Ros looked the report over one last time and then saved it on her computer, leaning back in her chair. She was glad this whole incident had been properly dealt with. Samir had, as she had already thought, told them all they wanted to know in a matter of hours after his arrest. So much for the legendary religious fanaticism, Ros thought sarcastically. When it came down to it, Samir cared more about his life than his religion, for which Ros and the entire team were extremely grateful. It had even brought back some sort of smile to Harry's face and heaven knew that was a hard thing to come by lately.
'Coffee, boss?' Lucas placed a mug of steaming hot black coffee in front of her and then perched himself up on the side of her desk, holding a mug of his own.
'What's the point in asking if you already brought me one?' she asked, raising one eyebrow.
He gave her his trademark smile that usually charmed every female within a ten meter radius. Only Ros seemed to be immune to it. 'Just being polite,' he said.
She was tempted to roll her eyes. Being polite? Yeah, sure. 'What do you want, Lucas?'
He ignored the question. 'Finished your report?' he asked.
'Yeah, you finished yours?' she shot back.
'Still working out some details,' he replied.
'Working out some details?' Ros echoed. 'How many bloody details can there possibly be? It isn't like there were so many. It's a report, Lucas, not an FSB interrogation.'
The quick expression of pain that crossed his face indicated that she might have gone too far with that, but since apologising wasn't in the Ros Myers dictionary, she kept her mouth firmly shut and waited until he had himself under control again.
When he spoke again, his voice was remarkably cooler than it had been before, but the smile was firmly back in place, although it did look a bit forced. 'I did some digging into that medieval dress-up,' he told her. 'Turns out that there actually wasn't one.'
She groaned. 'Lucas, I don't have time for this. There was a medieval dress-up, party, festival, whatever going on there that day. We've seen them, remember?'
'We did,' he agreed. 'CCTV didn't.' He glanced at her computer. 'May I?'
He logged in and opened a file containing a lot of CCTV images of the various roads leading to the town and the little patch of forest near it. 'No matter by which road they came to that forest, they must have been seen by at least one camera,' Lucas told her. He skipped past various images of different roads, none of them showing the men they had encountered in the woods. 'Now I've looked it back for an entire week, but they are nowhere to be seen. So unless you want to suggest that they came falling out of the sky…' He looked at her with the hint of a twinkle in his eyes.
Ros couldn't help but being impressed with his skills on the computer. Not that she would ever heard to be telling him that, but it could not have been easy for him, having the last eight years spent in a Russian cell where he did not have access to any of the new technological developments. For someone who had only been back from that nightmare for mere weeks, Lucas had caught up with the latest developments quicker than could have been expected of anyone.
'So, they were not picked up by CCTV,' she concluded. 'Have you considered that they might not have come over the road?'
He nodded. 'I did. So I went through the local companies and farmers' private security camera's as well and they cover about ninety-five per cent of the missing areas.'
'Ninety-five?' Ros asked sceptically.
'Apparently there's been a lot of theft around there,' Lucas replied. 'People have been installing camera's left, right and centre. But the point is that they don't show up on those camera's either.'
And he had only what… three days to have done all that work? There was no way he could have had time to do his little digging any earlier, because since Samir's arrest two and a half weeks ago they had been too busy following up on the information he had given them. Only the last three days had given them some time to do other things as well, and that was not a lot of time either. Lucas must have done most of this in his own time, the time he was supposed to be either eating or sleeping.
She had to give it to him, he was very thorough when it came to his job. She had not exactly been thrilled when Harry had reinstated him so soon after his release from Russia, so she had tried to avoid him a little. But now she found herself wondering if maybe she might just be able to work with him. He was even more driven than she was and she had always thought that she was a workaholic.
'But that's impossible,' she stated. 'They must have come from somewhere. And I don't see why this is even relevant. It isn't like they were such a big trouble. At least they've kept their mouth shut.'
'Yeah, but it was only when they arrived that the comms suddenly stopped working,' Lucas pointed out. 'I thought it was just a little too much coincidence, so I decided to investigate. You don't believe in coincidence, do you?'
