After saving the life of the President, two Secret Service agents find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in South Dakota that houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object, and supernatural souvenir ever collected. The warehouse's custodian, Carlisle Cullen, charges Edward and Bella with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the warehouse, as well as helping him to control the warehouse itself.
1. Endless Wonder
Rating 5/5 Word Count 12464 Review this Chapter
This first chapter was originally donated to Fandom 4 Soldiers, 2015 fandom fundraiser.
Warnings: violence, blood, supernatural, some mature language
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and her characters. Jane Espenson, D. Brent Mote, and Syfy own Warehouse 13 and its characters. No copyright infringement is intended. Any similarities to the original characters or themes from the books or media franchise are used here for entertainment purposes only, with no monetary gain for me, the fan fiction author.
Pre-readers: Cloe Marrie, Diane Tant Daniel, Kim Ginsberg, Liz Gisela Chim, Lorraine Bubbleybear Juillerat, Melissa Jacquez Leatherbury, Melissa Mallard, Pien Willemse, & Sherry Gomes
Blood bathed the stairs of Templo Mayor as it gushed down from the sacrificial tables, creating a crimson river across the plaza. More than a thousand human sacrifices were performed each day to re-consecrate the temple, their still beating hearts pulled from their chests. A stone container was placed where the blood of each sacrifice flowed over and into it. It was round grayish-black rock, cut flat on the bottom so it stood upright.
The container was carved into a face, with a closed rectangular mouth set into a grim frown. It had white stone eyes shaped like almonds that were red at the inside and outside corners, along with a red swirl to depict an iris. A small jade stone was placed at the bridge of the carved nose, between the eyes.
Stylized tribal markings decorated the rest of the face and head, carved in such a way that the red liquid could flow through them. Of course, there was so much blood now that the entire rock was coated red. To make it more than just a carved head, the container also had a round hole about a few inches in diameter hollowed out on the top, which allowed the blood to flow inside. When complete, a stone headdress fit into the top like a lid.
Days passed and the fear and pain of the sacrifices saturated the temple. As their life essence surged into the container it began to change. A glow emanated from it, which was visible at night, and the formerly closed mouth opened, revealing a set of sharp crystalline teeth. What was once a simple stone container become irrevocably changed; now it thirsted for the life-giving fluid it had been created to hold, and the smallest taste of blood only created a craving for more.
In Washington D.C., at the Capitol Museum of Natural History, Special Agent Isabella Swan stood among the priceless artifacts currently on exhibit, patiently waiting to meet the museum curator. A tour with parents and children passed by heading toward the dinosaur exhibit, and one young dark-haired girl caught sight of the agent's gun, which lay exposed at her hip. Taking notice of the girl's focus, Isabella pulled her black suit jacket closed, buttoning it before the girl's mother pulled her away to re-join the tour.
"Agent Swan!" The masculine voice pulled her attention away from the child and toward a middle-age man in a gray suit who was walking toward her. He had dark brown hair with a receding hairline and a short, thin beard. He reached his hand out to her in greeting. "Hi, Chet Greenfield," he offered as an introduction.
Isabella stepped forward and took his hand, giving him a small smile in acknowledgment. "Hello."
"Sorry I'm late."
"My assistant told me you double-checked everything yesterday," Dr. Greenfield said, a questioning tone to his voice and confusion in his features.
Isabella nodded. "I did, but I'd like to run a full review before we lock it down."
"Sure," he agreed.
He turned to walk away, intending to lead Agent Swan to someone who could assist her with her security overview, but she surprised him when she turned her head to face him and added, "With you," to her earlier request.
"You're the boss," Isabella explained succinctly. "I'd like to avoid any chain-of-command confusion; I tell you and it gets done. Shall we start in the main hall?" She gestured toward the main hall as she mentioned it, emphasizing her point.
Dr. Greenfield looked uncomfortable. He couldn't reject Agent Swan's request, but he also didn't have the time to personally escort her around the facility. "Well, I uh understand, but I am pretty booked up at the moment."
Isabella ignored his unsubtle attempt to foist her off on one of his employees yet again and smiled at him. "I apologize for the inconvenience."
They turned the corner leading into the main hall and Dr. Greenfield smiled in acquiescence. There really was no point in arguing further. He would just have to make the necessary adjustments to his schedule to accommodate the agent's requests. "I'll clear my schedule," he acknowledged verbally.
"I appreciate it," Isabella said, looking toward him as they reached the hall.
In an artifact preservation lab, Dr. Gordon Letanik stood with an array of tools around him as he cleaned a Mesoamerican sacrificial artifact for display during the "Celebration of Ancient Art from Around the World" exhibit that was to take place at the museum that evening. As he cleaned the jagged teeth on the statue, Dr. Letanik lost his grip on the tool he held and it fell inside the mouth. He started to reach inside to retrieve it when Dr. Greenfield called his name, causing him to jump slightly in surprise. Dr. Letanik carefully set the artifact down on his lab table before turning to face his visitors.
"Gordon, this is Agent Swan with the Secret Service," Dr. Greenfield said as he walked into the lab.
"Gordon Letanik? And what's... um, what's this?" Isabella asked as she walked over to examine the artifact that Dr. Letanik was working on.
"Uh," Dr. Letanik started, taken aback by the interruption. He quickly composed himself and turned toward the beautiful young brunette agent. "An Aztec blood stone," he explained in answer to her inquiry, turning back toward the object in question, "the boss of virgin sacrifices. Handsome devil." He turned back toward Isabella and explained, "I'm just cleaning him for the reception tonight."
Isabella gazed at the statue, fascinated by its rich history. As the daughter of a bookstore proprietor—and therefore spending the majority of her childhood reading books—she had a vast array of knowledge in many fields, including history. The statue was hideous, just like its original purpose, but it was fascinating nonetheless. She turned her focus back toward Dr. Letanik when Dr. Greenfield brought their attention back to the reason for their visit.
"Agent Swan wants the Group D artifacts moved to the west wall," Dr. Greenfield announced.
Isabella nodded. "They're blocking an exit."
"Lose Tuvalu and Malta, move Britain to the back," Dr. Greenfield ordered. "If it still doesn't fit, see me and we'll cut something else."
"Yes, sir," Dr. Letanik acknowledged, smiling at them in acknowledgment. "I'll just finish up."
"What's next?" Dr. Greenfield asked, turning toward Isabella.
"I need to have a look at the CCTV and control room," she said, walking toward the door and out of the lab.
As they left, Dr. Letanik returned to the blood stone. Tilting the face up with one hand, he reached carefully inside the mouth with the other to retrieve his lost tool. He wasn't careful enough, however, and cut a finger on the sharp teeth. Blood dripped from his hand into the mouth, coating the teeth as he placed the statue back down and left to treat his injury.
That night the reception, which was hosted by the President of the United States, was in full swing. Men in tuxedos and women in evening dresses mingled among foreign dignitaries in their own native garb. Some visited among each other while others walked through the gallery, looking at the displays. Servers carrying trays of champagne and hors d'oeurvres walked among them.
Dr. Gordon Letanik walked up to a server and picked up a champagne glass, drinking it all at once before placing the empty glass, which now bore a bloody fingerprint, back on her tray. He didn't look well as he walked away toward the Aztec blood stone, which was now on display, his face ashen and glistening with sweat. He felt drawn to the statue and, as he came close to it, he thought he heard it whispering to him. What little control he still had over his mind and body faded away as he stared into the ivory eyes of the sacrificial artifact.
Elsewhere at the reception, Agent Swan, with her dark hair pinned up in a chignon and wearing a simple black evening dress that allowed for freedom of movement yet still remained stylish, made her rounds, assessing the crowd for trouble and checking security. She stopped when she caught sight of Agent Masen walking by.
