Dave woke up with the worst case of dry mouth he’d ever had in his entire life. A nurse was in his room when he opened his eyes and she soon had a glass of water for him.
After that, he wished he was asleep again, when they told him what had happened.
He couldn’t remember getting shot. He could remember talking to Stevie in the car and then there was nothing, until he woke up in the hospital.
Dave recognised the hospital, just from the type of flowers they kept in the corner of his room. They told him that Max had brought him to the London unit, hidden behind a luxury car rental place near Hyde Park. Everyone in LOVE knew the London facility was the best in the world, with seven of the world’s 10 greatest doctors on staff and exceptional hospital food.
Dave couldn’t taste his food after they told him what happened to Stevie. He spent most of his first day of consciousness pretending to be asleep when anybody came into the room.
One of the nurses eventually caught him peeking at her backside, and the Agents came to tell him what had happened. They told him N'buli, Val and Max had all gone rogue and the Agents wanted to know what their plans might be.
Dave knew exactly what their plans would be, but he did not know the Agents who were asking him, so he just feigned ignorance and they soon went away and let him rest.
Like all LOVE medical facilities, there was an insane amount of entertainment options, but Dave just lay there for days, staring at a blank television screen.
He wasn’t worried about N'buli and Val and Max. They could take care of themselves, and somebody went rogue in the organisation every couple of years. While there were always a few Agents who were a bit too eager to follow the rules, most of LOVE just put in a half-hearted chase effort and let the Agents get on with it. It usually worked out for the best.
He wasn’t worried about them, but he felt left out. The three of them – and Max - had been a solid team ever since Dave had joined LOVE, and even though they had just stitched up a bullet wound in his skull, he wished he was with them. Whatever they were doing.
Dave was gloomily thinking about this and picking at his dinner – pan fried sea bass with lemongrass and stewed baby leeks – when the large window in his room shattered as somebody come tumbling through.
Dave knew who it was, just by the way he rolled to his feet. 'N'buli! What the hell?'
N'buli stood up straight, brushed some of the glass off his shoulder and grinned. 'I had to bend the laws of physics to be here, Dave. You’ve no idea.'
'That’s a line from the Invisibles,' said Dave as N'buli moved to the door and jammed a chair under the handle, before he turned back and sat on the sole remaining chair. 'I gave you that comic.'
'Yeah, maybe, but it really was hard to get in here. Harder than I remember it being, the other times I had to go rogue.'
'Jesus Christ, mate. What’s going on here? They shot me, killed Stevie. Who is doing this to us?'
N'buli took him by the hand. 'I wish I could tell you what’s happening, but I don’t understand it all myself, and anything I could tell you would just be more confusing. But I’m on it, Dave. And I’m not going to give up until I’ve sorted it all out.'
'Business as usual, then?' asked Dave.
N'buli grinned. 'Yeah, business as usual.'
'So why are you here? Have you come to get me out?'
N'buli peered at the bandages around Dave’s head. 'Good lord, no. You’re in no condition to move. Best thing for you is to stay here and heal up, and we’ll hook back up when you’re well. If they don’t shoot me in the head first.'
'That’s not funny.'
'It’s not supposed to be.'
'So…. What are you doing here then?' Dave could hear people in the corridor outside, and somebody tried to push the door open.
N'buli ignored the attempt to enter. 'I just wanted to let you know we haven’t forgotten about you.'
Dave was genuinely touched, but all he could say was: 'Aw, shucks.'
'No, I mean it,' said N'buli in a soft tone that showed he really did. 'Sometimes all this LOVE stuff feels like fun and games, and sometimes, like the past few days, it feels deadly serious. I just had to come and tell you how sorry I was that you and Stevie got shot, and that it’s all going to be okay.'
'Wait, wait,' said Dave. 'You’re telling me that you broke into one of the most secure medical facilities on the planet, when you’ve got this huge, omni-bloody-potent organisation trying to track you down, just to tell me everything it going to be okay?'
'Well, basically. Yes. But can you blame me? This is all my fault.'
Dave sat up straight in his bed. 'You mean it was you who shot me?'
'No!' said N'buli before he realised Dave was joking. 'No, but it is my fault. I brought you into LOVE, and put you right in the firing line. I’m 119 years old, Dave. I’m allowed a little guilt, you know.'
'Oh please,' said Dave. The person behind the door was now banging against it, and it wouldn’t be long before they got in. Dave shut it out of his mind, and looked N'buli directly in the eyes. 'Joining LOVE was the best thing that ever happened to me, man. I got hurt this time, but it’s a life of interesting shit, and incredible sights, and I get to help people. Really help people.'
N'buli eyed him suspiciously, before grinning again. 'They’ve got you on some good drugs here, don’t they?'
'They! Are! Awesome!' said Dave. 'And it’s not just the painkillers. Seriously, they even prescribe groovy psychedelics if you’re suffering from terminal boredom, and let you open up your third eye.'
The chair holding the door closed was beginning to bend under the pressure, and N'buli went back to the window. 'All right, Dave. Enjoy that shit while it lasts, but I have to get back to Val and Max and Trevor. If we’re still on the run when you get better, I’ll come back and get you. Deal?'
'Deal,' said Dave. 'But who’s Trevor?'
N'buli’s eyes narrowed a millimetre. 'That’s what I said.'
He dove head-first out the window as the chair finally buckled and the door burst open. Two male nurses and three Agents came into the room. They saw the broken glass on the floor, and one of them turned to Dave. 'Where did he go?'
'Where did who go?' asked Dave as he reached for the remote to turn the television on.
N'buli had an ultra-fast speedboat that he bought in Miami in 1987, and had used it to cross into England. After fixing things with Dave, he made his way back down to Dover, where the boat was hidden in a secret flooded cave in the white cliffs, in preparation for his return to Amsterdam, where the others were waiting for him.
He was backing the boat out of the cave when his phone rang. He had ditched most of his communications, but knew his own personal phone could never be hacked or traced. He had made the boys in R&D work on that problem for three years in the mid-nineties.
It was his Dad, and when MacGregor told N'buli what he had found out about the Goodfun nightmare, he totally forgot to ask his father about Trevor.
'They’re into everything,' said the old man. 'They’re funding all sorts of things through the sale of books and antiques.'
'Shut up and listen. They’re this vast network of wheelers and dealers, generating phenomenal revenue from the sale of old crap. But they use that revenue to all the bad things in the world. Arms manufacturing, mercenary services, and high end security for some of the world’s biggest scumbags.'
'So they’re the bad guys.'
The pause at the other end of the line unnerved N'buli. 'What is it?'
'They’re the bad guys, all right, but I don’t think they know it. Look, I dug right into the company, looking for ultimate ownership. It took me a couple of days, but I finally got through all the bloody paperwork and come up with one name. One name that all the profits go to.'
N'buli was finally getting the full picture. 'It’s Goodson, isn’t it?'
'Aye. It’s Goodson. N'buli, this is where our money comes from. The things we are trying to stop are the things that are funding our activities. What is the fucking point of that?'
'Who else have you told about this?'
'Are you mental? I haven’t told anybody, apart from the Missus. And we both know this is the sort of things you don’t mention during the regional darts championships, you know what I mean? I thought about bringing Derek and Amanda in on this, but if we can’t trust the Goodsons, who can we trust?'
N'buli finally had his boat backed out of the cave. 'All right. Don’t make a move on any of this, until I get a few more answers.'
'You’re going to Mongolia, aren’t you?'
Gunning the engine and knowing he could never keep any secrets from his Dad, N'buli headed back towards mainland Europe. 'Yeah. I’m going to Mongolia.'