Chapter 03: A Case of Identities and Loyalties

Guinevere. You're Guinevere. My mind raced wantonly as Vivian half-led, half-dragged me down the hallway. I kept catching glimpses of people as we went -- young guy with goatee and dark glasses: Percival, joy -- and I couldn't stop -- middle-aged woman with grim haircut and cheerful pumps: Elaine, pity and jealousy -- seeing them as if I knew them. The Personae behind their faces were practically screaming their names to me. There: an Arthur-type! My heart did a little flutter.

I was losing my grip.

Vivian's insistent tugging on my hand was not helping. Touching her was like licking a battery: it sent tingles all up and down my arm, sparking into and out of my brain with the tantalizing promise of more than I could handle. She led me directly down the hallway, jaw set, and it was as if the seas parted before us: people steered around us as if veering around an iceberg. They seemed almost unconscious of it, or if they were they sure as hell weren't making eye contact with either one of us. People who were obviously walking in pairs slid to either side as Vivian plowed us through their midst, only to merge smoothly back into step with one another as they passed around us. Even people whose backs were to us seemed to unconsciously steer out of our way. We could have run full-tilt through the crowded hallway - at the speed Vivian was walking, we nearly were - and not jarred a single elbow.

"Here," she hissed, "no one will bother us here."

"Cafeteria", read the simple block letters over the doors.

"Ah," I agreed. "Naturally, this will be more secure than a vault that takes special clearance to enter."

"The Purloined Letter," she answered. "No better place to hide than in plain sight. Also they have donuts. Ooh - this will be fun. Let's take you for a test drive."

Not relaxing her grip on me, Vivian steered me toward a man whose triceps looked like they'd been chiseled out of a particularly cosmetic piece of marble. His hair was spiked just so as to look like he hadn't spent much time with it. He had.

"You're Guinevere," whispered Vivian to me. "He's a Lancelot-type. The bit players can't help but respond to their roles when they're in our presence. He'll make himself part of your story without even realizing it." She winked at me. "Get us some donuts." Then she let me go, with just enough momentum that I stumbled forward slightly towards Mr. Triceps.

This was not helping me relax. I shot Vivian a look of panic that I hoped would convey a certain amount of I'm emotionally fragile right now and you have just dropped me in the deep end.

Her eyelashes fluttered slowly. Learn to swim, they said.

I let my stumble go on a step or two too far, and collided with muscles that were every bit as hard as the marble I'd imagined. He'd been mid-turn, having detected my impending impact with a warrior's sense for danger. That, or the triceps had antenna: I wasn't putting anything past them.

"Ow!" I cried, rubbing my shoulder where his elbow had just barely grazed it. I grimaced in feigned pain.

His body had tensed automatically against an attacker, and upon seeing a green-shirted teenager, it relaxed immediately. I let tears well up in my eyes, and a new tension immediately filled him: Oh god, I've hit a girl.

Immediately, he was all concern. "Are you all right? I'm so sorry: I didn't see you there. Jeez, I really elbowed you, huh?"

He knows you bumped into him. But others are watching: he's saving face. You have him.

"It's okay," I sniffed. I rubbed my shoulder again.

"No, no, it's not. Here, can I get you something? My way of apologizing."

A brief flirtation later, I had two jelly donuts and a pair of cappucinos. Mr. Jason Triceps and I parted ways, and I returned to my minder. Vivian accepted her drink languidly.

"That's not how Guinevere would have done it," was all she said. She steered us to a table and sat down. She took the top off of the cappuccino and dipped a finger in, coming back out with a puff of steamed milk. Slowly, she drew her tongue down the finger, licking the foam away. It was as if I could feel her tongue in the small of my back, working its way delicately up my spine… Her feline eyes watched me all the while.

I shuddered, uncertain if this display bothered me, or if I liked it. "Do you do everything like a porn star?" I asked.

"You should watch me eat a jelly donut," she winked. She whipped her tongue out to catch the last fleck of foam on the tip of her finger, then licked her lips.

My toes curled involuntarily. "I'm wondering if we don't need a private room for that."

"You're the queen," she said. "You tell me where to put it."

I gulped. "Is that how Guinevere would have done it?" Her face betrayed nothing. It looked just like it had before she'd driven her fingers into a man's throat.

"Gwen Drake was my boss," she replied. "If she'd told me to eat a jelly donut, I'd have swallowed it in one go. And now she's dead," her eyes pinned me to my seat, "and you're here."

