One Day II

Walker started the engine. As they pulled away, heading in the direction of the address Jude had given them, Chrissy said, “I’m assuming I shouldn’t ask how you know that guy.”

“And you would be correct in that assumption.”

“Does that guy have a power?”

“What do you think? I want to hear your logic.”

“Well, he seemed like an information broker of some kind, so he probably had some sort of mentalist power. Memory or intuition based probably,” she said immediately.

“Good. You’re wrong, not even close, but a good start down the long and arduous road of critical thinking.” She gave him a weary look. “A good lesson, expect nothing, you will never be disappointed. Jude is actually a fairly powerful bruiser.”

“You’re kidding.” He shook his head. “Why is he not punching things then?”

“He is intelligent. He believes in the whole ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ kind of stuff. That little quote doesn’t quite work, but you get what I’m saying. All his power tells you about him is what kind of trigger he had. He’s still human, just like you, just like me. People can do all sorts of stuff if they put their mind to it.”

“He could be more useful fighting or something though.”

“Good, good, get all of those misconceptions out now. Your standard criminal is a criminal for the money. For most it’s more profitable to escape than get bogged down in a brawl with us. You can’t spend money when you’re dead, after all. The fights you hear about are anomalies, more often than not. Psychopaths, murderers, variations thereof, those are the ones you hear about leveling a city block in a fight. But that’s what’s interesting, and that’s what the news always covers,” he explained.

She sighed. “People, there’s our inherent problem. For every techie that tried to raise buildings, there’s a bruiser to knock them down. Mentalist warlord with an army at his beck and call? There’s a trickster or null there to stop him.”

Well that was philosophical. They continued on in silence. Chrissy sent what they had learned to HQ The building they headed towards was near the docks, an iffy place in terms of how strenuously the law was enforced. To their right they passed a burned and bombed out husk of an old building.

Chrissy asked, “Why do aliens keep attacking us? It seems more effort than it’s worth for them to me.”

“Important distinction to make here, a xeno is a hostile alien.” Walker responded.

“Well aren’t you Mr. Exposition today?”

“Hey, you’re the one who keeps asking questions. I may as well impart as much information to the younger generations while I can before I’m done. Though I’m taking a job with the Freeman Company as a trainer/consultant, so I guess I’ll be continuing that tradition,” he said with some eagerness. The change of pace and better pay for less physically strenuous work appealed to him. I’m getting too old for this… If this were a movie or something, I just sealed my death warrant didn’t I?

“Going mercenary then.” Chrissy stated.

“Pays well, especially for soon to be former MHU personnel. Gotta pay rent somehow.”

“Blegh, I know. I’m probably going to have to take out loans for the Academy. After that I’d like a job in the New York Unit, but we’ll see who hires me in the first place.”

Am I being too hard on her? It’s not as though I can just grab some random guy off the street and expect him to know all this too. “I wouldn’t sell yourself short. There’s a good balance to be struck between job happiness and job availability.”

They were interrupted by Walker slamming on the brakes as someone merged ahead of him without warning. “Jackass,” he muttered under his breath. “Anyways, you asked a question?”

“Yeah…wait. What was it? Do you remember?”

“You asked a question, I know that much. It was…goddamn, what was it? Something about the xeno?” Walker was struggling to recall, and by her expression, so was Chrissy.

“Oh, yeah! Like, something about why the alien or xeno thing is here. No, that wasn’t what I asked, but whatever. New thing. My thinking is he’s a scout of some kind. Hear me out, hear me out,” she added hastily before Walker could respond. “There’s probably only one, maybe a couple more. Otherwise they would have been found out already.” OK, I came to the same conclusion. “Alright, so what are a couple things going to do where an army failed? Something subtle. They’re obviously not peaceful, otherwise they wouldn’t have killed that guy, and they wouldn’t be sneaking around. You with me so far? I know, it’s, like, a lot to take in. Stay with me though.”

“Yes, please, continue to illuminate my feeble, inexperienced mind.”

“That’s more like it. So, what are the few aliens, sorry, xenos, going to do? Either sabotage something important, or collect information for their many friends up there for later,” she said, pointing upwards. She was getting more animate now, speaking faster. “Now you might know more about this than me, but I didn’t recognize that kind of alien Jude described, did you?”

“No, not that I can recall.”

