The sports car rolled to a stop. Eli exhaled.
“One question,” he turned to look at Lucas.
“Did you really blow up a BMW Z4 back at that cafe?”
“The NSA hates number two pencils almost as much as scantrons,” he paused. “Don’t worry. You did great.”
Eli stepped out of the car and approached the main entrance. He passed through the double doors trying to look like a professional techie in his slacks and button down. He was greeted by a smiling receptionist who gestured towards the TSA-like security setup directly in front of him. Eli nodded like he had done this a thousand times over.
The metal detector alarm sounded as he walked through, but Eli didn’t flinch. He stepped aside and donned a face of annoyance. The guard reached for his wand and passed it over Eli’s arms and legs. Eli tried to breathe normally, but was interrupted by a frantic beeping emanating from the wand now hovering a scant inch above Eli’s wrists.
Eli fought to remain calm in the brief second as the guard turned to look at him. His thoughts raced as he kept the notion of not even making it past security out of his mind.
“Metal buttons,” he said in a bored voice his eyes meeting the guard’s with confident innocence. Satisfied, the guard stepped aside and asked Eli to wait in the foyer. His loafers clicked across the marble floor as he moved towards a designer couch covered in black leather. A female voice hole punched the silence with a clerical tone.
“Are you David Weatherby?”
Eli turned to a woman only slightly taller than himself. She wore a navy blue blouse, a khaki pencil skirt, and flats.
“Yes,” Eli heard himself say as he responded to his alias.
“Hello, my name is Alicia. Welcome to Nukletech! I’ll be your translator and attache while you’re in the building.”
“Tour guide…great,” Eli said, almost quietly enough.
“Tour. Guide,” He stated, flatly. “I’m sorry.” He looked down, blinked hard, and took a deep breathe. “That was rude. I’m David,” he softened his voice, and extended his hand. “The red eye has a knack for making a jerk out of me.”
Alicia pursed her lips, hesitated, and then relaxed, “yeah, well, the green eye I snag at the coffee shop on the way in has a knack for turning me into a corporate HR drone.”
“Well…they usually fly me in to fix broken computers. Got any of those?”
Alicia suddenly looked startled.
“Umm…I thought you were here to fix one of the smart T.V.s in the conference room upstairs. Can you do that?” She pulled out her smartphone and started scrolling furiously.
Shoot. Missed THAT in the dossier.
“Right. Of course. The computer is in Frankfurt. Television’s in Berlin.”
“A double today?”
“No rest for us worker bees huh?” She pressed the up arrow on the elevator.
He filed inside as they rose to the third floor.
“It’s in here,” she clicked open a conference room door. Eli half-expected the room to be filled with German mobsters pointing guns at him. He exhaled once he realized it was empty.
“Do you want me to get our IT manager?” She asked, pulling out her phone.
“Uh…no. Let me see what’s wrong with it first.”
“Well, if it’s any help, the IT report says it keeps dropping it’s wireless connection.”
“That…is helpful, actually,” Eli said slowly as he approached the television, removed the low profile flash drive from his cuff, and inserted it into the lone USB port behind the unit.
Makes sense. Everyone uses wireless. This thing’s gonna be here for the next decade.
He clicked on the television and went to the wireless menu, shifting around until he found a few settings that he guessed were wrong.
“Can you test this?” He asked.
“Sure,” she swiped a few times on her phone until an HR presentation appeared on the screen.
“Hey! You fixed it!”
“That’s why the pay me the big bucks.”
“Ugh. Our IT department is awful. Can’t even fix a TV!”
“Well, they are getting more complicated.” Eli said, unable to believe it either.
“Hey, before you go…can I ask you something?”
“I never do this. Ever. But can I give you my number? I’m…you just…speak English, and you’re nice, and…”
Eli. This is a terrible idea.
“Sure,” Eli smiled at her.
She returned it gleefully, took out a pen from a nearby drawer and scribbled on the corner of a legal pad.
“Did she really give you her number?” Lucas asked.
“Yeah…pretty crazy,” Eli surreptitiously unfolded the small corner of the legal pad to reinforce the idea.
The words shot through him like a railroad spike:
FROM HALEY. IN TROUBLE. HANK MOLE. IRAQ.
Eli looked up as Lucas sped over the German countryside.
“I’m guessing I don’t get to go home just yet, right?”
“You guessed right. We’re on our way to the airport right now.”
“Any idea where we’re going?” Eli didn’t know who to trust anymore.
“No, actually. I sure don’t.”