The Archangel Project The Archangel Project

Washington, D.C.: 4 June 1:05 pm Eastern

Let me see the sketches."

Lance Palmer passed the folder to the elegant, Armani-clad woman who rode beside him in the limousine. He watched, silent, as she slipped on a pair of reading glasses and flipped through the folder's contents. She frowned at the crude representation of an encircled K emblazoned against a dark background, then paused again to stare at a vintage World War II C47 Skytrooper that seemed to soar through the air.

Inexpertly rendered in pencil on page after page of cheap loose-leaf, the drawings didn't look important. But these sketches—and the person who drew them—had the power to destroy some of the most important people in Washington and bring down a president.

Adelaide Meyer raised her gaze to Lance's face. "You're certain these sketches are from a remote viewing session and not the result of a security leak?"

"I'm certain." Remote viewing had been the object of intense scientific and governmental investigation for more than sixty years, but most people still had a hard time accepting it as real. Lance would probably have been suspicious himself if he hadn't worked with remote viewers in the Army.

Through the tinted, water-flecked window beside him, he caught a glimpse of the Lincoln Memorial as it swept past, its normal horde of tourists thinned by the storm lashing the city. Adelaide Meyer peeled the glasses off her face and rubbed the bridge of her nose. At fifty-three, she was CEO of one of the world's largest corporations, a sprawling conglomerate with interests in everything from the construction and defense industries to oil. She was also, through a series of subsidiaries and holding companies, Lance Palmer's boss.

"When you came to me with this proposal, I never expected it to turn into such a disaster."

Lance set his jaw. Thirteen years in Army Special Operations taught a man to accept responsibility for his mistakes. "It's a problem," he said, keeping his voice calm. "But it's not a disaster. It can be contained. Right now these sketches are meaningless."

Adelaide Meyer fit her reading glasses back on her face. She was slim and reasonably attractive for a woman her age, but in all other respects she was a woman cut in much the same mold as Madeline Albright and Maggie Thatcher: a hard-as-nails broad with the mind of a Rhodes scholar and the ethical standards of a serial killer.

"They won't be meaningless in forty-eight hours." Flipping back through the drawings, she paused again at the crude sketch of the old C47. Lance felt his ulcer burn. She looked up. "Who knows about this?"

"Henry Youngblood. The woman who did the remote viewing. I think that's all."

Adelaide Meyer kept her eyebrows plucked into razor thin, unnatural arcs. As Lance watched, one eyebrow arched even higher in a parody of a smile that had been known to make prime ministers ill. "You think? We don't pay you to think, Mr. Palmer. We pay you to know. And to do."

"If there's anyone else, we'll find them."

She closed the folder, drummed her fingers on the gold-embossed burgundy cover. "This woman; who is she?"

"Probably a student. We've pulled a list of the people who've been working with Youngblood from the university's records."

Her fingers stopped their drumming. "You don't know her name?"

"The only one who knows that is Youngblood. But he'll tell us. Don't worry." Lance's organization was very good at extracting information. They'd perfected their interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and a dozen other detention facilities the American people didn't want to hear about.

"See to it that he does." Adelaide Meyer punched the button on the limousine's intercom and spoke to her driver. "Mr. Palmer will be leaving us. There should be a taxi stand at the next corner." The limo slowed.

"I want this cleaned up." She reached for the morning copy of the Wall Street Journal and snapped it open. "I want it cleaned up and I want it cleaned up fast. Or I'll have someone else do it. And I can guarantee you won't be happy with that." Over the top of the newspaper, her gaze met Lance's for one telling moment. "Understood?"

The limousine pulled in close to the curb, sending water from the gutter surging over the sidewalk. Lance opened the door. "Perfectly," he said and stepped out into the lashing rain.

The rain beat against his shoulders, ran down his cheeks in cool rivulets. He stood and watched the limousine speed away toward Capital Hill. Then he nodded to the nearest taxi driver. "Reagan Airport," he said, and slid into the back seat.

He put a call through to his wife, Jessica. "I'm afraid I'm going to be late tonight, honey. Tell Jason I'm sorry about missing his game." He listened to Jess make the requisite noises, then said, "I should be home by midnight. If not, I'll see you tomorrow morning."

Lance closed his phone. He had just over forty-eight hours, but he didn't expect this little clean up operation to take anywhere near that long. He was very good at what he did.

© Candice Proctor and Steven Graham



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