She snorted. 'Maybe I will when England wins the World Cup and Harry starts liking politicians,' she said sarcastically. There was no spy in existence who believed in coincidence. Spooks were a suspicious lot, after all. She glanced at the pictures on her screen again. 'Have you told Harry about this?'
He shook his head. 'I wanted to square it with you first. Get your opinion on it. Hear your thoughts.' He shrugged.
Maybe that was the truth, but if it was, it wasn't all of it. Ros had been in the Service long enough to know when someone was lying, and Lucas North definitely was. And you would have to be a blind fool not to notice that Lucas was avoiding Harry, something that worried her. Malcolm had quietly mentioned that they had behaved as father and son before Lucas had gone to Russia. The fact that they weren't doing that now, indicated that there was something wrong and Ros had a fairly good idea what that was.
'You don't blame Harry for Russia, do you?' she asked sharply.
'No, of course not,' he said, just a little too quick, thus confirming her suspicions. He continued on about their previous subject as fast as he could: 'The point is that whoever they are, they have gone through a great deal of trouble to keep out of sight and they showed up at exactly the time that we were chasing a high-level terrorist.'
Ros grudgingly had to admit that that indeed was suspicious. She should have looked at it herself. She was the bloody Section Chief! She should have noticed such things before anyone else. It was bugging her that it was Lucas who had found out.
But it didn't make any sense and she told him as much. 'So, what you're basically saying is that a bunch of wanna-be knights dress up, go through a lot of trouble to avoid being seen and then show up to shoot our man with a crossbow? Why the bloody crossbow? Didn't the sodding things go out of fashion centuries ago?' She remembered something. 'And why introduce yourself as king Arthur?'
The smile was back for real now. 'If I remember correctly you introduced yourself as the emperor of Rome.'
'Ha bloody ha,' she said dryly. 'It just doesn't add up, Lucas.'
He looked at her. 'Which is why we probably should find out.' He glanced at his watch. 'We've got a few hours left. I thought that maybe we could drive down there, look what we can find?' He looked at her expectantly.
Ros hesitated. It was true that there were too many things wrong with the things Lucas had discovered to simply let it go and if those knights, for lack of a better word, presented a threat to national security, they had probably waited too long already. But as it were, they were also working hard on Ben's undercover mission. Based on Samir's information they had been infiltrating Ben into a small Al-Qaeda terror cell, which was probably going to launch a major attack on London in the next few weeks.
Before she could decide, Connie walked over to her desk, holding a stack of papers. 'The transcripts from Samir's supposedly secret mobile phone, Ros,' she announced. 'Everything from the last four weeks before his arrest.' She sounded rather too pleased with herself.
That collection of paper made up her mind for her. 'Then do what you're bloody well paid to do, Connie,' she snapped at the senior analyst. 'Analyse the stuff.'
Connie eyed her warily. 'I thought you said…'
She shut down her computer and got up, grabbing her jacket from a nearby chair. 'Change of plan. Lucas and I are going fishing. And unless Al-Qaeda's planning on detonating a bomb within twelve hours on the streets of London, I don't want to be disturbed.' She left Connie standing at her desk and marched over to the pods, with Lucas following in her wake. By the looks of it he was congratulating himself that he had gotten her to allow this investigation. 'Don't look so pleased with yourself,' she snapped. 'If we don't find anything today, we're going to let it go. You finish that report, hand it in and leave it to Harry to decide whether he wants to do something with it. Deal?' Not that he could do much else. The question was more a demand than a nice request.
'Fair enough,' he agreed.
They stepped through the pods and made for the car park.
Life in Camelot was finally normal again, or as normal as life in Camelot ever was, at least. Merlin seriously doubted if there were any other kingdoms in existence where a king's manservant would ever be enchanted to try and kill said king. And now he found himself also wondering how many other kingdoms there were where said manservant had literally to drag said king from his bed. He briefly wondered what tricks George had had to use to get Arthur to get out. Maybe he should have asked him during his one week training.
