Steiner must have noticed her bewildered expression. He smiled and took her by the elbow as she gaped up at the dirty building. “We keep our military and research arms in separate facilities so this site doesn’t attract too much attention from the neighbors. At least half the staff are agents, and armed, the rest administrative. Security’s not as bad as it looks.”
He led her to a conference room while Redfield disappeared in the opposite direction. A moment later, his partner turned up with the Colonel in tow. Bitman gave her a measuring look even as he reached out to shake her hand. He smiled broadly, once again showing his grandfatherly side.
“Ms Lewin, a pleasure to see you again,” he said, gesturing for her to follow Steiner into the room. “I’m glad you could meet with us.”
The table and chairs were old and worn and the walls had small nicks and scrapes from years of use. Despite the signs of wear, it was not an unpleasant room. Unlike other conference rooms she’d been in, someone had made the considerable effort to select a table that actually fit in the room. Nor was there a lot of unnecessary furniture filling the remaining space. A low row of cabinets sat at the far end of the room, a flat screen with dangling wires above it. She supposed it was for plugging in a laptop to make PowerPoint presentations or whatever they normally used the room for.
“I’d really like to thank you for sending that sample,” he said after they were seated. “Our tech boys have never seen anything quite like it, though as you pointed out, it is deteriorating. Do you happened to know what Professor Scott did with the draug remains though? Don‘t worry about him finding out you slipped away with a few souvenirs, by the way. Since I took over from my predecessor, the ASMU has become increasingly paranoid. We haven‘t had any direct dealings since…” he thought a moment.
“A year ago?” Steiner suggested. “When they bought the Sanbourne collection out from under Cayce? Anything else was before my time, I think.”
“You’re welcome…” she said. “I really hadn‘t thought of the draug‘s remains. I supposed… I hoped that Scott knew what he was doing.”
Bitman shook his head. “Something we’ll have to see about,“ he said mildly. “Draugs can’t be destroyed, only contained.”
It seemed like the old guy was trying really hard to be pleasant, but Glory had to be sure of him before sharing what she knew about the Black Stone. “Before we start, I just have a few more questions… for my piece of mind.”
To his credit, Steiner only rolled his eyes a little. The colonel’s lips thinned, but his expression remained neutral. “Three… I’ll give you three, provided you’re not asking for classified information,” he said.
“They’re just general questions,” she assured him, though his restriction chafed. “You don’t need to tell me specifics, just as a general rule… You knew what Edgar was. Do you hunt ghouls?”
“No,” he grunted, adding, “We’ve had to take care of a few rogue changelings that went serial killer, but beyond that they don‘t usually trouble any one.”
“Are there any races that you do routinely hunt?” she demanded.
Bitman pursed his lips as he thought her question over. “Not recently. There could have been an issue in Innsmouth… which I believe you already know something about. Thank you for that. Cults are a huge mess to clean up, not to mention the loss of life on both sides. I take it there won‘t be any further developments there?”
She shrugged uncomfortably. “No… the responsible parties have been… dealt with.” So it had been Bitman’s people who sent a ship to investigate. Maybe they weren’t as trigger happy as she’d first thought. Glory racked her brain for a third question. She’d only intend to ask the two, but not asking a third after being given the option seemed like a waste. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to give me info on Professor Scott. I… think he’s dangerous,” she hastened to add as Bitman opened his mouth. “He’s already had someone take shots at me in front of my house. And, you already know I rescued Edgar from him.”
“Something might be arranged,” he said diplomatically. “Now, we have some questions as well.” Glory opened her mouth to protest that she had come to tell her story from beginning to end, more or less. Less, being mention of pretty much anything that might endanger her friends or incriminate her, but the colonel was having none of it. “Now look here,” he said with a scowl, “We’ve been more than patient and accommodating. I appreciate we make you nervous, and I’d be suspicious of you if you weren’t wary of an organization like ours, but the time has come to stop dithering around. Are we on the same page or not?”
“Yes?” she said, not exactly sure which page he was talking about.
“Good,” he replied, and for the next two hours he grilled her on her trip to her grandmother and what the old woman had told her regarding her father. Then he moved on to her visit with her father, which was a bit sketchier as she tried to explain her disappearance without mention of the Dreamlands.
Bitman was so intent on the information he wanted, he wouldn’t allow her to diverge at all from the chosen topic. Any time she tried to expand on something, he’d interrupt and drag her forcibly back to the topic of interest. Her answers became more and more monosyllabic as the interview continued until Bitman took pity on her and suggested they break for lunch. Redfield had left on some errand almost as soon as the interrogation had begun. Steiner sat next to his boss, quietly making a transcript of everything she said.
The idea that they were only breaking and were not done did not sit well with her, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. “Fine,” she groaned, talking into the table. One arm was folded under her and the other stretched out beside her as she lay half-sprawled over the faux wood surface. She knew it was very childish and melodramatic, but he obviously hadn’t been getting the hint from the tone of her voice.
to Book 7, part 1, page 27