Friday, 21 May 2010

Chapter Six

Dr Katherine Reece’s mobile phone was ringing. She turned over in the hotel bed, trying to ignore it, but as it continued she felt an uneasy grope of despair. She snatched it from the bedside cabinet and glanced at the Caller ID. Wesley. She flipped it open.
“Where are you?” he asked. Katherine rolled over in the bed, staring at the ceiling.
“I’m where I said I’d be.”
“Did you get much sleep?”
“No,” she informed him. On the line she could hear Wes smoking a cigarette.
“Neither did I.”
“What about containment?”
“High trace levels, but we knew that. Strange burns on the floors.”
Katherine sat up. “Consistent with what?”
“EM radiation, they think. And I mean Accelerated EM. It should be impossible, but in hindsight they suppose it’s not. She warped the structure of the entire corridor. They say the angles don’t make any sense. Everyone’s frightened. Even Deacon is frightened, and nothing scares that man.”
Katherine dropped her head back against the pillow, wanting to sink away into the bed. She closed her eyes, sick and angry at herself, at Locus Point, for thinking they could walk the tightrope of moral ambiguity. They would wash their hands of Rebecca Cole quicker than lightning, and crucify Katherine just to make a statement. String me up like a piggy. She lit a cigarette from the pack on the bedside cabinet, wincing at how rancid her mouth suddenly tasted.
“Kath, you still there?”
“Where else would I be?”
“Don’t blame yourself. It’s pointless.”
“I know that,” she said quietly into the phone, “But it’s hardly going to matter, is it? How the fuck am I supposed to find her? I wasn’t the one who let her out.”
“It’s business, Kath. Like everything. They need someone to blame.”
She shook her head at no one. “Worse case scenario?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Wes. Don’t do it.”
The line was silent for a few moments. “Worse case scenario; Locus cuts its losses, shuts down, and they turn everything over to the Interregnum.”
Katherine closed her eyes, enraged at the mere mention of the name. “So,” she asked softly, “then it goes from state to private…?”
“Yeah. Then a Tracer pops up, and we end up floating in the River Thames.”
“Or worse,” she murmured into the phone.
“Yeah, or worse.”
She took a deep drag of her cigarette, thinking she needed to brush her teeth. She laughed at the thought and began coughing on the smoke.
“What’s so funny, Kath?” he asked, “You think this girl carving her way across London would be amusing?”
She coughed again. “Maybe. It’d be…I don’t know.”
“I was going to say poetic.”
“That’s it, doctor; play fast and loose with human lives. You’re becoming more like them every day.”
“Don’t talk to me about responsibility, Wes. Don’t talk to me like I fucking chose this situation. Logistics went over my head, and Deacon authorised that.”
“You had a hand in that,” she heard him say. “We both chose this. Look, our witness, the nurse; she’s at the police station. I’ll meet you there. One hour.”
She snapped the phone shut, staring at the white ceiling. Perhaps Wesley knew what she’d done four years ago. A misguided act of compassion. Katherine didn’t realise tears had rolled down her cheek onto the pillow

She showered and dressed, trying not to think about Sean or Robert. Tomorrow would be Sean’s birthday. Nineteen. The same age as Rebecca Cole. Christ, this was all quite hilarious really.
She clasped the chain with her wedding ring on it around her throat, slipping it inside her shirt. She stared at herself in the mirror on the closet door. She still looked damn good for a woman who was pushing forty-one. Her hair was still as orange-red as it had been as a child, apart from a few tiny flecks of grey at her temples that hopefully added a kind of grace. Her face was still beautiful in a distant, almost cruel way. She laughed out loud at her reflection but her eyes remained the same.

