Captain Scarlet awoke with a start.
Strange, he noted, moaning slightly; his back was hurting him. Just as if he had slept badly. That hadn’t happened to him for a long time. Not since his Mysteronisation, in fact. His retrometabolism had mostly kept him from any discomfort due to strained muscles, after a bad night’s sleep – or any other injury. This time, however, it was exactly as if he had slept directly on a concrete floor.
He realised, upon opening his eyes, that this was exactly the case.
He was sprawled on the floor of a twelve by twelve cell, with three walls made of thick concrete blocks, and the fourth of apparently very sturdy iron bars. To his left, he could see a bunk bed, near which a tall and imposing man, dressed in jeans and a leather vest, with tattoos all over his arms, was standing, looking down at him.
Scarlet sat up, grumbling at the pain in his back. He considered his situation for a good minute, at first wondering what had happened. The memory of the policeman standing over him with a stun baton quickly came back to him.
Right, so this must be the local jail, he reasoned, disgruntled. Obviously he had been arrested. For what exactly, he could only guess. He had a feeling the guys he had manhandled – after defending himself against them – had probably pressed assault charges against him.
He got to his feet, but stumbled. Oh boy, I haven’t felt like this for a while, he noted, steadying himself against the bed-frame. Could it be that the electric jolt he had received from that stun baton was playing tricks with his unusual metabolism?
“Too much booze for you, pal?”
Scarlet didn’t like the condescending, mocking tone – nor the accusation of his cell-mate. He only glared at him, very briefly, before walking squarely toward the bars and grabbing them. He looked into the corridor beyond them, trying to spot any official to whom he would be able to talk in this joint.
“Hey!” he called loudly, “I want to see the sheriff! I need to speak to him!”
He was received by a concert of protestations and insults. Obviously, those occupying the other cells weren’t very pleased with his shouting. Even his companion objected, snorting noisily.
“Will you pipe down? Ain’t nobody gonna be answering you, bud!”
Scarlet turned toward him, annoyed. “There’s been a terrible mistake, I shouldn’t be here! I need to get out!”
The man snorted again. “Oh, yeah! A mistake… Like I never heard that one before! You gonna tell me you’re innocent?”
“My friend needs help. I have to talk to the sheriff.”
“I told you, he won’t listen to you. You’re here until he feels like letting you out. So you better get used to it.”
“I can’t stay here while my friend’s in trouble!” Scarlet protested loudly.
“It’s not like you got any choice, pal,” the man chuckled.
Scarlet was doing his best not to let his temper get the better of him. Blue was in trouble, he was sure of it. As he was sure that that Grover character had something to do about his disappearance. And now, Karen was alone out there, and as far as he knew, she had no knowledge of anything that had happened to Adam – or to himself, for that matter. She could be in danger too, now. Adam had wanted so desperately for her not be anywhere around Grover, all alone, to the point that he had begged her to leave this town, when he had been jailed the day before. Scarlet was convinced that his best friend had a good reason for that. Certainly, considering the recent events, Blue knew what kind of danger she could be risking.
Knowing Karen and her recklessness, it wasn’t a good idea to leave her alone. At least, Scarlet told himself, he had to talk to her.
“How can I get in touch with a friend who’s in town with me at the moment?” he asked his companion. “I need to talk to her. It’s really important.”
“If she knows you’re in jail, she’ll come,” the man grunted. “And then, McNamara will let her see you… if he feels like it.”
Scarlet was absolutely frustrated; but at the same time, he was beginning to wonder how the sheriff – and perhaps even his deputy – were involved with Blue’s disappearance. He had no way to be certain of this, but suspicions were beginning to crawl into his mind. If the sheriff was involved with what had happened to Blue, then it might potentially be dangerous for Scarlet to tell him what he had discovered.
I can’t think straight, Scarlet thought, shaking his head. I need some rest. He felt tired. Much more tired that he should be. Normally, after a short regenerating sleep, he felt fine. Not this time, though. It was as if he hadn’t had time to recuperate fully.
There was nothing he could do about his situation now, he finally reasoned. He might as well use the time to get some rest, if only for a little while, and gather his strength. Until Symphony arrived, anyway. He would certainly feel much better when he woke up, and would be more able to evaluate the situation. Maybe he could even do something about it.
