Cancer has a rank odour that is unmistakable – a bitter, rancid flesh rotting stench no medication can mask. It filled the small side room, a tiny box painted in muted colours a room well away from other patients visited only by a few nurses like Stacy. Stacy handled serious cases; terminal cases. She was an 'end of life' care specialist.
Looking down at the shrunken, withered figure in the bed she felt a stab of deep pain as she took in the tracery of deep lines on the gaunt face. The stale butter colour, the sunken eyes like brackish water going down two sink holes, the bony frame with only sparse flesh on it and the stick thin limbs.
Mary had stage 4 cancer, she wasn't expected to outlive the week; it was amazing she was alive at all after 5 operations and 3 rounds of chemo. Only sixty she looked closer to eighty and the tall, straight backed, proud woman who had run her own company was nowhere in evidence. All that was left now was a shell, a wasted, withered husk.
Stacy knew she shouldn't let her feelings get the better of her but she couldn't help it. She cared about Mary; it saddened her to see a once vibrant intelligent woman reduced to this.
Nil by mouth it said over the bed and on the clipboard at the foot of that bed with printed DNR, Do Not Resuscitate. It meant that if Mary went into cardiac arrest, nothing was to be done to help her. It seemed cold to Stacy cruel and inhuman to just let someone die.
Fussing around she changed the water in the vases, smoothed the pristine white bed sheets and put the unread paperback novels into an orderly pile. There wasn't much else she could do, no treatment she could offer. Medical science had exhausted all its options; this was a failure a defeat.
"I'm so sorry Mary," her voice caught and it was hard to squeeze words past the tight lump in her throat a solid fist of despair, "You deserve better than this," they were heartfelt sentiments, nobody should die like this alone in some sterile hospital room that nobody visited apart from medical staff and not many of them.
Stacy knew that Mary had two sons and a daughter but she'd never met them or spoken to them over the phone. Their lack of concern or even curiosity astounded her. Why didn't they care, why didn't they come here to comfort their mother in her final days? How could people be so heartless and unconcerned so selfish?
"I'll come back later and read to you," Stacy had been taking time out to read one of the novels to Mary, who sometimes responded but often didn't, sedated by all the morphine in her system the maximum amount. This wasn't part of the nurse's job; indeed she was breaking the rules in doing it.
Time was money, reading wasn't an efficient use of her skills, it didn't constitute billable hours in the new health service, the new private, profit-first UK Health plc that had replaced the old socialist model.
Even the word nurse was being phased out as old-fashioned; in future they would be called onsite health technicians or OHT's like they fixed light bulbs or replaced missing sprockets.
Stacy hoped she was out of the profession by then; it had changed beyond all recognition during her 5 years on the job as care made way for commerce.
Bending over she lightly kissed the old lady's powder dry cheek, something else that was against the rules but what the hell, everybody needed somebody especially near the end.
As she left with her eyes filling up Stacy didn't notice the figure enter through another door silently, she didn't see the man in the shadows watching her or notice the expression on his lean, pale face. He had seen her kiss the patient and heard her words but he didn't say anything because to do that would be to betray his presence and he had no legitimate reason for being here.
Once the door closed Jacob approached the bed and the smell hit him, putrid, nauseating; the stink of death the bouquet of cancer.
Jacob wasn't a nurse his orange uniform with black trim marked him out as a porter, the lowest of the low; almost insignificant in the scheme of things. Locking the room door so he couldn't be disturbed he moved nearer to Mary to check she was still asleep. It would be better if she didn't see him but suddenly the pale blue eyes flicked open, the milky orbs focusing on his face.
Mary smiled. Jacob smiled back. Her dry lips tried to form words but she hadn't the air in her lungs to speak. He positioned himself beside the bed on her right side and took a deep breath, okay she'd seen him there was nothing he could do about it now best to get on with it. He lifted his hands and moved them over the shrunken body, palms down and fingers rigid. What he had to do required no physical contact, he would have to touch Mary or the bed.
Power hit him in waves; it flooded through him hot and urgent, electric and dizzying. He'd never had any problem connecting to source and now the power shot through his nerves and veins sweeping down from scalp to shoulders then into his chest then down both arms.
Mary blinked, could she feel anything yet; she soon would. Jacob swayed slightly able to see colours in the air flashes of gold and blue, some pink and some green. They were orbs and lines of light that swam around him. This was the first stage of the process the heat and the colours, the next stage was the roaring crackle in his ears like a power cable and when that happened he bent forward slightly from the waist his eyelids fluttering and lips parting.
He actually saw beams of gold radiance exit his palms and connect with the patient, he heard Mary gasp but not with pain not in a bad way like she was being hurt it was a gasp and a sigh of pleasure. The gold light flowed into her from him and began to fill her small sparrow-like body, sweeping through her bones and cells, her veins and sinews sinking down into the fascia and organs to find what it sought – the disease.
He sensed the dull knot of a tumour in her liver, another larger one blocking the gall bladder, a third mass choking the stomach and squeezing it tightly, a fourth invader in the left lung and scattered dark seeds in her spinal column and collar bone. There was darkness in the armpits and the neck glands and black tendrils extending up into the brain stem.
A lot of cancer, a network of it a surging army of killing devouring rogue cells. The gold light permeated it all washing through it, beginning to burn and reform, to correct and reshape. Blockages eased, compressions relaxed and bleeding ceased.
The cancer weakened, it retreated it lost ground, its beachheads in the major organs softened and turned back. Jacob could feel the dark masses reducing, he could almost see them withering on the vine like rotten fruit.
The gold light swept through the damaged tissue eaten by disease and set about regenerating, repairing and restoring liver to gall bladder to stomach to lung then into the bones and up into the brain. Doing the impossible, achieving the impossible, curing the incurable.
Sweat beading his brow and lip Jacob trembled, this was taking more juice than usual Mary was further along than most and he had procrastinated in healing her, telling himself he shouldn't, he mustn't then he heard that nurse Stacy praying for the old woman, weeping, reading to her and it so moved him that he knew he had to act to break his own personal rule of not healing a terminal.
Healing carried grave risks, serious penalties; you had to stay under the radar but you couldn't do that if you healed a terminal because that got noticed it got you noticed.
The gold light filled every cell in Mary every tissue, it flushed her clean it rejuvenated and reconstructed it fixed everything the cancer and chemo had done; the chemo had actually caused the most damage it was filthy, toxic muck. Why did medical science still use such a barbarous and outdated procedure when there was no proof it worked? Chemo just made things worse, it destroyed the immune system.
The lights cocooned around Jacob formed an aura a corona, bathing him in bright greens and pinks, in soft orange and stronger violets. He gasped in wonder, the whole thing never failing to astound him.
Mary moved her legs, she shifted her arms, her head swung from side to side her now moist lips parted in a softer sigh like a lover. The stale butter look had gone, even some of the lines had smoothed out and her brow unknotted into a lake of soft flesh.
"Oh my god," she gasped and even the voice was stronger and deeper. Eyes now clear of cataract regarded him with awe and inquiry.
"How," she said, "Why?"
He knew better than to try and answer, even if he could it would do him no good.
He stepped back as the power began to recede, to fall back upon itself, it was being withdrawn, returning to source.
"No stay," the old woman implored lifting grey hair from a damp pillow. I can't he thought I dare not. Offering her only a smile he backed up to the door, unlocking it with a thumb his hand trembling.
"Who are you," she asked and he was glad he'd removed his name tag. They were supposed to wear it at all times but secrecy was his only defence here.
"No one," he said and bit his tongue, he wasn't going to speak she couldn't hear his voice.
"You helped me," stronger with each passing second she sat up in the bed, previously this had been impossible due to pain and weakness but now both were evaporating fast.
Cracking the door he peered out, no one in the corridor no prying eyes he mustn't be seen leaving.
"Goodbye Mary," he offered.
"Wait, don't go," she implored, "You're my saviour."
Interesting word he thought he might be her saviour but she just might be his executioner.
He had healed her healed her cancer, done something that was miraculous and impossible and illegal.
"I can't stay I'm sorry," and he was. Not in healing her but because he couldn't speak to her get to know her or explain himself.
"Why," her word followed him out and it haunted him. Why – because he'd be arrested. Why – because they wouldn't understand. Why – because what he'd done was unacceptable.
The fact he'd saved a life was neither here nor there.
Jacob knew that the video camera outside the room was offline it had been for a week now and with budget cuts might be for some time to come. However the camera around the corner was still working so he'd have to be careful and look unobtrusive just a normal porter going about his dull daily business, nothing special not a man who performed miracles.
A couple of junior docs were approaching from the opposite direction a man and a woman he didn't know, as they neared him he moved out hoping they would mask his face.
Busy chatting and reading a chart they didn't even look up as he slipped past. Hot and dizzy Jacob needed to find a rest room. He was always tired after a healing but this one had really drained him. He'd never given energy to a terminal before because he knew it would totally wipe him out.
Sweating and eyes slightly out of focus he turned another corner losing the junior docs and bumped into,
"Oh sorry," said Stacy the nurse of before Mary's friend, "Jacob," she gasped her eyes lighting up and features losing their bored apathy, "I didn't know you were in today."
Normally he wouldn't have been this was supposed to be his day off but HR had called him, they were a body down due to flu could he take an extra shift it would mean a bonus if he did, not a lot of cash but it all helped.
"Hi Stacy," even his voice sounded weak.
"Are you okay," quick on the uptake she was already studying him looking for signs and symptoms. He liked that about her, her caring nature always trying to help to mend people.
"Just a bit frazzled," he covered, "Maybe I've caught that flu bug."
"You do look pale," she touched his forehead, "Hot to," now she was all concern.
"I'm due a break soon," he lied actually his break was an hour away.
"You're sweating as well," she noticed, "You shouldn't have come in today."
"My rent's due," this at least was honest he was in arrears with his rent and although his landlord was a good guy his patience had it limits.
"Are you okay," he asked to deflect attention away from himself?
Face dropping Stacy dipped her eyes, "Just worried about Mary."
"The old lady with cancer," he affected a puzzled look like he wasn't totally sure who she meant.
"She's fading fast," heart on her sleeve the blond nurse blinked back a tear, "It's so sad, none of her family has even been to see her; not even the pastor has called."
He was down with flu as well. I've been to see her he thought, I've given her healing energy and she's much better, He compared mental pictures of Mary before and after healing. The withered, dried out husk shrunken and bony and the woman who'd spoken to him with her rosy cheeks and bright eyes, her voice sharp with vigour.
"I know it's terrible," he sympathized, "You care too much."
She coloured, "You care to," she countered, he offered a shrug.
"What can you do," he used that martyred tone common to nursing staff sort of resigned yet defiant.
"Nothing I suppose," Stacy chewed a lip a cute gesture that drove him wild.
"I need to go and sit down," he could have sat down right there on the corridor floor.
"Yeah you do look peaky, why not pop into the pharmacy for something."
Jacob never took tills not ever he shunned medication of all kinds, just like his mother who had also been a healer.
Then he saw the sign REST ROOM with a male logo underneath, "I will," he vowed, "later," and he headed for the rest room conscious of her gaze on him.
"See you in the canteen," her voice was so full of hope and yearning that he felt a tug deep in his chest; they often sat together gobbling down their sandwiches and in her case salad chatting about their day, their hopes and frustrations.
"You bet," he was looking forward to it the highlight of his day...well one of them.
"Later," her sing song voice followed him into the cool, white tiled rest room with its stink of bleach, window cleaner and toilet duck smells that never quite masked the odour of urine. Finding nobody in sight he leaned his forehead against the icy tiles and felt the burning sensation ease, the dizziness leave him.
The post-healing fugue would leave him but it took a few minutes and some deep breathing, he'd channelled a lot of juice this time twice his normal amount. He knew what he'd done would have consequences; he wasn't stupid enough to think he would get off Scott free.
He had healed a terminal it was a class 4 medicrime and the penalty for that didn't bear thinking about. If they caught him he could expect no mercy, non-medical healing of any kind was illegal it wasn't tolerated in this society. By helping Mary he had put himself out on a limb and there would be a witch hunt; they'd bring in professionals who would probe and question, delve and dissect.
He was no longer safe here at Joachim Boaz and needed to think about his exit strategy, how he got away and where he went next. He might be a lowly porter but he'd come under the spotlight because everyone with any connection to Mary would no matter how tenuous.
He could leave now just walk out, go to his flat and tell the landlord he was giving up his tenancy. Then he could fall off the grid, leave town, get another low paid nothing of a job even change his name maybe his appearance to. He'd done it before he was no stranger to hiding, melting into the woodwork being unnoticed unimportant.
But then he thought of Stacy and her cute smile, her kind eyes and soft voice, the gentle way she touched him and her overriding concern, their chats, their dinners, the jokes they had shared. He would miss Stacy a great deal maybe too much.
"Never get involved." His mother's warning to keep people at arm's length and up to now he had heeded her advice, avoiding human contact never taking a lover, being alone and aloof. But Stacy was different she'd become important to him, he knew he'd miss her badly.
"Oh it's you," emerging from a cubicle a tall gangly man with floppy fair hair and anxious lips regarded Jacob, startled to see him and not pleasantly so. Funny he hadn't been aware of anyone being here, nor could he detect the odour of faeces so what had Dr Dietrich been doing in that cubicle?
About his age but taller, better dressed and with a medical degree Dietrich was the on-call oncologist, he was on good money and climbing the ladder fast, an ambitious professional who'd come here from a top university and had rich parents.
So why did he look so shifty so guilty, why was he tugging down his left sleeve and blinking rapidly his pupils like pin pricks?
"I think I'm getting the flu," Jacob covered quickly aware he too was furtive and out of place.
"Not you as well," relieved to be neutral ground Dietrich rolled his eyes, they had 23 staff off sick this weak and things were getting desperate. Faking a sniff Jacob made to get past the doctor a man he'd never really liked, someone who lacked empathy.
"Go home," he said bluntly, "The last we need is you passing it on," he rubbed his left arm then darted away. When he'd gone Jacob peered into the cubicle, he saw nothing amiss no powder on the rim no sign of a needle or a tourniquet but Dietrich had been up to something. I guess we all have secrets Jacob mused.
The canteen was busy people clanging trays and shouting orders, the vending machines chugging out drinks and snacks, people sat at tables chatting. None acknowledged Jacob; he was after all just a porter invisible.
TODAYS JOB LOSSES were posted on the white board in clear sight along with photos of the unlucky, he didn't see his face there but always expected to. People were hired and fired at an alarming rate, the staff turnover astonishing. There was no such thing as job security in the new private health service where profit came before people even patients.
An arm waved at him and he sat down facing Clyde his supervisor the head porter, a grizzled old veteran who'd drifted from job to job all his life never rising above his pay grade. Sour faced and round shouldered Clyde was in his mid fifties with buzz cut grey stubble and a squashed nose. His voice was laconic and cynical with a weary resignation common to porters who were not a jolly breed.
There was an aura around the guy and Jacob could see auras especially after an intense healing. Clyde's was shot through with grey and dim red; he was not in the best of health.
"Bad stomach," Jacob remarked in an off-hand kind of way like he was guessing.
Suspicious eyes regarded him but the older man didn't rise to the bait, he was used to the kid's freaky pronouncements, "Thomas got finished," he drawled, this was another porter and Jacob had liked the youth.
"When," he let his shock show?
"Today, Mitch to," Clyde sniffed and Jacob realised he hadn't seen their faces on the job loss board.
"I thought Mitch got renewed," hadn't the guy mentioned it?
"Board changed their mind," Clyde snorted like the board could do anything it damn well pleased which was largely true.
"Are they being replaced?"
A shrug uncaring, disinterested, maybe and maybe not money was tight what with the chairman's recent 25% pay hike. He was an accountant with no medical training, the brother of some Tory MP a liquidation specialist.