He was tall, over six feet, and handsome, with short reddish-brown hair and green eyes. He was so attractive and she couldn't help but admire him briefly. He looked so good in his tux! With a subtle shake of her head, she reminded herself of her duty, as well as the fact that she wasn't ready for another relationship yet, especially with someone who had Masen's reputation.
Remembering her job, something that was extremely important to her, also reminded her that Agent Masen shouldn't be here now. He was supposed to be manning security at Emerald entrance, a green door he had just bypassed as he walked through the museum.
Putting her hand to her ear to activate her earpiece, she asked, "Who's on Emerald entrance?"
"Me, Morris," was the reply she received.
Steeling herself to ignore the chemistry she felt whenever she was near him, Isabella walked up directly in front of Agent Masen, forcing him to stop in place. "Why aren't you at Emerald?"
"Uh, well, because I'm here," he answered vaguely, his attention focused elsewhere. Edward Masen was a man who relied upon his instincts. He got "vibes" about things and he was rarely wrong. Right now his intuition told him that he needed to be here, not stuck at one post all night. "How's home base?"
"We're calling home base ‘Magenta'," Isabella said as she continued her rounds. The museum had different colored doors leading to various rooms, and in her final overview of the security protocol, she'd renamed places of interest based on the color of the door in that area that she'd seen earlier.
Edward chuckled, walking beside her. He was an ex-Marine and didn't understand the purpose of color-coding everything when the standard names worked just as well. "I'm not." His expression becoming more serious, he said, "You changed the protocol."
"I tweaked it."
"I wrote it, and I didn't use colors."
"Why weren't you at my briefing," Isabella asked, using her periphery vision to look at him while keeping her focus straight ahead and trying her best to ignore the attraction she felt to him. He was quick to flirt with most women, although he'd rarely done so with her, and she assumed he'd been with a woman that afternoon.
Edward took a moment to consider what to tell her. He'd felt drawn to her from the first moment he saw her, but he barely knew her other than the fact that she was an exemplary agent, recently transferred to D.C. from Denver after the death of her partner.
As far as he knew, Agent Swan was completely by the book in regards to her job, especially after everything that had happened in Colorado. He doubted she'd believe him if he told her about the bad vibes he'd had about the exhibit since this afternoon. She would probably also be offended if he implied that he didn't trust the security measures she'd taken to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance tonight.
Eventually he decided that he didn't care what she thought—even though, deep down, he really did care—and went with the truth. "Vetting the servers."
"Screwing off is more like it," Isabella scoffed.
Edward shook his head and ignored her; she was still new here and she'd learn the truth eventually. He knew his reputation, which was based mostly on his appearance and the fact that he tended to flirt a lot. Contrary to popular opinion, however, he wasn't one for casual relationships and he didn't sleep around. He knew how most women saw him and used it to his advantage when the situation called for it.
When he had to interview a woman, flirting with her could have a couple different outcomes, both useful. The first outcome was with women who wanted him to take interest in them. In that situation, the woman he flirted with was flattered by it and told him whatever he wanted in an attempt to make him happy. In another situation, the woman looked down on him as a useless womanizer and ignored him, allowing him to see and hear things he might not otherwise have access to.
Not getting a response from him, Isabella finally spun around to face Edward, focusing on the task at hand, ignoring the way she felt when she looked into his eyes. "Get back to Emerald!" she ordered quietly so as not to alert the guests to their row.
"You're not my superior," he replied slowly. He didn't want to offend her, but he definitely did not intend to ignore his instincts here, no matter what other trouble it might cause. He did that once and it had cost his father his life.
"Newton gave this to me and I'm running it."
Finally fed up with the argument that was going nowhere and only delaying him, Edward gave in and told Agent Swan his secret. "Isabella, I get vibes." He knew she probably wouldn't understand, but he certainly didn't have the time to explain now. After taking in the shocked expression on her face, he turned and walked away.
Seeing him walk away from her, Isabella quickly collected herself and sped up to rejoin him. If he thought that cryptic statement was enough for her to ignore protocol, he had another think coming! "Sorry?" she asked once she caught up to him.
Edward sighed and began talking as he swept his gaze across the museum, looking for anything out of the ordinary, or anything that would set his vibes off even more. "This isn't some run and gun like you're used to in Denver."
Isabella's expression hardened at the mention of her old post. She hated whenever it was brought up. Even though she had finally realized that Sam's death wasn't her fault, she still wasn't past the grief of losing him, and every time Denver was mentioned was like the metaphor of pouring salt into an open wound. "Get to the point, Masen."
"Newton gave you this shindig with my protocol because my specialty is logistics, framing, and... I kid you not..." Edward stopped walking when they reached the main entrance and looked around. The bad vibe he felt was fading in this direction. The problem was within the heart of the exhibit itself. "...there is something really off in here."
"Eagle at Magenta," a voice announced through the agents' earpieces. "Mr. President, wait a moment, please."
"This is Swan. Eagle is free to enter."
Edward gritted his teeth in frustration. Didn't she hear a word he'd said to her? "Negative, negative, this is Masen. Hold Eagle at five until further. Copy?"
Isabella glared at him when they both heard the response. "Copy that. Holding Eagle."
"Get back to Emerald," she ordered furiously.
Edward smirked at her to mask his frustration with her, and at the situation. "Look, Isabella, why don't you pull your head out of your ‘Magenta' and feel the room? Something's off."
Isabella was equally frustrated with Agent Masen's arrogance, not to mention him overriding her authority. "Nothing's off," she insisted. She truly believed it, too. She had double and triple checked everyone and everything here to ensure the safety of the President, as well as everyone else. It wasn't in her to fail at something like this, not again. "The room is fine. Everything is fine. Now take your vibe and go!"
Edward clasped his hands together to keep them from pulling his hair in frustration, an unfortunate habit he retained from his youth. It was obviously a waste of time trying to convince her. He wouldn't be able to convince anyone until he located and exposed the source of the problem. He turned to leave, murmuring, "Enjoy your party," as he left.
Isabella watched Agent Masen walk away, then contacted the agents assigned to the museum perimeter. "I want a perimeter check ASAP." She still didn't believe in Agent Masen's vibe, but it didn't hurt to have everything checked over again, just to be sure.
Edward walked slowly through the museum, following his instincts and allowing them to guide his footsteps. He eventually found himself before an artifact on display. It was round gray stone, carved into a grotesque face with a row of jagged crystalline teeth along the bottom of the rectangular mouth and covered in some kind of tribal markings. The plaque attached to the plinth where it rested read: Blood Stone, Aztec, 15th Century. There was something odd about it and he took a step closer to examine what it was.
There appeared to be blood—or at least some kind of red liquid—running in rivulets through the markings on the statue. There was also a low rumbling, like a growl, emitting from the effigy. Edward took a step back and looked around to see if anyone else noticed the blood and growling, but everyone nearby was too absorbed with visiting among each other to notice anything.
His instincts were screaming at him that the statue was the source of whatever was wrong here. He didn't understand it, but his vibes weren't wrong. He stepped over to the display, picked up the statue, and rushed away with it. He had to get it away from everyone.
"Excuse me, sir. Wait just a second," Dr. Greenfield protested when he saw Agent Masen leaving with the Aztec blood stone.
"Secret Service. This is..." Edward didn't know what to say to rationally explain his actions, so he just continued running out of the hall with the statue in his hands. "...gotta go. Excuse me!"
