Anchors No More #33: Timing is Basically EverythingSep 2, 2014
Lawrence Queen knew he had one job to do when he split off from the Ankura group thirty-five minutes earlier. His job would make the difference between the success and failure of Holly Marshall’s desperate plan.
Until the sharp crack of a single gunshot being fired nearby startled the three of them, he felt he was doing his job well. Vanderhoff and Rutherford were fully engaged, Queen was keeping them distracted with the fabricated news of his team’s ‘major breakthrough’ in the theory they had been working on. “It’s amazing,” he told them, handing Vanderhoff a few sheets of paper with overly complicated, completely false mathematical formulas on them, “I mean, just look here,” he pointed at an equation, “and here,” pointing at another, “These two factors are exactly what we were looking for.”
Vanderhoff looked the papers over, pursing his lips and nodding his head as if he understood. He handed the papers to Rutherford and turned to Queen, “So, what does this mean? When can we move forward with the practical trials?”
“We can start tonight,” Queen said, selling it hard, keeping their attention and escalating their involvement in the discussion, “If you want, I can call my team and have them send down the forms. Thirty minutes we can be signed off and up and running.” Vanderhoff considered this, giving Rutherford a subtle glance.
Rutherford adjusted his glasses, glancing up from the papers and staring at Queen. The ARLIS executive was a shrewd man, naturally distrustful and he carefully studied Queen’s face for signs of deceit. Climbing ARLIS’s corporate ladder was one of the steepest and most perilous career trajectories in late-Twenty First Century America and Rutherford had not done it with such efficiency by taking words at face value, particularly not those brought to him at conveniently provocative times.
Vanderhoff’s soldiers had just located the fugitive’s laboratory, finding everything they had been searching for except for one thing: the actual fugitives. The military unit was expecting resistance; all their pre-raid briefings had stressed the fact that Hobbes, Restrepo and the rest of the Ankura Cell would not give up their illegal lab without a fight. What they found though was that the lab was empty, all the computers broken and a large pile of smoking paper ashes sat smoldering in the center of the room. When the squad came in the room there were two gunshots, one soldier was caught in the neck. They killed the shooter, identified as Doctor Amber Wells, and try as they might, they could not save the soldier, news Vanderhoff took with a smirk, saying, “We can add murder to the list.” Five minutes later, Queen shows up with his sudden good news.
It wasn’t impossible that Queen’s lab found the answers but it was improbable. “Don’t expect results,” Queen had pleaded just days before, “it would be a miracle if we could crack the code that fast. It’s the most complicated thing I’ve ever seen.” Yet there he stood telling them the miracle had occurred.
While Rutherford was not predisposed to trust he was without a doubt predisposed to gamble, to calculate and make snap judgments based on odds and instant psychological profiling. Rutherford stared at Queen, noticing things, minute tics in his demeanor. Whether they were due to stress or artifice didn’t matter: they caught his attention, they intrigued him and knew he had to string it along for a more accurate reading. Let’s play this hand out, he thought, turning to Vanderhoff and saying, “Lieutenant, have the proper forms sent down to Doctor Queen’s lab, we’ll sign them there.” Rutherford looked at Queen with something resembling a smile, “Would you care to lead the way Doctor Que…”
And then the gunshot.
Queen’s eyes grew wide, Rutherford looked at Vanderhoff who glared and blurted out, “What the sweet Mary fuck?” and pushed past Queen heading to the door. Vanderhoff grabbed the knob and glanced at Queen, “You, with me.” He stormed out the door, Queen following in obedient fear with Rutherford behind him. The three of them headed down the hall towards the gunshot. When they passed Lab Fourteen, Vanderhoff immediately noticed it was empty. Curiously empty. He pulled out his security badge and swiped it through the card reader. He growled with anger when he was denied access.
He grabbed Queen’s shirt with a snarl, “Tell me what you know.” He pushed Queen against the wall. Queen couldn’t answer, shocked and terrified, unable to speak as Rutherford shifted his grip to his throat. A second gunshot drew all of their attention. Vanderhoff turned to Rutherford, “The basement,” he said. He spun back to Queen, “You have exactly ten seconds to tell me what they’re doing and what they want. If you take eleven, I’ll snap your neck by twelve.”
When Queen said nothing, tears coming to his eyes as he struggled with pain and indecision, Vanderhoff began, “One, two, three…” Before he reached six, he was interrupted by a voice from down the hall proclaiming, “Oh shit.”
Vanderhoff pivoted and saw Daniel Hobbes standing in front of the Marshall Temporal Device. Behind Hobbes were Gary Neff and Kate Brown, pushing the equipment dolly the MTD was loaded on. Behind them came Sebastian Restrepo. Vanderhoff froze as he locked eyes with Restrepo, “Hm,” he muttered, letting the moment sink in.
When it did, scant seconds later, he released Queen and in one smooth motion he drew the pistol on his hip and squeezed off three quick shots directly at Daniel Hobbes’ chest.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.