Kevin Allen – Writer ♦ Melissa Bird – Editing ♦ Tia Myricks – Part time contributor ♦ Krystal Clear Logics – Digital Promotion
The Sixth 18
Devil in the Details
“We found something you should have a look at, sir.” Lynn Hoyt walks haltingly from a hallway into a room on the first floor of Miriam’s hideaway, where Jason has taken to thinking, seated on a small sofa beneath a closed window full in the sun. She stops gracelessly under a doorway to the room. Members of the Shadow team are milling about; two have taken up guard positions near Jason, like she’d ordered them to upstairs.
Jason is sure it’s a room Miriam used to recite her lost days of pomp, with faded-yellow walls, richly colored antiques and figurines stylishly arranged on antiquated furnishings, and one-seater-sofas splashed beneath huge windows, to take advantage of the various views of the property. What else would she have used a room like this for? Lynn fidgets under one of the archways of the room, seemingly unsure if she can go further without an invite. Jason is staring blankly out of one of the windows on the west side of the room where the fight between Miriam and Cory happened.
If it had been a better day he might pretend to be impressed that Lynn kept track of him. She’d been unexpectedly shaken by the brutality of what happened to Leit Prietta earlier. There is a good chance she went to the upstairs bedroom where Jason started looking around the property to try to understand what happened between Miriam and Cory, before she found him. Right now he doesn’t have the patience it would take to search her mind with so much to focus on. It’s plain enough that she’s still wearing her nerves on the surface of her composite armor. Jason can’t say he blames her after what he’d been forced to do to Leit. He’s sure she’s seen worse but he can’t be bothered by that right now with so much happening, and him being unable to pick up on any trace of Miriam with his séances. He’s failed three times so far. “I’m not going to bite unless you do something stupid.” He uses his most reassuring voice.
Stupid is what got her predecessor, Leit Prietta, killed when he questioned Jason about Tatiana in front of the members of his Shadow Team, in the room upstairs two hours ago. There is a slight pang of guilt pressing Jason, for killing Leit like he did in front of them. He feels like it’s a decision that’s going to haunt the rest of the team for a long time unless he does something to boost their spirits. Killing all of them and bringing in fresh blood isn’t an option with everything going on.
They’re all nerves around him. Each member of the team feels jittery, wired, like Lynn feels. Their thought, when they are in the same space as Jason, is fear. He didn’t exactly want them to fear him. It’s draining to feel it. He wanted respect. Maybe less fatality in dealing with them if he ever has to assert himself again. Still, how many of their families would be getting carefully concocted stories if he’d let Leit live after crossing the line like he did.
Jason turns slightly in the sofa when Lynn starts walking cautiously to where he is. Each step she takes looks like she has to think about it. Her eyes are on a folder extended in her right hand. He won’t correct her. Poor kid might die of fright if he did. She’ll have to figure it out. Perhaps she won’t make the mistake Leit did that way. All for the best. Jason gets a look at the folder before she reaches him.
The name on the label on the folder catches his eyes instantly. Nugent Labs. What would Tatiana have to do with Nugent Labs? The delicate way Lynn is holding the folder says there’s important information there.
Nugent Labs is located in Lexington, Massachusetts, with no offsite location or satellite office. Been that way for over eighty years with no plans of change on the winds. Massachusetts is nowhere near California, which suggests that Jason is going to be having a talk with Tatiana, if this report has anything to do with her. Lynn had better not be getting him all worked up for nothing because she’s supposed to be looking for connections between Miriam and the Raymond kid and Tatiana Raymond. Jason takes the folder from Lynn when she’s close enough for him to reach for it without moving too much. He doesn’t wait to dive in so he can keep ignoring her.
The first page is typical meaningless text Lynn could have skipped. Jason straightens and sneers at the next page as soon as he flips the paper. Jason flashes the page at Lynn. “Where’s the recording of this?”
“We’re going through the channels to get access to the security archives.” She says nervously.
