Conversation with Bluthe

The phone rang and Gary jumped from his seat. He thought it was the doorbell — and he was nowhere near done clearing his tracks — but then realized that it was the cheap wireless phone he had bought. Only Bluthe knew the number. Gary took the phone outside, thinking that if there was a bug it would be more likely inside the house. “Hello?” he said.

“Holy mother of God, and all shit-eating hetero dog-cow sucking wicked sons of a bitch, bastards and godforsaken offspring…” Then a breath.

It was Bluthe. “Thanks for calling.” The civility was meant to make a point.

“Now I really deserve whatever I get. What do you want, you pathetic alienist wannabe?” He paused. “I thought I told you to take a long walk on a short hike to hell?”

“I need your help, Bluthe.”

“Please. No names, all right? Don’t call me at home either. This is a disposable phone. Okay? It’s not always and everywhere about saving your own saggy pimply butt.”

“We found something. It seems to be intelligent. And there’s someone following me. They contacted Alice, but she protected me.”

“Woah there, Sherlock. One thing at a time. You say you found something? Are you telling me you made contact a la Blue Ball in a Big Black Void? You’re in possession of a connection?”

“Yes.”

“Holy shit of a ghostly apparition… All right, more on that later. Someone is following you? The connection is following you?”

“No,” he said with exasperation. “There was a government RV, trolling with a big antenna on top. I’ve seen it twice. And some asshole showed up at Alice’s door with an ID claiming he’s from the Federal Communications Commission. They want the monitor I took from Alice.”

“Hmmm, that’s interesting. Well, at least you’re still alive. You can’t complain about that.”

“I guess not.” He didn’t know how to get to the other side of this conversation, so he just blurted out: “Bluthe, I don’t know what to do. I need your help.”

“All right, let’s assume that you did need my help, and that you’re not standing there with a complement of government goons waiting for me to implicate myself. What do you need?”

“I need somewhere to hide the antenna.”

“It’s an antenna? Portable?”

“Very. But I’m not sure that they can’t trace it. They found Alice somehow, and she didn’t even have it.”

“All right, all right. Good thing you know me, Sherlock. I can hook you up with some people to put that thing where no one will ever find it.”

“No,” Gary said weakly. “No, you don’t understand. I don’t want to get rid of it, I just want to put it somewhere where, if they find it, they can’t trace it back to me.”

“Are you fucking crazy?!” Bluthe shouted so loudly that his voice came across as a tinny distortion. Then more peacefully: “I’m going to pretend that you didn’t say that, since you are obviously under a big strain. I mean, even a mental menial such as yourself couldn’t imagine that he can control this situation. A situation where the US government is searching for exactly you, has already contacted the girlfriend that you still saliva over, and where you have some kind of contraband that can’t be hidden. Where some damn fine people have already lost their lives for just believing what you believe to be true.” A pause, as if calculating the effect of that speech on an invisible audience. “Of course, I don’t believe a word of it.”

Gary said: “Okay, look, I need to get some new identification. Something that will help me rent an empty storefront that I can just walk away from. I just need to be a convincing someone else.”

“Sure, that I can do. It’s not illegal to know how to do illegal things, by the way. And where you dig your grave is really just immaterial to me.”

The conversation devolved into Bluthe describing how to find the kind of place where someone inquires discreetly about forms of identification. Contrary to Gary’s expectation, Bluthe informed him that this particular supply chain was not so insular that you needed to name someone’s uncle to get through the door. These were merchants looking for business like anyone else. Although more suspicious than a legit dealer and a bit more likely to be scamming, the majority are just vendors with a ware and an interest in seeing their product move as quickly as possible. He sounded convincing, even if he didn’t know jack shit — as Gary always suspected on one level — and there was comfort even in that.

Gary finished reconfiguring his browser caches and started an industrial strength erasure program that rewrites good data in place and zeroes everywhere else on the hard drive, several times for good measure, in order to prevent a forensic team from recovering deleted data. He had the Blue Ball website only on a CD, which he was determined to keep with himself. And the monitor? Dump it, leave it, bring it by Alice’s? What was she trying to communicate to him by making the call outside her place? Was it part of a plan, or just an expression of anxiety? He had no way to know. He deleted her message.

So Gary decided to leave his house, with the monitor waiting there for now, and go about getting his id.