“You want me to do what?” Bubbles said.
She sat up in the bed, still naked from their lovemaking. The sheets pooled around her waist and legs and she didn’t bother holding them up to cover herself. James tried not to stare too much. He cleared his throat.
“I uh, want you to chat with your ex-boyfriend and find out where they took someone.”
“And just why would I do that?” she said, running a hand through her dark hair. There was a fresh scar across her ribs, white and angry in the dim light from a lone window.
He sat on the end of the bed and ticked off a finger one at a time. “First, you wanted to know about the virus right? Two, you wanted know where it came from? Well… this guy might know the answers to both of those.”
“And just how do you figure?”
“Well…” he said and cleared his throat.
She crossed her arms beneath her breasts, pursing her lips. Her head tilted slightly to one side. It was the universal sign for, ‘right, you are so full of shit.’ He tried not to focus on how the gesture made her breasts look. He had a nagging memory of them as she mounted him an hour before.
“Okay, so remember how I punched Holden in the face?” he said, pointing a thumb behind him towards the Administration Building. She nodded, smirking.
“Yes, but I wasn’t there.”
“Doesn’t matter. Well they hauled my ass down to the brig right? Well this guy was in a cell next to me. I don’t think Holden meant that to happen, because when my dad got me, he was pissed. Like he didn’t want me near this guy. Turns out? He was from Kurama.”
She raised a brow and then furrowed it in thought. Her hands came away and she rested her elbows on her knees.
“He was brought in by chopper a few months back, wasn’t he?”
“I actually have no idea.”
“Well, see,” she said and then winced. She had tried to move both of her arms but instead sank back down into her bed with a sigh. For a time, she didn’t move and her breathing became more even, almost restful. James reached over and squeezed her foot through the blanket.
“Shut up a second.”
He did, watching her in the darkness. The light coming in through the window was just enough to show her shoulder and half of her face. Her eyes were closed, her jaw tense. After another minute of silence, she exhaled.
“Fuck, okay so a while back… what, maybe three months ago? We were tipped off that some Kurama agents were going to be in Solon’s Wake. Orders were to fly down there, clean house on any Infected and intercept the chopper. They had some guy with them, a scientist I think.”
“Yeah, don’t you listen, Cubby? Fuck.” She groaned as she sat up. “Anyway, we brought them back here. That’s the last I saw of them.”
“Who was this scientist guy?”
“Kirner? Kirkner? I think? Look, it wasn’t me on point that day. It was Jazz.”
“And he’s missing,” James said, standing up with a curse. Now he really wished he was on that mission. If he could talk to Jazz, maybe he’d get somewhere. A scientist? Kurama agents? The Carnival? How did this all fit together? Did it even connect?
He felt her against his back, her arm on his shoulder. When he turned, he could barely make out her face in the darkness, but she was frowning. Her eyes were on his.
“You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?”
“Not yet. Something is going on here, and it doesn’t make sense.”
“There’s a fucking zombie apocalypse out there, Jimmy. Of course it doesn’t make any fucking sense.”
“This guy, his name is Chris Fox, he said that my father was connected to this somehow, that he was going to do something dangerous.”
“And you just believed him? Fuck, Jimmy, you said he was in the brig right? What makes you think he wasn’t feeding you a line of bullshit?”
James shrugged. He wasn’t sure himself but found that he did believe him. His father was up to something, something he didn’t want James to know about.
“When I was a kid, my dad used to get really drunk. I would hide in my room because he’d start screaming all this shit. I just figured he was angry at mom for leaving, you know? And he was scary as hell when he was like that. But he’d start in on how someone needed to do something about this country. Fix it. Start over.”
“Start over?” she said, her voice quiet. There was a tone of disbelief in there too. “He was just drunk.”
“Maybe. He’d bitch about no one having any morals or values and things.”
“I don’t know. Before I left for flight school, he got a call. I didn’t think anything of it but he was talking the same shit. Said one day, things were going to have to change.”
“Are you suggesting your father has something to do with all this?”
“No, no,” he said and sat down on the bed. She sat with him. He felt her body rest against his side in the darkness. All he could see of her was a faint outline of her shoulder, thigh, and knee.
“I don’t know, but I think this Chris Fox guy knows something. Something that might keep my dad from doing something drastic. I need to talk to him. I just do.”
