The Next Emergency – 4

Leon followed Lorenzi and Authier into the room where the meetings were to take place. He frowned when the pair turned to stare at the doorway. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw that Andy was standing just outside the room, allowing Mariya to inspect every corner for possible intruders. Turning to the pair of agents, he smiled. “He’ll join us in a moment,” he assured them.

True to Leon’s prediction, Andy joined them as soon as Mariya had finished checking the room for him. “I have both post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attack disorder,” he said, as he began his own check of the room. “I… can’t enter a room unless I know it’s safe. Mariya is trained to check for intruders hiding in corners… among other things.”

“She’s not simply an emotional support dog, then,” Authier said, frowning thoughtfully. “She’s a trained service animal.” When Andy nodded, he continued, “That would mean that your psychological issues are on the level of a disability, Agent Surikov.”

Andy nodded without turning to face them. “Until I was paired with Mariya, I was entirely housebound, Agent Authier,” he said, his voice faint. He shook his head. “It didn’t seem to matter… I could work from home using email and video conference calls. I did my shopping online or by having stores deliver my groceries.”

He gave a weak laugh. Turning to face them, he smiled. “My doctor would even come to my apartment for our sessions,” he said. “It was at her insistence that I got a service dog. That… reopened the world for me. It enabled me to travel to a writer’s conference and… in the process, I met Leon.”

Leon nodded. “He’s come a long way in just three years,” he said, smiling faintly. Changing the subject, he asked, “What security measures do you have in place for the meetings?”

“This area of the hotel will be closed to everyone who isn’t directly connected to the delegates,” Authier said, nodding slightly.

Andy continued his circuit around the room. “And have you… what is the word, Leon? Scrutinized?”

“Vetted?” Leon said, grinning. Andy had been living stateside for nearly seven years, but he still had trouble with certain words and idioms.

“Vetted?” Andy repeated, scowling. At Leon’s nod, he smiled at Authier. “Have you vetted those people who will be allowed in the area quite thoroughly?”

“We left that up to their own governments,” Lorenzi said, shaking his head. “If their own governments trust them…” he trailed off.

“Their own governments may well trust them to do harm to Prince Roderick, Agent Lorenzi,” Andy pointed out, his voice soft. “We shan’t know if that were the case, until we check them all quite thoroughly ourselves. Yes?”

“I’m beginning to see how you came to be an enforcement agent,” Authier murmured.

Andy grimaced. “I was formerly with Vector, Agent Authier,” he said, his voice soft. “That training and… an incident that preceded my leaving the organization are, in fact, the root causes of my psychological issues.”

“What kind of training did they put you through?” Lorenzi asked, frowning slightly.

Andy grimaced and turned away. Changing the subject, he said, “I don’t like these windows. They’re too large and open.” He pointed through the glass, adding, “A sniper could position themselves in that building yonder and have a clear view of the delegates.”

“Curtains?” Leon suggested.

Shaking his head, Andy said, “Wouldn’t stop a determined sniper, however… if the material were of the sort that would block heat signatures…” he trailed off.

“I’ll get in touch the local field office and see if the folks in Section Eight can get us something we can use,” Leon said, nodding.

“You might have someone check that building previous to the meetings, as well,” Andy suggested, glancing at Authier and Lorenzi.

When the time came, Andy and Leon did one last sweep of the room. Leon had a few words with Barcroft, who assured him that everything that could be done had been. The building across from the meeting room had been swept. Everything seemed quite in order.

Satisfied that the delegates attending the meeting would be a safe as they could possibly be made, Andy and Leon went to fetch them from where they had enjoyed breakfast. As they were heading into the conference room, a pretty blond hurried up to Barcroft and spoke with him softly, but urgently.

Andy sent Leon a concerned frown. Nodding once, Leon hung back from the group and the stopped as Barcroft stepped up beside him. “One of the people in King Kahgli’s entourage doesn’t check out,” he said. “Armer finally managed to verify that he’s not who he said he is.”

“Any hint that King Kahgli knows?” Leon asked.

Barcroft shook his head firmly. “From what we’ve been able to learn, she thinks he’s who he’s claimed to be,” he said. “The only reason Armer figured out the truth was that she chased down one stray detail that didn’t fit with the rest of his history.”

Leon nodded and then quickened his pace. “Which one?” he breathed, as he was about to slip into the room.

“Delarn,” Barcroft breathed. Setting a hand on Leon’s shoulder, he added, “I’m sure we don’t want him to know our suspicions. We’ll stay just outside the door, until you call us in.”

Nodding once, Leon stepped over to Andy. “Delarn is our guy,” he breathed. “How do you want to play it?”

Andy chewed at his lip for a moment, watching as the delegates began to settle down in their places around the table. The members of the various entourages either stood or sat behind the person they accompanied. “We need to let him make his move,” Andy breathed. He looked up at Leon. “You stay close to King Thorinn and Rory. I’ll get as close to him as I can without arousing suspicion.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Leon said. He sidled around the room, moving in as relaxed a manner as possible. At the same time, he moved over to where King Thorinn was sitting and settled himself against a pole just behind Rory’s seat.

Frowning, just a bit, Rory glanced up at him and arched his brows. When Leon gave him a sunny smile, he heaved a sigh and turned away. Clearly, Rory could sense Leon’s tension. Hopefully, the same would not be true of Delarn.

Almost unconsciously, Leon sought out his partner. He couldn’t help but smile as Andy let Mariya lead him over to where their target was seated with the woman he professed to serve. His complete attention seemed to be on the little dog. He spoke to her softly and coaxingly in Ukrainian, making a great show of attempting to brush her. Anyone who knew her would know it was an act. Fortunately, Delarn didn’t know the little dog or her owner all that well.

