The king of Camelot had visibly trouble controlling his reactions to modern day transport. Arthur Pendragon looked kind of sick and he was staring right ahead.
'If you'll vomit over me, I swear you'll be back in that bloody cell before you can say Camelot,' Ros warned him.
The only reply was by way of a glare, before the king directed his attention towards Harry. 'Where exactly are we going?'
Harry's smile was positively triumphant. 'To the supposedly secret CIA office. We're there now.'
Ros could feel her stomach twitch uneasily. This would be the first time since her reinstatement that she would really deal with the service she had not so long ago effectively vexed. Whilst knowing she had gone about it in all the wrong ways, she knew she had done it for all the right reasons. She just wasn't sure the CIA would see it that way. To be honest, she knew for a fact they were still pretty mad at her, the memory of their refusal to help still fresh in her memory. This was not going to be easy, but it had to be done.
At least we have some leverage over them this time, she thought wryly. Hogan's aid in bombing a London tube station, with an as yet unspecified number of deaths, that gave them a justified reason to demand their help in catching the sodding bastard.
The car stopped and they got out, marching towards the door as Harry dug up his mobile and made a call.
She walked close enough to her boss to hear the phone be answered by a curt 'Werner.'
'Laurie.' Harry's greeting was equally curt. 'You know that station MI-5 is not supposed to know about?' He didn't even wait for a reply. 'Well, we're outside. Tell the reception committee we're expected.' He hung up on her before she could react.
Ros knew of course who Laurie Werner was. She had been in the CIA for as long as Ros had been in Section D. She had met the American woman several times and had been wholly unimpressed by the behaviour of her counterpart. Miss Werner was known for denying everything the CIA and the United States had ever been accused of, which was mostly all the confirmation they needed.
They took the lift to the highest floor and Ros could tell Arthur was uncomfortable with it all. In that respect his magical sidekick had taken to the twenty-first century a lot faster than the Once and Future King. Ros had fully supported Merlin's notion of sending Arthur home. Unfortunately and for reasons she could not begin to fathom the rest of the team, even Harry, had vetoed that and so here Arthur was again.
Ros strongly suspected that Harry had only brought Arthur here to shout a little more. Taken into account that Arthur had really flown off the handle when Dolby started picking on her and that they were just entering a place where a lot of people would like to do nothing more than pick on her, they could anticipate a lot more shouting in the foreseeable future.
Laurie Werner came walking at them with outspread hands and a very fake smile on her face. 'Harry!' she greeted with an enthusiasm that was as sincere as her smile. She knew she had been caught doing something she wasn't supposed to do and was busy trying to save her own skin. 'We've been meaning to tell you about this place.'
Ros snorted at that bold lie. The CIA may be planning a lot of things, but informing MI-5 wasn't obviously very high on their to-do list. This station had been up and running for almost a year now.
Harry didn't buy that either, judging by the look on his face, but he wasted no time in arguing about that. 'Where is he?' he demanded.
The smile on Laurie's face became even more forced than it already was and Ros's intuition flared to life. She knew what they were here for. 'Excuse me?'
Ros lost her patience. 'Don't play dumb, Laurie,' she told the other woman. 'It really doesn't suit you. You released Bob Hogan, a man who by now is responsible for the death of dozens of British civilians. So we kind of like to know where he is, if that's okay with you.' Those last few words were more of a sarcastic notion than a serious request and they both knew it.
Laurie's eyes narrowed in anger, but the smile remained firmly in place. 'I have no idea what you're talking about,' she lied.
And I am about to be nominated for the Most Popular Woman of the Year Award. 'The thing is, your former officer, who we had been told was going to spend the rest of his life in jail, is on the rampage in the streets of London, so you better start telling us how that is bloody well possible.'
The air was practically crackling with hostility, but Ros was not going to back down. This kind of behaviour reminded her once again why she had joined Yalta in the first place. And if they thought they could get away with something as severe as this, they were sorely mistaken. Next to her she could see Arthur sizing the American woman up as well, a disapproving expression on his face. She decided it would take less than five minutes for him to explode.
