|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2009-01-09 19:47:00
|Entry tags:||keptverse, pieces|
The Pieces: Adam
This is part 5 of a 7-part sequence. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).
Okay, I meant to put this up earlier in the day, but this morning at about 10am I stepped off a bus, on to the edge of a pothole, and I twisted my ankle. It was no fun. I am, however, now sitting in a friend's house (ground-level, no steps) with laptop and wifi. If I tell Ajay I have two sections of a story to write, she may even nag me on your behalf till I do. And as I can't go anywhere...
The previous stories in this series (my Keptverse) began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part), The Players (seven parts), and The Gambler (seven parts). The whole series will terminate with the next sequence, "End Game", which is planned but not yet written.
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. There is a species of cast list here.
Part 5: Adam
Adam passed for younger than Dana: Dana and Sam knew he was older, but neither of them knew how old he was. Adam had never told Dana of the time he visited death’s own production line, mechanised and efficient, set up to kill 4000 people a day, day after day, and dispose of the corpses hygenically. He had survived. He always did.
Death’s own assembly line had been set up after years of experience, and Adam might now be the only person in the US with first hand knowledge of how it had worked.
Someone at Devlin-MacGregor had their job on the line – or more likely, the job had been handed to a committee. Committees were wonderful for tasks like these, everyone so busy working out the minutiae that no one was left able to ask if it should be done at all. Killing two thousand people was one thing: getting rid of the bodies another. Mass burial? But corpses stink. Cremation? But the recently dead don’t burn well unless you use specially designed furnaces. Dissolving flesh in acid? Where do you get enough acid, and where can it be disposed of afterwards? Since it is difficult to get living people to march en masse to their disposal site, how to get the bodies from where they die to where they can be disposed of?
There was no one to say this to: but Adam was fairly sure that the decimation would go horribly wrong. The slaves would die, but it was unlikely they would all die whatever neat and hygienic way the committee were planning. The bodies would be disposed of, but it was unlikely that they would all disappear tidily. It was a big job. No committee would carry it out neatly for the first time.
Adam had assumed he’d be helping Giles interrogate those four kids arrested on Sunday, but Sam had evidently decided that was overkill and put Benton on it instead, to watch Giles’ back in case any of these girls were more dangerous than they looked: George was running the numbers on the last batch of files from Commerce, to which they’d added the files for the Forrester and Channing households: Adam was tasked with pulling up the information George needed to plug into Willow’s algorithms.
Dana wanted to tell Melissa about what Devlin-MacGregor planned to do. She hadn’t asked Adam to help. She’d gone to Sam Gerard to ask permission. Gerard was going to say no. Adam was still deciding whether he should sit on Dana to stop her or just tell Gerard that Dana planned to do it with or without his permission.
People die, he wanted to tell Dana; no one lives forever. Someone will record these deaths, they can’t kill all the witnesses, someone will live to say it happened: why does it have to be you?
“Are you paying attention?” George asked him.
Adam looked up, and shook his head. “Thinking.”
George rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb. “We have to get this done,” he said mildly, quietly. “Whatever else is happening this week, we have to get this done.”
The noise did not register with either of them as words, but as threat: both of them moved at the same moment, getting out of the line of sight of the windows, and only then looked at each other: George grimaced, and indicated with a twitch of his hand that they should head for the door to the hall: the shout, two-syllabled, had come from there. Adam had a concealed knife: it was intended for very specific emergencies, and he had no feeling that this was one of them. As far as he knew, George wasn’t armed.
The tableau in the hall was a vast relief: Richard seemed to be having a panic attack. Noisily. George’s demand to know what was going on nearly made Adam giggle: instead, he remarked blandly, “I think Richard wants Sam. Anyone care to pass the message on at a lower volume?”
“What the hell did Fraser and Vecchio think they were doing?” George said, sitting back down to his files.
“Benton’s sorry for Richard,” Adam said, and refrained from adding, Ray would like to be, but he thinks Sam can do no wrong.
George lifted his head and looked at Adam, almost as if he were reading Adam’s mind. His eyes were very blue, and his mouth was pursed as if in very specific disapproval. “I’m sorry for Richard,” he said, directly. “But the kindest thing any of us can do for him is leave him alone.”
A few minutes later, Dana appeared, Willow in tow behind her. Adam had not seen Willow since yesterday, floppy and sick-looking like a prisoner being marched upstairs. She looked surprisingly, cheerfully better. Still white and still somehow wobbly, but more substantial than a paper doll creased the wrong way.
