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Chapter 6

“No,” Wes said. “Lay low.” Angel strained to listen to what happened next, but she only heard a clatter and then nothing at all.

“Law low?” She stared at Tom, incredulous. “What does he mean ‘lay low’?”

Tom grabbed her hand to haul her up. “Come on. We gotta go.”

“We have to go get him.”

“We have to go get Ainsley,” Tom said. “Those people that went in there were some kind of law enforcement. We’re going to need Ainsley’s help dea-”

“No,” she snapped, tugging her arm out of his grasp. “We won’t need Ainsley’s help if we get Wes out of there.”

Tom growled. “And how do you propose to get in there? Wes got in because he’s… well, he’s Wes. But we don’t have his powers. Maybe if it was one or two guards, but we can’t manipulate the minds of all of those people down there. There’s no way we get in without someone noticing and then we’re all caught. This way, we can tell--”

“What’s Ainsley supposed to do about it?”

Tom exhaled slowly and shook his head. “I don’t know. But I do know there’s some weirdo government organization thing that knows Wes’s dad and maybe-”

“And maybe what? We get Wes’s dad’s help? Wes isn’t going to like that.”

“It doesn’t matter what Wes likes or doesn’t like.”

“It matters a lot what Wes likes or doesn’t like.”

“Not in this case. We’re Hunters, Angel. We can’t be caught by humans. Rule number one.”

“Which is why I’m saying we get him out.”

Tom shook his head again. “No,” he insisted. “Then all three of us get captured. There’s no way to do it.”

“You’re being a coward,” she snapped.

Tom’s eyes flashed with anger, sudden and sharp. “Then you tell me how we get in there without getting noticed.”

“Maybe we can distract them--”

“With what? What kind of distraction that doesn’t get people caught in the crossfire? What would Wes think of that?”

Angel threw her hands up in frustration, turning away from Tom, but she knew he was right. “Wes shouldn’t have gone in there. You should’ve told him no. I told him no. You should’ve said no, too.”

Tom ran a hand back through his sandy blond hair. “Yeah, but he probably saved those people. That can only help us.”

“What, you mean they’ll be nice to him? Some kid shows up, helps them with a monster with a gun that, let’s be honest, isn’t registered with any governing body and is therefore somewhat incredibly illegal, and that’s going to make a difference?”

She struggled to keep her voice down but it was a losing battle. That didn’t excuse Tom putting his hand over her mouth, though, and she had to fight her instinct to bite him.

“Shut up!” he snarled. Then he grabbed her arm again, pulling her along and in spite of every impulse to go back and save Wes, she followed.

Angel didn’t like it, but she understood why the chain of command went Wes, Ainsley, and then Tom. Robert Ainsley was willow-thin, but he towered over all of them, even Wes. His dark suits were always immaculately maintained and he always wore a pair of expensive black gloves. When he spoke, those gloved hands would rise and fall almost hypnotically with his words. He was at least fifteen years older than them, possibly older than that, though Angel couldn’t quite tell, and he was always, always calm and eminently reasonable. Everything about him seemed coordinated in the effort of projecting an image of authority.

“Tom was right,” Ainsley said. Though his expression remained cool and even, Angel could hear weight in his voice. He didn’t like it either, and that was comforting. “Going in there after him most likely would have made a bad situation worse.”

He turned away, peering out the window at the dark city, leaving Tom and Angel to wait for his judgment of the situation, but their other companion was not nearly so patient. Lena Crowley turned to Tom and Angel, her eyes narrowing. “Who are they? Do you remember anything particular about them?”

Tom rubbed his temples. “They looked like… like anyone. They didn’t feel like anyone, but they looked like people you would just pass on the street and never think about.”

“No uniforms?” Lena demanded. She couldn’t stay still. She was in a chair and then up and pacing and then in the chair again. Angel thought Lena might have been more upset about the situation than she was. “No identifying marks? Were they all a particular sort of thing?”

“They were humans,” Angel said. “They were all humans. Except maybe the woman. I don’t know what she was.”

“And you say she felt like Wes,” Ainsley said without turning back to them.

“Well, not exactly,” Angel conceded.

Tom peered at her, confused, and said, “No, she felt like him.”

