“He’s gone? What do you mean, ‘he’s gone’?”
It was about six-thirty in the morning when Symphony presented herself at the office of Los Lobos’ sheriff. She wasn’t alone.
The evening before, somehow finding an opportunity when Colonel White was otherwise occupied – with her mother and Destiny Angel – she had explained to Captain Scarlet what had happened during her journey through the desert with Captain Blue. She told him all about their two encounters with the man called Will Grover, how the second one had degenerated, the ensuing jailing of Blue and his insistence on seeing her leave town without delay.
Scarlet had carefully listened to the whole story, before making another one of his quick decisions. The single most important thing, he had stated, was to get Blue out of jail. Without the colonel knowing anything about it. To Symphony, that appeared quite difficult, but it turned out Paul already had an idea of how to proceed.
He was to go to Los Lobos with Symphony, at the crack of dawn. Destiny and Amanda would stay behind to distract the colonel and keep him occupied. If Symphony’s mother was very happy to comply, it was definitely not the case with Destiny. Already, she had a bad feeling that they were going to fail miserably.
“What do you think I am, suicidal?” she had replied vehemently. “Maybe he doesn’t know anything about the wedding plans, but there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll wonder WHY you have sneaked out on him… Maybe that’ll make him think. That may make him very angry, Paul.”
“Why would he get angry, Juliette?” Scarlet had answered negligently. “As you said, he doesn’t seem to suspect about the wedding. He seemed to be in a good mood all evening, I daresay maybe even enjoying himself.”
“THAT was tonight. HOW am I going to keep him occupied all day tomorrow? That’s an impossible task!”
“I thought ‘impossible’ wasn’t a French word. Or so the French say.”
“Oh, very funny, Paul Metcalfe!”
“Relax, girl… I don’t think you’ll have much trouble. You’ll have Amanda to help you.”
“Yes, well… At least SHE doesn’t have anything to fear from Colonel White…”
“Yes, he appears to like her a lot.”
“That’s NOT what I meant! He can’t discipline HER! He won’t put HER in front of a court-martial! He won’t risk wringing HER neck!”
“Oh, really, Juliette… He won’t do any of those things to you. He likes you too, you know.”
“Paul… Can’t you be serious about this?”
“I AM serious, chérie. Listen, there’s no reason for the old man to get angry. At you or at any of us. We’re going to Los Lobos early. We’ll be back as soon as we get Adam out of jail. We’ll be here before the colonel has a chance to miss us.”
“You won’t use the opportunity to go to a chapel with Adam and Karen and get them married, I hope?”
“No, I promise you. Time is of the essence, here. We won’t waste any of it. Not right now, anyway.”
“It’s still pretty risky, it you want my opinion.”
“Maybe so, but we’re in Spectrum, girl. Risks are part of our job.”
Destiny had finally given in, AFTER Scarlet had promised he would call her the minute Blue was released from jail.
That settled, there was only one complication left. With Blue absent, the colonel, who was unable to get a room before the next day, was sharing Scarlet’s room. Scarlet would have to sneak out of there without awakening his commander.
That had Symphony worried, but she needn’t have bothered. Scarlet was as good at stealth as she was at observing details. He was waiting for her at the car. “Piece of cake,” he told her with a reassuring smile.
All the way back to Los Lobos, Symphony was trying to figure out what Blue’s reaction would be to finding out about their commander’s presence in Las Vegas. It wasn’t really hard to work out he would be upset. Not only were his wedding plans with Symphony delayed due to his arrest, but now, they were in grave danger of being put on ice. Scarlet had tried to reassure the young woman by telling her they would surely find a way for her and Blue to get married despite the trouble posed by their commander. But Symphony was not really convinced. For the moment, however, her only concern was to see Blue out of his cell and safely back in her arms.
That was why she was so astounded when Sheriff McNamara told her Blue was already out.
Captain Scarlet had accompanied her to see the sheriff. He waited discreetly behind her while she talked to him. If he was surprised by the sheriff's announcement, he managed not to show it. Symphony didn’t even try to hide her feelings.
“Let me get this straight,” she continued, addressing the sheriff in an upset tone. “Yesterday, you weren’t going to let him out before this morning… and even then, you weren’t sure you would let him go. Now you’re telling me he’s been out since late last night?”