“George?” Willow said. “You wanted to see me?”
“No, Sam did,” Adam said. “He’s putting Richard to bed right now, so to speak.” Or literally. Hard to resist. “Richard was experimenting with a raised volume just now. Not creepy, just loud.” He grinned up at Dana, now standing very nearly on top of him, looking down at him with a serious frown. “You missed all the excitement, what were you doing?”
“Sam wanted to know why people wanted to buy Richard,” Willow said. There was a distinct bounce in her voice. “I found out.”
Adam leaned back. “Go on,” he said. “God knows when Sam’s going to be done with Richard.”
“I’m done,” Gerard said. He was standing in the doorway. “You can tell me, Willow. Richard cooperated?”
Willow turned, looking startled, not frightened. “Yes. He wanted to talk. I’m not surprised.”
“Well? What’s the attraction?”
“It’s what Richard knows,” Willow said. “About a drug. It was RDU90. It shouldn’t have got FDA approval.”
Gerard glanced back at the hall. “Yeah. Ray. Benton. Come in here. I want to talk to you.”
Benton’s voice from the hall was quite clear. “What about the mattress?”
“Leave it: I’ll take it up to the cell later.”
The lounge was big, but it wasn’t as big as the shooting-range: when Giles followed Ray and Benton in, the room felt crowded.
“I saw Richard’s tracks on my laptop, on the Chicago Memorial website,” Willow said. “He was looking at all the research he was involved in, before he was arrested. He sent samples to a lot of people. He wanted to get access to Cook County website, so he was looking for ‘the one-armed man’, but he was looking at his own work, too.”
“Well?” Gerard sounded bored.
Willow glanced across the room at Giles. He was looking at her with an air of satisfaction so strong that it was almost proprietorial. Willow lifted her chin, and went on, sounding more confident. “One of the sets of samples Richard looked at were liver samples he sent a Doctor Lentz at Chicago Memorial. Dana says Richard could have seen that what’s online isn’t from the samples Richard sent Lentz. Most of the samples were signed in on the day Doctor Lentz was killed by a car, about four years ago. Provasic, the drug Lentz was testing, was funded by Devlin-Macgregor, and it got FDA approval, but it causes liver damage. What Richard didn’t know was that Lentz is dead, and that Doctor Nichols is the other patentholder – Nichols must have signed in the false samples. That’s why Doctor Nichols wanted to buy Richard. And why Devlin-MacGregor wants to buy him. Not to rescue him. To get rid of him. Because he knows the testing process that cleared Provasic was flawed.” Willow came to an end, and glanced round, seeming surprised at the silent, fixed attention.
“Of course,” Giles said. His voice was leached of all emotion, deadly, still. “That would explain why Devlin-Macgregor made a bid yesterday. They have two thousand slaves to kill this week: they can just put one particularly inconvenient slave in with the rest. End of problem.”
“Yes,” Dana said. “I think Doctor Kimble knew five years ago RDU90 caused liver damage, and I think that was enough for Nichols and Devlin-Macgregor to want him dead. Provasic and its successor have been very profitable drugs. I don’t think Richard did kill Lady Helen Waverley. I think he’s innocent.”
Gerard was looking at Dana with a cold, considering stare. Adam stood up. He did not quite put himself between Gerard and Dana, but standing, he could do so in a moment.
George cleared his throat. It had the effect – intentional, Adam was certain – of cracking the tension. “Doctor Scully, I think you haven’t properly considered the difference between wiping out an inconvenient slave, and planning an intentional murder.” His voice was dry, faintly derisory.
“Willow,” Gerard said abruptly, “do you think Richard Kimble is innocent?”
Willow smiled, incongruously, nervously. “I don’t know. Yes, I think so.”
“Richard did know how to cover his tracks, sort of,” Willow said. “When he was just looking up his own work and samples, he was doing some deletion of his own tracks. But after he looked at the liver samples he sent Doctor Lentz, he stopped trying to do that. Everything he looked at after that, everything he did, he left wide open, except for the e-mails he sent from Doctor Wahlund’s account to get access at Cook County Hospital.”
“You think that Richard was looking for a reason why someone wanted to kill his wife or himself,” George cut in. He no longer sounded derisory. His voice was without feeling. “You think that once he found what he saw as a reason, he thought he didn’t need to hide what he was doing.”
