This is a little bit of a cross-post from several months ago from my Patreon. Lost and Found is the direct sequel to Bering Songs and Silence and picks up from the point where AJ McConaway–Tim McConaway’s twin sister–receiving a particular phone call.
Enjoy the taste!
getting sick of this bloody dodging bullets bullshit.”
I choked on
a laugh, shaking my head as I met Kate Berkshire’s glower head-on. “That’s because you’re not getting any better
getting worse,” the Irish soldier snapped, then swore, glaring at the medic to
her left. “What was that for?”
bitching,” Joshua Talmadge growled, not looking up from his work on Kate’s left
arm. “You’re lucky it looks like it’s
just a through and through. If it was any
worse we’d be at U of C Medical trying to explain how you happened to wander in
front of a bullet and oh no, please don’t involve the police, there’s no need
to report anything it’s just a silly mistake no real harm done as you’re
bleeding on a freaking gurney.”
you could pull it off, Josh,” I said, patting the doctor on the shoulder. He snorted humorlessly and shook his head.
patronize me, McConaway. You’re ill-suited to it.”
know, I think she’s pretty good at it.”
Kate smiled weakly. “Just a
be bleeding out with your intestines falling out of a hole in your gut and it’d
be ‘just a scratch.’” I grinned
ruefully—after all, there really wasn’t anything that funny about the hole in
Kate’s arm—as I started to dig around for my cell, which had started vibrating
in my back pocket.
today, aren’t you?” Kate waved me away with
her good hand as she saw me digging around for my phone. “Go take it.
I’m not going anywhere until the good doctor’s done with me.”
Don’t recognize that area code. “It’s probably a wrong number
anyway. I’ll be right back. Try not to piss off Josh while I’m gone, huh?” I ducked out of the infirmary and into the
hall. We’d been back in the Portal Corps
headquarters in downtown Chicago for maybe fifteen minutes, returned from yet
another off-world foray that had probably resulted in more trouble than it was
worth. I glanced down at my phone’s
screen again and shook my head as I tapped it and lifted the phone to my
had better be quick. I don’t have time
to break away from refereeing right now.
“This is McConaway.”
McConaway? My name is Brigid O’Connell,
and I have some news about your brother.”
stopped. Brigid O’Connell had been the
name of the woman who’d led the search after Tim and Mat had disappeared over
the deserts of Iraq. They’d found Mat’s
plane but no trace of him in it.
What could she possibly know? She’s not with the Corps. I’d know if she was.
“Doctor? Are you there?”
course. Of course. I—I’m sorry.”
I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, trying to will my heart to
slow down, to force my guts to cooperate.
“I’m here. I—what do you have to
tell me, Miss O’Connell?”
Lieutenant O’Connell, actually, and…he’s here.”
to—wait, what?” This has to be a dream, some kind of hallucination. I got shot instead of Kate. That’s it.
I’m hallucinating because I’ve lost way too much blood and I’m dreaming
talk to her.”
“What? Wait a second here—”
It was his
voice, unmistakably my brother. My heart
thudded against my breastbone and every breath was a battle.
How did he get back? How is he—where is he? There was a tremor in my voice as I dared to
speak his name. “Tim?”
into the phone. “Hey AJ. Are you okay?”
“No. No, not okay.
Where are you?”
he said. “Alexandria. Where are you?”
“Chicago. Where else would I be?” I squeezed my eyes shut. How had he gotten to Virginia without us knowing?
Was there another Portal somewhere near there that we didn’t know about?
Goddammit, there’s too much we don’t know.
a thousand questions I wanted to ask him—chief among them was how the hell he’d
ended up in Virginia without our knowing that he was back on Earth. I couldn’t ask that question over the phone,
though, especially not with O’Connell there with him, not without knowing what
she might know about him, about what he’d been through. I squeezed my eyes shut, sagging against the
“Sis? You there?”
I said, voice coming choked from a throat so tight I could barely breathe. “Are you safe?”
wouldn’t I be?”
I caught a
hitch in his voice and shivered. We both know why—but do you remember that I
know, that Kate knows?
