Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 9

Previous Chapters

Note: Chapter 8 and 9 will get jammed together as one chapter in the next draft. But you get to see the first draft here. Enjoy!

Chapter 9

Oh of course Wallace objected, but look, I had him. He had forgotten or never learned the cop's first rule, which is to control the situation. He'd been off balance since I'd first confronted him, and was at the point now where he was too befuddled to resist when I pushed him around.

I had Wallace give me his keys and drove his BMW. We stopped by my apartment, where Wallace put his pants back on while I filled my messenger bag cum handbag with goodies and stashed a couple of them under the car seat while Wallace was still zipping his pants in my bathroom. Then I put my own pants back on, along with the ankle holster. I transferred the Kahr from my fanny pack to the ankle holster, hustled Wallace out the door, and we were on our way to Oakland to see his boss.

It was a small warehouse in one of the shabbier neighborhoods of Oakland, an old warehouse district that had declined as newer warehouses had been built to the north. There was a couple of guys hanging around the loading dock, but nobody else around that I could see.

Wallace took me in through a side door, sliding his keycard through the slot. Then he reached for an office doorknob.

"Let me," I said, pushing his hand aside and opening the door.

I walked through the door, pulling Wallace behind me, then let go of Wallace's hand as the bald guy behind the battered desk said into his phone, "I have to go, I'll call you back" and hung up.

It was the kind of seedy office you'd see in a bad gangster movie. The Feds had gone beyond authentic into outright overkill with this place. I wondered what went through this warehouse. Probably guns. Guns to people that weren't nice people, if the CIA's past record was any guide. But I was here on business of another sort.

"We need to talk," I said. There was a wooden chair in front of the desk. I pushed it back, stepped up on it, then sat on the back of the chair with my feet on its seat so that I was looking down at the man. "Are you Vernon Hughes today?"

"I don't believe we've met?" he said, eyebrows raising.

"Kathy Varis. You sent your boyscout Wallace to follow me around. He did a piss-poor job of it, as you can see."

"I see," he said, turning his gaze upon poor Wallace, who seemed to shrink.

"Way I figure it is, we can help each other," I said. "You have things you want done, things that your boy scout here," and I nodded towards Wallace, "can't do because he's too green and too dumb. And me, I want a couple of things too, things that you can get for me but I can't get for myself, not easily anyhow."

"I see. And exactly what do you believe you can do for me?"

I shrugged. "Whatever you want. Surveillance that nobody would ever associate with you. Infiltration. Wiretapping. Bugging. A little B&E. I'm not prime bodyguard material but I'm handy enough with a gun if you have muscle to take care of the beef part of things. And of course information. You won't believe the things I know about pretty much anybody who's anybody around here. Ask me some questions, and I can likely find you the answers if I don't know them already."

"And you want? ..."

I hopped down off the chair and sat on it, leaning my arms on the desk. "I want the FBI and SEC files on my father. All of them, including the parts that are, quote, pertaining to an open case, unquote. And my mother's files too."

"I see. And you believe I can get these for you because... ?"

"Well, Vern, because you got poor Wallace here an FBI ID. Which means you at least have a conduit into the FBI."

Vernon leaned back and smiled. I didn't like that smile. It was like the smile of a shark looking at a minnow. I took my elbows off the table and dropped my right hand near my right pants cuff, and my left hand into my messenger bag. "And would you like to see your own FBI file?" said the shark to the minnow.

"Not really," I said, not liking the direction this was going.

"Really? Because it's quite interesting." Vern pulled a folder out of his desk drawer. I pulled my left hand out of my messenger bag, a goodie clutched in it, and stuck said goodie on the underside of the lip of the desk as my hand came back up.

Vernon opened the folder. "This is quite a story," Vernon said. "You should read it. Talented gymnast, then parents cruelly ripped from you, raped, abused, track star, top of your high school class, cum laude from Stanford with a major in Political Science and a minor in Computer Science? Frankly, if this wasn't an FBI file I'd think it was bad fiction. Survivors like you aren't supposed to exist."

I shrugged. "I was never good at that whole victim thing. What do you say. I do a favor for you, you do a favor for me?"

