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Chapter 9

I downed yet another pain pill, cursing the medic for being so damned rough with his examination. The flash blindness lasted off and on for a few moments during the examination, but it seemed like everything was alright, as far as my implant went, the medic said. But my migraine said otherwise. I swallowed the pill, chasing it with a bottle of water, never taking my eyes off of the small restaurant that Mary and I were staking out. We had been there for a few hours now, simply waiting, watching the men and women that came to the small shop. It was bakery corner shop, the one where you went for a nice cup of caf and a bagel while you read the news vids for the day, or you wrote more of whatever creative inspiration hit you that day. Or, and I thought that this was the most pertinent one, you meet Ministers that hide phones in boxes that no one would suspect a phone to be in.

Mary had been sitting with a smug look on her face as soon as we got into the car. I was grumpy and hurting, and generally not satisfied with the way that part of the investigation went.  She was already in the Lightning waiting on me (we had carpooled over from Sal’s), hand folded in her lap, patiently waiting on me to settle in. Her smile aggravated me.

“Why do you look like you caught a ray of starlight, missy?” I said testily, looking over at her. She just kept smiling which made me even more agitated. I don’t like games when I am testy.

“Spit it out, or you’re going right back to your…” But even as the last words left my mouth, they just seemed to disappear in the air, because in her hands, holding up for me to see, was the cellphone that had gone missing. I was speechless, the moodiness and anger about that very item just disappeared.

“You don’t have to be a Seeing Eye to see that obviously something interesting was in the box. A saw you go down and knew you were trying to keep it out of their hands. Don’t quite know why, but I figured I’d trust your instincts.” She handed the phone over to me with a smile, the question for attention in her eyes as she did so. It was apparent that she was waiting on praise from me. I couldn’t help but smile at her as I turned my attentions to the phone.

“So do you want a medal or a chest to pin it on?” I said sarcastically, feeling she’d get the praise buried in there. She gasped at me in fake shock, a smirk hiding in her eyes. She turned away from me, not-so-subtly lifting her underbra to perk her chest up a little. Shaking my head, I tried to log onto the phone, seeing that it was password protected. I sighed once more, pulling my Pad out, and started fiddling with a few more programs.

“Do I have to turn around for you to use this one?” She asked again, sarcasm present in her statement, but she was far more interested in how I ran the program. I linked the two machines and set a few of my tracer programs onto it, looking inside the accessible files for an obvious password string left over, the other was to check for obvious safety cracks that were known to most in the profession. I’m not sure which hit first, and frankly, I didn’t care. It was a cheap toss away unit, those units are usually carried by people that they didn’t want the Network to get a hold of. The phone buzzed once, but nothing came up on the display once it was open.

“What the dark?” I said, staring at the blank phone. I lightly tapped it against my hand once or twice to see if something had jiggled itself loose, but to no avail. Mary slumped back into her seat, an exasperated sigh as she looked out the window.

“Great, it’s broken.” She claimed, staring at the police wrapping up the scene of the crime, the body being carried out through to the waiting Ambulance. I shook my head, headache coming back in full force. I pressed my fingers up against the bridge of my nose, willing the sudden pain away by sheer willpower. God damn these low lights sometimes. And then I had it. My eyes snapped open and suddenly I was looking around the car. Mary was surprised, pressing herself up against the door for a moment in my wild search. I was tossing empty cartons and drinks until I dove into the glove compartment. A small squeak escaped Mary’s lips as I dove into the compartment, and finally found what I was looking for, the car’s manual.

I flipped the pad over, and opened up its contents, looking for anything to do with lights. I found a few differing references, but it showed that you should turn the interior lights off with a switch under the steering wheel. Mary looked at me in confusion before the lights killed themselves. She had to slap a hand over her mouth and look out the window, slightly trembling from the sudden welcoming of darkness inside of the car. I heard her start to mutter a prayer as a squeeze my eyes shut until I felt the hum activate again. When I opened my eyes, I saw a message appear on the screen “1 new Text.” All of the options appeared too, just like normal in the green haze. I selected it, the message opening into the name of the restaurant we were now outside of, and a meeting time, 23rd Chime and a half.

So here we were, relaxing in the Lightning, waiting on whomever it was to make contact. It was a long shot, because maybe the contact had set up a response phrase, and wouldn’t show if the proper return wasn’t sent. Maybe they had a tracker on the phone and could see that they were there at the curb instead of inside. Maybe they were fingered as sketchy by a third party there, having been waiting for at least a chime and a half. There were a multitude of options, but it was the best shot they had of getting to whoever had sent the text.

For probably the fifth time, Mack found himself looking over at the woman next to him and appreciating what he was seen today. She was reading up on the care of her new Model 6 Geisher, absent mindedly holding her arm away from it in the new shoulder holster that Sal had thrown in with the purchase as they rushed out of the door of the range. It was new and uncomfortable to her, but she hadn’t complained yet. She had also thought on her feet twice today, showing a very quick mind that put things together. Mack could see that
And she wasn’t bad looking either.  Her blue tattoo peeked up over her collar again, the vines and the slight side of a petal getting to be a familiar sight. He’d only really known her for two rays, but she was growing on him quick. She was messing with her curly hair, still hanging in a loose ponytail over one shoulder, leading down into a nice sized….

