Chapter 8 - Broot Strength

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Derick walked slowly as he carried the steaming cup into the living room, making sure not to splash any of the liquid on his hands. He had a bad habit of filling his mugs too high, yet he somehow could never manage to remember this until it was too late, a strange irony for a man who forgot very little. He set the ceramic mug on the glass coffee table in front of his guest.

"Thanks," Chad said, bringing it to his lips. He laughed to himself. "You remember the last time we had coffee together?"

Derick sat down across from him on a plush tan love seat and folded his legs. "Yeah, I believe Kara murdered my phone."

Chad chuckled. "Good ol' Kara. Hell of an analyst."

"How is she these days?"

"She left a couple years after you did. Last I heard, she joined the ranks of the unplugged."

"Wow, Kara? I never would have guessed."

"So how have you been? It looks like you got your hands full with that one." Chad pointed to a picture of a thirteen-year-old Faith in braids in front of a fake sunset resting on the mantle above the fireplace.

"Doing the best I can, considering. Is there any creature on Earth more mystifying than a teenager?"

"Hmm," Chad said taking a sip. "It's a tough time to be one. How's the business?"

Derick smiled politely. There was no evidence of his private investigation business anywhere in the house except for his office up on the second floor, which meant only one thing. "You been check'n up on me Chad?"

Chad smiled sheepishly. "You were my mentor. I at least like to know that you're OK."

"Speaking of business, I heard you're in line for number two. Can't say I'm surprised. You were always a go-getter."

"After The Event, we lost a lot of good people. I guess they had to start promoting somebody."

Derick sat his cup on the table. "So, future Deputy Director Harper, is this a social call or should I be worried?"

Chad slumped forward resting his forearms on his thighs. "I need your thoughts on something. What do you know about 'The Enlightened'?"

"The Broots?" Derick asked. He thought for a moment. "Just what I've seen on the news and online. A group of overzealous cult members who think the Messiah is walking around on Earth."

"Can you believe that 'cult' now has over 1.5 billion members worldwide, making them the third largest religious organization in the world?"

"That doesn't surprise me," Derick said. "People need answers, so they're going to go with whatever makes sense to them. I'm not sure what I can add that you don't already know."

"How much do you know about what happened to John Barrows?"

Derick paused at the sound of his name. He had thought about John a lot that last couple of days and felt partially responsible for what happened to him. "He and his partner were ambushed on the fifth floor of Memorial Hospital. Two whack jobs set off a grenade. Nine people dead, including a newborn."

Chad leaned in toward him. "What if I told you that the baby survived?"

"I'd say that would be a bonafide miracle. I saw the pictures from that explosion. Why are you telling me this?"

Chad pulled a manila envelope from his breast pocket and laid it on the table. "Take a look at this."

Derick cast a leery eye at Chad as he grabbed the envelope and opened it. He pulled out three 8 X 11 glossy photos and arranged them on the table. "This is a little dramatic don't you think."

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