The wind made wet autumn leaves crawl along the pavements at the feet of pedestrians, and drift around above their heads against the grey sky. At least the season matched her hair, Katherine thought dryly. That was something.
She drove behind the wheel of a dark green BMW provided by her employers, eventually stopping at a newsagents to buy another pack of Lincoln. Quite simply, Katherine missed her boy and wanted him to be there to celebrate his birthday. A glaring impossibility. An image of Sean’s face slipped before her mind’s eye. She turned on the radio to quell the pointlessness.
Wesley was waiting for her in the car park of Wells Gate Police Station. He looked tired, not his usual intense, capable self. It pleased Katherine. She leaned up against his Mercedees, beside him, as a few uniformed officers were climbing into a sierra, watching them both with curiosity.
“Did you speak to logistics?” she asked quietly, peering across at the men as they stared from the windows of the leaving police car.
Wesley shot them a glance too. “They said that Cole was your patient, and hence your responsibility. Logistics doesn’t appreciate you using me as a go-between.” There was a faint smile on his lips.
She looked him in the eye, and decided to tell him to his face. “Wes…if you were the one to do it…well, I’d kill you first. Or at least I’d try. It’s not a threat, but you know I’m utterly serious.”
He looked away, “I know that. Jesus…lets focus on the task at hand, okay? They don’t want this anymore than we do, right, I mean that’s obvious. But these are high stakes. The highest.”
“Fine, what about containment?”
“Take a wild guess.”
She thought about it for a few moments. “The patient who was killed. They’re setting this up as a murder-suicide. Pin it on a dead man.”
“That’s what they’re going with. They’re saying he tried to escape during the blackout, like Cole, but really she tore open his ribcage. Died of shock before he could bleed to death. The guy was ex-SAS. He was supposed to be one of the best, before the breakdown. Anyway, it’ll be leaked in a few hours, all by the nine o clock news. They’ve accounted for the police. Glass-Darkly. So I guess they won’t be talking.”
Katherine smiled sagely, “That easy, huh? Why don’t they just pull Rebecca out of a hat? Save me wasting my time…”
Wesley laughed but Katherine didn’t detect any amusement. “They would if they could, Kath.”
She hated it when he called her that. At one time she’d been attracted to him, when she was first head-hunted by Locus. She had a thing for strong men, she realised early in life, and Wesley had been no exception.
A few years ago, to her surprise, she’d gone to bed with him one night.
It was devoid of feeling, and wildly enjoyable. Wesley had been raw, forcing the same dark quality from her. An unusual experience, thrillingly degraded, not so much that she felt exploited but enough to make her feel powerful, slightly perverse. So different to her lovemaking with Bobby, and Katherine had abandoned herself to Wesley for those hours. It was the only night they shared. But now after all this, after Prayer, his constant presence and remembering what they did…it only served to make him creepy, almost repellent.
She was no better than him, of course. They both abused the education and security they were given to spectacular effect. Katherine long ago realised, despite herself, that they were a lot alike. “Come on,” she said.

