Dean has the cab drop him several blocks from the bar in Georgetown. Instinctively he pulls his baseball cap lower over his forehead to shield his eyes which are no longer hidden behind dark glasses. He thinks consciously about how he is walking and adds a slight sideways bob to his gait, not a characteristic motion of his normal stride. More camouflage is a good idea right now. In dismay he realizes that his seedy appearance is marked for the respectable urban neighborhood. It’s a preppy place full of young professionals in dark business clothes who are segueing from their day jobs as lawyers, lobbyists and Washington policy wonks into their high-octane nighttime social lives of conversing, competing and carousing with their peers.
Dean stops across the street from the designated rendezvous point, a tony-looking bar with large glass windows and a red brick facade. Dean stands in shadows so he’ll be harder to see from those glass windows, in case anyone is watching. The pub appears to be under the same management as the last time he was here a few years ago; the letters of its name still glowing in purple electric light above the entrance: Pro Bono. Dean remembers that night with Philip. It was less than three years ago but it feels like a lifetime tonight.
Groups of young men and women continue to enter the bar across the street, but Dean doesn’t see Philip among them. It’s possible he’s there already. And if so, he’d wait at the bar, letting Dean find him. He’s on our team. That sentence from Philip is why Dean isn’t just walking straight into Pro Bono. The guy, Bernard, in New York was a thug, an assassin. He wasn’t smart enough to be a covert agent working with Philip. Dean feels certain of this. So what’s Philip doing mixed up with Joel Anderson? Dean can think of no scenario that is reassuring. The worst thing is that he has now lost his window of time, Joel Anderson knows that Bernard didn’t kill him, that he escaped. And they know he’s called from a Washington D.C. phone booth within the past hour. The only thing in his favor, at least for now, is they’ll be looking for a guy with a shaved head wearing glasses.
Someone was probably sent to that phone booth right after he hung up. It’s dangerous to be here as well. Dean isn’t sure why he risked it, even in disguise. Is it because he still, irrationally, holds out hope that Philip can be his trusted friend? Is it because he’s hoping to somehow learn something important here by watching and waiting? A police cruiser drives slowly past him and Dean realizes he can’t stand there any longer without drawing attention to himself. The Georgetown police don’t want scruffy types loiterering about in a fashionable district like this.
He turns his coat collar up and walks down the block, glancing repeatedly across the street. A black town car pulls up in front of Pro Bono and a tall older man, dressed in a tailored black overcoat, gets out of the car. The man’s thick white head of hair seems vaguely familiar, perhaps a senator who’s been in the news? The man waits for a companion who is getting out of the town car and Dean recognizes at once the sandy hair and thin pale figure of Philip. He turns away, glancing only peripherally at them from beneath the visor of his cap. They look around the street briefly and Dean imagines he sees Philip make a subtle hand signal to someone who isn’t visible on the street.
Dean feels a jolt of adrenalin and forces himself to take a long breath. This is no time to panic. He gets a better look at the older man’s profile and suddenly knows who the man is. It’s a terrible realization, given the situation here. He’s Philip’s boss — the head of the nameless agency that Philip works for.
It’s time to get out of there. Dean’s keen eyes now see the likely recipient of Philip’s hand signal. A broad-shouldered man in business clothes has just emerged onto the street from a narrow brick walkway two doors away from Pro Bono. The man is scanning the throngs of people walking along the street. Dean feels the adrenalin pouring through his body like white water rapids, the muscles in his legs are taut with power, his feet feel light, ready to run. But he reins in this impulse and walks unhurriedly, adding the little sideways bounce. Then he turns the corner and looks feverishly, desperately, for an available taxi.
“So this thing is not being over-hyped, in your view?”
Lieutenant Barton stares frankly across the table at Dr. Jeremy Wells, the young physician who treated Marty Gaynor’s puncture wound.
Jeremy Wells shrugs. “I can’t speak for the media, how things get reported there. But, Simon Louis Krall received a nobel laureate in medicine. He’s a world class geneticist.” Wells looks evenly at the Boston police detective. “So, no, it’s assuredly not hype if he states publicly that these samples were taken from a human-like species that we’ve not encountered before.”
Jeremy Wells feels a shivery thrill at his own words just spoken aloud in this small north shore coffee shop.
“Human-like.” Lieutenant Barton shakes his head. “A Neanderthal could walk down the street in a suit and probably nobody would notice he wasn’t one of us, right? So this new humanoid guy, whatever you want to call him, maybe he could blend in, too?”
Jeremy Wells nods. “Sure, wearing a suit is pretty simple. But, speaking a language, assimilating into a culture, heck having a culture, are the harder questions here.”
“So you’re asking where is his group, his peeps?”
“Exactly. This being, this primate, came from somewhere, was the product of some biological reproduction.”
Lieutenant Barton sips his coffee. “So, was a crime committed or was it not? You get a snake bite and it’s an animal attack, you get stabbed by a mugger and it’s a crime. Two patients with puncture wounds and no real memory of what happened. Could be either.”
“It’s why I didn’t initially file a police report. The lack of testimony and the absence of any human DNA on the wound.”
“You’ve never identified the woman your patient reported being with?”
“No. He admitted to having an extremely high level of blood alcohol during that encounter. His recollection of her was vague.”
“I talked to some guys at a tavern your patient goes to. The owner and several of the regulars remember the night your guy encountered that woman. According to their description she was way out of place there, a bombshell redhead in furs and jewels. An A-list Manhattan call girl if she’s a professional and if she’s a professional what the hell is she doing in a two-bit dive in Lynn? It makes no business sense.”
“There are certain personality disorders, thrill-seeking obsessions.”
“They described her as very smooth.” Barton reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handkerchief which he unfolds to reveal a tiny, slightly translucent white object. He offers it to Jeremy Wells.
