Out of Africa

Revelations and Their Implications

"But Lord knows that this world is cruel
And I ain't the Lord, no I'm just a fool
Learning loving somebody don't make them love you."
~Jack Johnson.


Nairobi, Kenya.

Clyde Easter was not a man to drink—at least not while on a case, and certainly not when his emotions were dictating his desire for alcohol. His own mother had been a drinker (back then, no one called them alcoholics, it wasn't a problem as long as they kept it inside their own kitchens and didn't bother the neighbors or beat their children or spouses), and he'd been given a front-row seat to a life ruled by emotion and alcohol. He had vowed a very long time ago to let neither weakness find foothold in his own life.

However, that did not stop him for wanting the strongest shot of whiskey he could find—his teeth actually ached with need for the heavy burn of something, anything to stop his sickened heart and his racing mind.

Constance. It still didn't make sense. All day, he'd tried to reconcile what he felt with what he knew, and he couldn't. He'd tried to cut off emotions, to let logic rule, as it usually did and always should in his life—but then his damned mind would pull up an image of her laughing at some dry remark or delivering a sarcastic comment of her own, and his attempt to distance himself would shatter.

He sat on the edge of the bed, still fully dressed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands tightly clasped in front of him, staring blankly ahead as his mind wandered, pulling and tugging at the tangled mess that couldn't be unraveled, no matter how he tried.

The stillness was sliced by a familiar sound—his mobile, its buzzing and whirring suddenly seeming much too loud in this quiet room.

It was a London line, definitely from Interpol.

"Easter," he answered curtly, willing himself to sound just as calm and in-control as always.

"Sir, it's Analyst Knox, from Intel Info."

Ah, yes. Knox. The name was familiar, but there wasn't a face to place with it. Clyde just knew that he was one of Constance's little pets.

Speaking of the devil—Knox continued, "Sorry to bother you, sir, but we were getting concerned—Connelly hasn't been answering her mobile."

He knew that "we" was the Information Intelligence Division. He instinctively glanced to the nightstand, where Constance's phone quietly sat. He'd taken it from his pocket and set it there when he'd gotten in, more out of the usual habit of emptying his pockets than any actual realization that he'd still had it with him.

He reached for it, taking a moment to tap a random button. No response. Battery was probably dead.

He lied quickly and easily, "Ah, yes. She dropped it in the street, of all silliness. Had to get a replacement, which it took quite a while. I believe she's asleep now."

"But," there was a note of incredulity in Knox's voice. "Constance Connelly never sleeps."

Clyde rolled his eyes—he should have known better than to use that lie. A rookie mistake—one he never would have made, if his mind had been in the right place.

That was her fault, too.

"Is there something I can help you with?" Clyde took his anger against Constance and directed it at her employee, though he tempered it with a sheer coldness that kept it from being outright aggressive yet still made his ire quite clear.

"I suppose I don't have a choice, do I?"

Clyde had to give the man a slight measure of respect for not cowering, for remaining cool and unaffected. Obviously Constance had rubbed off on her team.

He wondered how much of her had rubbed off—was Clyde currently talking to another double agent?

"We did as you asked—we've got a list of properties whose owners have connections to ANAM. Sadly, it's a longer list than you'd expect. We narrowed it down to properties that were abandoned—they seemed to fit the profile better."

"And?"

"And we've got four possible locations."

"Send them to me."

A brief pause, then, "Done."

"Thank you, Knox." Even though he didn't want to, he asked, "Is there anything else?"

"Not yet." There was a slight hesitation in Knox's voice. He added, "We've, ah…Mika Kimathi sent us the heat satellite footage, to see if we could track the two original targets from it."

Clyde was suddenly alert.

"It's a bloody nightmare, but I think we may actually be able to figure something out."

"You're joking. I saw that footage myself—it's madness."

"Turning madness into data is our specialty, sir." That had been the motto of Intel Info for ages now.

There was another slight pause, then Knox continued, "Of course, it will only tell us so much—the satellites were eventually re-routed for some other purpose, but we've got enough footage to get a better idea of where they were going. Something's better than nothing, as Connelly always says."

