We arrived at the precinct as the sun set over the Portland skyline. The orange sky reflecting on Willamette River, and the temperature dropping enough to kill the aircon. We pulled up to the station and went in.
Tom stopped us on the stairs, “What do you know?”
Eli offered to brief the Captain, and I made my way to the basement, to Gail’s tech lab. A strange excited feeling in me as I got to her door. I swung it open, a small smile on my face and paused at the ten or so techs in her lab, hauling boxes to a metal table in the center.
Gail came over to me, a grim look in her eyes, “Hey Paul.”
I gestured to the madness going on around us, “What’s all this?”
She looked around, and took a long breath, “Let’s go in here.”
She said, pulling on my now crossed arms, into a small side office.
She shut the door and came to stand in front of me, “Paul, all this stuff came from your house. Once the techs knew what they were looking for… It just didn’t stop. Over one hundred cameras, looking at every corner of your house, your garden, your neighbors, and garage. Mikes to listen to you, motion sensors, infrared, wiretaps, the works.”
I looked back out at the endless boxes of evidence bags, “All this came out of my house?” I breathed out.
“Yeah. A little under two hundred and fifty devices all over the place. And, Paul,” She waited for me to look at her again, “From the dust on them, it looks like most of them have been in your house for at least four years.”
I stepped away from the window in her office, throwing both hands into my hair, “How did he get all this in there? How did I not know?”
Gail pushed me to sit down at a chair by her desk, “Almost all of this stuff is high-grade surveillance. He has micro cameras, wire mikes. He knows what he’s doing, and, Paul, he spent a shit load of money on this. Stuff like this doesn’t come cheap. You're looking at between seven to eight hundred dollars for one camera. There is about two hundred grand worth of equipment there. That kind of purchase doesn’t go unnoticed. I started running down any distributors that were around four years ago, and that sold all this stuff, maybe we can get a credit card address or something. By the way he hid all this, I don’t think he was expecting you to find it-”
“That’s exactly what he wanted. He made it clear he could see me, and this guy is too smart to let something like that slip. Na… He wanted me to find them, to know he’s been watching us. He wants to prove a point. That he can get as close as he wants, and I can’t stop him.” I shut my eyes tight and dropped my head. “He wants me to know there is nowhere to run, like a cat with a feather on a stick. Just as he gets close, and I jump to catch him, he’s gone. One step ahead, all the time.”
I tore my eyes off the techs pulling bags out of boxes, and pinched the bridge of my nose, shutting my eyes, and letting out a long, exhausted breath.
Gail dropped to her haunches in front of me, “Go home. Get some rest. Lilly is back tomorrow, and you need to be sharp. The Cap said he will have units outside your house. There is nothing more we can do today, not until we get all this stuff processed.”
I looked at her hand on my knee, my head throbbing from everything that happened today, and the hangover from last night showed its ugly face. I was tired, hungry, and in desperate need of a beer.
I smiled and nodded to Gail, standing up.
I paused by the door, “Thanks, Gail. For everything you did today.” I said without looking back at her.
I left her lab and made my way to Tom’s office. Eli was still in there with him, and when Tom saw me through the glass, he waved me in.
“Paul, come on in, have a seat. Eli tells me you guys almost had him today. Sounds like this guy is playing games with you.”
I lowered myself into the chair next to Eli and slid down to put my head on the backrest, “Yeah.” I mumbled, my eyes already closing.
“Alright, go home you two. Get some rest. Great work today.” Tom said, and I felt Eli hit my leg gently.
I tore open my eyes and looked at him.
He shook his head, “Come on man, I’ll drive you home,” he said, extending his hand out to help me up.
I looked at it for a moment, then at Eli’s face.
What the hell.
I grabbed his hand and he pulled me to my feet, giving the Captain a nod as we left.
At my car, I tossed Eli the keys, and sank down into the passenger side, feeling awkward to not be behind the wheel of a car only I have ever driven. He pulled out the parking, and into the evening traffic, now dying down from the gridlock of this afternoon. I stared at Eli, my mind drifting through nothingness.
“What kind of name is Eli? It’s not very Spanish, Detective Rodriguez.”
He smiled, “It’s from Elijah. My dad was Mexican, my mom was British. To make it fair, my dad said I can have his last name, so my mom got to give me my first name.”
“But you grew up in Mexico?”
“Yeah. Moved to the US when I was nineteen. After my dad died.”
I lowered the backrest of my seat slowly, “Sorry.” I mumbled.
“Na, its ok, he was an asshole anyway.”
I chuckled at that, and he joined in.
I lay on the seat, my eyes closed, and my mind drifted to Lilly. Her sweet little face, her big green eyes, and her light blonde hair that was a pain in the ass to do every morning for school. Her laugh and her arms around my neck when she comes to give me a hug for no reason at all. All the joy and love and hope she has given me in my life after everything that happened.
Each memory now tainted with the thought that he was watching. Watching me tuck her into bed at night. Watching me play with her dolls and letting her paint my toenails a bright pink color. Every happy moment I shared with that little kid was now stained in darkness, fear, and pain.
Eli shook me awake, “Your home.” He said as I pushed myself out of my slumber.
I looked out the windshield at my home. I sighed heavily, not wanting to go inside. Eli turned the car off and climbed out.
He waited for me by the front door, handing me my keys, “See you in the morning.”
“Wait. Let me call you a cab. Come in, have a beer. We both need one after today.” I said, opening the front door.
We stepped into my trashed house, and I dropped the keys on a side table by the door, “Great.” I mumbled.
The floors covered in mud, the walls ripped apart to get wires out, the lights all taken down and only the bulb left hanging in the ceiling. I stalked into the kitchen, swung the fridge open and pulled two beers out.
Eli came in slowly, “Love what you’ve done with the place,” he said, taking the beer from my extended hand.
I glared into his eyes, but the corners of my mouth twitched, and I laughed.
“You’re an asshole, you know that,” I said, gesturing for us to sit on the couch that was shifted into the middle of the room.
I eased my aching body into the comfort of my couch, and Eli walked around the room, looking at the pictures on the walls, and shelves around my living room.
He paused at one, “Is this Addison?” He asked.
I nodded, “Yeah. That was her birthday, six years ago. Took her to this fancy little lobster place downtown.”
He nodded and moved on. He paused again at another picture, this time picking it up off the shelf, “This must be Lilly. She’s a cutie.” He said, showing me the picture of me and her, at the park.
Eli smiled at the picture again and put it back. He downed his beer, placed the empty bottle on the table and said, “I better get home. My wife is gonna kick my ass if I’m not there before she falls asleep.” He joked.
I heaved myself into a sitting position, “Let me call that cab,” I said reaching into my pocket for my phone, “You grab us another beer.” I finished, swallowing the rest of mine and placing the bottle next to his on the dark coffee table.
I dialed the number for the local cab company and ordered a cab to pick up at my address. I heard Eli grab the beers and as he walked back to the living room, he paused by the dinner table and picked up Lilly’s drawing.
“Paul, who drew this?” He asked.
“Lilly. The day before she left for Florida.” I called back, knowing it was the only drawing on the table.
“Paul,” He called out to me, his voice serious.
I stood and went over to him slowly, willing my body to relax so I could get some sleep.
“This was in the car. I saw this picture in the car today, only there was two people in it.” He said holding it up to me.
Any hope of relaxing disappeared as I looked at the pink sun in the corner, the orange tree next to the house, me with my bright red hair, Lilly in her pink dress, and a man, scribbled in black crayon, standing next to her, with a thick black moustache.