The Egyptian Connection
Summary: With Rebecca missing, Phileas Fogg and Agent Blayne ('To Catch a Spy') race to recover her and to figure out why Agents all over Europe are killing their partners.
Rating: PG 13
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I just enjoy getting inside their heads from time to time.
Author's Note: This is the second story in my six-part SAJV series featuring Agent Blayne and her organization.
Feedback: Oh, yes please! Feed me, feed me!!!
Chapter 1 -- When Good Missions Go Bad
Jules sighed as the wind blew his papers onto the floor for perhaps the tenth time since he had sat down to write. He would have closed the window, but it was really too stiflingly hot for that. Instead he gathered the papers together again and placed them in a drawer. No more writing until tomorrow, he decided. He took out his watch for a moment and realized that it was tomorrow. Sighing, he blew out his candle and began undressing.
"Oh, gods, I thought you would never put that light out..." a familiar voice whispered from just outside his window.
Jules looked up, startled as a figure came swinging through the window into his room, from above. "Blayne?" Jules asked in surprise. He had not seen her since right after Rebecca had been shot, and he had certainly not expected her to appear in his garret, in the middle of the night, through an opened window. He reached for a candle. "What's going on, Blayne?"
"Please, don't light it." Blayne asked urgently.
"Are you being followed?"
"I... I might be. I think I slipped them, but I can't be sure." Blayne's voice had a ragged edge to it. "Look, Jules, I'm really sorry, but I don't know anybody else in Paris..."
"It's okay. Are you in some kind of trouble?" Jules walked over to his window and pulled the curtains. "There, can I light a candle now?"
"Are you okay, Blayne?" Jules asked, not liking the way her voice sounded. He lit the candle and then turned to face her. He nearly dropped the candle. The voice was Blayne's. The woman speaking could not be. "Wha-"
"Oh, right." She smiled sheepishly. "Make-up, Jules. I'm passing for a Moor this week."
"You most certainly are." Jules stared in awe. Her normally pale face was swarthy, her red hair, black. Only her clothes failed to convey the appearance of a middle-eastern lady. She was dressed in her leather body-suit which had sustained a number of tears and was quite filthy. He took a step closer and saw that she was bleeding from a cut on her right temple.
"You're hurt. Let me help you." He filled his basin with water and searched around for a clean cloth.
"I'm fine. It's nothing. Just..." she trailed off, shaking her head. "Nothing." She walked past Jules and poured herself a glass of water.
At this close range, he could see that the cut was not a cut at all, but a deep gash surrounded by a burn. "You've been shot!"
"A flesh-wound. An inch to the left and I wouldn't be standing here, but I wasn't so it's not a big deal."
Jules crossed himself as she produced a small vial from her pocket and added it to the water in the basin. She began scrubbing her face and neck with the foamy mixture. The make-up washed away easily, showing her flesh to be even more pale than usual.
"Are you okay? Should I call for a doctor?"
"Gods, no!" she shook her head rapidly. "I shouldn't even be here, Jules. I'm sorry. I'll leave now..."
"No you won't!" Jules said firmly. "Look at you! You've been shot, you've obviously been in some kind of a fight... And when's the last time you ate?"
She paused, derailed by this question. "Um... It's been a few days." she admitted.
"I don't have much, but I've got some almost fresh bread and some cheese and a bottle of wine."
"I'm really not hungry, Jules. I just... could I borrow your floor?"
"My floor?" Jules repeated, frowning. "What do you want with my floor?"
"I haven't slept in three nights. I'll leave in the morning, but I need some sleep or I'm going to get myself killed."
Jules nodded and maneuvered her over to his bed. He tossed her a dressing-gown. "Take my bed."
"I won't have a guest sleeping on the floor."
"You have a good heart, Jules, but I prefer the floor." She picked up the dressing-gown and looked around for a corner to change in.
"I can blow out the candle while you..."
