"Take a seat, Mr. Stonebraker." Thelma Dorling waved him toward a chintz covered chair that was presently occupied by an overweight cat-dog. "Snooky won't mind." Thelma flapped her hand at the animal. "Go on, get off the chair, Snooky. Let the nice man sit down."
Snooky did not move. He watched Rafe with baleful yellow eyes.
"Just give him a little push," Thelma advised Rafe. "Snooky won't bite." She started toward the kitchen. "Can I get you a beer? I've got Old Earth Ale and Western Islands Lager."
Rafe glanced at her. Thelma Dorling was a pretty, young woman with a figure that resembled those of the models featured on the covers of the magazines Rafe had discovered in the bottom drawer of Austen's desk.
He concluded that she either could not find clothes to fit or else she liked her attire a size too small. Her pink blouse strained at the buttons. The skirt rode high on her thighs. It was stretched so tightly across her buttocks that it formed creases at her hips.
It had taken the better part of the day to track down Austen's former receptionist. When she'd finally returned his call, Rafe learned that she had been out interviewing for a new job.
"Thank you," he said. "I'll take the lager."
"Great. I'll be right back. Don't know about you, but I always need a couple of beers after a day of job hunting." She vanished into the kitchen.
Rafe heard the icerator open and close in the other room. He gazed thoughtfully at the plump cat-dog who was obviously comfortably ensconced with all six legs tucked under him. "That chair is not big enough for both of us, Snooky."
Snooky flexed some claws and bared his fangs. A low growl reverberated through the room.
"Very impressive, Snooky, but I've been told I'm a little on the primitive side, myself."
"Behave yourself, Snooky," Thelma called from the kitchen. "Don't mind him, Mr. Stonebraker. He's really quite harmless."
Rafe smiled at Snooky. "But I'm not."
Snooky blinked. His fangs disappeared.
Rafe continued to smile at him.
Snooky retracted his claws. The growl became a soft whine. He rolled onto his back, paws in the air, and exposed his throat.
Rafe sighed. "I hate it when that happens."
He walked over to the chair, reached down, and rubbed the cat-dog's furry belly.
"You know, you might want to take off some of that excess weight before you try to defend your chair from anyone else, Snooky."
Snooky slithered off the chair and took up residence on the sofa.
Thelma reappeared. "Here's your beer, Mr. Stonebraker. Now what was it you wanted to know about Dr. Austen?"
"Do you remember a patient named Theo Willis?"
"Willis? Oh, sure." Thelma kicked off her shoes, sat down on the sofa, and propped her feet on a footstool. "But I hope you don't want to ask me any real personal questions about him."
"Of course not."
"A syn-psych doctor's receptionist isn't supposed to talk about the patients."
"Just between you and me, Willis was a real nutcase, y'know? Dr. Austen said the guy was seriously paranoid. Real big on conspiracy theories and stuff like that. But he was harmless. I felt sorry for him. He seemed to be getting a lot worse toward the end. Real agitated, y'know? I wasn't surprised when I heard he'd killed himself."
"I see. I respect the fact that you won't discuss any personal issues concerning Mr. Willis's syn-psych diagnosis and history," Rafe said gravely. "Nice to know that there is still such a thing as patient-doctor confidentiality in this day and age."
"You bet there is. And it's up to people like us medical receptionists to maintain the standards."
"I, for one, am grateful. But as I said, this isn't a personal question about Willis. It's about a matter of office procedure."
"What about it?" Thelma took a swallow of beer.
"I'm trying to find out who referred Theo Willis to Dr. Austen."
Thelma tipped her head to one side. "How come you wanna know that?"
"It's a confidential matter, but given your responsible attitude toward this kind of thing, I'm sure it's safe to tell you the whole story."
"Oh, yeah." She watched him with eager interest.
Rafe cleared his throat and lowered his voice. "I've been hired by the New Seattle Association of Synergistic Psychologists to look into some problems that have cropped up with the standard practice of professional referrals."
"Referrals?" Thelma looked baffled. "You mean, like, when one doctor sends a patient to another doctor?"
"Yes. Apparently some unlicensed syn-psych therapists have been forging referrals for a fee."
"Yeah?" Thelma wrinkled her brow. "Why would anyone do that?"
"The association believes it's the work of certain, mentally disturbed individuals who like to masquerade as therapists." Rafe shook his head. "We see cases like this two or three times a year."