“That’s exactly what I said, Miss Wainwright,” McNamara answered patiently. He was looking very tired. Can’t have been up for more than half an hour or so, thought a silent Scarlet, still a few steps behind a fuming Symphony.
The sheriff pointed to the phone, clearing his throat. “He did try to make a phone call, before leaving, but the lines were down.” He looked up at Symphony. “Hasn’t he reached you since then?”
“Would I be here with you if he had?” the young female pilot scoffed. “Do you have any idea where he could be?”
McNamara shrugged. “He could have taken the bus. We suggested it to him, last night. Or he could be at the hotel.”
“You mean you’re not sure?”
“Look, it’s not my job to follow miscreants around when they get out of jail. I just have to make sure they don’t cause any more trouble, that’s all. In the case of your boyfriend, I specifically told him to be out of town by this morning. Now, where he’s gone and what he’s done since then, I don’t know.”
“In any case, Sheriff, he would have called to inform us,” Symphony replied. “When did the phones come back online?”
“I honestly can’t tell. Mine hasn’t rung at all, since yesterday. Only once this morning, just before you arrived.”
“Isn’t it a little strange that your phone should stay so quiet, since you’re apparently the only law enforcement around here?”
The sheriff looked up at Scarlet, who had just spoken. So far, the tall man accompanying the young woman had kept quiet, letting her do all the talking. He looked like the strong, silent type, and McNamara was pretty sure he was listening carefully to all that was said. The sheriff had recognized an English accent in his voice when he had finally spoken.
“This is a pretty quiet county, sir,” McNamara explained to Scarlet, keeping a barely polite tone. “About the only problems we encounter around here are speed freaks and barroom brawlers… and troublemakers like your Mr Svenson.”
Scarlet did not respond to the remark. He looked thoughtful. “If you didn’t want him out before this morning, why did you let him go last night?”
“Miss Wainwright asked the same question,” the sheriff noted.
“You didn’t answer it,” Scarlet replied quietly. “So I’m asking it again.”
The sheriff narrowed his eyes at him. “Yes, well, the answer should be obvious: Svenson got out because his bail was paid off.”
“Adam paid the bail?” Symphony asked.
“I didn’t say that,” the sheriff sighed.
Symphony frowned. “Then who?”
“I don’t know, and even if I did, I don’t see why I’d tell you.”
“So we are to assume that person wants to keep his or her identity a secret,” Scarlet nodded.
“You understand fast. That person paid not only the bail, but also the damages to the restaurant, the speeding ticket and so on…”
“And the charges against Adam?” Symphony asked quickly.
“They were dropped”.
“All the charges?” Scarlet asked in his turn.
“All the charges,” the sheriff answered.
“Even the one for assault and battery on that Grover guy?” Symphony insisted. “You wanted so much to pin that rap on Adam.”
The sheriff sighed again. “The victim chose not to press charges. He didn’t want to sue. And as for me wanting to ‘pin that rap’ on your friend, you must admit, Miss Wainwright, that he was definitely guilty. Somebody who beats up a cripple is a creep in my book.”
That was the last straw. That was more than Symphony could bear at the moment. She suddenly snapped in anger. “Look here, Sheriff, I have no intention of standing here listening to you insulting my friend without…”
“That’s quite enough now,” Scarlet interrupted her quickly. He had a feeling that she was about to lose her temper, and it seemed to him that it wasn’t such a good idea under the circumstances. She looked at him with surprise in her eyes, not understanding why he was interfering with her righteous anger, as he firmly took her by the shoulders to direct her toward the door.
“We’ll follow your advice,” Scarlet said to McNamara, opening the door and pushing Symphony outside of the office before she had the chance to utter a word of protest. “We’ll check the hotel, and the bus station. Thank you for your time, Sheriff.”
McNamara stood up from behind his desk. “If I may give you another piece of advice, Mr…”
Scarlet stopped to turn to the sheriff. “My name is Metcalfe,” he presented himself, as the lawman was obviously waiting for that information.
“You and the lady don’t intend to get into any trouble now, I hope?” McNamara asked suspiciously.
