Eliot blew through the door and was surprised at what he saw. There were Parker and Savannah sitting on the couch amicably having a lock-picking contest. Their contented smirks said the score was pretty even. Hardison was very obviously gaming at his personal computer. The headset and emphatic typing gave him away. Sophie and Nate were quietly enjoying leftover macaroni. Eliot by passed them, grabbed a beer and cracked it open. He joined them at the table. “Alright, how’d you manage this?”
Sophie nudged him. “Oh, Eliot. It’s been too long. You’ve forgotten just how good I am.”
He lowered his voice, “So…how did you…”
“It’s like you’ve forgotten everything I taught you.” She lowered her voice. “The key to a mark is finding out what they want and, in a small way, give it to them.”
“What does she want?”
“To feel like a little girl again, to feel safe again, to feel human.”
“How did you do that?”
“That’s what took so long,” Nate answered. He got up and got Hardison’s attention. “I think now’s a good time.”
Sophie brought Savannah to the door of her room; the other four followed. Sophie opened her mouth to make an introduction, but changed her mind and simply opened the door. The empty cell-like room was gone. The gray walls were now a cream and in the center was a queen-sized bed. The bedspread was printed with deep red dahlias the same color as the pillows. Up against the wall to the right of the bed was a dark mahogany vanity and dresser. The dresser was decorated with a dozen or so crystal figurines, most of them flowers. A couple of tables covered in a fabric that matched the bedspread were nestled in the corners of the room and topped with bright lamps. A dark wardrobe that matched the dresser was on the right side of the room.
Savannah had no words as she stepped in and around the room, slowly. She felt the bedspread and fingered the figurines like was an archaeologist feeling bones on a dig. Then, for a long while, she stared at herself in the mirror. Her eyes searched like she was looking for something.
Hardison finally broke the silence. “That’s not all.” Once he had everyone’s attention, he pointed to what looked like a mutated speaker box by the door. “This is your lock. It will be based on your voice print and DNA from the saliva on your breath.” Eliot recognized the technology from the Carnival Job with Molly. “There’s a lock to get in and a lock to get out. You can set it four multiple people, too. When you’re ready, we can set it up.”
Sophie took Savannah’s hand. “You really are safe here, darling. The wardrobe and the dresser are empty, but when you feel up to it, we can go shopping, put whatever you want in them, doesn’t even have to be clothes.”
Eliot felt a little victorious. Sophie was clearly on his side, and that pretty much meant that they were all going to take on this case. Well, at least himself, Hardison, and Parker. It wasn’t clear if Sophie and Nate were sticking around. He wondered if that was part of what took so long for Sophie to make progress, talking Hardison, Parker, and maybe even Nate that this was a viable case. It nagged at him that Sophie felt the need to send him away and did all this without him.
“Why don’t we let Savannah enjoy her new room in peace, eh?”
“Hey, uh, did you want to go ahead and set up your security lock?” Hardison asked.
“Yeah,” Savannah agreed, she seemed genuinely excited to do so, so the other four cleared the room. Parker gathered her lock kits and disappeared while Sophie, Nate, and Eliot returned to the table.
Eliot sipped his beer in silence for a while , but finally the question escaped him. “Why did you send me away?”
Nate and Sophie sighed heavily and she took his hand. “Eliot, we do think you are or were too close to this case or her and you needed some time away to freshen your mind?”
“How am I too close? We’ve all known her the same amount of time and—”
“You alone decided to go after this case and expected this team to follow without discussion,” Nate spoke up.
“You did that all the time! And there was discussion! No one decided they were against it until—”
“Until you brought her here,” Nate finished.
“Eliot, you may have all known her about the same amount of time, but there’s clearly a connection between you two that she doesn’t have with any of the others. It’s visible.”
“When I first walked in and you lead me to her, she focused on you until you left, almost looking to you for direction, and just now in her room, everyone else looked on with curiosity, while you kept your eyes on her, full of concern.”
He pulled away from her and pointed an irritated finger. “You know, sometimes, I hate what you do. I hate it, you know that.”