“I’m very sorry, Adam. It shouldn’t have turned out this way.”
The young boy on the passenger seat gave a gloomy look at the tall blond man driving the Jeep. He then glanced over his shoulder toward the fishing equipment on the back seat. There was a single fish in the basket, the only one, caught by his father.
“S’all right, Dad,” the boy noted, trying to keep his voice as steady as he could. “It’s not your fault, really. At least, we had a couple of hours together at the lake.”
“I know you must be disappointed, son… After all, I promised you the whole day, just you and me.”
“Told you, it’s no big deal,” the child replied, shrugging his shoulders as if he couldn’t care less.
“That’s good. You’re being a big boy.”
The man took the phone from the dashboard and punched in numbers before putting it to his ear; he didn’t notice his son staring at the device with a look of dismay. If only Dad had left that home for the day, young Adam Svenson was thinking. No, he had to take it on that fishing trip… Had to keep in contact with his work…
“This is John Svenson,” Adam’s father said into the phone. “I’m almost home. I’ll drop my son there and go to the office after that…” He took a good look at himself, before adding with a grin, “…Just give me some time to change clothes. Unless you want your boss to smell like fish… Yes, that’s it. Get everything ready, then. See you later.”
He hung up, his son following his gesture with a look in which it was easy to read disappointment. Svenson shook his head.
“Again, I’m sorry, son. But this can’t be helped. This situation at the office requires my presence.”
“It couldn’t wait ‘til after the weekend?” the boy asked tentatively.
“No, it couldn’t. Immediate action has to be taken. Adam… I feel bad already as it is. Don’t be difficult about this.”
“I’m not, Dad. I was just curious.” Adam lowered his gaze.
“What will you do with the rest of the day?” his father asked him. “Go see Andy or the young Coltrane boy? Now, what’s his name…”
“Tommy. No, Dad. Andy’s gone with his folks for the rest of the week. And Tommy isn’t home either. He’s at football camp.”
“The rest of your friends?”
“It’s Sunday, Dad. They’ve all got other things to do.” Like I had too, Adam added to himself. With my father. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll catch up on my reading.”
Svenson smiled broadly. At nine, his son was able to read stuff that would deter even some adults he knew. He had caught him reading ‘Moby Dick’, the month before. Not an easy book to read, even for an adult.
“And what are you reading, these days?”
“Oh really?” Svenson frowned. “Isn’t that a little heavy for your age?”
“No, not really… I love it, you know. I’d give anything to live a life like that when I grow up. Excitement, adventures, secret missions…”
Young Adam grumbled. “Maybe that I can do without…”
His father chuckled indulgently. “Over time, you’ll change your mind about girls. And sooner than you realize, I bet.”
“Whatever.” Adam hesitated a few seconds, before looking up at his father, worry in his clear blue eyes. “Dad, I was just thinking… You will be home next Saturday, right?”
Svenson glanced at the boy. He gave him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. I promised you I’d be there.” He tousled the young boy’s blond hair with his right hand, in a teasing gesture. “I wouldn’t miss my son’s big game, now would I?”
“Stop that, Dad! I really hate it!” Nevertheless, Adam’s tone was a lot happier. At least, he was thinking, his father being there at the baseball game next week would more than make up for this disastrous fishing trip!
“You think your team will win, Adam?” John Svenson asked.
“I’m the best hitter they have, Dad!” Adam replied with a broad grin. “We’ll destroy the other guys!”
“That’s the spirit!” Svenson laughed. “Look in the glove compartment, son. There’s something in there for you.”
The curious little boy eagerly opened the compartment. Something made of black cloth fell into his lap; Adam immediately recognized what it was and picked it up, a satisfied smile widening on his tanned face. “A Red Sox cap! Thanks, Dad…” He noticed two small pieces of cardboard that were pinned inside and took them to get a closer look. “Tickets for the next game… against the Blue Jays!” Adam’s eyes widened. “Wow, Dad! That’s cool!”
“Just behind the Red Sox dugout, son. Happy?”
“Am I happy?” The ecstatic boy put the cap on. It was just a little too large for his head and the visor almost completely covered his eyes.
Svenson smiled. “Some adjustment is in order, it seems. Ask your mother to do it for you.”
“I will, Dad.”
“Isn’t ‘Blue Jays’ the name of your team, by the way?”
“Yeah, that’s it… That’s funny! We’ll go to the game together, right?”
“Sure we will.”
The Jeep pulled off the road into the driveway leading to the Svenson house, an old ancestral mansion that had been built some four or five generations earlier. Adam looked up front as the vehicle rolled quietly between the trees bordering the drive.
“Will you be home late, Dad?” he asked his father.
“I’ll be busy for the rest of the day, Adam. I have to prepare for an important trip to New York.”
“Just for a couple of days.”
Adam’s expression was one of total disappointment. His father looked curiously at him. “I’ve gone on business trips before. You should be accustomed to this by now. Why do you look so gloomy today?”
“I was just hoping… that you would throw a few balls with me. You know, I could use the practice before the big game next week-end.”
“Well, I can’t. And I’m about sure I won’t have a single minute for myself until next week-end.” Svenson cast a glance at his son. The boy was keeping silent, but it was obvious how he felt about this. His father had put work before his son too many times.
At the side of the driveway, Svenson saw a tall, bulky man, who was busy pruning a small tree. Seeing the Jeep passing by, the man waved at the driver and the young passenger, welcoming them back home. Adam didn’t seem to notice him.
“Why not ask Grover to play ball with you?” Svenson asked his son.
Adam frowned. What a singular idea! Grover was the resident gardener, newly hired by his father at the beginning of summer. “Why would I ask him?”
“Well, I talked with him the other day… He was watching you practising baseball with your friends and seemed very interested by it… And I learned he actually was a professional player in the Minor Leagues, some years ago.”
“Yeah, I know,” the boy grumbled with bad humour. “He was with the Trenton Thunder, the Red Sox double-A team. He keeps telling me that. Always wants to give me tips…”
“He could give you some pointers,” Svenson insisted.
“I don’t want to play ball with some gardener!” Adam protested. “I want to play ball with YOU!”
“I told you, Adam, it’s not possible…”
“Besides, I hate him.”
Svenson stared at his son, wondering about this obviously despicable statement, so unnatural coming from him. “Now, that’s new. Why do you hate Grover?”
Adam shrugged. “Don’t know,” he mumbled.
“There must be a reason, Adam,” his father insisted. “He seems nice to you…”
“I don’t know, Dad, it’s just a feeling I have… I know he’s trying to be nice, but…” Adam sighed heavily, unable to explain himself. He didn’t trust that Grover guy. It was creepy, how he was always butting in when he was playing with his friends. He didn’t like seeing him around his family, especially his mother and little brother Peter. He didn’t believe his affected niceness and the forced smile he displayed whenever he addressed him or his father. It was just too much…
“He looks neglected, and he always wears dirty clothes and… I just don’t like his face, that’s all,” the young boy finally told his father.
“That’s enough,” Svenson said sternly. “You can’t go on in life hating people just because you ‘don’t like their faces’. That’s not how decent people act, Adam. Life has been kind to us… We are privileged with riches some people like Grover can only dream of… but that doesn’t mean we’re better than them, or that we shouldn’t regard them as our equals.”
“Yes, Dad…” Adam lowered his gaze. That was the kind of speech he hated hearing from his father. He thought he must have heard it thousands of times. “You want me to be nice to him?”
“I suppose you weren’t?”
“Well… I just ignored him… Dad, I can’t pretend, you know that!”
