Chapter 5 and 6 of Arlo

Aloha – A reminder that the first four chapters are also available and that this is a first draft of Arlo. Tonight you’re starting to catch up.  Yes, I did finish another chapter, but in this case chapter 5 is short so I’ve tossed in the draft for chapter 6 as well.  Enjoy, Doc

Chapter 5  The Red Iguana

The Red Iguana was on the west side of Salt Lake City on north Temple on the way to the Salt Lake International Airport.  It was in a part of the city that most people avoided, and few of the middle class would consider stopping.  The exterior of the building was uninviting with signage that seemed more fitting for a pawn shop than a restaurant.  Yet people lined up wrapping around the exterior of the building during lunch and dinner hours.

Aware of the popularity of the best Mexican restaurant in city, Marshall had arranged to meet with Blake and Justin at 11:00 a.m. shortly after his flight arrived in Utah.  The interior was as uninviting as the exterior, with small, square metal tables crowded together, with the wait staff weaving between the patrons taking and serving orders.  Marshall arrived early, and was sitting at a corner table with his back to the wall so he could see Blake and Justin arrive.  He was nibbling on a second bowl of chips and salsa when they came through the front door at 11:17.  Earlier than usual, he thought, as he motioned them back.

“Well?”  Blake’s eyes gleamed with anticipation.

“I recommend any of the enchiladas.  Their mole’s are excellent.  I’m not a fan of the carne adobada,” Marshall leaned back on his chair.  “I miss this place.  I wish we could do more of our work here.”

Justin pulled out a chair scrapping the floor.  “I think he,” nodding toward Blake, was wondering how things went with your dad.”

“Oh that?” Marshall leaned forward, “About as I expected.  He’s trying to play me, but he countered my sixty percent offer with a ninety percent counter offer before I left.  He never does that unless he’s already made up his mind.”

“Does what?” Blake queried.

“Makes a counter offer.  Oh he’ll try to string us along and improve his position, but he already smells the money rolling into his account.”

“Well, it is a lot of money,” Justin observed.  The added, “Is ten percent enough?”

“For what we want?” Marshall leaned in, “Depends on how the old fox does the math… yes, anything over five percent will be enough.  If we get ten percent of the profits without too many fees for this or that overhead and we’ll have plenty.  So far I don’t think he has any idea of what this is all about and we have to keep it that way.”

Marshall looked around.  He had to be careful not to bump into the person sitting behind him, or bumping the elbow of the young oriental woman sitting on his right side.  Leaning even closer he added, “In fact, I think we better change subjects.”  Leaning back he asked in a normal voice, “So how are you doing in Assassin’s Creed?

“Sequence eleven,” Justin responded immediately.

By the time they left the restaurant the lines had formed past the edge of the building.  “So why are we in Utah?” Justin queried.

“Thriving economy, technology hub, strong work ethic …,” Blake began counting off with his fingers.

“We can talk about that as we drive.  Did you two bring a car?” Marshall asked.

“Five national parks, beautiful mountains, great skiing…. Belay that, too late in the year for skiing,” Blake continued.

“No, you said you’d rent a car at the airport.  So we grabbed the Trax line from downtown,” Justin answered.

“Temple Square, BYU, beautiful girls,” Blake was starting to wind down.

“We’re going to Brigham City,” Marshall confided.  “I understand they have some great raspberry milkshakes up there.”

“Milkshakes?  You flew us all the way out to Utah for milkshakes?” Blake interrupted.

“No,” Marshall smirked, “But if we hurry we may make it in time for some shakes.”  He pulled keys from his pocket and they heard the distinct beep of car doors being unlocked.  Twenty feet away they saw the headlights of a gray Jeep Cherokee.  “Get in,” Marshall snapped.  “We spent too much time eating lunch.”

They drove north on I-15 that was cluttered with new homes and commercial properties lining both sides of the freeway for over an hour.  Passing through Ogden, traffic began thinning out, and they caught occasional glimpses of water to their left, and fruit trees on the hills to the right.

