A.I.
Chapter 40

Copyright© 2015 by Colin Barrett

It was impossible to conceal Richard's middle-of-the-night appearance from Lee even if I'd wanted to. The used coffee pot and mugs, her morning recollection of coming awake in the night and finding me gone from our bed, my extremely late morning awakening after I finally came back, all gave her warnings that something had gone on while she slept.

Anyhow, I wasn't about to start hiding things from her now. We'd been straight with each other for all of our relationship, even back in D.C.; for both of us, keeping secrets wasn't part of marriage.

I did, however, give her a pretty expurgated version, making Richard seem like an alarmist and Estrada a comparatively small-time opportunist. As a younger woman she'd been fairly adventurous—adventurous enough to join me in our self-imposed exile for all those years, for one thing—but motherhood had turned her, unsurprisingly, a good deal more conservative. There was no point to worrying her needlessly.

Even in the cold light of day I was still fairly certain it would be needless. Bolstered by Spook's assessment of probabilities, I remained pretty confident that I'd seen the last of Estrada and his minions. If Estrada had the Carstairs file he'd know that everything pointed against me being Jack Heyward, from fingerprints to photos to DNA to eyewitness IDs, right across the board. They'd been persuasive enough that the Feds hadn't even tried to take it into court, hadn't they?

Still, I was aware that Estrada wasn't a court, and had, according to Richard, potential billions of dollars as an incentive. It seemed prudent to take precautions.

The first thing I did was put Spook on full alert about monitoring anything to do with Estrada, especially his movements. With unfettered access across the electronic spectrum Spook could do that a lot more thoroughly than any government agency, our own or abroad; and he could scan e-mail and phone traffic for anything indicative as well.

In fact, my warning to Spook proved unnecessary; he'd already set tracking in motion. It made me feel a lot more comfortable knowing he was on top of things.

Mindful of Richard's comments about Estrada's tendency toward pre-strike surveillance, I also paid some visits to on-line electronics shops specializing in state-of-the-art. At fairly outrageous cost I equipped the house with a more complete external video system that Spook could monitor to spot any unusual activity in the neighborhood. I also wanted a passive audio system that could detect any long-range mikes focused on the house, but Spook pointed out there was no such thing; unlike active sonar, he told me, audio receivers don't generate any signal that can be tracked.

And Spook and I spent some long hours doing contingency planning.

I'd told Richard that if Estrada came for me I'd be ready. At the time I'd said it, it had been a rather empty boast; previously the thought had never entered my head that anybody other than Richard's Feds could pose a serious risk, and I was sure I had them neutralized.

To the rest of the world Jack Heyward was a minor footnote in long-distant history, once wanted as a possible terrorist for activities unspecified publicly but subsequently cleared, again publicly, by the authorities who had sought him. And any connection between him and Jack Carstairs had likewise been publicly disavowed by those same authorities.

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