The Plot Thickens

They arrived at the apartment that the dead girl shared.  Her roommate was the one who had reported her missing.  Sometimes, that meant they were the responsible party.  After all, what better way to sway suspicion away from yourself than to be the one to call the authorities?  At the same time, Bugsy doubted that was the case here.  The girl’s roommate was a warden.

He nodded when she opened the door for them.  “Miss Carlisle?” he said, arching his brows.

“Warden Carlisle,” she said, nodding.  As she stepped back to let them into the apartment, her brows furrowed.  “Whatever you’re going to tell me can’t be good.  Agents don’t get involved in simple disappearances.”

“Not typically,” Malcolm admitted.  He sighed.  “Warden Carlisle, I’m Malcolm Smith.  This is Jared Smith.”

Jared nodded.  “Your roommate, Harmony Blair, was found in a local park… in the river.  She appears to have drowned.”

Carlisle cursed softly and then sat down.  She cursed again and looked at them.  “I – I should get you some tea,” she said.

“I’ll do it,” Malcolm said, patting her hand.  “You’ve had a shock.  Just take a moment.”

As he headed off to the kitchen, Jared sat down opposite Carlisle.  “Did Miss Blair have any enemies?” he asked.

She bit off a laugh that held no humor.  “She didn’t, but her father definitely does,” she said.  “He’s Jacob Blair.”

Jared grimaced.  Boss Blair’s daughter had just died – quite probably been murdered.  Someone was going to be in serious trouble when the old man found out.  Someone was liable to get fitted for a pair of cement overshoes and make their bed in the bay when he caught up to them.

Unexpected

“Who’d you say you were again?” Keenan said, frowning slightly and tilting his head to one side. There was something familiar about the man, but he couldn’t put his finger on just what it was.

The newcomer smiled. “I’m Alan Jenkins,” he said, giving Keenan a polite bow. “Once they’d heard that Master Keiran had died so tragically, the directors decided you needed a replacement.”

Keenan hesitated for a moment. Then, he nodded. “So long as you can cook, I suppose,” he said. Turning away, he called, “Have supper ready by six o’clock, please.”

“Of course,” Alan said, as he watched Keenan leave. A slow smile spread across his features. He couldn’t have planned it any better. Now, he’d have plenty of opportunity to carry out his mission.

Deflection

Keiran looked up from her book and frowned. In spite of what Keenan might say, she knew that the person she’d seen the previous day was still around. She wanted to think that the rattling at her window was nothing more than the wind, but she couldn’t.

She stood and headed to the door that would lead out to the front room of the lodge. Bertram was out there, right? She could spend time with him, at least until his campers arrived for music.

However, she never reached the door. A hand clamped down over her mouth, stifling her single cry. Then, darkness flooded in around her. When she came back to consciousness, she was outside.

Stifling a moan, Keiran shifted and her abductor laid her in the grass. He caressed her cheek lightly. “Relax,” he said, looking into her eyes. Keiran couldn’t struggle. “I need them to think I was after you, my dear.”

Trouble

He was annoyed. The agents suspected trouble. First that cook and then the boy had seen him. There was no helping it. They couldn’t know the real reason he was there. That meant there was only one thing he could do. Hopefully, they would think she was in target and her death would lay their fears to rest.

Watching

He watched as his target sat between the other two councilors. His target was arrogant to think that he could hide simply by using a false name. He didn’t need names to find someone he’d been sent after. No, it had been a simple matter to find his target. The only complication would be in finding the right moment to strike. His target was never alone. Whether it was one of the campers or one of the other councilors, he always had someone near him. When he’d taken this job it had been with one provision: there would be no collateral damage. He was there for one thing and one thing only. He would simply have to be patient. An opportunity would present itself, in time.

Wrongness

“Who are you?” he breathed, blinking rapidly.

“A teacher,” she said, kneeling beside him. She wrapped a hand around his waist and pulled him closer. He strained against her, but it was no use. Soon, she held him in her lap. He was as small as a child compared to her and she was far stronger than he was. “Relax,” she breathed into his ear.

Ezra took a shuddering breath and then slumped in her arms. He couldn’t fight her, not physically. “What kind of teacher?” he said, looking up at her. “What – what are you going to teach me?”

“You have a certain gift, not unlike many Shynians. They call it psyonic power – focusing energy through force of will towards a specific task.”

Ezra shivered and then nodded. “I can sense… wrongness,” he said, his brows furrowed. He knew that wasn’t the best description, but he didn’t know how else to put it.

“You sense danger,” she corrected. She tilted his head back, then, and eased his contact lenses out of his eyes. While he was still blinking against the invasion, she poured a strange liquid from a bowl over his face.

It stung his eyes and Ezra cried out, covering them. Tears of pain welled in his eyes – his body’s reaction and a subconscious attempt to clean the liquid out of them. “What – what are you…” he stopped when she caught his wrists and pulled his hands down. Suddenly, he could feel a chill on his spine. Without hesitating, he leaned into her. Something flew behind him, narrowly missing his back.

“Well, that’s surprising,” a new voice said.

Little Surprises

Ezra chewed his lip thoughtfully as he was guided, rather forcefully, into the chambers of the man to whom he’d been apprenticed. He tensed slightly when the person who’d brought him there beat a hasty retreat. Was his master such a bad person?

“You,” a soft voice said.

