I'm throwing up a bit I've been working on from the early part of Sentinel. This is right after Kaelin's twin, Aidan, has been abducted by their enemy. Kaelin has just been told that he cannot search for Aidan; he'd be more of a hindrance than a help. It's a bit of a turning point for him. He's going to be taken in another, more personal direction, one that will eventually lead him back to the battle that culminates at the end of the book. I was criticized that Kaelin doesn't do enough--hopefully I've left it in such a state to indicate that he will. I'm not sure the questioning is quite right plot-wise, but I do like the tension. Saul is definitely an adversary, and Kaelin is finding that out. Tell me what you think.
Trying to put the previous conversation out of his mind while walking through the dining room was difficult. The table was spread with maps, laptops, papers and satellite imagery, all being rustled by muttering rangers who barely spared him a glance. He probably had made too much of what they thought of him. They probably thought very little.
He kept his chin tucked down as he walked, trying to avoid gazes, but when Saul said his name, he looked up. Saul stood alone in the middle of the room, near the giant island. He had a pistol, and he set it gently on the granite countertop, next to a laptop computer. He wore a pristine business suit while everyone else in the house was wearing clothes that looked like they’d been slept in. Even Jacob was rumpled and unshaven.
“You wanted to see me?” Kaelin said, uncertainly. “Sir.”
“This is awkward, but I need to ask you some questions,” Saul said. Funny how he didn’t sound awkward, though.
Kaelin glanced at the pistol again and back at Saul. He had his own pistol tucked in his waistband at the small of his back. It was warm from the constant contact with his skin.
“Yeah, sure,” he said.
“Lord Trevet wanted me to spare you, but time does run on. I’ll start by saying we all know how difficult this is for you.”
Kaelin shifted from foot to foot. “All right. I mean, thanks, sir.”
“Do you know any reason at all why Marwick would take Aidan?”
The sudden bluntness caught Kaelin off guard. He had his own theories, based on what Jacob had said, but that was supposed to be secret. “I don’t even know Marwick.”
“Never heard her name before? Doesn’t ring a bell?”
“Not before I came here....” He paused. “What’s this all about?”
“Your mother, of course. I want to know if she told you anything, before you came to us. Maybe there’s something, anything, that she might have said that might give us a clue to her whereabouts.”
Kaelin stiffened. If Saul was here to help Aidan, then that was all right, but Kaelin wouldn’t let it be at the expense of his mother. “Mom wouldn’t take Aidan—not like this.”
Saul leaned his hip against the island, arms open, relaxed. “All right then. Any theories of your own?”
Kaelin still stood by the doorway, and he fought the urge to run back through it. “Why?” he asked, and immediately wished he could take it back. He was suspicious of Saul’s motives, but he didn’t have to let him know that right off. Did he know what Jacob had told him? Did he suspect?
Saul’s mild tone cut off his thoughts. “You’re a ranger, just like me.”
I’m not anything like you, Kaelin thought, but he didn’t dare say it out loud. He felt awkward crossing the room, but all of the sudden he moved, passed Saul, noting he was considerably taller than the older ranger, and filled a glass of water at the sink.
Saul turned on his heel slowly, watching Kaelin like a lion considering a herd of antelope. He said nothing, just waited as Kaelin drank.
“You know,” Kaelin said, trying to kick his mind into gear, “maybe Marwick did it for ransom.”
A tolerant smile crept across Saul’s face. “The last thing she needs is money.”
“Jacob hasn’t told you, has he? Even you’re worth quite a lot, once you come of age.” Saul blew a breath between pursed lips and glanced around the gleaming kitchen as if that much should be obvious. “And Marwick; let’s just say she’s very well invested—suspiciously so. We’ve been through her accounts, thanks to your cousin Marc. She doesn’t need your father’s money, trust me.”
Trust him, when his every cell was screaming an alarm against it? Kaelin shrugged, trying to feign nonchalance. He hadn’t really believed it either; he’d just felt the need to answer that expectant gaze.
Saul’s blue eyes remained fixed on Kaelin’s face. “We’ve found a link between Marwick and your mother.”
Kaelin didn’t answer.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what it is?”
Kaelin suddenly had had enough. “I suppose, sir, if you want me to know, then you’ll tell me.”
Saul nodded. “Interesting. I had you pegged as taking after your uncle: a stoic and all that. Perhaps you do have a bit of your brother’s pluck after all.”
That stung. “I don’t know why Marwick took him. All I know is Aidan never liked her, from the moment they met.”
Saul slipped closer on silent feet. “Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Did he say why that was?”
It felt a betrayal. Kaelin had to remind himself that Saul was here to help find his brother. Also, Jacob would keep him from doing anything wrong; he was probably listening in on the conversation via his Sight. Kaelin shook his head. “No. He just said he didn’t trust her.” He paused. “I didn’t either.”
Saul’s eyes narrowed. “Why not?
The tiny hairs on his arm prickled. Maybe it had been a mistake to volunteer information. Kaelin hadn’t trusted Marwick, true, but he didn’t trust Saul by half. He shrugged and settled for, “I misspoke. It’s not that I didn’t trust her, exactly, but she wasn’t friendly.” He paused and then barreled on, hoping to halt the interrogation. “I know who my father is and respect he commands. I know how he would like for me to be treated, and she pushed those limits. My father wasn’t too happy with her.” A white lie, but he thought he’d passed it off okay.
Saul’s leisurely smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Am I to take that as a warning?”
Frozen inside, Kaelin managed another shrug. “It’s a fact. Take it how you want.”
Saul finally looked away and Kaelin took the opportunity to release an inaudible breath. When Saul spoke again, it was so quietly that Kaelin had to strain to hear. “Your mother is involved in this. I know she is. I understand this is difficult to admit, but you don’t know what she’s capable of--”
“If she is involved, then it was just to get my brother away from Sentinel,” Kaelin said evenly.
“No,” Saul said. “It’s not. She knows what the Knot means. If she loves him at all, she wouldn’t risk putting charges of defection on his head. No,” he repeated. “It’s something else, something to do with Maliquium, perhaps?” He arched an eyebrow at Kaelin.
Kaelin’s muscles were strung so tautly he could barely breathe, much less talk.
His silence paid off. Saul slipped his pistol beneath his jacket and granted Kaelin a dismissive smile. “I must be off. I’ve got a Seer to find and a daemon to catch.” With some ceremony, he laid the laptop on the counter in front of Kaelin.
Kaelin found his voice. To his surprise, it sounded normal, strong. “What’s that for?”
“I’m told you’re to be given access to all evidence. The link between your mother and Marwick is on this.” He strode away through the mudroom.
Kaelin heard voices and a car door slam; and Saul rode off into the morning, into the world, to search for his prey.
Much as he hated it, Jacob was right. He couldn’t search for his brother. He didn’t have the least idea where to start. He had nothing to do but read the evidence Saul had given him—evidence that incrimated his mother, perhaps. But if what Jacob had said about her were true, then she was already was guilty. He almost had to stifle a laugh. How can it be true? But then he thought of those red eyes and that stinking smoke. She shot me, he thought.
He thought about Saul again. He’d claimed his prey was Maliquium. Kaelin wasn’t so sure about that. I realize you don’t trust him, and rightly, Jacob had said. And the way Saul had watched him so closely, like sizing up a slab of meat at market…
What are you up to, Saul? Kaelin wondered. And what in hell does it have to do with me?