Meanwhile, Isabella had received the all clear from every one of the agents stationed around the perimeter of the museum. It was just as she'd thought, nothing but a false alarm due to Masen's so-called vibe. Pressing a hand to her earpiece to activate it, she said, "That's an okay for Eagle to enter."
Just after she gave the all clear, she passed Dr. Letanik, but she barely recognized him. He was extremely pale and covered in sweat with bloodshot eyes, which was a huge red flag. She stopped and watched as he walked past her, and she noticed drops of blood on the marble floors leading to his figure, which had stopped at the top of the stairs leading to the entrance where the President would soon arrive.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked over at him and saw blood dripping from his hand. She slowly slipped off her heels, preparing herself to run after him if necessary. As she leaned over to pull off her shoes, she saw an odd-looking knife—some kind of ancient ceremonial dagger, maybe—slip out of his sleeve and into his bleeding hand. She didn't waste any time in pulling out the concealed gun she had strapped to her thigh and rushing toward him.
"Clear Eagle," she ordered into her earpiece as she ran after Dr. Letanik, who had descended the stairs and was walking toward the Mexican Ambassador's daughter who was standing near the entrance, having just arrived.
Dr. Letanik slowly raised the knife as he walked, his movements trance-like, his mind completely consumed by an unfathomable desire to sacrifice the girl just like the ancient Aztecs did. The other Secret Service agents, assuming the President was Dr. Letanik's target, rushed to get him back out of the museum and to safety.
Isabella stopped behind Dr. Letanik with her gun raised and pointed it at his head. "Freeze!" He slowly swiveled around to face her, his eyes blank of all emotion, and she calmly told him, "Drop the knife."
Dr. Letanik slowly lowered his knife before quickly altering his motions by kicking at Isabella's gun hand. The weapon flew from her grasp and he grabbed a hold on her, pulling her back to his chest and placing his dagger at her throat.
"Hold your fire!" Isabella called out to the agents nearby with their guns pointed at Dr. Letanik and her.
"Seriously, Gordon, drop the knife," Isabella said softly, using a soothing tone in an attempt to calm the man.
After his continued non-compliance, Isabella jabbed her elbow back into Dr. Letanik's solar plexus as hard as she could before twisting herself out of his arms and turning to face him. She kicked up and knocked the dagger out of his hands. He rushed toward her, but she was ready this time and grabbed his right arm, wrenching it behind his back, while simultaneously bring her right knee up into his stomach before swiftly moving behind him and sweeping his legs out from under him with another well-placed kick, dropping him to the floor.
"Weapon!" she called out to the nearest agent who had retrieved her lost weapon, holding out her hand, and he tossed her the gun. She pointed the gun at Dr. Letanik, who was lying on his back, stating, "We're done here."
Dr. Letanik began screaming, but slowly his complexion and bloodshot eyes began returning to normal as his head fell to the side and he lost consciousness.
During the confrontation between Agent Swan and Dr. Letanik, Agent Masen was running through dark deserted rooms in the museum with the dangerous Aztec statue in his grasp. When turning a corner, he lost his footing on the slick marble floors and the carving fell out of his hands, rolling across the floor and stopping at the feet of a middle-aged blond man wearing night-vision goggles and carrying a briefcase. The man knelt on the floor next to the statue and opened his briefcase, pulling out a foil pouch and opening it.
Edward stood to his feet and pointed his gun at the man.
"Drop that," he ordered as the man reached into the pouch and pulled out an object dripping liquid that he held over the statue, "whatever it is."
The man looked up at him. "Can't do that, Edward," he replied, continuing with his task and lowering a set of protective lenses over his goggles. He dripped the liquid into the opening at the top of the statue's head, thoroughly saturating it, before placing the object—which appeared to be a piece of stone shaped somewhat like an arrowhead—into the hole at the top of blood stone. As he did, the statue lit up, a bright glow emanating from every opening and sparks flying.
The light continued to flare out bigger and stronger, making it impossible to look at directly. Edward had to turn his face away from it to protect his sight until finally the light dissipated, leaving the room in darkness once more.
When he was finally able to see his surroundings again, Edward noticed that the mysterious man and the Aztec statue were gone. The blood trail from where the carved head had rolled away from him began to sizzle and disappear as he watched, removing all evidence from the scene. Even the blood that had smeared from the statue onto his tux disappeared.
Later that night, Edward sat on the steps in the entrance hall, his tie off and top few buttons of his shirt undone to allow for more comfort, as his boss, Agent Michael Newton, walked toward him. Agent Newton was a tall man, middle-aged with gray-blond hair, but still fit.
"Tell me you found the guy," Edward asked wearily.
"The guy you said stole the rock?"
Edward nodded without looking up. It wasn't looking good for him right now, especially with all the evidence now gone.
"We're gonna need a sample," Newton said.
Edward looked up at that and his boss held up the standard cup used for a urine sample.
"Come on, Newton," Edward protested.
"Well, you said, among many strange things, that the rock was bleeding."
"It was!" Edward insisted.
"Taxpayers will probably wanna know if you were high, paranoid, or just part of an Aztec art theft ring. In the meantime, you're suspended, with pay, for two weeks till we get this thing worked out."
"What about Morris?"
"He says nothing happened at Emerald."
"Okay, can we stop with the colors already?" Edward sighed, thinking over everything that had happened that night before asking, "What about the guy with the knife?"
"He's in a coma. Docs don't know why or how long that's gonna last."
"Isabella is being thanked personally by the President and the First Lady."
Edward chuckled humorlessly. "Of course she is."
"She's going places," Newton announced proudly. "You, on the other hand, you're going to the bathroom," he said before walking past Edward and tossing the cup into his hands.
After a very long and stressful night, Edward returned to his apartment. As he closed his door, he heard a floorboard creak deeper inside and turned to face the direction that the sound originated from. He walked stealthily toward it, reaching his hand back to his waistband, gripping the gun strapped to his back.
The voice came from behind him, rather than the direction he'd heard the creak from, and Edward whirled to face the voice, pulling his gun out and pointing it at the statuesque woman standing before him.
"My name's Morgan," the woman continued, unfazed by the gun he held on her. After all, she couldn't be killed by ordinary means.
"Mrs. Morgan," she said, stepping out of the shadows into more light so he could see her face. She was a dark skinned woman with medium brown hair tied in a multitude of tiny braids, which were then put up into a beehive-style hairdo. She maintained a calm, relaxed, serious expression, neither smiling nor frowning. "I'm with the government. I'm here on a matter of national security."
A large Asian man stepped silently from behind Edward and moved next to him, handing him a large envelope. Edward started back, not having heard a sound after the initial creak when he entered the apartment. After a moment, realizing that there was no immediate danger from his guests, Edward reached back and holstered his gun.
"What's that?" he asked, nodding toward the envelope.
"An invitation to endless wonder," Mrs. Morgan replied.
Edward rolled his eyes. "Okay, could you sound a little more creepy?" he quipped, turning his gaze back toward her.
Morgan was not amused. "Read it," she ordered steadily. Edward sighed and reached for the envelope, taking it from the nameless man beside him. "Please note the action code. It is legitimate. You're part of my bailiwick now."
"You're working for me."
"Am I stuttering?" Mrs. Morgan asked her assistant seriously, her tone remaining even.
"No, ma'am," he answered her succinctly, the first words he'd said during this strange encounter.
Mrs. Morgan and her assistant both turned their gazes toward Edward and he looked between them, trying to figure out what was going on. He had a sneaking suspicion that everything the woman had told him was true, but his mind refused to admit it yet.
To try and relieve the situation, and maybe bring some sanity back into his life, Edward began to chuckle. "Okay, okay. All right, I get it. I get it. This is a joke, right? Newton put you guys up. This is Newton being funny, right?"