He said that he wouldn’t. He was going to make himself forget so he
could protect us. Damn it all.
making sure,” I whispered. “I…I need
to see you. I need an address.” Kate would want to come with me. Scott and Sierra would be expecting a report
from us on the last run. There wouldn’t
be time to write one before I—before we—left.
struck me. Had they known he was back? Had
he somehow shown up while Kate and I were on a run and they just hadn’t told
No, they wouldn’t keep a secret like that from us. If they tried, it would be a cover up of epic
proportions. Bryn would say
something. There’d be no
hesitation. If she knew, we’d know. End of story.
Sierra couldn’t have known—no one connected to the Corps knew. That was for certain. Last we’d known, he was missing, list
somewhere among the Portals and the countless worlds. Even the Cabal had seemingly lost track of
him, though they hunted for him—he was a valuable asset as far as they were
off an address. I wrote it on my hand,
struggling not to drop my phone as I did.
My heart was going three times its normal speed.
there?” I asked, my voice still shaking.
know where else I’d go,” he said quietly.
“If I’m not there, I’ll be here.
Call this number if you need to.”
O’Connell’s voice said in the background.
“I’ll help her find you if you’re not already here.”
I’ve got anywhere to go,” he said, his voice a little muffled.
stung. You could come here. You could
come home. I glanced toward the door to the infirmary,
biting down hard on my lower lip. Why hadn’t he come here? Why hadn’t he come home?
There must be a good reason. I’ll find out what it is.
there,” I said. “Don’t say I didn’t warn
you. I’ll be there tomorrow, as early as
I can. I promise. Don’t go anywhere.”
he said quietly. “I’ll see you.”
you,” I said in a bare whisper. “We all missed
you. I…I’m glad you’re back.”
There was a
long silence on the other end of the line before he said, “Yeah. So am I, AJ.
I’ll see you tomorrow.”
you, too. Be careful.”
He hung up
and I stood there in the hall, staring at the wall without actually seeing it
in front of me. My brother was back on
Earth. He was home.
anyone told us before now?
my eyes and exhaled a shaky breath, counting to ten before I straightened. Shoving my phone into my pocket, I headed
back into the infirmary, hoping I didn’t look half as shaken as I felt.
“That was a
long wrong number,” Kate said before her gaze met mine. Then she saw the look on my face and all
good-humored teasing evaporated. Her
expression grew serious. “What’s the
the door behind me. “I just talked to
“Tim? My Tim?”
Tim, too,” I reminded her. “He was my
complexion was ashen. “Whatever. You talked
to him? How is that even possible?”
“Should I be
here for this?” Josh asked, glancing up
from Kate’s stitches. “Because I can go
if this is classified six feet above my ass.”
I said, even though I wasn’t actually sure of that. “It’s fine.
Just finish up.”
me to go get some x-rays,” Kate said with a slight glower. “Something about getting lucky if I didn’t
nick the bone.”
said it was a good idea,” Josh said.
“You told me it hurt more than the last time you got shot and it hurt
deep. That means bone or deep tissue damage.
Do you want to be safe about this or not?”
one who was moaning about U of C Medical.”
better to be safe than sorry.”
two stop bickering for twenty seconds?”
I snapped. “Kate, I’m driving to
Virginia. I’m driving tonight.
Are you coming?”
“Why—oh. Is that where he is?”
where he said he is.” My lips
thinned. “How the hell did he get back
to Earth without our knowing?”
frowned. “Is he one of those ones the
Cabal nabbed a few years ago?”
said. “He’s practically the only one
we’ve ever had a chance of bringing back, too.”
still hear the pain and regret in her voice when she talked about that missed
opportunity, even though it had been the better part of two years ago—two years
this coming June. It wasn’t that it
frustrated me any less, but she’d been clinging even tighter to the hope of
bringing him home in those few days than I had.
her to keep a promise and I’d never quite been able to bring myself to ask her
what that promise was.
There’s no way that she’s just going to stay
here if he’s back, if he’s within reach.
There’s no way. I just stared
at her, waiting for the answer I knew was coming.
meet my gaze as she said, “I’ll cover for you.
Call your uncle and get going.”
bet—what?” Wait, she’s not coming with me?
Sierra are going to need a report and I can make it for both of us,” Kate said
quietly, finally lifting her eyes to meet mine.
There was a familiar pain there, the deep one that I’d seen in snatches
and glimpses since the day we’d left my brother on Mydiar. “I had days with him back then. You had five minutes. Go. Go
see him and make sure it’s real. Make sure
we’re not going to lose him again.”