"Now, then, I'm assuming that Dr. Austen sent notes to professional colleagues who referred patients to him?"
"Sure. I usually wrote the letters for him to sign."
"Do you remember writing one to whoever referred Willis to Austen?"
Rafe stilled. He had been so certain this was going to go somewhere important. "You mean you didn't write a letter?"
"Uh-uh. I mean Dr. Austen told me he'd take care of that one, personally."
"Why would he do that?"
Thelma rolled her eyes. "Because the little pervert was thrilled that such a major honcho in the syn-psych world had referred such a difficult case to him."
Rafe was briefly distracted. "The little pervert?"
"Between you and me and old Snooky here, Austen had a thing for some of his female patients. One of 'em was actually threatening to sue him. Claimed he'd hypnotized her into having sex with him in her office."
"Is that so?"
Thelma shrugged. "Probably the only way Austen could get any sex at all."
"I see. About the thank you letter Dr. Austen wrote—?"
"Oh, yeah, right. Well, he was really thrilled because the other doctor told him that he thought Austen was the only one in New Seattle who could handle the case."
Rafe felt the whole thing come together. Anticipation hummed in his veins. He did not realize he had allowed it to show until Snooky suddenly lifted his head off his paws and uttered a low whine.
Thelma patted the tense cat-dog. "Be a good boy now, Snooky."
Snooky paid no attention and stared at Rafe.
"Who was the doctor who referred Willis to Austen?" Rafe asked.
"Didn't I tell you? Dr. Gilbert Bracewell of ParaSyn Research."
Rafe knew then that he finally had the link he had been looking for from the very beginning of the case. He smiled.
Snooky howled. He scrambled off the sofa and ran madly down the hall.
Thelma's face crinkled into a perplexed frown. "Now what in the world got into Snooky? He hasn't moved that fast in ages."
An hour later Rafe stood in the center of Orchid's small living room. He was no longer smiling. He was engaged in a battle with the white hot fires of fury that threatened to consume him.
He knew that this kind of anger was useless. He had to get control of it. The only hope was to freeze the rage so that he could think.
So that he could hunt.
Selby stormed through the open door. "What in five hells is going on here?" He came to an abrupt halt and gazed around in confusion.
Rafe watched him closely as he examined the scene in Orchid's front room. Selby appeared genuinely bewildered by the sight of the overturned chair, the crumpled rug, and the shattered vase.
"I don't like being summoned." Selby's eyes narrowed as he switched his gaze back to Rafe. "I don't work for you."
"I'm aware of that. But I thought you might like to be involved in this."
"Involved in what?" Selby waved a hand at the disordered room. "What happened here? And what the hell is my wife's car doing parked at the curb out front?"
"Good question. What is your wife's car doing out front?"
Selby scowled. "I don't have time to play games."
"Neither do I. Someone kidnapped Orchid."
Selby's mouth fell open. "Are you crazy?"
"I think whoever took her may also have taken your wife. I have a hunch she was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Selby stared at him with dazed, uncomprehending eyes. "But . . . but that's impossible. Why would anyone—?"
"It's a long story. I'll tell you on the way." Rafe started toward the door.
"On the way to where?"
"The headquarters of ParaSyn Research."
Selby took a hesitant step and then ground to a halt. "I don't understand."
"I know." Rafe paused in the doorway. "We'll have to make a stop at my house. I need to get some stuff off the computer. Are you coming with me?"
"Not until you explain some things."
Selby gathered himself. "Such as why you insist on going to ParaSyn. If something has happened to my wife, we have to go to the police."
"I don't think we have time to call the cops. Orchid might survive for a while because Bracewell thinks he needs her. But he has no use for Briana. He may decide to get rid of her as quickly as possible."
Selby's face worked. "Oh, Christ. Oh, Christ. Briana. He wouldn't dare hurt her."
"Don't bet on it. He's already killed a couple of times."
"Oh, Christ." Selby took a hesitant step toward the door. "But how do you know he took Briana to ParaSyn?"
"I'm not positive that he did. But I think it's a good place to start looking." Rafe led the way outside into the darkening twilight.
Selby stumbled through the doorway, automatically closing it behind him. He followed Rafe downstairs to the Acer as if he were in a daze and got into the passenger seat.
