Last time on ACE ARCHER: Ace Archer finally met the girl who had been searching him out… the granddaughter of his love, Anne Stevens. Now Caryn and Ace need to find a way to get him out of the secure encephalopathy ward and… to the makers of the Sunshine Tampon commercial?
Not only had Caryn found Ace Archer, but he was completely nutzoid monzito. It wasn’t that surprising… he was almost a hundred years old. Senility, Alzheimer’s, whatever else it was that he had that kept him in here… that was actually more believable than his still being alive.
And both of them were more believable than the story he had told her or his obsession with tampons.
It was a good thing that Caryn had an orderly mind, because it took most of her organizational skills to put the ramblings of the old man into any sort of cogent order. Even so, she wasn’t sure she would be able to keep all of it fresh in her mind, so as soon as she made it down to the hospital lobby, she sat down on one of the green foam chairs and pulled out her laptop.
She had just started typing up her notes from the interview when a shadow fell across her keyboard.
“Excuse me…” a young man standing next to her said. “Are you getting reception on that?”
Caryn looked up into the blue eyes of a curly-haired young man in a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. In his hand was an iPhone that he was clearly not happy with. He was cute in a collegiate sort of way.
“Yes,” Caryn said matter-of-factly. “There’s a wireless hospital network. It’s a locked network, but the password is available if you ask one of the head nurses or IT people.”
“Do you know it?” he asked.
“Yep,” Caryn said. This was her idea of flirting.
“Would you, ah, tell me by any chance?”
He was still smiling. Caryn thought of that as a good sign.
“What is the password?” he finally asked.
“It’s ‘colpres1,'” she said. “Worst security ever.”
He laughed. “I’ll say. At least it’s better than ‘password.'”
“One two three, four five six.”
Caryn blushed. “Um, it’s the fifth most common password.”
“You have them memorized? Like, in order?” He seemed amused, but in the good way.
“I’m a fact checker,” Caryn admitted. “I have all sorts of useless things memorized.”
“You should go on Jeopardy.”
“I was on Jeopardy,” Caryn admitted. “I lost to Ken Jennings.”
“Wow, talk about bad timing.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I’m Jeremy Roth,” he said, extending the hand without the iPhone. Caryn had to put down her laptop, but it was worth it. It had been ages since she had met anyone who was actually cute and didn’t want her to do a free background check on their fiancée.
“Caryn,” she said. “Caryn Alexander.”
“Well, thanks for the help. I’m lost if I can’t look up familiar looking actors immediately on IMDB and find out what I remember seeing them in. It’s like having something caught in my teeth.”
“Oh god, that drives me insane too! Married or gay?”
“No, you. I want immediate gratification on my disappointment before I actually get up the nerve to ask you to coffee.”
“I don’t like coffee,” Jeremy admitted sadly.
“Ah,” Caryn said, taking that as a hint.
“But, uh, not married or gay. Or dying of a terminal disease, despite hanging out in the lobby of a hospital. Do you like ice cream?”
“Chocolate ice cream?” Caryn asked hopefully.
“I think they let you choose from a score and eleven flavors. My treat.”
“Done, Mr. Roth.”
Caryn rattled off her phone number as he tapped the numbers into his iPhone. They agreed on the next night and he promised to pick her up.
When Caryn finally whisked out the automatic sliding glass doors of Columbia Presbyterian, she couldn’t keep the grin off of her face. She had come without much hope of finding more than a few answers and maybe some confirmation, but she was leaving with a quest from a mad spaceman and a date with a not-married, not-gay guy who seemed as much an info junkie as she was.
All in all, not a bad day’s haul.
-*- -*- -*-
Jeremy Roth pressed the elevator button to take him to the eighth floor. He looked down at his iPhone as the elevator ascended, but it was not IMDB he was perusing. He did want to get more background information on the person in the photo he was looking at, but she was no obscure character actor. He was looking at a photograph of Caryn Alexander from an Occupy Hayden Planetarium rally last year. The purple streak was orange in this picture, but otherwise she looked just like the woman he had accidentally met just minutes ago.
On the eighth floor, the hospital doors opened with a subdued swish and two transport orderlies with a man on a stretcher started to push in. Seeing Jeremy, they paused until he was out.
The eighth floor of Columbian Presbyterian was one floor above the encephalopathy ward, but a great deal of the medical data and surveillance cameras for Project Sagittarius came directly to his office. He flashed his hospital staff badge at the security guard for the small suite of offices labeled, innocuously enough, Department of Media Relations. He smiled at his receptionist Vera, an ex-spy whose position in NASA had been compromised during the 1998 John Glenn debacle.
“Morning, Vera,” he said. “Anything new?”
“Nope,” she said. “Just the way we like it.”
Laughing at the long-familiar exchange, he headed into his office and lay down on the leather couch. The translucent glass of his office door showed the name “Toby Proctor” and the title “Program Coordinator” backwards on it.
He tapped a few spots on his iPhone glass, uploading the photos and recording of his conversation with Caryn Alexander to a dropbox on his secure server. She really was a pretty cute girl, if a little… unconventional for his tastes. Still, it looked like “Jeremy Roth” was going to do pretty well for himself. And that was just the bonus. If this girl was his way to getting inside Brakura’s head once and for all… well, it would be goodbye to Columbia Presbyteran and hello to the Urania Group itself.
Caryn looked up at him from the cold phone surface. Jeremy winked at her.
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” he said.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.