Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm Blown Away

I'm Blown Away

Life can be kind of funny. You thinks you know someone, and then something happens that changes everything. In this case, it's two people I didn't know. Right now I'm back at my own apartment, by myself, just trying to take it all in and make sense of it all. As soon as I'm done posting this I'm going to crash and take the rest of this goddamn weekend off. You won't hear from me unless something really major happens. But I don't know what could happen that could top the last 20 hours or so. If I hear from Ellie I'll post something but knowing what I know now I'm pretty sure that won't happen.

I don't know what happened. I'm lying up on Carrie's bed, working my laptop while she examines the disks we stole. She had opened a bottle of white wine, and between that and my lack of sleep I must have dozed off. I wake up in the dark, and I feel a body next to mine and an arm across my chest.

"Ellie," I say softly in my half-slumber, but then I realized I'm still at Carrie's place. The glow from the street light outside illuminates the bed, and I see that she is completely naked next to me. "Uhh...Carrie?"

She pulls up my shirt and begins gently kissing my chest. At this moment I'm kind of shocked and aroused at the same time. I've been missing having Ellie around and feeling hurt and lonely. I reach out and stroke her back for a second, feeling her tiny figure. She lets out a soft moan.

"Carrie, stop. I'm not--"

She puts a hand on my mouth, and then comes up and begins kissing me on the lips. "It's been so long," she says. "I want you so bad." Her lips begin trailing down my body. I'm not sure what to do. I kind of like her as a friend, but the last thing on my mind was this. I start caressing her, and I can't stop myself, and things just keep progressing until we're completely involved.

Afterwards, she just rolls off me and goes to sleep. Suddenly I'm feeling terrible. I'm sitting there looking at the ceiling. She's a lot different than Ellie. When me and Ellie first hooked up, it was kind of magical. We had that chemistry, where we just wanted to share each others bodies and share our pleasure. We would cuddle and talk all night. Lately there had been a lot less of that, partly because we were tired a lot, but still on weekends we'd find some time to be together. I just love Ellie's body. It's strong and supple and curvy. I can just drink her eyes and lips. I just want to be with her all the time. Right now the only thing I can think about Carrie is leaving.

Carrie doesn't make love. It feels more as if she takes it. I feel a little used. Her body is weird and bony, and she has a funny smell. I hate comparing people, but I guess I know what I like and now I feel disappointed. Maybe I wanted to dull the ache with someone else, someone I could feel good with. I don't feel good at all. Carrie's eyes are kind of narrow, her lips are thin, and she her hands feel rough. It's really hard to describe things.

It's not that Carrie doesn't understand the mechanics, or that she hasn't had experience, it's more like she doesn't know what sex is for. This is really hard to explain. All I know I that I really regret it now.

I'm staring at the ceiling for an hour, almost afraid to leave. I don't want things to get weird between us, but I think it already has. I had a feeling she was crushing on me a little, but this went way too fast.

It's about 4am, and I hear some voices outside. I don't think much of it since in this section of town people are out at all hours, usually up to no good. Without warning, the window bursts open and a man drops into the room with his gun drawn. Carrie jumps up and starts screaming, still naked and trying to cover her body. The man jumps over and pins her onto the bed. Another man drops in, and he tackles me. In a moment we're both face down in bed with our wrists cuffed.

"Ow, my leg, my leg," cries Carrie. They haul us to our feet and shine flashlights in our eyes. One man is practically holding her naked body.

One man comes up from downstairs. "Get them dressed and hurry up."

They take off the cuffs momentarily and throw our clothes on. They hustle us down the stairs into a waiting van. Once inside, we sit on a rough bench and the van takes off.

I finally find my voice. "What the hell is going on," I shout.

In the dim light I can see Carrie shivering and looking at me mournfully.

"Looks like you're under investigation. We're taking you in for questioning. I'll advise you to not talk to anyone until you're in there."

"Who are you people? Who do you work for?"

My query is returned with silence. The journey in the van isn't long, but Carrie keeps whimpering and holding her leg. They blindfold us before taking us out of the van. My blindfold is removed once I'm in a bare holding cell, and Carrie's no where to been seen.

"Hey," I yell. "Hey! Where's Carrie? Hello?" I scream for a while, but I finally sit down in frustration.

I wait in that cell for hours. Around 8 or 9 someone drops some breakfast in the room. It includes a thermos of coffee which I drink greedily.

At 10 someone finally comes to fetch me and places me in a room with two chairs and a table, with one-way glass along one wall. I know this is an interrogation room. I wish I had peed before they took me, because the coffee is really kicking in.

After about ten minutes of nothing, in walks Marcia Ross, my sister-in-law. I don't know if I'm relieved or terrified. She's carrying a thick manila binder, and plops it on the table. She sends out the other men, but I know some of them are behind the glass wall.

"Alex, Alex, Alex," she starts, standing opposite me. She's always looked down her nose at me.

