Chapter 27 – It’s Time To Tango (Part II)

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She withdrew the Enoch from her hip, opened a circular menu that accessed the surveillance spellcode in the door and selected a few specialized bits of code. In front of the four, the door began to shimmer. At first it seemed to glow with an orange light, then shadows formed and clotted together, forming into silhouettes of furniture, angular lamps, edges and walls. Soon, it seemed translucent, like a shower curtain and Warren could make out two distinct figures, one standing behind a desk and one pacing slowing in front–back to the door.

As the image clarified, soon objects in the room came into focus and it was obvious the figure behind the desk was Harwood. The expression on his face looked worried and tired. Upon seeing the man in front of the desk pace once, both Warren and Toller went for their guns.

Even with the sometimes-faded image passed through the door by the surveillance spellcode, the gunmetal glint of the pistol in Whitaker’s hands became obvious.

“You may want to lower your weapons,” Elaine said. “The door is still there and they can’t see us. As you can see… Dean Harwood is being held hostage by Professor Bertrand Whitaker.”

“I should call this in,” Toller said she pulled her cell out of her pocket and flipped it open.

Warren holstered his gun. “You two need to get out of here,” he said. He reached for Frog and Elaine and ushered them behind him. “It’s no longer safe and we can handle this.”

“I think you know that you can’t,” Elaine said. “Otherwise, why did you call us all to the dean’s office tonight?”

“Hostage situations are an FBI matter, miss,” Warren said. “We can’t have civilians in the crossfire–” He crossed slowly to the door and reached up to barely touch the shimmering image. “But perhaps you can explain how this works first. Does the dean know his office door is a TV screen?”

“Er,” Frog said. “That might take a while and…I don’t think the dean has that long by the look of it.”

“He’ll be fine,” Elaine said. “Whitaker is waiting for someone to call him so that the dean can do something. I’ve been watching and listening during our entire conversation. He doesn’t intend to shoot him. The firearm is drama to keep the dean from leaving before he can do what he needs to.”

“Local authorities are tied up with a big car chase, they won’t have people here for another twenty minutes,” Toller said. “We’re on our own if we need to move quickly.”

Professor Whitaker continued to pace and argue with Dean Harwood, although their words were inaudible through the door. His posture looked agitated, stilted as he moved. Every time he paused, he wiped sweat away from his brow and his gaze lingered on the phone.

“What do you intend to do?” Frog said.

“We can do this by the book,” Warren said. “I’ll announce myself and see if we can negotiate Whitaker’s surrender.”

Elaine shook her head.

“Do you know something I don’t?”

“What if I told you, I have a plan,” Elaine said.

* * *

Richard Harwood sat stock still in his chair; he could feel an ache creeping into his shoulders. Professor Whitaker paced once again from one side of the room to the other–Harwood realized his neck had also begun to hurt, from watching the man prowl like a caged tiger. Except it was his friend, Bertrand Whitaker, with the gun who had caged Harwood.

He had attempted to engage his friend a few times, but Bertand wasn’t talking. It was odd… And out of character for the normally talkative professor. He just glared at Harwood every time he spoke after their initial exchange.

The presence of the gun spoke enough volumes needed for both of them.

Every time he paced the room, he glanced at the phone. Harwood hoped it would ring soon–and, almost as an afterthought, that the news would release him from the cage.

“I’ve had about as much of this as I can take,” Harwood said. The ache had stretched from his shoulders down into the small of his back and he had grown sick of his friend, of his friend’s gun, and the entire night. He rose from his chair and grabbed his coat from the back of it.

Whitaker only fixed him with a brief glare and stopped in front of the desk.

“I’m leaving,” Harwood declared. He stood up from his chair, pulled his coat from the back, and started to put it on. In his peripheral vision, he saw Whitaker raise the gun and move toward him, but he ignored it with as much pretended confidence as he could–and he could muster a great deal. He felt angry. Betrayed. And now, he felt fed up.

“Sit back down!” Bertrand Whitaker growled, however the man couldn’t bring himself to aim the pistol again.

Harwood’s second arm slid into his jacket and he pulled it over his shoulders, carefully shrugging it into place. HIs annoyance flooded into his joints and mingled with the ache, giving him a reason to ignore the gun, and the danger. Bertrand had been one of a few other professors who had accosted him earlier in the week because they thought that they could intimidate him into remaining silent about their extracurricular projects.

The dean had been convinced they’d had something to do with the Powers That Be coming after him for the “cheating ring” in his own department. Sending the dragon lady and her entourage into this very office to confront him–and then, as if that wasn’t enough, they drew him into the midst of their cloak-and-dagger conspiracy with mumbled threats of exposing his own backroom dealings.

Enough would have to be enough.

“Or you’ll shoot me, Bertrand?” Harwood said. “It’s late and I want to go home.”

Moved to get between Harwood and the door, the gun still lowered, but now it hovered slightly higher. “I’ll–”

That’s when the phone rang. Harwood started directly into Whitaker’s eyes–carefully avoiding looking at the gun–and did not move a muscle. Mrs. Blake will get it, he thought, absurdly–of course, his receptionist was not in today.

Whitaker withdrew slightly and lifted the phone from the cradle with his free hand.

A tinny voice percolated up the line and Whitaker said, “Hang on, he’s right here,” he said. He held the phone up to Harwood. “Tell him the password for the IBIX-7 cloud supercomputer access.”


“Tell him.”

The gun rattled in one of Whitaker’s hands and the phone became the new weapon–the other man levelled it speaker and receiver directly at Harwood.

“Crystanthamum, all lower case, with two plus-signs at the end,” Harwood said.

Whitaker pulled the phone back to his ear. “Did you get that?”

That’s when Harwood saw Elaine Mercer walk into the room. Except there was no way she could have come into the room: the door was closed, she hadn’t been in the room originally, and the way she walked in it was as if she’d just emerged from the space between the bookshelf and the case that held his awards and trophies.

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