Elsa found Sam sitting in a chair on the balcony of her private suite when her work day ended.
The light was changing, growing darker as seasons changed. He appeared lost in thought, but she had yet to catch him off guard. When she rested her hands on his shoulders, he looked up at her.
The military and corporate worlds were parallel universes with chains of command, structure, organization and procedure, occasional profanity and rule-breaking. It gave the active duty CEO a unique appreciation of the retired Commander, and he of her.
She enjoyed his small considerations such as a morning kiss in private instead of an embrace that might crush her elegant uniform, because officers' uniforms require maintenance.
"Can I wrinkle you now?" he asked.
Elsa stepped around to the front of the chair and sat on his lap, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She was rewarded, as he was, with a kiss of sweet welcome.
"Mmmm, this was worth waiting for," she said. "How did it go with Maddie?"
"I told her everything, sweetheart."
She smiled and interpreted. "You told her everything she'd need to know to stay safe. She'll worry, but you didn't give her more reasons to worry than you had to, and now you're tired from the effort."
He kissed her again. "You . . . amaze me."
"Is she still here?"
"No, I took her to see Fiona."
"That's a surprise."
"She called Fi so I took her over there. I guess Fi changed her mind."
"Hmm. You look like you have a headache."
He sighed. "I'm not doing well with high maintenance women today."
"I'm high maintenance."
He kissed her again. "You just think you are."
When his cell phone vibrated in his shirt pocket, she reached down and removed it, holding it so he could see who was calling.
He frowned as took it from her hand. "Maddie? Yes, okay. Yes, I'll be right there."
Elsa was trying not to smile as she removed herself from his lap and kissed his forehead.
"I'll be back," he said wearily.
Elsa was correct; Sam was exhausted from artfully revising, on the fly, an abbreviated version of what he thought Mike was doing, because the truth was no one knew what he was doing. Not even Raines, not anymore. He kept emphasizing to Maddie that her son was with the CIA, but that didn't slow her inquisition.
Sam was of the opinion that Mike's mother deserved the truth—at least some it. She understood there were a lot of bad guys who had hid behind Tom Card, and the CIA was interested in bringing them from shadows into sunlight. She continued to tightly clutch her grudge against Card, because he'd manipulated and played on her emotions when she went to see him after Nate had been killed.
There were tears in her eyes when she told Sam about the line of bull he'd fed her about broken shards and sons. Once she refocused on Card, Sam's explanations became easier.
However, discussing Fiona with her was a different matter.
"Honest, Maddie. I have not talked with her since she came back. We argued that day Mike left, and she's still mad at me."
"The last time we talked, she to tell me she was leaving. But she's back now, and last night you said she wanted to see me before she didn't want to see me. Why?"
Sam shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know."
Steely blue eyes much like Mike's bored into him. "You have her phone number."
He opened his phone, hit Fi's number and handed it to her.
Their conversation was brief, almost too brief. When she handed it back to him she said, "She's not that mad at you. Take me there now, please."
So he did. But he did not accompany her inside the house. He watched as Fiona peeked through the blinds to verify who was at the door before she opened it. That's when Sam decided what was between Mike's womenfolk was between them.
Sam turned his car around and drove it, and his thumping headache, back to the hotel.
When Fiona opened the door, Madeline's gaze quickly flickered from the short hair on her head to her burgeoning waistline which could not be concealed beneath one of Michael's shirts.
Madeline didn't waste a moment to scold her son. "How could Michael do this? Just leave you? I can't believe it. Oh, no, yes I can. He has the wrong things in common with his father."
Fiona attempted to give Madeline a small hug. "He doesn't know. When he left that day, when I left, I didn't know, either."
"And what have you done to your hair? You don't even look like yourself."
Fiona tried not to frown. "I wanted a change, so I donated it to Locks of Love. They make wigs for cancer patients. It'll grow back."
Fiona studied the expression on Maddie's face for a moment. "I've missed you."
The dam burst. "Oh, I've missed you. This is like a—"
Every tear Madeline hadn't wept between Nate's death and Michael leaving found its way to her eyes. It took ten minutes and a box of tissues before she regained her composure. Fiona sat next to her on the couch; the only comfort she could offer was to move a wastebasket closer for Madeline to drop her used, damp tissues.
Finally, Maddie took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, but . . . why are you so damned calm while I'm falling apart?"
