“The suspense is killing me, Sam! What’s going on?” Rina cuts to the chase.
“And where is Dean?” Gil asks her, a little short of breath from the brisk walk.
Sam feels their eyes on her, full of questions for which she has answers to only a few. But it’s time to tell them what she does know. “Dean is hiding.”
“He’s on the run. Joel Anderson is trying to kill him.” There is no point in understating the facts.
Gil stares at her, pale with shock, but also understanding. “Why Dean didn’t pull me in on Evan’s hiring starts to make sense now. But, Dean was totally blindsided by those guys. Totally.”
Sam continues. “He’s been calling me from undisclosed locations, and asked me to send money, which I did.” She sees Gil’s expression. “I lent him my savings. It’s okay.”
“Why kill him?” Rina asks, her brown eyes wide, incredulous.
Sam spots an empty carton of boxed blood on the coffee table and snatches it up as nonchalantly as possible and tucks it under her arm. “Dean discovered that Joel was intentionally hacking into client sites, allegedly as a security service to them-”
“Yeah right,” Gil interjects derisively.
Sam nods at him. “You were absolutely right to believe Evan was behind the Star break-in. Dean thinks Joel is running a velvet glove extortion racket.”
“Let us protect you from what we can do to you?” Gil adds, mockingly.
“Why would companies put up with it?” Rina demands.
“Because it’s happening all over,” Gil replies quietly. “Paying off cyberhackers is the cost of doing business nowadays it seems.” He sighs.
Sandor shakes his head. “The flash crash on the stock exchange was more viral than hacking the database records of a business. Was Joel Anderson involved there?”
Sam looks at her tall, sallow cousin. “Dean doesn’t know.”
Gil walks to the couch and plops down, head in hands. He looks up at Sam. “We’ve got to help Dean, keep him away from Joel and…not let on to Evan that we know what’s up.” Gil laughs bitterly. “That won’t be hard for me, given that he fired me.”
“Should we try to steal Evan’s passwords? I’ve never done such a thing.” Rita’s voice is dark with excitement and apprehension.
“That’s a start,” Gil replies, “but you’ll have to get system logs and not leave footprints behind you.”
“I can probably get those,” Sandor offers, “It would be safest when Evan is not there.”
“He could go for coffee with Sam,” Rina suggests.
“He doesn’t like me.” Sam smiles at Rina. “He likes you, though.”
Rina grimaces. “He scares me a little.”
“He should,” Gil says emphatically. “Joel Anderson trusts him and that’s enough to scare me.”
“I’ll make something hot,” Sam tells them, turning toward her kitchen with the empty carton still under her arm. “We have to come up with a plan. Dean’s life may well depend on it.”
Sam quickly disposes of the empty blood container in the cabinet beneath the sink and puts on a kettle of water. Sandor stands in the doorway of the kitchen and their eyes meet. She hopes he understands the meaning in hers: we must not reveal ourselves in the situation here.
Aloud she asks him, “Do we have anything?”
“There’s ginger tea,” he replies and fetches it from the cupboard.
Sam takes a sudden, sharp look at Sandor and tells him in an intense whisper, “You’ve lost the cap on your upper left canine! Don’t smile.” She sighs anxiously. “I’ve got to order you a proper set.”
Sandor shrugs at her and carries an opened box of crackers to the living room. Rina, who has seated herself cross-legged on the floor by the coffee table, looks up at Sandor and shakes her head, smiling. “You don’t eat anything. I’m going to cook you a good Russian dinner.”
Gil glances at her wistfully and Sandor’s face blanches a paler shade of white.
A few minutes later, Sam returns with steaming cups of ginger tea. A dose of blood will have to wait until later. The foursome return to the solemnity of the situation and the unknown menace they are facing.
“Who is Joel Anderson?” Gil muses aloud softly, “And what is he after?”
The geneticist in upstate New York who analyzed the swab taken from Marty Gaynor’s neck wound receives a new DNA sample from the Ninth Precinct of the New York City Police Department. The news of the NYPD’s medical case has already reached the papers and has been written up in the sensational style of modern journalism. The media are abuzz with references to alien races, lost tribes and humanoids.
Upon reading such accounts, the geneticist had contacted the forensics lab, telling them of the human-like sequence he had recently analyzed and puzzled over. Baffled by their own results and curious whether a comparison of data might shed light on their case, the Ninth Precinct has sent him what they have.
What he finds lead to further discussions with a colleague, a renowned geneticist. Their analysis confirms that, although certain sequences show significant overlap with human genetic code fragments, there are other fragments alien to any known human DNA. Of even greater interest is the closeness of certain sequences between the New York sample and the Boston sample.
The renowned geneticist is impressed and mystified by the similarities of the unknown code fragments. He sums it up in one sentence. “We’re either dealing with a genetic bottleneck of some species of uh, hominid, or these are possibly samples from a single individual of such a species.”
“How could a human-like being have avoided detection until now?” exclaims the other geneticist, thrilled and baffled by the possibility of a profound scientific discovery.
“Indeed.” His renowned colleague gives him a frank look. “And can we now locate the individual or individuals — the beings — whose samples we’ve analyzed.”
“That’s a job for the Ninth Precinct detective in New York.” The geneticist picks up the phone. “There’s also a doctor, a GP, in Boston who might prove useful.”
It’s not a good neighborhood and Dean is doubtful the phone booth on the street corner is actually in working order. He waits for a scruffy, emaciated man, probably a junkie, to walk past it before he approaches it himself. Dean slips inside the booth, his eyes now making an accustomed sweep of the surroundings. He inserts a coin, hears a dial tone and dials. The phone seems to be working, it’s ringing. Then he hears Philip’s voice.
“Philip. It’s Dean.”
“Well hello! You’re in the D.C. area?”
Startled, Dean remembers that Philip’s phone is almost certainly displaying the number of the pay phone, including its local area code.
“Uh, yeah. I am. Philip, I need to talk to you.” Dean looks around outside the booth, Bands of tension arch across the back of his neck. “I’m in a real pickle and I need your help.”
“Are you in some kind of danger?” Philip sounds technical, already in problem-solving mode. It gives Dean a shot of confidence.
“So it seems. Ever hear of Joel Anderson? He runs an investment fund, Scorpio II.”
There’s a pause before Philip answers. “Yes.”
“I sold a chunk of my company to him, Philip. And I was trying to sell him more until he creeped me out by his open admission of cyberhacking as part of his business model.”
Dean hears Philip clear his throat quietly, it’s one of Philip’s familiar, comfortable idiosyncracies. “Mr. Anderson is a POI.”
“A person of interest?”
“We’re not on a clean connection here, Dean.”
Dean sees two men across the street and scrutinizes them. They walk past a seedy-looking convenience mart and disappear around the corner. “Philip, this guy has thugs. One was going to kill me I think. I didn’t stick around to find out.”
“In New York?”
“Yes! How do you know?”
“He’s on our team.”
“Bernard? Not possible.”
“We can’t continue this conversation on this line, Dean.”
“Can I come to your place?”
“Sure. Better yet, remember that bar in Georgetown where you flirted with the female bartender from Chile? It’s still there. Nice and noisy, very private.”
“Will I recognize you?” There is a measure of humor in Philip’s voice.
“Maybe not. I’ve shaved my head and I’m wearing big black geek glasses.” Dean is amazed at how easily this lie slips off his tongue, but he makes sure there is a touch of humor in his own voice when he relays this to his old friend.
— to be continued