On a grey Monday morning, a grumpy Steve drove to the OSI, growling and cursing all the way against Oscar who had curtailed his vacation for an unexpected briefing on an urgent mission. The mere thought of being compelled to cancel his trip to the Bahamas was sending Steve stewing in his own juices.
He parked his car in the outside lot, cut off the ignition and remained seated to breathe away the last of his anger, heedful not to damage the steering wheel with his fists of fury.
“Oscar, you’re gonna owe me big after this one,” he mumbled peevishly underneath his breath. Stepping out of the car he caught sight of Barney Hiller heading toward the building entrance. With a puzzled frown as to Barney’s business at the OSI, he quickened the pace to catch up to him.
“Hey Barney!” Steve hailed to draw Barney’s attention who turned to face him. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same question, Stevie boy,” Barney replied with a marked insolence.
“I’m here because Oscar summoned me to the office.”
Steve’s brow creased deeper with suspicion. “Why?”
Barney shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe he thinks I’ll do a better job than you in this assignment,” he stated with crushing sarcasm.
“You?” Steve scoffed.
“Why so shocked?”
“You’ve been deactivated.”
“Correction, Stevie boy. The power was switched back on three months ago.”
“Oscar never told me.”
“Obviously he didn’t want you to know,” Barney quipped, relishing Steve’s disquiet at having been left out of Oscar’s confidence.
Both men entered the building and took separate elevators up to the office only to meet again on the OSI floor. The two estranged men headed down to Oscar’s office, barely glancing at each other and keeping mute until they reached the reception area.
“Callahan, is Oscar in?” Steve asked.
“Euh…no,” Callahan faltered, “In fact he just received a call from you, Steve, telling him to meet you downstairs.”
During this brief moment of dread, both Steve and Barney swallowed their pride and shed their bitterness to share a mutual concern. “How long ago?” Barney asked worriedly.
“About fifteen minutes ago.”
Both men locked stares, emotions conveyed through their concerned expressions. They nodded in acknowledgment of each other’s thought before hurrying out the door and down to the lobby.
“I don’t see him. Do you?” Steve asked Barney standing to his right.
“Nop!” Barney made a last sweep of the place before making his way to the reception clerk. “Pardon me sir, as Oscar Goldman come through here in the last few minutes?”
“He came down about fifteen minutes ago,” he informed, squinting his eyes in concentration as he tried to recall. “As a matter of fact he was waiting for you, “ he motioned to Steve, “Colonel. When you didn’t show up he went outside.”
Both men hurried outside to search the premises, parting ways to cover more ground. Five minutes later, Barney and Steve met back at the initial spot.
“No sign of him, but his car’s still here. That means he’s still on the premises.”
“What now?” Barney queried.
“Did he say anything to you?” Steve asked Barney expectantly.
“He just asked me to come so he could brief me on an urgent mission, that’s it. No detail, nothing.”
“Same for me,” Steve sighed with dread, shuddering with fear at the thought that crossed his mind. “Wonder what was that all about?”
“Beats me,” Barney shrugged with a nonchalance that pricked Steve.
“Let’s go see, Rudy.”
Both men took the elevator and marched right into Rudy’s office.
“He didn’t say anything to me,” was Rudy’s answer. “He didn’t even ask me to run a complete check up on you both to prepare you for any mission as he customarily does.”
“That’s strange” Steve wondered, glancing up at Barney who appeared aloof of the whole situation. “Thanks Rudy.”
“Hey Steve, what’s going on?”
“We don’t know. Oscar did ask Barney and me to meet him in his office at nine and when we went up, Callahan said that he got a call from me telling him to meet me downstairs. We checked with the clerk and he confirmed that Oscar did exit the building. We checked outside but there was no sign of him.”
“Where do you think he might have gone?”
“That’s what we’re going to find out.”
As Steve and Barney started down to the elevator, out came Oscar.
“There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you,”
“So have we.”
“You called and asked that I meet you downstairs. I did and you weren’t there. I went outside thinking you were waiting for me there. Nothing.”
“Oscar, I never called you,” Steve said.
“You didn’t?” Steve shook his head. “Then who did?”
Both Oscar and Steve turned to Barney.
“Don’t look at me!” Barney countered with indignation.
“Well whoever did might have had designs on kidnapping you. Glad to see you’re still with us,” Steve praised.
“I guess I didn’t give them a chance. I remained close to the building where guards were posted.”