"Could be us next," said Clyde and Jacob wondered if he'd care, if it would be a bad thing? After all he was moving on anyway.
The sound of a pager distracted him and a portly middle-aged man with confrontational features and thinning grey hair stood up at a nearby table.
He wore a blue tie and peach shirt, creases in his black pants and the flushed air of someone important, it was Dr Paul the clinical lead, "What," he barked, "Are you sure," he put down his coffee, "I'll be right there," and with n o explanation to the men he was sharing his table with he set off at a brisk pace.
"God's in a bad mood," Clyde snickered his loathing of Dr Paul only too obvious. Few people did like the big man he could be abrasive and caustic.
This is it thought Jacob the brown stuff has hit the fan I'm now on a countdown, "I might clock off," he said casually, "Not feeling too good."
This didn't impress the supervisor at all, "Wheel Miss Daisy to X-ray first boy."
This was an elderly female patient who'd just been admitted after a bad fall with a suspected pelvic fracture, she was spiky and opinionated and didn't take any crap off Clyde. Jacob suspected he was a bit afraid of her.
"Why can't you do it," he teased seeing Clyde's jaw clench, a sure sign of pique, "Too much for you is she?"
Brown eyes regarded him, "The upper floor loos need cleaning to, before you clock off okay," a malicious grin revealed yellowing teeth, one gone at the bottom.
The smell had changed. This was the first thing Stacy noticed as she re-entered the room. The sickly, cloying stench of death and rot had abated. The nauseous back draft of invasive cancer wasn't anywhere near as bad.
Then she saw Mary, and Mary saw her; the two women locking eyes. Colour – she could see it in the cheeks and the eyes, bright pink and healthy, the eyes clear and bright the back straight as the woman sat upright in bed combing her hair.
Not only was Mary awake she was humming a tune to herself, she looked happy and stronger, much stronger she didn't look like someone with stage 4 an 'end of lifer'.
"Hello dear," a sing song voice joyous and uplifted no sign of the weak croak, the wheezy cough or the laboured suck into failing lungs.
"Mary," Stacy felt her knees go weak, she couldn't believe what she was seeing. She eyed the monitors and saw improvement in heart, brain and BP almost normal levels.
What the hell had happened here, how could this be; this woman was dying she had days maybe only hours.
"I need to pee, will you help me out of bed," Mary was already kicking the sheets back her anorexic legs spindly from lack of use.
"No you can't get up," panicking now Stacy looked around for something.
"Not another blessed bed pan," Mary objected, "You know I hate those things, take me to a proper toilet."
To do that the nurse would have to page a porter and tell him to bring a wheelchair. She was shocked by Mary's tone it was strong, commanding, the voice of someone used to getting her own way the voice of money.
Dr Dietrich breezed in unannounced gave her a wink then froze, his features going slack as he saw his dying, comatose patient hunting around for her slippers, "Mrs Cordon," he stammered bewildered.
"Oh it's you," not hiding her dislike Mary tried to stand up, sat down and tried again, "Well help me young man, don't just stand there with your mouth open."
But Dietrich didn't move, "You can't get out of bed Mrs Cordon."
"Of course I can I feel much better and I need to pee."
Dietrich looked at Stacy appealingly, help me out here but she didn't know what to do either. This dying, cancer-ridden woman who could barely breathe unaided was now standing up and taking a trial step.
She went over to help, "You feel better," she questioned dazed by how well Mary looked and her strength.
"Yes much better, in fact I think I'd like to discharge myself."
Now Dietrich uttered a gasp of shock, he'd gone very pale and his hands were shaking his usual bland confidence nowhere in evidence.
"You can't," he yelped and received a quailing look from the old woman.
"I most certainly can young man, I'm a private patient of substantial means, my money helped build your new renal unit."
This brought him up short, never insult the money; this was ingrained into all medical staff and the Cordons were big donors to JB.
"We need a porter," Stacy told Dietrich meaning make yourself useful, go and get one but he still didn't react his methodical brain trying to process what it was seeing.
Then he took out his pager and thumbed it anxiously; this was too big for him maybe too big for anyone but it was time to defer to the boss, God had to see this.
"Your hands are very hot young man," Miss Daisy was settled in her chair and been pushed to the X-ray department on the third floor. Jacob found himself giving her healing through the frame of the chair to help fix her pelvis. A damaged pelvis was serious at her age.
"I've been holding a hot cup," he remarked hoping to distract her but the old lady was no fool.
"It's more than that, the heat seems to be coming out of you in waves," jaundiced eyes regarded him quizzically.
"How do you feel," he said realising he shouldn't be channelling the power again so quickly, he had to give himself time to recover.
"Better, there's less pain," they reached a lift, "My hips are tingling it's very strange but not unpleasant; are you doing this?"
"Me," he laughed to emphasize how impossible this was, "How could I be doing anything?"
She had no answer for that but kept giving him odd looks. Damn, he was drawing attention to himself again just when he needed to do the opposite.
"You're unusual for a porter," the remark startled him.
"Oh in what way," he didn't think he acted any differently from the other porters, not that he mixed with them very much?
"Smarter, more caring somehow more human; I think you could get a better job if you tried."
He used to have a better job a much more high paying job but it ate into his time and got him noticed, this was better it was low brow and undemanding but suited his lifestyle.
"I'm fine as I am," he said blandly but she was still looking at him.
"I wonder you don't seem happy to me."
Blast he needed to relax to smile, he couldn't appear tense or troubled or it would be remembered he was acting guilty.
"Touch of flu, I'm clocking off soon."
The door pinged open thank god they'd reached X-ray, he'd wheel her in then sneak off, someone else could take her back to the ward.
"Dr Paul is on his way," the words made Stacy freeze in her tracks, her insides knotted with fear. She didn't like Paul none of the staff did; he was a bully and a scary guy.
"Why did you call him," she snapped at Dietrich wishing he'd grow a back bone and handle this himself.
"He's clinical lead, he has to see this."
"Why so he can cover it up," she knew what was coming how Paul and the board would handle this, "What we have here is a miracle."
Dietrich actually flinched when she said this word; she might have uttered a profanity so pale had he gone, "Nonsense."
"Then how do you explain it," she knew he couldn't and because he couldn't he was panicking eager to offload the problem to someone senior.
"Get back into bed please Mrs Cordon, we need to examine you."
Features defiant the old lady squared her shoulders, "I feel so much better, I don't need to be examined."
"Yes you do," voice high pitched Dietrich almost squeaked these words.
"Young man don't presume to give me orders," back stiff and eyes glistening Mary had regained her old fire.
"It was a request," back tracking the doctor swallowed his ire, "You need to be checked out."
"Why, you can see I'm much better I can talk, walk and think."
"She's been healed," Stacy was close to tears.
"Don't be unprofessional Stacy; stage 4 cancer doesn't just disappear."
Infuriated by his patronising I know best attitude she speared him with a look, this was a miracle, something incredible had occurred, "Use your eyes doctor, look at her."
"I will not be spoken to in that tone by a nurse," he blustered. Oh really and here's me thinking we were friends, Stacy fumed, doctors could be such pompous asses.
"I'm better I'm going to live," Mary enthused, "He healed me."
The whole room came to a dead stop when she uttered those fateful words he healed me, she couldn't have said anything more shocking.
"Who did," Dietrich croaked almost dropping his file.
"Yes who Mary," tone softer Stacy was less judgemental then the booming voice of Dr Paul filled the room.
"What did you just say," sweeping in like a visiting deity Paul glared at first his colleagues then the patient, they froze in their tracks but she didn't. Mary Cordon was rich from a rich family she wasn't impressed by consultants.
"I said he healed me," defiance and pride in the words.
"What do you mean; who healed you," voice brittle with contempt Paul held court in the middle of the room a king visiting his subjects?
"That nice young man."
Nobody had a clue what she meant, "Which nice young man," Paul's voice was becoming more abrasive with each utterance?
"I don't know his name, he didn't tell me."
"Who else has been in here," this was directed at Dietrich who just withered on the spot, lost and confused aware of his own inadequacy, "well, talk to me?"
"Nobody," said Stacy sure she'd been the last to visit Mary but the old lady shook her head.
"He came in after you; you must have seen him a chunky fellow with brown hair."
Lost Stacy shook her head, she'd seen no one, "Do you mean another nurse?"
Paul snapped, "What kind of uniform did he wear Mrs Cordon, was it like Stacy's?"
Thinking about it the patient sighed, "No not really, darker I think."
"Like mine," Dietrich offered?
"No not as smart I don't think he was a doctor."
Thank god – you could see this on Paul's face – he was relieved that nobody on the doctoral staff was involved.
Stacy cut in, "When you say he healed you; how did he do it?"
But Mary just shrugged like it was beyond her; it was beyond all of them. Paul said, "Nobody can heal cancer."
But he was wrong somebody had Stacy could see this, a dying woman with hours to live was now fully conscious, aware and moving about without assistance.
"Maybe they can," she dared to contradict and Paul's eyes burned into her.
"I think you should go off duty nurse, you look tired and confused maybe you're coming down with this flu."
"But I'm fine," she began to object knowing she didn't have the flu.
"Yes you do look peaky, off you go take the rest of the shift off," coward that he was Dietrich hurried to back up his boss and win brownie points.
Mary came to Stacy's rescue, "After she gets me my clothes and shows me the way out of this place, I'm discharging myself," as Paul began to object she cut through his pomposity, "You can't keep me here so don't try, enough tests, I've been poked and prodded enough – I'm leaving gentlemen," looping Stacy's thick arm with her thin one Mary threw her a smile, "You I trust," she said, "Them," the sentence was left unfinished them I don't trust at all.
Shuddering with impotent rage Paul turned his fury on the only other person left to him, poor Dietrich although for once Stacy felt no sympathy after all he hadn't exactly backed her up had he.
She led Mary next door to a locker where her clothing had been stashed, good quality designer stuff to all way beyond her pay packet, "Do you want me to help you dress," she asked?
"I think I can manage myself but stay a while, I like your company you have a kind face not like those two awful men."
Grinning broadly Stacy wondered how Dietrich and Paul would react to being called awful, "This man who healed you," she began tentatively.
"I'm sure I've seen him before," said Mary surprisingly.
"You have, where," Stacy was mystified.
"I think he was the one who wheeled me to the scanner, that big donut shaped thing."
Mind reeling Stacy sat down hard, was Mary talking about a porter, was she saying a porter healed her; but how was that possible? Porters were muscle, low paid temps paid by the hour who drifted from job to job with no real loyalty or ambition. It was inconceivable that one of them had paranormal abilities.
She had to think quickly here this was crucial, "Mary can I ask you a favour, could you keep this to yourself."
Eyes once dull and listless regarded with cunning and curiosity but the old lady didn't reply.
Dr Dietrich was also thinking tactically, his career and pension were on the line and he knew it. If this blew up in their faces he knew whose head would be on the block and it wouldn't be the man stood next to him.
"We could erase the records, lose her chart and silence the staff. Nobody ever need know Mary Cordon was here."
Looking like he was considering this Dr Paul licked his lower lip pensively; you could almost hear the cogs in his brain turning.
"No," he finally decided.
"Why not," Dietrich had thought it a sensible solution?
"It doesn't solve the main problem."
"Think man, there's a rogue healer on our staff and a very talented one. What if he heals again how do we explain that?"
Having no answer Dietrich lowered his gaze, "So you're going to report this?"
"I don't have any real choice, if I don't and our healer strikes again it's the end for both of us and could reflect badly on Joachim Boaz as a whole."
"But if you report it there'll be a witch hunt."
"Inevitably," Paul agreed.
"We'll all come under suspicion."
"I have nothing to hide; do you," Paul challenged?
"They'll look into everything our words, finances, sex lives."
Shrugging the older man eyed the now empty bed, "This healer must be dealt with and quickly, we can't do it so it'll take professional hunters."
Shuddering Dietrich didn't hide his distaste, hunters were ruthless they kept digging and probing until they got a result not caring who got hurt in the process and when they found the healer he'd get a lobotomy for sure; it was barbaric.
"Oh very well if you think it's best," he caved knowing he could never stand up to his boss and his boss knew it.
A hand slapped his arm, "I do," his dropped his voice an octave, "Keep a tight rein on that nurse, she sounds like a blabbermouth to me a bit highly strung."
Nodding Dietrich sat down as the other man took out his phone. Dear god this was going to be awful, how could they have employed a healer and not known it who could or she be?
Unable to believe he was still in the hospital Jacob wiped a damp brow and eyed the clock, how much longer before he could get away. Each second left him compromised, moving him closer to detention.
Miss Daisy was still being X-rayed and it was taking longer than normal, some filament that had to be replaced and Gary the tech in charge wasn't exactly busting his ass to get it done the damn jobsworth.
"Fidgety today Jacob," he remarked squatted over an open panel and Jacob let go of the button he'd been twiddling before it came loose.
"Bit feverish," he said.
"Oh god not you as well, we've lost 4 people on this floor already."
In rude good health Gary straightened up, "Right that should do it," he touched an intercom and told the X-ray nurse to proceed, "So have you asked her out yet," he winked?
Jacob started, "What, who?"
Eyes rolling the taller man gave a wise smirk, "Don't give me that the divine Stacy of course, I've seen you eyeing her up; those little head to head's in the canteen all very cosy. I know you fancy her and who could blame you."
Cheeks flaming and throat tight Jacob broke off eye contact. The last thing he needed was the lecherous Gary getting on his case.
"I am not," the reply oozed confidence, "Just ask her and stop being a wimp, I think you two are made for each other."
Jacob liked Stacy he'd be the first to admit it but she was way out of his league, and in any case there was the golden rule to observe 'don't get involved'.
If he did get involved Stacy would ask questions, track his movements, become curious and ultimately discover his secret. Once she did she'd be duty bound to hand him in.
"I don't think so," he shrugged.
"Why the hell not she's gorgeous – figure, hair, eyes and that sweet angelic voice – what's the problem are you gay?"
"I'm fine as I am thank you very much," in other words mind your own business but Gary wasn't someone to catch a hint.
"It's her birthday tomorrow," he said knowingly.
"Is it," Jacob hadn't even known but then there was no reason why he should, Stacy hadn't said anything?
"Bring her some chocolates, chicks love that, good ones nothing cheap."
Before Jacob could answer there came a loud ping, a green light flashed and a door opened. The nurse Bea pushed Miss Daisy into the office, "All done," she sang in her mid Wales lilt.
"Didn't hurt a bit," said the old lady looking at Jacob in an odd pointed way that made him uncomfortable.
"Wheel her back to the ward please," said Bea hardly sparing him a glance, she could be a snooty cow at times and probably fancied Gary anyway.
Faced with no choice he took the handles of the chair, once Daisy was back on the ward he would make his escape and not a moment too soon.
She didn't say anything until they were stepping into the lift, luckily no one else was in the car, "I felt you giving me energy young man."
Startled but trying not to show it Jacob remained quiet, as the lift doors swished to Daisy added.
"You have a very special gift."
"I'm just a porter," he had to deflect this attention.
"Oh you're much more than that," he could feel her gaze and smile on him full of admiration.
"I don't know what you mean, I just wheel people around."
"So modest, it's quite refreshing but I know what I felt."
"How could I heal anyone, I'm not a doctor."
"Doctor's can't heal they just make guesses and hand out drugs, you have a real talent."
He had to get out of here before this woman started blabbing, she'd give him away in a second, "You're mistaken."
"Oh no I'm not, do you know that my X-ray showed significant improvement in my pelvis like it had been healing for months not days; you did that."
Deciding not to get into an argument as this would only make her more vociferous Jacob watched the floor numbers going down and wished they'd hurry, "I'm glad you're feeling better."
