After Alton left, I closed the door and locked it. It was a senseless thing, really, but it was a habit. There was no reason to leave the door open, though it was small good that a lock would do, should the Org come calling. The sun peeked its warm orange head over the tree-line, sending a shaft of light my way. I leaned my head on the door and allowed the warmth to spread over me, memories overwhelming my effort to shut out the past from my racing mind.
Elizabeth and I had met while we were both working for the Organization. Everyone called it that; until the Internet hit town. Overnight, it became the DotOrg before being shorted further to just Org. It's actual, funded name within the federal budget was the Federal Intensive Small Mammal Oversight Organization. Its federal nickname, somewhere to some congressional committee member, was undoubtedly something like Fizmoo. With those choices, Org was the best one in the box, I suppose. Each year, the line-item budget pen skipped over the Org, never crossing it out, but never adding much money to it, either. We were tangentially supposed to be using hard-earned taxpayer dollars to study squirrel migrations, and probably over half the people within the Org spent their time doing just that. Their findings were astounding, since squirrels do not migrate.
The information that Alton had passed on to me was hardly less astounding. If even half of what he claimed to have seen was true, he did need help. I wasn't sure I was what he needed, though.
His story was simple, so simple that, even though I knew he was holding back reams of information, I had to believe him. It made so many things fit, so many disparate pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of life came together, and held together. There was debris every where I looked, and now there was no way to un-see the things I had seen.
There was no sense in leaning on the back door all night. The dog had already gone back to sleep, and I needed to follow suit and do the same. I pushed myself away and turned. Elizabeth stood in the doorway, radiant in the light streaming down the stairs. I sighed, and smiled. I sort of expected her. Her years in the Org had trained her, like all of us, to be light sleepers, and old habits die harder. Maybe harder than I thought.
"What did he want?" She flicked her hair back, and I watched it defy gravity for a moment before falling back across her shoulder. I wondered for a moment, just a moment, how much of our lives together was a lie, and how much was not. There was no way to tell. Elizabeth was the best, at everything, and that included lying. And still I had fallen in love with her.
"Why didn't you tell me he was alive? How long have you known, Elizabeth? And what else are you keeping back?"
"What do you, mean, Jack?"
"I mean I know about the daycare being a front for the Org. There's no sense hiding it, not anymore. Alton told me, just now."
"Well, I guess you'd believe him instead of your own wife."
"Is he lying?"
"About the daycare? No. I have gone back to the Org, Jack. I had to. They...they threatened to kill you if I didn't. I did it to protect you."
Elizabeth sat down on a kitchen stool. Even waking up at five in the morning, without the benefit of a shower, makeup, or even a cup of coffee, she looked great. She always that the appearance of the 'after' pictures in the phony weight loss ads, without ever having had the issue of the excess weight. She bit her lip, just a little, a schooled mannerism to let me know she was going to tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I waited, not sure, this time, that the truth was coming or not.
She pushed her long, honey-blond hair back. "Yes. They threatened to kill you. They were very particular, and very exact, about when, where, and how. Especially the how. It was very imaginative, and sounded extremely painful. I believed them. I had no reason not to. And they haven't had me do anything that I hadn't done a hundred times before. Not until last week, anyway."