The truck worked well, but it was so big, bulky, and noticeable that they couldn’t find any place to park. They paid to park in a parking garage near the Smithsonian.
Alyson got Jim out of the truck and stood close to him as Earl got out. “We need a phone,” he said.
“There must be some at the corner store.”
“I see a phone store,” said Jim.
“Good enough,” said Alyson.
They went out of the parking garage onto the street. It was a rough section of town, but they walked three abreast, keeping Jim in the middle. Jim guided them to the phone store, and they bought two pre-paid phones.
Jim called his wife, so Earl paid attention to that. There was no answer. Jim looked up at Earl. Earl shrugged. “They probably aren’t familiar with the number.”
“Or that other woman’s dead.”
“Or that, but it’s not your fault.”
“If you had let me go back in Missouri I would have tried to save her.”
“Collateral damage,” said Alyson, as they ducked into an alley. Alyson called Stephanie.
“Cerebus Industries, may I help you?”
“Steph, it’s Alyson.”
Alyson smiled, “Seventeen.”
“On my desk is a folder about a man named James Woods.”
“Okay.” She heard Steph get up and a door open. She heard the flip of paper. “I see it.”
“Find who I need to call to bring this man back.”
She flipped papers. “There’s a phone number here you’re supposed to call after you get to Washington.”
“Good, give it to me?”
“Thanks.” She memorized the number. “I’ll call you later.”
“Okay. See you!”
Alyson started to dial the number. It rang four times before someone answered. “Yes.”
“This is Cerebus Industries. We have the quarry.”
There was silence. “You do?”
A few things flashed through Alyson’s mind, and the most important was They didn’t expect us to succeed.
“Yes. Where do you want us to drop him off?”
“Bring him to the Mall in half an hour.”
“Where in the Mall?” But the other man hung up.
Alyson looked at Earl and frowned. “That was weird.”
Alyson told Earl what happened, and Earl’s brow furrowed. “Something doesn’t sound right.”
They looked at Jim, who had gone a little off on his own and was still trying to call his wife to no answer. “I don’t feel right about this,” said Alyson.
“Let’s go to the Mall and see what this might be all about.”
Earl tagged Jim. “C’mon. They want us to take you to the Mall.”
Jim looked up. “Oh. So I guess this is it.”
“I guess so.”
They started walking north to the Capitol, Jim with his hands in his pockets looking forlorn, and Alyson and Earl watching the street. They got to the Mall, where the Washington Monument stood in the distance. They stood on the other end.
Jim asked, “Think we should walk around?”
Earl sat down on a bench, trying to look leisurely but was very attentive to what was going on. “No, I think we should let them come to us.”
“I really want to thank you for everything you’ve done. I uh, hope you’re getting paid well for this?”
“Very well,” said Earl. He smirked. “Want to give us a tip?”
Jim smiled a bit. Alyson stood behind Jim, pacing a little. Jim said, “I see a man with a gun coming our way.”
“That’s our boy,” said Earl.
Alyson asked, shocked, “You can see if they have a gun?”
“He’s got a shoulder holster. I can see that.”
“Is he alone?”
“There’s another man with him. And another man parallel to them with a rifle--”
Earl sat up straight. He looked at Alyson, who said, “Told you so.”
“Who are they after? Us or Jim?”
“I don’t know, but do you want to wait here and find out?”
Earl jumped up and grabbed Jim by the arm and started to hustle him off the Mall. “Keep an eye on the guy with the rifle.”
“Isn’t it illegal to have a rifle on federal property?” Jim asked.
“Not if you’re the feds,” said Earl.
Alyson took up the rear again, casting a glance back. “They stopped.”
“I don’t care, something’s not right - “
The phone in Alyson’s pocket rang. She picked it up. “Where are you going?”
“Who’s the guy with the rifle?”
“What guy with the rifle?” Both men started looking all around.
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jim said quietly, “He stopped. He’s behind that group of trees.” Jim pointed to a bunch of trees parallel to the two men.
“Get out of--”
Two shots. People scrambled screaming. Alyson and Earl both bolted with Jim. Alyson shut the phone and tossed it in a fountain as she ran.
They ran down the street, back to the Smithsonian and ducked into the first museum that they could find. Alyson kept thinking about her question, Is it us or Jim?
Either way, they couldn’t give up Jim to possibly get shot.
“They’re not following us,” said Jim as the three of them took a rest inside the museum. A guard came over to them. “Are you all right?”
“There was a shooting at the Mall,” Earl said quietly, so as to not cause panic in the immediate area. The guard’s eyes went wide and he went back to his station. “C’mon, they’re going to lock this place down tight if we don’t get out of here.”
They left the museum and started briskly walking back to the parking garage.
“What’re we going to do?” asked Jim.
“I have no idea,” said Alyson, as they walked into the parking lot. “Earl, got any ideas?”
“Let’s head home. Better to try and get them into our place than to fight them somewhere we don’t know.”
“Do you want to involve the whole city of Boston in this?”
“Hopefully they’ll try and get a hold of us there.”
“I think we should bring him to the Tomb.”
Jim looked at them. “The Tomb?”
Earl said, “Don’t panic. It’s where we put things that we don’t know what to do with. I say we bring him to the Pentagon and drop him off there.”
“What if they don’t know anything about him?”
Jim said, “Um, excuse me? But what about Julie and my daughters?”
But Alyson was still on the first conversation, “And if they don’t know anything about him, we’d be giving him up to the wolves.”
“At least we won’t be ducking bullets.”
“How do you know that? We already got two Men in Black.”