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   Chapter 8 Councilor

Councilor: Book Six of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 24473

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:38


Chapter 8

Elena reached the laboratory just as Peter, or more accurately his driver Thomas, pulled up to the curb. She mentally ran through her last minute check. Victor was working with Stephen to breakdown and ship out the lab, her two managers were more than capable of running the stores without her, she had all of the files she needed for the meeting and Jennifer promised to feed Spin. Everything was ready, but she still felt as though her feet were suddenly giant weights welded to the sidewalk. She realized she didn't actually want to hear what Peter found out about Tina.

Lisa was already waiting and looked both nervous and excited as though this was the first day of school. She was wearing her best lawyerly guise, a tailored black suit with a charcoal piping that mimicked something from the nineteen forties or fifties and sensible heels. Her hair was tied up in a no-nonsense twist and Elena found herself a little intimidated by the uber professional image. The sight of her started Elena moving forward again. After all, she couldn't leave Lisa to explain her absence, even if she did look more than capable of taking on any of the councilor's bodyguards. Elena had the feeling Lisa could verbally eviscerate them at ten paces. Elena took a deep breath and plastered a smile across her face.

Thomas put the car in park, slipped out from behind the wheel and took both Elena and Lisa's bags. He quickly deposited them in the trunk. He looked momentarily surprised by Lisa but quickly pushed it away, fixing a more neutral expression on his face. Lisa didn't notice but Elena wondered if that was going to be the standard reaction to Lisa's presence.

"One of these things is not like the other, " she mentally told herself. Realizing there was nothing she could do about the situation, she pushed the thought aside.

Luggage stowed, Thomas returned to open the car doors, opening the front passenger side door for Lisa and the back door for Elena. As Elena slid into the back seat with Peter, she wondered if that was standard aide behavior or if Thomas just wanted to keep an eye on Elena's new "bodyguard" in case she had hidden skills.

Lisa looked askance at Thomas and then turned in her seat. "Good morning Mr. Baranov, " Lisa said in her crisply professional voice.

"Ms. Franklin, " Peter replied with a slight incline of the head. Lisa turned back to the front as though dismissing Peter. "And good morning to you Elena, " Peter replied. "I did not know if you would have had the chance to pick up coffee so I took the liberty." He gestured to a steaming cup placed in the cup holder. "Ms. Franklin, I did not know if you shared Elena's predilection, but a cup has been provided for you as well."

"Thank you Mr. Baranov, " Lisa said politely, momentarily turning around to favor him with a smile before resuming her position. Thomas said nothing as he slid behind the wheel, shifted into drive and pulled away from the curb. Elena picked up the provided cup and wondered if everyone was going to be super polite all the way to the Lorenzo. As it was a good six hour drive to where the large cruise ship was docked according to the directions she was given. Elena had the feeling such extended politeness may actually kill them all.

"Well at least they won't be able to write death by minutia on my tombstone then, " she thought taking a sip of her provided beverage. As usual Peter remembered how she took her coffee and she smiled at him in thanks.

"I see you brought some notes?" Peter said, sounding slightly amused as he gestured to the thick file Elena still carried.

"It was either that or memorize all of the scientific mumbo-jumbo Mateo put in there to justify his timeline." She told him.

"Ah, " Peter replied. "I hoped you would have gotten the details from him before our meeting." Peter lapsed into silence and Elena shifted uncomfortably in her seat, wondering if she was going to have to actually beg Peter to tell her what he learned. She took a sip of her coffee. Peter still seemed disinclined to talk.

"I don't suppose…, " she began.

"Drink your coffee please, Elena. We don't want it to get cold." He said, interrupting her. He smiled and a chill went up her spine despite the warm spring day and hot beverage.

"Did you put something in the coffee?" She asked, wondering if she had just been poisoned or drugged or something. She knew that the fact that the question came out in a rational tone rather than a panicked whisper was something she would be proud of later. Elena looked to Lisa who hadn't even touched her provided coffee, but was looking at Elena over her shoulder. Concern filled her eyes. Peter looked amused and Thomas chuckled.

"No, I did not. Well there was the one sugar cube and the dash of cream, if you wish to be technical." Peter replied. "But I doubt either will do you much harm." He looked as though he were swallowing a laugh.

"I see, " Elena said. She leaned back in the seat wondering why she so often used that particular phrase with Peter when she so rarely did see what he was talking about. Elena glanced over to Lisa, who relaxed and apparently decided to ignore the conversation in the back seat now that Elena's death was not imminent. Elena noticed she still did not pick up her coffee.

"Or at least appear to ignore it, " Elena thought. She knew that later Lisa would be able to repeat the conversation verbatim and once the two of them were alone would ask a series of relevant questions Elena had not even considered. "Which is what lawyers are for, I suppose." Elena looked over to Thomas and was surprised to see him darting glances into the rearview mirror. She wondered if they were being followed and started to turn around in her seat to look. Peter laid a hand on her arm and shook his head. Elena nodded and let out a shaky breath.

