“Good evening,” Hussein said as he entered his office. He paused when he saw Bryan. “You haven’t just been sitting there all day, have you?”
“No,” Bryan lied. Or half-lied. He had gone to the break room. After which he had returned to Hussein’s couch to zone out some more. “Did you sleep?”
“I did.” Hussein was still looking at him. “Did you?”
Bryan had already decided to tell him if it came up. “I sleep but I feel as if I haven’t slept. I can’t dream.”
Hussein set his coat and briefcase down and went to him, sitting opposite him in a chair. Not beside him on the couch. “It did something to your subconscious. Took that too.”
“I won’t get it back, will I? Even if I get my cards in my hands.”
“Everything we’ve ever learned says no. The minds on the overtaken aren’t stored in their totems. They’re destroyed. Consumed.”
“And I knew that. I was in denial. Even if I thought I wasn’t.” He looked at Hussein. “This is who I am now. Half a person.”
“You’ve done so much, Bryan.”
“I know. I worked longer than most. I just expected to be overtaken, not…split.”
“Maybe you still have more to do.”
“I never thought you one for fate.”
“Not fate. Just possibility. You’re the reason we’re so close to solving this.”
“Are we close to solving it?”
“Closer than we were. We’re bringing in some experts tomorrow – professors and scientists. Going to see how these gates operate. Maybe physics can give us an answer.”
“Weren’t they still unsure whether the demons were energy or matter?”
“They’re not unsure; they’re debating.” Hussein balled his hands into fists. “But we’re figuring things out. We’re moving. In all the years I’ve been doing this, we’re finally out of the rut. We just need a little more time, and we’ll have all the pieces.”
Bryan wanted to believe in his optimism, but the key word was time. They had no idea how much time they really had.
They both went to conference room B to watch the containment. Ruggeri was there as well, and Bey, and Harper. They all studied Bryan, even Bey, though she had no Spotter sight.
“I see you got some rest, Hussein,” Ruggeri said.
“I did, you snitch.” Hussein grinned at her. “Now leave me alone.”
She smiled back. It was typical banter between them. Bryan wasn’t sure how they tolerated each other.
The inside of the synagogue was livestreaming on Bey’s laptop, the people breaking into three groups, preparing. A smaller group stood behind the rest: the students.
“Yesterday went awfully smoothly,” Bey said, drumming her nails on the table. “We’re not used to things running smoothly.”
“Better get used to it,” Hussein said.
“Don’t jinx this. Believe me, I personally would much rather see things go smoothly.”
“It would be a nice change from the chickens with their heads cut off approach,” Ruggeri said.
Bryan paid no attention to their conversation. He watched the people moving in the synagogue. They all milled about, relaxed. No deaths expected tonight. There was something he didn’t like about it.
Harper leaned over to him and whispered “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered back. “Are the Spotters there tonight?”
“About a third of them.”
“And all the Possesseds?”
“Except for the four guarding the office and a couple watching totems in quarantine. Why?”
“I don’t know,” he repeated. He watched the scene unfold with a numbed dread, helpless to affect anything happening on the screen. Sunset came and the first team possessed. Twenty minutes passed and the second team possessed. Someone entered the conference room and handed Bey a report, and Bey read out the news of the night. LA, Mexico City, and Cordoba found their gates. DC already contained for the night. The third team possessed. Bey and Hussein chatted about who was sending gate dust to where. Cantrell, Wallmann, and Utterklo arrived and Cantrell made disparaging comments to Ruggeri. The first team possessed again.
And the entire time Bryan was on edge.