07 February 2006: Mark Brand.
" Dante cursed violently. A curved needle
perforated the flesh in his calf for the final time.
done," the doc said. The doc was a nurse, and the nurse
was still in nursing school. On the bright side, he did have
a genuine sterile suture kit.
sat on a high-seated laboratory stool in the basement physiology
lab of Hitch Community College. His bad leg was resting on another
stool. The light was good, and the lab had a door that locked
and no windows. Dante didn't care to guess what sorts of grim
vivisection went on in this room. The entire space smelled of
formaldehyde and a brand of biocide designed to clean gore off
of stainless steel instruments.
had been injured before a number of times, and sewn up without
anesthetic, but he had never learned to tolerate it well. His
calf wound had been painless for hours after the initial injury,
but had slowly turned into a beastly, howling semi-agony. Putting
weight on the calf sometimes sent an infuriating burning sensation
up and down his leg.
had decided at the last minute to delay his trip to the Grange
for a bit longer. He was a complete mess, and it wouldn't be
at all encouraging to the men and women under his supervision
if he showed up looking half-dead. The insurance policy who
had answered the distress call in the Sentra happened to be
roommates with a nurse. Red Sentra's name was Dustin, and his
nursing student friend's lab coat said "Boner" where
the name should have been.
a day," nurse Boner said, offering him a handful of antibiotic
ointment samples. Dante nodded and took them. There was no braggadocio
here; no Dirty Harry 'stick it up your ass'. He fully intended
to return to the Grange as gracefully as possible, and avoid
any idiotic entanglements like a preventable infection.
sutures come out in ten days, not before."
do I do?"
you have one of those little kits like from Sears of men's grooming
vaguely remembered getting one for Christmas a few years before.
the nose-hair scissors and dip them in alcohol or bleach for
ten minutes, then just clip under one side of the knots. Make
sure they come all the way out. Tweezers if you need to."
days, not before. No matter how much they itch."
looked up at Dustin, who was sitting on a counter next to a
dozen dissection trays. Evidently the pizza man with the red
Sentra wasn't as slow as he looked. Dustin hopped down and looked
at Boner with a surprisingly-serious expression on his face.
you can't ever tell anybody about this. If you do
he held up his hands as if to say: that's it.
nurse looked at Dustin and then back at Dante.
I can't tell anyone anyway. It's doctor-patient privacy."
not a doctor, Boner," Dante said, slowly, "but you're
right. You won't be telling anyone about this."
nurse's face went rapidly white.
not as bad as that," Dante said, cracking a smile, "I
work for the government, that's all. Me being here is a national
security issue. If you tell anyone I was here, the NSA will
lock you away forever."
reached into his wallet and retrieved a hefty stack of cash.
It amounted to just over $2500. He pressed it into the nurse's
lab coat pocket. Boner looked at it as if Dante had just handed
him a shrunken head. Dante took the nurse aside, conspiratorially,
and spoke in a low voice.
don't expect you to work for free, but again, this is strictly
found money. Don't deposit it into a bank account or spend it
all in one place. And for Christ's sake, don't claim it on your
this, nurse Boner snorted a little.
way, man," he agreed.
knew you'd understand," Dante reassured him.
smiled and put his jacket on.
accompanied him back to the surface of the campus's science
building. The above-ground portion of Shermer Hall was a hideous
late-50's utilitarian construction of glass and blue/gray metal.
Dante thought Mies van der Rohe's soulless Modernist trash probably
impressed the narrow-minded, lower-middle class drones that
came here to earn their Associate degrees.
nurse left them at the lab door.
again," he shook Boner's hand. "In all seriousness,
though, if the money leaves a trail that can be followed more
than $50 at a time, you're a dead man."
smiled once more into nurse Boner's terrified face and walked
back toward the parking lot. Dustin followed at his heels like
a cocker spaniel.
03.2.2: 21 June 2006: Mark Brand.
people are possessed of a particularly keen sense of self-preservation.
The Lawyer, one of the two marginally-effective musclemen under
Dante's departmental umbrella, happened to be one of these.
word, just say one fucking word to me," Dante growled
at him as the Lawyer scurried around behind him in the long
hallway under the Grange. He stopped and looked the nondescript
G-man in the eyes. The Lawyer's eyelashes were twitching microcosmically,
but he was otherwise utterly still and silent. This was all
well, as Dante fully intended to kill him where he stood if
he dared speak.
