Chapter 16

"Uh, Magnus?" Will asked, entering her office. "Did you have Cyril transferred out of the SHU?"

"Of course not, Will," she answered, frowning. "Why on Earth would I do something like that?"

Will's expression went from quizzical to horrified. "He's not down there, Magnus. I looked. Twice."

She picked up the phone and rapidly punched numbers. "Henry, Level Two Lockdown, now. Cyril has escaped."

Five hours of intensive searching later, it was clear that Cyril was no longer anywhere in the Sanctuary or on the grounds. It was also clear that his cell had been opened from the outside.

"Henry's warned the Siren community," Ashley announced, striding into Magnus' office. "I'm going to go start pounding pavement."

"Ashley."

"Yeah?"

"Kindly start your search at Finn Reynolds' church."

"You've got it, Mom," she agreed, turning to go.

"Dear, there's one more thing."

"What?" she asked, frowning.

"Kindly consider that this is a renegade Siren we're dealing with."

The girl's expression was momentarily blank, then it clicked for her and she started to look queasy.

"Understood, Mom. I've got it under control."

"Thank you. I love you, Ashley."

"Love you, too." Ashley gave her a quick peck on the cheek, then ran from the office.

Will sighed deeply, dropping onto the couch. "Magnus, you're not going to like this, but I've got to say it."

She sighed as well before sitting down next to him. "Go ahead, Will."

"Everything I've read about this species says that they're very strongly in to vigilante justice."

"Yes," she agreed, nodding. "Which is why I sent Ashley to the Church. I'd rather the police not know that a man was tortured to death using an ancient Norse technique in Old City tonight."

He sighed and nodded. "Kind of figured that. The thing is…"

"Go on," she prompted. "You'll feel better once you've said it out loud."

"Even though she was in London at the time he was taken from the SHU, we can't ignore the fact that Aleka was probably involved in this. No way did a pack of Sirens get in and out of this place undetected without inside help. They had the security codes."

She shook her head, looked him in the eye, and confessed, "I don't have a choice but to ignore her involvement, Will. There's no hard evidence she had anything to do with it and she won't have left any behind. If I try to condemn her based solely on the fact that she's a Siren…"

"You've got a PR nightmare on your hands?" he realized, shaking his head. "You become just one more 'typical' judging an abnormal based solely on species. Damn."

"She knew I'd be unable to retaliate. The strongest action I can take at this point would be to have James publically reprimand her for failing to see the killing coming and I'm reluctant to do that for the same reasons I can't openly accuse her of being complicit."

"The perfect crime," Will muttered, shaking his head. "She did it, we know she did it, everyone else is going to know she did it, but no one's ever going to be able to call her on it…"

"She's clever, I have to give her that. I honestly should have seen this coming."

He shook his head. "Magnus, Aleka Pappas has been with the Sanctuary for almost 70 years and her service-record is spotless. No one could have seen this coming." He shrugged and pointed out. "I knew exactly how angry these crimes made her, I used to work with killers for a living, have been known to predict murder attempts before they actually happened, and I didn't see this coming."

"Well, if you didn't see it, either," she sighed, patting his knee. "Thank you, Will. You're right, of course. I sometimes demand too much of myself."

"Just occasionally. So, how are we going to play this?" he asked. "Because, whether we confront her or not, she cannot keep being a part of this organization."

She closed her eyes, letting her head fall back and rubbing the back of her neck.

"You… don't plan on getting rid of her?" he asked, sounding perplexed.

"Will, we need Aleka," she whispered, not opening her eyes. "In addition to her extensive contacts within abnormal groups who would otherwise have zero dealings with the Sanctuary, there is no psychiatrist on this planet as talented at treating Post-Traumatic Stress and Survivor's Guilt."

"Which, for Sanctuary staff, is a pretty huge job-hazard." He sighed. "Jesus, Magnus. Aleka, she's…"

"To put it in terms Ashley might employ, 'she has me by the balls', Will."

"We can't let her get away with that," he protested. "The worldwide Sanctuary network needs to be united behind a strong leader, not one whose authority just got undermined like this."

She sighed and opened her eyes, looking sideways at him. "Which is why no one, outside of us, Henry, and Ashley, must ever know…"

His stared at her with wide eyes, mouth hanging open. "You're just going to make this vanish?"

"I know that very much flies in the face of your youthful idealism, Will, but it's the only way. Aleka understood that all too well. Her position would have been severely weakened by the mere suspicion that she might have been involved in Cyril's death. She'll be Head of the UK Sanctuary one day. No member of the younger generation would have accepted her leadership if there was the slightest suspicion that she might have participated in Old Guard vigilante justice. Exposing her would considerably weaken her position, but she also knows that I can't afford to have my own authority questioned by letting it be known that I was undermined to this extent."

He let out a low puff of air. "Damn, you weren't kidding about her having us by the balls…"

"No. And, on that note, I'm going to have to forbid you to attempt any retaliation of your own against her for this. More likely than not, you'll be taking over the entire Sanctuary network one day. I'd rather you do that without a woman like Aleka Pappas bearing you any significant grudge."

