Conspiracy of Swords
Disclaimers for Conspiracy of Swords: Please see Chapter One.
It was quarter to four by the time Alex caught up to her partner and Teren at a truck stop on the very north tip of Colorado Springs. They had been waiting for a few minutes, and seemed to be deep in conversation about something.
"Hey, guys. Is this private, or can anybody listen in?"
David slid a Coke towards her. "Well, right now, it's public. We've been waiting for you before we made it personal."
Alex forced a smile. "Well, then let's go somewhere private, hm? Like, Tanner's van."
"Are you okay, Alex?" Teren asked.
"I'm fine. But if we're going to have a chance to talk to Ann Seffren, we'd better get going. Besides, I have another surprise for you."
"Oh, great," David said as he stood, "I love your surprises, Alex. They make life so much more interesting." He grinned at her, but stopped when she didn't return the look.
Instead, Alex picked up her Coke and left, letting the other two trail behind her.
The first few minutes of the ride were taken up by Teren and David explaining what had taken place in their interview with Dawkins.
"He said he had been passing through the lobby of their building when a young man approached him with a copy of the book, and he had signed it. He didn't know anything about the man, couldn't even recall what color his hair was."
"And what did he say about Derek White?"
"He met White at a prayer meeting somewhere, he couldn't remember where. When we told him White had been observed at his offices, he said that perhaps he showed up a few months ago to take a tour of their facilities, but he didn't know for sure, as he never sees the visitors' logs."
"So, we didn't get an admission of guilt, is that what you're telling me?"
"That's about it," David said.
"Teren, did you notice anything?" Alex didn't turn around when she asked the question, but she could feel Teren's attention shift to her.
"Yes. He was nervous."
"Why do you say that?" David sounded surprised. "Personally, I thought he seemed very calm."
"He was sweating. And his heartrate increased when you asked him about White and several others."
"How could you tell?"
"I watched the pulse point in his neck, and the one near his temple. Trust me, the man was nervous." She leaned forward and spoke to Alex directly. "And he recognized my name, Alex."
That made the agent turn towards her. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. David introduced me as an agent, not mentioning which agency I was from. A few minutes into the interview, he asked what the CIA was doing involving itself in the affairs of the FBI."
"And he shouldn't have known that you were CIA."
"Right. Also, after the meeting, Dawkins mentioned we had a mutual friend, and said he'd tell Treville that he'd seen me."
Alex sat very still. "Teren, if Treville knows that you've survived, will he come after you?"
"He already knows. He's known for a long time. But he also knows the CIA won't touch him because of his position."
"And if he knows you're involved with this investigation?"
Teren hesitated. "I don't know."
Alex covered her eyes and gave a huge sigh. "Great. Just what I need." She didn't say anything else for several minutes. Finally, she turned to face them both.
"Okay. We discovered where the goblet came from."
"Really? Good work, Alex."
"Thanks, Dave, but the praise belongs to Agent Tanner here. He's the one who chose the right man to identify it. Also, in your thank you's, don't forget Mr. Anthony Liester. He's the man that actually found the identification."
Tanner shook his head. "Hey, Alex, don't forget, you're the one that first found the photo."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't have without the help. I appreciate it, Andrew, and I won't forget it."
"Okay," David said impatiently, "save the mutual admiration thing for later, and tell us."
"Fine. Point blank. The goblet is a relic from an eighteenth century church in France. It was crafted by Telford Guignard, in 1743, who gave it to the Church of St. Theresa in Rodez, France. It was used to celebrate Mass for almost two hundred years, surviving both the French Revolution and the First World War, only to be seized by the Nazi's when France was overrun. It was sent to the Reich, and was listed as one of those objects to be 'protected.' At the end of the war, it disappeared, along with thousands of other works of art that were never recovered from the Nazi's."
"How the hell did it end up in Halloran's hands?"
"Good question. But just wait. I haven't even reached the good part yet."
David closed his eyes and placed a hand on Teren's arm. "Teren, be prepared. When she says that, it means trouble."
"Sounds like there's plenty of that already, what's a little more?" She turned back to Alex. "What else?"
"The chalice? The one in Mather's box?"
