Archive | May 2014

Bad Fall – Part 67

Bad FallFrank gets quite a surprise when three thugs show up. Due to Marka’s quick thinking and a great response time from Clark and Phil, the men are contained before they can cause any real trouble.

“What are you thinking, Marka?” Shay asked.

“The lock wasn’t forced, Colonel. Someone had a key. How many people have keys to your office, Frank?”

“Me, head of housekeeping and Jeff.”

“Well, we know you didn’t trash your own office,” Marka replied with a smirk.

“Head housekeeper?”

“Lovely lady in her late sixties—and my great aunt.”

“Leaving Jeff,” Marka concluded. “Unless someone had a copy of your key made.”

“Was Jeff Norton in the hallway at all that night?” Colonel Shay asked his people.

“He’d gone home,” Frank interjected.

Shay held up his hand, waiting. A woman flipped through a notebook full of neatly printed notes. She scanned page after page until her finger stopped.

“At 2253, Jeffry Norton, director, entered the corridor outside target office. No footage of Norton entering office, but he was seen again in the corridor at 2315.”

“So, he appeared, disappeared and reappeared?” Frank threw up his hands, nearly spilling his coffee. “And that’s not weird to you? A twenty-two minute gap didn’t ring a little bell? Arnold, who are these guys, the Brain Trust?”

“To be fair, Frank, my orders were to look for anyone who had no business being there.”

“Oh, so you’re the ‘tard?” Frank punched his former commander in the arm.
The techs said nothing, doing their best to look busy. The woman with the notebook typed in commands at her console. The video changed and they saw a still of Jeff in the corridor. He stepped out of view of the camera and didn’t reappear for twenty-two minutes.

“Didn’t you have better coverage than that?” Marka asked innocently. “I mean, that’s Frank’s hall, his office door. . . .”

“We did,” the young man to her right said. “I put them in myself.”

“Could you have made a mistake?” Marka asked politely.

“I don’t make mistakes, Doctor Ventimiglia. That’s why I got this job.”

“Then someone shifted the camera,” Frank inserted himself in the conflict before it turned ugly. “Jeff would know the coverage of that camera. He’s not a complete idiot. He had to know that being seen going into my office would land him in a shitload.”

“Wouldn’t be hard,” the tech said, somewhat mollified. “It’s not one of the concealed cameras. I had to use the existing set up. We got interference in that area when we tried to put our own in.”

Frank chuckled, nodding. “That would be my fault.”

“Frank’s nothing if not paranoid,” Shay replied.

“I’m thorough.” Frank proceeded to tell the technician exactly what he’d used in his office to deter surveillance.

“Didn’t do you much good, did it?” The young woman snapped. She was still stinging from the brain trust remark.

“It does from electronic snooping,” Frank replied with a bright smile. “From a twatwaffle like Jeff, nothing’s safe. So, we know who, we still don’t know why.”

“I leave that to your Jedi snooping powers,” Shay replied. “Help yourself to a machine and get cracking.”

“I’m still curious about the woman,” Marka said. “Do you have that footage?” She asked the young woman technician.

“Of Barbie Underwood?” She grinned. “You got it.” She typed in some commands. “Jealous?”

“Not at all,” Marka said, moving to the other side. She pulled up a folding chair. “I deal with my frustrations by hitting a heavy bag,” she added with asmile. “I’m Marka, by the way.”

“Cherry.”

They shook hands and sat close, conferring quietly over the video as it played back in slow motion.

“So, what would make you that mad?” Marka asked Cherry.

“Honestly? It would take something really spectacular, like threatening my kid, for me to even consider that.”

“You’ve got a child?”

“Two year old daughter.”

“I don’t have any children yet, but you can bet if anyone mistreated any kid around me, I’d go that crazy too. Frank, honey. You bothered anyone’s kid lately?” Her tone was bantering. She asked mostly to get under his skin.

“What? No. Huh?” He’d been deep in conversation with Shay. Her factitious question caught him by surprise, unnerving him.

“Why would I hurt a kid?”

“Exactly. So what’s got Id Mommy so bunged up?” She squinted at the screen. “Are you sure you haven’t talked to her lately? Gotten any strange phone calls. . . .”

Frank was caught up short mid-sentence in his discussion with the Colonel. Hesitating, he turned to the screen, staring at it.

“Do you have any vocal?”