She shook her head. "You need to change, too. Why don't we just turn our backs to each other?" she suggested reasonably.
Jules blinked, but complied. It seemed a shocking breach of etiquette to him, but then, Blayne had never exactly been bound by traditional social mores. As he changed, he asked, "So, um, can I ask? What happened?"
"Um, Johansen and I were in Paris following up on a suspected League hide-out. He, um... we... there was an ambush. Johansen was killed."
"Oh, Blayne, I'm sorry. Had you known him long?"
"Eight years. I never..." Blayne shook her head and quickly sat down. She suddenly felt quite weak. "He... I..." She sighed and did not continue.
Jules walked over to her. "I'm so sorry..."
"I've been... hiding for the last few days. We aren't as established here as in London, so I had nowhere to go."
"You should have come here sooner."
"I promised that the next time we met the circumstances would be better."
"This is still better than last time. Do you have enough money to get back to London?"
She shook her head. "Johansen..."
He nodded. This at least explained why she was still in France. "I have a little bit stowed away for an emergency. I'd say this qualifies."
"Thank you, Jules. I'll wire it back to you as soon as I get to London."
"I'll go with you."
"No!" she protested, shaking her head wildly. "I won't put you in the kind of danger..."
"Look at you, Blayne. You're hurt, irrational, you need someone to protect you."
She stared dubiously at him. "You? Protecting me?" She laughed shrilly.
"May God have mercy on us both." Jules replied, grinning. "It's my money. I'm coming. Besides, I was thinking of visiting Fogg again anyway."
She sighed. "Either you are very persuasive or I am very tired."
"You must be tired." Jules smiled at her. "The bed's over there."
"I'm a floor-sleeper, Jules. Deal with it."
He sighed. "Okay. But if you change your mind..."
"I'll be sure to climb in with you. Thanks." She smiled broadly as she watched Jules go pale at the suggestion. "Relax, son. I'm kidding."
Jules nodded shakily and climbed into his bed. "We'll have to leave quite early, or I'll catch it from my landlady for having a woman up here."
"I can go out the window again."
"You're going to have to use the front door one of these days."
"Why?" Blayne stretched out on the floor.
Jules shook his head and blew out the candle. Blayne pulled off her wig and placed it next to her, within easy reach. She sighed and rolled onto her stomach. This was her alert position. If anything happened in the middle of the night, she would be ready from this position to spring into action. Sleep now, she ordered herself, and years of physical discipline allowed her to immediately do so. The sleep, while neither deep nor comfortable, was a welcomed dose of oblivion.
Jules woke with a start the next morning at the sound of a chair scrapping across the floor. "Oh, I'm sorry, Jules." Blayne said softly. "I didn't mean to wake you... It's early still."
"No." Jules shook his head. "It's later than I usually get up, actually." He sat up and looked at her.
She had straightened the hair of her wig into a semblance of order and was dressed in a pair of his own pants and an old shirt and vest from his closet. "I hope you don't mind. It would hardly do for me to be seen running around Paris in that." She jerked her head towards the leather body-suit.
"It's okay. They actually fit you quite well."
She smiled. "The pants are a bit short. But I've always fit better into men's clothes than into women's. I used to borrow Michel's clothes all the time." She frowned briefly.
"Michel? Your fiancé?"
She nodded. "He was just about my size, so I would borrow his clothes. Bit short in the leg, but…" she smiled faintly at what was obviously a fond memory. She looked up suddenly. "There's a train that leaves in half an hour."
"We'll take that."
"You should stay here, Jules. They may still be following me."
"All the more reason for you to have someone to back you up." Jules said firmly. He grinned. "Besides, it's my money."
She stuck her tongue out at him, but nodded acceptance. "You had better pack quickly."
Jules pulled out his carpet-bag and began shoving clothes in, more or less at random. Blayne smiled and reflected on how much such a random style of dress must distress poor Passepartout. He made room for her body-suit before closing the bag and starting for the door.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Blayne asked idly as he grasped the door-handle.