“Do we look like we’re looking for trouble?” Scarlet innocently replied.
McNamara refrained from scowling. He had his doubts about that. There was something strange about that guy. Something unclear about him… The sheriff could not put his finger what it was exactly, but he was sure of one thing.
It spelled trouble.
“Be sure to remember that, sir,” McNamara advised Scarlet, pointing a warning finger in his direction. “Keep a close eye on that girl.”
“Don’t worry, Sheriff. We’ll leave your charming town the minute we find our friend.” Scarlet reached for the door handle. “Good day, sir.”
McNamara watched doubtfully as the Englishman left, closing the door behind him. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and sat down. He then saw the door open again and his deputy enter. The man nodded toward the other room from where he came.
“Who was that guy with Svenson’s girl?” he asked.
McNamara looked grim. “Trouble, I’m afraid. Is Grover anywhere around in town?”
“Haven’t seen him yet.”
“Good. Better he doesn’t run into the girl, especially if her friend is with her.” The sheriff looked up at his deputy. “They’re searching for Svenson. I suggested the hotel and the bus station.”
The deputy frowned. “What do you want me to do?”
McNamara thought about it for a moment. “Keep an eye on them,” he finally said. “Discreetly, of course. Make sure they don’t cause any trouble.”
“And if they do?”
The sheriff grunted, and smiled slightly. “We’ll act accordingly… After all, we’re the law around here, aren’t we?”
* * *
Alone in her room at the St-Maurice, Destiny Angel was a nervous wreck. The last hour – since Colonel White had woken up – had been nothing short of a nightmare, from her point of view. Not that anything exactly wrong had happened… But she had the very deep feeling that an impending catastrophe was going to fall upon her head any minute.
She didn’t know how she had managed to keep up a strong and carefree façade so far, in front of Colonel White; of course, as she had assumed, he had wondered about Scarlet and Symphony’s absence. And it was not surprising that he would seem upset by it. Upset and very annoyed, if Destiny knew him well. Somehow, he had managed to keep his temper down, but the Angel pilot wasn’t fooled and could see it was screaming to get out. It was only a matter of time before the storm broke, she was sure of it.
She had told him, rather matter-of-factly, that Scarlet and Symphony had gone into town, together. White asked about Blue, whether he had come back last night or not. The Angel pilot couldn’t help but notice that the question seemed to concern him. She couldn’t figure out exactly why. And she couldn’t provide him with an answer that would be satisfactory enough for his taste. She could see that.
Breakfast was taken in a heavy enough atmosphere. How Destiny had managed to distract White with a suggestion to go out and visit the town was beyond her. She certainly had noticed how her commander seemed reluctant to agree, until Amanda stepped in to save the day, and insisted upon him coming with them… Vegas was a beautiful city to visit, but certainly, it wasn’t safe for two women to walk its streets alone… The argument was rather feeble, and certainly, Colonel White would not have reason to worry, for Destiny Angel surely knew how to take care of herself. But Amanda Wainwright used her most charming smile and batting eyelashes… He was hopelessly hooked.
They each had left her to go back to their respective rooms, in order to shower and get ready. Destiny was still in her robe, and was on her way to take a good, well-earned shower when the telephone rang. She nearly jumped on it to answer. It was the man at the St-Maurice reception desk who announced to her that “Mr Metcalfe was on the line”. She was relieved when she heard her friend’s welcome voice:
“Paul, am I glad you called!” she said, sighing deeply.
“Is it safe for you to talk?” Scarlet asked carefully.
“Yes, it’s safe,” Destiny answered. “The colonel is in your room, taking a shower… We just had breakfast in here, with Amanda.”
“Taking a shower?” Scarlet teased her. “You didn’t get a peek at HIM, I hope?”
Destiny gave a dubious frown. “I swear, Paul, sometimes your sense of humour is WAY off base!”
“How are things going?”
“Fairly well, Grâce au Ciel,” Destiny sighed again. “The colonel awakened about an hour ago… Naturally, he was searching for you… and Karen, of course. He seemed… I don’t know, annoyed that you weren’t there.”
“What did you tell him?” Scarlet asked.
