Chapter 31: "We know how to make bodies disappear" ; "We need a place to work"; Blue blue;
Safe-house, Mid-town Manhattan, January, 2015
Harold noticed Miss Shaw seemed in no particular hurry to move Miss Groves. Instead, she seemed preoccupied with watching her tracing on the heart monitor. He thought to ask her if she needed her supplies yet, but it seemed an inopportune time to interrupt her.
Down the hall in a deep sink in the kitchen was every kind of IV fluid bag he could find in their medical closet. He'd filled the sink with them and then added a bath of hot water to keep the bags warm and ready for the Team's arrival. Now he was curious just what she did with them.
"Harold, I'm gonna need those IV bags in another – 15 minutes," she said, glancing at her watch. She'd un-cinched the safety belts over Miss Groves and reached under the top layer of blankets. He watched her closely for some sign of what she intended to do with them.
"I need to keep rotating four bags under here – they're positioned where they can add heat to her body," Shaw explained. Then she pointed to the two IV bags above Root.
"Those, too. She's got IV's running in to warm her blood." Harold nodded, picturing how her system worked. There were heated bags on sites under the blankets, then a layer of heated blankets over that, and then the silver mylar wrapping over that. This arrangement would encase Miss Groves in an external source of heat, while the IV infusion warmed her from the inside. Primitive, but effective so far. It gave him an idea of how he could improve things. Maybe a better source of heat would help.
"Anything else, Miss Shaw?"
"Blankets. I need to heat the blankets."
"Already done. I have some heating in the dryer."
Shaw looked over to Reese next. "Maybe you could get the hardware off her. It'll be in the way."
Reese stepped closer and slid the blankets back from Root's hand. On her wrist was a metal shackle, with two feet of heavy chain hanging off. Reese peered at the lock for a moment and then reached down into a cargo pocket on the side of his thigh. Harold watched him slide a small case out and select two slender metal tools from inside. He fiddled at the lock with them and, quickly, the shackle opened. Reese lifted it off her wrist and the rattling of the chain attracted Shaw's attention. She was listening to Root with her stethoscope, but stopped for a moment and directed Reese to another spot.
"There's another one over there," she said, pointing. Reese moved to Root's ankle next, and soon that was free, as well. He couldn't help noticing Root's skin was still cold to touch. They had a ways to go yet to get her warmed, but Shaw seemed satisfied with the progress so far. When she was done listening to Root's chest, Shaw took a look at the ankle and wrist where the shackles had been. There were deep gouges that would need a good cleaning and some sutures, but it was still too soon to start any of that. Shaw wanted to be careful not to cause any more stress to Root's system – something like that could cause her heart rhythm to destabilize, and undo everything they had gained so far. It just wasn't worth it.
For Shaw, though, looking at all the dirt and grime ground into Shaw's wounds was hard to take. Her old medical training kept kicking in, and she had to push away the urge to start scrubbing every inch of Root's skin. Root was covered with open wounds – abrasions and lacerations all over her. The Zheng had hit her with the full force of a fire hose while she was shackled by a wrist and an ankle on a concrete floor. She'd scraped across the floor over and over, and slammed against a wall; more concrete and lots of bruising from that. To scrub and suture her wounds while she was still unconscious would be the kindest thing for Root, but also the most dangerous. Shaw would have to wait until she was warm and awake, assuming it happened.
Harold's cellphone buzzed in his pocket. On the screen, he saw the name Elias. When he answered, Elias hesitated for a long moment before speaking and Harold frowned into the phone.
"Elias, are you there?" he asked. Theirs was a tenuous relationship, at best. He had reached out to Elias in their moment of need, but Elias had chosen to sit this one out. Though seriously outnumbered, his Team had returned intact.
"Harold, my friend," Elias started, with a flourish. Harold could almost see an arm swinging out to accompany the greeting. And then a pause, and in a softer, almost humble voice, "I came to regret my decision earlier, not to help your people in Queens. You know we need to work together sometimes to rid the streets of -" and he heard Elias searching for a word.
"competition?" Harold offered. He could hear the sound of Elias smiling.
"We were on the way there when we heard the 9-1-1 call. Someone was shooting up the neighborhood in Queens. I feared we'd be too late, my friend. Imagine my surprise when we arrived to find all those bodies in the basement – and not a single gunshot among them. As for your people, Harold – they're all gone." Harold hesitated before answering.
"All present and accounted for," as he looked up at them.
"Ah, of course." When there was nothing further, Harold frowned again.
