Continued from Thirty-three: Station
Thirty-four: the Testimony of Madison Sinclair
Boyle, Rudi, Cody and Kane were all there, looking like they were ready to go hard, but they weren’t moving at all. The Bedouin, he turned to me—and I have to say he looked pretty freaked out—and he said: “We have a problem, Mr. Sinclair.”
And it was the guy who was standing there who was the problem. I would have known that no matter what the Bedouin said. This guy, he was in a short-sleeve hospital gown, bed sheets wrapped around his waist like a bare ass embarrassed him or something. He had no hair—no hair that I could see—and the IV tubes were still taped to his arms, but they’re hanging down and dragging along the ground. It’s weird, you know, that he pulled them loose from their bags or bottles or whatever, but not from his arms. That must have been some fucking good tape.
The Lady stands up from her place by the door and walks over to the Dude. These two aren’t from my team, they aren’t from the Vault. These two are CIA or NSA or some other bullshit US spook show. She whispers something into his ear. He’s looking down at his hands on the desk as she whispers, nodding.
He looks up at me, pushes his glasses up to rest at the bridge of his nose. “Can we keep the language at a professional level, Mr. Sinclair?”
I tell him I can. It’s no problem. I don’t say I want this done and I want to get the fuck out of here, but that’s the truth of it.
So, there’s the guy, and there’s the team, and there’s me and the Bedouin and we seem to be the only ones who can move or do much. It’s not that time stopped for everyone else or anything like that. I could still see the blood dripping from the cuts on the other guys. I think Cody got tagged in the shoulder, just a graze but it was bleeding like a mother– . . . it was bleeding a lot.
“Where were you, Mr. Sinclair? You were inside the base? Inside the . . .” He flips through some pages on the file in front of him. “Inside the station?”
I affirm that. I was inside the station.
He taps the page with his index finger. Nervous, yes, but also searching. He’d done that whenever he tried to formulate some question he thought would mess me up, catch me in a lie. Real paranoid cat. “Could you describe it please?”
I ask if that’s important.
Another smile, an indulgent smile. “Describe it, please, Mr. Sinclair.”
I stood inside a large building, some kind of warehouse. It didn’t have any windows, but lots of hanging lights, fluorescent ones. Crates, boxes and counters filled the space. The equipment that I could see, the equipment that was unpacked, looked like hospital equipment. I saw drug bottles, IV drip bags, monitors, cushions, and restraints. Plastic hangings, like curtains, cut off certain areas, so I couldn’t see the entire interior, but there were no walls, nothing permanent. It was as open as an aircraft hanger, and looked about as large.
And there were bodies. The ones I could see, the ones close by, they hadn’t been shot. It didn’t look like they had been beaten or physically assaulted in any way. Maybe this guy had just shut them down. It worried me that he may have done so permanently.
I remember thinking: can this guy kill me with his mind?
The guy looked at me, then he looks at the Bedouin, then he looked back at me. He smiled, and he was missing a few teeth. The others looked pretty yellowy. Someone wasn’t much into oral hygiene or whatever.
The Bedouin talked to him real calm, very slow and precise, like talking down a jumper. “Mr. Lerner, we’re here to help you.”
The Bedouin seemed to know a lot of information that he never shared, like this guy’s name.
Mr. Lerner frowned. He flexed one fist, clenching it then releasing it. “You turned off the machines? You stopped the drips?”
I would have lied. I would have said: yes we did, Lerner. We totally saved your ass.
I clear my throat. She doesn’t chastise me or rise to say something. I figure it’s cool.
The Bedouin didn’t roll like that. “No, Mr. Lerner, though I suspect our ambush of Bracebridge may have contributed to your freedom in some manner. It seems the snatch and grab instilled some panic. Someone got sloppy, perhaps.”
Lerner looked down at his arms and yanked out one of the IV tubes. He held it, looking at it, then turned to the Bedouin. “Someone did. Someone got real sloppy. You don’t know who you’re dealing with, do you.”
“We know it’s a rogue faction of the CIA.” The Bedouin spoke with what I’d call calm assurance. His voice remained level, casual.
I, on the other hand, was starting to lose it. I still had the AKM in my hand, and I was very close to trying a quickdraw on this guy. I figured I would put a bullet somewhere, anywhere, on him, and his concentration would break. Boyle and the team would break free of the control and end this piece of . . . garbage.
But the Bedouin turned and looked me straight in the eye, like he knew exactly what was going through my head. “No closer, please, Mr. Sinclair. Mr. Lerner is aware of your particular talent, and I worry what his reaction might be should you get too close.”
“You’re Madison then?” Lerner pulled out another IV tube as he considered me. He could have been sizing me up for his butterfly collection. “Yeah, you’re not coming any closer or Heather and Willow are both going to die from aneurysms. You got that?”
I put the AKM on the ground and held up my hands. “I’ve absolutely got that. With outstanding clarity.”
His eyes narrowed for a moment then. They got kind of unfocused. “She thinks you’ve got a thing for her. She thinks you’re smart and good-looking, but you’re like a little brother. No joy there, pal. The British shooter, though. She’ll do you. Buy her a few drinks—”
The Bedouin interjected, sounding exasperated, like an adult dealing with two kids. “Is this really the time or place for that?”
Lerner ripped off the tape securing the last of the IV tubes. “Like I said, you don’t know who you’re dealing with. And I don’t mean the Shadow Chamber. That’s what they call themselves, you know. The Shadow Chamber. Not just CIA, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? What matters here is me.”
That made the Bedouin shrug, like he wasn’t buying it. “You? You’re David Lerner. You were born in—”
Lerner laughed. “Not David Lerner. Not born in New York. Not any of it. Not any more than you’re Ahmed Zeghida. And no, I haven’t read the file, so you’re little trick’s not going to work.”