“That’s good,” Barney dismissed offhandedly, eager to get down to business.
The three men headed down to the office.
“Well what’s this mission that needs both bionic super powers?” Barney promptly raised the subject as he took a seat across Oscar’s desk.
Oscar motioned Steve to take a seat and went to sit at his leather chair. Putting on his reading glasses, he flipped open a folder and began reading. “You are to impregnate a formidable fortress located in southern Los Angeles. The property is registered in the name of Jeffrey Dolenz.”
“Never heard of him,” Barney said, shrugging.
“Steve has and many times over.”
“Him again!” Steve huffed out in exasperation. “Why is it that the man pops up every now and then? Can’t they keep him locked up for good?”
“He is, last we checked. It’s his brother, Donald.”
“Brother? I never knew he had a brother.”
“Apparently he hid him well. He never mentioned him during his interrogations but he does have one. Donald Dolenz is a magnate in the industry of electronic components.”
“Don’t tell me. He helps his brother build his cyborgs by providing the parts he needs?” Steve implied sarcastically.
“We have reasons to believe he is and that’s why we have him under close surveillance.”
“So where do we come in?” Barney asked, confused as to the story behind this shady character.
“You won’t be coming through the front door, that’s for sure. Dolenz’s brother knows about you, Steve, but I doubt he has any knowledge of Barney.”
“So I take it I’m going to be the one to knock on the front door?” Barney mocked.
“That’s right. You will create a diversion while Steve sneaks into the house.”
“How do we do that?”
“You will be hiding in the trunk of Barney’s car. While he has the guards’ attention with a story of his having lost his way, you Steve will sneak inside to reach a safe where Dolenz is said to hide all of his catalogues.”
“Oscar I don’t need any diversion to steal onto a property regardless of how secure it is, you know that! Why bring Barney into this?”
“Steve, this is no ordinary estate. The security system is state-of-the-art. You need to get inside the gates in order to slither your way into the house, believe me.”
“But why do I have to be the decoy?” Barney griped. “As I see it any ordinary agent can do the job? Why do you need a bionic one?” Barney asked.
“Because your job is far more complex than just ringing the bell, Mister Hiller,” Oscar answered caustically, miffed by Barney’s insolence. “You see once Steve’s safely inside you’ll need to drive off the property so not to arouse suspicion, and thus leaving your partner to fend for himself. Once he has the catalogs, he’ll have to crawl out of the house and off the property, which will be hard considering the plethora of security cameras in place. They have to be deactivated from the outside in a small guarding post located at the back of the property. Switching them off will only sound an alarm, so you’ll need to yank them off their sockets, thus creating the illusion of a power failure that will give Steve enough time to flee.”
“Oscar, cameras will spot me when I do try to break inside the house.”
“Barney will park the car at a specific angle to block the view. I will provide you with a full scale diagram of the property and where each camera is located.”
“I probably can circumnavigate around the cameras once I’m out,” Steve alleged.
“We can’t run the risk. You’ll need each other. It is imperative for the success of the mission.” Oscar stood from his chair and went to switch off the lights. What ensued was a diaporama of the estate’s installations. He methodically pointed the areas at risk and described the procedure on how to avoid setting off the alarms. Once the briefing over, both men were given separate folders inside which were their instructions.
“All right Barney. For the sake of this mission, what do you say we bury the hatchet?” Steve proposed sincerely, extending his hand as an olive branch.
“There was never one to bury in the first place, Stevie boy,” Barney assured with a crooked grin as he shook Steve’s hand. “It was all in your head.”
“Really?” Steve replied incredulously.
“Yeah. You were just jealous.”
“I’m worth one million more than you and you can’t stand it, can you?” Barney continued to taunt.
“I say the shoe’s on the other foot!”
“Prffff!” Barney harrumphed. “In your dreams, boy. In your dreams.”
Steve shook his head in disbelief and laughed it out.
Casting their differences aside, Steve and Barney set out on their assignment. Everything was proceeding accordingly with Steve crawling through a window to sneak inside and locate the room with the safe. It’s was deathly quiet; not a guard in sight which made Steve ill at ease as he suspected this was a set up. Nevertheless he proceeded in retrieving the catalogues from the safe and retraced his steps to the basement window where he waited for Barney’s signal.
A muffled sound caught his attention. Frowning in puzzlement, he followed the odd noise to a door that he carefully nudged open.
“Oscar!” he exclaimed in shock at the sight of Oscar bonded and gagged.
