The Prodigy

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Chapter 27

When I return on Sunday from the beach, I tell my mom that Josh and I are going to attempt to get the blueprints for Rosewood from Katharine’s office the following night. Being on the public relations team, mom is going to be at the event Katharine is attending Monday night. For a fleeting moment, I see a look of sheer terror pass over mom’s face. Both mom and I work hard to appear as normal as possible on Monday. If tonight does not go well, we will have to completely rethink our strategy. It doesn’t help that Marcus starts in on me as soon as I arrive and decides to let slip several snide comments about my relationship with Josh. Jacki actually steps in and yells at him to quit it. She takes me by the elbow and asks me to go for a cup of coffee. We walk to the coffee cart in the atrium and go stand on the balcony.

“Don’t worry about Marcus. He is obsessed with becoming rich and powerful and he is trying to make a case that you’re getting ahead by dating the boss’ son. He forgets that you get ahead based on talent, in this place at least. I wouldn’t worry about what he is saying, but I would be careful around him. He seems like a spiteful guy when you get to know him. Classic sociopath. Outwardly charming, but a bastard underneath.”

“Thanks for sticking up for me. I can handle him. Marcus doesn’t scare me, but he is annoying. He was so friendly when we met the first day and at the baseball game and now he is pretty hostile. Maybe his niceness was just an act. My first day here, I met Jenny, the chairman’s assistant. She warned me that some of the scientists here could be ultra competitive.”

“Are you really surprised by Marcus’ reaction? People like him by definition are not understandable”

“Yeah, I guess a little. I’ve never had to deal with someone like him. Most of the students at Stanford treated me like an oddity but they never acted as aggressive as he does.”

“He won’t be the last aggressive guy you meet in our field. In your case however, you don’t have a reason to be jealous of anyone. You’ve always been a star. So I guess it’s true you’re seeing Josh. You two make a nice couple.”

I can’t help blushing a little. “Thanks. We get along really well. He’s also my first boyfriend. I just don’t want to advertise we are dating.”

“Well, you don’t give much away but I can tell he’s crazy about you.” Jacki says in an offhand manner.

“You think so?” I ask with a smile. “How are things going with you?” It is time to redirect the conversation.

“I am good. Can’t believe the summer is almost over. Maria and I have been going out to her place in East Hampton. It’s a great escape after spending long hours here. Maria is not happy with my hours.”

“I bet it is hard for outsiders to understand the hours we work here. How is the research going? I haven’t looked at it in over a week.”

“It is hard to say. I thought we had the right delivery method based on the notes you gave me when we had dinner. That advanced form of electroporation actually seemed to work in the mice experiments we did a few weeks ago. I was sure that the mice would demonstrate a high rate of unacceptable side effects, but they didn’t. Dr. Morehouse asked us to reconsider using a hybrid vector. It’s a little weird. He didn’t give a reason for going in a different direction.”

“That is odd. I wonder why he did that?” I remember Dr. Morehouse and I had talked about this the first week I arrived. He had agreed that the advanced form of electroporation that was perfected last year at UCLA would be the best possible delivery option. I think it is best for me to keep that information to myself.

We come to the coffee bar and both order double espressos. “I feel like I am living on caffeine lately.” Jacki shakes her head as she says this

“I know what you mean. I hope our hours get better. Do you know any other researchers at the Institute? I’ve met one on the train home. On that day, I had left at 6:30. She was friendly but distant. Her name was Christina Hanson, I think. We seem to stay later than most of the scientists here.”

“I’ve met a few. Most knock off between six and eight at night. They are not the friendliest people. Most of them probably live in their own little worlds. I can live with these hours for now. At least the person you’re seeing works with you so you get to see them. Of course the downside for you is he is the boss’ son.

“Tell me about it. But, I am not worried that if Josh and I broke up that he would try to get me fired. I just don’t like being under the microscope.”

