He tugged at his jeans, pulling at a loose strand of cotton, and twisted it around his fingers, watching the skin bulge and redden. Zaf knew exactly why he was so on edge, why he sat on the edge of his seat, poised for flight or flight, and forced himself not to flinch as he heard footsteps outside. It was not that they were loud, he was simply more attuned to the outside world. After all, that was how he managed to get back here. Sarah Caulfield was oblivious, and didn't spare him a second glance as he made his excuses and slipped into the hallway. Zaf pressed himself against the wall and held his breath, closing his eyes to better focus his hearing. There was the unmistakeable sound of a lock being picked and he shuffled toward the shadows, careful to keep himself out of sight. The woman entered, not bothering to close the door behind her, and crept forward, keeping close to the wall.
In the dim light, she looked like a ghost, somehow part of the shadows that wrapped around her body. She moved silently, placing one foot carefully in front of the other, and Sarah wasn't prepared when Ros placed one hand on her shoulder, pushing her down hard, and pressed the barrel of her gun against the base of her skull. Sarah immediately tried to twist around, and her cry of pain when Ros hit her against the temple with a closed fist echoed around the room.
"Don't be silly."
Ros' words, spoken in low voice, cut through the air like a knife and Sarah held her hands out and slowly rose to her feet, throwing her gun away at Ros' command. The American's fear was tangible, stifling in the small hotel room, and Zaf would have felt pity were she anyone else.
"Now, you tell me everything."
Three days ago.
"... since the McIntyre lead was closed down, I cross-referenced everything we knew about Nightingale with some of the more recent intelligence coming from Russia, and while there were a few, small tangential elements, there isn't enough that would suggest that the Russians know any more about this than we do. I'd even go so far as to say they are looking to defeat Nightingale much like ourselves."
Ruth spoke quickly, as if speed would soften her words, and Harry blew out a long breath. He looked around the conference table, noting the fatigue that emanated from his officers. All had been short on sleep since the summit bombing, and it was beginning to show.
Ros leant forward and rested her forearms on the table. "I have a friend within the FSB who might be able to help us with Linderman; maybe that will give us a possible lead."
Silence greeted her words. The idea that Ros had an FSB friend seemed unbelievable. She wasn't renowned for her tolerance of Russian officials.
"You have a friend within the FSB," Lucas said, voicing everyone's opinion.
"Yes, Lucas," Ros replied somewhat stiffly, "contrary to your apparent belief, not all FSB operatives drink vodka, play cards, and plan the demise of the United Kingdom."
Lucas grinned. "Quite."
Harry cleared his throat, breaking their banter.
"Nothing," Ruth said apologetically. "I can't find anything relevant."
"All right," Harry said, standing, "I'm going to brief the Home Secretary about this... lack of progress."
"Do you want me there?" Ros asked.
His eyes snapped to hers, and Harry examined her carefully; a smile played at the corners of her mouth, one that said quite plainly 'I know something you don't know.'"
"I'm sure I can manage, Ros," he said after a pause.
She nodded, her eyes rich with amusement. "Of course, Harry."
Andrew glanced up as Harry entered, disappointed that Ros wasn't one step behind him as was usual. He kept that thought to himself as he gestured for the older man to sit down.
"Have there been any developments?" he asked.
Harry shook his head. "We're still gathering intelligence, but this is a smart enemy, one that can't be brought down in a day."
"So, the terror alert remains 'critical?'"
Neither man said anything and Harry took the chance to study Lawrence more closely. He had a grudging respect for the younger man, but nevertheless felt a degree of animosity towards him. Whether that be because he had taken Nicholas Blake's position, or his 'link' to Nightingale he wasn't sure. Harry frowned as he thought of Ros' relaxed demeanour around Lawrence, not something many were granted, but surely she wouldn't...
"Sir Harry?" Lawrence said, sounding genuinely concerned.
"I don't have anything else to offer," Harry admitted, "but we are working on it."
Andrew nodded, satisfied. "I'm sure you can unravel this mess."
They rose to their feet simultaneously and Lawrence walked him to the door, holding it open.
"Give my best to your team, Sir Harry."
Harry started, but was given no chance to reply as he was ushered out of the office; Lawrence turning almost immediately to his desk, Harry certain the younger man was smiling as he went.