Fiona did not attempt to explain that she had dealt with her tumultuous emotions privately, alone in a house in Key West. Now that she had locked the doors on those feelings and closed the shutters, the storms outside could rage, and she would ignore them. It was the only way she could deal with them.
"I can't change what I can't change, Madeline. I may not have Michael, but I'll have his son, and I've found something new to do with my life. I can take care of us both now, and I know we'll be fine. We will."
"I'm not seeing this the same way," she said slowly, dabbing at her eyes, and wiping away the last of her mascara. "You're having a boy? How long have you known?"
"Just a few weeks, that's all."
"When are you due?"
"Hmm," she delayed. "About two months from now."
Madeline studied Fiona's face for a moment, and then it struck her what had occurred when this new life had begun.
"The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Or vice versa," Maddie said bitterly as she excused herself and left the room.
Fiona expected Madeline's reaction; she didn't like it, but there was nothing she could do.
The innermost part of her that was so exuberantly happy about her pregnancy was something private, something she kept to herself. She couldn't share this with Madeline, and her thoughts about Michael were much too complicated to say anything that Madeline might misinterpret.
Fiona knew a part of her feared Michael's subtle rejection; another part of her hoped for and needed his elation, and still, another part feared that their child's existence meant enemies would find a new and tender target. How could she explain any of this to his mother? She could barely formulate her own feelings in simple sentences.
The complexities of who they were, what they had been and what they might be, and how they would proceed from this point onward were in a state of flux.
But there was something else. Fiona could see Madeline was not ready to be happy, not when Nate's death was still so close, so recent.
It was much easier for Madeline to do what she had so often done without understanding how it affected Michael—and that was to be angry with him. It was so much easier to turn away from someone's anger than to move closer to them. Fiona had watched her own mother struggle with the loss of a child, as she lost her ability to empathize with her children who had lost a sister.
She heard Madeline talking to Sam. Seconds later, the bathroom door closed and she heard her again, this time talking over the sound of running water.
When Madeline finally left the bathroom she returned to the living area and stood by the front window, apparently waiting for Sam.
"Madeline," Fiona began, "I don't want—"
Madeline spun back and held up a finger. "Just save it, Fiona."
The finger was back. "I don't know why my sons manage to pick . . . never mind. I've lost Nate. I've lost Charlie, and I'm not going to waste a minute mourning for a child you're taking away, too. I understand you want to keep him safe. Now I'm asking you to understand me."
"Madeline, I'm not—"
"Madeline, I won't—"
"Good-bye, Fiona. Take care of my second grandson. Let me know what you decide to name him."
Fiona expected her to slam the door on the way out, but she didn't.
Sam was waiting for Gus in his office. He'd arrived before most of the SecuriCorp workforce did, which was still ahead of the blonde bulldog whose station was outside Gustafson's office.
Last night, he'd returned an irritated Maddie to the hotel, only to have her pack her bags and demand that he take her to her house.
"I'm going back to Savannah in the morning. I want keys to my house. You never gave them to me when I got here. Do you think you can do that?"
"Maddie let me take you to Savannah."
"What happened with Fi?"
"That's none of your business."
"Why are you leaving?"
The number of times she'd told him to mind his own business confirmed what he already knew. Madeline Westen was one stubborn woman.
"Seriously, let me drive you there."
"No. I have a ride. He'll be there at 5:30 tomorrow morning. I'm going to my house, and I still need the keys, so you can take me there."
"It might not be safe to stay."
"Get real, Sam. Who would want to kill me? You say you don't know where Michael is. Fiona doesn't want to have anything to do with him. Listen. I'm not stupid. I promise if someone tries to kidnap me, I'll shoot them. Happy now?"
He'd spent the night on her couch, which provided more than an ample number of hours examine the current morass he was stuck in.
When the big red Peterbilt truck stopped in front of her house at 5:30 a.m., Sam met Milt, the driver who had dropped her off three days earlier. He asked Maddie to call when she arrived at her sister's house but wasn't counting on it.
Sam returned to the hotel, showered, changed and apologized to Elsa for his distracted state. She had to be the most patient woman on the planet. Or maybe, he thought, while he waited for Gus to arrive, that was Fiona.
"I should fire you."
Gustafson wasn't surprised see him sitting at his desk, using his computer, scrolling through files. Sam glanced up when he arrived.
"Raines said you were annoying. What do you want?"