“Make a little effort,” Svenson said sharply. “I’m disappointed in you, Adam. Granted, Grover has a neglected look. His clothes are worn out and dirty… but he’s a gardener. He works the soil for a living and he does it well. It’s normal that he should look that way. You’re lucky, son. YOU’ll never have to do those kind of jobs for a living.”
“No. I’m gonna be a test pilot.”
“Don’t change the subject.” Svenson sighed. The week before, Adam wanted to be a scuba diver. Next week, and judging from his current reading, he’d probably set his sights on a secret agent’s career. That was becoming quite annoying. “You should never judge a person by the way he looks or the work he does, Adam. You understand that?”
“Yes, Dad,” the boy murmured, looking down in shame.
“And I do want you to be nice to Grover from now on, right?”
“Okay, Dad. Whatever you want…”
“You’ll be a good kid. I know you will…”
* * *
“Would you mind telling me what’s wrong with you?”
It had been more than a half hour since Blue and Symphony had left the gas station. The young woman had been completely taken aback by the rude way her boyfriend had suddenly decided to take off, without even having something to eat, as they’d previously planned. Blue hadn’t said one single word ever since and was keeping his eyes on the road. Something was on his mind, that was for sure; something that was upsetting him greatly, and that he didn’t want to share with Symphony.
“What is it, Big Blue?” she insisted. “Why the silent treatment?”
When he didn’t answer, she sighed heavily.
“You did reach Paul in Las Vegas, didn’t you?”
He simply nodded.
“Did he say something to upset you?”
She didn’t think it would be that. Paul and Adam were the closest of friends, almost like brothers. Neither of them would never do or say anything to hurt the other, at least not intentionally. There were the occasional wisecracks, of course, but never anything really mean.
“What could he have said to upset me?” Blue muttered.
Well, at least he’s talking again, Symphony thought. “What is it then?” She sighed once more. “Did something happen in that bar?” She saw his right brow twitch. “Okay,” she said, nodding. “Something happened in the bar…”
“Nothing happened in there!” Blue snapped suddenly at her.
Symphony’s eyes widened in surprise. Yelling in anger was so unlike him. And she knew he wasn’t angry with her.
“Then what is it?” she asked again, more forcefully. “Adam, I think I know you fairly well. I’ve never seen you like this before! Not even with your father…“
Blue scowled. He and his father didn’t get along very well. It had really started when Blue had decided not to follow in the paternal footsteps, working as a successful financier, and instead chose to become a test pilot at the World Aeronautic Society. He disappointed and worried his father even more when he later accepted the job of a security agent at the WAS, and things got again more complicated when Blue announced, about three years ago, that he would join Spectrum. NOW he even had to relinquish his family name of Svenson. He’d had to adopt the colour-code name of Captain Blue, and no one outside of his immediate family was permitted to know his real identity. To John Svenson, that had been the last straw. He had barely spoken to his son for the better part of these past three years. And Blue was despairing of ever making peace with his father. These days, when they met, it was always brief, with heated words between them each and every time. Blue had about given up trying to convince his father that he had chosen his own path, and that he was happy with it.
“Don’t bring my father into this,” Blue muttered coldly.
“Well, what then?” Symphony asked again. “Are you angry with me? Have I done something wrong?”
“No!” Blue looked at her, and she saw the anguish in his features. “Don’t you ever say that, Karen… You know you could never do anything to make me angry with you.” He turned back up front and blew a deep sigh. “It’s not you… it’s me.”
“Adam, please, talk to me.” Symphony put a hand on his arm. She felt him tense under his sleeve. “If we are to get married…” She stopped suddenly and a glimmer of concern passed through her eyes. “That is… if you still want to get married.”
Blue violently pressed down the brake. The car came to an abrupt halt. He turned to the young woman, obviously shocked by what she had just said. He took her hand in his and looked longingly into her eyes.
“How can you ever doubt I’d changed my mind about that?” he asked her, his voice hoarse. “Karen, my feelings toward you haven’t changed. I promise you, nothing will ever prevent me marrying you.”
“I swear to you. I’m sorry if I caused you to doubt that.”
He hugged her and kissed her. She let herself be washed by his love.
“I want to believe you,” she answered, cuddling into his strong arms. “But I do so want to know what just happened to you back there.”
“That was nothing to concern yourself about,” Blue replied, his voice having returned to his normal, gentle self. “Anyway, it’s finished, now.”
He started up the car; Symphony could not help but notice that he was casting a nervous glance at the rear view mirror. She looked over her shoulder. Theirs was the only car on the road.
“You’re really sure it’s finished?” she asked him.
Blue looked at her. Nothing escaped her, it seemed. He nodded. “Sorry. Old habits die hard.” He paused a second, then sighed again. “Do you believe in ghosts, Karen?”
She scratched the back of her head, looking for a smart answer. “Let’s see… I live in the sky, in an aircraft the majority of people would think is an impossibility. I fight alien invaders from Mars, who destroy people and things so they can recreate them for their own use… and I work daily with a man who has died and come back to life numerous times… Do I believe in ghosts? Why not?”
Blue frowned. “Well, until about an hour ago, I didn’t believe in them. Then I just saw one in that bar.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Did you see that man who was looking at me when I got out of that joint?”
“A big guy, of about fifty, with brown hair, greying on the temples, and a beard?”
“You still have a good sense of observation, I see.”
“Years in training at the Secret Service can do that to a girl. Beside, he was hard to miss. Especially with that limp of his.”
Blue looked at Symphony, intrigued by the remark. “I didn’t even notice he was limping,” he said, shaking his head.
“Well, he was,” Symphony insisted. “You wouldn’t have noticed, because you were just too busy jumping into the car to get away from there…” She looked at Blue. “You were running away from that guy, weren’t you?”
“Yes, exactly. And if you ever encounter him again, you’d be wise to do like me and get the hell away from him.”
“That’s strange. I’ve never known you to be afraid of anything or anybody before. You didn’t seem to know the meaning of fear.”
Blue snorted. “That’s a misconception! I don’t know any of us in Spectrum who isn’t frightened by the Mysterons and the extent of their powers. I know I was scared as hell when I found out exactly what they’d done to Paul, to take him under their control.”
“But that man over there,” Symphony said softly, “It seems he frightens you even more. That’s the ghost you were talking about?”
“Yeah, sort of.” Blue shuddered. “He’s bad news, Karen. As bad as they come. To think I would run into him here, in the Nevada desert. God! What were the chances?”
“Who is he, Adam?”
“I told you: only a ghost. The ghost of a man I met twenty-five years ago.”
“Twenty-five…? But you were just a kid, back then!”
“I tell you, he made an indelible impression,” Blue mumbled. He shrugged the thought of that man away. At least, he tried. “Let’s not talk about him now. It brings back too many bad memories. And today isn’t a day for that.” He smiled. “I almost forgot: Paul checked out some of the chapels on the list I gave him. He said there are two which seem very nice… and that are available tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Symphony repeated. “What about tonight?”
“Oh boy! You’re in a hurry!”
“Adam, we don’t know when we might be recalled for duty. It could be tomorrow!”
“You’re right. Well, when we get to Vegas, we’ll see if one of those chapels can marry us, as soon as possible.” He looked at Symphony. “Are you satisfied with that?”
“I am if you are.”
“You know the answer to that. Now is there anything else you want?”
“Well,” Symphony grumbled, “I would like to eat something.”
“Eat…” Blue scowled. “Oh God, we didn’t get anything to eat back there, did we?”
“You should ask?” Symphony scoffed. “You were too busy pushing me back into the car to listen to my protests!”