“That you’d gone for a run. The two of you. He seemed to believe me. At least, he didn’t ask too many questions about that. But he DID ask for Adam. He was wondering if he had come at all last night, while we were sleeping. I told him that, since I was sleeping so soundly, I didn’t know… and asked him if HE noticed him coming in.”
“Nice touch, Destiny!”
“A nice touch that could see me in front of a court-martial… Paul, I lied to our commander!”
“Not really… And it wasn’t on duty.”
“Oh, I’m sure that will make ALL the difference!” Destiny scoffed loudly. “So… when are you and Karen coming back with Adam?”
“I… think there’s a problem, chérie,” Scarlet started cautiously.
“How BIG a problem?” Destiny asked, worried and annoyed.
“Blue wasn’t in jail anymore when we got here…”
“What do you mean, ‘he wasn’t in jail’?” Destiny snapped suddenly. “Where is he?”
“I was rather hoping you’d say he was with you,” Scarlet answered.
“No, he’s not here…”
“He didn’t call either?”
“No… Paul, what’s going on?” There was a worried edge in Destiny’s voice.
Scarlet sighed, hesitant. “Well… We don’t know that yet.”
“Oh, great!” Destiny mumbled dryly. “You don’t know… Would you care to elaborate a little?”
“It seems he was released from jail last night.”
“What? Yesterday? Why didn’t he call us, then?”
“Well, for starters, the phones weren’t working here yesterday. As for where he could be… Karen and I are still searching for him. We’ve already checked the only hotel, and he wasn’t there. He doesn’t seem to be anywhere in town, but we’ll have to check that out more thoroughly. We’ll check if he took the bus, by any chance, as soon as the bus station opens… That’s as much as I know, right now. So it could take us a bit longer before we come back to Las Vegas. Do you think you can hold your own with the colonel for a bit?”
Destiny was pacing in the middle of her room, the phone in hand. Of all the times for Adam to disappear… “I’ll do my best, Paul, but I’m not really sure I will be able to keep him busy for much longer,” she sighed, rubbing her eyes. “But it seems I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“It’s really out of our hands, you know,” Scarlet noted.
“I know, it’s not your fault… How’s Karen?”
“Well… you know her, when it comes to Adam…” There was a short pause. “She says she’s having one of her feelings,” Scarlet answered, concern apparent in his voice.
“It certainly not like Adam to disappear this way,” Destiny noted in turn. “But do you really think there is reason for concern?”
“No, I don’t think there is… There’s nothing to suggest anything is wrong, really. I told Karen not to worry too much.”
“That didn’t do too much good, did it?” Destiny sighed again. “Find him. I’ll take care of the rest, here.”
“You really are an Angel, Juliette.”
“Keep that in mind. I hope you find him quickly, though. I don’t want to press you, people, but I’m in a hot spot.”
“We really appreciate your help. Thanks again.”
“And… if you ever need help out there…”
“We’ll think of you, don’t worry. Bye.”
Destiny heard the phone being hung up at the other end of the line and put down the receiver too, very thoughtful, and wondering how she would have to proceed now with Colonel White.
Destiny literally jumped, her heart missing a beat, quickly muffling a cry of dreaded surprise. She spun around; Colonel White was standing just a few inches behind her and was staring at her curiously.
“Good God, Destiny!” he said, frowning in surprise seeing her reaction to his presence. “I’d swear, I nearly gave you a heart attack!”
Nearly, thought the Angel pilot. But not quite. How long has he been there, anyway?
“Colonel White,” she replied with a faint smile. “You did surprise me!”
“I can see that.” White pointed to the phone. “Was that Captain Scarlet?”
“Yes,” Destiny answered, uneasily. “Yes, it was…”
“Are Symphony and Captain Blue with him?” White asked, curious.
“I… didn’t ask him the question, sir.”
White nodded quietly, eyeing the girl. Truth to tell, he was upset. REALLY upset, and on the verge of losing his temper. He had woken up early to discover that Scarlet was already up… and gone. Gone also was Symphony Angel, who was supposed to be sleeping in the other room with Destiny. And then, he couldn’t find out if Captain Blue had showed up at all since the previous evening. He was beginning to become concerned. He was worried that the three had found a way to sneak off – literally ditch him – to go to one of those awful chapels Las Vegas was so full of. As far as White could tell, Blue and Symphony might already be married right now and he would have been unable to prevent it.