“Sure,” Cherry said as she turned up the volume.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 66

Bad FallWhile having a quiet chat with Marka, Frank gets a call from Sue at the front desk. She’s clearly afraid and tells him there are friends of his at the desk asking for him. She knows good and well they aren’t, but she cleverly disguises the conversation so that she doesn’t let them know. Frank rushes to the front desk, coming up a back staircase so that he can sneak up behind the men in the lobby.

Easing back from the stairwell window, Frank took a deep breath. Whoever these guys were, they were trained, running hot and ready to rumble. He only hoped they wanted to talk to him, not kill him in front of a lot of witnesses. Saying a silent prayer, he took a deep breath and yanked the door to the stairs open, purposely announcing his presence.

Three pairs of eyes in three stone cold faces, snapped around, focusing on him. None of them pulled a weapon, but hands went to concealed holsters.

Frank smiled. That mistake told him a lot. Two right handed, one leftie.
He took a step toward them, hands at his sides, when the front door slid open. Clark came in, arguing with Phil. Phil was dressed in faded, paint spattered jeans and a sweater. Clark wore a three piece suit and looked like a lawyer.

“Why are you doing this?” Phil demanded loudly. “Mr. Wall Street doesn’t think his brother can handle Mom’s care?”

“You’re an artist, a dead beat. You’re only living with Mom cause you can’t make it on your own.”

They stopped about halfway through the lobby, shoving and arguing like brothers. After a couple of blows each, they headed toward the desk, skirting the men on either side. Phil’s fingers flickered in a battle sign to Frank, low and behind him, out of view of the thugs.

“What’s eating you now?” Clark yelled. He launched himself at the nearest thug, pinning his arm behind him.

Phil was on the other side doing the same thing. Frank rushed the third, grabbing his weapon hand as he tried to draw and fire. Frank was glad he knew the man was a leftie or the outcome would have been dangerously different.

All three men were face down on the carpeted lobby as plain clothes officers moved in to cuff, search and disarm them. Police cars pulled up outside, lights flashing, sirens silent.

“Need me?” Frank asked.

“Later. We got it. This is gonna be fun.” Phil’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, making Frank shiver.

“Thanks.”

“Doing our job,” Clark replied, dusting his hands on his pants.

“Swear to God, if you were a girl, I’d kiss you,” Frank said with relief.

“Kiss your own, it was her idea.”

Marka appeared outside, Shay at her side. Frank ran to her, lifting her off the sidewalk as he kissed her.

“Brilliant plan,” he complimented.

“Let’s get out of here,” Shay suggested. “The boys have this in hand.”

They got in an unmarked car and drove off campus. After a short circle tour of the town, they headed back to the blue house by a circuitous route. When Shay was sure no one was following them, he pulled into the back driveway and into a detached garage.

From there, they entered a mudroom. Shay tapped in a lengthy code and submitted to a retinal scan before opening the door. Frank and Marka followed him in.

The modular home was the size of a double wide mobile home. It was predictably, though comfortably, furnished. Marka was surprised at how totally ordinary it seemed.

“That was impossibly easy,” Shay said with a worried frown.

“They were testing our resources,” Frank said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t have come at us head on. Makes me wonder what else they have planned. Oh, my family!”

Shay put a calming hand on his arm. “It’s under control. Would I leave them unprotected, Frank?”

“No, sir.”

“I’ll have to pull in Clark and Phil, they’ll have been identified by now.”

“Keep them around, though,” Marka asked quietly. “For some weird reason, I trust them, even if they are spooks.”

Shay laughed loudly. “We need to upgrade your vocabulary, young lady. Spook is so last century.”

Marka giggled as they followed the Colonel into the kitchen. A professional grade coffee machine glittered on the counter like a hungry metal beast.

“Latte? Espresso? Name your poison. We take our caffeine seriously around here.”

“Red Eye for me,” Frank said.

Marka settled on a latte. Armed with their drinks, they followed the Colonel to the living room. A bank of video screens greeted them, flashing interior and exterior shots of Sheltering Oaks. To their right, seven computers stood with their backs to the wall.

Several technicians sat in front of flatscreen TV’s watching surveillance footage. They looked ready for anything in their leather easy chairs, each sporting a cup of coffee or glass of tea.

“Still looking for someone who went in your office,” Colonel Shay said with a frown. “And still no joy.”

“How could you miss it?” Marka asked.

