Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
“Anti-WBEC Protests Hit Seattle,” Tom read. “They’re saying it wasn’t anything like the WTO riots in 1999, though.” He glanced over at his wife, laying face-down on their queen-size bed with her shirt pulled up around her shoulders. Clothes rubbing against her slice-and-diced back, arms, and legs bothered her more than she would admit. The doctors had pulled hundreds of glass splinters from her in the emergency room at Harborview Medical Center, where paramedics had finally taken her after the police finished with her. Even now, two days later, a breath of air moving across the myriad scrapes caused her to wince. She never complained, but Tom knew how painful even one deep glass cut could be; some distraction would certainly help. So now he broke his personal rule never to discuss newspaper articles while reading them.
“No, thank goodness,” came her muffled reply. “It was tame compared to that. Not nearly as many people.”
“You didn’t see any protesters dressed as giant sea turtles, did you? That was my favorite part of the WTO riots.”
“As I recall,” his wife replied, “you were on call at the station in case crazy people started lighting things on fire. You didn’t mention a favorite part of the protests then.”
“No, true.” He rustled the paper. “The Seattle Times certainly is getting a lot of coverage out of this, at least. They must be happy when this kind of thing happens.”
“How morbid of you,” Marion chided. “You’d probably say they get excited about all the crime and political immorality that pad the paper—like that councilwoman, Hague, who had that DUI.”
Tom, pretending absorption with another article discussing the mayor’s failure, did not deign to reply. His headstrong wife had her opinions, and he had his; they had long ago learned to live with the more inconsequential differences.
Continue reading.“Going to work tomorrow?” He glanced around the paper. She had not moved at all since carefully lowering herself into that position several hours before.
“If I can find something to wear that doesn’t scrape.”
“I can bandage the worst of it up,” Tom offered. As a part-time firefighter, he had spent more time responding to 911 calls pertaining to injuries of some sort than to actual fire-related calls. “We also have that numbing cream.”
“Hurts to apply it.”
“You don’t have to go to work tomorrow, you know.” Privately, though, Tom knew Marion had healed enough to get up and about. He held and rocked her when she woke up crying at night, apologizing and begging her attackers to forgive her. She had stayed at home, hiding from the reality of her actions, long enough; it was time for her to face the fact that she had single-handedly reduced four young men into wobbling balls of putty.
Now she turned her head, mussed hair framing a very resolute face. “It’s been too long. Gardner and Drake will want to debrief.” Besides, Marion added to herself, she could hardly imagine spending another long day lying at home in bed, just waiting for her body to heal itself. And it was time to accept what she had done and move on. There wasn’t that much rest at home, anyway. The kids were always in and out—
“Mommy?” came a tentative little voice from the direction of the cracked-open door.
“Yes, Charlie?” Marion stretched out her arm, encouraging him to come in from the doorway. Rosie barged in, unheeding, but Charlie was more sensitive to emotional situations already. Marion thought he would end up a counselor; Tom countered that he wouldn’t be surprised when his son got his first boyfriend.
“Are you sick, Mommy?” He put his hand carefully into her outstretched one, seeming reassured when her fingers closed firmly around his.
“Not sick, exactly, dear.” Marion glanced at her husband, hiding behind the tall pages of The Seattle Times once again. What to explain? “Mommy got hurt, but she’s getting better now.”
“Did you fall down?”
Marion pulled him into an awkward, one-armed embrace and smiled. “Yes.” Technically she had fallen, and she had not exactly done the best with her years of karate when push came to shove. But it had all turned out alright, and her son put it as well as she could have. “Yes, I suppose I did fall down.”
His impish little face lit up in a grin. “Silly Mommy! Grownups don’t fall down!”
“And when they do,” Tom added in an undertone, “they usually pick themselves up pretty quickly.” Marion shot him a sharp glance, but knew his jibe had worked. She would go to work tomorrow; she no longer hurt that badly, so long as she avoided leaning directly on the worst of the cuts.
It was 7:10 AM. Gardner had already been at work an hour, reading the remarkably fascinating testimonies given by the four men apprehended after their memorable encounter with his most unusual N.U.N.S. agent. Marion had demonstrated her capability in a tight situation remarkably well; Gardner, although he would never admit it, felt a glow of pride at her fantastic performance. He chuckled to himself, flipping to the next testimony. There Drake had stood, the Navy SEAL in prime condition, helplessly watching his middle-aged partner beating the crap out of four men half her age—and with an unlocked side door just a few feet away. He shook his head, still smiling at the irony. Trying to shoot that lock with that little gun…
This testimony read much the same as the others. The young man, one Timothy Adrian Haye, had never been involved in illegal activity before (that the police knew about). He was 23 years old, an honors graduate from the University of Washington in 2006, and had worked as a software programmer at Titan Software for the last year and a half. He had been a member of the Committee to Save the World and the Earth Club for all four years, and had served as president of the Earth Club during his senior year. He had not intended to hurt Marion, but he had swung the bat at her to protect his friends from her threat. He was a member of the Sierra Club, EarthFirst!, and had attended several Green Peace meetings in the past.
Gardner turned back to the first man’s testimony. This fellow, one dubbed Laptop Boy by Drake immediately following the excitement, was Harold Charles Wang, a 25-year-old programmer at Titan Software. He had graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas and had been a four-year member of the Students for Environmental Awareness while there. He had been involved in several peaceful protests around the country, all in conjunction with EarthFirst! He served as secretary for the Seattle chapter of EarthFirst! and had written several letters to The Seattle Times regarding global warming, the recently voted-down Roads and Transit measure, and pollution in Puget Sound. He had not wanted to hurt Marion badly; the knife had been to protect himself when he saw that she had flattened his fellow protesters. He did not explain why he had attacked, rather than running away.
