Day 15: 16 Aug 2010
The first call came in a couple of minutes after midnight. My BlackBerry screen said "Call from: PRIVATE." I don't answer those -- I figure if you're going to call me from a blocked number, then you're not saying anything I want to hear. A voicemail icon came up a few seconds after I hit "Ignore," so I checked it.
"Hello, Mr. Travis," a soft, male voice said. "You may call me Mr. William. It is quite important that you pick up your phone the next time I call -- your life may depend on it. Jared's, too."
The voicemail clicked off after those few words. His voice wasn't at all familiar to me, but it unnerved me. Something in the way he spoke -- his soft, even tone of voice when talking about the death of me and Jared -- was weird. Unsettling.
The phone rang again a few seconds later, same "PRIVATE" number. After two rings, I decided to answer.
"Hello?" I said.
"Mr. Travis, this is?"
Again, something off in the way he spoke -- his word order was all fucked up, and his voice was too calm.
"Yeah, this is Travis. Is this William?"
"Mr. William I am, sir. You should have the data now, I think?"
"Please, Mr. Travis. Do not think me stupid. I should not like to disembowel you for the information you carry, but I will do so."
His tone of voice didn't change -- not monotone, just soft and conversational. Like disemboweling was common water-cooler talk.
"I have some data," I said, swallowing hard. "I don't know what use it is."
"To you, nothing. To us, though, quite much. I should like to have it."
"I suppose I can give you the memory card. But you have to do something for me."
"It is the way. What things do you require? I am authorized to barter."
As he spoke, slowly and calmly, I realized what was really happening. This guy didn't give a shit about the memory card. It would take me seconds to copy it, anyway, making the card itself pointless. No, he just wanted to keep me on the phone -- so he could find out where I was.
"Oh, my mother's calling me to come inside. I'll have to get back to you," I said, hanging up the phone and immediately pulling the battery. I did some quick mental math.
I was on the phone with him for a minute, maybe two. If they were using cell towers to triangulate, they knew what city I was in. If they'd somehow managed to tap into my GPS chip, though, they'd know within about 50 feet where to find me. It was time to run. Again.
Darren had already gone to bed -- work in the morning -- and I didn't want to worry him. I grabbed my stuff and left. I'd call the police from a pay phone later and let them know I saw a guy lurking around his place. Should deter whoever was after me.
I checked my wallet as I started up my truck -- $60. Should be enough to get me a room at a dive motel somewhere, I figured. At least that would give me a chance to plan my next move.
* * *
My next move, I decided later that day, was to keep moving. Kevin had to have put some clue in all the data as to where I could find Jared -- I just needed to find it. Maybe he left an index.
In my crappy hotel room in Durham, I brought up my netbook and popped the microSD into the adapter. The mess of files appeared. I tried sorting them by date, but no luck -- they were all created within hours of each other. Copies of copies. Then I tried size.
There was a tiny *.txt file named "Youxia." I had no idea what the word meant, but I clicked the file anyway. It was a note.
"Travis -- if you've gotten this card, I didn't have the chance to sit down and lay this all out in person. Sorry about that. There's an awful lot of data here, but none of it is random -- all of it points to something larger, what they did to Jared and why. Worse yet, it points to their plans for you.
"Time is going to be a factor here, and I have to assume I'm out of play now. After all, you're reading this, so I couldn't have come to a good end. You'll need to go to where they're keeping your brother. I have an ally on the ground there who can fill you in. I sent the coordinates to your XBox several days ago -- find that spot. Be there by Wednesday, midnight local, and wait exactly there. My colleague will find you. Good luck, young man. You'll need it."
Shit. I remembered the XBox message then, but I couldn't remember what it said. There were just some numbers -- coordinates, I guess. I'd need to either get back to my apartment -- a bad idea -- or try to remember my login information, which I hadn't used in ages. The XBox auto-signed me in every time, so I'd forgotten my username and password long ago.
Thankfully, my brain worked for me. I got into my account on the Web after three tries, and brought up the message: 36.12121,-115.17773. I copied, pasted, and Googled. Here's what came up:
Looks like I have to find a way to get to Las Vegas.