"Magnus," he began, shaking his head.

"I mean that, Will. There will be severe consequences if you disobey me in this. This organization is difficult enough to run without office politics intruding at every turn. I will not tolerate any attempt by you to retaliate against Aleka Pappas."

"I can get her to step out of line some other way that doesn't reflect on you."

"No, Will." She shook her head. "One of these days, you and Aleka Pappas will be the two most powerful members of this organization. She will be content to be subordinate to you. Unless she bears you a grudge over some other matter: in which case she will attempt to destroy you. Which would tear the Sanctuary apart. I can't allow that to happen, Will. Nor, to be quite honest, am I comfortable with the idea of the Sanctuary being under the guidance of a rather anti-human individual."

"How anti-human are we talking here?" Will asked. "I mean, she takes the trouble to Pass and goes to real extremes to not eat us anymore."

"Yes, but she does still hold homo sapiens sapiens to be considerably inferior. The Sanctuary has always been about allowing people to coexist. Under the wrong leadership, this organization could become the diametric opposite of the Cabal, but no better for mankind. I will not have the Sanctuary become an organization used to marginalize and oppress human beings merely because you refuse to accept with good grace that I was just slapped in the face with my own ineffectualness!" She shook her head. "You're the future, Will; you're needed, whether you like it or not! Which is why you are going to keep your head down and not do anything to antagonize Aleka Pappas."

"Okay, okay." He held up his hands in surrender. "I'll steer clear. Doesn't mean that I like it, but I understand where you're coming from, too. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage to act civilly towards a woman who's suddenly as big a threat to us as the Cabal, but I'll find a way. I promise."

"Thank you, Will." She smiled and touched his cheek gently with the back of two fingers for a moment before rising. "I knew I could rely on you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to start the incinerator."

"I'll come keep you company," he answered, climbing to his feet. "You shouldn't have to be alone right now."

"Thank you, Will." As they walked, her phone rang. "Ashley."

"Mom, en route back as we speak. They didn't stop me from taking the body and Finn Reynolds swears no one's going to talk."

"Thank you, dear. We'll meet you downstairs." She hung up the phone and glanced sideways at Will. "The Sirens claim they won't talk. Can we trust those assurances?"

"Yeah." He nodded. "Justice has been satisfied and an example has been made. They'll never forget what happened to Cyril, but their fear of exposure also means they aren't going to actually be willing to discuss it, either. Once that body gets into that incinerator, this is over, Magnus. It doesn't go any farther."

"Good." She nodded. "Needless to say, I'd like that to include Joe. If he hears about what happened to Cyril…"

"He'd get the wrong idea. Absolutely, Magnus. As far as Joe's concerned, Cyril is languishing in the SHU where he belongs. Joe's unsure enough about all of this as it is. I'd honestly be surprised if he wasn't still trying to figure out whether he needs to be helping us or trying to bring us down."

"Oh, don't worry, Will. I have that matter, at least, well in-hand…"

Will frowned blankly at her. She just smiled and shook her head, walking on.

0101010

Joe stared down at the Crime Scene Photos with a sigh. Jimmy Ansen of the Sanctuary, martyr to The Cause…

"It gets easier, Detective Kavanaugh," a female voice informed him.

He looked up, startled, and jumped to his feet as he recognized her. "Commissioner Grayson, ma'am…"

"As you were," she answered, waving a dismissive hand and closing the door. "You handled yourself well with the cannibal killings. I just wanted to thank you for that in person."

He blinked in surprise. "Um, I just did my job, ma'am." He gestured to the photos on his desk. "Besides, the case kind of closed itself."

"Of course it did," she agreed, inclining her head. "But Helen tells me you went above and beyond to help her people out and that deserves a few minutes of my time." She sat down in front of his desk.

He stared. "You know Helen Magnus?"

"Which kind of puts a kink in your half-formed plans to bring her organization down." She shrugged, expression apologetic. "You honestly thought there weren't others on this Force who know or at least suspect all this? It's a big, crazy world out there, and we can't always do what needs to be done ourselves. And, in light of that, the Sanctuary has become a very necessary evil."

"So we just give them carte blanche to kidnap and sometimes kill?"

"I reviewed your service-record before I came down here, so we both know the answer to that."

"Hunting someone down with the intent to kill is not the same as suicide-by-cop!" he protested, shaking his head.

"Whenever possible, the Sanctuary catches without killing. But just like we're sometimes called upon to impose the death penalty, some people are just too dangerous to society to be allowed to live in it any longer. The principles are no different, Detective Kavanaugh, only the context."

He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "I just don't see how I'm supposed to be comfortable with the idea of those people operating outside the law on my patch."

"Understandable." She produced a flash-drive and laid it on his desk before climbing to her feet. "Study these case-files, Detective, and email me if you still have questions or concerns. Thank you again for your handling of this case. Very well done. Good day."

He watched her go with another sigh, pain starting up just behind his right eye. Shaking his head, he picked up the drive and eyed it thoughtfully. He had Pandora's Box in his hand. The only question was whether or not to open it.

The End