“I’m sorry. I only thought of myself, I guess. You’re hungry?”
“Hungry? I’m famished, Adam!”
“What’s the next town?”
Symphony took the road map on the dashboard and unfolded it. She followed the road with her finger and found what Blue was asking for.
“Los Lobos,” she announced. “About one hundred miles from the station we’ve just left.”
“Nothing in between?”
“Nope. It seems I am condemned to die of starvation before we reach there.”
“Come on, we’ll be there in about a half-hour.”
“Are you crazy? You’re going to break the speed limit?”
“Hey! I drive faster than that when I’m in pursuit!”
“This car isn’t reinforced like an SPV, Big Blue.”
“But the road is smooth and straight. So why not have a little fun? And a rush of adrenalin?”
“You know, we could do that in a jet. We could go a lot faster and at least, at 40,000 feet there aren’t many telephone poles to collide with.”
“Coward,” Blue smiled mockingly.
Symphony shot him a murderous glance. “Nobody calls me a coward,” she replied curtly. “Burn some rubber, Svenson. Let’s see how fast this car really is.”
“Well, at least as long as it stays in one piece,” Blue quietly replied.
He shifted into gear and pushed down the pedal to the floor before Symphony could utter one single protest over his last remark.
Meanwhile, one of the causes of Captain Blue’s and Symphony Angel’s concerns about their impending wedding was working on some reports in the Control Room of Cloudbase. Since Spectrum had succeeded in thwarting the last Mysteron threat, things were keeping pretty quiet around the world and Colonel White was taking advantage of the opportunity to complete delayed paperwork with Lieutenant Green.
Somehow, White could not focus on his work. He’d read the same paragraph of the report spread in front of him four times now. Something was bothering him, but he could not quite put his finger on what it could be.
Frustrated by his lack of concentration, Colonel White threw his pen down on his circular desk and sighed. Resting his chin in his hands, he cast a distracted eye toward Lieutenant Green, still working at his station.
What was bothering him, anyway? Did he find that things had been too quiet for the last couple of days? He had been in this kind of business far too long not to know that such periods often preceded a violent storm of some sort. And since this whole business with the Mysterons had started off, about two years earlier, nothing had ever proved itself truer.
White certainly was feeling uneasy that his two best agents, Captains Scarlet and Blue, had gone on a prolonged furlough at the same time… But White had thought it best to let it be that way, so his best team would be on hand and still working perfectly when the time came for it. They had already worked around the clock too often these last months. White couldn’t very well ask them to continue that way much longer before seeing one of them breaking down at one point or another. In the case of Scarlet, Colonel White knew that the man, due to his particular condition, needed far less rest time than an ordinary man. But even he needed some time out, if not physically, then emotionally.
It was those thoughts of Scarlet and, by extension, of Blue, that were puzzling White. The colonel had been present that very morning when Scarlet had called Lieutenant Green to report that Destiny had just arrived in Los Angeles to join him and that they were going together to Las Vegas, where they intended taking their furlough. That call was standard procedure, of course… Even on vacations, Spectrum agents had to report their changes of location, and stay available in case of emergency calls. White generally tried his best not to disturb any vacationer, but, more often than not, it couldn’t be helped.
White was still looking Lieutenant Green’s way, still wondering what was bothering him so. “Tell me, Lieutenant,” he suddenly asked his aide, “has Captain Scarlet called since this morning to confirm his arrival in Las Vegas?”
Lieutenant Green looked over his computer screen and tapped some keys. Having found the information, he nodded. “He called at ten A.M., local time, sir. He and Destiny have taken two rooms at the St-Maurice Hotel.”
White nodded thoughtfully. “And Captain Blue must still be in Texas,” he said, more to himself than as if to ask a question.
Lieutenant Green’s answer had the effect of taking his superior aback. “No, sir. According to Captain Blue’s last report this morning, he and Symphony have decided to leave El Paso, to travel by car to Las Vegas, through the desert.”
“To Vegas?” a puzzled White repeated.
“Yes, Colonel. They left early this morning.” Green smiled. “They must be on their way to join Captain Scarlet and Destiny.”
“Must be, yes,” Colonel White mused. “I should imagine those four will have quite a time together in Las Vegas…”
“I should think too, sir.”
Green went back to his work and White picked up his pen. He tried to take up his reading where he had left it.
Without any success.
Lieutenant Green’s report had stirred up more puzzling questions. Blue and Symphony were going to Las Vegas through the desert? Now that was an odd decision to make. The road must be a long one…
“Why not charter a plane?” White thought out loud.
Lieutenant Green raised his head to his superior. Colonel White was distractedly playing with his pen. “Captain Blue and Symphony are both pilots… Why not charter a plane to go to Vegas instead of travelling by car through the desert?”
“I don’t know, sir.” Lieutenant Green gave a perplexed gaze at his commander. “Maybe they wanted to do some sight-seeing.”
“Lieutenant, have you ever been to the American Southwest?”
“Er… No, sir.”
“Well, don’t bother. It’s a desert climate, quite inhospitable. Murderously hot by day, bitterly cold by night, and there’s nothing to see out there for hundreds of miles.”
“Oh!” Lieutenant Green gave it some thought, then smiled broadly. “Then maybe they just want to spend some time alone together.”
Green’s remark was meant as a joke. Since he went back immediately after to his work, he didn’t see the odd look his superior was giving him.
Some time alone together? Yes, that was quite possible, White thought. He wasn’t a fool. For a long time now, he had known something was going on between Blue and Symphony, and he knew of the two’s efforts in trying to keep it a secret. But unbeknown to them, they weren’t very successful, and White suspected that it was more than probable than everybody onboard Cloudbase knew about it. They even had Scarlet as an accomplice, having him on the look-out just outside the Promenade Deck whenever they went to meet up there. White almost caught them red-handed once or twice, but Scarlet always managed to distract him in one way or another. Of course, White reflected, Blue was also helping Scarlet in kind, as he himself was involved in a quite similar relationship with Rhapsody Angel. The colonel had found that out a few weeks earlier, quite by chance. And THAT secret, until that moment, he had not suspected.
Since the game of cat and mouse seemed to amuse all of them so greatly, White had played along, letting everyone believe he was none the wiser about what was going on behind his back. So far, it hadn’t interfered in any way with their work, so he had really nothing to say against it. He was just a little disappointed that they all should think so badly of him as to believe he would be against this kind of relationship.
Now another thought, specifically concerning Captain Blue and Symphony, was forming in Colonel White’s mind as he mulled over what he had just learned from Green…
Scarlet and Destiny had been in Los Angeles, then went to Las Vegas… and Blue and Symphony were in El Paso, and then decided to take the road to join the other two.
White wondered if that hadn’t all been prepared all in advance.
What was the name of that hotel where Captain Scarlet and Destiny were staying?
Colonel White had a terminal built into his desk, connected to Lieutenant Green’s computer. He turned away from his reading, tapped a few keys on the keyboard, and looked down at the screen. Even if he wasn’t a computer genius like Lieutenant Green, or Captain Magenta, Colonel White certainly knew his way around computers too, and with one as sophisticated as the one on Cloudbase, it was fairly easy to find any information he wanted in the world.
He gained entry to the registers of the Las Vegas St-Maurice Hotel and searched the reservations records.
There. Reservations for two connecting rooms, made by Adam Svenson…
Three days ago.
So. This travel through the desert hadn’t really been decided this morning, just as White suspected. Why would Blue lie about it to Lieutenant Green?
White cast a wondering look toward the young Black man seated at his console and going on with his work. A sudden amusing thought seemed to suddenly cross his mind and White saw him chuckle – although the young man was trying his best not to show it.