“No one unusual was in the corridor,” a tech replied. He was fresh faced, like he was right out of college. “We’ve checked everything and everyone who went near it that night.”

Marka sat on the arm of his easy chair, leaning toward the screen, squinting. “What about people who belong there?”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 65

Bad FallFrank and Shay have an interesting conversation. Shay tells Frank a little more about Marka’s background and they discuss his situation.

A chilly wind sprung up across the lake. Marka shivered. Frank put his jacket around her shoulders and they walked rapidly to the cafeteria door. The electric eye spotted them, opening the door. Once inside, Frank bought them coffee and they sat in the cafeteria sipping the stinging hot brew.

“Shay wants you to hypnotize me,” Frank said abruptly.

“He mentioned that.”

“When did you talk to him?”

She didn’t answer right away. “You’ll think it’s a conspiracy if I answer that.”

“Before you came here?”

She shrugged, nodding. “I was contacted. Not by Colonel Shay directly. I promise, I never met or spoke to him until he showed up at your door. But the letter asked me to use whatever means necessary to help you, including hypnosis.”

“They sure have a hard on for this case.”

“This isn’t an isolated incident, Frank. They believe someone quite well placed may be behind it.”

“Should you be telling me this? Should we even be talking about it in public?”

Marka smiled, patting his hand. “No one has a clue what we’re talking about. They aren’t listening anyway.”

There were two workers in the cafeteria. One was mopping the floor and the other rang up a cup of soup and a salad for one of the employees on break.

“I’ll do that, if you want. But I don’t see that as being your first choice.”

“My mind betrayed me, Marka. Do you have any idea how that feels? To know I can’t trust my own memories? If I’m wrong about this, what else is wrong?”

“You can’t second guess yourself, Frank.”

He didn’t reply right away. When he did, it was in an urgent whisper. “I keep wondering what I did wrong that got Clay and the others killed. What did I miss? I go over it in my mind, but I can’t see it. I don’t know.”

Marka put her hand on his. “Hop off that roller coaster of doubt and relax. Making yourself crazy isn’t going to get you the answers you need. I can do a hypnosis session with you. I won’t put you way under, just enough to relax you so you can think things out clearly.”

He shook his head. “I don’t want that at all. It scares the shit out of me even thinking about. I keep seeing this big, horrifying shadow and red, glowing eyes. . . . There’s something—lurking in the shadow. It knows me, can see me, but I can’t see it. If you hypnotize me, it can get me.”

Marka frowned, squeezing his fingers. “Okay. I won’t do it. I want to talk to Shay. Can we go up to the house?”

“I bet if we said how much we want to speak to Uncle Arnold, he’ll show up.”

“He’s watching?” She looked around furtively, worried.

“Common areas only,” he replied softly to assuage her fears.

Frank’s phone rang as they prepared to go. It was Sue at the front desk. Why she’d called on her cell instead of business phone, surprised him so much, he didn’t answer right away. One ring shy of voicemail, he touched the screen.

“Sue?”

“Oh, thank God,” she whispered, sounding terrified. Louder, she added, “Frank, there are some, uh, friends of yours here at the desk.”

Frank signaled Marka to follow. He moved rapidly toward the exit. He pointed to a security camera and saluted. Marka understood he wanted her to contact Colonel Shay. He didn’t wait for her to respond, but kept moving toward the stairwell.

“Friends of mine? Did they give their names?”

“No, Frank. I didn’t know where you were. . . .”

“I’m on my way, Sue. Can you describe them?”

“That would be difficult at the moment.”

“Are they threatening you?”

She tried to laugh. “Of course, Frank. How silly of you!”

“But they can’t hear me.”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

“Distract them. I’m almost there.”

“Okay, Frank. I’ll be sure to pass that along.”

He increased his pace, trying not to draw attention by running. A few people tried to engage him, but he smiled and said he was late for a meeting. He saluted every camera he passed.

In the stairwell, he took the steps two at a time, running rapidly to the next floor up. Wishing he had a weapon, he peered out the stairwell door into the lobby. He purposely picked the stairs on the far side of the foyer.

Get them off campus, away from Sue and the others. Take them from a thousand hostages to one. Disliking his odds, he did another quick recon.
Sue was babbling about the campus, showing them a brochure. Three men in overcoats stood clustered around the glassed in office. One had his hand inside his coat, probably on a concealed weapon. The others scanned the lobby, but not in his direction—yet.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 64

Bad FallFrank and Shay have a chat as they walk around the lake. Shay assures Frank that he and Marka are being watched. Shay also tells Frank not to worry, they don’t have surveillance cameras in the bedroom. Frank doesn’t find that funny.

