Chapter 7 (cont'd)Mature

“In the common room.”

“What’s today, anyway?”

“Thursday.”

“Do you have a phone?” asked Jim.

“Sure, honey.”

“Can I make a long-distance call?”

“To where?”

“It’s a California number.”

Lily looked at Luke.  “It’s free long distance, mom.”

Lily said, “It’s in the common room, honey.”

Jim took his napkin from his lap and excused himself from the table.  Alyson got up to follow but Earl caught her eye and shook his head.  Alyson sat down again, glancing at the other room Jim went into.  

“Don’t worry, hon,” said Lily.  “He’s gotta work it out himself.”  Then Lily stood up, “Who’s ready for dessert?”

The two of them groaned, but Lily served the peach cobbler anyway.

 

Alyson found a book, Pride and Prejudice, and brought that upstairs with her to read, while Earl stayed downstairs with the TV watching something.  She got to the top of the stairs and saw that Jim’s door was open.  

She went over to it, saw that Jim was laying on his bed, looking up at the ceiling.  “You all right, Jim?”

“You know,” he said, “I have this ability, right?  Why didn’t I see it coming?”

“You’re the one who told us that it’s not fortune telling.”

He turned his head to look at Alyson.  “If your husband went into isolation for, what, two months, would you think he’d never come back?”

“Depends.  Did he not call me?”

“No, I didn’t call her.  They wouldn’t let me.  They wouldn’t let me text her, either.”

“Which was why the first thing you did when you got in the car was text her.”

He nodded, sat up.  “She said she didn’t think I’d ever come back.  That they were going to lock me away and she’d never see me again.”

“I’m sorry, but really?  That’s bullshit.”

He closed his eyes and rocked as if struck.  “That’s what my heart says.”

“Listen to it.  It’s right.  Someone who loves you would fight to see you.  Did she even fight for you?”

“No, she didn’t say she did.  She said she asked, they said no, and then she started talking to the neighbor who’s out on SSI for his back.”

“I’m sure his back hurt a lot when--” She stopped.

He winced.  “That’s what I told her.  She said that it helped him.”

“Oh you have got to be kidding me.”

“I know, I know.  I don’t believe her either.  But my kids.  What is she telling my kids?”

Alyson came into the room.  There was a large comfortable reading chair next to a dead fireplace.  She plopped herself into it, holding the book.  “Have you talked to them?”

“No.  I asked her this last time and she said they were busy.”

“You know that’s a crock.  She’s keeping you from them.”

Jim sighed.  “What did I do to her to deserve this?”

“What did you do?”

“What do you mean?”

“How did you get involved with the DOD?  How did you know what was going on?”

“I told you, I saw into other offices or other cubicles.  I didn’t hear them, but I could see what they were doing.”

“But how did the DOD get involved?”

“We had a Department of Defense client in our offices one day, and my manager was introducing me to him.  He said I should be nicknamed Radar because I could see who and what was coming.  Captain Kyle Blackstone, one of the client’s men, took me out to dinner one night.”

“Army, Navy?”

“He was in green, so I guess Army.”

“So what did Blackstone do?”

“He asked me what I saw.  I told him what I was seeing in the rest of the restaurant, details I could pick out.  Then I told him what was next door, and down the street, and where his car was parked, and what the valets were doing.”

“He must have been very interested at that point.”

“Oh, he was.  He brought a colonel who had Blackstone go to different parts of the building and do things.  Like bounce a ball, or lift a leaf in a planter, or pick up a pen and write something.  I told the colonel what he was doing, and the colonel would communicate to Blackstone what I told him.  I was right a hundred percent of the time.”

“Then what happened?”

“The colonel talked to a general, who asked if I would mind being sequestered for a week at the university while they did some tests.  The week turned into two months.”

“They never told you?”

“After a while, day blurred into night, and I had no idea what day it was.  They tried it when I was tired, keeping me up for 48 hours straight - or longer.  The more tired I was, the less I could do it, and the more foggy things were.  Like I could see people and the shapes of things, but not details.”

“But when we got you, you were at a house.”

