Written by: Anna Hansen
Story concept by: JEB and A Fan
At first glance, Baltimore didn't look like a dangerous place. The main streets were wide and clean, the buildings neat and squat and gray.
One had to look beneath the surface to discover what it was really like. One had to walk down the small streets to find the derelict buildings and dirty gutters.
Mark Cory paused at the exit to the building where he'd once worked and contemplated the walk home. It was silly that a man aged twenty-three would be frightened to walk home in the dark. Sillier still was the fact that, despite the coolness of the day, a thin layer of sweat caked his body. But he was frightened. He knew it. And no matter how hard he tried to ignore the nervous spasms which forced his stomach to clench and unclench arhythmically, he couldn't control what he felt.
In an effort to remain calm, he looked up at the sky, and observed the changing weather. Heavy clouds hung overhead, low and black. Fat drops of rain fell to the ground, so slowly that he could almost count them. They splashed against the gray cement of the pavement outside.
Mark liked the rain. It calmed him. He opened the door to the building wider and slipped outside. The cool wind slapped against his face, drying the perspiration on his forehead. A bloated raindrop fell in the middle of his head, seeping into his hair. He slapped on his hat, and then opened his black umbrella.
Taking a deep breath, he strode into the center of the pavement. Lifting his chin, he walked quickly through the rain. The sound of raindrops beat against the canvas of his umbrella, a slow, rhythmic beat at first, which gradually increased in speed.
Almost as soon as he had placed his booted foot on the pavement, he'd sensed eyes upon him. One pair, maybe two. Boring into his back. Scrutinizing him.
Mark shivered, but kept walking.
They'd been observing him for a few days now, those eyes. He had known it, had sensed their presence, but he'd never seen their owners.
He didn't know when they'd make their move. Soon, he supposed, half resigned to the fact. He heard a shuffle behind him, followed by the sound of booted feet marching along the pavement, and suddenly he realized they were making their move now.
No! his mind silently cried. His heart rate quickened. His palms began to sweat. He walked more briskly.
His followers picked up their pace.
Mark's stomach clenched. He tried not to appear alarmed. He hurried toward the dingy district which he called home. He wondered if he should lead his followers in the wrong direction. He wondered if it was worth his while, or if they already knew where he lived.
And then his followers started to run toward him. All thoughts fled from his mind.
Mark panicked. He leapt forward, tossing his umbrella to the ground. He ran. His heart pumping so hard, he thought it would burst. He could hear his followers behind him. He could detect the sounds of their breathing. Their closeness made him move faster.
"Stop!" one of the men shouted. "FBI."
Mark ran faster. He reached the end of the block, skidded around the corner, and headed for the fire escape of a nearby building.
"No, you don't," the other man said.
Mark sensed the speaker lunge toward him. He tried to leap out of the way, but a hand grabbed his trench coat. Another hand shoved him against the wall.
"Don't hurt me!" Mark cried.
Mark was whirled around. He was pressed up against the brick wall of the building.
The cool bricks dug into Mark's shoulder blades. Splashes of rain, wet and icy, slapped against his face. His arms were pinned to the wall, so he couldn't wipe the water from his eyes, but, through his blurred vision, he saw two men. Both wore trench coats and fedora hats. One was young, tall, and had a boyishly round face which almost made him look friendly. The other was older and shorter. He had a thick waist and heavyset shoulders. His lips were so thin, they almost didn't exist. His forehead was creased in what looked to be a permanent frown. He looked mean. Unfortunately, he was the one holding Mark against the wall.
"Don't hurt me," Mark said again. His voice squeaked. "Don't hurt me."
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Sata landed on the rooftop in a splash of orange Phoenix flame.
Brooklyn kept his wings around Sata and gazed at her tenderly. "How do you feel after that timedance?" he asked. "Are you tired? Do you feel sick? Can I get you a chair?"
Sata looked at him and raised an eyebrow ridge. Glancing pointedly over the edge of his wing, she said, "We are on a rooftop. Where do you suppose you will find a chair?"
Brooklyn carefully released Sata and looked about him. Sata was right. They'd landed on a rooftop. What's more, it seemed as though the district where they'd landed was rundown. He could see that the pipes of a neighboring building were rusty. The paint on the window panes of the same building had started to peel.
And the smell of rubbish filled his nostrils.
"I could glide around," Brooklyn suggested, "and see if I can find a chair?"
Sata laughed. "Brooklyn-san, you are being absurd. I do not need a chair. I am fine."
"But," Brooklyn turned to stare at his mate. "We still don't know all the side effects of timedancing. We know it can tire us out. We don't know how it will affect you while you're pregnant."
"Brooklyn-san," Sata said, a note of impatience in her voice, "I am fine."
Brooklyn wasn't convinced. But he knew there was no point pushing the issue with Sata. Sometimes, she could be stubborn. "All right," Brooklyn said. "But you must promise me that you'll tell me if you're tired, or if you're feeling sick. All right?"
Sata paused. A horn sounded in the street below. "All right."
"Good." Satisfied, Brooklyn took Sata's arm and said, "Where do you suppose we've landed now?"
Splashes of rain fell on Brooklyn's beak, beading. Brooklyn wrapped a wing around Sata, to protect her from the weather.
Sata shrugged it off. "I do not need protection from the rain, Brooklyn-san. It is only water. You of all gargoyles should know that I will not melt in a sprinkle of water."
Brooklyn sighed. It seemed that Sata wasn't going to let him pamper her. "I know," he whispered, a little disappointed. He wanted to prove to Sata that he was going to be a good father. He wanted to show her that he was willing to start good parenthood now, by looking after her. But if she didn't want to be looked after, what could he do?
"As for where we are," Sata said, sniffing the air and staring at the sky, "I am not sure." Sata walked to the edge of the building and glanced down.
"Sata, be careful!" The words had slipped from Brooklyn's mouth before he could stop himself.
Sata turned, slowly, and glared at Brooklyn over her shoulder. She didn't speak. She only glared and glared and glared, until Brooklyn thought that she would fry him with her look.
"Sorry," Brooklyn mumbled.
"Pregnancy has not stolen from me my ability to glide."
"Of course not," Brooklyn said.
"I intend to glide now," Sata said, "So as to better ascertain where we are."
"That sounds like a good idea." Brooklyn bounded to Sata's side. "I'll come with you."
Sata sighed. "As long as you don't hover over me."
Sata squatted, readying herself to leap from the building.
Before she could jump, a shout tore through the air.
"Don't hurt me!"
Brooklyn frowned. He leaned over the building and looked down.
Below him, he saw two men wearing wide brim hats pressing a third man up against the wall. Bullies, Brooklyn thought. From his odd vantage point, he could see that the third man was frightened.
"Don't hurt me," the man against the wall said again, more softly this time.
"It sounds like something is going on down there," Brooklyn observed.
"Something not very nice," Sata agreed.
"I'll go down and help the man." Brooklyn glanced at Sata. "You stay here."
Sata didn't reply.
Brooklyn leapt off the building and glided to the ground. He stopped behind the two bullies and stared at their backs. They didn't see him. They didn't even hear him. They were too preoccupied with the man they had pinned to the wall.
Brooklyn took a step toward them.
The man against the wall, Brooklyn realized, couldn't see him either. Perhaps the two bullies were blocking his view, or perhaps the rain streaming into his eyes blurred his vision. Brooklyn wasn't sure. All he knew was no one seemed to react to his approach.
Brooklyn took another step.
Sata landed beside him.
Brooklyn turned to look her, surprised. He opened his beak to say something, but she pressed a talon to her lips, in a gesture that was meant to warn him that they must be quiet.
She smiled, smugly.
Brooklyn clamped down the annoyance that suddenly mushroomed inside him. Why was she so stubborn? Why wouldn't she let him look after her a bit?
But there was no time to argue with her now. One of the bullies had raised his fist to the man against the wall.
The man with his fist raised shouted, "Admit what you've done!"
Brooklyn started to walk again, and stopped just behind the men. He sensed Sata beside him.
"Release that man," Sata said.
The bullies froze. The shorter of the two slowly lowered his fist.
"Ma'am," the short man said. "This is none of your concern. If you could," he slowly turned his head, "please continue on your - What in the world!" His gaze fell upon the two gargoyles. His eyes widened in shock.
"I am afraid I cannot move on," Sata said.
The tall man pulled out his gun.
"I do not think you need to use that," Sata said, taking the gun from the tall man, and bending it.
Brooklyn dived toward the short man, tackling him to the ground. The gun went off, the bullet speeding upward, harmlessly.
The short man tripped, dropped his gun, and managed to scramble away from Brooklyn's grasp. He tore down the street, shouting over his shoulder, "Hardy, run!"
The tall man glanced about him, evidently realized he'd been abandoned, and ducked beneath Sata's arm. He headed after his friend, leaving his ruined gun behind him.
"Should we run after them?" Brooklyn asked Sata. He was reluctant to draw Sata any farther into the skirmish, but he asked the question anyway.
Sata stared after the two retreating men, and shook her head. "They were frightened enough that they will reconsider before they bully someone else again." She turned her attention to the man in front of her. Her eyes, which had been hard as she'd watched the bullies leave, suddenly became gentle as she stared at the victim.
He was small and wiry. He wore a trench coat, which had come open during the attack, and Brooklyn could see a gray jacket, white shirt and tie beneath it. He had hair the color of clay. His eyes, wide with fright, were light brown. He was trembling.
"Don't be frightened," Sata said gently.
Brooklyn saw the umbrella, lying in the middle of the road, about twenty-five yards from them. He ran to it, and found that it was torn, and sprayed with muddy water. He picked it up and closed it. He shook it dry, and took it to the man against the wall. "Is this yours?"
The man nodded. He made no move to touch the umbrella.
"Take it," Brooklyn quietly insisted. "I don't know if it's much use to you any more, but you might be able to repair it."
"Th... thanks," the man said. His bony hand clamped around the wooden handle of the umbrella.
Brooklyn half expected the man to run. So he was surprised when, rather than running, the man said, "What... What are you?"
"Gargoyles," Sata said firmly. "My name is Sata, and this is my mate Brooklyn."
The man looked from Sata, to Brooklyn, and back again. "My name is Mark. Mark Cory. What's a gargoyle?"
"A long story, Mark," Sata said. She smiled again, with her mouth closed so that she wouldn't reveal her fangs. "Too long for a night like tonight. You look cold and wet. Do you live close by? Can we offer you an escort?"
Mark gulped. "I don't live far from here. But even so..." He glanced down the street, in the direction where the two agents had run. "An... an escort would be generous of you."
"Not at all generous," Sata said. "May I carry you?"
Mark turned pale. "Sure."
Sata bent her knees. She placed one talon against Mark's back, and the other behind his knees, and then she carefully tossed him over her shoulder, so that he landed snugly on her back, his arms wrapped around her neck.
"It is all right," Sata said. "I will not drop you."
Sata faced the building, and, digging her talons into the wall, started to climb.
Brooklyn followed her.
At the top of the building, Sata leapt into the sky. Brooklyn heard her say to Mark, "You direct."
Unfortunately, Mark was in no state to direct. As soon as Sata had leapt from the building, he'd buried his face into the back of her neck, clearly afraid of heights. Sata and Brooklyn circled the block a couple of times. Sata coaxed Mark to look down. He lifted his head once, saw how high they were, and pressed his face back into Sata's neck. It took quite a bit of coaxing to persuade him to take a proper look at the ground.
When he did, he quickly pointed his finger.
Brooklyn, better able to see the gesture, flew in the indicated direction first.
Sata tilted her shoulder, turned, and followed.