The Colonel looked at him inquisitively. “What is it you found so funny, Lieutenant?”
“Just… a crazy thought, sir. Quite trivial, to be honest…”
“Would you care to share it with me?”
The Colonel’s tone was pleasant enough. Green hesitated just one second; he addressed his commanding officer with a broad smile. “I was just thinking, sir… You know Las Vegas has a lot of chapels and that people can get married very quickly there…”
“I fail to see what you’re driving at, Lieutenant,” White noted, his interest waning.
“Well, Captain Scarlet and Destiny Angel were engaged once…”
“A LONG time ago, yes.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny if they tied the knot whilst they’re there? They would have the opportunity.”
Green’s remark was innocent enough, but the odd way the Colonel looked at him and the apparent twitch over his left eye made Green wonder if he had done well telling him that. “No, Lieutenant, that would NOT be funny,” White replied rather curtly. “I’m quite sure Captain Scarlet and Destiny Angel have NOT rekindled their relationship. And it’s not because Las Vegas is full of chapels that it automatically means people who go there get married.”
Green cleared his throat, somehow uncomfortable. “Yes, sir,” he said piteously. “I’m sorry to have bothered you with that…”
White shook his head, without answering. The lieutenant’s reflection had somehow stirred some more thoughts to his mind.
What was so interesting in Las Vegas, anyway? White thought. Lots of casinos… Neither Blue nor Scarlet, nor the girls, were the gambling kind. Granted, there were also some pretty good shows… And dozens of Elvis Presley impersonators who were still going strong nearly a century after the so-called king of Rock n’ Roll’s demise.
There were also wedding chapels, as Green pointed out… Plenty of them. Las Vegas was renowned throughout the world for the quick, easy and varied ways people could marry there. It was the town’s second most important industry.
White frowned deeply. He wasn’t worried about Scarlet and Destiny getting married there, as Green had half-jokingly implied. He knew about Scarlet and Rhapsody being engaged. He had inadvertently seen the ring the captain had given the Angel pilot. He didn’t know if they had made specific plans about it already, but if it had been Rhapsody instead of Destiny who had gone with him to Vegas…
Oh no! the colonel suddenly realised, as a sudden thought crossed his mind. Blue and Symphony… They would not dare to do THAT, he hoped. It was one thing, trying to deceive him about their fooling around, but another altogether to go and get married behind his back!
Colonel White shrugged the thought away and took his pen to return to his work. He had let his imagination get the better of him, he thought. After all, they were reasonable people…
He threw his pen down again.
Right. Reasonable. Symphony was certainly the most reckless of all the Angel pilots, and she had found herself in more than one desperate hot spot in the past. And Captain Blue was no better. His worst stunt to date, White recalled, was when he and Scarlet deliberately disobeyed orders, by staying in Base Concorde, trying to stop a rocket programmed to strike the very same spot they were standing on.
“No,” the colonel muttered to himself, even as the doubt sank deeper into his mind. “They wouldn’t…”
He didn’t know how far Destiny Angel would let herself be involved in a foolhardy plan like this, but he knew far too well that he couldn’t count on Captain Scarlet to try and prevent it.
He would certainly go along with it.
Colonel White smacked his hand loudly on his desk. Lieutenant Green jumped at his station and turned to his commander, who was looking anything but serene.
“Something the matter, sir?” he asked, astounded by White’s outburst.
The colonel had been pretty quiet and thoughtful since he had asked those questions about Captains Blue and Scarlet, ten minutes ago. What could be bothering him now? Green could see he was upset.
“Where’s Captain Grey, Lieutenant?”
Colonel White’s voice was hard and his blue stare was blazing with inner fury. Yes, thought Green, something is definitely bothering him. Something, or, more probably, someone. Green certainly would not want to be in that person’s shoes.
“Captain Grey? Er… he’s in the officers’ lounge, sir. He was about to fly down to New York Headquarters…”
“Cancel that flight,” Colonel White interrupted abruptly. “Call him and tell him to come up here.”
“Right away, sir?” a puzzled Green asked.
“No, Lieutenant, next Christmas!” White almost snapped at him.
Oh, boy! Green thought, better be careful not to get on his bad side. The lieutenant went to his mic and made a call to the officers’ lounge, summoning Captain Grey to come to the Control Room – immediately. Then he took a chance by turning once again toward his commander, who had just closed the folder before him, in one decisive gesture.
“If I may ask you, sir…”
“Yes, Lieutenant?” White was standing up, his anger still fairly apparent, but cooling down a little. Green swallowed hard before continuing.
“Is something bothering you?” he asked. “I don’t know, maybe because of what I said earlier… About Captain Scarlet and Destiny…”
White sighed. It was wrong of him to let Lieutenant Green take the brunt of his temper, he thought. The kid wasn’t the one responsible.
“No, Lieutenant,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong… not much, anyway, and that’s got NOTHING to do with your earlier reflection.” He paused a second, then continued: “I just realized I needed a holiday of my own.”
“Sir?” Green was perplexed. For Colonel White to actually admit he needed a vacation, something was definitely wrong.
“You don’t agree with me, Lieutenant?” White asked, seeing his aide so unnaturally silent.
“No, sir. I mean… yes, sir.” Green sighed. “Sir, it’s a fact that you have worked harder than anyone else on Cloudbase, these past few months. And your last vacation turned out… well... rather badly.”
“Tell me about it,” Colonel White grumbled.
At that moment, Captain Grey entered the Control Room and Colonel White turned to greet him.
“That was fast, Captain. Did you run all the way from the officers’ lounge?”
Captain Grey wasn’t quite sure if question was meant as a joke, which, in itself, would feel really unnatural coming from his commander. But he could sense the bothered tone in Colonel White’s voice. He decided to turn around the remark.
“Lieutenant Green’s call seemed rather urgent, sir,” he said, saluting his commander.
“Urgent? Oh, well…” White cleared his throat. “I want you to take command of Cloudbase, Captain. I’ve just decided to give myself a few days holiday.”
“A vacation, sir?” Grey’s tone was as perplexed as Green’s had been.
White rolled his eyes. “WHY does everybody always seem so surprised when I decide to take leave?” he asked.
“Well, you’re certainly entitled to it, sir,” Grey responded, trying to smile.
“Glad you agree.”
“But since your last… ‘holiday’ in London, you have to understand that we’re rather concerned to see you go down there alone.”
“Don’t you think I can take care of myself?” White grumbled. “The last time, I was surprised. That isn’t likely to happen again.”
“Of course not, sir,” Grey said, quietly nodding his understanding.
“And I don’t intend to take this holiday alone,” White added, almost to himself. He didn’t elaborate, and neither of his officers asked what he meant by that. He cleared his throat. “Now, do you accept command of Cloudbase?”
“It would be an honour, sir.”
“Good. So, you’re in command, as of now. Have a plane ready for me. I’ll leave immediately.”
“May I ask where you’re going, sir?”
Lieutenant Green almost choked upon hearing that. He had the strength not to let his surprise be too apparent. But he couldn’t help wondering why Colonel White would choose to take his vacation at the very same place as Captains Scarlet and Blue.
“I’ll give you my exact location when I get there,” Colonel White was telling Captain Grey. “Notify me if there’s any emergency.”
“Of course, sir,” Grey replied.
“Very well. Then I’ll be on my way.”
White wasted no time heading toward the exit. A still perplexed Captain Grey called to him: “Colonel White?”
White stopped and turned on his heel, just as the door was opening before him. Grey gave him a smile. “Have a good time, sir.”
