Friday 27th July 1990
The journey out of the city had been hellish with everyone wanting to leave early, as it was Friday. But after the first hour or so they could drive freely and Robert's temper had improved considerably.
He reached over and turned the air conditioning in the car down a notch, glancing over at his travelling companion. The last of the sunís rays were reflecting in Graceís hair, creating a reddish halo around her head. She saw him look at her and smiled.
"My dear, what could possibly be wrong? Iím here, in delightful company having a pleasant drive in the country."
She responded, "Thank you kind sir."
And once more he thanked whatever deity looked after retired Company agents for giving him the chance to meet Grace once more. "You know it must have been providence that let us meet up again. You hadnít written to say you were coming to Manhattan."
"Well I was only coming for the job interview, I had no idea how long I would be in the city or even if I could take the job if they offered it. The situation in Brazil was still precarious, I wasnít sure the local doctors Bob and I trained were going to be able to take over."
"I take it everything is running smoothly there now?"
"Yes, I spoke to Carmen a few days ago and itís all going very well. Bob would have been very proud of them."
Robert touched her hand, "You should be proud too, of what you and Bob managed to accomplish."
"I know, but I still find myself wanting to go back and see if we could have done anything differently." She sighed, "I still miss him you know."
"Of course you do." Robert glanced over at her and she quickly turned her head away.
He knew what the loss of a loved one was like. At least Grace had had the opportunity to grieve openly for her husband.
When she spoke Robert recognized that she was changing the subject, "You said that Mickey would be spending some time at your cabin too. Wasn't he the young man who left very diplomatically when I arrived for dinner last weekend?"
"Yes thatís him." Robert smiled, "He isnít usually so tactful."
"He seemed very nice. What does he do?"
Determined not to have any misunderstandings Robert was truthful, Grace had worked for the Company and he knew he could trust her, "He works for Control."
"Oh." Grace nodded in understanding. "Youíre sure he wonít mind me tagging along?"
"Not at all. He and Sam have been here since Sunday and I know they wonít mind."
"Sam? Is that a male or female Sam?"
Robert had a sudden memory of the last time he saw Sam. Wrapped in a bathrobe with her dark hair tumbling around her shoulders, he had been very aware of her femininity. "Oh sheís most definitely a woman.
"Is she someone special?"
Robert raised his eyebrows, "Mickey insists not, that sheís just a friend."
"You donít believe him, do you?" Grace laughed and he was glad she sounded more cheerful. He hadnít intended his talk of her husband to upset her.
Robert gave her question a moments thought and realized that he didnít believe Mickey. There was something about the way he spoke Samís name that gave him away and during the few days they had all worked to rescue Control, the attraction between the two of them had been all too evident.
Robert shook his head, "No I donít believe him, but I think he does Ė if that makes any sense."
Grace chuckled and he knew she understood exactly what he had been trying to say.
He sighed, the concerns he felt for his protégé were much more than just those of a former teacher or colleague. "Itís just a damn shame that the first woman to mean anything to him in such a long time is just not the right one for him."
He felt Graceís eye on him and knew he had to explain further. "Nearly ten years ago he was working in Europe. He met someone there, a defecting KGB agent, and, against all the rules, they fell in love. Something went wrong and she was captured and executed. Mickey barely made it out alive."
He saw the look of understanding on Graceís face. "So he hasnít been involved with anyone else in all that time?"
"There have been women, of course, just no one serious. His tastes have tended to concentrate on physical assets."
Robert felt uncomfortable, he hadnít intended to talk about Mickeyís private life or sound critical of him, and, as Control used him for the dirtiest and nastiest jobs Robert understood his need to unwind more than most. When Robert saw the effects of some trips on the younger man, there were times when he regretted involving him in the Company at all. After what happened with Serena and seeing the wrecked marriages and relationships around him, Robert could see why he didnít want to get serious with any one woman. "He isnít shallow, he just doesnít seem to want to admit to wanting anything more permanent. In his line of work I can understand it."
"So, what is so wrong with Sam, why would it be so bad for him to get involved with her?"
"Mickey and I met her for the first time, earlier this year in England. We were working unofficially with British Intelligence and Sam was the desk officer assigned to liase with us. I know the governments of both countries claim that there is a special relationship between our security services but I donít somehow think they had an affair between two of their senior agents in mind."
