Chapter 29

A Vague Sense of Honor

Three weeks after the incident at the salt mine, Caleb stood at the corner of two narrow, cracked streets in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. Behind him the blacked out windows of a bar were plastered with posters for art shows and political rallies. Across Granby street the three-story tall sign of a gun shop proclaimed it to be the best place to buy firearms in all of Hampton Roads. He pulled up his collar against the wet chill of a late March drizzle and crossed the narrower street, he had no idea what it was called as the street sign was bent, scraped, and rusted, and paused for a moment to scan the rows of buttons on the street-level intercom. None were labeled, so he pressed them in turn, pausing for a few seconds after each to listen for a response.

“Who’s that?” crackled a voice from the speaker grill.

“Oliver Lucas?” Caleb asked.

“Yeah. What do you want, buzz cut? Look up at the camera or get off.”

Caleb grunted appreciatively and turned his head up towards the black eye of the camera hanging above the door. “You know who I am, Oliver. I’ve come to make you an offer.”

In his third floor loft apartment, Oliver glared at the monitor beside his intercom and considered his next move. It had been inevitable that someone would track him back to Norfolk, and then to his apartment, but the appearance of the brawny security guard from New Orleans was still a shock. He glanced around the apartment, taking in the rows of ancient scrolls, piles of old books, and sleek glass screens of the computer he used to collate all of his research.

He had an emergency escape plan. All he need to do was press a few keys on the computer, grab one bag from the closet, and go down the back stairs to the basement and he would be away and safe. All his research would be securely backed up to the cloud and the computer would be well through eating its own brain before anyone managed to break down the door. But that was a worst case scenario. This situation didn’t have the feel of a deathtrap, yet.

He pressed the call switch beside the monitor. “I’m opening the door. Come in and climb to the third floor.”

Caleb moved to open the door but Oliver had yet to unlock it. He waited just a second, smiling at the man’s obvious frustration, and said, “Please be aware that I’ll have a gun on you the whole time. I would really prefer not to have to clean your brains from the stairwell, so don’t do anything stupid.”

He pressed the switch to unlock the door at street level.

Caleb pushed the door open with one hand, keeping his body out of the door opening in case Lucas was waiting on the opposite side. He couldn’t believe that the man would be so brazen as to shoot him dead on the street, but it wasn’t an unthinkable possibility. When no gunfire erupted through the door, Caleb risked peeking one eye out past the frame and back again.