Risby got into the driver’s seat of the van, beckoning discretely for Adrian and Jack to join him. It was best to let Jack know soon now that Nikki would be on her guard. Kost already knew some of it, and Sarah would have a much easier time accepting the truth of the situation.
The two vehicles started off, Kost waving slightly at Risby from the other van before pulling ahead. Jack grinned back and reached for the radio, eager to relax from the stressful night. Risby stopped him.
“Not yet. There’s something I need to tell you about.”
Jack pulled his hand back, shooting his superior a confused glance. He waited silently as Risby took a deep breath.
“You are aware of Detective M?”
Jack frowned thoughtfully. “Yeah, he’s the guy who stopped the London bombing, right?”
“That is correct. He has been investigating a secret organization known as the Institution which trains highly skilled and talented individuals to help them gain power and control. Detective M warned me that two such Agents would be joining us on this mission.”
Jack shifted in his seat to better keep Adrian in his sights. “Is it okay to be talking about this with him?” He jerked his head toward the black-haired agent beside him. Risby fought back a smile, but he couldn’t help his lips turning up at the corners. “Yes, it’s fine. He’s Detective M.”
There was a stunned silence in the car for a long few minutes until Jack ran a hand through his hair and simply said, “Oh.”
Risby checked his rearview mirror as he pulled onto the expressway, still behind the other van so that if something happened to Kost, Risby would have a better chance at keeping their source of information alive. The two men had planned it so that Nikki would not be in the same vehicle as Jud. Judging by her actions in the warehouse, she was trying to keep her cover intact and so would have a much harder time silencing Jud if that was her intention.
“I’ve been working with M these last few years, trying to piece together enough evidence to bring the Institution down. It’s difficult; the organization hides their tracks well.”
He turned slightly to study Jack as the man ran through the information. It was a lot to take in, but Jack seemed to be handling it well. Jack sighed and settled back in his seat, staring straight ahead but not taking any of the scenery in.
“You’re saying that Nikki is an Agent working for them and that I shouldn’t trust her.” There was no question in his voice so Risby didn’t need to answer. He waited patiently for Jack’s next words. They were slow in coming.
“You didn’t want us involved. That’s why you didn’t tell us anything.” Jack glared at Risby and then turned on Adrian. “Was this whole mission planned from the start? Did the Institution set up our agents’ disappearance? Why? What was the purpose?”
Adrian chose his words carefully. “I asked Risby to leak some information about knowing something about Detective M to force the Institution to send both Nikki and myself on the mission. It was always a possibility that the Institution would take some form of action like this, but thankfully your agents aren’t dead. They are being kept in a secret location by the Institution to be used at witnesses against the Fanged Wolves. They have no idea that it wasn’t the gang that masterminded their capture. They’ll be fine.”
Jack breathed a sigh of relief, some of the tension leaving his body. He had worked with one of the missing agents a few years back and had come to respect and admire her. It was a weight off his shoulders that she was still alive. “So what is the plan? Why leak the information?”
“There are two outcomes to this situation that I have to decide on. The first is that I solidify my cover as a loyal Agent so that the Institution has a much harder time tracking me down. The second, and the one I’m hoping to pull off, is that I get Agent 24- Nikki- to join me. It would probably mean losing my place in the Institution and being on the run, but if 24 joins me, it will be worth it. She is the best Agent in the organization and her skills would be invaluable. Plus, she believes in true justice. Currently, she thinks that the Institution is keeping peace and balance and thus completely trusts them to send her to where she can do the most good. I plan on revealing the corruption and evil that plagues it and ask her to help me in stopping it.”
Jack leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. It was a lot of information to process. Finally, he asked, “What do you need me to do?”
Adrian tapped his fingers against the arm rest of his chair as he considered. There wasn’t much that Jack and the other agents could do since it would come down to whether 24 believed what he and Risby told her.
“It would be best if you told Kost and Sarah what I just told you. They will need to be on their guard in case 24 doesn’t take the information well. 24 is highly skilled in many martial arts as well as with various weapons. If she attacks, don’t try to take her on directly. Wait for me to get there and then get out. We also need to protect Jud at all costs, at least until Risby and I talk to 24. We will need him to convince her that what we are saying is true.”
Jack nodded sharply, his eyes glinting with determination. “Got it. I’ll ask Kost and Sarah to help me with the gear when we get to headquarters and tell them then.” He stretched and slouched, trying to get comfortable. “Can I turn the radio on now? I need to think and maybe sleep for a bit.”