'We would of course share any intelligence we have on his whereabouts, had we any, which I am not saying we have.' Laurie's armour of fake friendliness made the Chinese Wall look positively easy to overcome.
Harry's fist collided with the nearest object he could find, in this case the column Arthur leaned again. The effect was a little less dramatic than a fist on the table, but it did its job. Laurie looked at least a bit startled. 'Have you any idea how much damage this man has already caused? Jeopardising this operation is not acceptable!' he bellowed, startling the other CIA people in the room as well.
The mask finally dropped. The CIA officer looked daggers at him. 'I'll tell you what's not acceptable, Harry,' she snapped. 'Employing a woman who has seriously damaged our special relationship and not telling your closest ally about it. Do you have any idea what she is responsible for?'
She should have known it would come to this. In the end it would all come back to her working with Yalta. She told herself it was only to be expected, that she had indeed made some grave mistakes, but somehow it had all seemed forgiven when Harry had given her a second chance. Sometimes she wondered if she would ever be truly free of that mistake.
Arthur looked a bit confused, but Harry was practically trembling with fury. 'Ros's past is not an issue here,' he barked at Laurie. 'She is my outstanding officer and taken into consideration that you yourself seem to have a lot more dangerous officer on the loose, you are not exactly in a position to criticise my personnel.' Harry in a full-blown temper was always a sight to behold and one certainly did not want to be on the receiving end of it. And the way he stood up for her, calling her his outstanding officer, like he had done when Juliet had come at her with that blasted injection, made Ros exhale in relief and pure gratitude.
Get a grip on yourself, Myers! she snapped at herself. This is not the time to drown in your sodding memories.
'I think you'll find it's me deciding here what will or will not happen,' Laurie shot back. 'And as long as you leave that woman in charge, there is no way we'll give you what you want.'
'Blackmail!' Ros spat.
That seemed to be the word that activated Arthur Pendragon. He straightened his back and took two big steps towards his opponent, because that was what she was. 'I think you have not quite understood what this is and isn't about. We are not asking you to cooperate, miss Werner, we're demanding it. Your man has caused the death of countless civilians of this kingdom. Whatever my colleague may or may not have done is not the question now. Ros is an amazing officer and you are deliberately trying to talk your way out of this. I can tell you now that is not going to work.' Someone needed to tell Arthur he should spend less time around Harry Pearce. It may be the voice and the authority of Arthur Pendragon that came out of his mouth, but the words and tone were pure Harry.
Laurie looked at the king like he had a contagious disease. 'Who is this?'
Harry smiled pleasantly. 'Aidan Parker, Senior Case Officer and your new liaison officer. I'm sure you'll get along splendidly.'
Arthur's face gave them a different message. The king looked at Laurie as if she was the most disgusting human being he had ever laid eyes on. Ros couldn't even find it in herself to blame him for that.
'The answer won't change,' the CIA woman replied.
And Arthur's temper flared back to life again. 'You would rather let countless more people die as a result of your man's actions than help us stop him because of something that has happened to you in the past? Do you hear how selfish you're sounding here?' he demanded in a slightly disbelieving tone. And when he phrased it like that, it indeed was beyond ridiculous, which summed up the CIA to perfection, in Ros's opinion.
That seemed to take her by surprise at least. It would be hard to talk her way out of this, taken into account that every word Arthur had just spoken was absolutely spot on. Once again, Ros started to see the king underneath the loud-mouthed prat. It was a shame that he only showed in situations like this and not out in the field. Because she was not letting him do that, ever again. If Harry wanted him to liaise with the Americans, that was fine with her. In fact, she might even encourage that, on the condition he wouldn't start giving them his real name like he had done the Home Secretary. But Arthur Pendragon would never again do some real spying. Apart from Morgana being here in London, wanting his guts, he just wasn't that good at it.
It was silent for quite a long while as Laurie Werner tried to come up with a reasonable answer to Arthur's accusation. Finally realising that there wasn't one, she settled for a stubborn 'We will not help you, Harry,' in the end.