IF he could get any sleep at all, he thought gloomily, with the thought of Blue being in trouble, and Symphony possibly left to fend off any kind of danger by herself, while he was in here, unable to help either of them.
He walked back toward the bunks, and was about to climb onto the upper one, when the man put a hand on his shoulder and stopped him. Scarlet turned, to see the grin on his face.
“That’s mine,” the man noted, quietly.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Scarlet answered. “I didn’t realise.”
He leaned down to take the other one, when his companion stopped him again, forcing him to straighten up.
“That’s mine too,” the man grinned.
Scarlet frowned. Obviously, this guy didn’t want to make it easy for him. “So where am I supposed to sleep?” he asked, rather roughly.
“You were on the floor, earlier. You’re welcome to go back there.”
Now Scarlet was genuinely annoyed. “That’s rather uncomfortable,” he noted dryly. “Look, mister…”
“I won’t get any rest if I sleep on the floor.”
“Your problem, not mine.” Jake’s grin widened, taking a wicked curve. “You gonna do something about it?”
“I’m not in the mood to get into any kind of fight.”
Scarlet saw Jake narrowing his eyes, ominously. “I heard tell that you’re here because you got into a fight with the Dawson brothers. That doesn’t impress me at all. Those three are pathetic, useless wimps…”
“It seems we agree on one thing, at least,” Scarlet sighed tiredly. “Now, please, mister, will you leave me alone and let me get some sleep? I desperately need it.”
“I told you my name was Jake,” the man snapped, jabbing an insistent finger into Scarlet’s chest, obviously trying very hard to provoke him.
It was working.
“Don’t do that,” Scarlet said politely, but a warning was obvious in his tone.
“Oooh… Now you’re scaring me, pal!” Jake continued, derisively, poking Scarlet yet again. “And what’re you gonna do about it if I don’t stop?”
With one swift movement, Scarlet’s right hand had grabbed Jake’s index finger, and the rest of the hand with it, pushing it upward. Jake heard his finger crack, and let out a yelp of both surprise and pain; his knees bent, so that he almost lost his footing. Scarlet’s left fist caught the man right on the cheek and he fell backward to the floor, like a felled tree. He lay there, on his back, moaning groggily, while the Spectrum officer looked quietly down at him.
“You can have the floor yourself, ‘pal’,” Scarlet murmured.
Jake attempted to raise his head, but let it fall heavily, grunting. Scarlet turned around and climbed into the upper bunk. He already felt tired, but this last effort seemed to have exhausted him, more than he cared to admit. And he certainly couldn’t let his cellmate know.
He lay on the thin mattress, and made himself as comfortable as possible.
“Thanks for the bed, Jake,” he said to the man lying motionless on the floor at the foot of the bunks. “I really appreciate the sacrifice you’re making.”
He gave a faint sigh and closed his eyes, quickly dropping into slumber.
* * *
A completely outraged Symphony Angel left the police station, brusquely slamming the door behind her. She was frustrated and as angry as she could get. Sheriff McNamara had refused to hear her out, so she could plead Scarlet’s cause. Worst still, he had refused to let her see him. Not even for a single minute. He had alleged that his prisoner couldn’t receive any visitors, since it was deemed necessary to put him into solitary right away after his arrest. Because, supposedly, he had violently resisted arrest. Knowing in what circumstances Scarlet had been arrested, Symphony knew she had been lied to, and she had openly said so to the thick-headed constable. To say he had reacted harshly would be putting it mildly. McNamara had become absolutely livid with anger at the accusation. He had slammed his big fist onto his desk, apparently expecting to impress the young woman standing in front of him. She didn’t even bat an eyelid.
“I don’t know who you think you are, young lady, or where you think you are, but HERE we respect the law. Which doesn’t seem to be a thing you or your friends are used to! And the law in this county, Miss Wainwright, is ME! So you gotta keep quiet and speak respectfully to me! Or, by Heaven, I’ll throw YOU in a cell TOO!”
He went on to say that Scarlet would have to stay the rest of the day – and the following night – in jail. Symphony had an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu. She made another attempt to reason with the sheriff, trying to explain to him about Blue’s disappearance without trace – and without even trying to contact any of his friends. That didn’t make any impact on McNamara. He had shrugged off any notion that Blue’s vanishing was suspect in any way.
