The virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea.
- La Rochefoucauld, French Classical Writer (1613-1680)
Chapter 9: Satellites
Susan’s cell rang and she picked it up. “Hello?”
“I thought you said no phone calls,” she said wearily but with a hint of playfulness.
“I went out and got a couple pre-paid phones from the 7/11, no traceable owner. If ever it comes to cops pouring over your cell phone records just say it was a wrong number.”
“Don’t even talk like that.”
“It’s good to think like that though. Were you sleeping?”
“Did I sound like I was?” She asked with a weary laugh. “No, I’ve been wide awake the whole time.” It was just past 4am now.
“Yeah, I was lying in bed and my brain just wouldn’t stop and I was thinking what if the detectives are already there when we get to work tomorrow and they’re interviewing everyone and they ask if we’d noticed anything about James that day?”
“And sooner or later, they’ll be combing over his phone records and they’ll see his calls to us and then they’ll be real curious for us to explain why we never mentioned in our initial interviews how all three of us received phone calls from him just a couple hours before he got killed.”
“Oh my God.”
“So all three of us have to have a similar story ready by tomorrow. Something like, ‘Yeah, actually it was the weirdest thing because he gave me a call last night and I’ve never had a call from him in my life.'”
“Oh God, how do we find a way to explain that.”
“Well, something had to be going on leading up to it that he would call out for help maybe, but we couldn’t really know he was in trouble enough to think we actually had to go there, but he was acting paranoid or delusional or something, but definitely not like the guy who we knew from work and somehow we just thought he was being weird and then he hung up.”
“Right, just a weird phone call, but he didn’t ask us to come over . . . “
“Yeah, just don’t say it like that. Just a short – what was your phone call like, I mean, how long was it?”
“Two minutes, I guess, three at the most.”
“Right, same here. They’re going to want details though, we can’t just tell them it was a weird call and leave it at that or say he was mumbling stuff and we listened to him mumble for three minutes before hanging up.”
“Come again . . . “
“I know they’re going to do a toxicology report, and we both know he wasn’t on drugs, but we just have to go with something weird, and I can always remember this one time and Rosie and I were looking to get some buds and my regular connect didn’t have any, so we went to a friend of a friends’ place, and they had buds over there, but when we got there, these guys were tweakin’ hard, going off on how the government had this technology where the satellites could see through your walls and we were getting high listening to this stuff, you know?”
“These guys were just so completely tweaked out of their minds, they think like the government has nothing better to do than to assign agents around the clock to watch a couple low-level crystal meth dealers and just . . . observe them like around the clock! We were just getting high and listening to them going on and on about satellites and government conspiracies and we were just cracking up but trying to hold it in so it wasn’t too obvious, but when the one guy came out of the kitchen with the big tube of tin foil and they started working on the windows with it, we just lost it.”
“Yeah, just mention like he said something about satellites, government mind control and laser beams and after that, the less specific we are the better. And after the results comeback from the coronor, they’re going to know he wasn’t on drugs, but maybe they’ll think he just had a schizophrenic episode or his mind snapped, or maybe tomorrow they’ll hear everyone from work talking about how he was the quiet guy and they’ll think he was the kind of guy who kept it quiet to keep it in check at work and then he’d go home and be by himself and start start climbing the walls.”
Johnny heaved an audible sigh of relief. “Okay, I think that’s weird enough to be believable. Phew. At least that’s one less thing to think about. I’ll call Darren from the other pre-paid and let him know the general story we’re going to use.”
Susan said, “Yeah, I think you’re right about tomorrow though, the detectives are going to want to interview people when their memories of how he was acting are the freshest, and I’m guessing there are enough of us there at work where instead of having us come downtown to talk to them, they’ll be waiting for us when we get there.”
The little bit of relief that Johnny just felt was gone as quickly as it had come.
“Well, alright then,” Johnny said.
Johnny and Susan had hung out three or four times together just casually, but he’d always liked her – those golden rings of curly blond hair and the way it flowed out as wide as her shoulders, the way her smile seemed to suggest she was wise to you, that she’d heard all the guys’ lines before . . . but she was also proving herself to be sharp and creative in thinking through these things.
After a moment’s pause he said, “Hey, I’m glad we’re in on this together.”
“Yeah, I’m going to be going in there tomorrow looking all ragged like I haven’t slept . . . I hope they don’t get suspicious and wonder why I look like death warmed over.”
He was about to say, “Trust me, you don’t have to worry anything about how you look,” but then he remembered that smile and the bemused look in her eyes that seemed to say, “Yeah, I know what you’re up to. I’m on to your game,” so instead he went with, “Don’t worry, it’s a freakin’ telemarketing job, have you seen the way half the people roll in all hungover from the night before?”
That was worth a laugh.
They exchanged good nights, both knowing there’d be no sleep tonight.