Chapter Eleven: Nootau
A hand came down on his shoulder. He turned to find Edwige looking worriedly at him. A smile broke out on his face despite the late hour and shitty headache.
"You're not looking so well."
Nootau shrugged. Not much he could do about it right now. The stitches Waban had given him itched and pulled in weird ways. Inside, where the bullets had been lodged, tweaked him every time he moved. Last night had not been the best of ideas, but definitely worth it.
"Here," Edwige said, pushing a thermos in his face. "Some tea. Maybe it'll help."
"I will," Nootau answered, screwing the cap off.
She whirled around and went over to Aegeus, who bent himself over another computer. They whispered with one another. Side long glances were directed toward Nootau as the pair had their little conference. He drank the tea while trying not to notice their conversation about him, because who else would they be talking about secretively. The warm drink went a long way to soothe his frayed nerves. Olive on the other hand had walked back into the office from raiding the vending machine.
"I thought some people might be getting hungry," she said, holding up her goodies. "Any luck."
They all answered "no."
The beautiful features on her face were marred with a scowl. Breaking into buildings hadn't been her only talent. Computers were fair game as well. Olive liked a challenge it seemed. Places she wasn't supposed to go were high on her list. What normal person carries around latex gloves, and a backpack full of equipment to silence alarms?
Thankfully she uses her skills for good. Who knew what kind of trouble she'd cause if the world got on her bad side.
Sighing, Olive sat down on the desk by the door. "Maybe we're thinking about this wrong. Could be the person or persons at large are smart enough not to keep any information on the network."
"Where else could we look?" Aegeus asked. He pushed back from his desk and stood. "We can't search this building top to bottom by ourselves."
"Plus the night watchmen will be back soon," Edwige added.
"Fuck it all," Nootau said angrily. He slammed down the tea and stood. "How much time do we have before rounds?"
"Forty-five minutes at most," she answered.
Nootau threw up his hands and paced the room. The papers in Ahanu's box had said people at the bureau were involved. They were the one's doing the selling and ordering. Someone, somewhere in the office had to have some kind of evidence as to where the walkers were being sent. It's not like they disappeared out of thin air completely. Not unlike when the postal service misplaced a package, some record--right!
"We're looking in the wrong place!" Nootau shouted. He shook with anticipation. "Shipping and receiving. That's where it has to be. Not Walker Resources. They're not going to be marking the known walkers missing because it's public record and send up a red flag."
Edwige bounced next to him. "But they have to know where the walkers are being sent."
Olive came over and clapped him on the back. She really knew how to pack a wallop. "Then we'd better get to buildings and grounds before we run out of time."
"Right," he said. "Let's go."
They gathered up their stuff. Edwige wiping up his sloshed tea on the desk without a word, but pushing the thermos back in his hands. Nootau took it automatically, earning him a sweet smile. Edwige happy made him feel good. The warm fuzz inside his chest filled a yearning he'd ignored for so long.
* * * * *
"Here!" Edwige bounced up and down. "Here! I think I've found it."
The rest of them rushed to her, taking a good look over her shoulder at the logs for shipments and orders. Different suppliers were listed. Ones for office supplies, another for the water coolers, a carpet cleaner, and so on. A single name stood out, though.
All the Bits and Pieces, Inc.
How macabre. Nootau frowned. "Are they coming up anywhere?"
"Not much on the net, but they aren't any kind of normal office supplier. Plus the Bureau has money coming in from them," Edwige answered. "I think we should investigate the firm a little closer."
"Could be a company from one of the camps," Olive said.
"It's not one of the known associated dealers with their camps," Aegeus countered, squinting at the screen. "Can you find out any essentials? Where they're located, numbers, messaging?"
"Yeah, give me a minute. I need to get into their dealer info."
Nootau checked the time. "Better hurry. We've got fifteen minutes before the walkthrough starts."
As if in perfect harmony with their expedited escape, Olive's wrist alarm went off. They all looked at it. The silent orange light mocked them. Suddenly several different conversions started.
Olive swore. "We have company."
"Print the dealer info and whatever account information you can," Aegeus said.
"What are our routes out from here?" Nootau asked.
Edwige pounded the keyboard hard. "What do you think I'm doing?"
"There is the front door, then the back balconies. Not to mention the basement exit."
"Are you sure you're hitting the right key?"
"Which way is best?"
"You want to try it?"
"Basement. I have to pick up my alarms if we don't want to leave any evidence behind."
"I'm just asking!"
"But we could run into security if we try to get them now."
That caught everyone's attention and this time everyone swore. At the same time, the printer decided to eject the paper with the company info and accounts.
"Should we leave the alarms and hope they don't notice?" Edwige suggested as she grabbed the print outs.
"Might be best." Olive sighed. "I really hate leaving stuff behind but I suppose I could drop by tomorrow. The last thing we want is them running into us. A known break in, and someone seeing us would be bad."
"Good thing the bureau doesn't have enough funding for better security," Aegeus said. He picked up Edwige's backpack and held it out. "Thermos."
"Thanks." Aegeus pulled out some dark ski masks. Nootau eyed them dubiously but pulled his on like the others. Seemed they were used to this sort of thing. Olive's even had a cut for her mohawk. Aegeus went to the door and checked for the all clear. "Let's get going."
With the backpack slung over one shoulder, Aegeus led the group out into the hall. His nervous hum started up, causing Edwige to take hold of his hand. He motioned to the left. And whispered for them to retreat toward the back. Olive moved to the front of the group. She led their party down a narrow hall and toward a questionable staircase.
"Seems like the perfect spot for an ambush," Nootau said with a scowl.
Aegeus laughed lightly. "Hopefully not. All we want is to avoid the guards. He's going up the front, so we're going down the back."
"How do you know—" began Nootau, but was cut off.
"The back is always more fun," Olive added with a smile. He did a double take. Was she cracking a joke now? Really?
"Wonderful," Edwige hissed. "Now all of you shut up before the guard hears us."
Nervous chuckles filled the silence as they descended. Their steps echoed too loudly. The breaths too noticeable in the tight space. Nootau's heart hammered like a rabbit's hiding from the hunt. He shook his head. Too close to home.
Just as they hit the second landing, a voice called out. "Hey! Who's there?"
And a flashlight swung in their direction.