Before he could dash over to help his friend, Steve’s head exploded in pain and his world went completely dark as he slowly crumbled to the floor.
“Sorry Steve,” Barney sighed with mockery. “Boss’s orders.” A devilish grin crossed his lips as he looked up at Oscar and winked, “Thanks Oscar. You did good. We might even let you live.”
Oscar’s eyes began shooting daggers at the backstabber, as he tried to wrench himself free from his restraints.
“Don’t worry. He won’t feel a thing,” Barney snickered with a sarcasm that sent Oscar into paroxysms of rage.
Oscar watched helplessly his senseless friend being carried away to some unknown place. Again he wiggled to get himself loose but to no avail.
Barely twenty minutes ticked by that Steve gradually regained his senses. He squinted to the blinding light shining on his face, blinking away the fog to establish a clear focus on his unknown surroundings. As he tried easing himself into a sitting position he found himself bound hand and foot to an operating table. The restraining leather bands were equipped with magnetic induction coils to neutralizing the polarity in his bionic limbs, rendering them useless to any attempt in severing the bonds.
“Well look who’s back!” Barney sneered as he entered the room.
“I should have known you were working for them.”
“Now, now Stevie boy, you don’t need to be cynical about it. It’s great money.”
“That money is worthless in jail,” Steve goaded but with little success as Barney simply threw his head back and laughed.
“Dr. Dolenz has offered me a permanent position in his organization.”
“He’s in prison.”
“Not so, Colonel Austin,” Dolenz piped up from the opposite corner of the room.
Steve rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Why doesn’t that surprise me? I take it that was a double of Oscar who send Barney and me here?”
“Of course. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to rebuild a perfect electronic replica of him so I had to settle for a regular man to undergo plastic surgery.”
“You’re losing your touch, Dolenz,” Steve taunted.
“I know, but times are hard. You have to get by with what’s available.” Dolenz responded with his trademark sarcasm.
“I understand,” Steve reciprocated. “So what do intend to do with me?”
Dolenz turned to a self-righteous Barney and kindly asked him to leave the room. Barney acquiesced with a knowing grin and no sooner had the door closed behind him that Dolenz began taunting his prey.
“Mister Austin I assure you no harm will come to you if you cooperate.”
“Oh sure. You’ll only cut me open. That’s nice of you,” Steve mocked.
“I assure you that the process will be painless.”
“Why don’t you take Barney instead?” he suggested unrestrainedly “As you know he’s worth seven million.”
“But you are my favourite, Mister Austin.”
“Besides Mister Hiller’s bionics have been toned down. He’s worthless to me.”
“No so. I was told he’d been reactivated.”
“I don’t know where you heard that. I can assure you that Mister Hiller is as strong as any human being. I tested him myself.”
Steve frowned dubiously at this piece of information. “Then why would he tell me that he was?”
“All part of the plan. You see Oscar Goldman never asked Mister Hiller to join you at the office this morning. He made the phone call to Oscar asking him to come downstairs on an emergency, which he did. Then we switched him with my agent who went back upstairs while Barney waited for your arrival in the parking lot”
“I see. I’ve got to hand it to you Dolenz. Nice job.”
“Thank you. Coming from you that’s a compliment.”
Dolenz went to a counter to take the water pitcher and poured a glass. “Here, would you like some water?”
“Laced with drugs I presume?” Steve scoffed.
“Would I do that?” Dolenz teased, receiving a glare in return. “I will leave you to rest for a while, then I’ll be back to start the examination.”
“I’ll be waiting” Steve sighed in mocked exasperation. “What else can I do?” Dolenz tapped Steve’s shoulder and headed toward the door, grinning triumphantly at his achievement.
He followed the corridor down to his lab where Barney was sharing views with Dolenz’s assistant on cyber technology. “Eric, I would like to speak with Mister Hiller alone, if you please?” He conveyed his set of instruction through a discreet nod that the assistant construed as the signal to enter phase two of the plan. He retreated in another room while Dolenz engaged in a casual conversation with Barney.
“I haven’t expressed my full gratitude to you for your participation in Steve Austin’s adduction.”
“Think nothing of it, Dolenz. I hate the man’s guts. Glad I could do it for you, especially that no one knows I helped you do it, save for Austin and Goldman, but that little problem, I understand, will soon be dealt with?”
“Naturally it will. It is in our best interest.”
“What are you going to do with Goldman?”
