25 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 6

Ione met with Jack, who knew far more about what happened in Paris than anyone should.
The next morning, Ione once again woke up with a weight across her legs.  "Diesel," she groaned.  "Did you miss me that much while I was gone?"  With effort, she managed to flip over on to her back.  Diesel padded across the bed to meet Ione face to face.  He sat down, staring at the brunette.  Ione stroked his grey fur.  "I'm sorry for disappearing this week."  She raised her head, offering her forehead to the cat.  He leaned forward and touched Ione's forehead with his, then purred.  "Let's get breakfast."

By the time Ione's feet hit the floor, Diesel had torn out of the bedroom and was halfway downstairs.  Ione grabbed her robe and followed.  The grey cat sat patiently in front of his food dish and stared without blinking at Ione as she shuffled into the kitchen.  She topped off his dry food, then searched through the cupboards for a clean dish.  Finding one, she scooped half a can of salmon flavoured wet food into it and set it beside Diesel.  The grey monster pawed at Ione until the dish was set as his feet.  Diesel lunged at the cat food, chomping loudly as he ate.  Ione shook her head.  "Just don't make a mess."

Ione checked the coffee maker.  There was enough for one cup, she reckoned, though old.  Still, it was nice of Karen to leave some for her, Ione figured.  She poured herself the remains into a mug, then added cream and sugar.  The coffee tasted bitter, even with the extra sugar, but was still warm enough to perk Ione up.  She finished half the mug before she began her hunt for breakfast.  On a typical weekday, Ione would have enough time for only toast or cereal before grabbing an orange to eat at her desk.  Most weekends, Karen prepared a brunch.  This morning, though, Ione wanted something more substantial than her norm but not as involved as one of Karen's brunches.  She hunted through cupboards and the refrigerator to see what was available to her; she settled on bacon and eggs.

Making breakfast didn't take long.  Ione was able to settle at the dining table, moving aside various newspapers, magazines, and books, both hers and her housemate's.  The meal hit the spot, comforting and filling.  Ione cleaned up, tripping over Diesel as he tried to help.  Once she closed the dishwasher and started its cleaning cycle, she picked up the grey cat to hug him.  "You're friendly today.  Did you miss me?"  Ione kissed the cat's cheek.  "You must have."

Still holding the cat, she padded on her bare feet to the living room and sat in the easy chair.  Diesel settled on her lap, curling up into a ball.  Ione turned on the TV and flipped between the news channels.  The CBC had coverage of the goings on at Parliament Hill while CTV had their fifteen minutes of international news.  The image switched to footage from Paris just as Ione entered the channel for CNN.  Realizing what she had done, Ione switched back to CTV.

". . . --fled about the cause of the explosion, but a police spokesperson said that the debris recovered indicated that the warehouse was being used to store weapons, from assault weapons to missiles."  Ione broke into a cold sweat.  Diesel looked up at her, his golden eyes wide.  "No witness have come forth so far, but the French police are working with Interpol and with various intelligence agencies to trace the origins of the weapons.  This is Jennifer Quinn, reporting."

Ione turned off the TV and sat back.  She stared blankly at the screen.  Diesel mewed questioningly, then batted at Ione's arm.  She responded by scritching the grey cat's ears.  He purred, breaking through Ione's overload.  "I'm being silly, aren't I?" she said to Diesel.  "No witnesses, right?  And if I tell you anything, it's not like you can tell someone else."  Diesel mewed twice.  "So, no, outside Lawrence at work and you, no one knows."  She snuggled Diesel.  "And you're not going to tell anyone."

As she set down the grey cat on the chair's arm, Ione looked down at her old pair of faded blue sweatpants and her oversized university t-shirt.  "Well, no sense lounging in these all day.  There's real coffee to be found and evil afoot."  She stood up.  "Diesel, be a good cat and guard the house while I change."

Ione went up to her room to grab a change of clothes, a lilac blouse to go with her faded jeans, then headed into the bathroom for a quick shower.  She exited still towelling dry her short hair.  Back in her room, Ione combed her hair out.  She fired up her tablet and ran the weather app; the Ottawa area weather was to turn cool later in the day but would still above normal for autumn.  Ione grabbed the pink University of Waterloo Mathematics sweater sitting on her dresser and pulled it on.  Dressed for the day ahead, Ione walked with purpose back downstairs.  She found Diesel fast asleep in the chair she abandoned earlier.  Letting the sleeping cat lie, Ione grabbed her backpack, where her laptop still remained, and her helmet and left the house.

Outside. Ione took a slow look up and down the block.  The silver sedan wasn't around, nor was Jack's police cruiser.  Ione stepped down from the porch and inspected her motorcycle.  The seat was still wet from the morning dew; Ione wiped the moisture aware with a cloth she pulled from her backpack.  She verified the gas gauge.  The Vulcan still had a quarter tank of gas in it.  Ione made a mental note to stop at the gas station for a refill.  She put on her helmet, got on the motorcycle and started it.  The Vulcan's engine roared once, then settled into a loud purr.  Ione put the vehicle into gear and rolled down the street.

