The Prodigy

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Chapter 13

While Analia meets with Jackie, Branna travels to Grand Central Station to meet with Ziva at the Oyster Bar. Branna actually leaves Grand Central first, and does several loops around the surrounding streets and takes a different entrance back into Grand Central when she determines she has no tail. Upon entering the Oyster Bar, Branna notes the restaurant has kept its original decor with red-checkered tablecloths and oak paneled walls. Despite the tablecloths, the Oyster bar is still elegant. She thinks she spots Ziva in a corner table. Ziva is wearing a short, auburn wig and glasses and has her newspaper folded in the right corner of the table. The position of the paper is their prearranged signal that it is safe to meet.

“Ziva is that you?” Branna asks tentatively.

“How do you like my disguise?” Ziva says with a smile

“Well, you always look good to me. If you are asking if the disguise works, the answer is yes, at least from a distance. Do you think we are safe here?” Branna plasters a big smile on her face as she scans the room.

“Honestly, we are not safe anywhere but I am sure I wasn’t followed. Did you see anyone tailing you?”

“No. I am glad we didn’t meet in your apartment. That would pose too much of a risk to you. Is that your bag on the chair next to you?” Ziva nods and Branna leans over to put her bag down and slips the disc in her bag. The waiter approaches and takes Branna’s order.

“Why the urgency?”

“Analia had a chance to look at the memory card of the detainees last Sunday. Only one of the 326 detainees there tested positive for the PPZ gene. Everyone there, except one person, has been detained under false pretenses.”

“Do you think the evidence is enough for a judicial investigation?”

“Yes, but there is a catch now. Analia discovered a file on the memory card that reveals Lucas and this Dr. Cruz, who is the scientist in chief at Rosewood, discussing plans to wipe the memories of all the detainees. As of now, they are waiting for Analia’s lab group to develop the vector to modify the PPZ gene. Once it is announced the vector works, they are going to substitute the memory altering serum for the gene therapy and administer it to all the detainees.”

For a moment, Ziva looks terrified and then rearranges her features to neutral. “From what you are saying, not everyone at Rosewood is aware of Lucas’ plans or she wouldn’t go to such elaborate lengths to disguise what they are doing.”

“Can you blame her? Branna asks sarcastically. “What they are doing is horrific. They basically plan to destroy each detainee’s identity.”

“At least Analia’s research has nothing to do with Katharine’s plans. It is all a smokescreen. Thank god for small favors. How is Analia doing?” The waiter returns with Branna’s drink and they fall into banal chatter for his benefit for a few minutes.

“Analia glows everywhere now. She is falling in love and doesn’t realize it yet. Fortunately she has an amazingly cool head and doesn’t lose focus. She and Josh have been working on identifying the genes responsible for pedophilia. They are making headway but the issue is much more complicated than psychopathy. The real shame of it is that Analia is conducting amazing and much needed scientific research. If it could only be safe guarded by ethical administrators, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Just then, their waiter approaches with another two drinks.

“I’m sorry, we didn’t order these.” Branna tells the waiter.

“It is from the gentleman at the bar, with his compliments.” The waiter indicates with the directional gaze of his eyes an attractive man sitting at the bar.

Out of the corner of her eye, she catches Ziva nodding at him. As soon as Ziva gives the signal, the man rises and walks towards them.

“Ziva, what are you doing?” Branna has no interest in fending off a flirt. Life is complicated enough.

“Relax. He is part of the movement. His name is Jaxson Bullock. He works as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. His father was a judge who ran afoul of Katharine Lucas and committed suicide as a result. Jax joined us about six years ago.” Just then, Jax reaches the table and Ziva indicates a chair in between them.

“Jax, I would like you to meet Branna Christiansen. Branna this is Jax.”

“Ziva failed to mention how beautiful you are.” Branna restrains a laugh. The man is a blatant flirt.

“Jax, put a lid on it. Her husband is in Rosewood. Jax has a reputation as a ladies’ man.” Ziva laughs as she says this.

“Another casualty of Katharine Lucas I presume.” Jax say as he stares at Branna for several minutes. It starts to become slightly uncomfortable.

“Branna, you have to forgive him. Jax is accustomed to women falling all over him. You are one of the first to show no initial interest in him.”

“Ziva your gift for candor can be annoying at times.” Jax rolls his eyes as he glances around the room.