“Know what this is?” Barton asks him.
The young doctor inspects the tiny object with curiosity, turning it over in his hand and holding it up to the light. “Well, it actually looks like a cosmetic cap for a tooth. It’s made of an unusual material.”
“I took a walk on that Swampscott beach where the alleged assault occurred. I found this in the sand at low tide.”
“A cosmetic dentist can probably tell you the make sand material.”
“Could such a tooth cap be applied to cover a sharp tooth? The kind of tooth, let’s say the kind of fang, that could make a puncture wound?”
Jeremy Wells gives the lieutenant a surprised look. “Caps are affixed permanently, they aren’t like gloves that you take off and put on again.” Suddenly he smiles a little incredulously and shakes his head at the detective. “Come on, Lieutenant, you aren’t suggesting–”
“Now Doc, I’m not going to say the ‘V’ word. And you aren’t either, even though I know it’s crossed your mind.” Lieutenant Barton sees the stunned looked on Jeremy Wells’ face and picks up the tiny tooth cap. “I’ll just ask whether you know a good dental specialist I can show this to.”
It’s early afternoon the day after the ominous meeting at Sam’s Somerville apartment. Sam has been on edge, wondering when the next call or message from Dean will come, wondering how increasingly dangerous it is for him to attempt to reach her at BubbleTrendz, even via her private cell phone.
Rina can barely stand to look at Evan and he notices this change in her attitude and now assesses her with a harsher scrutiny. It’s not clear whether Evan will be eager to slip out for some social time with Rina at this point. Even if he did leave for an hour, Rolf is still there, coming out of Dean’s office at odd intervals to wander the hall, fetching himself a cup of coffee, peering into offices. And there’s Sandor. He looks especially pale today and Sam knows that Sandor has trouble masking his emotions far more than even Rina. They cannot afford to have him lash out at Evan just now, they need to keep their heads down and wait for the opportunity to plumb Evan’s files, snare him with digital proof. Dean will know whom to contact once they have proof.
Sam’s cell phone vibrates in her pocket. Dean! She almost tears the phone from her pocket. It’s Anatol, her investment partner.
“Are you watching the markets?” His rich voice is uncharacteristically strained, distant.
“Not this afternoon.”
“Zaira, Hong Kong is in free fall. Gold is down twenty percent in the past thirty minutes! The Dow is down a thousand points. It’s insanity.”
Sam realizes another call is coming in. “Anatol, whatever you do with our positions I’m with you. There is a call I must take now. I’ll get back to you!” She switches to the new caller.
“Dean! The markets are tanking! I-”
“Sam, it’s bad. It’s much bigger than BubbleTrendz.”
“What then?” She glances up and down the hall, no Rolf at the moment.
“The one person I trusted to help me, help us, is working for Joel Anderson.”
There is a long silent pause between them. Finally, Sam asks. “Where are you?”
“Delaware.” He sounds defeated, exhausted.
“Dean, listen. Come back here.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Not to BubbleTrendz. To my place.” When he doesn’t reply she offers more. “I have a house outside the city, remote, where you can hide out indefinitely. You can reach it by bus to Salem then a taxi. Go after dark.” Glancing sharply down the hall, Sam whispers the address of her Marblehead mansion to Dean, promising to meet him there.
“Sam, I don’t know what’s going to happen. With us or with the world. But, thank you.”
That same afternoon Stephanie Nichols offers coffee and a slice of homemade cranberry-lemon pie to Lieutenant Barton. He had politely displayed his credentials to her, saying he was merely seeking some local information. She’d cheerfully consented to help in whatever way she could.
“Mrs. Nichols do you and your husband go to The Cat’s Cradle often?”
“It’s a place all the locals go, Bob and Jan have been running that place for twenty years I guess.” She adds cream to her coffee and stirs it.
“You get many non-locals there?”
She gives him a puzzled look, so he adds, “Have you ever seen a young, red-headed woman at The Cat’s Cradle? The flashy kind, you know, with jewels and a fur?”
“Yes! We were there recently and a woman had this gorgeous fur which I happened to accidentally knock from her chair — how embarrassing is that — and then I recognized her as my neighbor! She lives right down the road.”
“She lives here?” This unexpected tip is exciting.
“Uh huh. She bought Jack Pearson’s property about a year ago I think it was. Jack passed away and his children didn’t want to maintain the house. It is a grand old place although I’d certainly want to do some renovations. We don’t really know her, I’ve rarely seen her. Oh, but I have seen her at the Salem train station.” Stephanie smiles at him. “But no fur then, it was blue jeans and a leather jacket.”
“What kind of car does she drive?”
“Beats me.” Stephanie Nichols grows more serious. “She doesn’t have anything to do with these, well these vampire stories going around?”
“A beautiful bejeweled female vampire bit a local sailor. Hey, people need stories to get through the long winter nights!” She laughs. “Face it, a female vampire is more glamorous than Big Foot running amok in New York City. I read those stories about that DNA thing. You cannot believe everything you read, though. New Yorkers are prone to hysteria, just look at Yankees fans.” She grimaces, then gives the lieutenant a confidential wink. “We New Englanders are made of tougher stuff, we’ve weathered our Salem witches after all.”
“What’s your neighbor’s name?” Barton asks.
“I honestly don’t know I’m embarrassed to say. We should have her over for drinks one of these days.”
“Which house is it again?”
“Just straight down the road. Turn left from our drive and you can’t miss it. The big gray stone place with the sea wall. Oh my god.”
“What is it?” Barton looks at her sharply, waiting for more.
Stephanie Nichols points to her flat screen TV which had the sound off during their conversation. “The stock market is down over 1300 points!”
— To be continued