The Meeting

Two hours later, Stepney was on his way to a drinking house, his mind soothed, ready to learn. He entered, scanned the bar, and his eyes alighted on Calvin. Her brief disorientation from the message was gone. Her hair was tied back, her clothes professional, her demeanour cold. She looked every bit the expert she was, with a seeming detachment from the rest of the world some branded inhumane. On another woman, her body could have seemed beautiful. On her it seemed only prepared.

He took a drink from the bar and made his way over to her. She was sipping a glass of red wine. Stepney raised an eyebrow; in all the time he had known her he had seen her touch alcohol perhaps once, twice. Perhaps never.

He cleared his throat. “Calvin.”

“Stepney.” Her eyes regarded him, the slightest hint of a smile being her only gesture towards pleasantry.

“You are looking well.” Stepney smiled to himself. It was true, of course. Others only saw the stern Calvin of science and figures. Yet within that Calvin lay another. It was as though her emotions had become compressed, capable of only the mildest show of feeling yet with an infinite number of degrees within that range. For another, she would have seemed placid, even cold. Yet Stepney could read her. Calmness. Calmness and fear.

“Thank you. As are you.” She sipped from her wine. He noticed the glass shaking almost imperceptibly in her grasp. “So. The girls.”

“The girls, yes.”

“Eleven so far.”

“Ten.”

“Eleven.” Calvin took a piece of paper, folded, from her pocket and passed it to Stepney. He glanced at it for only a moment. I must leave you…

He looked at her, trying to read her eyes, to understand. He could read trouble, anxiety, determination. But not their source. “Who is she?”

“Her name is Hypa. She works at the lab with me. Her parents contacted me to see if I knew where she would go. I didn’t. But I saw the note and needed to contact you.”

Stepney nodded and smoothed out the note before him, staring at it thoughtfully. It seemed somehow different to the others. He returned his gaze to Calvin, meeting hers as best he could. “I will keep you updated on how everything goes. Any information would be much appreciated.”

“There seems to be no reason for her to have disappeared.”

“There never is.”

“She just disappeared without warning.”

“They always do.” Stepney felt the sadness ball up within him, the kind of terrible helplessness that came with his work. While operating, he could hide it, bury it, dissolve himself into the task ahead. Yet when dealing with friends, family, the void became a vacuum, dragging him deeper down into its clutches. “We are doing all we can.”

“You and…Harlow.” The disgust was obvious in her voice.

“He may prove useful.”

“He is a dangerous lunatic. He cannot be trusted.”

“You cannot know that.”

“He is a Neurophant. I know it well.” In spite of herself, a tiny flicker of anger burned within her eyes. Stepney withdrew his gaze, yet refused to fall to silence.

“His abilities have proven useful in the past. They may prove useful again.”

“They will not.” Calvin glared at him. “All his magic, his rituals, his strange concoctions. It is a fraud. He is a fraud. He has occasional bursts of insight, passes them off as mysticism. It is smoke and mirrors, nothing more. And people like you – intelligent, modern people – take him seriously.”

“You cannot know that. Even your own research has not -”

“Our research has shown that those like him simply process data in a different manner to the rest of the populace. Take it from a different angle, if you like. Make connections. Sort information. Find links, make ties, weave data together into a new version of reality. On occasion, that version is the truth. More often it is not. Either way, it is guesswork and nothing more.

“He does not offer truth, merely a different perspective. His mind is an accident. Not the work of angels.

“And now you would put us all in danger, risking children, innocent children, on the basis of incoherent guesswork on the part of an intoxicated pervert. How do you sleep, Stepney?”

A silence fell between them, uncomfortable. It was the first time he had seen her angry, truly angry. That she distrusted men such as Harlow was well known. Yet this was something new, something different. Something troubling. She had lost control. Calvin never lost control.

Eventually she broke the silence, her voice back to its normal, controlled level. “I apologise. My anger was out of line. Although I do not take back what I said. The man is a dangerous fraud and a waste of your time.”

“If you say so.” Stepney’s voice was steady, calm.

“I do.” She smiled, softly, uncertainly. “Would you care for another drink?”

“Thank you.” He watched her as she made her way to the bar. Distractedly, his eyes returned to the note before him. He read it and re-read it before noticing what separated it from the others. While they had opened with Mother. Father., this opened with but a single word.

Calvin.

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Published in: on April 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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