Finally, just as the meeting was called to order, Andy managed to wrangle the little dog and began brushing her, kneeling just behind Delarn. Of course, the whole thing was an act, staged to give him an excuse to be near their suspect. Still, Leon thought the performance was masterful from both dog and human.

“We have one matter on the table,” Thorinn said, looking around at those who were gathered. He paused for a moment and then waved at Sereda. “Thus far, Princess Sereda has acted as the representative of the Dwarva to the League of Nations. Are we satisfied with this arrangement? Should we divide our representation, so that she only represents the Dwarva of the Depths? Alternatively, should she remain the representative from the Dwarva and let the other huldrafolk put forth representatives of their own?”

King Velodar, of the elves of the Tree-Decked Mountains cleared his throat politely. “Speaking for my people,” he began, “we don’t feel the need to have specific representation to this… League of Nations, though we would like to be informed of what they are doing.”

Both of the other elven monarchs nodded in agreement with his words. The Elven Elder of the Hidden Valley turned to his dwarven counterpart and added, “Princess Sereda suits our needs quite well as your representative. Does she not?”

“Quite,” Olafur murmured, giving a firm nod.

One of the gremlins left off bouncing in her seat to add, “We’re all fine with things as they stand.” Then her expression turned thoughtful. “Though… maybe we could add some gremlins to your staff?”

“That’s a capitol idea,” a gnomish thane breathed. He sat a little straighter in his chair. In a somewhat louder voice, he said, “That is a capitol idea!”

“It’s certainly a workable solution,” Sereda said, her tone mild. “Other representatives have members of their staff from… states within their nation’s borders. This wouldn’t be so different. If you had concerns, you could communicate them to me through them. I could see that they are informed of what transpires and then pass on word to you.”

“We could certainly try it,” King Merrul said, nodding. He glanced at Thorinn. “A dwarf from each kingdom added to Princess Sereda’s staff would ensure equity in our voice.”

“And keep infighting to a minimum,” Rory murmured.

At that, Thorinn nodded. He glanced around at the assembled kings, nobles and elders. “Each of us shall chose one or two people to send to help staff the offices at the League of Nations,” he said. “Choose wisely, of course, for they must be both trustworthy and knowledgeable of your needs in matters relating to the wider world.”

Edric, representing the Carta chuckled softly. “We’ve already got our representative in your staff, Shirley,” he said, his smile almost teasing.

“Oh, my goodness! Indeed, you have,” Sereda said, her eyes wide.

“That is our decision, then,” King Tindar said. To that, all those assembled replied with words of agreement.

No sooner had that occurred, but Delarn was in motion. Leon acted on instinct as the dwarf flung something at Rory. He threw himself between the dwarf and his target. He felt burning pain in his back, by his shoulder blade. Then, there was a startled cry and a dull thump.

“Barcroft,” Leon called, pushing away from Rory. He grimaced against the pain as he turned to see Andy wrestling with Delarn. The delegates in the room were watching the scene in shock. Agents were rushing into the room and Delarn was struggling to escape from Andy.

The dwarf turned and, in his struggles, cuffed Andy on the cheek. He managed to pull away and almost gained his feet when Andy growled and launched at him. “Andy, no,” Leon cried, knowing that the Conditioned Response had been triggered.

Andy was sitting on the dwarf now, pommeling him with his fists.

“Mir,” Leon cried, knowing that he hadn’t quite gotten the pronunciation correct, but praying that it was close enough.

Caudill echoed him, but got the pronunciation perfect. The affect was both immediate and dramatic. Andy froze in mid-strike and then gave a strangled cry. He scrambled back from Delarn, allowing Barcroft’s people to take him into custody.

Heaving a sigh, Leon went to Andy, who was sitting on the floor with his face buried in both hands, shaking and sobbing. “Andy,” he said, touching him on the arm. “It’s all right. You’re all right, Andy Capp. Just breathe.”

“I killed him,” Andy cried, lapsing into Veligradian. “I didn’t mean it! It was an accident! Oh, my God!”

Frowning, Leon said, “Hey, hey, hey! He’s not dead, just battered.” He forced Andy’s gaze upward and pointed. “See? He’ll be fine!”

Andy gave a shuddering breath and then looked up at Leon, as if he were seeing him for the first time. “Leon?” he breathed. “But… I was just…” he trailed off, then, blinking rapidly. Then, he put a hand to his mouth. “A flashback?”

“What?” Leon asked, blinking in confusion.

Meeting his gaze, Andy said, “I just had a flashback. I – I was in Petrov’s office and… I beat a man to death! And the blood! Oh, my God!” He shook himself and then looked at Leon with wide eyes. “That’s your blood! You’re hurt!” Then, Andy went into what Leon called “paramedic mode” and began tending to the injury.

He batted someone’s hands away, scolding them not to remove the knife, even while he was telling someone else to call for an ambulance. Someone brought a first aid kit and Andy began dressing the wound, binding the knife securely, so that it wouldn’t shift inside the wound and cause more damage.

When the ambulance arrived, Andy handed him off to the paramedics. He heaved a sigh before leaning in to kiss Leon gently. “I’ll come as soon as I can,” he promised. “I need to tend to things here.”

“I know,” Leon said, nodding. He could only smile, however, as the paramedics brought him out of the conference room. Finally, they knew what had happened to trigger Andy’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Killing someone had most certainly been traumatic for the sensitive young man, particularly so hard on the heels of learning that his wife had been killed. Leon was certain there was more to it than Andy had said. However, now that the memories were at the surface, the healing could truly begin. Leon vowed to be with him every step of the way.

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