“I won’t mount a full-scale search for a trouble-maker, on the mere assumption that his girlfriend THINKS he may be having some trouble,” he had snorted with loud contempt. “My guess is that your Svenson has pulled a fast one. Rich guys like him are like that. He’s probably already in Vegas right now, blowing big bucks at the roulette table with another babe on his arm…”
Symphony was so angry she didn’t even hear the last part. Seeing that there was no way for her to make the sheriff change his mind, she had left abruptly. Scarlet would have to stay in jail for the moment, and there was nothing she could do. The last she heard from McNamara was his mocking remark stating that maybe she would be better off changing the kind of crowd she was hanging around with. Symphony had come to the conclusion that McNamara was either a complete idiot and an incompetent fool – or that he had something to hide. Whether it was his heavy-handed way of handling both Blue’s and Scarlet’s arrests, or something shadier, she couldn’t tell. That last possibility stopped her from telling him who she and the two men he had arrested in two days really were. If the sheriff had something to do with Blue’s disappearance, she didn’t want to tell this guy anything that could bring any kind of trouble. Maybe she was getting paranoid, but she was beginning to be very afraid for Adam. And, at the same time, so very irritated at the lack of progress in her search for him. And now, all alone, with Paul in jail, she didn’t know quite what to do.
She was still fuming, seconds after leaving the sheriff’s office, when Pablo came to her, a look of perplexity on his face.
“Did you get to see your friend, lady?”
She shook her head. About an hour before, the young boy had come back to the cantina, running like a scared rabbit, to inform her of Scarlet’s arrest. That he was still there, waiting for her in front of the door of the police station, surprised her a little. But then, Pablo was a curious little boy, like all kids his age.
“No, Pablo, I wasn’t able to,” she answered softly. “The sheriff didn’t allow me to.”
“Oh! That’s so unfair. Your friend, he didn’t do nothing.”
“Yes, I know, Pablo. You told me all that, already. I can’t thank you enough for warning me.” Symphony sighed heavily. Pablo had told her about all that had happened preceding Scarlet’s arrest. The boy had proved helpful, much like his mother, to whom Symphony had talked while her companion was following his own lead. At first reluctant, Pablo’s mom, Rosa, had finally admitted that somebody had indeed paid for the damage to the cantina, caused by Blue’s fight with Grover and his friend. But the name she had given wasn’t at all the one the young pilot had anticipated. She fully expected to hear that it was Wilson Grover that had paid the damages – whatever the exact reason for that may be. Instead, Rosa gave her the name of one Pietro Gardenia.
That was odd, certainly, because it was a name that Symphony was sure she had heard before. But she wasn’t able to remember in what circumstances.
She was about to ask Rosa who that man was exactly, and what his interest was in the affair, when Pablo had arrived with his disturbing news concerning Scarlet. Symphony had momentarily forgotten her investigation, to go directly to the sheriff’s office.
Without any satisfying results.
“Now what will you do, lady?”
Symphony wished she knew the answer to that one. She was considering the very likely option that it was probably time to finally come clean and give Spectrum a call, when she noticed that the young boy in front of her was holding something in his hand. She crouched in front of him. “What do you have there, Pablo?”
He gave it to her, not without giving her a large smile of satisfaction.
“Your friend,” he said nodding toward the prison. “I gave it to him, but he lost it during the fight with the Dawson brothers. I picked it up, thinking he might want to have it back later. He said it belonged to your other friend… the one you’re looking for.”
It was a Spectrum-issue watch, that Symphony recognised right away, with its blue hands and numbers. Pablo explained to her how it had come in his hands in the first place, and how he had taken Scarlet to that alley where he had been attacked by the Dawson brothers. While listening to him, Symphony was scrutinizing the watch, noticing its broken wristband, the broken glass face, and the dark smears underneath it. She quickly looked into Pablo’s eyes, worry in hers.
“Where is this alley you’re telling me about, Pablo?”
* * *
Something happened here…
That was Symphony’s main thought as she looked pensively about, standing all alone in the alley, where Pablo had brought her. She had sent the boy back to his mother, wanting to have a look around without any interference. Pablo had provided much useful help, and she had rewarded him accordingly. No doubt the kid would soon be enjoying himself with the latest toy he had so wanted to have recently.