"Convenient, isn't it?" I agreed. "That's what you were about to say. You weren't trying to protect me from Lance. You were getting me somewhere you could interrogate me all by yourself."

Her yellow eyes told no tales.

"Well, allow me to clear up one misconception you seem to have about me. It is not fucking convenient. I've just watched you murder two people. You still have a man's skin under your fingernails. If you think that getting sucked into your little world is supposed to get me all excited, then you have been drinking too much of the Kool Aid. It was terrifying and I don't want to do it anymore. In fact, fuck it - why am I even explaining myself to you?" I pushed my chair back and stood up.

She leaned forward, smile not changing. "Two reasons. One, because you need to talk to somebody about this, and that's not going to be tall, dark, and Doyle and it's sure as hell not going to be Iceman McStabbins. I'm what you've got." She relaxed, and settled back in her chair. "And two, if you walk out that door without me, the Red Handed League is going to murder you to death, because whether or not you want to drink the Kool Aid, they have. They're apparently mad about it."

I glared at her. "I can take care of myself," I said. "Why do you want me to explain myself to you?"

She didn't blink. "Because neither of us is too sure about this 'New Camelot' business, and I want to find out which way you're going to tip."

I sat back down.

"That," I started, "is exactly what you would say if you were trying to test my loyalty."

She shook her head. "You found out about New Camelot twenty minutes ago. You don't have any loyalty yet. Points of leverage for you are gratitude at saving your life - minimal, which is interesting - and curiosity about Personae, New Camelot, the Red-Handed League, blah blah blah. There's a whiteboard somewhere."

I tilted my head forward and rised an eyebrow. "You guys have had meetings about how to manipulate me?"

"Yep," she affirmed. "And how to determine if you're a plant. There's no way to know if you're the real deal, even if Arthur does say that this Doyle guy has the best algorithms on the planet. The League has been targeting us. You could be an assassin."

I nodded. "The whole scene back there, it could have been a setup to get me on the inside. To take out Arthur. Still: I'm not a very good candidate for an assassin."

"I told them the same thing," she agreed. "You're too public. I mean, you're from Yemen. You throw up red flags just by existing. And you're the daughter of somebody on the Senate Intelligence Committee? Someone who's a friend of Arthur's? You're only useful if you're disposable, and you're only available if you're brainwashed. Are you brainwashed?"

"Not yet. Doyle was giving it a go." At her blank look, I quickly explained the subsonics.

Vivian narrowed her eyes. "That was a fucking stupid idea. We want you to trust us, but supposedly we respect you enough to trust you with the keys to the kingdom. Trying to scramble your brains because we're pressed for time... sloppy."

"What if we're looking at this wrong? Maybe Doyle was trying to brainwash you. Any weird feelings for someone who 'had a striking impact on you'?"

It was Vivian's turn to arch an eyebrow. It took a long time. "He wants to see striking impacts, he should try it again."

"Don't be too hard on him. It was Watson's idea."

"His little computer?" Vivian scoffed. "He should leave intelligence work to the professionals."

I smiled. "You mean like developing me like an asset? Yeah, you're doing a better job of it so far. But since you have to get me to trust you, that means you have to answer some of my questions, even if you are trying to control the dialogue and keep this about me." She stiffened imperceptibly, and I smiled. "That's right: I know what you're doing. So let's do it. Make me believe you."

"Heh," she sniggered. "You said, 'let's do it.' All right, all right," she waved away my glare, once-blank eyes twinkling. "You're going to ask about Doyle. He showed up yesterday, a couple hours after Gwen Drake was found. Arthur's given him full access to everything."

"If Arthur wants his wife's murder solved, he'd call in the best, right? Sherlock Holmes is the best. But you guys aren't the trusting sort. How does Arthur know Doyle isn't sleeping with the enemy?"

Vivian shook her head. "I don't know. He trusts Doyle, but won't say why. At least, not to me."

She... that last bit... she didn't have to say that. She hesitated ever so slightly before she did. She said that for you. Ask, and watch what she says carefully.

"Are you and Arthur on the outs?" I tried.

She shrugged - a little too casually. I was having a hell of a time reading her, which was a first for me. Most people were open books. Doyle had been harder to gauge than the so-called "bit players", but I'd still been able to glean what he was all about. Vivian... she was so guarded. Blank. It was nearly impossible to tell what she was letting slip, and what she wanted me to think she was letting slip.