* * * * *
Rain plummeted against the rooftop.
A man stepped to the edge of the roof. He held a charcoal black umbrella over his head and wore thick, black boots on his feet.
He watched the gargoyles leave, admiring their grace in flight, the way their wings billowed in the air.
He wrapped the fingers of both hands around the handle of his umbrella and clasped them so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
"Excellent," he said.
* * * * *
The world had seemed a brighter place since the end of the war. Mark had been born during the Depression, and he'd grown to adolescence during the war. The onset of puberty and the declaration of victory in the Pacific occurred simultaneously. Mark had learned to associate adulthood with economic freedom and fun. He'd become accustomed to an adulthood filled with brightly colored gadgets, and neat neighborhoods.
So, he hated his current address.
When Sata landed next to the old, condemned apartment building, Mark scrambled off her back, and tried desperately to regain control of his breathing.
"I... don't think... I was meant to fly," Mark said.
Sata smiled at him. "You'll get used to it."
Mark stared at her, horrified. "I hope not."
"Is this where you live?" Sata frowned.
Brooklyn landed next to him, and winked at Mark. "She's quite a glider, isn't she?"
"Very skilled," Mark answered dryly. He turned his attention to Sata. "Yes, this is where I live."
"Here?" Sata's frown deepened.
Mark flushed a deep red. It seemed that even these strange creatures were also accustomed to more luxurious surroundings. "Sure," he said defensively. "What's wrong with it? I don't get disturbed by neighbors, and I have lots of room."
Sata's gaze fixed on a rat scurrying out the front door of the building. Once the rat had disappeared, she turned to Mark, appearing contrite. "I am sorry. I did not mean to insult you."
Mark shrugged. He was very embarrassed. "That's okay. You get used to the place, you know? Well, thanks for the ride. It was nice meeting you - "
"Why don't you invite us inside?" Brooklyn said. "You can tell us why those men were chasing you. We might be able to help you."
Mark's ears were burning. If they didn't like the outside of the apartment block, they sure weren't going to like the inside. But he didn't know what to say that would rid him of the two creatures who'd helped him. Besides, he reasoned, the big red one might be right. They might be able to help him.
"Follow me." He climbed the steps to the front door of the apartment building. The wooden steps creaked.
Brooklyn followed directly behind him. One of the steps broke beneath the weight of the gargoyle's tread.
Mark glanced over his shoulder. He stared down at the splinters of wood which surrounded Brooklyn's thick, red calf.
Brooklyn grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."
"Never mind," Mark said.
Mark opened the door, and led the gargoyles inside.
He tried to see the place through their eyes. The stairwell was cramped. A thick layer of dirt covered the walls. Cobwebs filled the spaces between the railings of the staircase. A mouse sat on one stair, nibbling at a piece of old cheese.
"I know it's not much," Mark said. "But it's home - for now."
"I'm surprised this place hasn't been condemned," Brooklyn observed. And then he threw Mark an embarrassed glance, as though he felt that he said something insulting.
Mark shrugged. He hated the place as well. He would give anything to be able to go back to the clean suburbs, and sprawl along a nice, soft sofa. "It has been condemned," Mark said. "That's why I live here."
Brooklyn looked at him, confused.
"I'll explain," Mark said. He waved his hand in the direction of the staircase, and indicated that the gargoyles should precede him upstairs.
On the second floor, Mark pushed open a door and ushered the gargoyles inside.
The apartment wasn't in much better condition from the rest of the building. Mark had cleaned the cobwebs from the ceiling with a broom which he'd bought at the five and dime around the corner. He'd scrubbed the floorboards, twice, with detergent and antiseptic. He kept only jars of food, which he stored in one of the upper cupboards. He never kept any open packages of food in his apartment, because he didn't want to attract more rodents than were necessary.
"You have done a lot with this apartment," Sata said.
"I like things to be clean," Mark said. He tried not to cringe when a cockroach scurried across his foot. "I don't live here out of choice, but out of necessity."
Sata turned to Mark. "You have - how do you say it? - fallen on hard times?"
Mark stared at the dark corners of the place which he now called home. "You could say that," he said. He looked up. He saw that Sata was patiently waiting for him to explain further. "What I mean is, I had a job. A good job. I worked for the Department of Agriculture. I was only a junior clerk, but they paid me a decent wage. But I... Well, I lost that job. And my prospects for another job aren't that good. But," Mark clapped his hands together, in an effort to sound cheerful. "At least I managed to save enough money so that I can live. And I don't pay rent on this place, so I can survive for quite some time on what I do have."
Brooklyn squinted at him. "How did you lose your job? Did those bullies we saw in the street have anything to do with it?"
"In a way." Mark sighed. "Look, why don't the two of you sit down - there are a couple of crates over there - and I'll tell you the whole story. From the beginning."
Brooklyn grabbed the two crates. He placed one in front of Sata, and then he dropped the other on the floor and sat on that one himself. He looked at Mark, expectantly.
* * *
Sata slowly lowered herself onto the crate. She watched her mate, and smiled. There was a time when he would have been impatient, when he would have asked Mark all sorts of questions. But now, he simply sat and listened. Sata supposed that the years of time travel had taught him the importance of listening. She was glad.
She turned her attention to Mark, and waited for his story.
* * *
"Okay," Mark started. "Now, you've both probably heard of the HUAC. Those two men - "
"I am sorry," Sata said. She glanced, hesitantly, at Brooklyn, who shook his head at her. "We do not know anything about this... HUAC."
Mark stared at them, jaw-dropped, aghast. "Where have the two of you been?"
"It's probably for the best," Brooklyn said, "if you think of us as coming from another country."
Mark trembled. What had he suddenly become involved with? Had his predicament, in the last hour, become worse?
"Which country?" Mark asked hesitantly.
"It does not matter," Sata said. "The most important thing for you to realize is that we have not read your newspapers. We do not know what is happening in your world."
Mark gulped. He wished he had someone wiser with him, someone he respected, someone who could give him advice. "All right," he said, quietly. "I'll will start further back, then. From the very beginning."
"During the Second World War, the United States was forced into an uncomfortable alliance with Russia. The enemies to fear, during the war, were Hitler and the fascists. But after the war, the alliance with Russia couldn't continue. Our creed is different from theirs, you see. For the better part of this century, Russians have adopted a form of politics known as communism. Russians gave up their political voice, their freedom of speech. They shunned capitalism, and formed a system which basically meant that people worked - not for their own economic advantage - but for the whole country. No one could own property. Goods were distributed equally to the population."
"That doesn't sound bad," Brooklyn commented. "I mean, the bit about goods being evenly distributed. Kind of like Robin Hood."
"Um, well, Robin Hood is a whole other story," Mark said. "Perhaps some of this does sound good in theory. But the most important thing about communism in Russia, the thing that frightens most people, is that it's a dictatorship. People have lost their freedom. People who didn't want to be communists in Russia were killed. Slaughtered."
Sata stared at Mark, aghast. "How many?"
"I don't know," Mark admitted. "I don't think anyone knows. Hundreds of thousands, I guess. Perhaps millions. But what happened in Russia is only the start of the story. After the war, Russia closed itself to the world. Communism spread to other countries. And continues to spread. Each country which falls to Russian politics suddenly becomes quiet, silent. No one dares speak against the Russian leaders. So, no one in the non-communist world truly knows what is happening in these communist countries. But we can guess that freedom of speech is smothered, and a dictatorship is impressed upon the people."
"It sounds as though Russia is building an empire," Sata observed.
"It is," Mark said. "A new empire. Quietly. Communists are overthrowing governments everywhere."
"What," Brooklyn asked, "does this have to do with you?"
"Ah," Mark said. "I'm coming to that. The politicians here, in America, believe that the communists in Russia are planning to invade America. Not in the traditional sense - with guns and bombs - but in their own way, in their new way. The communists, it is believed, have spies in all the government offices in the country. Their agents have positions of influence in society. They will enter positions of power slowly, and gradually infiltrate this country."
"Surely, you don't believe this?" Sata said.
Mark shrugged. "To be honest, I don't know. But I have to look at what's been happening - at recent history - and I have to think that there is a good argument to say that it is happening."
Brooklyn shook his head. "Still, I don't understand what this has to do with you."
Mark bent his head. "The men who you saw chasing me - they're FBI agents. They belong to the HUAC - the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the last few years, their job has been to find the communists who have infiltrated the government offices in this country, and to weed them out. They think... They think that I'm a communist."
Sata stared at him, her eyes piercing. "Why do they think that?"
Mark dropped his head into his hands. "A man I worked with, a man who was a good friend of mine, belonged to the Communist Party. His name was John Williamson. Oh, I didn't know about his involvement with the Communist Party. He was, understandably, very secretive about that. Earlier this year, he became friends with a man called Michael Cheng. Michael was a member of the Communist Party; he had affiliations with the Chinese Communist Party. HUAC had been following Cheng for some time, and so when John became involved with Cheng... Well, HUAC investigated him and found out that he was a communist. Now, because I was friends with John, HUAC suspects me of being a communist. Just the fact that John was a communist, and that he was my friend, is enough to tarnish my good name. The two men who you saw attack me today - they've been following me for weeks. They finally became more overt tonight."
"But," Sata peered at Mark. She looked at him so intently, that he began to squirm, "Being the friend of one who is guilty does not make you guilty. There must be something else - some other reason that they think you are a communist."
"No," Mark said quickly, shaking his head. He laughed bitterly. "That's the thing - all it takes is a rumor, and then that's it. You're blacklisted for life. They're so scared that a communist spy will slip into a position of power that they don't mind if a few innocent people suffer, as long as they get all those who are guilty."
"But... But..." Brooklyn spluttered. "That's awful."
"It is," Sata agreed. She turned to Mark. "We must help you clear your name."
Mark shook his head. "There's no way for me to clear my name. All I can do is hide, and run, and keep hiding and running. Until the money runs out. When I first heard that the HUAC were investigating me, I quit my job and left my apartment. I moved here, with the hope that they wouldn't think to look for me in this part of the neighborhood. But they must have found out, finally, where I live. For the last few days, I've felt someone watching me wherever I go."
Mark sighed, glancing at his apartment. "I put so much work into this place. Now, I'm going to have to move."
Sata said, "It's awful that you're condemned to live this kind of life."
Mark smiled. "I can only hope that things will change. I might find some illegal work about the place. And maybe, after many years, they'll stop looking for me."
"And if they don't?" Brooklyn asked.
Mark shook his head. "I don't know."
* * * * *
Sata wandered in and out of the rooms in the apartment, thinking. Mark had made himself a cup of coffee, and had offered them some drinks. Sata, aware of the fact that Mark's resources would one day run out, and that he didn't have any immediate way of replenishing them, accepted a glass of water. She scowled at Brooklyn when he accepted a soft drink.
"I haven't had a carbonated drink in a long time," Brooklyn complained.
"You may never have one again," Sata retorted.
Deep in thought, she wandered from room to room, sipping at the water. The glass looked tiny in the middle of her palm.
Finally, Sata turned to Mark. "We'll help you as much as we can."
Mark was sitting on a crate. He'd found a needle and some white thread, and he was slowly stitching the tear of his umbrella. Sata thought that the white thread in the black umbrella looked strange, but she said nothing, knowing that Mark probably didn't have any black thread.
"We want to help you," Sata said.
Mark said, "As I've pointed out, there isn't much you can do for me." He finished the last of his stitches, cut the white thread with his teeth, and held the umbrella at arm's length to see what it looked like. "But... Perhaps you could help me accumulate some information on the methods of the HUAC. I was thinking that if I was able to find some physical proof of the way they treat people, or some way to prove that the HUAC use questionable methods to obtain their so-called evidence, I might at least be able to stop this from happening to someone else."