"The electronics schematic of this building or you can tell me where you and Big Brother Porter located all the listening stations here, where they're monitored and where I can work in private."
Gustafson turned. "Come on."
When they both left his office, Sam nodded to Gus' assistant. "Good morning."
She scowled at him and did not return the greeting.
"My assistant is a retired agent. She has skills. I wouldn't toy with her."
Gus walked to the end of the hall, used a key to open what appeared to be an office door. Behind it an elevator door slid open and he stepped in.
"I'll get you a key," he said as the door closed. Seconds later, it reopened to reveal a vast space humming with electronics, screens, keyboards, maps. A wall of windows separated the zone into two large work spaces.
Gus pressed a finger to the glass. "The glass is one-way. There's another group of people who work on the sublevel."
Sam shook his head. "Intriguing, the levels of security in this building and the residential complex; it's a little freaky."
"We surpass the Pentagon, which is a challenge for any public or commercial building. The people who founded SecuriCorp, and those of us who have made it our life work, have enemies. We protect ourselves by staying alert and in front of changing technology. Those people there," he pointed to the opposite side of the glass, are our barrier against the NSA."
"The number of centers has grown."
"Not just grown, exploded. Since 9-11, we're not only listening to our enemies and friends, but we're listening in on more and more ordinary Americans at an alarming rate."
"You're talking the Oahu facility."
"Not just there," Gus said. "They've expanded every center—Lackland, Salt Lake City, Oak Ridge."
Sam frowned. "How safe is Mike? Ramsey must have access somehow."
"If not him, then someone in his pocket may, but let's think positive. Let's count on Westen's skills for not leaving a trail."
He turned and walked over to a screen and tapped on the keyboard. "There—there's the map of the building. You can work in Anders' office, since he's decided to have the bypass surgery."
"When did that happen?"
"Yesterday. Jesse talked to him."
Michael had drifted off to sleep again looking at the photos of his beautifully pregnant . . . wife.
That word—wife—was his first thought of the day when he woke. He glanced at the laptop, tapped the touchpad and watched as her images reappeared, side by side.
He traced the line of her cheek, and touched the lobe of her ear before brushing against the short hair by the nape of her neck, then moved to her sunlit image and traced the outline of her back, her shoulder, her breast and then their child. He closed his eyes once more and sensed her presence, her touch.
Opening his eyes again, he knew the time was coming when he would have to destroy the image files. To leave a single pixel of personal information behind was to invite trouble, intrusion. To leave a trail that could lead back to her . . . he absolutely could not lose her, lose them. But to have nothing . . . he didn't think he could do that, either. He would have to re-examine that.
He realized the voice in his memory bank belonged to Tom Card; his lecture on fundamentals in spy craft lived on. Perhaps it shouldn't.
On this point, it wouldn't.
Fiona would stay with him, and so would her photo.
Refreshed now that he had slept, and energized, he rose from the couch and headed to the shower. He needed to make Fiona his wife; the next challenge would be convincing her it was a good idea, because he suspected that would not be an easily accomplished task.
He smiled again and wondered if they would have a girl or a boy.
Raines found Sam in Anders Porter's office, reading through piles of paper reports.
"You're taking over now?"
Sam sat back in Porter's chair. "Porter won't need this office for a while, and being surveilled in my work environment pisses me off."
"I wouldn't have guessed. Anders is doing well after surgery, by the way."
Sam studied the man in front of him. "Unbelievable, the things you can do, Raines. I thought you were at a conference on global banking security in Atlanta."
"I was. Gus said you wanted to see me. I'm here."
"Got some questions. Maybe one will jog your memory. When Mike backtracked his burn notice, it led to a black ops creep named Phillip Cowan, but two days ago when I threw out the bone that you burned Mike, both Gus and Anders bit. Do you want to tell me how that happened?"
Raines grimaced. "Gus told me to expect this."
"Look," Sam said. "We're on the same side or we're not. Keeping info to yourself endangers Mike, endangers every one of us. How deep are you buried in black ops, Raines? And for how long?"
He didn't flinch or deflect the question. "White ops, Axe. Clandestine white ops," he said, emphasizing the distinction, even if it was his perception, not the reality.
"I should have known you'd be the one . . . almost fourteen years now. Unlike Gus or Anders, I don't have a family member left, so I don't need to be as cautious as they are."
