Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 24

  “Excuse me,” said a voice at the door.

  Sharon and Hexom both turned to look. Alejandro stood on the other side of the screen door, proffering two large tumblers full of what appeared to be cool and refreshing vodka lemonade. “I thought you might be a little parched.”

  Sharon flung the door open and snatched both glasses. “I knew I kept you around for a reason. Thank you so much. Now, scamper back inside and frolic with our new friends. Please explain that I will rejoin them shortly, after I have castrated Hexom.”

  Alejandro nodded solemnly and disappeared.

  Sharon marched to her chair, placed one glass on the small table, and took a healthy slug from the other. Once refreshed, she glared at Hexom. “I’m waiting.”

  Hexom shifted in his own chair. “Are you seriously not going to let me have the other glass?”

  Sharon smiled. “Completely serious. No confession, no beverage. This might not seem very torturous to some, but I have a feeling that, with you, restricting your alcohol access could prove very beneficial.”

  Hexam gazed out into the now-darkened front yard. “I really hate you right now.”

  “How sad,” said Sharon. “Tears me up inside. Now, start answering my questions. Or this glass goes over the railing. If you don’t think you can say it out loud without Roboto raising hell, then write it in the tablet.”

  Hexom’s eyes widened as Sharon mentioned this last item.

  Sharon smiled again. “Don’t worry. He knows about the tablet. And he’s fine with it. For now. Who knows what the hell he’ll think about it in two minutes.”

  Sharon’s phone rang.

  “Well, good God.” She flipped the phone open. “Change your mind already?”

  The voice chuckled. “Not yet. We’ll ignore some of the rules for the moment. Only for a short bit. You’re on the right track, Sharon. But I caution you to tread carefully. Remember, he wants to win as well. Show him your strengths, but don’t push him too far. Not yet anyway. You need him. For now.”

  The phone went dead.

  Hexom watched Sharon slip the phone back onto the table, take another swig of lemonade, and then settle back into her chair. “How does he know about the tablet, Sharon? Did you tell him?”

  “Maybe,” said Sharon. “But really? Aren’t you the one who is supposed to be answering questions? After all, Roboto seems to think it would be a really swell idea.” She turned and yelled through the screen door. “Alejandro!”

  His face appeared within two seconds. And his shirt was gone again. “You desire something, Miss Horizons?”

  “Many things, Allie. But we don’t have time for most of them. I seem to have misplaced my purse. Would you be a dear?”

  “Certainly.” He opened the screen door and handed the purse to her.

  She smiled. “Always prepared for Momma, yes? Thanks. Let me know if those folks in there get boring or cranky and we’ll see if we kind find some entertainment. Now scoot.” As he vanished once again, Sharon dug around in her purse, pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

   “You know,” said Hexom hopefully. “Having one of those could certainly loosen my lips.”

  “Really?” asked Sharon, shaking a cigarette out and lighting it. “That’s nice. Well, if you finally start answering my questions, I might give you one. Answer another, and I’ll think about letting you have the lighter.” She took a deep drag on the cigarette. “Have you met Roboto?”


  “Well, see how easy that was?  Why did you tell me you hadn’t?”

  Hexom sighed. “At the time, I was playing it safe. I thought it was better that you think I know less than I really do. I suspect that Roboto has informed you, by now, that we are somewhat in competition with each other, yes?”

  Sharon nodded. “That’s the impression I get, although that only leads to more questions I have for you.”

  “Of course it does.” Hexom looked at the pack of cigarettes. “That’s two answers. May I?”

  Sharon shook out another cigarette and tossed it to him. “Three more answers and I’ll let you have the lighter.”

  “That’s hardly fair.”

  “You’ve been a very bad boy, Hexom. You must suffer. This pleases me.”

  Hexom sighed again. “How did our relationship fall apart so quickly? We were getting along splendidly.”

  Sharon took another drag. “We don’t have a relationship, Hexom. We have an acquaintanceship of roughly eight hours. And stop using phrases that sound vaguely British, only certain people can pull that off. But I will say that you DO intrigue me, so all is not lost. There’s still hope. Next question. How long, really, has this game been going on?”

  Hexom pulled out his phone, fully expecting it to ring. It did not.

  He looked at Sharon. “What did he say to you? When he called just then?”

  “That we could bend the rules for tonight. I’m sure he’ll stop us if we go too far. How long, Hexom? It hasn’t really been three years, has it?”

 “In one sense, yes,” said Hexom. “The ‘network’, if you want to call it that, has been in place for that long.” He glanced at the still-silent phone. “But in another sense, the game as we know it now has only been in operation for about a year. It took some time to perfect.”

  Sharon took another swig of lemonade. “Even if it’s only been a year, how is that you haven’t found all your stones in that time? I found two in less than a day. Granted, you’ve been helping me, but still. Something seems off.”

  Hexom again studied whatever murky object he had found in the front yard. “My tasks are a little different than yours, much more … detailed. Part of what keeps the entire thing going is the fact that I haven’t completed my … missions. If I do, things change dramatically.”

  Sharon lit another cigarette, causing Hexom to whimper slightly. “Nobody’s really in any physical danger, are they? That was just some crap to get me to play.”

  Hexom shifted his gaze from the yard back to Sharon. “On the contrary. It’s much more dangerous than you probably realize. Because of who Roboto really is.” He paused. “That’s three, Sharon. Lighter?”

  She tossed it over, then leaned back in her chair, studying Hexom. “And who IS Mr. Roboto?”

  Hexom lit his own cigarette, then let the smoke slowly drift out of his mouth as an odd grin slid across his face. “His name is Alistair Breen.”

  Hexom’s phone rang. The line had finally been crossed.

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