My team is in complete disarray. I don't even know why I call it "my team" since it's really Carrie's team. Everyone is talking and chatting. While we were talking to Carrie, someone came and moved our computers to a locked room that only we can access via a thumbprint scanner. We were given an hour to clean out our personal belongings and move to the new secure room which of course I notice has cameras everywhere. I am sure there are microphones everywhere as well. We are all in cubes except for Carrie who has a private office. I'm not sure she had this setup in mind since we will have no privacy when we are in the office. I wouldn't be surprised if they are also recording keystrokes and transmitting periodic screen shots. There are no windows in the office.
I don't share these observations with the team. They have enough to worry about. A security team comes in to gather our prints and check everyone's clearance. Part of me wonders how this compares to the conditions in Building Four. At least they let us leave at night and we can even bring our laptops home so we can work remotely. I remind myself to check for listening devices at home.
Around four o'clock I call Ellie to give her the bad news.
"Sorry, honey," I say, "remember the woman I had to work with this weekend? She's now my boss and I need to work late."
"Fuck," comes the reply. "What is with this bitch? I hope I don't ever meet her because she is killing us. And you have no idea how late you'll be?"
"I think it's a kind of promotion, working for her," I lie. "This is a good thing, honey. Remember we'll have a big night Wednesday. I promise."
"Fine," she pouts. "Is this some super secret project or something?"
"Yeah," I say, "it actually is."
"Huh. Maybe you can tell me about it later."
I grit my teeth. For six months she almost refuses to talk to me about my work, and now that I mention that it's "secret" she wants to hear all about it.
"OK, I'll tell you what I can. See you later, honey."
Around 7 Carrie sends me a strange IM: "I thought somehow that it's my executable".
I don't remember talking about executables. I look at it again and then through the glass at Carrie. Most everyone else has left for the night. She points to my screen and I look at the message again. Ahh... itstime....its time. I feel so sneaky.
I pack up my stuff and head out. As I'm putting stuff in my trunk, I see Carrie walking to her car which is 2 spaces away. Looking around, I sneak over to her car and pop in the passenger seat. As Carrie gets in we hear a whirring sound in the garage. I look around.
Back behind us a gate opens. Behind the gate is the lot for Building Four. A large black SUV pulls out, with a blonde woman driving.
"No," I say. "No, it can't be. You have got to be fucking kidding me." It looks like Marcia, coming out of the Building Four lot.
"I told you so," says Carrie.
"Shh! Get down."
We scoot down in our seats as the lumbering vehicle approaches. It slows down as it nears us, then speeds off.
"Do you think she saw us," asks Carrie.
"I hope not. Wait a second, and let's follow her."
"What? Are you kidding?"
"She might lead us to someone. Just wait a moment so it's not obvious."
In a minute we're out on the streets of San Francisco, tailing my brother's wife. I feel extremely stupid. However after a few miles I notice she's not headed back towards Tahoe or anywhere in the city. She's headed south, along the route we were about to take.
"Where do you think she's going," asks Carrie. Fortunately the rush-hour traffic has thinned and we're able to tail her from a few cars back.
"Probably to Stanford, to get Benson's files. Oh wait, that's where we should be going."
After a dozen more miles, I begin to wonder.
"This is ridiculous," I say. "I'm getting a bad feeling about this. If she takes the Stanford exit I am going to seriously freak out. How the hell would Marcia be involved in this?"
Carrie shrugs. "You said she's an advisor? How much do you really know about her?"
"Just that she's not very nice. After that incident Saturday it took me faking a bloody nose to get back on Ellie's good side. On Sunday we had a pleasant morning boat trip together on the lake. Ellie wanted to cook for us, so she prepared a nice meal. Marcia had something critical to say about everything, completely offhanded and subtle but Ellie didn't care for it. Stuff like, this is great meat. Did you burn it yourself? She is so rude. Ellie wanted to kill her. She practically cried the whole car ride home. I have to say Ellie is funny when she's angry. It's like she almost starts speaking Russian or something. I asked her about it once. She explained that she spent a formative summer camp in Eastern Europe where a bunch of Russian girls taught her how to cuss. You should hear her...she knows a ton of Russian words. Ellie says that Marcia has an evil heart. She told me a Russian saying for it, but I can't remember how it goes."
