The call came from Big Mac the next morning. “Watson, how about you and Howe meeting me in Queen City. Come down tomorrow and be prepared to stay a week at least.”
“That’s a long time to stay if we don’t know what we will be doing,” I said.
“You can always leave, if you don’t like what you hear,” Mac said.
“I’ll talk to Sally and call you back,” I suggested.
“Watson, I’ll just hold for you,” He said.
“Did you hear?” I asked Howe.
“Yes, what have we got to lose?” she asked.
“You still can’t sleep through the night,” I said.
“I know, but work is what I need,” she demanded.
“Okay then,” I said then picked up the phone. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I agreed to listen.
“Mac, where and when do we meet?” I asked.
“Meet me at the University Club on Carolina Ave for lunch at noon,” he demanded. “Bring all your work equipment.”
“I turned all that shit in after the last job,” I said.
“Okay then, make me a list of what you need to operate independently,” He said.
“Fair enough,” I said ending the connection.
That night Sally and I had dinner in a town twenty miles away. We were trying hard not to socialize with any of our old friends. I didn’t mind so much, but Sally really was freaked out by the prospect of bumping into one of our old cop friends.
The next morning we turned off the water, then drained all the pipes. All that was before I poured a couple of ounces of antifreeze into the sinks and toilet. Only after all that was done did I kill the gas furnace. After that there was still the issue of making sure the electric space heater was disconnected. I tried to make the little house as safe as possible from an accident while we were gone.
When I entered the cold truck, Sally asked. “Marion where are you taking me for breakfast?”
“I though the diner at the next exit off the interstate. We ate there once a few months ago. Maybe I ate there alone, anyway the food is good and there were no cops in the place.”
“Don’t worry so much, we have to meet them sometime or other,” Sally said. “Though I would prefer it be later.”
“As would I,” I agreed. “There is absolutely no reason to rush it.”
The eggs and bacon were very good. The orange juice wasn’t as good, but I decided to eat all I could before I became homeless again. There was no doubt in my mind that my job was going to be keeping an eye on someone. That was always cold hungry work. I knew that from experience.
“We are going to be early, pull up directions to a park near the University Club on Carolina Avenue,” I demanded of Sally.
We sat in the downtown park lost in thought for almost an hour. We watched the families with bundled up kids playing on the Jungle Jim. Instead of being outside we sat in the truck. I didn’t feel I needed the atmosphere of a thirty degree day in the park.
“We should be going,” I said.
“You know what I’m going to have to do is not something they should ask of me,” she said. “It’s why we have been brought in only after whatever it is they want has been set up. We are going to be the redheaded step child again.”
“Do you want to walk away?” I asked.
“No, but maybe you should Watson. You know it’s going to be uncomfortable and dangerous?” she asked.
“Of course I know. If I didn’t go along and anything happened to you, how would I live with myself?” I asked.
Sally nodded, “You know I do understand and it makes me feel even more guilty.”
“Good,” I said with a smile.
The University Club was located in the lobby of a large private bank building. It was one of those internet banks with no real customers. They were all just numbers and electrons. Bit and Bites strung together were their customer rather than human beings.
The hostess answered the phone then asked if we were Howe and Watson. I admitted that we were.
“Follow me please,” she said.
Then she turned and walked away. Howe and I followed behind. She led us to a small private dining room. Big Mac sat at the head a large table with three other people gathered around drinking coffee on the cold morning.
Sally and Marion this is Captain Harris of the army, Jim Crane of the Queen City Police Department, and last but not least agent Laura Everett of the FBI, Mac said.
“Well I can’t speak for Howe, but I’m terrified being in the same room with all you powerful people. I should admit that I’m humbled by your presence,” I said.
“Knock it off Watson, I’m not impressed by the bullshit and neither are they. They have all read your files,” Mac said.
“So tell me something before we go on,” Sally said. “Which agency is in charge of this investigation. Not much sense kissing up to the others.”
“Sally has a point no reason to kiss all that ass, when just one will do,” I agreed.
“I like a man who cuts right to it. Hell I love a woman who does that as well. Frankly my dear I’m not really sure. I was just ordered to liaison with the other agencies. Last night I was told there were some specialist coming on board. They explained that I was expected to support them as well,” the captain explained.
“We all were told that. I think Mac here is in charge of us all,” Agent Laura said.
“So whose badge do we carry?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” Mac said.
“So we are not going to be earning any pension points,” I said.
“Fuck, that means no dental plan,” Sally agreed.
“Look at the upside, you can tell me to fuck off and have nothing to lose,” Mac said.
“There is always something to lose with your types,” Sally said looking at them all. “So what is the job?”
“There is a massage parlor where we think a terrorist organization is recruiting members of the criminal element to commit terror crimes,” The army captain said.
“Sherlock what do you think?” I asked Howe.
“With the new president, they are having more trouble getting trained radical recruits into the country. They can’t even get recruits to Syria to train. So someone, probably Iran, has come up with enough money to hire thugs and junkies to kill people and blow up shit,” Howe said.