As he followed Doyle through the corridor, Ray caught the occasional pop of a weapon underscored by a diminishing rumble of voices raised in authority, protest, or fear, depending on the source.
“Just to catch you up,” Doyle explained as they walked, “Mollin transmitted Neishi Fabria’s confession to the drop ship and we’ve got Mariska Breeshandra in custody.”
“I can’t believe his plan worked,” Ray muttered as Doyle came to a halt at the access door.
“Hold up.” Doyle jerked his chin toward the lounge. “Marshals are still rounding up perps. Let’s keep the locals guessing about your employment.”
Ray sighed, drew his gun, and handed it over. “Try not to enjoy this too much.”
“Son, you know me better than that.” Doyle grinned and gave Ray an enthusiastic shove out into the lounge, which had taken on the odors of puke, feces, explosives, and blood.
Which reminded Ray . . . He glanced over at Neishi’s body, impaled on a slender spear of tourmaline.
“Move it along, jammer,” Doyle bellowed, giving him another push. “We’ll see how well your story holds up in interview.”
“I’m telling you, I just got hired to watch the pretty girl,” Ray protested, letting himself stumble for effect. He tossed a grimace to the nearest Draco soldier being herded out the front door, who gave him a snarl of solidarity.
“Me, I’ll watch a pretty girl for free,” Doyle commented, nudging him onwards. “For now, just keep on keeping on.”
Ray kept on keeping on.
* * *
“For the last time, if you bring that needle near me again, I will pop you one in the nose.”
“Sir, it’s an antibiotic. We’re trying to prevent infection from setting in before we get you into surgery, which we would like to do sometime this week.”
Harry glared at the medic filling the space Senior Marshal George Chance had recently vacated.
Chance, at Harry’s behest, had taken the job of escorting Seth to a safe, quiet place.
“Your bedside manner sucks, Chaudry,” he groused.
“And you’re a rotten patient, Finn,” the young man said, administering the hypo.
“Dammit!” Harry raised a fist.
At the sound of Ray’s voice, Harry opted not to punch the medic.
Chaudry made room for Ray, who crouched down next to him. Harry saw him glance at the blood pooled on the floor.
“Chaudry stopped the bleeding,” Harry said.
“For the moment,” Chaudry added.
Harry ignored the kid. “Where’s Je—”
“Fine. Safe. Already extracted,” Ray cut in, his expression telling Harry to button it.
When Doyle appeared behind Ray, Harry understood why.
Not wanting to overshare where his daughter was concerned, he gave Ray a short nod before looking up at his Control. “You got the message, I take it.” Then he thought about the fact that Doyle and Slater had arrived at the same time and took a second glance at their body language. “Wait,” he said, squinting up. “Have you two met?”
“At least I’m not the only one in the dark,” Ray said, glancing at Doyle.
“Long story,” Doyle said. He looked down at Chaudry. “I need a minute with the patient.”
Chaudry, clearly aware of the hierarchy on this op, jumped to his feet. “But make it quick, sir,” he said. “The bullet’s still in there. I’d have moved him out already if he weren’t such a pain in the ass about making his report.”
“I love you too,” Harry told him, frowning as the sick thud of pain in his side began to not matter so much. “There was more than an antibiotic in that shot, wasn’t there?”
Chaudry rolled his eyes and stepped away.
“Shit.” Harry bit the inside of his cheek to keep the sedative from taking him into la-la land before he could say what needed to be said.
Doyle crouched on the other side of Harry from where Ray hunkered. “So—”
“Seth Aliombe is in custody,” Harry cut in quickly.
“I’m aware,” Doyle said. “Senior Marshal Chance—”
“And he’s suffering from trauma-induced dissociative identity disorder,” Harry interrupted again. “He needs help, he needs . . . Ah, shitshitshit.” He thumped the floor with his fist and focused on Ray. “He needs specialized care . . . the sort the Lady’s people could provide.”
“And I’m sure that if there’s anyone the Lady would listen to concerning Aliombe, it’s you,” Ray said. “But that won’t happen if you’re dead. Which is what you will be unless you stop being a stubborn pain in the ass and let them get that bullet out.”
“Christ, you’re as bad as Chaudry.”
“Well, you can add me to the list of mother hens,” Doyle chimed in. “But before you go under the knife, here are a few highlights. You finally nabbed Gemini, and for that alone, the brass will be swilling booze and patting each other’s backs for weeks, but you also delivered Mariska Breeshandra. Add in that confession you piped through, and it’s the cherry on the top of a damned tasty sundae.” He glanced down at Harry. “Mollin says there’s physical evidence?”
“You won’t believe your eyes,” Harry said.
“Okay,” Doyle said. “We also rounded up over two dozen Brotherhood members with longstanding warrants for crimes committed in ConFed territories. One of the Drés—Altimus—got away, but even with that loss, the big boys at ConFed Law will be kissing my ass until the Second Coming.”
“There’s an image that won’t die easy,” Ray said.
Harry held up a bloodied fist for a knuckle bump, which Ray provided.
“If you two are done reliving seventh grade?” Doyle asked, then looked at Harry. “You are under orders to calm your ass down and let the docs do their job. We’ll get into the details later.”
Harry squinted up at the other two. “You are aware I’m a cop—”
“Used to be a cop,” Doyle interrupted.
Harry gave him the stink eye. “Used to be a cop,” he said. “But my point . . .” He blinked owlishly. “My point is, I’ve been shot before.” As the other two watched, he began to relax, the rigid tension in his limbs almost melting into the bloodstained tile. “Stabbed, too,” he murmured, his eyes drifting closed. “Poisoned, bludgeoned, garroted . . . squooshed . . .”
Ray’s brows rose. “Squooshed?” But by that point, Harry was well and truly out.
Doyle caught the young medic’s attention and waved him over, nodding to the now unconscious Harry. Both men stepped aside and remained silent until Chaudry, his assistants, and the patient were out of earshot.
“As for you . . .” Doyle turned to Ray. “Your mission was almost as successful.”
“I wasn’t the one who retired Al-Kar,” Ray admitted. “And I didn’t get Booth. Yet.”
“No, but you being here is what got us Gemini,” Doyle pointed out. “Add in the targets you have retired over the past few years, and Mariska’s false flag op, and we might actually manage to get ahead of the crime wars for a while.”
“Peachy,” Ray replied dryly.
“Take the win, kid. We don’t get that many.” Doyle gave him a clap on the shoulder.
“Whatever,” Ray said. “I’m more interested in how Finn got pulled into this and why you didn’t tell me about it.”
“I bet you are.” Doyle pulled a cigar from his inside pocket, then dug out a lighter. “I also bet Finn’ll be asking the same questions, once he’s out of surgery. And you know what?” He lit the cigar, puffed it to life. “He’s going to get the same answer you do.”
“Think about it,” Doyle cut him off. “I guarantee you’ll figure out at least one of the reasons. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to touch base with the head of the Tac-Ops team and the brass, who will have questions of their own.”
That probably won’t get answered, Ray thought.
“In the meantime, feel free to catch up with your pretty girl.” Doyle turned and headed back toward the terrace stairs. “Let her know you didn’t get your ass hauled off to prison.”
Ray watched Doyle leave, then thought about Jessyn, and Jessyn’s father, and grinned.
Doyle wasn’t the only one who had secrets.