And Now These Three Remain
Written February 2011
Synopsis: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Erica’s abduction by a Visitor forces Jack to confront his feelings for her.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of The Scott Peters Company, HDFilms, Warner Bros. Television, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
Chapter One: Faith
The grunting and muted blows weren’t exactly unusual, yet Hobbes didn’t expect to hear them in the middle of the night. Coffee in hand, he headed down the stairs to Fifth Column’s basement headquarters to find Jack Landry unleashing hell on a heavy bag.
Normally, captured Vs hung from the hook where the heavy bag had been suspended. Perhaps Jack was envisioning a Visitor in its place. His blue tank was soaked through, sweat coating his body. His hands were bare instead of wrapped or gloved.
Hobbes stopped at the foot of the stairs and frowned at him. “Did you even go home last night?” No answer. When he had left shortly after midnight, Jack was still here, staring absently at the floor. He wasn’t responsive then either, but none of them had really felt like talking.
Seven hours and eleven minutes.
Erica had been missing for seven hours and eleven minutes.
Her last correspondence had been a hushed phone call to Hobbes. The V she had been tracking had entered an abandoned warehouse, and she needed backup. She had barely finished relaying the address when she cried out. Over the line, Hobbes heard a gunshot, followed by the most awful high-pitched screech. A half-scream, a crack, and then … silence.
When Hobbes reached the warehouse, Jack and Ryan in tow, no one was there. They found her cell phone next to a large pool of blood and a clump of blond hair. Erica’s hair. Back at headquarters, Sidney tested the blood. Erica’s blood.
But no Erica. And no V.
Jack had contacted Tyler, a conversation which started with “Why do you have my mom’s phone?” and ended with “This is your fault. If she’d never met you, she’d be fine right now!” Tyler’s words had cut deep; it was evident on Jack’s face, in his hunched shoulders. Hobbes thought it was pointless for Jack to take the blame or even feel remotely responsible, but then again he’d never been particularly emotional. In his line of work, emotions were too easily manipulated in order to gain control.
As he watched Jack now, it was clear that he had moved on from that guilt to anger. His punches were quick and strong, his feet shifting side to side in front of the bag. Good. They needed him focused if he was going to be any use to them. Distracted, he was a liability that they couldn’t afford.
Hobbes sat down at the computer and checked for messages. Nothing. Despite their best efforts, they had yet to locate Erica. From an understandably distraught Tyler, Lisa had learned of her disappearance and pledged to do whatever she could to locate the V who had taken her. Ryan and Sidney were back at the scene, looking for any additional clues as to where she might have been taken. Hobbes had offered to remain at headquarters and wait for word from Lisa while following up on his own leads. Jack had said he was going to St. Josephine’s, but obviously he hadn’t been there long.
Hobbes leaned back in the chair, fingers threaded behind his head. “It’s not your fault, you know.” Still no response. He expected as much. “Look, Tyler’s scared. He thinks you’re a threat because he doesn’t know the truth. When we find her, she’ll set him straight.”
“If we find her,” Jack corrected harshly.
“When we find her,” Hobbes repeated, walking over to him. “Her body was gone. She could be alive.”
“That much blood? Without medical treatment, you don’t survive.”
“What do you want me to say, Jack? That Erica is dead? Well, I don’t believe it – and neither should you. What happened to faith?”
Jack pivoted toward him, fists still raised in a boxing stance. Hobbes didn’t flinch. Exhaustion and worry and anger – strong, ugly anger – lined the priest’s face, and a deep sadness clouded his blue eyes, turning them almost grey. Hobbes had never seen him like this. “Faith,” Jack repeated slowly, mockingly. “Faith that the Visitor is compassionate? That he has mercy on a human’s life?”
“No. Faith that your God will protect her. That’s what you Catholics preach, isn’t it?”
He had the impression that Jack wanted to say something else to him, blurt out some kind of confession or maybe an expletive, but instead he merely turned his attention toward the heavy bag and continued punching.
“Listen. No matter what happens, whether Erica is alive or not … the Fifth Column will survive.”
Jack shook his head.
“It’ll be okay.”
“No.” Jack’s voice echoed in the room, and his punches became sharper, angrier. “It won’t be okay. It will never-” Thump! “-be-” Bang! “-okay!” The heavy bag fell from its tether and landed on the floor with an unimpressive flop, teetering helplessly before becoming still. Jack let out a gasping sob and jammed his palms against his eyes.
The silence spoke volumes. Hobbes was not stupid, nor was he oblivious to his surroundings. Jack and Erica had a strong bond, forged at the moment they met. He didn’t pretend to understand it: trust should be earned, not given after the first hello, and even then it was on shaky ground. Losing her had been hard on all of them. Her job with the FBI generally kept them one step ahead, sometimes leading them to another Fifth Column cell, and she was important to the anti-V movement.
To Hobbes, she was an acquaintance, an informant. If necessary, he would end their relationship with a bullet – albeit reluctantly, since she’d done him more than one favor. But to Jack, she was more than a business partner, more than a source of information. She was a friend. Just a friend?
He noticed the blood on Jack’s raw knuckles, some dried and some fresh, and retrieved a towel from the nearby supply locker. Taking a tray of ice from the mini fridge, he dumped a few cubes into the towel, twisted it shut, and handed it to Jack. “For your hands.”
Jack took the towel and pressed it against his left hand, wincing slightly. “Thanks,” he muttered.
“She doesn’t know, does she?” No answer, and although he knew it wasn’t for lack of understanding, he clarified, “You never told her you’re in love with her. Now you’re afraid you’ll never have the chance.”
Jack turned away from him but not before Hobbes caught the stark honesty in his expression.
Hobbes had expected this development. Their anti-V activities put them in constant danger, and danger was a breeding ground for infatuation, sex, love: the desire for companionship from someone who understood you, the misplaced feeling of safety in the arms of another, never knowing if you’d live to see tomorrow. He’d taken lovers during his days in the SAS. Besides, Erica was smart, attractive, fierce, and the only female in their group, aside from the lizard princess Lisa, and she was off-limits for all kinds of reasons. So Hobbes wasn’t really surprised with one of them developing some kind of feelings for Erica. He just hadn’t expected it to be the priest. That was a love story destined for Maury or Springer.
A soft chirp interrupted the silence. Lisa’s communique.
He slid into the chair, entered the password, and opened the encrypted file. Instead of a long dossier of the V suspect and where to find him, as he had expected, it contained only a few words: powerful words, uplifting words.
I am bringing her home.
End of chapter one