'Oh, I am sure you will.' The head of Section D dug up another mobile and showed it to the American woman. 'Amazing device,' he told her. 'Even gets video.' Ros knew that right now it would show the news flash and then the enhanced photo of Hogan in the background. 'He was seen at the scene of the crime, only seconds before the place was blown to bits. I do believe you are familiar with his face?'
Miss Werner's face showed panic for a second, but then the smile was firmly back in place. 'That proves nothing.' She handed the device back to Harry.
'Networks will love this,' Harry told Arthur and Ros. 'British security services confirm that the main suspect for the bombing belonged to the CIA, American involvement is suspected.' This of course was a carefully planned out scenario and Ros could barely keep herself from smirking as she saw another flash of panic cross Laurie's face. But it wasn't enough to wipe that annoying smile off her face. Yet. 'We deny everything,' she informed them.
Harry's smile betrayed that he knew he was winning. 'And who will they believe, us or the squeaky clean CIA?'
The smile started to become hesitant. 'You're bluffing.'
Harry's face was less readable than that of most poker players. 'Give me the number for Reuters,' he instructed Arthur.
The king did as he was told, dug up his mobile and began calling the agreed number. Laurie's face started to show signs of uneasiness, but still it took her until after the first ring to surrender.
'Okay, okay, okay. We'll put some people on the case and as soon as we know where he is, we'll share the intelligence we might get from him.' Miss Werner was by now indeed looking slightly uneasy. Not so sure that this is only bluff now, are you?
'And have him disappear in the black hole of your prison system without ever getting to him ourselves?' Ros asked sceptically. 'I don't think so, no. Aidan?'
Arthur prepared to make the phone call again and Harry took it upon himself to apply some extra pressure. 'Do you really want to be tomorrow's headline, Laurie?' His face was perfectly blank. If Ros would have been in that woman's shoes, she would never dream of calling it bluff, especially now that Arthur was about to tell the news to the world. And he would. Ros and Harry agreed on one thing and that was that bluff would never get them anywhere with the Americans. Only the real thing would do the job, so that was exactly what they were going to do.
Laurie realised that too. With a face like she was forced to swallow something very sour she finally gave in. 'Okay. You'll get your way.' Ros half expected there to be an added 'but' but it never came. They had won a round. They had won one battle, but there was still an entire war to be fought. And heaven knows how bloody long that's going to take.
It was the end of the afternoon when Harry, Ros and Arthur finally returned to the Grid, but to Merlin it felt as if only minutes had passed. The spooks' working floor was as active as he had never seen it before, not that that was saying something, and he had been working all afternoon. Not even Arthur worked him so hard.
Lucas, who had taken over command now that the real bosses were engaged in a conflict with the ever so feared CIA, had dispatched Ben, Jo and Connie to dig up everything they could on Bob Hogan, while Malcolm and Merlin had been tasked with checking every CCTV camera in the area around the bombed station within a twenty minute frame of the attack. So far their attempts were unsuccessful.
'Anything yet?' Lucas inquired. The Senior Case Officer looked positively drained and he was clutching his cup of coffee like it was the only thing keeping him alive, but the look in his eyes was alert.
'Nothing,' Merlin replied truthfully. 'But then, they didn't need to walk, or drive, or come by tube. Morgana could have magically transported them there. She probably has. And then they would never show on the cameras.'
Lucas let out a sound that could easily pass for a frustrated groan.
'Have the others found out anything yet?' Merlin asked, knowing the answer already, but hoping for the unexpected.
It didn't come. Lucas shook his head. 'Nothing yet.'
At that moment the sound of the pods drew both their attention, letting in Harry, Ros and Arthur, neither of them looking particularly happy. Arthur was holding a four inch thick file that he dropped on Connie's desk.
'What's that?' the intelligence analyst questioned.
It was Ros's voice that answered the question. 'Hogan's file. I want you to go through it, check out every detail. I want you to check every fact, every clue. Find out where he is hiding and do it now.'
'You got the cousins to cooperate, then?' Lucas concluded.
Harry snorted. 'With the right amount of leverage.'