They sat in Hyde Park, on one of the many benches, not looking at each other but rather at the pond before them. Her partner was tall, at least a half-foot taller than her, good-looking, and he viewed the world through a set of cold, grey eyes, akin to steel. Petr inched closer and stretched his arm along the back of the bench, his fingers tapping her shoulder with feather-light touch. She could remember those hands well, at times gentle, at times brutal, but always protective.
"Rosa," he said, tracing circles on her shoulder, "I can't imagine you asked me to come here only to sit down and say nothing."
His voice carried only the slightest trace of an accent, so little she doubted most were aware of his Russian ancestry. Ros inwardly smiled as she remembered their first meeting fifteen years ago. He had seen her fall and, being the gentleman he was, helped her to her feet. The rest, as they say, is history.
"You'd prefer not to hear from me?" she said, finally turning to look at him.
He splayed his finger around her shoulder, squeezing it gently.
"You know that's not true."
Ros' lips twitched as she withdrew a file from her coat and handed it to him.
"Who is this?" he asked, flicking through it quickly.
"Hans Linderman," Ros answered, "we believe he has links to a group called 'Nightingale.'"
"What does this have to do with me?" Petr asked, tucking the file into his coat.
"Can you dig into his background?"
"And what do I get in return?" he said, his lips curved upward.
"My gratitude," Ros responded, trying and failing to hide a smile.
"I guess that will have to be enough."
Harry shook water from his coat as he entered the Grid and his mouth twisted into a frown as his eyes fell on Ros who sat at her desk, eyes fixed on the computer screen. She had obviously arrived not long ago, for she was no less wet, her hair slicked down and shirt damp.
"Hello, Harry," she said, not looking up.
He crossed the room and leant against her desk. Up close, Ros looked tired, the smudges beneath her eyes like bruises, not quite hidden by make-up. "Have we got anything new?" he asked, choosing not to comment. His experience with women had taught him that one should never comment on whether or not a women was tired.
She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I met my contact; hopefully they can give us more information on Linderman, but other than that..." Ros shrugged and for a moment looked defeated, then she straightened and jutted her chin forward. She swivelled around so she faced him and draped her arm over its back. "What about you; how was the Home Secretary?"
"He seemed disappointed we were no closer to finding out whoever runs this organisation," he said, watching her carefully, "but seems to realise these things take time."
"That sounds reasonable."
He pushed off the desk and leant down to speak into her ear.
"Your contact? I don't suppose you'll give me a name?"
Ros raised an eyebrow. "I'm afraid not, Harry."
Two days ago.
Ros entered the museum, winding her way toward the room housing the Raphaels. Petr was already there, sitting on one of the benches. In his hand he held a booklet of some sort, and she looked over his shoulder, smiling as he skimmed the pages. Inside was a map of the 'Victoria and Albert', telling where the main attractions were.
"You know, I prefer these to the tapestries," he said conversationally, turning a page as she sat down next to him.
"Is that so?" she said, moving close.
She looked up at the paintings, ignoring him for the time-being.
"Your Linderman is a... slippery character," Petr said, closing the booklet and turning towards her.
"That I already knew."
"A friend of a friend has a contact who might be of use to you," he continued, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a file. "Sasha Ballantyne; she used to work for Linderman until recently."
"How is she useful?" Ros asked, taking the file from his out-stretched hand.
"Well, Rosa, you know the saying. 'Hell hath no fury...'"
Ros rolled her eyes, motioning for him to continue.
"Before she left, Sasha put some programs in place that relay data to her home computer. It details transactions, his inbox etcetera. Sasha has been selling these details to the highest bidder," Petr said, his lips curving upward in a smile at Ros' expression.
"How the hell do we not know about this?" she asked incredulously.
"Miss Ballantyne is not a proud British citizen," Petr responded with a shrug of one shoulder. "She prefers the friendly Russians."
Ros raised a supercilious eyebrow.
"All right," he conceded, "she has been selling the information to his competitors, one of whom is a source. Happy now, Rosa?"
She smiled. "Very."
Petr laughed and stretched his arm out to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
"Be careful, Rosa," he said sincerely. "Sasha may look like a school girl, but she is more dangerous than she seems."
Ros nodded, knowing that Petr would not give a warning if it weren't for a good reason.
"Thank you, Petr."
