Chapter 24 – Roger That (Part II)

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Roger Powers walked like a cat stalking prey. Adam had retreated from the front of the hall, two cell phones in hand, and headed for the elevators—or perhaps the restrooms, Roger hoped he wouldn’t have to double back and lose him if that were the case. The fact that he’d taken out a second cell phone aside from his cryptophone seemed to solidify the likelihood that he might be the double-agent; after all, why would he need more than one phone for this operation?

The air in the office was cold and the hallways empty but for a small trickle of students visiting their workplaces during the weekend. Operations in this portion of campus were suspended during the weekend. Casey Vargas, the dark-haired girl from Brad’s ARG team who always looked angry, eyed him suspiciously as he passed by trying to track Adam through the halls—she stood with her back to the wall, talking quietly to a taller student Roger knew as Ben Osborn. They’d come along with Zane’s team to hold up the illusion behind Operation Honeypot.

Roger put her out of his mind as he tracked Adam. Off in the distance, past both the elevators and the bathrooms at about the stairwell exit, Roger thought he caught a flash of a blue from a Bluetooth headset.

Without a second thought, Roger dropped his casual lope and sprinted in that direction. He would be out of reach shortly and the stairwell might give him a false sense of privacy—potentially enough comfort for him to send the data he’d just received to his compatriots (or even send out ransom notes.) The hallway was long, but years of fencing training had prepped him for short bursts of speed and he shot down the corridor with a purpose.

He caught the door right before it clicked closed and paused to listen very carefully.

The footfalls of Adam’s descent down the stairs paused for a moment, as if in speculation, but then resumed. Roger could half-hear a mumbled voice—perhaps Adam was speaking to his conspirators over the headset—the echoes in the stairwell made it impossible to discern actual words so ever-conscious of his stealth, he pressed through the door in order to sneak after his prey.

He eased the door so that it would close quietly before moving on but…

Instead it met some sort of resistance and he turned to look. A pair of dark, hostile eyes greeted him from beyond the doorway, Casey pushed open the door and grabbed onto his arm with a grip like a vice.

“What are you doing?” she whispered with a half-growl in his ear.

Roger froze and a frown creased chin. He glanced at Casey—for all her small stature she loomed in the doorway and while he could break free, Adam would certainly hear and probably stop talking. The moment would be lost.

“Let me go,” he whispered harshly back. “I think Adam is our bad guy. I’m going to catch him in the act.”

“Why you…stupid,” Casey hissed at him. She threw the door open with a clatter and yanked him into the hallway. After the door closed with a thump and a click, she let him go, glanced around to see if anyone was watching (just Ben Osborn who seemed amused but more interested in his phone) and then said, “Come with me.”

She stomped away with a thud in her step and stopped to check to see if Roger intended to follow before she turned a nearby corner. Shrugging to himself, he decided that he might as well follow her—after all, the moment was lost and he wouldn’t know if Adam was the prep or not. So he beat a path down her footsteps and found her tucked next to a drinking fountain in an alcove.

She stared at him for a long moment and he decided to take the initiative.

“I could have listened in and known if he was trying to sell our data right then and there,” Roger said. She didn’t react, so he continued. “He has two phones. Why do you think he would be here with two cells if he wasn’t going to sell the secrets?”

Casey folded her arms across her chest. “Are you done?” she asked.

“I suppose I am, if you are,” Roger said.

“Look… Romeo,” she said. “I get it that you’re dishing on Elaine, and I can see why, she’s all brains and helpful, but you’ve got to know that she must have a plan. Damn, I could see it in your eyes that the only reason you’re doing this is because you like her. So give her a chance and let the plan work itself out. She doesn’t need a knight in shining armor to fix her plan.”

“Am I that obvious?”

“You are ten types of obvious with a cherry on top,” Casey said. “If, as you said, Adam really is the ‘bad guy’ we’ll know soon enough and if you’d gone after him to listen in on his personal business he might have figured out that we’re onto him. Plus, you could be wrong.

“My father has saying, ‘No todos los que chiflan son arrieros.’ It means something like not all herdsmen whistle… Yeah, I don’t get it either, but it means don’t be fooled by appearances. If he’s not the guy and you confront him the person you’re after will figured it out and you’ll lose your chance. Comprendo?

Roger sighed. “I think I understand.”

“Good,” Casey said. “I trusted Elaine recently, it worked out well for me. You perhaps know her better than I, you should too. She’s very smart.”

A shadow spilled around the corner and Ben Osborn walked into view.

“What are you two talking about?” he said.

“Women,” Casey said.

“Really?” Ben said. “Care to clue me in?”

Roger shifted uncomfortably and shook his head. “I’d really rather…”

“None of your business,” Casey said to Ben, then pursed her lips and grinned. “We were also talking about catching the bad guy. That means that our friend, Roger here, should get back to his post and make sure he gets the job done.”

“Oh,” he said, suddenly feeling sheepish again. Casey’s eyes blazed with an intent gaze, pointing the way back to the registration office. “Of course, I’ll check to make sure nobody’s there.”

As he retreated, he heard her talking to Ben, suggesting to him that they had their own place to be in a very short amount of time. Together he heard them stop at the elevators and hit the button.

When he returned to his set station, there was someone waiting for him, so Roger went to work once again.

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