“I was told that I would stay at that house, that my family was going to be taken care of.  I couldn’t contact them.  I couldn’t contact anyone in my old job.  As far as anyone was concerned, I had disappeared off the face of the Earth.”  He looked at Alyson, “Until you came to get me.”

“And we freed you,” said Alyson.  “But did we really?”

“If my country needs me, I’ll do what I can.  If the Department of Defense is who wanted me, then I should go to them, no?”

“But here’s the thing.  Not only does the DOD want you, but so do:” She ticked off, “the Saudis, the CIA, the Chinese, and the Jihadists.”

“I’m not going to work for the Saudis, the Chinese, or the Jihadists.”

“Even if they hold your family for ransom?”

He paused.  “My wife, at this point, she would deserve it.  But not my kids.”

“How old are your daughters?”

“Eight and ten.”

“You never mentioned their names.”

“Isabel and Rachel.”

“Beautiful names.”

“Julie was feeling particularly Biblical.”

Alyson said, “So you won’t work outside of your country.  That leaves the CIA and the DOD.  Which would you rather do?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know anything about either field, except what’s in the movies and what’s happened to me so far.”

She let her legs dangle off the lion’s claw chair, “You could come work for us.”

“Really?”

“Really.  We’d love to have you.”

“But - but what could I do?”

“What you have been doing.  Warning us about possible strikes.  Saying who’s coming and going at a distance.  You’re a perfect plant because you’re not even there.”

“But will my statements hold up in court.”

“We will, of course, have pictures to back up what you say.”  She leaned forward, warming up to the idea.  “Let’s say we have a case that a woman thinks her husband’s cheating on him.  We go near the places he frequents and you can pick him out, tell us where he is.  We get a camera in there, and shoot the pictures.”

“That’s it?”

Alyson smiled, “That’s it.”  The idea was sounding better and better as she thought about it.  He would be perfect as a mole, and it would save them a lot of trouble to find out what was behind closed doors.

“Don’t you have to ask Earl?”

“I’m the CEO.  He’s the president and the poster child for our company.”

“He’s coming upstairs,” said Jim, sitting up, his legs dangling off the bed.  

Earl stopped at the open door to Jim’s room.  “Hey,” he said, looking between Alyson and Jim.  “What’s up?”

“We were just talking about Jim joining our little crew.”

Earl raised an eyebrow, “Oh, really?”

“What do you think about that?”

“Good in theory, but we have to shake the tails.”

“We already shook one.”

“Yes, but he probably told the Jihadists where we were.”

“Earl, not all Muslims are Jihadists.”

Earl tilted his head at her and regarded her as if she had said something obvious.  “No, but I can point to a majority.”

Alyson put her hands up in surrender.  “We’re not going to get into that argument.”

“Fine.  But what about the rest of our tails?”

Alyson shrugged.  “I don’t know.  We cut a deal.”

“Cut a deal?” asked Jim.  “How?  Especially with those Chinese?”

“We’ve cut a deal with them before,” said Earl.

“We have?” asked Alyson.

“You don’t remember Han Chou?”

“I remember him.  Didn’t Wen turn him over to the police?”

“Bingo.”

“Wait,” asked Jim, “What?”

Alyson said, “We had an intelligence officer, Han Chou.  He was wanted by the police for hacking, and we protected him until he hacked into a Chinese mafia computer.”

“All their drug money.”

“He got their accounts and stole some money.”

“We knew the Mafia would be after him.”

“So we turned him over to them on the condition that they turn him over to the police, alive.”

Jim stared at them.  “Did they?”

“He had a few broken bones, but yes, he was alive when he went to prison.”

“But he worked for you.”

“He was an independent contractor,” said Earl.  “He probably hacked into our accounts and stole money from us, too.”

Alyson said, “I never believed that he would or could do that.”

“I did.  But then, I knew what he was all about, Aly.  You just thought he was cute.”

“I did not!”

Earl laughed at the look on Alyson’s face.  “I’m kidding.  Kidding!  Don’t throw that book at me!”

Jim smiled at the two.  Alyson pouted, but Earl chuckled, the first time that Jim saw him smile genuinely.

Then, they heard a bang downstairs.

Alyson got to her feet, and Earl whirled around, heading to the top of the stairs.  Alyson turned to Jim.

The End

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