"Odd thing about your post-college career, though," Vernon said. "You worked at a couple of places, yet never managed to last more than a few months. Why is that?"

"I don't play well with others," I said.

"Yet somehow managed to come out of it with enough money to buy a run-down apartment complex."

"I'm frugal."

"Then there is the strange spate of dead bodies that seem to be left in your wake."

I shrugged. "Trouble seems to follow me."

"Yet it never seems to stick to you. I wonder why?"

"Luck," I said. "And that stupid four letter word, C-U-T-E. I got it, I might as well use it." I leaned back and smiled my cutest head-tilted smile. "What can I say? People just love my natural charm. They want to pat me on the head and stuff. Isn't that just the cutest thing?"

"Let me be blunt, Ms. Varis. You are dangerous, and the fact that you managed to bludgeon poor Wallace into bringing you to my doorstep makes that even clearer. I must admit that I underestimated you. I will give you a piece of information. I believe that certain people here in the Valley are providing critical support to, let us say, various external enemies of the nation. I assigned Wallace to follow you because one of our assets here was targetted by parties unknown and it was unclear how involved you were in that. How do you feel about doing work for your country?"

I shrugged. "Doesn't do me either way. If I'm catching your drift right, you think someone is, say, fixing Osama bin Laden up with some nifty communications gear so he can direct things from his cave without the good guys catching him. I'm old fashioned, so I want bastards like that caught, every bit of skin flayed off their body until they die of pain and shock, then hung for the crows for the next thirty days. But that's got nothing to do with country and everything to do with not liking murdering bastards, regardless who they work for."

"So if I ask you for help regarding certain people who are removing work from our ventures and moving those assets overseas..."

I shrugged. "Get me a copy of the files I want, and I'm your girl. A favor for a favor."

"I see," Vernon said. "A pity. I had so hoped that you would be willing to come to work for me full time. A young woman of your talents could go far in this business."

I shrugged. "I don't play well with others. Besides, I like being able to look in the mirror in the morning without being ashamed of what I see."

"Ah, moral scruples. Do you see yourself as being an honorable woman, Ms. Varis?"

"I don't know what that even means anymore," I said.

"I will get your files," Vernon said. "Then you will do a favor for me. That is what it means."

"I guess so, then," I said.

"Our business here is done, then," Vernon said. "I will get your files, then give you a call." He looked at Wallace. "Wallace, please show the young woman out."

"Been a pleasure," I said, jumping up and reaching out to shake Vernon's hand. Vernon looked as if he were staring at a cobra, then took my hand in his own hand, which was surprisingly moist and limp. My left hand came down with a clunk on the desk just as my right foot pushed another of my toys up onto the underside of Vernon's desk.

"See ya," I said, waving goodbye as I followed Wallace out of the office.

Once the office door was closed, I asked Wallace where the lady's room was, and he showed me. One nice thing about a lady's room -- a guy isn't going to follow you into it. Not a nice guy like Wallace, anyhow. So I had a few minutes to work. There was a suspended ceiling. I climbed up on top of the toilet, and tried to reach it. No dice. I closed the door of the toilet and chinned myself on it, then crawled over it. With all the pushing, pulling, and chinning I'd done today, I was going to sleep well tonight, and be a bit sore in the morning besides, but so it goes. I'd had the kind of day where I could just curl in a ball and pass out from exhaustion, but it wasn't the first time I've felt that way, and like Coach Davis was fond of saying, when the going gets tough, yada yada yada. So I shoved the rather bulky transceiver package on top of the suspended ceiling, where it was hidden from view, and then plopped back down to the floor and went about my business.

I could listen for three days. After three days, the batteries would be run down. Since there was no way in hell I was going to be able to retrieve it all, this was close to a thousand dollars worth of equipment that I was blowing here, with dubious payback. But information was power... and I had the feeling that these guys weren't telling me some things that I really, really wanted to know.

Posted by: BadTux / 4/23/2006 09:36:00 AM  


The plot thickens...
# posted by SB Gypsy : 24/4/06 1:36 PM  

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