"I can see the problem. Anyway, theyíre adults and are responsible for their own actions. You might have been instrumental in them meeting in the first place but what happened after is down to them. Perhaps youíre wrong and they are just good friends."
Robert thought for a moment, before his chat with Mickey on Saturday night he might have agreed with Grace about that. But, when he thought back, he remembered seeing the cheerfulness in his ex-protégé after his stopover in Paris and, because of Mickey's unusually good spirits, had wondered at its cause. Mickey's revelation that he'd met Sam there had answered that question.
Determined not to spoil this trip Robert made an effort to reorganize his thoughts, "Youíre right, Grace. I need to stop worrying. But to tell you the truth, because I recruited and trained him, I still feel responsible for him. Mickey is one of the few good friends I have."
She put her hand on his arm and patted him, "Itís alright to care. Itís one of the things I find so attractive about you."
"Did I ever tell you what a wonderfully understanding person you are?"
She laughed at him, "Not often enoughÖ"
Within an hour he was driving along the track leading up to the cabin. Robert could see the exterior lights gleaming from between the trees. The cabin looked comfortable and welcoming.
Before he had stopped the car, the front door opened and Mickey and Sam were outside and waiting for them at the top of the steps. Mickeyís arm was draped over her shoulder and she was leaning comfortably against him, her arm around his waist. Sam said something and Mickey laughed and pulled her closer, whispering something in her ear which made her laugh in turn. They looked good together and Robert found himself wondering just how uninvolved his friend could claim to be now.
He stopped the car and got out, noticing the quiet immediately. It acted like a welcome sedative and Robert instantly felt himself relaxing even more. Once again, he congratulated himself for his foresight in making the investment in the cabin.
Mickey bounded down the steps with Sam following.
"Hey, McCall. How was the drive?"
Robert made a conscious effort to stop himself sounding snappy when he replied, "Don't ask!" as he made his way around to the passenger's door.
Grace had already opened the door and he leant down to help her out. Taking her hand, he led her over to the steps to make the introductions.
Hours later, after everyone else had gone off to bed, Robert let himself relax back on the couch, a nearly empty glass in his hand. During dinner, a superb meal which Sam had prepared for them, the conversation had flowed freely. No doubt Mickey had told Sam that Grace was ex-Company personnel and could keep a secret. All in all the evening had been exceedingly pleasant and had passed very quickly.
It hadn't been deliberate, but Robert had found himself watching the way the younger couple interacted. Even in the short time they had worked together in England, Robert had noticed their instinctive understanding of each other. But now he found himself astounded by the change in Mickey. The steel like edge to his personality had disappeared and instead he was displaying a gentler side to his nature. It was a side of him that Robert had only caught glimpses of in the past and that he was sure most people, even those who knew him intimately, had never witnessed.
Not that he knew her very well, but Sam appeared completely at ease with Mickey. She had a good sense of humour, teased him a lot and was unimpressed by the dire punishments he jokingly threatened her with.
There was no doubt in Robertís mind Ė they were nicely suited.
Robert drained the last of the scotch just as Grace put her head around the doorway of the living room. "Are you coming to bed now?"
He smiled at her, "Yes, yes. I was just enjoying the peace for a few moments."
Grace came and sat down beside him, "And thinking too much?"
He nodded, aware he had probably drunk more than was good for him, "Without a doubt."
She took his hand and stroked it, "They do seem to be well suited."
"Yes they do." He marvelled at her intuitive understanding of what was bothering him.
Turning to Grace he picked up her hand and kissed it, "Iím sorry, Iíve been so wrapped up in my own concerns that I have neglected you this evening."
She put her hand against the side of his face and he could smell her perfume, "Donít be foolish. Of course you havenít."
He stood and pulled her up with him, "Go on into the bedroom, Iíll just check that everything is locked up and be with you. And I will assure you of my undivided attention from this moment on!"
Monday 30th July 1990
Mickey rolled over in the bed, his internal clock telling him it was still early. He huddled up behind Sam, wrapping his arms around her. She woke briefly and mumbled something he didn't understand before falling asleep again. He felt at peace with the world. Even the niggling thought that initially, McCall hadnít been too happy with his choice of companion had vanished. In the three days since McCall and Grace Sweeney had arrived at the cabin, the women had got on fine and everyone had had a good time.
