“What the hell was that?” asked Sam. “She’s never done anything like that before.”
Ditz lifted the bookcase up so Sam could crawl out from underneath. “That wasn’t the girl. It was the old man.”
“You’re saying we walked in on two of them?”
“Yeah, that almost never happens. Freaks tend to be isolated loners, often because they’re freaks. To find even two of them in the same place is rare. When they start getting together in groups, weird things can happen.”
“Like dumping an entire bookstore on our heads,” said Sam. “I get it.” Sam remembered how the diner had exploded had gotten when Cutter and the girl had been together. Despite what Ditz said, he knew Cutter was one of those freaks. He would find some way to prove it to the others, and Cutter would wind up on a slab somewhere in the bowels of the Farm where he belonged. “What do we do now? She won’t go home now, and she doesn’t have any friends or family in the city.”
“First, you’re going to help me find my gun,” said Ditz. “I dropped it in here somewhere. After that, we’ll check in with a few of my contacts and see if we can get a line on the old man. You’re going to have to meet them anyway, so we might as well get started.”
“What about the girl?”
“Remember, they don’t know what we do about the bugs and all. They’re flying blind. It makes sense that now they’ve hooked up, they’ll compare notes. If we can find him, we’ll find her.”
Sam wasn’t convinced, but the only alternative was to start a city-wide manhunt with just the two of them. Any lead that could narrow that search would be welcome indeed. Besides, they were playing on Ditz’s turf now, so he got to set the rules. They had made that part very clear in his orientation. He had been conscripted into Army Intelligence, and going off on his own or failing to follow orders was a court-martial offense. If he was lucky, he’d wind up in one of those jails that no one talked about. So for now at least, he was going to play along.
The gun turned up after a few minutes search. It was a curious device – half taser, half tranquilizer gun. Firing it launched a small pellet of a potent anesthetic which burst upon contact and was absorbed into the skin. It was the same formula that had turned up a few years ago as a date rape drug and caused his department no end of headaches. Usually it was found in a small aerosol canister. You just hit someone with a quick spray and they were out in seconds. No one was sure where it had come from, and fortunately it was still rare. When it became easily available on the street, no one would be safe. There were rumors that some companies were reverse engineering it for medical use, but the Farm was out in front of the curve and had already weaponized it. They might have even been the original source of the drug for all Sam knew.
The taser functioned like a normal one but was as compact as his service revolver, a definite improvement over the models that he was used to. Its purpose was to disable the target until the drugs kicked in or they could slap on one of the special pair of handcuffs they each carried. The cuffs functioned like the bracelets. They somehow blocked the nanobots from working and effectively stripped a freak of their power. It had something to do with a rapidly changing electric field. He didn’t understand all the physics, but he didn’t need to. It was enough that they worked.
They drove around for the next two hours, occasionally stopping to check in on one of Ditz’s contacts – a few doctors and shrinks, some bartenders, and even a tv reporter that Sam recognized. During a brief stop by Sam’s old precinct headquarters, Sam elected to stay hidden in the car. There were too many questions that he couldn’t answer, too many old comrades that he didn’t want to look in the eye yet.
When all their searching yielded no results, Ditz drove them out to the university. He parked in a loading zone near the administration building, but instead of going inside, Ditz led Sam toward the dorms. “There’s a kid named Randy here who runs with one of those paranormal research gangs that go around waving EMF meters and claiming it’s your dead grandma. It’s a longshot, but he came through for me once before.” He found the room he was looking for and knocked. The door swung open a few seconds later to reveal a tall, thin man about twenty-years-old and sporting a raggedy beard.
“Hey, secret agent man. It’s about time you showed. I got a class in ten.”
“Obviously not an English class,” said Ditz. “You texted that you had something for me?”
“Yeah, a week ago. Who’s the new guy?”
“Just show us what you got.”
“Whatever.” Randy took a tablet from his desk and brought up a video file. “We were at this old dude’s place when a frying pan flew off the stove and smacked Zoey in the skull. Knocked her out for a minute too.”
“We’ve seen this,” said Ditz. “It was on the Net.”
“What you didn’t see was the guy who did it. I synced up the timecodes. Just watch.” Randy spun the tablet back around and opened a second video. It was a split screen with the former scene on the right and a man lying in bed on the left. The video played as before, but this time right before the pan went flying it showed the man rolling onto his back and swiping at the air with his arm. Moments later, the man climbed out of bed and rushed out of the camera’s frame only to appear in the kitchen. Randy stopped the video there. “That oughta be worth at least five hundred.”
“For that?” said Ditz. “That’s not worth one.”
Randy pulled a flash drive out of his pocket and held it up. “I’ve got his name, address, and telephone number. That and a two minute interview, and an hour of video that shows the layout of his entire apartment. Four hundred.”
“I’ll go as high as two.”
“I’m practically doing your job for you,” said Randy. “Three hundred is my minimum.”
“Two-fifty or nothing,” said Ditz.
To be continued…