Easter couldn't think of a single reply that wasn't laced with bitterness, so he kept silent.

"Shall I let you know what we find?" Knox became uncertain, almost timid, for the first time during their conversation.

"Yes. Please do. And I shall let Connelly know that you called." Clyde ended the call before any more questions about the lady's whereabouts could be raised.

He cursed himself for the stupid slip-up, cursed Knox for catching it, cursed Constance most of all for creating this horrible situation in the first place.

Reaching for the nightstand again, he scooped up Constance's phone, taking a moment to inspect the charging port—his mobile charger fit this one, too, so he plugged it in and waited for the phone to come back to life.

He didn't know what he was looking for, really, or if there was anything to look for at all. He went through her contacts—phone calls from work mainly, an occasional call to someone listed as Bev. It was a 028 area code, which Clyde knew was Northern Ireland—Constance's hometown of Kilrea fell under that jurisdiction.

He dialed the number, and waited.

"Hullo?" A woman, probably close to their age, with an accent thicker than Constance's brogue had ever been. "Connie, what's wrong?"

He didn't speak. He'd learned a long time ago that silence forces people to confess much more effectively than questions.

A sigh. "I swear, I'll never understand you as long as I live. I know your mum is ill and you've got to be in London taking care of her, but God Almighty, you could at least give a by-your-leave whenever you're jetting off again. I haven't seen you in weeks, and it's been almost a month since you've called—and now you're giving me the silent treatment! Why on earth did ya even call?"

So the friends back in Kilrea though that Constance went to London for her sick mother, not for her job at Interpol. And the people at Interpol thought she went back to Kilrea every weekend for her sick mother. She was playing both sides of the fence.

"I miss you," Bev's voice filled with something warm and needy. "I miss waking up and having you next to me. Mark is home on leave, so I'm not sleeping alone, but it's not the same."

Well, this was an interesting development.

"That's why you're not talking to me, isn't it? You knew he was back. I'm sorry, Con, we've had this talk before—I can't." An awkward pause, a held breath slowly released. "Won't you say something, love? Please, just let me know you're alright. I know sometimes I get too needy and I ask for too much, but that's not much, is it, wanting just to hear your voice?"

Clyde Easter actually felt a pang of pity for this woman, this bored housewife who'd somehow fallen under Constance Connelly's spell. Still, he couldn't speak, because his voice certainly wasn't the one she was hoping for.

Bev seemed to accept the silence, and continued on anyways, "I'm still tending the roses, like ya asked."

Ah, there was a hint of the Constance he knew—of course, she would make sure someone was taking care of those precious blooms of hers.

An indistinct noise in the background, then Bev's voice became hurried and hushed, "I've gotta go—Mark's home. Please call soon. I love you."

Clyde stared at the phone in his hand. This was supposed to be a source of information, not more questions.

He found the photo gallery, and scrolled through. There wasn't a single picture of a human face anywhere to be found—however, he was able to use his skills of deduction to piece together the story that they told. There were a few shots of an adorably droopy-eyed basset hound, in parks and on sidewalks and even in Constance's garden. He knew that Connelly didn't have a pet, so it had to belong to someone she knew, someone close. In one shot, the dog looked up at the camera, curled around two sets of feet—one in sandals, one in ballet flats. The sandaled feet belonged to Constance, because the fourth toe on the right foot quirked to the side oddly (he remembered the story behind it—pointe classes as a teenager, during which Constance had broken her toe but continued to dance for hours, and the toe had reset at an odd angle), which meant the flats belonged to the dog's owner. The ballet flats and their corresponding feet appeared in another shot—on a park bench, on the edge of the picture, where the basset hound took center stage. A set of graceful hands were folded on the flat wearer's lap—and there was the unmistakable sheen of a gold wedding band.

Bev. Had to be.

Clyde scoured the remaining photos, trying to find more pieces—a hand here, a set of feet there, nothing to give away the identity of the person in the photos. Poor Constance. A life lived in shadows and recorded in riddles.

