Mr. Wells nodded, turning the picture around to look at it himself. “It does seem to be him doesn’t it?” He said sounding about as surprised as Markoff was regarding the matter. “What’s it been? Thirty years?”
The builder nodded.
“You live on the same street as the tower shooter don’t you?” The man asked, leaning back in his chair.
“Not that one.” Markoff said pointing down at the image.
“But you do have a connection to the event?”
The builder nodded once more. “Professor Grey lives across the street from me.”
“Connections.” Mr. Wells said. “That’s why you’re here.”
Markoff looked at the man long and hard. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He said at last.
“Not at all.” The man said. He extended his hand directing the builder back towards his chair.
Markoff made his way across the room and sat down. The chair gave out another shrill sound of protest against his weight.
“We’ve already had you on 24 hour surveillance since the incident with the stolen relic and the death of the student that you witnessed.” The man continued. “This incident with your truck and the tower shooter was just too much to ignore.”
“That’s not the Tower Shooter who lives next to me.” The builder responded pointing back towards the photograph. “I don’t see how I’m connected to that one at all. I don’t even know what the hell that is.”
Mr. Wells glanced down. “Neither does anyone else.” He muttered. A frown spread across his face. “This figure keeps popping up in our files. We don’t know who or what it might be. No one has ever seen it with their own eyes and all of the images that we have of it aren’t clear enough for us to tell us what exactly it may be doing or even what it is that we’re dealing with.”
“So what’s that got to do with me?” Markoff asked again, this time more defiantly. “Why are you watching me? Why am I here?”
“There are archeologists at work in your neighborhood.” The man said. “What do you know about the things that they’re digging up?”
“Nothing.” The builder answered. “They keep everything that they uncover in tents.”
“But you did find a skull, is that correct?”
The builder nodded.
Mr. Wells folded his hands, steepleing them before his face. “What would you say if I told you that the Shady Acres anomaly matched the dimensions of the face that we are seeing in these images?”
“I’d say that you’d probably know more about that than me.” Markoff said.
“What do you think?”
Markoff closed his eyes and pictured the figure in the image. He could still see its pale head sitting abnormally large on top of its sticklike body. The eyes were large and drawn into the skull. The jaw-line was small and diminutive. “Maybe.” He answered.
“Connections.” Mr. Wells repeated. “There are too many connections here.”
“I’m not connected to squat and you know it!” The builder barked getting up from his seat and pointing down at the man in a blind rage. “You’re just grasping at straws and you know it. You called me in here because the car that was used to bomb the mall once belonged to my wife before it was stolen. Maybe that’s weird. Maybe that’s something that you need to look at but now you’re just throwing a bunch of random crap that you’ve somehow found out about my life against the wall to see what sticks. It’s a waste of your time and a violation of my rights as a citizen. I’m not going to stand for it.”
“Calm down.” The man said. “We can’t kill you.”
“Then what can you do?” Markoff asked. He put his hands on his hips glaring at the man.
Mr. Wells gave the builder an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry.” He said glancing down at his paperwork. “This is completely unseemly I know. I’m used to operating in a more clandestine capacity. These interviews are unexplored territory.”
“You suck at them.” Markoff agreed.
“We can’t kill you.” The man said again. “The best that we can do is freeze your finances.”
“You can’t do that.” The builder argued.
“Yes, we can.” Mr. Wells smiled. “I don’t want to do that kind of thing. It’s messy and it tends to make people unhappier than they already are. We’re trying to prevent stuff like that rather than provoke it.”
“Then what do you want?” Markoff seethed. He was livid at the thought of one organization having so much power over his life. He couldn’t tear his eyes off the file. It was crammed so full of paperwork that it looked like a book. He wondered what information was contained within its multi-colored and uneven pages.
“I want you to sit down.” The man said motioning towards the chair and using a direct and official tone. “I want you to tell me why your name keeps coming up in the things that I look at regarding the mall bombing. I don’t care what you say, just make me believe it. I’m trying to help you.”
