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Team Player

I was swimming after a tedious day of paperwork when Eliot chugged up to the edge of the pool and said, "Renata."

I popped up from floating on my back. "What's up, Eliot?"

"You have a phone call," Eliot said, his tinny voice echoing around the pool. "The caller identified herself as Watson Holmes, and would like to make an appointment to call you."

Watson Holmes calling me? Oh, no, I wouldn't wait on that. "Tell her I'll be with her in just a few minutes," I said, striking out for the nearest ladder.

After putting on a kaftan, I made my way to the panel on that level and seated myself. "Telephone on," I said. "Hello, Dr. Holmes. I'm sorry for keeping you waiting."

"Thank you for agreeing to speak with me so promptly, Ms. Scott," she replied. Her voice had a bit of gravel in it, probably from years of smoking, and was clipped and precise and very academic-middle-class. The edges of her mind, which I was already sensing, were chaotic and dynamic. If a normal human mind feels like a river, constantly flowing and changing, this woman's mind was the water at the base of Niagara, clashing and crashing and impossibly energetic. (It's a common belief among the non-telepathic that the more intelligent a person is, the more ordered their mind must be. I have never found this to be true.)

"How can I help you?" I said, patting my hair with a towel.

"We have something of a situation forming around the Wonderful House," she said. A cat meowed stridently in the background. She murmured, "Hush," to it.

"Situation?" I said. I could get glimpses, but without forging my way past that initial rush of thought, I was not going to pick up any information passively from her mind's tumult.

"One of the people in the house -- Jeshri Patel, I believe --" ("I believe," my ass; she knew very well. I wondered if she was always making comments like this to make people underestimate her.) "-- has received a threat of some sort of exposure --" (A quick flash of a photograph, then a pile of photographs .) "-- unless she meets an unknown person to discuss the matter at a particular location in Staybird Park on her next night off."

Jeshri's night off, as I well knew, was Friday. It had been a bone of contention among the household. They all lost their weekends; Jeshri had the closest thing to a weekend of all of them.

"And you think the unknown may be the killer," I said, abandoning all pretense that we didn't know what we were talking about.

"Or an accomplice," she said.

"You think the killer has an accomplice?" I said. "That doesn't make any sense at all."

"A patsy, perhaps," she admitted. "No, I don't actually think he has a knowing accomplice. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to hide his crimes as effectively as he's done."

"Secrets don't keep well with more than one person," I said. "This is very interesting, but why call me?"

"Because," she said, and it was the first note of hesitation I'd got from her, "I understand that occasionally, you have provided a light telepathic link among the Gold Stars for important undercover operations."

I let that fall into a silence, then said, "Of course, Jeshri isn't going alone."

"Of course not," she said. "Simon and Lizzie and Tom will all insist on going with her. None of them could stand up to a superstrong, invulnerable paranormal. I guess him to be Class 5 or so, given the damage he did to some of the invulnerable paras he killed."

"So they have backup," I said.

"Yes," she said. "We'd like to have Megan Amazon and the paranormal going by the name of Meteor able to move in at a moment's notice from concealment."

"The cameras," I said.

"He'll render them ineffective," she said. "I'm sure he's considered the potential problem. There are several possible means at his disposal, given his presence in the house."

"You know who he is," I said, and caught myself before I scrabbled for purchase on that swirling mental boundary.

"I have an idea, though I wouldn't like to say," she said. "Will you do it?"

I sighed. "Of course I will, Dr. Holmes. Did you really expect any other answer?"

"No," Watson Holmes said. "Not really."

My next caller was Suzanne. "Suzanne, it's very nice to hear your voice," I said, answering because I guessed that I knew why she was calling.

"Renata," she said, and she was flustered and hurried. I could already see where she was: the tiny public gardens downtown, surrounded by the technicolor late April flowers that bloomed there. "Have you heard about...?"

"The Wonderful House threat and the plans for waylaying the killer?" I said, heading her off. "Yes. Watson Holmes called me half an hour ago."

"Simon got the information last night," Suzanne said, "and he spoke to Megan this morning. Please tell me you're helping on this. In the cold light of day, the plan to confront a serial killer just doesn't seem that clever." She stopped and sat on a bench. A squirrel started toward her. She was painfully open, her worry dropping her defenses and simplifying and focusing her thought processes; I could, if I wanted to, walk in and out of her supremely transparent mind.

"I am helping," I assured her, and I could feel waves of relief. "But has it occurred to anyone that if we're going to stake out bait, that minimizing the quantity of bait would probably be for the best?"

"Simon would never let Jeshri go alone," she said, mixed pride and something that bordered on an explosion of tension overflowing. There was a trauma there, a deep loss, and she was frantic that it not happen again. "The boy thinks that because he was able to bite Josh on the ass, he's the best-equipped to hold off the killer until the big guns can arrive."

"Well, it's really an accomplishment that he did bite a cosmic being on the ass," I said. "Though it isn't exactly something he could add to his resume: barista, god-ass-biter."

She laughed, as I hoped she would. "Still, Megan is a good choice, isn't she?" Suzanne had seen Megan a couple of times, an enormously tall and muscular woman who looked either Latina or Native or maybe both.

"I wouldn't know, Suzanne," I said. My head was starting to hurt. "I've never met the woman."

"But you knew her mother," she said.

"Suzanne, honey, are you very much like your mother?" I said, thinking of my own mother and what she'd have to say about this harebrained plan.

"Oh, god, I hope not," she said fervently. I felt her calculating the years it had been since she'd spoken to her mother.

"I think that similarly, Megan is her own woman," I said, rubbing my temples. "But all the reports I've had of her seem to indicate that she's dependable and tough."

"Meteor is a wild card," Suzanne said, and I got an image of a newspaper photo of a giant red-haired woman in a green tank suit. "Did Watson warn you that she might be difficult to deal with telepathically?"

"No," I said, and my voice went flat and verged on angry though I didn't intend it to. I have never liked surprises.

"Meteor herself is this... ghost from the war," Suzanne said. She was tossing pieces of sandwich to the squirrel and enjoying watching it eat. "That is, she wasn't in the war, Simon says, but she died during the war. And she's possessed Simon's friend G..."

"Oh, that'll be interesting," I said. Okay, pretty much done, as the area behind my eyes started to throb in time with my pulse. "Nothing I can't handle, but I'm very grateful for the warning, Suzanne."

"I'm glad I said something, then," she said. She tossed the last piece of her sandwich to the squirrel, having eaten almost none of it herself. In a small voice, she said, "It will be all right, won't it, Renata?"

I wished fervently that Ruth was on-planet, so I could say, "Yes, absolutely." Instead, I said, "We'll all try our very best. And I think that Megan, at least, will be able to stand up to the guy."

"Can I ask a favor?" she said. She was leaning forward, one elbow on her knee, her hand in her hair.

"Sure," I said, hoping it wouldn't take much longer.

"Can... can I be in the link? Just in the background. Just so I know what's happening." When I was silent for a moment, she added, hastily, "It's not the journalist asking. I won't even write about it if you don't want me to. I just... want to know." A flash, vivid: a young white man with tousled, sweaty hair, lying very still, just out of reach.

"Of course, Suzanne," I said. After all, if I'm going to be locked onto seven people's minds, what was one more? "And it would be a hell of a scoop on that Vita woman, wouldn't it?"

I could feel the slow smile spread over her face, and then she laughed. "Oh, Vita will be so green she could join the St. Patty's Day parade."


Note from the Author:
Tension! Mounting!

Date: 2011-08-11 06:05 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Renata! <333 I really like her.



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