Protocol Six: Episode Nine
by Alan Augustson
12 March 2017

The gray clock on the gray wall now read a few minutes to gray o’clock. David sat in his gray chair, with his feet propped on the gray tabletop. He wasn’t any more comfortable for it, but his blue jeans did give him some color to look at.

Michael sat next to him, gently bumping his head on the table in boredom and frustration, and speaking to the rhythm thereof. “This… was… a… mis… take.”

“Yes,” David sighed. “It was.”

“Dude, I need to be at the theater in two hours. I’m gonna have to skip showering as it is.”

“Then let’s leave. Fuck this place.”

Michael sat up. “You think?”

“We’re not suspects,” David shrugged, “and as far as I know, that door isn’t locked. I just don’t care anymore.”

“How will you get your letter back?”

Pfft. Wait a week, if that. Tin Foil Hat Boy will send another.”

Nearly just as David hand his hand on the doorknob, there was a knock, and a police officer let himself in.

“Oh- ! Were you leaving…?” he exclaimed.

Yes,” David came back grimly. “You’ve had us here all damn day, and we’ve got other places to be.”

“I’m sorry, gentlemen; I just came in to give you the status of your case. It’s been transferred to a different jurisdiction and we’ve been waiting on them to arrive.”

Michael’s face was textbook exasperation. “Whaaaat…? What ‘jurisdiction’?”

“I don’t have that information; all I’ve been told is that it’s been transferred.”

“Oh this is such bullshit,” Michael whined.

“Look,” David grumbled, “you have the address and phone number. When whomever-it-is turns up, they can come find us. We gotta go.”

The officer gave way with a look of resignation, and the two men strode down the hall.

“You’ll come to the theater tonight, right?” Michael asked. “Probably safer than being home by yourself.”

David sighed again. “I suppose. You guys had better be funny as hell, though.”

“I will personally drop a piano on someone’s head if it starts getting too slow.”

Within an hour David was slouching in the back row, watching as a slightly thicker crowd, mostly of other theater nerds, buzzed in anticipation. There was nearly an improv troupe per capita in this city, and the market was so glutted that everyone’s audience consisted of other troupes on a night off. David wondered how anyone was able to make a living, simply handing the same admission fares back and forth amongst them.

He paged through the program in boredom, perusing the well-padded resumes of the performers. Eventually there was some stirring among the crowd, and a couple of wolf-whistles as the curtain began hauling upward. An announcer came over the PA, sounding a bit like a game-show host: “Now, ladies and gentlemen, the Riviera is proud to bring you, People Maché!”

David smiled and added his supportive applause to that of the crowd. Over the noise, he sensed someone hurdling over the seats, plopping down next to him.

“Boo,” grinned Lorelei.

David looked panicked. “Shit-!

“Hey, eeeeeeeeeasy, easy easy,” she soothed. “If I wanted any harm to come to you, I’ve already had plenty of opportunity, right?”

He said nothing but was visibly calmer already.

“There ya go,” Lorelei continued. “Okay, so obviously I’m not a friend of Michael’s; sorry about that. I know you’ve got a ton of questions, and I will answer them. But not here.”

She took a cell phone and charger from her jacket and gave them to David.

“Here. This isn’t registered in your name, so it can’t be used to track you. I’m already on speed dial. Just let me know where and when, and we’ll talk on your terms. ‘Kay?”

She got up to leave before David could even muster a “But… ?”

“Oh,” she whispered in his ear. “And don’t. Trust. The feds.”

“What feds?” David whispered back, but Lorelei simply mussed his hair and vanished.

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Social scientist, public policy analyst, emergency management consultant and author. U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former firefighter. Former candidate for U.S. Congress.

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