Gasping, Ezra spun towards the speaker. It was impossible to say whether it was a man or a women. The hair was white, but something told Ezra that had nothing to do with old age. The features were smooth and even, but neither especially masculine, nor especially feminine. The robes disguised whatever figure might have been present. Even the voice was low enough to be a man’s, without being so low that it couldn’t belong to a woman.

“You’re a lovely one, aren’t you?” the magician said, smirking slightly. “I don’t think you’ll last long as my apprentice, boy.”

“See here,” Ezra started. Then, he felt a terrible sense of wrongness. Without giving it a second thought, he dropped to one knee. He felt the breeze as something he couldn’t see flew over his head. He looked at his master with wide eyes. She hadn’t even moved!

“Or, maybe not,” she said, her smirk becoming a faint smile.

Hiding

Ezra hurried down the corridor, his hand clinging to Morgan’s as she half-dragged him behind her. The alarm was sounding. People were rushing towards them, all of them trying to get out of the building – away from the fire that Morgan had set. They were the only ones moving against the general movement of the crowd.

He was trembling slightly. If they encountered Keller or, worse, Severin, he might not have another chance to escape. However, they couldn’t leave without the person they’d come there to rescue, either. Too many people had died already because of his cowardice.

“There,” he said, spotting the room where the girl was being held. He skidded to a stop beside Morgan. As she began working at the lock, he stood there, blocking view of her actions from the people fleeing the building.

Ezra felt something tickling at his senses… danger! He gasped and scanned the crowd. Severin was moving down the corridor in their direction. He didn’t seem to have noticed them yet, but Ezra knew that meant nothing. The man was an empath. He could feel Ezra’s emotions – sense his thoughts.

“We have to leave,” Ezra murmured, focusing on the task of fleeing the building, on the fire alarm, on anything and everything except for what Morgan was doing. All he could was hope and pray that it would be enough to hide his thoughts and emotions from Severin.

Captured

Ezra stared at the map, a deep frown on his face. Clara’s ring dangled from his fingers on a gold chain. It swirled around as he focused on trying to find her. Where was she? His brows furrowed. Why couldn’t he find her? It should be simple to find her, especially with such a personal thing as her ring.

He startled when the lights suddenly went out. “Morgan,” he called, setting the ring on top of the map. He padded to the doorway of the kitchen and peered into the sitting room. “What’s going on?”

Morgan shook her head. “Get down,” she said. As Ezra ducked behind the couch, Morgan slipped over to the window and peered out. “This house is the only one on the block that’s dark.”

“That’s not good,” Ezra rasped. Why couldn’t Keller just leave him in peace? He knelt beside the couch trembling. When Morgan caught his wrist and hauled him to his feet, he covered his mouth to muffle a startled cry.

He trailed behind her as she hurried towards the back door. How? How had Keller’s people gotten close enough to cut the power? Where were the agents that were meant to be protecting them?

As they slipped into the back yard, Ezra got his answer. Williams and Jones were lying on the patio, their eyes staring up at the sky blankly. They were dead. Ezra stifled another cry. Morgan’s hand tightened on his.

“Steady, Ezra,” she breathed.

A soft chuckle sounded across the garden and Morgan whirled around, pushing Ezra behind her at the same time. Ezra’s eyes widened in shock when he saw who it was. “Severin,” he breathed, shaking his head. “But – but you died!”

“Apparently, no,” Severin said, as he moved towards them. “Don’t try and fight me, little girl, or you’ll end up like your little friends there.”

Ezra tensed. “Please,” he rasped, shaking his head. “S-Severin, I – I won’t fight you. Just don’t hurt her.” He was trembling, caught between fear and anger. Why couldn’t Keller just leave him be?

“Ezra, no,” Morgan breathed.

He looked into her eyes and cupped her cheek. “Morgan,” he breathed, “I – I don’t… If anything happened to you… what would be the point of fighting?”

Again

Ezra tensed when he saw a familiar face flash across the view screen. He grabbed the remote control and turned up the volume. He was dead. Murdered, according to the reporter, under unknown circumstances that the Agency was investigating.

Cursing, Ezra slammed his fist into the wall. He regretted the action almost immediately, as pain radiated down his arm all the way to his elbow. Hissing between his teeth, he cradled the offended appendage to his chest.

“What’s wrong, love?” Morgan asked.

He blinked away his tears and turned around. “First Devin and – and now, Isaac,” he said. “Only difference is, they succeeded with Isaac.”

Morgan scowled and stepped over to him. “You’re sure this is the work of the Underground?” she asked.

Ezra bobbed his head firmly. “He was – he was the one that Keenan assigned to look into my claims that the Agency had been infiltrated,” he whispered. “Who else, except the Organization would have cause to kill him?”

“It’s not your fault, Ezra,” Morgan said, looking into his eyes.

Biting his lip, Ezra nodded. He wanted to believe her. However, he couldn’t quite convince himself of the truth in her words. After all, Isaac wouldn’t have been put into the position that ultimately led to his death, if Ezra hadn’t disappeared.

As Morgan took his hand and began examining it, he sighed. All he could think, at that moment, was that it was his fault. Devin had been hurt and Isaac had been killed because the Organization had been put onto them because of him. He shook his head resolutely. There had to be a way to see that such a thing never happened again. The question was: what could he do that wouldn’t reveal his hiding place?

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