Jules stared at his bag thoughtfully for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't think so..."
"Jules..." Blayne giggled. "Look down."
"What?" Jules looked down at himself. "Oh. I guess clothes might help."
Blayne nodded. "Probably." She opened his window and cautiously looked around. "I'll meet you outside."
"Be careful!" Jules called after her as she clambered out the window. Laughing to himself, he quickly dressed, retrieved his money, and started down the stairs.
"Where you sneaking off to, Verne?" a young man asked loudly as Jules tiptoed down the stairs.
"I'm not sneaking, Arnaud, I'm trying not to wake anyone." Jules sighed. "I'll see you in a few days."
"Skipping rent?" Arnaud laughed.
"Without my notebook?" Jules laughed. "I'd have to be desperate!" Laughing, he hurried down the remaining stairs. As promised, Blayne was lounging in the street, leaning against a wall. It was early enough that few people were awake and moving about outside, but the few who were kept casting rude glances Blayne's way. She appeared oblivious to them. She waved when she saw Jules and saluted him in easy French.
"Are you sure you have everything?" she asked, sticking to his native tongue.
"I didn't know you spoke French." Jules said, shaking his head in response to the question.
"You never asked. But when in Rome..." She shrugged. "As if I'm not getting stared at enough without speaking a foreign language into the mix. Thank you, no."
Jules laughed. "How many languages do you speak?"
"Enough to get by." She smiled evasively. "Give me your hat."
"Because, if I hide my hair under it, I might get taken for an extremely effeminate young man instead of a brazenly shameless hussy." Blayne smiled at him. The switch was quickly made, and Jules noticed that Blayne subtly altered her way of walking and talking, taking away most of what was feminine about her.
"You do this a lot?" he asked, impressed, but also a bit taken aback.
"What?" Blayne stared innocently. "Ah, here we are!"
Jules sighed and got into line to buy two tickets. "You know, it occurs to me that I know almost nothing about you, and you seem to know a great deal about me."
"There is not much about me to know, Jules." She paused. "Well, except for the story of that time I punched the President..."
"You punched President Lincoln?" Jules gasped.
She shook her head, smiling. "Oh, no! This was several presidents ago." Jules stared in shock. "But, the President? Of the United States?"
"You think that's shocking, Jules, don't ever ask about the time I met the Pope." She laughed. "Hey, can I borrow a bit to send a telegram?"
"Um... sure..." Dazed, Jules handed her a few coins.
"Did you have a nice trip, Jules?" Blayne asked, smiling, as the train pulled into the London station. "It was nice."
"You didn't seem to enjoy it. Hardly said a word."
"Neither did you."
"There we are, then." Blayne sighed and stared out the window of their car. "Ah, a friendly face."
Jules looked up in surprise. Sure enough, a very sun-tanned Agent Jack Rizzo was standing on the platform with his hands in his pockets. He was dressed in a long robe after the Ottoman fashion, and looked to be whistling. "Answering your telegram?" he asked.
She nodded. "He'll have enough cash to reimburse you for our trips here and yours back, plus the telegram." The train chugged to a stop and Jules and Blayne rose. The London station was always very crowded, and Jules and Blayne were quite nearly separated in the crush as they made their way towards Agent Rizzo. He waved as soon as he saw them and started walking away from the platform, gesturing for them to follow. Since many of the arrivals spent several minutes on the platform talking to whoever had arrived to meet them, Jules and Blayne were easily able to leave the platform and follow Rizzo. He led them only as far as a large, grassy, and quite deserted area a few hundred paces off.
"Monsieur Verne." Rizzo shook his hand heartily. "Thank you so much for taking care of our Bren."
Jules nodded. "That's what friends are for."
"Indeed. Speaking of which..." He reached into his pocket and produced a handful of bank-notes which he passed to Jules. As Jules stared, rendered speechless by the amount, Rizzo said, "Consider it interest on your loan. And a hearty thanks for bringing Bren safely home."