White grinned back at him, a bit curtly. “I’m sure I will, Captain. Lieutenant…”
“Take care, Colonel,” Green answered.
White nodded and disappeared through the sliding door. Still very confused at how fast the transfer of command had been done, Captain Grey turned to Lieutenant Green.
“Wow! Talk about being in a hurry! Do you know what motivated such a quick decision, Lieutenant?”
Green shrugged. As Colonel White’s aide, he often found himself the unwilling witness of some events that even the captains of the senior staff were not aware of. Green had never betrayed Colonel White’s confidence in him. Today would not be different. Especially since he didn’t have a clue what it was all about. He could only suspect that it had something to do with Captain Scarlet, or Captain Blue. And he couldn’t help himself wondering if HE wasn’t the one who had set him off after either of them.
“I don’t know, sir,” Green said to Captain Grey. “That was as sudden for me as it was for you.”
“Oh, well!” Grey sighed and went to sit at the commander’s circular desk. He removed his cap and put it away. “Have the plane ready for the colonel, then. With the mood he’s in, I certainly don’t want to make him wait needlessly for it.”
“Neither do I, Captain,” Lieutenant Green replied, refraining from sighing heavily. “Neither do I.”
* * *
Los Lobos was a quiet little town with no more than a couple of hundred houses and buildings, surrounded by drifting desert dirt. There was a gas station, of course, with its own bus stop, a general store, the sheriff's office, with its jail, a post office, a little hotel, a bar, no more commendable than the one Blue had phoned Scarlet from earlier that day, and most importantly, at least from Symphony’s point of view, a cantina.
Captain Blue had stopped his rented car right in front of it and he and his girlfriend had entered to order the best meal the house had to offer. Blue wasn’t really hungry himself, but he gave it a try, if just to accompany Symphony, who was literally famished. And she loved Mexican food, and proved it double time.
Blue was staring at her, obviously bewildered that so delicate a girl should be able to apparently inhale so much food. She was finishing her second portion of apple pie when she noticed that Blue wasn’t eating his first one.
“You’re not hungry?” she asked him.
Blue shook his head. He looked in amazed dismay as she took his plate and put it in front of her. His elbows on the table, he put his chin into his palms and observed her eating, in complete wonder.
“It always amazes me,” he said with a dumbfounded tone, “that you should be able to eat so much. You eat… well, like a trucker.”
“You left me to starve, might I remind you!” Symphony replied dryly. “So you shouldn’t wonder that I’m eating like this now. And not only was I hungry, all this has been absolutely delicious!”
“And you’ll eat that last piece of pie as well?”
“Fat chance of leaving it!”
“Speaking of fat… Where do you put it all?”
“I’m lucky, I guess. I’ve got a metabolism that allows me to eat whatever I want without putting on more than a pound.”
“Lucky indeed. Remind me never to take you to one of those all-you-can-eat places… Especially if we’re with Paul. Between him and you, any restaurant would be driven to bankruptcy.”
“Are you somehow afraid I’ll put on weight, Mr. Svenson? I can assure you, it won’t happen.”
Blue smiled. “No matter. I would love you, anyway.”
“Yeah, that’s what they ALL say.”
“I’m just concerned that you’ll get sick just before the wedding.”
“The wedding… or the honeymoon, Big Blue?”
Blue let a smile come upon his face, but didn’t respond. He had no need to. He cleared his throat and showed the still-eating Symphony the road map he had spread in front of them.
“Here we are,” he said pointing to a spot. “Los Lobos.” He followed the road line with his finger and stopped on another spot, before looking longingly into the eyes of his fiancée. “And here it is, Las Vegas.”
“About three hundred miles more,” nodded Symphony. She looked back at him. “We’ll finally make it, Adam.”
He smiled and covered her hand with his. “Yes, darling. We’ll finally make it.”
“Shouldn’t we try to reach Paul and Juliette?” the young woman asked. “To let them know about our change of plan?”
“About having the wedding performed tonight, if possible?” Blue looked at his watch. “I don’t know if we would be able to reach them. Last I called, they were on their way to catch a show.” He gave Symphony a wry smile. “Of course, I’ll be certainly able to reach Paul if I use my Spectrum communicator…”
“Absolutely out of the question,” came Symphony’s firm reply. “Try the phone. If you can’t reach them, then we’ll have to tell them when we get to Vegas.”
Blue sighed and stood up. “It will be a bit short notice, then,” he remarked. “Well, I’ll give it a try, right now. Finish your meal. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
“You know, I always have wondered how long a jiffy really is.”
Blue waved at her and went to the owner of the place, a sympathetic round Hispanic woman who had personally greeted them, an hour earlier. When he asked her where he could make a phone call, she guided him to the back of the restaurant.
Now alone, Symphony was quietly finishing her last piece of apple pie. It wouldn’t be long before Adam would be back, then they would take a few minutes more to relax a little, before getting back on the road, to Las Vegas.
Lost in her reverie, Symphony didn’t notice two men entering the restaurant. One of them went to the counter, while the second came directly toward the young woman, with a limping step. Symphony didn’t really see him until he stopped in front of her. She raised her eyes and looked up right at his grinning face.
“Well, hello there!”
It was the man from the bar; the one Adam was apparently running from. He was there, in front of her, and he was addressing her, with an expression that reminded the girl of an old grey, cunning wolf. She wasn’t afraid, for she had looked death in the face more than once, and it was certainly a more frightening sight than this man. She was just surprised to see him there.
Surprised, and curious.
“Hello,” she quietly responded, putting down her fork. “How surprising to see you here. Am I to think it’s a simple stroke of luck?”
The man’s smile widened. He didn’t sit, but put his hands on the table and leaned toward her.
“Where is that boyfriend of yours?” he asked.
“Around,” she answered, looking straight at him. “What is it with you two, anyway?”
“You mean, he didn’t tell you?”
“He just said that you were bad news… and that if I ever encountered you, I should run like hell, as far away from you as possible.”
“You don’t seem to be following his advice.”
“I don’t know you. I don’t see why I should be frightened of you.”
“So you’re not a coward. Unlike him.”
“Adam is definitely not a coward,” Symphony replied sharply. “If you think that, you don’t know him at all.” She narrowed her eyes at the man. “He also told me you were some kind of a ghost … that he hadn’t seen you in twenty-five years…”
“Yes,” the man said thoughtfully. “It has been that long…” He shook his head. “The kid and I are old friends…”
“Somehow, I doubt it,” Symphony replied with a cold tone. “Obviously, there is some unresolved business between you two…”
“You can say that again!”
“…Enough to motivate you to follow us through here.”
“Who said I’ve followed you? There is only one road through here… There was a fifty per cent chance that I should go in the same direction as you.”
“Right. And an even chance that you should stop in this town like we did.”
“You understand quickly, pretty lady.”
His tone was mocking and Symphony frowned deeply when she saw him pulling out the chair opposite her to sit down.
“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” she advised quietly.
“Do what?” the man asked, with perplexity in his voice.
“Sit here. Adam is due to come back any minute… any SECOND now. I don’t think he would appreciate seeing you here.”
“Really? But I’m looking forward to talking about the past with him. We’ll be able to reminisce together.”
“As far as he’s concerned, I’m pretty sure he would much prefer to forget about you.”
The man grinned again. “You’re sure he hasn’t told you about me?”
“I’m certain I would remember. You should go now, sir, before Adam comes back.”
The man laughed softly. He put his hand on Symphony’s.
“It seems young Adam knows how to choose his women,” he said. “Not only are you stunningly beautiful, but you’ve got a brain in that pretty head of yours… and guts to boot.”