"Is there something else, Elias?" Harold kept his voice even and a little cool.
"I wanted you to know – since we arrived too late to help before, we're doing what we can now," he said. Harold tried to imagine what he could mean.
"No one will find them, Harold. The bodies are gone. We know how to make bodies disappear, my friend."
Harold looked up at Reese. Reese seemed pleased with the news. This was a grisly business, Harold said to himself. He had never imagined how far things would go. He thought at the beginning that he would merely intervene with his Team - even the odds and prevent mayhem for a designated victim. It had gone far beyond that now.
"And the gunfire they heard on 911? Nothing there, Harold. Probably some prank, don't you think?" Harold hesitated, and then nodded to the phone. He knew nothing about Reese firing shots into a tree while the 911 operator listened in. He'd left the phone open, knowing she'd track the location and send police. She couldn't know that most of those responding had another boss - Elias.
"Yes, Elias, probably some prank." He heard laughter on the other end of the call and then Elias spoke softly again.
"I only want to know one thing."
"How'd they do it?" Harold looked up at his two Team members, busy with Miss Groves.
"Trade secret, Elias." Harold heard louder laughter on the other end again, and then the line went silent.
A short time later Reese got a text on his phone. And pictures. Photos of the dead from Queens. Scar-face had sent him photos with a message: maybe Reese might need to know who they were. Reese held his phone up and showed Harold, who grimaced at the pictures and started to turn away down the hall. Then he turned back to them, a question on his mind.
"How did you do it, Mr. Reese?"
"Water and electricity don't mix, Harold." They watched his eyes squint for a moment and then widen as he pictured the scene. He shuddered and shook his head, dismayed. This was not what he'd imagined when he'd started this. He wished they could all turn back the clock. But a present reality was pulling at him
Harold headed back down the hall to look for some equipment. He had a theory – maybe there was a better way to raise Miss Groves' temperature – without all the fuss of warming IV bags. The engineer in him couldn't resist.
Clearing, North of Abuja, Nigeria:
Once they'd turned off the highway, they were traveling in darkness. Only the headlights from the car lit their way. For a little while there was a gravel road, but quickly, it had turned to hard red dirt. Deep ruts left from rain washing through made the trip to the camp a trial for them. The car pitched and jounced along, so they had to hold fast to door handles and seats – whatever they could to steady themselves. Kara noticed Greer had a scowl on his face and a hand over the spot where the broken ribs were still healing. She could relate. With every jounce and drop of their car, her own shattered rib squawked in pain. She hadn't thought about it since they'd left the Argos.
Further ahead they saw lights and a convoy of trucks parked to one side. There were tents set up at a distance, on the far side of a large bonfire. They saw men standing around the hood of a truck, with their eyes down, staring at something. At last, their driver pulled over and stopped. He looked into the rear view mirror and said his apologies for the bad ride. Kara straightened herself and checked for her weapon, then she hopped out and made her way toward the bonfire. Greer stayed inside.
With no lights anywhere nearby, the chopper needed a signal to land safely. The fire threw a lot of heat, too, though – uncomfortably so, and Kara slid her jacket off as she skirted the fire. She walked straight toward the throng of men hunched over the convoy truck, and she could see they were marking on a paper map.
"Who's in charge here?" she said, searching around her for a pair of eyes with some authority in them. She found them. He looked up, frowning, and his eyes moved up and down her, fixing on the holster at her left side. Then he noticed their car parked in the clearing near the transport trucks. He stepped forward toward Kara and identified himself. Luc Mbah, Commanding Officer for this tactical team out of Cameroon. Kara gestured to a more private spot.
She indicated the car with Greer inside and watched as Mbah's eyes changed from a frown to wary. He didn't say anything, but kept sweeping his eyes from her to the car. Then they could hear the sound of a helicopter in the distance, even before they could discern its lights. In the ink-black sky, strewn with brilliant stars, its lights would be hard to see. Until they noticed there were lights moving slowly in the sky, as the team returned from Zuma Rock.
On board was the man they sought – a man who would lead them to another even more elusive target – someone who had found Samaritan in its earliest online days. Someone who'd found Samaritan in a sea of electronic noise and chatter, and followed after, doggedly pursuing as Samaritan led him on a chase. This was all unplanned, but the experience wasn't wasted. Greer and his team could watch, like spectators, as Samaritan deployed its strategies, all the while collecting data about its pursuer. And once Greer pulled the plug on the little romp, his techies got busy. They needed to identify the pursuer.