She doesn’t want to come with me because
she’s afraid that it’s not going to last—that we’re going to lose him all over
told, I was afraid of the same thing, but I had to believe that this time he
was back for good. I didn’t know how
he’d managed it, but I was sure as hell going to find out.
sure?” I asked.
positive.” Kate glanced down at her
knees, shaking her head. “I’ll fly out
tomorrow or the next day. Call me when
you get there and I’ll call you about the flight or…or whatever. Go call Chris and tell him you’re going out
of town and then get going before Scott or Sierra show up and stop you.”
to be a lonely drive,” I whispered. I was sure she’d come with me. I didn’t plan on doing this alone.
fine,” Kate said. “Go.”
nodding. This felt far too
familiar. “All right. I’ll call when I get there.”
I gave her
and Josh each a tight smile and slipped out into the hall, heart thudding
leadenly against my breast. Kate was
right. I needed to get out of
headquarters before Scott Andrews or Sierra O’Rourke caught up with
me—otherwise, I wouldn’t be getting out of the city anytime soon.
for the stairs that would take me up to the rehabbed print shop’s foyer and
Printer’s Row beyond. If I was quick,
I’d be able to make it to the L in time to be home before the sun went down. I needed my car and a couple of changes of
clothes from the house.
It was out
of the way, but I didn’t have a choice.
I needed the clothes and the least I could do before driving east was
let my uncle know that I’d be doing it.
He’d come to terms with what I did every day—he knew about half of it,
anyhow—but I knew it went hard on him when I was away.
I was all
he had left. His brother—my father—was
dead and the two boys Christopher McConaway had raised alongside me were
missing and had been for three years.
Do I tell him, or do I play the waiting game
and spare his heart like Kate’s asking me to spare hers? My lips thinned as I stepped out into the
gloom of a February afternoon in Chicago, grimacing as I realized I’d left my
coat downstairs before we’d left on our jaunt beyond the Portal. It was still hanging on the back of my chair
in my office, the one I shared with Carson Matthews, a cultural anthropologist
whose father had been one of the ones kidnapped three years ago the same way
Tim and Mat had been. Carson was newer
to the Corps, had only been with us six months, but he was catching on fast.
in the wind and shook my head as I felt around in my pocket for my keys and
found them. Not going back down there. If I
go back down there, I’m going to get waylaid.
There’s no doubt about that. I’ll
just make a run for the station. I won’t
freeze to death if I hurry.
a deep breath, I sprinted for the stairs to the Red Line station a block from
where I’d been standing, hoping that my wallet was in the bag I was still
carrying from the off-world run and that I hadn’t left it with my coat.
Too late now. Already made the run for it.
down the concrete steps and into the warmth of the subway tunnel, already
shivering from the late winter chill. It
had been a relatively mild winter here in Chicago, but that didn’t mean it was
much warmer than bitter cold—especially not this close to the lakeshore. I dug around in my bag, hoping to find my
wallet and eventually locating it in the deepest, darkest corner of the bag as
I made my way to the turnstiles guarding the entry to the train platforms.
a sigh of relief as my fingers closed around my CTA card. Small
favors. That’s all I can ever ask for.
I took the
train from Harrison and hit my connections—Red Line to Blue all the way to
Rosemont where I’d left my car.
Sometimes I took the Metra all the way in and out of the city, but when
I didn’t know when I’d be coming home, I liked the convenience of leaving my Jeep
closer to downtown rather than at the Metra stations in Barrington or
Schaumburg. I stared out the windows of
the train, at the city and at tunnel walls, fingers tapping against my knee in
agitated impatience, all the way from the station where I’d gotten on the Blue
Line to Rosemont, where my insane life with the Corps and UNSETIC had
begun. It felt like a long time ago.
How am I going to tell him? How am I going to break that news?
sure if I was trying to figure out how to explain this to my uncle, or how I
was going to break the news to my brother that our other uncle, our mother’s
brother Peter, was dead. I didn’t know
which one would be harder.
I closed my
eyes and sighed. Dammit.
stopped at Rosemont and I got off, went hunting for my car. Somewhere between there and home, I’d figure
out how I was going to tell Uncle Chris.
I really didn’t have much choice about that.
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