"Gus is as involved as you. You two use Porter as the respectable, public front for SecuriCorp. Go ahead. Tell me Gus isn't CIA."
"Was. He hasn't been . . . lately."
Sam arched an eyebrow. "Lately?"
Raines was obviously debating something, another piece of information.
"I've been getting this story piecemeal. Inform me or cut me loose."
Raines arched an eyebrow and scoffed. "If I didn't need you, I'd cut you loose."
"Fine." Sam reached for his phone on the desktop and walked toward the door.
"Axe, get back here. Dammit, you and Westen are such pains—"
"Maybe we don't like being pawns on your board," Sam said. "I'm guessing Mike went dark when he figured it out."
"This is . . . this is . . ." Raines paced.
Sam rooted himself to the floor and scowled. They'd worked together years earlier when Raines was running CIA ops in northern Africa, he was with his SEAL team, and Mike was reporting to Siebels. Raines never emitted a hint of off-the-books activity, but there was one thing Sam knew about the straightest of straight shooters: sometimes they weren't.
"You have to realize how long it's taken us, taken me to gather this much information into a form we can see and understand. Forgive me, Axe, if I don't casually hand it over to you without taking a second look or a third or fourth at what I'm doing here!"
Raines' contained outburst nudged the credibility meter up a notch for Sam as he waited for his explanation.
"Visualize a gigantic tree," Raines said. "Walter Jacob Ramsey is the trunk. It used to belong to a telecom monster named John Barrett until Westen did whatever he did to flip that vehicle and kill him."
Sam sat back down in the desk chair with a thump while Raines paced. Barrett was a dark cloud he had not anticipated seeing again. That was the day Jesse had shot Mike to save him, but taking Barrett down had been a warrior's last stand effort for Mike; he nearly bled to death before they got to him.
"Vaughn was almost successful in claiming survivor's rights then, but between you, Jesse and Glenanne, that didn't happen. We realized too late when Vaughn moved on that vacant hotel or we could have offered you assistance, but you found it on your own. That saved the day, and I got in and pulled Westen out and away as fast as I could."
Sam grimaced. "And sucked him back into the CIA."
"Saved him. Isolated him. Protected him."
"He just wanted to clear his name, Raines. That hasn't changed. "
Raines scowled at him. "It's . . . not . . . that . . . simple," he gritted out.
"Sure it is."
"Being alive, is that simple enough for you? Do you get that yet? Now," he said, taking a breath, "it's the tree's root system that gives it life.
"Look below the surface and you'll see what feeds it. Drugs and arms dealers on the left. On the right you have the intelligence communities—friends and foes. In the middle you have this writhing group of people struggling for control and information—Vaughn, Management, Fullerton, Card and then all the interlopers looking for money and power and a chance to take over. There's a new bunch now we need to identify. They've been there all along; we just don't know their names yet.
"So the organization where the tree lived almost died. It was hemorrhaging because Westen had knocked such a big hole in it; then most of it disappeared when we went on that global arrest sweep."
Raines paused and stared at Sam for moment. "Unfortunately, that also created a window of opportunity for Ramsey to take over. He had his own team—Fullerton and Card here—and then there's his Middle East, African and Soviet support. Throw in some Chinese opportunists and—"
"This is twice as big as I thought it was," Sam said quietly.
"What you, Westen, Jesse, Glenanne and Pearce have done is whack away at that damned tree. You've lopped off limbs, done some root pruning, but not enough to really take it down. And even if we fell it, we know someone will make it sprout again."
Raines took a seat, leaned forward and held his head in his hands. The sound of electronics and temperature controlled cooling and ventilation equipment made the room hum.
"Raines, if you want peace, it's a myth. If that's what you want, you can't have it. As soon as this battle ends, another emerges."
"I just want justice for myself, Gus and Anders and Jesse. And maybe for you, Westen and Glenanne, too."
He straightened up. "Arthur Meyer, MI6. Heard of him? Another pain in the ass."
Sam scowled. "He paid people to locate Fiona. I'm sure you know one of Pearce's informants found her in the Keys. Meyers and Greyson Miller's brother are the reason we relocated her back to Miami. Pearce said he'd gone rogue."
"Somehow, he's under Ramsey's thumb. Every time the CIA and MI6 have made a move his direction, he jumps."
"Got a short version of how you know that?"
