't wait to tell you about it. I'm pretty busy this week, but what about breakfast on Sunday? Talk to you later."
Chambers replayed the message just to hear his daughter's voice. Though they lived less than five miles apart, it seemed as if the only way they connected was through each other's voice mail. Maybe Sunday would work out. But first he had to get the Drexler mess cleaned up, and that was proving to be more difficult than any of them could ever have imagined.
The ache in his side reminded Will to change the dressing on his wounds. He lined up first aid supplies on the coffee table, sat on the sofa and pulled up his t-shirt. He placed warm, wet washcloths over the bandages that covered the entrance and extra wounds on his left side, so that the moisture could loosen the adhesive and make it easier to pry the tape free.
Tyler had eventually calmed down to where Jay could coax him into the bedroom. Neither of them had reappeared, and Will hoped they were asleep. It made it easier for him to think and to act when he didn't have them staring at him as if he were a monster alien from outer space.
He could understand their estrangement. They had every right to hate him and more. And they had every right to be confused. They were used to Will Traveler their friend. And he couldn't be that now, even if his feelings for them were the same.
Ripping off the bandages was slightly painful. Poking at the exit wound was worse. The area was puffy, oozing and tender to the touch. Not good. He should have broken into a pharmacy and picked up some antibiotics. He glanced at his watch. It was almost nine o'clock, which meant drugstores would be open and busy. A daylight robbery wasn't an option, so he'd have to wait on antibiotics until tonight. In the meantime, he'd make due with what he had.
Gritting his teeth, he poured iodine onto the wound. It felt like a stream of molten lava, but he didn't cry out. It was only pain, and pain could be endured.
Eleven years earlier...
Stephen Mailer scuffed his worn tennis shoes over the dusty path that served as a road for the rear portion of the trailer park where he lived with his mother. Streets in the front section were paved, but not back here where fees were cheapest and the units were parked practically on top of each other.
One of his neighbors, Rosa Caballero, spotted him from where she was hanging clothes on a rack to side of her trailer. As he approached what passed for her yard, she began to curse him in Spanish for walking too close to a row of spindly flowers she'd planted.
Stephen cursed back in the same language. Rosa was insane, and not just because she was trying to grow flowers in the desert. The woman had held a grudge against him ever since her so-called boyfriend's truck had been scratched up. She was sure that Stephen was responsible, because she'd seen the two of them arguing the day before.
He hadn't done the damage, but he'd never told her that. Let her believe what she wanted. If she insisted on turning a blind eye to the other women in the park who slept with her boyfriend, it mattered not to Stephen.
The next trailer belonged to the Hopi Indian with the name most residents of the park couldn't pronounce, so they called him Cochise. Now he was really insane, but only when he was drunk.
Sitting in a lawn chair under his awning, the Indian's hands flew this way and that as wood shavings piled up on his lap. If he was working on one of his whittling projects, he probably hadn't yet started on his daily allotment of cheap whiskey. Cautiously, just in case his assessment of the Indian's sobriety was incorrect, Stephen edged closer to see the figure that was forming in the wood.
"Greetings, Chavatangakwunua," Stephen said, carefully enunciating each syllable, and inserting the same inflections Chvatangakwunua used when he said his own name. The old Indian looked up and smiled. He pointed at the carving, inviting Stephen to tell him what it was. "Hoona," Stephen guessed.
"Yes, yes, bear," Chavatangakwunua confirmed. "You have a keen eye, Taavo."
Taavo! Rabbit! It implied something small and helpless. Stephen hated it when the old man called him a rabbit; it was only slightly less insulting than the vulgar names Rosa tossed his way.
Stephen's trailer was next, parked at a right angle to the Hopi's. As he turned the corner Stephen felt a curse form on his lips. A man was sitting on their entrance steps. So his mother had brought home another "friend." And since he was sitting outside, it probably meant their air conditioner had quit again.
Keeping his eyes trained on his feet, Stephen walked up to the trailer and tried to climb over the body on the steps without acknowledging its presence. The next thing he knew, something hit him in the gut and he went flying backwards. He landed on his back; it was a jarring, bruising collision that would have caused serious injury if the ground wasn't a soft mix of sand and dirt.
Stephen's reaction was immediate and instinctive. He shrugged off his backpack and popped to his feet. Raising his skinny arms in front of his face, he curled his hands into fists and silently dared the man to attack him again.
Grinning wolfishly, the man slowly unfolded his large body from the steps. From Stephen's perspective the man was a giant, at least a foot taller than he was and more than double his weight. But Stephen had taught himself to never back down and to never show fear, so he lowered his head and charged forward.
