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Ridiculous (In The Shadow)

I was right.  I really, really hated the new guy.  Marcus Graves, former special agent in undercover operations, was on sabbatical—a very well paid one—from the Drug Enforcement Agency.  He was a friend of a friend that Ray had finally tracked down and married up with our special niche assignment.

I honestly didn’t think that Ray was ever going to find anyone to fill the position, so when he located the perfect candidate I had to pretend to be pleased while at the same time hide my anger at the situation and the opportunities for him which meant the demise of those that might have been for me, if our roles were reversed.

My dislike of him was totally unfair, especially as he turned out to be a very good guy, and everyone, especially the women in our group, seemed to adore him.  Then again, perhaps that would lead to his ultimate and more expeditious dismissal, I mused.

I hated to admit it, but Marcus was very similar to me, especially in personal attributes.  He was well educated, a graduate of M.I.T., like myself, but several years my junior, so we’d never met there.  He was a specialist in computer science, and combined with his extremely youthful appearance, superb acting ability and other specialized technical skills, had been particularly useful in the government’s struggles with organized crime.  His personality was reserved and he rarely gave anything away about himself, so there was little to know about whom he really was or what he really thought.  In any other circumstances I would have liked him very much, and we’d likely be good friends.

But his assignment, and the daily close proximity it afforded to the unwitting center of my universe, made me blind with envy for him.  The worst part was that I had to hide my feelings from everyone, especially him.  So I had to go through the motions of liking him, as I would, in any different situation than the one in which we now found ourselves.

He made it begrudgingly easy.  His reaction to having to dress up in that ridiculous Goth looking style was everything I expected.  And I almost felt sorry for him…almost.

One of Ray’s very few negative characteristics was his predilection for practical jokes.  That being the case, he thought it would be wildly entertaining to surprise our entire team, and me in particular, with the introduction of our newest member.  So the day I first saw “Trevor” I also very nearly took him out.

It was a cool morning in early October and Ellery was standing outside on her front porch waiting to be picked up for school by her friend, Samantha, her bus riding days now just a fading memory.  I was terrified that due to her association, and the effects that girls often have on each other, that at some point Ellery might step outside one morning looking just like her unbelievably hideous friend, with her sweet and perfect beauty blighted by dark, defacing make-up, and heaven forbid, her gorgeous golden beige blonde hair stained some disgusting, unnatural color.  So every morning that she emerged looking angelically beautiful and pure I said a silent prayer of thanks and breathed easier for the day.

This morning my angelically pure one stepped out looking the part but appeared extremely uneasy as an unfamiliar, very late model Mercury Grand Marquis (white walls included) pulled into her driveway.   Her tense body language mirrored my own.  I was reaching for the phone, my keys, the camera and my gun simultaneously.

She approached the driver’s side, so it was obvious this was no prearranged situation.  When I got the zoom lens locked in I nearly had a heart attack.  The driver was male and ten times scarier than any of the other characters I’d seen Ellery in company with since she’d begun mixing in her untoward new society.  It reminded me of a scenario where the abductor approaches the child to ask for directions or for help finding his lost puppies.  She was very nervous, but probably out of propriety approached the driver to answer some question he was posing, perhaps, “Would you like some candy?”

To my absolute horror, after just a brief exchange with what was obviously a villain, she got into the back seat of his car under her own power, and he ferried her away to enjoy his sweet and tender breakfast in some private place.

He was so dead.  I just needed to be careful not to hurt Ellery or compromise my own cover in the process of making him that way.

They were headed into Middletown, so the road was four lanes and I was able to pull up beside them, matching his pace, to get a look at Ellery and gauge her reaction to whatever was happening in the car.  I nearly panicked at the sight.  She looked like she was extremely frightened or possibly in pain.  Her eyes were clamped shut and she was clutching the door handle like she was preparing to jump out of the vehicle.  NO!

The driver was smiling big as he viewed his captive’s reaction to him through the rear view mirror.  The murderous calculations taking place in my mind while I viewed his demeanor and expressions began to take on a decidedly sadistic bent, especially as I was certain they mirrored his own intentions toward the lamb-like prisoner in his back seat.

Just as we were descending the hill that leads to the stop light at the Gene Snyder interchange, my phone rang.  It was Ray calling me back.  I had left a feverish, panic ridden message not ninety seconds prior.  He was…laughing…at me.

“Please tell me you didn’t shoot him yet,” Ray said, his deep voice sprinkled with humor.

I was silent as I cocked my gun any way.  I knew he could hear it.

“Ash,” he was very serious now.

“Stand down.  He’s our new inside point man at the school—on the job for a week now.  He’s also Samantha’s new boyfriend and now he’s the girls’ chauffeur.  Not a bad showing for five days’ work, huh?” he explained, sounding far too cheerful.

I hung up.  That way Ray couldn’t hear me cursing at him.