A.I.
Chapter 44

It was a phone call that evidently triggered it. A very short phone call, just one word.

"Escite."

Italian: "Exit." Spook traced it, but it was so brief that all he could tell me was that it was local and nearby, emanating from perhaps a ten- or twelve-block radius. The voice, he said, was Estrada's; for whatever reasons he was telling them to get out of where they were.

They weren't in a hurry; they took the time to pack up their equipment before they got into their car. I hated just letting them go. But this elaborate effort was to trap Estrada, not his foot soldiers, and besides they'd done nothing criminal here; the Feds had absolutely nothing on any of them. So I was stuck. No Estrada within view equaled no bust, and all I could do was watch them, through Spook's external video eyes, load up their sedan and pull away. Going to where, I had no idea.

I did, however, have a pretty good idea why. There was only one possible reason. I got on the phone.

"Richard, Estrada will not be where I told you," I said as soon as he picked up. "You have a mole."

It was the only explanation that made any sense. I was sure Estrada had originally planned to move on me out of his rental—why else rent it?—but somebody'd tipped him that it was a trap in the making. So he brazenly left Joe Smith and the others in place to check up on me while carefully staying clear himself, knowing the trap had to be for him.

There was a very long silence from Richard. "Shit," he said softly. "Jack, is he still in the area, do you know?" Did Spook know, he meant.

"Uncertain," I told him succinctly; Spook didn't, nor did I, but the local call told its own story. "I expect he is, though; I doubt his objective has changed." Me, Richard would know but any listeners wouldn't.

"I'm going there," he said in a decisive tone. I was vaguely pleased he'd said "going" instead of "coming"; he was keeping cover for me. "Me and a very small team; no moles, all trustworthy."

"Very well," I said. "I'll call again if and when I have word." I clicked off.

And now I had no sense at all what I should do. Stroll around Charleston and make myself a target? I still had more faith in Spook's and my plan if he should take me, but I'd promised Lee I wouldn't open myself up like that. Sit tight and wait for Estrada to re-surface? But then the ball would be in his court, he'd know where I was but I wouldn't about either him or his people. Go start a hunt of my own in my car? It would be a needle in a haystack, and I was sure he'd be under cover.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Heterosexual / Science Fiction / Slow /