“You’re right. I think Josh is a good guy and wouldn’t play dirty. I would just be careful with the chairwoman. My partner, Maria, is in digital news and she’s heard things.” Before she can continue speaking, I kick her in the shins and give a small shake of my head no.

Jacki looks startled and mouths ”what.” I give another shake of my head and segue the conversation in another direction again. “We should get back to the lab. Why don’t we get together this week or next for a girls’ night. We can invite Jiang.”

“Sure. That sounds great. We’ll make plans later after I check with Jiang.” Jacki whispers. “Thanks for the warning.” We walk back to the lab and Jacki gives my hand a squeeze as we go through the doors. When I walk in, I see Josh watching us with a smile. I give a grin in return.

Jacki whispers in my ear again. “Somebody missed you.” She then walks off to her station. I walk over to Josh.

“Fraternizing with the competition?” Josh asks for the benefit of Jacki’s ears.

“Calm down Josh. I only took her away from you for fifteen minutes.” Jacki rolls her eyes at him.

Josh leans in and whispers in my ear. “It looks like I have to share you with more and more people. Listen, Kevin’s twitch meter is rising due to tonight. You should spend the afternoon with him. You’re good at calming him down.”

“Not a problem. There’s quite a bit of cross checking to do. We’ll work on that.”

The rest of the afternoon passes quietly. Midway through the afternoon, Katharine Lucas stops by the lab to speak with Dr. Morehouse. As she is leaving, she calls Josh out into the hallway. Just her presence alone throws Kevin into mental spasms. He starts to shudder as if he has been tasered. To calm him down, I sit next to Kevin and have him input all the data into his computer again. It is a wasted exercise, but it does relieve Kevin’s anxiety. I’m just grateful that Katharine doesn’t walk over to talk to him directly.

Later that evening Kevin, Josh and I finish up at seven and leave on the pretext we are going out to dinner. We ride the loop to the next stop in Innwood. Josh mentions there is a Cuban restaurant on Dyckman Street that creates gastronomical marvels. While the largest Cuban presence is still in Florida, there are quite a few Cuban people who immigrated to northern Manhattan after the regime change in Havana decades ago. Innwood is the last remnant of Manhattan that has not been completely gentrified. Josh explains he is good friends with the owner’s son, Luis Norona, from his days at Hopkins. On the walk from the subway to the restaurant, Josh explains that Luis will drive them over to the back door entrance to the Institute. Luis and he had made the same run the night before to examine the passability of the tunnel and were able to pick the lock on the door, so that tonight’s run will have one less obstacle.

Kevin looks up sharply. “Did you see any cameras around the door when you went last night?

“There was a camera but we covered it with leaves from above the door. The door is on the rock ledge facing Riverside drive. That’s why we are going late at night. Are you still up to doing this Kevin?”

“Absolutely, although I got a little nervous when your mother came to the lab.”

“I picked up on that. Hold that thought.”

Mr. Norona comes over to welcome us to his restaurant.” Joshua, it is so good of you to come.” Mr. Norona says as he gives Josh a hug. He turns to Kevin and me and extends a warm greeting. “Welcome to Little Havana.”

“You have a lovely restaurant Mr. Norona.” I reply looking around. There is light Cuban jazz playing in the background and assorted wildflowers on the tables. The walls are whitewashed and the tables are wrought iron with cushions.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Kevin chimes in.

“Have you ever eaten authentic Cuban food?” Kevin and I shake our heads no. “Well let me create a menu for you. I’ll make a sampling of everything. Would you like to sit inside or out?” When Josh responds inside, Mr. Norona takes us to a corner table. “Please sit here.” He says as he holds out a chair for me and then hurries off to the kitchen.

“The food here smells delicious, but I am so nervous about tonight that I have no appetite.” I wish for a moment that we were just out to dinner for a good time. The acid in my stomach is churning and nearing a full boil.

“You can still back out.” Josh interjects. His comment raises alarm bells in Kevin’s eyes. I make a mental note to myself to refrain from saying anything that invites Josh to talk me out of the mission. At that moment the waiter places a pitcher of sangria and sparkling water on the table.