There wasn’t much to investigate, Symphony had discovered, much to her frustration. The dirt on the ground had been heavily scuffed, at the exact place where Pablo had told her he had previously found the watch. There had been a fight here. Most probably, that was the last trace of Scarlet’s encounter with the Dawsons. But, considering what Pablo had found, what if there had been something else? Another fight, which Adam had been involved in? There were some faint, dark stains, but Symphony wasn’t really sure that they were exactly what she was dreading they were. And there was no way she could be certain of which fight it was from.
My God, Adam, WHERE are you? What exactly happened to you in here?
Her fear that something terribly wrong was beginning to take form. Adam was in danger. She now felt it deep in her heart. She had to find him, as soon as possible. She couldn’t count on that sheriff, since she was beginning to suspect he could be mixed up in this. Maybe he had arrested Paul to keep him from learning too much. Probably, those Dawson brothers were involved too, or they wouldn’t have a good enough reason to attack Paul in this same alley, where Blue’s watch had been found.
That settles it. I’m contacting Spectrum. Time to call for some back up. This situation has to be resolved, before it’s too late.
Symphony quickly walked toward the end of the alley, now convinced that there wasn’t any other solution at this moment. She exited it and was about to direct her steps toward her car, parked in front of the cantina, when she noticed two men standing on the other side of the desert street, seeming to wait right outside the bar; they were now looking straight at her. She stopped in her tracks and stared at them, wondering. Their eyes still fixed on her, they suddenly left their position…
…And moved directly toward her, at a quickening pace.
Symphony didn’t wait any longer, to find out what they wanted with her, and broke into a run. A quick glance toward the two guys informed her that they were giving chase. Her instinct had been right about them.
She was a quick runner, more highly trained than these two men could be, so she easily out-distanced them. She didn’t call for help, knowing it would be useless. There were only a couple of guys sitting on their doorsteps, but they didn’t even glance at the scene. Right. People around here prefer to mind their own business. They don’t want any trouble.
She just had to reach the car before they caught up with her and then she’d be able to make her call – and take her Spectrum Personal Tracker and activate it. She was nearly there, when she noticed there was a third man standing right next to it. She made a sharp turn to avoid meeting him, and continued to run, without slowing down. The third man joined the two others in their pursuit.
Symphony was running down the main street now; she didn’t dare to go into an alley, not knowing if she would find a dead end which would stop her. Of course, she knew that when she reached the end of the street, there would be nowhere to go, but onto the desert road. Not many hiding places there, she brooded grimly.
There still was a safe distance between her and her pursuers. She made another sharp turn at the corner of a house, nearly at the end of the street, and found herself right in front of the gas station. There was a van there in front of the pump, being filled by a big black guy with dreadlocks and dark glasses. He had his back half-turned to her and was leaning casually on his van, near the open door. A little farther away, there was the small store where the employee, waiting for his customer to finish filling up, was apparently checking his cash. She didn’t think she would have the time to reach the store before the three guys after her would arrive and see her.
There wasn’t much time to think it over, and she ran toward the van.
* * *
When the Dawson brothers arrived where Symphony had disappeared from their view, they stopped, out of breath, searching with their eyes the area that opened out before them. They were in front of the gas station, and they could see a man filling the tank of his van, and the employee of the store going about his business. The black guy, seeing them appear so suddenly, raised his eyes to look at them. It was simple curiosity, and, putting a big lump of chewing gum into his mouth, he turned back to his van, without apparently taking any more notice of them.
“Where’d she go?” Billy was red in the face, and panting loudly. Obviously, he wasn’t used to running so hard.
“I don’t know!” one of his brothers answered, breathing as hard. “I can’t see her anywhere!”
“She can’t have disappeared!” the other one added. “She must be somewhere near!”
“Yeah, she can’t have run straight into the desert. We would see her!”
“Hell, we gotta find her. Grover will have our guts if we don’t!”
The three men spread around, looking about for their quarry. Billy approached the black man. “You seen a girl running this way just now, pal?”
The man raised his head to look at him, his expression hidden behind his dark glasses. He seemed to be contemplating a possible answer. Billy quickly lost patience. “Well?”
The man nodded quietly. “’Bout this high?” he asked raising his free hand to about his shoulder height. “Beautiful, with long blonde hair?”
“Yeah, you’ve seen her?”
“You’re after her, right?”
“She owes us money. And it’s none of your business, anyway. You’ve seen her?”
