Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fallout Chapter 4

Whit walked over to the table carrying two dishes of ice cream. It had been a busy morning, but finally it was slowing down a bit.

"Here you go- one Raspberry Ripple and one Rocky Road," he said, setting the dishes down in front of Matthew and Emily.

"Nice alliteration, Mr. Whittaker," said Emily, not looking up from furiously jotting in her notebook.


"Alliteration. You know, when the first letters of a word…well, match." She gave a flourish of her pencil.

"It sounds like you've been talking to Eugene."

"No, just something I learned in school yesterday."

"And she's been obsessed with it ever since," said Matthew. "She's been saying things like, lima beans and licorice look like llamas."

"No, silly, the things I've been saying make a lot more sense. Like this: When we waved at the window-washer, he whistled wildly."

Matthew rolled his eyes. "That makes a lot more sense."

"Well, they're hard to come up with on the spot. You try it."

"Maybe later. Right now, I want to eat some ice cream. Thanks, by the way, Mr. Whittaker."

"Yeah, thanks," said Emily. She set down her pencil and dug into the ice cream. "Wait, I ordered the Rocky Road."

"Oh, sorry!" said Whit.

"No problem." She switched dishes with Matthew. "I can tell it's been busy today."

Whit laughed. "I've been swamped. In the old days, kids used to sleep in on Saturday."

"Dunno about everyone else, but we have more important things to do, don't we, Matthew?"

"We're on a case."

"Really? What's it about?"


"Shh!" said Emily. "It's a secret."

"We can tell Mr. Whittaker, can't we?"

"Of course, but not so loud."

"Oh, sorry." Matthew lowered his voice to a whisper. "Um, yesterday when Emily and I rode our bikes back to her house, we were going past the house across the street, and we heard a grinding sound."

"Like really creepy. It was in the basement."

"That's odd," said Whit.

"Yeah. So we got to thinking, and we figured they might be criminals, like counterfeiters, like we had here last summer."

"You never know," said Whit. "But more than likely, it has a perfectly normal explanation. Try not to leap to too many conclusions."

"We're not. That's why we're gathering evidence. We don't want to do something before we know what's going on."

"I hope you aren't being too conspicuous. Your neighbors might not like that you're spying on them."

"Spying? We're not…Well, I guess we are. But we've got some good notes. Want to take a look at them? We're trying to find a pattern in their behavior. So far, we've found out that…they don't do too much. But last night, I saw their light on in the basement again and—"

"Hey," said the guy at the next table. "Can I get my root beer float?"

"Oh, yes, of course," said Whit. "Sorry about that. Coming right up." And Whit went back into the kitchen, thinking he wasn't surprised he'd forgotten someone in all the commotion.

Just then, the bell above the door rang. Whit turned to greet them—and saw that it was Connie.

"Hi, Whit," she said. "Ready for me to take over?"

"Take over?"

"Yeah, it's my shift."

"I haven't had time to check what time it was."

"That busy, huh?"

"It's settling down some. Just one more root beer float." He scooped some vanilla ice cream into a glass of root beer, and Connie took it out to the rather disgruntled customer.

Whit looked at his watch. It was already 12:45; it was time to meet Jason at Hal's Diner for lunch. He said a quick goodbye to Connie, Matthew and Emily, and walked out to his car.

At the diner, he waited for about fifteen minutes, then asked if someone matching Jason's description had come in. He didn't see him at any of the tables.

He got a table anyway and sat down. Looked at the menu, which all blurred together. Something nagged in his mind. What if something happened? he thought.

No, just because he's late doesn't mean anything. Maybe he forgot, or got caught up in something…
Whit took out his cell phone to see if there were any messages. There was one from Connie saying she was going to be a little late, but none from his son.

His call redirected to voicemail. Maybe Jason's phone isn't charged, thought Whit. That isn't like him though….

There's no reason to believe anything's wrong. Worrying won't help. But I can't shake this feeling…He is my son, and I've felt things before, when my kids were in trouble. Like Jerry…

He got up, left a tip for his waiter, and headed over to Jason's apartment.

He knocked, and waited in the hall for about ten minutes. Then he dug in his pocket for his keys, and opened the door with the key to Jason's apartment.

The door creaked open.

Inside, a bookshelf lay on its face, books scattered across the floor. The dining room chairs had tipped over, one of the chairs' legs broken. Whit stepped inside, and walked through a labyrinth of broken vases, torn books, crushed plants. It was like someone had gone through and ripped the place apart without rhyme or reason. Like during the outbursts of anger back during Novacom's tests.
In Jason's bed room, it was the same. The lamp beside the bed was smashed. And on the floor, there were several spots of dark red.


He knelt beside the blood, as if he could determine whose it was by looking closer. It was most likely his son's, though Whit couldn't help wishing it was the blood of whoever had attacked him…
Please let Jason be all right, he prayed, as he walked into the office. It was the same there; the only difference was, the laptop computer on the desk was in its normal place, as if a tornado had whipped around it, but left it untouched.

Whit pulled the desk chair upright, and sat down in it. He pulled out the middle left drawer, and felt for the secret compartment. That, too, was untouched, but the only things inside were some of Jason's old agency documents. No clue as to what the intruders had been looking for.

I learned to live with the risks of Jason being an agent, he thought. It wasn't easy, but I was familiar with that life—I practically introduced him to it—and he knew the risks. I had to let go. But after he quit this time, I …let my guard down. He was here, safe; I didn't think anything could happen. He wasn't himself, but I didn't think he'd be in physical danger again.


Now, he thought, I need to figure out what happened here. If it was a normal robbery, why didn't they take the computer? But if they wanted his secrets, it also doesn't make sense they had left the computer. Most likely, they either kidnapped him, or killed him and took him somewhere else…

No, not killed. I can't consider that possibility.

His phone buzzed into the deathly silence. He jumped. Across the screen, there was a text.
You will give me Zephyr, it said. The longer you wait, the more your son will suffer.

A photo accompanied the text. A man, half in shadow, sitting in a chair.

At first, Whit couldn't tell who he was. Then, he saw the clean lines of his face, the stubborn Whittaker chin.

Jason. His eye swollen, his face and chest covered in blood and numerous cuts. Someone held up his head by his hair; he looked barely conscious.

Whit's heart ached. He could barely stand to look at the picture, but couldn't look away, knowing this was the most recent image of his son that he had.

Who has done this? he wondered, anger taking hold of him. Who could possibly know about Zephyr, a computer program I've never told anyone about, outside of my DoD colleagues?

There is one possibility, he told himself. If so, I need to call someone in the Agency-

As if on cue, his phone buzzed again.

The text:

Oh, and if you tell anyone about this, I will kill your son.

In the meantime, Jason will be enjoying the hospitality of someone who wants nothing better than to hurt him in every way possible.

Have a nice day. 

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