"Hey Marcia," I say weakly. "Bet you didn't expect to see me today."

She smiles grimly. "What am I going to do with you? You always seem to be getting involved on the wrong side of things."

I think she may be referring to some of my boisterous college days, where a couple of pranks went too far. Or that incident in High School. I think I've paid my dues for that.

"What the hell is going on, Marcia? Why are you here? What is this place?"

She signs, pulls up the chair, and sits opposite me. It's hard to maintain my gaze as she stares at me. "This is a counter-terrorism center, Alex. You and your little friend have popped up on our radar. I'm here to help find out what's going on."

"Nothing's going on," I huff.

Marcia smiles again. "This would go a lot faster if you were to cooperate." She opens her folder and pulls out a picture. "Now this is a nice one."

I see a picture of myself and Carrie outside the lab at Stanford. I could see the burning office in the corner of the shot.

"Or this one." It's a picture of Carrie and I from last night, in bed, going at it, shot through the window.

"Crap," I breathe.

"What happened to Princess Ellie," she asks me. "Did this Carrie girl sweep you away?"

"No," I sigh. "Ellie left me. And between you and me, what happened last night was a mistake."

"Hmm." Marcia pulls out another one. "Look familiar?"

It's a shot of Carrie and I leaving the secret warehouse.

Marcia's face turns cross. "Alex, I want to know what the hell is going on, and I want to know now!"

I rub my face. "It's not what it looks like."

"Then what is it?"

I'm silent. Who knows who Marcia really works for? If there's a conspiracy, I don't know who to trust.

She pulls out another photo. "Here you are near the scene of Aileen McGovern's accident, and there's Carrie."

"Carrie was there? I didn't notice her."

"And I know you don't have an alibi during Benson's death. Brad will confirm you were out."

I look at all the pictures. I don't know what to say.

"Alex, there are about 500 years of jail time here, and possible capital punishment. Now I'm not a prosecutor, I'm not here to arrest you. We've simply been able to put the pieces together faster than the authorities. You may be thinking that you can lie to me, or get our of this somehow, but right now, I'm the only friend you have."

I look at her. "Something's going on at Infinitae," I start. "But you probably already know that. We've seen you around the offices. Maybe you tell me what's going on."

"I know that you and Ms. Park are up to something. I know that there has been a lot of buzz in the intelligence community about some kind of project going on over there. We can't find anything. We don't have any assets on the inside. If you don't talk and tell me what you know, then we will assume you are responsible and take appropriate action. As you can see we can place you at a lot of these places. Please Alex, if you're in some kind of trouble, you need to talk to me."

I consider my options. She does have a lot of circumstantial evidence. If she's involved in the plot, telling her what I know couldn't make thing worse.

"I found a hit list," I tell her. "Almost all the people on it are dead. All their deaths benefit Infinitae somehow. There are some projects that can be used for espionage. We think that Infinitae is a government front that happened to become too successful."

Marcia stifles a laugh. "I think I'd know if Infinitae was a front. At least not for the US government."

"Ellie's on the hit list," I say. "She could be killed."

Marcia laughs even louder. "Ellie. You know, I never liked her. I always thought she was a little fake somehow. I never knew what she saw in you."


Marcia leans in towards me. "We did a little investigating. Turns out that Ellie isn't exactly who she says she is. We lost track of her a few years ago, and didn't realize she had reemerged."

Marcia pulls out some pictures. "This is Ellie a few years ago."

I barely recognize her. Her hair is completely different, and all the signs around her are in Chinese. "Where was this taken?"

"Near her home, near Beijing."

"She lived in China?" I study the picture.

"No, Alex. Ellie is Chinese. She works for the Chinese government. She's a Chinese citizen."

Now it's time for me to smile. "Righttt. She's about as American as anyone. I think I'd know if she was Chinese. She doesn't even look Chinese. Sure she likes Chinese food, and she can order in Chinese, but doesn't everyone?"

"She wasn't born in China. She moved there as a child of a Russian diplomat who got caught up in a scandal and put under house arrest. She was raised as a secret agent, because she could blend in so well with Europeans and Americans. She spent much of her childhood traveling, learning languages and dialects, trying to learn the different cultures of the world."

She begins producing pictures of Ellie at different ages and locations. Then she pulls out a picture of a dead body.

"This is her first victim. Not her last. We don't have enough proof to prosecute, but everything fits."

"Ellie is a killer??"

This is starting to go too far.

"An assassin, we suspect. We don't know if she's gone rogue or is still under the government's employ. We lost her a number of years ago when she went underground. I never suspected Ellie. I was as surprised as you are right now. She's been right under my nose for months. Have you ever seen any weapons around the house? Did she keep Chinese mementos around?"

I'm silent. Nothing seems to make sense. Ellie a killer? That's about as likely as little Carrie being a killer.

"This is all funny," I say. "I know she can speak a little Chinese and Russian. I know she's traveled a bit. If there is a killer out there, maybe you've got their identities mixed up."

