The second part of that original really long chapter, part three to come. Sorry this isn't of the highest quality. I just wanted to get it written.
Another traffic light blinks amber, then red; and with it, the last of Felix's hope flickers and dies. Over the last half hour, his eyes have grown more panicked, his face redder. His hands, white knuckled and tense in his lap, began still, but now shake violently and uncontrollably. His lips have been pursed tightly. The only words he has uttered aloud since entering the taxi are the destination he wishes to reach, the address of a small private school. Aloud. In his head, a war is waged.
"Felix. Am I wrong to think you have stopped again?" The voice he hears is icy.
"I can't control the traffic Ana." Felix pleads silently. If he fails them. If he doesn't get the boy for Ana before Brown gets to him, he'll pay. Anderson, Ana, they'll hunt him, they'll hurt him. Unless Brown finds him first. Yet what can he do? Around him, a sea of cars stretches in metallic metal waves, a symphony of car horns raging uselessly against the queue.
"Felix." Her soft whispers echo around his skull, layer upon layer. "We don't have an alternative option. He went into the school five minutes ago. If he gets to the boy before we do, we'll have you go into the agency to get him."
"Suicide. Breaking in there, that's a suicide mission."
"Yes." There's no remorse in that voice. She'll do it. She'll make him go, unless...
One hand fumbles blindly at the handle of the taxi's passenger door, the other scrabbling at his seatbelt.
"Oi mate!" The taxi driver looks round nervously. "What are you doing. Felix has his seatbelt undone now, Ana's voice in his head urging him on.
"You might catch him if you run."
"Hey what the hell." The taxi driver turns, panicked, in his seat, as Felix stumbles from the door into the midst of the traffic jam, tripping over his own feet as he rushes for your pavement, ignoring the taxi driver resolutely.
"Mate you haven't even paid your fare." The driver yells as the small, fat figure hurtles down the pavement, muttering to himself rapidly. The driver only shakes his head. "Great. Bloody great. I get all the nut jobs."
"Faster." Ana's voice in Felix's ear is louder, more urgent. "Brown's been in there ten minutes at least. Give him another ten and he's out with the boy, he won't waste time.
"Can't you send your guy in?" Felix gasps, a stitch in his side restricting all but intermittent speech. "The one you had tailing him."
"No can do." Ana replies. "He's not really working with us. Just some homeless guy we found earlier. We gave him a debit card with ten thousand quid on it and told him to follow the guy in the fancy suit for half an hour. He didn't ask questions. Turn left here."
Felix skids to a halt, turns, speeds down the street she has indicated at a pace he would once of though impossible to reach. Yet even that is not fast enough.
"How do you get the funds for his stuff?" A picture of Ana's mirthless smile forms in his head.
"Do you really want to know, Felix?" Her tone suggests he does not.
"No." He replies resolutely. "No, I don't do I." Don't ask questions, Felix, he reminds himself. Never ask questions.
The sweat is dripping in his eyes now, salty and stinging. His muscles, unused to the work, burn white hot. It his hardly surprising then, as he careers through the school's wide front doors, that the look the already harassed receptionist flashes him is less than welcoming.
"Yes?" She asks, voice sharp as a knife, tense. Radiating from her he can feel... Irritation, yes, but doubt. He delves into her head. Memories. The man from JCQ. She let him speak to a minor, alone, without an appointment. JCQ or not, she could lose her job for this.
"She's not going to let me in." He thinks desperately to Ana, staring wild eyed at the desk, at the paintings, down corridors.. "She already has doubts."
"Can I help you?" The receptionist snaps, tapping her heel on the floor with an impatient click. "Or are you going to stand here all day?"
"Good morning." Ana prompts menacingly. "I'm here from the joint council for qualifications."
Felix stutters the words after her, feeling them tumble out of his mouth in a tumult of confusion, his voice shaking with anxiety. "Err. Yes. It's a surprise visit. I need to speak to Mickey..."
"Michael" he hears Ana screech inside his head. "The boy's name is Michael."
"Right." Felix flails desperately in the panic. He can't do this he can't do this he can't do this. "What I meant was Michael. I, I need to speak to Michael, not Mickey, silly me, always a scatterbrain." He laughs weakly. He doesn't need to delve into the receptionist's mind to read her skepticism. She's not going to let him in, he won't get the boy, Ana will make him pay. What can he say? What can he do to convince the woman who it seems even Mr Brown barely won over.
"My partner." He stammers, going on the little he glimpsed in her head. "My partner, a Mr. Brown. He's already here. He should've told you, it's all a surprise visit. Have I said that already?" By her face, he has.
"Felix. Did I ask you to improvise?"
"Ana, she wasn't going to let me in I had no choice! If I've got a partner it gives me credibility." Silence.
The receptionist taps her foot again. Well. In for a penny, in for a pound. "Your colleague is in the interview room. If you'd like to follow me?" Follow her. Follow her to Mr Brown. Mechanically he walks in the woman wake, crying out "Ana! Help me, I can't let Brown see me."
"Oh no." Her voice comes back. "You're on your own now. You got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out."
"Ah." Felix stammers. "Yes. Could I ask where the bathroom is?" There'll be a window in the bathroom. He can climb out, he can still run.
"Can you, Felix?" Ana's whisper again. "You can run now, but can you run later? " No, no he can't. So now he faces Mr Brown. He was never going to get the boy without seeing him anyway. Maybe he won't remember thing. It's been a long time since Felix has worked for Anderson. Maybe Brown won't break through his mental walls. Maybe he can play through all this as a simple misunderstanding and grab the boy before Brown realises what's happening. Maybe pigs will fly. Either Brown will recognise him and take him, or he won't, he'll get the boy and Felix will pay for his failure. That's it. The end to the mysterious Marvello. The end to a quiet life. Back under Andsrson's thumb, or else found dead in the week in one of the agency's mysterious "accidents."
He can feel the weight of Ana's prescience in his head, hearing his panicky thoughts as they rise and fall and swirl. One identical grey door, a second, a third. Like Mr Brown before him, Felix feels the oppression in the air, the anxiety and the stress of the students reflecting his own back at him. What a place to be caught.
A final clack of the receptionist's heels and they stop before another identical door. Felix wonders idly how they tell them all apart. There's a waterfall of sweat in his eyes now, there's fear in his heart driving it to beat faster and faster and faster. It seems he can hear every drop of blood in his veins, roaring in his ears. I'll run, he thinks desperately to himself. I'll just run. Never mind if they catch me tomorrow; but it's no good. Rooted to the spot by fear, he stands as a rabbit caught in the headlights, immovable, eyes fixed on the door, watching as the receptionist pushes it open, watching it reveal... Two empty chairs and an open fire escape door.
The receptionist's breathing quickens, her eyes widening. Oh god. They've taken the boy. The man she was right to doubt him, she should of called the teacher and now it's her fault. What if they kill him? What then?
A kind of strangled moan is all that escapes her lips. Felix, meanwhile, feels his legs go limp, strikes the floor hard; and as tears rush from the receptionist's eyes and mascara runs down his face in twin indigo streams, his high pitched, hysterical laughter, at once relieved and terrified of what his failure will mean, fills the corridors.
In the car park, a discreet black car pulls out onto the road.
In a café in the high street, Ana pulls out a phone and dials the first number on her speed dial. It is answered on the first ring.
"It's too late." She says to the answering silence. Felix failed. Brown has the boy." There is a pause for a moment, then the line goes dead.