“So yeah! That probably means scouts. They figure out what the defenses are, the lay of the land, and whatnot of this new species they’ve discovered. Then, BOOM, another invasion. They probably think we’re still weak after the Bears. Of course, Jude could have lied, but that seems like a bad policy for an information broker.”

When she puts her mind to it, she’s actually pretty good at this. Walker had come to some of the same conclusions himself. Xenos were typically hard to predict in the short term, but long term, their goals were the same as every other species, including humans: strengthen the race. To that end, species were constantly jostling for resources. The only truly non-hostile aliens humans encountered had developed post-scarcity utopias, and had little interest in the affairs of lesser beings like humans or Bears. Earth was capable for sustaining humanity on its own thanks to techie gear for the next two centuries, and the cost of large scale space flight was still prohibitively expensive.

“Couple things I want to point out. One: correct. Jude doesn’t lie when it’s his business’s reputation at stake. We, the MHU, are actually one of his biggest customers. Two: how do you explain the writing that was found? That’s what gave them away in the first place.”

“OK, um, let me think.” She had a look of concentration, staring unseeing at the closed glove box, her hands tapping on her lap. “So, they’re aliens right?”

He broke in, “No, we’ve been dealing with cute fuzzy kittens this whole time. Didn’t you get one?”

“Yeah, right here.” He coughed and looked at her. There was a cute fuzzy kitten sleeping peacefully on her lap. Stop manipulating my sight. I’m driving over here. The kitten vanished and Chrissy smirked. “So the writings might be some cultural thing, like intimidation or something. You and I might think that’s weird, but if they’re new to the whole ‘human’ thing, they might revert to their own mannerisms or whatever.”

“Alright, second question: How did they get here in the first place. We have three cruisers around Earth now. They are there to prevent this exact occurrence.”

Her response was immediate this time. “Well, if we’re still going with the ‘small number’ theory, they probably had a small ship made for this kind of mission. That could possibly get through. Of course, we could be completely wrong, and it’s a super intelligent feral or something.”

“Good. Now you are learning. Everything could be right. I’d like to point out another tidbit: they could have a super with them.”

“What, like a mercenary?”

“No, I’m pretty sure any sufficiently intelligent life form can trigger, access magic, and so on. Don’t look so shocked. You think humans are unique and special? We are not. We are not the smartest, strongest, quickest, most vicious, or anything else. The only thing we have going for us is endurance. A human can endure far more psychological or physical stress than any other species we’ve encountered so far.”

“So this just got a lot harder than I was anticipating.”

“Exactly. Now here we are.”

They were next to yet another bombed out building. However, there were no repair efforts made here, no attempts to fix anything. The asphalt of the roads was grey and cracked, with tar and newer patches haphazardly dotting its surface. Out front were six young men, more around their late teens than anything else, spray painting a large flaccid penis and profanity on the walls. One motioned to a portion of the wall and they all laughed. Walker noted at least two appeared to be armed.

“Alright,” Walker said. “You know how to handle that pistol of yours?”

“Of course.”

“Just checking. Let’s get rid of these chucklefucks and search that building for anything that might help.”

The boys (I think I’m old enough to get away with calling them hooligans. Hooligans I say!) noticed them and started to cat call Chrissy. Walker had yet to fully exit, pulling the shotgun from its holster and ammo from a box below it. He advanced with Chrissy, the hooligans (I’m already starting to like that word) looking far more apprehensive than they did moments ago. Unfortunately, their expressions hardened and the two of them reached for their weapons, probably pistols.

“I wouldn’t do that guys,” said Chrissy “He’s from down below.” Had he been willing to take his attention off the armed hooligans in front of him, he would have questioned Chrissy’s sanity. Australians are badass, sure, but not enough to deflect bullets. The second I open my mouth they’ll know that’s a lie.

He plunged ahead anyway. “Yes. Now, if you would kindly move along, I’m sure we would all be better for it.” Surprisingly, they were all frozen, presumably in terror. That’s right, you don’t mess with a guy with a shotgun and a MHU uniform.  One bolted, and the rest followed suit, screaming about demons. Chrissy did something didn’t she?

When they had receded out of sight, he looked questioningly at Chrissy. She smiled wide. “They saw you as a demon. A demon with a shotgun. Basically you, but with flames licking at your feet, fangs, horns, all the works. My whole thing is vision, after all. Though if there were any more people, or had they stayed any longer, that wouldn’t have worked.”

