“Don’t even try,” he hisses. His voice in my ear echoes to my heart as the anger and sadness of his essence sears into me.
“Who are you? What do you want from me?”
“Just drive home.”
Susan, next to me, is slumped in the seat. It all started with that. Nick. Slumped next to me. If only I had been able to hear him out before we’d been shot at. He’d have helped me ID the killer. I’d be in a much different situation. This time, I’m careful in my turns.
“You’re obviously very capable. I don’t know why you don’t just do your thing yourself.”
He doesn’t answer, but he snuffs in ridicule.
“Why not? You don’t need me.” He remains silent.
We pull up to my home, and I stop the car. What in the world am I doing? I can’t bring this crazy man into my home! He could be a serial killer, for all I know.
I start the car and shift into drive.
“No, Tim. We don’t have time. For the love of your wife, get in your house. Now!”
I turn off the ignition. His appeal to Mercy… frightened me. He’d threatened Sophie before, had been in the hospital today. Now he brings up my wife.
The guy drops handcuffs over the seat. “Put these on Susan.”
How does he know her name? I do as he says and cuff her to the steering wheel. I leave it loose, so she can try to hot-wire the car when she comes to.
“Tight as it goes.”
Does he have a weapon? I haven’t seen one, and I have one on my ankle. I try again to see him in the rear-view mirror. I see a grey beard, but otherwise he remains shadowed under the deep hood. What does he want?
I won’t know unless I hear him out. He’s forcing me to go one mile, I should go with him two. After securing Susan’s handcuffs, I get out of the car.
“Take the keys.”
I’d left them on the seat for Susan, but he noticed.
He gets out behind me and turns me away from him, directing me by the elbow to my front door.
I raise my house key to the lock and hesitate. “Who are you?”
“I’m about to tell you. Let’s go in.”
He moves me by the elbow up the stairs and into my bedroom.
Was this how Jamie was killed? Did this guy commandeer her into some car and into her bedroom? Does this guy have a syringe? Is it two men we’re hunting for?
Jamie’s death would have been excruciating. Oh, Lord, I don’t want to die that way, with my molecules scrambled like that. Something tickles my mind at that thought. Lord, please no. Who will be here for Sophie if I die? Please heal Mercy.
I walk up the stairs, knowing I’m going to my death. Along the wall, I salute our family pictures as a farewell. My girls needed me, and now my job was the cause of my death. Peeking over my shoulder, I see his eyes are also on my pictures.
“Is that your plan? Don’t you dare touch—”
“Stop over-imagining things, Tim. It’s not very professional. Think about it. I have no weapon. You certainly have thought that through. You have a gun at your ankle, and I haven’t asked you to withdraw it. I told you, I’m not going to hurt you. Please. Just get into your bedroom. Let me talk with you, and afterwards you can kill me if you think you need to.”
He’d said he was trapped.
I restrain my hypothetical scenarios and enter my room. So much has happened since I left this morning.
“Are you working with Nick?”
Scrambled molecules. The circle in the middle of the lab. And Mercy. She’d have been able to help me decode that machine and find the cause of death. If he’s lying, I’ll be the next mystery death.
The hooded man grabs the chair in front of Mercy’s dressing table and flips it around to face the bed. Then he sits me down on the side of the bed.
But instead of sitting in the chair he prepared, he walks to the other side of the bed, I shift toward him.
“Don’t look this way.”
I face the empty chair. Mercy’s chair. I have to survive this. For the sake of my girls. “Whatever you want, I’ll do it. Just leave my family alone.”
“I can promise nothing, Tim. Things are going on way beyond anything I can promise.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you know why Bones never used the transporter?”
“What? You mean Dr. McCoy? In Star Trek?” He doesn’t answer. Because, of course, that’s the only McCoy who won’t use the transporter. “Aside from a general phobia of the… effects.”A sudden rush of Star Trek lore clicks into place. “He’s not the only one. They don’t trust the machine because of the whole philosophical question of whether it was the same person being reassembled at the other end. And then there was the fear of molecular debonding.” I gasp. Holy mackerel! “McCoy called it ‘spreading a man’s molecules all over the universe.’ Is that what’s going on here?”
“You will not like to hear this, Tim.” The bed shifts as he sits on the opposite side.
“Is that the research William Black was doing? Was he making a transporter? Did Jamie and Noah accidentally get… ‘debonded’?”
A crash and thump sounds downstairs. The guy slams the bedroom door and locks it, then drags Mercy’s dressing table to cover the door.
“Who’s there? Do you know?”
He puts his ear to the door. “It doesn’t matter. Tim, I’m going to tell you something that’s going to mess up your world. I don’t know how Noah and Jamie’s bones got debonded. But…”
Someone runs up the stairs, yelling, “Detective Reynolds? Where are you?”
Who is that?
The guy gets behind me and barely whispers, “Make him go away.”
I scramble to the blocked door. “I’m here. Who are you?”
The handle shakes. “Open up. It’s Nick Black. I need to talk to you.”
“Did you break into my house?”
“Yes. It was the only way to get in. I need to tell you who killed my brother. Let me in!”
Again the guy whispers, “I’m telling you, make him go away. I will not have Nick Black see me or know I’m here. He doesn’t know half of what’s going on!”
“Why can’t he see you?” I whisper back.
“Are you alone in there?” Nick shakes the handle again. “Are you okay? Before Briggston finds me, I need to tell you the truth. Everything.”
I turn when I hear the window slide open. The guy is ready to climb out.
But he has the answer to the machine. He knows the weapon and how it’s all connected to my wife and daughter, and whatever trap he’s in. Why is he hiding from everyone? And what does Star Trek have to do with it?
“Please!” Nick pounds on the door. “The Russians will know I came here. They’re going to kill me. Let me in!”
What am I supposed to do?
Should I let this strange man leave so I can find out what Nick wants?
Or should I hear what this sulfur guy wants, even if the Russians find Nick?