The Prodigy

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Chapter 24

Jax drives Branna up to Westport late Friday night, after the run and the dinner Branna had promised. They check into a suite at the Inn at Longshore. The hotel is known for its’ great lawn extending like a velvet carpet from the entrance to the main doors. That impression is lost on Jax and Branna as they arrive under the cover of darkness. The hotel is a product of a bygone era when there was high tea in mid afternoon and yachting on a summer weekend. The hotel still retains its stately elegance, decorated in heavy mahogany furniture. Once they check into the room, Jax opens a bottle of wine while Branna sweeps the room for bugs with one of the devices Josh had given Analia. The room is clean. Relief washes over Branna. They wander outside and sit on the lawn for a half hour before Branna says she is hitting the sack early. Jax tells her to take the bed despite her protestations she will sleep on the couch. While she sleeps, Jax sits in the chair next to her and watches over her. Room service, knocking at the door, wakes them early the next morning. Branna sits up immediately and searches the room. Jax looks just as disoriented for a moment.

“Did you put in an order last night?” Branna looks to Jax for confirmation, but he shakes his head no.

Jax immediately grabs his jacket and takes out his weapon. Branna is shocked by the gun, but now is not the moment to question it. Jax motions her to stand behind him.

“Who is there?” Jax asks at the door.

“Room service with your breakfast. Compliments of Z.” Jax opens the door and Ziva rushes in and hugs Branna.

She whispers. “Is it safe to talk?

“Yes it is. We swept the room last night. Did you see anybody on your way in?”

“No. Jax why do you have a gun? Is it necessary right now?” Ziva asks with a look of consternation.

“Sorry if I scared you. I was issued this gun years ago when I was prosecuting the last gangs in New York. I am carrying it now because I’ve heard disturbing things this week. It concerns that retired policeman who ran down the names of the detainees at Rosewood. While the D.A’s office is decidedly behind the Rosewood project, the rumor mill among the police forces is churning. There were already doubts about some of the detainee arrests. Now with what happened to that retired policeman, there are a lot more questions. A friend of mine in the police force told me he knows some of the men in Katharine Lucas’ security detail. They have a reputation for being ruthless and he suspects Katharine’s security detail was behind the attack on the retired policeman.”

“Is that everything?” Branna asks with suspicion.

“Why do you ask?” Jax acts surprised by the question.

“My sixth sense is kicking in. There’s a reason that you have a gun and it has to be more than just that policeman.” Branna gives Ziva a suspicious look as she replies.

“Well, Katharine is pouring on the pressure to see who was connected to that retired policeman. They are investigating whether you or Ziva for instance are connected to him. Both your names are actually on a watch list at the police departments. I let a few of my friends on the force know I just started dating Branna to try to lower suspicions about her. There was nothing I could say about Ziva.”

“Any chance they have connected him to Josh? That would mean he and my daughter are in her crosshairs.”

“As far as I know, they haven’t. I hope that he only used burn phones like he said he did. But I agree, this is becoming increasingly dangerous. That retired policeman died yesterday. A message was sent to all law enforcement agencies. He was beaten to death. If I had to guess, they tried to get him to say who made him look at these names and he didn’t talk. Otherwise he would be alive now. But I can’t be sure.”

“Josh is planning on getting into his mother’s office soon and getting the blueprints for Rosewood. I will have to talk to him. He has their lab partner changing out the security camera footage so there will not be evidence of any break in.”

Ziva gently pulls Branna down to sit next to her on the couch before speaking. “My guess is she will increase security. She likely has an informant in the police department telling her that Rosewood is under suspicion. We all know she is dangerous when she feels cornered.”

Jax intercedes with a concern. “Branna, getting those blueprints would help so much. But Josh and Analia are still kids. I don’t think they should do it.”

“I agree with your concerns. There is more. Analia’s lab partner, Kevin, is a genius in computer programming. His brother, who was an attorney, ran afoul of Katharine Lucas and was arrested on false charges. I don’t know what they did to him but he died in custody. The authorities claimed he committed suicide. Kevin is a sweet boy, a verifiable genius and a high functioning autistic. I say this because he once broke into San Francisco Power and Electric network by accident while studying urban planning. His skills are prodigious. The tentative plan is for the three of them to come to Newburgh to shut down the power grid on the night of the break out. Josh has a private plane flying them out of Westchester. Josh also offered to transport us across the Hudson River that night.”

“Taking out the power grid would be incredible. Are you sure this kid is up to it?”

“In terms of computer programming? Yes. But, Analia and Josh are very protective of him. So am I. Do we have anyone in the underground with the kind of computer skills this kid has?” Branna asks.

Ziva answers softly. “No, we don’t. We did, but that person disappeared. She was never arrested; she just disappeared. We’re still trying to locate her but we suspect she is sitting in a prison somewhere or dead.”

Jax interjects at that moment. “She is probably awaiting transport to Rosewood when they open the women’s quarters. The real question is how improved are the odds by this kid taking down the power grid as opposed to just going in as originally planned. The backup generator at Rosewood would kick in within a few minutes.” Jax and Branna both look at Ziva for an answer.

Ziva ponders the question for a minute. “Honestly, it would be incredibly helpful at the crucial moment when they leave the building and run towards the tunnel. They need about two minutes of cover. I’ve learned that Brad and Matt are still in reasonable shape so we think they can run. The third detainee we are getting out also appears to be in decent shape. We know Matt and Brad have been psychologically, but not physically, tortured. The blackout would afford them much needed time. Once Matt, Brad, the third detainee and the nurse, Nancy, are in the tunnel, we will have a really good chance to escape. I will be in the tunnel waiting for them to lead them out. We only have fifteen more feet to dig on the tunnel. We are at the border of the compound and it is slow going because of the security cameras.” Ziva gets up from her chair and starts pacing the room, peering beyond the window shades periodically to see if there is anyone watching.

