1&2 3&4 5&6 7&8 9&10 11&12 13&14 15&16
I called Gareth to see if they had started on Lucy. Fortunately, he told me they hadn’t. But 16:00 was drawing nearer and time, as well as her luck, was running out.
“What did Anuk have to say?” Gareth asked. I heard him clicking on his keyboard in the background.
“She wasn’t home, but I ran into a nark who wants me to help her find someone.”
When he didn’t reply, I assumed our call had been cut off. That would be like Gar, dropping my call on purpose. I was using the wrong cell I guess.
“She wants me to find—”
“I’m reading her report right now,” he replied hastily. “Do those people have any clue as to what goes on in the world? Why would she ask a low-level glitch like you for help in finding someone like him? Just how stupid are they?”
His confidence in my abilities was touching. “I’m not that low-level, Frankenstein.”
“No offense, buddy. But how do they figure you can help find a guy that no one has ever met? As far as I’m aware no one has, right?”
That was the truth. And that, amongst a myriad of other reasons was why I had no intention of helping sexy Cassie, much less our tyrannical government in the least. Although Cassie was good looking enough to string along for a while. That could be fun, I mused.
It bothered me that Collins had given her my name for help. He knew better than that. I was barely a decent glitch; how in the devil did he expect me to locate someone who’d been on the lamb for years. But, that was the thought process of our country’s best.
The problem with most government employees was that they were generally lazy. Aside from sitting on their computers all day – researching God only knew what – they might leave their desk for meals, or meetings. I had always heard they held plenty of meetings at the various stations throughout the Cities. Both scheduled and impromptu.
But a man like Collins was the classic government type. Jerk someone else’s chain if they needed something done…make that anything done. I wondered if they even signed their own paperwork, or did they have some low-level lackey take care of that for them as well. No need in exerting yourself when there were hundreds of people willing to do your bidding, I supposed.
“Holy shit,” Gareth shouted into the phone. “Holy shit, Trent!”
“I mean holy shit on a sherbet cone, dude.”
What had he discovered? Did the government know where Nithiw was? Was Lucy already dead? Were they sending a kill squad to find me that minute?
“Did you notice what a level 10 hottie Cassandra Lundt was?” Oh, that. Duh.
“I met her in person, you moron,” I replied, starting the walk back to Ma’s place to grab my black phone. “Trust me, it was a little hard to miss. A blind man would have noticed her downright hotness.”
“Wow, she is uber hot,” he continued. “She could come and interrogate me anytime she wanted to. Wowzer, dude.”
Since Gareth’s idea of dating revolved around online anonymous chatrooms, where he hid his identity, I scoffed at his words. “You’d just stutter and stammer until she called in the kill squad, man. She could stand in front of you in her birthday suit and you wouldn’t know what to do.”
The silence told me I had nailed him, right through the heart. I felt a smile grow as I waited on his clever response, the one that didn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.
“You still there, Gar?”
“Yeah,” he moaned. “Just checking security at one. It seems they have an eye on our area right now. But, and this goes without saying, they don’t seem to know what they’re looking for.”
Cassie had already told me that, so it wasn’t news to me. It wasn’t unusual for the State to be focused on one area or another from time to time. I just figured it was hot, in their eyes at least, because of Lucy’s arrest earlier.
“Are you completely dark?” I asked, pausing for a moment on my walk. I needed the break anyway. If I made one more lap of our area, I’d be ready for the marathon by nightfall.
“Two is looking at cyber activity right now,” he replied casually. “They have been all morning. Though the bright ones down there think they’re getting phished by a bunch of hackers from the north side at this moment.”
I knew there were several smaller cells in the north. But I couldn’t recall if they had much hacking capability among the group.
“It’s me,” he admitted, sounding pleased with himself. “So to answer your question, yes, I am completely dark. And just so you know, it’s getting close to 15:00. Clock is ticking for Lucy, bud.”
Sighing first, I glanced at my surroundings. The gray day made the dismal neighborhood between Anuk’s place and Ma’s even more depressing. Besides the dilapidated buildings and roads, there were no signs of life save a single barking dog.
“Where the hell is he?!” I heard shouted from Gareth’s end of the call. “Well?” I thought I recognized the voice.
“Your girlfriend is here,” Gareth chuckled.
“Screw you, brainless,” the feminine voice replied. “If you’re talking to him right now, tell him to get his skinny ass over here. Now!”
Well, Anuk certainly sounded in a good mood. “Tell her I’ll be there in five minutes, Gar. And maybe give her a drink or something. She needs to chill.”
I clicked off before he, or she, could respond.
Now what? I wondered, taking the next right to return to Gareth’s.
When I walked through Gareth’s front door I found Anuk standing in the middle of the room waiting for me. I expected her to be pissed; she had sounded that way on the phone. Instead I found a smiling young woman, approaching me with open arms. She wanted a hug.