“I haven’t decided yet. My agent is doing good so far. I may decide to keep him at the OSI a while longer and use him to retrieve classified documents.”
“You know I agreed to do this for a hefty sum of money,” Dolenz bristled at Barney’s implying tone.
“Naturally and you will receive it,” he replied composedly.
Dolenz’s eyes stole a furtive look over Barney’s shoulder at Eric brandishing a syringe that he plunged into Barney’s neck, startling the man who instinctively swung his arm to momentarily stun the assistant. Barney then lunged at Eric who managed to dodge out of the way, only to return with a vengeance by hitting him with another dose that instantly knocked him unconscious.
“Are you all right?” Dolenz asked the visibly traumatized man.
“Yeah, yeah,” he breathed out, shaking his head to dispel the dizziness. “He’s mighty strong for a toned down cyborg.”
“You forget his arms are made of steel. They still pack up a punch.”
“They sure do,” Eric agreed, rubbing his aching jaw.
“What do we do with him?”
“Put him downstairs while I decide how to dispose of him.”
Back in the lab, the wheels were turning to elaborate a plan of escape but so far none were rushing to spring into mind. Steve was ready to resign to his fate when a small cutter placed on the tray beside the table caught his eye. He curled up his left hand into a fist and methodically twisted his wrist as he pulled. His draining efforts paid off as he felt the strap slowly come loose. He wrenched his wrist free from it and reached for the cutter that he brought to his right wrist to sever the magnetic leather band. With one bionic pull he tore at the material and shed the rest of the restraints to his ankles.
A debilitating twinge seized him as he headed toward the door. He leaned against the wall to breathe away the dizziness and recover his bearings before turning the knob and poking his head outside to see if the coast was clear. He carefully closed the door and padded down the corridor, heedful to keep his eyes peeled for any surprise encounter.
He applied a bionic might to the doorknob of the room where Oscar was being held. Once inside he put a finger to his lips to shush Oscar as he stepped up to him to remove his gag. “Good to see you, pal,” Oscar whispered as Steve worked at loosening his bonds.
“Same here, Oscar. Did you know that our good friend Dr. Dolenz was out of prison?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you see him when they brought you here?”
“No. They didn’t tell me anything. They bound and gagged me and left me here with no further explanation.”
“Well it’s Dolenz’s doing. What can I say? That man likes me. He’d do anything to get me, even cajole Barney Hiller to join his ranks.”
“Barney? I thought he moved to Europe?”
“So did I. I was surprised to see him when I arrived at the office this morning. Said that you contacted him for the same mission. He told me he’d been reactivated.”
“That’s preposterous. Unless Dolenz did.”
“That’s a possibility but I don’t believe he’d risk it for a mere kidnapping.” Steve finished untying Oscar and assisted him to his feet. “Can you walk?”
“I’m a bit numb but I’m okay.”
“I need you to stay on your feet. I can’t carry you because I’m feeling a little woozy myself. I suspect Dolenz had me drugged to render me more docile.”
“Don’t worry about me. I can handle my own.”
“I know where we can crawl out of here. Follow me.”
With Steve in the lead, both men sidled down the corridor and back to the lab. Steve closed the door and beckoned Oscar to follow him to a venting duct. He climbed on a box to better haul himself up to the narrow opening. He then squeezed himself inside the duct, after which he gave Oscar a hand up. Both crawled the constricted shaft, keeping quiet as they passed rooms where people were heard conversing. One particular conversation caught Steve’s attention. He signalled Oscar to stop and pricked his ear.
“It’ll be painless, Dr. Dolenz,” Eric was heard saying to Dolenz over Barney’s body lying on a table.
“Do it. And then we’ll dispose of the body.”
“Oscar, you wait here,” Steve whispered as he repositioned himself to face the netting.
“Steve, where are you going?”
“I might hate Barney’s guts but I can’t let Dolenz kill him.”
With some reluctance Oscar gave an understanding nod of the head. Steve waited for Dolenz and Eric to be out of the room before wringing himself out of the venting duct. He approached Barney on the table and nudged him awake. “Barney, wake up. We’ve got to get out of here.” Come on damn it, wake up!”
A weak moan was Steve’s answer, which was not satisfying enough. Steve grabbed a firm hold of Barney and rolled him off to the side to push him into a sitting position. Then he started slapping his face, which yielded positive results.
“Steve,” Barney breathed out dazedly.
“Yeah. I’m saving your sorry ass but you’ve got to help me.”
“I’m sorry, buddy. I…I…didn’t know he….”