“Richard thinks we see it too,” Ray said. “He said that. I heard him. That we knew everything he knew. But he thought Nichols was going to rescue him. He said he’d told Nichols everything about Lentz and Sykes. Who the hell is Sykes?”
“One of the amputees on the list of people Richard called,” Willow said.
“The one-armed man,” said Benton.
“Who was Sykes working for, five years ago?” Ray asked.
Gerard had been standing as still as a statue. Abruptly, he moved. He sat down on the couch facing where George was sitting, spreading his arms out over the back. He did not turn his head. “Devlin-Macgregor’s head of security is a man named Frederick Sykes,” he said. “He e-mailed me this morning, making an appointment to visit here tomorrow and collect Richard, payment in cash for a slave in hand.”
Ray and Benton, and Giles after them, moved forward. Gerard didn’t turn his head. “If Sykes is an amputee, that may be enough for Richard to think he’s guilty. It’s not enough for me.” Gerard glanced round them all. “And it shouldn’t be enough for you. There is no evidence there ever was anyone but Richard and Lady Helen Waverley in the main part of their townhouse the night she was murdered. The medical examiner found Richard’s skin under his wife’s fingernails, and marks on Richard’s face where she had scratched him. The last message left by her with emergency services as she lay dying of a fractured skull was ‘Richard. He’s trying to kill me.’”
Gerard tilted his head back. He was grinning, and he sounded savagely amused. “Richard is smart. And he’s a goddam good-looking son of bitch. It sounds like you’ve figured out why Nichols and Devlin-Macgregor wanted to buy him off me, Willow, which I appreciate – it was weirding me out. But just because he is smart and he is personable, does not change the fact that, five years ago, when they were alone together behind a high-level security system, he beat his wife’s skull in.”
“But what about Nichols?” Ray said. “And Devlin-Macgregor? Couldn’t they have figured it out? What if they sent Sykes?”
“Willow’s established they have motivation for killing a slave who found out their testing process was flawed five years ago. I already knew Richard believes the one-armed man is real. If he knows the head of security at Devlin-Macgregor is an amputee, I don’t doubt he can convince himself that Sykes must have been the man he claimed he saw.” Gerard glanced sideways at Ray. “Deciding to kill a slave is a lot easier than planning a murder,” he said, more quietly. “It shouldn’t be, but it is. And Richard’s on a Final contract.”
“Sam,” Dana said. “What if we gave Richard to Senator McGarry?”
Gerard looked at her. He said, without much expression, “You think McGarry’s ready to come out as an Abolitionist? He may read your sister’s blog, but he’s been voting moderate Laborite for years.”
Adam was not touching Dana, but he felt her flinch. But her voice was level. “Give Richard to McGarry, give him all the evidence – it’s circumstancial, but it’s substantial as far as it goes, and Leo McGarry’s wanted a test case like this for years. If Richard’s innocent, McGarry’s in a position to find the evidence, push to change the law, have him set free. If Richard’s guilty, he’s no worse off than he is here.”
Gerard said nothing for a long moment. He was unreadable, but his head moved, looking from face to face. “Richard is mine,” he said finally. “’I don’t plan on sending him anywhere. Willow, you have till Friday to look for any evidence that anyone but Richard or his wife could have got into their house. But ask me before you interrogate Richard again.”
“And do you intend to let Devlin-Macgregor have Richard?” George inquired.
“Certainly not until after Friday,” Gerard said, with a swift ironic smile. He glanced at them again, from face to face, his eyes cold. “No, bambini, I won’t let them have Richard.” He stood up. “Okay. Don’t all of you kids have work to do? Ray, Benton, I want a word with you. Come through to the kitchen with me, I need coffee.”
At five o’clock, Dana came back to the lounge. Through a long slow afternoon, the house had seemed very quiet.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked.
Adam glanced at George. “No,” he said.
“My sister called me,” Dana said. “She’s broken her wrist. She asked us to come over and help her cook dinner.”
George looked up. “Does Sam know you’re going?”
“Yes,” Dana said. “I asked him about it at lunchtime. He just said yes.”
“Yes, I see,” George said. He paused. “Good luck. You’d better go with her, Adam. I can finish off here.”
With the feeling that he was jumping off a cliff, Adam stood up. “All right. Let’s go.”
to Part 6