Lawyer, whose name was probably something old-Germanic with
the prefix "Lieutenant", waited mutely under Dante's
roadblocks?" Dante asked him, point blank.
Lawyer said nothing. Dante turned and continued down the long
barrel of subterranean tunnel toward the viewer pods. The Director's
hands clenched and unclenched at his sides. The feeling of anger
was electric in the air around him, as it always felt when his
hand was forced.
lack of backup, I understand. Someone fucked me. But you couldn't
have thrown up one fucking roadblock?"
trailed behind the two of them at a distance of about ten paces.
Despite being fully aware of his predicament, the pizza man
found it difficult to avoid staring openly at the Grange's brave
new world. They reached the end of the hallway finally, and
boarded a smallish elevator lined with panels of bare stainless
steel. The doors clunked shut and they descended.
Majestic-21 still with us?"
sir. She managed to keep you locked for most of the engagement
in Syracuse, but she lost you when
Susan, went down."
there was no coverage of the road-trip at all?"
Lawyer consulted his Palm Pilot. Tiny taps accented the hum
of elevator mechanics. Dustin winced and reached up to stick
his fingers in his ears.
he said, "this sucker goes deep."
and the Lawyer both stared blankly at him for a moment. Dustin
suddenly became intensely interested in the floor riveting.
appears that eight of the Majestics on-site performed freelocks
at some point during the last twelve hours, but the only one
who held a sustained, pod-assisted lock in the last six hours
Lawyer looked at him for a moment, trying to hide his surprise,
and quietly replaced the stylus into the side of the PDA.
elevator finally reached the floor they had selected, which
was designated by the letters BV rather than a numeral. The
elevator doors slid open to reveal yet another lengthy hallway,
this one broken at intervals by heavy, institutional doors.
Dante set off quickly down the hall. He already knew where he
want to see the playlists for everyone for the last 24 hours.
Every single fucking one of them, no exceptions. I have the
clearance. After you get those for me, I want you to inform
Major General Rockland that the chicken has come home to fucking
roost. I'll be in my office, but I need to stop by somewhere
whirled at the sound of his name. Dustin, already somewhat mollified
by his odyssey through the bowels of the Grange, nearly tripped
I go now?"
looked briefly at the Lawyer and nodded.
goodbye," said Dante. He continued down the hallway.
Lawyer pulled out a silenced pistol and with the other hand
grabbed a handful of Dustin's polyester windbreaker jacket.
Lawyer backed him toward an unmarked door with an emergency
bar on it. Dustin's ass hit the bar and the sound startled a
yelp from him. The Lawyer pushed him through the door.
insurance policy's voice was cut off by a click that might have
been the pistol's hammer being thumbed back or the door closing
behind them. In either case, it was the last Dante heard of
03.2.3: 21 June 2006: Mark Brand.
knew that the building would be watching him. He would have
to move quickly. The hallways weren't monitored as heavily as
the pods, but there would be electric eyes on him just the same.
paused briefly in the hallway at a red security locker and held
his ID card near it. The tiny wire coil inside the plastic card
was recognized by the smart lock and the flat handle-less door
popped open. In the event of a fire or loss of electricity,
the lockers were accessible to anyone. Inside were a fire extinguisher,
a pair of micro-filter breathing masks, a flashlight and some
firearms. The Grange-issued pistols and submachine guns were
locked with a separate key. Even though a key to unlock them
dangled from Dante's keychain, he ignored them. He took, instead,
the final item from the locker, an emergency fire axe.
16 and 17, buddy-buddy as ever, were loitering in the main passage
and huddled close. Dante caught Matty Rose's eye and so, apparently,
did the axe. Rose grabbed Norris around the shoulder and the
two of them ducked into pod 17. The door shut gingerly, but
Dante paid them no heed. He passed the door to Margaret's room,
from which emanated the mild smell of stale food and teenager.
He would deal with her later.
Dante stood in front of the door to Arthur Glenrock's pod. He
took a deep breath, and knocked lightly on the door. It was
late afternoon, and unlikely that the old man would be napping.