The black man shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, I saw her.” He nodded toward the small store where the two other Dawsons where heading. “She went around the grocery store. Man, you’d think the devil was after her, the way she was running…”
Billy didn’t even thank him. He broke into a run and went to join his two brothers, to tell them about this new information. The three of them quickly left together and followed the tip. The black man followed them with his eyes, with great interest, still chewing his gum, very quietly.
“Jerks,” he grumbled under his breath. Then he glanced toward the back of his van and raised his voice: “You can come out now. They’re gone.”
Symphony carefully reared her head out from under a large blanket she had found in the van. Seeing that the Dawson brothers had indeed left, she shrugged the blanket away and jumped out. Cautiously walking around the other side of the vehicle, so she would remain hidden should her pursuers come back, she moved toward the good Samaritan who had just finished filling his tank and was now paying the automatic pump with his card.
“Thanks for the help, fella. I really appreciate it.”
The black man nodded quietly. It didn’t seem like there were much that could faze him, seeing how casual he had remained all along.
“Don’t mention it,” he answered. “Those guys looked like bad news. Why were they chasing you?”
“You didn’t believe him when he told you I owed them money?”
“It could be true, but I don’t care. You were in trouble. I had my fair share of problems too, so I thought I could give you a hand.” The man had finished his transaction. He turned around to address Symphony. “Name’s Butch,” he introduced himself.
The young woman hesitated for a moment. “Karen,” she answered. “I can’t thank you enough for your help, Butch.”
“Don’t mention it.” He calmly shook his head. “It doesn’t seem to me that you can stay around this place,” he noted. “Those guys will find you real soon. This isn’t a big town.”
“I know. I just need to get to my car.”
“Why not inform the sheriff?”
Symphony hesitated a second, not knowing how to answer that. Butch thought he understood. “Okay… No sheriff, then.”
“He and I have a… disagreement,” Symphony replied shyly.
“Yeah, I bet… So you want to get to your car and then you’ll get away from here?”
“For the time being, yes.”
Seeing that it was clear Symphony wouldn’t say anything further, he gave her a large grin and shrugged. “All right, then. Just hop in the back. I’ll get you to your car, safe and sound, and you’ll be able to leave. But if you ever return, I would advise you to stay low, and keep hidden from those three bums.”
Symphony smiled back, sighing with relief. She nodded her thanks and walked toward the back of the van, followed by the man. “You’re a real lifesaver, Butch.”
“We’ll see about that,” he answered quietly, as both of them stopped in front of the open doors. “Come on. Get in.”
Symphony jumped into the van, and then hesitated, at the last possible second, feeling Butch right behind him. She had a sudden feeling that something was wrong. She had confirmation of this when the big man roughly shoved her inside, before she could change her mind. She dropped on the floor, and quickly turned around, protesting: “Hey!”
Butch had closed both the doors before she could reach them. She grabbed one of the handles but was unable to move it, as she heard the key turn in the lock.
“Let me out!” she yelled, thumping loudly on the doors.
Outside, whistling quietly, Butch was walking around the van, to hop behind the steering wheel. He started the engine. At the same time, he heard Symphony’s hurried footsteps inside the van and saw her face appearing in the small opened window separating the cab from the back.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the young woman furiously called to him. “You locked me in! I want to get out right away!”
“I don’t think it would be a good idea,” Butch deadpanned. “Remember those three guys who’ve been chasing you?”
“I’ll take my chance with them… I demand that you let me out!”
“Sorry, Blondie… Believe me, I’m doing this for your own good. And you’d better stop that ruckus, you’ll draw people’s attention.”
“You’ve got some nerve, you dirty…”
The van pulled out from the gas station and onto the highway. Symphony had to brace herself against the side of the van so as not to lose her balance. “Hey!” she protested again. “You’re leaving town!”
“You’ve got a real good sense of observation.”
“I don’t want to leave town! I’ve got two friends in trouble here! I’ve got to help them! Let me out!”
“You’d better make yourself comfortable, girlfriend. We’re going for a LONG ride.”
The stream of well-chosen insults that followed had nothing lady-like about them, and Butch frowned deeply, hearing them, surprised that a girl like this one should know such vocabulary. Seeing that Symphony didn’t seem to want to follow his earlier advice, he sighed in deep annoyance and pressed down a button on his dashboard. A panel came up from under the window and closed it, cutting out the sound of Symphony’s protests. He could still hear her banging on the side of the van.
