Stephanie looked up when the interview room opened. Relief crossed her face when she saw the person entering was Sara. Sara carried a cup of coffee, bottle of water, and a file folder. She sat the drinks down in front of Stephanie and Raylene. While Stephanie gratefully accepted the coffee, Raylene slapped the bottle of water off the table. It flew across the room, hit the wall and bounced across the floor. Neither woman said anything about the outburst.
Sara sat down next to Raylene and opened the folder. There were several photographs inside, but nothing very graphic. She first sat down a picture of the deceased CIA woman’s face.
“We found her, Raylene. It looks like this woman here,” Sara sat out a photograph of the deceased man’s face. “She killed the shooter, and then killed herself.” Sara closed the folder. There was nothing more that she felt Raylene needed to see. “I have a friend with the FBI, and she says that both woman were with the CIA and were suspected of treason. She couldn’t tell me if they were suspected of working with any terrorist group, but she did say we should doubt that connection. Coming from my friend, Raylene, that’s as good as a no, they are not connected to any terrorist, any Green Goblin.” Sara looked up at Raylene’s face. “He’s safe now, Raylene. He can come back home and you two can see each other again.”
Raylene didn’t move. Sara turned in her chair toward Raylene. She leaned in, quietly telling her, “You know he’d rather be here protecting you, and it’s probably killing him that he’s being kept from doing that.”
“He’s safe,” Raylene insisted, just as quietly.
“He is. We caught them. They won’t be trying to hurt him or you anymore.”
“We didn’t kill them. They killed each other.”
Raylene looked at her hands. Sara looked down, seeing she held a small phone in her hand, smaller than any Sara had seen, and something that was missed when she was ordered to hand over her belongings. Sara placed her hand over it and Raylene’s hands. She leaned in toward her.
“Do you think your friend would hurt him?”
“Good. We are worried because she is an assassin, and she is used to protecting herself under any circumstance. Even if she told her friend she wouldn’t do anything like that.”
Raylene looked up at Sara’s eyes. In her perpherial vision Sara saw Raylene reach under the top of her shirt. Raylene looked down and Sara did also, looking at Raylene's hnd. Raylene’s fingers dial an international number into a strange looking cell phone. The wasn't much bigger than Raylene’s palm, it didn't appear to have buttons, and it was a strange color and texture. Sara had never seen a phone like it.
Raylene put the phone to her ear. “Safe,” Raylene said. “Yes. Safe. Yes.” Raylene pulled the phone back, swiping her hand across the face. Sara assumed that was how she ended the call on the phone.
Sara held her hand out for the phone. “Can I have that now?” She looked down when she noticed smoke. It was coming from the phone.
Raylene stood suddenly and threw it across the room. The phone shattered, spraying the casing and internal components across the wall. As the pieces fell, Sara realized why she’d never seen a phone like that. It was a 3D printed phone and it was made to handle just one call. The internal components were still smoking and several were charred and black.
“It explodes after two minutes of use,” Raylene spoke like she was giving a technical report. “Stabilization of parts in moulding has continued to be problematic.”
Sara and Stephanie both looked at her. That was an understatement.
Unable to breathe, Nick woke in a panic. The bedroom door was open and a light down the hall lit Gabrielle from the back. He began clawing at her hand and hitting at her face to get her hand off his mouth. She pressed a damp cloth over his nose and mouth.
“Sh-sh-sh,” she told him, “don’t fight it Nick. Just relax into it. Breathe. Deep breaths.”
He didn’t want to, but his body didn’t care what he wanted. It cared what it wanted, and he inhaled a deep breath of whatever was on the cloth. It had no smell or taste – what was she drugging him with?
Time began to slow and his resistance faded away. His arms and legs felt like weights were added to them. The room began to blur as he grew more tired.
She pulled the cloth away. He inhaled a deep breath of fresh air, but it did not clear the effects of the drug. She slid her arm behind his shoulders. It was strange to feel her arm so firm behind him while still feeling the bone under the skin. His head wasn’t heavy anymore. It felt like it was floating above his body.
“Come on,” she said as she stood. She used her arm to help him sit up and move to the edge of the bed.
Nick wanted to speak or fight or run, at first. That thought danced in and out of his stoned mind, slowly moving further out of his mind.
Nick didn’t notice she was dressing him. She pulled on his C.S.I. vest, strapped his gun in his hip holster, and tucked a wad of bills into a pocket of his jeans.
“Up we go,” Gabrielle told him, and helped him stand.
His mind thought he was walking a straight line, but in reality he staggered and wove. Most of his weight was on Gabrielle and she struggled to get him downstairs, out the front door, and into the Bronco.
Blurry-eyed Nick watched her go back inside the house. He closed his eyes. It felt like only moments had passed before she was telling him, “Open your eyes. Wake up, Nick.”
He did. Through the windshield he stared at the building the headlights of the Bronco showed him, which was definitely not the house. It was bigger than the house. It was unfamiliar to him.
Gabrielle leaned over him to unbuckle his seatbelt and then leaned back, sliding her arm around his waist.
“Get out now.”
He moved slower than before, getting out with her help. A warm breeze wisped past them, carrying the rainfall scent of Creosote and the faint smell of desert lavender. As they approached the building, to Nick’s drug-laced mind it was as tall as a sky scraper. She opened a door and took him inside. The headlights of the Bronco dimly lit the inside of the building, but he could see a car in front of them. She led him around to a door and opened it for him. He stared numbly at the bench seat before him.
“Get in. Lay down on the seat there.”