“Works for me. Let’s head inside.”

The building was unlocked, nothing to keep people, or aliens out. It looked just as bad on the inside as it did on the outside, right down to the crude graffiti on the walls. Dimly lit, Walker could barely make out the bullet holes and scorch marks from the battle a year ago. Walker took point, shotgun at the ready, Chrissy behind him, pistol drawn and pointed at the ground. The next room made Chrissy stop. The roof was collapsed, the resulting debris scattered about the room. There was still graffiti, a skull and crossbones on the wall to their right, indecipherable writing to their left, multiple doorways into and out of the room. All of the walls were covered in the same script written at the murder site.

This is bad, thought Walker, moving towards the wall to his left as several shots rang out, the last grazing his leg. His leg buckled, but he aimed and fired several shots in the direction the other bullets came from, which tore up the wall around the doorframe. The missus is never going to let me live down yet another injury. He heard chattering and clicking from above him, as if from a giant insect. More accurately, two giant insects. Walker turned as two xenos jumped down from the ruined roof, knives in hand. One for Chrissy, one for Walker.

He saw Chrissy temporarily split into two different people as the xeno facing her rushed forward. Chrissy dodged to the right, the image of her going in the other direction before vanishing. The xeno recovered enough to bring its knife to cut her arm. At this point the second xeno distracted Walker by clicking and swinging knives at him with three of its four limbs.

Now that he could see it clearly, up close and personal, he could verify what Jude’s sources had said. It was mottled grey, a kind of leathery carapace around its body, with dark grey, almost black at the joints. It came up to Walker’s chin, and he was around 6’1”. The four arms ended in a bizarre combination of a hand and a foot, not dissimilar from a monkey’s. The head was a bulb where the shoulders of the final set of limbs were, pincers composed of its mouth.

Reacting quickly, he bashed its face with the butt of the shotgun before it could bring its knives to bear. I know firearms aren’t meant to be used like that, but my face isn’t meant for knife storage. The clicking xeno kicked him hard, causing him to involuntarily loosen his grip on his shotgun. With its fourth hand it grabbed at the offending shotgun. He shoved it towards the surprised xeno; it wouldn’t do much good at knife range, and the thing was faster than him anyways.

There was a large place on its carapace where the rib cage would be if it were human, it was a slot where Walker hoped its skin would be more vulnerable. After losing the shotgun, he immediately drove his fist into that part and was rewarded with a sharp hiss and fervent clicks. He grabbed the knife on his belt with his other hand simultaneously. He heard several shots ring out from Chrissy’s location. Keeping focused on the xeno in front of him, he stabbed forward with his knife. The xeno twisted to the side, but still took a deep cut in its (I’m going to go with human anatomy terms) torso. He withdrew his arm as the xeno slashed at him with all knives.

He was about to turn when he caught something from the corner of his eye. A xeno with what appeared to be a rifle. It took aim and he dropped into a crouch. There was a crack of a single shot from the xeno, then several more shots from Chrissy. The knife wielding xeno was distracted, so Walker plunged his knife into a vulnerable looking spot. Then another. Then another.

He was on his feet again, and the xeno lay dying at his feet, letting out a final feeble click. The xeno with the rifle was also dead, Chrissy’s aim was good. Chrissy herself looked shaken, she now held a hand to her arm where she had gotten cut, leaning against the wall to Walker’s right.

“You alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. It didn’t cut me that deep.”

He grabbed the shotgun from the ground and limped to where he had originally been shot from. There was a fourth xeno there, or at least what remained of it. The wall was flimsier than it looked. Hooray for guns. Though my leg would disagree. The wound on his leg wasn’t deep and had missed any important vein or artery. He’d survive.

He saw Chrissy concentrate, and the slow flow of blood out of her wound stopped completely. And that is why shapeshifters are dangerous. That and the whole ‘I can look like anyone’ thing. Her hands were trembling though, and she was looking paler than before. Must have lost more blood than I thought.

He called HQ. “Hey Dispatch, it’s Walker. We ran into four previously unknown xenos, so you might want the biologists to come down here and do their thing. Also, a couple more officers would be welcome, we think we got all of them, but there could be more.”

“Gotcha, good work. Relaying to Cap now. Need anything else?”

“Medics would be great, me and Chrissy got hurt.” Chrissy was holding her injured arm closer to herself now, looking strained, still trembling. “Make it quick.”

