93: Payton

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“Yo,” She said.

Roy frowned at her from his apartment door, which was only partly opened. “What?”

Her eyebrow rose. “Can’t invite me in?”

After hesitating for a moment, he leaned forward and said in a low voice, “Let me stall you for bit, okay? My girlfriend’s getting dressed.”

She blinked. “You’re fully dressed though…”

“Well, she…”

He stopped, cleared his throat and scowled. “It’s none of your business. What?”

She suppressed her laughter and dropped the subject. Whatever play had been happening inside was certainly none of her business, as he said.

“Just wanted to pass you an unofficial message, that you didn’t hear from me. Although it’s a no news is good news thing.”

“About Jack?”

She nodded.

“What’s up, honey?” asked a hispanic-tinted voice. A hand pulled the door open a bit wider to show a young woman in a bath robe standing beside him. She saw Payton and grew a slight scowl. “Work?”

Payton wondered how she instantly knew it was ‘work’ upon seeing her. Was this girl in the department, too?

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“Well, I guess,” he said. “I guess she wants to talk about Jack.”

“Mm,” the girl said, and kissed his cheek. “I’ll get a shower. We never touched the coffee, so offer her some.”

He allowed Payton in as the girl gathered up her clothing from the floor. From the way it had been distributed, perhaps she’d been doing a striptease. From the way she wanted a shower though, it probably progressed beyond that.

Roy looked embarrassed as he led Payton to the dining table, but after the girl disappeared into the bedroom, Payton told him. “Don’t worry about it, Mendez. It’s perfectly normal for kids like you two.”

He cleared his throat and offered her a chair at the kitchen table.

The place was clean, but she suspected the girl didn’t live here. The atmosphere lacked the traces of air freshener and other touches a woman would bring to it.

While rummaging for mugs, he asked, “So what’s the news about Jack?”

“It’s not news about Jack, in a definitive sense,” she answered. “The investigators have ruled that there were no fatalities in the fire.  We haven’t released that info to the press, though.”

“Why not?”

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“It was a request from our friends at the FBI. They believe that allies of the spook girl may show themselves if her survival is uncertain.”

Roy frowned. “Why would they assume she had allies? Do spooks work like that?”

She understood his confusion. After all, spook visits were always individual events, or seemed like it. They never appeared to have any coordination, or even any resemblance between their MOs. They were seemingly always unique phenomena.

Unless you had enough information to put the patterns together that is. Roy did not.

Payton pressed her lips together, then said, “I guess I can’t say anything about that. But Roy, do me a favor. Take a look at this.”

She showed him several hardcopy photos.

The photos were of the spook in quasi-middle-eastern dress. It didn’t look quite like what Roy would have seen in the military. The headdress was definitely different, although a cloth piece like a hijab covered the face. She had her arms around what appeared to be a wounded or exhausted police officer. From the scaling, she had to be quite tall.

“Security cam photos?”

“You can’t tell from the angle, but these were taken outside that warehouse complex during the fire.”

“So that’s me?” he guessed

She didn’t answer. There was no point in pointing out a stupid question.

The last two photos were the most surprising. In the second-to-last, she knelt next to the officer where she had laid him on the pavement, apparently checking his condition, and in very clear evidence, a long sword was hanging from her hip. And in the last, she stood next to him, holding out her bare hand with fingers spread, but she appeared to be projecting light onto his face as if her hand were a flashlight.

“Another spook girl?” he wondered.

Payton tipped her head. “You’re certain this is a woman?”

He frowned, scowling at the photos again. They weren’t very high resolution, and the robes were such that one couldn’t see the figure. The person was tall and, by the evidence as the person helped the officer, quite strong. But he immediately believed this was a woman.

“Maybe… I’m used to women dressing like that? In the Army, I was mostly in Pakistan and Yemen.”

She stared at him a bit longer, then nodded. At best, it was only a thin suggestion that the man might still remember something. She would probably have to give up on him regaining that memory.

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