The Insider – Part 3

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a serial by Joseph Benedict

Fang kept the Mustang parallel to the waterfront. She spotted the end of the boardwalk ahead and shushed Dave and Hawkins.

“Building’s up ahead,” she said, speeding up as they left most of the foot traffic behind them. “We know they’re using mics.”

The powerful distance microphones probably wouldn’t pick up everything that was said in the car over the sound of the motor, but a few words would slip into its feed clearly enough. Fang didn’t doubt that whatever the computer monitoring the feed was programmed to pick out and orient on, sources of certain key phonetic structures like ‘Hart’ and ‘security’ would be a top priority.

Probably already programmed to recognize Melbourne’s name, she decided.

a serial by Joseph Benedict

Part 1
Part 2

 


 

Fang kept the Mustang parallel to the waterfront. She spotted the end of the boardwalk ahead and shushed Dave and Hawkins.

“Building’s up ahead,” she said, speeding up as they left most of the foot traffic behind them. “We know they’re using mics.”

The powerful distance microphones probably wouldn’t pick up everything that was said in the car over the sound of the motor, but a few words would slip into its feed clearly enough. Fang didn’t doubt that whatever the computer monitoring the feed was programmed to pick out and orient on, sources of certain key phonetic structures like ‘Hart’ and ‘security’ would be a top priority.

Probably already programmed to recognize Melbourne’s name, she decided.

They drove past a few blocks of luxury apartments facing the ocean.  The rows of terraces were uniformly clean and mostly barren. Thick white curtains covered their windows. Fang took the opportunity to look them over as a light turned red ahead – perfect nests for intelligence teams.

Hart has to have at least a floor rented on two or more of them, she thought. We’ll head east and stay out of their line of sight when we leave.

Hart’s tower loomed just beyond the apartments. The large plaza of office buildings this close to the surf and boardwalk was an oddity. No one could say that the brushed concrete lot, healthy palm trees, and stylish modern architecture were unappealing, or even less than impressive, but the four offices were too obviously vanity investments by their respective owners. Each office looked out over either the ocean or the city nightlife. The lots were a short walk from the beach. Fang imagined working next to those windows was more of a torture than a luxury.

She drove the car around the plaza, toward the entrance to the leftmost underground parking lot. A platinum sign planted in a bed of aloe along the path read ‘Unlimited Design’.

“We’re here.” Fang followed the dark ramp down into the garage.

Soft lights along the ceiling brightened as she drove further inside. A guard station stood between the sole entrance and exit lanes. Fang could see the Mustang’s grille reflected in the security gate, a row of spotless, polished steel pillars jutting up from the concrete. Two men in pressed white shirts and caps seemed to be arguing inside the relatively spacious station, until the shorter man opened the door and stepped out smiling. He stepped up to Fang’s window.


The Devil is coming down, Fang read in American Sign Language. We might not get another chance.

 

 

“Welcome to Unlimited Designs,” he said as the car window slid down. “Can I help you?”

“I’ve got a few things to check on in the lab,” Hawkins said, rolling his own window down. “I’ll just be a minute.”

The guard stepped to the back window. Taking care to press his skin against the guard’s hand, Hawkins passed over his identification. Slapping the plastic card back and forth against his palm, the guard nodded and asked them to wait a moment.

Hawkins nodded to Fang while the man disappeared in the guard station.

“He doesn’t know you by name?” Fang asked, making the question sound teasing for the garage’s audio pickups.

Hawkins didn’t answer. The guard station door was opening. The guard came back and handed the card to Hawkins. Fang kept her eyes on the submachine gun slung at the man’s side.

“All right Mr. Hawkins,” he said. “Can I ask who these people are to you?”

“My friend and his niece,” Hawkins said with a smile. “Adopted.  I had some business to take care of and I thought they might like to see the lab while they wait for lunch.”

“The logs show that you left for lunch forty-five minutes ago, Mr. Hawkins.”