Jason adjusts his sitting position on the sofa and removes a cell phone from his pocket and quickly dials a number. “Alpha, alpha, zebra, five, niner, two, niner, bravo, tango, charlie, seven, four, six, three, niner, alpha, david, hollow, six, six, three, six.” He waits. “Lynn Hoyt has people from ST2 that need access to the security archives from, Nugent Labs. No, total access. Release it to their request.” He hangs up and glances at Lynn. She should have called him with this so he could get the ball rolling.
She looks at him with frayed nerves, for an order he doesn’t give. “I’ll head back to the trailer.” She says tentatively and starts turning to leave.
“No.” Jason says. Lynn freezes in her tracks. “You’ll stay here. You have your tech on you.”
“Sir?” Heart thumping. She searches for meaning in his eyes, not wanting to become another human pretzel like her former boss.
“Synch to the trailer’s hardware.” Jason orders harshly, thinking about the idiocy of training this kid who was probably licking lollipops when he wrestled control from Miriam. He may replace her with someone more competent if she doesn’t shape up. “I want to see any video they have as soon as they find it. Miriam doesn’t delete anything.”
“Y-yes, sir.” Lynn begins to fidget with the tablet she carries in a pouch on the stomach of her armor.
She needs to quit now before he demotes her to the cleaning lady. “Relax.” He barks. He needs to get the conversation out of the way and over with before he has to bury her too. The day has been too stressful for putting up with her. “All I need is for you to use your acumen. I’m not a murderer, Prietta knew better than what he did in there and if you do anything to make me look weak in front of anyone, I will not hesitate to send your family one of those well-written-stories his wife will be getting.” He seethes. “But I need you to act like you know what you’re doing, miss Hoyt, otherwise I have no use for you.”
“Yes Sir!” She answers briskly. Clears her dry throat.
Jason waves the folder at her. “I read your file. I’ll expect you to act like that Lynn Hoyt, while you’re leading these people.”
“Yes sir.” Lynn Hoyt observes. She takes a deep, shaky breath, after a ten-second count. “But, if you read my file then you know that I have no family to send that well-written letter to… Sir.”
Jason’s head snaps to. He almost gives her a smile of approval. His look, however, says she’d better watch it. His body shakes with silent laughter and the smile he briefly flashes gives his pleasant surprise away. He starts reading the folder she brought in. “Keep an eye out for the recording.”
“Sir!” Lynn acknowledges and stands at attention, hands crossing on the tablet she holds in front of her.
Jason ignores her for the folder. Even if he tells her to relax again, these military types will only find another way to stand until they’ve delivered what they’d been asked for. He’s at least happy that she’s beginning to loosen up. Damned near two hours tiptoeing around him is enough.
Jason reads the names – Dr. Theodore Raymond – twenty-six years old at the time the report was compiled. The Raymond name sticks. Why hadn’t he ever seen it? Husband to Tatiana Raymond – age; twenty-two at the time of this report. Jason wonders what her maiden name had been and why the background check hadn’t produced something as simple as that. Why hadn’t Tatiana mentioned that she’d been married when she filled out the application for work?
Dr. Theodore Raymond died of natural causes, according to the report. Undisclosed natural causes, naturally. It remains to be seen, assuming Miriam was involved. He’s survived by his wife Tatiana Raymond, and infant son – Cory Raymond – whereabouts unknown.
According to the report, Dr. Raymond’s occupation at time of death was part of THE lead quantum research team at Nugent Labs. He’d been a gifted child who’d visited the labs as a boy, granted work-studies during high school in, Cambridge Mass. Internship had been requested by the lab due to the work he was doing, not listed, and his work-study was approved by non other than, Miriam. Topic of which is also not listed.
“Natural causes my ass!” Jason seethes quietly. He’ll have to have someone dig for the information so he can know exactly what got this guy killed. That unlisted work could be profitable.
“Excuse me, sir?” Lynn is watching him cautiously.
Jason rolls his eyes from the paper to Lynn. “Says here, Dr. Raymond died of natural causes.”
“Oh.” She says, losing the meaning of what he just said. Lynn hadn’t known Miriam but she had printed the report, after reading it and deciding it was important. It is efficiently straightforward, with a clear connection to miss Tatiana Raymond long before her official hire date.