He ran as fast as he could to Chrissy’s side. “Let me take a look at that,” he said, motioning for her arm. She extended it towards him, and stifled a yelp of pain as he touched it. The shaking was getting worse. The wound site had turned black. What the fuck, knives don’t do this unless…poison.

He grabbed his radio again. “HQ, tell the medics to get the fuck over here NOW. The xenos used some kind of poison on Chrissy. It’s not looking good.”

At that moment Chrissy made a choking sound and collapsed on her face, now convulsing violently. The radio squawked at Walker, but he was occupied at the moment.

“Fuck, no.” He knelt over her, not sure if he could even do anything about the poison, but unwilling to do nothing. It’s spread through her system, nothing I can do. He turned her over, her face was devoid of color, some foam coming from her lips. Then, the convulsions stopped. She wasn’t breathing. Check for pulse…Fuck, fuck, fuck. Nothing. Dead.

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One Day I

Officer Richard Walker woke at 6:00 AM. It was the middle of summer in 2010. He showered, ate breakfast, said goodbye to his wife and two children, and drove to work. The route to work was shorter now, the repair crews had finally managed to scrape the pieces of the invasion force’s mothership off of and out of the roads between Walker’s house and the substation of the Meta Human Unit he worked at. New York was finally recovering from another xeno invasion. He parked and headed towards the glass and steel building with the NYPD emblem above the door, passing by the monument to the soldiers and police officers who had made their stand there. Too many of these monuments around nowadays. Too many tragedies.

He entered, dropped by his desk, and grabbed the clean mug waiting for him. The shift before his had already performed the sacred coffee preparation ritual for the office, so Walker grabbed himself a cup. He greeted his fellow officers, then returned to his desk. There was always paperwork to fill out in any government job. Always.

He was about to dive headlong into his ever growing to do pile when someone walked up to his desk. He looked up. She was young, no more than twenty or so. She was very good looking, to the point where Walker suspected she was a super of some kind. It was the MHU after all. The playful smile she wore was also a good indicator.

Unless they wore a costume or had an obvious power going on, there was nothing to distinguish a super powered officer of the MHU from an ordinary one in terms of uniform. That way, the criminals didn’t know who to shoot first, as only supers with some response to bullets wore a costume anyway. People respected the MHU, there had been one active in the US in some capacity since the seventeen hundreds. She’s one of the new interns. Chrissy, that’s her name. Chrissy Marshall.

“Hey Officer Walker,” she said, slapping down a manila folder full of papers down onto his desk. “I know you’re, like, a week from retirement, but Cap’s got one more alien related thing for you.”

He sighed, reaching for the folder. He opened it, skimmed through the papers, and frowned at what he saw within. “Something wrong?” asked Chrissy. He looked up, realizing that she was still there.

“Yeah, this doesn’t look like a Bear attack at all. Besides, I thought we had that all wrapped up at this point. If it weren’t for the bullet wounds, I’d say this was a feral attack.”

Bear was the catchall term for the most recent alien invaders. Though alien, like humans they came in a variety of appearances. Aliens had their own names for themselves, but they were invariably unpronounceable to humans. Therefore, humans called them by what they most resembled. Bears looked more like bears than anything else a human could recognize. Sort of. If you squinted just right.

Just because the invasion had been defeated did not mean that every Bear soldier died instantaneously. Though that would have been nice. Most surrendered, some went underground in the city, attacking any human they came across. The military, police, and independent heroes spent months rounding them up, killing when necessary, capturing for later ransom or exchange if they could.

Bears had a thing against human blood. Something about it being a hallucinogen to them and not a fun one. They preferred snapping bones and general blunt force trauma to projectiles and gouging. The body Walker observed on the report had been viciously hacked at and shot.

How do they know this is alien? His question was answered when he turned the page. There was a knife found in the body, nothing of Earth. There was also writing on the walls in blood near where it happened. The writing was also in some bizarre alien script. Either a psycho is on the loose, or more likely this is alien. Then he saw what the forensics lab had come up with: alien biological compounds. They had no idea what they were, but it wasn’t from Earth. Well, that’s one question out of the way.

He looked up again. Chrissy was still there. “I take it you’re with me on this one?”

She smiled. “Yep. Cap’s philosophy seems to be that experience is the best teacher.”

“Right then. I’ve got some ideas. To the Batmobile.”

