Chapter Eight

"Name?"

The policeman's voice rumbled over the conference room speakers. Moira, Brian, and Kitty stared up at the screen, searching the interrogation recording for any clues the police may have missed.

"Sally. Sally Sutherland," the bedraggled woman mumbled, her brown, unwashed hair hanging over her face. She sat with her shoulders hunched, her hands cuffed to the back of the metal chair.

"Occupation?"

"I...I work at the water treatment plant," she whispered, staring vaguely around the moss-colored room. "I'm a...a security guard..."

"She doesnae sound very convinced of that," Moira said.

"It's like she's been drugged or something," Kitty said, leaving her chair and striding closer to the screen. "Look at her eyes. She has no idea what's going on."

The policeman continued: "All right, then, Sally. Where were you five days ago, about three in the afternoon?"

"Five days...?"

The woman shook her head slowly.

"I collect Janey from...from kindergarten in the afternoon. We stop by the open market...pick out fresh groceries for supper..."

"Who is Janey, Sally?" the policeman asked.

"Janey... My daughter..." She smiled distantly. "Zany-Janey, my pretty, pretty rose..."

"Sally? Sally, listen. Where is Janey right now?"

"Where? I don't..."

"Come on, Sally, pull it together. Think: where is your daughter, Janey?"

"My...daughter?" Sally's dazed eyes rolled all around the room. "Have to... Have to find Janey..."

"Is Janey in trouble, Sally?" the policeman asked. "Is that why you've been committing these crimes? Does someone have your daughter?"

"Crimes?"

Sally stared straight through the camera, her expression lost and frightened.

"Please, I...I need to get home... Have to make supper for Janey..."

Brian paused the playback.

"The questioning goes around in circles like this for the next fifteen minutes," he said tiredly. "Kurt and I sat through the whole thing when Dai first sent it over. This recording is just the latest attempt by the cops to get her talking. They're sending Ms. Sutherland to a shrink tomorrow to see if she can get any sense out of her."

"Good idea," Moira said as Kitty returned to her seat. "Someone or something has definitely been messing about with that poor woman's mind."

"I'm leaning more toward 'someone'," Brian said and slammed his fist against the table, making his teammates jump. "Damn it, Betsy!" he growled. "Just when we could really use a psychic, she goes and...and...!"

"Brian," Moira said quietly. "Brian, we all understand that you're angry, but-"

"Angry doesn't begin to cut it," he snarled. "That spoiled, pampered little... She was just a probationary member. Probationary! She had absolutely no business running that simulation! And as for Kurt's manipulative, conniving offspring-"

"Brian!" Kitty snapped glaring the big man down until he averted his eyes.

"I didn't mean that the way it sounded," he said gruffly. "I just... I still can't believe it. That Betsy...my twin sister... That she's really...gone."

"We don't know that, Brian," Kitty said. "Forge and Doug are still piecing together the computer records. Until we have a clear picture of what happened in the Training Room that day, we just have to keep hoping that they're all still alive."

"Kate is right," Moira said, and sneezed into her handkerchief. "We've not found a trace of their bodies – either Betsy's or the children's. But it's no good speculatin' without proper facts. We'll just be turning our wheels to no purpose and wasting what little time we have. Now, if we're done here, there's a wee lass in the medical wing I should be seeing to."

"Yes, yes, we're done," Brian said, and Moira strode out the door. He caught Kitty before she could follow.

"Kate, I've been meaning to ask. About Alistaire..."

"He's doing OK," Kitty said. "For now."

"Good. That's good."

"Yeah."

Kitty sighed and shook her head.

"Brian, you're not the only one going crazy here. This whole situation is so damn frustrating!" she said. "First the explosion, and now we find out those sick murders were done by some poor lady who's probably as much a victim as little Jessalyn downstairs! Betsy, Marti, Suzie, Tessa and Cessily are all missing, Alistaire and Moira keep getting sicker, and there's nothing I can do. No clues to grab on to!"

"Actually..." Brian looked thoughtful. "Wait. That woman you captured. Sally."

"What about her?"

"She said she worked at the water treatment plant," Brain said, striding back to the controls. He reset the recording and started it playing.

"What are you..."

"Shh," Brian said as she joined him by the machine. "Just listen."

"Sally. Sally Sutherland," the disoriented woman on the screen was muttering.

"Occupation?"

"I...I work at the water treatment plant. I'm a...a security guard..."

Brian paused the playback.

"She's a guard at London's main water treatment plant," he said.

"Yeah, so?"

"Moira's protozoan. It's a waterborne parasite, right?"

"A genetically engineered waterborne parasite," Kitty said, her eyes starting to light up. "Which means someone must have dumped it into the water supply at some point."

"And here's Sally, who's most likely been under mind control," Brain said. "Who better than a security guard to poison the well, as it were?"

"But, why?" Kitty said. "What's the point of infecting London's water with these parasites? Who's the real target here? Or, is there a target? What if this is all some random terrorist plot to make us panic?"

"I don't think this is random. After all, you and I aren't affected," Brian said. "In fact, these parasites don't seem to affect any mutants. Only ordinary humans."

"Ordinary humans like Alistaire and Moira."

"And Jeanine Prestcote."

Kitty nodded, the implications building up in her mind.

"So, we're looking for someone with a grudge. Someone who wants to wipe out ordinary humans while leaving mutants unharmed. But then, why the murders? If this creep used Sally to infect the water supply and to kill those women, there has to be a connection."

"I agree," Brian said. "Those murders were done with a purpose in mind. Parts were harvested from the victims. But it doesn't make sense. Why stage such public, sickeningly brutal murders of physical mutants, while using microorganizms to infect ordinary humans with a deadly disease?"

"Maybe there's more than one mind at work here," Kitty said. "Multiple motives for multiple nuts. God, I hate this case. There's still so much we don't know! And where does that damn explosion fit in with all this?"

"I'm going to bring this up with Kurt," Brian said. "Blue devil hasn't left the Control Room since the explosion. He's just been going over and over all the records we've collected so far."

"Alice is no better," Kitty said. "I mean, I honestly love those kids like family, but I can't begin to imagine what Kurt and Alice...oh, hold on-"

Kitty's comm unit blinked to life, and she took the call.

"Doug? What are you-"

"Ms Kitty, please, you have to get down here," the young linguistic mutant said, his eyes darting around nervously, as if he was afraid his call would be overheard. "I found something, in the Training Room computer records. Something important."

"Well, why don't you tell Forge-"

"This is about Forge," Doug said urgently. "Ms Kitty... I think he's the one who made the Training Room explode!"

To be continued...