Something In the Water – BOOK TWO

SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read this page if you haven’t read “Book One: Drowning”!


Burns needed to stretch his legs. The tension had returned, in the form of a chill that started in his legs and quickly reached for his core. He knew it wasn’t fatigue. The night’s intense physical activity had charged his muscles and tuned his reflexes. Armed combat always cleared his mind and sharpened his senses.

He glanced at the clock and felt he’d already been sitting too long. He clenched his jaw to quell a shudder, then slowly filled his lungs through gritted teeth that almost whistled. He was trying to push down the chilling tautness in his gut with his breath. But the air was too cold to warm the blood where they met in his chest. He tried inhaling slowly through his nose and watched as he breathed out, expecting to see the thin vapour evaporate into the stillness around him. It wasn’t cold enough for that, but he couldn’t subdue the cold agitation gripping his liver.

Sitting, even for a few minutes, at this stage of the game had opened the door to frustration.

Burns stood up tall and shrugged his shoulders, keeping his arms at his sides he slowly leaned his torso over to his right then left, exaggerating the stretches for anyone who might be watching. Relaxed but ready, he projected. He stood spread-eagled and tried to twist the tension out of his body by turning his hips side to side. Burns especially didn’t want tension there.

He knew the agitation, the restlessness, wasn’t his muscles reaction to the battle. It was the frustration of sitting out that was twitching under his ribs. He didn’t like to sit out. Especially when it gave him too much time to think.

People, some more innocent than others, were dead. Burns had been responsible for some, but not the one that died in custody and none that didn’t deserve it.

Fifteen years had passed since Major Charles Burns removed himself from active engagement but, despite a few slips in judgement, he felt gratitude for the skill set he had maintained that allowed Not Yet Detective Sergeant Charles Burns to act on familiar, instinctive decisions and complete his most recent, ‘almost unofficial’ mission.Grateful, he told himself, not proud to have retained the will and the skill. He remembered repeating the phrase often with every group he was charged with training, reminding them all that he would only be “responsible for the last bit”. 

Burns had accomplished the mission given him by Chief Inspector John Wayne and brought Dr Veda back to London. Granted, with a little help from the CIA. Burns shook his head imagining the phone call between ‘The Duke’ and Bryce Hilts, CIA Agent and captain of the Ravens Men’s hockey team. He told Wayne enough about the extraction and sent the photo of the unknown victim in the lab in Reykjavik shortly after settling into his seat on the American transport back to London. He admitted the slip of not getting a photo of the two men he killed. Wayne offered nothing, just jotted down a note and moved on to the next order of business which was… nothing.

Burns frowned inwardly and acknowledged the anxiety was the tension that came from unanswered questions. He had rescued Dr Veda and yes, hastily destroyed what he considered to be biological agents of no good purpose. He didn’t regret acting outside the directive, much less not admitting his level of responsibility in the destruction of the underground facility. Ivanov’s explosives were too conveniently placed to pass up. The bomb Burns hadn’t found effectively covered his sabotage efforts. Besides, the evidence was there in Ivanov’s file, his modus operandi was a policy of scorched earth exits. How had he known to get out before Burns or his American ‘Cousins’ even left London?  And where was Vladimir Konstantin Ivanov now?

Burns looked over at Hilts, who was sitting on the bench opposite, with the rest of the Ravens. 

Burns had let the frustration boil over into anger. He had caught an opponent off balance in a scrum in front of the net and given his opposite number, a gangly winger named Clarke who usually stayed on the edge of the play, just enough of a bump to send him arse over tea kettle into the net. None of Clarke’s teammates on the ice took exception to his rough play. Burns guessed his game face, the snarling smile he’d cultivated playing competitive hockey in Calgary, had dissuaded any would-be Enforcers as he skated away from the cluster. Burns doubted there were any goon-type players on the Saints, a team sponsored by one of the oldest Anglican churches in England. Still, he figured he had better confirm it with a menacing skate past the Saints’ bench. Suddenly the referee blew the whistle repeatedly and Burns spun around to see what had triggered what sounded like a panicky call for help. When the referee pointed at him and signalled an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty, Burns let loose a string of measured insults aimed at the diminutive young ginger-haired woman, who fought back brilliantly. She put Burns in his place, the penalty box, for an extra ten-minute misconduct.

Burns sat down before looking up at the time clock and bounced back up when he saw there was less than a minute remaining is his sentence. His sudden movement jolted the Timekeeper’s attention away from the action on the ice. Burns directed the chubby volunteer’s bespectacled eyes to the timer counting down the last few seconds of his penalty. He followed the timekeeper’s gaze as it squinted at the heavy bolt on the gate and back up to the clock.

It was only a few seconds after Burns’ penalty expired when Hilts ‘accidentally’ shot the puck into the Saints bench, causing a stoppage in play. Burns skated onto the ice and checked in with the Captain.  He gave Hilts a nod of gratitude.

“No apologies necessary,” Hilts smiled. He glanced over at the referee and whispered, “Can women have a Napoleon Complex?”

Burns laughed and turned to another teammate, Danny Salloum, who played right wing when Burns wasn’t on the ice. “Take a break, Danny?” Burns asked. Salloum nodded and looked up at the clock.

“Better get us one, Burnsy.”

“Roger that,” Burns grinned.