Jason doesn’t have to read her mind to know she doesn’t understand. “If he worked for Miriam, chances are she killed him. Probably for something petty.”
Lynn fixes her gaze straight at the wall. Stiffens. Her lips press tight together so not a single word escapes through them.
Jason scowls. This woman is seriously testing his nerves. “How old are you?”
Lynn looks at him from the corner of her eyes and sees he’s serious. “Twenty three, sir.”
“Served five years as an air jockey out of seven military bases.” He adds. “So you know what life is like. Like I said earlier, I read your report, which is why I chose you when Prietta pissed on me.”
Lynn stays silent. Hands tightening on the electronic device she’s holding.
Jason continues. “For the record, I don’t kill people for giving their opinions when the time for it is right. I only ask that you use sound judgment, like, if you have to question me, pull me aside and we can discuss it, kind of judgment. Not in front of everybody.”
Lynn takes a deep, deep breath after making sure she heard what he’s said, prepares for what she knows needs to be done, and doing some deep soul searching, just in case. “Everybody leave!” She barks loud enough for anyone in the room or outside the portals to understand they need to get out of earshot. She waits until feet moving sounds become quiet while Jason goes back to reading the folder like she hadn’t said a thing. “Was he right?”
Jason glares testily. This frikkin kid might not leave here today. Admits. “Maybe a little.”
Lynn chews on her bottom lip. “How little is a little?” She presses timidly.
He taps the folder a few times and resists the urge to shut the conversation down because it needs to happen. “She makes me feel… things.”
“Are we three years old, sir?” Lynn fires before she loses her nerve. Not dead, she notes.
“Might as well be.” Jason admits quietly. “Look. Tatiana isn’t your typical woman.”
“I know who she is, sir. We keep detailed notes about her.” That catches Jason by surprise. “What I want to know is, did the commander die for nothing?”
Jason glowers. “No.”
“Then why did he die in front of me?” She says, voice cracking slightly. “You gave him the right to speak freely, sir.”
Jason looks at her. “You’re smarter than that.” He says, apologetically. These teams are a close-knit bunch. Family. They care for one another better than lovers do. They are realists who know what’s what. “How many of you would I have to kill if I let your leader put me out there in front of everybody?”
Lynn considers. “There’s nobody here who would ask the questions he’d ask, sir. We all know our roles. We know the chain of command, sir.”
“Really?” Jason derides. “So, none of you think for yourselves?”
“That’s diff…” She pauses. “Every man and woman on this team has been through strict training with various branches of the military, per the request of the human resources people. We went through the security training they…” She stops.
“I didn’t know that!” Jason adjusts the folder in his hands.
“You could have scanned every one of us, sir.” She says, wiping at her eyes to make sure there are no tears. No point in pretending. “There’s no one at this location capable of putting up a strong enough mental block against you.”
“Well, I didn’t.” Jason placates. His eyes harden. “And I really don’t need you telling me what I can and can’t do.”
“Obviously, you do!” Lynn Hoyt says. Swallows a lump when she realizes what she’d just said. Realizing she’s still not dead, she continues. “With all due respects, Admiral Leit was correct, sir. You paid hi…”
“That Admiral crap’s been over for years. He worked for me.” Jason snaps.
“Regardless!” Lynn corrects hesitantly. “You paid him to speak freely. How would he know that he couldn’t speak freely if you pay him to speak freely?”
Cursing her out would be kind. What does that even mean? “You know that now!” Jason says after thinking it through. He feels genuinely awful. “I mean, would you go to a god and tell him, he might care about someone too much?”
Her eyes bulge. He cannot seriously think… “No!”
Jason nods. “So, do you think he was right about how he asked me the question he asked me?”
She rubs her hair, gazing at him. She thinks carefully before continuing because his eyes have a warning in them. “W-what would you have preferred?”
Jason takes a breath. “That he pulls my ass aside and tell me straight.”