Destiny was left behind… undoubtedly, to provide the necessary distraction, Colonel White realised. He didn’t know for sure how far Amanda Wainwright was involved in this all-too-obvious little conspiracy, but he was fairly sure she had helped. After all, she was the mother of one of the culprits… and she would have thought it was worth it, to sacrifice her presence at the ceremony, if it meant that her daughter could get married. They’ve taken me for the fool that I am, a frustrated White mused. I was too good a sport. I waited too long. I never ever imagined they would go to such foolhardy lengths to carry out their plans. I wasn’t conscientious enough, and I have been had. Maybe I deserve it.
“All right, Destiny,” he told the French girl. “Where are they?” His tone was still very courteous. He was still trying to keep his temper in check. Now was not the time to get angry, not just yet.
“Sir?” Destiny said, opening her eyes wide.
“Where are Scarlet, Blue and Symphony?” White repeated patiently, stressing every word. “Surely, you must know…”
Destiny carefully weighed her answer. “Well, Captain Blue, I can’t really be sure about,” she said truthfully. She tried to sound very cool, almost indifferent. “You did say to me you didn’t hear him come into the room in the middle of the night, sir?”
“No, I…” White shook himself. That girl was playing innocent, but he was way too smart for her. She was trying to gain some time, obviously. “I slept like a log,” he answered. “I didn’t even hear Scarlet going out this morning…” Must have tiptoed his way out, he grimly added to himself. “Why did HE sneak out on me, anyway?”
“It’s probable Paul didn’t want to wake you up, sir,” Destiny replied.
“I bet,” White mumbled, that realisation being the only thing he was really sure of so far. “I’m normally not such a sound sleeper, you know…”
“It must be jet lag.”
The door behind White opened; Amanda Wainwright, having finished preparing herself, walked in, a cup of coffee in her hand. She closed the door behind her and approached the two people standing next to the bed. Neither of them seemed to notice her presence.
“Or maybe accumulated fatigue,” Destiny continued, addressing White. “You know what I mean? All that work on Cloudbase, you never take time to relax… and I bet you don’t even know HOW…”
“So when you take vacation time, well…”
“…I guess you fell like a rock.”
Losing what little what was left of his eroding patience, White slammed his open hand on the table next to the bed, with such violence that the phone upon it jumped up and the receiver fell off its hook. Amanda, who was taking a sip from her cup, almost choked on it, surprised by the sudden outburst. A startled Destiny froze instantly.
“I tried, I REALLY tried to make it nice and easy!” White growled, pointing an accusing finger in the Angel’s direction. “But I just CAN’T play along in this little game of yours!”
“What game are you talking about, Colonel?” Destiny asked timidly.
“In God’s name, what’s going on here?” Amanda said in turn, widening bewildered eyes at White.
The latter feigned not to hear her.
“Where are they?” he asked Destiny with contained anger in his voice. “You’re keeping something from me, that’s obvious… What is it?”
“Sir,” a hesitant and uneasy Destiny replied, “I assure you, I can’t see why you seem so angry about…”
“STOP taking me for an old fool, girl!” White hissed between his teeth. “I’m not enjoying this in the least!”
“But, sir,” Destiny protested, blushing violently. “I’m not taking you for a fool…”
“Well, if you’re not, you’re doing a bloody good impression of it!” White snapped furiously.
“Really, Colonel…” Amanda tried again.
“Please, keep OUT of this, Mrs Wainwright.” Flashing with righteous anger, White’s blue eyes gazed into Destiny’s. “Let’s get a few facts straight, shall we? First of all, Symphony arrived here yesterday evening. ALONE, when she was supposed to be with Captain Blue. I am not mistaken when I say you and Scarlet were waiting for them to join you, am I?”
“No, sir… I mean, you’re absolutely right, sir.”
“Right. Last night, Symphony seemed preoccupied, depressed, even on edge. Did you notice how she kept AVOIDING any discussion with me? I thought she was UPSET, even ANNOYED by my presence here… as if I was disturbing some plans she may have made?”