"Just some guessing, nothing solid, but I've learned to listen to my gut. You should move Glenanne to the SecuriCorp complex. Someone can get to her where she's staying. It's much harder—"
"To get through the SecuriCorp's security. One more thing, Raines. Why isn't Gus as involved as he was?"
"Because his daughter is . . ."
When Sam's phone buzzed in his pocket, he picked it up. He frowned. It was Fiona.
"Sam, this is a gated community, but someone's watching this house."
"I tried calling Jesse, but his phone is off."
"Anders had surgery today; he's probably at the hospital."
"Oh, that's why Dani isn't answering her phone, either."
"Pearce? Why would she be there?"
"For Jesse. I thought you were an intel guy. Would you mind coming over? I don't move as fast as I used to."
"Walking out the door now," he said.
He met Raines' gaze. "She thinks someone's watching the house."
"That's because someone is probably watching the house."
"Here," Sam said, pulling a folded square of paper from his pocket. The two page report had been behind the note Mike enclosed in the box he'd sent to Jesse.
He handed it and the two AV tapes from Mike's interrogation of Riley to Raines. "For your collection of information that doesn't exist."
Raines unfolded the paper. It was Westen's report and evaluation of the Riley interviews. Quickly, he scanned pages one and two.
They both knew it would be questioned because Raines was the genius who'd devised the plan to make it seem as if Michael Westen, once burned, once discredited, tentatively restored to active duty, was psychologically unstable because he'd dropped off the map.
"My thought exactly," Sam agreed.
The last thing he did was to nuke the PC. Gray anticipated almost everything.
Michael used the high powered software that deleted every bit of history on the device. He'd also left all the necessary software in the desk drawer, so if the location remained safe, he'd be able to use it again. He was leaving as few trails as possible, and he'd already been in this location too long.
As soon as Jesse's package arrived, he collected it, brought it back to the apartment and read through the data he wanted. Once he absorbed it, he destroyed it, but he kept the small photo of Fiona.
It was the riskiest thing he was doing—taking things uniquely personal with him—things that connected him to her, but he had to. Knowing it was in his possession kept him focused. Sane.
He'd packed as much gear as he could in the olive drab canvas duffle bag with the US Army insignia. There was a zip-in liner for the field jacket, so he grabbed that and a watch cap, gloves and a pair of old-style leather combat boots to pack as well. Pennsylvania was cold this time of year. Gray's small collection of flannel shirts, jeans and sweaters fit inside the bag along with a space blanket and tightly rolled sleeping bag which also held two extra clips and a box of shells for the Ruger .45 from Gray's stash. He tucked in two phones, too—Jesse's phone and the prepaid burn phone he'd purchased.
Akhom Thabet was a currently international student who would be attending a special program at the US Army War College in Carlisle, and that would his next stop in his journey. He expected it'd be easy to catch a ride north if he got to the truck stop at the edge of town.
Thabet had provided the original Homeland Security directive that one Michael Westen was no longer a reliable asset.
He needed to know who Thabet's source was at Homeland, just one of several questions for him, despite the spy's admonishment to never contact him again.
His concern now was that in relocating his base of operation to Carlisle, the potential to run into Siebels or Captain Novak doubled.
Sam knocked at the door at the rear of the house instead of coming to the front door like he had the night before when he collected Madeline.
"Hey, there," he greeted her.
"Thanks for coming, Sam."
Sam was still stuck in an awkward place of remembering that argument that sent Fi to Key West. It was still too vivid to forget. Fiona seemed to have put it behind her, but Sam had not.
"Come into the bedroom and look. The car's still there."
"When did you notice it?"
"Two days ago. I thought it belonged to the neighbor, but last night after you left with Maddie, it was back. I was up before dawn and when I looked outside it was there. This morning it left and now it's there again. Someone's watching."
"Could be someone Meyers is paying," Sam said, then watched as Fiona grew pale and seemed to sway. He put his arm around her to steady her.
"I thought he was gone."
"Let's get you packed up again."
"No." She shook her head. "No."
"Be reasonable, Fi." As soon as the word reasonable left his mouth, he knew he'd miscalculated. Fiona's stubborn meter zoomed from 0 to 60.
"I'll be fine, Sam. Why don't you just figure out who's out there?"
"We'll do that as soon as we get you somewhere safer, because if someone's watching you, you're not safe. Please, Fi?"
She frowned at him, and then left the room. Sam followed at a cautious distance.