Research showed contact had come through a secure node, a research center in England that was part of Five Eyes. Samaritan then tracked the contact back to Nigeria, but it seemed the trail pointed to a person there who didn't actually exist – a ghost, of sorts. Greer was intrigued, and concerned. Anyone who was able to get that close to Samaritan and cover his tracks like this was a threat that must be dealt with – and eliminated.
Years before, Greer had worked in Nigeria. He'd done some business with a contact there, and if anyone knew the players in Nigeria's cyber community, it would be him. Olawale. If Greer was able to get to Olawale, it might be possible to find their ghost, for a price. Loose ends like that were dangerous. Elimination of the threat was their next move.
Perhaps, in hind sight, it was best that there hadn't been time to launch that mission. Just as Samaritan was closing in, it was ruthlessly attacked by Harold Finch. Every step they took to wrest Samaritan from Finch's grip only tightened the grasp. Greer suspected that Finch had special knowledge of Samaritan's vulnerabilities. He and Samaritan's designer, Arthur Claypool, were close friends, after all. And they had spent time together in the weeks before Claypool's death.
If Finch had been able to learn of ways to defeat Samaritan, then Greer was left with two choices: find Finch or find the one who had breached security surrounding Samaritan first. If they couldn't get to Finch, then they would find the other. Greer's gamble was that their target could be forced to reach out again – and, this time, break Finch's grip on Samaritan. Inside that helicopter was one who could lead them to their target. He'd escaped them once before, but this time, let there be no misunderstandings – he would give up the name to them – whatever it took.
Dust flew as the helicopter lowered from dark sky into the light cast by the bonfire. It settled and sat for a moment on the dry grass, bent low under the blast of air from the blades. Then the engine cut, and a moment later, doors swung open on the near side. A slender man in shorts and sleeveless shirt was lowered down onto the grass. His feet were bare, and he had a hood over his head. A soldier on each side of him, half-lifted, half-dragged him toward the group waiting for him.
Group Commander Mbah stood in front of him and pulled off the hood. A young man stood in front of them, squinting against the bright light of the fire.
"We'll need a place to work," came the sound of a man's resonant voice. Mbah turned. A white man, with a full head of gray hair and icy blue eyes had joined the group. This must be Greer – the man who had scrambled their team, from hours away in Cameroon – someone with a murky past in England and then the US; able to reach in and pluck their commando team at will. Precious little for him to go on; which left Mbah with few choices other than to obey.
"The tent," he said, pointing to one on a spot more separated from the rest. Then he turned to his men holding the prisoner and told them, in French, "take him to the tent." The soldiers half-dragged Olawale off in that direction. A breeze had started, and the fire crackled louder next to them. The tan sides of the tent flapped in the breeze. Mbah watched as the prisoner disappeared inside, and the two foreigners followed after.
Shaw sat back sipping the coffee Reese had brought for her. She hadn't left Root's side since they'd arrived at the safe-house. The rest of the Team had just made it back and he could hear them talking with Finch in the kitchen. Finch had some project spread out over the table there. He seemed almost giddy about it when Reese commented as he walked by with the two cups of coffee. Finch started telling him all about what he'd come up with for Root, but after a while he could tell that Reese was just humoring him. He sighed, and shook his head, then flapped a hand toward the hallway.
"Go, Mr. Reese. I'm keeping you from your work."
It must be hard for him, Reese thought, as he walked down the hall. Since his two friends and fellow-engineers had died, Finch was on his own. Ingram and Claypool were people he could talk to, people on the same level. Now all Finch had left was the Machine and the Team. And none of them spoke Finch's special blend of geek. A few, like Root and Logan Pierce from the D.C. Team could keep up with him some of the time - when they were talking about computers. But most of their Team were really there to do the work that Finch couldn't do – physical surveillance, tactics, interdiction and security.
This was a dry patch for Finch.
Reese leaned against the door jamb, watching Shaw sip her coffee. He could see the wheels turning behind Shaw's eyes. He didn't know what her thoughts were. It was rare that anyone did. Those calm dark eyes gave little away. They all knew that Shaw could just as easily save your life as take it – she was wired that way. But she wasn't the same as other Field Ops he'd met – like Kara Stanton, for example. He'd never seen her try to save a life. Not even his, her partner. She just followed orders. And that was the difference between them. Even though some of his worst moments had happened here in New York, he couldn't think of another pair of eyes he'd rather have in front of him than Shaw's.
Reese had no sooner had the thought, than another pair of eyes popped into his mind.
Blue blue eyes.