Rushing Silence: Chapter 8

Zeb’s call caught his friend Rob Zesterman on his way to cover the grand opening of a new family park on the city’s east side. “It’s really important that I meet up you with you,” Zeb told him. “Can you come by my office on campus after you’re done? It’s closer than my house, and it’s on your way back to the paper.”
“Yeah, sure, man,” Rob agreed. “This shouldn’t take long – it’s not like I’m covering any real news.”
“After today, you just might be,” Zeb said.
There was a pause. “Okay, now I’m officially intrigued.”
“It’s a long story, but I’ll fill you in when I see you,” he promised.
“Okay, I’ll call you when I’m on the way to the University.”
“Perfect,” Zeb said. “See you then.”
“Yep, see ya,” Rob said, ending the call.
Zeb turned around to where Zoe waited on the couch.
“He’s gonna meet me at the office.”
“Great,” she said, her voice lacking enthusiasm.
“What?”
“It’s just- are you sure you want to do this? This way, I mean?”
He crossed the width of the living room and sat on the coffee table facing her. “I’ve known Rob my whole life. I trust him completely. If anyone can get these photos out there and make sure someone opens a real investigation into Milian’s death, it’s Rob.”
She made a wry face. “Didn’t he still work in the mail room up til last year?”
“Yeah, but he’s got access to contacts and information I don’t have. I don’t know who to give these to: the cops versus the FBI versus Interpol – I don’t know who should handle this. And until I know who Dos is and if I can be sure that Inspector isn’t somehow involved, I’m not trusting just anyone with these pictures.”
Zoe nodded. “Okay,” she said, pressing her lips together.
He tilted his head. “Do you have a better idea? Cuz, if so, please tell me. I’m really at a loss here.”
“No – I mean, I don’t know, either. I just-” she stopped herself.
“What?” He tried to keep the irritation out of his voice.
“I just don’t know if Rob Zesterman is really the guy to take care of this for you,” she replied carefully.
“What’s wrong with Rob?”
“Well, he’s not exactly James Bond material, Zeb. The guy locked himself out of his car five times in one week once, and guess who had to go pick him up every time? And it wasn’t like you had to just go a few miles up the road that last time. Where was it? San Diego or San Francisco?”
He nodded dismissively. “Right, I know, but we were in college then. We’ve all grown up a little since then.” He waved a hand. “And it was San Diego, it was only about four hours away.”
“If you honestly think Rob can do this, then great. But I pray for your sake that he does it right.”
“So do I, Zo, but it’s a chance I have to take.” He stood and picked up the laptop from the couch beside her. He ejected the memory card and put it in his wallet. “Here goes,” he told her, heading for the kitchen door.
“Wait,” she said, following him. She hugged him. “Please be careful.”
“I’ll be fine.” He stepped back but kept his hands on her shoulders. “Just wait here til I get back, okay?”
She nodded and he turned and walked out the door to the garage.
*****
Ten minutes later, Zeb pulled his frost green Corvair into a parking space as close to Bishop Hall, the home of the History department, as Belleter University’s poorly-planned campus parking allowed. He still had to walk from the Francis Medical Sciences Hall lot past two buildings, one of which was the rather large library, and in through the east entrance of Bishop Hall.
It was the end of the Summer II session, so the campus was mostly empty; however, the different divisions all had a few classes, so nothing was completely shut down. The new semester would be beginning soon, as well, and the campus rarely was ever truly deserted.
He passed through the east hall, his shoes making soft shooshing sounds on the deep maroon patterned carpet, toward a corridor to his left where the cream painted cinder block walls led to a row of faculty offices. His was the third on the left, just past an intersection leading toward the lounge and restrooms.
And the light was on.
He stopped short, just on the far side of the intersection. None of the other offices were lit and he saw no indication of the housekeeping crew nearby. He tilted his head a little, to try to see into the large sidelight window better and felt his heart skip faster as a figure passed by.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he whispered, for there in his office, going through his things and messing with his computer, was Uno.
The man must have felt Zeb’s eyes on him, because he looked up at that very moment. His face registered surprise and then almost a frantic determination and he rushed toward the partially opened door.
Zeb turned on his heels and ran, heading not toward the nearest exit, but further into the maze of dimly-lit hallways lined with classrooms and other offices, hoping to disorient the Spaniard and lose him. He ducked into a lecture hall with hundreds of seats arranged in stadium-style rows, slipping into the AV alcove toward the back of the room and up the steps to the projection room. This part of the lecture hall was rarely used these days, now that the faculty all had laptops to hook up to the newer projection systems in the lecture podiums, but the older tech had never been removed.
He waited a few minutes, peeking out the projectionist’s window for signs that he’d been followed. When enough time passed that he felt it was safe to emerge, he quietly went back down the steps and through the lecture hall door opposite from where he entered. The adjoining classroom next door was empty and quiet, and Zeb carefully extied and crept out the north entrance of Bishop Hall.
The bright sun made him squint and warmed his skin, and soon he was sweating slightly. The coast was clear, so to speak, and he took a moment to come up with a different plan.