“Mack, if you keep looking at my chest like that, this outfit is going to evaporate.” She said, without looking up from her manual. My face reddened a little bit, but I saw a smirk on her face develop slowly. I wheezed a small laugh as I leaned back into my seat, bringing up a window on my dashboard to zoom into the building. The window auto focused on the people in the shop, capturing a small snapshot of each of their faces again, for what seemed like the fiftieth time this chime. I leaned back, the onboard computer telling me that once again, no one new had shown up in the seconds I had been looking away.

“Well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to happen to me.” I said, still staring at the café. I froze for a minute, stiffening at the shock of what just came out of my mouth, but a soft chuckle from Mary made me loosen back up. She had noticed.
“Aw, Mack. Do you think that the good church girls don’t know about people looking at them? Come on. Be realistic. For a lot of us, it’s a job. A job we believe in heavily, but a job nonetheless. The robes do breathe really well though. It’s like an oversized dress.” She said, placing a finger on her chin comically as she looked up, thinking about it. Mack smiled, looking over at her again, but shaking his head.

“I’m still too old for you.” He said, suddenly voice weighted with weariness as he followed a couple coming out of the shop, laughing with a caf rush. “My lady hunting days have long past. Believe it or not, I was a real looker back in the day. Could get most women to talk to me with a look, the rest of them when I started talking.” I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see a big set of compassionate, blue eyes staring back at me.
“There are plenty of women who think you’re still a looker, Mack. I caught two or three already, and I’ve barely known you for a week.” She smiled at me, a small flush coming to her cheeks as she met my eyes for a moment. I felt there was a lot more to that statement than she was letting on; the space in the car was suddenly too hot, like someone had turned it into a blast furnace centered on her hand on my shoulder.

The buzzing of the phone receiving a new text message interrupted the eye contact and we both seemed to breathe again, taking in some air that cleared our heads. She both brought our hands to our laps, looking forward toward the restaurant. I cleared by throat a little, bringing up the video lens once more. Immediately, the camera buzzed with a notice, highlighting a young man sitting in one of the booths next to the window, who was putting down his phone onto the table. I switched the lights off again, quickly engaging my low lights and reading the text. It was basically telling me that he was there at the café.

“It’s go time. That’s him.” I said, already moving out of the car, low lights off and car lights back on. Mary was right behind me the whole way in. We walked in and I walked right over to the kid sitting at the booth, allowing Mary to sit down first. I pulled up a chair and sat facing him. He was a lanky kid, all thumbs and elbows, but a wispy haircut and strangely cut clothes indicated that he was following a particular crowd. His heavy brown eyes darted from Mary to me, and then back to Mary, then quickly to the exit.

“Stay put hands up on the table, and stay there.” I said as gruffly as I could. His eyes snapped back to me. I motioned toward his phone. He looked at it like it was a murder weapon, not willing to bring his hands even close to it. I nodded to Mary who reached over herself, tossing the object to me. I looked at it and smiled, showing him the blank screen.

“Seems like your phone is busted, kid. That’s funny, because I have a phone that’s busted too. No screen on it. Any chance you can tell me why you’re carry around a busted phone?” He was visibly sweating now, obviously a rookie at whatever game he was playing. I just needed to twist the screws a little and he’s squeal like a rat caught in the sewer traps. I made a show of taking the phone out of my pocket and placing it on the table in front of him, letting him soak up the fact that I had him cornered.

“This was found on a murder scene. The man had this hidden. Any chance you can tell me why a murdered man has a phone like this hidden?” He was shaking now, but to the kid’s credit, he didn’t say a word. He just kept staring at the desk in front of him, surprise evident on him face. Now that was something I wasn’t expecting. Obviously, this kid didn’t know that the Minister had passed. This might be interesting.

“Did you kill him?” I asked, taking the phone and placing it on my pocket before turning back to him. My voice was not accusing or incredulous, but even and conversational. But I froze directly after the last words left my mouth eyes locked onto the patch of skin revealed under his sleeve cuff. I looked back up at him, eyes wide with surprise and apprehension. He seemed confused as he looked back to me, but a quick telling look back down to his wrist revealed what this whole meeting was about.

The Minister and this kid were Edisonians.

Heathens, by the Church’s standards, people who gathered under the thought that Edison was underrated by the church. That we as a people were not given the gift of light, that he used his own hands, the hands of man, to wrangle the God’s power in to a form we could use, that God was willing to let us suffer in the darkness. People that believed Edison was the real god here, man ascended. The problem with that was that the Church wasn’t fond of competition. They were quickly outlawed, sent to prison if found out. I knew for a fact that Defenders were always on the lookout for Edisonians, ready to break up a meeting by force, if possible.

And this kid seemed to know that. All I knew was that one second he was staring at the tattoo of the Edisonian symbol, a circle with a spiral running horizontally through it, and the next, I was falling forward. The kid got it in his head that the best option was in fact, to run for it. I slammed my head off of the table as the chair’s leg collapsed from the dent the kid made in it kicking it. My body weight and gravity did the rest as he spun around and ran.
Mack and Mary Stakeout.
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November 20, 2012
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