"I am a lot better; the pain has gone right down."
Keeping his expression bland he avoided her gaze, it was a shock when she reached out to grasp his hand whispering, "I won't tell anyone if that's what you're afraid of, I know how judgemental doctors can be."
That was a relief but what about the X-ray nurse what about Gary would they start asking questions? Best to get out of here to disappear and move. The doors pinged open and he pushed Daisy back towards her ward, hoping she didn't say anymore or speak to her fellow patients.
From the ward he could make a quick dash to the main doors, after that he was as free as a bird.
There was a nurse called Joy on the ward, catching her eye he nodded to Daisy and Joy said, "I'll help you back into bed Mrs Murchison."
But before he could scoot off Mrs Murchison looked up at Joy and said, "He's a special boy a very special boy," heart skipping a beat Jacob drew in a sharp breath but Joy laughed it off.
"Don't tell him that you'll give him a big head, you know what men are like."
Don't say anymore he prayed, don't blow my cover but the old lady threw him a wink and nodding back he took his leave, speeding off the ward and up the main corridor towards those big beautiful glass doors.
He was almost there when a figure shot from the left to bar his way, it was Stacy the 'end of life' nurse and she had a quizzical, challenging look on her face, "We need to talk Jacob," her grip made him wince.
"Pull all the video you can from this floor," Dr Paul was now in crisis management mode he was thinking about damage limitation and covering his own ass; how he could squirm his way out of this.
"We need to know who visited this room, every single person," pacing up and down he tossed Mary Cordon's chart onto the bed; "Our healer could be anyone."
"Well she didn't have any visitors, so that narrows the field," Dietrich gazed at his palm pilot he could use it to access internal CCTV.
"What staff visited Mary that you know of," Paul demanded his face moist and pale?
"Aside from myself I think Peter popped in then there were about 2 or 3 nurses."
"We need to compile a list; the hunters are bound to ask."
Knowing this Dietrich drew up a duty roster, Dr Peter Raymond his colleague was on it along with Stacy, Julie-Ann and Hakimo. There might have been a cleaner but he couldn't access her name some agency temp. He thought about porters, which ones had come up here?
"It's a small number and the CCTV should have caught them all," at least he hoped it did; the system needed a good overhaul, "If only we could question Mary Cordon in more detail."
"The hunters will you can be sure of, they don't care how rich you are," Dietrich had never seen his boss so rattled.
"You've met hunters before," he dared to ask?
"Oh yes, not here but in my last posting when I was on the staff or Hiram Abiff. There was a bad outbreak of MRSA on the wards, people coughing up blood and dying in their beds. Then all of a sudden it stopped, they started getting well. We knew it wasn't the drugs we were using it had to be a healer and a good one."
Spellbound Dietrich tried to bring the images to his mind, he recalled the case vaguely; he'd been in university at the time and information was suppressed. 75 people were infected and 34 died then it all blew over with no explanation, the news feeds simply stopped reporting it.
"Did you catch him?"
"Her and yes we did, an elderly woman who worked in records had been there for years, nobody could believe it she was so bland so anonymous a non-entity really."
"What happened to her," the younger man barely dared ask?
"Detainment, a show trial then a lobotomy," actually shuddering at the memory Paul looked cornered, haunted like he'd never quite gotten over it.
Feeling the blood drain from his face Dietrich looked away, he hated the idea of compulsory brain surgery even if it was the law it destroyed people took away their identity, memory their dignity.
"I suppose she's dead now," he said glumly but Paul didn't answer it was like he'd forgotten about the poor wretch already.
"What was her name," Dietrich asked?
"Eva Stein and no she isn't dead but she isn't a healer anymore either and that's all that matters."
Dragging him into a storage room and slamming the door she turned to lean her back on it features serious and lips compressed, her bright eyes taking him in analysing him full of questions and doubts.
"Are you a healer," she asked directly with no preamble confronting him, "I'll know if you lie Jacob so don't bother."
"I'm a porter on minimum wage, come on Stacy does it seem likely," he'd practised his game face and cover story a lot and got it down to a fine art. Appear helpless and play dumb more advice from his mother, she had lectured him often about blending in yet remaining invisible.
"That does not answer my question," Stacy looked ready to burst she looked ready to hand him over to the authorities.
"No I'm not a healer, what makes you think I would be?"
A long look, a probing look and no lessening of the facial tension, "why where you on Mary's floor, what where you doing there?"
"I'm a porter I go where I'm sent; I was up there getting some supplies- you can ask Clyde if you don't believe me."
"I don't believe you Jacob, Mary saw you in her room just before she was healed so why where you in her room?"
Shit this was worse than he'd thought, "Okay I popped in to have a look at her, just a peek."
"Why," the word was harsh and condemning?
"She reminds me of my mother if you must know; she was ill for a long time before she died."
A slightly softening of the lips and a sigh were the only signs of relaxation about Stacy, "Your mum had cancer?"
"No something else but just as bad in its way," he thought of her lying in that room that awful bed the vacant look in her eyes, her drooling mouth and not knowing who he was, an empty shell broken and lost.
"I'm sorry I didn't know, but you shouldn't have gone in there."
Hands up he gave a contrite nod, "I know it was wrong and I was stupid, did you say Mary had been healed but how?"
"Nobody knows but the shit has really hit the fan and we're all under suspicion, you'll be questioned Jacob and they'll check your background."
"I've nothing to hide," he fibbed knowing he had plenty, lots of gaps in his education and work history that would hard to explain away.
"I hope you haven't because Dr Paul is calling in some hunters and you know what they're like."
He did only too well private thugs with almost unlimited powers of harassment and arrest. "Are you a healer," he threw back knowing it was a question an innocent person would ask?
Stacy shook her head and moved away from the door, "I'm not even a very good nurse," she admitted.
"I think you are, of course you are; don't put yourself down so much."
"Jacob you're too nice for your own good," she rested a hand on his arm now soft and gentle, "The next few hours are going to be tough, when the hunters get here nobody will be able to leave and we'll all be under the hammer."
Time to go then to get out of here pronto; he couldn't be here when the hunters arrived. Of course they'd come after him, he expected that had prepared for it his exit strategy was in pace but it required him being on the move not stuck here.
"Is Mary still here," he asked concerned about the old woman despite his own problems.
"She went home half an hour ago; she lives in some huge pile on eastside."
Jacob knew the area, big luxury properties some of them mansions it was an exclusive enclave with private security strictly millionaires only.
"If there is a healer on the staff what will happen to him, or her?"
She looked away, "No idea nothing good, you know how healers are treated."
"But it sounds like he saved a life, wasn't Mary dying her condition incurable?"
The law was clear non-medical treatment was a serious offence no acupuncture, no herbs, no homeopathy and definitely no energy work. One by one these systems had been demonised and legislated against.
"The hunters will track him down and take him away, there'll be no mercy just a show trial and then most likely he'll have surgery."
A chill passed through him the thought of having a chunk cut out of his brain of being rendered a zombie, a mindless hulk it was inhuman and barbaric how had Britain come to this when it had it become so intolerant?
"Why is healing so wrong Stacy? I mean if you had the ability to help sick people, those beyond help I mean wouldn't you use it?"
She gave him a thoughtful look then gazed away as if made uncomfortable finally she said, "I don't know, it's an odd thing to ask."
To Jacob it was crucial to his mind if you had a gift you also had the responsibility to use it but he backed off for now there was no point in pressuring Stacy, "Sorry it was a stupid thing to say."
Softening she lost her scowl, "No it wasn't but there are some questions best not asked, not with hunters on the way, with our actions and words studied and analysed."
Unlocking the door she stood aside offering him his freedom, she still didn't totally trust him though he could tell. "If you know anything," she muttered, "You should tell Dr Dietrich."
He was the very last person I'd trust thought Jacob knowing him to be weak a pawn of the clinical lead but he threw her a tight smile before shuffling away, trying not to be too obvious that he was making a dash for it.
Going to the reception desk he found Fran and TJ on duty, it was the latter who looked up from a screen to squint at him through thick round glasses a kid with red streaks in his hair and a single nose piercing, "Hey man how's it going?"
"I'm logging off duty TJ I'm not feeling so good, I think it's this flu."
This earned him a sympathetic look and a shrug, "Too bad we're on the bones of our arses as it is, you sure you can't finish your shift?"
If he did the hospital would be in lockdown and he'd been trapped him, "I'm out on my feet," he affected a sag and rubbed his eyes, "I've been sick twice."
Hands rose hey too much detail and TJ clicked some keys, "You take care," he said then had to answer a phone allowing Jacob room to slink away.
Looking back he saw Stacy she was still by the storage room and still looking at him in that questioning way of hers, did she suspect would she give him away? He made the main doors and as they swished open he stepped into icy cool air feeling his lethargy shift. Stepping back to avoid an incoming ambulance he veered around it and saw EMT's carrying a stretcher wrapped in silver foil into the ER – a burns victim most likely.
Reaching the underpass he broke into a jog, not caring if CCTV caught him or not or if he looked guilty. He was free now off hospital premises he could vanish into thin air and never speak to his former colleagues again.
He wouldn't miss any of them well maybe Stacy, he'd miss her he liked her she was a good person and he'd hated lying to her denying what he truly was. If only he could be honest but if he was he'd compromise them both.
Hurrying past some beggars one of whom held a placard that said TORIES OUT he took a left and rose up into Grand thoroughfare passing the shell of a bus stop in which stood a dozen bored commuters none of whom paid him the slightest heed.
The 65 was approaching a hulking triple decker driven by a computer, joining the queue he was the last to board, sliding his travel card into the reader and fingering one of the options highlighted in green.
Credit was deducted from his card and it was returned to him along with a ticket which said 'valid for 5 stops only'. With all seats taken he chose to stand rather than risk going upstairs, he could stand for 5 stops.
As with all public transport now there was a TV screen near the stairs turned to the news channel, he eyed the rolling news ELECTIONS ABANDONED it announced. So they'd finally done it getting rid of democracy just as they'd promised; now the Tories would be in power forever.
The droning newscaster didn't sound alarmed or even that interested; with his blue tie maybe he was a Tory himself.
Anonymous Jacob doubted anyone on this bus would remember him, most were gazing at tablets or phones one guy was sniffing a line of coke off the back of his newspaper – an increasingly common sight now as 7 day working was increasingly normal.
Firms worked their staff to death, in their view if they paid you they owned you and they owned your time. The media called people who complained 'slackers' like to have an opinion was a crime.
Jacob heard his phone bleep he had a text from Stacy where are you going are you running?
Yes I am he thought and with good reason but he texted back flu feel bad.
Moments later she texted him again don't believe you.
Why didn't she believe him they'd parted on good terms; should he just ignore her? Stacy might go to Dr Paul and rat him out, she might cover her back by offering him up as a sacrifice.
Why don't you believe me, he texted back? The bus had stopped to pick up more passengers and Jacob had to move back away from the TV to make room for them, bored looking commuters.
I think you healed Mary, the next text rocked him to the core, hadn't they cleared this up hadn't he been convincing enough?
Wish I could, he fired back holding on to a railing, an odd blue glow coming from his fingers as he grew stressed by Stacy's scepticism. He saw the blue light travel up the railing and into the ceiling of the bus, lights flickered and the TV broke up into a snowstorm.
The bus engine coughed and conked out causing a collective groan of disbelief from the passengers who began to stab at their phones and tablets in desperation until these too began to flicker and lose power.
Jacob saw one phone go completely dark as it lost its signal; the woman holding it swore out loud.
"Mine to," said her boyfriend sat opposite.
"Yeah and mine," said a man stood nearby.
"What's wrong with this bus has it broken down," asked a brassy platinum blond drumming her boots with impatience?
"Sounds like the engine's died," said the bald guy next to her his head shaved pink.
"God I'm late for work already," fretted a thin man in a grey pinstripe coat.
"Aren't we all," groused a pretty woman in a short red coat and matching high heels.
"What's that blue glow," asked a kid with candy floss hair and braces, she was pointing in Jacob's direction, "It's coming from him."
Now everyone was looking at him and he let go of the railing quickly, trying to appear bemused but just seeming guilty.
"What's that blue light around him," asked a teenage boy in a leather jacket with the name of a rock band on the arms?
Quickly Jacob slid towards the exit doors midway along the bus, he had to get out of here he was being noticed and would be remembered.
"Doors are locked," a black youth with a nasal stud told him but when Jacob touched the doors they flew open with a loud fizz pop of current. He jumped off the bus and almost in front of a blue Taurus, its blazing horn deafening him.
"Hey where is he going," someone on the bus shouted, "Who is that guy?"
Dodging a Honda Civic Jacob vaulted a barrier and landed on the pavement just missing a middle-aged couple with matching briefcases. Their cries and angry rebukes followed him as he ran towards an alley in-between two businesses trying to get out of sight and become anonymous. Hopefully nobody had filmed him because now he really looked guilty.
Another text from Stacy pinged into his phone as it began to rain you can't lie to me Jacob.
The rocket flight from Tokyo took just 52 minutes but even so Eric Fade felt frazzled, bored and irritable. He hated being cooped up in a confined space even if it was 1st class with lots of leg room, an in-flight gym and attentive stewards to cater for his every whim.
He'd been summoned back to the UK to take over what they thought was a major case of illegal healing, his speciality, no one else they said could handle this matter with such despatch – meaning they wanted a quick result and minimal publicity.
A professional hunter all his career Eric was part of a very different police force from days gone by. Since privatisation the police had been broken up into smaller specialist units; his being one of the elite the best of the best.
Uniforms were a thing of the past as were much of the red tape and form filling, the tedious delays and right to silence. Now the law was fast-track, stream lined and civil liberties had been largely dispensed with. Trial by jury had always been despatched to the history books as over costly, slow and inefficient.
Blinking his eyes to get the grit out of them Eric flashed his ID card at a reader and floated through customs without even having to be scanned. Around him people were questioned, forced to wait, retina scanned and had their baggage searched but he was above all that, nobody tried to stop him.
Envious travellers who noticed Eric saw a tall, thin man with short dark hair dressed in a svelte blue suit and smartly polished slip on shoes who walked with an easy grace and definite purpose.
He found his contact waiting near an exit; she locked eyes but did not smile although her attractive face would no doubt have glowed if she had. Even sullen she drew glances due to her arresting aquamarine eyes and great bone structure and not even the colour grey could hide a superbly toned figure and lustrous black hair tied in a business-like chignon.
Eric did not shake hands merely snapping, "Fabia," as a question?
Nodding Fabia led him outside away from male eyes, she looked to be in her late twenties and was fit, her movements fluid and economical because she was well trained.
He had demanded a female agent to work with, under thirty, good degree, high IQ and ruthless so Fabia had to fit the profile, if she didn't their association would be brief and – for her – uncomfortable.
"Do you want to wash and freshen up," not looking at him as she said this Fabia moved towards the reserving parking bay where an impressive silver Sky Sabre was parked.
Not replying Eric studied the car thinking how alike car and woman were, thoroughbred, sleek, polished and top of the range.
"You drive," he said in a clipped tone.
"It drives itself," voice matching his for frost she waved her palm and the two front doors rose upwards like vast petals. He chose left but found her seated and waiting for him as he slid inside.
"Full computer control," he purred impressed by her choice of vehicle.
"We're going to the hospital," her question earned her a look so she spoke into the dashboard, "Joachim Boaz," both doors closed, the engine hummed and the Sabre un-parked itself, gliding backwards, turning and shooting towards an exit ramp.
Another car tried to beat it but the Sabre upped its speed and overtook unrestrained by speed restrictions, Fade permitted himself a smug little grin.
"So what have you learned so far," his first test for the rookie - impress me if you can?