"Fi? I'm sorry about this. I know you've had to move a lot, but we want to keep you safe. You understand that, right?"
"I understand plenty, Sam. I just want my own—oh, never mind." She turned and walked into the bedroom and started removing clothing from drawers, placing small piles of it on the bed next to a canvas suitcase.
"Your own what?"
"My own bed," she said. "I used to have one, before we set it on fire."
"We'll get you your own bed. I promise."
The expression on his face was so accommodating and so humble that Fiona blinked then had to smile at his pleading expression.
They stood on either side of the room and looked at each other. Sam sighed. "I'm sorry, Fi, for that day, for yelling at you, for being a crappy friend, for not being more grateful you and Mike saved my life, and for waiting so long to tell you I'm sorry."
She crossed the room and put her hands on his arms. "You're always where you need to be when I need you. Thank you."
He nodded. "Let's get out of here, okay? Grab what you need and I'll come back later and get the rest."
She returned to packing while Sam called Pearce.
"How's Jesse's dad?"
"Came through it just fine."
"I'm here with Fi; someone's been watching the house, so I'm moving her and taking her back to the hotel until we can get her someplace where no one will bother her."
"We should have taken her to Jesse's complex first."
"I agree, but Fiona needs input this time. Meantime, can you get a couple of Miami's finest to do a drive-by in the interest of national security? Get the plate? It's a dark grey Toyota Camry."
"Consider it done."
"See you later." He ended the call as Fiona came into the room.
"Fiona needs input?"
Sam turned at her question.
"Yeah, like do you prefer a townhouse, an apartment or a house in the SecuriCorp complex?"
"Right now, I just want to go someplace and rest."
"Thank you, kindly," Michael said, swinging out of the cab and jumping down. "I appreciate the ride and the company, Mo."
"Good luck to you, and thanks again for your service to our country. You got my number if you need another ride. Call it. I run this route at least once a month."
"Thanks again," Michael said, and lifted a hand to wave farewell to the trucker.
Big Mo had a son in the Guard who was serving in Afghanistan. When he saw the U.S. Army imprint on his duffle bag, he'd asked him if he'd been there. Michael could answer truthfully that he had, but several years earlier.
"Are we ever going to win that thing?" the driver asked.
"I don't know," Michael said honestly. "I think we make progress, but that's all we can do. The rest of it is up to the politicians."
"Don't get me started on them," he said.
"Okay, I won't," he said, chuckling.
There was ample proof that would involve a conversation of some duration, given the black on silver sticker Michael spotted back of the cab: Molon Labe.
The expression was the defiant response accorded to a Spartan king to the Persian army's demand to surrender their weapons. The words meant "come and take them." It was an invitation to war. The Spartans ultimately lost the three day battle, but they were victorious in their goal. Michael found himself thinking about that now.
He didn't want to lose his life to be victorious in the battle he was engaged in, because he realized the only way he would be able to protect Fiona and their child was to stay alive to do that.
Nate's death changed his perspective in many ways.
"Look at that," the driver said, slowing cautiously. "Black ice."
Ahead of them, they watched as a truck jackknifed and blocked two of three lanes of traffic.
By the time they could move again, it had started raining and the pavement on open bridges was freezing.
"We'll get you to Carlisle, man, but it's going to be dark by the time we're there. Sorry about that."
"Oh, don't apologize. I'm happy not to be walking. Thanks."
It was always better to arrive in darkness instead of daylight.
Allyson Novak ushered Dan Siebels into her husband's library and nudged her spouse into wakefulness.
He'd been sitting in a leather chair in front of a fire with a book on his lap, sleeping. Dan took the chair next to him.
The retired Army Captain inched upright and yawned. "I didn't intend to do that," he said with a smile for the exceedingly patient woman he'd been married to for 45 years.
"You never intend to do that," she said. "Dan, want some coffee? Tea?"
"Honey?" she asked.
Her husband added his request. "Tea, Ally, if you don't mind."
"We don't have another class until next week, do we?" Novak asked Siebels. "Did I miss something?"
"No, we don't, but that's not why I'm here. I could swear I saw Michael Westen yesterday. If not, he has a twin."
"Are you sure?"
"Where'd you see him? He's not at the college, is he?"
"If you call working a sanitation service truck being at the college, then yes, he's at the college," Siebels said.
"Then he must be . . ."
"My thought, too. What do you suppose he's working on?"
