Black Heart – Chapter II Part VI
by Steppen Sawicki
“Let’s go in,” Hussein motioned and led them to his office. He closed the door behind them, and Bryan was starting to wonder what this was all about when he sat behind his desk and announced “You two are going to be partners for a time.”
“What?” Bryan exclaimed.
Harper said nothing, in fact gave no reaction at all save for generally lamenting the situation, and so Bryan inferred she had already known.
“For how long?” Bryan continued.
“For as long as needs be,” Hussein said.
Bryan gaped at him open mouthed.
Hussein spread his hands open. “Well, out with it. We’re here to hear your protests so that they can be out of the way.”
“What can I say? It’s ridiculous.”
“It’s necessary. I want eyes on you, and who better than a Spotter.”
“We’ll kill each other!”
“That’s why she’s also Possessed.”
“Great, we’ll level the city when we kill each other.”
Hussein stood and walked around his desk. “You’re both professionals. You both know your limits. It will be a trial, but no more so than anything else you’ve done. Especially capturing a new species of demon.”
“If that’s true then I don’t need a babysitter. ‘Cause that’s what this is.” Bryan suddenly remembered Hussein’s words from earlier, the ones he had found odd but thought little of: You might need help on this one. Hussein had already thought of giving him a partner when he was lying half-dead in a hospital room. Had probably already been reviewing candidates. His hands closed into fists as he imagined throttling Hussein. Planned it all along, all the while keeping that “I’m your friend” face on.
“This is how I kept you out of quarantine,” Hussein explained, dead calm before Bryan’s rage. “Not to say I don’t like the idea. I do want eyes on you. Experienced and capable eyes.”
“You want me to set down all my cards in quarantine and pretend none of this happened!”
“Don’t be unreasonable.”
“Don’t be…so fucking…calm!”
Hussein’s voice lowered, pure steel. “Am I? Then what are you?”
Bryan sputtered, turned, stormed in a circle, and fell into a chair. He was angry, of course. Angry and
throwing a tantrum.
He looked up from the floor and saw the two of them, Hussein leaning back against the desk, Harper with her hands politely clasped in front of her, face blank.
“Is it so terrible to have a partner?” Hussein asked him.
“Well it’s…it’s not…” Not done. He saw Harper again, and he realized that all along she had been regarding his moods coolly. “I guess not, I just…” he murmured, not really feeling the words, but ashamed at how he had just acted. He passed a hand over his mouth and looked directly at Hussein. “Do you think I can’t do this?”
Hussein looked down at the floor, sighed. “No one knows if you can do this. Because no one’s done it before. That’s why we’re giving you help.” He looked up and into Bryan’s eyes before adding. “I know you’re capable, and don’t think I don’t know how you feel about having a partner, but this is the solution to a difficult problem.”
Bryan looked again to Harper, but couldn’t hold her gaze. Had he acted like a child? Would he act like a child again? Probably. Had it been the gamma? He searched it out in his deck. It was merely watching him, a frightened feral cat in a corner.
“You’re not hunting tonight,” Hussein broke into his thoughts.
Bryan leaned back in the chair. “You’re killing me.”
“Don’t pretend you’re not relieved. You’re going to Caltrop Apartments. Investigative work. Take this gamma and see if it recognizes anything. This may be our chance to find out where these things are coming from.”
“Better detectives than me have tried. Or is Harper a star detective along with everything else?”
“Funny. Now I want you to get a feel for this gamma, but under no circumstances are you to let it out of that card. You got me?”
“Yeah.” In other words: don’t screw up like with the beta. “Hell, it’d be easier to just hunt.”
“An assignment here and there won’t kill you, and neither will having a partner. Now that you’ve screamed and cried and got it out of your system, deal with it.” He waved them out, and Bryan went grudgingly with Harper following behind.
Bryan signed for a company car and the two of them piled in without so much as a word. Bryan’s anger was barely controlled in tapping the steering wheel and repeatedly wiping his mouth with his hands. All the while Harper sat in the passenger seat like a stone, hands folded neatly in her lap. It only made him more furious.
“Look,” he finally said while stopped at a red light, “I’ll tell you now. This will be a disaster. We tried partners, back in the beginning. It didn’t work. I mean, how long have you been doing this?”
“I’m well aware of the problems Possessed have working in pairs and groups,” she said, avoiding the question. “Japan tried it as well, and they tried harder to make it work.”
“If it doesn’t work, try and try again, eh?”
“There had to be a death before they caved.”
“Yeah.” He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye. She was looking out the window, something almost sad about her. “Promise not to kill me, k?”
She looked at him, but he didn’t look back. “I’m not psychic.”