“We don’t say that name because we don’t think it’s real,” Collins continued. “The gang upstairs thinks it’s an alias. I mean what kind of name is Selmo anyway? How stupid does that sound.”
Craning my head forward, I tried to get a peek of the screen. “Who glitched her?”
He shrugged and closed the current view. “Says it was the boys and girls from surveillance that noticed it. They were reviewing tapes of secured locations – like they always do, what a great job. No one yapping in your ear all day. No stupid meetings with idiot glitches.”
We shared a strange stare before he picked up on his story. “So, anyway; they spotted her making a copy of a classified document and giving it to an unknown. Some guy in an orange hoodie. They didn’t get a good look, but they’re pretty sure it’s our boy.
“They’ll be interrogating her for a while. At least until she squeals. I bet you a month’s pay she knows who he really is. They’ll beat it out of her if they have to.”
I was lost on a previous point. “So no one glitched? Like none of her co-workers.
He brought up another screen and stared at it for a while. “The only person she works close enough with is some Margo lady.” He chuckled as he read about her. “Man, she’s even duller than that Lucy chick. I bet she’s got 20 cats at home. Probably knows them all by name.”
I didn’t know much of anything about Margo. But it seemed she hadn’t been the glitch as Gareth had first discovered.
“Was she your second name?” Collins asked sarcastically. “Were you about to glitch on a friend? Don’t you have any honor, Trent?”
Caught off guard by the new revelation, I slumped in the chair. “I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
“Surprised that a friend got busted?” he chortled. “Or surprised that we can actually do our jobs? You know, we catch more peebs than you glitches could ever bring us. We’re actually pretty good at what we do, protecting the country from anarchy and all.”
“You work for an oppressive employer,” I shot back. “The peebs just want their freedom. And you just want to keep people down and out, living without a speck of hope.”
Collins grinned at me in an evil way. “You know how many babies are born in this city every day? Hundreds, I tell you, hundreds. And half of them are gonna grow up to be peebs, all pissed off at the rest of us because of people like this Selmo shit.”
“It the haves and the have-nots,” I replied, refusing to even peek at his smug self-righteous expression I knew he wore.
“Every time we bring in a suspect, some gal pops another one out,” he continued. “It’s a zero-sum game, I tell you. It’s been going on for over 50 years now. And I don’t see no end in sight.”
I glanced at him; his expression had softened to that of reflective. “You don’t have to be part of them, you know.”
He waggled his head back and forth a couple of times. “I need a job, kid. I ain’t a young man. Cleaning up after others doesn’t sound all that glamorous to me. I got little choice in the matter. I am who I am.”
And that summed up the life of Allan Peter Collins, Captain in the Twin Cities Army. He was a lifer who went through his day giving little to no thought about his actions. As far as soldiers went, he was adequate. His tasks were performed without questioning their need or actual necessity. If someone above his current rank ever told him to jump into the Mississippi River, he’d never knew what killed him.
“Think they’ll kill my friend?” I asked, knowing that our meeting was almost complete.
He simply nodded and returned his gaze to his monitor.
“Be sure I get credit for being here and giving you a name,” I said, standing and stretching my back. I really needed to have better posture when sitting. All this slouching I did was killing my lower back.
“Done and done,” he said, pointing a finger at the open door. “Now get out of here before the smell becomes permanent.”
I buried my hands in my pockets and made my way to the stairwell. My task was done here; they had the name they wanted – bullshit or not. But I had work to do once I was free of this place. I needed to get a plan together. One that would perhaps spring Lucy from an almost certain death.
Halfway down to the ground floor I felt a vibration in my coat pocket. Pulling one of the two I carried out I noticed its blank screen. Yet the buzzing continued. Retrieving the second phone I noticed the blue background with a white circle in the middle. The initial G appeared centered in the circle.
“What’s up, Gar?” I said as I continued my downward trot.
“Just wondering where you are. You said you’d call me back after your meeting with Kumquat.”
“Just got done,” I replied, stopping to catch my breath. Who knew going down 10 flights of stairs was almost as much work as going up. “And it was enlightening, might I add.”
“Well, I got some enlightening news for you, buddy. They switched the glitch on Lucy’s case. Now it says that— “
“I know, I know,” I said. “They say they caught it on an internal review of the work tapes. Collins told me.”
“Did he mention who she is suspected of passing intel to?” I’m sure Gareth thought I hadn’t received the whole story, but he was wrong – again.
“He mentioned it,” I replied, watching pigeons fly by the chicken-wired third-story stairwell window. “But he says they don’t know for sure. He couldn’t pull up any of the footage though. You think you can get us access to it? It’d be nice to know what they already know.”
“On it, dick bag. It is my specialty, you know.”
They low gray sky cast a black and white feel to the day outside. That and the fact they government had Lucy. Maybe more of the second than the first in all reality.
“Hey, Gar,” I said. “Be kind of careful when you’re in there. Collins says they have you on a watch list. Don’t want you getting caught. That would kind of turd up the whole day.”