When he saw the library looming to his right, an idea came to him. He dug out his cell phone and called Rob. “Hey, change of plans, can you come to the library instead of my office?” Zeb said in a rush when his friend answered.
“What’s going on?” Rob asked. “You sound rattled.” Rob’s voice was lowered, and Zeb realized he must still be at the park’s unveiling.
“Umm, okay, long story short – I witnessed a murder in Spain, took pictures of the killers and now one of them was just in my office. I need to get you the photos so you can get them to Interpol or whoever handles this type of thing.”
“Whoa, whoa, slow down. You witnessed a what? Are you in danger right now? I can meet up with you anywhere you want, just don’t stay anywhere that’s not safe.”
“I’m going to upload the pictures in a secured folder on computer 17 in the library. Okay? Computer 17. The password you’ll use to open the folder will be your middle name.” He ran across the green toward the library, ducking into the vestibule quickly, hoping to get inside before Uno thought to look outside for him. The second set of heavy glass doors opened to a large foyer with vaulted ceilings and a granite floor. In the center of the foyer was a huge bronze bell on an even larger base, with water cascading down the bell to collect in a basin in the base, where it recycled and made the journey over and over again. The sound of the fountain echoed in the foyer, creating calming background noise.
“Why not just email them to me?”
Zeb shook his head. “No good, he’s been in my office. I leave my computer on and logged in to my email because I can never remember my password.” Stupid move, he thought now. “If I email them to you, he’ll be able to see your name and then they can come after you.”
“Okay, I got it,” Rob assured him. “Just get the photos on that computer and I’ll be there in about half an hour. Okay? Don’t wait for me, just get out of there and go someplace safe.”
Zeb gave a wry laugh. “I’m not so sure where that is anymore. Call me when you get them.”
“I will.”
Zeb hung up the phone and trotted up the three low steps and to the double doors that led into the library’s first floor. The carpet here was similar to that in Bishop Hall, and the whole color scheme was shades of taupe and maroon so prevalent across the University. He passed through the detectors that alerted the staff to anyone sneaking out any books they didn’t check out and turned to the left at the circulation desk. Behind a wide support column sat computer 17, blocked from easy view of the library entrance.
He slid into the chair and wiggled the mouse to wake up the monitor. When the screen lit up, he logged in and inserted the memory card into the computer’s port. Within minutes, he had created the password-protected folder containing all the pictures he had taken of the two killers and their victim.
He glanced up, looking all around again and froze when he saw Uno approaching the Reference Desk. There were a few rows of other computers, many with students seated before them, between Zeb and the Ref Desk, and Uno had not yet spotted him. Just to Zeb’s left a few feet stood the reference books stacks. He slowly eased out of his chair and backed into the space between the two nearest stacks. He walked backward to the end of the aisle, then found himself between the stacks and a rather large expanse of windows.
Facing the windows, he had only two directions to go: the right would lead past more stacks and the microfilm alcove, but that was directly next to the Reference Desk where Uno might still be standing; to his left were more stacks, then a seating area and the periodicals section. There was no exit that direction, but it afforded him the most cover, so that’s the direction he chose.
He got past the students seated on bean bags and in the segmented bench seats, and the current periodicals, but then he was at the building’s west wall. He’d have to cross an open area with a straight view of the computer area and the Reference Desk – a sitting duck once more – to get to the next section of stacks holding all the bound periodicals.
He peered carefully toward the computer section and said a little prayer of thanks: Uno was nowhere in sight. He crossed to the bound periodicals and toward the far wall. Once he arrived at the wall, he turned back toward the Circulation Desk. He walked past a couple of stacks, looking down each aisle for Uno. His heart nearly stopped when he caught a glimpse of him passing the other direction on the opposite end of one aisle, heading back toward the stacks from which Zeb had just come.
Zeb quickened his pace, but didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He walked very deliberately toward the door leading out into the foyer.
He didn’t realize he hadn’t been breathing until he let our a relieved sigh once in the foyer. He ran down the carpeted access ramp to his right, toward the west entrance and out the door.
As he ran across campus back toward the lot in which he had parked, he dug out his cell phone and called Zoe.
She answered on the second ring. “Hey, did you get the pictures to Rob?”
“Zoe, listen to me, get out of there now. Don’t go home, go somewhere with lots of people, okay?”
“What happened?” He could hear her already starting to gather up her stuff.
“They’re here, in the states, in Aurelia. I just saw Uno in my office and then in the library. But I didn’t see Dos, Zoe; he could be on his way to my house,” he had to force himself to calm down; he couldn’t afford to trigger another attack.
He heard her grab her keys off the kitchen counter. “Are you okay? Can you get out of there okay? Do you want me to come-” her words suddenly cut off in a startled yelp that coincided with a loud bang.
“Zoe!”
“Zeb,” she whispered frantically, “he’s here!”
Another loud bang and Zoe screamed. Zeb had just gotten to his car, and quickly got in and started it. “Zoe, I’m coming back.” He pulled out of the parking space and sped off toward home. “Zoe?”
He heard her screaming, but it was muffled, like she’d dropped the phone onto the area rug. But then he heard something that made his blood go cold.
“”You know what we want, Mister Martin.””
Then the line went dead.

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