And then there was Laurence James Kendrick, 44 years old, also a programmer at Titan Software and longtime supporter of the Wildlife Fund, the Ocean Conservancy, life member of the Sierra Club, and longtime member of EarthFirst! He had helped organize the EarthFirst! activity at during previous protests, but was a firm advocate of nonviolent protests. He had two children and had been happily married for 17 years.
The fourth fellow was, to Gardner’s mind, the outlier. Andrew
Gregory Buxton was a genuine employee of the Big 5 Sporting Goods where the fight had taken place. He had recently been released from the Cedar Creek Corrections Center, where he had served ten months for possession of drugs and an illegal firearm. He had regularly attended Addicts Anonymous since his release. He had never shown any prior interest in EarthFirst! or environmental activism. Gardner guessed that he had joined the fight out of habit, although Marion had taken him out first, so perhaps Buxton had simply been an innocent bystander casualty.
The sun would be rising outside by now, Gardner noted. Marion would normally be arriving soon, trying to beat the rush hour traffic into Seattle. Gardner pressed the intercom for his secretary. “Could you please bring me another coffee?” he asked. Best to be polite to the single person who kept his entire life organized.
“Get it yourself,” came Marion’s grumpy morning voice in reply, and Gardner grinned. She had tired of lying around moaning, then. Good; he could use her clear head.
He pressed the buzzer again. “Come on in, Marion. Make that two coffees, if you would be so kind, Grace.” Quickly sorting the scattered papers into a semblance of four piles, Gardner sat straighter and checked his reflection quickly—he always felt a little like a naughty schoolboy with Marion, although she was his subordinate.
“What’s up, Boss?” Marion asked, sounding more cheerful as she carried two steaming coffee cups into Gardner’s dim leather-and-brass office. It was like a sea captain’s cabin, lacking only a bank of windows showing rolling waves out the back.
“I’ve been reading up on the four thugs you—er—dealt with the other day.” Gardner accepted the coffee and sipped it gratefully. Too many hours without coffee left him feeling headachy and grouchy.
“Oh?” Out came the yellow legal pad and stubby pencil, accompanied by a remarkably alert look. Gardner did not miss the way Marion carefully perched herself on the deep leather chair, and reminded himself to put a little extra into her yearly bonus for that piece of action. Really, she deserved a commendation, especially for succeeding with Drake distracting everybody by shooting that ridiculous little pistol of his every thirty seconds.
“Skimming through these files,” Gardner flicked a hand at the four piles, “I seem to see the same things over and over again. I want to know if you notice the same pattern I do when you read them.”
“I can read them and see what I notice.” The pad and pencil slid back into the faux-leather briefcase. “You want to tell me what I’m looking for?”
Gardner shook his head. “Let’s just see if it pops out at you the way it did at me. If you see Drake, could you ask him to come in here?”
“Sure.” She gathered up the four stacks, neatly alternating them to keep them separate, and stood to leave.
“Oh, Marion?” She turned, balancing the papers, coffee, and briefcase precariously, one hand on the doorknob.
Gardner grinned, a show of uninhibited emotion quite uncharacteristic in him. “Way to go. You did great.” Her face lit up and she nodded almost bashfully.
“Thanks.” It almost looked like she would add, “It was nothing,” but she just betook herself and her tippy piles of papers out of the dim office and into the relatively dazzling fluorescent-lit hallway.
When Drake made an appearance forty-five minutes later, Marion had finished reading the four stacks bequeathed her by Gardner. They entered together and sat in their customary chairs, Drake sinking comfortably into his, Marion sitting straight and uncompromisingly, back nowhere near the well worn leather.
“What did you notice, Marion?” Gardner asked.
“They’re all from Titan Software. And they’re all EarthFirst!—except for this Buxton dude. Poor guy.” Drake leaned forward, hearing her guilty tone.
“It’s OK, Marion,” he told her earnestly. “You did exactly right. Besides, if he was innocent, why’d he stick around?” Then he let out a melancholy sigh. “I only wish I could have helped.”
Marion hid her chuckle with a cough. “Oh, it would’ve probably been boring for you. Four untrained kids like that—they would’ve taken you what, thirty seconds tops?”
Drake pondered. “Well, maybe more like a minute.” Marion and Gardner laughed, but sobered through sheer will when they saw Drake’s hurt face. He did tend to overestimate himself on occasion.
“Anyway,” Gardner said, wrenching them back to business, “Yes. The three EarthFirst! guys all are also computer programmers at Titan Software. What are the odds of that?”
“True,” Marion agreed. “And Titan Software just released the best operating system ever, adopted by everybody who’s anybody, and containing a back door that provides super-user access on any computer.”
“Whoa, wait a second!” Drake interjected, leaning forward in excitement. “Do you think somebody at Titan Software—who’s a member of EarthFirst!—put that back door in there intentionally?” His bright eyes flicked from his boss to his partner in animation. “Come on, guys,” Drake exclaimed, talking quickly, waving his hands. “If EarthFirst! wants to control all the computers in the world, what better way to do it than by planting guys at Titan Software, right when they’re going to release new software? Right? Huh?”
Gardner’s brows raised and lips pursed in mock-thoughtful contemplation. “You know, Drake,” he said in a perfectly neutral tone, “you very well could be on to something there.” Drake looked puzzled when Marion burst out laughing again, the papers in her lap slipping into a jumble on the floor.
Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.