Shay leaped from his seat, advancing on Frank like a rabid dog. Thick finger poked in Frank’s face, narrowly missing his nose.
“Don’t you dare even think that. I may not know much, but I know you. I know how you work. There is no way this was your mistake.”

“Prove it.”

“Let Marka hypnotize you. That will prove it.”

Groaning, Frank turned away. “I can’t,” he whispered.

“Your life could depend on the answer to this, Frank.”

“My sanity does, Arnold. My honor, who I am. . . .”

“Do me a favor. Don’t say no until you talk to Marka. In fact, you should have a session with her. I don’t mean with they hypnosis. But talk to her, as a professional, not your lover. Tell her your fears.”

Frank shook his head, hands deep in his pockets. “Not exactly the kind of conversation I want to have with my girlfriend this early in our relationship. Way to make me into a pussy.”

“Aw, hell, kid. You’re already a pussy.”

Frank chuckled, socking Shay in the shoulder hard enough to make the older man take a step back. “I may be a pussy, but you’re a tool.”

“You’ll think about it?”

Frank nodded.

“So, tell me what you hoped to find in your search.” Shay pointed to the laptop Frank carried in a bag slung over his shoulder.

“I dunno. Something that makes sense. A DNA match for the piss in my office? Something. . . .”

“I thought the police didn’t find a match.”

“They don’t have the same access.”

“What are you thinking?”

“No idea, Arnold. But that felt personal, like they were looking for something and couldn’t find it. They were literally pissed at me.”

The two of them started up the path toward the cafeteria, dodging more goose poop. Frank went over Marka’s theory that the incidents weren’t related. He found it hard to believe they weren’t connected, but Shay wasn’t so sure.

“The only common element here is you, Frank. But there’s no way that girl was part of any of this. And the guy who broke into your house wasn’t the one who pissed in your office. Neither did the girl, for that matter. She trashed your car, but Clark’s surveillance is pretty clear.”

“What about the security tapes from the facility?”

“Clark’s patched into the security. We’ve got techs going over the footage now, but so far, no joy.”

“You’re patched in here?” He groaned. “Just how far are you patched?”

Shay laughed. “Don’t worry. We won’t be leaking a sex tape to You Tube.”

“Don’t even think that’s funny. And making that remark around Marka, not a good idea.”

“We’ve got footage of everything outside, on the grounds and in the corridors and common areas of the facility. We don’t have surveillance in the rooms—not even yours and Marka’s.”

“Thank God. I hate to think what you’d see. . . .”

“From what I gather, some pretty hot sex.” He nudged Frank with his elbow.

Frank laughed, nudging him back. “Marka’d kill you if she even suspected you’d seen her naked.”

“She’s a crack shot, she tell you that?”

“Nope.”

“Has her concealed permit. She used to go into some pretty scary neighborhoods before moving here. She traveled all over Florida after she got out of school. Even lived in Miami for awhile.”

“I see why she’d have a concealed license. Not sure I’d like wandering around south Florida unarmed.”

Shay chuckled. “You wouldn’t need a weapon to be a bad ass.”

“Thanks, Arnold.” He laughed almost lightheartedly. “She’s full of surprises.”
“I find it amusing that I know more about her CV than you do.”

Frank smirked. “Then get me the files, Colonel.”

“Oh, hell no. If she knew I’d shown you that, she’d kill me.”

“Frank!” Marka’s voice echoed off the brick walls.

He trotted up the path to greet her. Shay walked up the hill more slowly, waiting for them to kiss.

“Colonel,” Marka acknowledged him somewhat coolly.

“Doctor. Frank, I need to get going.” He handed over a plastic card that looked like a plastic gift card. “In case you need it. Additional insurance.” He tapped the end of his nose, closing one eye. “Frank, remember what we talked about.”

“Yeah. I’ll keep it in mind.”

Marka and Frank watched Shay wander up the hill to the parking lot and beyond to the blue house squatting on the corner of the property. He let himself in. They said nothing to one another until the door was closed behind him.

“Your session go well?”