He laughed loudly before a coughing fit took over. “If I came down there and sat at one of their desks, in my robe no less, they couldn’t catch me. I could ask for some numb-nuts password and they couldn’t catch me.”
“They might be watching you,” I added quietly. “Just use a little caution, okay?”
“Got it, super weirdo.” I heard the click of his keyboard as I tried to recall what else I needed from him.
“You need to call Riley,” he said before I could think of it. “She’s called twice. Says it’s important.”
Good god, what did that freak want? “Okay. Will do. I’m on my way to your place. Hopefully you have something for me to look at when I get there.”
I clicked off and found myself on the ground floor of station one. Once outside I’d give Riley the Raven a call. After all, she was the second name on Collins’ list.
Riley didn’t answer when I called but my blue phone rang minutes after that. The initial R told me she was ready to talk.
“Black phone, dumbass!” she screamed into the device. I held it away from my ear as her diatribe continued. “Who the hell has three phones and leaves the most important one home with his mommy? And don’t bother answering, because I only know one moron stupid enough to do something like that.”
She was in one of her better moods I decided. Maybe a little playful banter was in order.
“You know what has a little skinny waist, a hot ass, two big jugs and acts like a bitch all the time?” There, I bet she’d lighten up after that.
“Do you know how irritating your mother’s voice is?” she ranted. “I talked to her three times this morning. And never once did she tell me where you were. She claimed you out on a date or something.”
I felt a grin grow. “She doesn’t like horny women showing up at the house trying to bang me all the time. She knows your voice, Riley. She knows you’re a woman of low morals.” Man, I was on a roll.
“I had a message a couple hours ago?” she whispered, all of the vitriol gone from her voice.
“He wanted to know if buildings one and two were ready.” she said.
“And?” Man, couldn’t she take a hint? Just finish a complete sentence, Riley.
A long pause followed. “They are, not that it’s any of your business.”
“Then why are you busting my balls, Riley? I mean geez, I got better things to do today than get bitched out by you.”
She was quiet again; that meant she was chewing on her hair – perhaps the only habit she possessed that was anything short of beautiful. Well, except her bright blue hair. And her propensity for complaining.
“I just want to know what you know, sweetie. That’s all. I figured maybe you knew if something big was up.”
Ah, the sweetie card had been played. Riley was hot, super-hot. If Anuk was a 10, that made Riley a 35. She could have anything she wanted from life. But she refused to use her beauty to obtain her goals. Anytime she ever felt she was getting somewhere in a job, or a relationship, or just plain life because of her looks, she ended the stint.
Riley knew if she called me – or any of my degenerate friends – sweetie, or cutie, or cuddle buns we’d open up like a cheap hooker. But not this time, sweetie. Not today.
“If I recall, sweetie,” I replied, “you said I was a low-level glitch with the morals of a less humane Stalin-type the last time I talked to you. So, putting one and one together why would you ever think I knew anything about anything that goes on? People like me get told what to do. We don’t have any free will. Someone else jerks our cord all the live long frickin’ day.”
She was quiet for a moment. Maybe I was too hard on her. “You haven’t been asked to do anything special in the last 48 hours?”
Man, she didn’t get it…ever. “Ma told me to take a shower last night. Said I needed a shave this morning. Other than that, no.”
I heard something on her end I couldn’t make out. When she spoke again I realized she had put me on speaker. “So he hasn’t contacted you?”
“He has never contacted me,” I huffed. “I’m not one of the enlightened ones like you all are. You, and Anuk, and Gareth, and Stevie. I don’t ever hear from him.”
When she didn’t reply, I became confused.
“What are you doing, Riley? Do I hear water?”
“I’m taking a bath, silly,” she replied in a playful voice. “Unlike you, I clean up every day. However, since my showerhead is busted and I can’t get any of my dimwitted friends to come look at it, I have to do it the old-fashioned way.”
The image in my head of Riley bathing stopped me in my tracks. We’d been frisky once or twice in the past, usually when she felt sorry for me. Not that I ever saw any skin.
“I’m, ah,” I stammered. “I’m on my way to Gareth’s right now. It wouldn’t be a problem for me to swing by and give it a peek, I guess.”
She chuckled and I heard water splashing. “I think you mean give me a peek, you pervert. And you know I’m not like that. We’re friends, Trent. But not in that way.”
Her naked image faded from my mind. Damn.
“Plus, you need to go find out what they’re doing to your girlfriend,” she sadly added. “I’m sorry they pinched her. Really, I am.”
“Lucy’s not my girlfriend, per say,” I replied, checking a nearly deserted street as I jogged across. “But thanks for the concern. Hopefully we can figure out a way to spring her.”
I heard more splashing only this time closer to the phone. “I’ve got to run, Trent. I just got another email. Chat later.”
Riley clicked off and I continued my path to Gareth’s place. With any luck, he’d have some answers for me. Maybe he’d even cracked into the government’s files so we could take a peek at what they had on Lucy. She couldn’t have passed along anything too incriminating, could she?
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