He sat staring through the windshield while Rafe pulled away from the curb.
After a while Selby moistened his lips. "ParaSyn is a major corporation. A reputable laboratory. I've got stock in the company, for God's sake."
"You may want to think about dumping it." Rafe accelerated swiftly down the street. "I got rid of all the shares in the Synergy Fund this morning."
"What in hell makes you believe that someone at ParaSyn took Briana and Orchid?"
"Among other things, this makes me believe it." Rafe reached into his pocket and removed the small object he had found on the floor in Orchid's house. He handed it to Selby.
"It's a pen." Selby looked up, more puzzled than ever. "I don't get it. What's the big deal about a pen?"
"Take a closer look."
Selby peered at the pen as if it were a strange alien artifact. "Oh, Christ. It's got the ParaSyn logo on it. You think whoever took Briana and Orchid dropped it?"
"Ransom. They'll probably want money."
"I don't think so."
"Oh, Christ." Selby sagged back into his seat. "What can we do?"
Rafe whipped the Acer around the corner and increased speed. "We can find Orchid and Briana."
"ParaSyn's a huge lab." Selby shook his head, dazed. "How do we find them in a facility that big? Assuming they're even there in the first place."
"Like I said, we're going to stop by my place first. I've got a lot of details about ParaSyn on file in the Synergy Fund data base."
"Why would you have that kind of information available?"
"Because I never take a position in a stock unless I've researched it thoroughly. I've got all the details of the ParaSyn campus, including plans of the labs, mechanical layouts, the works. I've also got information on the security setup."
Selby blinked a couple of times. Behind the lenses of his glasses, his eyes narrowed. "My God. I see what you mean by thorough. Do you always do business that way?"
"Not that it seems very important at the moment, but tell me something. Do I even stand a chance at the annual board meeting?"
Rafe hesitated. "No."
"I could have done it if you hadn't come back."
"Why did you?"
Rafe glanced at him. "It was time."
"I see." Selby gazed through the windshield at the gathering shadows. "It'll be dark soon. ParaSyn will be closed for the day."
"Don't worry," Rafe said. "I do my best work at night."
Orchid was aware of the smell of the place first. She remembered it all too well. That sterile, mechanical, cean-room smell that dominated the labs and halls at ParaSyn. Beneath it was the faint odor of chemicals and instruments. The heavily conditioned air had a stale, antiseptic taint.
Fear wafted through her. It was followed by the cleansing rush of anger. Strange how odors could trigger such strong emotions, she thought.
The next thing she noticed was the temperature of the room. A few degrees too cool for comfort. That, too, brought back unpleasant memories.
She hated this place.
Someone moaned beside her. Orchid opened her eyes. Her head swam. The after effects of the anesthetic gas, she thought.
Bright lab lights glared down on her from the acoustically baffled ceiling. To her right she could see a long lab bench laden with machines and instruments. She realized she was lying on a small, narrow gurney.
Fear pounded through her again, driving out even the anger for a moment. Some of the most severely disturbed talents bad been brought from the locked syn-psych ward on gurneys like this one.
She struggled wildly for a few seconds and managed to sit up. But when she tried to slide off the gurney she discovered that her right wrist was fastened to one of the metal rails with a plastic cuff.
A burst of adrenaline helped to clear her head a little.
Another moan drew her attention. She looked over her shoulder and saw Briana on a second gurney. She, too, was secured with a padded cuff.
"Briana?" Orchid kept her voice to a whisper. "Briana, wake up. We've got to get out of here."
Briana stirred restlessly, as though caught in a bad dream.
Briana's eyelids fluttered and then opened. She blinked several times, sluggishly. "Orchid?" Her voice sounded thick.
"Yes, it's me. Don't talk too loud."
"Where are we?"
"ParaSyn Research." Orchid studied the neat array of equipment on a nearby lab bench. "We've got to find something we can use to cut through these cuffs."
"I don't understand."
"We've been kidnapped." Orchid managed to slide gingerly off the gurney. She clung to the rail when her knees threatened to give way. "I don't think the bastard meant for them to take you. But you were there when they came for me."
"Who are you talking about?" Briana asked just as a door opened.
Orchid turned awkwardly. A familiar figure trotted into her range of vision. He had a clipboard tucked under one arm.
