Cyber Antics chapter 7
By Penelope Downs, AKA Doc
Disclaimer: The characters are mine and I own the copyright. Use without my permission is prohibited. Any resemblance to a person, dead or alive, is unintentional. If you under 18 years of age, are offended by same sex romances, or it's illegal to read about it where you live, stop now and read no further.
Neil had decided to head to Edwardos alleged place of employment first. Edwardo had told Carolyn that he was a manager in a data warehouse that was located in Chinatown. Neil wasnt sure what to expect. He was prepared to be told that no one by that name had ever worked there. Unfortunately, Neil didnt have a photo of Edwardo, only Carolyns physical description; he hoped that would be enough. It seemed that the elusive man had been camera shy. The only photo Carolyn had of him had been obtained by deception, but it was digital and stored on the hard drive of her computer, which was now in the possession of the FBI. Apparently, Carolyn had been able to trick Edwardo in to believing that a small Logitech camera that her parents had purchased for "video conferencing" wasnt operational yet and she had taken a photo by stealth.
Neil negotiated his large sedan west on M Street, the main "drag" through Georgetown, remaining on it until he reached 22nd Street in northwest D.C. He turned south, carefully negotiating the narrow two-lane road, which had been made even more treacherous by parked cars, for two blocks til he reached K Street. Once he had negotiated the left-hand turn on to K Street, all he had to do was stay on it since it went directly to 7th Street and Chinatown. Neil had plotted his course prior to leaving his office and was able to find the small ramshackle building in a seedier part of Chinatown fairly easily. There was no parking adjacent to it. However, Neil was able to find a parking meter two blocks away and quickly parallel parked his car before anyone else was able to take the space. Parking, like driving, was a scourge for the residents of the city. He then backtracked to the building that housed the business that was called Cyber Clerks.
It took Neil three tries before he could pull the front door, which was hung on rusty hinges, open. Clearly, Cyber Clerks didnt get much walk-in business, at least not through the front door. Once inside, Neil quickly realized there were no offices on the ground floor. He arched his eyebrow and then sighed when he saw he would have to climb a narrow, dark stairway. He had a bad feeling about this place and wasnt too thrilled about the possibility of blindly walking in to something dangerous. His mind raced as he thought of possible scenarios, all bad. He finally made himself begin a cautious ascent of the stairs. Had he still carried a weapon, he would have drawn it. Once he had reached the top of the stairwell, the only option he had was to turn right. He was slightly relieved to see some dim lighting as he slowly made his way down the hall. At the end of the hall was a single wooden door with a hand-lettered cardboard sign tacked to it, bearing the name Cyber Clerks.
Neil cautiously pushed the door opened. As he expected, its hinges werent in the best shape, either. A loud squeaking noise announced his arrival. Twenty pairs of eyes looked up briefly before resuming the task of darting from papers to a computer monitor. A small, middle-aged, oriental-looking man emerged from the back of the room, staring harshly at Neil. Before Neil could speak the man accosted him.
"How many of you are going to come and bother me. Dont you realize that time is money in the real world. Ive already spoken to six agents; youre the seventh. What more can I tell you? You cant squeeze blood from a turnip, you know. "
"Well, Im sorry that you feel so put upon; however, I need to ask you a few questions . . ." Neil was interrupted before he could finish his sentence.
"Let me guess, questions about Edwardo. What in the hell do you think your pals asked me about? Ive already told them all that I know. Let me summarize it real quick, then I want you out of here. Edwardo worked here briefly, about twelve-weeks; thats all. He had the necessary papers; they looked legitimate. How was I to know he was an illegal alien? Ive cooperated fully with you people, given you everything you asked for. Why do you keep pestering me?"
Neil started to speak again. "Would you mind if I looked at his personnel file?" Before he could finish the man rudely interrupted him, again.
"Geez, I cant believe it. Have you people already lost the copy I gave you earlier? I can see why my taxes are so high. The government only hires nincompoops. I wouldnt hire any of you. Follow me. Ill give you people one more copy. After that, Im charging. Youre costing me money.
Neil didnt try to question the man further. He didnt show any emotion, but actually was elated that he was going to get a copy of Edwardos file. It was more than he had hoped for. He decided he wouldnt have been able to get any useful information from Edwardos former boss. Once he was given copies of the file, he quickly departed the disreputable establishment without attempting to look at the papers in his possession. He headed strait to his car. Only after he had situated himself in the drivers seat and locked the doors, did he open the envelope containing copies of Edwardos file. The first thing he noticed was that Edwardos home address was the same as Carolyn had indicated. Turning the key in the ignition, he knew that that apartment building would be his next destination.
Catherine settled back down at her desk, intent on finishing the Harvard Law Review article on the 1997 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Unfortunately, she found that she still couldnt concentrate, even after the run. It wasnt fatigue that kept her from reading now. Rather, it was her thoughts about Torrey. Her persistent meditations lately centered on the young woman. That was beginning to concern her because she knew she would never have the courage to pursue anything more than a distant acquaintanceship with the woman despite the fact that she really wanted something more. However, almost 40 years of solitary habitude had left its mark on the child who had grown in to a fearful and lonely woman. She felt like crying, something she hadnt done in twenty-one years, not since her mothers funeral. She knew that if she succumbed to that act, it would be like a dam bursting; all the pent-up pains and fears that she had carried around from the time she was four years old, might surface. It was weakness that she could not allow herself to show here, where she had to be in control, a professional, not just some emotional woman. So, like she had many times in the past, she pushed the tears back down, swallowing the pain.