“Er… Colonel, I…”
“Don’t answer that. Yet. You know, that excuse she gave about Captain Blue having met a friend of his here in Vegas? I didn’t believe it. Not even for one minute. Too far-fetched, if you ask me… I don’t know where he was, but I’m pretty sure of one thing: he NEVER came to the hotel last night. Am I still right?”
“Y-yes, sir, you are.”
“Good. I THOUGHT I couldn’t be such a sound sleeper… It’s a relief to have confirmation of that. Now, one last thing I’m sure of: Scarlet and Symphony have quietly, but surely, SNEAKED OUT on me. And it’s probably to go and join Blue. Isn’t that true?”
Destiny hesitated. Damn you, Paul, she thought. I’m really going to get you for this! She hated being grilled this way…
“You stayed behind to keep me busy, am I right?” Colonel White insisted, in an accusing tone.
Well, that was true, but for Destiny to admit it to her commander was like putting her head into a lion’s mouth…
“What’s the matter with you now?” White grumbled. “You couldn’t keep yourself from babbling earlier. You suddenly don’t know what to say?”
“No, sir… I mean, yes… I mean…” Destiny was frankly at a loss for words. That was irritating for Colonel White. And frustrating.
“You’re wasting my time, Destiny,” he warned her. “And I’m on the verge of thinking that you’re doing this on purpose.”
“Sir, I don’t -”
“Why?” White snapped impatiently. “Why did they sneak out on me like that? You KNOW why! And you will TELL ME!”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sakes! Will you stop YELLING LIKE THAT?”
It was Amanda protesting vehemently. Astounded by her outburst, White turned to stare at her; he saw the anger flashing in her eyes.
“Don’t you see you’re SCARING the girl?” the American woman told him sternly.
“I’m scaring her?” White snorted at the remark. “I should hardly think so! That ‘girl’ is a lot tougher than she looks… If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t be in Spectrum!”
“Well, it’s obvious that in front of you, she’s still like a little girl!”
Destiny felt herself reddening violently. This was embarrassing enough, without having Symphony’s mother adding to the situation by trying to help her out.
“Amanda, please, I don’t need -”
“Shut up, Juliette!” Destiny closed her mouth and watched in dismay as Amanda Wainwright stood her ground and openly confronted a still furious Colonel White. “Now, Colonel, I don’t care if you presently are one of the most powerful men on Earth, I won’t stand idle and sit on my hands and watch you tear into that girl like a shark with a piece of meat!”
“Seigneur, aidez-moi!” Destiny whispered, rolling her eyes. She could hardly believe anybody would stand up that way to her commander, and even less have the courage to speak to him in such a manner. “Please, tell me it’s not true…”
“I haven’t finished with you yet, Destiny,” the colonel told her, before turning his attention back to Amanda, with an annoyed glance. “Mrs Wainwright, I don’t really appreciate being admonished that way in front of one of my people! I would appreciate it if you would keep out of this.”
“And why, pray tell, should I keep quiet about this?”
White scowled. “My dear lady, I know why you feel compelled to interfere here…”
“Oh, you think you do?” Amanda waved toward an uneasy-looking Destiny. “You can’t honestly expect that young woman to betray her friends’ confidence in her? She’s loyal to them!”
“What about her – THEIR loyalty to ME?” White almost barked. “I’m their commander!”
“Is THAT what this is all about?”
“PLEASE, Mrs Wainwright!” White sighed with annoyance. “Stay OUT of Spectrum business!”
“I would gladly do so!” Amanda retorted. “But I don’t see any Spectrum business here! I just see a man who feels his ego has been hurt so badly that he’s lashing out in anger and is about to make a complete fool of himself!”
“This is a nightmare,” Destiny moaned. She dropped onto the bed, taking her head between her hands. She was feeling a headache coming on. This argument between the colonel and Symphony’s mother reminded her just a little too much of the way her own parents often behaved toward each other. Thank God, she had to leave for the convent at an early age, to receive what her father called ‘a proper education’… So she didn’t have to witness too many of those scenes.
You’re really lucky you’re indestructible, Paul Metcalfe! Because now it’s certain I’m going to kill you for putting me in this spot!
“How dare you speak to me like that?” White growled angrily, addressing Amanda.