"Miss Adams is referring to me, I believe." Gilbert Bracewell smiled his jolly elfin smile. "Allow me to introduce myself. Dr. Gilbert Bracewell, director of research here at ParaSyn. At your service."
"Little sonovabitch." Orchid clung to the gurney. "I never did like you."
"Naturally, I'm crushed to learn that, but I'll get over it, I'm sure." Gilbert chuckled. "I'm delighted to have you back here at ParaSyn, my dear. When you and the others walked out on the ice-prism experiments you ruined a great deal of my research. Very naughty of you. But then, you always had that rebel streak, didn't you? Seems to be a basic component of the ice-prism para-profile."
Gilbert had changed very little in the three years since she had seen him. He was still round and bouncy and his white lab coat was artfully tailored to fit his portly figure. He was a malicious elf of a man. He should have been wearing long, pointy-toed shoes and a cap with a tassel on it, Orchid thought.
There was one small change in him, she noticed. The gleam in his merry little eyes seemed a little too bright, a bit more unnatural.
Orchid shivered. She took a couple of meta-zen-syn breaths to steady herself. "You have done a very, very stupid thing, Gilly."
Annoyance flickered across his red-cheeked face. "You never did show the degree of respect appropriate for a man of my power and accomplishments. But before we have finished, my dear, you will learn to call me Dr. Bracewell. Oh, yes. You will learn."
"Hard to respect a man who has done something as dumb as this." Orchid waggled her hand in the plastic cuff. "What makes you think you can get away with kidnapping Briana and me?"
Gilbert's eyes sparkled. "This makes me believe it, my dear."
He reached into the pocket of his lab coat and removed a long, thin object that resembled a small flashlight. In the glare of the lab lights it gleamed with a strange, metallic sheen.
"Well, that answers one very interesting question," Orchid said. "You were the twit who arranged for the theft of the alien artifact."
"I did, indeed, Miss Adams." Gilbert glanced at the silvery relic with fascinated pride. "I learned about the relic's powers when I persuaded Mr. Willis to return to ParaSyn a couple of months ago for a three-year follow-up."
"Theo would never have come back here willingly."
"Poor Mr. Willis was in need of money. He had some silly dream about opening a focus agency specializing in ice-prisms. Utter nonsense, of course. But when I offered to pay him a considerable sum for a single, one-hour session, he reluctantly agreed to return."
"I still can't see him confiding data about the relic to you."
"To tell you the truth, I, too, did not trust him to be fully cooperative during the session. So while he was here I took the liberty of using some new medication that induced him to talk quite freely. He had just started his job in Dr. Brizo's lab."
"You mean you drugged him and that's when he told you that he thought one of the alien relics in Brizo's lab had some real power?"
"And you actually believed him? Sheesh."
Gilbert gave her a disapproving frown, as if she had disappointed him. "He was under the influence of the medication, my dear. He told me the truth."
"What he believed to be the truth, maybe. Theo had a few syn-psych problems, if you'll recall."
"Rest assured, it's the truth." Gilbert chuckled. "At any rate, he explained that while working with one particular relic, he had sensed that it contained some form of energy. He wanted to conduct further tests before he wrote up his report. He wanted to be very certain, you see, because he was afraid his new associates would think he was crazy if he simply told them what he suspected to be true."
"Theo Willis didn't like you any better than I did. Mind telling me how you got him to steal the relic for you?" Orchid gave him a derisive look. "You're only a low-range hypno-therapist, after all. Class two at best."
The barb stung, as she had intended. Gilbert's hand clenched violently around his clipboard. But he quickly recovered his composure.
"It was quite simple, my dear. I worked through a much stronger hypno-therapist."
"Quentin Austen," Orchid whispered.
"Yes, indeed. Once I discovered the value of the relic, I knew I had to have it. But I could not risk having ParaSyn connected to the theft. With the assistance of my new hypnotic enhancement drug, I convinced Mr. Willis that he would benefit greatly from therapy. He agreed to allow himself to be referred to Austen."
"Austen used hypnosis to get Theo to steal the relic."
"You've already figured that out, have you? Quite right. What's more, with the aid of the same new medication I just mentioned, Dr. Austen was able to instill and enforce an especially strong hypnotic suggestion in Mr. Willis."
"Why would Austen help you?"
