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"Sub Rosa"

14 October 2042
Bay City, California Free State
19:03:22 PST

"Is it done, Carter?" said the voice on the other end of the line.
   
Carter, tall and lean, dressed in a gray pinstriped Gucci-Armani suit, blond hair slicked down, leaned back in the passenger seat of the late model MitsuAudi sedan. "All done, Mr. S. Went off just like you said it would."
   
"And Miss Jade didn't suspect a thing?"
   
"Nope."
   
"And Kat and Mouse?"
   
"About to go on a nice wild goose chase."
   
"Good. You'll hear from me soon with further instructions. For now, sit tight."
   
"Yes, sir." Carter hung up and slipped the phone back into the inside pocket of his suit coat. Then he turned to his left and regarded the twentysomething male seated next to him.
   
The other man stopped tapping his fingers on the top of the steering wheel and looked at Carter expectantly.
   
"Good job, Mr. Gold," said Carter, smiling.
   
"You can drop the bullshit," the other man said. "You know the name. Now it's time for my fee."
   
Carter's smile widened. "No worries, Taylor. Just congratulating you on a job well done."
   
"Almost got my ass shot off back there, you know."
   
"But you ended up in one piece."
   
"Yeah. Still..."
   
"Don't worry. There's a little something extra just for that."
   
Taylor's expression perked up. "Yeah?"
   
Carter reached back into his jacket and drew out a cred'chip. "An extra ten thousand should be enough, right?"
   
Taylor whistled approval. "Damn right it is." He took the proffered 'chip.
   
"One more thing," Carter said, reaching once more into his jacket.
   
"Yeah?" said Taylor, still looking at the 'chip, a huge grin on his face.
   
Carter drew his pistol and shot Taylor in the head.


*   *   *

Atlanta Metroplex, Southern Alliance
22:16:12 EST

Malachi paced his office, from desk to office door, clenching and unclenching boths fists, his shoes slightly scuffing along the carpeted floor.
   
"I have confirmation," said the voice in his headset earpiece. "Their flight is now in the air."
   
"Have a team ready to meet them at the airport," said Malachi, trying to keep his tone even. "Then take them to Edwards House."
   
An audible swallow, then: "Yes, Brother Malachi."
   
Malachi cut the connection, stopped pacing in front of his desk, and leaned forward, hands on the blotter. He took several deep breaths.
   
Three dead. One missing, whereabouts unknown.
   
The three were simply foolish.
   
The fourth was a traitor to the Word.
   
They would find him soon enough. And we would atone for his transgressions.
   
He felt the tension begin to leave his shoulders.
   
The phone blipped for his attention.
   
Malachi let out a long breath then keyed his headset and Sister Ruth's voice greeted him.
   
"A call for you on Line One, Brother," she said.
   
"Who is it?" said Malachi.
   
"The gentleman didn't give a name but said you'd be interested in what he had to say."
   
"Did he, now?"
   
"He mentioned...Mr. Jeffries."
   
Malachi straighted.
   
Impossible. No one should know except for--
   
He frowned.
   
Could one of Mather's men inadvertently leaked information?
   
He gritted his teeth.
   
Edwards House would be too good for them.
   
Malachi let out another long breath. "Put the gentleman on the line, Sister," he said at last.
   
The line clicked and a smooth-sounding baritone said, "Good evening, Brother Malachi. I'm sorry to be calling so late."
   
"Good evening, sir," said Malachi. "You seem to know me. What do I call you?"
   
"My name is Douglas. Warren Douglas."
   
"To what do I owe this call, Mr. Douglas?"
   
"I believe we have a common problem, Brother Malachi," said Douglas.
   
"Do we?"
   
"In Bay City."
   
"I see," said Malachi. "And does this problem have a name?"
   
"It does."
   
"And that would be...?"
   
Douglas said: "Kat and Mouse."

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Collateral Damage"

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