Dinner was soon to be served in the cafeteria, and Glenrock
always showed up dressed and on time to his meals.
the reply came from within, "just a second, I'm not dressed."
instant Dante heard the voice, he unlocked the pod door and
carefully opened it to avoid hitting the desk behind it. The
door opened only to about forty-five degrees before stopping
against the desktop. He took a step back and swung the axe down
viciously. The wood which he had taken for mahogany was actually
just pine veneered with a quarter inch of the more expensive
hardwood. The axe bit deeply into it with a muted chopping sound.
He pried it loose and swung again, this time taking getting
almost completely through. He could hear running water from
the pod's bathroom sink. Glenrock turned to look out the bathroom
door at him as Dante swung the third time.
corner of the desktop, and a chunk of the leg under it, came
loose with a woody clatter on the linoleum floor.
the fucking hell"
stared at him with eyes wide. The old Viewer stood in the back
of the pod, safety razor in hand, wearing a wife-beater style
t-shirt and half a faceful of shaving cream.
said nothing. Instead, he kicked the door open completely and
buried the axe in the middle of the desktop, pinning to it a
pile of loose papers. He left it there, handle sticking up at
a jaunty angle, and closed the distance between Glenrock and
himself with two big strides. Glenrock put both hands out in
front of him, with the safety razor at the end of one, as though
the cheap little plastic thing were a knife. Dante barely noticed
the man swing the razor at his face. A quick, reflexive strike
to the forearm sent the lime-green razor skittering off to the
corner of the pod. Majestic-2 made a teeth-gritting, guttural
cry and held on tightly to his snapped wrist. Dante planted
a hand in the middle of his sternum and shoved him backward.
The old man stumbled on his heels and fell, striking the back
of his head on the hard-plastic edge of his bathtub.
kneeled with his knee in the middle of Glenrock's left thigh,
and took his head between his hands. Glenrock's thinning gray
hair was wrapped in Dante's fists, and Dante bent his neck back
painfully over the edge of the plastic. Rings of old-man grime
and mildew lined the basin.
looked at him blankly, still dazed from the fall.
Dante shouted, pulling hard on the old man's hair.
face scrunched painfully and he let out a yelp of pain. His
eyes returned to focus and he stared up at Dante like a wounded
and cornered animal.
told them where we'd be?"
Glenrock started to ask, dumbly.
grabbed Glenrock's left pinky finger and yanked hard upward.
The finger broke and stood upward at a ninety degree angle.
Glenrock squealed like a woman.
told them where we'd be?" Dante grabbed Arthur's head again
and pressed it hard against the tub.
else," Glenrock said, though his uncooperative vocal cords
made it sound like summon esse.
You're the only one who freelocked. Who are they and who told
them we'd be there?"
started to shake his head side to side, and Dante bashed him
against the bathtub again to make him stop. The old man lay
there for a moment bonelessly. Dante grabbed two good handfuls
of Glenrock's hair and hoisted him up and over the edge of the
tub. Dante bent his throat over the edge of the hard plastic
and spoke into his ear. His face was so close he could see Glenrock's
carotid pulsing thinly against the gray flesh of his neck.
listen to me. You're going to tell me who did this to me, or
I'm going to break your neck right here, on the edge of your
man's eyes popped wide, and a gurgle escaped his throat.
right. I can see you haven't used your Tilex in a while. You
sure you want the last thing you see to be your bathtub ring?"
eyes danced with terror, and he said nothing. Dante let up enough
for him to answer.
is Jasper?" Dante asked.
know he's gone. Where did they take him?"
Nagel," a voice said in his ear. He felt the cold metal
of a gun barrel.
03.2.4: 28 June 2006: Mark Brand.
voice startled Dante so much that he nearly dropped Glenrock.
He turned slowly to see Major Rockland's assistant Cady Morrow
standing under the bathroom doorway with a pistol in her hand.
The two stared at each other for a moment. Slowly, he let Glenrock
fall to the bathroom tile.
Miss Morrow," he said cautiously.
realize that it's at my discretion to deal with the Majestics
as I see fit?"
course," she said patiently. "If you wish to retire
Majestic-2, that's completely within your operational scope,
though there will be consequences if the killing is unwarranted."
lowered the pistol slightly and forced a smile.
Major General received news that you had returned. She expected
you for debriefing an hour ago, but given your circumstances,
she wanted me to let you know she understands."
bells went off in his head. His superiors never understood.