The man barely touched him, or so it seemed, but Stephen found himself back in the air, cartwheeling through space. It might have resulted in another nasty fall, but Stephen felt the pull of gravity, determined which way was down and managed to twist his body so that he landed on his feet. He wobbled slightly but didn't topple over.
"Not bad," the man said, "for someone without training." He stalked around Stephen, his dark eyes shining under thick black brows. "You're small for twelve, but agile."
Stephen didn't rise to the bait, didn't ask how the man knew how old he was. Instead, he mimicked the giant's movements, circling slowly, outside the reach of the man's arms should he attempt to use them.
The man made a swift move, darting toward Stephen and swinging at him with his right arm. Stephen sensed it was a feint, and rather than lurch away, he ducked under the arm and ran behind his foe. The man's leg chopped the air where Stephen would have been if he had backed away from the punch.
"Bright, too," the man acknowledged as he spun around to face Stephen again. "I understand you're in the ninth grade already."
Shrugging, Stephen gave the stock answer he always gave when anyone commented on his placement in school. "When teachers don't know what to do with me, they jump me to a higher grade."
"And good with languages. How many do you speak? Four? Five?"
Again, Stephen shrugged. This man knew way too much about him. His mother must have been in one of her babbling moods, bragging about her gifted son.
"It must be difficult, to be so smart and so puny, in classes with kids who are older, bigger and jealous."
Now the man was stating the obvious. It almost made Stephen laugh out loud to hear such stupidity. Instead, he sneered and said, "Go fk yourself."
"Foul mouthed. We'll have to work on that, as well as on... other things." On the last word the man moved faster than Stephen would have thought possible for someone so large. Before Stephen could react, his attacker had grabbed him by one arm and one leg and flung him to the ground, never letting go of Stephen's arm. It twisted up behind Stephen as he fell on his stomach, with the man dropping on top of him.
Pinned helplessly to the ground, with excruciating pain flowing from fingertips to shoulder, Stephen snarled, "Is that the best you can do?"
"No," the man answered, "but it's all I need to do." He released Stephen and stood. "You don't let pain rule you. I think I can work with that." Pulling Stephen to his feet as easily as if he weighed no more than a feather, he said, "I'm a relative a couple of times removed. You can call me Uncle David. I'm here to teach you."
Sitting on the sofa with his right hand pressing gauze to his left side, Will felt the past fade away, but the image of Uncle David Fancher remained.
Fancher had taken over Stephen's life. He'd supervised his academic studies and trained him in martial arts, military strategy and weaponry. He'd instilled in him a deep desire to serve his country, which had led him to the military then Operation Hometown.
Will had never questioned Fancher's guidance or motives because they'd shared the same patriotic ideals.
But it was Fancher who had introduced him to Jack Freed. And it was Fancher who had seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth when Will had tried to reach him for advice before the Drexler.
Coincidence? Secrets within secrets? Something else?
With fresh bandages in place, Will stretched out on the sofa and closed his eyes. But he found he couldn't relax, as thoughts slipped in and out of his mind like wisps of smoke. They were a mixed jumble of suspicion, anger and guilt. After ten minutes of muddled mental turmoil he sat back up. Too tired to focus but too wired to sleep, he slipped on shoes and Tyler's jacket and left the suite.
The man seated in the windowed breakfast nook was slender and middle-aged. The gray that streaked his brown hair almost exactly matched the color of his eyes. After finishing a simple meal of fresh fruit, buttered wheat toast and coffee, he picked up the top paper from the stack that he had delivered to his Denver home every morning. As he read the lead story about the limousine explosion in New York City, his cell phone rang. The ring tone identified the caller.
He retrieved the phone from the pocket of his silk dressing gown. "Good morning, Jon. How did it go after we talked last night?"
"Exactly as I expected. I followed them as planned. About seven blocks from the scene, Traveler jumped me. I told him we were on the same side, but he wouldn't listen."
"That's unfortunate. It would have made your job much easier."
"We both knew it was unlikely that he'd trust me," Jon said, "especially after Deer Harbor."
"And the rest? You sound fine, so I assume he didn't hurt you."
"A few bumps, nothing more. I had to put up a fight or he would have been suspicious."
"Then he took the gun?"
"Yes, he took the gun. They're in a hotel on the Upper East Side. I booked the room right below theirs. I was able to snake a microphone up through the duct work. That will allow me to keep tabs on them while I catch up on some shut eye."
"Very good. As always, your performance exceeds my expectations."
"It wasn't that difficult to know what we had to do," Jon said. "Once they were together, the tracer in the watch was on borrowed time. Eventually, Fog would have told Traveler and he would have destroyed it. I can't see Traveler tossing the gun; it's too useful. And as long as they have it, we'll know where they are."
end of Episode 1