Stephen arrived outside Sebastian’s apartment just in time. He had just pulled into his parking spot and turned off the engine when he saw the car that Alex described to him earlier. Sebastian got out and headed to his front door. Stephen was looking for any sign from the kid that he was under any stress or if he thought he was being followed. But he just seemed like a normal twenty-two year old guy. Not a care in the world. Like Alex, he almost felt sorry for the guy. His life was about to be turned upside down and he had no idea. All he knew right now was that he was working on his masters, then he would decide which of the many job offers that he was going to accept. Little did he know the new job offer that he was about to receive. But if Stephen and Alex had anything to do with it, he would be turning that offer down.
This was going to be the hard part. The waiting. The plan was still to just observe his daily routine and wait for an opening. Based on the timing, today he had apparently left straight from class and drove home. Hopefully he wasn’t done for the night, Stephen thought to himself. They had discussed just walking up to his front door and introducing themselves, but quickly dismissed that idea. If he was being recruited by ‘The Keepers’, then they were obviously watching his house too. Just the thought of that made Stephen scan the neighborhood one more time for any suspicious looking vehicles or people. They were never going to make the mistake of underestimating these guys.
Sure that no one was around, Stephen went back to watching the front door and windows for movement. He had already been there a few hours and had so far seen nothing. He was so focused on the apartment complex that he nearly jumped out of his seat when the passenger door opened and a man quickly got in and shut the door.
“Jesus Christ, Alex! You scared the hell out of me. You could have warned me you were coming.”
“Sorry. I’ve been a little preoccupied trying to get here without being noticed. I think I’m being followed now too.”
This was not the news Stephen was wanting to hear. “Are you sure? I mean, I’m getting a little paranoid myself, but we can’t start jumping at our own shadows now.”
“I’m not sure. But remember what Anthony said? Well, after I told you about Sebastian heading home from class, I noticed a black SUV with two men sitting in it. They weren’t looking directly at me, but they were in the parking lot across from where I parked. I hope it was just a coincidence but I didn’t take any chances coming over here. I took so many twists and turns on the way that I almost got lost in my own town. This private eye life isn’t for me.”
Stephen knew exactly what he meant. He was actually glad for the distraction from staring at a door that wasn’t opening. He and Alex sat there waiting for a few hours more, getting so bored that they took out a deck of playing cards from Stephen’s glove compartment. Suddenly there was movement from the apartment as the door opened. Stephen walked out, with his cellphone to his ear. He was obviously on the phone with a friend, as he was laughing and visibly excited about something. He got into his car and it became decision time. Alex and Stephen looked at each other for confirmation on their next move.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”, Alex asked. “Let’s go.”
Stephen didn’t need any more encouragement than that. He pulled out, careful not to get too close, but he didn’t want to lose his target either. They didn’t have to wait too long to see where Sebastian was heading as he stopped outside a small ranch style house and honked the horn. Apparently he wasn’t staying long as he kept the car running and waited inside. Just then two guys around his same age came bounding out of the house. One was holding a beer bottle and threw it into the trash can on his way to the car. They got in their friend’s car and the trio took off once again. From the way they were dressed and the beer bottle, it was clear that the three friends were heading out for the night.
“Ah, to be young again.”, Stephen said. “Looks like they’re about to have a fun night. I can’t say the same for us.”
“You’re right about that. I’m glad we finally have some movement from him, but I am not looking forward to waiting outside a bar all night. We better catch up with them though. Maybe we’ll see something that will help us.”
Stephen pulled off once again and stayed back several car lengths. After a few turns, they were getting closer to the campus. They finally arrived at their apparent destination, a popular bar near campus that Alex was familiar with.
“This is good. I was afraid they were going to some nightclub where we would have stuck out like a sore thumb. But I’ve actually been inside this place a couple of times. They have a happy hour that students and professors take advantage of. If he’s a regular here, we might have something.” Alex was obviously already working on an approach plan, but Stephen was still confused.
“Okay.”, Stephen asked. “So you’ve been in there before. I can see how that would be beneficial, but can we really make an approach in a bar? What we have to tell him might not go well with alcohol.”
“No, it’s perfect. If we can establish a pattern of when he comes in here, I can start to come in around the same time. I start a conversation with him the first time, without mentioning anything other than school or sports. Then after a few visits, when he gets comfortable around me, I make my presentation that we’ve been preparing.”
“If he isn’t freaked out by a professor trying to start a conversation with him while he’s out with his friends. This could go either way, Alex. No offense, but I wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out having drinks with any of my old professors.”
“Stephen, this guy has been on the student council for the last three years. He’s a graduate assistant for crying out loud. He’s not someone who is uncomfortable around faculty. This will work. Trust me. It has to.”