"Do their questionable methods include shoving innocent people up against brick walls?" Brooklyn said. He was still sitting on the crate.
Mark turned to him. "That. And other things. I've heard that they sometimes beat people into submission." Mark paled as he said this.
He's scared, Sata thought.
Under the circumstances, she couldn't blame him.
"We will help you accumulate this information," Sata said. "But first, we must find a new place for you to live. If those men know you are here, then obviously you are not safe. They could come back at any time. Gather your things - quickly - and we will take you away."
"Now?" Mark questioned.
"Soon," Sata said. "The longer we wait, the more likely it is that they will come for you. And they have already confronted us. They know you have us as allies. They will come with reinforcements."
* * * * *
Reynolds ran all the way to his hotel. In the lobby he stopped. He collapsed on the black marble, and panted. The breath rushed in and out of his lungs painfully.
The concierge ran to him. He dropped to the floor beside Reynolds and said, "Sir, are you all right?"
Reynolds liked the concierge. The man was weak-minded, and too polite. But he was also obsequious. Reynolds liked the way the concierge pandered to his every whim.
"I'm all right," Reynolds gasped. "Just... help me up."
The concierge placed a hand beneath Reynolds' elbow, and lifted. For a skinny man, he was surprisingly strong.
Standing, Reynolds felt much better.
"Where's Hardy?" Reynolds said, turning to look at the glass door through which he had just stumbled. He hoped that Hardy had managed to escape those creatures. A moment later, Reynolds breathed a sigh of relief as Hardy, hardly out of breath, not sweating at all, entered the building.
Good-naturedly, Hardy greeted Reynolds and said, "You nearly left me to die."
The concierge, standing at Reynolds' elbow, paled.
Reynolds said, "A good soldier never turns his back on his mate. My father learned that in the trenches. I learned that in Singapore." Reynolds clapped Hardy on the shoulder. "I knew you'd escape. If I hadn't been so certain, I would have come back for you." He paused, took a deep breath. "It seems we have a problem on our hands."
"It seems we do," Hardy agreed.
"Let's go upstairs and discuss it," Reynolds said. He turned to the concierge. "The reds are all over this city." The concierge, if possible, paled even more. "That's right," Reynolds continued. "I'd be frightened if I were you."
* * * * *
Mark packed everything that would fit into his one, large bag. He took his blankets, his clothes, his framed photo of Bradley Matthews, his umbrella, and as many jars of food as he could fit into the remaining space. Then, he shrugged into his trenchcoat and jumped onto Sata's back.
They soared over the city, Mark on Sata's back, and Brooklyn following closely behind. The rain, harder and faster now than it had been earlier in the evening, poured over Mark. His bag, luckily, was waterproof, and the trenchcoat kept him basically dry, but the rain soaked into his hair until it lay plastered on his head. Streams of water fell down his face. It was a terrible night to be moving house.
He looked down and he could see the streets of Baltimore, a long way below him. He felt dizzy. The cars were like toys, the headlights like pinpricks of light.
"If we can fly to the edge of the city," Mark said to Sata, "we'll find some warehouses. I'm sure that there are some which aren't in use. We might find some place warm and dry to at least spend the night."
Sata nodded, and flew.
They reached the industrial part of the city, and Sata dropped to the ground. Brooklyn followed her.
"Do you see something we can use?" Brooklyn shouted through the rain. "Perhaps we should split up," Mark said, "and each take a closer look at these warehouses."
Sata nodded and the three went in separate directions.
It was Mark who found the empty warehouse. Probably boxes had been taken out recently, or the place was abandoned. Either way, it was spacious, and deserted, and unlikely to be visited for the next day or so. He went back outside, found Brooklyn and Sata, and brought them back to the dry room.
Sata stepped into the warehouse and shook the water from her body. "This is perfect," she said, examining the cleanliness of the area. "We can all stay here for a few days."
"Yes," Brooklyn agreed, stepping into the warehouse.
There were scraps of paper and sawdust on the floor and a couple of empty boxes scattered about the place, but, on the whole, it was cleaner than the old apartment building where Mark had been staying.
"I might unpack some things," Mark said, pulling off his raincoat. "Get a towel and some blankets. Are you two hungry? Would you like to dry yourselves?"
"No to both," Sata replied. "Gargoyles are used to wet weather. We dry quickly, and we do not often catch colds. And we do not wish to deplete your food supply."
"Ah," Mark said. "You're tough creatures." He nodded. "That doesn't surprise me. I'm learning about you, bit by bit. Now that it looks like it's going to be a long night, perhaps you'll find some time to tell me about yourselves?"
Sata smiled. "There is nothing much to tell," she said, "but I might be able to remember some stories that I can relate to you."
Mark untied his bag and began to remove things from it - clothes, and a towel. "That would be good," he said.
"Ah," Brooklyn said. "Before you get started, Sata, I think it might be a good idea to go on a patrol."
Sata looked at him squarely. Something passed between the two of them - a silent communication. Sata said, "Yes, you are right, Brooklyn-san. But I am reluctant to leave Mark behind. I know that he is safe here, and yet - "
"And yet," Brooklyn quickly said, "You can never be sure. I was suggesting that only one of us go on patrol. And that someone would be me."
Sata frowned. "You have a plan."
Brooklyn looked sheepish. "Yes, I have a plan."
Sata said, "You do not wish me to come."
Brooklyn said, "I don't wish you to come."
Sata stared at Brooklyn, hard. Mark thought that the look was venomous. If she had stared at him like that, he would have withered.
But Brooklyn barely flinched. He only said, "Someone has to wait here with Mark."
"I am not fragile, Brooklyn," Sata said.
At that, Mark laughed. The sound of his mirth filled the large interior of the warehouse, and bounced off the walls.
First Sata, and then Brooklyn, turned to look at him. The expressions in their eyes were icy.
Mark swallowed his laughter, gulping the last splutter. "I'm sorry," he said. "Did I say something I shouldn't have? I mean, Sata is definitely not fragile. Just one look at her and - "
"This has nothing to do with you," Brooklyn interrupted. He turned back to his mate. "Sata," he said. "Just this once, I'd rather we didn't argue."
Sata stared at Brooklyn defiantly. Then, she seemed to give in. "What is your plan?"
Mark watched as Brooklyn inhaled, deeply. His chest swelled. "I was thinking," Brooklyn said, "That those two guys - the agents who were chasing Mark - would probably go to his apartment some time tonight. I thought I could go back to the apartment, wait there and hide, and see if they come. If they do, I could follow them back to their headquarters, and maybe find out some more about them. It would be good to know what sort of evidence they think they have on Mark."
Mark stared at Brooklyn. He shook his head. "I told you, what they have on me is the fact that I was John's friend, and John was a communist. They don't need anything else to suspect me."
Brooklyn shrugged. "It's worth having a look. You said that you wanted to get something on them - some sort of hard evidence that these guys are usually questionable methods to find communists. Well, I think this is the best place to start."
Sata said, "I agree."
Mark mulled over it for a moment. He felt as though he were being a coward accepting Brooklyn's help. And yet, Mark had never wished to be a hero. He wanted to stop the HUAC from intimidating its suspects, but he certainly felt no need to risk his own neck to do it. "All right," he said. "It sounds like a good idea. But I think you should take this with you." Mark walked to one dark corner of the warehouse, where he'd left his bag. He crouched next to it, untied it, and pulled out a small, handsized device. He walked back to the gargoyles, and handed the device to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn stared at it, incredulous.
"I know it looks strange," Mark quickly explained. "It's a tape recorder. I hear that it's part of the leading edge of technology - it's amazing what we can do with machines now, isn't it? - anyway, there's a tape inside it, and all you need to do is press a button -"
"I know how it works," Brooklyn said quickly.
Mark, in his turn, was surprised by Brooklyn's response. "You do?"
"Yes," Brooklyn said. "I've seen one before."
"You have? Wh... Where?"
"In New York," Brooklyn said. "Many years ago. Mark, where did you get this?"
Mark hesitated. "A friend gave it to me."
Brooklyn stared at Mark. He narrowed his eyes. Mark squirmed beneath the gargoyle's suspicion. "Well," Brooklyn said slowly. "At least cutting edge is right. This tape recorder will be a good way to gather evidence, at any rate." He turned his attention to Sata. "I will be back an hour before dawn."
"Very well," Sata said.
Brooklyn stepped out of the warehouse.
Mark heard the crunch of bricks and concrete and tiles as Brooklyn climbed to the roof. And then there was nothing but the quiet patter of rain.
"Be safe, Brooklyn," Sata whispered.
* * * * *
In the hotel, Reynolds took a long, hot shower. Jets of hot water beat against back, soothing his tired muscles. He rubbed soap into his shoulders and neck. He traced a finger along an old scar, the only physical reminder he had of a wound he'd incurred in the Second World War. After his shower, he toweled himself try, shrugged into his dressing gown, and walked up the hall to his room.
Inside his room, he put on a clean suit. The last one was soiled with sweat, and he'd already sent it to the hotel laundry to be cleaned. He strapped on his gun.
Once he felt clean and neat, and ready for action, he left his room, and knocked on the door of his partner's room.
Hardy opened the door.
The younger man looked alert, awake, and full of enthusiasm. Reynolds almost hated him for his boundless energy. He wore brown trousers held up with suspenders. He was shirtless, wearing only a singlet.
"Reynolds," Hardy said. "Come in. Come in. Take a seat. I ordered room service."
Reynolds stared at the room. It was smaller than his. Inside its cramped confines were a single bed, a desk, and two wooden chairs. Hardy had, indeed, called room service. A tray of sandwiches and a pot of steaming coffee sat on the table, next to a pile of papers. Hardy had evidently been sitting on one chair, and had been using the other chair as a stand for books. The former was cocked at any angle, and the latter was piled high with at least ten leather-bound books.
Hardy pulled the tower of books from the spare chair, and gestured Reynolds into it.
Reynolds sat down, eyeing the sandwiches.
"Have one," Hardy said. "Have more than one. I've been so excited that I haven't been able to eat. Have some coffee as well. Oh, there's only one cup. I'll see if I can find a maid..." He went to the door, opened it, and stuck his head outside.
Reynolds watched him, clamping his fingers around a slim sandwich at the same time.
At the door, Hardy turned his head from side to side, looking for a maid. He evidently didn't find one, because he came back and said, "I'll rinse out the cup I already have." He picked up the cup. It was nothing fancy, just plain white crockery. He took it to the door. Before he stepped outside, he said, "I've been making some sketches of what we saw today. Have a look at them. See if you can make something of it."
He disappeared down the corridor.
Reynolds took a bite of the sandwich. Corned beef and tomato. He took another bite, and another, consuming the entire sandwich. Chewing, he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the crumbs from his fingers. He folded the handkerchief, placed it back into his pocket, and selected a wad of papers from Hardy's desk.
Hardy had used pencil for his drawings. The sketches were good, well proportioned, and clear.
They were also accurate.
Reynolds felt his head start to pound with terror, just looking at the monsters. What were they? he wondered. Where had they come from?
"Here we go," Hardy said, returning to the room. He placed the rinsed white cup on the desk in front of Reynolds. Beads of water dripped down the side of the cup. Hardy picked up the pot of coffee, and poured. "What do you think of the pictures?"
"Accurate," Reynolds said. Horror welled inside him. "Frighteningly accurate." Reynolds felt sick. He hoped that he wasn't going to need a bathroom. The nearest one was at the end of the corridor.