“What’s come up besides the skull and my wife’s car?” The builder asked. “What else do you have in that file there that links me to being unhappy and evil.”
“You’ve been letting foreigners worship strange Gods in your exotic looking shopping center.” Mr. Well replied.
“Some of them are worshiping Christian Gods.” Markoff shot back. “I just talked to one out in the lobby and he explained the whole thing to me.”
“Then explain this to me.” The man said slapping his hand against the desk. “Why is it that you busted in on one of our retired operatives during his re-identification assignment?”
“What?” The builder asked narrowing his eyes and cocking his head.
“Mr. Markoff, my name is Dan Wells.” The man replied, leaning forward. “Does that name mean anything to you?”
Markoff looked at him. “That’s my neighbor’s name.”
“Yes!” He said angrily. “It is your neighbor’s name! We’re all named Dan Wells.”
The builder was starting to think that this was part of some elaborate joke. The questions didn’t make any sense. “What the hell is going on here?” He asked
“You tell me!” The man said, slapping the table again. “All I know is that my organization had to stop killing people because of one botched raid in Jordan.”
“That’s not my fault.” Markoff said defensively.
“No, but you walked in on the sole surviving member of that mission just as he was beginning to come out of his shell.” Mr. Wells barked.
“He looks like a kid.”
“Which is precisely why we can’t have him working for us any longer.” The man added. “Do you see my face Mr. Markoff?”
The builder regarded the Dan Wells who was sitting before him now at the desk. He was handsome and distinguished. A light dusting of grey sat at the corners of his immaculately combed hair.
“We can’t afford to be doing what we do if people don’t see us as adults.” The man continued.
“What do you want with my neighbor?” Markoff asked slowly.
“Who?” The man asked. “Dan Wells or the tower shooter?”
Mr. Wells gave him a nod. “Fair enough.”
The builder stood there waiting. He could just make out a few of the words that were printed in the file. “Debt” was one of them. “Rollercoaster” was another.
“Mr. Markoff, we don’t want these things to happen.” The man began giving him a heavy shrug and a sigh. “We want people to work and shop and be happy with as little distraction as possible. It’s important for preserving the way things work. Without those basic things the system breaks down. Imagine how frightened people would be of the meteor if they didn’t have new things to buy.”
“And Dan Wells and the Tower Shooter?” The builder prodded.
“Connections.” The man said again. He glanced down at the photograph. “On one hand you’ve got an ex-agent of ours who’s main responsibility was to prevent stuff like this from happening. He was retired and is now locked away in a safe-room.”
“What do you care?” Markoff asked. “You said yourself that you guys can’t use him anymore because he looks like a kid.”
Mr. Wells nodded. “This is true.” He acknowledged. “We also can’t kill him because we aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing anymore.”
“Why would you want to?”
The man reached into his desk and pulled out another photograph, this one in full color. It appeared to be a satellite image of the builder’s cul-de-sac. Red blotches emanated out from various points on the top down view of their houses indicating where the greatest points of thermal energy were located. Markoff noticed that the sections surrounding the holes that the archeologist had dug were bright orange. A firey red one stood out at the center of Dan Wells house.
“He’s in there working on a weapon.” The man said. Looking at the image he shook his head sadly.
Markoff waited for him to continue.
“Let me put it this way.” Mr. Wells continued. “There’s a new thing under where you live. It’s too much to explain right now and honestly there’s no reason for you to know. Suffice it to say that we know what it is and we know that we don’t want it getting out.”
“And my family is living on it?” The builder asked.
“Yes.” The man said seriously. “It probably can’t hurt you if it’s not activated but there’s our agent.” He tapped the photograph in the area of Dan Wells house. “He’s got one of them and he’s turned it on.”
“One of what?” Markoff said.
“It’s terrible.” The man said as he grasped at the sides of his head with his hands. “It’s something that ugly and primordial but still shiny and new.”