“Never mind about that now. Come on,” Steve urged as he lifted the sluggish weight off the table. “We have to get inside that venting duct. I’ll give you a hoist up and that’s it. You’ll have to do the rest.” Seeing Barney swayed dangerously to one side, he grabbed a water pitcher on the counter and unceremoniously splashed it onto Barney’s face. “Get your act together, Barney. I need you.”
Barney shook his head clear and crawled through the duct. As Steve started after him, Eric came back into the room. Stunned by the scene unfolding before him, Eric reacted by grabbing a syringe full of Potassium Chloride and pounced on Steve. Luckily the needle plunged into the right arm, but nicked a piece of flesh. With a bionic swat Steve hurled Eric clear across the room; his leap through the air ending hard against a wall, knocking him unconscious.
“Give me a hand,” Steve asked of Barney who obliged despite his debilitating dizziness.
They managed to slither their way through to safety in the basement. There, Steve broke the bars on a window and all three crawled their way outside.
As they ran to safety, Oscar and Barney noticed that Steve was lagging behind. They halted their course to see that the man was about to drop. Oscar retraced his steps and caught Steve before he crumbled to the ground. He laid him on the grass to check for any possible injury but Barney urged him not to dawdle and offered to carry the heavy load off the property.
They spotted a van parked just outside the gates and hurried toward it. Barney peeked inside to check if the keys were in the ignition.
“We’re in luck,” he enthused to Oscar. “The keys are there.” He beckoned Oscar to open the door so he could lay Steve in the back.
“You’ll have to drive, Oscar. I’m in no condition to take the wheel.”
“All right. You keep an eye on him. And no funny business, Barney, or I swear I’ll…” Barney abruptly dismissed a seething Oscar’s threat to concentrate on rushing Steve to the Medical Center. After throwing Barney the evil eye telling him to heed his warning, Oscar hopped in the driver’s seat and put the pedal to the metal.
“How is he?” Oscar queried to the passenger in the back seat.
“I don’t rightly know, but his breathing’s shallow and he’s shaking all over.” Barney reported with angst.
“Hang on. Just a few more minutes and we’re there.”
“Don’t tell me. Tell him,” Barney retorted, pointing to the unconscious man.
Finally they reached the Medical Center and were met outside by two orderlies who assisted Barney in gingerly placing the patient onto a gurney that they wheeled inside with Barney and Oscar in tow.
“Get Dr. Wells in here. He’s Colonel Austin’s personal physician.” Oscar urged the nurse who was directing the orderlies to Trauma Room 2.
“I’ll call him right away.” Barely had she hung up the phone that Rudy was seen rushing up to Oscar.
“It’s Steve. Something’s wrong with him.”
“Oscar, what is it?”
“It’s Steve. He got us both out of Dolenz’s lair, but….”
“Yeah Dolenz. I’ll explain later. Right now you’ve got to help Steve.”
“He received some type of injection in the right arm. Minutes later he started convulsing.” Barney described as the three quickened the pace down to Trauma Room 2.
“Do you know what was in the syringe?”
“ Heard something along the line of KC….”
“Yeah. Is it dangerous?” Oscar queried anxiously.
“Rudy’s terrorized look was explanation enough. “Very. How long ago?”
“About thirty minutes.”
“Then he mustn’t have absorbed a potent amount or he’d be dead by now.” Rudy halted them at the door, forbidding the two to step inside the room. “Sorry gentlemen, that’s as far as you’re allowed to go. I’ll examine him and give you a full report. You can sit in the waiting room and I’ll be right with you.”
Both Barney and Oscar reluctantly complied with the doctor’s request and together they headed down to the waiting area.
Neither a word nor a glance was exchanged as they anxiously paced the floor while counting the minutes down. Tension was mounting, widening the rift between the two adversaries. Barney tried to speak but Oscar’s glare would just punch the words back down his throat before he had a chance to utter them.
“If Steve dies, I swear I’ll have Rudy tear you from limb to limb,” Oscar finally gnarled at Barney who could only remain shamefaced by what he did. “Why did you do it, heh?”
Upon Barney’s silence, Oscar grabbed him by the arm and spun him round to face his scorching glare. “WHY?”
“I needed the money.”
“Why you don’t believe me? When was the last time you called me on assignment? I’m living on a meagre salary that the government has seen fit to grant me. I can’t live on pennies, Oscar,” Barney lashed out in a fit of fury that had been penned up for months.