"Huh. From some of your descriptions of her, I'm surprised that she is so well traveled."
"Yeah. She's spent time in China, Japan, France, Brazil, and a couple other places. It's really funny to hear her talk Chinese though. But she does manage to get the 'good' stuff when we're eating in Chinatown."
"Now that's something useful," grins Carrie. "I never seem to get anything good, or know where to go."
"Yeah, most tourists go upstairs. It's the places downstairs that are the best. When I first met Ellie she lived right above one of these places. She owns a bunch of really nice Chinese art and things. She doesn't know I know, but I found some Chinese weapons in a box of hers. Real serious stuff like daggers and throwing stars."
"Wow, I own a TV, a computer, and a huge stack of books. Oh yeah, and a microwave."
"Now who's fault is that? I bet you also live in a one-bedroom studio apartment somewhere in a low-rent district. You know, you do get paid."
I can almost see her blush in the headlamp light. "I know, I just don't feel like spending money. I get by with what I have, you know? I will say one area where I'm jealous of Ellie: I would like to travel more. Get out and see things. I like the part of this job where I get to travel. After we get through this I'd like to go to a company where I get to travel all the time."
Sure enough, Marcia gets off at the Stanford exit. We tail her all the way to campus. At this point I'm sure she's heading for the professor's office. I ask Carrie to take a different route around campus so that we're not tailing her any more. We pull around to the lab and spot the SUV parked on the side. We park a block away and sneak over to the building.
The front door is locked, but when we circle the building, we find a door that has been opened, and of course the alarm disabled.
"Where's his office," I whisper.
In the darkness of the hallway, Carrie takes my hand and starts leading me through the building. Her grip is strong and firm. She motions for silence. Down the hall, I see glimmers of light coming from a room. Someone is in there with a flashlight. We hear rustling of papers and occasional thumping as items are moved around. For half an hour we crouch in the darkness. Finally we see Marcia walk into the hallway with a large backpack on her back. She walks past us as we crouch in the shadows of a doorway. She stops for a second, looks around, then continues walking. As this close distance there's no mistaking her identity.
Once she leaves, we go to the professor's office. Papers fill the floor, and we find no trace of any computer equipment. Then we smell smoke. In the corner, under a large stack of papers, glows something ominous.
"Run," I say. "RUN!!"
As fast as we can we bolt down the hall. Just as we reach the door we first entered, a violent concussion blows past us, throwing us through the door. Carrie screams. I hear alarms sounding, and cars from all directions are honking or buzzing. I grab Carrie's hand but she screams again.
"My ankle! Oh god, it hurts!"
I grab her arm and hoist it on my shoulder. However, like this we make no progress. I lift her into my arms, and she is surprisingly light. I begin running towards the car as Carrie cries out in pain. Her arms are pulling on my neck. By now there are dozens of onlookers, and flames our pouring out of the building we just vacated.
Carrie screams again as I lower her into the passenger seat of her car. I jump into the driver's seat and speed away. Carrie is crying out in pain and holding her ankle. "It hurts, it hurts!"
I get onto the highway and start pushing the Corolla to its limit. I suddenly regret not taking my BMW 535i sedan instead. I try to comfort her as I drive but she winds up clutching my hand painfully.
"I think it's broken," she sobs.
After a crazy ride weaving through traffic we finally arrive at St. Luke's Hospital. Fortunately it wasn't busy tonight. They take Carrie in and I'm just sitting in the lobby. I'm typing this up on Carrie's laptop.
After an hour the let me see Carrie. She has a big bandage on her leg.
"Well," she says. "The good news is that it's not broken. It's just a severe sprain. The bad news is that I'll still need surgery to repair some ligaments, probably later tonight."
I look at her and I look at the clock.
"Oh, please don't go," she begs. "I'm scared. I don't have anyone who can take care of me in this town. Please, Alex."
I don't know what to tell Ellie. I don't know what she'll believe.