Mrs. Morgan's facial expression never changed, nor did her assistant's. "Do I look like a joke, Mr. Masen?" she asked steadily.
The smile slowly dropped off Edward's face as he consciously began to realize what he already knew deep down. "No?"
"You're to be in South Dakota, at those coordinates, at noon tomorrow. You will mention our meeting and your pending assignment to no one. Is that understood?"
"How long am I going to be in South Dakota?" Edward asked.
"No, no, no, no, no," Edward protested vehemently. "Look, I've got a life here."
"Really?" Mrs. Morgan asked him, although she already knew the truth.
"Yeah, I've got..." Edward started, shrugging and trailing off as he contemplated what in his life was keeping him in D.C. "...things," he finished lamely, unable to think of anything concrete to say.
"Pack light, Mr. Masen," Mrs. Morgan said as she walked past him toward the door exiting his apartment, trailed by her assistant. "We'll ship you what you need and store the rest."
Edward drove his rental SUV, following the GPS instructions that helped him to navigate his way through South Dakota to the address given to him. The GPS announced that he missed the turn, so he put the vehicle in reverse until the computerized voice instructed him to, "turn right." Looking around he noticed a path practically overgrown with grass leading up to two rusted farm gates. He looked at the GPS to verify the directions, but yes, that was the correct way to go.
He turned the SUV and drove up to the gates before getting out and pushing them open, the rusty hinges squeaking in protest. Getting back into the vehicle, he drove through the gates without stopping. He ended up at the top of a hill in the middle of a grassy field where the GPS announced his destination "straight ahead."
Beyond the hill, straight ahead along the overgrown path he was driving, was the Badlands. "You've gotta be kidding me," he muttered. Sighing, he continued driving into the barren landscape.
After a few minutes, he ended up before a large dilapidated looking warehouse with a lone cow standing nearby. Ignoring the bovine, Edward pulled up in front of the structure and parked his vehicle, exiting and staring at his final destination. He wasn't impressed.
"Yeah, endless wonder," he muttered. He spotted a door and walked toward it, shrugging his suit jacket back on, loudly calling out, "Hello, it's Agent Masen. I'm here!"
There wasn't a knob or handle on the door that he could discern, so he stepped forward and knocked, hoping someone would show up soon and tell him what the hell he was doing here. The sound from his knock echoed loudly, but he heard a high-pitched whistling over it. The sound came from overhead so he turned and looked up, trying to see what was causing the noise.
Pulling his shades down, he saw what appeared to be a football flying through the sky toward him at an incredibly fast speed. He ducked away from the trajectory and the ball bounced loudly off the metal wall of the warehouse. He walked over to where it lay on the ground and picked it up. It looked old but otherwise normal.
What Edward didn't know was that the seemingly normal football was actually a highly sophisticated electronic surveillance unit used to track abnormal artifacts around the world. When it detected something out of the ordinary, the information was stored in the football's database and sent to the warehouse's main computer to alert agents. Edward dropped it back to the ground as he saw a silver car drive up and park near his.
"Oh, great," he muttered under his breath as he saw who sat behind the wheel. After they had clashed last night, and especially after she had received a commendation personally from the President while he had been suspended, Edward wasn't exactly eager to see Agent Swan right then.
Isabella stepped out of the car and walked up to him, staring in confusion. "I heard you were suspended."
Edward nodded. "Yeah, I heard that, too."
"Why are you here?" she asked as she looked around.
"Uh, I was ordered here last night," he explained. "Mrs. Morgan."
"Yes," Isabella acknowledged his unasked question. She had received a visit from Mrs. Morgan as well.
"Yeah, said it was a matter of national security." They said the words "national security" together, revealing that Mrs. Morgan had the same, or at least very similar, conversation with them both.
Without warning, they heard the door leading into the warehouse open with a loud screech and turned to face it. The door slowly opened until it was as wide as it could go, however there was no one around but the two of them. They approached the entrance cautiously, keeping their hands on their weapons, peering inside for potential danger.
"How are you guys doing?" a man who suddenly appeared behind them asked. He was tall, with blond hair—currently covered by a straw hat—and appeared to be in his fifties. "I'm sorry I'm late. I had to fix the FISH." He lifted the laser wand—a five-foot long metal object with a flat disc about a foot from top, out of which a glowing orange spike projected—in his hands for emphasis as he pulled off his hat and a special breathing mask he wore. The laser wand was an essential tool needed to make repairs to the Frequency-Interfering Surveillance Holograph, a former C.I.A. project that was currently used to protect the warehouse from prying eyes by projecting an image of an empty lot in order to make it appear that the warehouse did not exist.
Recognizing him from the museum, Edward pulled out his gun and pointed it at the man. "Hey, stop right there," he ordered.
Isabella looked at him, confused. "What are you doing?"
"This is the guy, the one from last night. The guy who stole the rock."
"You stole the rock," she replied, looking straight at Edward. That's what she'd been told. Edward stole the Aztec statue from the museum and ran with it. That's why he'd been suspended, wasn't it?
"It's a blood stone; it's safe," the blond man interrupted, ignoring Isabella's comment. "It's inside the building," he explained, pointing at the large structure.
"Yeah, well, it's the property of the museum," Edward argued.
"And that museum is property of the U.S. government, and so is the warehouse," the blond man countered, walking toward the open warehouse door. "And so am I," he added with a chuckle. "Secret Service. I also work for Mrs. Morgan. Carlisle Cullen," he said as an introduction, "You can call me Carlisle."
"Got some ID?" Isabella asked Carlisle.
"No," he replied, "we take the Secret part seriously around here." He walked past them before speaking again and turning toward Edward. "Oh, I just wanted to thank you for your assistance in last night's retrieval. That was very good."
As they walked past where the football lay on the ground, Edward asked, "Hey, did you throw that football at me?"
"You weren't here when I threw it. It takes a while to circle back. Come on inside; I'll show you around."
"Around what?" Isabella asked. "What am I doing here?"
Carlisle waved his arm in a "go forward" gesture toward the warehouse entrance. "I'll explain everything inside. Come on." When neither Edward nor Isabella made a move to follow, he added, "I made cookies."
Edward perked up; cookies were a weakness of his. "Ooh!" he exclaimed, stepping forward eagerly.
Carlisle smiled and gestured them inside the building once more. "Yeah, come on. Come on." Isabella still stood back, hesitating. "Really, it's okay," he cajoled. "Go inside." Turning toward Edward, who was already inside, he called, "Don't go far!" As Isabella reluctantly walked past him, he said, "Wait for me at the bottom of the stairs."
As the two agents entered the building, Carlisle leaned the laser wand he had been carrying against the wall and bent down to retrieve the football. "Don't touch anything!" he shouted as he backed up a few steps and threw the football over the roof of the warehouse as hard as he could.
Carlisle soon caught up with Agents Masen and Swan as they reached the Umbilicus, a 20-foot long, white, brightly-lit cylindrical-shaped corridor. A half dozen white posts with a glass encased object at the top and a red "DANGER" label at the bottom lined both sides of the corridor. "Don't touch the bombs," Carlisle warned casually, referring to the posts, as he led the agents through the corridor, stopping before the far door.
Turning toward Isabella, he handed her the laser wand. "Hold this," he said before turning back to the door. He flipped a panel open on the wall by the door, revealing a retinal scanner, and stepped toward it. After his eye was scanned and his identification verified, the final door leading into the warehouse opened with a whoosh and the agents walked inside.
Beyond the white, high-tech corridor was a very different room. It was much darker, resembling an old study, except that it was large enough for at least four offices. It had brick walls and a simple concrete floor with a few rugs laid over top it. There were a few simple wood desks piled with books and papers, although one desk also held a large computer monitor.
