Current Day, The Roadhouse Bar, Outside of Mount Silver, Va.
“Cole, this here’s Mr. Shào,” Kevin said in his best formal drawl. He held the door for his friend, who entered the messy office from the smoke-filled bar known as the Roadhouse. “We were just talkin’ about you.”
“Nice to meet you Mr. Shào,” Cole said, jutting his hand out before him.
“Call me Daniel,” the man said properly. He stood from his seat and accepted Cole’s outstretched greeting with his own two hands, then lightly bowed.
“Daniel it is,” Cole responded with a nod, noting the Chinese businessman was sporting a very expensive Armani suit, just as Kevin described.
The two men dispensed with the pleasantries, then collectively took their seats, both facing Kevin’s disheveled desk. The table’s surface was a gumbo of old papers, beer cans, a vintage metal fan, one that might remove a finger if inserted carelessly into its rotating blade, and an ashtray that looked like a blooming onion from that Australian restaurant.
“When did you take up smoking, Kevin?” Cole asked, noting the paraphernalia.
Kevin shook his head. “I don’t, Tabitha comes in here at close and counts down the till. She smokes like a flippin’ chimney, I tell ya’.”
Daniel narrowed his eyes, “Nasty, nasty habit.” He then turned his attention once again toward Cole and nonchalantly crossed his legs, his right foot dangling loosely in the air.
Cole could now see the man was wearing a pair of two-thousand dollar Pierre Corthay shoes. He blinked, then glanced back up at Daniel’s face.
“So, Mr. Monroe informs me you are quite skilled in, erm...” the gentleman cocked his head and glanced up at the unbalanced ceiling fan above him, searching for a word. ”Locating lost items? Yes, that would be the proper way to put it,” he said with a grin.
“You could say that, among other things.” Cole smiled, then let the expression slide from his unshaven face. “Look, Daniel, I am a man that likes to get right to the heart of things, if you know what I mean?”
“Yes, yes, I admire that in a business partner,” Daniel responded. “However, I believe a better word might be business associate, but I digress.”
Cole withheld a snarky look from his face, “Business partner...associate, yeah, okay, whatever you want to call it.”
“Well, for such a simple business transaction, we are willing to pay you and Kevin quite a large sum of money, after all,” the gentleman responded with a lopsided grin. “I suppose I can call it anything I wish.”
“Exactly,” Kevin replied, nodding his head in acknowledgement, shooting Cole a ”be careful what you say, next" look.
“Right, right,” Cole said, straightening himself up in his chair. He lifted his right fist to his mouth and coughed. “Well, as I was sayin’, let’s cut to the chase, here. What is it that me and my friend, Kev are going to do? What is it we are lookin’ for once we get in there?”
“You will be looking for information regarding something called project G.I.Z.M.O., that’s it.”
“If that’s it? Then why wouldn’t you just do it yourself?” Cole inquired, staring at the straight-laced man.
Daniel shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “Well...”
Kevin sat up quickly in an attempt to diffuse the potential escalation. “That isn’t important, Cole!” He glanced over at Daniel. “Okay, we’ll look for info related to this gizmo thing, anything else?”
“No, only the research data related to the G.I.Z.M.O. Project,” said Daniel, the smile returning to his face. He reclined back into the flaking, synthetic leather armchair, placing the tips of his fingers together in front of him, as if contemplating life itself. “I do need to mention that it would be incumbent upon you two, to get in and get out rather quickly, because that facility is extremely secure, and surrounded by heavily armed guards.”
“I’m sure,” Cole responded. “Do you have any plans or blueprints of the compound?”
“Yes, I have already had them sent to Mr. Monroe’s email address, email@example.com,” Daniel replied without as much as a smirk. The businessman slowly sat up, placing his elbows on his knees and his hands together as if in prayer. “Cole, you asked why I didn’t have anyone in my organization do this. Simply because we are only a research contractor for the Chinese government, nothing more. Zhadan Research is not an espionage entity like Mi6 or the CIA, so, we have to hire outside help...people like yourselves, for tasks such as this. Does that clear things up for you?”
