Back home again, Colby was idly shuffling papers. He'd placed his newspaper ad to run Sunday to Wednesday, but he was sure he'd be receiving a message from Lynch tonight or tomorrow. He'd copied the photos from the mall on his home printer, and had the copies spread out on his kitchen table, along with field reports on the hunt and a transcript from Cheryl Carson of her last run-through of the food court scene. He picked up an old-fashioned yellow pencil and a small pad, and just let his attention wander from one item to another while he jotted down whatever came into his head. Sometimes this practice was a waste of time, but when logical deduction led him only to blank walls, sometimes letting his subconscious roam and exercising his intuition yielded new leads.
He wondered where the chameleon fit into everyone's plans. Anne Devereaux had appeared from nowhere when Phillips' team had spotted Fairchild in the mall, but she was clearly a confidante and ally of the girls. It seemed impossible that Lynch was unaware of her presence in their lives. And if she spent enough time in his house to be taken for the housekeeper…
Or if she really was the housekeeper…
But Lynch had never mentioned this powerful and potentially dangerous associate. Colby could hypothesize a dozen reasons why, but the only critical possibility was that Lynch didn't know about his housekeeper's talents or what she was up to. Would the kids really keep such a secret from him? Colby didn't know them well enough to say, but doubted they could pull the wool over Lynch's eyes for long – certainly not for two years.
Was it possible there was some truth to the cover story he'd concocted, and that the chameleon was a recruiter of some sort, infiltrating the Lynch household? And if so, who was she recruiting for – some shadowy Genactive guerilla movement, or Ivana Baiul?
His pencil scratched idly on paper. If Anne Devereaux was Ivana's agent, sent either to trap Lynch's kids or to lead them into some other scheme, why was Ivana pushing him so hard to find her? Might the chameleon have gone rogue or switched sides? That might explain the concealment of her identity, as well as the Director's clear hostility. He was inclined to think that the little blonde's abilities were imbued by design, rather than nature. If so, the trail pointed right back at the Shop; no one else one had IO's expertise. And no project in genetic manipulation could have been conducted without Ivana's knowledge. Even if they'd never met, Anne Devereaux and Ivana Baiul were connected somehow.
Colby took a deep breath and brought his mind back to his surroundings. He looked down at the table and frowned. He'd been doodling as he thought, but not on the pad. When he free-associated like this, he'd mark up anything that came to hand when a thought surfaced. That was why he'd put away the original glossy photos and laid out these paper copies. His pencil had busied itself on a photo of the chameleon smiling happily at one of the other girls. But, instead of a jotted note in the margin, he'd darkened her hair and eyes. He stared at the altered image for a moment, wondering if some part of his brain was trying to send a message to the rest. But the only impression his conscious mind got from the photo was that the girl had cute dimples, and would make an equally attractive brunette.
The kitchen phone rang. He checked the ID: Ruche again. He disengaged the bug-zapper and picked up. "Hello?"
"Frank." Ruche's voice was rough and hurried. "Lynch has surfaced. Two agents on general alert in Phoenix didn't check in this morning. A waste hauler found them in a bin outside a mall this afternoon. And, before you ask, they'll probably both live. One's even talking a bit. He was taken down by a girl who might have been Sarah Callahan dressed as a hooker."
"Where did they go, any idea?"
"Traffic cams showed them headed northwest on US Sixty before they dropped off the radar. Her reservation's almost due east of Phoenix, but we sent some people to check it out anyway. Maybe they're headed for Vegas."
He set the phone to speaker and started bundling up his paperwork. "Anything new from Miramar or La Jolla?"
"Yeah." The Security Advisor sounded a bit miffed. "I had a man from Intelligence look over the traffic cam footage. It took him ten minutes to point out that one of the neighbor's cars had gone out that night and never came back. Only, the car was in the neighbor's garage when we paid a little visit Saturday morning."
He nodded to himself. "Clever. Any luck tracking it?"
"For a couple miles, is all. Means nothing." Ruche huffed. "Unless that Russian bird saw them, it looks like they got away clean. Again." A pause. "You got anything?"
He said carefully, "I'm toying with an idea, but it's kind of far-fetched. I'd rather not say anything yet. I may need to take a short trip. I presume I'll need to take a Security detail along?"
"We can't risk you, Frank. Ivana will want to send a squad along, at least."
"Fine then. Tell the boss lady I'll stick close to them." He reminded himself to consult with Phillips about duty schedules, so as to be sure the ex-Razor's picked team would be the ones accompanying him to the meet. "Anything else?"
"Nothing of substance. A local grocer in La Jolla recognized the chameleon as a regular shopper for the past two years. The man who lives across the street is something of a lecher, and he's full of worthless inferences about the girls. About the only important thing he's got to say is that the security force and lawn crew were very chummy with everyone in the house. Looks like you were right about that one, too. We'll be leaning on them a little harder now, but I doubt they know anything, really."
Colby wondered if anyone had talked to the shopgirl at the mall, the one who'd shown Anne Devereaux the back door and stashed the shopping bags for Fairchild to pick up. He decided not to suggest it, in case the woman was a confidant. Besides, he might be able to use that possible lead as an excuse to travel. "Okay, Gerry, thanks. Keep me in the loop, and if this thing I'm thinking about pans out, you'll be the first to know."
He disconnected and re-engaged the bug-zapper. Lost in thought again, he stuffed the eight-by-eleven photos into a manila envelope, thinking to bring them with him to the meet. He absently included the marked photo. Then he got to work devising rules of engagement between hard-edged killers with an unaccustomed mandate to take prisoners and superhumans desperate to avoid capture. He drew a heavy breath, his pencil scratching softly on the pad.