CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

"Siress Sarouse," said Samantha bowing slightly to her. "It's good to see you."

"Thanks to you and Agent Simons," said Sarouse. "We were in the control room when Saucier used his gas to incapacitate the rest of the complex. It seems that was the only room that wasn't affected. If you and Agent Simons hadn't arrived when you did, Saucier would probably have been able to complete his plans and start his war."

"I wish we could take full credit for that," said Simons. "But in truth if those Stalkers from the prison hadn't arrived when they did Saucier would have had Samantha prisoner and I'd be dead. They deserve as much credit as anyone."

"Yes, but from what I'm told," said Curtis, "you were able to delay Saucier long enough for them to get into the complex. Not an easy feat. Most humans don't last more than a few seconds against a Kenite. And you went up against a Kenite and at least two ghouls. That's quite an accomplishment."

"Thank you, Assistant Director," said Simons. "I was only doing my job. The job you assigned me, I might add."

"Oh, you did much more than your job," said Curtis. "And I've already spoken to the Director. When you're fully recovered he says you can have any assignment you want. He'll personally authorize the transfer himself."

"I appreciate that," said Simons. "I guess I'll have to give some thought to exactly what I want to do now that Groning is dead."

"You have plenty of time for that," said Curtis. "Dr. Porter tells me it will be a few days yet before you'll be able to leave the complex. And after that he wants you to take a couple of weeks recuperation leave. You'll need to be at your best when you start whatever new assignment you decide on."

"Thank you, Assistant Director," said Simons. "And thank you, Dr. Porter. I imagine treating humans probably isn't high on your priorities."

"That's absolute nonsense," said Porter. "Human or Kenite, it doesn't make any difference to me. As I said, I do have a fair number of human patients. You're going to learn, Agent Simons, that there aren't that many Kenites who harbor a disdain for humans as Samantha does. Although I must admit she isn't without her reasons."

"Used to harbor," said Samantha. "Oh, I haven't changed my opinion about a lot of humans. They can be selfish, greedy, egotistical, and self-centered. But I've also learned that can be true of Kenites. And since I now know that humans didn't murder my parents I guess my reason for hating all of them is unfounded. It will take some getting used to."

"Well, at least there's hope," said Sarouse. "I also have some news, Samantha. Before this whole thing started Sire Quillan had decided to retire. With all that's happened he's had to put that off. But he hasn't changed his mind. Now that this sordid mess has been settled he's decided to go ahead and retire."

"I figured he would," said Samantha. "There's no reason for him not to. The only question is who will be nominated as his replacement."

"Well, that's the news I mentioned," said Sarouse. "I've spoken with most of the house heads. Informally, of course. But there seems to be a consensus among them. When the Enclave convenes in a few days Siress Abigail of the House of Arach is going to submit your name to replace Sire Quillan. And I have it on good authority that there will only be a token resistance to your nomination. I would imagine that by this time next month the Enclave will have a new Scion. One that is richly deserved, if I may say so."

"Me? A Scion?" questioned Samantha. "Siress Sarouse, I don't know what to say. I never expected anything like this."

"The entire Enclave and every house head agree you deserve it," said Sarouse. "No reward is too great for the Stalker that saved the entire Nation. Cassandra was nearly beside herself with pride. I dare say it will be a long time before she lets us live it down."

"Siress Sarouse," said Samantha nervously, "I am greatly honored by this. And I would never presume to second guess the entire hierarchy of The Nation. But to be honest, I'm not sure this is a wise decision. I'm only a Stalker. I'm not sure I'm the best choice to be making policy decision for the entire Nation."

"That's nonsense," said Sarouse. "You're exactly the type of person who should be making policy decisions. Being a Scion we often lose sight of what's it's like to be a common Kenite. Many of the daily trials and problems our Nation has to face. You're one of them, so to speak. You probably know better than any Scion or house head what The Nation truly needs."

"Perhaps," said Samantha. "But I don't think I'm cut out to be a politician. No offense, but sitting behind a desk isn't for me. I'd go out of my mind inside a month. Besides, Saucier is still out there. He's got to be brought in. I was hoping to do that. I can't do it if I'm a member of the Enclave."

"You're sure?" questioned Sarouse. "You realize such an honor is rarely offered a second time. This may be your only chance to help shape the destiny of The Nation for generations to come."

"I realize that," said Samantha. "But I think the best choice is for me to simply continue what I'm doing. I think I can do the most good there."

"I'll let Siress Abigail know," said Sarouse. "To be honest, I told her I thought that's what your answer would be. So it won't be too much of a surprise when I tell her. However, I am going to see to it that you are reassigned from the House of Agon-Dray to the Enclave itself. Your devotion and sacrifice deserve some recognition. I can think of nothing that would be more appropriate."