***

They drove through the city in Walker’s patrol car. The day was shaping up to be great, no clouds, a good temperature, the wind wasn’t too bad. This of course did not prevent traffic. There was still construction and repairs going on all throughout the city to various buildings.

Walker and Chrissy were waiting at a light, having been there for two cycles while people ahead of them went. They had engaged in small talk for a while, things pertaining to the case, and so on, but had since lapsed into silence.

“So,” began Walker, “I’m guessing you have a power of some kind.”

“Am I that obvious?” she asked.

“That or you won the genetic lottery, in which case you probably would be modeling, rather than doing grunt police work. Kind of a tip off.”

“Jesus, I’m a trickster, I should be better at this. So, yeah, I actually have a very minor shape shifting ability. Like, super minor.” Shape shifting. That explains it. He gave her a sidelong glance, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. She caught the glance, gave a somewhat sheepish smile, and said, “What?  Do you think it’s easy being hot? People always stare, guys hit on me constantly, it’s a nightmare.”

“No, sorry, I had no idea. Truly yours is a life of suffering.”

“Indeed,” she said, nodding sagely. “Anyways, my main thing is vision manipulation. Also somewhat minor, I’m no Facade. ”

“Just get out of the Academy then?”

“Despite appearances, I’m actually just out of high school.” Bullsh- wait, shape shifter. “I am actually planning on going on to the Law Enforcement Academy this year. Felt like it would be good to get some real world experience, since I’d didn’t join the Academy in high school like most.” The light finally turned green, and they started moving once again, this time making the light. “While we’re on the topic of my inexperience, this has been bugging me for a while. Why is Cap called Cap? I can’t get anyone who knows to tell me his name, they always just laugh.”

Walker laughed and said nothing.

“Really?” she said. Walker continued to laugh. “You’re really going to do this too? Alright, fine, whatever.” She threw up her hands in frustration.

They came to another red light. He looked at her with a grin and said, “No one ever told you why you don’t get to know his name?”

“I know he’s not a super, so I don’t know why he’s in charge in the first place.” Oh, please don’t be one of those arrogant newbies. Me and every non powered person in the Unit could put you into a coma. How do you think we got our jobs in the first place?

“What we have going on here is a meritocracy kind of system. You get to be the head of your unit based on skill, not whether you ejaculate the most lethal boiling venom or what have you.” Once again they started moving. Walker returned his attention to the road. “If the person doesn’t have a cape name, they go by rank only. Lieutenant, Cap or Captain, or even Sergeant in some cases.  It would actually considered quite disrespectful to call Cap by his real name.”

She digested this. “You see, this is why I took this opportunity. I doubt they would teach this kind of stuff in, like, a classroom or something.”

“I couldn’t tell you. It’s been about twenty five years since I stepped foot in a classroom.”

They continued further into the city. Chrissy eventually asked, “Also, what are we doing?”

“Going to the area around the scene of the crime.”

“Yeah, I know that. I’m capable of reading street signs. But the guy’s in forensics have already been all over there, and they have techie gear made specifically for that. You may recognize techie gear as better than your eyeballs at this kind of stuff.”

“You have much to learn, young grasshopper. You read the part where is said no one reported the murder as it happened, same as me, right?”

“Yeah.”

“That doesn’t mean there were no witnesses at all.” She looked confused. “You may recognize the results of a recent alien invasion right there.” He pointed to a skyscraper missing its top several levels, the top a jagged grey ruin. “Or there.” One wall of another building was covered in construction equipment and workers repairing it. “Or anywhere else.” He made a vague gesture to the whole of their surroundings.

“So what?” You are going to have to learn to read between the lines quickly if you want to go into this field.

“We’ve been busy. Bears were our number one priority, and as such the underworld has been less contained than it should have been. Said underworld is notoriously hesitant to alert the cops to their activities unless they have some profit in it.”

“So you think there might be a criminal, or someone connected to a criminal, saw what happened. So do we just grab someone off the streets and interrogate them?”

“Only if you want nothing but lies. I have…an associate, who might, might, know something. It’s a long shot, but I’ve been meaning to talk to him about another matter anyways.”

Chrissy had a look of…apprehension? Shock might be closer. She said, “So you know some criminal guy, and just hang out with him? Just like some old buddy or something?”

“Buddy might be a bit of a stretch. But more to the point, I think the term ‘the lesser of two evils’ applies here.”

