Warm December afternoon and the piazza is crowded at lunch. Alex invites himself to sit with Kyle, who is struggling with a written assignment and cursing.
Alex sits with him and says, Hey.
Kyle does not look up when he says, Oh, hey. Look. A fuckin spy.
No, Alex says. I’m just eating lunch.
Yeah, right. Liz sent you to find out if i’ve told anybody anything. Right?
No, Kyle. There was nowhere else to sit. Told anybody what?
You know what hurts the most? Kyle says with alkaline bitterness. That she sent you, the B team. You! Not even Maria! Tell you what, Alex. I’m gonna send you back to headquarters with a little message. U can tell Liz i’m tired of being lied to. She’s not who i thought she was.
She’s turned into a stranger, Alex says.
Oh, you’re good, Kyle laughs. That whole sympatico tactic. But this fool wont swallow that bait. You really think i’d believe Liz didnt let you in on her little secret? You cant fool me, Alex. I’m too stupid.
Kyle gets up and lopes off like the wounded buffalo he has been rendered.
Tucked into the high plains shadows, Izzie watches this exchange with grave concern.
Ice cream in December. Liz and i walk the streets close to the Crashdown while she eats an ice cream cone from the place where Milton Ross thought he saw an alien long in his troubled past.
Love how you look in that skirt, dushka, i say.
You horny little bastard, she says.
Thank you, i say.
For helping me grow up a little. Among other things.
It’s different being lovers, isnt it? She says.
I just dont know how you got birth control pills without your folks knowing. You’re sixteen years old.
Well, i did.
Let me guess. Maria helped you. Never mind. I dont want to know.
Do you see him?
Oh, yeah. Look into the window like you’re shopping.
Reflected in the glass i see Ray Bans in his Ray Bans and JC Penney suit, stumbling down the street like a spook from an unmarked black helicopter.
Okay, i sigh. There he is. Now laugh like i just said something funny.
Her laugh is not hers. It is forced and anxious.
Dont overact, i whisper. That’s enough. We cant let him know we’ve seen him.
Do you really think this’ll work?
Have to try, i say. Be sure he really is following us. As if there’s much doubt. He always .acts like he thinks he’s being very clever but he moves like a hog on skates. Or maybe that’s to draw our attention from the real surveillance. But one step at a time.
We walk down the street among salsa music to the UFO center. The day is so warm the front door is propped open and we can walk right in without even breaking stride. Ray Bans lopes behind us like a big overfed Rottweiler.
The UFO center is crowded for this time of year, which suits our purpose well. The noise of the people milling thru cant cover Milton’s booming voice as he lectures but in the relative darkness the mass of people makes it easy to take a step into the shadows and lose him. In frustration he takes off his Ray Bans and looks around angrily and i know we’ve lost him.
Well, i say as he hustles back out the front door, We’ve done our part.
MICHAEL AND MARIA
From inside Maria’s car parked across the street Michael spots Ray Bans coming out of the UFO center after Liz and Max have backdoored him. It’s him, Michael says.
Him? Maria says.
What? Michael says defensively. U think i’m wrong?
No, no. It’s just that he seems so avoidable.
Ray Bans lopes across the street to a government sedan so nondescript it couldnt be more obvious.
If we didnt need your car, Michael mutters to himself.
Izzie gets in the back seat and says, There’s no one around for a couple of blocks. I think we’re safe.
Safe isnt the word i’d use, Maria says.
Safe to follow him, Izzie says with condescension.
But not too close, Michael says.
Relax, Maria says. You guys act like you’ve never tailed anyone before.
They sit in the motel parking lot staring at Ray-Bans’ room.
How long is this gonna last? Maria complains. Us waiting here like this?
Why? Michael says. Got a hot date?
I’m the one who should be complaining, Izzie says. Stuck out here with the two of you.
He’s never gonna leave that room, Maria says.
As she says it Ray Bans stumbles out of the room in a way that is anything but ninja-like. He has changed into a fresh JC Penney suit to go with his Ray Bans.
Never, huh? Michael says.
When Ray Bans is gone Michael and Maria walk to the shadowy corner where his room is. Maria says, I still dont know why i have to do this.
I told U i needed a lookout.
Isnt that what Isabel is doing?
Okay i need two lookouts.
Michael unlocks the door and walks in.
You dont trust me, Maria says. That’s it, isnt it? You give Isabel the real job because…
Michael yanks her into the room and locks the door and says, You’re going to get us caught is what you’re going to do. Now stay, watch and shut up.
This is the second time you’ve dragged me into a cheap motel.
Dont spread it around. You’ll ruin my reputation.
What exactly RU looking for, Michael?
ID maybe? Anything to tell us something about this guy.
Luggage tags, Maria says.
Michael goes thru the luggage. No tags, he says.
He looks thru the bathroom. Maria says, You know toiletries say a lot about a guy, which BTWU should take note of. But i’m guessing you’ll have better luck by the phone. U know, note pads, messages…
Just keep looking out the window, would you?
Michael looks in vain for anything by the phone.
Maria says, Any baby sitter worth her salt knows the best place to look is in the garbage. It’s always revealing.
Michael searches carefully thru the trash until he pulls out a crumpled paper and says, Moss. His name is Moss.
First or last?
Keep looking, Sherlock.
Michael searches until he finds a wadded note.
What is it? Maria says.
Looks like a phone number. Local one.
Maria takes the note from him and starts dialing the number on the motel phone.
What RU doing? He says.
U want to know who’s on the other end of the line dont you?
Someone picks up at the other end. Topolsky, the voice says. They are both so stunned it takes a moment before Maria hangs up the phone.
That was Topolsky, Maria says. As in Ms. Topolsky at school. Either she’s taking her job too seriously or she’s not exactly a guidance counsellor.
She’s a FEEB, Michael says. And Moss is her attack dog.