Part 8: Evil Desires
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Romans 6:12
As Jim and Blair headed for the asylum, Blair read some parts of the file Simon gave them on Sister Maggie. “She doesn’t sound like a psycho, Jim. It looks like she had a relatively normal childhood. People described her as a little wild but she never got in serious trouble at school or with the law. High school gymnast—national champion, even. ‘A’ student. Went to college on an academic scholarship. Business and Accounting major. Straight out of college she went to work for a company called Global Connections, Inc. Then she…”
“What did you say? Global Connections?”
“Yeah. It says here they’re a pretty successful communications conglomerate.”
Jim snorted in disgust. “Spook outfit more like.”
“Had some dealings with them back in Ops. It really is a thriving business. It wouldn’t be a very good cover if it weren’t.”
“It says she was an accountant there.”
“If she was just an accountant, I’ll drink one of your algae shakes.”
“That confident, huh? What I don’t get is the whole nun thing, then. She’s been a sister for almost ten years now. That can’t be a cover, man. No one goes deep for that long.”
“I don’t know what game she’s playing. I just know I don’t like a case that has any government connections whatsoever.”
The CIA connection effectively killed the conversation. An uncomfortable silence descended on them. Jim forced himself to concentrate more on driving. Blair seemed extremely fascinated by whatever was out the window. Jim’s thoughts drifted back to what happened at the station with Simon. It struck him as odd that the captain would have him listen in on Blair. Simon wasn’t the type of person to play favorites like that. If Jim had been privy to Blair’s conversation, then Blair had been…
Blair’s eyes were looking out the window, but his mind was elsewhere. He thought it was strange that Simon had asked him to listen in over the intercom while he’d talked to Jim. Wasn’t that a bit one-sided? Unless Simon made sure that Jim had used his hearing to…
They both looked at each other as light bulbs went off. “We were set up, Sandburg.”
“By an expert, Jim. No wonder he gets paid the big bucks.”
Jim gripped the steering wheel tightly. “That sneaky little…”
“The word you’re looking for is friend. A very good friend who’s better at the touchy-feely stuff that he lets on. Who’d have thought it?”
“He must’ve been reading all the psych books you leave lying around the station.”
“See? I told you I was a good influence. A few more years and I’ll have the whole station under my power.”
“Maybe Simon should try giving you some more therapy. Now your suffering from delusions.” Jim gave Blair an easy smile—one that was readily returned. They rode the rest of the way to the hospital in companionable silence.
An orderly showed them into the room where Alex had lain comatose for nearly two years. In all that time, neither of them had visited her or even checked up on her. Sandburg wondered now if that had been the healthy thing to do. Sure, he and Jim had talked about their problems after Alex was caught. They’d talked a lot at first. But as time went by, they’d both chosen, perhaps subconsciously, to let her fade from existence. If others mentioned her, they would just shrug and change the topic. The two of them never brought her up at all between them. And now, maybe because they hadn’t been paying enough attention, she’d taken them by surprise again. But they were stronger this time, right? Right?
Jim examined every inch of the room carefully. He could smell that, that nun scent. That was the only way he could describe it really. Sister Margaret “Maggie” had been here. But that was common knowledge. Alex was part of her rounds—she’d seen lots of other patients that day. He could also pick up the medicinal scent of the hospital personnel, but no one out of the ordinary. She was either aided by the nun, or it was an inside job. His money was on the nun. The video surveillance tapes showed Sister Maggie leaving from both the A and B doors. Both women had kept their heads down to keep their faces hidden from the cameras. He figured the nun smuggled in an extra habit for Alex to wear. But it was circumstantial evidence. Just because Sister Maggie left from one part of the building, didn’t mean she was aware of Alex Barnes leaving from the other exit. They didn’t even have any proof that the second woman was, in fact, Alex Barnes. A good lawyer would tear that up in court. He could just see the prosecutor trying to convince a jury that a nun would help a dangerous criminal escape from the asylum. Juries and judges tended to be very sympathetic towards nuns and priests.