"Take it, Jules." Blayne said softly. "You deserve it."
Jules hesitantly put the money away. "Love the tan, Riz." Blayne said. "I see Alexandria agreed with you."
He smiled and nodded. "It did, although I must admit that arriving home to find that telegram gave me quite a start."
"Then you've only just gotten back?"
He nodded. "Didn't even have time to change." he noted wryly, holding out his arms to display his robe. "Just ditched the turban and came running."
"Thank you for that." Blayne smiled at him.
"Not a problem. I'm sorry about Johansen."
"We'll discuss that later on, Riz. In detail."
Rizzo stared curiously at her. "I see. Um, Verne, my man, why don't you go visit your friends the Foggs. Agent Blayne has a lot to report on, and I'm afraid you'd be bored by the details."
Jules nodded, recognizing this tactic for what it was. He was not offended by it, but actually a bit gratified that Agent Rizzo held him in high enough esteem not to simply tell him to get lost. "I'll see you both around."
"Will you be in London for a while?" Rizzo asked. "The three of us could go out to dinner or something."
"That sounds like fun." Jules smiled and waved. He walked a few paces off, then turned to watch Rizzo and Blayne go. He was surprised to see Rizzo hugging Blayne and rocking her back and forth. He quickly left, not wishing to seem to be spying, or to embarrass either with his presence.
As soon as Jules had started off, Blayne's easy facade had begun to crumble. Rizzo, seeing this, had taken her into his arms and rocked her until she composed herself.
"Rock on, baby..." he whispered over an over in her ear until she began to calm. It was amazing how such a simple phrase could produce such an effect simply because it was an anachronism. Rizzo was beginning to see what Blayne meant when she talked about how profoundly connected most Agents were to their own time. Personally, he had never had that problem. The sixties were fun to visit, but actually living there… "Okay, you think you can tell me how it went down now?"
Blayne nodded and pulled away from him. "Let's walk." As soon as they began walking, they switched almost unconsciously from English to Egyptian to ensure privacy. "It was bad, Rizzo."
"Obviously. Tell me about it."
"I lied through my teeth when I telegrammed in the report."
He stopped in his tracks. "You mean the two of you didn't walk into an ambush?"
"Oh, I walked into an ambush a'ight. Johansen on the other hand..."
"What?" Rizzo stared uncomprehendingly at her. "Bren?"
"If I hadn't turned around to say something to him when I did, this," she traced her finger over the wound on her temple, "would have been an exit-wound the size of Delaware, right here." She tapped her forehead for emphasis. "You mean? Johansen..."
"He turned on me, Riz. When he hit me, I fell. He bent over to be sure I was dead and I put one in his throat. Suddenly bullets are flying from everywhere at once."
"Had you been arguing?" Rizzo asked, still shocked.
"Riz! This is Stefan Johansen we're talking about here! Even if we had been arguing..."
Rizzo nodded apologetically. "I'm sorry, Bren. I'm just trying to make sense out of all of this."
She nodded. "So am I. As frelling impossible as it is to believe, this had to have been premeditated. He had backup."
"I don't honestly know, Riz. When the bullets started flying, I had no choice but to run."
"What kind of gun did he use?" Rizzo asked, regaining some of his composure.
"A Glock .38."
"Oh, dear Lord..." Rizzo shivered. "That's not even..."
"I know. Johansen shooting a fellow Agent with a contraband weapon." She shook her head. "Nothing about any of this makes sense, Riz. If I hadn't been there, I would not have believed it."
Rizzo sighed. "Maybe since you were, you can believe this. And when you do, would you mind convincing me of it as well?"
Blayne stared. "What is it, Riz?"
"Johansen is not our first Agent to turn like this."
"A word of warning would have been nice."
"You're the first surviving witness, Bren. We couldn't be sure."
"And now we can be?"