Neil smiled as he negotiated K Street back towards Georgetown and Wisconsin Avenue. Even if he couldnt find any neighbors who knew Edwardo, this leg of his journey would not be a wasted trip. He was surprised that Edwardo would have chosen to live where he did; however, Neil fully intended to visit the nearby attraction that was one of his favorites in Washingtonthe National Cathedral. Although he wasnt an Episcopalian, he occasionally would go to the grand church to sit in solitude and consciously try to regain a bit of his soul. Modern man, Neil thought, was all to fond of science. It was the mysteries of life that he found truly amazing.
Neil slowed and waited as schoolboys in blazers and European-styled short pants crossed the street, heading away from St. Albans, the private school next to the cathedral. He began searching for a place to park, preferably on the grounds of the cathedral itself. That way, he would have a legitimate excuse to stroll through the gardens as he headed toward Edwardo's apartment building. He thought about how a beautiful a day it was. Washington could be magnificent this time of year, and this particular neighborhood was resplendent with the spires of its crowning jewel, visible from most of the city.
Neil hummed quietly as he passed through the cathedral grounds and crossed the street to Edwardos building. It was secured, as were most apartment buildings in the city. He looked down the list of apartment numbers til he found the four-digit code for the superintendents office; he then picked up the phone and dialed. The superintendent turned out to be a twenty-something college student working her way through George Washington University. She had been quite pleasant, but didnt know much about Edwardo, only that he had paid his rent promptly and hadnt caused problems. Fortunately for Neil, she was able to recommend that he speak to one neighbor in particular, one of Edwardos fellow countrymen, or more accurately, countrywomen, Mrs. Rodriguez. Neil was about to ask what apartment she lived in when the young woman added that at that time of day, Mrs. Rodriguez could be found in the Chapel of Saint Joseph of Arimathea. Neil smiled and thanked her. He then headed back to the cathedral. Entering one of the portals on the western façade of the magnificent building, he headed quietly and reverently to the underground chapel.
Ana Rodriguez had gone to say prayers at a cathedral every day since she was a little girl. Fifty years of habit were hard to break so when she moved to Washington from Barcelona, Spain, fifteen years earlier, she had chosen to rent an apartment across from this cathedral. It made no difference to her that it was not a Catholic church. It was a cathedral. One of Gods larger houses, and she was certain that he would not ignore the prayers offered up in such a wonderful building. She had quickly determined that the most pleasing solitude was to be found in the Chapel of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, with its somber mural depicting Christ's entombment, which had been painted by fellow European, Jan de Rosen. Because it was below the main chapel, most tourists didnt seek it out. It had become Anas favorite spot in the cathedral; her favorite place in the entire city.
Neil entered the chapel unobserved by its only other occupant. He took a seat in a rear pew and silently observed Ana. He remained seated even as she rose to depart the chapel. He didnt wish to frighten her in the place where she had found sanctuary. Instead, he let her go all the way to the portal he had entered by. Once she had stepped outside, he purposefully increased his pace to catch up to her. He approached her respectfully.
Ana was surprised to hear someone call her name. When she turned around she saw a man who appeared to be a government official of some kind, even though he did not wear a uniform. That put her at ease, slightly. She acknowledged his presence and waited for him to speak and explain why he wanted to talk to her.
Neil asked Ana if they could speak in one of the more secluded gardens. She reluctantly agreed. Once they were seated on a wooden bench, he explained why he had wanted to meet with her. He told her that he was attempting to help the family of a young woman whom Edwardo had gotten in to trouble locate him. Ana, shook her head and sighed in disappointment. She had liked Edwardo and had hoped that he wouldnt get carried away and do something stupid like young men were often prone to do. However, she found herself sitting listening to a man politely explain that he was seeking him because he had gotten a girl in to trouble. It seemed as if Edwardo too had fallen in to the age-old trap. The weakness of the flesh had caught up to him. She presumed he must have disappeared without word because he was fleeing from his responsibility and, perhaps, the angry father of the young woman. She had promised Edwardo that she would hold on to the things. Normally, she would not have broken that promise, but she would not help him shirk his duty. She hesitantly told the man to follow her, that she had some things that might help he find Edwardo.
Neil couldnt believe his luck. He followed Ana back to her building, where she asked him to wait in the lobby while she went to her apartment. No matter how nice he seemed, she would not let him see the secret hiding place where she stored her valuables. She hadnt even let Edwardo see it. Ana was gone for ten minutes. When she returned, she carried a small nylon bag, which she handed to Neil. "I hope this helps you find Edwardo. He had no right to abandon that young woman when she needed him the most." She then turned and departed. Neil quickly unzipped the bag and stared inside at its contents. He was ecstatic. He didnt touch anything inside the bag, he didnt want to risk damaging finger prints. He zipped the bag shut again, pulled out a plastic evidence bag, which he carried in his pocket by sheer habit, and placed the nylon bag inside it. He decided to head back to the office to show his finds to Catherine, who would have to determine what they would do.
Continue to Chapter 8
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