On impulse, Jim touched Alex’s bed, breathing in her scent. The tingling he’d been feeling suddenly changed to more of a heightened awareness. Not like before, but…
“Jim? Everything ok, man?”
“I’m not sure.” He was slightly on edge, all of his senses up a notch. From far away he heard a voice say Alex’s name. He managed to filter most of the extra sensations out and focus on that voice, but the distractions were causing him to catch only bits and pieces of the conversation.
“…sucks, man! Barnes woman escapes and… Never get our bonus now!”
“Yeah. She wasn’t supposed to…days. …won’t even…get paid for keepin’ an eye…anymore.”
“Think…Feds took her? Maybe…didn’t wanna pay…bonus.”
Jim strained to hear them better.
“Whaddya think the Feds will…with her?”
“Hey, maybe she does have super powers? A killer like Alex Barnes would make…good assassin or agent or…”
“Maybe…in a lab like on X-Files. …slice and dice her.”
“That’s creepy, man.”
Jim couldn’t hold it and started to lose himself in other sounds…until he heard a voice. That one voice that could always reach him no matter where he went, no matter how deep.
“Jim? Did you hear anything that will help us out here?”
“The Feds knew what she was, Chief. They had a couple of guys here keeping an eye on her. Either Sister Maggie is working for the government and took Alex to them, or she has her own agenda. Either way, I don’t like it. I think it’s past time we paid a visit to Mary of the Woods.”
As they drove to the convent, Simon’s words played in Jim’s head. ‘The two of you never talk. Not about the important things.’ He had to tell Blair about the tingling. He hadn’t realized until they’d gone to the asylum that it was related to Alex. It got stronger when they’d visited her room. And then it had changed. It was like his other senses had opened up to her, searching for her essence. Was he going to lose it again when he saw her? Turn aggressive and take it out on Blair? He’d kept it secret the first time—thought he could handle it. But things got all screwed up. Maybe Simon was right. “Blair, there’s… I was feeling an odd tingling this morning. I didn’t know what it was so I just shrugged it off. But after we went to Alex’s room… It… I can feel her out there.”
Blair raised an eyebrow, his voice unusually quiet. “Is this a directional thing? Would you be able to track her down through this feeling?”
“It’s not like that. And it’s not like the other time.”
Blair shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What do you mean?”
“I know she’s nearby, but it’s not like before—that volatile mix of aggression, lust, revulsion.”
“Revulsion? You had an odd way of showing revulsion. What do you do with women you find attractive?”
“If you knew what was going on in my head then… I knew what she was, but I couldn’t stop myself. Believe me, Chief. It was revulsion. And not just for her. But this time it’s not the same and not nearly as strong—just ever-present. It’s a feeling through all my senses that she’s out there.”
Blair tried not to let Jim see the relieved look on his face. Somehow he thought his friend could tell anyway. “You know, I thought about this stuff a lot after…the fountain. Then I just kind of let it go over time—we both did. What you’re telling me now, though, brings to mind a couple ideas I was tossing around back then. In the beginning, I worked from the assumption that your abilities had to do primarily with your sensory organs, your brain, and the relationship between the two. After the stuff with the spirit animals, I was sure there was a mystical component, as well. Then the whole thing with Alex got us thinking about hormones and pheromones, too. But what if they play a much bigger role than we thought in what you can do?”
“Hormones, Chief? Do I really want to hear this?”
“Yes, you do. Think about what happens to most women experiencing the radical hormonal shifts of early pregnancy. It throws off a few of their senses. They start craving certain foods because the taste is somehow more pronounced, more distinct, more enticing. And the sense of smell seems to become enhanced, too—or in some cases altered.”
“So you’re saying I’m like a pregnant woman?”