He nodded. "The evidence was confusing. Good Agents, old-timers with distinguished service records, snapping and shooting partners or civilians."
Blayne sighed. "League?"
Rizzo shrugged. By now they were in the warehouse district, under which a large base operated in secret. "Hard to say. We've got the computers running the numbers as we speak. Hell, maybe they're done."
Blayne sighed. "I don't get it, Riz. Good Agents don't just go postal like this out of the blue."
"They do now."
"Until we can establish a pattern, we're going to have to be hyper-vigilant. No one can afford to trust anyone. Not even me." She eyed him shaprly. "And that is an order."
"Understood. Agents will start working in groups of 3 or more until we have some answers."
"Very good. Also: time to review established command-succession protocols. We both left the country on dangerous missions at the same time and trusted things to take care of themselves. That's no longer adequate, Rizzo."
He nodded. "We'll have to establish a hierarchy of some sort in case ranking Agents start snapping."
She nodded. "And I think we should establish some kind of power-sharing system so that no one person can make any kind of important decision."
"Checks and balances. It's what made this country great..."
Blayne shook her head. "It's what made America great, Rizzo. What made England great was the blood and labor of a thousand conquered nations."
"Can we not get ideological right now, Bren?" Rizzo sighed.
"Sorry." Blayne winced. "I'm under a lot of stress. I think I'll go ask Doctor Ross for a Quaalude before I do anything else."
Rizzo nodded. "I'll start drawing up the orders and call a general meeting."
"Make it for right away. We'll record it for anyone who can't be present."
Rizzo nodded. They walked into the warehouse and both gave the password as they crossed to the hidden stair-case. "Welcome back, you two!" one of the hidden guards called as they passed.
Jules took a short stroll before starting for Phileas's house on Saville row. It had been almost lunchtime when they arrived, and Jules had not wanted to intrude on their meal, especially since he had eaten on the train. He had not been able to convince Blayne to eat, which worried him, but he was confident that Rizzo would be able to cajole her into taking care of herself where he had failed.
As always, the large door was pulled open by Passepartout before the echo of his first knock had died away. Passepartout looked out eagerly and seemed a bit disappointed when he saw it was Jules. "Is this a bad time?" Jules asked with a slight frown.
"Ah... Is, actually." Passepartout admitted, letting Jules in. "Was hoping you would be Miss Rebecca."
"Rebecca?" Jules asked, frowning. "Why?"
"Ah, she is not yet coming home from last mission. Master Fogg is being in fine state."
Jules frowned as he tried to process this. Rebecca had not returned from her last mission? He had not even been aware that she was adequately recovered from her last mission to embark upon another one. Phileas Fogg in a state over her absence? That at least made sense.
"Tell me what happened." Jules suggested. He winced at a loud crashing sound, accompanied by a bellow, from the vicinity of the sitting-room. He turned to go and make sure that all was well, but Passepartout grabbed his arm.
With a little shake of his head, he explained, "Master Fogg is throwing much things. Is making him feeling better, I think." Having convinced Jules of the folly of entering the sitting-room, he launched into an explanation of all that had transpired in Jules's absence. "Miss Rebecca is just getting better enough to be doing her exercises again and practicing her fighting when Sir Jonathan is coming and saying that he is needing her 'peculiar skills'."
Jules frowned uncomprehendingly. "Particular skills, you mean?"
Passepartout nodded quickly in that little way he had. "He is saying that there is intelligence to be had and that he is needing it. He ask Miss Rebecca, 'is you well enough to be going on simple mission?' Miss Rebecca is always saying yes to this question, well or not."
Jules nodded, beginning to feel worried. "I can't believe Chatsworth would send her on a mission before she was fully recovered."
"Master Fogg is believing it, though, and is saying that Miss Rebecca no go anywhere until after she is going to doctor first."
"That makes sense." Jules nodded. "So the doctor cleared her?"
