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Emma checked her watch. 3:25 PM. Conway should have been there almost a half hour ago. She huffed and drank her coffee, starting another lap around the block across the street from City Hall. Sooner or later she would have to give up. Whether or not he had volunteered, if he wasn't going to show she wasn't going to stick around.
Emma glanced sideways as Conway fell into pace with her. She turned her head completely to stare. Conway, the scruffy boy-band leader of the Coyotes, was decked out in a pressed suit plus tie, with clean dress shoes and hair that still spiked but looked more controlled and styled.
"You know how to clean up," Emma muttered. "Trying out the 'fashionably late' routine?"
"Nope, just took me a bit to find the costume," Conway replied shortly as they crossed the street and into City Hall. "See you in thirty seconds."
"One minute," Emma corrected. "Or however long it takes you to talk to the lady at the desk and act ill before dropping. Did you take everything I gave you?"
"Yeah." Conway nodded. "I've been feeling it."
"Keep it together," Emma murmured as Conway split off from her toward the main desk. Emma stood and finished her coffee, looking at her phone and pretending to text.
An exclamation of horror sounded from the desk. Emma looked up sharply in time to see Conway on the floor before people hurried around him.
Emma hurried forward. "Get back! Get back!" She pushed through the crowds to kneel down by Conway. She slid into her work so easily she almost believed it was real. She checked his pulse and took his temperature. Conway acted so genuine it helped Emma fit into her role.
"Someone call an ambulance!"
"No!" Emma snapped. People stared. "Everyone take twenty steps back now."
The authority in her voice made everyone back up. The lady at the desk was on the phone. Emma glared at her.
"I'm not calling for an ambulance," she mouthed. Emma looked back at Conway and went through the steps. She gently lifted one eyelid, then the other.
"Is he alright?!" A lady asked. Emma hissed at her for quiet.
"Sorry, kid," she murmured as she swiftly and subtly injected a small amount of fluid into him, deftly hiding the syringe in her coat pocket. Conway jerked and rolled over, throwing up. The audience backed up even further. Conway looked unfocused, and his forehead was burning.
"What is it?!" The lady asked. "Is he okay?!"
"No, he's not," Emma murmured. She looked up at the receptionist. "Listen, either you get these panicked people out of here, or you find him and me an empty, quiet room. He needs peace and quiet, and I need quiet to concentrate."
"I-I've already called the mayor." the receptionist looked terrified. Emma frowned in confusion.
"What's happened?!" A new voice demanded. Emma turned to see Mayor Vernalti coming toward them, flanked by two security guards. Emma's alarm spiked. She looked at Conway, who still looked awful. Emma was almost afraid he was actually ill, and not just under the influence of false symptoms.
"Who are you?" Horatio asked. "Is he alright?!"
"Mr. Mayor, I need you to stay calm," Emma said, keeping her voice even. "I need to get this boy to a quiet room away from these panicking people. And if you stay calm, they will too. I need your cooperation right now."
"Of course, of course." Horatio looked ready to have a nervous breakdown. "We can take him to my office."
This was getting weirder and weirder. Emma let the guards help Conway to his feet. He was so disoriented he could barely walk. Horatio led them up to his office, Emma tried to mentally rework their escape route. She hadn't planned on being up in the mayor's own office.
"Miss Cadden," Horatio said quickly as the guards went past into Horatio's office, "please reschedule my remaining appointments today. I will not be seeing anyone now."
Emma directed the guards to the couch, where Conway was gently laid out. He tried to sit up. "Easy, easy." Emma pushed him down. "Just relax... you're going to be fine."
"No," Conway murmured. "Can't.... be here..."
"Shhh," Emma warned. "Just lie back. I'll take care of it."
Conway moaned. Emma waved the security guards away. Horatio entered the room, looking anxious. He started forward when Conway began to jerk and shake.
"What happened!?" He asked. He watched as Emma took a syringe from her purse. "Who are you?"
