SIX YEARS BEFORE.
Lindleigh paces his office, almost relentless. It is spacious, bureaucratic - fitting of an administrative member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The same to be said of the slickness of his neatly combed hair - despite a boyish cowlick almost impossible to tame, shaving years off his already youthful appearance. But the crisp white of the dress shirt, and the deep charcoal of the suit facilitated the air of authority that he often sought to command. With arms draped behind his back, his hand absent-mindedly clutches the face of his Cartier wristwatch. Back, and forth. Back, and forth. Back, and ...
“AD Lindleigh,” the man speaks, the rustle of the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters echoing around him. “Inspector Cromwell is here.”
“Good, good.” He says tersely, the final utterance only a murmur. “Send him in.” The agent, bowing, steps out of the way to reveal a tall, finely dressed man with the remnants of an English heritage - accent included. He grins as Lindleigh approaches to shake his hand.
“Inspector Cromwell,” he begins, an air of professionalism underlining each word.
“Why, Remington!” His contemporary proclaims. “Is that all you have to show for an old friend?”
Lindleigh smiled inwardly. “This isn’t the service, and speaking of services, your assistance to the Bureau -”
“Might I see him?”
Cromwell takes a diligent step forward. “Might I see him?”
“Absolutely not.” He turns to be assured that his office door is securely closed. “Are you nuts?”
“Only to the extent which is allowed,” he grins, his grey eyes upturned with a strange romanticism. A serene stare into oblivion which he carried with him. He positions his hands more firmly atop his cane. “I want to see Penderan.”
“That’s not advised,” Lindleigh fires, struggling to maintain his impersonal air. “And even if it were…” He bites his tongue.
“Don’t take that tone with me, Remington. Those of us in Her Majesty’s service -”
“Save it.” He takes a seat at his desk. “This started Bureau, it’s gonna end that way.”
“Dear Remington, he was apprehended in Oxford. Therefore, he is ours. That is… unless your country is preparing an extradition.”
“I don’t know what we’re doing with him,” he murmurs in thought. “But it shouldn’t concern you.”
“Remington,” Cromwell is firm. “Why the intrigue? What is it that the Bureau knows, that they are unwilling to disclose?”
He holds up his hands. “I dunno. Honestly. I haven’t got a clue.” He rises from the desk. “But look, I have got enough to deal with without worrying about you, too.”
Cromwell laughs. “Worry? About me? Oh, that is funny.” He pauses. “Remington, are you at all aware of things of which he is capable?”
Lindleigh crooks a brow. “He’s a serial killer who uses a sword cane to decapitate young women and take their heads.” He shrugs. “What am I missing?”
Cromwell laughs, turning to the door. “Only the entire story.”
“Whatever. We’ve got enough to fry him. That’s all I know. That’s all I care.”
“Really? How very myopic.”
“Look, Liam. What’d you really come here for?”
“Just what I said. I hold no pretense.” He shrugs.
“Sure there’s not just a part of you dying to rub it in?”
“What on earth do you mean?”
Lindleigh sighs. “Okay, fine. Whatever. No, you may not see him.”
“So I see.” Cromwell adjusts his weight distribution upon spindly legs. “Well. I best be shoving off now.”
“Yeah, you best.”
Cromwell pauses momentarily at the door. “Funny, that some are calling him the Devil, wouldn’t you say?”
Lindleigh nods. “Not a bad description. A bit strong, but fits pretty damn well. Why, have you got something better?”
“Not me, old chap. But those of your very own.”
“The Mad Hatter.”
He snickers. “Great.”
“Well, then. Good day, old friend. Do be mindful of things, hmm?”
Lindleigh’s eyes turn to the black and white photograph upon his desk, the same one that had been placed there earlier that morning. “What things?”
Cromwell chuckles a bit to himself. “With Penderan? Everything.”
With that, he leaves the office, only the slight clacking of the cane to follow his footfalls. Remington is unable to tear his eyes from the page long enough to utter a reply.
© 2003 Aubigne Spratling. All rights reserved.