Marcia sighs. "We need to find her. We believe she's been using you to funnel corporate secrets back to China. She's been using your access keys to invade the campus at night." She shows me a picture of Ellie using a card to enter a building at Infinitae. "I understand she dumped you a little abruptly. I don't blame her, the way you've been bed-hopping."

I don't have any explanation on why Ellie would be sneaking into Infinitae. I'm not sure I believe the photo.

"There's got to be a mistake. Ellie wouldn't hurt anyone. I refuse to believe any of this."

I shove the pictures back at Marcia and cross my arms. Ellie a spy?

"You and your friend Carrie need to stop what you're doing," says Marcia. "We can't have people sneaking around getting into trouble. From now on, you need to come to me. I want to see everything you have. However, we need to bring Ellie in. We can't have her out there. We think she's gone dark because she's been given another assignment, possibly an assassination. She's used you and moved on."

"I don't know where she is, and after hearing this I hope I never see her again."

"You will help us find her, or you will be in front of a judge by the end of the day."

I gulp. "I don't know how to find her. She's left me. I've tried to get ahold of her."

"Think. Where did you hang out? Were there and special places only the two of you hung out? She probably has a safe house somewhere, she might have used it before. Has she ever taken you to a friend's house when the friend is out of town?"

I shake my head. "I don't really know her friends even. We didn't do a ton of socializing, except with my friends. Usually she had a "girl's night out" without me. I don't them very well, or where they live."

"Listen, I need to check on some things," says Marcia. "When I get back, I want to know if you're going to cooperate fully."

I watch her leave the room. I pull back over the pictures and shuffle through them. I cringe at the picture of me and Carrie together. I turn that one over. I look through all the shots of Ellie. She doesn't look happy in any of them. I start thinking of everything I know about her. I wish I could just talk to her. Everything seems so unlikely, between the plot at Infinitae and now this. I feel a great weariness settle into my bones. I wish I'd never met Ellie. Before she came along, my life was simple, boring, and easy. I just hope none of this is true.

Eventually Marcia returns. "You're friend Ms. Park is an interesting character," she says. "She won't talk to us about anything. All we can get from her are threats like we're going to pay or something. She's pretty defensive of you. She says she'll kill me if you're hurt. She seems a little venomous. At one point she almost was able to bite her interrogator."

"That doesn't sound like her," I say. "I think she's really frightened. I don't know if she's been in trouble before."

"Ahh, and you have. Listen Alex. Just tell me what you know. In return, we'll try to go easy on Ellie when we catch her. I know she still means something to you. What do you say?"

I give in and tell her everything. I know there's a camera recording all of it. "But I'm sure Ellie isn't involved. We were together every single night since she moved in until Wednesday. She couldn't have been spying. I don't care what you think you know, but you have the wrong person."

"Fine," she says finally. She collects her things. "We'll be in close touch Alex. I'm going to be contacting you daily. If you think there's another killing, let me know. If I catch either one of you playing spy, I'm sending everything we have including a tape of this conversation to the authorities. Now get the hell out of here and don't let me see you here again."

I meet Carrie in the hall. They blindfold us and place us in the van again. It drives away and dumps us back at Carrie's place.

I look up and notice that someone has already tarped over the broken window. Carrie limps over to me and puts her arms around me.

"I've never been so scared," she says. "They tried to get me to confess to everything. Those two-faced bastards think they can scare us away from uncovering their evil plot."

"I'm not so sure they're involved."

Carrie releases me and shoots me a look. "How can you say that? They're fingerprints are over everything. They're trying to get us off their trail. I hope you didn't tell them how much we know about them. They'll be covering their tracks and we'll lose all our evidence. Shit. I bet they took the disks. God damn it. We're back to square fucking one now. I'm so sorry Alex. I pushed us too hard, we need to be more careful."

"It's OK. We didn't know about them. Hey Carrie, I'm just going to grab my stuff and go home."

Now she looks upset. "You don't want to stay a while?"

"Um, I'm so tired. I need some time to process everything. I'll pick you up before work Monday if you still need me to. I'm going to need some time."

She looks like she's about to protest, then she nods. "OK, Alex. I'll could use some rest myself."

I grab my boxes, and the load them in my car which is parked a couple doors down. "See you Monday."

She reaches up to kiss me. I turn my lips away and she kisses my cheek. She looks at me quizzically. "OK Alex. Get some rest. It's going to be that much harder to crack this conspiracy now."

So I'm sitting here, typing this up, and I still can't believe it. I've search my apartment, but I cannot find one single shred of anything connected to Ellie except pictures and a couple things she's bought me. Even those things have American brands on them.

I need some answers. I don't know what's going on anymore. I can't even explain my own actions, let alone those of others. I feel like I'm drowning and the water is closing in faster and faster.

I've got to get some rest and clear my head. I'll talk to you all later.

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