“Yes, it was a lot of fun.” She talked about it for a couple of minutes as they stood on the sidewalk.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 63

Bad FallFrank and Marka have a quiet lunch and she heads to session. Frank is starting on some research, working the investigations from his end, when he gets a call from Colonel Shay.

“I was about to start looking when I got your call.”

“I won’t ask. I know how you work. You should never have left, Frank. You’re good. We could use more men like you.”

“I can’t go back into that hell, Arnold. I don’t have it in me anymore. There’s part of me that knows if I went back, it would be the death of me.” Just like my grandfather.

“There are desk jobs, you know.”

They started walking around the lake, dodging the occasional Canadian Goose pile.

“We need analysts, Frank. Men who can look at a situation and second guess it. You excel at that.”

“Like I did the day Clay died?”

Shay frowned, rubbing his long nose. Frank noticed the scar across the bridge and the bend to the left that gave testimony of a long forgotten break.

“That wasn’t your fault, kid.”

“Whose fault was it? I was in charge. It was my call! If I can’t blame myself,who do I blame?”

Colonel Shay walked in silence, neatly avoiding a series of goose turds, before answering. “Isn’t that why I’m here?”

“You paint a different picture of the day. I don’t remember getting hurt. I don’t remember being in that helicopter. I only remember Clay dying in my arms.”

“Do you remember taking down a small army on your own?”

Frank’s puzzled expression told Arnold Shay the younger man had no idea what he was talking about. He took a seat in a nearby gazebo. Frank sat next to him, staring out at the fountain in the middle of the small lake. Ducks and geese swam in the calm water, occasionally diving for a fish. The scene was idyllic, placid, the very picture of peace, like something from a Thomas Kinkade painting.

“I remember hearing they’d been attacked. I got in the helicopter and flew to the scene. I found Clay. He was torn up pretty bad. Surrounded by dead bodies—ours and theirs, he died. I held him, waiting for the medics, but there was nothing anyone could do. That’s how I remember that day.”

“You’re partially right. He died in your arms. You waited with him for the medics. . . . But the bodies around him were of men you killed trying to protect him. You were flying air support that day. You saw the explosion and made the pilot fly in low so you could jump out. You picked up weapons, emptying them as you went. You ran through hell like an angel of death, saving lives and taking them. I don’t know if they ever got a head count. I never saw a man fight like you did that day—like you were possessed by the Grim Reaper Himself. . . .”

Shay’s eyes watered. He hated to admit he was bitterly sorry about how it had gone down, but he was also proud of of his younger companion. No one, not even he, had fought with such bravery.

“They tore you up plenty, but you didn’t stop until relief came. By that time, the enemy soldiers were dead, dying or captured. You left them all standing there and went looking for Clay. You damn near died yourself, but you wouldn’t leave him. . . .”

Frank fished in his pocket for a clean linen handkerchief that he always carried. A vestige of another time, it rarely left his pocket, but he was glad he had it. Beside him, Colonel Shay did the same. A slight smile flickered across their faces as they spotted the pieces of cloth. A few moments passed as they blew their noses and pretended they weren’t crying.

“They took you in, put you back together with staples and tape. Even as messed up as you were, you made the rounds of that hospital and spoke to your men. The doctor finally convinced you to go back to bed. He gave you a shot to make you sleep. When they went in to check on you a few hours later, you were gone.”

“And didn’t show up for three days.”

“I want Marka to hypnotize you.”

“What?”

“She’s trained. She’s done past life regressions, hypnotherapy, hell, I don’t even know what all. That girl’s a genius, you know. She’s got more letters after her name than I can count.”

Frank laughed sardonically. “Pity she ended up with a dumb grunt like me.”

“Dumb?” Shay’s turn to laugh. “Hardly. You’re smarter than you like to let on.”

“Being smart sets you apart,” Frank admitted quietly. “Being average means you can blend.”

Shay laughed louder. “Yeah, you blend all right.” He rolled his eyes. “A peacock among chickens.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Frank stood, putting the handkerchief back in his pocket.

“It means you need to revisit basic camouflage. You blend about as well as the Queen Mary.”

Frank chuckled. “Thanks?”

“Will you think about it?”

“About what?”

“Letting Marka hypnotize you.”

Frank looked away, shaking his head. “I don’t know if I can. What if. . . .”

“What if you don’t remember? That’s okay, Frank. . . .”

