“Dolci, how’s he holding up?” Churchill said.
“He’s fine. Slept eleven hours after that last session. He’s up now and I think he’s getting cabin fever.”
“I want to talk to him face to face.”
“You sure? We’ve limited his contacts. Do you really want him knowing who you are?”
“Why not? Is he dangerous?”
Dolci adjusted his gold-rimmed glasses. “No, but he’s far more intelligent than he lets on. We need to be cautious with him.”
“All the more reason I should talk with him now before anything can go wrong. I told you I had a plan. We need his cooperation if we’re going to go further. I want a partner, not a witness against me in court.”
Andrew Churchill stalked into the conference room and got right down to business. “Mr. West, I know this past week has been stressful on you. But it’s for a good purpose.”
Ethan’s eyes didn’t move, hiding his surprise. During one of his jumps, Ethan had seen this suntanned face, these ice-blue eyes, this perfect coif of black and silver hair neatly combed over the bald spot at the top. What an interesting coincidence. How can I use it?
“You’re skeptical. I understand.”
“I’m not skeptical, Churchill. I’m kidnapped. World of difference.”
“You have reason to be upset. But I’m also sure you’d be the first to admit that this experiment would never have worked without a feeling of personal threat. It’s what got you to jump that first time. I intend to make that up to you.” Churchill kept his voice calm, but Ethan sensed the man’s anxiety. “You can go home today, right now. I will give you a check for two million dollars and you never have to see us again. If you want to walk away from what we’re doing here, fine. But if you’d like to assist us, we’ll pay you ten million dollars a year. You’ll never have to pick up a shovel again.”
“I like shovels. I like farming.”
“So farm. Just help us unlock the incredible gift you have.”
“Why should I?”
“Mr. West, you have talents which Memnon has amplified. The defense of our nation may one day depend on talents like yours.”
A vicious little laugh jumped out of Ethan’s mouth. “Yeah, that’s why I bring back stock quotes? For national security? How much’ve you made?”
Churchill folded his hands in his lap and smiled across the conference table at Ethan. “Yes, I’ve been playing the market, but for a good cause. This company almost went bankrupt. To continue our work we needed capital. So, yes, your first assignments have been to bring us financial information from the future. But in the next week, we’ll turn a financial corner. After that, you won’t need to do that anymore.”
“So, this is all for patriotism?”
“I know how easy it is to be cynical, but, yes, it is, Ethan.”
“So, I do a few more jumps for money and then what?”
“We need to understand the neurological processes at work here. What’s in you that allows these responses to Memnon that are so far off the map?”
“Ten million, you said.”
Ethan let his lips purse and his eyes squint a fraction, just the greed-tinged look he felt certain the executive wanted to see. Let Churchill smell a deal. The silence stretched as Churchill waited for his answer. Finally deciding he had made Churchill work hard enough, Ethan let his face break into a grin. Ethan took a fisherman’s satisfaction in having used the proper lure. The stock quotes had done exactly what he’d hoped. He’d set the money hook deeply in Churchill’s mouth.
Ethan said, “I’ll stay.”
The shift in Churchill’s body language revealed a great release of tension. Good. Ethan had guaranteed his source of Memnon. His search for could continue. What the hell did he care if Churchill got rich?
Ethan’s mind pondered one nugget of information Churchill had mentioned, savoring the knowledge that Churchill had revealed too much. No, the executive should never have mentioned the potential bankruptcy. Like a key in a lock, something in Ethan’s mind clicked. He saw a pathway into the future that had not existed before. Alone, seemingly helpless, in a hospital bed behind locked doors, Ethan suddenly had leverage.
He thinks he’s in control. But through his greed, I will own him.
And then there was the other thing. But Ethan would think about how to hammer Churchill with that little tidbit later.