They never understood success, and certainly they didn't understand
failure. All they understood were their directives and whether
or not they were met.
Sabra that I have reason to believe Majestic-2 sold me and my
acquisition team out to a third party. He has information about
who they are and what they've done with the asset I was supposed
can tell her yourself in a minute, hence the debriefing. She
wants to see you upstairs."
the hell was my backup?" Dante asked her, standing slowly.
Rockland's assistant let the pistol drop towards the floor,
but didn't put it away.
General told me to tell you that she apologizes for that, and
that something has happened in the interim to prevent an effective
rescue mission. All our resources were tied up elsewhere."
bigger than the Grange is going on."
fucking eyeballs were freelocking all this time and something
too big was going on for me to get some goddamn backup?"
He tried to sound reasonable. She did, after all, have a gun.
think we had better take the conversation somewhere else,"
she said, gesturing at Glenrock.
pulled out his cell phone and speed-dialed the number for the
Lawyer. The number, which was an internal panic number of sorts
and meant to bring them running, went straight to voicemail.
This was bad. If the Lawyer and Stock Broker were gone, he was
completely on his own. Dante pretended to speak to someone.
this is the extension of Lieutenant Gabriel Spitzer, please
Dante, listen, come down here and clean this mess up. Glenrock
needs some medical attention."
return your call as soon as possible
him somewhere in isolation till I get back."
clicked the phone shut. Miss Morrow cocked an eyebrow at him.
right, let's go."
finally holstered her weapon under her suit-jacket and they
made their way to the front of the pod. The doorway was strewn
with debris and pieces of broken wood from the desk. They needed
to negotiate the mess, and Dante gestured for her to go first.
As she began to pick her way around the mangled corner of the
desk, Dante grasped the handle of the axe and pulled it loose.
For a wonder, it came out silently, and Miss Cady Morrow was
facing the hallway when he buried the blade of the axe into
the back of her head.
03.2.5: 28 June 2006: Mark Brand.
dragged Rockland's assistant into the bathroom by the back of
her collar. The axe still stuck out of her skull, and her eyes
stared sightlessly at the ceiling. Glenrock was still breathing,
but he was unresponsive. He grabbed the broken finger and the
old man didn't move. Dante started the bathtub running water
and hauled Glenrock into the tub, face-down. The water pooled
slowly at first, but then made it up to the level of Glenrock's
mouth. He started coughing reflexively when water started being
inhaled with air. The water soon turned pink with blood and
covered Glenrock's face completely. Dante pulled Cady's corpse
in on top of him to weigh the old man down and closed the bathroom
door behind him, leaving the water running. He locked Glenrock's
pod and made his way up to his office. The hallway was deadly
silent, and no one dared poke their heads out of their doors.
mounted the stairs up to his office and was unsurprised to find
it completely empty. Susan's reception desk was exactly as she
had left it, which brought visions of her dying on the hotel
floor swimming into his head.
picked up her telephone, which had a blinking red light for
unheard messages. To listen
to your messages, press 1
to review old messages press
for other options"
slammed the phone handset down and went into his own office.
His own desk, in contrast, appeared to have been shuffled through
since he last was there. His files on the Majestics looked disarrayed
somehow, and when he checked them he found meaningless fax confirmation
sheets in the place of the files that were supposed to have
heard a footstep in the hallway. He ducked his head down involuntarily
and crouched behind his desk. Here, and unarmed, there was nothing
he could do if Rockland or one of her lapdogs found him. He
had already narrowly escaped being erased once today, and didn't
want to be tested a second time. He peeked under his desk and
saw a thick set of feminine ankles with rainbow-painted toenails.
Nagel," Margaret Barnaby said tentatively.
peeked over the top of the desk. The girl was alone, and stood
in a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt. She looked
down at the floor as he came up from behind his desk, clearly
embarrassed to be there.
Hello, Margaret. You startled me."
about that, sir," she said.
scrunched her nose beneath her glasses, as if trying to think
of a good way to say it.
know she is," Dante said sternly. "You can't lock
her; you know she's gone."
what I thought. The thing is
stared at her, and the girl suddenly found words failing her.