Elena felt as though she was launched into a spy movie of some sort and sat tensely, waiting to see what would happen. "That's all I can do really, " she thought. "It's not like I have any training in losing a tail or what it would take to overhear their conversation." She thought about it and realized she wasn't even certain if you lost a tail or dodged a tail. "Lost sounds right but dodge makes it sound a bit more like a game." She sighed softly. "Definitely need to think about relocating to Haven, " she thought.

Her heart was racing and even though she lifted the cup of coffee to her lips, the sip she took was a small one, just to prove she trusted Peter. She swallowed nervously hoping the point was proven and put the cup into the cup holder. She tried not to look as though she were gripping her file full of notes even though she was certain Peter could see her white knuckles. Was she being followed in the hopes that she would lead people to the Council? Was whoever it was just trying to find any members of the Guild? Did it have something to do with Tina? Smith? Johnathan? Thompson? Therese? The United Council of Gadwan? Elena tried to push her swirling thoughts aside.

"I think I'm just going to move to Idaho and start a home for displaced Argentinian elves and Moroccan dormice, " she muttered causing Peter to laugh.

Instead of heading to the highway as Elena expected, Thomas drove the car through town,

"Meaning the pilots who sail for my house are being watched." Elena nodded, irked at herself for not seeing that sooner. Once they finished transporting all of the people who wanted to re-locate, she could keep her pilots skyside for a time as well. There was plenty they could do on Haven, although they might resent extended transport duty. There were also the new channels they began opening. Working with them might help to alleviate some of the burden. Several yielded lucrative trade routes and there were still a host of others left to explore. Once the channel to Haven was open, she started to notice other new channels as well. If she needed a break from Haven, she could easily explore those as well. There was just one problem.

"How are the supplies for Nibbles?" she asked. After all, in the Guild commerce ruled.

"We are well stocked for the season, " he informed her, nodding his approval of her concern.

"With last year's difficulties there were a multitude of extra ships bringing in goods. We could easily last through several seasons if need be."

Elena nodded remembering all of the safe routes she provided for her family and the extended networks of allied Houses during the Matrovean advance. What had been a necessity to keep people in safer waters would serve her well now. "And who says doing the right thing doesn't pay off?"

Peter chuckled and Elena realized the car was pulling to a stop. She looked out of the window and saw that they were in the parking lot of an old 1950's style motel. The long single floor stretched out behind the office amidst a sea of cracked asphalt parking. Thomas got out of the car, heading into the office and Elena reached for the door handle. Peter didn't make a move, so Elena let her hand fall away. Thomas returned shortly. He slid into the car and handed Lisa a room key.

"Thank you, " she replied breaking her long silence. He passed keys back to Peter and Elena as well and then drove around to the back of the building where the doors were located. Apparently whoever designed it didn't want guests to have to see the highway. As Thomas parked, Elena wondered if the asphalt of the parking lot was considered a better view. He pulled up in front of a row of numbered doors and Elena looked at her key.

It was an actual metal key attached to a red three inch long diamond shaped plastic paddle. In faded gold numbers she saw 164 printed on the plastic. She looked up and saw the door to Room 164. Everyone got out of the parked car and Thomas popped open the trunk. Elena walked around and noticed that while Thomas ferried both her and Lisa's bags from the first car to the second, two other bags were waiting.

She sighed and picked up her bag. "What would you have done had we not had to switch cars?" she asked Peter.

"Have Nicolas meet me with the bags, " he replied.

"Ah, " Elena answered as she watched the others pick up their luggage. She should have known Peter would have had a plan B.

"We will meet in the morning to discuss the remaining elements of our agenda. I do not believe this establishment has room service, but a diner of some sort seems to be located across the parking lot." He pointed to a diner that looked as though it had been built at the same time as the hotel.

"Thank you, " Elena replied. She walked over to room 164 and saw that Lisa had room 163, Thomas had room 165 and Peter appeared to be in room 166.

"Nice to have all of your ducks in a row, " she thought opening the door. She wondered if Thomas was stationed between her and Peter as a precautionary measure in case she or her scary body guard assassin Lisa planned to take him down or if it was the luck of the draw.

"It's probably intentional, " she decided looking around the room. "I don't know what that says about me though. Or Lisa." The room smelled like stale furniture polish. It was a fairly basic room dominated by a queen sized bed covered with a green and red floral polyester bedspread. A television was placed on top of the low dresser in front of it, the remote waiting on the top. The bathroom was straight back and after dropping her bag on the bed, she investigated it, finding a worn, but clean shower/bath combo, toilet and sink.

"The Lorenzo it's not, " she commented to the empty room. "But still a notch up from Haven." Elena sighed and decided that she would make time every night until she left for either a steamy shower or a long soak in a hot bubble bath. "Especially if I have to permanently relocate to Haven." She was startled from her thoughts by a knock on the door. She was unsurprised to open it and find Lisa standing there.

"Lunch?" her friend asked gesturing to the diner.

"Sure, " Elena answered. She picked up her purse and stuffed the room key inside before closing the door and following Lisa across the parking lot.

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