Fabia seemed to sense that saying 'nothing' would be fatal to her career so she waved her palm over the windscreen and the clear glass fogged and threw up a collage of faces and texts.
"The patient is Mary Cordon, sixty years old formerly with end stage cancer multi-organ. She's the widow of James Edward Cordon, who left an estate worth 20 million."
A raised eyebrow was the only sign of emotion Eric permitted himself, he didn't whistle although he was impressed.
"Is she still at the hospital?"
"She discharged herself," Fabia's voice took on an anxious burr.
"They let her go," Eric's voice hardened into a sharp cutting edge?
"She insisted and..."
"They should have detained her."
"Mary's family have donated..."
"I don't care how rich she is or how much money she's thrown at JB she should have been kept there until we arrived."
Fury coiled inside Eric like a fiery serpent; he hated cowardice and incompetence. This was an official investigation now he was involved.
Taking a few seconds to allow the rage to abate Fabia continued, "These are the key personnel who dealt with Mary while she was in situ. Dr Paul is the clinical lead, a 23 year career veteran with no blemishes. Dr Dietrich is her oncologist he has a few gambling debts and some online porn but nothing compromising."
Remaining silent Eric let Fabia speak; he had to compose himself to breathe losing his temper wouldn't help at this stage.
"These are the three nurses all have clean records, one is divorced, one is screwing a married junior doctor and this one Stacy Maclean made some remarks about a miracle occurring."
"Anybody else," what he'd seen so far wasn't promising. None of these people jumped out at him?
"Not really some cleaners, a few porters."
"Do we have photos and bios for them?"
"Uploading now, is it likely one of them would be a healer?"
In Eric's experience it could be anyone, healers kept a low profile, they hid and obscured themselves did low paid jobs and kept off the radar because they knew the consequences.
"I want them all," he said.
Fabia said she would expedite the data, "How do you want to play this?"
He winced what he did wasn't playing, "We need to speak to all of them, I'll take the doctors you see the nurses."
Cheeks pinking Fabia gave a low sniff but didn't comment.
"What is it," Eric missed nothing, "Spit it out?"
"You get the senior staff," was there a hint of resentment?
"I'm the senior agent; it isn't a gender thing if that's what's bugging you."
Of course it isn't you lying shit said her eyes but her features remained impressively neutral. This girl had good emotional control and it was rare; rare enough to impress him.
"As a woman the nurses may open up to you, I'm being practical."
"What about the ancillary staff cleaners and porters, do we split them?"
Now he permitted the barest hint of a smile to soften his thin lips, he wasn't a handsome man he knew that too thin too cadaverous with something of the vulture about him, his sharp nose, compressed lips and hooded eyes made him look what he was a predator.
"We'll when the time comes," he purred, "I assume all the staff are on site," they'd better be?
"Yes," Fabia had rung JB to insist upon it and received a personal assurance from Dr Paul.
"Good, we need to contain this to control the situation."
"What about Mrs Cordon?"
"I presume you have her address; we'll visit her later today."
The address came up on screen with more data about Mary, her wealth, her home and her illness. Eric was shocked by how close to death she had been and what a risk the healer had taken, how good he must be to overcome such advanced cancer.
They were clearly up against a very accomplished individual whose powers might extend beyond mere healing. He hadn't come across many of these but knew they existed and that they could be dangerous. Precautions would have to be taken but he needn't burden his partner with these just yet. They had to find the perp first that was the priority then he would decide what course of action would be appropriate.
They were greeted in reception by a flunky, some guy from admin with receding fair hair and not much of a chin. He led them to a private office where doctors Paul and Dietrich where waiting, the senior man was clearly used to pushing his weight around but regarded the two hunters warily, perhaps knowing their reputation.
"I am the clinical lead here;" he pronounced pompously, "Mrs Cordon was under my general supervision."
"And yet," tone deceptively light Eric met the man's gaze with a level stare, "You allowed her to leave the crime scene."
Choking off Paul threw an anxious glance at his colleague, swallowed them came back with, "I had no grounds to prevent her."
"No grounds," running this over his tongue Eric sniffed archly, "A level 4 medicrime and you had no grounds," letting his contempt show Eric moved closer to the plump man causing him to back away, it was an old trick to establish dominance and he knew all of them.
"Someone in here, one of your staff maybe, healed a dying woman an 'end of life' patient; do you have any idea how serious that is what the implications of it could be to the pharmaceutical cartels that pay your wages?"
Eric did, they paid his wages to in fact they paid everyone in modern healthcare from the minister downwards. Joachim Boaz was a German drug company and one of the big players, it made billions out of anti-cancer drugs and its CEO was fuming mad. Eric knew this because she'd been on the phone to him during his flight over, "stamp on this quickly," she had ordered him, "No publicity."
Dr Paul fought to regain his composure, "Mrs Cordon is no ordinary patient."
"I'm aware of her money and donations so don't bore me with excuses, she should have been detained, sedated if necessary now we have to go to her house to speak to her which is a waste of valuable time."
Apologise Eric was thinking, don't be an uptight prick just say sorry, you know you're in the wrong it's obvious so don't make this worse for yourself.
But Paul didn't back down, "It isn't as easy as you might think Mr Fade; Mary has influential friends, rich friends if we offend her..."
He got no further Eric had given him all the leeway he was going to, "I want a comprehensive list of everyone who visited Mary 24 hours prior to the healing, all the video footage you have, staff records and her medical charts before and after healing."
At least the fool had had the good sense to anticipate this, he waved to some files on his desk and a couple of laptops, "Everything you need is here," he said, "And we will make ourselves available for interview at your discretion. You'll appreciate we're busy people..."
"Not during the duration of this hunt doctor, you have only one priority the same priority as me to put a lid on this sorry affair. The board of JB have given me carte blanche to deal with this matter in any way I see fit, this includes ending careers and pensions should I deem it necessary."
Silence greeted this, pale blank faces, haunted eyes and shuffling feet. Eric wasn't exaggerating his powers he didn't have to, his reputation spoke for itself.
"Who would you like to see first," at least Dietrich spoke a weak looking man who clearly feared his boss and had things to hide if Eric was any judge?
Taking a deep breath Stacy knocked on the door twice and entered, the almost bare Spartan office contained only a table, two chairs and the woman Fabia.
Attractive and tall she was about Stacy's age but there the similarity ended. Dressed in expensive designer clothing with salon styled hair and understated but effective make-up the female hunter exuded an air of cool menace and the smile she offered didn't reach those moist, knowing eyes; eyes that glittered like icy jewels in an alabaster face.
A seat was waved at but taking her time approaching it Stacy tried to will her racing heart to slow down. She couldn't betray how scared she was or blab the wrong thing.
"Don't be frightened," seeing right through her facade Fabia softened her tone making it deceptively friendly. Not fooled the nurse gave a shrug and sat down, acting not scared and fooling no one.
"What time did you visit Mary Cordon this morning," Fabia asked; she wasn't taking notes and there was no sign of a recording device unless she was wearing it?
"7.30 just to check on her monitors and see she'd had the right meds."
"Then what did you do," the gaze didn't waver it was looking for signs of a lie?
"Visited other patients on the same floor and the one above."
"Did you return to Mary's room again," Fabia probably knew the answer to this it was a test?
"Yes with Dr Dietrich at around 8.15, he asked me to accompany him."
Why indeed it was a good question, "I'm not sure he didn't say," as a doctor he didn't have to justify himself to a mere nurse.
"What did you find?"
A miracle, "Mary awake, aware, sat up in bed and with colour in her cheeks she was speaking and lucid and the smell had gone."
That rank, sickening stench of death and decay, "The cancer; it has this odour you can't mistake it," or wash it from your hair and clothing.
"What did her readings show?"
"Normal vital signs, breathing, heart, BP."
"But she was a stage 4 cancer patient, how could that be?"
Careful Stacy told herself take it easy no wild claims, "Something had changed she was no longer at serious risk."
"But that's impossible surely, she was terminal."
Jacob. Stacy couldn't stop that name was flashing into her mind, "It is impossible," she agreed.
"What happened next?"
"Mary wanted to get out of bed to discharge herself, she said she was healed."
"She actually used that word," Fabia pounced like the sleek predatory cat she was?
"Yes I heard it clearly."
"How did she know she was healed?"
Jacob. Stacy mentally rebuked herself again, "I imagine she felt it, the pain was gone."
"Did either you or the doctor try to stop her from leaving?"
"He did he told her she had to stay but she wasn't having it, she asked me to help her get dressed?"
"And did you," the words were deceptively quiet?
"I helped her yes, she seemed totally recovered back to her old self."
"You knew her before?"
"I met her when she came to us for tests and biopsies, she was much livelier then."
"Do you regard her as a friend?"
Stacy snorted, "I don't have rich friends, Mary's way out of my league but we hit it off."
"Did she at any time offer a reason for her healing?"
Jacob. This time Stacy shifted uneasily in her chair, "No," a lie and a necessary lie; had her face or voice betrayed her?
"You're sure," Fabia knew how to apply pressure?
"Yes," cheeks growing hot and stomach tight Stacy looked down at the table aware that she shouldn't but unable to stop herself.
"Mary didn't at any time say – he healed me referring to a man who visited her?"
Shit, who had given that away, "Not that I heard," now she'd lied she had to go on lying.
"But people don't recover from stage 4 cancer do they, not in less than an hour?"
"I can't explain it, medically it's impossible."
"Unless," Fabia smiled, "They've received healing energy."
"There's no such thing," parroting what had been drilled into her during training Stacy tried to make it sound convincing.
"Healers exist though, you must have heard of them."
A shrug was the best response so she gave one.
"And," the cold beauty went on, "It follows that there must be a healer here at JB, someone on the staff a trusted employee."
"I wouldn't know, I've never met such a person."
"But if such a person did exist Stacy who could it be – a doctor, a nurse; you maybe?"
Now her face flamed, "No."
"You're not a healer?"
"No I'm a nurse, I do my job but I've no special abilities."
"If not you Stacy then who could it be?"
"I don't think it's one of the doctors, not Dietrich anyway he'd given up on Mary."
"A nurse then one of your colleagues," Fabia was fishing?
"I don't think so, none of the girls on my shift anyway."
"One of the ancillary staff," Fabia leaned forward her nails bright red like spots of blood?
Trying not to react, Stacy took a deep yogic breath, she loved yoga and practised as often as she could, "Unlikely," her voice sounded neutral enough.
"You think so," like a dog sniffing bone Fabia seemed to become more poised, "You know them?"
"Mary the cleaner, Clyde the head porter."
"What about Jacob Stein?"
Her stomach knotted, "Who?"
"The porter, about your age."
"Oh him, well we've swapped a few words."
"Oh come now you sit together in the canteen you share meals."
Jesus how did this woman know that, who had she spoken to?
"It's on the canteen CCTV," Fabia said pleasantly, "You make a nice couple is he your boyfriend?"
Shit Fabia was no fool, "No of course not," Stacy spluttered feeling on the back foot.
"Why of course, you must have a lot in common music, movies, gossip."
"Jacob," Stacy added some steel to her voice "is an acquaintance, nothing more, we aren't dating."
"So you don't know much about his background then?"
"Not much he's done a variety of low paid jobs nothing special, he seems to eke out an existence, I think he lives alone since his mother died."
"What was her name," Fabia made it sound routine but Stacy wasn't fooled?
"He never told me but I think she was ill for a long time, in some clinic or other."
"Has Jacob never been married?"
"Not as far as I know, he's never mentioned it."
"Has he ever mentioned spiritual or energy healing has he ever mentioned reiki?"
"No I don't know what reiki is," this was a lie Stacy had heard of the Japanese healing system her friends Anna and Macy had been attuned by a reiki master last year and urged her to try it.
"Okay," said Fabia relaxing, "That's all."
Thrown Stacy felt like she'd been let off the scaffold, startled by the unexpected ending to the interview she said, "Oh," and frowned, "I can go?"
"Yes," all sweetness and light now Fabia gestured at the door, "Thank you for your time," she said adding, "And honesty," was there mockery behind these last two words a degree of ironic amusement you haven't fooled me at all little nurse, I'm too smart for you.
Deciding not to argue Stacy rose and hurried out oddly not as relieved as she'd hoped.
Rundown and dilapidated the narrow street was a congested artery flanked by squeezed, grey buildings converted into flats by greedy landlords who did little to maintain them, cramming people in like battery hens.
The pervading smells were car fumes, shit, vomit and weed. Almost everyone here smoked pot, few worked and those that did were little better off. The area was down at heel, a scruffy armpit of poverty and neglect.
Making sure no gangbangers were hanging around Jacob got out of the C cab and swapped a look with the podgy flat nosed driver some ex kick boxer called Mick who gave him a look that said 'you live here; poor sod.'
No junkies hovering in the lobby, no tarts smoking on the stairs and no teens waiting to mug the unwary the building where Jacob lived seemed safe enough. He'd never been mugged here but many had, mostly drunks and the elderly people who couldn't fight back.
The stench was muted inside, he could still detect human waste, BO and weed but in smaller quantities. Touching his door handle he did a quick scan, projecting his awareness through the door and into his flat; mentally moving through the flat to detect any malign influences anybody lying in wait – nothing.
He let himself in accidentally kicking a pile of junk mail, flyers and the odd bill all of which he ignored. Poky and oppressive the flat had damp patches on all the walls, the insipid yellow paper was peeling off two walls and all the taps dripped.
The drab soft blue carpet looked as though a herd of buffalo had stomped all over it and all the shelves were wonky despite his constant attempts at DIY. Jacob's collection included works by Shakti Gawain, Maxwell Maltz, Diane Stein and Danyon Brinkley.
Every book being about the paranormal – near death experiences, healing, magic, self-improvement, astrology and so on, even his fiction dealt with aliens, the Bermuda Triangle and witchcraft.
Jacob had bought some of these books but most had belonged to his mum an avid reader and collector. So some looked a bit dog-eared and others were falling to bits with cracked spines and loose pages.
Flicking on the kettle he dropped a tea bag into a cracked mug with Area 51 printed on the side just as his phone pinged he had another text from Stacy hunters are here, the woman just grilled me she knows about you Jacob and knows about us.
If that was so then his escape had been timely, leaving the kettle to boil he went into his minute bedroom, by the bed a bulging case was already packed. From it he took a burner phone, "Shady it's me I need somewhere to lie low."
Clearing his gruff throat the guy on the other end of the line, all gaunt lines and knife cut wrinkles inhaled, "Again," he coughed, "I thought you had a good gig at that hospital of yours."
Yes thought Jacob so did I, "Time to move on."
Taking a puff on something, probably a spliff, Shady gave another cough – he really should stop smoking.
"Gimme half an hour to make arrangements," he said, "You been busted?"
Jacob hardly needed to say it, why else would he be running, "I'll wait for your call."
His other phone pinged; another text from Stacy no doubt, she really shouldn't keep calling him I need to see you Jacob, are you at home?
Should he respond or just ignore her, she was out of his life now part of his past by rights he should toss his phone yes he typed not sure why, he didn't need to see the girl again or speak to her, if she was linked to him she would suffer the same fate and he couldn't live with that.
I'm coming over she typed and panic hit him like a rock.
No, meet me at Mario this was a coffee house just off the main drag, hospital personnel rarely went there 20 minutes he would have to take his burner phone and his bag, he couldn't risk coming back here.
Stacy sent a smiley face but said no more; grabbing phone and bag Jacob rushed to his flat door it was time to skip town, but a she yanked the door open he froze. The guys stood just beyond it all facing him – green hair, blue hair, no hair – denim jackets, stone washed jeans, facial tattoos of mostly snakes – one of them grinned revealing missing teeth.
Shit, Jacob tried to backtrack but they dragged him out into the corridor and tore his bag away. When a door opened and an old lady stuck her head out she was told bluntly to "Fuck the hell off granny," she disappeared at once.