He knew that wrapping an arm around her beefy shoulders would
encourage her to say whatever it was she had to say, but there
were more pressing details to consider at the moment.
while we walk," he said to her, hurrying her out of the
office and up the hallway toward his living quarters.
know how you said that I couldn't lock onto Susan anymore?"
hmm," Dante replied, checking the corner of the hallway
before proceeding. It was empty.
I tried locking onto the little baby, too, and I wasn't able
to get him."
a Viewer. Glenrock couldn't get him either. Sometimes that happens.
We don't know who he's with so we can't lock them
but I could lock him before"
matter," Dante said, cutting her off. "Listen, do
you have any idea who took him? Did you get any sense of who
they were in the ambush team?"
you killed all of them," she said, helplessly.
opened the door to his apartment.
I mean the couple at the rest-stop."
couple?" she asked.
could have slapped himself. Of course she didn't know what couple.
She had lost the lock back in Syracuse. He turned on her and
took her by both shoulders.
he said, "I really only need one thing, and I would love
it if you'd do it for me."
gave him a confused look.
worry, it's my responsibility. You're just following orders
like everyone else."
looked at him doubtfully.
need you to go down to your pod and try to establish a lock
on Major General Rockland."
03.2.6: 28 June 2006: Mark Brand.
you hear me, Margaret?" asked Dante.
put the earpiece for his cell phone behind his ear and pocketed
till I tell you before you go into the tank, understand?"
rifled through his closet, looking for the small steel locker
with the numeric lock. He found it at the bottom, under a shirt
that he had left there. He typed in the combination and took
out his Colt automatic and a spare magazine. It felt steady
in his hand and even more reassuring tucked into his waistband.
left his apartment and took the elevator up past Clinical Pharmacology
and towards the administrative floors and the Majestic level
security office. This was the nerve-center that controlled the
pods and the cameras that overlooked the entire Majestic living
space. He keyed the door with his card and typed a number into
the door panel and it opened for him. A young Private who he
had never seen before was sitting at one of the terminals. He
appeared to be the only one there.
up?" Dante said, and shot the man as he turned. He dragged
the body off of the terminal and locked the door behind him.
At the numerous computer screens were rotating video feeds from
the pods. He waited till the feed for Majestic-21 flashed up
and he froze the rotation.
here," Margaret replied, shrugging slightly. He could see
her in the pod: pale, flabby and naked except for her underpants
and the breather apparatus. "What was that noise?"
I dropped something. All right, you're set to lock. Go ahead."
dipped into the tank and he watched her go under.
she asked instinctually.
read, Majestic-21," Dante said quietly. His voice was rendered
electronically by the computer and transmitted to her underwater.
patching your through to my headset," Dante told her.
you Eyes?" she asked him.
This should only take a second."
left the security office and made his way carefully down the
hall toward the elevator. He made it there without incident.
Strangely, there was no one else in the hallway. Only one floor
above him now was the level reserved for Major General Rockland
and the other administrative staff. "She's not being easy
to get a good lock on."
get it, don't worry."
found the advice hilarious. He had gone off the reservation
now, and there was no turning back. He could do nothing but
elevator chimed as it stopped on the administrative floor. Dante
rechecked his pistol as the doors opened.
got her," Margaret said.
03.2.7: 13 July 2006: Mark Brand.
was something un-right about the lobby of the Grange's admin
wing. The last time he had been there was less than a week
ago, but it seemed like the large wood-paneled room had aged
a decade in that time. The carpet, which had been a rich lustrous
red wine color, seemed to have picked up half a dozen scuff
marks and dirt tracks in the interim.
desk that Cady Morrow usually occupied was empty, of course.
Her headset hung ready on a wire loop that jutted up from
her telephone like an upside-down coat hanger. The large steel-cored
cherry office door was closed, but light spilled out from
under its bottom edge. It was only when Dante noticed that
the brass handle was not so shiny as usual that it dawned
on him that what looked different was the fact that the room
had not seen the housekeeping crew in at least a day or two.
seemed more used than usual. This registered in some far-away
place in Dante's mind, but he was carried too quickly by his
own angry momentum to stop now. The chairs across from Cady's
desk were dusty. This was unequivocally peculiar, given that
there generally wasn't much in the way of dust down here.
Dante touched the brass handle, which he didn't need to pull.
It slid away mechanically to his right on a hidden track.
didn't you st?" Sabra Rockland's voice cut off
sharply as she looked up from her desk.