Zaf shrank into the shadows as Ros' contact walked past. He had followed this man – known to him as 'Alexis Sidorov' to the museum, and watched as he met with his former colleague. The two spoke softly, and he'd heard nothing of their conversation, but he had seen the exchange of files and knew that Ros was coming ever-closer to the heart of Nightingale. It wasn't something that surprised him a great deal, he had always known Ros was a skilled officer, but even so; to get this close in such a short amount of time was impressive.
He rounded the corner, catching sight of Sidorov's back, and hurried after him, wanting to keep him close. Sidorov wove a meandering route through the street, looking for all the world like a tourist drinking in the sights of London, and Zaf found himself getting bored. All at once, Sidorov had crouched down, retying an imaginary shoelace, and Zaf was forced to walk past. As he reached the end of the street he turned around. Sidorov raised his hand in a sarcastic wave before getting into a car and driving out of sight. Zaf swore beneath his breath as the car turned the corner and reached into his pocket and took out his phone, dialling an all-too-familiar number.
"Sarah?" he said, not bothering with a greeting. "Ros' man, Sidorov, he got away."
"I thought you were meant to be good," she snapped.
Zaf said nothing, not trusting himself to speak.
"Come back to the flat," Sarah said after a pause, "we'll have to re-think things."
She hung up and Zaf glared at the phone, hating he had to see this woman. He did not like Sarah Caulfied; he found the American grating, irritating and full of her own importance. Unfortunately, she was his link to MI-5, one he had to exploit.
Gritting his teeth, Zaf broke into a jog, heading toward the set of loft apartments he now called home.
The building was falling in around itself, and Ros watched her step as she walked up the landing, noting the peeling paint and stained ceiling. Sasha's apartment was on the third floor and she took a few moments to examine the door, noting the long strand of hair wedged between the door and the frame, a cliché spy trick if there ever was one. She glanced up, and saw the tiny camera lodged in the air vent to the left. She wasn't bothered by being on film, though was impressed by the girl's set-up.
She knocked three times, and then stepped back, waiting for Sasha to appear. An eye appeared at the peep hole, and she held up a fake warrant card.
"Can I come in, please?"
The eye narrowed, but a moment later the door opened revealing a short girl, no more than twenty. She was thin to the point of skinny, something not helped by the oversized, scuffed bomber jacket she wore. Ros paused a moment, seeing that Sasha's hand was near something, most likely a knife.
"Drop it," she ordered sharply.
Sasha glared, but was smart enough to recognise that Ros wasn't someone to be messed about, and the knife fell to the ground with a clatter.
"Who are you?" the girl snapped, taking a step back into the flat. "What do you want?"
Ros followed, her eyes scanning her surroundings. "You have information on Hans Linderman."
The girl laughed, a harsh sound in the otherwise silent apartment.
"I would like to see it," Ros said sweetly, offering an insincere smile.
Sasha's jaw clenched and Ros watched as she tensed, unsurprised when she leapt forward, trying to knock Ros to the ground. She side-stepped her, and kicked Sasha's legs out beneath her so she landed on the ground. A swift kick to the stomach had Sasha gasping for breath, and Ros pulled her up roughly, pushing her onto a kitchen stool.
"I want the information, Sasha," she said coldly.
Sasha glared and Ros wasn't ready when she reached beneath the stool, taking out another knife, and swiped it towards her, Ros forced to flinch back to avoid being cut. She repositioned her weight on the balls of her feet as Sasha attacked again and ducked, grabbing the girl's wrist and slamming it down against the back of the stool. The knife fell to the floor as Sasha managed to break free and aimed a punch in Ros' direction. Ros dodged it easily, and brought her hand up, the heel of her palm colliding with Sasha's jaw, jerking her head back, and the girl staggered, unprepared as Ros hit her twice more; sending her flying to the ground.
"I won't ask again, Sasha."
"Bitch," the girl hissed, spitting out blood and what looked like a tooth.
Ros rolled her eyes.
"So, I'm told."
Ruth glanced up as Ros entered the Grid and her eyes widened as the blonde walked straight to Tariq and handed him a USB stick. She leant forward, listening in on their conversation.
"Hans Linderman's inbox, bank details and other paraphernalia; all yours to siphon through."
Tariq nodded, taking the USB from her carefully, and plugged it into his computer, ready to work his magic. Ruth focused her attention on Ros who looked strangely elated, the way she always did when she had followed a successful lead, though Ruth deliberately chose not to consider how she had come across the information.