I think Lerner was trying to faze the Bedouin, to get him jittery, panicky. Dude didn’t know the guy. I mean, I didn’t really know the guy either, but I knew enough. So the Bedouin asks the most pedestrian question I could imagine, but also the most important. “If you’re not Lerner, than who are you?”
The smile that came to the guy’s lips made me think of a serial killer or that Nazi from the Spielberg movie. “I’m Blackout.”
With a kind of paternal smile I remember seeing on teachers back in school, the Bedouin shook his head slowly. “Blackout is the name of the project. That’s not your name. That’s not who you are.”
“But it is who I am. It’s what I’ve become. I’m happy being Blackout. Blackout is a god.”
That kind of got me worried. “So you’re a god?”
Lerner waved off the comment as though unimportant, but he did answer. “Compared to most people? Sure I am. Compared to you two? Maybe not exactly a god, but who has the upper hand here?”
The Bedouin opened his arms wide, welcoming, expansively. “And what will you do now? Now that you are, for all intents and purposes, a god?”
The smile left Lerner’s face. He got real cold, real focused. “I’m going to get revenge.”
Made sense to me. I assume it made sense to the Bedouin. “Against the CIA?”
“Against the Shadow Chamber, yes.”
That’s when the Bedouin took a step forward, holding out his hand. “Then join us. Come with us. You don’t need to do all this. We can help you. We can avoid collateral damage. No innocents need to be hurt, we’ll just gut this Shadow Chamber. You seem to know a lot about me. At least enough about me. So you should know I can be ruthless when necessary. I am ready to be ruthless.”
The cold didn’t leave Lerner. The whole speech didn’t seem to hit him at all. “I don’t think I’ll be joining you. Revenge is step one. That’s just so I feel better. I’m not out to destroy Shadow Chamber. What would be the use in that? Why destroy it when I can run it. And Tangible Stream as well.” He stopped then, looked down at himself and started to smile again. “I need a suit, you know? Or at least some pants.”
The Bedouin’s hand had dropped down to his side, no longer beckoning. “You won’t be running the Stream.”
Lerner’s eyes moved around the interior, maybe looking for something. Maybe looking for pants. “Because you two are here? Because you’re going to stop me?” He was looking at the Bedouin again. “I can get your buddies here to shoot you. I can kill your buddies if you don’t shoot yourself. I have a lot of options, so let’s not forget who’s running the show.”
The Bedouin rubbed his face, pinched the bridge of his nose, like he was getting tired of all this. “Samson thought the same way you did. He didn’t want to play ball.”
That got Lerner’s attention. He frowned, his nostrils flaring. “Are you saying he’s dead?”
The Bedouin said, “I’m not saying he is dead, but he has been removed from the picture.”
“Are you threatening me? Do you think you are going to pull your Glocks and go to town? That’s not going to happen, Mr. Big Bad Bedouin. Your hands go anywhere near your guns, and Cascade is the first one to blow a blood vessel in the brain. Boyle is next.”
Presenting his hands, the Bedouin said, “I’m not going for my Glocks. My hands are right here. But I didn’t need my Glocks with Samson, either. He got tripped up with the semantic cue. That’s not going to happen with you, I know. You didn’t read the file. The thing is, how do you suppose the semantic cue works. Do you think that’s parapsych? Is that something you could do?”
Lerner just stared at the Bedouin. His mouth hung slightly open, his eyes kind of unfocused. I didn’t want to move, didn’t want to draw attention to myself, but I wanted to get my hand on my SIG.
And the Bedouin just kept talking, his voice as smooth as butter, smooth as ice cream, like yoghurt smooth. “It’s not parapsych. It’s magic. Like hypnotism, but a lot more complex. Hypnotism is quite easy in comparison. Quite easy indeed.”
And at the same time, I heard the Bedouin’s voice in the ear piece, not so smooth. “Take the shot.”
I’m happy to say that I didn’t hesitate. I drew my SIG. Just as I had him lined up, it was like Lerner figured out what was going on. The slackness left his face. He looked . . . looked aware again.
Then I put a couple of bullets in his head, then two in his chest, then another in his head. I got him in the shoulder as he was dropping, a couple more went through his arm and into his chest because the body was falling and I kept shooting. I emptied the magazine into him, ejected it then got another one in. By the time I had chambered a round, everyone was moving again.
The guys just kind of looked around, maybe looking for a target, maybe trying to orient themselves. The Bedouin ignored Lerner’s body. He came over to me, gave me a smile, then patted my arm. I had my SIG in hand, arms extended, ready to shoot. In my defence, I was observing excellent trigger discipline.
The Bedouin said something like “It’s done, Mr. Sinclair.” But I have a hard time remembering exactly what he said.
The Dude nods, looks real grave, real serious. “But the interference, the Kathmandu Silence as you call it, continued?”
I tell him we tried unhacked cells, and nothing. Radios, nothing. Blackout was supposed to be the cause, but things didn’t clear up. I tell him we were getting fed a lot of information in the field from a lot of sources, sources we hadn’t and couldn’t vet at the time. I tell him we’re continuing to work on it, the Vault’s working on it, that there are other theories, other studies. I tell him it’s above my pay-grade, outside my expertise, in the hands of better men than I.
He’s totally unimpressed. He looks to the Lady. She’s staring at me, staring hard. I ignore her. He turns back to me. “One last question, Mr. Sinclair. After your evac from Kathmandu, have you had contact with the Bedouin or any of the other operatives of Tangible Stream?”
I tell him no.
Concluded in Thirty-five: Samarkand