Lawyer and Stock Broker were seated in Rockland's office in
the cheap metal and polyester chairs across from her with
their backs to Dante. Both of them turned and threw sheepish
looks over their shoulders at him as he entered. The Stock
Broker made as if to rise to his feet, but Dante's pistol
was already trained on his head. The two corporate pipe-hitters
sat back against their chairs and waited for the end.
kept his pistol trained on all three of them, and stood so
that the Lawyer and Stock Broker were between himself and
Rockland. To her credit, she did not stutter or stammer, but
took a few shallow breaths in preparation for what she was
going to say. Dante saw this, and realized that whatever came
out of her mouth was sure to be poison honey.
what in the fuck are you doing in my office?"
abrasive drill-sergeant tone stopped him in his tracks for
Nagel, what the fuck are you doing in my office with
a weapon drawn?"
gritted her teeth and let her scream at him, this time coolly
letting it pass over him. This was misdirection straight out
of The Art of War. Dante had a copy of it on his desk.
em gee." He said, personably, "We need to talk."
at attention, soldier!" she howled.
fired a round into the desk. Splinters of wood blew across
her face and she recoiled with both hands. The men in the
chairs jumped a little at the report, but made no other move.
gee, I'm done standing at attention. For right this second,
you're going to give me your attention, and I'm going to try
hard not to shoot you."
will end badly, Nagel," the Stock Broker said, suddenly
piping up. Dante hit him across the back of the skull with
the barrel of the Colt. The Stock Broker held both hands over
his head and ducked down into his chair as far as he could
go. Dante hit him again and blood oozed from his creased scalp.
The man immediately started to cry.
Lawyer looked up hesitantly. Dante locked eyes with him for
make any assumptions about me, Lieutenant."
Lawyer nodded. The Stock Broker was now softly sobbing and
sputtering, curled into a near-fetal position on his chair.
Rockland sat behind her desk in the same place as before.
Aside from shouting, she had wisely remained perfectly still.
Her left hand was flat on the desk, and he turned the pistol
back on her.
nodded and slowly brought it out from under the desk. Her
slowness was due to the boxy, small-framed Ingram submachine
gun that she held in her right hand. She triggered the magazine
release and it fell to the desktop. She placed the gun beside
it, and rested both hands flat on the desk.
03.2.8: 13 July 2006: Mark Brand.
lost perspective, Dante," the Major General said to
suppose that's easy to do when a fucking camper explodes
in your face."
didn't know anything about that."
not as if you haven't got two dozen fucking Weathermen around
here. If anyone knows which way the wind blows, it's you."
gee, you're wearing my name out. I want to hear other names.
A man and a woman. Another team from another unit?"
not at the top of the chain."
took a few deep breaths and looked straight into Dante's
can't possibly understand how out of your depth you are
right now," she said with a resigned sigh.
right. I can't. Because no one ever fucking lets me in on
it. I got no backup when the camper blew. I had to call
some dumbass level 8 asset that I bailed out of jail one
time to come and get me."
had already activated every reliable asset in the area to
converge for another project. Something big has been going
on while you were out."
these fucks told me."
Stock Broker was still cradling his bleeding head.
take it you weren't able to get the baby."
hell I wasn't. I had Jasper in the glove and I was less
than a hundred miles from home."
eyes narrowed with what looked like genuine suspicion.
at the beginning," she said.
relaxed a bit. Perhaps this would be all right after all.
He could almost imagine a universe in which he wouldn't
be disciplined for killing a Majestic asset without documented
cause or official blessing, much less storming armed into
his commanding officer's sanctum and holding her at gunpoint.
proceeded to tell her about the setup, the ambush, Susan,
the long drive, and finally the camper incident. Rockland
listened intently to all of this. Dante admitted to himself
that he saw no subterfuge behind her eyes. Either she was
terrifically good at lying or she genuinely had no idea
what he'd been through.
did you lose contact?"
headset was disconnected, and I had twenty-one keeping an
eye on us."