He buried his face in Sam's hair, breathing in her familiar scent. Because they had spent so much of their first days at the cabin making love wherever and whenever they wanted to, he'd expected to feel resentful when they had to curb their natural inclination because McCall and Grace were around. But they had soon discovered that anticipation was a great turn-on.
Sam had also proved herself to be an expert tease. Just last night, she had waited until the four of them were leaving the cabin to go out for dinner to whisper to him that she wasn't wearing anything under her dress. That information, coupled with the erotic thoughts he usually had about her, had made the evening absolute torture for him.
The meal had passed in a haze of desire. Every time he looked over at Sam she'd licked her lips or stroked an item on the table suggestively. In the end he'd needed to excuse himself and go to the restroom to take the edge off.
The others had picked up on the charged atmosphere because McCall, especially, had been wearing a look of amusement all through dinner. The feeling must have been catching though because he and Grace had gone to their room pretty quickly after they got back from the restaurant.
Once they were alone, it hadn't taken much effort to persuade Sam to take a midnight swim with him. They had crept outside and swum naked in the lake, until the cold had forced them, shivering, back to the shore. The stark moonlight, reflecting off her damp skin, made her resemble an ancient goddess, cold and untouchable.
But he knew the warm, sensual woman beneath the facade. He reached out and caressed one taut, erect nipple, feeling the answering tremors that coursed through her body. Pulling her down beside him, on the warm grassy bank, he had covered her body with his own, making her human once more.
He pulled her closer, kissing her shoulder, savouring the familiar taste of her skin. Though they never talked shop, Mickey knew from Samís comments that Johnny Stevens was looking to push her into a more senior position. Already, he had her standing in for him at meetings. She was very good at her job Ė Mickey knew that Ė and he was pleased for her success but deep down he knew that promotion would make it more and more difficult for them to be together and that saddened him. The times they had together were very special.
Apart from the brief comment on the night they arrived in Silver Bay, she hadnít mentioned anything about her thoughts on family or settling down. Not that he'd ever considered it either.
He was pulled out of his far too serious musing by Sam rubbing against him. "Hey, youíre awake."
"UmmÖ" Whatever she wanted to say was lost in a sigh as she stretched out like a cat in front of a fire.
She twisted to face him then and he could see a mischievous look in her grey eyes. Jesus! What was she going to do to him now?
Before he could make a move, she had pushed him onto his back and rolled on top of him, pinning him down. The soft mounds of her breasts were squashed against his chest. He could escape, but he was eager to see what she had in mind. She had discovered very quickly the things he liked and was always keen to experiment or improvise. Relaxing back against the pillows he waited to see what would happen nextÖ
Sitting comfortably on the small pier by the back of his cabin, Robert watched as Mickey stretched himself out on the wooden planks, shading his eyes from the noonday sun with a baseball cap. Tanned and wearing only a pair of frayed, cut off jeans he looked completely relaxed. The weekend had been so successful that he was wondering whether to suggest a repeat when it occurred to him that finding a time when both Mickey and Sam werenít on assignment would be difficult. He also wasnít sure that he should encourage meetings between them, though he knew his feelings would matter little if they were determined to carry on seeing each other.
On one hand he wanted them to stay involved, it was good for both of them to be able to relax and enjoy their downtime. On the other, there was the murky minefield of security and official secrets. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for Control or Johnny Stevens to turn a blind eye.
Robert looked at his fishing line again, so far nothing had taken the bait.
"If we catch anything, Sam and I can have it for dinner tonight since you and Grace wonít be here." Mickey spoke around a large yawn.
"I thought youíd gone to sleep there."
"Nah just resting my eyes, but a nap sounds good. All this having fun on vacation is making me tired."
It was on the tip of his tongue to suggest what else might be making Mickey feel tired. The occasional noises he'd heard from Mickey's room at night had only confirmed that they didn't spend all of their time in bed together sleeping. Then, he had also caught them sneaking back in after a late swim just last night.
He refrained from any comment when he heard a car coming down the drive to the cabin. Curiosity made him put down his rod and start back along the jetty. They werenít expecting any visitors today as he and Grace were leaving to return to the city later that afternoon.
