"What's your name, creep?" Nita pushed Seth into the living room chair.
"Umm, I'm uh … Hey!" He gave Nita a scandalized look. "I'm not a creep!"
"Then, why," she asked, "have you been sitting there watching our house?"
"Shut up!" Nita scowled at him. "I'm in no mood for lies, pajero."
Lewis went to the open door, looked up and down the street, and closed it behind him. He said, "I don't see anyone else around. I hope you didn't freak any of the neighbors out too much."
"I couldn't care less," replied Nita. "Let 'em call the police, if that's what they want. I'll just hand this asshole right over to them."
She turned back to Seth, "It'll take them a bit to get here, though, and in the mean time, you're going to answer some questions."
"But … you just told me to shut up."
"Shut up with your lies, I mean. And don't speak unless I tell you to."
"Yes, ma'am," Seth said, trying to collect his wits.
Lewis went into the kitchen and returned with a roll of masking tape.
"Lewis, honey," began Nita. "I need duct tape, not that."
"Sorry," he replied. "It's all we have. I can go check the basement."
"No," she sighed. "It'll have to do. This won't be long, anyway."
"You!" She pointed at Seth. "Lean forward, hands behind your back."
"No," said Seth. "You don't have the right—"
Nita grabbed Seth by the small hairs at the back of his neck and pulled him forward,"
"Ow! Ow! OWW! "
"I wasn't asking you, cuca. I said DO it!"
Lewis quickly taped Seth's hands together behind his back, and together he and Nita searched him for weapons.
"I didn't find anything," said Lewis. "Except for his wallet." He handed it over to Nita after unsnapping the chain that attached it to Seth's belt.
"Yeah, I think he's clean." Nita sat on the coffee table in front of Seth, while Lewis maintained his position behind Seth's chair. She opened the wallet, searching for clues. There was no cash, but there was a bank card, a library card, a security pass for LaBelle Laboratories, and, of course, his Ohio Driver License.
"So, tell me, Seth D. O'Keefe of 2500 Cortona Road … how long have you been watching us?" She glowered at him before adding, "And mind you—I'm very good at telling when people are lying to me. So—Don't. Fucking. Lie. To. Me."
"Fine. I—" he stammered. "I've been watching your house since yesterday."
"Umm … you won't believe me."
"You'd better hope to hell I do."
"OK, it's your friend."
"What about him?" Nita glanced up at Lewis, knowing he wasn't the friend in question.
"No," he said. "I mean your other friend … Mary."
"Good," Nita replied. "That's one honest answer." She looked at his license again. "This was made recently. In fact, I'd say five days ago. That about right?"
"Yes," said Seth, "just this past Saturday. That's where I met Mary."
"And why did you dye your hair? I see it was brown when you took the picture."
"Um … because I think I'm being watched."
"What?" Nita leaned in towards his face, squinting. "You're the creep here. Try again."
"No, really," said Seth. "I think the government has been watching me and—"
Nita leaned back. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"So the question," added Lewis, "is whether he's right, or whether he's crazy. I know which way I'm leaning."
"These are not mutually exclusive possibilities." Nita sighed.
"Just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't after me." Seth grinned. He had come to the conclusion that these people were simply acting defensively, and didn't actually mean him any harm.
"You're not funny!" Nita stood over Seth now. "So, why are you watching Mary? Just can't take rejection? Or are you some kind of—"
She was interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing. It wasn't from in the room. In fact, it sounded like it was coming from outside. She noted that both Lewis and O'Keefe were looking at the window behind her.
Nita turned to face the same direction before asking, "What was that? Is someone out there?"
"I would guess so, yes," replied Seth.
"Who is it?" Nita scowled again. This little act was making her cheeks hurt.
"I couldn't say for sure, but it's probably someone from the government."
"I told you, you're not fucking funny!"
"I wasn't trying to be—" She cut him off by raising her hand as if to smack him. He winced in anticipation, but she didn't follow through.
By this time Lewis had already gone into the kitchen and had started out the back door.
"Stay right there," Nita warned Seth, "or so help me …" She didn't finish the threat, but instead went out the front door.
She went around to the side of the house whence the sound of the cell phone had come. From around the back she heard Lewis' voice.
"Doctor Parker?" He sounded confused. "What are you—"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Wright," interjected a woman's voice. "I'll call you later and explain."
Nita came around the corner and immediately recognized the woman with whom Seth had been speaking at the bookstore.
"Don't let her go, Lewis! She's with him!"
