Circumstances had changed since the riots. The disenfranchised youth grew, understood and adapted. The Hesiod learned from its children, expanded and organized. The original components functioned; the new members lived.
Miles Rizden, financial wizard and orchestrator of Old City crime, had been behind the scenes since the beginning. He was a calculating child with a quicksilver grin and then a callous man with the golden touch. Success was inevitable. He earned the degree, found the connections and built an empire – impressive in the days of strict government oversight. And then, as the world turned to madness and the government screamed for control, he realized that his purpose was to undermine its power.
There was a time when his bosses called him charming when he was sly and clever when he lied. He was persuasive, believable and clear-headed. They called him reliable. He excelled, and they called him Boss.
The Hesiod called him Recruiter.
When he brought Apollo Passos into his world of darkness, it had been for the organization. The boy wasn’t a brother. Miles was a handler with a slick tongue, and Apollo was the new recruit, a man with the skill sets of someone he would never meet.
Each team member had the abilities of another. The parts were interchangeable and managed to form the same composite no matter how they were jumbled. It was the smartest way to avoid government infiltration. Each team member was to be fungible, a simple commodity to be traded for an identical skill.
At least, that is what he’d thought at the time. Circumstances changed. They always did. Beliefs became devotions, coworkers became friends and business got personal. It always did. Before he knew it, the little radicals he guided onto his side were more than pawns. They were family.
It was the phone that woke Miles. He sat upright in the darkness of the bunker, surprised at the chill, and fumbled for the light switch as the caller disconnected and redialed. His fingertips brushed rough concrete, and he sighed heavily before clapping twice.
The light was blinding. Given the hideous surroundings, Miles was almost glad he couldn’t see; the gray slab walls would bore him to death if he saw them much longer. The room was a cellar once used as a cistern during the early twentieth century. It had been retrofitted with electricity and plumbing since then, making it an adequate but dismal living quarters. The natural surfaces were gritty and had a tendency toward the damp, so he didn’t risk decorating.
He reached the phone and answered on the third redial. The monotonous voice relayed the message, and his stomach dropped.
We found the sun halfway across the River Styx. He’s visiting friends with allergies.
He sat back on his cot and digested the words with his head in his hands. Apollo had been missing for months. A search of his apartment turned up nothing but rumors, which was to be expected. A search of the prison, however, turned up empty. He had vanished, a ghost among phantoms. When Jack Kohel walked free, Miles had expected the worst.
But the boy was alive. That much, at least, was a relief. The message indicated that he was badly injured but breathing. Allergies… They were taking him to Dr. Lewis, the veterinarian, for help. Miles did a mental scan of his peoples’ positions across the city and hit upon the industrial complex in the southeast Erstine District as the most likely spot of origin.
The concrete door had never seemed like more of an imprisonment. The room was a glorified bank vault, but it was the safest place to hide while his possessions were being seized by the government. Miles had an undying faith in reason. He knew better than to leave this cell, walk outside and head east until he arrived at the animal hospital; routine police scans would catch him before he made it three blocks.
By all rights Miles should be there, though. If ever his little brother needed him, it was now. If ever there was a place he ought to be, it was by Apollo’s side. The kid had never let him down after all the years and horrible things he’d been asked to do, and Miles knew his absence tonight was pure failure to live up to that trust.
He paced anxiously from cot to shower in twenty well-traced steps. The phone would not ring again. The message would not be repeated, and protocol forbid radio communication if there was a death. He would never know unless he opened the bunker door.
After fifteen minutes he turned to the door, his jaw set. He was a mastermind. He was clever, a quick thinker and a smooth talker, but as he wrenched the heavy door open he felt only naked fear.
If ever there was a benevolent force at work, he prayed, let it work tonight.