Chapter 16: Mistaken Identity
"Lara," I called, shaking her awake. "Lara, let's go home." She was sprawled out on the couch, her head hanging slightly off the edge at an angle that looked a little painful.
"What?" she asked crankily. I could tell she was still half asleep.
"It's three thirty in the morning, Lara," I snapped, "don't test me."
She waved a hand at me, but still sat up and rubbed her eyes. "How do you do that? Get off work this late and get up bright and early the next day?"
"It's only this late cause it's a sweep, and we hardly ever have sweeps. Besides, I'm off work tomorrow. Now come on, let's get going."
"Thanks so much, Chris," I called. He was in the kitchen. What he was doing, I wasn't sure, and I didn't really care.
Lara and i walke back the door and into the car. I had picked it up this morning, with the all-new, bullet-proof glass installed. It was so extra-guarded, it fit right in with Special Forces.
"So are you going to tell me what happened?" I asked Lara.
"There was a vampire fight in the sewer I stumbled upon. . .hosted by the exes, of course. . .and I unintentionally got mixed in."
"I suppose that's the rough of it, right?"
"I'll spare you the details. I think the rough of it is enough for you to get an idea of what happened."
I stared out for a second. "From now on, just stay inside until I get home, alright?"
"You work really long hours, Matt," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Not really, just nights, and then weekends off. I rarely work days."
"I'm not going to trap myself inside, if that's what you're asking. I can take care of myself."
"Really? Then why'd I have to pick you up from Chris's just now, if you take care of yourself so well?"
"I'm not trapping myself inside," she said firmly, refusing to answer my question.
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not." We pulled up in the parking lot.
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not," we stepped out of the car and walked up to the apartment in silence, then I continued, "Yes, you are."
"Damn it, Cassie, just do what I say for once!"
We both stopped and stared at each other for a long moment. Lara's eyes went wide for a second, then normal again.
"Sorry. . .-Lara- I didn't mean that. . .you know I didn't mean that. . ." I stuttered nervously, a blush crawling up my cheeks.
"I know. . .uh, it's fine. Really."
She went and sat cross-legged on my bed. I went to the computer, to my IM. I sat dumbly for a minute, then sighed deeply and ran a hand through my hair. Desperately needing a distraction, I decided to do some research. I typed in the IM, my fingers moving rapidly.
MHamilton21: WAKE UP ART!!!!
I typed. If Art wasn't out partying, he was at his computer. He usually had so much work to do on it, between college and SF, that he just became so tired he fell asleep at it. He installed a feature that made a loud ding whenever someone emailed him, and used that to wake himself up.
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: What???? Man needs sleep, Matt
MHamilton21: pull up an article on the exes for me, please
His next one came with an attachment. The thing about SF was that no one person could have too much information. They divided it between its workers. The fault was, it was password protected, and Art and I simply gave each other our passwords and shared whatever files we pleased. I knew for a fact that he had the page on exes.
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: what do you need this for? Sweep's over, Matt. We didn't find anything. False Alarm. << Click here for page >>
"He's wrong," a voice from behind me said softly. I hadn't even heard Lara come over here.
I pulled up the page and typed in the password - king-am-I. It sometimes amazed me how completely arrogant Art was. But he was a good guy, and I guess that was all that mattered.
The page that came up first was his profile. I had to navigate from that. It said:
Special Forces Sector 7: Arthur Josef McKinley
Full name: Arthur Josef McKinley
Occupation: Special Forces Sector 7, office/field officer
Skin color: medium brown
Eye color: dark brown
Scars/markings: small scar, on left hand, birthmark on left cheek
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 178 lbs
Criminal Record: none
The last part always cracked me up. Not that he was a criminal, just that I thought that was an odd thing to put. I suppose it was important, though.
I clicked a few buttons until the Exes Page came up:
Ex-Special Forces Agents - Sector 7 only
Each one had a picture under their name.
"That's him," Lara said from behind me. I hadn't even realized she was there.
"Lyle. . .he's the one that grabbed me and tried to throw me into the ring."
"Today. . ." she faded off, and I realized I hadn't been told the entire truth. However, I didn't press her - not that I thought she would have told me anyway.
I switched off the computer. It was getting late.
"Night, Lara," I said, crawling into bed.
Chapter 17: Art
I woke up late the next day. Really late. About 4pm late. So late that Sandy had to come and lick my face mercilessly just to get me up. I rushed to get dressed in time for work, the clock seeming to tick by so much faster than usual. Sarge was going to kill me. . .assuming Celeste didn't get me first. Something about imagining the image of Celeste's angry face pressed me to go quicker. . . Celeste could be downright scary if she wanted to.