I check something?"
nodded. Rockland slowly typed something into the glass top
of her desk. The backward-tilted computer screen brought
up a log of playlists. She perused it for a moment, and
then slowly turned the screen towards him. The duty log
for the day of the kidnapping was incomplete.
never heard anything about this."
did too check in, and then again when I couldn't
get a lock," Margaret hissed in his earpiece.
frowned at Rockland.
was running Eyes?"
have to check the duty log."
you don't. You fucking know who it was."
held up her hands and rolled her eyes.
right, if I assume that you're right and someone dropped
the ball along the way, they'll be disciplined. But there
were extenuating circumstances."
you've said, but no one will tell me what they are."
nodded, and stared at her desk for a moment. Her hand hovered
over a key, and she pushed it slowly and deliberately.
monitor facing him switched to a video feed from the Grange's
closed-circuit security cameras. Dante forgot everything
else as he looked at it.
. When was this?"
he had no sooner gotten the last words out than the Lawyer
dove for the floor beside him.
out!" Margaret shrieked in his earpiece. He ducked
instinctively and saw Rockland's hands flash to the Ingram
on the desktop.
03.2.9: 13 July 2006: Mark Brand.
office exploded in ear-popping gunfire. The Ingram was a
fast, obnoxiously-loud weapon, and the bullets roared against
the wood paneling as Dante ducked behind her desk and out
of the way. He put his Colt up and over the edge of the
desk and fired a couple of rounds at random. He knew he
hadn't hit anything because another ripping burst of fire
tore chunks out of the desktop where his hand was a moment
by the gunshots, he couldn't hear Margaret anymore in his
earpiece, who was warning him that the Lawyer was turning
around on the floor like a fish flopping on dry land. The
Lawyer kicked Dante in the ribs, hard, and Dante felt something
desperate in his spine and ribcage give. A tingling, radiating
numbness threatened to make his left arm go numb, but never
completely took hold. Given the wash of spearing pain that
followed, he would almost have preferred it. Dante turned
the Colt on the Lawyer and shot him in the throat.
then, Rockland came around the edge of the desk behind him,
walking in a squat like a duck. She was just leveling the
Ingram at him as he turned and he sprung prone and got his
head and shoulders around the left hand front corner, hoping
she would shoot only his legs instead of his head or chest.
it was, however, she didn't shoot anything. The weapon misfired,
and as she pulled the slide back to clear the round from
the chamber Dante scurried around the length-wise edge of
the desk. He tried to take a deep breath, but his ribcage
protested with an explosive stabbing pain. He popped his
head and arm around the corner of the desk and squeezed
off a shot reflexively. This made Rockland, who was waiting
patiently for him to do so, flinch. When she returned fire
it was wide and to the left, and he was able to duck back
behind the desk before the wood once more fluttered with
decided to try looking under the desk, and saw only a small
sliver of the heels of her boots at floor level. The he
saw something even better. His ears still rung from the
gunfire, but he saw the long rectangular magazine from the
Ingram fall to the floor. He slid the Colt under the bottom
edge of the desk and tried squeezing a few shots at her
feet, hoping for a lucky ricochet. Her feet didn't move,
but she propelled herself backward and away and he saw her
rump land a few feet from where her feet had been. Just
then his own pistol clicked empty and he made a dash for
howl of frustration was barely audible in the puffy gunfire
silence, but he knew he had timed it perfectly. Dante reached
the door just as she slammed home a fresh magazine, and
was through it and in the foyer before she could get a shot
off. The automatic door hissed shut. He ran past Cady Morrow's
desk and hit the elevator button for "up" with
the palm of his hand.
door to Rockland's office was motionless. Dante reached
for his remaining magazine and reloaded his pistol. There
was no way she could have known that his gun was empty,
and Dante knew she was hesitant to storm through a door
where a bullet would meet her.
elevator door opened.
as Dante wrapped himself around the opening and into the
steel box of the elevator, Rockland's door slid open automatically.
Dante fired twice at the doorway, not aiming, but there
was no one there. Instead, on the floor was a light filing
cabinet on wheels, that she had kicked over to the opening
to trigger the automatic door. He pressed the button for
Grange level, and just caught out of the corner of his eye
Rockland leaping like a hurdler over the filing cabinet
and into the foyer. She fired one long burst, into the closing
elevator door and the fat pistol-sized submachine gun bullets
poked metallic dents in the back of the elevator and the
outer veneer. He crouched against the side panels and managed
not to be hit.
elevator doors closed, and Dante was safe for at least the
next ten seconds.