“Well, yes and no. I felt nothing from her at all. But...I don’t know. Can one kind of nothing be like a different kind of nothing? Can there be kinds of nothing?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I don’t know. I’d have to have them both here to point it out to you. Wes is a blank space usually, but sometimes don’t you get the impression that he’s--I don’t know. Reinforcing that impression? If you know where he is and concentrate really hard on not losing him, I mean.”

Lena tilted her head. “Like a Somebody Else’s Problem field,” she supplied.

Angel arched a brow, but Tom supplied the answer for her. “Yeah, I think that’s what she’s saying.”

“Don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t even know what Lena’s saying.” Angel flopped down in one of the empty armchairs.

“It’s from a book. Instead of an invisibility field, they use a field that makes people want to look away and not see it because it’s somebody else’s problem,” Lena explained.

“Oh. Yeah. That works. This lady wasn’t like that. She just wasn’t there.” Angel fussily plucked a bit of lint from the arm and then abruptly stood up again. “And that freaks me out. What the hell is she? Or they? What will they do with Wes?”

Tom stole her chair as she started pacing. “Maybe Angel was right after all. Maybe we should’ve tried to get him out.”

“No,” Ainsley said. “You were right.” He stood still a moment longer, and Angel could just see his reflection in the glass, and the strain on his face. But when he turned to look at them, he was all placid calm again. “I think I know who to call. Please stay here and don’t do anything stupid.”

“Who?” Tom and Angel asked together.

“If this is who I think it is, we can probably clear it up quickly,” Ainsley said, his voice even and reassuring, and he headed for the door. “Just wait here.”

When he was gone, Angel waited for a count of ten and then said, “Screw that.” Count of ten would be enough for him to get to the stairs. He would be going to the roof for privacy, she thought. She would be able to sneak back out again.

But then she caught sight of Lena, who was watching the door with a sour expression pinching her otherwise pretty face.

“What?” Angel demanded.

“There are some things you guys don’t know.” Lena glanced at them, and snarkily amended, “Well, you don’t know pretty much anything.”

Tom said quietly, “Lena.”

Lena drew in a deep, slow breath and tried to mimic Ainsley’s way of schooling his expression into placid calm. She did not succeed. “The Court of Twelve has information on an organization with ties to government authorities that investigates the same kind of crap we take care of. They’ve been getting nosier about stuff. That’s probably who Ainsley thinks it is.”

“So how do we find these asshats?” Angel demanded.

Lena shook her head. “Ainsley said stay here.”

“He’s not the boss of you. You’re an agent of the Court.” Angel normally wouldn’t go that route--she considered it a black mark against Lena’s character and tried not to think about it too much. But it was convenient now, and she would use it like Wes’ life depended on it. For all she knew, it did.

Lena was wise to her game and didn’t rise to the bait. “You aren’t supposed to know that. This isn’t the sort of thing the Court would like me to break cover on, and if I do it and you’re not surprised, then they know I’ve been too honest with you guys.”

Tom said, “And that you’re playing all sides.” He did not say it very kindly.

Lena shoved herself to her feet. “I’m going to bed if you two are going to be jackasses.”

“No,” Angel said, shooting a warning glare at Tom. “No, stay. Tell us about this organization.”

Lena shook her head. “Fuck off,” she said, and she went upstairs.

Angel glared at Tom again. “Way to go.”

He shrugged. “I don’t trust her. And I don’t want her saying anything that sets us off on paranoid trails of nonsense. Let’s just wait for Ainsley.”

“I wouldn’t go down a paranoid trail of--”

“I didn’t say you specifically. I said us,” Tom snapped. “I’m worried, too.”

Angel sighed and sat on the arm of the chair. It took a moment, but she worked up to an apology. “Sorry.”

He wrapped an arm around her middle. “Yeah, well. Like I said, I’m worried, too. I get how you feel.”

“You’re better at it.”

“I let Wes go in there. You didn’t want to.”

That was true. Tom had bowed to Wes’ authority and Angel had stood up to him. It had been a stupid thing to do and Angel knew it. But she wouldn’t be angry with Tom. “Well, maybe I’ll try not to be so difficult and you try to be more difficult.”

Tom grinned. It was a weak grin, but it was real. “Bad habits are hard to break.”

Go on to Chapter 7 or click here for a chapter list. Until next time!