Neither Blake nor Justin could get anything out of Marshall as to their reasons for traveling out into the wilderness of Utah.

“This is not the wilderness of Utah,” Marshall responded.  The wilderness areas are north and east and south of Salt Lake City.  When they finally approached Brigham City, Marshall turned away from the city, rather than toward the eastern mountain.  Continuing down a two lane highway, the ground became rocky, brown and desolate.  “Okay, maybe there is some wilderness up this way,” Marshall laughed.

Eventually the rock and dirt was interrupted by a tall chain linked fence topped with concertina wire.   Eventually they reached the gate for ATK-Thiokol.  Blake immediately perked up, “Is this their test range?”

“Not only their test range, but if we can get through security in less than twenty minutes, we can watch a test firing of their fusion engine.  I got a pass for three scientists.  Are either of you qualified to be called scientists?”

“So we’re here,” Justin complained, “to see the test firing of an engine system, that Blake already discards as inferior to his own design?”

“I’m interested,” Marshall smiled.  “You never know, these sorts of things often give people better ideas just for seeing them.”  Then he scowled, “But actually this is more a distraction.  We have other reasons for being here.”

They made it through security and to the test firing with two minutes to spare.  But technical glitches delayed the test by over two hours.  It was late afternoon before they drove into Brigham City for the promised black raspberry milk shakes.

Sitting outside an ice cream parlor Marshall turned to Blake, “Well?”

“The test was certainly impressive.  Better than most fireworks displays I’ve seen.  But, it is way to energy hungry.  How do they expect that to efficiently deliver the first permanent base to Mars?” Blake started.  “But, it did give me a few ideas relative to my design.  The propulsion system has to help generate speed, but also be much more cost effective.  I believe the solar sails will help give us that added boost.  But I don’t want to use them in the Belt.  Getting from here past Mars, I think we can save dollars and time.”

“You said this was more of a side trip than our actual purpose,” Justin interrupted.  “Why did you bring us all the way out here?”

“Patience,” Marshall paused and bent over in pain.

“Are you okay?” Justin reached over in concern.

“Ice headache,” was all that Marshall got out.

Chapter 6 – Follow the Leader

“Mr. Smith, this isn’t working,” Naomi complained on her check-in call.  “I think Marshall spotted me.  I told you I failed the surveillance course twice.”

Naomi Katsuki had been back in the States less than two weeks when she was reassigned to conduct surveillance on Dr. Marshall Salt.  Reading his profile had been an emotional roller coaster, “PhD in Astrophysics,” Great, I get to follow around some ancient university professor.  “28 years old,” Well, he looks pretty good for a scientist; those intense brown eyes are mesmerizing.  I wonder if he is wearing contacts or just has 20-20 vision.  Then she read the three line title of his dissertation, and the list of publications on spectrographic analysis of asteroids, Oh my god, I can’t understand a word he’s writing.   Then after reading an op-ed piece he had written for Time magazine about next generation space travel, Okay, a really smart nut case.   As she read his family profile, A very rich and very smart nut case.  Probably a spoiled brat.  No wonder he’s so far off the reservation.  She paused, Sister died when she was sixteen of unknown causes.  Mother committed suicide eight months later.  Well certainly not a bed of roses.  In eight years, Marshall had traveled extensively with his longest stint for two and half years at the Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University while earning his baccalaureate degree.   After that, he had spent a year at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, a year at the US Naval Academy Observatory on a civilian internship, another internship in the Canary Islands, then back to Arizona, the a short stint in Chili, and now New Mexico.  Well, it least I shouldn’t get bored in one spot too long, she sighed.

“This isn’t rocket science, Naomi,” Mr. Smith chided.

Naomi paused, “Was that supposed to be a joke?  Never mind.  I think he caught me today.”

“How so?”

“He was talking openly with his buddies…” Naomi started.

“Buddies?” John Smith queried sarcastically.  “If you’re reporting, report.”

