Secrets: Chapter 21.2

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Chapter 21.2

August parked in the second level of the garage at 8:33 PM, bought her ticket at 8:37, and was in the second seat from the right, third row from the back, at 8:41.

In her pocket, her phone was turned on, connected through NetMeet to her home computer, which was capturing and storing every sound the phone picked up. In 24 hours, her computer would automatically send the recorded audio to John Ward's computer at the ASIS head office if August had not returned home, or if the computer itself was tampered with.

There was likely no danger. If someone wanted to harm her, there were many less roundabout ways than tricking her into wasting twelve dollars on a movie ticket. They knew her identity; it would take little effort to kidnap her directly from home. Or kill her.

But it didn't hurt to be cautious.

The start of the movie came and went. The theater never filled more than an eighth of its seats. Twenty minutes passed, then forty; August saw nothing of what was on the screen. Her eyes followed every person who entered or left, none of whom sat within ten seats of her. Her heart lurched each time someone came back from the toilet.

After an hour, restlessness set in. What were the odds that someone she knew was just pranking her? Or that someone had used the ASIS logo at random to get her attention just because she was Australian?

At one hour and fifteen minutes, the door opened. August was almost to the point of ignoring it. Less than twenty minutes remained in the movie. But ten seconds later, a presence loomed up in the aisle just back of her and sat down.

"I would prefer that you did not turn around," said a man's voice. He was leaning forward, speaking softly into her ear. "If you are wondering why I waited so long to approach, we have come to the loudest portion of the movie, suitable for covering a conversation. The first portion was to ensure no one had followed either you or myself."

A million questions popped into August's head. He continued before she could sort them into an order of importance.

"I will speak. You need only listen. You may speak after, if you wish."

August hesitated, then nodded. On the screen, a clamorous car chase coupled with automatic weapons fire completely precluded the possibility of anyone overhearing.

"We are not allies, but I believe we share commonalities," the man said. Analyzing his speech pattern was difficult. Like August, he seemed to have put great effort into learning how to modulate it to his will. "You have been investigating the Universe Creation Corporation. As have I. You have discovered nothing. As have I. You are frustrated and at the end of your patience, battering yourself against this problem until you almost believe that there was no problem from the start. I know of this frustration. I feel it myself."

The action on screen momentarily died down. August listened to the sound of his breathing, but it was flawlessly regular and told her nothing. Her ability to read people was impeded by not being able to see them. Was that the reason he was behind her?

As bullets and screeching tires again echoed around the theater, she spoke. "Everything you've said's true. And so? What d'you want with me?"

"As I said, we are not allies. But perhaps, we could be. It pains me to make the offer, because I prefer solitude. Again, in this, we are alike. Yet I have come to realize that there is no alternative. I must seek help, or fail until eternity has come and gone."

August weighed his words against his actions and found no glaring inconsistencies. But there were curiosities. "Why drag me out here, then? Why not ring my doorbell? D'you think I'm being watched?"

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