Table and floor lamps provided most of the lighting. Two massive filing cabinets lined the back of the right wall and a small kitchenette was in an alcove off the left wall. Next to the kitchenette, a circular metal staircase led to an upper level.
Leading them through the office, Carlisle opened another door that led out to a long catwalk. Holding the door open, he gestured them forward. "Miss Swan, Mr. Masen, welcome to Apothiki Dekatreis."
From the view of the catwalk, they could see the enormous cavern that was the interior of the warehouse, stretching for miles, further than they could see; the space nearest their location was filled with shelves and crates. "I'm thrilled you're on the team," Carlisle said, turning back into the office.
"What team, what is this place?" Isabella asked, a dumbfounded expression on her face.
Carlisle stopped and faced her, answering, "Officially, K-three-nine-triple-z, on the North American grid. But I like to think of it as America's attic." He walked back into the office, followed by Bella and Edward. "Edward, close the door."
Edward, who had just stepped through, paused and turned back, grabbing the door handle and pulling it shut.
Isabella was frustrated. She had seen nothing so far to explain why her talents were being wasted in a such a place. "Tell me exactly what I'm doing here," she said to Carlisle, hoping to hear something that would help her make sense out of what was going on.
"Exactly? That's a little... Yeah, well, to put it plainly you're both joining me as fellow gatherers and protectors of secrets."
"Put it plainer!" Isabella snapped, annoyed. Gathers and protectors of secrets! What the fuck did that mean? She was a protector of people—not things—especially the President, her fellow agents, and anyone else she was assigned to protect.
Carlisle sighed, sitting down at his desk. How could this be explained simply? It just couldn't be explained; it had to be experienced. "This warehouse... Look, the Apothiki needs you. Edward, don't touch," he said when he saw Edward browsing through the office, causing Edward to look up at him. Returning his focus to Isabella, he said, "It needs your combined talents. I mean, he's intuitive, and you've got a scrupulous eye for detail. He's scattershot, see? You're meticulous. You look, he leaps."
Growing bored with the conversation, Edward returned to poking around the office, checking out some of the objects scattered around that looked like they belonged in a museum. More "stolen" stuff perhaps?
Isabella huffed. They wanted her to work as a glorified security guard for an old warehouse? She was the Shift Lead in the Presidential Protective Division of the USSS, not a simple security guard!
"There's been a mistake. I'm too valuable to be wasted here," she insisted. Glancing at Edward, she added, "No offense."
He looked up at her and nodded. "Of course not."
Turning back to Carlisle, Isabella asked, "Can I use your phone, please?" She had to contact her boss and get this fixed.
"Mine? It's, uh, broken," Carlisle replied with a glance at the phone on his desk. Truthfully, he never had a need to use the old thing. Everyone he needed to speak to long distance he could contact via his Farnsworth—a two-way audio and video communications device invented by Philo Farnsworth—which was far more secure and reliable.
"Well, I have to make a phone call, so..." Isabella fumbled with her purse, reaching inside and pulling out her cellphone.
"There's no signal here," Carlisle interrupted.
Isabella looked up from her phone and sighed loudly before storming out of the office and into the Umbilicus, heading outside.
As the door slammed behind her, Edward looked at Carlisle, raising his eyebrows. "I think she had other plans."
Sighing, Carlisle looked down, frowning. "So did I," he muttered. He stood up and walked over to Edward. "You want juice, or are you a milk person?"
Edward sighed and put his hands in his pockets. "You know what I'd really like?"
"Oh, I do indeed, but falling off the wagon may not be the best option at this point."
Edward shook his head. "Uh..."
"Milk it is."
Edward picked up an old framed black and white photograph from one of the desks. In the picture were five agents, one of them a much younger Carlisle, standing around Mrs. Morgan, who looked exactly the same as she did now. Pointing at her in the photograph, Edward said, "That's Mrs. Morgan," hoping for some kind of explanation from Carlisle.
"Long time ago," Carlisle agreed without saying anything more.
"She looks exactly the same," Edward prompted.
"Odd, isn't it?" Carlisle deflected, handing Edward a plate of cookies with a glass of milk.
Taking a sip of milk, then picking up a cookie, Edward pointed at the other agents in the photo. "So, who are these guys?" he asked.
Carlisle walked away and Edward looked after him, frustrated with his constant non-answers. "And where are they now?" he prodded.
Carlisle sighed and turned back to Edward, stepping up next to him and pointing at the other men in the photo. "Well, this one and this one are dead," he said, tapping on the two men on the far left and far right in the photo. He then tapped on the man standing next to himself in the photo. "This one, a mental institution in Germany." He then tapped on the last man. "And this last one disappeared. One day I'll find him."
He walked away again and Edward stared after him, open-mouthed in shock. Apparently this job, whatever it entailed, was much more dangerous than it appeared to be on the surface.
Outside the warehouse, Isabella managed to get a weak signal on her phone and immediately dialed her former boss, Mike Newton.
"Newton," he answered after a brief ring.
"Sir, it's Isabella Swan," she announced.
"Sir, I have a little situation here. I'm not sure..."
"Yeah, yeah," Mike interrupted. "You know what? I'm looking at the transfer order right now. The name on here is Morgan. You're transferred to where? Where are you?"
"Well, I'm in South Dakota," Isabella replied while pacing in front of the warehouse, too agitated to stand still.
"Where?" Mike asked, incredulous, thinking he must have misheard.
"South Dakota," Isabella replied loudly, in case he hadn't heard over the poor signal.
"What are doing in South Dakota?"
"You don't know about this?" Isabella asked, shocked. How could her boss—or rather former boss—not know about this transfer before it took place?
"No. Who is Morgan?"
That was the last thing Isabella heard has her phone began crackling as the cell signal decreased. She looked around frantically, trying to find a way to improve the signal. Spotting a hill of dirt, she quickly ran up it, hoping the signal would improve enough that she could continue with the call.
"Isabella? Isabella?" Agent Newton called over the static as the signal improved slightly. "Who's this Morgan?"
"Sir! She handed me orders last night to come here to a warehouse in South Dakota. The order code was solid, and Masen's here, too. Look, I'm requesting an immediate stand down and transfer back to D.C."
"Isabella, I can't do that," Mike replied reluctantly, although he wished he could. "This order trumps me. Hold on and I will get you back here ASAP."
"What should I do?"
"Follow orders, those orders, both of you."
"And how long with this take?" Isabella asked, frustrated that she would have to stay here for an undetermined length of time. The crackle over her phone got worse again. "Sir? Sir? Are you there?"
"That's a pile of crap!" Carlisle shouted at her from the warehouse entrance where he stood with the plate of cookies and another glass of milk.
Closing her phone that had completely lost what little signal it had, Isabella threw her hands up in the air. "No kidding," she scoffed.
"No, I'm not kidding," Carlisle said. "You're actually standing in a big pile of cow manure."
Isabella looked down at what she had thought was just a big pile of dirt and noticed the buzzing flies for the first time. Of course it was cow manure. She'd been so distracted with her call, she hadn't paid full attention before. Could her day get any worse?
Carlisle smiled and held the plate of cookies out in her direction. "Oatmeal scotchie?"
Isabella turned away from him and walked down the hill with as much dignity as she could muster. "No, thank you. I don't eat sugar." That wasn't strictly true, but she did limit the amount of sugar she consumed, usually saving it for a time when she could relax completely.
"Good for you. Listen," Carlisle commented as Isabella reached him and they both began walking back to the warehouse, "please don't think of this assignment as some sort of punishment." He handed her the glass of milk in his hand. "Can you hold this?"