It was a sheriffís department jeep and as he got closer he recognized Nathan Elwood, one of Lucas Grantís senior deputies inside. Robert stopped by the steps of the cabin and waited.
The stocky deputy got out of his car and at once Robert could see his tense expression. He moved closer, "Can I help you, Deputy?"
Elwood took off his hat, revealing his close cropped hair, and held it in front of him. "I sure hope so, Mr. McCall. The sheriff asked me to come. We have a major problem in town and he thinks you can help." As he spoke he clutched at the brim of his 'Smokey the bear' hat, twisting it between his hands.
Without a conscious decision, Robert felt himself snap into business mode. It was automatic after so many years, "Could you be more specific?"
Elwood gripped his hat tighter so that Robert could see the veins standing out on his arms. When he spoke his voice faltered, "We have a hostage situation at the local school. The sheriff said he would explain everything when I get you to the mobile HQ heís setting up."
Robert nodded at Elwood. "We'll get ready to accompany you." He turned towards the dock and waved to Mickey who was already collecting up the fishing gear. Robert called into the house, "Sam!"
They reached him at the same time, "Whatís wrong?" Mickey asked.
"Lucas has a problem with a hostage situation in town, heís asked for our help."
Mickey nodded, "Iíll get changed."
Sam gestured at her denim shorts and bikini top and said, "Me too. Iíll be two minutes," as she followed Mickey inside.
Robert glanced down at his own slacks and loose shirt Ė he'd be fine. He looked over at Elwood, "What about equipment?"
"Lucas said to get you anything you wanted."
The deputy appeared bemused by the speed of their response and Robert smiled to himself; familiarity had told him what Mickey's reaction would be and he would have gambled that Sam would grasp the situation just as fast.
Grace arrived on the porch, "Whatís going on? Sam said something about hostages."
"Letís talk while I work." Robert led them over to the Jaguar and opened the trunk, revealing the small arsenal of weapons he kept there. "Deputy, do you think you could help transfer these," Robert saw Elwood open his mouth to begin to say something about the arms cache and then change his mind, "into the back of my colleagueís Jeep, please?" Robert searched his key ring and passed Elwood the spare key to the Jeep that Mickey had given him the day after his arrival at the cabin.
"Yes Sir, Mr. McCall."
Dwelling, for a moment, on Elwood's reaction to the armoury that Mickey was certainly carrying in the trunk of the Jeep, Robert pulled Grace to one side. He could see the worry in her eyes, "I donít know the full story yet but if Lucas has asked for help then the situation is serious. He has never made a fuss about nothing." As an afterthought he added, "Elwood mentioned a problem at the local school."
She opened her mouth to respond and Robert remembered the arguments that used to abound with Kay in similar situations. She would always want to know Ďwhy him?'
"What can I do to help?" It took a moment for her words to register and then he wanted to kiss her.
"Bring your medical bag, Iím sure there will be doctors there but if there are a number of hostages, you will probably be needed. Even if we get them out unhurt they will be very shaken."
Grace disappeared inside the cabin as Elwood moved the last of the weapons and Robert closed the trunk on the Jaguar. Elwood did the same for the Jeep before handing Robert the keys, then he walked back over to his own car and started the engine.
Robert walked over to the door, feeling in his trouser pocket for his key. Mickey reappeared, dressed in his customary jeans and loose t-shirt. He had an automatic in his hand and as Robert watched he checked the gun and tucked it into its usual place at the back of his waistband.
Standing on the porch, he said, "Which car are we taking?"
"I thought the Jeep, there's more room."
"Did you move the equipment out of the Jag?"
"Yes, I had Elwood do it while we were waiting."
Sam came outside now, dressed in dark blue combat pants and a t-shirt of the same colour. She had a Browning 9mm in her waistband. In her hands she held a shoulder holster, attempting to adjust the straps.
"Are we ready to go?"
Robert nodded at her, "Yes, almost. Grace is just fetching her bag. If you and Mickey want to get into the car, I'll lock up here."
Grace closed the door as she came out, "I've set the alarm."
"Thank you." Robert locked the door and went over to the car, noticing with some surprise that Sam was already sitting in the back and waiting for Grace to join her.
Moments later, with Mickey driving, the were following Elwood along the winding road, bordering the lake, which would take them into town.