“No way. We are not having that discussion again.” I shake my head with vigor as if the force of my actions will shore up my courage. “Countless decisions decide our fate. I need to be part of this. I want the circumstances of my future to be different from the past.”

“I agree with Analia. We are a team.” Kevin adds.

“Okay Miss Bossy. Thanks for backing me up Kevin.” Just then he is interrupted by the approach of a devastatingly, good looking man. Josh’ eyes widen when he recognizes him. “Hey Luis. This is Kevin and Analia. Kevin and Analia, this is my best friend, Luis.”

Luis’ eyes light up when he looks at me. “Un placer conocerte bella dama. Josh told me you were pretty, but he was remiss in not elaborating on how beautiful you are. You remind me of a field of yellow roses next to the sea in my village.”

“As you can see Luis is rather subtle.” Josh says in a deadpanned voice. “Be careful around him Analia, he is a heartbreaker.”

“Please Josh. You have no appreciation for a Latin man’s reverence for all things female. I have offered to give you lessons for years. You American men are so stoic and repressed.” Kevin is so shocked by this exchange his head keeps swiveling between Josh and Luis. I’m also taken aback by the exchange. I’ve never seen anyone try to so blatantly outshine Josh. I barely fumble a greeting in reply.

“It is a pleasure to meet you Luis.” Before I can say anything else, Mr. Norona and two waiters arrive with several platters. Luis pours each of us a glass of sangria. Mr. Norona pats Luis on the shoulder and graciously accepts the thanks of all of us for the meal.

Josh, Kevin and I start to eat and I’m blown away by the food. The taste is amazing. The pairing of spices is quite delicately balanced. Only Luis doesn’t eat, but he does take a glass of sangria. Although Luis appears to be fun loving, I have the distinct impression he has seen his share of danger. “This is the nectar of the Gods.” Luis muses.

“You got that right. If we didn’t have a ride to take tonight, I would drink the whole pitcher. Luis, I forget how incredible your dad’s food is.”

“Papi’s food is excellent. Unfortunately he is always trying to cook for the head chef, which drives the chef crazy. Well at least it’s a nice night for a drive. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end with one of getting shot at.” At this statement, Kevin starts choking on his food and I start thumping his back. I hand Kevin a glass of water.

“Luis, we are all a little on edge right now. Let’s just try to be positive. By the way, can I ask why you are helping us? It could be dangerous.” I give Josh a glance as I mention this, remembering what just happened to his friend in New Jersey. I know I’m fishing and I doubt I will get a straight answer.

“Bella, I thrive under danger and revolution is part of my heritage. More importantly, I also owe Josh a favor. Don’t worry. I put a fake set of plates on the car we are driving. Even if they pick out the car on street surveillance, it won’t get traced. We all should be careful and wear baseball caps tonight that obscure our faces. I have them in the car.”

“Maybe we should have code names too?” Kevin asks. The question makes Luis snort with a laugh but Josh recognizes that Kevin is serious.

“Sure Kevin. Pick your name. I will settle the check and then we should go. I want to do this quickly in case my mother decides to leave the benefit early.”

“My mother is at the benefit. She will message me when Katharine leaves.” I add. Just then, Mr. Norona approaches.

“Joshua, the meal is on the house. I wish you could stay longer. Please come back soon. You have a calming effect on my son. I would like my son to settle down and give me grandbabies.” He kisses Josh on both cheeks.

“Papi, all in good time.” Luis gives his father a smile.

We all thank Mr. Norona and head out the back entrance. Mr. Norona pulls Luis aside and kisses him on both cheeks. On the way out the door, Mr. Norona calls out “Ten cuidado.”

“Luis, did you tell your father about tonight.” Josh asks.

Luis shakes his head no. “No I didn’t, but my father has a sixth sense about these things. He will worry.”

I mention to Josh that we have to come back because I loved the food. “Oh and by the way. I don’t think you need those lessons from Luis.”