"What?" she asked as she took the glass. How could she not look at this as a punishment? What else could it be? Nothing else made any sense, but even a punishment didn't make any sense after the praise she'd received for her recent work.
"Your presence here is not really a reaction to what happened to you in Denver. So..."
Isabella stopped walking and stared at him as he turned to face her. "I got a commendation for what happened in Denver," she said defensively. When would people stop bringing up Denver? How could she ever fully recover if she wasn't allowed to deal with what happened there in peace?
Carlisle nodded as he nonchalantly ate a cookie, ignoring Isabella's antagonistic behavior. "Yes, you did." He reached over and picked up the glass of milk she held, taking a sip. "It's time for the nickel tour. Come on."
Keeping her focus on what her former boss advised her to do, Isabella reluctantly returned to the warehouse with Carlisle. Once inside, she and Edward were taken by Carlisle to the ground floor of the massive warehouse and led to a strange vehicle that looked similar to a stagecoach.
The stagecoach had a bench seat up front, set just behind what looked to be a raised safety bar, with a steering wheel and seat for one in the back, raised a bit higher. There was open storage space available under the back seat, which currently held a box and a bag. Edward and Isabella were instructed to sit in the front seats of the vehicle, holding onto the metal bar in front of them. Carlisle also had them wear safety vests and hard hats for some obscure reason.
"The order trumps Newton?" Edward quietly confirmed with Bella after she shared the details of her phone call with him.
She nodded succinctly as Carlisle spoke from the seat behind them. "The first Apothiki Dekatreis was built in '98."
"So we're stuck," Edward said to Isabella, ignoring Carlisle.
"Until he works out a transfer, yes," Isabella replied.
"1898," Carlisle clarified. "We didn't have a handle on how to store stuff. It burned down. Some remodeling and excavations were necessary as the years went on to accommodate the arrival of more and more and more and more artifacts."
Edward turned his head to look at Carlisle over his shoulder, paying attention to what was said now that his conversation with Isabella was done. "What's stored here exactly?"
"Oh, this and that, bric-a-brac. Some things along the lines of last night's rock and roll. I'm talking about the blood stone." Isabella dropped her hands from the metal bar to her lap and the stagecoach slowed to a stop. "Both hands on the bar, please," Carlisle requested.
Isabella smirked; even at its maximum speed the stagecoach didn't move much faster than a brisk walk. "I think I'll survive a crash," she joked with a chuckle, glancing at Edward who chuckled along with her in agreement.
Carlisle shook his head. "No, that's not a safety bar, it's a conduit. You and Edward are the power source. Your combined electrical energy makes this thing move." Edward quickly pulled his hands back off the bar at that. "It's fine, it's fine," Carlisle soothed, placing his hand on Edward's shoulder.
"Look," Carlisle explained to them, "Thomas Edison built this automobile for Henry Ford as a proof of concept, and it's perfectly safe. Trust me. Put your hands on the bar."
After a few moments of hesitation, cajoled once more by Carlisle, Edward placed his hands back on the bar.
"Thank you," Carlisle sighed. When Isabella continued to stubbornly sit with her hands in her lap, he spoke up again. "We need both of you." Without turning her head, Isabella looked over at Edward, who nodded his head toward the bar, coaxing her to cooperate. "Hands on the bar, Isabella," Carlisle coaxed again. "Thank you," he said when she finally complied, and the vehicle began moving forward again immediately after her hands made contact with the bar.
"Edison, he wanted Ford to let go of oil," Carlisle continued explaining the history of the vehicle. "But Ford, no, no, he stuck with it because it ruined his engines faster. People had to keep buying them."
Edward caught sight of what appeared to be a plane through a gap in the storage aisle they were driving through. "What is that?"
"That is Training Flight 22," Carlisle explained, stopping the coach and climbing out nearby. "We pulled that from the Bermuda Triangle. The Triangle's been trying to pull it back ever since."
Abruptly there was a sound of crackling electricity and they saw a ball of bluish-white light bouncing down the aisle toward them, miniature lightning forks sparking out from it. "Duck and cover," Carlisle shouted as he did just that.
Edward and Bella were still seated in the stagecoach and tried to duck as much as they could when the ball of electricity bounced past them, but still got a little jolt from it. "Ow!" Isabella exclaimed.
After it passed, Carlisle stood again. "It's harmless. Inventory kicks up a little static from time to time," he explained absentmindedly as he pulled the bag from the back of the stagecoach and moved off.
Edward grinned as he looked around. He still didn't really understand why he was here or what he was supposed to do, but this place was pretty amazing from what he'd seen and heard so far. It sure beat the nothing he expected to do while he was suspended.
"Why are you grinning?" Isabella asked when she looked over at him.
"Well, don't you think this stuff is kind of cool?"
Isabella just looked at him blankly, not understanding what was so enthralling about this place. Sure, there was a lot of history here, and that in itself could be interesting, but just because they had worked security at a museum last night didn't mean that should be their fulltime job, especially not when their specialty was protecting people. She looked around and, for the first time, realized that she and Edward were alone. "Where is he?"
Edward looked around, too, also seeing that Carlisle had disappeared, but he was unconcerned. "I don't know, but he'll be back."
Isabella ignored him and climbed out of the vehicle and began calling for Carlisle, quickly followed by Edward. "Carlisle! Hello?"
Carlisle poked his head around the end of the aisle in front of them. "We should stick together. Right this way, please." As the two agents followed him, he began explaining a little more about the artifacts housed there. "Many of the items in here, kind of like the blood stone, Edward, that you wrestled with last night, they channel a tangential energy. Well, tangential energy is kind of like the energy that forced the museum employee last night into... uh, well, into almost committing murder."
"So how does that happen?" Edward asked, intrigued.
He wasn't sure if he believed what Carlisle was saying or not. It all seemed so crazy when he thought of everything he'd been taught through college about what to accept as reality in the world around them, but on the other hand it explained why he'd had such a bad vibe about a big rock, an inanimate object. He thought back to his parents, especially his mother. His parents had always told him to keep an open mind, that things weren't always as they seemed, and to always trust his instincts.
"Yeah, we're not really exactly sure how. It goes back to Einstein, or E equals..." Carlisle started, before deciding to stop trying to explain something he really didn't have an explanation for. Maybe Zafrina Morgan or the Regents knew, but he didn't. "Yeah, okay... somehow the matter that is in here," he reached into the bag he'd carried from the stagecoach and pulled out the deactivated blood stone, "has just enough energy to move other matter."
Isabella's mind drifted as she only paid half attention to what was being said and thought over everything she could do to get back to her life. She'd cooperate until Mike Newton could get her transferred back to D.C., but she wasn't going to pretend she was happy about it, or that she believed any of the fairy tales that Carlisle was rambling on about.
While waiting for Carlisle to finish with what he was doing, she placed her purse on a nearby shelf before leaning back against a support post with her arms crossed. A large wallet just above where she placed her purse began vibrating its way toward the edge, although no one noticed since their attention was focused elsewhere. The label affixed to the shelf by the wallet read:
Item #875663092: Wallet
Owner: Eric Weiss a.k.a. Harry Houdini
Attributes: Charonic Transfer
HANDLE WITH EXTREME CAUTION!
Acquisition: November 3, 1926
Agent: Pocklinton, S. Code: 2139-5
"You know, like you," Carlisle continued, pointing the blood stone in his hands at Edward.
"Move me where?" Edward asked as he tried to understand, and more importantly, believe in what Carlisle was telling them.
"Into trouble," Carlisle answered simply, tossing him the now empty bag before he turned and began climbing a stepladder to an empty shelf on which to place the blood stone.