“The target went to Salt Industries headquarters in Chicago.  He was inside the corporate offices for a little over an hour.  I assume, but do not know, that he met with his father as there is no evidence that he has any other connection with the corporation.  He took the L train to O’Hare Airport.  I did not see him talk to anyone on the train.  He was absorbed into something he was reading.”

“What was he reading,” Mr. Smith perked up.

“I don’t know.  It wasn’t a newspaper or magazine.  Some sort of report I assume,” Naomi responded.

“You need to get closer,” Smith admonished.

“I tried that, and I think I got caught.  Anyway, he boarded a flight for Salt Lake City.  The flight was full, and I had to use my credentials to bump someone from the flight.”

“Hmmmm….” Was all that Mr. Smith said.

“He did not speak to anyone on the flight after I boarded.  There is a five minute lapse between his boarding and my boarding.  In Salt Lake he rented a car at the airport and drove straight to a dump called the Red Iguana.  I was able to follow him there… she paused.  I had to use credentials again, to get to a car in time to follow him out of the airport.  I was able to tag his car before entering the restaurant.  The only seat in that section of the restaurant was right next to him.  So as you would recommend I got a lot closer to him.  And that is when things fell apart.”

“Continue,” Smith advised guardedly.

“Doctors Justin Nelson and Blake Hilst, previously identified entered the restaurant.  They were talking quite openly about the target’s visit to Chicago, and something about distribution of profits when the target leaned up, looked around, then leaned in closer and began whispering.  They changed the topic to video games or something.”

“What makes you think he identified you?” Smith queried.

“Well he brushed against my arm immediately prior to changing the topic,” she admitted.

After a short pause Mr. Smith commented, “It is good to be a bit skittish in your assignment.  Did he see your face?”

“No…. certainly not then.  I had my back to him.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it then.  More likely he was discussing confidential information and realized that he was in a public place,” Mr. Smith concluded.  “Where is he now?”

“The target and two companions went north.  I hung back, but they were easy to track.  They traveled to the ATK-Thiokol engine testing facilities.  They were on premises for three hours, and then went to Brigham City, where they checked into a local hotel.  And, no I have not placed a bug in their room.  Once they entered, they have not exited.”

“Probably won’t get a chance tonight,” Smith agreed.  “Get some sleep, and pick up in the morning.”

“One other thing.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one following them,” Naomi added.

There was a long pause on the other end of the line, enough so that Naomi Katsuki wondered if Mr. Smith had disconnected.  Finally, she heard him slowly exhaling, “What makes you think that someone else is following them?”

“Well, it could be a coincidence, but a car that was parked at the Red Iguana is in the parking lot at the same hotel.”

“Are you sure?” John Smith demanded.

“Absolutely.  It is a gray late model Impala, but the license plate caught my eye at the restaurant; obviously a rental with Oregon plates.  The reason it caught my eye is that the numbers are the same as by birthday.”

“Shit,” Mr. Smith invoked, “Not likely a coincidence in a small Utah town.  This was supposed to be a casual surveillance….. I’ll have a team fly in tomorrow.  They should be at the airport by… she could hear rapid typing in the background, then more cursing, then more typing.  Finally, Mr. Smith reported, I will have a team arriving from Mexico City via Los Angeles on Delta.  They’ll be in at two o’clock.  Meet them at the airport.  Meanwhile, keep your distance, but try to ascertain what who else is involved in this.”

“That doesn’t make sense.  How can I do both?”

“Just make it work,” Mr. Smith abruptly ended the call.

Naomi didn’t fall asleep until after three o’clock in the morning.  Every noise in the hallway made her jump.  Twice she left her room, four doors down from Marshalls, checking the stairways and the parking lot for activity.  There was none.

At six o’clock in the morning she jumped out of bed.  The alarm had sounded on her tracker, that the Marshall Salt’s car was moving and had passed out of the two mile range of the local radio signal, and was shifting to satellite tracking.

At first she panicked and raced to the door of her hotel room.  Then she stopped.  Close but not too close, she reminded herself.  And decided to take a quick shower, and get into some fresh clothes.  I stink, she realized as she pulled of her soiled blouse.

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