'How is it possible that he is even here?' Jo looked positively distressed, making Merlin want to put an arm around her shoulder in comfort. He could only just keep himself from doing so. Ros already thought there was something going on between them and he didn't want to give her any more confirmation.
'They let him off,' Ros fumed. 'Dishonourable discharge, but no charges against him. Because he had "contributed so much to the service of his country".'
'And because they don't seem to think selling out MI-5 officers to a criminal group is an offense,' Harry added.
Ros snorted. 'I'm surprised they seem to think blowing up a London street is an offense.' There was no mistaking the anger, the bitterness even, that seeped through in her voice. He recalled Jo saying something about how everyone working here had some kind of emotional luggage. Merlin had found that hard to believe about Ros at first, thinking her too cold to be moved by anything, but now he was not so sure anymore. The more he saw of her, the more aware he became of the pain she carried with her, usually buried deep inside, hidden behind the mask of the decisive Section Chief. But something about the visit to the CIA seemed to have unsettled her.
'We'll deal with the CIA after we've dealt with this crisis,' Harry vowed. 'We're not done with this yet. For now I want everyone focused on finding Bob and Morgana. Everything else can wait.'
'Right,' Ros nodded. She seemed to have herself under control again. 'Connie, read that file. Pass any clues you might get through to the rest of the team to follow up on.'
She might have continued issuing orders had the phone not rang at that moment. Harry, whose temper was already running seriously low, snatched it from the desk. 'Pearce,' he barked into it.
He must have done something with the phone, because when the person on the other end responded they could all hear them loud and clear. 'Hello, Harry. Is that any way to greet an old friend of yours?'
Merlin noted with interest that half of the team seemed to have frozen into their position. He had no idea who this man was, but his new colleagues clearly did.
Harry remained perfectly composed. 'I am sorry to say that I don't usually call people who blow up London tube stations friends, Bob.'
He called the man Bob and had mentioned the attack on the station, which would mean that the man that was currently calling was the same man whose picture was still staring back at him from the screen to his right.
'A minor blip in our special relationship,' the other man replied nonchalantly.
'So nice to know you think blowing hundreds of people to kingdom come is a minor blip,' Ros commented. 'Let's cut it with the bloody crap, Hogan. What do you want?'
Malcolm had disappeared behind a computer screen, doing something that apparently was called tracing. Merlin suspected he was trying to find out from where this man was calling so that they could make their move to catch them.
'Ah, Miss Myers, back from the dead, I see?' The voice was still talking as if this was nothing more than a conversation about today's weather.
'I was never dead,' Ros snapped at him.
'I admit, I should have checked it better,' Bob Hogan drawled.
'Well, silly old you.' Ros's words had a sarcastic edge to it, but her face was dead serious. Merlin had no idea what it was that they were talking about, but then, he didn't have to. 'Now stop beating around the bush. We both know how this goes. Tell us what you want.' She emphasised every word.
'And have you trace this call while I am making my demands?' Hogan laughed humourlessly. 'You are not the only one to know how this game works, Myers.'
'Then what do you want?' Harry snarled.
Merlin glanced at Malcolm's screen, seeing that he indeed was making progress in tracing Hogan, but that they would need some more time before the process was complete. And Merlin may be new to the whole concept of phone conversations, it didn't take an expert to know that this particular conversation was nearing its end.
'You send one of your officers to the former office of my former employer in two hours' time. And don't be so stupid as to send back-up with them, Harry, or have them wear a wire. I'll know if you do and I think you know the consequences of such behaviour.' Even Merlin could see the cleverness of this plan, as much as he hated it.
Harry's eyes were sparking with rage as he realised there was nothing really that he could do about this. 'And what guarantee do I have I get my officer back in one piece?' he demanded.
Hogan laughed again. 'How else will you learn my demands?'
The call ended abruptly, leaving them all to stare at one another. Merlin didn't think he had ever heard a silence that was so loud. A shiver went down his spine. The warlock understood all too well what exactly was happening here. Hogan and Morgana were in charge and they would have to dance to their tune if they didn't want to risk another massacre.