Unwilling to relinquish his self-appointed role as leader of the group, Robert suddenly became enraged and yelled, “your laundry list of tasks sounds like a bunch of busy work designed to make us feel as though we’re achieving something when all we’re doing is wasting time! I have been in Mukesh’s office a dozen times for meetings. There is nothing useful in there!”
The room fell silent, everyone startled by Robert’s sudden fit of overblown emotion. His eyes were wide and spittle sprang to his lips. Robert began advancing angrily toward Marko and Vincent felt compelled to restrain him. Janet murmured, “is it me or is something wrong with this guy? He’s acting unhinged.
Marko refused to back down, “Are you seriously trying to tell me that you got a thorough look at his entire office while sitting across from him?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Do you really think someone as smart as him would leave anything useful behind? I don’t think so,” Robert laughed hysterically.
“Says the man who had us chasing someone who didn’t even exist! “
Robert’s laughter abruptly dried up and his eyes flashed angrily, “I’m getting tired of your insults. You think you could do a better job as the Director of Defense?”
“I certainly couldn’t do any worse than you!”
“Alright then asshole, you show me what I missed in that office!”
“Call me an asshole one more time and I’ll knock your teeth down your throat! Where is the damn office?”
Robert led the way, trailed by Marko and the others all animatedly making plans for their assigned investigatory duties. Janet was the only one who saw Marko fish a curious disk out of his pocket. It looked like a large gold coin. She started to ask him what it was, but he shook his head and pressed a finger to his lips. The office was at the end of a long rear hallway. On approach, their footsteps slowed as they felt a subtle shift in the atmosphere. The lighting was dim and foreboding. The hall stretched out in front of them as silent as a tomb. All conversation trickled to a halt, as though subconsciously they felt Mukesh was listening.
Robert charged ahead and flung the door open, gesturing with a slight bow and exaggerated wave of the arm for Marko to enter first. Marko held out a restraining arm towards the others, who willingly stayed in the hallway, superstitiously nervous about crossing the threshold. Robert smirked and crossed both arms over his chest.
“See it’s just a run of the mill office. No cauldrons or magic wands in here.”
Marko ignored Robert’s provocative behavior and stepped inside, crossing the room to pull up the blinds.
“Can someone grab a spray bottle and fill it with holy water from the chapel,” asked Marko.
One person set off to find a spray bottle, relieved to have an excuse to get away from the oppressive atmosphere of Murkesh’s dimly lit office. Robert strode into the center of the room, grinning triumphantly. Marko suddenly pressed the small gold disk to Robert’s forehead and leaned in close to his left ear.
“What did you just…” began Robert.
“I seek refuge in Allah against the cursed Shaitan,” Marko said. The metal disk began to glow.
Robert shrieked, “get off me you…”
Marko began chanting inaudibly in Robert’s ear, the others stood by in confused silence each waiting for the others to act. Robert screamed and Vincent quickly strode into the room. He grabbed Marko’s arm and pulled him away. Robert frantically rubbed at the red imprint of the disk on his forehead.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing,” Vincent spluttered.
“Making sure the jinn that has possessed Robert doesn’t escape, before we can interrogate it. I can’t have the thing leaping into someone else’s body. Haven’t you figured it out yet? He has been helping Mukesh this entire time. Think about it Vincent. Why else would the Director of Security send anyone on a mission without thoroughly vetting the target? If he had done his job, he would have known right away that this Charles Sheffield character was all smoke and mirrors. How many years have you known this man?”
“I…about seven years.”
“Is he the type of person who would betray the Doorkeeper’s trust?”
“No, of course not.”
“Has he ever struck you as being mentally unstable?”
“Never, he’s always been solid as a rock.”
“So, you’re saying all the yelling, hysterical laughter and fits of rage we’ve seen today is atypical?”
“Definitely….oh my….why didn’t I see it? He has been acting strangely lately.”
Robert strode angrily towards them, grabbing and pulling Vincent by the arm, around to face him.
“Don’t tell me you believe this nut!”
“Well, there’s one way to find out. Can someone go down to Sage’s office and bring me his copy of the Quran,” Vincent asked.
Two people turned and ran to get the book. Robert tried to break free, furiously wrestling with Marko and Vincent, who found it increasingly difficult to restrain him. Robert seemed to have the strength of three men, succeeding in freeing himself twice. The ladies returned with the book and Vincent directed them to bring it to him and lay it open on Mukesh’s desk, so that he could recite prayers from it. Vincent began reciting an ayah. Robert screamed and redoubled his efforts to escape, freeing one arm and striking Vincent in the mouth to silence him. Marko shouted at the group huddled in the doorway.
“Close the door and barricade it. We can’t let him leave. If Mukesh knows we’ve unmasked his minion, then he might try to free him before we get anything useful out of him.”
The group stood frozen by terror, until Andrea began shoving them out of the way and pulled the door shut. She barked orders for others to find the heaviest furniture they could find and drag it back to barricade the door. They stood rooted in place by fear, until an unearthly roar of rage issued by Robert sent them scurrying. Something struck the other side of the door, hard enough to rattle it in the frame. That sent them scurrying off. The doorknob began turning. Andrea and Janet looked anxiously at one another and threw their weight against the door.