“Right,” Cole said raising an eyebrow.
Daniel Shào stood from his seat, grimaced, and lightly brushed several dark flakes from his shiny suit. He looked up at Kevin and then over at Cole with a generated smile. “Great! I will be anticipating a call in 36 hours informing me of your success, yes?”
“Expect it,” Cole said definitively, then stood as Daniel walked by.
Kevin bounded from his seat and bolted toward the office entrance. He grabbed the handle and opened the antique, frosted-glass door just in time for the Chinese executive to walk out. He watched Daniel cross the smoky room, passing pool tables and old arcade machines occupied by large bikers and scantily clad women. When he finally exited through the bar’s front door into the bright daylight that briefly shone in through the opening, Kevin spun around wearing an angry expression intended for Cole. “What the hell was that, dude?”
Cole waived his hand dismissively. “Me getting some extra info out of the guy. Did you see his body language change? He was cool as a cucumber until I shook him up a bit.”
“Why the hell would you want to do that?” Kevin asked, annoyance clearly present in his voice.
“To see what we are really about to get into, and from what I can tell, he verified what I was suspecting...that it’s gonna be dangerous. In fact, this place we’re going into is probably stocked, locked, and loaded.”
“You got all that out of him by asking one question?” Kevin laughed.
“Nah, stupid, I did some digging around at the library on their public computer. In case you didn’t know, I took several classes in internet technology and networking security in prison, and thanks to my cell mate, a bonafide hacker, I learned a great deal about, um, surfing the web, I suppose you could say. It seems that this Radii Corporation is actually known as Radii Defense Systems.”
“Yeah, lots of companies use different names, but, they’re the same shit. You know, Dodge and Chrysler, K-Mart and Sears, Democrats and Republicans...”
“Look, Kevin, this ain’t the type of organization that’s gonna post shit on Facebook or anything, and they damn well don’t show up in any search engine results. All the info I got about them was from some of my buddy’s friends on the Darknet.”
“Don’t worry about it, just trust me when I say we need to really be prepared for surprises. For that matter, ol’ Daniel ain’t new to this sort of stuff and I can tell you, he is not anyone to mess around with. I know the look of a killer when I see one and this dude has done his share, Armani suit or not.”
“So? I got plenty of them around here that’ll drop a body, quick like,” Kevin said, dismissing Cole’s assessment.
“Yeah, and I don’t think that would be a bad idea to get a couple of your guys posted out in the woods to keep an eye out for us, just in case. This Radii place, it’s going to be pretty hardcore and since it ain’t on any official radar, I imagine if we’re caught, we ain’t coming out.”
“It’s a million bucks, Cole. Worth it to me.”
“Says you, until someone sticks a cattle prod up your butt...”
Kevin reeled back, “Bro, did that happen?”
“No, dumbass, it’s an analogy.”
“An anal what? Cole you wantin’ me to call Phil?” Kevin laughed, “Speaking of which, where is that perverted bastard? I ain’t seen him since we was over at Frannie’s.”
“Hopefully, far from my family,” Cole said sharply.
“Who knows what he’s up to...probably don’t want to know,” Kevin added. “Alright, let me pull up my email and we’ll take a look at those plans...”
“Dr. Lawrence Royal, you have a phone call,” blared the high-pitched intercom on his desk.
“Thank you, Julie,” he replied. “Send it to my phone.”
“Yessir, on its way.”
The researcher lifted the phone to his ear as it rang.
“Oh, thank God, Vick. Please, tell me you have good news.”
“Yes and no.”
“Explain,” Dr. Royal commanded.
“I was able to find the tracker.”
“In a rusty bucket in the garage of some rundown house up in the hills west of Mount Silver.”
“And the Peke?”
“Dammit!” The scientist exclaimed. “Okay, keep looking. Whoever lives there probably has it. Hopefully you can find them and the dog before it’s too late.”
“Roger that, Doc...I’ll update you when I know more.”
“You do that, Vick.”