“Then can I speak freely, sir?” Lynn asks, Jason glares. “I’d like to live after I say what everyone here knows.” Jason curses loudly and tells her to go ahead. “Our job is to follow you and know everything you see, sir.” Lynn reminds him. “So, naturally, we see how you are with miss, Raymond. She is good at what she’s doing.” Lynn pauses. Doesn’t like the look she sees in his eyes. “We all have that one person, sir. Lord knows.” She flinches when Jason scowls at her. She relaxes just a little. Not dead speaks. “He didn’t need to die for that, every member of our team knows it. We were hired to know everything you know, sir.”
Jason keeps a decisive gaze “He should have pulled me aside. I am a Man with a healthy ego and plenty of reason to have one. You should know that, since you should know everything I know.” Jason warns.
Lynn takes a really, really nervously, deep breath. “Yeah, I get there’s the whole toxic masculinity thing going around, thing.” She says snidely, her voice trailing when she realizes that she’s still talking without thinking about who she’s talking to, may as well finish it if she’s going to die. She tucks the electronic device back into its cubby on her armor. “Some really fucking good videos on that.” She sighs. “Sir.”
“My masculinity isn’t debatable.” Jason grunts distastefully. “And I do not have an issue showing or saying, I care about someone. But that whole public humiliation shit he tried wasn’t cool.”
Lynn thinks. “Granted. What do we do about her? I’d like to leave here alive, by the way. But something has to be done about miss Raymond, sir. Your relationship with her is not the typical employee – employer type of deal, everyone sees it.”
Jason adjusts in the chair so he can see her eyes. “There’s no deal. She works. I pay her. Just like you. We go to our separate homes at the end of each day. I’ll deal with her!” Jason warns.
“So,” Lynn presses cautiously. “The two of you have never talked about, you know, having a relationship or anything like that? Never gone out?”
“That’s our business!” Jason says defensively. “I will deal with, miss Raymond.”
“Our?” Lynn has her hands clasped in front of her mouth. She has no idea where that came from but she’d better say something sensible. Quick. “You’ve had nearly five years to deal with her, sir!” That’s just great! Her hands drop from her mouth with resignation and ball into fists and she tenses her body and closes her eyes for what he might do. Nothing happens. She opens her eyes. Jason is glaring. And she’s still alive. “With … all due respects, sir, you deal with her today or you let us do it. That is also our job. It’s what you pay us for.” She demands.
Jason sets the folder aside and stands. Then he turns slowly around so he faces Lynn, towering over her. She doesn’t feint away. “Call ahead.” Jason concedes. “Post three guards by the office entry. No one goes in, no one goes out till I get there.” He says purposefully. “But I will deal with Tatiana, myself.”
“Yes, sir!” Lynn takes a deep breath of relief when he sits down and takes the folder to look through it. He’ll swallow all the information he can get before he goes back to that office to Tatiana so she can’t lie to him. Whatever lies she’ll come up with he’ll see through it. “There’s one more small matter, which Adm… Mr. Leit failed to discuss with you because he didn’t know how you’d react.”
Jason turns his head to Lynn. He sees the question in her mind, formed a million ways to dull the awkwardness of the conversation they’re about to have. Jason groans. “Since we’re on a roll.”
“It’s about what that girl said earlier.” Lynn prepares him for what she needs to know. What ST2 need to know in order to be effective if they need to act.
“Winn?” Jason condescends. “She’s not a girl. She’s a corpse. A rotten one.”
“Regardless,” Lynn says. “The consequences of not putting your enemies down can be bad for everybody’s health, in this environment, sir. Plenty of examples all over the place.”
“I’ve beaten Tyus Clark plenty of times.” Jason says. “He just keeps escaping and hiding from me. He’s gotten really good at that.”
Lynn looks out of the window. “I’ve seen footage of the fights.” She admits. “I haven’t seen anyone take you to your limits, except him.” She pauses. Jason is paying attention. “Being as powerful as you are, I’ll bet it can be lonely, being so easy to defeat your enemies. But it can be dangerous keeping one alive because of the rush you get from fighting him. What if he defeats you one day, do you think he’ll hesitate to kill you?” She’s heard it word for word from Leit, enough times to memorize the whole speech. Lynn had only seen two videos of Jason and Tyus fighting. It is brutal. Amazing. Destructive.
Jason smirks. “Tyus? Beat me?” He laughs.
