The idea frightened Gabriel – being taken and someone replacing you?
How many human lives had already been taken by the doppelgängers? Had this one not made a mistake, shining a light on other odd deaths or murders in recent months, no one would’ve thought about it. As Gabriel placed the notebooks and scribbled on pads in his briefcase at the desk, he thought back over the unusual amount of missing person reports in Whitley. Reports he hadn’t even had time to peruse. For a college town, the possibilities were deadly. Students could go missing and not be reported for weeks.
He heard the phone vibrate on his desk. Regarding the device, Gabriel sighed heavily. “Jean-Michel Raudine” was on the screen. The Councilor answered the phone immediately. “It’s about time. What use is having a Tasker assigned to me if he never responds? I’ve been trying to get hold of you for two days.”
“This Tasker was on assignment for someone on a higher pay grade than you, Councilor Kennedy,” The sound of ice and sloshing liquid could be heard. “Take my absence up with him.”
“Apparently, the Director is too busy to be bothered. And you’re my Tasker, not his.” All Gabriel heard was a grunt and the sound of liquid being poured from the other end of the call. “Are you drinking, Jean-Michel?” Gabriel flattened the palm of his free hand on the desk while he waited.
“Yes. If you had a day like mine, you’d be drinking, too.”
“No. I would be doing my duty,” Gabriel heard a release of air from the other side of the call. “Sorry to be so boring, but there are things to do besides getting drunk. There may be lives on the line.”
“There are always lives on the line with you lot. You should be taking that stick out your arse and pouring your own drink,” the Tasker chuckled.
Gabriel’s eyes glared down at the phone he had just pulled from his face. Why did this man always get his goat? He took a deep breath, swallowed, and continued.
“In case you were blissfully unaware, there’s a possible emergency happening here. I’m trying to save people from a horrible end.”
“Let me guess, human lives?”
“Well, yes, but it could also be argued that I’m trying to save supernatural lives. Who knows why doppelgängers are doing what they’re doing? So,” Gabriel took another pronounced breath. “I’m trying to save both supernatural and human lives. And for that, I need a Tasker who is available to me. And not drunk.” If it were any other person…
“Oh, come on, Gabriel. Surely you don’t think the Council and Crimson are here for supernatural benefit?” Jean-Michel took another drink.
“It is stated in the vows and pledge of duty….”
“Fuck that! I want your opinion, not some fuckin’ vow!” The Tasker growled from somewhere close to his soul. “Stop hiding behind someone else’s words and empty promises!”
Gabriel’s voice caught. Large brown eyes waited, trying to overcome the sudden catch in his throat and his chest. There was a flash of memory, a sleeker, younger version of his Tasker…using that voice while arguing with his father. The Councilor could feel the anger and tension in the room that day – years ago – and he swore to himself he’d just felt it again. After all, Jean-Michel had been the Tasker assigned to several human Councilors over the years – Kennedys all in a line. He was definitely not human, though he was listed as such. Perhaps, human magi? They had longer lives.
No. he knew better. His eyes moved to the cart where the books had been. He swallowed. “Crimson just wants supernaturals cleaned up and out of sight, so their precious humans don’t ever have to be burdened by knowing supernaturals exist,” the Tasker scoffed. “And you know what the funny thing is? Humans, who know about supernaturals? They want to become them or wipe ‘em from the face of the earth out of jealousy. So which are you?”
“You…are…drunk…” Gabriel spoke with measured patience. “You know how I feel about drinking and being drunk.”
“Why are the rules all made about you creatures? Humans don’t even treat one another properly. Consider all these murders and wars. You use one another and us! Skinner’s a fine example, using Crimson to herd supernaturals and keep’em under control. We’re not the ones out of control.”
“That’s news to me, considering I just got a report of a doppelgänger in Whitley taking the life of a human and becoming him. Supernaturals have the upper hand. A balance must be kept, Tasker. Crimson and the Council are about balance.” This wasn’t the time for a philosophical discussion. He needed to reel this conversation in. “Jean-Michel, I need you to come back here. The supernaturals in question are killing humans, replacing them, and wreaking havoc on other people’s lives,” Gabriel whispered every phrase in the sentence slowly. His hand was popping his thumb against his thigh.
“Yeah, well, I’ll get right on it.”
“Raudine!” Gabriel shouted the Tasker’s last name as if that would better get his attention, but the call had ended before he’d even finished the second syllable. He stared down at the phone. Where had that much venom come from? Why the sudden indignation? They had both taken vows, had they not?