“What the hell?!”
Immediately after departing San Diego International Airport, David was greeted by Ryuuji’s face staring at him on a monitor in the backseat of the car that had come to pick him up. A news reporter spoke next to his face.
“...the data leak that occurred late last year. The suspect is one Ryuuji Sogabe,” said the American news anchor with a thick accent, “wanted in connection with the tampering of medical records of thousands of customers of the CyberConnect Corporation and its affiliate companies. While CC Corp’s president Veronica Bain ensures the leak has been contained and no data has made it out of the hands of the hackers, the primary culprit in the case is still at large.”
The reporter paused and looked at someone off screen.
“It’s just coming in now, that…” she pauses to listen. “It seems that an American NAB agent is wanted in cooperation with the assailant, supposedly cooperating in providing behind-the-scenes access.”
An image of David’s ID photograph displayed, and he stared at himself. There was a moment of silence, and he made eye contact with the driver who had been peering at him from the rearview mirror. He saw his nametag: Yamanaka.
“Driver. Driver!” David beckoned for the guy up front, but he stayed silent. He couldn’t tell if it was intentional, so he called to him in Japanese.
“Look, I don’t wanna get involved with any of this kind of stuff. I just drive cars, okay?” the older gentleman responded in his native tongue.
“I’d like you to turn this car around, and take me to a train station. There’s been a change of schedule.”
“Well, I’m supposed to take you to the main laboratory. Then I’m supposed to wait outside until you’re done, then I’m supposed to take you to a hotel, then I’m supposed to have a nice warm meal, then I--”
“You’re going to take me somewhere else,” said David, holding up his badge. Yamanaka began to sweat.
“Sir, I’m really not supposed to disobey my route. This car’s got a GPS monitor that’ll know exactly where I’m going and when. To tell ya the truth it kinda creeps me out a little bit. I mean, a man should be allowed some freedom to act, y’know?”
“I’m not asking you, Yamanaka-san. I’m telling you.”
They made eye contact again in the rearview mirror, and Yamanaka mumbled something before taking the exit.
“Is this line secure?”
“Of course it is.”
“Tell me what’s happening, Eleanor.”
“This kind of thing can’t be helped. You got into a bit of a mess back there, didn’t you? You made yourself known quite a lot. The NAB presence couldn’t be suppressed, and now here we are.”
He looked out the window and watched the American landscape scroll by. A half-eaten meal lay to his side. The phone was pressed close to his ear, and he listened carefully to the sound of Eleanor on the other side of the line while he carefully logged every feature of the small area of the train he had been allotted. By now Yamanaka would have gone back to CyberConnect and told someone in charge that he was forced to let a fugitive go. Eleanor, too, had only found this quiet moment for them to speak in between the national scandal that had erupted once it had been confirmed by the NAB that an Agent Steinberg acted outside of his jurisdiction and crossed national boundaries to intervene in a case that didn’t belong to him. Details were beginning to add up extremely quickly, and the sunglasses he wore to shield himself from askance glances were beginning to feel like a paltry line of defence.
“And the Seto case? How much does the public know?”
“It’s getting up there. In fact, it’s been discovered that he had been killed long before the events of the case. Some deeper circles are beginning to spread a story saying it was an FBI coverup, that they killed an innocent civilian in an altercation. Some of the crazier ones say it was you personally who delivered that bullet.”
“Just a load of dogshit. You and I both know what actually happened to Yuri Seto.”
“I know. But the public can never find that out, at least, not yet. There’s too much money surrounding that kind of truth.”
The passersby of the small window looking into his booth unnerved him. He looked outside again. There were mountains, but what were the names? What state was he in? Did America always look like this? The darkness of the sunglasses seemed to grow deeper.
“What’s next, David?”
“Should I tell you? Maybe it’d be better if you didn’t know.”
“You’re probably right.”
“For now, I’m just going to go where this train takes me. After that, I just have to do a whole lot of work.”
When he awoke it was nighttime, and a man sat before him.
“Jesus, you scared me.”
“I didn’t think you were the type to be scared of anything, ever. Does what’s happening right now scare you?”
“No. It annoys me. Just more stuff to clean up.”
“Isn’t that what you’re good at?”
“Sure. A janitor can be good at his job. Doesn’t mean he enjoys it.”
“Hm,” said the man, and then crossed his legs. It was night out, but his sunglasses remained on. David could not see his eyes beyond the black visor in the darkness of the night. It unsettled him, but he was used to that feeling by now. “Do you know why I’m here?”
“Probably because I did something wrong.”
“No. It’s because somebody else did something wrong.”
“You messed up?”
“God, no. I never mess up. It’s everything else that’s become messed up.”
“So what is it, then? You never show your face unless it’s important.”
The man shifted his legs again, and then took his sunglasses off.
“I’m here to tell you to wait. I know you might have a ton of bright ideas in that head of yours about what to do next, but I’m telling you to act on none of them. I appreciate your gung ho attitude about all this, but just coast on it for a while. Ride the train to the last stop. See if I send anything your way again. If you don’t hear from me in a week, then go ahead and do whatever it is you thought would be appropriate. I’ve known you long enough to trust your judgment in these things.”
The man put his sunglasses back on and stood up.
“That’s all. See you next time, kid.”
The door opened, and then David spoke.
The man looked back.
“I’ll fix this.”
The man gave a thumbs up, and left.