"Hello porter," said the gang leader who had a 5 pointed star tattooed on his forehead, "Remember me," like anyone could forget Hex, he was a total psycho, a car thief and dealer with a taste for brutal violence.
"I'm leaving," Jacob stammered.
"Yes you are," Hex agreed, around him his goons snickered, one picked at scabs, another was sweating profusely Jacob noticed his facial muscles twitching and eyes out of focus, strung out perhaps on some bad stuff.
"I don't want any trouble Hex," Jacob was pleading now.
"That's too bad because you," grabbing his collar Hex pulled Jacob right up to his ugly face, "Just found it."
Don't panic Jacob told himself, not easy when he was facing extreme violence at the hands of these psychopaths, punks who had beaten and maimed many other sin their time.
Then the sweating guy collapsed, he just dropped without a sound and lay there twitching, fitting, foam around his teeth and eyes rolling. Nobody did anything, they just looked at him.
Jacob pulled free of Hex and knelt over the youth knowing he had to act quickly; poison would soon destroy vital organs if he didn't, whatever the kid had taken was too much for his body to cope with.
Right hand over the head, left over the chest and relax, focus and open become receptive let the power come and flow. The punks just stared bewildered and lost, used to inflicting violence not helping people not healing.
The heat came washing down through Jacob making his head swim and arms tremble, his hands grew warm then roasting hot, heat radiated out from him in waves making the gang back away.
The energy sank into the fitting youth and his eyes stopped rolling, his teeth stopped gnashing, the seizure began to subside. He grew calm and still his horrible yellowish grey pallor returned to normal and his breathing eased out.
Jacob let himself totally relax, he couldn't force the healing just let it happen he was the channel the conduit. He felt the poison recede and dissipate; the organs purge themselves of toxic matter and blood flow.
"What is he doing," Hex demanded a big knife in his right hand, "Is he killing him," no answer just blank faces pale and stupid bovine.
"Do him," another lad shouted, "Stab him."
"No," the voice made them all jump with shock, its deep baritone echoed off the walls and turning they saw a huge shape rise up the stairs like an avenging god. The man was massive as wide as he was tall, a giant a monster. Huge muscles rippled on his arms and chest, the bald head reflected weak electric light, the unblinking eyes held a cold fury.
Glancing up Jacob saw Ahab reach the landing and the boys scatter, fleeing like rats left and right their knives no defence. Ahab could swat them like flies; one blow from him was like being hit by a car.
"Overdose," Jacob said as the power began to lessen.
"What are you doing," the Paul Robeson voice demanded?
"Nothing," rising from his crouch Jacob didn't want to try and explain his mysterious power.
"Didn't look like nothing to me," the youth was studied, "Is he dead?"
Damaged certainly but the boy would live, he would recover, "Thank you for coming when you did Ahab," things would have become very nasty Hex was a killer.
"I saw this kid shaking, now he isn't; did you do this?"
Jacob was still very hot he wondered if the giant could sense it through his thick clothing, "I'm just a porter," he said like this explained everything.
"Huh I don't buy that for a second, you are an odd one boy," Ahab was slow but he wasn't a fool, in the ring he'd taken a lot of blows to the head and now he sounded confused but he wasn't.
"I have to leave here," no point trying to hide it his bag was in full view, "I need to disappear."
"You got somewhere to go," Shady would be arranging that finding somewhere small and discreet, a dive maybe but one where no questions would be asked.
Picking up his bag and studying the giant Jacob heard his phone ping with a text you okay she asked?
On way he typed hoping this were true that Ahab would let him pass, you could never be sure with the big boy.
Feeling self conscious even with a big latte and a sticky bun Stacy had thrown a thick black coat over her uniform and wore a beanie. The place wasn't busy at that time of day but in another hour it would be heaving. Her waitress looked over a slim girl with orange dyed hair and a nose piercing like a dolphin.
"Everything okay," she asked, they had to ask this it was cafe policy like saying 'have a nice day' in a sing song voice.
"Fine," Stacy offered a weak smile.
"Waiting for someone," just her luck the girl was chatty and nosey?
A shrug was her only reply, Jacob was late but not by much.
"Boyfriend," the kid ran a rag lazily over a table sending crumbs to the floor.
"Colleague," said Stacy then rebuked herself, why had she given this piece of information away.
"You a nurse," asked the kid, "Only you look like one?"
Do I thought Stacy is it that obvious, the kid went on, "My sister's a nurse, I always wanted to be one but not brainy enough."
Not considering herself academic Stacy offered encouragement, "You could probably do it if you tried."
Before the kid could add anything to her wrinkling nose and eye roll Jacob appeared looking a bit dishevelled and holding a heavy bag.
"Sorry I'm late," he sat down, "Bit of hassle at my building," he added no further details and she looked at him hard thinking he looked haunted.
"Are you all right Jacob," she was forced to ask waving the chatty girl over, "Latte and some of those ginger biscuits."
Giving Jacob a quizzical look the girl nodded and scooted off, "Two hunters are after you Eric and Fabia."
To her surprise he replied in a low voice, "Eric Fade?"
"Yes I think so – you know him," she was astounded as she'd never met Fade before?
"By reputation," he let go of his bag and it hit the floor with a thud, "He's destroyed many healing careers, a human pit bull."
"Yeah well the girl with him is no fool; I think she suspects me of helping you."
"Then you need to run as well Stacy; these people are totally ruthless."
She thought of her nursing career and how much it meant to her, how hard she'd worked to get where she was, "I'm not running away Jacob I've done nothing wrong."
Not looking convinced he ran his finger around the edges of the small cream table, "I have to disappear, what you suspected about me is true."
Excitement blossoming in her chest she reached out to grab him by the wrist, that was when it happened. Later she would think of it as an electric shock but it was more than that, energy burst through him into her and she felt expanded, more alive than she ever had before, colour filled her vision, odd scents where in her nostrils and she sensed this great power above and around her, inside her to.
Letting go and leaning back she blinked several times, gasping for air shocked and stunned but also euphoric.
The girl came back with another latte and a plate of cookies, "you okay," she looked concerned, "You need an epipen or something?"
Unable to speak Stacy heard Jacob say, "She'll be fine."
Not looking like she believed or trusted him the waitress hovered, "I can call 999," she offered.
"She's okay really," Jacob insisted.
"She looks dazed; did you hit her?"
"Of course I didn't."
"Because if you did...," at this point Stacy regained control of herself.
"Hey no problem," she said touching the girl's thin arm and feeling power pass from her to the kid who blinked and gave a low gasp before edging away.
"Is that it Jacob, is that the healing power you have?"
"We all have," he flushed.
"Where does it come from, it seems to be everywhere?"
"It is," he agreed, "I just channel it I'm a conduit."
Still buzzing and still high she smiled at him, "You have a light around you," everyone did a sort of ghostly glow a mix of colours some lighter than others, his was a mix of gold and green with streaks of orange and pink, "You're glowing."
"It's my aura, we all have an aura; you do to."
Glancing at her hands she saw them sheathed in a glistening web of pink, blue and lime it was beautiful, "God is this real or am I going crazy?"
Looking around furtive and anxious he reached out to touch her then thought better of it, "I've been a healer all my life I'm sensitive to moods and energies; the more I heal the more sensitive I become."
"You saved Mary's life, you defeated death," she could only admire him for it whatever the law said.
"I couldn't do anything else, she reminds me of my mother; I had to help her."
"What happened to your mother Jacob; you mentioned her before?"
Clearly torn he glanced away for a moment with an agony of indecision, "She was a healer like me only they caught her, she was arrested, put on trial and," gnawing a lip he gazed down, "They cut out part of her brain, turned her into a vegetable."
Overcome by horror she reached for him but he yanked away, "No don't touch me again Stacy, if we exchange too much energy you'll become like me a freak an outcast."
Appalled by the way he described himself she had to choke back her anger, "You're nothing of the kind."
"The law says I am, Eric Fade thinks I am."
"I don't care about that; to heal is a wonderful gift."
"It's a curse Stacy; at least in this society where Big Pharma control everything."
Knowing the truth of it she didn't argue, the giant drug cartels owned entire countries so their products were the only acceptable solutions.
"Where will you go Jacob?"
"If I tell you then we're both at risk."
"I don't want to lose you," there she'd said it bared her soul made it plain how much she cared.
"You should forget me; it's the only safe option."
Maybe but safe was dull, confining and unsatisfying she didn't want to be safe anymore she wanted to be alive.
"I don't think I want to do that Jacob; not a person who can heal terminal cancer."
"Eric Fade is a dangerous psychopath Stacy; if he suspects you've helped me he'll punish you."
"Then I'll be careful; I refuse to be intimidated by that awful man," she was though she was terrified of him and the woman but she was more frightened of losing touch with Jacob.
As the tall brass gates swung inwards Eric felt himself relax as the car swept forwards along a white shale path flanked by palm trees, cloned to blossom all year round.
The mansion ahead was replete with cornices, a wide portico and long bay windows; twin pillars flanked an ornate Grecian style door above which electronic eyes studied the newcomers as they emerged from their vehicle.
"Impressive," Fabia couldn't hide her delight obviously, "So this is what 20 million buys you."
"I've seen better," he had to being no stranger to the rich and powerful, the men who paid him lived in opulent wealth beyond anything the ordinary citizen could imagine.
As the entrance buzzed open a huge man stood glaring at them, 6-6 at least and thick with muscle he looked more like a wrestler than a butler with his bull neck and shiny smooth cranium.
"Mr Fade," he grunted in a gravelly voice, "If you'd like to step this way," cold sky blue eyes regarded Eric who noted the big hands, barrel chest and poised nature of ex military special forces.
A tough man a dangerous man; but no match for Eric Fade.
Mary Cordon was sat in an elegant book lined drawing room sipping tea from a china cup, she showed neither surprise nor fear at the sight of the two hunters no doubt she was used to dealing with underlings.
Not a hint of terminal cancer was obvious in the bright eyes, rosy cheeks or smooth easy posture.
"Thank you for seeing us so promptly," said Fabia ever the genial hostess, but ignoring this platitude Mary studied Eric.
"I've done some checking up on you Mr Fade, you're a dangerous and determined man a natural predator."
He made no comment noting that the big butler was remaining as if on stand- by, this old bird wasn't taking any chances she didn't trust her visitors; she was wise in her thinking.
"We're only upholding the law Mrs Cordon," said Fabia.
"A pernicious and cruel tyranny, fancy hunting a man who saves lives."
Fabia had no answer to this so Fade took over, "You saw the man who healed you, we need to know who he is," enough with small talk and moralising this was work he had a job to do and the clock was ticking.
"I'm sure you do," Mary didn't offer tea these people were not guests, "But I have no idea who he is, he didn't give his name."
"But you can describe him to us, height, weight, hair, eyes, uniform," Eric glared at the slight figure, "It would not be wise to try and obstruct our investigation."
The cup went down into its saucer with a clink, "Threats don't impress me Eric and nor do you so let's cut to the chase, I saw this man briefly he was young, dark haired and of medium build – I really can't tell you anymore beyond that so that will have to do."
Did this old woman think she could fob him off like that, if so she didn't understand who she was dealing with?
"Well it won't do," he threw back, "I want a detailed description and you're going to give it to me now."
He felt the butler tense and take a half step forwards so he said, "If this goon takes one more step I'll break him into tiny pieces, trust me I'm not lying."
Mary's lips compressed, "Harold is former SAS, a heavyweight gold medallist and has 3 black belts."
Sounding almost bored Eric replied, "Bully for him but he's still no match for me."
"You over estimate yourself Eric, perhaps success has made you arrogant; I think you should leave now."
He actually chuckled at this; he had to give the old cow points for nerve. In his hand was a new penny, he threw it without warning and shattered the china cup into a dozen pieces cutting Mary's left hand.
Harold gave a snarl and lunged for him which was the idea, Eric kicked the man's left knee popping it easily with a steel toecap then he drove rigid fingers into the thick throat nailing the trachea and jugular veins.
Eyes bulging and mouth open Harold gagged reflexively, Eric only had to hit him one more time, a single knuckle strike with the left fist to the lower left chest and Harold dropped like a sack of studs to the carpet taken out of the game by a real pro; a master of combat.
Mary rose to her feet in shocked disbelief, pushing her back down Eric thumbed an adhesive black disk to her forehead, clipped a slim silver bracelet around the right wrist and placed a small brown box on the tea tray.
The box hummed, the bracelet pulsed bright green and Mary stiffened where she sat, "Okay," Eric panted aware Fabia was studying him with horror.
"What are you doing," she gasped maybe she wasn't as well trained a she thought?
"Cortical probe," he snapped like it should be obvious, like he was always going to resort to this.
"Is that legal?"
"Everything I do is legal," he was aware of her moving over to the fallen butler.
"You've killed him, that's murder."
Rage blossomed in Fade he hated to be second-guessed, "If you're squeamish wait outside, I don't need you criticising me."
"I'm not," but she clearly was her eyes said it her posture said it; she did not approve of his methods.
"Move that watercolour," he indicated a painting stood alone on a plain cream wall, "I'm going to project her memories there."
Standing back he touched his watch and the buzzing from the box deepened, Mary moaned her eyelids flickering as if in REM sleep, she was trying to resist, to fight the process but she couldn't, her mind would yield its secrets.
"The man who healed you Mary I want to see him, show him to me with your mind."
Moaning in pain, her teeth clenched the old lady moved her head from side to side while Fabia looked on in some distress herself.
Eric wiped his top lip, "Come on Mary visualise the healer let me see him, don't try to block the signal it won't work."
Scowling and breathing loudly Mary clenched her fists, he had to hand it to her she was a tough old bird a born fighter.
Fabia gasped, "Something's coming through now."
He could see that a figure but it was blurred and watery, the face not clear, adjusting his watch he increased power aware it was dangerous but this was a one shot deal he wouldn't get another chance.
The man on the wall clarified coming into focus not a doc or a nurse but a...
"A porter," Fabia gasped, "I can't make put the name tag."
The image zoomed in closer, "There it is," said Fade, "Stein, Jacob Stein," they'd got him.
He ripped the black disk from Mary's head and unclipped the silver bracelet, leaving her to slump, head down breathing ragged.
To his disgust Fabia hurried over to check the old witch all concern; was she too soft for this job.
"We got what we came for," he packed away his stuff, "Time to leave."
"Is she going to be okay," still fussing Fabia checked the withered neck for a pulse and raised an eyelid.
"Why do you care," he taunted.
"I don't," she said quickly but he could tell she was lying.
"Don't be weak Fabia, don't disappoint me."
She shot him a look and he could tell there was hatred in it resentment, she thought him callous and inhuman well he was and proud to be so. It was why he was so good at his job, he was prepared to hurt and kill to get a result; no point being a hunter otherwise.
"We can't leave her like this Eric."
They can and they would, it was time to track down and arrest Jacob, "She'll be fine."
"And him," she waved at Harold?
"Doesn't his death bother you at all?"
Now he paused to study his partner, she had come top of her class, passed all the tests, her profile said she was smart and devious with a low empathy rating but that wasn't what he was hearing.
"Do you want to quit," he added an edge to his voice, "To be reassigned?"
If she washed out on her first big job she was finished, "no."
"You seem reluctant, emotional," he accused, "These traits are liabilities Fabia."
"I'm human if that's what you mean," she threw back following him to the door.
"Being human is overrated," he waved her through, "Aim for cold and precise," it was how he saw himself as a machine an engine of destruction.
It was a dreary little room in a dismal excuse for a motel but it would do, Shady had done him proud he was booked in under a false name with a fake ID, it was a temporary refuge but it would do Eric Fade would never find him here.