He didn’t move right away. She pulled him in toward the vehicle and then he moved on his own, practically crawling as he stretched out on the bench seat.
The other door opened and she sat down on the floorboard by his head. She turned on a small flashlight and wrapped his hand around it. Then she leaned over him. She stared into his eyes as she stroked his hair. He stared back. He felt like there was something to say, but his mind couldn't stay connected to one thought long enough to speak it aloud.
“Sing me to sleep / sing me to sleep,” Gabrielle quietly began singing. “And then leave me alone…”
He wasn't surprised she sang so beautifully. Maybe later he'd wonder if it had been the drugs or if she really sang like an angel.
“Don’t try to wake me in the morning / ‘Cause I will be gone / Don’t feel bad for me / I want you to know…”
His fleeting thoughts to move, or run, or fight, or scream, or do anything but just lay next to an assassin, could stop its avalanche.
“Deep in the cell of my heart / I will feel so glad to go…”
The thoughts were lost as he listened to the melancholy lyrics, and her fingers through his hair pushed away worry.
“Sing me to sleep / Sing me to sleep / I don't to wake up on my own anymore / Sing to me / Sing to me…”
Sleep quieted his mind.
Something clicked so loud that it sounded like a gun hammer cocking. It ripped sleep away from Nick, and he bolted upright in his chair, momentarily confused about where he was and what was happening. In those moments he stared wide-eyed at the stranger sitting on the other side of the table. His eyes darted around the cold and unfamiliar room, settling on the orange prison jumpsuit he was wearing.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you, Nick,” the man said.
Nick looked back at him and everything came back suddenly. Russell was the stranger on the other side of the table. Before he’d fallen asleep, he was getting details of Nick’s kidnapping. Nick said he was hungry, so Russell left to get some toast and coffee. While he was waiting, Nick had laid his arms and head on the table, and sleep pounced on him.
He remembered now why he was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Because he’d been shot, Sara had brought him his change of clothes that he kept in his locker, the same clothes he had been kidnapped in. They needed to processes his clothes, so Greg brought him a jumpsuit to wear until he could get home.
Nick leaned his elbows on the table so he could press the heels of his hands against his throbbing. He needed a few days’ worth of sleep, and food. His stomach grumbled loudly when he tried to recall when his last meal had been. His memory told him it had been thirty-two hours, but it felt like it had been months longer.
“Here you go, Nick,” Russell said, sliding something across the table.
Nick looked down at the steaming coffee cup and a piece of toast. The coffee caught his attention a moment – if it was still hot, did he just fall asleep or did Russell just come back with a fresh cup? His stomach didn’t care. It growled even louder, demanding the toast be fed to it now. Nick picked up the toast and began eating.
“Do you remember my last question?” D.B. asked him. His tone suggested there was no hurry for an answer. He would wait for as long as it took Nick to answer. Nick had noticed that from the moment D.B. arrived at the hospital he was treating him a little odd. Was he feeling guilty? Was it just worry? Nick couldn’t get a bead on what exactly was going through D.B.’s mind.
He gave up trying too. He was too tired to really care what D.B. felt at the moment. Nick swallowed the bite in his mouth and said, “The last thing I remember you asked was if I could tell you where the house in the desert was.”
“Yes. You said you don’t know. Do you still not know?”
Nick shook his head. “She drugged me and left me in a barn near 90 with that green Chevrolet and the gas money I gave you.”
Russell pulled his notepad to him, jotting notes where he’d left off. Nick rubbed his eyes with his free hand and then dropped it into his lap.
Quietly Nick said, “You’re never going to find her, D.B. That woman is long gone.”
Russell looked up at him. “We might.”
Nick shook his head. “Not unless she wants you to.”
“She can’t be that good.”
“Sure she can.” Nick nodded.
“Did you start liking her?”
Nick shook his head. “No. Respect her, maybe. I mean, not because she was a professional cleaner, as she put it. It didn’t exactly put her high on my list of people I wanted to be friends with. But her loyalty to Raylene was unwavering.” Nick sat his toast down as his brow dipped in thought.
“Raylene has unwavering loyalty to you.”
“This doesn’t surprise you?”
Nick shook his head. “Is she in a lot of trouble?”
“Quite a bit, yes, but her lawyer seems very good at her job. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets all the charges dropped.”
Nick sipped his coffee.
“Do you want Raylene to get away with what she did?”
Russell pointed out, “She withheld evidence we could have used to find you, harbored a felon, and plotted your kidnapping.
“Have you met Raylene?”
“Yes, I have. Why?”
“Then you know what I mean when I say she’s not normal in the sense you and I understand. Hell, I have a feeling her term of normal isn’t even one any of us could possibly understand. She doesn’t see gray areas, things either are or aren’t. She saw I was in danger, decided I wouldn’t do enough to protect myself – she was right, if I’m being honest – and she chose a logic solution to fix the problem. She didn’t do it to because she’s malice, or to gain anything from it, or hurt anyone, or cause anyone harm. Raylene did it because that’s Raylene. You’ll never see it, D.B., most people don’t, but Raylene loves humans, and she does what’s best for the ones she cares for the most, and sometimes, that’s really hard to understand or see, because she can’t show that in a way that us normal can.”
Russell leaned on the table. “Off the record, Nick, what is going on between you and Raylene? It seems much deeper than just friends.”
Nick ate the last bite of his toast. “I’m exhausted. Do you need anything else?”
“I’ll see you in a week. Thanks for the time off, D.B. I’m exhausted.” Nick stood and left with his coffee and toast.
Russell watched him go, wondering why Nick had left his question unanswered.