Gilbert beamed. "Because he was about to lose his license to practice due to a pending lawsuit from one of his ex-patients. He needed the support and influence that I wield with the disciplinary committee of the New Seattle Association of Synergistic Psychologists."
"You told him that if he helped you use Theo to steal the artifact, you'd see to it that he got to keep his license, is that it?"
"Once you had the relic, you arranged for Theo to be murdered."
Gilbert's brow furrowed. "I really had no choice. I assumed that getting rid of Willis would erase any trace of a link between ParaSyn and the stolen relic. Besides, I intended to use another ice-prism, not Willis, for my work on the relic. Willis was much too erratic for serious research."
Orchid felt suddenly very queasy. "You intended to use me, didn't you? That's why you kept sending me those letters urging me to return to ParaSyn for follow-up studies."
"Yes. I had hoped the influence of your Northville academic background would persuade you to return to the lab. But, as always, you proved extremely stubborn and uncooperative." Gilbert smiled. "Ah, well, you're here now and that's all that matters."
Orchid ignored that. "You hired Mr. Amazing and his prism to murder Theo, didn't you?"
"Actually the illusion-talent who called himself Mr. Amazing handled the car crash on his own. He had no need of a prism for such a simple job."
"But things started to go wrong after that, didn't they?"
"Things began to grow untidy." Gilbert's plump fingers tapped nervously on the back of his clipboard. "The attempt to discourage Mr. Stonebraker failed. It was really most annoying. Then Austen came to me. He was extremely distraught. He said that just before he died, Willis had written a letter accusing him of hypnotizing him and forcing him to steal the relic. In the letter Willis claimed he had arranged to have another letter sent to a friend, instructing him to go to the police if anything happened to him."
"The letter to Morgan Lambert," Orchid said softly.
"I employed Mr. Amazing again to retrieve the letter and get rid of Lambert. He and his prism found the letter, but the fool made a copy. He had the temerity to try to blackmail me with it."
"So you killed him and tried to kill the prism who had helped him. But you screwed up, didn't you, Gilly? You didn't succeed in killing Crowder."
"Things got a bit out of control," Gilbert admitted.
"And you got desperate. You tried to make it look as though Quentin Austen was behind the theft and the murders. Then you killed him, too. You wanted everyone to think that he had finally gone over the edge and committed suicide."
"It wasn't quite like that, but you're very close, my dear. Very close, indeed. The plan should have worked." A troubled expression marred Gilbert's cheery features. "It will work. I have you now."
"Not for long. Stonebraker will come for me." Orchid deliberately slipped into melodramatic tones that were more appropriate to an actor in a late-night horror film. "He's a strat-talent, Gilly. Do you know what that means?"
Gilbert frowned. "They're rather primitive, I believe."
"Very primitive, Gilly. Some people call them hunters. Rafe will find me. And when he does, Gilly, he will hunt you down and he will rip out your throat."
Gilbert's eyes widened. He took an involuntary step back. She did not write psychic vampire romance novels for nothing, Orchid thought.
Briana stirred on the gurney. "My God. I hope he does exactly that, you nasty little worm."
Gilbert's face darkened. "Mr. Stonebraker is no longer a threat. If he appears, he will be dealt with. Everything is under control in terms of security here at ParaSyn."
"Uh huh." Orchid looked at him. "If you believe that, Gilly, I've got a nice bridge in the Western Islands I can sell to you."
"Shut up," Gilbert hissed. "Shut up this instant. And don't ever call me Gilly again. I have had enough of your scorn and disrespect. You don't know what you're up against."
"You're no different now than you were three years ago, Gilly. You're still envious of people who have more psychic power than you do, aren't you? You're well and truly wacko if you think that alien relic is going to help you increase your talent."
"Damn you. I will show you what this relic can do." Gilbert tightened his grip on the artifact. "Link."
"Fat chance, Gilly."
Gilbert lifted his chin. Very methodically he put the clipboard down on the lab bench, reached into his pocket, and brought out a small pistol.
"Link, you stupid little ice-prism, or I will kill Mrs. Culverthorpe. You have until the count of three to make up your mind."
"Orchid?" Briana struggled to sit up on the edge of the gurney. Fear twisted her face. "Orchid, I think he means it."
"One," Gilbert hissed.
Selby stared at the slumped form of the guard who had just dropped to the ground with a dull thud. "Did you kill him?"
