Baiting the trap

Bekkah finished putting the groceries away in the kitchen cupboards. It had been an interesting experience shopping in an English grocery; the brand names were so different and there were many items she had never heard of before. It was Parker who helped her navigate through the maze; he did most of the shopping for Lady Penelope.

Jeff, Gordon, and Penelope were gone to Penelope's mansion outside the city. Gordon and Bekkah exchanged a quick good-bye kiss in the flat. After all, it wouldn't do for a newly-engaged woman to be kissing a man not her fiance in public, would it? Bekkah thought glumly. Brains was busy putting his clothes away in the tall chest of drawers. Bekkah would use the lower dresser for her own things. There was only one closet in the bedroom and they agreed to share it.

An uncomfortable silence filled the little apartment. Brains didn't know what to say to Bekkah. Ever since his declaration of love and the kisses they shared in Abidjan, he had left the subject of his feelings for her alone. It had been easy enough to do, despite his erotic dreams of her, and of Tin-Tin. She just hadn't been around. But now they were in a situation that he could have only dreamed of before. In an apartment, by themselves, one bedroom, one bed, to all appearances engaged to marry. He felt a strong urge to take advantage of it, to try and woo her affection for real. But as his basic decency had not let him savor his erotic dreams, so it would not let him indulge this new strong desire. He sat down on the bed, watching her unpack. She noticed him in the dresser mirror and turned to him with a small smile.

"I'm sorry. I've been a perfect witch about this whole thing. I wish we could find these people, destroy the machine, and get out of here right now. But I know this will take some time." She sat on the other side of the bed.

"I'll sleep on the couch," he said, getting up from the bed. A motion from her stopped him.

"Hiram, I think I can trust you enough that we can share the bed," she said, surprising him totally. He looked at her intently, seeking some sign, any sign, that she might mean more than just sleeping in that bed. He saw none. He got up to find the extra sheets.

"I'm flattered that you trust me, Bekkah. Unfortunately, I don't trust myself." He left the bedroom and made up the couch.

It was the restlessness that woke him. Bekkah thrashed around on the bed as if fighting someone in her sleep. She began to moan and babble and then sat bolt upright with a heartstopping shriek! Brains was on his feet in a trice, grabbing his glasses, and running to the bedroom. She had her arms across her raised knees and her head on her arms, sobbing. He sat gently on the bed, and reached out a hand to touch her shoulder. She jumped and recoiled from him, her face full of terror. Then she realized who he was, and relaxed, wiping her eyes.

"A nightmare?" he asked. She nodded.

"Please tell me about it?" he encouraged. She sniffed, still wiping her eyes, still trying to contain her sobs. He got up and went into the bathroom, bringing back with him a box of tissues, and sat down on the bed again. She took the tissues gratefully, blowing her nose several times before she was finally calm enough to talk.

"I was in the brain scanning chair, locked down like before, under the bright light. Ivan came in and told me that I could never get away from him. That he would always find me. And that he would finish what he started." She took a deep breath. "Then he started at my mouth and kissed me hard all the way down, ripping off my clothes as he went. I couldn't move. I couldn't fight him. I could do nothing but scream. And then...he finished raping me." This last statement was said in a voice so emotionless, so flat, that it gave Brains chills. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself as if cold, shivering and shaking.

He reached out his hand again to her shoulder, and she covered his fingers with her own. After a little while, the shivering stopped and her shoulders sagged, her emotions spent. She opened her eyes and looked at him, a faint smile on her face. "Thanks," she said simply.

He returned the smile, and got up from the bed, coming around to her side. "Here. Let me tuck you in," he offered. He pulled back the covers and she slid her legs under them, lying down on the sheets and putting her head on the pillow. He pulled the covers back up neatly, and she snuggled under them, looking so trusting and vulnerable that his heart caught in his throat. He began to leave the room when she held out a hand to him.

"Please stay. At least till I fall asleep?" she asked softly.

He hesitated for just a moment. "Let me get my pillow."

He came back and propped his pillow up against the head of the bed. Then he sat up against it, legs stretched out on top of the covers, watching and guarding, until the steady deep breathing beside him told him that Bekkah was again asleep.

He woke to the smell of something frying, and found that, sometime in the night, he had put his glasses on the nightstand and crawled under the bedclothes. Brains sat up and stretched, slid his glasses on, and got up, pulling the covers into a semblance of a made bed. He turned and caught a glimpse of himself in the dresser mirror: a tousled, squinting, and rumpled young man, stretching and rubbing the back of his neck to get the kinks out. A soft knock sounded at the door.

"Hiram? Are you awake? Are you decent?"

"Yes, Bekkah. I am. Both."

She poked her head into the room, her damp hair indicating that she'd already bathed. "Breakfast is ready." She withdrew her head.

"I'm coming." He put on his dressing gown and padded, barefoot, out to the kitchen.

"Now! Here's some news to warm my heart," said a cynical Sir James to his companion. "I never thought old Hiram would screw up the courage to ask Rebekkah to marry." He left the paper open to the society page, and handed it over to Heimana.

"Hm. Does this mean he lives in England?" she asked suspiciously.

"No, he has a house in Cambridge, but he usually lives near the Tracy Industries headquarters. That's in Kansas somewhere," Sir James explained, waving a hand dismissively.

"Then how can we bring him here?" Heimana asked, irritated at his lack of concern. She wanted to get on with the project.

"Have your boys found Ms. Campbell yet?" Masters asked.

"They have traced her to a sheep ranch in Bongo Bongo. It is only a matter of time until they spirit her away from there and bring her here," Heimana replied.