"I know who to call. The question is, should we?"
Ally returned with a tray with a teapot, cups and a plate of cookies. "What are you debating, because if I have to relive that darned Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets game once more I'm going to move in with one of the kids, and I'm bringing Susan with me," she said pointedly to Dan.
"She'll probably go, too," Siebels chuckled. "No, we're talking about a former employee, one of Cap's Rangers."
"It must be Michael Westen."
"You know, since that strange eval we did for Raines, he's been on my mind. Maybe that's just leftover guilt for not believing him when he got burned. "
"He didn't look well then, did he?"
"Want to sleep on it?" Siebels asked.
"Yeah. I do."
Once again, Michael thanked Tyler Gray for his posthumous gifts of a place to stay and work, for clothing that almost fit, and for the name of the forger who'd created Gray's set of false documents. It'd taken more of his cash than he'd wanted to spend to obtain a set for himself, but now he could get a job, pass a drug test and be a nearly legitimate citizen.
He found the carriage house rental while he was leaving a grocery store. He was staying a night a time at different shelters and had been looking to rent someplace he could afford with his dwindling stash of cash.
Working for the sanitation department would suit his needs because it served the college and commercial areas near it. He'd applied for two jobs—one on a truck and the other as a janitor, and was waiting to see if they called him in for an interview.
The couple was posting their rental information on a large bulletin board area outside the store's interior and the exterior weather doors. After they left, he turned back and took down their flyer.
We Need a Handyman, the brochure said. $50 per month rent and many repair tasks. We'll work around your work hours, the ad said. No smokers or drinkers. It was perfect. He followed them to their address on foot and knocked on a door.
He smiled and held up the ad when the woman answered the door; seconds later, her husband appeared and they invited him inside. After they determined that he had been in the military, and had applied for jobs even though he was not yet employed, they decided to rent the carriage house to him.
It was hardly a luxury accommodation, but it wasn't any better or worse than the loft. Michael loved it. "I can give you the $50 now, if you are interested in renting to me," he said.
They exchanged a glance. "Maybe you should see what we need to have done before you agree."
Painting three rooms, waxing and using a polishing machine on recently refinished hardwood floors, and installing new ceiling tile in the carriage house as well as insulating the floor were things he could easily do for them.
They agreed, but before they took his money, the wife had a task. "Can you fix that door lock there," she said. "It doesn't always work right."
Michael checked it, realized the problem and requested a crosshead screwdriver. Within minutes, the lock was repaired.
They took his money and showed him to his new place of rest—living quarters above what stored carriages a century earlier and now was their garage.
Fiona called Jesse and asked him to come over, so he did. It wasn't far, just across the tree lined boulevard.
Her new location was in one of the smaller SecuriCorp homes. It had two bedrooms, a bath and a half, an attached garage which now stored the car she wasn't using and Michael's Charger, and a kitchen at the end of what was described as a great room, even though its size didn't live up to the term.
In the early 1980s, SecuriCorp obtained the property and hired an architectural firm to design the residential complex to meet the needs of their upper level employees, consultants and visitors who demanded a high level of personal security.
It was, in many regards, life in an attractive prison with electronic guards, multiple back-up systems in the event of a security breech, and quick access to personal security if needed.
Fiona called it prison with keys for the inmates, and she was right. It was. A very pleasant prison where residents chose to lock themselves in to be safe and secure.
"I'll be back," Jesse told Dani who was seated his dining room, matching years and dates to Libyan spies that may have intersected with Arthur Meyers.
Meyers was a known quantity now, officially disavowed as an MI6 agent.
The bulletin came across with a survey of updated items of interest for the Miami CIA office, since that was his last known location. It also listed the item that Fiona Glenanne was being sought for questioning by MI6.
The Brits knew she was a protected CIA asset, so that brief item had received immediate and negative response from Case Agent Pearce who maintained contact with Glenanne.
Her contact at the State Department told her it was not what it seemed, but she did not believe him.
She knew it meant the UK was re-examining, at the request of the Miami Homeland Security office, the British-produced documents that detailed Fiona Glenanne's activities with the IRA. As a protected CIA asset, the request had been made several months earlier to clear Fiona's record and allow her to travel, without encumbrance, if she chose, to Ireland.
It was the timing and juxtaposition of the items in the briefing that made Dani Pearce lose her temper. "Since when do we play these games?" she'd asked. "This needs to be redacted immediately."
