John felt the walls in Jack’s mind solidify. Only the present terror of a death was unwalled as John wanted it to be.
"Let’s go home." Jack the Ripper whispered.
Adjacent to the kitchen at IRIS was the living room. Small and comfortable plush chairs surrounded a TV/stereo system. The TV was droning on as the four men talked. Kentaro distracted himself from an episode of The Flying Nun and said, "It’s a wonder they don’t have a bulletin on the death."
Alex said, "It’ll be on the five o’clock news. The murder rate in the capitol is apalling, but the manner of the death is new to Washington: Spontaneous combustion is a rarity."
John said, "Alex, are you starting to use your gift? I was just going to say that."
"Yeah. I figure we’d better not suppress our gifts and come to grips with this new, emotional synthesis. You were a real bastard for not coming out with the truth sooner. It’s better to have it out in the open."
Jack leaned back in a red easy chair. Alex had bandaged his arm after telekinetically removing the bullet. Alex had explained their growing emotional and mental dependency on each other. To John’s surprise, the truth comforted Jack.
Jack laughed. There was more of Jack Thurmond and less of Jack the Ripper in his eyes. He said, "Damn, Alex. Don’t you know another swear word than bastard?"
Kentaro smirked, "Don’t ask him to change. He’s probably been familiar with that word since childhood." John noticed Alex laughing at the joke. Everyone knew just how far to push each other: communality.
A little, manic grin slipped back onto Jack’s face, "I still think there’s some good we could do for the poor. Get equal rights for the economically disadvantaged, real rights. A little telepathic enhancement in the courtroom maybe?"
Kentaro crowed with delight. "You want me to worm a judge?"
Everybody started at that notion. John shook his head and covered his eyes. "I know there is a moral problem with that somewhere, but right now, I think it’s too hilarious an idea not to try."
The laughing halted and everybody followed Jack’s eyes to the opening fire door to the living room. A tall, young woman with sandy brown hair that had been cut short for easy nursing care stood at the doorway in a blue hospital gown. It was Eileen. Everyone was grinning stupidly back at her. Tears were falling from every face. It wasn’t until now that John remembered Eileen’s gift. She was the projecting and sending empath in the group. Her accepting presence eased the floodgates on the walls that John had been forced to erect. She was part of the glue that held them together just as he was the stopgap manager for her. The men got out of the chairs, and each hugged Eileen once in succession.
They sat in the living room silently enjoying each other’s presence until the door bell rang. Everyone swore at the interruption. Eileen asked, "Did one of you bastards order a pizza? If so, good. I’m starving."
Alex said, "Hah. Another erudite person. I’ll get it."
Alex opened the door. It was a clean shaven, young delivery boy hefting a large box. Alex called back, "Sorry, Eileen. It’s too big to be a pizza."
The boy studied him. "This is for a Dr. Peters." "That’s me. I’ll take it." Alex took the box. The cardboard box was heavy, so he gave it a little telekinetic lift while keeping his hands on it so that the boy would not wonder.
The boy slid a clip board on top of the box. "I need you to sign this, sir." It wasn’t a form, only a blank piece of paper.
Alex heard Eileen scream, "No!"
The boy withdrew a snub nosed .38 and aimed it at Alex. The cock went back on the gun and the chamber rotated.
Lowering his gun, the boy smiled a Kentaro smile and Alex sighed with relief. The boy spoke in a lower register. "This was almost the last person you would have had a chance to bastardize. What do you want me to do with him, Alex? It’s your decision. He tried to kill you." A look of surprise crossed the boy’s face as he said, "He’s NSC. Cassavettes is dead and this kid is twenty‑five years old. Wo, that’s one lean, mean organization."
Alex said, "Have him give me the gun and put him on a plane going outside the continental US."
The boy grinned maliciously and said in Kentaro’s voice, "Sure." He handed the gun to Alex.
Alex handed him the box and said, "Have him take this with him."
The agent walked to the end of the street and put the box in the back of a green pick up truck. Then, the box exploded.
Worm screamed in shock and feinted.
Kentaro awoke to a cool sensation on his forehead. He murmured, "It always fazes me when they die when I’m in them."
Eileen was comforting him with a wet towel, massaged across his forehead. She wore a bright red collared shirt and white slacks. Kentaro liked her look with make up. She had a nice, light touch. An easy smile appeared on Kentaro’s face. Eileen said, "It must faze you. You’ve been out for six days."
Kentaro realized he was moving. "Where are we?"
"John bought an Air streamer."
Eileen smiled. Kentaro leaned back in her lap. Eileen said, "Think of it as a big, silver, rolling think tank."
Kentaro heard a door shut. He saw Alex with his head bent under the low, metallic roof as he walked the thin corridor toward him. "At last, you’re awake," Alex smiled ruefully, "I need someone I can beat in cribbage. Eileen’s been pounding me since we got to Ireland."
Kentaro tried to sit up and grabbed an aching head. "Ireland?"
Eileen helped him to a sitting position as Alex brought down a table panel and a short pole. Alex put the pole in an indention at the center of the floor and fitted the table on top of the pole. Kentaro moved a curtain and saw the trees moving by them. He heard the flip of cards shuffling and looked back at Eileen. She smiled and Kentaro knew she was calming him to accept the new situation. He sent a telepathic worm to let her know he didn’t mind her empathic ministrations.
Eileen smiled and said, "We’re in Northern Ireland. John and Jack seem to think that we can be of some help here." Dealing three hands of cards, she said, "Alex, it’s just as easy for three to play cribbage."
"Ok, but off with the cheaters." Alex shouted to the front cabin, where John and Jack were singing off key to disco music on the radio, "John!" Picking up the cards, each felt the privacy of their hands secure as they pokerfaced each other.