“This better be good.” Anthony was obviously not a morning person, but Alex and Stephen couldn’t wait to share the new information with him.
Anthony didn’t make the trip with them, not that they were expecting him to. They called him from the airport and told him to be ready when they arrived. They didn’t want to say anything over the phone, but they told him that they believed they had something huge.
“Well, come out with it. What did you find out?”
“First off, we didn’t come up with anything”, Alex clarified. “Stephen was right about Reggie. His team is amazing. Apparently as soon as they saw that something was going on inside that library, two of his team members were there and in place within an hour. Our friends were in the back having their meeting for a couple of hours at least. When they came out, they were able to distract one of them long enough to search his bag, find this sheet of paper and I’m guessing they snapped a couple of pictures with their phone. All we know is they delivered. Big time.”
Stephen took out the paper and handed it to Anthony.
“Does this look familiar? This was found in the German’s possession after the meeting. If it’s the same code used on the paper from your friend, then we might just be looking at a list of their recruits.”
Anthony didn’t say anything as he read the paper, trying to make sense out of it. He got up and walked to one of the cardboard boxes that held the first deciphered code. He took both sheets and sat down at the table, where the other two men joined him.
“The code isn’t exactly the same, but I’m familiar enough with this type that it shouldn’t be too hard to break. There’s usually a keyword or group of words that determines the code. It may take some time, but I think I can decipher this.”
Alex and Stephen were visibly exhausted, and apparently Anthony noticed.
“You two look terrible. When was the last time you slept?”
They had been up for almost two straight days, living on coffee and adrenaline. When Reggie called and told them that his team had eyes on ‘The Keepers’, there was no way they were going to miss anything. Now that they had finally slowed down and were waiting on Anthony, they finally hit the wall.
“Yeah, I could use a few hours’ sleep for sure”, said Alex, while Stephen just nodded in agreement. “You probably need some time by yourself with that code anyway. We’ll get out of your hair.”
“Sounds great. You guys come here and wake me up, then go home and go to sleep yourselves. Nah, just kidding. Go. I’ll call you when I have something. Stephen, tell Reggie we owe him one.”
After the other two left, Anthony sat back down and went to work trying to decipher the code. He wasn’t exactly an expert, but he had a cheat sheet of sorts and a little practice in the past. How hard could it be?
After three hours of getting nowhere, Anthony knew exactly how hard it could be. He was ready to light the paper on fire when it finally dawned on him. Why was he sitting here hitting his head against the wall when just a few miles down the road, was one of his closest friends. He also happened to be a world class code breaker. Anthony grabbed his jacket, the two sheets of paper and left his house for the first time in weeks.
When Anthony arrived at his friends’ house, the man who opened the door couldn’t believe his eyes. He knew the peculiar habits of his visitor and was shocked that he was actually out of his garage.
“Anthony! Come in, come in. How long has it been?”
“Too long Jeremy. I think it was two years ago, you, me and Michael. You guys dragged me out to that awful concert in Mexico. That scarred me for life.”
“Hah! We were just trying to get you out of the house. I see it didn’t last long though. But I’m glad you made it out again. What brings you out this way?”
“Well, you know if I am this far from my house, it must be important. Plus, I’m pretty sure my license expired a couple of years ago, so I’m just hoping I don’t get pulled over on the way back. But I need your help. I know I could always count on you to be discreet when we would discuss things in the past.”
Jeremy didn’t say anything, but he wasn’t about to repeat some of the things that Anthony had told him over the years. Not just because they were friends, but because he didn’t’ want to appear insane. He let his friend go on anyway.
“I have a piece of paper with some writing on it that I want you to look at. It’s some sort of code. I tried cracking it myself, but I knew if anyone could do it, it would be you. This older paper here has a similar code with a similar message. It’s basically a list of names that has been coded so that no one can read it. You think you can decipher it?”
“Let me take a look.” Jeremy took both sheets of paper and studied them for a while. He grabbed a pen and looked up at Anthony before continuing. “Do you mind?”
“No, go right ahead. If you can crack it, you can draw all over it for all I care.”
In just a few minutes, after making a few notes and circling certain letters, Jeremy took out a fresh sheet of paper. He began writing and when he was finished he handed the paper back to Anthony.
“Here you go bud. Nothing to it. I probably could have cracked it anyway, but the older letter pretty much gave it away.”
Anthony looked over the paper. It was a list of names, addresses and a couple of sentences about each one. He couldn’t believe it was that easy.
“Just like that?” Anthony was amazed. He just wished he would have thought about Jeremy earlier.
“Man, you came through for me again. I’m sorry I can’t tell you what this is all about, but if I’m right you’ll find out soon enough.”
Jeremy didn’t know what his friend was up to, but he had heard all this before.
“Just glad I can help. Good luck buddy.”
The two friends shook hands and Anthony climbed back in his car and backed out of the driveway. As he was pulling away, he noticed an SUV parked across the road from Jeremy’s house. There were two men sitting inside looking directly at him. Anthony pretended not to notice as he drove away. One glance in the rearview and he realized that the SUV was indeed following him.
Again, he pretended not to notice as he made his way onto the freeway. The SUV stayed behind him for a few miles. The further he drove, the more nervous he became. He signaled to get into the far-left lane. Once he was there, he looked behind him and the SUV had switched lanes as well. He was in full panic mode now. Up ahead he noticed an exit ramp coming up on the right. He checked to make sure no one else was in the next two lanes, then swerved across both lanes and made his exit off the freeway. The SUV kept going down the road. Anthony stopped the car at the bottom of the exit ramp and watched his pursuers continue down the highway. Anthony floored it then, heading home to figure out what his next move would be and to let Alex and Stephen know that they had been made.