Chapter 7: Deliverance – part 3
Daniel willed himself to ignore the smoke permeating his office and stand calmly behind his desk. The scene playing out on his dual-monitor display was bad enough. Worse was the petite, smooth-faced woman occupying his leather chair. Carlyle cocked her head, making her red curls bounce. “Is that his… What does Myers call it?”
“Prism, Chairman,” Daniel replied, keeping his eyes on the screen. Addison, who lay sweaty and half-exhausted on the delivery bed, smiled at Myers, whose back was to the hidden camera. Judging from how her smile grew wider, the normally ice-cold geneticist had smiled back. They’re together. A bead of sweat trailed down Daniel’s back. I’m finished.
“Interesting,” Carlyle mused. Daniel almost wished it were Chairman Butler seated beside him. Butler could wreak havoc in Daniel’s mind, but at least he was direct. Carlyle, like most of Triptych’s witches, was damn near unreadable.
Despite Daniel’s unease, the Chairman and her lackeys were best equipped to monitor the birth. Daniel glanced at the five robed young men on the far side of his desk. They knelt at the apices of a pentagon they’d drawn with white powder on his Persian carpet. Sooty smoke rose from the small clay pots in their hands. Somehow their configuration, whispered words, and smudge sticks hid a camera from two powerful psychics.
Carlyle shifted in Daniel’s chair, drawing his attention. She picked non-existent lint off of her finely tailored skirt, then looked up. Her eyes held Daniel’s. “You’ve failed.”
The gray of her irises shivered. Daniel’s head swam. “Yes, Chairman.” Apologies were pointless.
Multiple voices sounded from the computer speakers. Carlyle broke her gaze. Daniel closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. As he steadied himself, a baby’s cry joined the cacophony. When Daniel returned his attention to the monitors, a messy, wrinkled newborn lay on Addison’s chest. She laughed and cried as she cradled the child, and Myers cut the umbilical cord. The new father touched his fingertips to the infant, turning his head so Daniel could see his profile. Myers’ expression mirrored Addison’s. They looked like a couple of goddamned newlyweds!
Carlyle’s voice startled Daniel. “How long have they been fraternizing?”
“I– I’m not sure, Chairman.” He paused, determined to maintain his dignity in his final moments. “We don’t surveil senior staff quarters. Per policy.”
“I’m aware of policy,” Carlyle sniffed. “Best guess?”
“A week. Two at most.”
Silence stretched. Daniel kept his eyes on the monitors. Watching two of his department heads go domestic was preferable to meeting Carlyle’s eyes.
Finally the Chairman spoke. “The situation may be salvageable.” Daniel blinked and turned to her. Her look turned disdainful. “Not by you.” Then she stood, straightening her jacket and skirt. “Thank you, gentlemen,” she told her charges.
The whispers halted. The robed men glanced at their clay pots, and curls of smoke returned to their depths. Then the witches rose, nodded at Carlyle, and padded out of the room.
Daniel frowned at the monitors. The camera was no longer cloaked. He nearly said something, but thought better of it.
“They won’t notice,” Carlyle stated. “They’re too wrapped up in their son and each other.” Judging from the way the saps were mooning at each other and the child, she was right.
Carlyle strode around the desk, the carpet muffling her high-heeled footfalls. “We’ll be in touch.” She stepped over the pentagon’s outline as she moved to the door. “Continue monitoring Harris and Myers, and the child, of course.”
Daniel nodded, astonished to be alive and uninjured. “Yes, Chairman.”
Carlyle opened the door, paused, and looked back. Her eyes shifted somehow, and she smiled. “Good day.” Then she left.
Daniel’s eyes darted around his office as the door closed. He couldn’t have gotten off scot-free! Yet he saw nothing unusual. Heard nothing. Smelled… smoke.
“Danny-boy!” White-haired, black-clothed Father Preston rose from Daniel’s chair. At least he seemed to. The leather padding wasn’t indented. Still, the grandfatherly man grinned at Daniel. “It’s been too long!” he said around his pipe.
“Yes, Father,” Daniel whispered.
“You always were my favorite.” Preston glanced around the room as he took a long draw on his pipe. He looked Daniel up and down, smoke coursing from his nostrils. “What a fine man you’ve become.”
Editor’s note: Father Preston first appeared in chapter 4, part 1.