"Bunk," Isabella scoffed as her attention returned to the present. There's no way any of that stuff could be real. It went against everything ever taught in the modern, rational world.
Carlisle climbed the ladder, addressing his next words to Isabella and her skepticism. "Is gravity bunk? Magnetism? These are mysterious forces that we live with every day, but we can't explain them." He turned on the ladder a bit so that he could look her in the eye. "Can you even explain to me how a radio works? Huh? No. And you don't really care, as long as you get the traffic report, right?"
Carlisle turned away and continued his task of shelving the blood stone, but kept speaking as he did. "But if a radio landed in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, you know what Jefferson would do? He would just lock it up, until he figured out it wasn't going to kill him. And that's exactly what we do here." He placed the blood stone into a crate and closed the lid, before moving the box to an empty space on the shelf. "We take the unexplained and we just safely tuck it away in this supersized Pandora's box."
"Metaphorically speaking," Edward interrupted, completely riveted by Carlisle's explanation.
"Well, actually, Pandora's box is over in aisle 989 B. Empty, of course, except for hope." Carlisle affixed a digital label with a photo of the artifact, its name, and inventory ID number on the edge of the shelf in front of the crate that now held the blood stone before climbing back down the stepladder and turning to face Edward and Isabella. He paused when he saw Edward.
"Uh, Edward, do the world a favor and clear your mind."
"Well, that should be easy," Isabella jested, smiling at Edward to let him know she was joking. As infuriating as he was last night, his presence here was the only thing that made this assignment remotely bearable for her, especially now that she knew that he didn't, in fact, steal the blood stone from the museum. She didn't want to let him know of her interest, not yet, maybe not ever, but perhaps she could take this opportunity to get to know him a little more, find out how many of the rumors about him were true.
"Ha ha," Edward said, looking down. He jumped with a start when he noticed his right hand was grasping the handle of a teakettle. "Whoa!" He held the kettle out toward Carlisle. "Wow. How did that get there? Because I didn't pick that thing up."
"It still amazes me how that thing moves!" Carlisle exclaimed in wonder.
"What? What is it?" Edward inquired.
"Don't talk, don't hope, don't wish for anything," Carlisle warned sternly.
Isabella smirked at the two of them. This was absolutely absurd. Edward didn't actually believe this craziness, did he? "That kettle grants wishes?" she asked derisively.
"Yes," Carlisle said, ignoring her tone. "Now, Edward, look at me." Carlisle began slowly backing down the aisle. "Just keep your eyes on me. Okay." He went around the corner of the aisle out of sight.
"Open it," Isabella told Edward, hoping to prove a point. He removed the lid and looked inside, disappointed to see that it was empty, and showed Isabella who nodded, unsurprised.
Carlisle returned then, pushing a rolling cart with a large metal canister on it. "Edward, this is a neutralizer." He pulled off the lid of the canister, revealing a vat filled with a viscous amethyst liquid. "You can think of this as a fire extinguisher for objects that ‘act up.' Now, look, I want you to come over here. I want you to drop that very slowly, right in here. There are items around here, if you were to put in there, they would generate a big flash, but this little thing will probably just be a little spark. Still, you may want to flinch, and I don't want you to, ‘cause you could drop it. Okay?"
Isabella stood back quietly snickering to herself at the foolishness currently happening before her. She finally couldn't take it anymore and stepped forward, pulling the teakettle from Edward's hands into her own. "Well, I have a wish."
"Don't!" Carlisle yelled, but it was too late.
All of a sudden a ferret popped its head out of the previously empty kettle and Isabella gasped in shock, pushing the kettle back at Edward. The ferret climbed out of the kettle and into Edward's arms while Carlisle grabbed the kettle and placed it into the neutralizer himself. Sparks flew and he turned away, shielding his eyes, before pulling the kettle back out and resealing the canister.
Edward looked over at Isabella questioningly. "You wished for a ferret?"
"No," she replied, shaking her head. "That was already in the thing," she tried. Maybe it had a false bottom like the rabbit in the hat trick or something.
Edward shook his head no. He'd had a pretty good look at the kettle; there's no way it could have hidden a ferret inside without him noticing something. "I don't think so."
Carlisle stepped in front of Isabella, looking her straight in the eyes. "You wished for a transfer, didn't you?" Her silent stare was all the answer he needed. "Impossible wishes, wishes that can never be granted, they produce a ferret. Don't ask me why. My first year here, the whole place was crawling with ferrets."
"I swear, I didn't pick that thing up," Edward said.
"No, I know, I know. Not everybody is affected by everything," Carlisle explained. "You have to be metaphysically predisposed, and the external energies, they have to be in alignment. This is just a convergence thing."
"Right, sure, okay," Edward agreed, even though he didn't really understand anything that was said. "So we're all converged here, but I still have no idea what I'm supposed to do."
"What you're supposed to do is hunt down whatever is threatening to ruin the world's day, neutralize it, and bring it here. You gotta snag it, and bag it, and tag it."
"This is crazy!" Isabella shouted, unable to continue without trying to be the voice of reason in this madhouse. She didn't have an explanation for the ferret that came out of the teakettle—not yet—but it would take a lot more than that to convince her that everything Carlisle had told them was real.
Edward shrugged and gave her smile. "It could be, you know, crazy fun."
"That's exactly the attitude that brought you to our attention," Carlisle said. "Do you guys want a cookie for the road?"
"What road?" Isabella asked as Edward struggled to keep a grip on the wriggling ferret in his arms. Were they being sent somewhere else now?
"There's rooms for you at Esme's Bed & Breakfast," Carlisle explained. "It's about seven miles down the road that way," he pointed in the general direction, "and I'll join you there in the morning."
Edward and Bella began heading toward the warehouse office, and subsequently, the exit. "Seriously, Masen, there's been a serious screw-up," Isabella complained, hoping the transfer that Mike Newton was working on wouldn't take too long.
"And now you have a ferret," Edward sighed, still holding onto the animal.
Leaving the warehouse, the two agents chose to leave Isabella's rental car behind and drive together to the B & B in Edward's SUV. They drove a few miles down the road and reached what appeared to be a tiny town. They passed a few small shops and houses that lined the street, with a few vehicles parked along the shoulder, and some people on the sidewalks.
"Is this a town, or what?" Isabella asked, looking around, "What's the name of it?"
"It's more like a street," Edward commented as they passed a sign that read "Leaving Unnamed Unincorporated Settlement."
Isabella nodded and looked at the directions that Edward had written down before they left the warehouse. "So it says here to turn left at Buffalo Station."
"What? No, no, no," Edward disagreed, remembering what he'd written earlier, "It's ‘Buffalo Statue.'"
Isabella looked back at the notepad and shrugged. "Well, your penmanship is atrocious," she explained. Edward just shook his head. He may not have the neatest handwriting in the world, but it was still legible.
After a few minutes, he pulled up to a large Victorian-style house and parked. In contrast to the mostly desolate landscape behind them, Esme's Bed & Breakfast had beautiful lawns and verdant trees surrounding it.
Isabella pulled out her cellphone, trying to see if there was any better reception than there had been at the warehouse. "Wait. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" Edward objected when he saw the phone in her hands. "Don't call Newton, he hates being pestered."
"I don't pester," Isabella insisted, opening her door and getting out of the vehicle.
"Well, when he knows something, he'll call."
Isabella closed her door with a scowl before opening the back door to retrieve her suit jacket.
"Clearly the phrase ‘rolling with the punches' is not in your vocabulary," Edward commented, opening the other door to get his own jacket, as well as Isabella's new pet that was now housed in a gold-colored birdcage provided by Carlisle before they'd left the warehouse. Isabella closed the door and moved around to the back, opening the hatch to retrieve her luggage, soon joined by Edward.