“No. What if I do? What if it’s me? What if I fucked up, got Clay and all the others killed? What if it’s my mistake? Maybe the reason I blanked all this out is because I fucked up so bad, I got my own brother-in-law killed—made my baby sister a widow before she’s thirty? I’m not man enough for that, Arnold. I’d fucking kill myself.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 62

Bad FallAlthough Jeff confronts them in the hallway, he finally realizes he’s being silly about Marka and Frank being together. Frank finds out that his office has been cleared by the police and decides to switch with Marka, because hers is so cold.

The others came back with new padding and carpet. Frank sat in Marka’s office while the men worked next door. When they stopped for lunch, Frank invited Marka to go to lunch with him. They went to the bar where he’d gone after the unfortunate car incident and enjoyed the best burgers in town.

Frank brought up the idea of switching offices, Marka was thrilled.

“I’d love to! Honestly, I’m freezing to death. I don’t have the clothing for it. Most of my nice stuff is skirts and I don’t have any heavy sweaters. You don’t mind? Your office is bigger.”

“I don’t mind. I don’t need the space as much as you do. I also don’t mind the cold.”

“I appreciate it. That’s very thoughtful of you.”

He took her hand, kissing it. “Marka, I just want you to be happy, safe and warm. Emphasis on warm. I know how cold it gets in there. Emily. . . .” He stopped abruptly, pressing his lips tightly together, closing his eyes.

“Tell me what happened,” she said softly. “You really loved her, didn’t you?”

“She’s my regrets girl,” he murmured. “I dated her some in high school, but we never quite got it right. I didn’t have the courage to take it further when we were younger. I wanted to, but her dad was police chief and he’d have taken me apart.”

“How would he even know?”

“Believe me, he’d know. We both went away for college and some other guy had her first. We still saw each other when we were home and I finally had the balls to tell her I loved her. Of course, that was right before we shipped out and I wasn’t around for two years. By the time I got back, she was married and pregnant with her first baby. So we stayed friends, but we loved each other.”

“Did she tell her husband?”

He nodded. “He said she could leave when the baby was born and never come back, but he was keeping their kids. She couldn’t do it and I wouldn’t have let her. Little kids need their mom. And she loves her kids more than anything.”

“So they moved.”

“It was for the best. But my heart’s been a mangled mess ever since. When I met you, it finally started to heal.”

“Frank, I’m so sorry.”

“No! Don’t ever be sorry. I wouldn’t have met you otherwise. And I wouldn’t be falling hopelessly in love with you.”

Marka’s eyes teared up. Her lower lip trembled. “Really?”

“Really.”

“I thought maybe it was just me.”

He laughed softly, warm joy filling him. “Is that your way of saying you’re falling for me too?”

She kissed him, answering better than words ever could.

“I wanna take you home and make love to you,” he whispered.

“My house will be ready soon.”

“Can’t be soon enough,” he said with a soft groan.

Marka laughed, running her fingers through his hair.

After lunch, they went back to the office. The new carpet was down, with the finishing touches being put on it. Frank helped Marka box up her possessions and put them in the storage closet with his. She had another session and he had things to do, so he walked her to her session and went to one of the resident computer rooms with his laptop. He needed privacy that the office didn’t offer him.

His custom made laptop whirred to life, connecting immediately to the wireless internet. He was about to do some injudicious hacking when his phone rang.

“Atherton.”

“It’s me,” Shay said. “Where the hell are you hiding? I’m standing here in the hallway outside your office. It’s like moving day.”

“Meet me by the pond,” Frank said, closing his laptop. “I’ll be right there.” He headed out the door.

“No idea how to get there.”

“Go west from my office, through the foyer and down to the end of Building Five. There’s a door to the outside. Make a right and head downhill until you see water.”

“Got it. All ready on the move. Where’s your girlfriend?”

“In session.”

“Damn, I’d hoped she’d join us.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, that’s a sharp lady. Not only that, she’s got clear insight into this, not colored by anything else. She’d be helpful.”

“She’s out of session in twenty minutes.”

“Not sure I can wait. I see water. Where are you?”

“Look up to your right. Almost there. Slow elevator.” He pocketed his phone and jogged downhill to Shay’s position. “Don’t have Larry and Moe with you?”

“They’ve got other things to do. They’re taking a look at the fellow from the ravine.”

“Rather not know.”

“Don’t blame you.”

“Any new leads?”

“No. You?”

© Dellani Oakes

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