“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.
“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.”
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