How We Survived – The Grey (Nano2016, Chapter 8)

Chester sat waiting for the morning meeting with Linus in the usual spot. He tried to stay alert but he kept drifting off to sleep only to have the bobbing of his head wake him up again. Chester didn’t do well in the mornings even with coffee that was full of aspartame and chocolate pastries filled with HFCS. The mornings under the Omaha dome were always cold so Chester had spent years sleeping later and later into the day until the dome had heated up to a tolerable level. It was hard for him to break that habit, even if he had been in New Philadelphia for a few years. The patchy sleep schedule of a detective didn’t help. At least Danny had been getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. Danny seemed very motivated these days so Chester had to get by on five hours of sleep so that he could get up before him. Danny would be going to the west side today and Chester was doing his best to be alert.

Linus dragged his feet while walking and flopped down beside Chester. He slapped Chester on the shoulder to stir him out of his bobbing head doze.

“I’m awake, I’m good, I am ready to go” yawned Chester.

“Yeah me too. So what about Danny?” said Linus while rubbing his bloodshot eyes.

“He went talking to Juan the Baptist. He was asking about Philo. Juan mentioned that he had dumped a beer over his head, but that you had jumped in at the last minute. Juan doesn’t know your name, he’s just seen you about.”

“Well it looks like I’m not going back to FatWater’s for a while…” Linus trailed off. He wasn’t sure if he should tell Chester about how easy it was for Philo to get a gun. Chester was looking at him, waiting for more information.

“Philo was looking around the antique stores for a weapon. I think he ended up buying a knife or a pair of brass knuckles or something” Linus said.

“You think he bought one of those two? You’re not sure if one of the men we’re talking about has a knife or a pair of brass knuckles?” quizzed Chester, wary for his own safety.

“I didn’t want to hang around a wait until he got out of the shop with whatever new weapon he had just bought. He’d be a nervous and paranoid man with a new weapon. I didn’t want to get stabbed. And before you mention it, you’re not getting a gun, and I don’t want you going out and buying a knife either” said Linus, before Chester could mention anything. They sat quietly for a minute.

“I need it for protection” said Chester.

“You don’t need an offensive weapon for protection Chester” Linus interrupted, “If you want protection wear some armour and learn to react better to people throwing wild haymaker punches. Hell, learn to stay out of sight more.”

“Stay out of sight like you did in FatWater’s? He knows all about you, and he remembers you stepping up for Philo” retorted Chester.

“Yes, that’s unfortunate. I could be implicated if something goes wrong here.”

“And what’s going to go wrong here Linus? What do you know that I don’t?” said Chester.

Linus ran his hand down his face.

“The mystery man was following Philo last night. Philo went into a diner and he was already in there. I got out of there after I noticed. I’m missing something about what’s going on here” said Linus, defeated.

“You think there’s something more going on than the hatred these two guys apparently have for each other? Philo’s so scared that he’s apparently bought a weapon. And I’m not surprised. You saw Danny lock eyes with the guy, and charge him. Some people just hate each other.”

“It’s not that simple. What kind of hatred makes a man go from zero to fighting within the space of a glance. He ran like a stabbed rat after that kid. He ran the feet out from under himself and was nearly crushed by a tram. The client said that they grew up together. He never mentioned them being enemies, and that was the behaviour of an enemy” said Linus.

Chester looked at his cup of stone cold coffee and dumped it out on the grass. It seemed reluctant to seep into the soil. Something strange flashed into Chester’s mind.

“Who has that kind of hatred for someone they haven’t seen in years? The client said that they grew up together right? What happens in childhood that would create that lasting of an impression. I’ve never seen fear run a man that hard. Nor hatred. Both of them went to the same orphanage, yeah, if they grew up together?”

“I guess so. Where are you going with this?” asked Linus, slightly irritated that Chester had just repeated what he had said.

“Bear with me here a moment. How did Philo get his sweet job in this town?” said Chester. Linus was about to open his mouth but he stopped. He didn’t know how Philo had gotten the job.

“That’s an interesting question Chester. Have you found anything out? Something that I missed?”

“No I don’t have any information on it. But if they grew up in that orphanage together, then why did they end up in two entirely different industries? Doesn’t it seem likely that they’d be pushed along together, into whatever industry demanded people at the time. Being assigned is often more luck than anything.”

“For the sake of argument you could say that the aptitude tests aren’t biased and that they each got the job they were suited for” said Linus, scarcely believing his own argument.

He recalled his placement. He was conscripted into the police force at 15. Anyone that wasn’t part of an established family didn’t have much of a say in where they went or what they did under the dome. There were no lateral career moves, just vertical ones. You had the ability to work your job, and if you excelled, you worked the job above yours. He was only a detective because working with the police was too black and white. People still needed the grey to get things done.

“Even if that were the case, do you really think that Philo can afford his lifestyle with the job he works?” said Chester.

Linus thought for a moment, mentally adding up the money he had seen Philo spend, or at least what he projected that he had spent. He was one to flash money around, but Linus had the impression that Philo was a poser. Some rich kid that lucked his way into his position. Maybe he even had a backer.

“I’m not sure about that. We’re missing something. Something that’s probably staring us right in the face” said Linus.

“How about we try and forget about the client then, and we find out how Philo got here?”

.

“I’ll do that. I’ll go to the records office and see if I can’t dig something up about the landlord of Philo’s building, or the deed on his apartment or something. I’ll want you to keep an eye on Danny.”

“Danny’s going to the west side today. Juan told him to” said Chester.

“Marvellous” said Linus while pinching the bridge of his nose “So he’ll be running around trying to find Philo while we’re following both of them, and the client is hanging around. You think there’s any way you can detain him?” said Linus.

“Not without giving myself away as a detective.”

“Right then. I guess we’ll just have to do our best. And by the way Chester, ‘our best’ does not include you having a weapon”

“Fine” said Chester.

The men parted ways and hoped that during the course of the day they wouldn’t meet again.

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