Josh laughs. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. Now it begins. Our own little revolution.”

We get into a nondescript four-door sedan and Luis drives us to the Henry Hudson and heads southbound. I suspect that Luis has worked or still does in the clandestine world, but whether it is in the United States or Cuba, I couldn’t hazard a guess. I wonder if Josh knows and would tell me. After what happened with the savage beating of his friend Len, I doubt Josh would ask anybody else to help unless they could handle themselves. Everyday seems to bring more and more secrets into my life. I wonder if I will ever live an honest life in the future. We are silent on the drive down. Just before we reach the Institute, Luis explains that he will drop Josh and me off and keep Kevin with him at a secure location that he and Josh decided upon the night before. Once Kevin is safe, Luis will provide back up cover for Josh and me. Luis warns Kevin not to leave the car under any circumstances. The windows are bullet resistant and have specialized mirrors so no one will see him in the car. Luis gives Josh a radio transmitter to wear in his ear and reminds him to turn it off should we have to hide in silence.

Luis drops us off three blocks from the Institute. After Luis parks, Kevin logs on to the security system and starts running the continuous security loop. Once Kevin is in the system, Luis informs us and we set off for the tunnel door. Luis follows behind us but he blends into the environment and I can’t detect him until we reach the door.

The door is still unlocked when we reach it. Josh whispers. “I hope Kevin has penetrated the whole security system and we aren’t exposed.” We enter the tunnel and follow quietly. Luis remains behind inside the entrance door. We climb uphill through the tunnel. It is rather strenuous and I’m grateful for the training I’ve had running with my mother. My adrenaline levels are running at maximum output now.

After twenty minutes, we reach a door, which is also locked. Josh pulls out a small tool set and gets to work on the door. I whisper. “I didn’t know you had these skills.”

Josh gives me a wicked grin. “I secretly function as a thief.” We hear a small click in the door. Josh hands me a pair of latex gloves and we gently open the door. Katharine’s office is swathed in a soft, white light. I go to stand guard at the door as Josh heads to the large filing cabinet. He has no luck in locating any documents on Rosewood and is about to suggest that we leave when he looks at her desk and remembers the secret drawer built into it. He had seen his mother use it when he was a child.

After a few minutes he locates the drawer and is about to pick the lock when I quickly signal Josh to go back behind the door. We pull the door gently closed. Josh pulls me into his arms and holds a finger to his lips as he turns off his headset. We hear two sets of footsteps, one belonging to a pair of stilettos. The first voice we hear belongs to Jenny Whitcombe.

“Here you go Marcus. Dr. Lucas left your bonus here. She wanted to thank you for the tip about Jacki. We have had our suspicions about her. Her partner has written some unflattering pieces about the Institute in the past. What is important is that Dr. Lucas wants you to come up with a viable delivery method for the psychopathy gene as soon as possible. By that, I mean within the next two months. It doesn’t have to be perfect but usable in a clinical trial.”

“We all thought we were on the right track but Morehouse insisted we look at an alternative delivery option. I had heard that he is brilliant, but now I think he might have just been lucky. I am not impressed with him.”

“Morehouse is brilliant and Dr. Lucas relies on him. He can be conservative however. Dr. Lucas will speak to him and prod him along. Have you had any luck with the other group?”

“Well, I think Analia’s relationship with Josh is genuine, although for how long I couldn’t say. Josh is a smug bastard. Analia may be a genius, but she is a simpleton in real life. Josh will tire of her real soon and dump her. I know Dr. Lucas is worried that they could be up to something but there is no word on the grapevine. Analia is pretty friendly with Jacki, but I haven’t been able to get any information out of Jacki. If Dr. Lucas is so concerned about them, why then is she sending them to Milan?”

“It is because their research is damn good. It normally takes scientists a lot longer to do what they accomplished this summer. It’s a shame really that she will have to destroy Analia’s reputation when that gene therapy you are working on causes terrible side effects at Rosewood.”

“How do you know the therapy will cause side effects? We haven’t even perfected it yet.”