She sighed and for several moments, said nothing. When she did, she rested her cheek against his shoulder. He felt her eyelashes flutter against his arm.
“Sorry,” she grumbled. “I just… don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“I’ll owe you. C’mon, Jan.”
“You already owe me,” she said, coughing. “You got off and I didn’t.”
“Yeah. Did you mistake that sigh of mine for pleasure and not ‘c’mon asshole that’s all you had?'”
James felt his cheeks burn. He cleared his throat, swallowed, cleared it again. That whole episode had been a fumbling sham. He’d thought too much of Elena, heard her voice instead of Janine’s.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Like I said, you owe me,” she said and reached up to grab his chin in her good hand, turning his face down to hers. Her eyes sparkled in the light from the window. For a brief moment, they looked like Elena’s.
“This is all we have, right here. If I go looking into this… what if the information you’re looking for isn’t what you want to hear? What if… I mean, we’re safe here. We have water, food, even some electricity. Are you sure you want to ask about this guy?”
And that’s when he knew. Elena’s eyes looked that same way when she’d told him they were discovered. When they knew something terrible. He pulled away from her but she caught his hand.
“You know damn well who he is, and who this scientist is, don’t you?”
Her eyes narrowed and he felt her hand slacken on his. At first, he thought she wouldn’t say anything, but her eyes glistened and closed them.
“Did Holden put you up to this? To coming on to me? To talking to me?”
“No,” she said, sighing. “Your dad did.”
“Fuck!” James said and shook off her hand. Rage built up in his chest, his heart pounding hard in his chest. “Why? What the fuck is going on?”
“I don’t know!” she said. “And I didn’t want to, okay? So he said to just talk to you, calm you down. Said you were getting stupid notions in your head. He knew I had a thing for you and that Elena was dead so–”
“What?” he said, his rage suddenly freezing over and being replaced with fear. “How do you know?”
“Jim, I… I was just guessing that…”
“Tell me,” he said, his voice a growl in his throat. He moved towards her, a hand gripping her bad shoulder and squeezing. She cried out.
“What?” he said, easing up on the pressure on her shoulder. She slipped out and scrambled back in the bed, her breathing quick.
“Holden… he, he said she was dead!”
“Why… how would he know? Did he see her?”
“I don’t know, honest! I don’t!”
James moved away from the bed, trying to settle his frazzled nerves. Holden knew something about Elena. Why? Why would he know that? And if he knew, his father knew. Why wouldn’t his father tell him? It didn’t make any sense.
“Jimmy,” she said and he looked over at her. She was still curled up in the corner of the bed, looking pale and small in the light. It made him ashamed and angry at himself. It made him even angrier at his father. He’d asked her to do this.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice very quiet. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
“It’s all right–”
“No, no it’s not,” he said and moved towards the door. “Just tell me you know nothing about her. About any of this?”
She shook her head in the darkness, but he could see the sway of her hair, the subtle movement in her breasts. It was enough. Maybe she was lying and he just wanted to believe her, but that was for later.
“What are you going to do?”
“Have a talk with my dad,” he said and opened the door to her room.
“Just… for what it’s worth? I’d have talked to you anyway.”
James tried to smile at her but it didn’t work. The truth was that her words didn’t help at all. They only felt empty and hollow.
“Goodnight,” he said and left.
Outside, the gates were opening and humvees were rushing through. The roar of an A-10 passed overhead. Men were shouting and hurrying to the vehicles as wounded were brought out.
James watched as a man was dragged out of one of the humvees. His wrists were bound and a black bag was over his head. Holden stepped in front of the soldiers and waved them towards the administration building. For a moment, he looked James’s way. When he smiled, James spat into the snow and stalked over to him.
“I thought you were confined to–”
James grabbed hold of his vest and shook him. “You said Elena was dead. How? How the fuck would you know that?”
Holden shoved him back and two other men quickly grabbed James by the arms and restrained him. Without a word, Holden punched him right in the face and James saw stars. His vision blurred and his right eye felt slow to respond. Something wet and warm trickled down his cheek.
“Get him back in his room and make sure he doesn’t leave it.”
“Where’s my father?” James said, his voice slurring.
“Indisposed,” Holden said. “I’ll let him know you were… asking after him.”
“Get him out of my face,” Holden said and the two men holding James turned and began to drag him back towards the barracks.
“Oh and Jimmy?” Holden called after him. “I know, because I killed her.”