It was Lucas, who came across the Grid and leant against the desk, watching Tariq's computer, though speaking with Ros.
"Your mysterious Russian source?" he asked, a smile on his lips.
Ros nodded. "The one and same."
"This might take a while," Tariq said, keeping his head down.
Lucas pushed himself off the desk and followed Ros as she walked toward the coffee machine. She made two cups wordlessly and held one out.
"They're a good source," Lucas commented, wanting to sound casual.
Ros simply smiled and sipped her coffee.
The door shut quietly behind him and Zaf walked into the living room, unsurprised to see Sarah sitting on the sofa, arms folded. She looked up as he sat opposite and he waited, knowing she would speak first.
"Ros Myers has been to see Sasha Ballantyne."
Zaf nodded as he reached into his pocket, withdrawing a packet of cigarettes. He had picked up the habit in Pakistan, and had no intention of stopping, not just yet anyway.
"And?" he asked.
"Ballantyne is being dealt with."
"When?" he asked, lighting the cigarette.
"Soon," Sarah answered, "we can't have her giving MI-5 any more information."
Zaf smoked his cigarette, his mind battling with itself. Part of him wanted to call Sasha, tell her to get the hell out of her flat. The other (more logical) part knew the girl was most likely already dead.
He blew out a cloud of smoke and watched it dissipate into the air.
Andrew stepped into the flat, careful to close the door gently behind him, and crept down the hallway, trying to keep his tread light. He turned the corner, and a smile crept over his face as his eyes fell on Ros, asleep on the sofa, curled into herself. She looked peaceful, the taunt lines that pulled at her lips when awake gone, leaving soft skin. He walked carefully, mindful of the creaking floorboards, and sat down, reaching out though not touching her shoulder, happy to simply look at her for a while. Ros stirred as the cushion dipped with his weight and looked at him through tired eyes.
"Hello," she said softly, running a hand through her hair.
She stretched, lithe and strong, and he wasn't surprised when she rested her feet in his lap.
"Long meeting," he said, answering her unspoken question as he ran his fingertips over her ankle.
"Anything I should worry about?"
He shook his head and Ros let her head fall back against the armrest and closed her eyes. Andrew's touch was light and he moved up her leg to the scar that snaked over her thigh and dipped below her knee. It was raised and pink, a harsh contrast to otherwise smooth skin. She winced slightly as he applied pressure but didn't shift. Andrew took advantage of her closed eyes and studied her, this slip of a woman who had become his lover and confidante. Slim, pale and blonde, she would look washed out were it not for her startling green eyes, which drew people towards her, often not of their own volition.
Her breathing steadied, and he knew she had fallen asleep, something that had become rare these past three months. Rising to his feet, he hooked one arm beneath her knees and the other under her shoulders, lifting her with ease.
She didn't wake.
"Sasha Ballantyne," Ros began, pointing at the screen. A photo, lifted from Ballantyne's passport, appeared. In the photograph Sasha looked younger; her face fuller, more innocent than the woman who had attacked her yesterday. "She was born here, in the UK, but isn't particularly fond of her home country, hence the reason she passed the information on Linderman to foreign contacts. She gave me some information yesterday and told me that was everything, but I think she was lying."
"And you didn't press her because...?" Harry said sarcastically.
"I was treading lightly, Harry," Ros answered, "remember that?"
Lucas hid a smile behind his hand and looked down at the table. No one else would dare bait Harry as Ros did, which made it all the more amusing for the rest of the team.
"I've been looking through what Ros was given," Tariq said before Harry could retort, "and it's pretty basic stuff but there are some transactions I wouldn't mind taking a closer look at. Unfortunately, I haven't managed to hack into the bank in question, so if Sasha has more..."
"You need to speak to her again, Ros," Harry interrupted, "I want every ounce of information this girl has."
Ros nodded; she had expected him to say as much.
"I'll pay her another visit."
"Lucas and Tariq; go with Ros."
The three rose to their feet and walked out, leaving Harry and Ruth.
"Why didn't you let her go out alone?" Ruth asked, surprised.
"It doesn't feel right," Harry said, choosing his words carefully, "and Ros isn't infallible."
Ruth nodded walked to the door, stopping to speak over her shoulder. "Harry?"