“That, um,” Lynn takes a calming breath. “That ego thing again, sir?”
Jason shakes his head, his eyes out of the window, a certain melancholy to it. “Not many people can understand what’s really going on, even at the highest level of command.” Jason tells her. “And you, miss Hoyt, you’re just starting to dip your toes in.”
“I’m not following, sir.” She says. “Are we talking about the same thing here?”
Jason sighs. “We are.” He says. “You should keep your mouth shut about certain things because twenty years from now you still won’t know much of what’s going on unless I tell you. And there are things I will not tell you.”
Lynn steps closer to the window so she’s certain he can see her. “You gave me command of Shadow Team Two, today, sir. It’s my job to know what’s going on.”
Jason leans back in the chair. He sets the folder down in his lap. All traces of humor vanishes. “It is your job to know what I tell you, you know, miss Hoyt. Nothing else.” His eyes roll to gaze into hers without turning his head. “But, I like your spirit. So let me give you advice about life. It’s worse than you think.” Jason watches Lynn flinch. Their eyes are firmly fixed. “Once you pass the threshold of certain knowings, there is no way back. No choice but the choice you’ve made. So, take your time knowing things. Learn before you know. Slowly. Cautiously.” He says. “Trust me, I used to be curious and ambitious.”
The air outside the window is the loudest thing in the room.
“Every single choice I make, I’d trade for hanging out at a bar with nothing to do but go home and watch TV.” He picks up the folder. “But, these days I know when the people have it right and I know when they’re blowing smoke. Most times, if the news involves anything we do, I even know the sources the reporters get their info from and what they’re going to say, first.”
Her gulp is audible. Her eyes out the window.
“I don’t deny I like Tatiana, probably more than I should and I let how I feel about her, affect some of the decisions I’ve made, concerning her.” He says. “I’ll admit that because I don’t exactly know what to do about her.” He opens the folder. “But, the fight between me and Tyus is nearly as old as you are.” Jason snaps the folder between hands to straighten the paper. “The reason for the fight between me and Tyus is older than the three of us combined. So, stick to what you know. And Winn is a piece of garbage I don’t like talking about. She’ll do exactly what I tell her to do and then I’ll decide if I’ll allow her to continue breathing.”
Lynn Hoyt gives a slow nod when she sees he’s waiting on her to say she understands.
“Nothing else?” Jason demands harshly.
“No, sir.” It’s probably better if she lets him calm down for a few days before she says anything else that contradicts an order from him. There is a lot to learn if he’s actually going to leave ST2 as is, with her in charge.
The folder stiffens when Jason snaps it between his hands once more. “Then please make the call to secure the office.”
“You mean, Tatiana Raymond, don’t you, sir?” May as well make it perfectly clear what the call will be about.
“You’re pressing your luck, miss Hoyt.”
“I get paid to be good at doing my job, sir. Luck pressing and all. But I need to be clear about the orders I’m getting, so I don’t get it wrong.” Lynn says.
Lynn Hoyt was that kid who got detentions and suspensions throughout school for talking too much and speaking up when she was told to be quiet, as he’d read. She’s not as wrong as Jason would like her to be about Tatiana. “Are you good enough to realize that two of the guards you post should be women, to make sure that Tatiana, doesn’t find a way to escape by calling for help by using that old bathroom trick?”
Her lips press tight with reddened cheeks. It is now time to start doing what she’s been ordered to do so she doesn’t end up dead, though she’s been told there’s worse with him. “Will do, sir!” She says. Four steps backwards brings her away from the window where she removes the electronic device from the pouch on the composite armor and presses on the screen, holding it and typing on it. Then she lowers it and holds the electronic device in her hands.
“Take a seat, you’re distracting me.” Jason says without taking his nose out of the folder.
Not one word. Lynn looks around and makes her way to a well-kept old chair pushed up against the wall, the same side as the window Jason is facing, but the opposite direction of the window. She sits on the chair leaning on the outer wall and keeps a steady gaze at nothing while members of the Shadow Team stream back into the room cautiously, to resume whatever it was they were doing before she’d ordered them out to speak to Jason.