48: Payton


She let out a heavy sigh after Mendez left, and her young partner grinned in response.

“The man’s pretty fed up, isn’t he?”

“I don’t blame him at all,” she said. “It’s lousy, the way we keep secrets from them.”

“The more the public knows, the more the opposition can manipulate,” he noted.

She looked down at the photo of Sandra Garner.

She was far too beautiful to be a cop’s wife. Or even ex-wife. She could have been a Hollywood actress or a billionaire’s trophy wife. And this was supposed to be a recent pic of the mother of a sixteen-year-old? The woman looked like she could be in college.

“He said she came from St. Louis. Didn’t Garner bring her from Germany?”

Cipolli swirled the coffee in his up, contemplating his answer. Finally, he noted, “Yeah, that’s a little perplexing, isn’t it? We actually couldn’t find anything at all about her. Someone scrubbed her past. Completely blank, prior to marriage.”

She nodded. “And given her appearance…”

“You have her pegged as a daughter of the opposition,” he stated. “It would make sense. She must have passed FBI screening when they married, but without any background data, that wasn’t possible without inside help. Of course, the opposition has assets in the FBI.”

“So a woman who looks exactly like an Ilidi and who came into this country with the FBI’s blessing must have some association with the Alwarzi. You agree, right?”

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“Yeah. She’s a member of our number one spook problem, for sure.”

“Yes, indeed. Speaking of,” she began, then held up a finger and held her words as the girl with the coffee came by again. Once she had departed, she began again.

“Speaking of, about that spook that we ran into. I have security cam footage that shows Mendez being hauled out of the building by her.”

“Crap. Really? Does the media have it yet?”

She took a sip, then shook her head. “We’re sitting on it. But it’s exactly what I thought I saw there in my far-sight. She saved that cop.”

“So was she just a ‘white hat’ who just happened to be passing by? The good spook samaritan?”

“No,” Payton declared. “That man that showed up… that was a planned extraction.”

“And she and he were both Alwarzi. Tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, almost perfect examples of the opposition.”

“I think he was white-haired, actually. But I’m not certain they were Alwarzi,” she answered. “That woman’s clothing… it looked alien. Also, you don’t usually find Alwarzi as tall as that man.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Then…”

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“Purebred Illidi grow that tall frequently.”

The Alwarzi were a mixed breed of Ilidi and natives of Earth. Actual Ilidi were aliens, but the Alwarzi were locals.

But, thanks to a horrendous, centuries-long interworld war concluded only in recent years, purebred Illidi were now almost extinct. How the few who survived might dress in the present day when not disguising themselves as Earthers was an unknown.

“I thought you said the clothing looked Arabic.”

“That was just my first impression,” she said, with a shake of the head. “I’ve gone through every photograph of Middle Eastern attire I can find. It wasn’t like any of them, or any other ethnic I’ve compared. And I’ve seen the material in off-world military garb. It’s heavy stuff that looks a little like velvet, but it’s hard to cut or pierce. It’s common on Utsuirin. Popular with Outside Travelers, as I recall.”

“You mean Tasuithan pile. It’s soft armor. Almost like a ballistic fabric.”

“That’s the stuff,” she nodded.

“So you think they were the real thing?” Cipolli prompted. “Actual, living Ilidi?”

“I wonder,” she answered, and took another sip.

“Roy wouldn’t say anything, when I probed him for memories of his escape,” Cipolli noted. “I was using a pretty strong form, too.”

“Could his memory actually be missing?” she wondered. “Not just amnesia, but eliminated?”

He shook his head. “No. That’s nearly impossible. And there was definitely something there. I think he was under a lock of some kind. I didn’t recognized the technique, but he was definitely remembering something while he was under, and he couldn’t communicate it while he remembered it. He’s probably not aware of the memory when he’s conscious.”

“It’s safe to say at least part of that memory is our mystery lady. Roy appears to be awake on the security cam footage.”

“Meaning she is part of that blocked memory, and is likely the one who did it to him.”

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