"I'm not picking you up."






I lift the handset off the hook, and gingerly hold it to my head. The crunchy texture of the old scrambled phones is gone, replaced with the clinical silence of an encrypted line.

If the man at the other end is breathing, there's certainly no audible evidence. He doesn't say anything, because he thinks he's the cleverest motherfucker since Mitnick, and I don't say anything out of a rote rebellion to being the first person to speak.

I break the silence first, of course. Just being on the other end of a ipsec tunnel from this guy gives me the creeps. If I'm a serial killer, then he's a genocidist. The Joeseph Stalin to my Charles Manson.


"We've got a writeup for you to delete."

"They're people."

"All for the greater good. You should know that, by now."


"Four times the usual pay."


"Make it eight times." He sounds amused.


"Someone's going to figure out where all that money is going, eventually."

"He's a reasonable man. What's a few billion compared to securing the future of America?"

He rattles off the details, and I write them down on the cheap hotel notepad, then hang up on the bastard. As I tear off the top page, I notice that I wrote hard enough to tear through the paper, the result of a combination of self-loathing and machine augmented strength.

I play the zippo's flame along the edge of the pad, and leave it burning in the bathroom sink.