You nod, disappointed. “And I’m supposed to have a kit all ready to go here, right?”
To test for vaccine in the blood. The only way to know for sure if somebody’s working so far undercover even they don’t know it: the city inoculates against all the hepatitises.
William just stares at the back of your head. You can feel it.
“All right then,” you say, “You’re Vice, I’m Vice—that what you want? This is entrapment. I’m just checking my messages here. Calling in the birds. Go ahead and assume the position if you want . . . ”
For too long, William just watches you, then finally shakes his head no, giving up, his eyes flicking once to the screen, on accident.
You turn to it, lay your fingers over the keys like a kid doing his ten-thousandth piano recital.
“Say you are Vice,” he says. “Everything you need to prosecute me, it’s on that computer, right?”
Nobody says ‘computer’ anymore. Instead of laughing, you manage a cough. “For half-extra, you can lug the drive with you, man. That work for you?”
Behind you then, the crisp sound of bills unfolding.
The trick is not to give in and look. But maybe he can tell how soft you’re pressing the keys now, too.
The directory he wants is one door in a maze of halls. Though you don’t stop to listen, you know the sounds that would come through if you did: screaming, tearing, sobbing; worse.
It’s why you keep the volume punched down.
The directory William wants isn’t even that hidden.
“This?” you say.
He nods, his breath thick, humid. His hands in his pockets too, probably, but you don’t want to know.
You go in together, and know from the jittery stream down at the command line you’ve forced open that this is a rider room: the eyes you’re looking through aren’t your own, but whoever’s had the unit surgically planted in their head.
Not the harshest bit out there—some of these nights, you dump the laptop just to forget—but, tucked away at the end of the hall like it is, it’s going to be more than just a run through the girls’ dorm, too.
by William Taylor Jr