Time & Place: Who knows?
Flynn wondered if now he was finally going to discover what the fuck was going on.
Waking up to discover you were in a hospital in some other part of the world was bad enough, and to find out your boyfriend somehow authorized this was slightly worse. He wished he could talk to Aiden (okay, not so much talk as chew him a new one), but he’d been relatively isolated since coming to. He hadn’t been in a coma long enough to be really weak, so he made a big stink, escaped from their restraints, and was basically just a hell of a patient until finally he was granted an audience with … someone. Someone who was supposed to explain some things to him. Her name was Ms. Pierce.
He wasn’t going to wear a stupid paper gown, but they had no clothes for him beyond shapeless, drab coveralls in dishwater gray. They looked like the kind of clothes a prisoner on work detail might be assigned if they were out of shocking orange, and Flynn wondered if that was a clue to what was really going on. This was some kind of prison set up, wasn’t it? Maybe he should just be glad he didn’t end up in Russian mafia hands, but somehow he wasn’t.
He was escorted by beefy armed guards through the hospital, and out some kind of secret passage to a waiting windowless van. Yep, felt like a prison transfer, only he wasn’t cuffed.
The two men, built like the unfortunate offspring between the Hulk and some industrial freezers, refused to say a word to him when he asked where they were going. So he decided to try their patience. He prattled the whole trip, mainly regaling them with tales of this muscle queen he knew in San Fransisco who had a shoe fetish and a brief day job at the Foot Locker, until the inevitable happened. He knew he was pissing them off, but sadly, before he broke them, they arrived at their destination.
He was escorted straight into a bland, empty lobby, and beyond it into what appeared to be a modified conference room. There was a long table, and at the end of it was seated a middle aged woman with Clariol blonde hair done up in a severe bun, the harshly angular features of her face making it look like she was a particularly cruel Greek goddess carved out of marble. Her eyes were such a pale, watery blue they were more of a suggestion than an actual color. From what he could tell, she was wearing some kind of brown “power suit”.
“Please, Flynn, have a seat. I understand you’ve been causing as much trouble as a coma patient possibly could.”
“If I could have made a bomb, I’d have blown up your fucking hospital.”
One of the muscle queens tightened the grip on his arm so it became painful, but the woman seemed unfazed. “Yes, your reputation proceeds you. Please, have a seat.”
Although it was said in a mild, bland way, he got the sense it was an order. When it felt like the Beige Hulk number one was going to force him down into a seat, Flynn simply sat down. The shaved apes stood behind him, python arms crossed over barrel chests. “What reputation is that?” Flynn asked, curious.
“That you’re an asshole.”
That actually startled a laugh out of him. “Well, yeah. I could have told you if you just asked.”
She made a dismissive gesture to the shaved apes. Her fingernails were well manicured and painted a pale pink. “Wait outside. I’ll let you know when we’re done.”
There was some hesitation, but the goons left as they were told. She had some power, and since she was not afraid of him, he had a feeling she either had a panic button or was armed. Not that he had any plans to attack her, he wasn’t a maniac … but was the table nailed down? He was curious.
Flynn watched the thugs go, and then asked, “So who are you? Prosecutor, attorney assigned to me by the state, what?”
Her lips curved in a thin smile that wasn’t too convincing. “You still think you’re a prisoner?”
“I am. I can’t leave this place, I can’t talk to my boyfriend, apparently I can’t call an attorney, and I haven’t the slightest fucking idea why I’m here or where I am.”
“Beyond killing Henry Vale, also known as Heinrich Petrov, with a fountain pen?”
“Wow, German and Russian? I bet he was fun at parties.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “It was self-defense, you know. He kidnapped my boyfriend, and he was trying to kill us both.”
“True, but pounding a pen through his eye? Even the most sympathetic jury is going to see that as somewhat egregious.”
“It was all I had. I’d have killed him with a gun if I had one.”
She reached beneath the table and brought a suitcase up to her lap. He heard the solid click of opened locks, and she took out a single manila folder, which she put on the table in front her. She made a small show of shutting the briefcase and stowing it away again before resuming her pitch. “We appreciate resourcefulness. So does the Russian mafia, although in a very different respect.”
“Was that a threat?”
“No, not yet.” She opened the folder. He couldn’t see what was in it, but he took some comfort in the fact that it was rather thin. “But the Russian mafia doesn’t look too fondly on people who kill their members, especially if that person in a two bit street punk. It makes them look bad.”
“Hey, two bit? I’m easily four bit.”
“Does that work for you?”
That question caught him off guard. “What?”
“Aggressive, immature humor. Do people find that amusing?”
He glared at her. “I’ve gotten this far, haven’t I?”
She smiled, and this time it seemed genuine. “Indeed. It seems that if the Russian mob didn’t get you, the police would. Were you aware that Anders didn’t deactivate all the security cameras? He forgot one.”
“What? What are you …” Flynn trailed off as he remembered Anders, the oxy junkie given the responsibility of taking out the cameras on the pharmacy break in way back when. It seemed like a lifetime ago now. He’d almost successfully forgotten the second worst night of his life. “I was just cracking a lock. I had no idea that Butch was gonna get his ‘roid rage on and take out that security guard. By the time I even knew there was one, he was already dead. I don’t do violence.”
“Except when it came to killing Heinrich Petrov.”
“That was different and you know it.”
“I absolutely do. But you’d be surprised how few prosecutors and judges will make that distinction.”
Flynn sagged back in his chair as he sighed heavily. This conversation was going nowhere good. “What do you want from me?”
“You have a choice to make, Mr. Archer. Or should I say Mr. Ashton. Which name do you prefer?”
“No one calls me Ashton.” His real, dorky name was Errol Ashton, a name he never felt fit him at all. Now that he’d had a dozen different identities in a similar span of years, it seemed as unreal as all the rest.
“Archer it is, then. Would you rather be released into police custody, or turned over to the Russian mafia?” She asked the question lightly, as if she was asking him whether he’d like soup or breadsticks with his meal.
“Door number three.”
“This is your lucky day, Flynn. There is a third option.” She slid the manila folder down the table. It stopped short of him, but he reached out and brought it towards him. “Work with us, and we’ll make all your problems go away.”
“Who’s we?” he asked, opening the folder. He was greeted by a cover page with some kind of vague starburst symbol on it, a diamond shaped set of jagged, irregular black lines on crisp white paper. Beneath it was a single word: Eidolon.
“The people who only want to utilize your natural talents to help people, not hurt them.”
That sounded wonderfully sinister. He’d have laughed, except she was perfectly serious.
“And if I say no?”
“Then it’ll be interesting to see which group gets you first. Although I imagine the Russian mafia will get you in the end. They always get their man.”
Flynn’s stomach felt like it had turned to ice-coated lead, and was now plummeting through the floor, heading for the center of the earth. He was completely, utterly fucked.
And not in a good way either.