GH: There’s no hidden agenda. I mean, come on. We’ve known each other—what? Almost five years?
X: Five years, two months, seven days.
GH: Well, I’d think that in that time, we’d have established a bit of trust.
GH: I mean, we’ve been through a lot together.
X: This time’s different.
GH: Right. Cuz of Jack. Meaning… Jack’s in trouble.
X: And my gut tells me you had something to do with it.
GH: Me? Wait—why me?
X: You’ve been behind everything else, haven’t you? I mean, think about it.
GH: That’s Van Sciver. That’s not me.
X: I’m not convinced you’re not the one behind Charles Van Sciver.
GH: Only as much as I’m the one behind you, too. But I can promise you this. By the time you get to the end of HELLBENT, you’re gonna find out who’s really behind Charles Van Sciver. You’re gonna find out who’s been behind everything.
X: Why don’t I just beat it out of you now?
GH: Um. Agent? Agent? Agent!?
X: There’s no field agent out there.
GH: What do you mean there’s no agent out there?
X: He’s otherwise disposed.
GH: How… How is that possible? I came in after you. He showed me in. He locked the door behind me.
X: I made arrangements.
GH: Okay. Listen—
X: Where’s Jack? Who has Jack?
GH: Look, sit down. Just—chill for a sec, okay?
X: I’m not interesting in sitting. I’m not interesting in chilling. I’m interested in finding Jack. And you’d better pray nothing happens to him.
X: What’s that?
X: You’re mumbling. Use your words. You’re supposed to have some facility with the language. Being a typist and all.
GH: A typist?
X: Answer me.
GH: I can’t just announce where Jack is—if I knew I mean.
X: Why not?
GH: That…well it kind of gives it away… How do I explain this? It’s not how plot works, to just come out and—OKAY OKAY! Just sit down, okay? We can talk this out.
[sound of chair scraping]
GH: Okay, look, it’s like this. I can’t give everything away. But I can put you on the trail, right? I can give you a clue, and then you can follow it, and you can see if you can get to Jack before… before… I mean, I’m just saying you can figure out who’s behind everything on your own. I’ll give you a fair shot. And you can run them down.
X: I’ll run them down. Every single person who had anything to do with it.
GH: Why are you looking at me like that?
GH: Look, maybe we should both rethink this. I mean, what’s that line from Confucius? ‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.’
X: Oh, I’m gonna dig a lot more than that.
[sound of an unspecified explosive charge.*]
*Later facility log indicates a full power outage.]
GH: What the holy—
[various noises of distress and shrieking later attributed to GH]
[electronic humming indicating backup generator coming online]
Field Agent: Hands! Hands!
GH: It’s just me! Jesus Christ! Thank God you’re here. Where is he?
Field Agent: Where’s who?
GH: Orphan X. The guy who was just here. The guy I was interviewing. Or who was interrogating me. Or whatever the hell just happened.
Field Agent: Calm down, sir. I don’t see anyone. The door was locked the whole time.
GH: This is ridiculous. I want to talk to the Special Agent in Charge. Pull the goddamned video.
Field Agent: The video feed for this room just glitched out. There is no video. That’s why I came in. That and your shrieking.
GH: I wasn’t shrieking. If we can—The audio will be intact at least and—Why am I still here? I want to talk to the SAC. I was assured that my safety would be guaranteed if I was willing to—for stupid promotional materials—[inaudible, inaudible]—goddamned book tours—[inaudible]—like to see Franzen risk his ass for—[inaudible]—Well? Where’s the SAC?
Field Agent: I’m happy to run your request up the chain. But sir, I’d advise that you remain calm.
GH: I am calm! Look, I have to go on a book tour, like, next week, and you left me unattended in here and things almost got out of hand. Very badly. And he’s out there now and things are going to get very, very dangerous. Do you understand me? I know the guy, at least as well as anyone can know him. And let me tell you. I’ve never seen him like this. This shit is personal. He’s—
Field Agent: Hellbent?
GH: You think that’s funny? You think this is some kind of joke?
Field Agent: No, sir.
GH: You need to find him. As in immediately. This could get very bad for people.
Field Agent: You mean for you?
GH: No, not for—Well, maybe if—That’s not the point. I’m concerned for other people more than I am for—Look, this is getting stupid. You need to track him down.
Field Agent: If he is who you’re intimating he is, do you have any idea how stupid your request is?