goldarrow: (Stephen-Ryan)
[personal profile] goldarrow
Title: Time and Time Again (1/2)
Author: goldarrow
Word Count: 5259; this part 3003
Characters/Pairings: Cutter, Lester, Stephen/Ryan implied, Kermit*, Lyle*. Kermit and Lyle belong to [livejournal.com profile] fredbassett, who kindly lends them out.
Rating: 15
Warnings: none
Disclaimer: Primeval belongs to Impossible Pictures, not me. I will return them when I’m done, slightly mussed but in superb spirits.

Time and Time Again

"And where is Professor Cutter?" Lester's tone was a masterpiece of understated long-suffering.

Everyone looked blankly around the meeting room, which certainly appeared to be short one irascible professor.
"Stephen?" Everyone then proceeded to stare at Stephen, who felt a put-upon expression settling on his face.

"What? I'm not his minder! He’d said earlier this week he wanted to make peace with the military team so I thought he was out with your men yesterday evening, Lyle."

Lyle spoke up with a grin. "He did come for a pint with us. Then he got tired of losing at darts against Blade, so he headed out, said he was meant to be meeting you at the George."

"That was before he was going out with your lot. I didn’t really expect him. I was surprised that he even went out last night at all. He'd been feeling crap earlier yesterday.” Stephen sat up. He didn't like this one bit. “Maybe he's just stayed home sick," he added, trying to convince himself.

Lorraine shook her head from her place at Lester's right hand. "I called him half an hour ago. He didn't answer, so I assumed he was in his car on his way in."

"He doesn't like the hands-free," Stephen said. "But he's more likely to answer it with profanity than he is to ignore it. And he never ignores a call at home, no matter how bad he feels."

Lyle looked around. "So he could have been off the grid now for up to twelve hours."

"If he's sick enough, he could've missed hearing it if he's asleep and the phone is downstairs. Check his house, Stephen," Ryan said, watching as his lieutenant started unconsciously running his fingers across his thumbs. “Take Kermit.”

"I'll call within the hour." Stephen's eyes followed Ryan's gaze to Lyle's hands before he stood abruptly and headed out the door, wasting no more time. If Lyle’s thumbs were itching, there was trouble on the way.

xXx

"Nothing. Well, nothing but his car. That's still here, but the place is locked up." Holding his voice steady by the application of firm will as he spoke into his mobile, Stephen continued around the side of Cutter's house toward the kitchen door.  Nowhere did he see anything obviously out of place. “Kermit looked through the windows, and we’ve both checked around the gardens. Not a thing. No signs that we can see of any struggle.”

"There are too many options. He could have buggered off with a friend some time overnight, or he could have been knocked out and taken away between the car and the house, either last night or this morning." Lyle sounded disgusted.

"Can you check inside, Stephen?" Lester came on the line, sounding quite concerned, for him.

"I'm on my way in now. I'll stay on the line." Holding the phone in one hand, Stephen dug his own key to Cutter's place from his pocket and opened the door.

"We have more backup on the way, they should be there in about fifteen minutes. Would you rather wait?" Lester asked.

"No. I'd rather finish checking it out before anyone else walks around the place. Kermit’s sticking with me like warm toffee, so I should be okay.”

The soldier smirked, and Stephen grinned in return before sobering. “There are no signs of struggle between the house and the car, so if anything happened it happened inside."

"Or on the sodding way, and they brought the car home for misdirection," Lyle broke in.

Stephen stopped dead. "That's a nasty thought." He gathered himself to step through the door.

"Not very likely, I should think. It's a bit overly-complicated." Lester sounded a trifle startled as well.

"True, but depending on the mental state of the perpetrators, complicated could be their default setting." Lyle sounded as if he knew what he was talking about.

". . . Damn." Stephen stared at the corkboard hanging to the side of the door in the kitchen entranceway.

"What is it, Stephen?" Even Lester was rapidly bypassing mild concern and heading straight for exceedingly worried, by the sound of it.

"There's nothing."

"No signs of him?"

Stephen reached up to touch the hooks. "Worse than that. If he were home, or if he'd gone out with friends, his car keys would be on the kitchen hook. If he'd made it home, the house key would be there too."

He put his mobile on speaker so Kermit could hear the other end of the conversation. The soldier had been hiding his frustration at not being able to hear both sides of the conversation fairly well, but Stephen didn’t have a tracker’s eyes for nothing.

