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What we discovered wasn’t all that unexpected. We knew Lucy’s eventual fate. And now in front of us, in black and white, we read what the government had in store for her. Whether she deserved any of it or not.
Beginning at 16:00 Lucy was to be interrogated. According to the report Gareth had up on his monitor, she had been assigned to room B12H, deep in the bowels of station one. I guess people on the upper floors didn’t want to have to listen to the screaming when it began.
Two interrogators and three assistants had been assigned to the case. I didn’t recognize any of the names, but I was sure they all had plenty of experience. If Lucy was lucky, she’d be dead before 17:00. If not, the torture she’d have to endure would most likely be beyond brutal.
I’d heard rumors of what happened in the basements of stations one and two. If someone though the government wasted time making idle threats and snapping a few fingers, they were sadly mistaken. Unless a suspect gave up information immediately they were rarely able to be buried in an opened casket service.
A shrill whistle came from Gareth as he leaned forward in his chair. “You see the name of the second brute there?”
I glanced back up at the screen. “Fred Calhoun. Doesn’t ring any bells with me.”
Staring at me as if I should know, he shook his head. “Remember Wyatt Calhoun, from school?”
The name sounded vaguely familiar, but not enough where I could picture a face. “Wyatt, Calhoun.” I gave it a little more thought. “I don’t think so, buddy.”
“Short guy, looked like a ferret,” Gareth replied. “Maybe five-six, skinny and even more slouched than you are.”
I chuckled and wandered into his kitchen, looking for something to eat. “You just described half the guys we went to school with, man. Gotta do better than that.”
“One of the last years in school, he started the toilet paper in the bathroom on fire.” Gareth was shouting and I could still hear his quick ticks on the keyboard.
“That was Chuck Nordeen, idiot boy. Remember? He got expelled and arrested all in the same 10-minute span.” I remembered that much, at least.
I found some kind of cookies in a rusty tin on the back of Gareth’s stove. Giving them a sniff, I decided they appeared edible. I grabbed a couple for myself and an extra one for Gareth.
I found my friend deep in thought when I returned to the living room. He didn’t even thank me for bringing him a treat, though it was from his kitchen. Closing his eyes, I watched as his mouth dropped open. Whatever he had for me was bound to be good.
“He hung out with that blonde bitch; the one who thought she was cooler than ice.” A quick peek at me should have told him I had no idea who he meant. But he kept nodding like I was close to knowing…which I wasn’t.
A finger jabbed at the air several times as Gareth searched for a name, or maybe a more accurate description. He snapped once but didn’t speak. Squeezing his lips into a tight line, he looked away.
“Penny..” he moaned. “Penny…shit, I don’t remember her last name.”
“Penny Lease?” I replied, mumbling because of the cookie in my mouth. Whoever had made them must have used twice as much sugar as the recipe called for. Still, I took another bite.
He snapped once more and pointed at me. “That’s it!” he exclaimed.
Getting more comfortable on the couch, I grinned at him. “First off, Penny Lease had red hair, not blonde.” That comment only made him shrug.
“Secondly, she never hung out with Wyatt Calhoun,” I continued, recalling the face and person from some years back. “She was way too hot for the likes of him.”
“So you do remember Wyatt, then?”
I nodded and smiled. “It came to me with the sugar rush just now. He was a real puke. I don’t recall him having an older brother, though.”
Gareth grinned and resumed surfing the government files. “Younger brother, brainiac. Wyatt had two older sisters, and one younger brother.”
I searched my memories for a Fred Calhoun but came up with nothing.
“The kid that dressed all in black and blew up frogs,” Gareth added.
Like a bolt of lightning, the memory struck me. “Shit,” I said, disgusted with the images floating through my head. “He got in trouble for torturing feral cats and dogs too, if I remember correctly.”
Gareth simply nodded. “He was branded a sadist, and from what I can tell from his file he’s only gotten better at it while employed as an interrogator for the past five years. He’s gruesome, dude. One of the worst; though, they call him one of their best.”
Scanning the large monitor on the wall, I felt my stomach twist. It wasn’t light reading; it wasn’t even something meant to intimidate anyone. The report of his duties and conduct stated the facts as if they were reporting the weather.
Broken fingers, broken toes, rocks crushed into forearms, heavy angle-iron brought down on thighs and backs. And that wasn’t even the good stuff. Mutilation was one of Fred’s specialties, I noticed. Most of the information before me made me want to hurl.
“That is one sick human being,” I whispered as Gareth mercifully switched screens. “He starts lopping off the ends of Lucy’s fingers and toes, she’s gonna tell him whatever he wants to know. Whether it’s the truth or not.”
Gareth looked pale, stroking his thick face. “I wouldn’t worry about those body parts. Some of the stuff they mentioned should only be done by a surgeon. Not some sadistic shit like Freddy Calhoun.”
We were quiet for a while, each lost in some nightmare that Lucy was about to go through. Or maybe we were worried that Fred Calhoun would be our integrator. If he did half of what his file showed he was proficient at to me, I’d have to find a way to force him to kill me before I squealed.