“We’re not actually using the therapy on the detainees. We’re using a memory altering serum and we’ll blame the memory loss on Analia’s research.” Josh and I hear Jenny make several photocopies as she is speaking.

“Then why wait for my group to come up with the biologically correct treatment? And why does Dr. Lucas have it out for Analia? Is it because of Josh?”

“Morehouse would know if we tried to use a gene therapy agent that wasn’t clinically safe and accurate. He is too well respected and could go anywhere in the world and be hired. People would listen to him if said the serum wasn’t ready for clinical use and that is why there were issues with it. As for Analia, Dr. Lucas doesn’t trust her mother and wants to keep the family in line.”

“Well I’m glad we’re on the winning side.” Josh and Analia hear Marcus kiss Jenny. “Do you think Dr. Lucas knows about us?”

“I don’t think so but let’s be careful. She can be quite difficult. Even if we are working for her secretly, she has a thing for control. She’s not worried about Josh and Analia. She knows they will die out after Analia’s reputation gets shredded. You also don’t have to worry about getting any information on Josh and Analia. Dr. Lucas installed undetectable listening devices in both their apartments today. Got them from her contact at the FBI. If they are up to anything, the devices will pick up any chatter. They are not detectable by any bug detection devices on the market.”

Josh and Analia hear a ringtone and then hear Jenny speak. “That was the chairman. She left the gala and will meet me here in thirty minutes. I need to get back to my desk and finish my report. It is the reason I didn’t go to the gala. Are you coming over tonight?”

“Of course. Meet you later beautiful.”

Josh and I hear the door close and the lock turn. Josh motions for me to be quiet and slowly reopens the door to his mother’s office. I go to stand guard again and Josh immediately pulls the files from the secret desk compartment. The only folder in there is labeled Rosewood. He runs over to the copy machine and photocopies the blueprints first and then the stack of memos. I monitor the time on my watch. We will leave in fifteen minutes.

Half way through the photocopying I signal him to stop. He puts everything back in the folder and quickly returns the folder and turns the key. We make it back behind the secret door with less than a minute to spare. The next voice we hear is that of Jenny again.

“How was the gala tonight, Dr. Lucas?”

“It was dreadfully boring as usual. Were you using the photocopy machine Jenny?” I start to gasp and Josh kisses me to stifle the noise.

“I did when I dropped off those papers from the senator for your signature. I always make a copy and upload it into my computer in case of a mishap.”

“Have you finished that report?”

“Yes. It is printing in my office. It should be ready by now.”

“I will pick it up on my way out. You can go home now Jenny. I am just going to go by the security office and see if the cameras picked up anything.”

Josh and I wait a minute as he messages Luis and Kevin that we have to leave fast and to shut down the security loop. We then start running back to the door. Intuitively, we can both sense that Katharine is suspicious and it is best to get everyone out of the area. When we reach the door, Josh checks the camera and has us run when the camera is pointed in the opposite direction. We have twenty-five seconds to make it. As soon as we reach Riverside Drive, we hang back in the shadows and Josh calls Luis on his prepaid cell phone. Within a few minutes, Luis picks us up and we head south on the Henry Hudson. Josh directs us to a bar that is close to his apartment. Kevin tries to ask us questions but Josh just shakes his head. Luis tells Kevin to wait until we catch our breath. The weight of what we just heard hangs heavily on Josh and me and our pregnant silence immediately has an effect on Luis and Kevin. By the time we park, a soft rain has started as if the sky is crying for all of us.

The bar is on the quiet side as it is Monday night. Several of the patrons look at us as we walk in, but show no hint of recognition or interest as we pass. Josh stays at the bar and orders drinks from the bartender. The rest of us head straight to the back and get a booth at the end.

When Josh returns with the drinks, Luis smiles approvingly. “It is a night for tequila. Good choice. He gives Josh a once over look. You okay Josh? You look pale.”

“Kevin, did you shut down the security loop?” Josh finally asks.

