Castling, Part 4

APRIL 9, 2000

Kilroy hung up the cellphone. He fumed silently at the call that he'd just received, looking up at the starry night sky of the very early morning. Beside him, on the grass, Alice was sleeping peacefully, using her backpack as a pillow and covered in a large coat of Kilroy's. Nearby, a pond burbled lightly, the rohu crap flitting just beneath the surface.

It made no sense. The cellphone had belonged to Wallace, the MC&D plant who'd been trailing him. Kilroy had assumed they put him there to follow him until he found the artifact — perhaps to take it without payment, perhaps merely to ensure that he wasn't pulling their leg. But the voice on the other end of the call was one he'd never heard before, a young female, and she was obviously working for the Foundation.

How did they get Wallace's number? Had Wallace been a plant himself, working for the Foundation? Had there been a second tail, watching the first, or watching Kilroy, or both? There were so many questions, and very few answers.

Kilroy mulled over the variables for the better part of an hour. Then, he pulled out Wallace's phone again, making a call.

"Wallace," answered the voice on the other end; it was Carter. "You were supposed to check in three hours ago. We were beginning to worry that—"

"Wallace is dead," said Kilroy, cutting him off.

Carter was silent for a long moment. "That is most unfortunate," he said, finally.

"It's only unfortunate if you want it to be," said Kilroy. "We have a business arrangement, and I intend to see it through. Do you?"

Kilroy heard a hand cup the phone receiver, and there were muffled whispers in the background. After a moment, Carter spoke again. "Of course. Business is business."

"Fine," said Kilroy, "then let me do my job so you can make your money. I've got a very important appointment to make in Chiri-Yurt, and I don't need your hired goons killing the ambiance of the cafe. It's a nice place, not fit for the rabble you tend to employ." He wasn't sure Carter would take the bait, but it was easy enough to feign the indignation and insult.

"I understand," said Carter, curtly; his practiced British veneer was beginning to showing visible cracks in the surface. "Rest assured, you won't see us again until the trade."

"I'd better not," said Kilroy, with a little more cockiness to seal the deal. Then he hung up the phone.

He waited thirty seconds. Then, he punched up the phone's incoming call history, and redialed the last number.

The young woman answered. "Hello again, old bean." There was a notable purr in her voice.

"You've got a deal," said Kilroy.

"You can't possibly know how happy it makes me to hear that," replied the woman. "So where shall we pick you up?"

"I'm on my way to Chechnya currently," answered Kilroy. "I'll be at the Elita Cafe in Chiri-Yurt as soon as I arrive."

"We'll be waiting," said the woman; then she hung up.

Kilroy closed the cellphone, and chucked it into the pond. Then he cuddled up next to his daughter and tried to get some sleep. They had a big day ahead of them; in the morning, they would travel the ancient lands of the Tribe of Benjamin.

Interlude: Killing the Enemies and His Family Too
Continued in Part 5

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