On the one hand, he’d said he didn’t think organized crime had infiltrated the Bureau. On the other, he’d just told me not to send him information via the government owned and installed communication systems that pretty much only the government had a reasonable chance of bugging.
I decided not to say anything, but he obviously wasn’t telling me the full story.
“One more thing before I go,” Isaac said. “You’re taking martial arts lessons from Lee, sometimes called Günther, sometimes called a lot of other things. In the Bureau, we just call him the Immortal. Watch out for him.”
“How much do you know about him?”
“Let’s see… He’s a mercenary, a musician. He doesn’t die and doesn’t have a fixed appearance.”
“You’ve got the surface right. Let’s add to it. He doesn’t seem to have any noticeable moral code, and he’s worked for some of the worst monsters alive in the last sixty years, maybe in the last thousand. He’s overthrown governments as far back as written history goes, including at least two Roman emperors. He’s on the NSTL and we’ve got a team tracking him.”
“National Security Threat List.”
“A national security threat? How? He never talks about politics. I really don’t think he cares.”
“Because anyone who does care becomes a threat the second they hire him.”
“Isaac, aside from not dying, he doesn’t have any powers. Sure, he knows how to fight, but there are people out there who could personally make a crater out of Washington D.C. He’s not one of them.”
“Everything I want to say about this is classified, but, if I could say anything, it would blow your mind. Here’s a hint though — we’ve got psychics, both the mystical kind and the telepathic kind. We had one of the mystics look into him, but, he couldn’t even find him. All he could do is see the effects of Lee’s passing, and, when he did manage to find something, he mysteriously forgot it all. Then we sent in the telepath. She managed to lock in on him but then she started to scream and try to claw her eyes out. She stayed in a psychiatric hospital for months. No human gets reactions like that. Not even telepaths like Daniel’s grandfather.You know what does? Old gods and Lovecraftian horrors.”
“Then why do you even let him into the country?”
“We don’t want to find out what will happen if we keep him out.”
* * *
It rained the next day.
It rained buckets.
Think water flowing down the street in front of the school and overflowing onto the lawn. Lightning flashed almost constantly from two in the afternoon on. Between the noise of the thunder and my own tendency to drift off into thought, I barely paid attention during the last part of my calculus class.
That was okay. I felt confident I could figure out what I’d missed.
Given what came next, not being able to pay attention might actually be a bonus.
I had to skip study hall and go to my mandatory counseling session.
My dad’s perspective on counseling is that it’s better to have the client meet with the same therapist each time. That way you build up trust and don’t have to repeat the same stories over and over again. The Grand Lake School District’s perspective was that it cost less to make sure that someone was there for the appointment than the same person.
I could therefore thank the school district’s small, but uncaring bureacracy that rather than getting Mr. McGhee (who I’d seen the last two times), I would be seeing Ms. D’Onofrio.
That made things weird in a whole lot of ways.
A lot of guys in the school thought Ms. D’Onofrio a major improvement over Mr. McGhee simply because of her looks. She looked like a model — blond, blue eyed, and stylish clothes. Personally, I found her looks irrelevant to my life when you considered that she was also married, had two kids, and was nearly twice my age.
I still noticed her though.
To make things even crazier, D’Onofrio happened to be Haley’s grandmother’s maiden name. She’d married one of Haley’s second cousins, and had been one of far too many people that Haley introduced me to at the Christmas party.
Her husband worked for a bank. I didn’t remember what he did for it, or, for that matter, his first name.
The counseling offices were next to the administrative offices and the teachers lounge on the first floor of the school.
The door stood partway open. I knocked on it and stepped inside.
She turned off one of the local Christian radio stations and said, “Hi Nick, please sit down.”
If I had to put a word to describe her office, I would have chosen organized. Aside from the open folder on her desk (my file), I couldn’t see any loose papers. Her diplomas for her bachelors and masters degrees hung on the wall along with her state license to practice psychology.
Framed childrens’ art hung on the walls along with pictures of her husband and children.
I wondered if she was aware of her reputation with the high school’s male students and deliberately played up the “mom decor” or if she just liked her kids’ art.
Taking a quick look at the file, she said, “Nick, it’s good to see you again. I haven’t seen you since the Christmas party.”
She frowned for a moment, remembering, no doubt, the double murder at the end of the party.
“Are you still dating Haley?”
“Good. After what happened that night, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear you’d broken up.
“According to the notes I have here, we should be working on anger management skills, but before we go into any of that, I’m wondering if there’s anything going on in your life that you’d like to talk about?”
“Not really,” I said. I thought for a second, and, came up with something that was bothering me a little. With luck, I could make it last forty-five minutes, saving me the bother of working on my non-existent anger management problem.
“Well, wait,” I said, “there is one thing. I have a couple friends and one of them doesn’t seem to like the other one at all. And really, I guess I should say that they’re both adults. They’re not really friends of mine in the sense that I hang around with them. They’re kind of both teachers really.”
Outside, lightning flashed, but flashed wasn’t quite the right word. It went on and on and kept on flashing, making the room uncomfortably bright.
It felt unnatural.
When the thunder came, which it did, even as the lightning still flashed, the noise went on and on, sounding like a freight train might if it were riding through the middle of the room.
Then it began to hail, rattling the windows.
Ordinarily I might have blamed Vaughn, but I didn’t think he could control weather at anywhere near that level.