"Frighteningly accurate," Hardy repeated. He sat down in the seat opposite Reynolds. He stared at his drawings. Reynolds didn't see fear in the younger man's eyes, only excitement. "What do you suppose they are?"
"I was wondering that myself," Reynolds said.
"Aliens?" Hardy suggested.
Reynolds shook his head. "I don't think so."
"But why not?" Hardy insisted. "There've been many reports of bright lights flying across the countryside, flying saucers and - "
Reynolds burst into laughter. "Flying saucers, aliens... The public make up stories which suit their vivid imaginations. But you and I know better. We know the truth about the reports behind the lights."
Hardy blinked. "We do?"
Reynolds sighed. "You're always one step behind, aren't you Hardy? Lights hovering over the United States of America that look like space ships - people have only started to see them since the end of the war. Who do you suppose they are?"
"If they're not aliens?"
"Assume they're not aliens."
Reynolds nodded. "That's right." He reached for another wad of papers, and flicked through more images of monsters. "Russians," he agreed. "Commie spies. That's what I think these monsters are."
"Commie spies," Hardy repeated, without Reynolds' gusto. "But... how?"
"I don't know how," Reynolds scoffed. "I'm a printer's son. A policeman, a soldier, an FBI agent. What do I know about science? Perhaps they're robots, perhaps they're an accident of birth, perhaps they're some native animal from Siberia. I don't know. I don't care. What I do know is that they're not American. And they helped that Red escape. That makes them our enemy."
Hardy paused a moment, evidently to contemplate this. "How do we fight them?"
Reynolds pulled his gun from his holster. He stared at the small, black piece. It had saved his life, more than once. "The same way we'd fight any enemy. We learn their weakness, and then we exploit it."
* * * * *
Sata sat on one of Mark's blankets in the warehouse, and watched as Mark slowly unpacked the rest of the items in his bag. He made a bed for himself with the blankets which he'd brought with him. He set a photograph of a middle-aged man by the makeshift bed, and then he rummaged through his bag and started to pull out jars of food.
"You need to create a home for yourself, wherever you go, do you not?" Sata asked.
Mark stared in the direction of the bed. "I've never thought of it like that, but I guess it's true. I'm not much of a wanderer, you see. I like to be settled. I like to have a place which I can call my own."
Sata sighed. "I was once like that."
Mark arched an eyebrow at her. "You don't have a home?"
Sata thought about her clan. She thought about Japan. She thought about Brooklyn. "My home is now with my mate," she said.
"And where is Brooklyn's home?" Mark asked.
Sata smiled at Mark. "His home is with me."
Exasperated, Mark shook his head.
"Is that your father?" Sata asked, pointing to the photo beside Mark's bed. Without looking up, Mark said, "I keep no reminder of my father."
The bitterness in his voice was thick, palpable.
"I see," Sata said. "So, is he an uncle, then? A teacher? A mentor?"
Mark pulled a jar of apricots from his bag. He placed the apricots on the ground beside him, and looked up at the photo. The expression on his face softened, became almost tender. "That's Bradley Matthews. He was my first boss. He owned a gas station just outside Baltimore. He still owns it, in fact. Bradley's Gas. I was sixteen at the time. I'd left home, after a row with my father, and I'd been living on the streets for months. I couldn't find work. I don't know - I guess I just had a bad attitude. Bradley saw what I could be. He hired me, and rented me a room in his house, and he's been like a father to me ever since."
"Do you still talk to him?" Sata asked. "See him? Perhaps he might be able to help you."
Mark looked away. "I don't dare try to contact him. Not at the moment. Not with everything that's happening to me. No doubt he's already having problems with HUAC, just because of his connection to me. I don't want to make things worse for him."
Sata smiled. "Of course not."
"He did a lot for me," Mark said. "I don't want to repay him by ruining his life." Mark sounded vehement, passionate, and brave. Sata felt as though she were gaining some sort of insight into his character. But almost as soon as the words had left his lips, his bravado left him. He looked sad, almost defeated. "I guess I'll never see him again." He stared at the photo. A tear rolled down his cheek. "I'll miss him."
Sata said, "You are doing the right thing by protecting him. He will understand it. He will know that you are making a great sacrifice for love. And he will be grateful for it."
Mark didn't turn his gaze from the photo. But he nodded. "Sata," he said, "I think you're right."
* * * * *
Brooklyn flew across the rain-streaked skyline of Baltimore. Through the haze of rain, he could see a trickle of car headlights on the streets below.
He found the derelict apartment building where Mark had been living. He glanced at the ground below and only when he was certain that there was no one about, did he land.
He paused on the pavement in front of the building. No light shone from the apartment windows.
"Spooky," Brooklyn said, before he entered the building through the front door. He was careful to miss the break in the steps which he had created earlier in the evening.
He was cautious as he moved through the building, aware that the HUAC agents could have already arrived, and might be hiding and waiting for him.
He searched the building carefully. Only when he was sure he was alone did he look for a place to hide himself.
He had thought about this carefully on the flight over. He was only a single gargoyle, and if the HUAC men chose to bring reinforcements, and guns, he would be seriously outnumbered. Wherever he hid, he needed to be able to escape.
He only wanted to see them, and to follow them to their headquarters. If possible, he would like to listen to the things they said. But he didn't wish to confront them, nor did he need to see them. So, he didn't need to actually be in the building.
With these criteria in mind, Brooklyn opted to stand on the window ledge outside Mark's apartment. He kept the window open. That way, he could hear what was going on. Mark's apartment had a good view of the main street, so Brooklyn would be able to see them if they came by car. And if he needed to escape, he could launch himself into the air and glide away.
The only down side was the fact that it was raining.
As Brooklyn sat on the window ledge, rain pouring onto his beak, he silently cursed the weather.
* * * * *
Reynolds left Hardy's room and walked down the corridor to the elevator. He pressed the button and waited for the rickety contraption to work.
The elevator arrived and the doors opened. Reynolds pulled the outer doors apart, and then the inner ones. He glanced across his shoulder, to check and make sure that Hardy wasn't watching, and then he stepped into the elevator.
He closed the outer door, and the inner door, and then he pressed the button to the top floor.
The ride was slow, and noisy. At the top, he pulled the two doors open again, and stepped out.
He looked up and down the hotel corridor. He saw no one. Reynolds pulled a brass key from his pocket and moved slowly past the row of doors. He stopped in front of room 916. He unlocked the door, opened it, stepped inside, and locked the door behind him.
He turned to face the room, pressing his back against the door.
The room was dark. The shades were drawn, so that not even the light from the surrounding buildings could seep into the tiny room. The air in the room was stale. Reynolds smelled stale bread and sweat. He could hear a slow, raspy breathing, so he knew that the man inside wasn't dead.
"It's me. Reynolds." Reynolds didn't move from his spot by the door.
The occupant of the room laughed, a wrenching sound. "I did not expect anyone else."
"I might allow you visitors," Reynolds said. "If you would talk."
"You would not allow me visitors. You would not want anyone to know what you do to me in here. You would not even want your partner to know."
Reynolds contemplated that for a moment. "No. I suppose I wouldn't. Well, if you talk, I might just make the rest of your life a little less painful for you."
Again, the man laughed. "I'm not afraid of pain."
"Mm," Reynolds said. "That's a pity. Because I really need you to talk."
* * * * *
Sata sat with Mark. She told him very little about gargoyles, and managed as much as she could to steer the conversation toward him, instead. She learnt about his aggravation toward his father, the death of his mother, about the succession of jobs which had led to his position in the Department of Agriculture. She learnt that the reason he hated living on the run was because he'd done it as a teenager. She learnt that he liked apricots.
Mark ate, and then, a bit past midnight, he excused himself so he could go outside and relieve himself.
It had stopped raining. Even so, Sata said, "Take your umbrella. You never know when it will start to rain again, and he do not want to get wet."
"You're right," Mark said, his hand closing around the handle of his umbrella.
"Be careful," Sata said.
When Mark returned, Sata saw that he didn't have his umbrella. "Where did you leave it?" Sata asked. "I will find it for you."
"I'll get it," Mark said. But just as he was about to leave, it started to rain again. Big drops of rain fell to the ground.
"You will get wet," Sata said. "Let me go."
Mark shook his head. "Don't trouble with it. I won't need it again tonight. I'll find it in the morning."
"All right," Sata conceded.
Mark went to his bed. He yanked off his boots and climbed in, pulling the blanket up to his chin. He used his bag as a pillow. He was shaking. Sata guessed it wasn't so much from the cold, as from fear.
Sata touched his shoulder. "Do not be afraid."
Mark tried to smile at her. It looked more like a grimace. "I'll try," he promised.
Sata stood, and walked to the door of the warehouse. She wanted to leave Mark alone, to give him a chance to relax, and to sleep. She thought she would stand guard outside for a while.
Despite Mark's insistence that she leave the umbrella for the morning, she looked for it, but couldn't find it.
* * * * *
It was an hour before dawn, and Brooklyn hadn't returned. Sata started to worry. It had stopped raining and the clouds had started to disperse. She could see a glimmer of pink on the horizon.
"My love," she whispered to herself, "where are you?" She didn't relish the idea that he might be caught, that he might be about to turn to stone in the presence of men who would want to destroy him.
She hoped that he had just forgotten the time. She hoped that he would return soon, or else find a place to spend the day.
Sata herself had wondered about the best place to hide during the day. Her glimpse of Baltimore had told her that it was a stately city, filled with large, stone buildings where a gargoyle could hide without being seen. She'd decided that she and Brooklyn could easily hide in the center of the city. But if Brooklyn didn't come back to the warehouse soon, Sata would have to consider finding a hiding place on her own. Suddenly, Sata heard the sound of car tires screeching.
She looked up quickly. She'd been to the twentieth century enough times now to be accustomed to motor vehicles, although she still found them to be curious machines.
She saw the car. It was big, and black. It had stopped in front of the warehouse. Two men in gray stepped out.
Sata ran inside.
"Mark," she hissed. She ran to his bed, and shook his shoulder.
He wasn't deeply asleep, and he woke up quickly.
Blinking at her, he said, "What is it?"
"They've come," she whispered. "We must leave."
Mark leapt out of bed. He was fully clothed. He slipped on his boots, and then he started to roll up his blanket.
"There is no time for that," Sata protested. "They are coming now."
"How did they find me?" Mark asked.
Sata's heart pounded. "I do not know."
"Do you think your mate - "
"Brooklyn would not have told anyone where we were. Unless..."
Mark paused in the middle of rolling his blanket, and looked at Sata. "Unless what?"
"Unless nothing," Sata said. "We must move. Quickly. There is no use speculating on what may or may not have happened to Brooklyn. Come."
Mark said, "Not without my photo." His hand closed around the frame.
Sata was thinking about ways to escape. She'd spent part of the night examining the warehouse, in case they needed to escape from it quickly. The main door to the warehouse opened mechanically, using a pulley system. She could handle this well enough, but it would take time and attract a lot of attention. It was easier to go out the side door, even if it was the first door that the men would use.
Mark had his photo in one hand, and his bag in the other.
"Come," Sata said.
They ran to the door.
The agent called Hardy appeared as a shadow in the doorway. He was young and tall, and he was smiling. "Caught you," he said.
"I think not." Sata swung her tail in an arc, knocking Hardy over. He fell flat on his face. "Run!" Sata told Mark. She did the same.
Mark beat her to the door. He turned in the direction of the street.
Sata said, "The other way. Toward the other warehouses."
Mark did as she commanded, changing the direction of his motion quickly.
Sata followed him. They reached the other warehouse, and then they saw agents emerge from it. Five of them, with guns.
Sata turned on the spot, and ran toward the street.