She spoke quietly with DCI Harin, telling him to order the others out of the fouth-floor corridor. She had to be alone with this woman. None of the officers had been allowed to speak with her, on orders from containment. The Chief Inspector made a show of sighing theatrically, staring at her with dagger-eyes, then quickly did as she’d asked.
Katherine finally stood alone outside the room, thinking, I’m signing this woman’s death warrant if I get her to talk. She knew that. This poor woman who’d seen what she shouldn’t have seen.
She went inside. The woman was young and cute, sitting dressed in a powder pink top, her eyes wide and hollowed. She glanced up, trying to force a smile but appearing terrified. Katherine returned the smile and sat opposite her. She offered the young woman a cigarette, who took it with a trembling nod and lit up. “Thank you for coming in here today. Do you know why you were asked in?”
The young woman shook her head and asked shakily, “Who are you – police? Or not?”
Katherine removed her ID and handed it to the nurse who glanced at it and said nothing, handing it back. “Your name is Paula Jance, right?”
“Yes,” she replied softly, then pleadingly, “I have a three year old son…”
“How long have you been a psychiatric nurse?”
“Five years.”
Katherine nodded and was silent for a moment. She leaned across the table and said in a whisper, “My hands are tied, Paula. Do you understand what I’m telling you…?” Paula Jance nodded quickly, teary-eyed. “I need to find her,” Katherine whispered again. Tears rolled down the young nurse’s face and she glanced at the ceiling.
“I have a three year old boy…Bradley. Please, he’s the only thing that…” She couldn’t continue.
In a measured voice Katherine said, “Maybe you should take a trip, you and Bradley, somewhere far.” The young nurse nodded again.
Katherine got up and left the room, expecting to see Wesley Morgan with his ear pressed to the other side of the door.
The grey and white corridor was empty. She walked down it and into the hallway. A few of the CID were standing around, eyeing her with blatant suspicion. There was a woman amongst them, younger than Katherine. Even she was filled with a dark look in her eyes. Katherine had to turn away from it.
One of the men called out to her, “They briefed everyone that was there, your cleanup crew. Terry Gaines, eh?” He stared intently at her. “What the hell did you do to him to make him massacre ten people like that? Must’ve made him as strong as an Ox…”
She saw the female DC immediately touch the man’s arm, murmuring, “Forget it, Tony.” The woman glanced at her. Katherine saw a little fear in her eyes, and a lot of disgust. She was obviously wiser than her brothers-in-arms.
Turning away quickly, Katherine descended the stairs. She expected to hear them laughing but they were quiet, as if genuinely horrified by this intrusion into their hermetic world. The expressions on the men’s faces – she was used to it. But the look of sheer contempt in the eyes of the female detective, it had given her brief pause.
Outside, Wesley was waiting in the car park with the DCI. When William Harin saw her he marched in her direction, brushing past her and disappearing inside the station. She approached her associate.
“What was he saying to you?” she asked him, and Wesley shook his head and smiled.
“Chief Inspector was fishing, Kath. You pretty much castrated him.”
“Too bad.”
“It’s all too bad. What did the nurse have to say?”
“Nothing. She didn’t see anything.”
“You see my point, Kath? It’s all too bad.” She watched him get into his car and roll down the window. He lit a cigarette, glancing up at her. “You speak to logistics this time. Tell them what you just told me. I don’t think it’ll change anything, but…you’re more romantic than I am.”
He started his Mercedes, reversed and left the station car park. Katherine waited for a few moments, unlocked the BMW and climbed inside. None of this was looking good. She speed-dialled the number on her mobile phone.
“It’s Dr Reece. Patch me through to logistics.”
“Go secure. One moment please.”
A husky male voice said, “Yes,” like it was a statement. She took a quiet, deep breath.
“I’ve assessed the situation and I don’t think the nurse presents a critical risk.”
“That’ll be decided, doctor. What did she see?”
“Nothing. She was knocked unconscious. Extremely lucky girl.”
The man was silent for a moment, then, “Containment said she did see something, that there was an accelerated ion charge from exposure to the subject.”
Katherine closed her eyes. Shit. “They must be mistaken.”
“I don’t think so.”
“What do you want me to do then?”
“What is there to do?”
Katherine grit her teeth. “I don’t know. You tell me.”
“Report to ISAX; they’re attempting to track the EM with a cascade array but it’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before.”
“What about the nurse…?”
“What about her?”
Katherine wanted to scream down the line but softly she said, “Is she a critical threat then? I mean…do we edit?”
The man at logistics laughed gently at the euphemism. “Doctor, you know that we’re not a publishing company. I’ll trust your judgement, so relax. Report to sequencing, at eleven tonight, okay? And watch the nine o clock news.”
Katherine snapped the phone shut.
She wondered, for the hundredth time, what it might be like to melt away inside Prayer’s purifying halo. A world of living words. She supposed it was the only thing that would save her now, make her clean. But she had to find the girl first. She pressed the phone to her forehead and squeezed her eyes shut.

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