"Hello." They turned toward the woman's voice they heard by the entrance to the Bed & Breakfast. She wore a flowery sundress and appeared to be in her forties with slightly wavy shoulder-length caramel-brown hair. She smiled welcomingly to them and projected an aura of serenity. "I'm Esme, you must be Edward and Isabella. Come in. I've got your rooms ready." She turned and walked back into the house, followed by the two agents.
"We serve three meals, nine, noon, and five," Esme said as she climbed the stairs, leading them to their rooms. "We've got radios in the rooms, no TVs. No in-room phones, but there is one at the bottom of the stairs in the hallway."
She walked to the end of the hallway at the top of the flight of stairs and gestured to the rooms to either side. "You may choose any room."
"Is there anywhere I can get a drink? I mean, a drink drink?" Isabella asked, desperately in need of something to help her relax after the stressful day.
"What would you like?"
"I can do that."
Isabella nodded, relieved. "Please do that." She then walked through the door of the room she was closest to and set down her luggage before returning to the hall. She pulled the ferret cage from Edward's hands and took it to her new room as well, closing the door behind her.
In her room, Isabella set the ferret's cage on the desk and she sat on the bed, pulling her phone back out of her pocket, but there still wasn't a good signal. She threw her purse on the bed beside her and the wallet from the warehouse, which had fallen from the shelf into her purse without her knowledge, slid out and dropped to the floor, the sound muffled by the carpeting.
Laying back on her bed, Isabella pulled a photo of Sam and her out of her wallet, caressing his image lightly with her finger. The case was still unsolved; they'd be unable to locate his killer. They'd been partners in more ways than one, and she was still trying to come to terms with her grief and her guilt. She'd been too late to save him and she had never truly gotten over it.
Her relationship with Sam was the primary reason that she was hesitant about Edward. She was attracted to him, but she wasn't sure if she should try to pursue anything more than a professional relationship with him, no matter the attraction there. Her last romantic relationship had ended in the worst way possible and she feared it happening again.
As she reminisced, Sam's ghostly image appeared behind her. He spoke and she whirled around when she heard the whisper of his voice, but by the time she looked behind her his image had completely disappeared from sight.
Out in the hallway, Edward took a peek into the other rooms available, deciding which one he preferred, before settling on the room across the hall from Isabella. "She hates traveling," Edward said to Esme, trying to explain away Isabella's brusque behavior.
Esme shook her head. She'd gotten a good read on Isabella's aura and understood her pain and confusion. She'd come around in time. "She loves traveling," she disagreed. "It's the places she's traveled to that's the problem. Can I get you anything?"
"No, I'm fine."
Esme narrowed her eyes as she looked closely at his aura, and Edward fidgeted under her scrutiny. After a moment, he cleared his throat before asking, "Is everything okay?"
Esme smiled at him. "You're a lucky man, Edward."
Edward chuckled uncertainly. "I am?"
She nodded. "You're in tune; very rare."
"Uh, I don't know what that..." He trailed off, wondering if there was more to her than just being the owner of a B & B. "Look, Esme, are you connected to Carlisle?"
She ignored his question and nodded toward the room he'd chosen. "Let me know if your bed is big enough for you." She walked past him and headed back down the stairs to make Isabella's drink for her, and Edward went into the room he selected and began unpacking. He'd find out what all that was about later.
That night, both Edward and Isabella were unable to sleep. Isabella stood in the open doorway of the sun room, having a late snack, looking out into the night. She was soon joined by a sleepless Edward, dressed in shorts, a white t-shirt, and a zippered Dartmouth hoodie. Isabella glanced at him when he arrived and quickly looked away, disconcerted at seeing him in such casual clothing.
"Can't sleep?" he asked her, and she shook her head. "Yeah, me neither." He leaned against the wall across from her and looked over at her. She was so beautiful, yet unapproachable. He hoped he could take the time they were together here, until Newton managed to get them transferred back, to know her better, and allow her to know him, the real him.
Edward turned to face outside, staring at the dark, starry sky. "You know," he said, "no light from the city to get in the way, nothing but sky, this time of the year we get Leo, Cygnus, Sagittarius..."
"You know this how?" Isabella asked curiously.
"My dad and I used to camp a lot," Edward said, a little melancholy as he remembered.
"Where is he now?" Edward just sighed, which gave Isabella her answer, and she looked down at her lap. "Sorry."
Edward shrugged before turning to join her, sitting in another chair. "What about your folks?" he asked to change the subject.
"The live in Colorado Springs and own a bookstore called Swan & Sons."
"How many brothers?" Edward asked.
"Just one. I think my dad hoped for more boys, or maybe he just thought the ‘and sons' sounded classier." Isabella tried to keep the sadness out of her voice. Her father had never seemed to have much time for her when she was growing up, or even much now.
"Well, he must be proud of you," Edward offered.
Isabella shook her head. "Mom is." Her mother has always supported her.
Edward's brow furrowed in confusion. How could her father not be proud of the strong and capable woman she was? His own parents were both very loving and devoted to their children when he was growing up, supporting them in everything, at least until his dad died. He knew his mother still loved him and would be proud of him, despite all his failures in life, but she had become more distant after his father died, throwing herself into her work, and they didn't talk much now.
"Well, did protecting the President of the United States turn him around?" Edward asked.
"Yeah, but this won't," Isabella said sadly. "From Denver to D.C. to a warehouse security guard in six months. Now there's a career trajectory."
"Look, about Denver," Edward sighed, realizing what a sore point that was with her, "I didn't mean to spit on that last night. What you did there was better than textbook."
Isabella turned her gaze toward Edward, pushing down desire to tell him everything about what happened there. She wasn't ready yet, and she barely knew Edward. "We're not discussing that. Not now."
Edward knew when to back off and he stood up from his chair, nodding. "All right, well, I'm gonna go back upstairs and... not sleep some more."
As he began walking away, Isabella looked at him over her shoulder. "Hey." When Edward paused and looked back at her, she started to ask the question that had been burning a hole inside her since she'd been alone in her room. "Earlier, did you hear a..." She stopped, not sure what to say without sounding crazy, and there had been more than enough of that today.
"Hear what?" Edward asked when she failed to continue.
Isabella laughed uncomfortably and changed her mind about asking if he'd heard the voice she thought she'd heard in her room. "Never mind."
"Newton will call," Edward said gently, misinterpreting her question, but she went with it and nodded.
Back at the warehouse, Carlisle was in his office when he received a call on his Farnsworth. He flipped open the cover and answered the call to see that it was from Mrs. Morgan.
"How did it go today?" Zafrina asked.
"Not bad. Um, Masen seems interested, and Miss Swan... not so much."
"Hmm... Did you select a case for them?"
"Yeah, listen, I don't mean any disrespect, but are we really sure that these are the people? The right people? Because..."
"Carlisle," Zafrina interrupted, "I'm fully aware of their baggage. Now, what's the real problem?"
Carlisle sighed but didn't answer. The truth was that he was worried for them. He'd been here a long time and he'd already lost too many good friends. He could see himself growing close to both Miss Swan and Mr. Masen if they stayed here, and he feared for their futures. Zafrina understood.
"Carlisle, take yourself off the hook. Their fate falls on me. Now, Newton wants them back. You've got to get them locked in."
Zafrina disconnected the call and Carlisle looked over the details of a possible artifact sent to the computer by the football earlier. This might be just the thing to have Edward and Isabella investigate, to get them fully invested in the warehouse so that, even if they could, they wouldn't want to leave.