"Sir, I am a qualified doctor," Emma said, not taking her eyes off of Conway. "I come prepared for these kinds of things." She slid the sedative into Conway, and he soon calmed down, his eyelids closing. "I need a cloth and cool water right now, sir."
"Yes, of course. Of course." Horatio hurried to a small bathroom. Emma put away the syringe and felt Conway's forehead. It was still far too warm, and under any other circumstances this would have alarmed Emma, but she kept calm. It was only a ruse. Conway would be just fine. More or less. He would probably feel sick and miserable after, but not nearly as sick as he was pretending to be.
Horatio returned with a damp cloth. Emma felt a stab of pity for him when she saw his hand was trembling. But it also brought on confusion. Why was he so worried for a mere boy? A stranger?
"Mr. Mayor, please sit." Emma motioned to a nearby chair as she pretended to help Conway. "Get yourself a glass of water--" Emma faltered when he poured liquor. "Sir, you need to calm down. I know this is alarming, but this boy will be fine under constant supervision."
"You're sure?" Horatio asked. "He will be alright?"
"Yes." Emma turned and took Horatio's hand comfortingly. "I'm trained to deal with this kind of emergency. Thank you for letting us take up your office space."
"Not at all," Horatio murmured. "Do whatever you can. What made him sick, do you know?"
Emma began to feel a prick of suspicion, but she pushed it aside. "I believe it is encephalitis. It's a virus that can be caught through a mosquito or tick bite. Wherever this boy has been, he may have been bitten by one of those and contracted it."
"Is it contagious?"
Emma nodded. She stood briefly, her leg going numb from sitting on it. "It's good we got him away from those people."
Conway began to stir with a moan. Horatio darted forward before Emma could react, kneeling by the couch. Emma stared, utterly confused, but at the same time her suspicion returned.
"Hey." Horatio smiled when Conway's eyes found his. "Conway, it's me. Are you alright?"
Emma's eyes widened in shock. Conway hesitated, then nodded.
"I'm fine," Conway said. "Well, no.... I feel disgusting... I'm sorry to have interrupted your work... uncle."
"Nonsense," Horatio said. "Your health comes first. Do you remember what happened?"
"Uh..." Conway frowned. He glanced at Emma, who shook her head quickly. "Not... really. I remember coming to see you, and going to the receptionist, but then I don't remember..."
Horatio looked at Emma frantically. Trying to overcome her shock, she put a soothing hand on Horatio's shoulder and had him move over. She knelt by Conway and smiled.
"Hello, Conway," she said. "I'm Emma Kelly. Can you tell me if you're in pain anywhere? When did you start feeling ill?" She smiled, but behind her smile she was fairly seething. Conway noticed it and looked away.
"A few days ago," he murmured. "I felt sick, but I thought it was just a cold so I didn't tell anyone." He risked a glance at Emma, but she only smiled back. This certainly did complicate things. By a whole lot.
"Should I call his doctor?" Horatio asked.
"No," Emma said sharply. "That is going to draw unnecessary attention. We already have a lobby in panic downstairs. I can tend to him. If you can go and calm the folks downstairs, that will help. If they're assured by their mayor that his nephew will be just fine, and simply has a bit of the flu, things will calm down a lot. Having it come from you personally will help a lot."
Horatio nodded and left the room. Emma waited until he closed the door before turning on Conway.
"Shut. Up." Emma glared at him. "When were you going to tell me?! Tell anyone?!"
"Yeah, like it's so easy to tell everyone that hey, I'm the mayor's nephew!" Conway snapped. "I can't tell them, Emma. You know I can't. Especially now. If Skyler or Wes or any of the Jumpers found out--"
"You're going to have to tell them sometime," Emma said quietly. "They deserve to know, Conway."
"Not now," Conway pleaded. "I can't... not now. The Jumpers have already been betrayed by my sister... They're going to feel betrayed by me. I can't do that to them. Or my own group. They need me."