"I'm the new girl," she answered. "I've been at the Agency a while, but I only came back to Headquarters a few weeks ago. Arthur's orders - my PCS got cut short. I hadn't heard about Personae a month ago. Arthur was the one who told me about Personae, New Camelot, all that stuff. It made a lot of sense, after he told me. I've always had an... effect on people."

"Probably has something to do with how you take your coffee," I said.

"I've been a very good girl since I got back," she said. "I haven't slept with any of Arthur's boys. Not even a blow job!"

"How unbelievably chaste," I deadpanned. "You deserve a real pat on the backside."

"Yes, please," she grinned. "My battery budget is through the roof. But even on my best behavior, I'm still working in a support department. I don't get to play with the boys and their toys."

"Who does that leave you playing with? Battery-operated devices aside."

"Meh. The usual. Reports. Metadata. Everything you can know about a bad man from ten thousand miles away." She sneered. "Not how he smells when he sweats."

"You have weird fetishes," I replied. "Why aren't you getting your dose of bad guy B.O.?"

"Best guess? There's no Merlin."

I stared at her for a minute, gathering my thoughts. "There's no Merlin in this New Camelot?"

"Doesn't leave anybody for me to vamp on and steal his magic, does it?" she answered. "That's what Vivian is supposed to do, according to the stories. Sex up the old man and take his power. Except he never showed."

"And Arthur is keeping you and your power-stealing sex away from his Merry Men," I finished.

"Wrong story. But yeah. There's nothing for a Vivian to do in this Camelot."

"And no one to do it to," I mused. I was sure I knew what and who Vivian was here to do, but I needed to test a theory. "Doyle's new in town. Does he do it for you?"

She made a face. "Too skinny. Do you think that's actually his real name?"

"It's how he introduced himself to me. But I mean, who knows?" She claims not to be interested in Doyle. Does she mean it? "Last name Holmes, first name the author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries? Who names their kid that?"

"People name their kids some awful things," Vivian grinned. "My first name's Irene. I'm sure my grandmother was a lovely woman, but please." She narrowed her eyes. "Tell anyone that and I will destroy you. It's my darkest secret."

I smiled. Excellent.

Vivian hadn't paused. "Anyway, back to thinking about my favorite topic: things that turn me on. I like my boys more like your coffee daddy."

I flushed. "He's not my-"

A slow smile spread over her lips. "You're really going to have to remove that stick if we're going to hang out. Not that I have problems with things in the ass, but I prefer it if they lead to happy endings."

For a moment, I had no idea how to respond. I'd never met anyone who talked like this. Sailors, maybe, but they were just trying to mess with you. Vivian owned it.

"Right. Um. So. What's your happy ending?" She raised an eyebrow as if to thank me for the opening, and I hastened to clarify. "What do you want to do here? What's a good outcome for you, personally?"

Her eyes searched my face for the dagger she was sure hid behind it. The question seemed to take her aback. Finding nothing she could object to, she almost didn't answer. Treachery, she understood. Sincerity, she did not.

Then she sighed. “I don’t know. I signed up here to catch bad guys. I mean, that’s what I want to do. You see that guy over there, the one young enough to know better than that bow tie? He was the one who put the pieces together on Umar al-Baddawi. You’ve never heard of Umar. That a-hole had a bomb ready to put onto a plane full of kids going to Disneyland. He’d picked the flight exactly for that reason. Bomb was undetectable. That guy over there is the reason that it never made it on board. Screw all this Camelot bullshit. I want to do that.”

“So do that! Don’t let Vivian define you. You define Vivian.”

“What are you, a talk show host? Guinevere will get to do whatever she wants. These guys already know who Vivian is, what her story is. They don’t trust me.”

“And Arthur calls all the shots at the CIA? I can’t believe that. No one man is that powerful; that’s what the bureaucracy is all about. My father told me that. He said it like it’s a good thing, and maybe he’s right.”

Vivian shrugged. “You've never heard Arthur talk. Maybe he is. He’s certainly the boss of me, according to the real world: he's the director of the counterterrorism center - the D/CTC. If I want to catch terrorists, I'll be doing it how he says.”

I frowned. “In the legends, Vivian finds her own way to power. It happens to be by stealing Merlin’s, but maybe that’s just a metaphor. Maybe you’re supposed to do your own thing, Arthur be damned.”

She grinned at me. “You sound just like her.” I blinked. “Swear to god, COPS - chief of operations; ridiculous acronym-ing of everything is a thing; get used to it - Gwen Drake told me the exact same thing, those exact words about her husband before…” Vivian swallowed. “Before some asshole killed her.”