“Traffic.” Hawkins waved the comment away. “And awful service.  I know, I’m supposed to log all my time out and I’m close to running under fifty-four hours this week.  I’m staying late tonight, I promise.”

“Not my rules,” the guard commiserated. “We’re all working hard this month. Okay, go on through. First spots are right on the second floor.”

“Thanks.”

Fang shifted the car into drive as the metal cylinders sank into the floor.  The guard walked back to the station. He reached for the door’s handle, then jerked back as it swung outward. The other man stepped out, holding the strap of his submachine gun where his hand would be close to the grip. Fang glanced at Dave, who slid his hand into his waistband, where the pistol was hidden.

The guard who had just stepped out watched their car with wide eyes for a moment. He spoke to the other guard in low tones, then pointed to the Mustang. The man Hawkins had spoken to a moment before stepped in front of the car.

“Did something happen?” Hawkins asked the other guard as he came to the back window.

“No, no.” The guard smiled. He had short blond buzzed hair. The pale of his scalp and the near-white of his crew cut made his whitened teeth seem dull as stained bathroom porcelain.

“I just saw…”  The guard gestured back to the station with a half shrug. “There was a memo for you. You were supposed to have been given it when you returned from lunch uh…”

“But I’m late,” Hawkins provided, sounding tired. “Your associate already brought this to my attention. I’ve made my apologies—”

“Um, no.” The guard dragged his nails across the stubble covering his head.

Fang noticed he looked back to the nearby elevator as he paused.

“It’s nothing like that,” the guard continued. “This was a priority message from Mr. Hart.”

Fang felt as if her chest had become one solid mass. Her muscles clenched tightly and her heart crushed out a single, violent beat. She snapped her gaze up to the rearview to meet Hawkins’ eyes as the guard kept talking. Hawkins glanced meaningfully down.

“He wanted to talk to you about your project, to see where some additional funding might be best put to use. I believe he was waiting for you in his office while you were out, but he’s on his way down now, and he’s decided he’d like to speak to you on his way out. If that’s okay with you.”

Hawkins returned the blond man’s smile, flashing his right hand through a few elaborate gestures by the car’s console, just out of the guard’s vision.

“Of course. I’d be delighted to finally meet him.”

Fang watched Hawkins’ fingers.

The Devil is coming down, she read in American Sign Language. We might not get another chance.

Fang rapped lightly on the console and shot her own message back with quick fingers.

The doctor won’t get another chance if we ruin this now, she signed. There will be other opportunities.

She stopped her gestures as Hawkins began kinking his fingers in reply, looking up to keep an eye on the guard and pointedly ignoring Fang’s argument.

This man is the reason we are stuck in America. We should be where we are needed. Eliminating him is our highest priority. We can’t allow our feelings for the doctor to stop us.

Fang gritted her teeth, surprised that he would let his desire for revenge show so clearly.  If we weren’t letting our debt to Melbourne affect our jobs, she though, we wouldn’t be in Hart’s garage, ready to start a firefight and rescue mission against direct orders.  Her eyes narrowed at Hawkins.

She glanced at Dave to make sure he was ready. He nodded. His palm rested easily on the pistol’s hidden grip. He thrust his chin at the glove compartment, where the police-issue pistol had been dumped. Fang bit her lip and looked back at the two guards.

The one in front of their car looked away as she met his eyes. His fingers were tapping without rhythm on the barrel of the submachine gun. Fang watched him crook one finger inside the collar of his shirt, then followed his gaze back to the elevator.

The guard standing by Hawkins’ window lifted his radio to his ear. All three of them strained to listen. Then, the elevator doors opened and six tall figures in full black combat armor jogged out. Black helmets with gleaming visors covered their faces.

“Not unless you have to,” Fang said as Dave reached for the glove box. She reached for the shifter. “Of course,” she said, looking back at Hawkins. “He’s not here.”

 

To be continued.

 


by & filed under Arts & Music, Litra'ture & Poetry.