It was time for Jacob Stein to disappear perhaps for good, he would miss his family name but right now it had become a fatal liability.
Taking out the best photo he had of his mum he looked down at her, a slim woman with long black hair and old wise eyes, she was about 30 in the shot and he was a teenager. He had no photos of his mum any older; she deliberately avoided having her photo taken when she started healing on a major scale. She thought this precaution would protect her and it did, until the betrayal.
Judith Stein had been arrested healing a dying baby, the child was left to die and she was put on public trial being convicted of crimes that included healing cancer, MS, HIV and blindness.
Her reward for these acts was brain surgery that left her a vegetable, a shell of the kind, warm thoughtful woman she had been.
Tears burning his eyes Jacob felt a wave of rage and hatred for those who had condemned his mother, puppets of the big drug companies who didn't give a damn about cures just profits. Thugs like Eric Fade who where nothing more than hired killers with no conscience.
Judith had healed over 2000 people many of life threatening illnesses, her healings had no side effects and didn't put people into debt, yet they were classified as 'illegal' and 'immoral' because they did not involve pharmaceuticals or surgery nor were they authorised by the wealthy elitist health care industry.
"Let it go Jacob," the whispered words made him jump with shock startled and unnerved. Who had spoken, he was alone? Looking around the small room he saw no one, the windows were closed and the room next to him was unoccupied.
"Forgive," he spun the other way dazed and unsettled.
"Who are you, where are you," turning a full circle he went to the bathroom, the window and the main door shaking with fear.
"You know," hissed the voice fainter now as if withdrawing.
"I don't know," he shouted but deep down he did, only one person had ever spoken with such a voice or rebuked him for getting angry. Yet why shouldn't he be angry, he had a lot to be angry about?
Sitting on the bed still holding the photo he shook his head; the dead were dead they didn't come back and his mother hadn't spoken for the last 2 years of her life she couldn't.
"They had no right to do to you what they did," he spoke to the air seeing the vacant eyes, the dribbling mouth, the shaved hair revealing that terrible scar; that awful little room where mum lay and soiled herself and died.
"It was wrong," tears coursed down his cheeks hot and bitter. He couldn't change the past he could only try to survive the present, and he wasn't going to end up like Judith, he had too many people to help too much to do.
Fabia broke open the flat door then stood aside for Eric watching him stride arrogantly into the humble, grubby dwelling with its stink of dry rot and stale food. He was like a king visiting the hovel of some peasant; his designer clothes and sleek polished shoes out of place.
She didn't think she could hate anyone like she hated this man, he was cold, unfeeling and totally without any redeemable qualities. Yes he was the top man in his field, he was good at his job but he didn't care about human life he had been brutal with Mary Cordon a harmless sold woman.
Before leaving Fabia had silently apologized to Mary; glad she was alive that she would recover – unlike her butler.
Surveying the empty flat Eric put on protective white plastic gloves so he could open drawers and cupboards without leaving prints.
"Nothing," he muttered to himself, "Probably didn't have much to start with," going to the grimy window Eric tried to open this but it was rusted in place, "He's done a runner and someone is helping him."
"That nurse," she offered?
"No someone else, someone with connections on the black market."
"How do we find him then," she felt stumped, "The regular cops?"
His snort was rich with contempt, cops were beneath the great Eric Fade who moved back into the hallway and removed his gloves, clicking the fingers of his right hand.
A terrifying figure appeared a gangbanger, Fabia reached or a weapon but shaking his head Eric studied the brutish looking man, "Hex," he said and Hex sniffed.
"You said something about money," grunted the thuggish lout.
"Yes I did cash for useful information," Fade took out a sliver of gold plastic it was a richkid card and you only got one of them if you had six figures in your account. Fabia had only seen such a card once before and had never owned one herself.
"I might know where the creep has gone," said Hex.
"You either do or you don't," Eric was cold and precise, "Don't waste my time."
The feral eyes, bright with greed, glinted at the card and Fabia automatically took a step away from this man who radiated cruelty and violence. He wore gang colours of red and green which made him one of the worst of these scumbags.
"How much is the info worth," Hex demanded one hand resting on the small axe in his waistband; it looked fearsomely sharp like it could take off a hand with one swipe.
"If it pans out half a million," Fade said blithely, "If not you get nothing."
Hex considered this his breath rank due to decaying teeth, "I need more incentive that than, how about an advance payment."
Cold and hard Fade didn't flinch, "Not how I roll friend."
The axe was unsheathed, "Make an exception," the warning was clear and the air grew thick with testosterone, Fabia knew conflict was becoming unavoidable and it would be bloody.
Without warning she snatched the Richkid card from her partner's hand and stepped between them holding it up, "Quid pro quo," she said softly hoping her voice didn't tremble, "You bend a little and we bend a little," he could feel Fade's eyes boring into her.
Hex also was paying full attention, it was unlikely scum like him knew Latin but he'd get the idea.
He sniffed, "Okay," his gaze played over her figure, which she knew was good, and came to rest on her face which could radiate honesty and trust.
Fabia forced a seductive smile, sometimes you got more with honey than vinegar and it was her turn to impress Eric after his mindbending display.
"Eastside," said Hex, "It's a motel."
"Name," she purred softly.
"Let's talk money."
"Ten grand," she plucked this out of the air and heard Eric suck in sharply.
"Twenty," Hex bartered but holding firm Fabia closed her other hand over the card obscuring it.
"Name gets you ten," she said, "Best deal on the table today."
Considering it Hex put his axe away and smiled.
Once the room had stopped spinning and the knots had left her stomach Mary sat up straight massaging her temples, her brain felt like it had been cooked in a wok. She knew she had told that awful man all he needed to know and that he would do something even worse to her saviour.
She owned the porter her life; he had risked his own to save her. Looking down at Harold she could tell he was dead and felt a deep pang of sorrow; she'd known him almost 20 years he'd been hired by her late husband and had been a good and loyal employee.
I will avenge you Harold she thought as she lifted her mobile phone, one of the latest models with an inbuilt tracking option and a satellite link-up. She hacked the hospital HR department and brought up the bios of every porter. The one she wanted was near the bottom – Jacob Stein.
The file photo wasn't great and Jacob wasn't smiling but it was definitely him, the file gave a mobile number but when she tried it she got the 'disconnected' message.
Stay calm she told herself, try something else. The face of that nurse Stacy flashed into her head; something told her Stacy and Jacob were close so she went back into HR to look at nurses.
Luckily Stacy was near the top and when Mary rang her number she got a reply a pleasant enough "yes".
"Stacy its Mary Cordon, I'm sorry to bother you but I need to get in touch with Jacob. I know he's gone off the grid and I know why, Fade has been here and he got the information out of my head."
Silent for several moments the young nurse seemed to be considering how to reply then she said, "I'm sorry about Fade he's a dreadful man."
"I want to help Jacob," Mary blurted out.
"How," it was a good question?
"I have money, contacts and resources," these were quite extensive and included friends of her late husband plus people she socialized with, high flyers in business and politics plus the heads of charitable foundations.
"What did you have in mind Mary," Stacy worried?
"I can get Jacob well away from the hunters and keep him safe."
"I appreciate that Mary," said the nurse, "But if you pit yourself against Fade he'll come after you, I know the type."
Yes so did she, "I can handle myself Stacy don't you worry. Do you know where Jacob is?"
Giving a heartfelt sigh the younger woman finally said, "I wish I did, he's gone into hiding he thinks he can escape the hunters without help," she didn't sound convinced by this and Mary certainly wasn't, without cash and contacts Jacob had little hope of evading a man like Eric Fade.
"We have to find him first then," Mary heard herself say wondering how on earth she was going to go about it.
"Yes," Stacy agreed like she was debating within herself then she responded, "I might have an idea."
Shamus Grady shuffled his way into the clinic and took a seat at the end of the row next to the sniffing, sobbing, twitching examples of humanity he found there like the teenage girl with green punk hair rubbing her self-harm scars, the thinning guy in the leather jacket picking at his facial scabs, the chunky guy in the braces who stared at his boots and the woman in the pale mackintosh who jabbered away to herself.
Sad people, sad losers all of them, not like me thought Shamus knowing he was lying to himself, that he was a junkie just like them who needed his shot of meth to stay sane.
Better dressed than the assembled with neatly combed and greased hair he had fuller cheeks and clearer eyes with no ticks or twitches, no yellow in his eyes and no missing teeth.
He had no job but he did have an income, he made money so he wasn't reliant on the state he had a stash he had clients.
Someone sat next to him, female by the perfume and he looked up startled, smart clothes, clear eyes she didn't look like a pothead.
"Hello Shady," she said softly but firmly; nobody called him that here, here he was Shamus or Mr Grady, "I'm Stacy a nurse at JB."
Not knowing any nurses he shuffled uncomfortably, what did this cute chick want with him, "Got the wrong guy love, sorry."
"I'm a friend of Jacob to, I need to find him."
Impressing himself he didn't react, "Don't know any Jacob love."
"Stop messing me around Shady, he came to you to get a new gaff and a new ID, he's on the run and we both know why."
Was she a cop, a spook; someone from the benefit office, "no comment," when faced with officials it was best to hide behind the no-comment option.
"I can help him more than you can Shady, I can get him away from the hunters well away."
"You could be anybody Stacy an undercover cop or something; why should I trust you?"
Good point he thought how would she answer it? Taking her a cell phone she let him see the screen, Jacob's face was there his personal number, his NHS data and some texts he had sent this girl recently.
She did know him and he knew her, he seemed to trust her, "How can you help Jacob if you're just a nurse?"
"Have you heard of Mary Cordon? She's rich, very rich and Jacob healed her so she wants to help him."
He had heard of the Cordon family and knew how loaded they were, where they lived, "Jacob healed her you say?"
"Of cancer, terminal cancer; she's very grateful."
She would be but Jacob had been stupid to do that, he'd drawn attention to himself he had attracted hunters and they were seriously bad news.
"Nothing to do with me love," Shady retorted playing it cool, blanking the nurse. In response she took out a card, inserting this into the side of her cell phone, a figure appeared on screen that made him catch his breath.
Blimey he'd never seen so much money, it made his head spin; what he couldn't do with cash like that it would change his life.
"What do you say now," Stacy asked and Shady swallowed loudly; it was time to get out of this dump and stop taking meth.
The last time Judith Stein had healed someone had been in an intensive care unit. The boy was six years old; he was on full life support following a massive brain seizure and not expected to outlive the night. His name was Percy and stood to one side holding each other his parents looked on red eyed and pale featured at the end of their tether.
Behind them some doctor was chewing his lip, not happy about this but out of options, he'd given them the 'there's nothing more we can do' speech so he could hardly object as Judith approached the bed where Percy lay covered in tubes.
Jacob looked on, normally he didn't go with his mother to healings but as his latent powers were starting to develop she'd insisted this time, an event that was to be pivotal for them both.
He saw her place her hands in the air over the bed, breathe and allow the power to channel through her, he felt it pass through him as well making his hands boil and hair stand on end.
He noticed colours around Percy muted pinks, blues and golds that gradually grew brighter and larger becoming a vivid corona a sort of aura shot through with many colours and tints, a blazing rainbow effect that only he and his mum could see.
"I must go," said the doctor, "I'm on call, excuse me," and off he toddled. The parents didn't move or speak the woman weeping softly.
At first nothing seemed to happen, time stretched around them and Jacob wondered if this time his mother would fail and the kid would die, he hoped not for the parents' sake as this was clearly their last chance.
Then Percy's breathing altered it became stronger, his colour improved with pink flooding into his little cheeks, the heart monitor spiked and his vitals began to rise. Jacob saw the tiny fingers tremble and flex, the toes move under the bed sheet and the blond head slowly turn from side to side.
"Percy," the mum ran over in floods of tears just as the small blue eyes flickered open and Percy looked at her, really focusing on his mother.
"He can see me," she cried, "Look Joe," the hubby was nodding also in tears.
Percy tried to speak but the tube in his throat prevented this, however it was clear even to Jacob that he was out of danger, out of his coma and becoming aware.
"You did it," he mouthed at his own mother who looked exhausted.
"He's going to be all right," Percy's mum shrieked as the kid's movements became more vigorous and complexion clearer.
"Thank you," said Joe his voice hoarse, "Thank you so much."
Then the door crashed open and there stood Eric Fade in a black suit, blue tie and gleaming shoes his eyes blazing with self-justification. Glaring at Judith he took a step forwards, an arrest warrant visible in his left hand. Got you at last, said his cruel grin; you won't get away from me again.
The show trial was in a small airless room with blue walls, grey carpet and a single robot TV camera. The judge was a rotund little man with thin grey hair and red cheeks. Eric Fade was to one side of him, having made a lengthy statement backed up by video evidence from the hospital CCTV.
"Have you anything to say," the judge asked Judith who stood behind a small lectern; hands clasped together the knuckles white.
"I saved a child's life, what else is there to say, given the chance I'd do it again."
This cut no ice with the judge, "Judith Stein you are found guilty by this court and it is my judgement that you be taken to a place of confinement where you will be medically lobotomized."
Jacob had lost it then, dashing forwards unable to stop himself he screamed at the judge. It was Fade who intercepted him, easily knocking him to the floor with a swipe, "Don't make it worse for yourself kid," he grinned.
Impassively the judge said, "Does the boy have anyone who can care for him?"
Judith had nodded mentioned an uncle and aunt, "so be it," said the judge, "He is passed into their custody," he faced the TV camera, "Let the sentence be carried out."
Again Jacob had lunged forward to help his mother, this time Fade caught him in a painful judo hold pinning him helplessly to a wall, "Feisty aren't we kid," his breath was hot on Jacob's neck, "But there's nothing you can do."
In tears Jacob had watched his mother led away by two court ushers in medical smocks, "goodbye I love you" she had mimed at him. NO he had raged struggling in vain against Fade who damn near broke his arm. Then she was gone taken from the room and from his life, condemned for saving a child's life, the worst possible crime in a world ruled by big pharma.
Jacob next saw her lying in the bed with pale green sheets, bars on the window, wilting gladioli in a glass vase. She had a bandage on her head; all her hair shaved off, the expression on her gaunt face was serene and emotionless.
"Mum," he had said trying to get a reaction, "It's me Jacob," the blank eyes looked at him with no recognition. Going closer he took her cool hand in his, "Are you all right?"
The procedure had been done a week ago; this was the first chance he'd had to see her, "How do you feel," he persisted shocked by the changes to her – the loss of weight, her paleness, the vacancy in her eyes, eyes that had always been so warm and expressive but were now devoid of personality.
"Do you know me," he asked, "Do you remember anything," the lack of response was chilling it was like talking to a statue.
He looked up at the nurse Nancy, "Why doesn't she speak, react to me?"
Sympathetic but cool, keeping her detachment Nancy gave a low sigh, "The procedure removes all memory and sometimes the power of speech, you're lucky she isn't paralysed."
Lucky, was she serious? Mum was a vegetable she didn't know him she wasn't talking; it was like she'd been totally switched off.
Jacob felt torn in half his heart was breaking; this was far worse than he'd feared they had destroyed her mind and taken away her humanity; how could any society justify this barbarous treatment?
A sudden banging woke Jacob who realised he'd nodded off, knuckling his eyes he sat up with a low groan feeling a headache coming on, which was odd as he didn't normally suffer from them.
The knock came again light but insistent, "Jacob it's me Stacy," the voice was muffled but familiar. How the hell had Stacy found him, he hadn't told her where he was and Shady wouldn't for any reason.
"Jacob, are you there, are you okay?"
Not speaking he got off the bed wondering if he should respond or try climbing out of the window. Yet he wanted to see Stacy, he needed to see a familiar face and be with someone sympathetic whom he could talk to.
"Jacob," she repeated insistent now, "I need to speak to you something's happened."
