Recruitment

21 6 4

-------------------------------------------------

Mike answered the door, blearily staring into the predawn night. He was wearing a beautiful Korean silk bathrobe, embroidered with dragons and thunderclouds and some kind of writing in Hangul.

Agent Dover held his badge case awkwardly, the way a sixth-grade girl holds a dead frog. "Hello," he said. "I'm FBI special agent Kyle Dover."

Mike shook his head. "Get the hell out or I'm calling the police right now," he said.

"You do that, Mister Clelland," said agent Dover. "I'm already working with the police here, they'll know who I am."

"You got a warrant?" insisted Mike.

Agent Dover handed him a warrant. Mike read it, then sighed and let him in. He tossed the warrant down on a casino roulette table he had placed next to the door.

"She ain't here," he said. "Your warrant gives you permission to search my place for Rose DeCourtney, but she ain't here."

"Still, you know who that is?" Said Agent Dover, casually looking around the place. Sculpture and books stared back at him from every shelf; handmade wicker chairs occupied every corner of the front room. The front door itself was covered, on the inside, with decks of playing cards.

"Hell yes, I know who that is," Clelland said. "She - she helped me get the police to investigate my brother's death."

"Yes," said Agent Dover, abstractedly, wandering into the kitchen and looking around. Dice, dominoes, scrabble tiles, and backgammon pieces were glued in a solid sheet to every blank space in sight. "And that's the investigation I'm pursuing right now," he said. "You've made some interesting choices in interior decorating, Mister Clelland."

"Go fuck yourself," Mike replied cheerfully.

"Seriously, Mister Clelland, you should be cooperating with the FBI in this investigation," Agent Dover said in a chiding voice.

"Yeah, maybe I should," said Mike. "And maybe you shouldn't be waking people the hell up at five in the goddamn morning."

"Well," said Dover, peering into the bathroom, "at least I'm not sitting here being useless." The bathroom was filled with polished brass fixtures and fittings from the age of sail and steam. Telescopes and antique deck prisms lined the wall at eye height; ancient naval charts papered the walls. The hot and cold faucets in the shower had antique windlass handles instead of the faucet fittings they'd been sold with. The bathroom ceiling was completely covered with compasses, all pointing in more-or-less random directions because the magnets in each of them interfered with all the others. Everywhere there were piles and piles of gimcracks and gewgaws and outdated gadgets. The bathroom sink was an ancient prospector's gold pan, mounted in a counter-top that was carved by hand from a three-foot chunk of a redwood tree. Dover looked around and smiled. "Have you ever considered working with the FBI, Mister Clelland?"

"No," said Mike. "They wouldn't want me anyway, I've had a breakdown or two and shot at people snooping around my apartment."

"Can't say I blame you for that, Mister Clelland," said Agent Dover mildly. "I just ask because, you know, the agency always needs special agents with, um, unique abilities." The silence grew longer for a moment or two, then he continued. "Um, is that the bedroom in there?" He opened the door and looked into the bedroom. Then, with an air of embarrassment, he closed the door again. "Well, she's clearly not in there," he said.

"Oh, clearly not," said Mike, filling a hideous stainless-steel elephant with water and putting it on the stove. "I'd offer you coffee, but I'm afraid then you might stick around."

"You should be concerned, Mister Clelland. Miss DeCourtney has gone missing, and there's some kind of lunatic out there," Dover said mildly.

"I am concerned," Mike said. "But you're playing some kind of game with me, and I don't trust you."

Dover gazed at him intently. "Have it your way, Mister Clelland. As you note, she's clearly not here. Seriously, though, the Agency is aware of a need for agents capable of dealing with ... special situations, and this is ... well, special. You know what I'm saying, right?"

"Right," said Mike. "Now, get out."

Dover handed Mike his business card, saying, "Well, if she shows up, or if you decide you can help, please - give us a call." Then he smiled and left.

Mike sat back down in his kitchen, poured hot water out of the elephant's trunk, and stirred himself a cup of instant coffee.

Okay, he thought, so Dover is almost as annoying as I am. But he's right, too. I'm sitting here like a useless lump, and if Rose has disappeared... damnit, Mike didn't want to think about that. No, damnit, he had to think about that. Rose had disappeared? What the hell had that warrant said? He went to read it again, but he couldn't find it. Weird. He'd left it on the table by the door, hadn't he?

Mike tried to imagine helping the FBI. Thanks to his portfolio and his unique talent for telling when CEOs and salesmen were lying about something, he didn't need a job. He didn't have a huge income, but he'd been happily job-free for years. But the FBI... damn. A chance to help investigate Joe's death? He stared at the card in his hands, turning it over and over...

The HookWhere stories live. Discover now