It was early the following week when the builder got the call. He’d been talking with Jans Petersmith about their plans for the mall when the cell phone on his hip rang. He excused himself backing into the hallway just outside the architects office to take it.
“Mr. Markoff.” The voice on the other end replied.
“Yeah.” The builder said. “That’s me.”
“I want to talk to you about your vehicle.”
Markoff shook his head angrily. He’d had no idea that Myrah was taking the vehicle in today for an oil change but still the tone of the call was familiar. There was a loose belt or a worn brake-pad or something. The shop never had good news. “Is this about my wife’s Saab?” He asked angrily. “Every time that she takes that ugly thing into you guys you find something that’s going to cost me a thousand dollars. I’ve told you before that if it ain’t affecting the engine or the safety then I don’t give a damn about it.”
There was a silence on the other end. He could hear the man rifling through papers on his desk. After a while he cleared his throat. “You reported a black SUV stolen in October correct?”
Markoff paused. “Yeah.” He said. He was unsure now of where this was going. “My wife had it taken from her out in Galveston.”
“Well we think that we’ve located that vehicle sir.” The man continued. “It’s was traced via the VIN number that your wife gave the islands police department on her stolen vehicle report.”
A clerk from the accounts payable department in his office peeked out of her cube. Seeing him standing in the hallway she took a stack of bills from off her desk and handed them to the builder. “Jesus.” Markoff quipped as he began sorting them. “That was a long time ago. I’d have figured that the thing would have been broken down into parts by now.”
The man on the other end of the line cleared his throat again. “In a way it is.” He said gravely. “Mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Markoff’s brow knitted in confusion. “What’s this about?” He asked hesitating between two stacks of paperwork.
“I don’t get it.” The builder said. “Shouldn’t you be talking with the insurance company? We settled with them last year.”
The man pretended not to hear him. “Didn’t you have a property of yours burn down under mysterious circumstances on New Years day of this year?”
“Yes.” The builder nodded. “The fire marshal did a full investigation. What’s that got to do with my wife’s SUV?”
“Probably nothing.” The man offered. “I’m sorry if I insinuated something to the contrary. We aren’t looking at that in an investigative manner as of yet.”
“Is this about insurance?” Markoff asked motioning for the clerk to leave. He watched her retreated back to her desk before continuing in a more hushed tone. “If that’s the case, then I’ve got a bill from you guys right now that I’d gladly not sign in favor of going with someone cheaper. I’m leveraged to the hilt and you guys have already raised my rates twice in the last twelve months.”
“Are you not living with someone who prays regularly with a group of foreigners?”
“Is this not the area where the fire at the Taj Mahal shopping center initially started?”
The builder shook his head. “Look, that place wasn’t even under my control when it burned down.”
“You allowed the extremist to continue praying there when you began making repairs to the structure did you not?”
“How do you know all of this?”
“Is Professor Albert Grey, the former tower shooter your neighbor?”
“What?” Markoff spat. “Are you telling me that, that’s going to affect my homeowner’s rates now?” He was beginning to get genuinely mad at the man. At first the questions had just been an annoyance but now they’d started to get personal in a way that was too much for the builder’s liking. What business did anyone have knowing so much about his dealings?
The man cleared his throat. “You making a call this Monday to Montcrief Holdings in Houston about placing a bid for renovations to the Interstate Mall correct?”
“Yes.” He answered. “I’m also looking at setting up satellite offices at some of the meteor sites where the infrastructure is already back in place. That’s more business for you guys if you don’t jack me around.”
In actuality, the builder had yet to make any official plans to start building in the foreign countries that had been affected by the shards from the asteroid raining down upon them. He’d had the idea earlier on in the week when he’d looked out his office window and seen the destroyed side of the mall as black as a punctuation mark on the horizon. If he could remake the gigantic shopping center into something elaborate and meaningful then why couldn’t he construct entire cities around similar themes in already decimated areas?
“I’m not trying to jack you around sir.” The man said evenly. “I’m just trying to understand your connection to all of this.”
Markoff turned to the window in the hallway and pointed out it towards the mall. “My connection to all of this is that I’m a builder.” He said. “I take raw materials and I try to make them into something that people will want to go to and experience. I make jungles for them to shop in and I win awards for constructing clothing stores that are shaped like tombs. I’m damned good at what I do and I provide you guys with a lot of money so I don’t really need any trouble from your sorry asses.”
The man cleared his throat. “Have you seen the images from the malls security camera yet?”
“My wife?” The builder asked.
In the days after the blast there had been several broadcast of Myrah and her moment. They showed her in black and white running back and forth through the fleeing shoppers as she treated people. There was the woman and the child, the kid behind the counter, the man with this missing arm who’d slowly bled to death as she worked her way towards getting to him.
“Not her.” The man said. “It’s interesting that she would be there yes, but that’s not what I meant”
“Well what they hell do you mean?” Markoff asked.
“What I was actually wondering about were the stills from the parking lot.”
There had been no images that Markoff was aware of from the parking lot. There were just those of people hurt and dying and Myrah as she grabbed sweaters from her bags and packed ice around their wounds. She’d initially claimed that she’d gone to aid the man with the severed arm first but the security camera showed differently. He’d slowly stood there bleeding.
No one really blamed her for overlooking him during the panic and no one seemed to care that she remembered the order of events differently that how they’d actually occurred. The point was that she was there.
“What’s this about?” The builder asked, his eyes narrowing.
“America’s enemies.” The man said.
Markoff stood there a moment listening to the silence on the other end of the receiver.
“I’m not an insurance representative.” The man continued. “I don’t care what you build so long as you aren’t circumventing the ideals that this country was founded upon. So far as I can tell you’ve been an upstanding citizen with a good record in this regard up until now.”
“Are you trying to say that I’m suspected of something?”
“We feel that you’re linked.” The man acknowleged.
“There are things we’d like to discuss with you.”
“I represent people in the government who would like for this kind of thing not to occur.”
“Terrorist related things.” The man said.
Markoff cocked his head. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m going to need you to come by and speak with me.” The man answered. Quickly, he rattled off his address and phone number. It was a location nearby, less than three miles away.
“Most likely, the interview process will be quick and painless.” He continued. “ We don’t actually believe that you have connections with people that want to destroy us. We’re merely making sure that you don’t.”
“When do you want to talk?” The builder asked. He’d been left completely dumbfounded by the sudden turn in the exchange.
“I’m expecting you now Mr. Markoff.” The man replied. “You can have my secretary page me at the front desk. My name is Mr. Wells.”
Myrah had found purpose in the disaster at the mall. She’d come into herself. She was recognized as a hero by the press and that recognition had fulfilled her. She was alight with possibility. She talked about writing a book or doing motivational speaking. She’d even dropped her wall of silence towards Wallace in order to pick his brain about the later. She was on fire.
When they were in bed together his wife no longer talked about the future. She didn’t carry literature with her to read about becoming a nurse. These things had fallen by the wayside during the first 24 hours that followed her moment at the mall. She quickly learned to dream larger and louder.
Jill failed her test. Myrah was content to relive her moment again and again. Markoff sought meaning in what he wanted to do to the mall. Maybe it would be important for him to put everything back together. Maybe he could make it better.