“I did as soon as you sent the message. I didn’t have to replay it, so they shouldn’t be able to pick out any discrepancies unless they notice they were not on camera if they walked the halls. What happened?”

“We almost got caught twice. First by Jenny Whitcombe and Marcus and the second time by my mother. But I got the blueprints and a stack of other documents, although I wasn’t able to copy the entire file. It will make for interesting reading.”

“Why Marcus and Jenny?” Kevin asks.

“They are an item. Marcus is also a paid informant for my mother and he’s been instructed to report any information about Analia and myself.”

“We also learned that his mother planted undetectable listening devices in both our apartments only available to the F.B.I. Thankfully, we learned about it tonight. They just placed them today.”

“That is seriously messed up. Your mother is a paranoid bitch.” Luis abruptly hesitates, realizing that he has just insulted his friend’s mother. “I am sorry Josh if I offended you.”

“No need for apologies Luis. My mother is a paranoid bitch, but I will give her credit for her intuition skills. She is like a wolf spider, waiting to suck you in. It is filial cannibalism at its’ best. I don’t think she knows how close to exposure she really is. She mentioned that she wanted to look at the security tapes when we were listening to her from behind the secret door. We booked it out of there when we heard that. I am not sure if she has had any credible information that led her to be suspicious.” Josh breaks off for a minute and is quiet.

“I could always break into her private email account and see exactly what she knows.” Kevin offers.

“I wouldn’t waste your time. Growing up my mother always talked about the lack of cyber security and how she would never put any sensitive information onto an email. What we could really use is a bug or informant in her security detail. The answers would be there. For now, we have to assume the lab is bugged as well and need to be very discreet in not talking about what we are doing. Kevin, they did not mention they were suspicious about you, but I have to assume they will be watching you as well. I don’t want you to get caught with the laptop.”

“But I need to spend some time on the computer. It will take me several hours to break into the power grid in Newburgh.”

“Why don’t I keep the computer at my place?” Luis offers. “I am close to the Institute and Kevin can call me when he needs to pick it up. He can work at my place or the restaurant.”

“I would keep him out of the restaurant when Kevin is working on this. If they ever traced the wireless signal, I don’t want it traced to your father’s establishment. Yours either, Luis. Kevin is coming with us to Brazil when we leave, so he’ll be protected.”

“Don’t worry Josh, I have my papi covered. I have friends in Brazil. They are good men and will protect you if necessary. I will get in touch with them. What is the name of your mother’s security firm?”

“Royal security services. Can you ask your friends in Brazil to check on my family at the monastery? Ask around and make sure they are not getting any unwanted attention.”

“Not a problem. You sure you don’t want a security guard for yourself now? Unofficially of course.”

“I am afraid if my mother and her security team see I have a security guard, their suspicions will be aroused even more.”

“Well, I know people who know how to be inconspicuous. They can hang back and at least alert you if you need to run.”

“That might be an idea. Can you run Kevin back tonight?” Luis nods yes. “Kevin, have another drink. If you run into anybody on the way into the dorms, tell them we went out to dinner and you had a few margaritas.”

“Can I ask why all of you are taking on your mother and that monstrosity she helped build in Newburgh?”

Josh looks to both Kevin and me for confirmation that we want to discuss our roles. So far we had not discussed with anybody beyond our own circle our personal connection to Rosewood. I speak first.

“I was the scientist who discovered the gene for psychopathy. Dr. Lucas used my research as a pretext to put all her political opponents in Rosewood. My father is one of the detainees there.”

“Is your father a politician?” Luis asks.

“No. He is a physician. When my mom discovered that Dr. Lucas and the current Vice President had instituted a secret policy almost twenty years ago, where any fetus that was found to have even a minor genetic abnormality was surreptitiously aborted without parental consent. My father assumed responsibility for the discovery and took the blame so that I wasn’t separated from my mother. I haven’t seen him since I was four.”