"Same situation. I found it on the list of items never returned after World War II. Now, to me, it seems a little too coincidental that two men who are implicated in these political assassinations, are both suddenly in possession of pieces of art stolen by Hitler, who happens to be their hero."
David brought his head up off the seat and looked at his partner. "What are you saying, Alex?"
She took a breath. She couldn't believe she was going to say this out loud. "What if, and please remember it's only speculation, but what if, these artifacts were recovered at the end of the second World War, but were never turned in."
Teren nodded. "There were several recorded instances where service men found artworks that had been stolen, and they just kept them."
"Right. But what if there was a cache of stolen items found. Back in the 40's, returning servicemen could have, and did, smuggle large amounts of things back to the states. What if those items were smuggled back, and passed into the hands of people like Derek White and John Treville, who are using them to pay for these assassinations."
There was no sound in the car except for the engine and the humming of the tires. Even that sound seemed muted by the outrageousness of what Alex was proposing.
But no one contradicted her. David dropped his head back again, and groaned. Alex turned back around and watched the road. Teren raised an eyebrow and looked out her window.
No one said a word the rest of the way to Denver.
David agreed to be the one to call Cliff and report everything they'd found. Alex had faxed him that morning, and called him after they left the hospital, but since he had said to make him feel like he was there, they thought it was appropriate that they call him one more time.
Alex and Teren, meanwhile, had decided to visit Ann Seffren's room. Alex had noticed Teren's increasing agitation, but she said nothing. It wasn't until they were in the hallway immediately outside the room that Teren stopped.
"Alex, it might be better if you go on in alone. I know I'm enough to make people nervous, and I don't think she needs that right now."
Alex stopped and looked at her.
"Teren, is there something going on? And if there is, is it something I should know about?"
Teren folded her arms. She couldn't look at Alex. "It isn't anything you need to know."
"I see." She waited. "But there is something."
There was no movement from the darker woman.
"Teren, please remember that you're part of a team now. As part of that team, you need to be willing to share things. It helps us to trust each other. It's part of what being a team player is all about." She paused again. "If you don't feel like talking about it, fine, but I want you to know you can."
Teren smiled. "Thanks."
Alex returned the smile, then turned toward Seffren's door. She signed the visitor's log after showing her ID to the guard on duty there. Before entering, she glanced once more at Teren. Then she opened the door, and went in.
Teren did want to see Ann, but she didn't want to do so in front of the agent. She walked a little ways down the hall to the water fountain. After taking a sip she leaned against the wall, letting the coolness of the wall penetrate her. It reminded her that she was supposed to be that cool, cold, calculating person that she had developed years ago. Right after her break up with Ann.
She shook her head, and gave herself a wry chuckle. No, it had started long before that, because that was one of the reasons Ann had cited when she told Teren it was over. Teren had always been tender and gentle in their relationship, but could become the ruthless agent without warning.This contradiction within Teren had at first attracted Ann. Eventually, though, it caused trouble between them.
There were other problems with having a relationship with a spy. Neither of them ever knew for sure when Teren would be called upon to suddenly leave the country. There had been times that Perry had woken them up with plane tickets in his hand. Plus, there was the added pressure of Teren not being able to contact her lover while on missions, which could sometimes last months. And Ann could never ignore the possibility that Teren could be injured or killed.
Finally, after fifteen months of trying, Ann had thrown up her hands. She couldn't sit around and wait to find out when Teren would be there, or if she had gotten back safely, and she didn't want to have her lover leaving at the drop of a hat. After one mission, Teren had returned to her apartment to find Ann's things gone, and her keys on the table with a note. Teren had ended up drunk and crying on Perry's couch.
But she never blamed Ann. The previous months had been full of fights, and anger, and nights of stony silence. It hadn't been good for either of them, but for someone like Ann, who was beginning her rise in civil rights work, it was nightmarish. When she woke from her drunken stupor, Teren had called Ann at work, and left a message apologizing, and saying she understood. Then she had left Colorado, without a forwarding address. They hadn't seen or spoken to each other since.
Teren was still rubbing her hand across her forehead when she heard someone call her name. She looked up to find Ann's best friend Jenna standing at the end of the corridor.