He knew it had less to do with Bev's marital status (and socially-presumed heterosexuality) and more to do with Constance's training. You never kept keepsakes or photos of loved ones on your person, especially out in the field—that was only ammunition that could be used against you. If you were truly smart, you never kept photos of loved ones at all, not even in your home.

One photo in particular caught his attention—yet another still life, two wine glasses on a bistro table.

He forwarded the photo to his own email, then grabbed his laptop. It wasn't the best quality, being from a cellphone camera, but he uploaded it into his private folder in the Interpol database. Within a few minutes, he had run it through the image enhancement program.

There it was. The one proof of Constance Connelly's life, hidden in plain sight.

The closest wine glass was still full of deep burgundy liquid, providing a perfect contrast to the reflection on its surface—two women at a table, seated side-by-side, shoulders pressed together in a way that suggested a great level of comfort with each other's bodies.

An innocent shot. The kind of mistake that anyone could make. Except Constance Connelly was smiling at the phone's reflection.

The only way she could ever have a photo of herself with her lover. Impressively clever and so damn sad, all at the same time.

He studied the murky image—Constance looked happy, glowing in a way that made her look ten years younger, in a way that he'd never seen before, in all the many decades that he'd known her. Her hair was down, styled in an effortless way that highlighted her cheekbones and her long neck, and even in the distortion caused by the wine tinting the glass reflection, he could see that she was wearing makeup that was far more dramatic than her usual office fare, turning her eyes from cool to searing. She was breathtaking and beautiful and in love.

She was a stranger.

Clyde Easter continued to sit in the darkness of his hotel room, staring at the image of the woman whom he would have recently named his closest confidant, whom he would have once claimed that he understood better than anyone else.

Hubris, Mr. Easter, Constance's voice taunted him. It gets us all, in the end.


George Whitting had just taken his sleeping pill when a frantic rap sounded on his door. With a heavy sigh, he opened it, not even glancing through the peephole. He had a good guess as to who would be knocking like the world was about to end—and he was entirely correct.

Ahoo Shir-Del stood in the hallway. She was still fully dressed, though her hair was slightly disarrayed, as if she'd been out walking the streets, the hot city air tossing her locks about haplessly.

"I need you to perform a cognitive interview on me." She didn't waste time with pleasantries.

"What?"

"I need you to—"

"I heard you the first time, Lion-heart. My question should have been: what the hell? Have you just witnessed some crime that I don't know about? Because if not, I don't see any reason—"

"George. Please." She pushed her way into his room, glancing over her shoulder one last time. He kept the door open but turned to let his gaze follow her. He understood her actions—she had something to say, and she didn't want prying ears to hear it in the hallway.

"I never pegged you as one for cloak-and-dagger hysterics," he commented dryly.

"Because I'm not." She turned to him, her face set in a determined expression.

He gestured for further explanation, so she took a deep breath and obliged.

"Constance Connelly is missing. Clyde Easter wouldn't admit to it, but she is. I think it's somehow connected to Emily Prentiss' shooting."

"Why?" George's tone was impossibly neutral, not betraying how he felt about this idea.

"Because Easter asked me if I thought they were connected. He was searching for something—he was trying to see how much I really knew, how much I had pieced together. Since then, I've been wracking my brain, but I've come up with zilch. I had a chat with Constance, right before she disappeared. I need you to do a cognitive interview and see what I'm forgetting."

"And what if you aren't forgetting anything?"

She gave him a look of incredulity. "We always forget something. It's just a question of whether or not it's important."

He smiled at that. Good girl.

"And what if you're just being paranoid?" Even though he asked this, he was already sitting on the edge of his bed, motioning for Ahoo to take the chair next to the in-room desk. She knew that he was testing her, testing her resolution and her logic, like any good mentor would.

"Then at least we'll know that you still know how to give a good cognitive interview."

He chuckled at that, then glanced at the electronic clock on the nightstand, "We've got about thirty minutes before my sleeping pill kicks in, so let's make it count."

She nodded, took a deep breath, and straightened her shoulders as she closed her eyes. He sat back, keeping his voice low and neutral as he began the series of questions.