And today was just one of those days. He arrived at Arthur's room just after sunrise, going over the king's schedule in his head one last time. Arthur should seriously consider getting a personal secretary, because at the moment it would seem that Merlin was his external memory and he wasn't sure if he liked that.
Arthur was still fast asleep, mouth half opened, snoring softly. Merlin remembered Gwen once saying something about a pig in the house and he bit back a smile. How right she had been.
He opened the curtains. 'Up you get!' he said cheerfully. If there was enough light in the room Arthur would always wake up. Sound couldn't wake him, but light always could.
'What for?' came Arthur's muffled voice from somewhere between the pillows the king used to shield his eyes from the light.
Merlin pulled away the blankets. 'A bath,' he replied. Heavens knew the king needed one.
'Where's breakfast?' Arthur demanded, still making no move to get up.
Merlin internally groaned. Arthur really did most of his thinking with his stomach. But then, the results of that lifestyle were obvious in the number of holes in his belts. And they really did not have time for all of this. So he took the piece of bread from Arthur's plate and told him: 'Say ah.'
Arthur's brain was still too sleepy to protest. 'Ah?'
Merlin used the opportunity to stuff the bread in his mouth, earning him a muffled and irritated 'Merlin!'. He was glad he had remembered today to keep all the heavy objects away from the bed so that they wouldn't end up being thrown at his head.
While Arthur was spluttering on, struggling to get the bread out of his mouth again, Merlin walked over to Arthur's desk, picking up the king's schedule. 'I set aside some practise time,' he said.
Arthur's face lit up. 'Now, wonderful. What for? Quarterstaff? Battle axe?'
Merlin almost felt guilty about crushing his hopes. Almost. 'Your speech,' he corrected.
And indeed the king's face fell immediately. 'Who to?' he asked without enthusiasm, but at least he was leaning on his elbows now, looking up at his servant. Merlin considered that progress. Maybe he wouldn't be forced to drag Arthur out of bed today.
'Guild of harness polishers,' he informed him.
'Guild of who?' Arthur echoed. 'I don't know anything about polishing!'
Sometimes it really was nice to be able to write his speeches, especially when they were about something he knew all about, like harness polishing. Merlin showed the scroll with the speech to Arthur, feeling really proud of his hard work. He had stayed up until after midnight to get it done. 'Fortunately I do.'
Arthur's disbelieving face was totally worth it. 'That'll take hours to learn.'
'You don't have hours,' Merlin said, pointing out the obvious. He checked the schedule again. 'First, you're to receive Odin's envoy.'
'Do I have to give a speech?' Arthur asked warily.
Well, at least he could reassure the king on this one. 'No, you'll have to listen to one. Then you'll have to inspect the guards, perform a freeman's ceremony and…' He couldn't help but grin as he read the last thing on the list.
'What?' Arthur demanded.
'You're going to be a judge,' the warlock said.
This got him Arthur's full attention. He worked himself up in what could almost be called a sitting position. 'Preside over a trial?' he asked in a disbelieving voice.
Merlin's face split into one of his enormous grins. 'A garland competition!'
That might not have been the smartest thing to say in hindsight. Arthur threw himself back onto the bed, pulling the covers back over himself. 'Don't I get any time to myself?' he complained.
'I know, it's almost like having to work,' Merlin teased, before walking over to the bed to do what he was clearly forced to do. 'Come on, we don't have time for this.'
Arthur protested loudly as Merlin first pulled away the covers Arthur was desperately trying to hold on to, and then pulled him out of bed with blankets and all. He left Arthur on the floor, ignoring the fact that the king was trying to make himself comfortable there. This wasn't very unusual and he knew that that cold stone floor was bound to become very uncomfortable very soon, which meant that Arthur would probably get up soon enough.
'You're doing very well, Arthur,' he told the king while he was gathering his clothes.
'I don't think so,' Arthur replied from under the blankets.
'Everyone's saying it,' he insisted.
'I'm glad your friends at the tavern approve.'