“The things I wouldn’t do…” Butch mumbled to himself. He popped a music disk into his player and country music came out of the speakers, drowning out Symphony’s antics. Then he took his onboard radio helmet and tapped out a number. He didn’t have to wait long before his communication went through.
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m calling to report like you asked me to. I found the girl… No, I had no trouble at all, she practically fell in my lap. I have her in the van now. I’m coming over with her…” He grinned broadly, hearing his contact’s next comment. “I knew you’d be happy to hear that…”
* * *
Scarlet was pacing nervously around his cell; he had received no news from Symphony, and was beginning to worry.
“Where can she be?” he murmured, giving a last glance toward the door leading out of the cell block. “She should be here by now. There’s no way she couldn’t have heard of my arrest!”
“Hey, Paul, would you calm down?”
Sitting on the lower bunk, Jake was nursing a really big black eye. Since Scarlet had woken up again, a little less than an hour ago, now feeling much better, Jake’s attitude toward him had changed drastically. It appeared that he had developed some kind of respect for the man who had stood up to him and knocked him out so easily earlier. Scarlet didn’t understand much of the guy’s line of thought, but he was pleased that he didn’t try to get back at him. The way he was figuring it, Jake had reasoned that he had had it coming, and that Scarlet had proved he was more than able to fend him off.
“This isn’t right,” the Spectrum captain said to his cell companion. “Why isn’t she here yet?”
“Maybe McNamara didn’t let her see you,” Jake offered, shaking his head.
“’Didn’t let her’?”, Scarlet repeated, with a frown. “He has no right to do that!”
“He’s the sheriff of this county, buddy. He has been for the last eight years, and he’s used to having his way. If he decides that your girl can’t come in to see you, then he ain’t gonna let her!”
“Great!” Scarlet sighed, letting himself fall on the bed next to Jake and taking his head between his hands. “If she’s not allowed to come, then I won’t be able to tell her about what I found. I won’t be able to warn her about the Dawsons and Grover.”
“Wilson Grover?” Jake asked, frowning.
“You know him?”
“Everybody knows everybody in this dump. Yeah, I know Grover. Not much, but… enough to know that you gotta stay out of his way if you don’t wanna get any trouble.”
“My friend got trouble from him all right,” Scarlet grumbled more to himself than to answer Jake’s remark.
The latter nodded, suddenly understanding. “Your friend… He’s the big blond guy who got in a fight with Grover yesterday and got himself arrested by the sheriff?”
“That’s him, yes. Adam Svenson. It seems that this Grover is a friend of the sheriff, right?”
“Friend is not really the word, no… Let’s say Grover knows somebody with influence… who, in turn, knows McNamara. You catch my drift?”
“Yes…” Scarlet said thoughtful, eyeing Jake carefully. “I think I see. What can you tell me about this Grover character?”
Jake hesitated, unsure if he should tell Scarlet anything. He glanced toward the bars, as if fearing that somebody would overhear him. Then he cleared his throat, and decided to give the Spectrum captain the information he wanted.
“Grover arrived around these parts about five years ago. He went from Vegas, to Reno, and other towns here and there, at first doing odd jobs. He was just out of prison and, there wasn’t anybody who would have given him much chance, if not for…”
“…Those certain friends he has?”
“So he was in prison? Do you know why?”
“No, I don’t know that. It must have been something pretty heavy, though. He spent about twenty years there, if the rumours about it are true.”
“Who is this person protecting him?”
Jake hesitated again. Apparently, he was reluctant to answer that. “I’m not sure I should tell you about it…”
“You’ve gone this far. You’d better finish.”
“Right, me and my big mouth. Okay, then… I hope I won’t regret it.” Jake sighed heavily, then lowered his tone, nearly to a whisper. Scarlet had to prick up his ears to hear him. “His name is Pietro Gardenia. Maybe you’ve heard of him…”
“No, I can’t say I have.”
“He’s an ex-Major League baseball player from about twelve or fifteen years ago, with the Red Sox. Seems he was acquainted with Grover when the two of them were in the Trenton Thunder – that was in the Minors…”
“I’m afraid I don’t know much about baseball, Jake. Get to the point, please.”
“Gardenia had a successful career in the Majors, and became extremely wealthy. When he retired from baseball, he went to Las Vegas and opened a couple of clubs there, and casinos, and restaurants… The rumour has it that Gardenia owes Grover a lot. Nobody knows what exactly. But Gardenia is quite willing to help Grover when he can.”
