The day after I had dinner with Christian at the steakhouse, I waited for him to leave before heading downtown again. If the Lieutenant found out, then I would just tell him that I checked in with a few more contacts, which bore no fruit.
In reality, I was going to try to find Alisson. I'd shredded and trashed the movie ticket from the day before, but not my concerns for her with it. I went to her parents' old house, to ask them where I could find her. When I arrived, I was greeted by Alisson's mother, Caitlin, who must have been in her late seventies by now. She was thin, with shallow features and grey, curly hair.
"Well hello, Jonathan," she said when she answered the door, "I thought you and Alisson had split up."
"Yeah, well, we did, actually. But, I wanted to talk to her. Do you know where I could find her?"
"Oh, she doesn't come around here much anymore. Last I heard, she was climbing ladders at some new pharmaceutical company - what was it called, dear?" she called, asking her husband, Jacob.
Jacob shouted back, "What? I can't hear you!"
"Oh, come out here, Jake! You know I hate shouting!"
"Alright, I'm comin', I'm comin'," he called as he strode out into the kitchen - the first room in their house when you entered through the front door, "What d'you want?"
He was a large man, with a bushy horseshoe mustache and straight, black hair that was graying on the sides and balding on top.
"Jonathan here," Caitlin called, slightly quieter, "was wondering-"
"Hold on, let me turn my hearing aid up," he said, "Now, what were you sayin'?"
"Jonathan here,"she said, now speaking at a normal volume, "was wondering where he could find Alisson. I told him she's working at that Japanese company - what was it called again?"
"It's called Jiyu Pharmaceuticals. They do testing on new medicines that, supposedly, are going to be the 'miracle cures' everyone's been wanting for decades now."
My stomach dropped when I heard the name. Jiyu? Did Alisson know what they were really up to there, or was she being used? I hoped for her sake that she was merely an instrument that would be set aside undamaged when Jiyu was done with her, because if she was in on what they did, and she got in the way of our mission, I couldn't stand to think what I might have to do.
"Ah. See," Caitlin said, turning back to me, "now you have the full scoop. Jacob here barely ever turns his back on the television-"
"I do, too! She's exaggeratin'!"
"Alright, calm down, you. You'll give yourself a heart attack, getting all riled up like that."
"My heart's fine! I'm not even at risk! Ask Doctor Ford!"
"Okay, fine. Just stop shouting already. Is there anything else I can help you with, dear?"
"No, ma'am," I answered, "just wanted to talk to Alisson. Thanks for the information. I'll come visit sometime."
"Okay, you do that, dear," she said, closing the door behind me as I stepped out into the cool autumn afternoon.
Later, I was out for lunch - eating at a very fancy, very expensive restaurant, taking the fullest advantage of the government's sweet money - when a petite woman with red hair and wearing a sriped shirt and jacket sat down at the table opposite me.
"Jonathan Petrov?" she asked when she was barely settled in her seat.
After chewing and swallowing the fetuccini I'd just taken a forkful of, I answered with, "How the hell do you know my name?"
"Oh, I know more than that, Commander. I know you served in the Navy SEALs for a number of years, and you were quite high up when you retired - quite suddenly, really, and recently."
"What does any of that mean to you?" I asked. "Who are you, anyway?"
"Sarah Redden, Special Reporter with the Channel Eight News. I was wondering what you knew about a military operation called Project Aegis."
At this, I had to employ a lot of my experience in keeping on a completely unreadable "poker face" that would not betray my knowledge of the project.
"Aegis?" I said, trying to sound incredulous, "Last I knew, that was just supposed to be some theoretical thing - not ready for another twenty years or so."
"Well, Commander," she responded, "I've heard differently. I've heard that the government created a group of special ops teams - called 'Aegis Units' - that were intended for homeland defence. That they were equipped with new covert gear and other equipment." Here, there was a short pause, then, "That you were made leader of the first in this group, deployed in New York for undisclosed reasons."
"I have no clue what in the hell you are talking about," I said, still managing to conceal my true emotions.
"Well," she said, "Then, I guess I'll just have to see what I can uncover by myself. I'll be seeing you again, Commander."
I'll be seeing you again. That last statement seemed ominous. What if she screwed up one of our ops, popping in at the wrong time?
After eating my lunch and wasting some time and money, I headed back to the condo I was staying at with Christian. It was now approximately six o'clock. I shut off my mp3 player, which had been playing a song called "Hate Remains" by a new band - Dying Embers - cut off the ignition, and walked inside. Christian was already home.
When I stepped in the front door, he said, "Culborrow is dead."