“I’ll talk to you any way I want!” the woman snapped back. “I’ve always spoken my mind, and I’m not changing that now! Now, if you can’t handle the truth, well, too bad! For you!”
“Well, I’ve never…”
“If you two want to be alone,” Destiny then tried, standing up, “ I can go, and leave you to continue this conversation…”
“Stay!” White ordered. Destiny sat back, piteously. The colonel stared back at Amanda, who was still defying him. She was not about to let go easily, he realised.
And maybe, with reasons good enough for her.
“Now I know where your daughter gets her fire,” White muttered sombrely.
“That’s because you’ve never met her father,” Amanda replied.
“I believe I did meet him,” the colonel retorted. “Three years ago, when your daughter received her commission.” He sighed heavily. His anger had dropped some degrees, but he was still upset. “I didn’t mean to snap at you, Amanda. I just HATE it, when people keep secrets behind my back… especially when I’m fully aware something is going on!”
Amanda nodded slowly. “So I was right when I said you had been hurt…”
“If I have, dear lady, it wasn’t in my ego,” White answered. “I’m… well… disappointed.”
“That nobody confided in you.”
“That’s about right, yes.”
Amanda nodded again. “You want to know where the three of them are?” she asked abruptly, sitting next to Destiny. The French girl gave her a distraught look that White noticed instantly. He grumbled and shook his head of silver hair.
“I don’t want you to feel obligated to tell me, Amanda,” he answered the American woman. “If it stirs up trouble between you and your own daughter -”
“Los Lobos,” Amanda said quietly.
“Los Lobos?” White repeated. He stared at the two women with a puzzled look. What an odd name for a chapel, he thought, a bit confused. Even for Las Vegas.
Destiny sighed and then seemed to finally give in.
“It’s a little town, about two hundred miles into the desert,” she explained. “All I know of it is… that’s it’s not a really interesting place.”
White was dumbfounded. Into the desert, away from the glamour and excitement of Las Vegas? Why would Blue and Symphony go to all the trouble of coming here in the first place, if they were going to get married in an unknown little town in the middle of nowhere?
Because of me, probably, he thought. But since he wasn’t totally convinced of that…
“What are they doing there?” he asked carefully.
“That’s where Karen left Adam yesterday,” Amanda answered briefly.
More and more puzzling, White mused.
“WHY would she have left him there?”
Destiny looked at him uneasily. “You did notice how distraught Symphony was, last night?”
“It wasn’t because of you,” Amanda said. “In fact, she was far too worried about Adam to be really upset by your presence.”
“I’m not sure how to take that,” the colonel grumbled. He stopped, wondering about the first part of Amanda’s sentence. “What do you mean, ‘too worried about Adam’? What’s the matter with him?”
He was wondering if, by any chance, the two lovebirds had had a quarrel or something like that. Well, that would be a shame, he thought, because deep down, he didn’t bear them any ill will… But he couldn’t help but think that it would make his job easier… If the wedding were called off, he wouldn’t have to stop it.
He saw the still hesitant Destiny looking down a brief second, before staring at him uncertainly. Here it goes, the French pilot was thinking, with an impending sense of catastrophe hanging over her head. At this point, there can be no turning back.
“I… don’t know how you would like hearing this, sir,” she cautiously warned her commander.
“I don’t think it can get any worse, Destiny,” White replied dryly. “You’d better continue.”
“All right then.” Destiny gave a deep sigh, just like a skydiver preparing for the big jump. “Captain Scarlet and Symphony have gone to Los Lobos, to retrieve Captain Blue from the local jail.”
The surprise – and doubt – in Colonel White’s features were fairly apparent. That wasn’t at all what he had expected to hear.
He frowned deeply. “What? Jail? Captain Blue? How… what happened?”
“From what Karen told us – when she was able to get away from you yesterday – Adam got into a fight with a guy…”
“A fight?” White repeated in disbelief.
“He was out of luck,” Amanda added quickly. “It seems that guy was an acquaintance of the local sheriff… who threw Adam in jail for the night.”
“A fight.” White shook his head. “I don’t understand… Blue’s not a brawler. He’s not the type…” If it had been Scarlet, on the other hand… he’s the impetuous type. White shrugged. “That’s it? You’re telling me the truth?”