Alarm lurching inside him he went to the door, "What is it," he asked his voice hoarse from dehydration?
"Let me in please," she said.
"How did you find me Stacy; nobody should know I'm here?"
"I bribed Shady; Mary Cordon helped me."
He was startled Mary had become involved using her wealth to loosen Shady's tongue?
He undid the chain and the bolt and threw open the door, his eyes popping with shock. Fabia not Stacy stood gazing at him with a look of mocking triumph, behind her was Eric Fade, a bit older but just as sartorially smooth his hair impeccable and eyes like two cold diamonds.
"Hello again Jacob, it is you isn't it," he said conversationally, "I thought I recognised the name and face, Judith's boy, like mother like son huh?"
He tried to slam the door but Fabia kicked him in the chest and sent him flying back winded onto the bed.
"Oh nice move," said Eric calmly easing past the sleek smartly dressed woman to prowl into the room looking around with distaste, "Bit of a dump isn't it," he remarked like Jacob was used to better, "Mary sends her regards by the way."
Still out of breath Jacob gulped and held himself, had this creature hurt Mary was there no limit to his violence, his cruelty?
"You're under arrest," Fade continued, "Section 5 of the medicrime act; I'm sure you're familiar with it, didn't I nick your mother for the same thing oh how many years ago was it now?"
Fabia gazed down at the bed trying to show no emotion, "Want me to cuff him sir?"
"Do we have to cuff you Jacob," Fade asked amused by the idea then he saw the photo of Judith and picked it up, "This was her," he showed his partner, "Judith," he ran the word over his tongue, "One of my earliest triumphs."
Fury boiled through Jacob who rolled off the bed and went for Fade not caring how deadly or skilled he was but it was Fabia who did the honours, chopping him across the windpipe, spinning him around and tossing him face down on the bed arm up his back. She was good, a pro and he had no chance.
"My protégé," Eric chuckled, "I think she shows real promise, and unlike you she has a golden future."
The photo was studied and then tossed on the sheet next to Jacob's face so he could see it.
"Like mother like son," the hunter repeated meaningfully running a finger over his forehead in the same place where mum had her scar.
"Bastard," Jacob could barely squeeze the word out, half his mouth was full of bed sheet.
"You know what's going to happen now don't you boy," Fade was enjoying himself; he was relaxed almost chatty; they might be two old friends in a pub.
"Show trial then an operation," Jacob spat the sheet out of his mouth so he could breathe properly.
"Things have moved on since your mother's day now the trial and op are the same thing, your brain snip gets televised; how about that?"
It was revolting like everything to do with the cruel, inhuman system of justice.
A bleeping sound interrupted, it was Fabia's phone, "I need to take this," she apologized letting Jacob go.
"Sure take your time," totally cool about it, "we're done here, in fact I can handle things from now on if you want to flip off."
Throwing Fade a look Fabia headed for the door a frown marring her attractive features, "It's me," she said tersely, "What," almost a gulp, "When," then she was outside shoulders bunched and cheeks pale.
"Get up," Eric told Jacob, who was relieved to get off the bed. Facing up to the hunter he bunched his fists, this seemed to amuse the tall man.
"Think you can take me," he drawled, "Why don't you try, it should be quite amusing."
It had crossed Jacob's mind to throw a punch and take a chance, what did he have to lose; but in the end he knew Fade would enjoy beating him up he might even be rougher than the girl and she'd been bad enough.
As reading his mind Eric nodded, "Not so dumb after all," he cocked a thumb, "Let's go; don't try to run."
"How did you find me," Jacob sloped out into the corridor?
"Fabia put a tracer on your nurse friend; stupid bitch led us right to you. Oh by the way," Eric parted his hands, "Your rich friend Mary Cordon won't be able to help you, not where you're going."
"How long have I got," Jacob felt very sorry for Stacy, he knew she'd be punished in some way she might even lose her job?
"24 maybe 48 hours tops," Fade followed him down the stairs, they found Fabia pacing the side walk speaking into her phone asking questions and swearing at the answers, she radiated stress, her eyes bright and cheeks flushed.
Waving at a car Fade opened the back door with his fob, "Get in," he turned to his partner, "You coming?"
Swearing some more she wiped her face with a sleeve, "Err yeah sure," the phone was put away, "Sorry personal shit."
"Relax, our job is done, if you need to be somewhere else," he offered but she got in the back with Jacob cheeks blotchy and eyes red rimmed, there was a slight tremble to her hands and she no longer looked the ice cool professional of a few moments ago.
"You all right," Eric asked getting in the front, he got a curt nod but no more so the car was given its destination and they set off.
Looking over at Fabia Jacob frowned, she was busy texting someone and totally distracted, "shit," he heard her whisper, "shit, shit, shit," his sentiments exactly.
Stacy knew she was too late the moment she saw the open door, not calling out she peered into the tiny room but there was no sign of him, Fade had beaten her to it if the scuffed bed sheet was any indication.
Going over she squatted down and picked up an old photo, it was a shot of a younger Jacob with a dark-haired woman in loose fitting black clothes and silver beads, sort of hippy and pagan with far away eyes.
MUM it said on the back and a date 6 years ago, she decided to keep the photo. On impulse she filmed it with her phone and did an Inter-Max search. Within seconds she had the name Judith Stein and brief details of her arrest, trial and treatment.
Oh god Jacob'; mum had been a healer and now he was sharing her grim fate.
"Mary's it's me, he's been arrested. I don't know how they got here ahead of me or found out where he was," she sat on the bed deflated wondering where Jacob would be taken first, cop shop, town hall, justice department? How did Hunters operate, didn't they see themselves as superior to rank and file law enforcement?
"I've got some contacts in the justice ministry," the old lady replied sounding stronger than before, "My nephew is a barrister so he may be able to help as well."
Thank god for money and contacts thought Stacy, "Is there anything I can do," she asked?
"Search the room and see if Jacob left any hidden messages or clues behind."
Surely Fade would already have searched; on the other hand why should he?
"Okay," she sighed and ended the call. Under the pillow first then the bed itself top and bottom, the carpet, the cabinet, the table – there really wasn't much more just a tiny bathroom that was sparse to say the least. Giving it a good going over she came back into the main room.
Where would Jacob hide anything; had he even been given time to leave a message and would it be relevant? Then something caught her eye, an extra patch on the patched carpet near the window it looked fresher than the others. Digging in a nail she prized it loose to find some sheets of writing paper squeezed into a tiny knot. Undoing these she found what she was looking for written in cheap black biro.
Stacy if you find this it means the worst has happened and Fade's got me. He'll probably take me to Containment A; this is a special facility on the lower east side for political prisoners. I doubt they'll let you in as people like me aren't allowed visitors but at least you'll know where I am. I hope Fade doesn't come after you, if he does just plead ignorance say I tricked you or something: he won't be able to prove otherwise. Anyway it's me he's interested in. Thanks for being such a good friend and for caring.
Filming it she emailed the message to Mary then left the sorry, sad, shabby little room wondering if she'd ever see Jacob again.
The text came two minutes later it was from HR she had been suspended without pay; her employment status 'under review' which meant in plain English she was going to be sacked.
Humming a tune to himself Eric turned onto east parkway and up ahead the grim white block of Containment A loomed, its full name was SEVERE PENAL INSTITUTE ALPHA and it was for special prisoners, those with no right of appeal, no legal redress and basically no future – the condemned.
"Home sweet home," chuckled the chief hunter now in a jovial mood his sombre bad temperedness forgotten, up ahead was a barred gate with a uniformed goon on duty, Jacob noted all the cameras and sensors flicking and twitching everywhere.
Still on her phone Fabia read an incoming text, gasped and hugged herself, her eyes squeezed shut.
Fade waved his card at the goon and the barrier rose with a drone, "We'll get you booked in Jacob then I think Fabia should go and deal with her personal issues, no insulted intended dear but you're obviously in a state."
There was no reply from the girl and Eric didn't pry, he probably didn't care. Jacob though found that he did, "What's happened," he asked her?
"Fuck off," short and terse.
Eric laughed, "If you're trying to make an emotional connection to Fabia you're wasting your time boy, she's ice cold, a sociopath like me."
"Nobody's as sick as you Eric," Jacob shot back.
"Oh very good, I'll ask the guards to rough you up for that little gem," he didn't sound like he was joking but Jacob didn't care, he was facing a lot worse.
Eric had to type in a different code to each of the three armoured, electronic entrance doors before they reached the reception area, a poky cubicle staffed by an unsmiling woman in a pale green and grey uniform. She wore a peaked cap and carried a baton in her thick brown belt.
"Custody processing," Eric said in a bored voice. In an equally bored voice the woman said.
"Input your card and data," then she eyed Jacob with little interest.
"I need to slip away," said Fabia in a tight, croaky voice.
"Thanks for your help," Fade sounded distracted but Jacob watched the woman hurry to a door on the far right, phone back out busy texting.
"Put your thumb here," Jacob was told and he pressed his thumb into a small pad which glowed first red then green.
"Now look into this," a small circular screen had risen from the desk top, unfolding like a lazy cobra, it flashed a blue light into his eye that stung for a moment.
"We'll need hair and blood," said the bored desk guard.
"Of course," Eric agreed taking a proforma and beginning to fill it out, ticking this and crossing that then signing and dating, "Got as custody suite for our prince here?"
"Checking," said the guard studying a screen on which various boxes were visible, "We're busy today."
"Not fully booked surely," an edge had entered the hunter's voice like this was a complication he could do without.
"Oh hang on E6 is free," the woman turned her screen so he could see it, "It's more expensive."
"It would be," Eric took his pen and ticked another box, "Still not my problem, you can bill the hospital."
"Sure but we need a deposit," the woman produced a pad with a stylus; reluctantly Eric signed his name he could reclaim the expense.
"This way," leaving her desk the guard headed for a lift door waving a card in front of a reader, "Remove the cuffs please," she said and Jacob sighed as his wrists were released from their metal pinch.
As the lift began to sink Jacob felt his morale sinking with it, he felt like he was being sucked into a deep bottomless pit with no way out.
"What's your name," he asked the female guard who wore no name tag or any kind of ID?
She regarded him coldly like he'd said something obscene, "No conversation," blunt and final.
Fade snickered but offered no comment.
When they reached it the cell was not at all what Jacob was expecting. Long as a lounge and spacious it had close fitting Wilton carpet, soft chairs, a sofa and a large plasma screen TV on the far wall.
It was more like a suite in a 5 star hotel than a prison cell with soft lighting, a pleasant bouquet of lemon and lavender and a table covered with up to date magazines on topics Jacob was interested in.
"Like it," Fade asked going over to pick up a menu, "You can order anything you like," he said.
"The condemned man ate a hearty breakfast," Jacob threw back at him?
"Something like that," the hunter's phone trilled and he stared at it, "Damn I have to take this, make yourself at home Jacob and enjoy it while you can."
Having also lingered the female guard stood silent and surly, cheekily he went over to the mini bar, "Can I get you something?"
Her look could have curdled milk so he poured himself a lime and soda water with two big chunks of ice. His mouth was incredibly dry, he realised it was nerves he was utterly terrified.
Fade's conversation was muted to begin with, but slowly his voice began to rise in pitch and gain an edge, he swore then asked a question, swore again and lowered his voice into a brittle snarl.
"You've got to be kidding me," he finally bellowed then, "Okay for god sake I'll be there," with a snap the phone closed and with a clenched jaw he said to the guard, "I have to split."
"Sure," she didn't sound all that bothered, Jacob got the impression nothing ever bothered her in this enclosed clam shell of a world.
"Your friend Mrs Cordon is making waves," Fade revealed, "Her nephew is a high-priced lawyer and he's demanded a hearing that I have to attend. It's just a formality," his tone suggested otherwise it suggested at a delay, questions and obstacles.
"A last minute reprieve," Jacob dared to hope?
"No chance, once we get you in here its endgame and no fancy attorney will make any difference," but his brow was pinched and manner distracted like this was a complication he hadn't expected.
Was it all done and dusted or did he still have a chance, could Mary's nephew grant him a stay of execution? Surely there was some legal loophole that could be exploited; murderers and hoodlums used them all the time.
Clearly Mar knew where he was maybe Stacy did to, he appreciated their support even if it didn't change things in the end, at least somebody somewhere cared about his fate; it was more than mum had had.
"How come," he said, "terrorists, killers and paedophiles get life in jail but healers – who help people – are lobotomized?"
Fade showed no interest in this question his mind clearly elsewhere; it was the female guard who said, "The law's the law."
"I healed a woman dying of cancer, how is that a crime where is the criminality," Jacob threw back angered by her bland cliché, "What if you had cancer or you Eric, and medicine couldn't help you," he let that hang in the air, "Would you condemn and dismiss me then?"
"This isn't a high school debate Jacob," Eric snapped on his way out, "Nothing said here will change what's going to happen."
"So you're fine about all this are you; it makes perfect sense; people who heal the sick are monsters in your book?"
Waving at the room the hunter said coldly, "You've got TV, books, a toilet and food to eat – enjoy our hospitality – it's more than some prisoners get," and with that he was off unwilling to engage in conversation or debate the ethics of this situation.
The guard though lingered for a moment as if she was thinking of saying something then with a shrug she to left, the door closed and there was no way to open it from his side. He was sealed in, imprisoned; his endgame had begun.
As there was no way to measure time Jacob couldn't be sure how long he was confined in the luxurious dungeon before someone came to see him. He had eaten a Chinese meal of sweet and sour pork, fried rice, crispy chicken rolls and soft bread washed down with champagne and was relaxing on the sofa reading a magazine about UFOs when the cell door clicked and opened.
It wasn't Fade or the guard, not even Mary Cordon but the female hunter Fabia, now dressed in a sky blue blouse, black leather pants and ankle boots; her hair tied back into a ponytail and face scrubbed of make-up apart from a soft pink lip gloss.
Having expected never to see her again Jacob looked up surprised. Closing the cell door carefully she took 3 steps into the cell, looked around then took out her cell phone typing in some command. The phone gave off a low buzz, its screen bright pink with a black triangle visible.
"We can't be overheard," Fabia informed moving to a chair to recline, "I need to talk to you and I don't want Eric or anyone else knowing about it," the formerly brusque tone was softer, less condemning.
"What is there to talk about," he had to admit he was curious, this woman hadn't struck him as the caring kind who paid personal visits to lost causes.
"My mother's had a stroke," her voice catching she looked away for a moment, "A bad one; that's what all the texting was about before; my sister called me from the hospital."
"When you say bad, how bad?"
"Can't speak, blind, paralysed down one side," voice catching again she took out a tissue to dab her eyes then blew her nose.
"What did the doctors say," he asked?
"It doesn't look good, it's not the first time but this time it's much," she broke off, "She's only 57."
"I'm sorry," he meant it, "My mother was 57 to," he said pointedly, "But why are you telling me this," he felt he knew or could guess but wanted her to say it.
"Could you help her, can your 'gift' work with strokes?"
So there it was Fabia wanted him to help her mother, "healing's illegal."
"Don't play games with me Jacob."
He waved his hands as if to say 'look where I am' then replied, "What can I do stuck in here, they're about to slice my brain up Fabia," and you helped them.
"I can't sit by while my mother dies."
"But you'd happily do so while I die."
Standing up with such speed he thought she was going to attack him again, she paced the room, "Could you heal her – yes or no."
"Can you get me out of here – yes or no," he threw back?
Clearly torn she walked back to the door and opened it by attached some kind of small black cube, "come on," terse and abrupt.
"You're breaking me out," it was too much to hope for, Fade would be furious; did he know about this?
"I'm taking you to the hospital."
"Joachim Boaz," he'd never expected to see it again?
"Mum is in the stroke unit," that was top floor unit B.