"Car parked outside, but no house key, no car keys." Lyle's tone got harder at each word.

"He wouldn't take the car keys with him if he'd gone out with friends?" Lester asked.

Stephen shook his head, even though they couldn't see him. "No. He hates having things rattling in his pocket if he doesn't need them. He always leaves the car keys inside unless he's driving."

 "So, no house keys so he didn't make it home, but whoever took him dropped the car off and either threw the keys away or took the damn things away with them. It is the complicated option, then."

"That's what it looks like."

Ryan re-joined the conversation. "Forensics is on their way to go over the car."

"I'll check around the rest of the house for anything missing, then check more carefully outside to see if I can find any signs of his keys.”

"Very well. Keep us apprised."

"Will do," Stephen replied, then shut off his mobile and put it back into his pocket in preparation for placing all of his concentration on searching for any clues as to who might have taken Cutter away. Kermit shadowed him, somehow managing to move almost silently in his heavy boots.

xXx

"Anything?"

Stephen turned, a smile breaking across his face at the welcome sound of Captain Ryan's voice behind him. Ryan returned the smile, then his face fell back into its usual expression of impassive attention. Stephen shook his head.

"No. Nothing out of place inside, nothing missing except the keys, no signs of struggle either inside or out. I haven't seen any glint on the lawn or in the garden that might be his keys, but it would take a metal-detector to find them if they've been thrown over the hedge. That verge hasn't been mowed in a couple of months."

“I’ll leave a team here to continue searching the area. We’ll head back to the ARC, see what we can find through official channels.”

xXx

Stephen smiled through his worry. Their return had started an anthill of activity, Lester picking up his phone to start working his way up the ladder of law enforcement, Stringer touching base with Special Forces headquarters, and Connor, after a furtive glance toward Lester’s office, turning to the ADD and typing furiously.

Within ten minutes, Lester re-appeared, but after one stone-faced but slightly wide-eyed glance at the images on the screen in front of Connor, he turned his back and strode back up the ramp, stating, “I’ve had no luck in accessing any official assistance in this matter, and I’d really rather not know exactly what’s happening regarding Mr Temple’s current upgrades to the Anomaly Detection Device. However, when you find something, please bring me the results. And only the results.” If his office door were slammable, the sound would have deafened everyone in the Atrium. As it was, he had to content himself with stomping, an activity he performed with great gusto.

Five minutes later, Ryan muttered into Stephen’s ear, “I’m not sure these channels can be called ‘official’, either.”

“I agree.” It looked to Stephen like the ADD was being connected directly into the national CCTV system. “I didn’t know he could even do that.”

When the screen started showing various street scenes, Stephen shared a look of slight shock with Ryan before whispering to Connor, “What are you doing?”

The young man glanced slightly guiltily up at him, then his shoulders sagged a bit in relief at the look of support that Stephen was now giving him, and the slight nod and turn of the head from Ryan.

“It’s not hard to connect to the CCTV storage server.” Connor turned back to the keyboard and his fingers started flashing over the keys again.

Stephen snorted. “For you, maybe. I couldn’t do it to save my neck.”

Shrugging, Connor continued flipping through various cameras. “I couldn’t track even a mammoth. This is my field.”

“Yeah.” Stephen patted him on the shoulder.

“We’re damned lucky to have you.” Ryan tossed the words over his shoulder, and Stephen smiled at Connor’s sudden fiery blush.

“He’s right, Conn. If anyone can find Cutter, you can.”

Connor shoulders straightened and his gaze sharpened on the screen as a car familiar to all of them slid onto the screen. “There. I’ve got him. He left the bar about ten minutes after Lyle thought he had.” Grinning, he added, “Must have taken a trip to the bogs.” Fingers flashing, he followed Cutter’s car from camera to camera, backing up and widening his search in different directions whenever he lost the trail. Not all cameras were overlapping, and Cutter had a tendency to take his own line from place to place, believing that side roads were faster. “He was heading for your pub, Stephen.”

“Damn it.” Stephen watched as Cutter’s car came into the frame on the next camera. “There’s an accident.” He shivered a little as Ryan’s warm breath ghosted over his nape.

The soldier backed off a little with a murmured, “Sorry.”

