Archer sat by his pool at his Bahamian residence in Nassau. He glanced at the tables spread out with food, and the odd one with the jewelry James had him purchase.
Not that the boy had explained anything. It must run in the family.
Wait in ignorance. Well, I can do that. Doing that for the Emperor had paid very well.
Davis had head duty. Gun resting by the pillow, he glanced at his watch.
The doctor is due any minute now. Hancock and Lewis sat quiet and motionless. They were supposed to be on the lookout for anything unusual, and to put backup slugs into the body if he were taken out.
Fat chance of that. Davis was smug. He knew the secrets of the cats. There was a place to go, where your mind and body were still, and yet on the edge of an explosion.
That’s my heart beating. I’m like an Indian mystic, feeling every part of my body.
Hancock adjusted his glasses. Lewis blinked.
The door began to open.
A bright light beamed into the room, silhouetting a beautiful young girl in a pale, translucent dress. She smiled at him. His heartbeat sped up.
Davis blinked. This isn’t right. He lurched to his feet, unable to take his eyes off of her. Hancock and Lewis were stumbling.
She held out her hand to him.
No! This isn’t right. The prisoner?
He turned and saw that the subject’s feet, his legs and torso had already gone.
Like a tiger, he aimed at the head, and pulled the trigger.
Click. His gun didn’t fire! Cotton filled his head. Hearing was a distant buzz. He fainted.
Oriel smiled to see all three of them fall to the ground. Two of them tried to fire their guns, but James had been on the job. The bullets were duds.
The Emperor’s head vanished, and the meter wide sphere they had used to remove him collapsed.
“Hold it right there!”
Behind her. Blinking against the sudden daylight where there should never be daylight, another of the black-suited agents had his gun trained on her.
She forced a smile, one she had practiced in the mirror for years. “Don’t do that,” she said in a gentle voice.
Skidding into the corridor, another agent appeared, and Bang! snapped off a shot.
She saw the bullet, just for an instant, as it stopped in mid-flight and ricocheted off an invisible bubble between her and them.
The cautious agent groaned and fell.
“I told you,” she said, the instant before she vanished.
Oriel stumbled at the time zone change, but James was there to grab her.
Her smile was for him only, and he pulled her into a passionate kiss.
She gasped, at last. “Merci.”
He straightened, “Sorry. It must have been the dress.”
The smile brightened, “Of course. Why do you think I bought it?”
“Are you okay?”
“Je suis parfait. They fell on their faces. How much blood did you drain from them?”
“Just over a liter apiece. I remember what it was like.”
His heartbeat was racing. Seeing her like that when he had been anemic would have put him on the ground too.
He released her. “I’ve got to check on my father.”
James headed quickly toward the bedroom.
He skidded to a halt in the doorway. His mother stood beside a balding doctor, stethoscope in play.
She looked up and smiled, “You said to steal what I needed. I decided to buy him instead.”
James took a step forward. The doctor nodded at him, but didn’t stop from his examination.
She whispered, “This is Dr. Ray Feldstein. I worked for him some years ago. He’s been pushing for a neurological clinic ever since I’ve known him. I decided to buy him one.”
James whispered back. “Is he safe here?”
The doctor muttered, “Nasty, nasty stuff. Let me look at that sheet again.” Diana handed over the printout she had made of the other doctor’s notes.
James motioned his mother out of the room.
“Oriel and I have to get the agents out, immediately. Can you handle this end?”
She smiled, tolerantly.
He blushed, “Okay, okay. But call if you need any help.”
Oriel read his smile. “The Emperor? He is okay.”
“Mom brought in a doctor. She is confident.”
“Now the agents?”
“Now the agents.”
They headed for their consoles. James lagged a little, looking her over. He just couldn’t get over her dress.
Archer noticed the lady in prison orange materialize next to the pool.
“Ah, Mrs. Leffer. So good to see you.” He took her hand. As a young black man in darker prison clothes appeared, still sitting in a chair, he pointed her toward the guesthouse. “You will find more suitable clothes that way.”
Archer spread his hands.
“Mr. Jones. Happy to have you here.”
“What’s going on?” He jumped out of his chair, looking around the hedged yard.
“You have been rescued. You will find a wide selection of better clothes in the house.” He pointed the way.
By that time three more people had arrived. Only one had civilian clothes. They all embraced the promise of untainted clothes with decided eagerness.
James appeared last of all.
Archer asked, “How did it go?”
“Very smooth. We took the precaution of delaying the report of my father’s disappearance.”
James grinned, but it wasn’t a pleasant grin. “Quite a number of FBI agents, police, dirty doctors and assorted spooks simultaneously went visiting a certain tropical island.”
Rudy Ghest walked ashore, shaking the salt water out of his gun. That seemed to be the same course of action of thirty or more other men.
We seem to be the best-armed group to wade out of the water since D-day.
Many of them were familiar. Practically all of the FBI’s Emperor Task Force were represented.
He also recognized NoBadge. Quite a contingent was collecting around him.
“Look at this!” called out one of the FBI agents. He held up the yellow wrappings of a UN food package. “At least he isn’t planning to starve us.”
Rudy was the only Interpol agent. Eschewing both the FBI and black-suit parties, he walked over to meet the other few oddballs.
With so many law enforcement agents collected in one spot, there ought to be no problem. Still, he had visions of the child savages of ‘Lord of the Flies’ —well armed savages.