"How will you explain this Fabia, you're a hunter like Fade."
The dark eyes lanced into him, "I'm not like Fade," hot angry words, "I need your help Jacob, help me and I'll help you."
"How will you help me," it had to be clear in his mind?
"Freedom, a head start, I could get you to your rich old lady friend."
"Fade will come after me," he knew Eric would never give up it wasn't in his nature.
"You're not convicted of anything just suspected, his powers are limited."
"So if I heal your mother you'll let me go?"
She nodded once abruptly but this wasn't good enough, "How do I know I can trust you Fabia?"
The features were back to their usually stony mask, "You don't."
Once they reached the reception area he froze unwilling to leave the lift, 2What about the guard on duty, she knows me?"
"That guard has gone off shift, leave the new one to me," confidently Fabia approached the desk and spoke to a younger woman with cool authority showing her two forms of ID.
After a prolonged delay the guard nodded and handed Fabia something, turning to Jacob the hunter waved him to follow her, nervously he did so expecting the guard to call after him any second but she didn't.
Soon they were outside in cool fresh air, drizzle splattered his face but he wasn't complaining, he was directed to a blood red car with a highly tapered body like a fighter jet, unlocking it with a fob Fabia caused the doors to peel open like petals.
"That was easy," he was suspicious.
"I've just ended my career, I don't think it was easy," throwing him a look she gave the car computer its instructions and the vehicle drove itself away from the grim prison.
"Fade will come after you; you'll be a fugitive like me."
"I know how to disappear so well Eric will never find me, I'm a professional," she sounded confident enough but he had to wonder if anyone could escape Eric Fade.
"Presumably your mother will be disappearing with you," he said but got no reply to this, "Eric won't stop looking for either of us he never gives up."
"Don't worry about him Jacob you just focus on healing my mother; nothing else matters at this point."
"People know me at JB," he pointed out, "I'll be recognised."
But she had an answer for this to, "Not the way we're going in, I've thought this through."
Even so there was a lot of CCTV and security was tight, "Why me Fabia," he asked, "There are other healers Fade knows nothing about, why take a risk springing me out of jail?"
For a while he thought she wasn't going to answer him, "You can heal terminal cancer, if you can do that you can do anything."
Flattering but he was just the channel the conduit, "What's to stop you from taking me back to my cell afterwards," he wasn't sure he could trust her, she did after all work for Fade she was a hunter, she owed him no loyalty at all?
"You have my word and I never break it."
He mulled that over wondering what Fabia's word was worth, but she cut into his thoughts, "Look Jacob I've just sprung you from high security, I didn't do it for fun and this isn't some kind of test. I'm not lying about my mother as you'll soon see."
"Does Fade know about your mum?"
She shook her head, "I haven't told anyone."
"But he has his sources, he might have found out," he wouldn't put it past Eric to have set a trap or be waiting for them both.
"He hasn't found out and he won't until it's too late, stop panicking," was she overconfident? He couldn't shake the feeling that they were both playing into the madman's hands; that Fade missed nothing he was after all no fool.
Instead of going into the front car park Fabia parked on the south road running parallel with JB then indicated an old works gate that was usually locked, "That leads to one of the furnaces where they burn medical waste, we can get in through there, I bribed the guy on duty."
It was raining heavier as they reached the squat grey crematorium with its gabled roof and tall smoking chimney, a pot bellied guy in dirty brown scrubs was waiting for them he looked very nervous.
Fabia handed him a package a payment maybe and he led them in past the huge boxy furnaces which radiated so much heat Jacob was soon perspiring heavily. They hurried down a narrow walkway with a dozen furnaces on each side then began to climb a metal staircase. It soon grew cooler but he felt his leg muscles protest.
Like an athlete Fabia shot up the steps with ease; she probably went to the gym every day and wasn't even out of breath when they reached a high cat walk that spanned the entire width of the furnace room.
STAFF ONLY said a metal door which the fat guy unlocked with a manual key, he waved them through his part in the operation over; they were on their own now.
"Fabia wait," he needed to gather his breath.
"Are you winded already," she sounded disdainful.
"What about the CCTV," he gulped knowing he was in poor physical shape for his age?
"Put this around your neck," what she handed him was like a panic alarm only smaller with a tiny green gem at its heart, "This is classified tech," she said, "It will screen us from any cameras."
He was impressed, "We're invisible?"
"As good as," she turned and hurried away forcing him to jog to catch up. Going through another door they went up some stairs, by the top of these he was totally winded.
Impatiently she hung back waiting for him, "You need a personal trainer Jacob."
"Why are you volunteering," he retorted finally getting a smile, a half smile tiny and cautious on a face that didn't smile much he was guessing.
"I don't want to be hanging around here too long that's all," she said.
"Why isn't your mother worth taking a risk for," it was the wrong thing to say he could tell at once by the pinch of her lips and narrowing of the eyes.
"I'd do anything for my mother," she said coldly and Jacob thought of his own mum, he would have done anything for her to only he wasn't given the chance.
He wondered what Fabia's mother was like, an older version of her most likely perhaps stopped now with greying hair and wrinkles. There wasn't a blemish on Fabia's face at all not a line, mole, birth mark or break in the smooth perfection. She was very attractive and could easily have been a model so what had drawn her to security, to hunting people down?
"What's your mother's name," he realised she hadn't even told him which was odd?
But waving him quiet she studied the corridor beyond the stairwell, a sign said STROKE UNIT and he knew exactly where he was and who should be on duty. Himself for starters then there would be nurses Connie and Alexis, that Filipino cleaner Oscar and a couple of porters most likely him and Clyde.
But the unit was deserted there was no sign of anyone, nobody sweeping up or filling out a phone, no one behind the desk typing into a computer, no one pushing a patient in a wheelchair.
Fabia waved him to follow and he did frowning, curious and more than a little disturbed, it was too quiet, "Where is everyone," he muttered to himself as they turned a corner and reached a private room.
Hustling him inside she closed the door quietly and waved over to a privacy curtain drawn around a bed, Jacob didn't move his instincts screaming at him that this wasn't right that he had missed something important.
"Go ahead," Fabia said, "I'll keep watch," but for whom for what? Jacob reached the curtain his hand rising and he saw that it was trembling. Carefully he seized the curtain and pulled it aside, a figure lay on the bed, on it and not in it.
Uncoiling and sitting up Eric Fade looked at him with cold triumphant eyes, his smile cruel and feral. The jaws of the trap snapped shut around Jacob and he knew he had walked right into this like a fool, convinced by Fabia's lies.
Gazing right at him like he was a fat trout wriggling on a hook Eric gave a low chuckle, it was echoed by the woman behind Jacob and the two of them looked inordinately pleased with themselves.
"Why," was the only thing he could think to say, why go through this charade it made no sense. They'd had him bang to rights locked in a cell with no hope of escape or appeal; there had been no need to play anymore games.
"Your rich lawyer is a clever man Jacob," said Fade harshly standing up, "He found a loophole; something I'd overlooked a change in the law. It could have tied us up for weeks even months, and I wasn't having that, I wasn't having my thunder stolen. My client paid for a quick, clean result not a legal marathon."
"Who is your client," he realised he didn't know had never asked?
"The hospital of course, your employer," said Fabia like it was obvious to all but an idiot and Jacob realised he had been an idiot, very naive.
"So now what," he backed away from Fade, "You're going to kill me," and as he said it a spike of ice pierced his heart maybe that was exactly what they were going to do?
"You know that brain surgery I mentioned before," Fade was speaking calmly but there was no masking the excitement he felt, "We're going to do it right here and now, no trial, no debate, no drawn out legal rigmarole. The surgeon is here and he can begin at once, we can even do it on this floor in the surgical unit."
That had to be illegal surely even for hunters, but maybe Fade didn't care perhaps he saw himself as beyond the law.
"No," said Jacob.
"No," Eric repeated the word as a question.
"You're not doing this to me."
"Who's going to stop us Jacob; you," Fade snorted at the absurdity of this idea. Then the room lights flickered on and off, bright then dull and the monitor on the wall did the same thing spiking then smoothing, bleeping and falling silent. A lamp came on, went off, on then off, the blinds fluttered yet there was no breeze no window open.
The hunters looked around alert and tense, hands raised as if to fight, Fabia seemed shocked and Fade was angry. A pipe on the wall thick and grey began to rattle to give off a rhythm of noise like a drumbeat and the small TV in the corner a tiny box came on but instead of a program or the news or some sport it showed a face, a washed out black and white face like an old BBC test card.
The face was that of a woman with long dark hair, thin features and piercing eyes and she was looking right at Jacob with knowing. He knew her to and the breath caught in his throat.
Following his gaze Fade frowned, "Who is that," he gasped as though winded?
"Don't you recognise her," Jacob's voice was low and bitter, "You cut her brain out."
Fabia said, "It's his mother Judith Stein," and for the first time her icy confidence was lacking, she was looking around for an escape route; she seemed trapped and guilty.
"How did that image get on the hospital TV," Eric wanted to know but Jacob was sure he could guess.
"She's here for you," he said and Fade glared at him half-smiling, half-sneering but there was fear in those cold dark eyes like a rattlesnake facing a mongoose.
"Don't talk crap, she's dead long dead."
A single word in his head whispered yet loud, near yet far.
Call the power.
He frowned not understanding his mother's words, how could he unless he was healing someone, it only worked on the sick.
Call it now.
The command was clear and when he thought of the power he began to feel it, the first tendrils of current tickled his neck his spine, his flesh goosed and his hair began to erect. The fabric of his shirt crackled and he saw small blue sparks about his fingers.
Also seeing them Fabia backed away, "What is he doing Eric?"
Spinning to face Jacob Fade clenched his fists in rage ready to attack but raising his hands Jacob turned the palms outwards, they were glowing dark blue now and sparking sending long tendrils into the air like a ruptured power line.
"We should go," totally spooked Fabia had her hand on the door.
"Run away," Fade was contemptuous, "I thought you had more about you than that, I never run from anyone."
"But look at him Eric he's glowing, full of power."
It was true the energy surged into Jacob stronger than ever before rushing into his legs and arms, filling his stomach and making his whole spine tingle from top to bottom. He was ready to heal but he was also ready to do something else.
The knife was in Fade's hands instantly, long and silver, curved with a sharp tip and he held it low like an expert which he undoubtedly was, a professional killer.
A spark jumped from Jacob it flashed into the air burning and bright a jagged cerulean flash and with a cry Fade dropped the knife his hand scorched red, the skin angry and swollen electrocuted.
Fabia fled, door open she ran with a cry of panic right into the arms of hospital security, two chunky men in uniform Dave and Mark beyond then Jacob saw Stacy and Mary Cordon and his old mate Clyde.
Reaching into his coat Fade took out another weapon, chunky and black with a short barrel, he raised it ready to fire.
Another arc of light jagged and curved, red this time not blue split the air between them and the gun was gone punched out of the hand holding it and sent flying away hot and smoking.
Terrified and cornered Fade had no other choice left he ran at Jacob to deal with him in the most primitive manner possible; hand to hand he would try to strangle him.
But as the long pale hands made contact with Jacob the power swelled and expanded, its current increased and shot from Jacob to Eric creating a circuit jumping from one man to the other, filling Fade entering his body his bones, his nerves and his mind.
With a shriek of pure terror the hunter flew away from his victim, shooting across the room, boots leaving the carpet a she was carried several yards by an invisible hand to the window, a window he struck with amazing velocity.
The glass shattered and Fade's body passed through the jagged teeth, ripping the blinds aside as he kicked and clawed and twisted to try and stop himself, but he couldn't he was moving too fast and was propelled through the window and out of the room.
The last scream was long and blood curdling it ended with a distant thud-crunch and then fell silent.
Shaking and weeping Jacob looked at his mother's image but she was already fading, vanishing back into a white snow.
Stacy came in, went to the window and looked down then she turned to Jacob calling his name. At the sound of her voice the power receded it lessened and withdrew from him, sucking itself out of his bones and tissues.
"Don't touch me," he pleaded, "Not yet," sinking to his knees he let out a powerful shudder unable to believe what had just happened what he had just done and how the authorities would treat him now, what charges he would face at his trial for there would surely be a trial and he would be fighting for his life.
"We must get you away from here Jacob," she spoke in a low urgent tone her features pasty and eyes wide with shock, "The authorities will really come after you now, Fade is dead."
Standing up slowly and swaying on uncertain legs Jacob made himself focus on the here and now, "I need to get downstairs," he coughed, "To Fade's body."
Appalled Stacy was shaking her head, "no, you need to get as far away from here as possible."
"Trust me," he replied and edged towards the door.
"What are you planning to do, if you touch the body you'll leave forensic traces behind?"
"Things can't end like this Stacy," as she drew alongside him he held up his hands, he was a healer not a killer and he would not be labelled as a criminal.
"Take me to Fade," he pleaded and she frowned at him not understanding before coming to a decision.
"Okay," she reached out her arm to thread it through his but he drew away, needing to conserve the power to use it for one purpose only.
Eric lay on his left side, one arm thrown out the other folded under him, his legs in a sort of manic bicycling position, blood was pooling under his head in a widening arm, his eyes were half open but unseeing, his mouth to was open and from this more blood flowed.
Stomach clenching Stacy turned away, "He's dead," she sobbed, "His neck is broken."
Kneeling down next to the body Jacob extended both hands, "I've never done this before," he said.
"Done what, what are you trying to do," horror made her tone sharp, "Oh my god do you think you can," cutting herself off she looked at him like he were mad.
"I made need some help, a second healer," his gaze was imploring and she recoiled.
"I'm not a healer."
Yes you are his eyes insisted, "Move around to the other side of him Stacy; put your hands where it seems most natural."
"He's dead Jacob it's over," but she moved around the corpse careful not to step in any of the blood.
His hands went to the neck and the chest, so she put hers on the abdomen, revolted yet also fascinated by what they were going to attempt.
"Why him, why save his life," she demanded, "He's a killer; he was trying to kill you."
"He didn't understand," Jacob answered as the energy flowed downwards from him into the body, "Now relax and let the current flow."
People gathered around them a swelling audience of nurses, doctors, security and the public who muttered amongst themselves, heads shaking and features glum.
Stacy felt heat burn through her, an intense force that seemed to fill her and the entire car park, it was so powerful that it made the sky pulse with rainbow colours and the branches sway.
"It's no good," said a white coated medic, "He's past help, someone get the coroner."
A plump security guard approached Stacy, "Come on now lass this isn't helping."
"Police are on their way," said a female doctor, "Did anyone see what happened?"
"He fell," said another guard, "From up there."
Everyone looked up briefly and as they did Eric Fade drew in a deep breath and sighed, blinking rapidly and moving his tongue he gave a low groan of pain. Every eye flicked back down wide with shock, oaths were muttered, the plump guard backed away ashen.
Jacob felt the broken neck move, crunch, crack and lengthen the shattered vertebrae knitting and resetting.
Stacy blinked in amazement, Fade was still alive and it was impossible, she saw fingers twitch, a leg move, the chest rise and fall, the mean little eyes gaze up at Jacob in astonishment.
"You're going to be okay Eric," he said softly letting go of the man, "I've done what I can for you," standing up and nodding for Stacy to do the same Jacob backed away from the moaning man, now we go conveyed his look, before the cops arrive and the questions begin.
Too astounded to argue she nodded and hurried to catch up.
"What did we just do Jacob because the dead don't come back to life," Fade wasn't trying to get up but he was watching them gazing at their backs, his hands clenching and unclenching.
"He'll come after you again, he won't stop his kind never do."
"Sure he will but this time he'll be asking the right questions, looking for the right answers."
"And just what are those answers," she demanded?
"Maybe we can find them together," he said taking her hand as they began to run.