Symphony slid her hand from under the man’s. She was surprised to see him taking it again, insistently.
“I would advise you to stop doing that, sir,” she warned dryly.
“Or what?” the man replied a bit curtly. “Your boyfriend will be angry with me?”
“No. I will be.”
The man laughed again; there was something sinister in that laugh. Symphony tried again to get her hand out from under his. He grabbed it firmly, imprisoning it. The young woman frowned.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked him angrily.
“Please, don’t talk so loud.” The man’s tone was more warning than request. “I just want to know you better.”
“And I certainly don’t want to know you,” Symphony replied with an icy tone. “Now release my hand this instant!”
“Come on, pretty girl,” the man insisted. “I’m sure you’re dying to hear what that ‘unresolved business’ is between the kid and me…”
“Not from you, I don’t!” Symphony said. “Now, let me go, before I do something drastic.”
“Oh!” the man remarked mockingly. “You’re really scaring me, little girl!”
There was something in his tone that displeased Symphony thoroughly… displeased and frightened her. And looking into his eyes brought nothing to reassure her. She tried again to disengage her hand, without any more success. Now she was really beginning to feel annoyed and maybe even a little worried.
“Sir,” she said between clenched teeth, “I’m warning you for the last time: let go of my hand!”
The man didn’t really have time to obey her. Suddenly, a firm hand grabbed him by the shoulder, forced him to stand, and pushed him away from the table where Symphony sat. Blue stood between the young woman and the older man, looking furiously toward the latter, with a threatening attitude.
“Stay away from her, Grover!” he shouted angrily.
The few clients of the restaurant turned to look at the obvious altercation between the two men. Symphony cast a glance at her boyfriend. He was generally a calm man, having no difficulty whatsoever in keeping his anger in check. But now, she could see he was really fuming.
“Say, kid,” the man Blue had called Grover said, trying to smile congenially. “How are you doing, these days?”
“Cut the friendly pretence, Grover!” Blue replied sharply. “What are you doing here? Following us around?”
“As I said to your pretty lady,” Grover answered quietly, “I am not following you.”
“And you expect me to believe THAT?” Blue scoffed, shouting again.
“Adam, please, calm down,” Symphony demanded. “There’s no harm done…”
“No harm done?” Blue replied, turning to her. He pointed at Grover. “You don’t know this man! You don’t know what he’s capable of! I do!” He turned again to the man, and took a threatening step toward him. “What do you want with me THIS time, Grover? Haven’t you done enough already?”
“Easy now, kid,” Grover said to Blue. “Listen to the girl. You’re making a scene over nothing here.”
“I don’t care!”
To Symphony’s surprise and dismay, Blue grabbed Grover by his collar and pulled him closer, looking straight into his face. The older man stumbled on his bad leg and Symphony saw him wince.
“Adam! Let him go!” she urged.
“Not before he tells me what he’s doing here!” Blue retorted angrily.
“I keep telling you,” Grover said, “It’s got nothing to do with you, kid.”
“Stop calling me that!” Blue shouted, shaking him furiously like a leaf. “I’m not a kid anymore!”
The man who had entered the restaurant with Grover then stepped forward, seeing his companion in such bad predicament. He put a firm hand on Blue’s shoulder, intending to force him to let go of the older man.
“That’s enough, pal! This guy’s twice your age…”
Blue responded with a sudden elbow to the face, which took the man by surprise and drove him to his knees. Grover thought he saw a chance of freeing himself and tried to aim his fist at Blue’s chin. The younger man easily evaded the blow and responded with a punch of his own, right into Grover’s stomach.
Astounded by her boyfriend’s sudden raging violence, Symphony stood up. Grover’s bad leg had given way, but Blue kept him upright.
“I’m not done with you yet, mister!” he said to the man’s face.
“Adam! Stop it now!” Symphony shouted.
Blue turned to her, distracted by the worried edge he heard in her voice. He saw the concern in her eyes. She was looking at him as if she didn’t recognize him. It was true he wasn’t feeling like himself right now…
Symphony’s warning came just in time for Blue to avoid the vicious attack of Grover’s companion, who was coming toward him with a bottle. The improvised weapon missed Blue’s head, and the Spectrum agent, letting go of Grover, grabbed the other man and threw him face first onto the table, knocking it over. The man fell to the floor, amidst broken dishes, and stayed there, apparently stunned.
Blue heard murmurs surrounding him; the other customers were quickly getting away from the fight. Great! And I so wanted to keep a low profile… Blue thought gloomily. If it hadn’t been for Grover… Thoughts of that man made Blue turn to him. Just in time to receive a direct hit to the face.
Even if he was much older than Blue, Grover was a little heavier, and apparently as strong as he was. His blow staggered the younger man and Grover took the opportunity to hit him again in the groin. Blue’s knees buckled. He heard Symphony’s voice calling for all of them to stop. Obviously, Grover had no intention whatsoever of obeying her and continued laying into Blue.
A punch to his jaw drew blood in Blue’s mouth and sent him to his knees.
“Trying to play in the big leagues now, kid?” he heard Grover whispering to him.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Symphony moving toward them. Knowing her as he did, he had no doubt she had every intention of coming to his assistance. He certainly would not let her face Grover.
The latter was actually bending down in front of him, preparing to hit his opponent again. Blue did not give him the opportunity to do so. He threw his fist upward, putting all his weight into it. He connected under Grover’s chin, pushing him away from him. The Spectrum agent stood up quickly, stopped his opponent from falling over, and continued to pound into him.
Blue finally let Grover fall to the floor, at his feet. The young captain was breathing hard, exhausted by his effort and by the blows he had received. Glaring down with disgust at the man he was standing over, he wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth.
A half-stunned Grover was looking at Blue with bewildered eyes.
“Stay down!” Blue growled to him. “Stay down or I’ll throw you down again!”
He felt a hand taking him roughly by the shoulder. The other man, he thought. Must have come out of his beauty sleep. Blue didn’t want to give him the chance to try and hit him again with a bottle. He spun suddenly, throwing a punch…
…And caught a uniformed man, wearing a star, right on the chin.
“Oh, God!” Blue murmured, looking with dismay as the man fell on his back. He realized he had just hit one of the local constabulary.
“All right, that’s quite enough!” Blue heard an angry voice behind him. He felt a violent blow at the back of his knees, forcing him down. Then somebody rammed him from behind and threw him across a table, face down. He was held tightly in this position, the weight of this new assailant pushing him down, a billy club across the back of his neck.
“Stay quiet, tough guy!” the man said angrily in his ear. “We don’t appreciate your kind around here!”
“Hey! Let him go!”
Symphony had seen the events developing rather quickly before her eyes. Two uniformed men, obviously representing the law around there, had entered the restaurant. One had tried to grab Blue, who had mistakenly hit him. The other had succeeded in subduing the Spectrum officer, and was now twisting his right arm behind his back. That was when she decided to step in, protesting vehemently against the kind of treatment imposed on her fiancé.
“You have no right to treat him that way!” she said.
“No? I’m the sheriff around here, lady.” The lawman, a bulky forty-something with a big moustache, turned angrily to her. “He just hit my deputy!”
"It was a mistake!” Blue tried to explain.
“The mistake was when you stopped here in the first place, mister!”
The deputy, still half-stunned by the blow he had received, was coming to his feet. Blue hadn’t really been very gentle with him.
“You okay, Harvey?” the sheriff asked him.
“Yeah,” the other man answered, shaking his head. “Yeah, I’m all right, sheriff. Boy, that guy has a mean hook!”