“Hi, sweetie,” she said in a voice I’d never heard from her before. She squeezed me tightly with her arms. “I’m glad you’re here safe and sound.”
There probably, in hindsight, were multiple signals coming from the tiny one that it was all a ploy. She wanted something else. But stupid me didn’t think it through. Instead, I wrapped my arms around her tiny body.
I enjoyed the closeness, the smell of her hair, her fingers massaging my back. Though unusual from Anuk, I had to say I liked it.
Her knee rose so fast I had no time to react. One minute I was hugging a woman whom I believed was showing me real affection. The next thing I knew I was on the floor in the fetal positions, clutching my aching balls.
“What the—” I managed to moan after a few painful seconds. That’s when the toe of her right boot found my sternum.
“You met Margo Hanks, in public no less?” she screamed. “How many ways of stupid are you?”
A response wasn’t coming anytime soon, not from me at least. I was too busy protecting myself from further attacks to my sensitive areas. That, and the fact I still hadn’t caught my breath from the initial attack.
“What if they have you on tape, you idiot?” Her rant continued, though her foot had let up. “What if they were listening in? We don’t know shit about her. She could be one of them.”
Okay, maybe meeting with Margo wasn’t the best idea I’d had in a while. In my defense, however, I didn’t know who I was meeting until I got there. And, nothing important had been said.
“Ease up, Anuk,” Gareth said, coming to my rescue. “Let him get up so he can defend himself.”
Anuk went behind the couch and began to pace. Seeing I had a good 10 feet of safety zone between us, I rose. When she made a move to come at me again, I shook a finger at her.
“Don’t,” I stammered. “Don’t make me hurt you.”
That brought a grin to her otherwise sour-puss face. The grin was followed by a snort. Gareth joined the fun with laughter.
“You couldn’t hurt anyone, much less me,” Anuk replied. “You’re just lucky Margo didn’t pull a knife out and slit your scrawny throat.”
“She’s not that type.” I had enough breath to finally defend myself, if only in words.
Anuk threw her hands my direction and spun to face Gareth.
“And how in the hell would he know anything about her?” she shrieked. “Did you brief him before this meeting, dimwit? Or did he just walk in dark like he did earlier at the Repository?”
Gareth seemed to take no offense to her rant and found his spot in his special chair. Picking up the keyboard, his attention focused on the monitor on the wall.
“He knew enough,” Gareth replied. Good, at least he was on my side. “And he knew enough to leave her alone. We don’t need any more problems right now, but Trent always plays by his own set of rules.”
“Et tu, dickless?” I shot at my best friend. Someone had to defend me, and who better than me.
“I believe the phrase was leave her alone.” Anuk was back at me. “Which head rules your day, Trent? And don’t bother with an answer; we all know.” Why was she shouting again? I was standing in the same room as her.
I raised my hand in surrender. “Okay, admittedly it wasn’t one of my smartest moves. But she was worried about her friend.”
Anuk charged me. “She’s with the government stupid.” A hard jab reached my sternum, damn her. “She’s one of them!”
I didn’t think so. If anything Margo was one us of or at least a peeb sympathizer. She was far too passionate about getting Lucy out of station one.
“Jury’s still out on that one, Anuk,” I replied, softening my voice and stance. “She’s on our side. That’s what my gut tells me.”
Taking a quick right at my stomach, I easily deflected Anuk’s blow. “You gut is going to get us all killed someday. And soon if you don’t start acting a little more cautiously. I had another email. He wants this thing all sewn up by 18:00. I think he feels that two hours of interrogation and your girlfriend will crack.”
A thought came to me. Closing my eyes, I considered it all the way through.
“Gar, how close do the people in the government check interoffice requests?” I asked.
He opened his arms, signaling he needed a clearer picture of what I was asking.
“If we send a request to the interrogation team to hold off for a couple of hours, say until 18:00, will they think twice about it?”
“If it’s from an anonymous source?” He wasn’t following; I had left out the important part.
“Send a note from Collins to the team,” I continued. “Tell them he’s tracking down a hot lead on Selmo’s whereabouts. Maybe his gang can bring him in so Lucy can ID him. Think they’d check up on it, maybe call Collins himself?”
His grin spoke volumes as his finger flew across the keyboard. “They’re so lazy down there; they don’t check shit.” He made an exaggerated key strike and tossed his tool aside. “Done!”
I looked at Anuk, placing a hand on each of her shoulders. “Okay, we just bought another two hours. I’ve got an idea. Hear me out.”
Her tightened expression told me she was skeptical. But since she remained silent, I had my opening.
All material is the intellectual property of e a lake. Please don't steal it, but feel free to share this with anyone you might think will enjoy it. Also -- and this is a biggie -- if you have any input on the grammar, or content, or ideas for upcoming chapters, please make a comment. Let's create this novel together. And with your help, it can only become better.