"Oh, my goddess, Teren, how are you?" Teren suddenly found herself wrapped in Jenna's arms.
"I'm good, Jenna. What about you?"
"Me?" Jenna leaned back, her hands still on Teren's shoulders. "I'm fine. I'm great. It's my best friend I'm worried about." She gave Teren a tentative smile. "Did you come to see her?"
"Well, kind of. I think she's in with someone, and I don't want to disturb --"
"Nonsense, she'll be delighted you're here. Come on," Jenna said as she grabbed Teren's arm and practically dragged the taller woman behind her.
"Jenna, I don't think --"
"No, this is perfect. She's gonna be so happy -- don't worry, Officer Kelsey, she's with me." With that Jenna dragged Teren past the guard at the door and into the room.
"Ann, you're never going to believe this. Look who I found outside in the hallway!"
Teren felt Jenna drag her in front of her. She saw Alex sitting by the bedside of Ann, who was propped up against the pillows. She had her left arm in a sling, and an IV tube in her arm, but other than that she looked practically the same as she had the last time Teren had seen her.
Teren saw Alex's confused stare, and she gave an inward sigh. "Hello, Ann."
For a moment there was a stillness in the room broken only by the beep of the IV monitor. Then Ann, heedless of the tubes and machines, leaned forward with her right arm extended. "Teren!"
Her former lover gathered her into her arms, and sat on the edge of the bed holding her as she began to cry. Teren glanced at Alex, whose eyes were wide and staring.
"Have you finished your questions, Alex?"
"Then, if you don't mind, I'd like a moment alone with my ex." Alex's expression didn't change. "Is that alright?"
Finally, Alex nodded, and stood up. "Ann, it was nice meeting you. I hope you get well soon." She turned and quickly left the room.
At a glance from Teren, Jenna followed, and the two women were alone.
David found Alex sitting beside the Coke machine they'd found that morning. The can in her hand was mostly empty already, even though the chill had hardly left the aluminum.
"Alex, you okay?"
"Sure. Just fine." She finished the soda and flung the empty can into the blue recycle bin next to the machine. She stood up. "You talk to Cliff?"
"Yeah. He said nice work on finding the stuff on the cups. He also asked how we were getting along with Teren. I told him things were cool." He looked at his partner's tense face. "Was I wrong?"
"No. Everything's just peachy."
"Okay, now I know something's up. You never use words like peachy."
Alex stood up and faced him. "I'm fine, David. Now, how long 'til we have to be at the airport?"
He looked at his watch. "Well, it's almost six, and our flight leaves around seven-forty, so we need to head out now if we're going to get anything other than airline food."
"Fine. I'll find Tanner and meet you at the van. You can go get Teren."
David was surprised that Alex didn't want to find the woman herself. "Do you know where she is?"
"The last time I saw her, she was talking with Seffren. You know where the room is?"
David nodded. Alex pulled her coat on, and brushed a hand through her blond locks. "Go on. I'll find Tanner, I think he's in the cafeteria."
She walked away, leaving David wondering what Teren had done to anger his partner.
He shook his head, muttering. "Normally it's me bugging Teren, now it's Teren bugging Alex. Huh."
The ride to the airport was silent. It was late by the time they got there, and they decided dinner would have to be on the plane. They had enough time for a drink, however, so they made their way to one of the many lounges scattered throughout DIA.
David had noticed that Teren and Alex weren't really talking, so he volunteered to get their drinks. It was sodas all around, but with the line at the bar, it would be quite a few minutes before he got back.
Just enough time, he decided, for them to either fix whatever was wrong, or shoot each other.
As for the two women, they sat at a table in the back of the lounge, one of the few that hadn't been taken. Alex watched David walk away, then stared at the table. She knew what he was doing, but had no idea what to do now.
For once, it was Teren that started the conversation.
"You're upset with me for not telling you."
"I -" Alex stopped. She took a deep breath, and tried to start again calmly. "Because we're a team. Teammates talk about stuff. You should have told me."
"What does this team have to do with my former girlfriend?"
"Is she the reason you joined this investigation?"