"What will my mother say?" questioned Samantha.

"Actually, it was her idea," said Sarouse. "She also said you wouldn't feel comfortable being a Scion. She's very proud of you. And with good cause, I might add. And she's proud of you, too, Agent Simons. Once your honorary citizenship in The Nation is approved she's going to induct you into the House of Agon-Dray. I understand you've already given your consent."

"Yeah, I guess I did, Siress," said Simons. "I guess I have a lot more still to learn about the Kenite people. And a lot of questions I'd like some answer to."

"That's understandable," said Curtis. "It takes some time to learn everything you need to know. I'm sure Samantha can answer any questions you might have."

"I do have one question you might be able to answer, Assistant Director," said Simons.

"I'll try," said Curtis. "Although I'm not sure what questions you might have that couldn't be better answered by a Kenite."

"Well, this is a question that I'm pretty sure only you can answer," said Simons. "Exactly what did Saucier promise you to work with him?"

Everyone stared at Simons in shock. He was making an accusation that was tantamount to treason. An accusation he was leveling at an assistant director of the FBI.

"Are you feeling okay?" Curtis asked. "You must still be a little incoherent."

"No, I'm thinking very clearly," said Simons. "Someone had to be working with Saucier. A human. And everything points to you. I'd just like to know how long you've been working with him and what he promised you in exchange for your help."

"That's ridiculous," said Curtis.

"Is it?" Simons asked. "You assigned me to work with Samantha. To track down Groning. Groning had killed my partner. Every policy the FBI has says that I shouldn't have been assigned to the case. I would have been too close to it. Even my own field director took me off the case once Bob was killed. I had to work on it on my own time. And yet you reassigned me to your department and put me on the case."

"We explained that to you," said Curtis. "You knew more about Groning than anyone, Samantha excepted, of course. I just felt it was our best option."

"There's more," said Simons. "When Samantha and I found the Lusiferron, I had to get it. The sulfur in the cavern was too dangerous to her. She couldn't have retrieved it. It was necessary for a human to get it."

"So?" questioned Curtis. "That only explains why it's remained hidden all these years."

"Yes," said Simons. "Except it wasn't the real book. It was a fake. A bomb that was designed to destroy the Enclave. Groning and Saucier himself even admitted that. Which means he had it placed where we could find it."

"All part of his plan, as he said," said Sarouse.

"I know," said Simons. "Except that if Samantha couldn't retrieve the book because of the sulfur gas, that means neither Groning nor Saucier nor any other Kenite could have put the book in the alcove where we found it. They wouldn't have lived long enough to get the book in there. At the very least we would have found their body in that cavern. But we didn't. That means it had to be a human that put it there. And I'm willing to bet that Saucier wouldn't deal with any more humans than necessary. Which meant he'd have to have dealt with you exclusively."

"This is preposterous," said Curtis. "You obviously hit your head harder than Dr. Porter thought. You're having delusions. You don't have a single shred of evidence to back up these ludicrous allegations."

"Maybe not," said Simons. "But it's the only thing that makes any sense. The only thing that answers all the questions."

"I think you'd better get some more rest," said Curtis. "Before I decide you aren't fit for duty and have you permanently relieved. And forget all about this nonsense. You'll never be able to prove any of it."

"Maybe you're right," said Simons. "It is all mostly conjecture and speculation. And I don't have any hard evidence to back me up. I'm more than willing to admit that maybe I'm might be wrong if you can answer one simple question."

"Well, if it will put this nonsense behind us then ask your question," said Curtis.

"That first night I met you," said Simons. "The night I took Samantha into custody. We had been at the Richmond police department for only about 2 hours when you showed up and released her."

"Of course," said Curtis. "She's a Stalker. And she was tracking a Kenite renegade. We couldn't very well have her locked in a jail cell with someone as dangerous as Groning running around."

"That's just it," said Simons. "I was tracking Groning on my own time. So I didn't call anyone about it. I know Samantha didn't tell anyone. I didn't let her talk to anyone or make any phone calls. And I'm pretty sure that none of the Richmond police officers are even aware of Kenites, let alone have called about Samantha. Washington is just about 2 hours from Richmond. Which means that you had to have known she was there almost as soon as I brought her in. My question, Assistant Director, is how you knew she was in custody in the first place?"

"This is absurd," said Curtis. "I told you, part of my responsibilities is to make sure that Stalkers are free to pursue their targets. I had to release her so she could continue to track Groning."

"But that doesn't answer the question of how you knew she was there," said Simons. "The only thing that makes sense is that Groning must have called you. He's the only other one who would have known I had taken her into custody. But it doesn't make sense that Groning would call you unless you were working with Saucier.