"Your sister?" Emma frowned, thinking, and pulled up a chair. "Conway, this is a huge secret... yes they're all going to hate you, but... we can use this--"
"My twin, yes. And I've tried," Conway groaned. "I have tried asking my uncle about the missing Jumpers, but he won't tell me anything. My sister is in league with him, but he doesn't seem to trust me."
"Probably because you keep going off to play follow-the-leader with your Coyotes."
"Don't." Conway glared at her. "Don't you dare. I hate what my uncle is doing. I've hated it for years. I've known what he's been doing, I've known my sister was his eyes and ears among the Jumpers. I have hated every single thing my uncle has done to them, to the people he's hurt. But I've had to pretend I don't hate it, that I'm fine with it. Helping out the Coyotes helps me vent my anger and hatred. I've been living two lies for a long time, and believe me Emma it's been eating away at me for a long time too. Please. You can't tell them about me and Horatio. Please."
Emma looked at him. Conway looked desperate. She was still angry and shocked, but she nodded anyways. Now wasn't the time to argue with him.
"You'll have to tell them sooner or later," Emma murmured, dabbing at his forehead again. "This kind of thing can't stay under the rug forever."
Conway looked away, not answering, as Horatio returned.
"How is he?" Horatio asked anxiously.
Emma smiled. "I think he should be fine. I'll watch him for a few days, just to be sure. But it would be better if we didn't alert his doctor. Keeping this as much under the radar as we can will keep the city from going into a panic."
"Thank you, Dr. Kelly." Horatio looked genuinely relieved.
"You're welcome, sir." Emma smiled. "I would keep an eye on yourself and any other family he may have come in contact with. If he let it slide as a simple cold, he could have come in contact with a few others."
Horatio nodded, looking a shade paler. Emma stood. "Mr. Mayor, you have nothing to worry about. I am trained to handle this disease. If you need anything, give me a call." She passed him her business card. Horatio took it gratefully.
"I'll come by to check up on him tomorrow?"
"Yes, please." Horatio nodded. "Thank you again."
"Thank you, Dr. Kelly," Conway murmured. Emma fixed with him a brief stare, then nodded and let the security guard escort her outside. There, she headed back to the coffee shop. She needed more coffee, and she needed to think.
"No! Don't. Move!"
Skyler and Jonah froze. Darcy came forward carefully. "Don't move another muscle."
"Trying," Skyler grunted. "Just hurry."
Darcy knelt down and leaned over, fiddling with wires and connecting some. She backed away.
"Alright, slowly!" She instructed. Skyler and Jonah carefully obeyed until the solar panel went into place with a click. Skyler stood, arching his back and groaned. Solar panels were a lot heavier than he had expected.
"Thanks boys," Darcy said. "That was the last one."
"No problem." Jonah winced. He looked out over the empty Wal-Mart parking lot. "How do you think it went? With Emma and Conway? We haven't heard anything in days."
"I don't know." Skyler frowned. "I know they said it might be a while before we heard anything, but..."
"They'll be fine," Darcy said, finishing her work. "Conway knows what he's doing. Don't worry about him-- speak of the devil."
Skyler turned to see a lone figure trotting up to the Wal-Mart. He slowed to a stop, hands raised, as he was challenged, but soon he went into the store. Skyler, Jonah, and Darcy hurried down to meet him.
"Hey." Skyler came up to Conway. "How'd it go?"
"Fine." Conway nodded. "Emma's in. Horatio scheduled a meeting with her for tomorrow. Very secret, he told her."
Skyler felt his heart soar. They were alive! Their friends were alive!
"What took you so long to get back?" Darcy asked bluntly.
"I was held up a bit," Conway said. "I couldn't very well disappear after passing out in the lobby of City Hall. I needed to play the part. I'm sorry I couldn't get to you earlier."
"Were you in the hospital?" Jonah asked as they headed down below.
"...Yeah," Conway said flatly. "Come on."