John was awakened from the deepest sleep he allowed himself, and he answered on the second ring.
“Finch?” He glanced at the clock. 5:14 a.m. was in the gray area between the something-important-enough-to-wake-John-about and the infinitely more serious Dear-Lord-everyone-on-the-planet-is-going-to-die-and-also-moths-have-invaded-my-wardrobe level of urgency.
“Mr. Reese, do I have you to thank for this unusual... gift?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Silence on the line. “What are you talking about, Finch?”
Finch drew a trembling breath. “If you and Miss Shaw are telling the truth, then I’m afraid I have no choice but to initiate the Alexandria Protocol.”
Whatever this was, it was quickly leaning toward the everyone-is-going-to-die category. “Understood, Finch. Alexandria Protocol.” Reese ended the call, then dropped the phone to the floor. He wasn’t wearing shoes with which he could smash it, so he settled for stabbing it with the knife he kept under the mattress.
Two hours later, they met at the rendezvous, a 24-hour diner in North Brunswick. The morning crowd was starting to get thick. When Finch entered, he looked grief-stricken, as though he’d lost a good friend. Which he had, in a way.
“I’m sorry about the library,” John said softly as Finch sat down across from him.
The Alexandria Protocol had been their plan in case the library were ever compromised. Incendiary devices, hidden all over the library interior, had been activated remotely by mobile phone. The books, the computers, the arsenal, everything had been destroyed. It was sad, but necessary. This was why Reese didn’t like becoming too attached to any place.
Finch nodded at the condolence. “Things, including books, can be replaced, Mr. Reese. Our lives cannot.”
“So what happened? How did you know the library was compromised?”
Finch licked his lips anxiously. “I went in early to finish the code of our Trojan horse for the Wallace case. On my desk, in front of my keyboard, was a mojito.”
Reese blinked. “A what?”
“A mojito. Or, what I’m assuming was a mojito, judging from its appearance. Muddled mint and so forth. I didn’t dare taste it to make sure.”
“And you have no idea where it came from?”
“You and Miss Shaw both denied placing it there. And it couldn’t have been there long-- The ice cubes hadn’t even begun to melt, and there was only the slightest condensation on the outside of the glass. It’s as though it materialized as soon as I entered the building.”
“What about Leon?”
“Mr. Tao is in Toronto at the moment, running God knows what kind of scheme. I verified his whereabouts before contacting you.”
Reese took a deep breath. Someone unknown to them had definitely been in the library. “What about the security cameras?”
“There was a glitch in every recording. They showed the desk was as usual, then after one minute of static, the mojito was there.” He gratefully took a sip from the water glass a waitress had placed in front of him. “It seems so much trouble to go to, just to taunt us.”
John nodded. It didn’t make sense.
They spent the day in John’s nearby motel room. Reese watched the security footage Finch had pulled, of the streets surrounding the library. He spent hours looking for signs of the intruder, but he found nothing of interest.
Finch scoured the darknet for any bounties on their heads or other leads, and hacked into the ISA servers in search of any hint of a clue to the identity of who had infiltrated the library, all to no avail.
Meanwhile, Shaw had abruptly decided to take Bear on a road trip to the Midwest, where she said it would be safer for the dog. Fusco was busy sniffing around and reaching out to his own connections.
John insisted that Finch get some sleep when night came. Reese had intended to stay awake and keep an eye out for danger, but after an hour of watching a silent parking lot and listening to Finch snore away in his silk pajamas, he couldn’t help himself. He stripped down to boxers and spooned his boss, snuggling up to the reclusive billionaire like he was a beloved and very sexy teddy bear.
Finch awoke with the first rays of dawn. Finding himself wrapped in the strong arms of his employee, he sighed, rolled his eyes, and gently extricated himself without waking the younger man. He made use of the bathroom and went to turn on his laptop before getting dressed.
In the blink of an eye, John was at his side, gun at the ready. “What is it, Finch?”
Finch could only point at the desk.
There, in front of the closed laptop, was a glass of what appeared to be orange juice.
Reese cautiously sniffed the drink and took a tiny sip. “Fuzzy navel.” Another sip. “Maybe a hairy navel. Not sure.”
Finch sat down on the bed, his terror mounting. “They were here. In this room, with us.”
Reese’s cheeks flushed. If only he’d stayed awake instead of succumbing to temptation and wrapping his lean, muscular, nearly-nude body around the warm, silk-covered softness of Harold, the scent of the older man’s gentlemanly natural musk giving the ex-op sweet dreams of Finch, satin sheets and being spanked while he called Finch ‘Daddy.’
“Mr. Reese, what do they want?”
“I suppose they’re trying to frighten us.”
“It’s working,” Finch groaned.
“Pack up. We’re leaving.”
The pair were so spooked that they drove all the way to Ohio, periodically switching to another hot-wired car. They found a run-down motel outside of Cincinnati and paid cash. Then John ditched the car two miles away and hoofed it back to the room.
That night, neither of them could sleep. They lay wrapped in each other’s arms for emotional support, every small sound, from the ice machine to the people in the next room engaging in loud coitus, sending shivers of fear down their spines.
When the first light cracked through the almost-shut curtains, John turned on a lamp, then stood and stretched his aching muscles, striking various poses and flexing for added effect. Finch stared, wide-eyed, past him, at the desk where he’d set out his laptop.
In front of the computer was a dirty martini.
“John, I can’t take this any longer,” Harold wept. “Every morning, at my computer, it’s there-- Another cocktail! And it’s never anything that we even like!” A sob. “They keep appearing. I wish they would just stop showing up and leave us alone!”
John gingerly picked up the martini by the stem, opened the motel room door and flung the drink across the parking lot, making a satisfying crash of broken glass on the asphalt. He came back inside and locked the door. “It’s gone for now, Finch.”
"John, are we going insane? Is this situation really happening?"
"I don't know, Finch," John sighed, looking out the window. "I don't know."
To be continued?