“All right, then!” the sheriff barked, looking around, still keeping Blue down. “Who started this mess?”
The witnesses were all pretty in accordance about that fact: they all saw Blue starting the fight. Symphony was the only one to come to his defence.
“Now look here, sheriff, there is an explanation for this…”
“Keep it to yourself!” the sheriff replied dryly. “I think your friend needs to cool off in a cell for a while…”
“You can’t be serious! Listen to me: he was defending me!”
Grover was starting to get slowly on his feet. He seemed to have some difficulty about it and he needed to support himself on a chair to finally stand up. Blue, who could see him from his position, was pretty sure he was exaggerating his predicament.
“I think the young man imagined I was bugging his girl,” Grover said to the sheriff.
“Imagined?” Symphony repeated protesting. “He didn’t imagine anything!” She turned furiously toward Grover. “You WERE bugging me!”
“Is that so, Will?” the sheriff asked Grover.
“Will?” Symphony repeated. She realized with horror that Grover was somehow acquainted with the sheriff. “Oh, give me a break!” she sighed heavily, rolling her eyes.
“I guess the situation could have seemed a little confusing,” Grover said with a sly smile.
“There’s nothing confusing about you, Grover!” Blue replied between clenched teeth. “You’re a creep!”
“Keep quiet!” the sheriff barked at him. “Whatever Will Grover might have done, there’s no reason to beat him up like you did!”
The deputy sheriff was helping the other man who had attacked Blue regain his footing. He was still a bit unsure of his balance. He pointed an accusing finger toward Blue.
“This guy’s dangerous, sheriff!” he said dryly. “He was all over Will like a wild animal!”
“You should be ashamed of yourself, fella!” the sheriff noted to Blue. “Attacking a crippled man like that!”
Blue tried to get free. The sheriff tightened his grip and nodded to his deputy to come over to help him. The deputy obeyed and snapped his handcuffs on Blue’s right wrist.
“I’ve got one more question for you, my friend,” the sheriff asked Blue again, very quietly. “That grey convertible out there, in front of the restaurant… that’s yours?”
“Yeah,” Blue answered, gritting his teeth against the pain of the cuff biting into his flesh. “What about it?”
“We received a report about a smart guy going at nearly 200 MPH on the main road into town,” the sheriff continued. “And he was driving a car just like yours.”
“Oh, no!” Symphony murmured, looking upward again. She was able to do nothing more than watch as Blue’s hands were tightly cuffed behind his back and he was forced to stand up.
“All right, now!” the sheriff told him. “Off to a cell you go, tough guy! Until the judge can see you.”
“No!” The sheriff and his deputy were already starting to push and drag Blue in the direction of the door when Symphony came right at them, protesting again, most vehemently. “You can’t do that, sheriff! What do you have against him exactly?”
“Karen…” Blue tried to call to her.
“What have I got against him?” the sheriff scoffed mockingly. “Assault and battery… against a cripple, no less! Resisting arrest, disorder in a public place, destruction of private property… and most probably drinking, speeding, and reckless driving!”
“I only had ONE beer!” Blue defended himself. “And it was in THIS restaurant!”
“Well, if that’s true, it leaves reckless driving and speeding!” the sheriff mocked him. “Anyway, your place is in prison right now, mister!”
“You’re making a terrible mistake, sheriff!” Symphony said, frowning deeply.
“Oh, yeah?” How so?”
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with, here…”
Blue’s loud warning took all of Symphony’s attention and she turned to him. She saw the anguish in his eyes, but she also saw the firm message that she should keep quiet, that she shouldn’t reveal their Spectrum identities to these men. Least of all, in front of Grover. He shook his head negatively. “No,” he almost whispered.
“Adam, you can’t…”
“No, Karen,” he replied firmly. “YOU can’t.”
She sighed and gave in.
The sheriff grunted, and he and his deputy pushed Blue through the restaurant door. For a moment, Symphony stood there, feeling as helpless as she had ever been.
“Seems like your boyfriend is in a bit of trouble here, pretty lady!”
Symphony frowned and turned toward Grover and his friend, who were still there, looking at her. The gleam she could see in Grover’s eyes was somehow unsettling and seemed to presage further trouble.
She didn’t speak to either of the two men, and followed Blue, who was then taken to the local police station.
* * *
“What do you mean, I can't post his bail?”
It was more than two hours later. Symphony had waited all that time in the sheriff’s personal office. She hadn’t seen Adam since he was brought in and taken to the main office, and then to the cellblock, where he was to be held. The sheriff, Angus McNamara, seemed to have taken some pleasure in making her wait. When he finally came to see her, he had finalized the details of Blue’s incarceration.
And now, he had told her that he wouldn’t release Blue on bail.
“You have no right to do that!” she said angrily at the man who was sitting behind his desk in front of her. “Why would you refuse him bail?”
“Miss Wainwright, your friend is a stranger around these parts.” The sheriff sighed. “There is nothing to tell me he won’t run away the minute I free him.”
“…And then have a criminal record?” Symphony replied. “If you have checked, then you know he’s never done anything wrong. He’s the most honest man I know.”
“Well, he APPEARS honest enough.” The sheriff looked thoughtfully at her. “But that doesn’t mean he really is. Besides, checking his records, I also learned he is a very wealthy man. It would be nothing to him to jump bail and get away with it.”
“Adam is not wealthy. His father is.”
“Well, it’s all the same.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Miss Wainwright,” McNamara sighed again, “imposing bail isn’t my decision…”
“No, that’s the judge’s business. YOU have decided to keep Adam behind bars! And you have no right to do that!”
“It’s my job to uphold the law. There is no denying your friend lost it in the restaurant. The owner is lodging a complaint against him… Will Grover will do the same, I imagine. And that’s not counting the ones we can hold against him for hitting my deputy and speeding…”
“That last thing you can’t prove,” Symphony replied dryly.
“No, but I know it was him. Admit it.”
“The hell I will!”
“Have it your way. But I’m keeping Mr. Svenson until tomorrow. Until he sees the judge. If anything, I don’t want to risk seeing him running into Will Grover again. I have some concern that it could really turn bad if he were to meet him again anytime soon.” The sheriff smiled lightly. “He could use the night to cool off.”
“That’s your last word on the matter?”
“Yes. I won’t change my mind about it. Come back tomorrow morning, with the bail money… and I might consider letting him go.”
“You mean you’re not certain you will let him go even then?”
“That’s right. We’ll see if he’s calmer then.”
“Listen, if we’re willing to pay for damages to the restaurant as well…”
“Don’t insist, lady. Anyway, after he’s seen the judge, he WILL certainly pay for damages to the restaurant… and then some, for the rest of what he did.”
“I’m sure I can arrange things with the judge. If I can just talk to him and…”
“The judge won’t be here to see your friend before tomorrow morning,” the sheriff announced quietly.
“He’s not in town?” Symphony asked with a frown.
“No. He’s… otherwise occupied.”
“You ARRANGED it that way, didn’t you?” Symphony accused.
“Now, why would have I done such a thing?”
“You’re really all heart, sheriff!” Symphony grumbled curtly. She sighed heavily. There was apparently no way she would be able to get Blue out of that cell tonight. “Can I, at least, see him?”
The sheriff got up on his feet. “By all means, Miss Wainwright… That I can arrange for you.”
* * *
Blue was in the last cell of the block. When Symphony came into the place alone, she had to walk in front of all the other cells to go to his. The other prisoners whistled and called to her. She feigned not to hear them. She only had eyes for Blue, who was pacing around his cell, like a nervous tiger. When he saw her, he came close to the bars separating them.
“Am I glad to see you, Karen!”