Lara was watching this all with mild interest. She was sitting on the sill, brushing her hair, looking on at my pre-work frenzy.
"Need any help?" she asked.
"No. . ." I had located my jacket, and I was set to go.
"Alright," I said, halfway out the door, holding the knob with one hand, "if you really must, go ahead and leave, but leave the door unlocked."
"But you said not to leave-"
"Forget what I said!"
She reached over and threw a pillow at me. "You're so contrary," she said, as if that was to justify her actions.
I threw the pillow back on the bed. "Actually, here's a spare key. . .go ahead and lock the doors."
"Uh huh. . ."
She went and retrieved it from the wooden table beside the door.
"Take this." I handed her a small handgun.
She looked up at me in surprise. "You're giving me a gun?"
"Yeah, I think I'm crazy too."
She ignored that. "Is it loaded?"
"You're giving me a loaded gun?"
"Yeah. Please tell me you know to use a gun," I said desperately, imagining her accidentally shooting a hole throught the wall and killing poor old Mrs. Pater next door.
"I'm not an idiot, Matt. I've used a few shotguns in my time."
"Then what's wrong?"
"Why are you giving me a gun?"
"Self defense, Lara, self defense."
She gave me an odd look. "Then why don't you just give me my bite back? I can protect myself with that."
"Ha ha. Nice try. It's long range self-defense so you don't have to be close up."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Aren't you late for something?"
"Oh!" I slammed the door and trotted down the stairs - half the time the elevators were out of order. Catherine was at the desk today. She checked my card and I exited the building.
The sky was gray today, a sure sign of rain. Or maybe it already had; my car looked like it was sprinkled with little water droplets.
I jumped in and turned the key. The car revved up, it's engine purring like a fat, contented cat. Sal had been right - I didn't deserve this car. She was brand new and had already been tortured by the consequences of my actions. What had she done wrong to get shot at by a bunch of lunatics, other than harboring me?
I personally wasn't really one of those super car-obsessed guys, but there was something about this one that was really special She was the Batmobile to my batman, the KITT to my Hasselhoff. And she smoothly carried me from my apartment to my work in virtually no time flat.
I parked her in the west lot, closest to my wing and walked into the building.
As soon as I checked in, Celeste eyeing me and checking her watch, Art attacked me.
"Matt, man, I didn't think you'd come today!" he said, his eyes wide with fear.
I was confused. "Um. . .why? I'm here every day."
"I thought she'd gotten you already!"
I didn't like where this was going, but I was pressured to ask. "Who?"
"The girl you took home. . .she was a vampire!"
I breathed out. Crap. "Yeah," I said, keeping calm.
Art gave me an I'm-serious-this time kind of look. "Did you hear me? Did you hear what I just said?"
We were speaking in hushed tones, but even still Celeste came down hard on us. "Would you boys mind doing some actual work around here?" she said. We straightened ourselves.
I got to work, typing, but a pop-up screen came up. I read it.
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: So you KNOW you drove home a vampire? Where'd you take her?
MHamilton21: Listen, Art, you can't tell ANYONE about this or I'll go to prison, ok?
MHamilton21: I'm serious!
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: So am I. Now will you tell me what's going on?
MHamilton21: Ok, so some stuff happned not 2 long ago. . .but what they led up 2 is basically that she has to live at my house. I was going to find a different place 4 her 2 live, but then the exes showed up so she's kind of there for safety reasons. . .
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: She's at your house? Aren't you the least bit afraid she'll bite you? Come on, think, Matt, think. You have a brain in there somewhere.
MHamilton21: She won't bite me cuz she can't. She's Bound not to bite anyone in the Vespas area
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: In return for?
MHamilton21: I have to tell her if S7 has anything planned for her
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: So you're like a double agent? Sweeeeeeet
MHamilton21: *sarcastic* Sweet as cherry pie
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: Ok, ok, I see your point. But it could be worse. You need me to help?
MHamilton21: I can't think of anything you could do
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: Meet me at my house at 5pm tomorrow for video games. . .and planning. . .and maybe beer
MHamilton21: I don't think planning and beer are things that should be mixed.
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: Eh, you're probably right. . . .
MHamilton21: I've got to go, Art, Celeste's doing her rounds again. . .
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: Queen of Bitches
MHamilton21: The very hot Queen of Bitches
Art-is-rcher-than-thou: To each his own
I chuckled and x-ed out of the screen. I had a 10,000 word report to do. . .I tell you, sometimes S7 seemed like high school all over again.
I guess that would make me that one, rebellious little student who always cheated for the other team.