“Yeah,” I gritted my teeth. “About that. Doyle just wants to let this go. Are you good with that?”

Her lip curled. “Arthur gave the same spiel to his knights at the morning briefing. ‘We have to let her go.’ He didn’t like it, but that’s who he is. He does things that he doesn’t like, because he thinks they’re right. It's part of what makes him good at catching bad guys.”

“Not what I asked.”

Her gaze was a knife, trying to cut me open to see if she could trust what she found. “Arthur and I don’t see eye to eye on everything. She was his fucking wife! She may have been realistic about his faults, but she loved him. Any idiot could see that. She deserves better than that from him. As far as what she deserves from me… I liked her. I think it’s bullshit that they’re letting people think the worst.”

“So what are we going to do about it?”

She looked at me appraisingly. “You’re the new hotness. You really want Gwen Drake’s legacy getting in your way?”

“Guinevere’s legacy is already in my way. What’s one more thing?” I shook my head. “I think Arthur and I aren’t going to see eye to eye on much.”

Vivian's eyes were right at my level. They gave me a long look. Then, with a grin, she exclaimed, "You saucy little minx! Are you a rebel? Oh, they aren't going to like that!"

I grinned right back. "Call me a petulant teenager, then. I've never even kissed a boy, and they think I'm going to marry a guy who widowed his wife yesterday? Somebody who's apparently friends with my dad?" I snorted, did my best Valley Girl impression. "As if."

Vivian giggled. "Yeah, wouldn't that be an awkward Senate hearing? 'Hi Leo, nice to see you again, your daughter has a great rack.' I'm sure that would go over well."

I blushed, but she shook her head eagerly. "No, really. It is a nice rack. Very perky. What kind of bra are you wearing? Arthur's going to be all, 'oooh, booooobs'! I can't wait. Should we go up there right now and show him? Oh, come on," she wheedled, "I'll show him mine too if it makes you feel better."

I felt the flush extend down to my toes, possibly past them. "Cut it out," I snapped. "Your call on flashing your boss, but Arthur is just going to have to wait on my boobs, nice or not."

"Oh, don't get all cranky. I'm just messing with you. Apparently you think I should be showing my goods off to Doyle." She stuck her tongue out. "Now we're even."

I couldn't help laughing. Vivian wasn't... malicious, not really. She'd just found a soft spot and couldn't stop poking it.

"All right, all right, fair enough. Except..." I sighed. "Except it isn't, really, because apparently it's my fate to be with Arthur. Isn't that how this works? I'm Guinevere, and he's Arthur, so even if he's still sad about his wife, he's got to be with me?"

"I'm not sure," Vivian answered. "I think that's part of the gig, yeah. But Arthur told me we also have free will. It's not just that you're fated to be with him. It's also that you'll want to. If you're the real deal, anyway."

I raised an eyebrow. "We'll see. What else am I in for? You said I can make people do what I want, even if I did somehow do it wrong earlier."

"It's not that you can make them do whatever you want. It's that the bit players - everybody who isn't a Persona - will treat you like Guinevere. They'll act like you're the queen, and you have every right to tell them what to do. They'll also be careful what they say around you, afraid that they'll anger you. It'll be more true with people who are Camelot-types, but if you focus on somebody, you can suck them into your story."

I waggled my eyebrows. "And you say you haven't slept with anybody in Camelot? They're all supposed to be ga-ga for Vivian, when she shows up."

She looked guilty for a second. "I... may have made a pass at Arthur. Not my finest moment! I'm over it! Don't look at me like that!" She held her hands up in mock self-defense.

I was leaning over the table at her, eyes narrowed. It was an aggressive, possessive posture. I straightened, as if catching myself.

"Right. Arthur, who I don't care about. Did you show him your boobs?"

She laughed in relief. "Almost. We may have had a few drinks up in Lance's vault, after al-Baddawi."

Good. She believes you were angry. She believes in Guinevere.

"Lance's vault? Is that on the second floor?"

She nodded. "Yeah. Lance Haran. Chief of the Operational Resources Group." Her voice dropped to a whisper, even in the middle of CIA Headquarters. "The ones who fly the Predators."

"Haran... Haran..." I closed my eyes for a moment. "Haran was Lot's father. In the Koran. Or the Old Testament, whatever. What?" I asked, at her incredulous stare.

"How do you know that?"

"Lot's one of the Prophets of Islam. How do you not know that?"

We looked at each other. Lance Haran. Haran, father of Lot, whose wife got turned into a pillar of salt. Lance-Lot.