“We don’t have time for anything less than candor. Branna, I wanted you to meet Jax. Bluntly, if anything should happen to me, you would have to go to Jax.” As Branna becomes visibly upset, Ziva puts a hand over her wrist. “Branna you know we are up against it. Jax grew up under his maternal grandmother’s surname and it would be difficult to connect him to his father. He has built up a great cover in the district attorney’s office. If anything happens to me, he becomes the de facto leader of the underground.”

“Please don’t talk about anything happening to you. I am not naïve about the risks, but I am just happy to finally connect with you again.” Branna turns to Jax. “I’m glad we met. I have been disconnected from almost everyone while I was exiled in California so I wasn’t aware of who joined our underground during the time I was away.”

“I know about you. Everything started with you trying to blow the whistle. I was able to pull some information on you years ago while conducting research when I was prosecuting a case of treason with the feds. Lucas has several moles in the justice department and anyone who does a search on any case related to Lucas gets tagged.”

Even though Branna knows how duplicitous Katharine Lucas can be, it always depresses her to hear how extensive her reach is. “I don’t think I want to know what she put in the file.”

“Actually, it was a pretty complimentary report. You had quite a few admirers who opposed prosecuting you and your husband. Unfortunately, Lucas and Halliday got their way. Sorry to pull a James Bond moment on you.” Jax hands her a pen. “This is a pen that if you click three times, it will alert me that you need to see me or vice versa. It vibrates. Just to be safe, pretend you are writing down my number. There is a diner called “the Diner” at west 14th and 9th avenue. Once you send the message, meet me there at eight that same night. If something happens, I will keep going back there until you show.”

Branna asks him. “Please tell me. Has anyone in the justice department questioned the ethics of what is happening at Rosewood?”

“In official circles, no. But many people have observed the lack of due process used in detaining those poor bastards at Rosewood. They were all initially held under charges of treason and because of ’issues of national security.” No one ever learned what his or her real charges were. I understand that you have the roster of who exactly is at Rosewood now.”

Branna looks at Ziva. “Yes, I just gave it to Ziva. My apartment is searched regularly. I can’t hold anything there. Will this pen hold up to scrutiny?”

“It should. It hasn’t been made available to private security firms, including the one working for Lucas. My college roommate works in technology at the FBI and created that for me. Unless a certain government agency is searching your place, you should be fine. I have a function I have to attend now. I wish I could stay longer. It was a great pleasure to meet you Branna.” Jax stands up and kisses her hand. “Ziva, I’ll meet you later and see who is on that roster.”

Branna watches him walk away. Ziva interrupts her thoughts by observing. “If you weren’t already married, he would be perfect for you.” Branna gives her a look. “Branna, it has been fourteen years. Has there been anybody else? Even just for sex.”

“No. How could I? This happened to Matthew because of me. I was the one who made waves about those aborted fetuses. Matthew had nothing to do with it but he took the blame to protect Analia and me. I can’t be disloyal to him, even for a night.”

“It is a long time to be alone out of guilt.” Ziva looks troubled as she speaks. Between them lie all their lost years and lost dreams.

“It is not just guilt. I believe everyday that he will come back to me soon. Maybe I just don’t want anything to interfere with that fantasy.” Ziva does not argue with her.

“We should get going. I wish we could stay up all night together and really catch up. Should we meet again on Sunday?”

“Yes. I would love to. Analia and I were invited to go to Josh’s place at the beach, but because of the severe storms coming this weekend, it has been postponed until the following week. Branna pauses for a minute. “I just remembered. Analia learned the story of Katharine Lucas’ mystery child. Josh became legal custodian of his brother after his grandfather died. When Josh was old enough and could be trusted with the secret, his grandfather brought them together. Josh does not get along with his mother, but the father has apparently been trying to control Katharine all these years. I should say the father is trying to temper Katharine’s excesses.”

“That poor man didn’t stand a chance. How committed is Josh to exposing his mother?”

“According to Analia, he is conflicted. She’s still his mother and he has some ambivalence, but it sounds like he is on board in exposing Rosewood. He wants to protect his father. Where should we meet Sunday?” Branna starts to stand up and Ziva follows her lead.

“Meet me again at the back of St. John the Divine. I will go early in the morning and keep a look out for you. Until then my friend, be safe.” They give each other a deep squeeze and leave.

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