"He's the one that let you know I had taken Samantha into custody. He knew that Samantha was needed to find the Lusiferron and return it to the Enclave so Saucier could destroy the Enclave. So when I arrested her he had to make sure she was released. The only way to do that without drawing suspicion on anyone was to have you step in. Then it was a simple matter to convince Siress Sarouse that Samantha and I should work together which would eventually lead us to the book."

"Like I said, this is absurd," said Curtis. "Unless you've forgotten, Agent Simons, you work for me. I don't have to justify myself to you or anyone else."

"The Assistant Director is right," said Siress Sarouse. "He doesn't have to answer to you, Agent Simons. But he does have to answer to me. And I'd like an answer to that question myself."

"I won't even dignify that with an answer," said Curtis. "I answer directly to the Director of the FBI and then to the President of the United States. In that order. I don't answer to you or anyone else in the Kenite Nation. Now if you'll excuse me I have some very important matters to attend to."

"Ordinarily, I'd agree with you," said Sarouse, as she motioned for two Stalkers to keep Curtis from leaving the room. "Normally you wouldn't answer to me. But need I remind you, Assistant Director, that you are currently on Kenite property. Not unlike being in an embassy of a foreign government. And as such you are subject to our laws. I'm sure once I speak directly with the Director of the FBI he'll be more than willing to cooperate in any way he can to help settle this matter."

"You don't have any proof," said Curtis. "You have no right to hold me here."

"Well, about proof," said Simons. "I think I might know where we can get some proof. Whichever human placed that bomb book in the cavern almost assuredly left their fingerprints on it. After all, they would have expected it to be destroyed when it detonated, destroying all evidence of anyone who put it there. I'm willing to bet that when we dust that book we'll find your prints on it, Assistant Director."

Curtis just stared at Simons with his mouth open. It was obvious from the look on his face that he had not expected Simons to come up with that.

"See that Assistant Director Curtis is made comfortable until I can place a call to the Director of the FBI," Sarouse said to the two Stalkers she had called into the room.

"This is outrageous," Curtis was shouting as the two men nearly dragged him from the room. "I promise you will pay for this outrage."

"What made you suspect Cutis?" Samantha asked. "I suspected that a human must have been working with Saucier but I had no clue who it might be."

"It had to be someone with some clout," said Simons. "I knew it had to be a human since a Kenite couldn't have put that book in the cavern where we found it. I also suspected that it had to be someone who would be able to make sure I had access to all the information necessary to make sure we got the book. The only one that could be was Curtis. Only he had the authority to assign me to Samantha and make sure I did the job."

"I'm sure it won't take long before he gives us the entire story," said Sarouse. "We already know a great deal of it. And a lot that we've been able to guess at. He also doesn't have Saucier to help him any longer. It should be a simple matter to arrange some kind of deal that will be beneficial to him and still give us the answers we need."

"If you have any trouble getting any answer from him, just let me know," said Samantha. "I'm sure I can give him proper incentive to cooperate with us."

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," said Sarouse. "Well, I suppose you'll be wanting to get on Saucier's trail, Samantha. But I'm sure you understand now why I said he may be a bit more than you can handle. His electrical charge can be quite debilitating."

"Yes, I'm aware of that now," said Samantha. "Next time, I'll be ready for him. He took me by surprise in the control room. That won't happen again."

"As well did you," said Sarouse. "I must admit I was quite surprised when you used that pistol. I've never known a Stalker to use any kind of weapon before."

"Before it wasn't necessary," said Samantha. "Gregory gave me the gun and said I might have need of it. I didn't really believe him at first. But I took the gun just in case. It turns out I was lucky I did. It was enough to slow Saucier down for the Stalkers to get in and stop him."

"Well, when you catch up to him, just remember, he always has some alternate plan as a backup," said Sarouse. "And it may be a while before you catch up to him. He'll probably go underground until he can formulate a new plan."

"That's why I'm thinking I should wait a while," said Samantha. "At least until my partner is well enough to come with me. After all, I may need his help in bringing Saucier in."

"Partner?" questioned Simons.

"Of course," said Samantha. "That is, assuming you're agreeable to it. We made a pretty good team. It would be a shame to break us up now."

"Well," said Simons thoughtfully, "the Director did say I could have any assignment I wanted. Tell me, Siress Sarouse. Do you have any human FBI agents assigned to the Enclave?"

"Not yet," said Sarouse. "But I think I could convince the Director that at least one would be very beneficial to both The Nation and the humans. I'll have everything arranged by the time you're ready to resume your duties."

"There is just one thing," said Simons, looking at Samantha.

"What's that?" she asked.

"You do realize I'm only a human, right?"

Siress Sarouse just laughed to herself as she headed for a phone to call the office of the FBI.

The End