“Sir!” Destiny protested vehemently.
“Why would we lie to you about something this important?” Amanda asked.
White dismissed the suspicions forming in his mind with a wave of his hand. “Forget I said anything. I was just… surprised by the revelation, that’s all. Why didn’t you tell me straight away?”
Destiny blushed. “We were all afraid you would get angry, sir,” she admitted.
“Because Captain Blue got into a fight like a common brawler?” White grumbled. “Because he ended up in prison? Well, yes, I would have been angry! But it’s nothing compared to what I have felt – and still feel – about the lot of you keeping this a secret!”
“I told you you should have told him,” Amanda said, elbowing Destiny. “Your commander is not such an ogre, you know.”
“I may not be an ogre,” White muttered, “but I’m still your commander, Destiny. Don’t you have any RESPECT for me?”
“Sir, you shouldn’t have to ask that question!” Destiny answered, hurt.
“Well, I’m asking it. And I intend to ask it of all your co-conspirators… If you DO have respect for me, show it. I don’t like being toyed with.”
“I understand, sir,” Destiny whispered, looking down in shame.
“I’m deeply disappointed, in all of you.”
“I’m… sorry, sir.”
“You should be.”
“I’m… If you think you should take action, sir…”
“We’re not at that point, yet.”
Destiny looked up, gazing inquisitively at her commander. He looked straight into her eyes and sighed deeply. “No, I really don’t think you understand,” he noted. “I said I was disappointed. I’m disappointed that you did not trust me enough to confide in me. That hurts me, Destiny. Didn’t you think I could be understanding enough to actually listen to you and maybe help you out with your problems?”
“Sir?” There was a puzzled tone to Destiny’s voice.
“You should know by now, Destiny, I may shout sometimes…”
“…And then some,” Amanda added in a murmur behind his back.
“…But I’m not unreasonable,” White finished. “Now, you should have told me, without being afraid of the consequences.” He smiled ruefully. “And for the moment, I’m on holiday, remember? I don’t think there’s any reason right now to take disciplinary action against you or the others.”
“Just don’t push your luck. For now.” White sighed. “All right,” he added, rather tiredly. “The others will be coming back shortly, then? I trust Captain Blue’s release this morning was a simple formality?”
“Well, sir…” Destiny hesitated for a moment. Both the colonel and Amanda Wainwright looked at her with curiosity and concern.
“What is it, Juliette?” Amanda asked.
“There may still be a problem,” the Angel pilot said timidly.
“Wonderful!” White mumbled, rolling his eyes. “WHY didn’t Captain Blue use his Spectrum identity, or call Cloudbase to get out of this, to begin with?” Destiny was about to say something, but he stopped her right away. “Don’t answer that, I know why not. And anyway, that’s a question I’ll ask him personally.” He shook his head. “I knew it. That was what the phone call earlier was about, right?”
“Yes, sir… It was Scarlet. It seems Captain Blue has somehow… disappeared.”
There was a heavy silence; Amanda, who was not used to this kind of situation, gave a distraught look to the Spectrum commander, who was staring sternly at the Angel pilot.
“Disappeared?” he repeated, with an even tone.
“For lack of a better word, sir… yes.” Destiny shook her head. “I don’t know much about it, and it may be nothing but… when Symphony and Captain Scarlet arrived to get him out of prison this morning, he was already gone. Since yesterday evening, it seems. They’re presently searching for him.”
“In Los Lobos?”
Destiny nodded. “There’s probably nothing wrong, sir, but...”
“Great,” White grumbled again, pinching the bridge of his nose. ”I’ve got the feeling it’s going to be another one of those days… Why is it never easy?” He paused a second, looking thoughtful. Then he turned his attention back to the Angel pilot. “All right, then, you’d better get dressed, Destiny. After that, I want you to give me a complete briefing of what you know about this. And I want you to remember every detail Symphony may have told you of what happened yesterday, and what Scarlet told you over the phone this morning.”
“Yes, sir”, a startled Destiny answered, getting to her feet. “Er… May I ask what you plan to do?”
“I don’t know yet,” White murmured. “It depends on what you’re going to tell me…”