“Jim. Work with me here, man. There was this professor I was helping a while back who loved fish and Italian food. For the first few months of her pregnancy, though, the smell of those kinds of foods became so strong she couldn’t stand to even be around them. On the other hand, she started eating chocolate like crazy even though she’d never been big on the stuff. She said there was just something about the taste she’d never noticed before. Maybe there’s an even stronger correlation between hormones and the senses in a Sentinel. The senses stimulate the hormones, which in turn heighten the senses—the two constantly playing off each other. Wow! I just had another thought! What about puberty? There are some major hormonal changes going on there. I wonder how that would affect a Sentinel? You were repressing your abilities during yours so we can’t tell, but I bet a fully on-line, adolescent Sentinel would have a very interesting puberty to say the least.”
Jim smiled indulgently at the way Sandburg was almost bouncing in his seat as he threw off ideas. “Then maybe it’s a good thing I was repressing. Going through puberty was rough enough without any of the ‘perks’ of being a Sentinel.” Jim was almost afraid to ask. “So what other theories did you have, Darwin?”
“You’re not going to like it.”
“Just get on with it.”
“Remember when I said that Sentinels were like pre-civilized men?”
“Yeah. That was right before I threw you up against a wall.”
“Well, we’re in a moving truck and you’re driving so you can’t do it this time. Pre-civilized men were closer to nature, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It seems to me that certain aspects of the whole Sentinel profile are closer to nature like that—animalistic almost. Most animals mate only when they’re in season.” Blair scooted a little farther away from Jim. “Maybe…maybe this isn’t Sentinel mating season?” The Guide nervously looked over at his Sentinel. Jim didn’t say anything, an angry clenching of his teeth the only sign of a response. “It really does make a kind of sense, Jim. It’s related to the hormone theory. Every time you met up with her it was like you were scenting each other out, doing some weird kind of mating dance. What you said about not having any control over yourself fits with that, too.”
Jim pulled over to the side of the road. He still gripped the steering wheel tightly, looking straight ahead. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes. Blair wisely didn’t utter a word, knowing Jim needed the silence to figure out what he was going to say.
“Blair, I’d like to think I have more free will than that—that I’m not just a bunch of raging hormones, some kind of animal. I don’t like not having control. You know that better than anyone. If any of this is true… What do we do about it?”
“Well, we get her spayed and you neutered. That should do the trick.”
It was said so deadpan, Jim thought he was serious at first. Then he saw his partner’s face and relaxed. “Very funny, Sandburg.” He finally let go of the steering wheel. “Seriously, what do we do?”
“I don’t think we have that problem this time. We know what to look out for and avoid. You said yourself the feelings were different this time. Do you want to see her? Touch her? Taste her? Hold her? Have wild, uninhibited sex with her?”
“A very strong ‘no’ to all of those—unless it’s ‘hold her’ in a choke hold or a vise-like grip as I haul her off to jail.”
“Then I’m not worried. Let’s go.”
“Just like that, ‘let’s go’?”
“Just like that. In one way, I am kind of disappointed. I was really looking forward to shooting you. You don’t think I could..? Maybe just once?” Blair tried to duck, but Jim managed to playfully cuff him on the back of the head anyway.
All Jim’s senses were focused on his Guide. Sandburg wasn’t lying about not being worried. Blair was ok. Jim pulled away from the curb. “So, did you have any more theories?”
“Nope. That was it.”
“Good. I thought for sure you’d come up with some weird cosmic reason why I’m not attracted to her this time. Like maybe the moon wasn’t in the seventh house or something.” He saw the goofy grin start to spread on Sandburg’s face. “And if you start singing ‘Age of Aquarius’, I swear I’ll throw you out of the truck without stopping.”
Blair didn’t say a word, but it was hard to keep from humming. It was like those horror movies where they tell the guy not to go in the basement, but for some reason he just has to go down there. He also caught himself mouthing the words several times before he noticed Jim giving him the evil eye. He smiled innocently at Jim’s feigned exasperation. It was going to be a long drive to Mary of the Woods and Blair was going to enjoy every minute of it.