“As you know, that policy my mother instituted among the New York area hospitals also extended to my home. She gave my brother up for adoption when he was born because of intellectual disabilities due to anoxia at birth. Fortunately, my grandfather stepped in and took my brother home. I didn’t meet him until I was twelve. Until this summer, I wasn’t completely aware of all her illegal activities.”

Luis ponders this information for a moment. “I have heard rumors about the genetics policy but I didn’t realize how outrageously far they went. What about you Kevin?”

“My brother was in the district attorney’s office in Los Angeles and looked into this same issue. He was framed to look like a drug dealer and committed suicide while in custody, although I don’t believe it was a suicide. My brother had devoted his life to protecting people.”

“So in essence, your mother has decided to create the perfect society and will stop at nothing to do it. Even if it means breaking quite a few laws. It’s ballsy of her to hire the children of family members she has personally attacked.” The group nods in mute agreement. Luis considers each of us for a moment.

“Well, at least your motivation for taking on this task is good. You realize that breaking these detainees out will be a hell of a lot more difficult and dangerous than tonight was? You will have to prepare yourselves mentally and physically.”

“My friend died Luis. know the risks.”

“Well, we can discuss how to prepare for this later on. I’ll make plans with Kevin on the way home to meet up this weekend. My father and his staff will swear up and down that you were in the restaurant all night if anyone comes sniffing around. We’ll talk later Josh. Use the phone I gave you, just not in your apartment. Leave the bugs there for now. It will deflect suspicion from yourself.”

I get up to go to the restroom as we finish up. On the way back to the table, Josh meets my by the bar.

Josh touches my cheek. “Ready to go?”

“I am. I just texted my mother that we had a great time tonight at dinner and that I will be really late in returning home. Emphasis on really late.” Josh responds only by widening his eyes and I just nod yes. Mom and I had discussed how I would message her that everything went well by using a specific code. We both walk over to Luis and Kevin.

I look at Luis and Kevin. “Hope to see you two tomorrow, safe and sound.” We all get up from the table. Luis pulls me in for a bear hug and kisses me on both cheeks. I look at Kevin and he holds his arms out. His hug is stiff but I realize what it costs Kevin emotionally to take part in a hug. That simple gesture says more than a thousand words.

We walk Kevin and Luis to the car and then Josh and I start walking to Josh’ s apartment. The rain has changed into a soft mist by this point. The streets are eerily quiet, paying homage to what just transpired between us. Until this moment, I had avoided thinking about Katharine Lucas. But the floodgates have opened. First, I realize the woman is evil. Second, my life will always be connected to Katharine Lucas if I stay with Josh. Third, I will never leave Josh.

“You were amazing tonight, Nali. You really kept your calm. All the same, you must be freaked out.”

“It is rather scary to hear our privacy has been so grossly invaded. But we also knew to expect it. We have really good people on our team. I am not asking for details, but I suspect Luis knows how to handle himself in dangerous situations. It will be interesting to see how he thinks we should prepare ourselves.”

“He does know how to handle himself and I trust him. After what happened with Len, I wouldn’t ask anyone else to help us unless they had mad skills in defending themselves.”

“Are you going to take up Luis on his offer to have someone watch our backs?”

“Knowing Luis, I suspect he will be taking first shift tonight.” Josh smiles. “We should take advantage of that protection”

We step into the atrium and the doorman wishes us a good night. We enter the elevator and as soon as the doors close, Josh starts kissing me slowly. I respond with all the passion I have. My adrenaline rush is still running full tilt. When the door opens, Josh picks up me up and I wrap my legs around his waist. He carries me to his bedroom and turns his sound machine on to ocean waves for the benefit of our listeners.

Skin to skin, heartbeat to heartbeat, I start to lose myself. I know that this is the night that will forever be played over in my mind like a haunting melody. Later on, I will pick this memory out, perhaps in a pique of nostalgia and run through it in my mind. It can never be recaptured, although many go through life believing foolishly that they can relive these moments of youth. I soak in every moment, wishing that tonight will not end.

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