Jax breaks the silence. “There is the option of letting this boy take down the power grid and then just leave. I will man the boat on the Hudson.”

“That means you will have to go into hiding with us. Your career as a lawyer would be over. Perhaps forever.” Ziva answers.

Jax looks at Branna. “It is a risk I am willing to take, if it can protect the kids. I can run the media campaign from underground.”

“It might not be that easy to run the media campaign from underground. I would reconsider. As for my daughter, she is committed to seeing her father again. I think if I try to keep her away, she will sneak up there anyway. Personally, I would like to sedate her and put her on a plane so she doesn’t go anywhere near Rosewood. Excuse me for a minute.” Branna goes into the bathroom, leaving Jax and Ziva alone.

Jax follows Branna with his eyes. “She’s terrified for her daughter.”

“Yes she is. The way she sees it, she has two options. Keep her daughter away, and if she can’t do that, keep her daughter next to her. You’re falling for her.”

“Who, Branna? No I’m not.” Jax is startled by Ziva’s observation.

“You are. Just be careful, Jax. Branna is the best person I know.

She is so loyal to her family. I don’t want to see you get your hopes crushed. I haven’t told her, but Matt doesn’t look well according to Nancy. His chart is missing from the infirmary. Nancy is not sure what is happening. I don’t want to worry Branna unnecessarily until I can confirm what is going on.” Jax starts to say something but Branna comes back into the room and halts the conversation.

“What did I miss? Branna looks between the two of them.

Ziva smoothly transitions the conversation by way of a lie. “We were debating whether we can do this without Kevin’s skills. We don’t have anyone near his level. Let’s reconsider our options in another week or two. I have to go now. I don’t want to run the risk of anyone seeing me near you two. I will speak to the others in the underground about the power grid and the boat running that night. See if they have anyone who could function in those roles. You two should enjoy today. This place is a trip, like a step back in time. I am sure they have tea and crumpets in the afternoon on the front lawn.”

“Ha, very funny.” Branna throws an arm around Ziva’s shoulders. “Tell me, do I know the people working with you up there?”

“You do, but you know the rules. No names. I wouldn’t put it past Katharine to use sodium amytal on anyone she took into illegal custody.”

“Truth serum. Nothing that woman does surprises me. That was banned years ago although some government agencies probably still use it. People will spill both truth and fiction when given that. It is very unreliable.” Jax almost spits the words.

Ziva speaks up. “Dr. Morehouse informed us that Katharine has been experimenting with truth serum in one of the labs at the Institute. That means it is likely being used at Rosewood. It doesn’t matter what information they get with it, most of the arrests she already orchestrated were concocted out of fantasy.” Ziva explains.

“Does the nurse know if she has used it on Brad or Matt in particular?”

“No, she doesn’t. The infirmary staff has noticed an increase in the psychological issues of the detainees. I’ve learned that Dr. Cruz, the one Analia disliked so intensely, has the detainees undergoing “specialized” cognitive therapy. The staff has no idea what these detainees are being subjected to. They have been instructed to administer an antipsychotic if necessary and not ask questions. The real problem is that we can’t tell those two they are escaping within two months because of the truth serum. We are leaving that until the last day but they may be hesitant to immediately run out of the complex with Nancy. We can’t afford hesitation either.”

“Unfortunately, timing is everything, especially on a prison breakout. I can’t even believe as a prosecutor I’m talking about a prison breakout.”

“Don’t I know it? I will discuss our options with the small team in place in Newburgh.” Ziva sighs. “Well I better go. We will meet again in a few weeks. Stay safe Branna. I would just spend a lot of time with Jax. His office respects him and it is unlikely Katharine will try anything when you are with him. I would also keep Analia with Josh. I may be an idiot but I think Katharine at least will hesitate to move against her own son.”

“I wouldn’t be able to break those two apart if I wanted to. I feel pretty comfortable with Josh looking out for Analia. He’s committed. I am not sure Katharine would hesitate to hurt her own son if threatened, but her husband would try to protect his son. I am sure of that.”

Ziva walks over and kisses both of them each on the cheek. “I’ll see you soon. It’s just like old times, isn’t it?” Ziva gives Branna a wink and slips out the door with the breakfast cart. Jax and Branna sit down to eat. After they each take a bite, they realize the breakfast has gone cold and the coffee is weak.

“I am tempted to complain to management about the quality of the food service. This food tastes like cardboard and I need industrial strength coffee at this stage. Let’s head into town and find a decent coffee shop.” Jax laughs as he says this.

“I don’t think Ziva’s calling is in food services. She used to burn toast when we were roommates.”

“Clearly she hasn’t improved much.” Jax shakes his head at the tray. “After our second breakfast, let’s rent a boat. I should brush up on my boating skills just to be safe. It’s a beautiful day.”

They head out the door and Jax holds her hand to the car. The air is electrically charged between them and Branna concentrates on acting the part of the adoring girlfriend. They pick up bagels and head to the marina. In spite of herself, Branna enjoys the day on the water although it is becoming increasingly more difficult to relax these days. Her husband was an avid sailor. She is reminded of the last time the three of them were on the water. It is one of her favorite memories. Going over it is like rereading a favorite book. Unfortunately, the day after that perfect day, Matthew was taken into custody.

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