Men with guns appeared there, too. They started to fire.
She and Mark were overpowered, Sata realized.
She could not let the men capture her. She could not let them harm the hatchling which she carried inside her.
This thought possessed her; it blinded her to all other thoughts. Her one, single goal became that of escape. Suddenly, she ceased to think about Mark. As the men with guns approached her from three sides, Sata turned and ran toward the fourth. This led to a railway line. A train, stopped for the night, blocked her path.
Sata ran toward it, travelling on all fours to better aid her escape.
She heard Mark scream for help. She ignored him.
Bullets whizzed past her ear. The fear that one of these bullets would hit her, hurt her hatchling, spurred her on.
She reached the train.
She heard a man behind her shout, "Shoot her. Shoot her."
She plunged a fore-talon into the metal of the train's engine. A screech filled the air as she tore through the thick material. She started to climb. Up and up and up. A bullet hit her in the leg. Pain shot through her. She continued to climb. Talon above talon; crunch, crunch into the metal.
Shots fired all around hair. The sound of heavy gunfire vibrated the night air.
When Sata reached the roof of the train, she didn't hesitate. She leapt into the air, and then glided away; up, far out of reach of the bullets.
If sunrise weren't so close, she would have turned around and flown over Mark and the men with guns; she would have tried to see if it were possible to save the man she'd promised to protect.
But sunrise was close, and all she could think about was reaching safety in time for her stone sleep. All she could think about was keeping her unborn hatchling out of danger.
So, she flew to the courthouse in the center of the city. She flew and flew and didn't stop.
She landed on the roof, just as the sun rose, and froze, with her hand on her belly.
* * * * *
Fear rippled through Mark. He tried to run. He threw his bag to the ground, and the photo with it. He ran in the direction of the train.
A bullet flew past him.
Terror seized him. It turned his legs to jelly. He tripped, and fell face first into the mud.
He tried to push himself upright. Then, another bullet tore past him. He threw himself back against the ground, covering his head with him arms.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" he cried.
Immediately, the gun shots stopped.
"Get him, Hardy."
A young agent, one of the ones who had chased Mark the day before, grabbed Mark's arm and pulled him to his feet.
Hardy had a strong grip. Mark didn't try to escape.
The gargoyle, Mark realized, had left him to his fate, even though she'd promised to protect him. He watched as she leapt from the train, and flew into the night, toward the center of city. As he watched her leave, he wondered if he had been the object of a conspiracy. If Sata and Brooklyn were working for HUAC, and if they'd befriended him only to pump him for information, and eventually tip the feds about his whereabouts.
Whatever the gargoyles' reasons for pretending to be his friend, Mark knew he was alone now. He knew that neither Brooklyn nor Sata would be coming to his aid. And without their help, he knew he couldn't escape.
So, he allowed himself to be hauled to the nearest car.
Hardy shoved him inside.
He wanted to ask someone - anyone - where they were going. But he didn't have the courage.
It was something he'd always lacked - courage.
He sat in the car, and waited to be driven away.
* * * * *
Sata roared as the sun rose later that evening. Her leg, the one which had been shot, felt better. She patted her belly, and relief swept through her. The unborn gargoyle, at least, was safe.
But what about Brooklyn?
Sata hoped that her mate was safe, and yet she suspected the worst. She realized that, had Brooklyn been able to, he would have returned at dawn. If it hadn't been for the arrival of the HUAC agents at the warehouse, she might have believed that Brooklyn had just been waylaid, and that she would find him again soon. But the HUAC agents had arrived, and they'd known exactly where to find Mark. They'd been so confident about finding him that they'd sent a dozen agents to the area. Sata could only surmise that the HUAC had captured Brooklyn, and that, for some reason, Brooklyn had told the HUAC agents where Mark was staying.
But why would he do that?
Sata did not know. Nor did she wish to ponder the question. It was better to learn the truth; better to find out what had happened to her mate.
She would start her search for Brooklyn at Mark's old apartment.
Leaping off the courthouse roof, she glided to the apartment building. After a quick search, she ascertained that Brooklyn was not there.
She didn't find any evidence of a skirmish, and that relieved her. After checking Mark's apartment, she flew back to the warehouse.
She wasn't expecting to find Brooklyn there, so she was surprised when she saw his rusty red form on the ground next to the warehouse, examining tracks.
Dropping to the ground next to him, she said, "Brooklyn-san." Her voice was filled with disbelief. "Brooklyn-san. I am glad to see you."
"Sata!" Brooklyn looked up. Relief showed on his face. He ran to Sata and wrapped his wings around her. "Sata, I'm glad to see you, too. I thought something must have happened to you. When I saw these footprints in the mud, and when I found the bullet holes in the side of the train - "
"I managed to escape," Sata said. "It was not easy. But where were you?"
Brooklyn shook his head. "It's a long story. Let's sit on the roof. You can tell me what happened to you, and then I will tell you what happened to me."
They climbed onto the roof of the warehouse, and sat down.
Sata said, "You first, Brooklyn. I thought, when you didn't return, that you must have been captured."
"No," Brooklyn said. "I just became too preoccupied with what I was doing. I was sitting on the window ledge outside Mark's apartment for hours. Four men arrived a couple of hours before dawn. I guessed they were HUAC agents. I thought this was my break, so I waited. Two agents stood outside the building, and two came into the apartment. All four agents just waited. For a long time, they waited. And then, about an hour before dawn, they left. This had been my big break. I didn't want to lose it. I knew that you would worry, but I didn't think you'd worry too much. So, I chose to follow the agents, rather than go back to the warehouse. I followed the agents' cars, right across Baltimore - "
"So, you know where their headquarters is?"
"No," Brooklyn said quietly. "That's the thing. They drove around town, stopped at a convenience store, stopped to buy gas... They hadn't returned to their headquarters before sunrise. So, I had to stop following them, and find a place to spend the day. I'm sorry, Sata."
"I am sorry, too," Sata said. She sighed. She told Brooklyn what had happened to her and Mark.
When she finished her story, Brooklyn shook his head. "Sata, are you all right?" He touched her face. "The chase didn't exhaust you, did it? What about the hatchling..." Annoyed, Sata said. "I am fine. I had a good, long stone sleep."
She glared at Brooklyn. She couldn't blame him for worrying about the unborn gargoyle, and yet she hated the way he'd been treating her ever since she'd told him she was pregnant.
Brooklyn, evidently aware of that fact that Sata didn't appreciate his concern, sighed. "All right, Sata. I will try not to be overprotective."
"Good," Sata said. "Mark is our concern now. We must find him."
Brooklyn said, "Yes. You know, I don't understand it. How did the agents know where to find Mark?"
"I felt sure that you'd told them," Sata said quietly.
Brooklyn stared at Sata, aghast. He wrapped a wing around her. "I would never endanger you like that."
"I know," Sata whispered. "That is why I thought... I thought they must have threatened you very badly."
Brooklyn stared at Sata. "You've had a bad twelve hours."
"Yes," she whispered.
Brooklyn tapped a talon against his chin. "They didn't find out about the warehouse from me. So how did they know, Sata? How did they know? We'd flown from Mark's apartment, so they couldn't have followed us. Perhaps they'd placed a transmitter on Mark or something."
"Yes. A transmitter. It's a... Oh, I wish Lexington were here to explain it to you. It's a device you can stick onto a moving object, and it allows you to track it. If that's what they had..." Brooklyn covered his face with his talons. "If that's what they had, then Mark didn't stand a chance."
"How big is a transmitter?" Sata asked.
"I don't know," Brooklyn said. "This is postwar America, nineteen fifties. I don't know how big or small the transmitters would be. Heck, I don't know if they even had transmitters at this time."
"Let's look in Mark's things," Sata suggested.
"Good idea," Brooklyn said. "He dropped his bag before he left. I found it and put it back inside the warehouse."
Brooklyn and Sata jumped off the roof, and glided gracefully to the ground. They entered the warehouse through the side door. Brooklyn picked up Mark's bag, streaked with mud, and turned it upside down, spilling the contents to the floor.
There wasn't much inside the bag. A few jars of fruit, and a blanket.
Sata said, "Where's the photo? The photo of Bradley Matthews."
Brooklyn shook his head. "I don't know."
Sata left Brooklyn to examine the contents of Mark's bag, while she searched the warehouse. She remembered that the photo had been next to the remnants of Mark's bed.
No, she thought to herself. It wouldn't be. She remembered that Mark had taken the photo with him, out of the warehouse.
Sata left the warehouse, and searched the muddy ground for the framed photo.
She found it, embedded in the mud. She picked it up, and wiped the glass with one of her talons. Bradley Matthew's face smiled at her.
Glad that she'd found the photo, and hoping that she would find Mark and have the opportunity to give this prized possession back to him, Sata continued to clean the mud from the frame. She also searched for any strange device that could be the transmitter which Brooklyn had spoken about.
She found nothing unusual about the photo. Sata stuck the frame into her belt.
And then she remembered something. Mark had left the warehouse during the night. He had taken his umbrella with him, but he'd left it behind. Perhaps the transmitter was on that?
Sata had searched for the umbrella the night before, but she hadn't searched very hard, thinking that Mark would have the chance to collect it later on. Now, she searched for it more diligently. Checking the street for any people wandering in the night, and finding it empty, she stepped onto the pavement and began to search the grounds and the gutters for Mark's umbrella.
She had walked someway down the street, and was just at the point where she thought that she wouldn't find the umbrella when she saw it, propped against the side of a phone booth.
Sata approached the phone booth and, picking up the umbrella, opened it, and saw the white stitches in the black canvas.
It was Mark's umbrella from last night. But what was it doing propped against the side of a phone booth? Sata knew what a telephone was. She had been to the twentieth century before. She knew what telephones did.
Sata stared at the umbrella, then stared at the phone booth. Then, she pulled the photo from its resting place between her belt and her hip. She stared at the photo, and an idea came to her.
* * * * *
"Do you suppose he could have done it?" Sata asked Brooklyn.
Brooklyn scratched his head. "Yeah. I suppose he could have. But I thought you said he didn't want to involve his friends in his troubles."
"He didn't," Sata said. "But perhaps..." She shrugged. "Perhaps, he just became lonely. Perhaps he had just wanted to hear a friendly voice." Sata took a breath. "Brooklyn-san, this is what I think happened. I think that Mark was upset about moving, and worried that he would seen be caught by this HUAC that he talks about. He thought that maybe he would not have another chance to talk to the man he so admired. So, he went outside. He found the telephone booth. And he called Bradley Matthews - perhaps to say goodbye."
Brooklyn ran a talon through his white hair. "It sounds reasonable to me. Why else would he have gone to the phone booth?"
"So," Sata said, "I suggest we pay this Bradley Matthews a visit."
Brooklyn stared at Sata, wide-eyed. "Why should we do that? We might only get this man into more trouble."
"Because," Sata said, "It is quite possible that Mark told Mr. Matthews where he was. And it is quite possible that Mr. Matthews told the HUAC."
Brooklyn nodded. "All right. But how do we find this Bradley Matthews?"
"Easy," Sata said. "He owns a gas station. All we need to do is look in the telephone book."
* * * * *
An hour later, Sata and Brooklyn were circling Bradley Matthews' gas station, on the edge of the city of Baltimore. The rain had stopped for good, and the clouds had started to blow away, leaving behind a clear, black night.
"What will we do now?" Brooklyn called to Sata, as they glided through the air. "We can't just go down there and introduce ourselves. We'll scare these people to death."
A house adjoined Bradley Matthew's gas station, and there were lights on in the house. Sata imagined that the family had just sat down to a late dinner.
