Invasion of Justice (Shadows of Justice)(7)

By: Regan Black

It stretched her, tapped out her already low reserves, but she followed the tide of sorrow until she hit an icy wall. She tried to nudge around it, looking for a way inside, but the layers of bitterness were thick and her attempts to soothe were useless.

Defeated, Petra groaned as she came back from her flight. All she'd found was one hurt and angry woman, with big trust issues. Still crying and dizzy, she forced herself to her suitcase to dig out a derma patch for pain and fever. Slapping it on her abdomen she crawled back to the couch, made a fast note of date, time, and primary emotion, then gave in to the meds to sleep it off.

Gideon watched Petra stumble around her suite. Her short black hair was mussed making the odd gray streak more noticeable. How old was she? The dossier said twenty-eight, but it didn't indicate any addictions either, and she clearly wasn't in good health. Well, that made two of them.

He rubbed his left shoulder and rolled it a few times. In a few minutes a chime would sound reminding him to stretch it. He didn't really need the reminder anymore, but setting it had become habit during the days immediately following his injury.

When the order for this assignment had come down, Gideon was trading foul words with his first, and last, physical therapist.

How the mighty have fallen.

He resented sitting here, listening and watching some ultra-femme con-woman work the system. May as well be a desk jockey. A position he was morally opposed to and had no intention of putting up with for long.

Still, he dutifully checked all the camera angles in her suite three floors down, but Sleeping Beauty looked to be out for the count. He refused to envy her. He turned up the volume, heard the most boring of classical music, and immediately silenced the feed.

Standing, he took the prescribed position near the wall, slid his left palm as high as possible, and rotated his body at the shoulder.

He ignored the soft chime. Pain. Relief. More pain. More or less relief.

Ten reps of pushing the rotation envelope. It seemed like eternity since he'd pushed any real limits of weapons, vehicles, or special ops. One lousy dislocation and they'd relegated him to covert babysitter.

"Oh, goody. A gold star for the ol' performance record," he muttered aloud.

The answering vibration of his sub-dermal pager snatched him out of his self-pity and made him wonder if they'd loaded this latest model with an audio transmitter.

Protocol allowed thirty minutes to answer any call. Gideon considered making them wait. It'd be a futile exercise. They knew as well as he did there wasn't anything life-threatening going on in the Ritz tonight.

At his laptop, he emailed the appropriate check-in code and waited for further instruction.

"Please, God, let it be a real job."

The message appeared on screen. Nathan Burkhardt has gained access to the prison. Stand by.

At least someone could take pride in a day's work. Impersonating a criminal, taking the rap and injections in the line of duty, all of it was better than babysitting some useless psychic wannabe.

Stay on Neiman. Update every twelve hours or as situation develops.

"Gee, Colonel Dufus, the kid fell asleep. Can I invite over my girl?"

Behave, Callahan.

Gideon blinked and looked at the hairline scar on his right biceps. If they'd really added an audio feed to his pager, he was in some serious trouble.

He watched Sleeping Beauty for a minute longer, then went to nuke the last dregs of coffee. What he wouldn't give for some real caffeine. He should work that into his next contract.

The idea made him chuckle as he pictured such prohibited negotiations, but he lost all humor to discover his charge gone from the video frame.

He keyed in a camera change, but unless she was hiding in a corner of the bathroom, Petra Neiman was AWOL. He bit back a curse. This definitely wasn't a development he planned to advertise.

Grabbing his jacket and a multi-purpose card, Gideon headed out to find her.

The fresh air–fresh being a relative term in downtown Chicago–cleared her head for the first time in hours. She walked away from the hotel, toward Lake Michigan, until she found an organic food bar with an available table. From the isolated spot, she watched the crowds shift as workers left the city and evening visitors came in.

Across the aisle, she picked up on mild guilt and wariness, smiling to see a woman discreetly sprinkle what must've been pure sugar into her tea.

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