After the stop for gas, Ione let herself wander.  She had no destination in mind, but she had a goal.  The key objective for her was to clear her mind, let the part not concentrating on traffic work on the problem of the warehouse, the people chasing her, and her future career as an analyst for CSEC.  Her position helped her pay her tuition loans and let her put into practice the theories she worked on in her Masters program.  Her co-workers helped make the job worth going to every morning.  Ione just wished she could say more about what her job was to her friends and family, especially when her standard answers of "an analyst in the Public Service" and "government analyst" didn't go far in a city where most of the population either worked for the federal government or knew someone who did.  With family, she could get away with saying she math'ed; her sister and her parents knew well enough that Ione's greatest joy came from mathematics and Ione knew far more than them combined.  Still, hiding her job didn't sit well.  Ione wanted to be able to brag about her successes and complain about problems like Karen and Amy could without being vague.

Ione brought her motorcycle to a stop.  She looked around, recognizing the street she was on.  Raising the helmet's visor, she smelled coffee and realized where she was – the Bridgehead Roastery, the same coffee shop she had been in yesterday.  Taking it as a sign that she really wanted coffee, Ione killed the engine of the Kawasaki and dismounted.  She removed her helmet as she entered the cafĂ© and joined the short queue to order.  Once again, Ben took her order.  "You're looking more rested this morning," he said.  "The same?  Pumpkin spice latte and a chocolatine?"

"Yes to the latte."  Ione looked over the baked goods.  "The ham and Gruyere croissant looks good.  I'll have that instead."

Ben retrieved the pastry and placed it on a plate for her.  "I'll just get your latte started."

Ione picked up the plate and followed the barista.  "Thanks."

"How does the new day look?"

Ione shrugged.  "A bit better than yesterday.  A couple of nights' worth of sleep helped."

Ben looked up from the latte.  Ione thought she caught a brief, almost imperceptible, look of concern on his face before his customer service smile returned.  "Having a safe place to go always helps, too."

"As safe as anywhere, I guess."

"And here's your latte.  Enjoy!"

Ione juggled the pastry plate, the latte cup, and her helmet to carry it all to a nearby table.  Once she was settled in, she shrugged out of her backpack and pulled out her laptop.  The small table was just big enough to hold everything she had, latte, laptop, and all.  Ione booted up her laptop, taking a sip of her pumpkin flavoured latte while she waited to log into her account on it.  The laptop chimed its readiness.  Ione took one more sip, then opened up her browser.

The first thing Ione checked was her RSS feed, all the news items, blog posts, and web comics she had missed since the beginning of the week.  The news stories she filed in her mind; her analyst job often required knowing events that appeared to be unrelated to predict underworld and terrorist movements.  Same thing with the blog posts, though a few were for her personal interests.  The news of a new media convention coming up in December intrigued her and reminded her to finish her steampunk outfit before then.  Amy's Facebook page showed the new change to her relationship with the news being congratulated by her friends and family.  Karen's was quiet other than a few new photos of Diesel.

Ione finished her croissant, enjoying the ham and cheese in it, then launched her proxy network.  A quick look for a reply, she told herself, nothing more.  She opened the web mail for her Ada identity.  A new message sat in the inbox.  Ione opened it.  Ada, there was no leak at my end.  My people are dead, too.  Not law enforcement, either.  My inside person said there wasn't a call until after the explosion.  We need to meet.  Give me a date within the week.

Closing the message, Ione sat back to examine what she learned.  She didn't expect Babbage's contact to admit he or she had anything to do with the warehouse's destruction.  She also didn't expect to find out that the Police Nationale had a turned employee.  Ione filed the details away.  Meeting Babbage's contact was out of the question for her, though.  After the debacle her first and, most likely, last trip into the field turned into, there was no way she'd be able to convince Lawrence to fund her trip.  Booking a last minute flight overseas was beyond what her savings account could handle and she didn't want Babbage's contact anywhere near her friends and family.

Ione pushed the decision to reply away for later.  Instead, she decided to finish her latte and leave.  She packed up her laptop, cleaned up her dishes, and grabbed her helmet and backpack.  As she left, she waved to Ben.  Ione had her backpack on by the time she reached her Vulcan.  She got on, pulled the helmet over her head, and started the motorcycle.  The U-turn to point towards Preston was easily done with little traffic around.  Ione eased the throttle open.  She wasn't in a hurry, so she saw no need to tear down the street.

At the intersection, Ione paused for a moment as she tried to figure out where she was going next.  The last thing she wanted was another encounter with someone following her.  She didn't think it was likely that Babbage's people knew where she was; they would have already appeared if they did.  The latecomer, the sole survivor could also be after her, Ione figured, but she didn't think she'd been seen.  He hadn't looked her way that she could remember.  The silver car from yesterday could have been hired by Jack to give him a reason to pull her over, but Ione couldn't figure out why anyone would go through such an elaborate scheme.  Ione shrugged and released the Vulcan's brakes.

A blare of horns caused her to put her feet back down and release the throttle completely.  A candy apple red Ferrari slid into the intersection.  The sports car fishtailed through crosswalk and came to a stop a centimetre away from the Vulcan's front tire.  Ione felt her heart beat fast.  She closed her eyes to calm herself.  The Ferrari's door opened.  "Good morning, Sarah.  We need to talk."

Next Week:
"I have some photos you might find interesting."
"If this is a way to get me in bed, it won't work."
"I see you do recognize him."
"But, riddle me this – how did the man you saw survive the explosion he was in the middle of?"

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