Teren stared at her in shock. "No. You know that's not true."
"Then why didn't you just happen to mention, when we were discussing this particular shooting, that you had a relationship with the victim?"
"Because it was a relationship that ended two years ago. It has absolutely no bearing on this case."
Alex opened her mouth to make a retort, but shut it again. She couldn't argue with Teren's logic. Her relationship with Ann really had nothing to do with why the activist had been shot, or who shot her, or even how this shooting was connected to the other murders. It was a purely personal issue, and though Alex felt she should have been informed, she couldn't fault Teren for not telling her. So, the question, in Alex's mind, became, why did she feel Teren should have told her?
She wasn't sure. All she knew was that she was hurt Teren had kept it from her. For a moment she had felt betrayed, almost --
Alex put her hand over her eyes and shook her head.
Teren waited patiently, trying to understand why Alex was angry. But she was also trying to figure out why she hadn't simply told Alex that she had been in a relationship with Ann Seffren. While it wasn't something she felt the team had to know, it also wasn't something she had particularly tried to hide before. Her being a lesbian had been no secret, hell, it had even come in handy on a few cases. Besides, Alex's friends had tried to set them up, it wasn't like Alex didn't know she was gay. But for some reason, she had not wanted Alex to know about Ann, and Teren didn't know why.
Alex raised her head and looked at Teren. "You're right," she said in a soft voice. "Your past relationship is not an issue in this investigation. I'm sorry." She looked back down. "I think I'm just looking for anything that might help, and even inconsequential facts are fair game."
Teren nodded. "I understand. Kind of grasping at straws, huh?"
Alex dropped her chin into the palm of her hand, and rested her elbow on the table. "Yeah, I guess that's a good way to describe it. I mean we've had several things that didn't seem to mean anything turn out to be huge pieces of information. One led us to Wilford's brother Ricky."
Teren dropped her own eyes to the table top. "I'm sorry, too. I should have told you, I suppose. But my relationship with Ann ended badly and I wasn't even sure I wanted to see her. That's one of the reasons I didn't go into the room with you."
"So, if her friend hadn't shown up, you probably never would have told me."
Alex felt her temper flare again, but this time recognized the jealous streak that accompanied it. She managed to say nothing until it had passed.
She rubbed her eyes with her other hand. "I'm tired. I really need a good night's sleep. This jet lag thing is killer."
Teren, nodded, feeling the tension between them relax somewhat. "I've never minded the travel, it's the jet lag I hate."
"Exactly my point." She heard her cell phone buzz inside her coat, and pulled it out to answer.
David was carrying three drinks back to the table, and as he approached, he noticed Alex was on the phone. Her face looked agitated, and he thought for a moment that maybe she and Teren hadn't taken the opportunity to talk at all. As he got closer to the table, Alex hung up and pounded her fist on the table.
"Okay, guys," David said as he put the drinks down. "I know something happened between you two, and you were both angry when I left. I wanted you to talk it out, which is why I volunteered to stand in line for several minutes and get drinks. Obviously it didn't work, so tell me what's going on?"
Alex and Teren stared at each other and then at David. Alex looked back at Teren, who shrugged.
"Teren didn't want to tell me that Ann Seffren is her ex-girlfriend, and when I found out I was angry that she didn't tell me."
David looked at Teren. "You were in a relationship with Seffren?"
"Yes, but it ended two years ago." Teren met David's steady gaze. "Is that a problem, David?"
"Depends. Alex, is there a problem?"
Alex shrugged. "We talked about it, it's over. Are you happy?"
"That you're not fighting? Yeah. Now, you want to tell me what got you so riled that you were pounding the table a minute ago?"
"I was on the phone with Cliff. There's been a change of plans. We're not going to Washington."
"You and I are going to Philadelphia. Kyle Brogan's house was firebombed. Nobody was home, but the fire almost destroyed the place. The police have his wife and kids in protective custody, and Ken thinks the wife knows something, but she won't talk to him. He wants me to talk to her, and since you're my partner, you're coming with me."
"They have the wife and kids? What about Brogan."
"Brogan's gone missing. Ken thinks he's in hiding."
"No. From his buddies."
To Be Continued
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