“That’s thin correlation,” Hussein said, leaning back and twirling a pen. “I was in this business five years before you joined, and reports of death by demons can be identified up to twenty-five years ago.”
“I’m not saying,” Bryan said “that it started when Daniels joined the synagogue. That’s only when it became noticeable. Or started to become noticeable. After that even.”
“Then quit flopping your words around and say what you’re saying.”
Bryan took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. “I just think…that we’re on to something here. And it very well could be a source or origin point for all that’s been happening.”
“An origin point, right here in Chicago?” Hussein looked at him skeptically.
“Well…maybe…maybe it’s not the only one.”
Hussein sighed and set his twirling pen down. He was clearly on edge, irritable. And Bryan assumed it was because of this crazy theory of his. True, he didn’t have any proof beyond his own intuitions, but wasn’t that what Hussein had wanted him to be listening to?
“What do you think?” Hussein asked Harper. “I haven’t heard a peep from you.”
Her eyes flicked to Bryan, then back to Hussein. “I only know what I saw, which was many demons appearing in the building and being pushed outwards. It could be due to the place being a point of origin. They do have to come from somewhere, after all.”
“But?” Hussein prompted.
“But…this ‘dead place’ they would have come from is suspect. I mean it sounds like another planet.”
“Is that so crazy?” Bryan shouted. “Look at what we do every day!”
“Bryan,” Hussein said. “We need to know where this place is.”
“I don’t know!” He jumped out of his chair. “I don’t know where it is! You think that isn’t driving me nuts? And why does it matter anyway? You don’t even believe me!”
Hussein slammed a palm down on his desk, and both Bryan and Harper jumped and shut their mouths. His hand became a fist which he set against his forehead.
“Harper,” he said through gritted teeth. “Out.”
She got up, stealing one more glance at Bryan, then left.
What did I say? Bryan wondered with a certain amount of panic.
Hussein didn’t look at him, didn’t speak for nearly a minute. He chewed at a nail on the hand that had slammed the desk. Then he said “Sit down” in a tersely controlled voice.
Bryan sat, his heart pounding.
“They won’t give us time,” Hussein said, staring at the wall.
Hussein looked at him, and his eyes changed. They became haggard, almost sad. “The council wants to interrogate you under possession of the gamma.”
Bryan’s breath stopped. “But…what if I can’t handle it? What if someone gets killed? What if everyone gets killed?”
“They seem to think you can handle it.”
“Why? ‘Cause I handled it so well before?”
“They tell me betas are well tolerated the second time around.”
“This isn’t a beta!” He was shouting again.
“I know that,” Hussein said, his voice level and cold. He was clearly controlling himself.
“Then why…why would they risk this?” Bryan gripped the armrests of his chair. His palms were sweaty. He couldn’t even remember being possessed by it the first time around. He had no idea what he could expect. How could he be expected to keep his head?
Hussein clasped his hands together on the desktop. “You’re seeing things that just aren’t seen by other Possessed. Alphas and betas don’t keep memories like this. They certainly don’t transmit memories to their holder. I had to tell them you found this synagogue and everyone knows what happened there tonight. I told them…” He spread out his palms on the desk. “I told them that, given time, we could extract more. But they don’t want to give us time. The media is going crazy, the government is breathing down our necks. The demons are proliferating faster than we can catch them. We’re losing the war, no matter how many hundreds of battles we win a night. And now I’m supposed to go to them and tell them you saw some ‘dead place’ that could be another planet for all we know and you don’t know anything about it but that demons are rushing here from it…” He looked down and took a breath.
“But they couldn’t make me do it,” Bryan said. “Could they?”
Hussein stared at the desktop.
“They’re considering it a matter of national security. I’m not even supposed to be telling you about it.”
Bryan felt light-headed. Forcing him to do this was akin to torture, with the possibility of death for all involved in the interrogation. Were they really that desperate? Were things really that bad? Somalia and Nigeria were terrible and China was having a bad run, but the U.S. couldn’t reach that level, could it? But five years ago he wouldn’t have expected China to be falling behind.
He looked up. Hussein was finally looking at him again, and his eyes were not as defeated as Bryan had expected them to be. “Bryan, if you decide not to do it, I will fight tooth and nail for you.”