"Don't let Ros hear you say that."
Ros walked down the corridor toward Sasha's apartment and reached for her weapon as she turned the corner, reprimanding herself for requesting that Lucas and Tariq stay in the car. She held her gun out in front of her as she stepped into Sasha's apartment, careful to keep her back against the wall. She could smell blood in the air, mingled with the filthy stench of the building itself, but this knowledge wasn't enough to prepare her for the sight that greeted her in the living room.
"Christ," she muttered, moving forward, holding her gun steady.
She could hear the squelch of the carpet as she stepped through the unavoidable blood, and her nose wrinkled in distaste. Sasha's body was on its front, sprawled, in the centre of the room. Ros approached cautiously, and her throat tightened as her eyes fell on the girl's face. She was scarcely recognisable, such was the beating she had taken.
"She's dead," Ros said softly, crouching down and searching Sasha's pockets. "Killed last night, I imagine."
"Has anything been taken?" Lucas asked.
Ros glanced around. "Not that I can see," she answered.
She heard a footstep behind her but had no time to react as she was kicked to the ground, landing heavily on Sasha's body. Her gun fell to the floor, out of reach, and Ros rolled, wanting to put as much distance between herself and her attacker as possible, and sprung to her feet. Her would-be assailant leered as he moved forward and she felt the icy thrill of adrenalin flood through her veins.
"Ros, isn't it?" he said casually, as if talking about the weather. "She said that you would be coming."
Her stomach twisted as he moved even closer, and she wasn't prepared when he took a swing, moving so quickly that despite ducking, his knuckles still grazed her jaw, sending pain shooting through her body.
Shit, shit, shit...
Lucas was out of the car in seconds, ordering Tariq to stay behind, and he sprinted into the building. His legs burned as he ran up the stairs three at-a-time but he pushed himself to go faster, rushing into the apartment, every fibre of his being on high alert. He looked around the living room, his eyes first landing on Sasha's body, then on Ros, though she was barely recognisable as she straddled an unknown man, punching him again and again. The man was obviously dead, his neck bent at an unnatural angle, but Ros kept hitting him, the sound of her knuckles colliding with the man's face loud in the otherwise silent flat.
"Ros," Lucas called softly, crossing the room, "Ros, that's enough."
If she heard him, then she gave no sign, and Lucas placed a hand on her shoulder, but she shook him off.
She didn't stop and he leant down, putting his arms around her waist and pulling her upright. She struggled, trying to break free, and he was forced to clamp her arms to her sides. Still, she fought and Lucas cried out in pain as she brought the heel of her boot crashing onto his foot.
"Let me go," she hissed when he still didn't break his hold.
He paused, gauging her response, and released her slowly. She shook him off angrily and spun around, eyes ablaze. They stood like that for several moments before she stalked across the room, reaching down to grab her gun, before continuing out of the apartment. Lucas lingered for a moment, grabbing the laptop in the adjoining room, before he followed her down to the car.
Harry watched Ros as she sat at her desk, attacking her report. She'd changed since getting back from Sasha Ballantyne's flat, the dressings around her knuckles and the slight swelling of her jaw the only sign she had just killed a man. Tariq had been shaken when they had returned to the Grid and Harry felt a twinge of sympathy of the younger man. It was well-known that Ros was ruthless (Jo's death was one such example) but stories were one thing, to see for himself first-hand what she was capable of was understandably difficult.
He looked to the doorway as Ruth entered; she had that look in her eyes, the one that said she had thought of idea, and wanted clearance to search further.
"I've been looking through the data in a number of Linderman's files," she continued, speaking quickly, "and there are several names of note."
"Oh?" he said, leaning back in his chair.
"Yes; Adams, Johnson, McKinley, Pierce, Grant..."
"Are these meant to mean something, Ruth?" he said.
"They are all surnames of American Presidents," she said, as if it were obvious.
"And?" Harry pressed.
"Sarah Caulfield used the surnames of American Presidents as pseudonyms."
Harry raised his eyebrows, intrigued.
"What if she had a bigger role in the Nightingale conspiracy?" Ruth said, speaking almost feverishly, "these names are riddled throughout Linderman's files."
"All right," he said slowly, "prove it."
Zaf watched Sarah as she slammed her hand against the kitchen bench, furious. She had been speaking on the phone for several minutes now, and he'd only heard snatches of the conversation, enough to know that nothing had gone to plan.