“Why didn’t you say something?”
“I did, but you said you couldn’t do anything; that the NSB handled all the decisions. Your boy wonder is the one with all the glory. They love him and hate me it’s as simple as that,” Barney continued to spewed out.
“If you weren’t so unpredictable and self-conceited perhaps they would consider conferring you more assignments. Barney you’re a risk. You are still psychologically unstable. Steve tried to get you back on track but he failed. Rudy needs to work on you further before you’re fully ready to undertake delicate missions.”
“And while this goes on I have to scrap for a living. Carla left me because I couldn’t afford her anymore.”
“Correction, she left you because she couldn’t stand your constant belligerence.”
“Well, it goes with the territory.”
“I hope for your sake that Steve makes it through this. He risked his life to save your sorry hide.”
“If he dies, will you amputate me?”
“I don’t know. I’m tempted. We’ll see how Steve does first and I’ll deal with you later.”
Twenty minutes elapsed before Rudy exited the ER. Barney and Oscar bounced out of their seats and hurried to meet him halfway down the hall. “So how is he?”
“So far so good. I’ve managed to stabilize his condition and he’s resting right now. We’ll see how his system deals with the unbalanced electrolytes. I’m hoping his strong constitution will carry him through it. The next twenty-four will be critical. There’s nothing you both can do here. Why don’t you go home and I’ll call you if there’s any change.”
“Barney and I will rent a hotel room across the street,” Oscar said sternly, taking both men by surprise. “I don’t want him out of my sight. I’ll ask Russ to post a guard at the door too.”
“Why all the precaution, Oscar?” Rudy asked, puzzled.
Oscar shot Barney a withering look. “You’ll hear about it later. Right now, you take care of Steve.”
“You know I will,” Rudy answered with a bemused look that shifted between Oscar and Barney, seeking an explanation to the noticeable strain between the two men.
Barney was confined to his hotel room with an officer posted outside his door. After keeping his eyes on the phone that he wished it not to ring, he finally dozed off in the early morning hours. Barely had dawn cracked that the phone ring started him out. He leapt on the receiver and yanked it out of its cradle. “Rudy?”
“No, it’s Russ. You’d better come in Barney’s room.”
“Why? What is it?” he asked through a yawn while running a hand across his face.
“He flew the coop.”
Oscar bolted in bed at the news. “WHAT?”
“He knocked the guard, laid him in bed and left. We don’t know where he is.”
“Damned!” Oscar bounced out of bed, slipped on his loafer and donned his bathrobe as he headed down to the adjacent room.
“No clues as to where he might have gone?” He asked the dazed guard still rubbing his aching head.
“No. I remembered he opened the door and asked if he could go downstairs to get something for an upset stomach. I started telling that he should call the desk to have someone send it up and that’s went I blacked out.”
“You stay on it, Russ. I’m going to the hospital to check on Steve.”
At the Medical Center, Relief embraced Oscar at the news of Steve’s recovery. “He slept peacefully through the night and even woke up this morning asking for coffee and pancakes,” Rudy informed happily. “He’s asked for you.”
With a weary grin a haggard-looking Oscar nodded and conveyed his gratefulness through a tap on Rudy’s shoulder as he headed down to Steve’s room. He padded up to the bed, seeing how the patient’s eyes were closed. As he neared the bed, the sparkling blue eyes popped open.
“Good to see you awake, pal,” Oscar greeted with a strained smile.
“Thanks. Rudy said it was a close call.”
“You look like someone the cat dragged in, Oscar.”
“I’ll get some slept once we nail that Barney Hiller.”
“Where is he?”
“That’s just it. We don’t know.”
Steve sank his head into his pillow and sighed heavily. “I can’t believe he would do such a thing.”
“He says he needed money. It’s true that he’s been on standby for two years now.”
“Still the government’s quite generous with his cyborgs. I can’t believe he was that desperate.”
“Perhaps there’s another reason,” Oscar surmised, leaving the answer hanging in mid air as both men reflected on the past events and counted their blessing.
“What about Dolenz?” Oscar flashed a crooked grin. “Oscar? You did catch him?” Oscar’s silence was all the answer Steve needed. “Great! And what about the other Oscar? He’s out there somewhere too.”
“I’ve deployed three investigative teams on the case. They’ll catch them.”
“Sure they will,” Steve scoffed. “Guess who’s going back on assignment, Stevie boy?” Steve sighed, flashing Oscar a knowing look.