“For old times’ sake, maybe?”
Jake scoffed loudly. “Maybe so. But Gardenia isn’t known for the goodness of his heart. The only sure things that motivate him are money and profit. He would sell his mother for that – if he still has one.”
“Would you say he’s mixed up in shady business?”
“That’s more than likely. As shady as can be. He’s associated with the Vegas mob, that’s for certain. Only nobody is able to prove it.”
Scarlet nodded thoughtfully. So this feeling he had about Adam being in deep trouble was confirming itself. Maybe even deeper than he first thought, by the looks of it. He just hoped Adam was still alive…
From the far end of the corridor, he heard a door being opened, and then closed again almost immediately, then steady footsteps approaching his cell. Scarlet sighed and rose to his feet. If it was the sheriff or his deputy, he would try to convince him to let him out of here – or at least to let him see Karen or make a call. This whole affair was beginning to be too big for just him and Symphony. Spectrum had to be informed and brought into it.
He was moving toward the bars when he saw a man finally appear and stop right in front of them. The sight of this tall, white-haired man made Scarlet stop in his tracks. Piercing blue eyes were staring straight at him, with an iciness that almost drilled a hole in him. The colour left Scarlet’s face in a matter of seconds. This was the LAST person on earth he would have wanted to meet in this dreadful and mortifying situation.
Colonel White flicked a glance at the other man in the cell, then turned his attention back to Scarlet, staring at him without uttering a single word. He seemed to be waiting for Scarlet to speak first. The captain wasn’t sure that was a good idea at all. Getting a grip on himself, he approached the bars, to stop in front of his commander.
“I advise you,” White cut in, with a very cold and warning tone, “to choose your words VERY carefully. I’m in no mood to hear foolish explanations right at this moment.”
“I have half a mind to leave you to rot in here,” White continued without hearing Scarlet out. “Maybe filling holes in this country’s roads would knock some sense into that scatterbrained head of yours!”
“Sir, I don’t think the United States uses chain gangs anymore. Well, maybe not in this State, that is, but…”
“I don’t see anything funny in this at all!”
“Neither do I, sir… Please, you have to get me out of here.”
“And why should I? You DITCHED me in Las Vegas to come here to get Adam, without telling ME anything, and you now EXPECT me to HELP YOU?”
“How do you know about Adam?” Scarlet asked in a murmur, frowning with perplexity.
“How do you THINK I know? Now it’s YOU I find in prison, instead.”
“You know about that too?”
“I know A LOT more than you think, Paul,” White growled. “Now you tell me what I should do about it.”
“We can discuss that later, sir… But please, you HAVE to get me out of here. I’m awfully worried about Adam.”
“I know he’s disappeared. You haven’t found him yet?”
“No, I haven’t. But I’m afraid he may be in deep trouble.” Scarlet sighed heavily, and moved closer still to the bars. “Do what you want with me, but please, we have to do something to find Adam. His life may be in danger as we speak.”
White didn’t answer right away. He was pondering what to do, right now. He had every intention of giving Scarlet the lesson he needed, but the concerned look he could see on the young man’s face convinced him that something very serious was going on. His hesitation only lasted a moment, and he nodded his consent.
“I’ll see what I can do to get you out of here,” he said, the edge in his voice still sharp.
Scarlet blew a deep sigh of relief. “Whatever you do, sir,” he added in a whisper, “be careful with that sheriff. Maybe you shouldn’t tell him about – uh – work. I suspect he may have something to do with Adam’s disappearance.”
White nodded again, his piercing eyes still set on Scarlet, with that same righteous anger. Without another word, he turned around and walked toward the exit. Scarlet watched until he couldn’t see him anymore and then returned to sit on the bed. He heard the door at the end of the corridor close noisily and sighed again, bowing his head and taking it between his hands. Jake was staring at him with curiosity. Discreetly, he had kept away from the two men during their brief conversation, and all he was able to hear were small bits of it. Nothing to give away what was being discussed, actually, but it was pretty obvious the older Englishman was very angry.
“Harsh fella,” Jake noted, looking in the direction White had disappeared.
“Tell me about it,” Scarlet answered, in a muffled and tired voice, not raising his head.
“Who is he? Your father?”
Scarlet’s head literally sprang from between his hands, and he glared at Jake with some alarm.
“What a dreadful thought!” he mumbled under his breath.