"No, really," said the woman, "I must insist—"
"Where's your accent?" Nita grabbed for her arm, but the woman dodged quickly, moving behind Lewis with the grace of a dancer. Before she could take more than two steps, however, Lewis dived for her. He missed his attempted tackle, but managed to hook her shoe causing her to trip. Before she could catch herself, Nita was on top of her, knife in hand.
"Don't you fucking move!"
"OK, you've got me." The woman put her hands behind her head. "Put the knife away before you hurt someone. I'm not resisting."
Lewis stood and brushed himself off. He grabbed the woman by the arms and helped her up—after Nita took her knee off the woman's back.
"Nice work, honey," he said to Nita. "And that's why I'm always careful not to piss you off!"
They grinned at one another and Nita patted Lewis on the bottom before sliding her knife back in its case. "Hush up, you!"
They returned through the kitchen to the living room, where Seth didn't appear to have even made an attempt to free himself while he was alone. He looked up at Nita as she entered.
"See? I'm being a good boy." His grin became a look of surprise when Lewis pushed the woman into the room.
"Svetlana?" His jaw slackened and dropped.
"Who air deez people, Set? Vhat do zey vant from us?" The woman's voice had suddenly developed a strong Russian inflection.
"Oh shut up with that," said Nita. "You're not fooling anyone with your phony accent."
The woman looked pleadingly at Seth, as if she thought he were in any position to help her. Lewis brought a kitchen chair with him and Nita pushed her into it. Lewis set about taping her into it.
"There's not much of this tape left," Lewis said to Nita. "I don't think it's going to hold very well without looping it a lot more. You want me to check in the basement for duct tape or rope or something?"
"No," replied Nita, "not just yet. Help me keep an eye on them for now."
"Well, shouldn't we call the police, then?"
"Yeah, I expect so, but I want some answers first. Don't you?"
"I do," he admitted.
Nita took her seat on the coffee table again, facing Seth. Lewis stood behind and between the two captives, watching for any sign of an escape attempt.
"Now, where were we before your girlfriend here interrupted?"
"She's not my girlfriend," Seth replied, too forcefully.
"No?" Nita wondered aloud, "You two sure seemed like a couple on your date at the bookstore the other night."
"That wasn't a date. We had just run into one another, and decided to get a cup of coffee."
"That so?" She turned to Katie. "That sound right to you?" Katie closed her eyes and turned her head away. She said nothing.
"That's fine," said Nita. "Don't say anything for now. I'll get to you in a minute."
"You recognize her, then?" Lewis asked.
"Yep," she pointed to Seth. "She was with this one the night I got my book back. She was the one talking about Celia on the phone. She sounded Russian at the time. Goes by the name of Svetlana."
"I saw her the next day, you know." Lewis was growing angry. "Only she sounded American and called herself Dr. May Parker."
"May Parker? Like Spiderman's Aunt?"
"Oh yeah," Lewis almost laughed. "I didn't even make the association."
"You know what?" Nita turned to Katie. "I'm going to deal with you now, after all. What's your name—your real name?"
Katie remained silent.
"Hold her shoulders, Lewis." Nita stood over Katie and began searching her pockets. She found no purse, wallet, or any identification. There was only a white iPhone. "What's the passcode?"
Katie remained silent.
"I'm only going to ask one more time," Nita said, reaching for her knife. "Don't make me have to hurt someone."
"Zhou vould no dare," she replied. She was really laying the accent on thick now. Nita noted that her eyes flashed towards O'Keefe. She must think he's the weak link, Nita thought.
"Jesus, lady!" Lewis leaned next to Katie's ear. "We all know that accent's baloney, so do like she said and drop it."
"Tell me her real name, pendejo!" Nita put her knife to Seth's cheek. "I ain't kiddin' with you!"
"Kate," said the woman. "My name is Katherine … Swynford."
"All right, then, Katherine." Nita pulled the knife away from Seth and sat up straight.
"So …" Seth stammered. "You're—American?"
Katie lowered her head in what appeared to be shame. "Yes," she said. "I'm sorry, Seth. I lied to you. I feel—"
"Sorry to interrupt your little moment," Nita broke in, "but I asked you another question! What's the passcode to this phone?"
"1701" Katie sighed.
Nita tapped in the code. A large yellow number "3" appeared on the screen, then an orange "2" flashed.
"What is—" Nita began, as the number "1" flashed in red and then the screen went black. "What the hell was that?"
Katie grinned. "You just bricked it." A small trail of smoke wafted out of the connector port. "But don't worry, it won't explode or anything."