Lancelot. A knight about to ride off to battle.

"Okay," Vivian heaved out a breath, "seriously. Have you been seeing people you know, but you don't know? Because Lancelot, Doyle Holmes... and that guy, over there, with the breakfast burrito... that guy, I swear to god I know him and not in just the I've-seen-you-in-the-hallway kind of way, but I don't. I have no idea who he is."

I nodded. "I think it's our Personae. They're recognizing other Camelot-types. I think he's a Percival-type."


"Because of how he's eating his burrito? I don't know," I replied. "Don't stare at him! Aw, now he thinks we're weirdos."

She looked askance at me. "Two hot women staring at you? Honey, boys don't think that's weird. They think that's what's supposed to happen."

"He looked away awfully fast."

"Some boys are like that. It's a fifty-fifty shot if you fuck them that they'll either be super awkward, or super attentive. Either way, needy after the deed's done. I'm trying to help you, here. Also, he's like twice your age. Not that that's a bad thing, because boys your age are crap in the sack. What?"

I glared. "I was implying that maybe he had an ulterior motive for watching us. Like," my voice dropped, "we caught him red-handed?"

She didn't miss a beat. "Yeah, I'd been thinking that, too. You've got to stop letting me mess with you so much. Those guys at the library: I'd seen most of them around. None of them had ever tried to kill me before."

Burrito-man stood up quickly, and we both tensed. She did it just like I did: without seeming to. Her movements didn't jerk, or slow down, or do anything different. But there was a sudden intensity behind them. If she'd been holding a glass of water, she would have shattered it, but the water would have been too scared to go anywhere.

Then the man turned and walked away from us without a glance. My eyes met Vivian's.

"So... I'm a queen who's supposed to marry somebody my dad's age, and there's a secret society of killers out there who could be literally anyone that I meet, and if they kill me, nobody is going to investigate it because apparently like a dozen people can get killed at CIA Headquarters within twenty-four hours and King Arthur can snap his fingers and Sherlock Holmes will sweep it under the rug. Is that about right?"

Vivian nodded, still uneasy. "When you put it like that, a nympho who thinks you've got nice tits isn't so bad, eh?"

I laughed weakly. "You can stay."

"You're only saying that because I'll throat-punch anyone who tries to hurt you."

"Aww, you're sweet. I'm also saying that because I love your lipstick. Where'd you get it?"

She looked up and to the left. "Uh... I think from a Japanese diplomat's bathroom. And no, I know what you're thinking, and I did not fuck him. I did help him choose a good set of heels to match the dress he was wearing. So there."

"They'll make an honest woman of you yet."

She scoffed. "Not likely. But I'm going to give a good report about you to Arthur."

"Does that mean you trust me?"

She smiled, with her teeth. "I don't trust anybody. But I do like you. That's probably a bad sign for Arthur, but it also means I'll help you out."

"Do you know any heels that will go with a green blazer?"

"Oh, are you also a cross-dresser? How is it that you all have bigger boobs than me? Anyway, Lance will be thrilled!"

Ah. Yeah. Lancelot. How did one look one's future husband in the eye, when everybody knew you'd be sleeping with his best friend within a week?

She saw my hesitation, and softened. "Too soon?"

I nodded. "I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

She smiled. "Trust me: it won't be a problem."

Her eyes flickered up behind me and latched onto something. She didn't show any alarm, nor did she go blank like she had before, when the burrito man had made sudden moves. She took a long sip of her coffee, and I saw for the first time that there was a piece of a napkin stuck to the bottom of it. It had a phone number on it. The handwriting: jagged, cramped. Numeral one slants to the left and the two zeroes are non-uniform. Written with the non-dominant hand, under the table. Small white flecks at the edges: the napkin is secured to the bottom of the cup with foamed milk residue that had been left on her fingers. She hadn't decided to give this number when she walked into the room, but made the decision within sixty seconds of licking it off of her fingers, before it dried. When she revealed that she wasn't sure about New Camelot: she committed then. That means she was being forthright about her wavering allegiance, and that Arthur doesn't suspect it. She chose to make herself vulnerable. This number is important to her. Arthur doesn't know about it.

I memorized it instantly.

"Doyle Holmes," Vivian purred as I felt a presence behind me. She leaned back, pushing a chair out with her foot. She was wearing cream, open-toed shoes, with her nails finished in a French manicure style. The heels were four inches long, and as her leg slid out from her pants, I saw the reptilian tip of a tail tattooed on her leg. The sight of it made the mind wander up that leg, higher...