"We must introduce ourselves to them," Sata said. "We'll scare them if we have to. If Bradley Matthew's betrayed Mark, then he might know where the HUAC took him. He might be able to tell us where Mark is now. But, if he did betray Mark, he isn't going to offer us that information easily. We'll have to frighten it out of him."
"Oh great," Brooklyn said. "I just hate playing the bad gargoyle." He eyed Sata speculatively. "Could we land in a field somewhere and discuss this first?"
Sata glared at Brooklyn. "We have very little time if we want to find Mark."
"We have some time," Brooklyn said. "And I think, now that we've found the gas station, that we should plan our move properly. Come. Sata, I see a nice tree in that field over there. Let's land and talk."
* * * * *
In room 918 of the Baltimore Hotel, Reynolds sat in a wooden chair opposite Mark Cory. He stared hard at the small, wiry man.
Hardy entered the room with two mugs of coffee. He said, "It was a good idea of yours to put Cory in a room of his own. But why so far away from our rooms?"
"Because it's also far away from the rooms of the other guests," Reynolds said. "There's no one else on this floor. Only you, me and Cory." Reynolds smiled at the commie they'd caught that morning.
"Did the concierge tell you that?" Hardy asked. "Did he tell you that there weren't any other guests on this floor? Because I think they were lying to you, Reynolds. I swear I heard a noise in the room next door when I was passing by a moment ago."
"Perhaps it's a ghost," Reynolds said sarcastically. "This hotel is old enough to be haunted."
"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts," Hardy said.
Reynolds growled. "Hardy, we don't have time for this. There is no one else on this floor. Trust me on this. The only person who will come up to this floor is the concierge. He promised me no maids, no bellboys, nothing will disturb our work. Now, sit down, give me my coffee, and shut up."
Hardy shrugged, and did what he was told. He pulled up a wooden chair, and planted it next the Reynolds. He sat down, gave Reynolds his coffee, and turned his attention to Mark Cory.
Reynolds sipped his coffee. It burnt his tongue and tasted bitter.
"All right, Cory," Reynolds said, when he'd swallowed his coffee. "It's time for us to talk. What were the creatures who we saw helping you? What are they? And where do they come from?"
Cory looked pale. He turned his gaze from Reynolds to Hardy and back again. "I don't know," he said. His voice was little more than a squeak.
Reynolds banged his foot against the floor, making Cory wince. "You do know," Reynolds said. "You know, and you're going to tell us."
* * * * *
Sata landed on the thick branch of a chestnut tree, and watched with apprehension as Brooklyn sat next to her. She wasn't in the mood for talking; she was in the mood for action. But she knew that her mate had already sensed some of her turmoil, and he wasn't going to leave her alone and till she'd explained it to him.
"What's the matter, Sata?" Brooklyn asked.
Sata blinked. She peered through the leaves of the tree, out toward the gently sloping field. The grass was still slicked with rain. The smell of earth and water, mixed together, filled the air. Sata breathed in that scent, and said, "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Sata-chan, I know you too well. I know there's something wrong. Please tell me what it is."
Sata couldn't look at Brooklyn. She couldn't bear to see the pleading concern in his eyes. If her gaze caught his, she knew that she would be lost, and she would end up telling him everything.
"Please," Sata said, "Please, let us continue with our quest to find Bradley Matthews. I want to find Mark. He needs us. And he -"
"Shh," Brooklyn gently silenced Sata. "We will find Mark. A few minutes one way or the other won't change things. But if we are going to pay Mr. Matthews a visit, and if we are going to try to scare him, then I at least want you paying attention to what we're doing."
Sata sighed. "I am only worried for Mark. That is all. We promised to protect him, and we have not kept our promise."
"Is that the truth?"
Sata glanced quickly at Brooklyn. He arched a brow ridge, and his eyes were full of concern. He looked so sweet, so kind, that she couldn't help herself. She told him.
"I ran away."
Brooklyn blinked. "Sorry?"
Sata swallowed. "I ran away. When Mark was in trouble, I could hear his shouts. But all I could think about was the fact that I could not let those men catch me. I could not let them shoot me. I could not risk any harm to our hatchling."
"Ah," Brooklyn murmured, nodding.
Suddenly, Sata was angry. "What is there to 'ah' about? I was a coward. I swore to protect Mark Cory and instead of doing that, I ran away." Sata slammed her fists into her lap. "What sort of gargoyle am I, anyway?" She shook her head and closed her eyes. "I am not fit to call myself a protector."
Brooklyn cleared his throat.
Sata opened her eyes and stared at him. He was smiling!
"What do you find funny?" Sata asked.
Brooklyn's smile widened. "I'm not laughing, Sata."
Sata punched him in the arm. "You are laughing."
"I'm not laughing. I'm... I'm happy. Gee, Sata, I was starting to think that being pregnant hadn't affected you all at. That you had no idea how wonderful... how awesome... " His voice trailed off, but he was still smiling.
"I find nothing to be pleased about," Sata said. She raised her fists in front of her, and stared down at them. "I was a coward. But I vow that I will not break my promise to Mark again. We will find him, and we will help him. And I will not abandon him, even if a thousand FBI agents confront me with guns."
Brooklyn's smile fell from his face. "Sata, I don't like the look I see in your eyes."
"That look of determination. Sata, you were protecting our hatchling. It was very normal for you to respond the way you did. You may have made a promise to protect Mark Cory, but you made a promise to protect our child first. Please, Sata. You must understand that you weren't being a coward. You were being... A mother."
"Ha," Sata scoffed. "Gargoyles don't live by those human traditions. A hatchling belongs to the clan."
"But Sata," Brooklyn pleaded. "Don't you see? We are a clan. Our own clan. We have no one else but each other. Our hatchling will have no other parents but us. Although we haven't chosen to live like this, we've become what humans call a family. And you're going to be a mother."
Sata slid of the branch, and dropped to the ground. "I have told you what is bothering me. Are we going to confront Bradley Matthews now? Or shall I do it myself?"
Brooklyn sighed. "Don't go by yourself. I'm coming."
* * * * *
The house beside the gas station had recently been painted; it smelled of chemicals and oil. The weatherboards shone white, like new.
Sata and Brooklyn stopped at the back door.
"What do we do?" Brooklyn asked. "Knock?"
Sata shook her head. "Tonight, we are monsters. And monsters do not knock."
Brooklyn sucked in his breath, stuck out his chest, turned his shoulder to the door, and said, "Do we break our way in?"
Sata turned to stare at her mate. "You look silly."
Brooklyn's chest deflated.
"We do not break our way in," Sata said. "We make noises. We bring Bradley Matthews out to us."
"Good idea," Brooklyn said.
Empty paints cans sat next to the driveway. Brooklyn picked up two, Sata picked up another two, and they rattled the cans together.
The clunk of metal rang through the air.
Brooklyn kept an eye on the back door of the house, waiting for something to happen.
He heard shouts coming from inside the house. The back porch light flicked on. A cat meowed.
"Here he comes," Brooklyn told Sata. "Why do I feel nervous?"
"Because Mark depends on us getting this right," Sata replied. Before she'd finished her sentence, the back door slammed open. "I bet it's those kids again," a man shouted.
Brooklyn's heart started to race.
The man stepped onto the back porch. Light poured over him. He was wearing gray pants, a singlet top, and black suspenders. Aside from the shadow of a beard around his jaw, he looked just like the man in the photo that Mark had carried with him. This, Brooklyn knew, was Bradley Matthews.
He took another step into the light, and Brooklyn saw he had a gun.
Sata glared at Brooklyn. "We are monsters," she hissed. "Monsters do not run."
Sata crouched on all fours. Her eyes glowed. She roared, and bounded toward Bradley Matthews.
"What the... " Matthews shouted. He raised his gun, and pointed it at Sata.
Brooklyn's heart leapt to his throat. Sata's guilt over Mark's capture had made her reckless. "Sata!" Brooklyn shouted, and he jumped in her direction. He pushed her away from the gun's line of fire. Sata fell into a pile of paint cans.
Brooklyn stood in front of the gun.
He expected to hear a shot, expected to feel a bullet burn through him.
So, he was surprised when nothing happened.
Brooklyn stared into Bradley Matthew's face, and blinked.
Matthews was staring at him, an expression of curiosity on his face.
Brooklyn said, "You're not going to shoot me?"
"No," Matthews said.
Brooklyn gulped. "Not that I object, but do you mind if I ask why?"
Matthews frowned as he stared at Brooklyn. "I've never seen a gargoyle up close."
"You've heard of gargoyles?"
"Only recently," Matthews said. He didn't lower the gun. "What are you doing here?" By now, Sata had righted herself. She stood next to Brooklyn and said, "We are here on behalf of a friend of ours. His name is Mark Cory."
"Dad!" A girl's voice sounded from inside the house. "Dad, what's happening out there? Who are you talking to?"
"Go back to bed, honey," Matthews called over his shoulder. "No one special. Just a friend. " Matthews turned his attention back to the gargoyles. Addressing them, he said, "My daughter gets curious. I don't want her to come outside and find you two here. So you don't have much time. What do you want to know about Mark?"
"Dad," the voice sounded again. "At least wear your jacket. You'll catch a cold, standing on the back porch at night." A figure came to the door.
Matthews blocked his daughter's view of the gargoyles with the bulk of his body. "Go inside," he said.
"Not until you've taken your jacket."
Matthews grumbled. "All right," he said. He opened the door, and took the jacket from his daughter. He closed the door again. "Now, go back inside."
"Put the jacket on."
"Laura, I'm warning you - "
"Put it on, Dad."
Matthews did as he was told, and shrugged into the jacket. "There," he said to his daughter. "Are you satisfied?"
"That's better," his daughter said. "Don't stay out too long. These midnight visits from your friends are becoming a bad habit."
Matthews said, "I won't. Now, get back inside."
The shadow moved away from the door.
Matthews growled, and turned his attention back to the gargoyles. He said, "You heard my daughter. Let's make this quick."
"All we want to know," Sata said, "is if Mark called you last night."
Matthews didn't hesitate. Not for a second. He said, "I haven't heard from Mark in over two months now. Why do you ask?"
Sata said, "We were with him last night. We had taken him to a secret place, to hide from the HUAC. Mark made a phone call during the night, but we do not know who he spoke to. This morning, the HUAC agents came and took him away. They should not have known where to find us, but they did. Now, I want to know who Mark spoke to last night. Whoever he spoke to betrayed his whereabouts."
Matthews examined his gun for a moment. "If I did betray a boy who was almost like a son to me - if I am as evil as that - then don't you think you're taking a chance by coming out here to see me?"
"We knew the risks," Sata said. "But we are responsible for Mark. We do what we need to do to help him. Again I ask you - did he call you?"
"And again I say - no."
"Do you know who he might have spoken to?" Brooklyn asked.
"No," Matthews said. "I don't know any... Now, hang on a minute."
"What?" Brooklyn asked.
"Yeah, maybe I do know who he called."
"Who?" Sata asked.
"John Williamson?" Sata said. "Is he not the communist who was friends with Mark? Was he not already taken away by HUAC?"
"Oh, he was taken away all right," Matthews said. "But he managed to escape the HUAC. Don't ask me how. And now his commie friends have him holed up somewhere. It's possible - just possible - that Mark called him. Mark might have been hoping that the reds would find a safe house for him, too."
Brooklyn tapped his talon against his jaw. "That sounds possible to me."
Sata shook her head. "I am not so sure."
"Do you know where we might find this John Williamson?" Brooklyn asked Matthews.