Merlin tried and failed not to frown. That joke was seriously getting old. He hadn't even been in the tavern for years and if Arthur had taken the trouble to actually go there he would find that out soon enough. What on earth had possessed Gaius to tell Arthur he was in the tavern every time he needed to pop out for an hour or two anyway? Why couldn't he just tell the king that he was collecting herbs or something like that?
'I'm serious,' Merlin said, trying to get Arthur up, which was hard work, seen as the king wasn't cooperating in the slightest. 'You're becoming a very good king.'
'Thank you,' Arthur said, finally deciding to give in and just get up. 'You're still the worst servant I've ever known. Any possibility of getting me an hour or so of free time?'
'Not at all,' Merlin told him, handing him his shirt. 'Come on, you've got to hurry. Odin's envoy will be here within the hour.'
'I don't want to listen to a speech,' Arthur moaned, back in complete sulking mood. 'I want to go on a hunt.'
'Well, you can't,' Merlin said. Honestly, Arthur may be on his way to become a very good king, but it was probably a good thing other people never saw him like this or they might indeed start to doubt his leadership abilities.
Someone knocked on the door. 'Enter!' Arthur yelled.
Lord Agravaine entered the room and all of a sudden Arthur's face split into a huge grin. 'Yes, I can,' he said to Merlin in a hushed and triumphant voice, before turning to Agravaine. 'Uncle!' he said overly cheerful.
Agravaine was completely taken by surprise by his nephew's high spirits. Arthur's morning tempers were infamous in Camelot and the chances of seeing Arthur Pendragon in a good mood before lunchtime were rarer than the chances of finding a four-leaf clover. Merlin knew Arthur well enough to know what he was playing at and sighed. He remembered telling Kilgharrah once that this Arthur couldn't possibly be the Once and Future King, because this Arthur was an idiot. In moments like this he was suddenly reminded why exactly he had thought that.
'Good morning, my lord,' Agravaine said, totally unsuspecting. 'May I have a word?'
'Of course,' Arthur said. 'Please be seated. As it is, I was just about to send Merlin to get you.'
Merlin knew that was not true, but Agravaine didn't know. He looked rather pleased that Arthur had been about to ask his advice about something. 'What is on your mind, Arthur?' the lord asked.
'A report has just come in containing some disturbing rumours from one of the outlying villages,' Arthur lied without blinking. 'This requires my immediate attention, so I will leave here immediately after breakfast. I'll need you to take over my duties today.'
Agravaine might have been protesting or questioning Arthur's very weak cover story, were it not that he relished the chance of being in charge, even if only for a day. 'Of course, Arthur,' he replied hastily. 'I understand completely.'
Arthur offered him a warm smile. 'Thank you, uncle. Why don't you have breakfast with me and I'll let Merlin talk you through today's schedule?'
Merlin might have been feeling sorry for Agravaine had he not been the foul traitor who was helping Morgana wreak havoc on Camelot. He also suspected Arthur's uncle of trying to undermine Arthur's authority, but today's schedule would hardly allow him any time to think, let alone time to cause any damage. He cheerfully listed Arthur's duties for the day, making a few up as he went along. That would give Arthur some free time in the coming week. With each task he mentioned Agravaine's face fell a little further, with the absolute most brilliant moment when Merlin told him that he had to be a judge at a garland competition. Agravaine did not moan loudly after which he threw himself back on the bed in despair, but it was still obvious that the traitor lord was less than pleased with the way things were going. No doubt he already regretted the promise to take over Arthur's duties.
'If that is all, my lord,' he said, standing up. 'I have duties to perform.'
Yes, indeed, Merlin though happily. And a lot of them too. Maybe it was childish, but he liked every second of this. He knew very well that Arthur would never believe him if he pointed his finger at Agravaine saying 'He's the traitor you're looking for!', but it felt good to get back to him in any way he could, no matter how childish.
'Of course,' Arthur said with an indulgent smile. 'I understand completely.'
Agravaine was wise enough not to comment on his own words used back at him. He bowed and left the room, maybe closing the door a little harder than necessary.
Arthur leaned back in his chair, looking at Merlin with a wide smile that betrayed how pleased he was with himself. 'So, let's go on a hunt,' he said.