She looked at his face. He seemed distraught, nervy, ready to blow up… Since being brought in, his lower lip had swollen and a violet bruise covered his left cheek. He looked like a prize-fighter who had gone a couple of rounds with the local champion.
“How are you?” she asked him.
“I’ll be fine when I get out of here,” he grumbled. “How much did they ask for bail?”
Symphony shook her head, hesitating. “I’m sorry, Adam. The sheriff just told me he won’t let you out before tomorrow morning.”
“What?” Blue looked at her in dismay. “He can’t do that!”
“It seems he can and he’s doing it. You won’t be able to explain yourself in front of the judge before tomorrow.” Symphony sighed. “I tried, Big Blue. He was adamant about it.”
“Oh, wonderful!” Blue mumbled, looking to the sky and turning away to pace another round of his cell.
“He said he’s afraid that if you were to run into that Grover fellow anytime soon, you would attack him again,” Symphony continued. “And frankly, Adam, after seeing how you tore into him…”
“You agree with the sheriff?” Blue asked her in surprise, coming back to the bars.
“I didn’t say that,” Symphony replied. She hesitated, before continuing in a whisper: “What is it with you, Adam? You’re not yourself today. What is that man to you? Every time you see him, you don’t seem to be able to restrain your temper.”
“I did lose it back there, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.”
Blue sighed heavily and put his forehead to the bars, closing his eyes. “I’m a stupid fool,” he muttered. He looked at Symphony. “I blew it big time. We won’t get married tonight.”
“It’s all right.” Symphony tried to smile as if it weren’t really important. “There’s always tomorrow. And anyway, I’m not really looking forward to marrying you tonight, seeing you looking that way.”
“Looking what way?”
“Like you just had a run-in with a bunch of hooligans.”
Blue touched his swollen cheek and gave a wry grin. “How's the other guy?” he asked jokingly.
“It’s no laughing matter, Adam.” Symphony paused a second. She looked around, assuring herself nobody was listening to what they were saying. “Why did you stop me telling the sheriff who we were?”
“And compromise our Spectrum identities?” Blue retorted quickly. “Out of the question! And it’s really a good thing that we had left our identity cards and communicators in the car. It simplifies the problem a great deal…”
“Adam, if I had told him, you would not be in this cell right now!”
“Yeah, thanks to a technicality! Think about it, Karen: if you had told them, they would have checked us out. Spectrum Intelligence would have found out about this incident. The COLONEL would have found out. Can you imagine the explanation I would have to give him regarding all this?”
“I think you’re selling the colonel a bit short, here, Adam.“
“Because you really think he would take kindly to learning one of his senior staff officers was arrested because of his involvement in a brawl? Especially since the said officer seemed to be responsible of the whole damned thing!”
“You were not responsible. That guy was bugging me. Besides, I’m sure if you’d explained to the Colonel what the problem is with that guy…”
“I’d rather not. It’s very personal, Karen.”
“And somewhat painful, I guess, because you still haven’t told ME.” Symphony sighed heavily. “Who IS that man?”
Blue kept silent for a moment. He looked around, and then glanced back at her.
“I can’t tell you now,” he said. “This isn’t the place.”
“What could be so…”
“I promise you. I will tell you. As soon as I’m out of here, I’ll tell you.” Blue looked toward the main door, seeming very nervous. “In the meanwhile, you’ll have to leave this place.”
“Leave this place?” Symphony repeated, frowning. “Whatever do you mean?”
“I won’t be released before tomorrow morning. I want you out of this town until then, Karen.”
Blue’s voice had an urgent tone to it. Symphony couldn’t believe what she had just heard. She shook her head.
“You’re not serious!” she murmured.
“Deadly serious,” Blue replied.
“I’m not leaving you here all alone, Big Blue,” Symphony protested.
“You must, Karen.”
“Listen, there is a hotel here, you know, and…”
“…I’ll take a room here until tomorrow, and then I’ll come back to this godforsaken jail to bail you out.”
What do you mean, ‘no’?” Symphony snapped angrily. “Adam, I won’t leave you all alone. I don’t want to!”
“No, no, please, listen to me.” Blue gently took the young woman’s hand, which was gripping one of the bars separating them. He glanced toward the other prisoners, toward the door again, as if he was afraid that Symphony’s outburst had attracted attention to them. Since nobody was really paying attention to them, he approached her as closely as the bars allowed.
“Listen carefully,” he murmured, looking straight into her eyes. “Grover is a very, very dangerous man. What happened today tends to prove me that he hasn’t changed his ways in twenty-five years. He followed us – ME – here… I don’t have a clue what he wants, but I’m quite sure he won’t hesitate to go after you to get to me…”
“You know I can take care of myself, Adam.”
“I know that, honey, but I can’t bear the thought of you facing him one on one. I know too well what he’s capable of… And since I’m stuck here, behind those bars, I can’t protect you…” His voice trailed off. Symphony had to call on all of her strength not to shiver. What could that man have done to her Adam that he would be so afraid of what he might do to her?
“I want you out of this town as soon as possible,” Blue continued in a grim tone. “Take the car, go to Vegas, don’t stop anywhere in between. Go to Paul. Tell him what’s happened. With him to take care of you, I won’t have to worry.”
“And what about you?” Symphony asked him with concern.
“Me?” Blue gave her a faint smile. “I’ve got nothing to fear, behind these bars.”
“Somehow, that’s not very comforting.”
“Karen, you don’t have to worry about me. And first thing tomorrow morning, come back for me. With Paul.”
“I know that if he was here, I’d certainly feel better,” Symphony sighed. “Maybe I should call him to ask him to come over.”
“You can’t. I wasn’t able to reach him, just before this whole mess. I suppose he’s out with Destiny.”
“With a Spectrum communicator, I would be able to reach him.”
“No. No, don’t use the communicator,” Blue urged the young woman.
“Adam, what would happen if Spectrum recalls us to duty? They’d find out that you are in jail… They’ll learn about the fight.”
“Well, let’s just hope that won’t happen. Please, do as I ask, darling. I don’t want you to stay in this town all alone, possibly at the mercy of Grover. I’ll sleep better tonight knowing you’re far away from here, safe and secure.”
“And far away from you…”
Symphony gazed into the blue eyes of her lover. She saw the distress in them. Dear God, he’s really afraid for me, and it’s killing him. She was beginning to feel very frightened herself. Better not let him know, she mused. He’s obviously worried enough as it is. She gently covered his bruised knuckles with her right hand and tried to smile at him in a reassuring way.
“You really want me to go?”
“Yeah,” Blue nodded. “Right away. Without talking to anyone.”
She sighed. “Well, at least, I’ve got to tell the sheriff I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning, with the bail money.”
Blue gave a relieved smile, his eyes suddenly bright. “All right. Go then.” He passed his free hand through the bars and caressed her cheek, looking longingly into her eyes. “I’m so sorry I blew things, honey. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
“I certainly hope so,” Symphony tried to respond with a debonair tone. “You know I was supposed to be a bride tonight.”
Blue smiled again. Symphony kissed his hand before he took it back through the bars.
“Don’t go away,” she whispered.
“I won’t.” Blue gave a look around. “I’ll still be here when you come back.” He paused. “Be careful, Karen. Remember… I love you.”
“I love you too, Big Blue,” Symphony said, moving backward to the door. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back.”
They gazed at each other’s eyes, as if they were unable to look away, as Symphony continued to back away toward the door. Then she made a supreme effort over herself to turn away, and walked out of the cellblock.
She promised herself that she would never, ever, again turn her back on Adam in such moments of need.