"Are you stupid?" Matthews said. "I just told you that the commies have put him in a safe house somewhere. I have no idea - "
"Then just tell us where he used to live," Brooklyn said.
Matthews blinked. "What?"
"Tell us where he used to live," Brooklyn repeated. "We will try to pick up his trail from there."
Matthews gave them an address and some directions. "Thank you," Brooklyn said. "Now, if you would just kindly put down your gun - "
"I ain't putting down my gun until you two are off my property," Matthews said.
"Fair enough," Brooklyn said, backing away. He tugged at Sata's arm, and indicated that she should back away as well.
They backed up as far as the tree. Then, Sata turned, climbed the tree and took off.
Brooklyn followed her.
Matthews didn't fire a shot. Not once.
* * * * *
Hardy opened the door to room 918 and stepped into the corridor. Exhausted, he closed his eyes and pressed his back against the wall. He wiped his hand across his forehead. Inside, he was quivering.
"Are you all right?"
Hardy opened his eyes. The thin, well dressed concierge was standing in front of him, holding sandwiches and a jug of water on a tray.
Hardy tried to smile. "Where did you come from? I didn't hear you at all."
"The lift," the concierge nodded down the corridor. "It doesn't always clunk."
"Oh." Hardy glanced at the food on the tray. "Are those for us?"
"Yes," the concierge said. "You've been up here a long time. I thought you might be hungry."
Hardy's stomach started to do flip-flops. He thought he was going to be sick. He wasn't hungry at all. Nevertheless, he said, "Thank you. It's good of you to think of us."
The concierge's gaze shifted to the closed door. The was terror in his eyes. "It's not goodness which makes me think of you."
Hardy swallowed. He understood the terror in the concierge's eyes. He wished he could tell the man that there was nothing to worry about; that the HUAC was just an ordinary government organization, who only had the best interests of American citizens at heart. But after what he'd seen Reynolds do to Mark Cory, he wasn't sure he could say that anymore. "Well," Hardy said, good-naturedly, "whatever it is that makes you think of us, I thank you." He took the tray from the concierge. Quietly, he said, "Do you want to leave now?"
The concierge nodded. He turned to walk away. Then he stopped, and he looked at Hardy, and he said, "Is your partner always like that?"
Hardy looked up from the tray. "Always like what?"
"Always so... angry."
Hardy gave a half shrug, careful not to tip the tray. "Yeah. He was in the war. I don't pretend to know what he saw at the front, and I don't pretend to understand his experiences. I was a couple of years too young to sign up myself. But the war has made him hard. There's no doubt about that. And suspicious, too."
"I was in the war," the concierge said quietly.
Again, Hardy gave his half shrug. "Well, there you go. You've proved my theory wrong. Perhaps Reynolds is just plain mean."
The concierge pondered this statement. After a moment he nodded, and then he turned and walked away.
Hardy watched him leave. He wasn't enthusiastic stepping back in room 918. He didn't think he could bear to look at Mark Cory again.
But he had to.
He turned. He opened the door.
And then he heard a scream, coming from room 916.
* * * * *
Sata and Brooklyn landed on the roof of a building close to the address which Bradley Matthews had given them.
"You know that Bradley Matthews was lying to us," Sata said.
"That whole story," Sata continued, "about Mark calling John is a complete fabrication. If John were in a safe house, how would Mark know his number?"
"I agree the story sounds false," Brooklyn said. "But it wasn't that which made me suspicious."
"What was it?"
Brooklyn took a deep breath. "Do you remember when Matthews put on his jacket?"
"He mustn't have realized which jacket his daughter had brought out to him," Brooklyn continued. "It was probably a special one - one he only wore on special occasions. It had a badge pinned to it. Did you see the badge?"
Sata said, "Yes. I did not have a chance to look at it closely, though."
Brooklyn said, "It was an Illuminati badge."
Sata paused. The wind blew her hair. Brooklyn had told her about the Illuminati before. "You think the Illuminati - "
"I think that Mark made that phone call to Bradley Matthews last night. I think that the Illuminati is conspiring with the HUAC to bring an end to the communism movement in America. And I think that, to that purpose, Bradley Matthews betrayed Mark Cory to the Illuminati, and the Illuminati organized the FBI agents you saw take Mark away."
Sata sucked in her breath. "That is awful."
"It is," Brooklyn said. "And now, I think Matthews has had the chance to call his Illuminati friends. They've probably set up a trap for us in Williamson's old apartment building."
"They probably have," Sata agreed. "What shall we do?"
"You will stay here," Brooklyn told Sata. "I'll go down to Williamson's appartment. I'll walk into the trap. I won't struggle too hard. That way, they probably won't tie me up too badly. I'll let them take me to Mark. When they do, I'll break the bonds, and help Mark escape."
"I will no - "
"While that's happening," Brooklyn interrupted Sata, "you'll be following the car that takes me away. Once I manage to get Mark outside, you can help me take him away."
"No," Sata said.
Brooklyn's face fell. "Sata, don't say no."
"No," Sata repeated.
"Sata," Brooklyn groaned. He slapped his palm against his forehead. "Why must you always argue with me?"
"You wish for me to stay here, because you want me out of harm's way. Is that not right?"
"No, Sata, it is part of the plan."
"Don't lie to me!"
Brooklyn sighed. "All right. I can't lie to you. But can you blame me for wanting you out of harm's way? Can you blame me for wanting to protect you?"
"Can you let me decide what is best for me?" Sata demanded. "I will come with you."
"No, Sata. There's no point - "
"There is a point. The HUAC agents know that there are two of us. They're going to think it's strange that only one of us walks into their trap. After they trap you, they'll be on the look out for me. If they see me following you, it might endanger the plan. The best way is to have them think that they have both of us. It will relax them. It will put them off guard."
"Sata, I - "
"You know that I am right."
"I know you're right," Brooklyn said. "I suppose I can't talk you out of this?"
"No," Sata said.
"All right," Brooklyn said, defeated. "Let's go."
He checked in his pouch, and brought out the tape recorder which Mark had given him. "I think it's worth our while turning this on now, don't you think?"
* * * * *
Hardy rushed into room 916. He saw Reynolds, and the bruised Cory. Reynolds was on the phone.
Hardy turned away from the sickening sight of Cory, and said to Reynolds, "I heard a scream."
Reynolds hung up the phone. "We have to go," he said to Hardy.
"But, I heard a scream," Hardy said. "From room 916."
"Forget the scream. We've had a tip off that those commie monsters are going to be on the south side of Baltimore in less than ten minutes. I've sent backup over there. But I want to see them catch these monsters with my own eyes."
"But the scream."
"Forget the scream. Come on."
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Sata leapt off the roof of the building and glided to the address which Matthews had given them.
John Williamson, like Mark, had obviously taken to sleeping in condemned buildings before HUAC caught him. The apartment building Sata and Brooklyn landed in front of was deserted. There was no one in the street, no one in the building. The building was old, decaying. Some of the lower ground windows had been boarded up.
"Shall we go in?" Sata said.
They walked up the steps. Brooklyn opened the door.
As soon as they stepped across the threshold, guns were pointed in their faces.
Brooklyn lifted his arms. Sata did likewise.
Sata peered into the darkness of the building. She could see at least twenty men, some dressed in black uniforms, and others wearing suits. They were all mean, tough-looking men. She didn't recognize any of them.
One of the men said, "Down on the floor."
Compliant, Sata fell to the floor. She sensed Brooklyn do the same thing.
"Tie them up," the man said.
Sata felt three men on her back. One of the pulled her arms together, and bound her wrists with rope. Another man tied her ankles together.
The man who had given the order crouched before her, and stuck a gag in her mouth. "That should hold you," he said.
Sata tried to flex her arms and legs. She pulled against the ropes. They were tight, but she was sure she could break them when the time came.
It took six men to lift her. She lay horizontally on their shoulders, while they carried her to a van at the back of the apartment block.
As the men were carrying her to the van, she heard a car drive up.
"Where are they?" a man shouted.
Sata recognized the voice. It was one of the HUAC agents who had taken Mark Cory.
"Oh," the man continued. "There they are."
The men carrying Sata suddenly stopped. The man who had taken Mark spoke to her. His voice, now, was right next to her.
"We're going to find out what you are," the man said. "And we're going to find out who you're working for."
* * * * *
The trip to the HUAC headquarters was not a smooth one. Brooklyn felt every bump, every jerk, as the van sped away from the apartment block.
He'd tested the ropes which bound him, and he was sure that he could break them when the time came.
He was more worried about Sata than he was about himself. Although she was lying next to him, they were both gagged. Brooklyn couldn't ask her how she was feeling, if she was all right. And because their arms were tied behind their backs, he couldn't even reach out and touch her. He hoped she wasn't hurt in any way.
After about a quarter of an hour, the van came to a halt. Brooklyn felt hands on his arms, on his waist, on his legs. He was hauled out of the van, and carried into a dark alley. On his back, he could see nothing but the black sky and the white, glowing moon. But he sensed stillness about him. He smelt exhaust fumes and the stench of garbage not yet collected.
He lay perfectly still while he was carried into a building.
"What are they?" he heard someone asked.
"Never you mind," another voice replied. "Just clear the corridors and make sure there's no one in the elevator."
Brooklyn continued to lie still as he was carried through the building.
He was taken into an old, rickety elevator. He heard the squeak of doors closing. He felt the jerk of the elevator as it started its climb upward.
Brooklyn hoped they were taking him to Mark.
The ride seemed to take forever. And then suddenly, the elevator stopped. Clunk. Doors squeaked upon. Brooklyn was carried out of the elevator, and taken to a room.
The men lowered Brooklyn to the floor. They helped him sit up.
Brooklyn looked around, and he was glad to see Sata beside him. And Mark Cory, tied to a chair.
Mark's eyes widen with surprise. "I didn't expect to see the two of you again."
Someone removed the gag from Sata's mouth. "We were not about to abandon you to your fate," she said.
One of the agents removed the gag from Brooklyn's mouth. "We promised to help you," Brooklyn agreed. "We don't turn our backs on our promises."
"How touching," one of the agents said. This was the short, older agent who had been accosting Mark two days ago. Brooklyn remembered that his name was Reynolds.
Reynolds looked at the men who had carried Brooklyn and Sata. Most of them seemed out of breath and red faced. "I think we have things under control here," Reynolds told these men. "You can go. I'll call you again if I need you."
The men left the room, single file. All except one. Brooklyn remembered this man, too. He was the younger, taller man who had also been accosting Mark on that first day.
"You, I know," Brooklyn nodded his head at Reynolds. "What's your name?" Brooklyn asked the taller man.
Reynolds said, "You're not in any situation to ask questions."
The taller man said, "That's all right. My name is Hardy. What's yours?"
"Brooklyn," Brooklyn said.
Reynolds laughed. "Oh, sure. As in New York?"
"As in New York," Brooklyn said.
Hardy's eyebrows shot up. "Are you from New York?"
"I call New York my home now."
"Where were you from originally?" Hardy continued his line of questioning.
"Scotland." Reynolds laughed again, harder this time. While Reynolds laughed, Brooklyn glanced at Sata. He was formulating a plan in his mind. There was a window in the room. A closed curtain was in front of it. Brooklyn figured it would be an easy enough task to grab Mark, chair and all, and carry him out the window. But Sata would have to lift the curtain, and open the window.
Timing was very important. Brooklyn watched Sata, waited for a sign.
Reynolds said, "Scotland? We know you're not from Scotland. You're from Russia. You're some experiment - "
Brooklyn roared, breaking his bonds. He said to Sata, "Get the window."
He didn't wait to see if Sata did as he asked. He knew she would. They worked well together, as a team.
