Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nightlife



   As Sean walked down to the old harbor he was trying to figure out his next move. The city was obviously too small to have two Billy Clarksons. He would have to change his appearance enough so he could go unnoticed, but still be able to impersonate him if needed. Wearing glasses and hiding his hair under a hat was the best solution Sean could come up with for the short term. He thought he might be able to find a costume shop in the morning.

   The buzz from Sean’s phone broke his reverie. It was a text from Seattle where his ADR crew was monitoring activity from Billy’s laptop. They hadn’t able to read the data but could tell that the device was being used in a wifi hot spot in or around The Hotel Holt. According to Sean’s GPS it was just a few blocks away. He made his way past the pond and then up the hill to the Hotel. After he looked around at an intersection at the top, he was able to see the hotel looming under the night sky. Its architectural style was definitely of the ‘Depressed Scandinavian’ school. Sean weighed his options. Should he wait on the street in the hope of intercepting Billy as he left, or should he just barge in and make a scene? If Billy was also wearing his Icelandic sweater, people would think they were twins. Sean checked his phone: Billy was still nearby. Sean went in.

   The lobby was infinitely more inviting: tasteful decor, large paintings, and leather chairs. Except for a clerk at the counter, it was empty. A quick scan of the restaurant and the lounge revealed a few more people, but not Billy. Sean couldn’t search all the rooms, obviously, Billy might not even be in the hotel. Was he nearby, outside perhaps? Sean went out to the street and walked around to the hotel’s service entrance. He looked at the properties near the hotel but saw no one. He was just about to check the lobby again when a buzz from his phone signaled an incoming text from ADR in Seattle: Billy had just terminated his access.

   Sean headed back to his apartment via a different route. He walked over the bridge which bisected the pond, then went past a row of houses facing the pond before he jogged over to the street where his apartment was situated. Sean needed more information than his phone could deliver. When he turned to go into his apartment, Sean noticed that the Russian Embassy across the street was dark, as if they weren’t expecting company. He entered his apartment and opened his laptop. After logging in he, opened the ADR file on Billy. There was a bunch of new stuff—they were building a database of Billy’s movements. They had overlaid the Wi-Fi connection points Billy had used onto a map of the city. There were even thumbnails of the photos they found of Billy but they hadn’t yet linked. Sean saw that they were tracking him as well: his trip to Karamba had already been noted. He went through a door that opened on the apartment’s small balcony. From the balcony he had a clear view of the Russian Embassy. A solitary figure, most likely a man, walked past the Embassy before retracing his steps. Looking around for a second, the man vaulted over the wrought-iron fence surrounding the compound.  He then disappeared into the darkness in the shrubbery that circled the Embassy building.

  The shadowy figure looked a lot like Billy.

   Running out of his apartment, Sean dashed across the street to where he had seen the man enter the Embassy grounds.

   “Billy... Billy... It’s me… Sean...”, Sean said as loudly as he dared.

   No response. The wind had begun to pick up. Sean, shivering, realized that he had left his jacket behind.

   “Billy... Billy… I know you’re there. Come out and talk. You know that I’m here for you? Just like it used to be in school—I’m there when you need me.”

   Sean thought about jumping the fence but he knew that getting caught in Russian territory would not only jeopardize his mission, it could possibly cause an international incident.

   “Billy, listen to me. I want to talk to you,” said Sean, “Whatever is going on, I don’t care. If you aren’t ready to talk now, email me—use my old address, it’s still good.”

   No response came from the shrubbery. As the wind began to really howl, a light came on in a window in the embassy. Reluctantly, Sean turned and went back to his apartment.

   Once inside, he turned off all the lights and looked out across the street at the Embassy. After a few minutes the light in the Embassy window was switched off; after a few minutes more, Sean saw the man, who he thought might be Billy, jump back over the fence and take off running, going past the Embassy and then around the corner. Sean grabbed his jacket and left the apartment.

   When Sean reached the corner, he crouched down and slowly peered around a fence. He could see Billy, or whoever it was, walking a block ahead of him. The figure reached a spot where street led to a square. Sean let the man get just out of his sight and then began to run in his direction.  Breathless, Sean arrived at the spot where the street opened up to the big square on his left. A somber government building was on his right. Just ahead stood a church, strangely glowing under the night sky. There was no sign of the man. Looking back to his left, Sean saw a group of people huddled around a doorway on the far side of the square. Perhaps his quarry had taken refuge there?

   When Sean got closer to the queue he could see that it was the entrance to some kind of music venue. Throbbing music emerged from its open door. A doorman stared hard at Sean as he approached—perhaps he thought he was seeing double? Sean didn’t see that he had any other option than to pay the cover and go in.





Fiction

By Professor Batty