"When was the last time you saw Constance Connelly?"

"This morning—just before midday prayers."

"What were you doing just before that?"

"Re-reading interview transcripts. Silver gave me a break, so that I could pray. But I needed air, so I went downstairs. I passed Zamir in the lobby. I walked outside. Constance was on the sidewalk, talking on the phone."

"What does it feel like, outside? Describe the day."

"It's…mild. Not too hot, not too cold. A light breeze. Traffic's busy, but not too bad. I feel the sun on my face. There aren't many people on the street—at least not on our block."

"How do you feel?"

"My mind is swimming. I'm thinking about the case, about Wasaki and how he could be so evil, about Zamir and how she frightens me….but I'm not afraid, not at that moment. I'm just…swimming. I am trying to tell myself that I'm being ridiculous, that I need sleep—but I don't really feel tired. I just feel a little adrift, I guess."

"You said that Constance is on the phone. Who is she talking to?"

"Her mother. She's agitated—no, not agitated…more like pleading, or exasperated. But still high-strung. She sounds the way I sound when I talk to my mother. And…and the way she's saying it, it's as if they've been having the same conversation, over and over again."

"What is she saying?"

"She's…she's telling her mother that she'll be back soon, that she won't be home tonight—it's like her mother doesn't realize that she's in Kenya….too much to be done here, she says."

"Tell me about her body language."

"I don't see her at first—I just hear her. When I glance over, she's…she's tense. Her shoulders are hunched forward, like someone's….like something disagreeable has been said, but she can't respond to it verbally. She gets quiet. And she…melts. Like her muscles relax and she just accepts whatever it is. She capitulates."

"What does she do next?"

"She's still on the phone. She's talking again, but she's not loud or agitated anymore."

"What is she saying?"

Ahoo's brows knit into a tight line as she tried to recall, her voice slow but certain, "Yes…I remember. Six thirty-four. I have to go now….yes…yes, soon."

"Anything else?"

"No. She hangs up. She takes out a cigarette—"

"Ahoo, go back to the last thing she says. Are you sure she said six thirty-four?"

"Yes. Of course."

"Just like that? Didn't add a time frame or any other reference?"

"No. Just that number." Ahoo opened her eyes, curiosity taking hold—she could tell by George's tone that something was brewing. "What? What is it?"

He looked away, rubbed his chin in a mixture of thoughtfulness and agitation, as if he wasn't sure whether or not he should share this new clue. Then, he slowly replied, "Six thirty-four. The address for today's operation was 634 Gigiri Street."

Ahoo's stomach plummeted, "Oh my god."

There was a beat of heavy silence. Then, she spoke again, hesitantly, "Do you…do you think it's really…."

"It'd be a helluva coincidence if it wasn't," he shook his head with a frustrated air. He didn't want to make the connection, but his gut was telling him to, anyways.

He turned his blue eyes back to her dark ones, "This stays between us, OK? At least until we talk to Easter."

She was on her feet in a flash, "His room is on the next floor, we can—"

"Lion-heart," George's voice stopped her. His expression was a mixture of amusement and frustration. "It's late, and it has been a very, very long day for everyone—Clyde Easter especially. My sleeping pill is going to kick in pretty soon, which means I'll be in no shape to help, and if this is really happening, I am not sending you to battle Easter on your own. It can wait until morning."

"But—"

"Trust me."

She opened her mouth to reply again, but closed it without a word. George could tell that she wasn't happy, but at least she still respected his authority as the senior agent.

"First thing tomorrow morning," he vowed, and she nodded in agreement.

She moved to the door, then stopped, turning back to him, "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For believing me."

He gave a wry smile, "I suppose I should be thanking you for sticking to your gut instincts, but something tells me that before all is said and done, I'll be wishing I'd never listened to you. Ignorance is bliss, so they say."

"So they say," she gave a small smile of her own. "But something tells me that you were never meant to be a blissful man, George Whitting."

He took the compliment. "Get some sleep, Lion-heart. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day."


"A little knowledge is dangerous thing.
So is a lot."
~Albert Einstein.


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