Thursday, May 21, 2009


Two Months Later

Eric Drake rolled out of bed before dawn and quickly dressed in a pair of shorts and a sleeveless athletic T-shirt. He kicked his feet into the @saucony running shoes by his bed, grabbed his keys and iPod, and headed out the door of his apartment and down the five flights of stairs to the street.

He started off slowly, waiting for the sleep cobwebs to shake themseleves loose from his brain -- however, five minutes into his run, The Exploited's "Police Informer" came up in the playlist rotation, and Eric hit full speed.

Eric logged slightly more than eight miles in just under an hour. The temptation to smoke first thing in the morning had thankfully left about a month ago -- it probably helped that his new apartment didn't reek of nicotine. He ran back up the stairs to his apartment, quickly chugged down a bottle of water, and hopped into the shower.

His commute to work was much longer than it used to be, but the BMW 5-series made the long drive much more enjoyable than the rattletrap T-bird had. He turned the stereo down a bit as he pulled into his parking space outside the office -- he'd gotten a few dirty looks from his co-workers the last time he'd blared Iggy and The Stooges in the parking lot -- and hopped out of the car. The air outside was warming up quickly -- Eric guessed the temperature would hit the mid-90s that day, and was thankful that he'd worn a short-sleeved shirt to work.

His current job didn't fill him with the need to cover up his tattoos, which was nice. Eric grabbed his ID badge and access card from the BMW's glove box -- they hung from a dark blue lanyard that he threw around his neck as he approached the front door of the office.

Eric passed several dark-brown-and-khaki uniformed cops on the stairway up to his office -- he nodded and smiled at the ones he knew, and, by and large, they nodded and waved back. Eric made it to his office -- his floor was pretty much empty, as he was still about a half hour early. He booted up his computer and checked his email -- first on his list was seeing what data he could pull from a laptop seized from a meth lab the night before.

Whoever had deleted the files on the laptop in question really hadn't known what he was doing -- Eric had the folder the computer's owner was trying so hard to delete restored in a matter of minutes. He was browsing through the file structure in the folder when he heard a knock at his door.

"Jesus. Did you even go home last night?" Johnny Teal asked, handing Eric a cup of @Starbucks.

"Sure. Just got in a few minutes ago."

"That my meth-head laptop?"

"Yep. Already got the data back. Do not, repeat, do not click on the folder named 'Cherice.' She's really, really fat. And there's no way she should be trying to fit into lingerie that skimpy."

"Anything besides fatty porn?" Johnny chuckled.

"Oh, you mean like spreadsheets detailing the entire operation?" Eric grinned, double-clicking his mouse. An Excel spreadsheet popped up on the screen, full of numbers, client names, and street names.

"Oooh. Nice job, sir. Nathaniel's going to dig this."

"This part of something larger?"

"Yep. Chinese, we think. 'Course, we're going out tomorrow night to confirm."

"And by we?"

"Usual suspects. You, me, Nathaniel."

"Sounds like fun."

"Yep. Jet out at noon today -- we'll make up the other four hours tomorrow night."

"No argument here, pal."

"You see these?" Johnny asked, holding up a box sitting on Eric's desk.

"Not yet."

"Here you go," Johnny smiled, opening the box and handing Eric a small stack of business cards. "Came yesterday after you knocked off."

Eric took a look at the cards. They had the Douglas County Sheriff's logo in the top left corner. The cards read "Eric Drake, Nonsworn. Technology Consultant, Organized Crime Specialist. Criminal Investigations Division," followed by the office address and Eric's office and cell numbers.

"Awesome. Haven't had business cards in almost a decade."

"How's the new townhome in Lincoln?"

"Much nicer than the shithole I had here in Omaha. Finally got some decent furniture in, so you and Nathaniel will have to make the drive up and see the place."

Eric had been rather impressed when Valder had laid the relocation plan on Eric a few months back -- all of the paperwork would say Los Angeles, but in reality, Eric would move an hour down the road to Lincoln, Nebraska. Valder lived in an apartment five blocks away from Eric's, so he had someone looking out for him at home and *plenty* of cops looking out for him at work.

"Might do it tomorrow night after the whole surveillance thing. Cool?"


"I'll let you get back to it. Lunch today?"

"Sure thing."

Johnny punched Eric playfully in the shoulder and left the office. Eric jumped back into the laptop for another couple hours. Valder called at about 10, and he and Eric made plans for dinner later that week. At noon, Eric stopped by Nathaniel's office, bullshitted with Nathaniel and Johnny for a few minutes, then joined them for lunch. After that, he piloted the BMW down Highway 6, passing the hour drive listening to the Stiff Little Fingers "Inflammable Material" and "Now Then. . ." albums.

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon when Eric unlocked the door to his spacious apartment -- the money Douglas County paid him went pretty far in Lincoln -- and tossed his keys, cell phone, and wallet on the table. He was kicking off his shoes when he noticed someone sitting on the couch, dressed in black fatigues and a black T-shirt, a Beretta M9 sitting in front of him on the coffee table.

"Eric. Let's chat, shall we?" Captain Jason Black smiled expansively.


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