The Keepers

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Chapter 34

Three weeks of surveillance later confirmed there was a pattern of behavior for Sebastian and his friends. Every Thursday night, around the same time, he would leave his house, stop by his friends’ place, and the three of them would go to the same bar. Then around midnight, the three of them, along with a couple of others that they would meet at the bar, would then call a cab and go to another residence, presumably one of the other friends’ house. Alex and Stephen would then call it a night, not willing to wait and see how long a group of college kids were going to stay up.

But they were satisfied knowing that they had a plan in place. Next Thursday Alex would be at the bar before Sebastian arrived. He would find a way to introduce himself, hopefully establish enough of a rapport that the next week he would feel comfortable enough to touch on the subject at hand. Their original plan was to wait until Alex had met him at the bar a few more times, but they felt like they needed to make their move before he was actually recruited.

Stephen and Alex spent the next week practicing the meeting, with Stephen playing the role of Sebastian. They would only have one chance to make a good first impression and they did not want to blow it.

“Okay, the initial contact has to be natural. You can’t just walk up to his table, with all of his friends there and introduce yourself”, Stephen said. “That would be awkward for everyone.”

“Agreed. I’ll try to keep the creep factor to a minimum. I was thinking that I’ll take a seat at the bar and scope out where is the most likely place that people try to get the bartenders attention. I’ll take a seat close to that spot, then if and when he tries to get a drink, make some random small talk with him. Nothing specific, just friendly chatter.”

“I like that. Then maybe say something like, ‘Hey, you look familiar. Aren’t you on the student council? I’m an archaeology professor at your school.’ Then offer to buy him a beer. If he’s anything like I was in college, he’ll jump at that.”

“I hope so. I also hope we’re not too late. I haven’t seen anyone following us lately, but if they are on to us at all, and they have made their approach to him already, they’ve probably warned him to stay away from us.”

“If they have, then we’re already screwed. Let’s just hope they are still doing their due diligence on these kids and that they have to be more cautious than we do. Because I have to imagine their sales pitch is a lot stronger than ours.”

Alex couldn’t argue with that. They knew they only had one chance, and a slim one at that. But if they were ever going to expose ‘The Keepers’ to the world, this would be the best chance anyone ever had.

When Thursday finally arrived, Alex was ready. Stephen dropped him off at the bar around 7:30 so that he could get comfortable with the layout of the place before Sebastian showed up. He also had time to down a couple of drinks to calm his nerves a bit, which helped. He then ordered a beer and began nursing it while waiting on his target to arrive. The place was getting busier by the minute as he noticed the band starting to set up on stage. There were a few other adults sitting in the bar area, but for the most part it was a very young crowd. He kept looking at his watch, hoping that this wasn’t the week that Sebastian would break form and decide to stay home. Then he saw one of Sebastian’s friends walk in, followed by Sebastian himself.

He was trying to watch out of the corner of his eye, careful not to stare in his direction. That proved to be a little difficult after a few drinks, but luckily for Alex, the group of friends decided to sit at a booth almost directly across from him. He took that as a good omen.

While he was waiting he noticed there was a natural opening at the bar where most people would walk up and order a drink, so that’s where he took his seat. It was inconvenient to say the least when people would elbow their way in to get closer, but he knew this was the best spot to be. He just had to wait for the right moment.

That moment finally came when wasn’t expecting it. He had been watching Sebastian’s table for any sign of movement, and when he saw his guy heading toward the bathroom area, Alex relaxed somewhat. He was looking in the other direction when someone put their elbows on the bar next to him and said directly to him, “Man, I guess you have to be wearing a low cut shirt to get this guys’ attention, huh?” Alex was getting ready to politely reply when he looked up and noticed that the stranger was none other than Sebastian Cosgrove himself. He tried his best not to look shocked and replied, “Tell me about it. I’ve been working on this beer for the past hour.”

Sebastian laughed and looked like he was ready to turn and go. Alex panicked for a moment, not wanting to blow this opportunity that was in front of him, so he blurted out, “Hey!”

Sebastian jumped back a bit at the outburst. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell”, Alex apologized. “I was just going to say you looked familiar. I’m an archaeology professor at the school here, and I know I’ve seen you before. You’re not an archaeology major though are you?”

Sebastian relaxed and smiled back at Alex. “No, archaeology is interesting but I’m actually an engineering major. You might recognize me from the Student council. Or my failed attempt at Student Body President last year. What did you say your name was?”

“Alex Jamison.” He reached out and shook hands with the young man before continuing. “Dr. Alex Jamison, I guess I should say, as pompous as that sounds.”

A look of recognition came to Sebastian’s face. “Dr. Jamison. Right, I’ve heard of you before. That TV show came and did a story on your book last year, right?”

Bashfully, Alex said, “Yes, that was me. I wanted no part of that, but I knew that the exposure would be good for our department and our university, so I agreed. But I still can’t bring myself to watch it.”

“Are you kidding? That was awesome. A national TV show came to our campus. There were kids trying to late register for your classes in the hopes of getting on camera. I’m sure you were a popular professor that semester.”

“Ah, yes. There was an uptick in interest. But that quickly went away with the cameras though I’m afraid.”

“Well, it was still an accomplishment.”

The bartender finally made his way to Sebastian and began to take his order. Alex saw his chance and took it, gesturing to the bartender to come his way.

“Hey, whatever this young man wants to drink, and a round for his friends. Put it on my tab.”

Sebastian was surprised at the gesture. “Wow, you don’t have to do that, but thanks. I know three guys you just made very happy.”

“It’s the least I can do for a group of scholars such as yourself. After you go out and make your mark on the world, you can come back and return the favor. I’ll probably still be right here.”

The two new friends laughed as they raised their glasses together for a silent toast. Sebastian thanked him again and took the drinks back to his table of grateful friends. Alex finished his last beer, paid his tab and got up to leave.

He was pleased with how the initial meeting with Sebastian went. He obviously didn’t bring up ‘The Keepers’, but he also didn’t send him running away. Stephen would be pleased with that at least. As he left, he felt satisfied with the thought that he had laid the groundwork for next weeks’ meeting.

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