Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 08: The Connection

     Katie McEllern drove back to her hotel. There was no sense in making further contact with O'Keefe just now—he'd only get suspicious. Besides, she was beginning to think there was something more to this case—something she wasn't being told.
     The way Katie saw it, she could take one of three possible courses of action from here. She could continue shadowing O'Keefe and maybe do some independent background research on him. She could track down the woman from the BMV that O'Keefe seemed to be searching for and hope that he would come to her. Or she could find out more about LaBelle Labs and see if her hunch was correct. Of course, there was always the option to do any combination of—or even all of these.
     After parking in the hotel garage she took the stairs up 16 flights to her room. Katie did her best to keep in shape—sometimes to a fault. It was important to her line of work, though. You never knew when you might have to chase someone down. You also never knew when you might have to flee a scene on foot. This kind of thinking had been labeled "paranoia" by her superiors at the Agency—and that was just one of the many reasons why she worked independently now.

     After showering and getting into her comfortable clothes—which consisted of a baggy pair of men's pajama shorts and a ratty, over-sized T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Bill the Cat, who had apparently been a presidential candidate 1988—she sat on her suite's couch and reached for her cell. She knew just who to call.

     "Go for Gavrilo!" answered a man's voice from the other end of the line.
     "Hey, Gav," responded Katie. "This is Edith."
     "Well, well, Miss Cavell. It's always a pleasure to hear from you."
     "Is it?"
     "Of course it is," responded the man. "Why, just hearing the sound of your voice brings back such pleasant memories."
     And now came the dance. 
     "Memories of Prague?"
     "Among others, yes. Do you remember that time in Amsterdam?"
     "I've never been to Holland," replied Katie. "You must be thinking of some other woman."
     "No, I'm quite certain it was Amsterdam. On the train."
     "The 9:12 to Kyoto." 
     It was an odd set of pass phrases, but the man known to Katie only as Gavrilo always insisted. And to think the Agency had claimed she was paranoid!
     "OK, OK, That's enough," he finished. "I don't suppose you're phoning me just to chat? Have you finally decided to let me take you to dinner?"
     "Not today, no,"
     "I suppose that means you want something from me. Again. Yes?"
     "You know me so well, Gav," said Katie.
     "Not well enough for my liking," he responded slyly. "So what is it you need?"
     "Of course. What else have I to give?" The fake hurt in his voice was a real work of Thespian finesse. "What sort of information does the illustrious Edith Cavell require?" 
     Some people in the business insisted on using aliases. Gavrilo was the odd person who insisted that everyone else use an alias around him. Of course, Katie assumed Gavrilo was an alias, as well. She'd met with him in person exactly twice, and neither time had she really learned much about him, other than that he was an incorrigible flirt. That was probably part of his cover, too, though—now that she thought on it.
     "Just a standard background check. I'll send the information I have via SecTex."
     "I suppose I can help," said Gavrilo. "Who is this person? An enemy agent? An assassin?"
     "A janitor."
     "Must be an interesting kind of janitor to warrant your attention."
     "Yes," she replied. "Well, let's just say that someone thinks there's more to him than that."
     "Someone important?"
     "Someone with the ability to pay."
     "Then I assume you share this ability?"
     "Of course. I'll wire your fee as soon as—"
     "No, no," interrupted Gavrilo. "You know better than this, Edith. I'll have my representative meet you tomorrow, These days I prefer to deal in cash."
     "All right." Gavrilo was getting more paranoid every time she spoke to him. "So when and where? Who am I meeting?"

     Katie arranged the rest of the details with Gavrilo. She was meeting a man called DuQuesne at noon in a park on the River just north of Grandview. Once they worked out all the goofy pass phrases and settled on a payment, she disconnected the call, then Secure Texted Gavrilo the information she had on O'Keefe.
     She tapped another contact.
     "Hello," answered Sgt. Hanlon.
     "Sergeant," Katie replied. "This is Ms. McEllern. I just wanted you to know I made contact with the target. I have my doubts that he's your leak, but I'm doing a little independent background work."
     "Doubts, huh," replied Hanlon. "Already?"
     "Yes. He seems ... well, frankly, he just seems kind of goofy."
     "Yes, well ... we thought that might be a cover. Either that, or he's being exploited by someone else on the outside."
     "If it's a cover, it's a very good one," said Katie. "And if he's really just the bungling idiot he appears to be, he would be an enormous liability to whomever it is that's using him as an asset."
     "We thought of that, too. We have to hope it's the latter rather than the former."
     So no chance it's neither and that O'Keefe really is just an unassuming fool. Katie made a mental note. Either someone at Labelle knew more than they were letting her know, or they were being extra paranoid. Of course that level of paranoia typically ran rampant at a place like Labelle.
     "Just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't after me," she muttered.
     "Oh nothing, Sergeant," Katie said. "Just something an old friend used to say. If you believe he's worth monitoring, I'll keep on him. It's Labelle's dime after all. Besides, one never knows."
     "It pays to be cautious in this business."
     "That's it, precisely. At any rate, Sgt. Hanlon, you probably won't hear from me for a few days, but I should have something more solid for you when next we speak—at least enough to rule O'Keefe in or out."
     "Good," said the sergeant. "I look forward to hearing from you."
     "Oh," Katie added. "One more thing before I go, Sergeant."
     "Yes, what is it?"
     "What, exactly, first put you on to O'Keefe as a possible candidate for a leak?"
     "The first red flag was his curiosity,"  said Hanlon. "He asks too many questions for a custodian. It just gave me one of those … gut feelings, you know? I expect you get those, too."
     "Well, sure, but is that all? That doesn't seem like much to go on."
     "No, it isn't," he continued. "Once I noticed his behavior, I pulled his files."
     "I saw the file. There didn't seem to be anything unusual."
     "Exactly. There was nothing unusual."
     "Oh, I see. So the lack of anything unusual is, itself, unusual."
     "Everyone has something to hide. Everyone fudges some information on their CV, or at least exaggerates it a little."
     "Even," asked Katie, "when applying for a custodial position?"
     "Labelle Labs pays very well," said Hanlon. "Even our Janitors make more than a lot of office jobs. Any position here is a coveted position."
     "So people tend to overstate their qualifications in order to get work there."
     "O'Keefe's report seems normal in every way. Normal enough that I'm actually surprised he was hired at all. Our HR department hires the best they can get at any position. He'd be fine at a school or a factory somewhere, but for Labelle—he's under-qualified."
     But that would require someone else on the inside to get him the position, thought Katie. 
     "Thanks, Sergeant," Katie said. "That's all I need for now."
     She disconnected the call. Now she was certain there was more to this story than she was being told.

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