"No. But he'll be out for a while." Rafe went down on one knee beside the ParaSyn guard.
Working swiftly, he stripped off the snappy black uniform and boots. He removed the plastic restraint cuffs from the black leather belt and clipped them around the guard's wrists. Then he retrieved the two-way radio.
Thus far things had been easy. Too easy, perhaps.
The layout of the ParaSyn physical plant that he had retrieved from his computer had been accurate. He hoped the data on the security system was also.
Rafe and Selby had left the leer parked on a side street and simply walked up to the front gate. Selby had distracted the guard with a string of questions about a friend who worked at ParaSyn. Rafe had taken care of the rest.
He got to his feet and tugged on the ParaSyn uniform. He attached the small radio to his belt.
"Where'd you learn how to do that?" Selby sounded both awed and shocked.
"Operate a two-way radio? It's not all that tricky. They're used a lot in Stonebraker warehouses and on the docks."
"I wasn't talking about the damned radio. Anyone can work a two-way. I meant what you did to the guard just now. The way you crept up behind him and put your arm around his throat. He didn't even make a sound. He just collapsed."
"It's no big deal, Selby. I just cut off the flow of blood to his brain for a few seconds. He sort of fainted."
"Fainted? Is that what you call it?"
"Actually, it's a meta-zen-syn exercise taken to its logical conclusion."
"I thought that meta-zen-syn stuff was all peace and harmony and synergistic balance."
"Balance is not always achieved with peace and harmony. Sometimes you have to give things a little push." Rafe started to turn toward a stand of trees.
"Wait a second. We're inside the grounds, but what's the plan here?"
"We find Orchid and Briana and we get them out."
"Just like that, huh?"
Rafe tapped the small radio. "With any luck, this will make things a little easier. Come on, let's get moving. We don't have much time. The guard has to check in periodically. When he misses his next call from headquarters, someone will come looking."
Rafe led the way into the trees that darkened the parklike grounds of the ParaSyn campus. Moonlight splattered on the ground like so much spilled milk.
"Lucky they don't have any guard wolf-hounds," Selby muttered.
"According to the security data, Dr. Bracewell doesn't like animals around except the ones used in the labs. Too dirty."
"I still don't understand why this Bracewell character would want to kidnap your friend Orchid."
"It's a long story." Rafe quickened his pace. He was almost loping through the trees now. His senses were jacked up as far as they could go without the aid of a prism. Periodically he used a burst of psychic energy to widen his awareness for a few brief seconds and to make a sweep of the psychic plane in a search for Orchid. Thus far he had gotten no response to his questing probe but he was certain she was here somewhere.
The headquarters of ParaSyn functioned as Dr. Gilbert Bracewell's lair. According to the map in the Synergy Fund files, Bracewell actually lived on site. He had a small apartment in the main building.
Bracewell would feel safe here, surrounded by his guards and his unassailable prestige, Rafe thought. He would feel in control here. A man who was slipping over the edge would cling to a sense of control the way a drowning man clung to a rope.
"Not so fast." Selby's breath quickened as he strained to keep up with Rafe. "I can barely see you, let alone where I'm going. It won't help matters if I run into a tree."
Selby had a point. Rafe knew he could not afford to risk leaving his cousin to wander aimlessly around the darkened grounds. Reluctantly he slowed his pace.
A few minutes later he halted at the edge of the woods. The main building of ParaSyn, Lab A, was so well lit with outdoor floodlights that it almost glowed. The annual report claimed that it operated around the dock but tonight it looked as if it had been shut down for a holiday weekend.
Rafe studied the two other, smaller labs. Both appeared equally quiet.
He could feel the trap. The only question was, who had set it? The Synergy Fund biographical data on Dr. Gilbert Bracewell had not painted a picture of a man who was a great strategic thinker. Yet Bracewell had to be involved in this somehow.
Selby stumbled to a halt beside Rafe and gazed at the brilliantly lit building in despair. "We'll never be able to get inside."
"Sure we will. All we need is another uniform."
"How the hell are we supposed to get one? Take out another guard?"
Rafe glanced across the service road. He watched a man in a blue work uniform walk out the side door of Lab B. The man headed toward a van parked in the lot behind the building. The sign on the side of the van read "ParaSyn Janitorial Dept." "I think I see an easier way," Rafe said.