"Something wrong?" he asked innocently.
She glared at him. "Ros Myers just killed our man."
"Oh?" he said, sitting down on one of the stools.
"She needs to be taken out."
Zaf nodded slowly as he lit a cigarette.
"That sounds logical."
Ros reached for the phone without thinking, snatching it off the cradle and answering it irritably.
"Sarah Caulfield will be at the set of loft apartments at 43 Mansfield Street tomorrow afternoon. Come alone."
Ros blinked and dropped the pen that she was holding, not caring that it clattered on her desk and fell onto the floor. She recognised that voice, or rather thought she did, but as much as she tried she couldn't remember his face. She spent so long trying to forget and now that she had, she wanted to trawl the memory back. She grabbed another pen and wrote down the information, but before she can utter a word the call was severed, along with her indistinct memories. Frowning, she rose to her feet and shrugged her jacket over her shoulders, the leather cool against her skin.
As she walked through Thames House, she ran over the exchange in her mind; it was so improbable that he could be alive, even more so for Sarah to be in the UK. She clicked the remote lock of her car, barely hearing the 'beep beep.' This could easily be a hoax, a trap; people have used this man to manipulate her before; would this be any different? She paused at her car and rested her hand against the glass, deliberating her choices.
There was only one really.
Andrew walked into the apartment, closing the door behind him with his foot, and entered the living room. His eyes fell on Ros, then to the small bowl in front of her, and line of blood-stained gauze strips. She was looking down, giving no indication she had heard him enter, though he knew this wasn't true. He watched as she carefully dabbed at her knuckles before he crossed over and took hold of her wrist, stilling her movements.
She said nothing as he perched on the coffee table and rested her hand on his thigh, palm facing downward. Up close, the damage to her knuckles looked worse and he took in the torn and ragged skin. Silently, he soaked one of the cotton balls she had lined on the table and wiped away the caked blood. She didn't pull away and he worked slowly, methodically, until her hand was completely clean before reaching for the fresh gauze.
"Why haven't you asked how I did this?" she said.
He looked at her, surprised at her harsh tone. Her eyes were hard, demanding an answer.
"Why haven't you told me?" he retorted, taking hold of her other hand.
She opened her mouth, but closed it again almost immediately. He could see confusion in her eyes now, and he reached out to cup her cheek in his hand, his thumb trailing over the new bruise at her jawline, his touch light.
"If you want me to ask, Ros, then I will," he said softly.
He withdrew his hand and soaked another cotton ball.
"I killed someone today," she said softly.
He looked at her, finding no trace of remorse in her face, not that he expected to find any.
"Okay," he said gently, dabbing at her knuckles.
He smiled, though it was bitter-sweet.
"Now, you tell me everything."
Words spilled from Sarah's mouth, but Zaf didn't listen, not needing to. He knew why Sarah had joined Nightingale, of her perverse wish to rid the world of those she deemed 'unworthy'. Ros' stance didn't waver; her arms straight before her, hands curled around her gun. He could see no trace of emotion in Ros' face, though as Sarah nears the end of her tale, he thought what may have been disgust touch the corners of her mouth. Sarah was shaking now, and he saw fear in the American's eyes as she realised exactly how this exchange would end.
"Aren't you going to get this over with?" Sarah asked, her voice breaking mid-sentence.
Ros tilted her head an inch to the side, as if she might turn and leave. Sarah's hope was tangible and he could see her shoulders drop with relief as Ros simply looked at her for a moment.
Ros squeezed the trigger and Sarah crumpled to the ground, blood soaking through her hair. Ros surveyed the body with distaste as she walked around the sofa, scanning the surroundings. Her eyes fell on the coffee table, to the ashtray, and the rising smoke from his unfinished cigarette. For an instant she looked startled, then she spun in a half-circle and trained her gun on the hallway where he was hidden.
He didn't dare disobey and he stepped into the living room, holding up his hands. Ros' eyes narrowed, and her mouth tightened, her only tell.
"Zaf?" she breathed.
Harry glanced up as his office door opened and Ruth stepped inside, closing it behind her. She looked flustered and kept running her fingers through her hair.
"It's Ros," she said quickly, "well, Sarah Caulfield too... both of them..."
Harry stood and went around his desk and placed his hand on her shoulder, willing her to calm down.