Brooklyn leapt to Mark's side. He grabbed the chair, and lifted.
It was only then that he realized that the chair was tied to the bedpost.
"What?" Brooklyn cried. He knew he could break the ropes which bound Mark's chair to the bed. But it would take precious seconds. Brooklyn reached down, and slashed the ropes with his claws.
Mark said, "We can't go now. We haven't got the evidence we need to prove that these guys are using questionable methods."
"Forget the evidence," Brooklyn muttered, "We've got to get out of here."
Brooklyn turned and faced the window.
"Stop or I'll shoot!" Hardy yelled.
Brooklyn saw that Sata had parted the curtains, and had opened the window. She turned to glance at Brooklyn. She glanced past Brooklyn's shoulder. She evidently saw Hardy's gun. She froze, placed her hand against her belly. Then, she turned her back to the gun, and prepared to jump out the window.
"No!" Reynolds shouted.
He bounded toward Sata. He leapt onto her back and grabbed her wings just as she jumped out the window.
Brooklyn could see that Reynolds impeded Sata's ability to spread her wings. He knew that if she didn't managed to throw Reynolds off her back, she would fall to the ground below. Brooklyn dropped Mark, chair and all, to the ground. The chair tipped over, and Mark screamed in surprise. Brooklyn leapt over Mark, bounded to the window, and jumped into the air.
He didn't release his wings. He maneuvered himself face toward the ground. He pressed his arms together, so they formed a point.
With virtually no air resistance against him, Brooklyn caught up with Sata. He grabbed her arm.
Yards before they hit the ground, Brooklyn spread his wings.
The wind filled his wings. Brooklyn felt himself jerk backwards as the air current pulled him upwards.
Gradually, he lowered himself to the ground.
When he felt the solid concrete beneath his feet, he breathed a sigh of relief.
Sata shook Reynolds off her back, and Brooklyn pulled her into his arms.
"That was close," Brooklyn whispered into her cheek.
"Too close," Sata agreed.
Reynolds pulled out a gun. "Stop right there!"
Brooklyn stared at the man, at the gun. With lightning speed, he reached down and grabbed Reynolds' gun. "No, you don't," he said. "I'm sick of you." He snapped Reynolds' gun in half.
Sata, still clutching her belly, said, "I did it again. I ran away."
"I hope you realize why," Brooklyn said gently. "I hope you don't still think you're a coward."
Sata shook her head. "No. This child means a lot to me. It means a lot to you." She looked up at Brooklyn. Her eyes were warm and gentle. "I did not know I would feel this way."
Brooklyn smiled. "I didn't know I would feel this way, either."
Sata looked up at the window at the top of the building, the one out of which she'd just fallen. The wind had sucked the curtain outside. It flapped against the wall. "We still need to save Mark," Sata said.
"I know," Brooklyn replied. He reached down, picked up Reynolds, and flung the man onto his back. "I think we should try for a swap. What do you think?" Brooklyn started to climb the wall of the building.
"I think you are right," Sata said, following her mate.
Hardy was waiting at the window for them. He had a gun pointed to Mark's head.
"Release him," Hardy ordered.
Brooklyn eyed him carefully. "We've come to make an exchange."
Hardy peered at them. "The United States Government doesn't bargain."
Reynolds cried, from Brooklyn's back, "Rubbish." His voice trembled, as though he were frightened. "My life's on the line. Give them what they want."
Hardy faltered. He looked at Mark, and then at Reynolds, and then at Brooklyn, and then at Sata. He didn't seem to know what to do.
And then a scream tore through the air, startling all of them. It seemed to come from the next room.
Hardy stared at Reynolds. "I told you there was a scream."
"Forget the scream," Reynolds said. "Make the exchange."
Brooklyn said, "Hang on. No exchange. Who's in the next room?"
"How should I know," Reynolds said. "I don't own this hotel."
Brooklyn pulled Reynolds off his back, and dangled him out the window. "I think you do know who's in the next room. Tell me."
Reynolds shouted, "Hardy!"
Hardy said, "I think you'd better talk, Reynolds. You told me that this floor was deserted."
Reynolds made a sound, like a whimper, and then he said, "He's a commie. A commie. I needed to make him talk."
The scream tore through the air again.
Hardy turned and left the room.
"Hardy!" Reynolds screamed. "Don't leave me here."
As soon as Hardy left, Sata went to Mark. She finished untying him. "We don't have the proof," Mark said.
"We will get it," Sata promised.
Brooklyn brought Reynolds back into the room. He lowered him onto the floor. "I want to know what's going on in the next room," Brooklyn said. He, too, left the room.
Sata and Mark followed him.
* * * * *
Sata saw Hardy. He stood in the doorway of room 916. His jaw hung open. He'd turned pale.
Suddenly, Sata didn't know what she'd find inside room 916. She walked toward Hardy, stopped behind him, and stared over his shoulder, into the room.
She saw what Hardy saw.
A man was strapped to a chair. His face had been beaten. It was so bruised, and so swollen, that the man's head no longer looked human. He looked too thin, too fragile.
He opened his swollen eyes, and stared at them. "I thought I heard a commotion next door," he said. "I screamed to get some attention."
Sata said, "You have all the attention you need." She pushed past Hardy, and stepped into the room. Her heart filled with compassion. She knelt on the floor by the man's side, and untied his binds.
"Wh... What are you?" the man asked. There was no fear in his voice.
Sata was aware of Hardy, Reynolds, Brooklyn and Mark behind her, watching her as she freed the man.
"I am one who will help you."
The man closed his eyes. "Thank you."
Sata said, "What is your name?"
Mark Cory sucked in his breath. "No," he whispered. "I didn't recognize you."
John opened his eyes. He tried to smile at Mark. The expression looked more like a grimace. He was missing a tooth. "It is... good to see you again. Friend."
Sata finished untying the binds. John tried to stand, but Sata pressed him back into his seat. "My mate and I will take you to a hospital," she said.
John said, "You are very kind."
Sata picked John up. She held him gently in her arms. He leaned his head against her shoulder, and closed his eyes.
Sata stared at Reynolds, and then at Hardy. "Is this how the HUAC extracts information from its suspects?"
Hardy shook his head vigorously.
Reynolds stepped into the room. The look in his eyes were hard, ruthless. He said, "Of course we treat our suspects this way." His voice was hard, bitter. "How dare you stand in judgement of me. You monster. You have no idea what communism is doing to the world. What it will do to our country if it ever gets the chance."
Sata stared hard at Reynolds. Anger welled inside her. "Tell me what it will do," she demanded. And then, when Reynolds didn't answer, she raised her voice and shouted, "Tell me what it will do!"
John stirred in her arms.
Sata looked down at him, and whispered, "Shh. It is all right. You are safe now." She stared at Reynolds again. "Tell me."
"If the commies came," Reynolds said. "They would tear through our country, killing anyone who stood in their way. They would impose a dictatorship on us. They would take away our freedom."
"Where," Sata whispered, "is John Williamson's freedom?"
Reynolds lifted his chin. "He gave it up when he became a communist."
"One does not give up freedom, Mr. Reynolds," Sata said. "One has it stolen from them." She was now trembling with the force of her rage. "You were frightened by John Williams' philosophy, so you stole his freedom."
"I only stole his before he could steal mine."
"You beat information out of him."
"And I was happy to do it," Reynolds said. "I would do it again."
"What kind of - "
"Stop!" Hardy said. He walked into the room, and placed a hand on Sata's shoulder. More quietly, he said, "I don't know what you are. But I suspect that you aren't a monster." He glanced down at John Williamson, and winced. "I didn't join the FBI to do things like this to other people." He nodded in John's direction. "I thought Mr. Williamson had escaped our custody. Reynolds led me to believe that."
"You were too gentle," Reynolds said. "Here we had a man who would admit who was a communist. But he wouldn't tell us where his friends were. We needed to get that information out of him. But you, Hardy, wouldn't perform beyond the call of duty, wouldn't do what needed to be done - "
"Enough!" Hardy said.
Sata could see the taller agent was visibly upset.
Hardy looked into Sata's eyes. "You have my word that I will report this."
Sata nodded, curtly. "I believe you will. Now, I must take this man to a hospital."
"Of course," Hardy stepped out of Sata's way.
"I will be taking Mark with me."
"Yes." Hardy sounded tired.
Reynolds said, "You're letting them get away. You can't - "
Hardy pulled out his gun, and pointed it at Reynolds. "Sit down," he said. "And shut up. You're going to tell me everything that you've done. And then we're going to tell your story to the press. We'll let the public decide how they want us to hunt communists."
Sata said, "My mate has this whole conversation on tape, by the way. If you don't go to the proper authorities about this, we will." And with that, she left the room, and closed the door behind her.
* * * * *
Sata left John Williamson on the lawn of the nearest hospital. Then she, and Brooklyn, took Mark back to the warehouse, picked up the odds and ends that he left there, and went back to the condemned apartment building which he'd most recently called home.
Brooklyn and Sata stood side by side on the scrubbed floorboards, in the building that was falling apart.
"Hopefully," Sata said. "You won't have to live here for long."
"Hopefully not," Mark agreed.
Brooklyn pulled the tape recorder from his pouch. "I recorded it all. Here you are, Mark. Just in case you need some extra evidence."
Mark closed his fingers around the tape recorder. "I can't thank you enough."
"There is one other thing," Brooklyn said.
"What's that?" Mark asked.
"Don't trust Bradley Matthews," Brooklyn said. "He's part of a group who calls themselves the Illuminati. We believe Matthews set you up. We believe Matthews called the HUAC agents, and told them where to find you."
Mark shook his head. "Matthews, " he said. "It all makes sense now."
The Phoenix Gate started to summon them. Brooklyn said, "It's time to go."
Sata said, "Already?" And jumped into Brooklyn's arms.
Just before they disappeared, Sata said to Brooklyn. "Perhaps we should make notes about how time travel affects pregnant gargoyles."
"Mm," Brooklyn said. "We should."
* * * * *
Mark stared at the two gargoyles, dumbfounded. The orange ball of fire engulfed them, swallowed them, and then it disappeared. The gargoyles were gone, and Mark was left to wonder if it had all been a dream.
But then he stared down at the tape recorder, and he realized it hadn't been a dream. It had been real. And he'd succeeded in his task.
He wasn't surprised when he heard a knock at the door.
"That was quick, though," he muttered to himself.
He went to the door and opened it.
He stepped back, amazed. "I can't believe it. Mace Malone himself."
Mace stepped into the apartment. He smiled. "Of course. This was a big job. The Illuminati needed to send someone competent to oversee the case."
"Mace Malone himself," Mark whispered again, awestruck. "I have it," Mark said proudly. He thrust the tape recorder at Mace Malone. "It took me a while to get it. But I got it. I had a hard time, though."
"I know," Mace said. "I've been watching you." He stared around the room, and grimaced. "We'll get you out of these quarters soon. Put you somewhere more comfortable." Then, he looked at Mark. He smiled again. He pulled an Illuminati badge out of his pocket, and pinned it to Mark's shirt. "You did a good job on your initiation. We're all proud of you."
"I... I passed?" Mark said excitedly. "I'm a member?"
Mace laughed. "You're a member."
"By the way," Mace continued. "I saw the gargoyles with you. You handled them well. Matthews told me that they'd promised you protection. Well done on pulling that one off."
"Th... Thank you," Mark stammered. He was filled with pride.
"Now that you've given us the evidence we need to shut down the HUAC," Mace Malone said, waving the tape recorder in the air. "The Illuminati will continue unimpeded. And," he said with a smile, "we had the chance to test this new recording device."
* * * * *