She flicked her toes with a pop, and the chair lurched toward Doyle. He and I both jumped. We had been staring.

Doyle steadied himself quickly, adjusting the gift-wrapped package that he held under his arm. "No thank you, Miss-"

"Vivian," she admonished. "I insist."

His back straightened, and he didn't sit. "Do you?" he murmured. "Very well, Vivian, Arthur is looking forward to your report. I trust all was as I promised you it would be?"

"Oh, I do look forward to giving Arthur my report. Yes, Doyle, our new Gwen is just fine. No surprises whatsoever."

Doyle's eyes widened, and darted to me for a second. "I hardly think-" he started, but Vivian kept right on going.

"As you predicted, she was grateful when it was clear that New Camelot would protect her in the wake of an attack on her person. She was - what was your word? - overawed at discovering her role as Guinevere, and is excited to meet her Arthur. She looks forward to doing whatever she can to assist our efforts. Isn't that right, my queen?"

A false report, stroking Doyle's ego by confirming his predictions while simultaneously shaming him in front of the subject of those predictions. She is helping Doyle relax about you, but she is also antagonizing him. She is also showing you that she intends to make good on her promise to ingratiate you to Arthur. Interesting. Why is she so motivated to help you?

Doyle did practically beg to be antagonized. "Oh, yes," I nodded eagerly. "I've been so impressed by Vivian's stewardship, I'm thinking of recommending her to Arthur as a confidant and counselor... what with there being no Merlin in Camelot. Don't you think she'd make a great advisor? I do."

Doyle's eyes narrowed at us both. "I see that you've been getting to know one another. I look forward to hearing all about your discussion."

"What-" Vivian started, but she stopped as I began at the same time. She smiled, and inclined her head in deference.

"What, no drone reading our lips?" I jutted my chin out at him.

His lips did a smile-thing that was not actually a smile. "No, I trust that Arthur's people know how to do their jobs. I'm sure that Vivian made an exemplary queen-sitter while I did mine. The Library has been documented, and Watson is crunching the numbers. We will soon know all that can be learned about our attackers."

He stepped behind my chair, moving as if to help pull it out behind me. "While he works, Gwen and I should spend some time together. I have so many questions, after all, and we have a busy day ahead of us. There's the hearing to get to." I could hear the smugness in his voice as he told Vivian, "Arthur does look forward to reading your report, but he very much would like to meet this young woman himself."


My heart skipped a beat.

"We're... we're going to see Arthur?" I stood up quickly, and Doyle smoothly pulled the chair from behind me, as he'd intended. I looked up at him, and his dark eyes shone with excitement.

"Indeed. He's testifying in a small matter your father may have mentioned..."

"What, on the Hill? Politics?" I frowned. "I really hate politics. They're so boring!"

I could hear Vivian's smile. "Won't she make a fun Guinevere!" She also stood. Her face was blank again as she looked me up and down. Then she nodded. "You kids have a fun time today. I'll go write my little report. Maybe I'll have Lance review it before I turn it in. I'll bet Lancelot gets a kick out of my report on how to handle Guinevere."

Doyle seemed oblivious to her attempts to bait him. "Rush hour is clearing," he announced. "We shouldn't have any trouble on the road."

I caught Vivian's eye. "Thanks for getting me coffee," I told her. A known untruth, signifying that the next thing you say will also be untrue. Initiating coded conversation. "I'm sure Doyle will take good care of me from here."

She inclined her head in understanding. "I think you can count on him to look out for you. He'll stay close. It's good to have someone you can call on for help if you need it."

She doesn't trust Doyle to keep you safe, but she will stay close. To be helpful? Or appear trustworthy so that you will not question her motives? Intriguing that she believes that you are capable of memorizing a phone number flashed surreptitiously for a half-second. Most would not normally assume that Guinevere would be so perceptive.

I smiled at her, then Doyle. "I seem to have found myself in good hands. Shall we, Mr. Holmes?"

He extended an arm. "After you, your Highness."

I felt Vivian's eyes on my back the whole way out of the cafeteria. Our interaction had left me unsettled. If anything, I had more questions than I'd had when we walked in here. Who was this woman, really? Why did she want to help me? For that matter, what was Doyle's agenda, really? What had I gotten myself into?

As we made our way out of the large room, I heard Mort's words echo in my memory: Don't rely on Sherlock: he can't see me coming.

I was certain of only one thing: I wasn't out of danger yet. Nowhere close to it.