"I was looking through the information that Tariq got from Sasha Ballantyne's laptop and there were a number of addresses, one which matched the name 'Marie Johnson.' It's in a high-end area, which fits with Sarah Caulfield's profile, but it was still a long-shot, so I had a quick look at some of the CCTV footage and... and..." she continued, her words tumbling over one another.
"And what, Ruth?" Harry asked, fighting the urge to shake her.
"Ros entered the building just under an hour ago and hasn't come out," she concluded in a rush.
Harry's eyes widened; the two women loathed each other, a confrontation between the two would inevitably end badly, though who would be the victor was anyone's guess. He had no time for the American, but conceded she was a formidable opponent.
"What do we do?" Ruth asked, fidgeting.
He sighed as he looked to the Grid at Ros' empty chair. "We wait."
The car sped toward Thames House and Zaf leaned his forehead against the window, grateful for the coolness of the glass. Outside, in the streets, Londoners walked the streets, blissfully unaware of what the Security Services did, what they sacrificed to keep the public safe. He shifted in the seat as a wave of tiredness crashed over him.
"It's relief," Ros commented as she turned into the underground car park.
"After this, you'll rest."
"Will I?" he said, his question rhetorical.
Ros answered nonetheless.
Harry blinked, sure he was seeing things, as he watched Ros and Zaf walk through the pods. The latter was silent, though his eyes brightened as they fell on Ruth who stood, mouth ajar. Zaf, Harry noticed, didn't go and greet her as he expected; rather he stayed close to Ros who ushered him to her desk and sat him down. Harry rounded his desk and stepped into the Grid.
Zaf looked up and cracked a smile, though it was a shadow of what Harry remembered.
"Hello, Harry," he said softly.
Harry could merely nod and was grateful when Ros spoke.
"I've told Zaf that we'll wait until tomorrow to start the initial de-brief. It's far too late to start now."
"Fine," Harry agreed, "if you could wait here, Zaf, while I talk to Ros."
He turned and went back to his office, knowing that Ros was close behind, her heels clicking against the floor. She closed the door behind her and leant against the wall, arms folded.
"Explain," he ordered sharply.
Ros looked up briefly before answering. "I received a call pertaining to a person of interest's whereabouts," she said, choosing her words carefully, "I followed the lead and found Zaf in the process."
Harry could see Zaf in the corner of his eye; Ruth was speaking with him but Zaf's attention was focused on Ros and himself.
"How is he?" Harry asked softly.
Ros shrugged. "Who can tell? He's been through a lot; we spoke in the car but..."
Her sentence dissolved into nothing and Harry remembered how Ros had searched for Zaf, how tenacious she had been to find those who had taken him, how she had reacted when forced to work with the CIA.
"This 'person of interest'" he said, not voicing his thoughts, "was it Sarah Caulfield by any chance?"
Ros didn't bat an eyelid. "She was of no further use and has been dealt with."
Harry nodded, knowing exactly what she meant by 'dealt with.'
"Keep that from Lucas."
She pushed herself from the wall. "Absolutely."
Ros walked slowly down the hallway, her movements stiff as the past few days finally took their toll. She had taken Zaf to a safe-house, with a promise to pick him up tomorrow morning, but right now she wanted peace and quiet. Andrew was in the kitchen and he wordlessly pushed a glass of wine towards her as she stepped inside.
"You look tired," he said softly.
"Oh, thank you very much," she responded, tone sarcastic.
"Just an observation."
Ros shrugged off her jacket and placed it on the bench; her eyes fell on an ornate box, one with glossy paper and extraneous amounts of ribbon.
"It was on the step," Andrew said, "addressed to you."
Ros frowned as she pulled the ribbon, where it fell in a puddle. Inside was a bottle of vodka, no doubt expensive.
"From a friend, I take it?" Andrew asked.
Ros paused before answering. "Of sorts; you would hardly call our friendship conventional."
Her expression looked to soften before his eyes and she crossed the short distance between them, stopping a scarce two feet away. He could see the yellowing bruise at her jawline, evidence she was fallible. She looked upward, not saying a word, and his mind took him back to the day of the bombing, of the few seconds before the explosion. Perhaps she did the same for she took a step further, and rested her forehead against his chest.
"How was your day?" he asked softly, his breath ruffling her hair.
She didn't answer.