Stephen shrugged. “No matter. Conn, what – ”

Connor was staring at the screen. “Not an accident, guys. A trap.”

They all watched helplessly as they saw men surround Cutter and drag him from his car. Another man jumped into it and drove off, whilst the other three hustled Cutter into a nondescript hatchback.

“That’s not good.” Connor spoke for all of them as he started tracking the new car with what Stephen could only categorise as grim determination. This vehicle wasn’t familiar to them, it was as dark in colour as the night it was moving through, and the distance between the cameras on the streets was starting to widen out as it travelled toward the edge of town.

Ten minutes later, Connor leaned back with a groan of defeat. “It’s gone. All I can tell you is that it’s heading for the A40.”

“So we have no idea where he is.” Lester’s voice made all of them jump.

Stephen looked around, catching a fleeting expression of annoyance on Ryan’s face. He grinned to himself, knowing that the captain would hate that a civilian had been able to sneak up on him. For someone who lived in dress shoes, Lester could move completely silently when he chose. Stephen wondered idly exactly where the civil servant had gained that ability. Then he shook himself. This wasn’t the time to let his stress over losing his friend make him lose focus.

“Not a bloody clue.” Connor glowered at the ADD, the expression on his face one of betrayal. For the computer genius to have to admit that his computer wasn’t up to the job was obviously galling him immensely.

Stephen leaned against the ADD desk as he watched Lester’s face harden. The man certainly wasn’t used to either being told ‘no’ or running up against dead ends. He wouldn’t have made it as far as he had if that were so. Lester pulled his mobile from his pocket and started searching through the contacts list, setting off a train of thought in Stephen’s mind.

“Holy shit!” Stephen couldn’t stop the words from erupting out of his mouth as he jerked back to his feet. “Fuck!”

Everyone turned to stare at him as if he’d sprouted horns and turned purple. He ignored them, frantically sifting through his memories of everything he’d seen at Cutter’s house. No. He was right. Damn it. They’d lost so much time!

“Cutter has his phone with him!”

“What?” Connor and Ryan both blurted out the word at the same time.

“Are you sure?” Lester’s voice cut through both.

“It wasn’t in the house. I never saw it. He has to have it with him.” He turned to Connor. “Can you track his phone?”

Connor hesitated. Lester sighed, turning away to once again head toward his office, this time with the air of a man marching toward certain doom.

“Do not tell me,” he said clearly as he disappeared into his office. “I do not want to know.”

Chuckling, Connor turned back to his keyboard and with a few rapid strokes, he was into a system that made Ryan close his eyes with a look of exquisite pain on his face.

“Damn. It’s turned off.” Connor glowered at the screen.

“So, no GPS?” Stephen felt as if the universe was fighting them tooth and nail. Deflating, he leaned back onto the table again.

With a slightly shifty glance at Ryan, Connor whispered, “I can remote turn the phone on.”

Ryan gaped at him for a second, then gave a helpless glance at first Stephen and then Lester’s office. His shoulders slumped and he walked away.

“You don’t have authorisation for that.” The significant look he gave them as he spoke his parting words wasn’t lost on Stephen, though Connor was looking both outraged and devastated.

The young genius looked at Stephen. Something in the expression Stephen knew was on his own face must have got through to him, because he sat up again, looking more like a hunter than he ever had.

“Oh, huh, yeah,” he muttered. “Right, what do they call it? Plausible deniability. Our own little conspiracy.” His fingers moved over the keys with all the grace of a dancer as he kept up a running commentary. “I used to fight against conspiracies. Now I’m in the middle of one.” He grinned up at Stephen. “I like it.”

He sat back with a sigh of satisfaction a couple of minutes later. “Done and dusted,” he stated proudly. “The Professor’s here.” He handed Stephen a slip of paper with GPS coordinates.

Stephen thanked him, and was just starting to say that he’d get it to Ryan when a hand snaked over his shoulder and took the paper from him. He jumped so hard he almost tore it.

“Captain, you scared the crap out of me.” Taking a few deep breaths, Stephen attempted to get his adrenaline under control again.

Ryan’s expression said that he would have patted Stephen on the head if he thought he’d be able to get away with it. Stephen handed him an industrial-strength dirty look just on that thought, and Ryan’s lips quirked into a grin for a second.