Risby chuckled. “Sure. I need to talk to Adrian for a bit so just ignore us and don’t snore too loudly.” Jack huffed and rolled his eyes as he found a good station on the radio. “Wake me up when we get there.”
Risby waited until Jack was asleep before glancing at Adrian who he now knew as Detective M. “How do you want to approach this? I have all the files with the evidence and videos you sent with me.”
Adrian shifted in his seat, his eyes half closed as he arranged his thoughts. “I think it would be best to present the evidence to Jud rather than straight to 24. If we try to confront her directly, she will retreat further into her cover and it will be much harder to convince her of the truth. But if we show it to Jud as a way to get him to spill information about the Institution, she won’t be as threatened and might accept it a bit easier. Once we do that, your part is done. It will be up to me to reveal my identity as M. That was the whole point of our mission anyway, finding M. I’m hoping that with what we show her, she won’t try to kill you and your agents to try and keep the Institution safe.”
Risby shuffled through the glove locker to find the water bottle he had stashed there prior to their attack on the warehouse. He took a sip and put it in the cup holder, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. “What happens after that? Will you be safe?”
48 smiled, but there was a bitterness to it. “If she doesn’t accept the truth and goes back to the Institution, every Agent they have will be sent after me. I have enough allies who will continue trying to stop them after I’m gone, but the Institution will track them down as well. I need 24 on my side.”
“You’re taking a huge risk doing this. Are you sure it’s worth it?”
48 turned to face Risby. His eyes were serious as he said, “Yes.”
Risby nodded and turned back to face the road. “I will support you in every way I can.”
They spent the rest of the drive in silence.
Jack was true to his word. When they pulled up to the building the IDA had set up for them, he called Kost and Sarah to help him unload their gear with the excuse that Risby needed Nikki and Adrian to get ready for the interrogation since they were the most familiar with the Fanged Wolves gang. His actions around and with Nikki showed no sign of what had been said in the van; he was accustomed to pretending in order to manipulate behavior.
Nikki joined Risby and Adrian who were waiting at the entrance to the building as IDA agents took the prisoners inside to the holding cells through a side entrance. The three agents made their way through the halls to a conference room where Risby immediately set up his laptop. He opened a file to show the profiles of the Fanged Wolves members currently in their custody that Sarah had compiled on the drive there.
“Jud is the only one that seemed to have an idea about who hired the Fanged Wolves to perform the hit. Our first priority is finding out if my agents are still alive, and if so, where they are.”
Nikki agreed. “It is also possible that if we find the agents, they may know more about who took them and why.”
“Exactly. Nikki and I will conduct the interrogation. Adrian, you’ll be watching behind the mirror. If there is anything you find out from observing, text me and let me know.” He hesitated, seeming to consider something. “Can I trust you?”
Nikki stood up a little straighter. “Of course you can, sir.” Adrian simply nodded.
“Good. I have been contacted by Detective M. He has asked me to look into a secret organization called the Institution. I’m hoping that Jud will have more information about them since I suspect they are behind the capture of my agents.”
Nikki frowned. “Detective M? I heard that he’s new to the game and that nobody knows who he is. Are you sure you can trust his word?”
Risby pulled up another file on his laptop. “He has sent me a few statistics that I was able to verify via other sources. In several cities around the world, children living on the streets have been mysteriously disappearing and M has connected this with the organization. It’s enough for me to look into it.”
At that moment, there was a knock on the door, and one of the IDA agents stuck his head in. “Sir, we have Jud in Interrogation Cell 4. He is ready when you are.”
Risby stood up from his chair. “Thank you.”
The door closed behind the agent and Risby turned to look at Nikki and Adrian. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell Jack, Kost, or Sarah about this. They are unaware of my involvement with the detective, and I’d like to keep it that way for their own safety. I don’t want them in the crosshairs if the Institution comes after me.”
Adrian saluted. “We understand, sir. We won’t say anything.”
He pushed his own chair out to stand up. “I’ll go find them to let them know to stay out of the observation room for the interrogation. What excuse should I tell them?”
“Tell them that I need them to start questioning the other gang members to see if there is anything we can use against Jud. If they find anything they should contact you to let you know.”
Adrian nodded and stepped out of the room, letting the door swing shut behind him. Risby sat back down, beginning to type up an outline of how he wanted to conduct the interview. Nikki stood behind him, watching the words appear on the screen, a satisfied feeling at the back of her mind as 24 contemplated her next move.