"Yes, Master Jules. Master Fogg's own personal doctor is saying that she is finally well enough to be working again. Miss Rebecca is very happy about this and is assuring Master Fogg that the mission is being 'cat-walk'."
"Is being cake-walk." Passepartout repeated, nodded. "So Master Fogg tell her that she no go alone. He be taking her in Aurora and picking her up when done. Well, time comes for her to be being done, and she no come back to meeting place."
"Oh, God..." Jules breathed. "Anything could have happened. Did you wait for her?"
"We is waiting for three days and a half, Master Jules, when Prussian army come and... make us leave!"
"Oh, God..." Jules repeated.
"Master Fogg go to Sir Jonathan right away. He come out of meeting very angry. Say Sir Jonathan not knowing anything either about Miss Rebecca."
Jules sighed and found a chair before his strength failed him. "How long ago was this, Passepartout?"
"Is two days since we is leaving Prussia."
Jules nodded. "We have to go back."
"But we is knowing nothing. And Master Fogg is in fine temper. Passepartout is trying for two days to calm Master Fogg, but Master Fogg is only throwing expensive vase at Passepartout and telling him to leave in most unkind language."
Jules sighed and rubbed his mouth with his hands. "Well, we'll just have to find a way to calm him."
"But how. Passepartout no can calm Master Fogg. Who is to, then?"
"I don't know, Passepartout." He closed his eyes and considered. "You know, Passepartout, it's odd."
"What is being odd, Master Jules?" He frowned. "Passepartout is thinking that Master Fogg's distress is being quite natural."
Jules shook his head. "Not that. I came over with Blayne. She just lost an Agent, too. In Paris. You don't think the two cases could be related?"
Passepartout frowned. "Paris is not being Prussia, Master Jules, and Miss Brenna's Agents are not same as Secret Service Agents..." He looked up quickly, a thought occurring to him. "This is being it!"
Jules looked up, confused. "What?"
"Passepartout is no calming Master Fogg, but Miss Brenna is being his friend for many more years. She may be calming him where Passepartout is failing."
"She was in a bit of a state herself when I left her." Jules noted softly. "I'm not sure she could help."
Passepartout dismissed this with a wave of the hand. "Miss Brenna is being quite good at putting aside own problems when friends is being troubled by theirs. She help Master Fogg." He nodded with assurance, then frowned sadly. "But I is no knowing where to be finding Miss Brenna. Always before, she is finding us..."
"You don't know where she lives?" Jules frowned. "Does Fogg know? Or Rebecca?"
He shook his head. "No one is knowing. She is keeping secret close to chest like hand in poker."
Jules frowned. "Then that's no use..." Leaning back, he sighed and closed his eyes. An image, a memory, flashed into his mind, with such clarity that it was almost like looking at a painting which slowly began to move. Last time he was in London, shortly before Rebecca had been shot, he had been wandering through the warehouse district for no other reason that this had been where his feet had taken him. He had been somewhat surprised to see Blayne quietly stealing away from a large and abandoned-looking warehouse. When he had greeted her, she had quickly invited him to lunch and mentioned a museum exhibit, effectively distracting his attention from the question of what she had been doing in the warehouse in the first place.
"That's it!" Jules sat bolt upright.
"What is what, Master Jules?" Passepartout asked cautiously.
"I think I know where to find Blayne!" Jules got to his feet. "Do you think you can hold down the fort while I'm gone?"
Passepartout nodded. "You should be hurrying, though."
Jules nodded and started for the door. There was another thud, and, this time, Phileas's shouting was clearly audible. "Oh, d... dear God, w... why h... her? Why my Re.. becca!" His voice abruptly deteriorated into a series of ragged sobs.
Jules winced, feeling a small measure of his friend's pain. Passepartout made a shooing gesture and went to comfort his Master. Jules fled from the house, as much to escape the heart-rending sound of Phileas's sobbing as to hasten his arrival at the warehouse.