Tate dialed his mother's cell from Taylor's burner phone. He said it was not a good idea to use any of his personal phones, as the phones connected to Taylor's family were likely all on roving taps. Taylor's mother's cell rang several times before Tate started explaining how Taylor was with him, training for the CryptoCon. That he was OK, and that Tate was very sorry Taylor had stayed out all night. Tate lied and said Taylor had been with him and the other kids, practicing, and Taylor had forgotten to call, ha ran home and left the note before he got in anymore trouble, then rushed back to team practice.
When Taylor heard his mother's voice it was angry, but indistinct. He couldn't make out the words she said, only her tone: indignant, angry, ruffled, worried. Tate weathered it and with a few more nimble lies finished, handed the phone to Taylor. Taylor hesitated, glanced at the phone like it was a live cobra before reluctantly taking it.
“Hi, Mom.“ He said woodenly, preemptively offering, “I'm really sorry!“
“Son, I'm trying very hard to understand, to not smother you, but you seem unwilling to learn. Your teacher says this is very important to you and the school, so I'm going to allow it. But when this is done you are grounded. For a month! No going out with Winston, no computer! And I mean it son! So do what you need to do and enjoy it now, but don't you ever put me or your father through this again. Now let me talk to Mr. Tate again.“ Taylor told her he loved her and she reciprocated. He handed the phone back to Tate. The man, still itching his ear, which was still yielding a steady flow of tiny white flakes of skin, pressed the phone to his ear, nodding along with whatever June Zachary said. Tate made more false assurances, thanked her and hung up.
“You are real lucky, Taylor.“ Tate said, handing the phone back. “I wouldn't do this for any student but you.“ His look was stern and serious, but there was a light in his eyes. He's excited now, enjoying himself!
“Thanks, Mr. Tate. I really appreciate it.“ Taylor said, his voice still as wooden as it had been with his mom, not bothering to call Tate out. Tate, smiling coyly, inclined his head before saying:
“Now. Let's see. Parents taken care of, so now we need to get your friends in on the game. Are you sure Ms. Chatham is going to be able to keep her grandmother and that woman,“ Tate stressed the word woman, his mouth twisted roughly, his hands balled up and tensed, but it only lasted a fraction of a moment. “that Sue-Ann, are out of the way? I could lose more than my job with those two involved.“
Now what does that mean? Taylor shook his head, confused, trying to unravel Tate's words and process his question, the mystery behind it. “Um. Izzy seems pretty sure.“ Taylor eventually said.
“Greatness. Good. Wondermus. OK, then.“ He stood up and waddled around his apartment until he found a duffle bag, not much bigger than Taylor's own It was black and matte finished, dull and a bit dusty. There were things already in it, Taylor saw impressions of them, if not what they actually were.
“Hmm, need some of that...“ Tate mumbled and looking at Taylor said, “Sit tight, kid.“ He rambled off into another room, coming back minutes later with something held tight in his hammy hands. It was only when he got close Taylor saw what it was. Two chocolate candy bars. Tate held one out to Taylor and said, “Hungry?“