She nodded hesitantly. Walker continued, “You need evidence to put away the big threats. That how our legal system works. It’s the same for every person, no matter what. It keeps the man, which we are a part of, from tossing anyone we damn well please into prison. If you want information, the underworld is a great place to start, if you need answers about clandestine affairs.”

They drove on in silence. A bit tense, isn’t she? She thought this was all glorious, put away all the bad guys, and rescue the city, keeping your hands clean all the while. The drove up to a bar, a hole in the wall looking worn, with beer advertised on every available square inch of the exterior. It being the morning, the bar was closed. Or so it appeared to the common observer. They parked at the back of the bar.

He turned to Chrissy once again. “Alright, an important thing before we go in. Don’t say or do anything stupid. I cannot stress that enough. If you think you won’t be able to contain yourself, watch the car. If you can, follow me.”

He got out of the car, followed by Chrissy. They walked up to the back door. Walker called out, “Hey Jude! You there? It’s me, Walker.”

“Hey Jude? Seriously?” Chrissy was struggling and failing to keep a smile off her face.

“Yes, and if you mention that song to him this will get infinitely more difficult. So don’t. Though I applaud you for knowing the reference in the first place. Doesn’t make me feel quite so old.”

“My parents are big fans of the Beatles. They’re old too.”

He was spared the need to think of a retort when a man walked to the doorway from inside the bar. He was a short, portly man, round faced and balding with stringy brown hair. He took them in at a glance, then motioned them to enter.

It appeared you could judge the book by its cover in the case of the bar. It was exactly as beat up and cheap as the exterior advertised. There were a couple old tube TV’s, all but one of which were off, on the walls. The other was muted, currently playing the news. Jude gestured for them to sit at a grungy table. Walker sat in a wobbly old chair, Chrissy to his right, and Jude across from him.

“Good morning. So, what brings you to my humble place of business, Officer Walker and the lovely…” he looked to Chrissy expectantly.

Say Officer or he won’t take us seriously. Walker was mentally kicking himself for not preparing Chrissy beforehand. He’d honestly expected her to refuse to sully her hands with this business. Too late for that, now she would have to take care of herself.

“Officer Marshall,” said Chrissy, in a somewhat tense voice. YES! Now watch your tone.

Walker kept his face neutral. “We were wondering if you’d heard anything about a murder that happened in this area late last night. We are beginning to suspect that the perpetrator was…not from around here.”

“Was this perpetrator ursine or perhaps something else?” Testing just how much we know, seeing just how little he can tell us. Jude was an information broker, just because he took government payments didn’t mean he wouldn’t take the money of others as well.

“Something else. We believe that the Bears have been fully contained, and this killing wasn’t in their style. No one we know of saw anything, but there are some who trust the force to handle these matters…less than they should.”

Jude was silent for a moment, with a contemplative look about him. Finally, “When did the force even find this out, I wonder?” Testing how on the ball we are.

Before Walker could respond, Chrissy said evenly, “And I wonder why you are so curious. You of all people should know it’s rude to pry.”

Jude smiled. “Yes, forgive me. There are two things I can tell you.” Well that panned out quite nicely. “One, an employee of mine observed an unfamiliar figure exiting the premise where this murder happened. He described it as thin, grey, and slightly shorter than the average man. It possessed six limbs, and appeared to be able to walk on two, four, or all. It made clicking sounds as long as my employee observed it. As well, my employee observed blood on its…hands, for lack of a better word.”

OK Chrissy, don’t ask how he knew this or what the “employee” was doing there at that time of night. She remained silent, and Walker nodded to Jude to continue. You know? Maybe she’s smarter than I gave her credit for.

“The other is from an acquaintance of mine. She voiced concern over…certain noises and sightings near her place of work. These may be connected to what you seek. I can give you her work address if you like.”

“That’ll do. Thank you. And, also, there’s the small matter of what happened at the docks two days ago.”

Jude grimaced as he wrote an address on a notecard he pulled from his pocket. “Yes, please send the good Captain my apologies. My associates were…clumsier than they should have been.” He produced a flash drive. “This should help clear things up.” Walker took both the flashdrive and the notecard. “If there is nothing else?”

“Thank you, and no. We’ll be on our way now.”

They got up and Jude escorted them to of the door. They said their goodbyes, Jude shut the door after them, and Chrissy and Walker returned to their car.

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