“We've got to do something for Lucy,” Gareth mumbled. ”Otherwise…” He let his words hang between us.
All I could manage for a reply was to nod in a small way. Yeah, otherwise.
Per the clock on Gareth’s wall, we still had an hour and a half before Lucy’s interrogation was set to begin. If we remained frozen in place, the time would go quickly. Coming up with some sort of plan would take a while, I knew. At least it would give us something to do, other than imagining Lucy all mutilated before our eyes.
“He wants the building taken care of,” Gareth said after a long break. “If things look bad with Lucy, we need to get the codes to Riley so she can forward them to Stevie.”
I gawked at Gareth with my palms turned skyward. “How many steps does all of this take? Who dreams up this crap?”
He looked away as if he were pouting. If I had pissed him off, too bad.
“He does,” Gareth replied, “you know that. There’s layers to everything. Nothing could ever be traced back to him. The government may catch the last person in the chain, but the others are always safe this way.”
Thus were the dealings with the great and powerful Selmo Nithiw. Everything mired in three levels of mystery, wrapped in 20 pounds of shit. The last man standing in this war, the way I saw it, would be him…and only him.
“We need to come up with a plan to get Lucy out of there,” I said, pushing off the couch and wandering to a side window. Outside drizzle had begun, covering everything in a fine layer of moisture as if the world was covered in ice.
Behind me, I heard Gareth tap his foot on the floor. He was nervous, and I knew why. “We need to let it play out,” he replied.
I grinned, if only to myself. “You mean you need to let this play out…” I turned and faced him. “Don’t you?”
For some reason, he refused to look at me, and that meant I’d hit the exact nerve I was looking for. If he had been staring blankly at me, I would have known he’d never made the contact he’d been asked to. But since he wasn’t, well, I had my answer.
“She shouldn’t know enough of anything to make a difference,” he sighed, finally glancing my direction. “I gave her a message on the street one day; it came to me from Anuk. Whatever document she passed to the guy in the tape – and we don’t know for sure that’s him – was requested by someone up the food chain.”
“I guess I need to go and talk to Anuk then if I want any help.” I hoped to push my buddy one way or another; either help me or don’t. But please don’t stonewall me.
He rose and approached, his gangly robe-covered arms spread wide. “We can’t touch this, Trent. We got orders to wait and watch. No one is supposed to interfere. Just let it play out.”
“Orders from who?”
He shook his head and looked away. “You know who. Don’t play dumb, buddy.”
I began to laugh and reached out to give him a fake jab to the gut. “I didn’t hear anything from you know who. I bet you can’t show me an email or a note stating what you claim is true, do you?”
“We’re supposed to leave it alone, Trent.” For a weak-minded computer hack, he’d sure developed a spine lately.
“I’ll just go talk to Anuk,” I replied, making my way to the front door. “She’s the one who seems to have all the information I need. Maybe she even has an idea on how to get Lucy out of this fine mess we got her into.”
I felt a hand grab the back of my collar and I turned to push Gareth away. Given that he had 60 pounds and 10 inches on me, I didn’t accomplish what I’d hope to. Instead, I was more like a child trying to get at the cookies way up high on the top shelf.
“Lucy’s not getting out,” Gareth stated as serious as I’d ever heard him. “We’re supposed to let this play out. We aren’t supposed to get involved.”
I felt my lips draw into a tight line and my eyes narrow. “That’s not a plan,” I spewed. “That’s a lack of a plan. And you know it, Gar.”
His angry face didn’t change. Instead, he shook his head in tiny jerks. “You know it’s not your call. Only Selmo can save her now. It doesn’t work any other way, Trent. If we all start doing whatever we want, all of us could be dead within a month.”
I reached for the doorknob and looked back as I opened the screen. “If I don’t do something now, Lucy’s dead by tonight. If she squeals, because we all sat on our hands, you and I could join her by tomorrow night.
“We all have blood on our hands, Gareth. None of us are clean; not even close.” I thought about cutting off my diatribe at that point, but paused for another thought. “When they come to get me, are you just gonna sit on your stupid ass? Or will you do something? I’d like to think I’d move Heaven and Earth to save you. But the real question is, will you do the same for me…the same for Lucy?”
I was outside and halfway down the walk when he called out for me. If he thought I was coming back to debate the subject any further, well, I guess Gareth wasn’t all that bright after all.
“Trent,” he shouted. “Think about what you’re doing. If he finds out you’ve gone behind his back, you could be next. You don’t want that, buddy. Trust me on this one. Think of your friends, think of your mother…think of me, man.”
Turning slowly, I stared at his body – still covered in a ratty old bathrobe – standing in the entry way. He didn’t appear to be mad, or hurt, or even concerned. No, in his mind everything was factual, black and white.
“Doing nothing is the same as giving up, Gar. I’m not ready to give up on Lucy, even if you are.”
He didn’t reply and I didn’t hang around to listen for such. I needed to get to Anuk’s.
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