State said they'd do that, but she had yet to see it happen.
Somewhere Dani recalled seeing a file that linked Meyers to Card and Riley with a Libyan, if only she could locate it. She'd brought the documents she wanted to Jesse's place so she could work without her coworkers looking over her shoulder.
The table had been pushed into the corner to give her more usable surfaces, and she was using every available inch.
"I'll still be here," Dani said, looking up. "Did she sound okay?"
"As okay as she could sound, okay?"
She blinked and looked up.
He grinned when Dani made a face at him. "I hate it when you break my concentration."
"No you don't."
He saw the flush of pink against her neck and smiled.
"They need to remove that directive. I'm so mad I could spit tacks."
"Tell me one thing and do another. It needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Say hi to her, okay?"
"Back soon. Cool down. Or not."
She looked up at him then, saw that slow smile that always had the same effect on her and returned it.
She threw her pen down after he left. Her ability to concentrate was now officially ruined.
Fiona didn't waste a second once Jesse arrived. "Do you know where Michael is?"
"Ah . . ."
"I know you do. Tell me how."
"What's this about, Fi?"
She stepped closer to him, grabbed his hand and moved his palm flat against her belly.
He looked down, felt the movement beneath his hand and knew a sense of awe. He blinked and smiled. "That . . . is . . . so . . . cool."
"I need to see Michael and I need to see him in the next week because I won't be able to travel after that."
"When did you change your mind?" Jesse looked down to where she was still holding his hand against her belly. Finally, she released him.
"Does that matter?"
"Ah . . . "
"I changed my mind."
"That's not what I meant."
"Then what . . . ," she paused. "Does Michael know? Did you tell him?"
He shook his head no. "I didn't tell him."
"I sent him a picture."
She turned away from him then.
"He needed to know, Fi. That's his child, too."
She was shaking her head.
He placed a hand on her shoulder. "He needed it, Fi."
"I asked you a question but you haven't answered. Where is he?"
She turned around and looked up into his face. "Will you take me there?"
"I need to talk to him."
Jesse studied her face and found himself agreeing, but then he would have agreed no matter what she would have asked him. He suspected she knew that.
"Let me figure out the details. This is not going to be easy."
Allyson Novak smiled and welcomed the young woman into her home. "Let me take your coat. It's nasty out there."
She glanced out the window and saw the dark SUV that brought her to the house slowly back down the small curve in the cobbled stone driveway. At the bottom, it skidded to the left and missed the mailbox by inches. It had started snowing about an hour ago, and the forecast predicted it would last through tomorrow.
She was startled that someone in the CIA had actually agreed to this. Someone with two ounces of common sense should have determined that this young woman was in no condition to travel, but she understood soldiers and soldiers' wives . . . or girlfriends.
She also understood the emotion of long distance separation and the sorrowful joy of children born without a father to hold them, and the sorrowful joy of the mother who did.
Her guest sat down on the bench by the door and used the boot jack to remove her boots, then left them dripping on the rug. She was glad to see thick socks covered her feet, and heavy leggings and a thick cabled sweater covered her small, rounded body.
The storm was expected to bring a combination of another seven to eight inches of wind-driven snow or sleet and freezing rain, but for now it looked like snow was arriving first. If they had to plan a weather event to assist in keeping their presence hidden from those who would keep track of such things, it couldn't have been more ideal.
Allyson knew he was there, but neither of them could speak . . . or would, she thought, while she remained in the room.
She reached for her coat and turned around.
"We'll be back tomorrow morning, Michael, if the roads are clear enough. We'll call before we start back."
His lips were pressed together and his eyes were damp and focused on Fiona. He swallowed and managed to speak. His voice was hoarse. "Thank you."
Allyson left the couple in the living room of her home, and stopped at the back door to pull on her boots, and grabbed her scarf and gloves. Locking the door behind her, she went down the steps and motioned for her husband to back out of the garage.
As soon as he did, she pulled the garage door shut and used the key lock to secure it, then stepped around her husband's newest delight, the snow blade he'd purchased recently and had mounted to the front of his vehicle. She opened the passenger door and climbed into the sturdy four-wheel drive truck.
"They'll be just fine," she said. "If she doesn't have the baby while she's here."
"She's that close? What was Porter thinking?" Cap let off the brake and clutch and backed down the driveway.
"He was probably remembering when Jesse was born."