"Well, then. Our first order of business would be to... persuade... Dr. Rebekkah Barnes to pay us a call. If I know my old friend Hiram, he will follow right along after his lady love," Masters explained.

"And how do we lure Dr. Barnes here?"

"Hmmm. I'll have to give that one a bit of thought. She lives out there in that God-forsaken state, too. Near the Tracy Industries headquarters." Masters got up. "I think I'll place a call to an old friend of mine at Tracy Industries. She might be able to get the goods on Hiram and Rebekkah's whereabouts."

Jeff met them late in the morning with the limousine. Gordon looked uneasy; he had not had a good night's sleep brooding about Brains and Bekkah. She sat next to him and took his hand.

"You look tired, love." she said, leaning up against him. He smiled down on her.

"Had a bad night. My arm was bothering me," he explained.

I bet that wasn't the only thing bothering you, Brains thought glumly.

"We've got some flats to look at this morning," Jeff said. "Hopefully, we'll find one worth the trouble."

"Jeff, don't bother," Bekkah told him. "We made do last night, we can make do for the duration. Besides, you wanted us to keep an eye on each other. This is probably the best way to do it."

"In that case, we'll head over to Tracy Industries and you can get to work," Jeff said, both surprised by her decision, and relieved that he wouldn't be dragging all over London looking at apartments.

"At least I can get set up. They told me not to come into work until Monday," Bekkah said, looking out the window beyond Gordon. She turned to Jeff. "What should I do about transportation? I don't know how to drive on the left."

"We'll have a company car pick you up for work each day. Lovitt here will be your driver." He nodded to the man in the driver's seat. He leaned over to both of them and lowered his voice. "You are both to eat a transmitter before going out anywhere. I had packed a box with transmitters and solvent and left it in your kitchen last night. We want to be able to track you no matter what happens. You can drink the solvent at night before bed. Give your stomachs a rest." He handed them each an edible transmitter. Brains popped his right in.

Bekkah sighed heavily. "Those things give me such indigestion!" she complained. Seeing the long glowers and the furrowed brows around her, she spread her hands and nodded, adding wryly, "Okay, okay, I'll do it," as she ate the thing. The men seemed much relieved at her compliant attitude.

Once they reached the office, Gordon took her aside in the lobby to talk. "I'm not happy about you and Brains sharing that apartment. Knowing how he feels about you...well, I don't know if I trust him in that situation." Gordon admitted.

"Do I hear a green-eyed monster coming to life?" Bekkah quipped. "If so, I'm flattered." Her voice became more serious. "It might interest you to know that he doesn't trust himself in this situation, either. That's why he spent the night on the couch." Bekkah had not had a chance to tell Gordon about her nightmares at all. And she was not about to tell him about them now, nor about the comfort she had derived from Brains' presence the previous night. She was afraid he would insist on staying nearby, and that would complicate the tale they had woven about her engagement to Brains.

"I am capable of handling Hiram. You need to go home and get well," she told him bluntly. "I will be in touch every day, for the children's sake. Go back to the island and take care of yourself. And them, when you can." Her brown eyes gazed softly into his amber ones. She caressed his face, and they stole a kiss when no one was looking. Then she walked up to where Jeff was conversing with the office supervisor. In a few minutes, she had gone further inside the building, and Jeff and Brains were returning to Gordon.

"I've had them set Bekkah up with a laboratory-style classroom and a small office. Brains is going to stay and use one of the labs here, too." Jeff looked at his watch. "We'd better get to the airport and head for home, son. You look like you could use a rest and I've got plenty of work to do back at the island. Penny will be checking in with these two later." He drew Gordon along, waved at Brains as the latter went to the elevator, and then got in the limo and told Lovitt to drive them to the airport. If he noticed Gordon's preoccupied stare, he said nothing.

"Well, well, well!" Sir James came back from his phone call with a sly, speculative smirk on his face. "I just had the nicest talk with my old friend. She hadn't heard of my... incarceration, so she rambled on and on, so very intent on giving me the latest gossip at Tracy Industries. I swear, there is so little going on socially over there that I would be bored to tears working for Jeff Tracy."

Heimana was not impressed by Masters' long-winded spiel. She asked him bluntly, "Did you get the information you wanted? Where are Hackenbacker and Barnes?"

"Oh, yes, my sweet. I got an earful about the newly engaged couple. It seems old man Tracy has decided that it's time for Rebekkah to spread good cheer amongst the populace of Tracy Industries by giving a series of lessons on nanocircuitry. And he has assigned her to start at the Tracy Industries offices in London! Quite a coincidence, wouldn't you say, Heimana?"

"Too much of a coincidence. Where is Hackenbacker?"

"Well, after my friend went on and on about the size of the diamond on Rebekkah's finger, she giggled for a while about how romantic it was that the newly engaged couple were already setting up housekeeping together. They are both living in a flat not far from the Martins' place." Sir James shook his head and barked a short laugh. "I never knew old Hiram had it in him! Nor did I think Rebekkah would go for such a living arrangement. But maybe her experience with Virenov changed things."

"I don't like it. It's too convenient," Heimana said.

"Of course it is. We'll just have to tread carefully. I doubt that commando team I ran into last time will be so readily available again. And after all, this is London! What kind of trouble can they get into here?" Sir James said with a sarcastic tone. He sat down next to Heimana and began to kiss the back of her neck sensuously.

"No, our engaged pair won't know what hit them. And no one will be able to help them," he said as he began to arouse his lovely, lethal partner.