“We have authorisation to go,” Ryan said quietly.

Stephen shot a quick look up at the management offices, where Lester was standing with his arms crossed over his chest. At the man’s gesture toward the door, Stephen turned to Connor, who was already packing his computers into his rucksack.

“Ready?” Stephen asked.

Connor nodded. “Ready. I have the connection set up on my mobile. If the location changes, we’ll know.”

They headed out in a group, Ryan leading, followed by Stephen, with Connor bringing up the rear, still doing a final check of his pack’s contents.

When they reached the garage, both Lyle’s team and Stringer’s were waiting for them.

“Only one team with us,” Ryan ordered. “We still need a duty team here.”

Stringer sighed. “Worth a try.” He gestured to his men, who moved sullenly back to the ready room. “Bring him back. Cutter might be even more fucking irritating than a swarm of crabs on the bollocks, but we need him.”

Stephen fought his grin to a standstill, barely. The duty captain might speak with an accent that could put the most posh aristocrat to shame, but his imagery was straight out of the gutter.

xXx

“The professor’s phone is here.” Connor gestured to the right as he leaned forward between the seats.

Ryan pulled over to the side of the road, followed by the rest of the team, amidst a collective groan from all occupants of both vehicles.

“Great,” Lyle muttered. “A fucking country estate. That’s all we need.” He stepped out of the vehicle, eyes alert for any movement either from the gatehouse in front of them or from the road in both directions. One quick hand-signal, and the rest of the team fanned out in a protective formation.

“Where, exactly?” Ryan asked Connor, who was waving his scanner around like a conjurer.

The young man nodded toward the field on their left, just inside the gate. “Through there,” he stated with confidence.

After a piercing glance at him, and a second searching look around for any security cameras, Ryan opened the gate and slid through alongside the hedge, the others trailing behind him like beads on a string. It didn’t take him long to find the phone, lying in a patch of decorative grasses.

“It’s over here.” The captain knelt down to spread the leaves apart.

Stephen moved up behind him, the signs of passage coming clear to him as he got closer. Multiple people had passed within five feet of the patch before turning out into the field.

“They went that way.” He gestured, and Ryan, Connor and Kermit fell in behind him. Stephen glanced at the sun, checking the time. They were doing well. It was barely past 10am so they had plenty of time to find Cutter. He followed the trail quickly, not worried about anything except the scuff marks and boot-shaped patches of pressed down grass in front of him.

“Damn it.” He halted. The tracks he’d been following had stopped close to the back edge of the field. Stopped suddenly, as if cut off.

Part 2

Date: 2016-03-09 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tli.livejournal.com
What a tense opener!

Date: 2016-03-10 07:13 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-03-09 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] knitekat.livejournal.com
Love the plausible denial going on. Eek! Anomaly!

Great beginning.

Date: 2016-03-10 07:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldarrow.livejournal.com
*g* Thanks!

Date: 2016-03-09 10:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fredbassett.livejournal.com
Eeep, that's a brilliant opening chapter!

I loved the banter between them, and especially loved Lester clinging to plausible deniability.

So, have the gone through an anomaly, I wonder?

Date: 2016-03-10 07:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldarrow.livejournal.com
Thanks!
*g* Time will tell...

Date: 2016-03-10 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nietie.livejournal.com
There's an anomaly with the tracks! Or is it an anomaly? *g*

Great build up of tension in this chapter. *wants more*

Date: 2016-03-10 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldarrow.livejournal.com
Thanks, I'm so glad you like it!
Soon. 😊

Date: 2016-03-10 09:02 pm (UTC)
fififolle: (Primeval - Nick/Ryan shake)
From: [personal profile] fififolle
Poor Cutter! Very exciting drama. Love Stephen being all detective :)

Date: 2016-03-10 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldarrow.livejournal.com
*g* Thanks!
Everyone was certainly on the ball!

Date: 2016-03-11 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eriah211.livejournal.com
Damn indeed, that's not looking good! O_O

Big yay for Connor using his talent and lol for plausible deniability ^_^

Great first chapter!

Date: 2016-03-12 09:01 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-03-28 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lsellersfic.livejournal.com
I love the investigative aspects of this!

Date: 2016-04-05 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldarrow.livejournal.com
Thanks!
I enjoyed the change of pace.

December 2016

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