10. Drinks

Since the former Senator wanted to talk to Finch and the wives wanted to talk to each other, the other man of the party (who introduced himself only as Earl Havers) was stuck sitting next to Reese. He seemed to regard the tall, currently-flamboyant man with some reservation, as though he feared his gayness might somehow be contagious. Reese politely tried to engage him in conversation, but as the older man gave him very little encouragement, he gave up and leaned in to listen to Finch’s conversation with Fred Russwood.

“The technology has developed exponentially,” Finch was saying. “Things that were considered impossible – like the Dick Tracy two-way television watch – are not only possible but commonplace. The true competition now is to find out what sorts of technologies people really want and need, and to develop the best new applications to meet those needs.”

The waiter came by with their drinks, leaving identical glasses of small-batch whiskey in front of Reese and the Senator and a tawny port for Finch. As Reese savored his first sip, Russwood noticed his choice of drink.

“I wouldn’t have pegged you as a Maker’s man, Mr. Westerton,” he remarked, using the alias that Reese had given them.

“Oh, I love whiskey!” Reese responded with a coy smile. “In fact, before I met Harold, I was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic. But tonight I don’t have to drive home, so it’ll be my little treat.” He turned to Finch and batted his eyelashes, eliciting a snort-like chuckle from his “partner.”

“Don’t let him fool you, Senator,” Finch informed him dryly. “John can drink most men under the table. The only reason he didn’t become an alcoholic was that it took him too many drinks to get drunk!”

Reese laughed good-naturedly at that, curling his fingers around Finch’s elbow. “Oh, Harold! You make me sound like a perfect lush. Although I’ll be the first to admit, I might’ve been homeless by now if you hadn’t come along and rescued me – like a knight in shining armor…”

Finch reddened as the rest of the table tittered.

“What was your line of work before your… ‘rescue’?” Russwood asked with a smile.

“I worked in private security out in LA. Mostly just monitoring security monitors,” Reese answered smoothly. “It was a lazy man’s job, but someone had to do it!”

“Now he helps me install those cameras, as well as other security devices,” Finch jumped in, remembering their earlier cover story with the Mary Kay women. “Which brings us back to that issue you mentioned about your own security system, Senator.”

Russwood nodded and took another sip of his whiskey. “Yes. Elizabeth thinks that I’m… imagining things, but I keep getting this distinct feeling that… I’m being watched.”

Finch considered this for a brief moment before replying, “Well, you are. A man of your status can’t escape the public eye, even when you’re retired and out of the political limelight. The real question is, is there a concerted effort to watch you, and if so, to what purpose?”

“Agreed. The odd thing is, I feel the most… spied upon, so to speak, when I’m at home,” he explained. “I can understand the paparazzi training their cameras on me when I’m in town, but… frankly, it unnerves me to feel like I’m being watched in my own house.”

“Since when have you been feeling this way?”

“Oh… about five, six months now. I keep calling the security company to make sure they haven’t overlooked anything, but they keep telling me that everything is normal.”

“It could be a simple sensitivity to electromagnetism – depending on how your house has been wired, you may be feeling the effects of stronger electrical currents in certain areas.”

“I considered that, and had an electrician inspect it, but there’s nothing wrong with the wiring. Besides, we’ve been in that house for over thirty years, so why would it start now?”

“Well, if you don’t mind, may I see your cell phone?” Finch asked, and the Senator pulled it out. “I’d like to check if anyone has hacked into it – that’s usually a good indication that someone has set up surveillance on you.”

“Harold’s a genius when it comes to computers and gadgets,” Reese put in proudly. “He can run circles around any of the young kids on the Geek Squad!”

“Well, I don’t know about running, John,” Finch mumbled as he began sifting through the data stored on the phone.

“Senator, you were in the service, weren’t you?” Reese asked over Finch’s shoulder.

“Of course. In my day, it was hardly optional.”

“Did you see action, then?”

“In Korea, yes.”

“And when you were over there… could you sense the enemy’s crosshairs on you? Like a high-pitched buzzing in your ears, or the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, warning you to take cover?”

Russwood shot Reese a piercing look as he answered, “Yes, as a matter of fact… There were a couple of times that I… I just sensed the need to hit the deck. Nobody else had heard or seen anything, but… moments later, it was raining bullets. If I hadn’t followed my gut, I wouldn’t have made it out of there alive…” His eyes narrowed as he continued to stare at Reese. “You seem to know a great deal about it.”

“Oh, I’ve read a great deal about it,” Reese answered evenly, without flinching under the older man’s steely gaze. “You see, Harold is a man of science, and will only believe in proven facts; but I believe there’s more to the human brain than meets the eye – that there are some people who have a gift, like a sixth sense, that warns them of impending danger. Call it a vestigial trace of our ancestors’ survival instinct. If you have that sense, or heightened state of awareness, you may very well be picking up on someone covertly watching you.”

“And I may have the proof of it,” Finch announced, looking up from the cell phone. “This phone has been hacked on multiple times, Senator, and all around six months ago. The hacker didn’t steal any of your personal information – just your GPS locations.”

While his wife gasped in concern, Russwood himself looked rather relieved.

“So I haven’t been imagining things!”

“I would say not. In fact, it’s possible the culprit was checking where you were so he could plant surveillance devices in your house.”

“Janet!” Mrs. Russwood exclaimed. “And Isabella!”

“Our daughter and granddaughter,” her husband noted for his guests’ benefit. “They’re living with us, in our house. So they could be under surveillance as well?”

“Yes. I can’t tell you what the threat level is with only this much information to go on, but perhaps it would be best to have them stay elsewhere – even join you here at the hotel – until we get to the bottom of this.”

“You can send them over to our place,” Havers offered immediately, the first indication that he had been listening to their conversation. “We’ll have Matilda prepare the guest room for them.”

“That would be marvelous!” Mrs. Russwood sighed, though still looking alarmed.

“Earl and Dotty are our neighbors in Sagaponack,” her husband told Finch and Reese before calling his daughter on his returned cell phone. It took him a few minutes to convince her to leave their home so late at night, especially with her baby (Isabella had just turned two), but she was familiar with the Havers’ house and agreed to take the precaution.

“So. Our girls are out of danger for the moment. What next?” the Senator asked Finch.

“We should do a thorough sweep of your house for bugs, and if possible track down where the signals are being sent. Ten to one they’re being routed through several proxy servers, but it’s at least worth a try. Of course, they may shut down the feed if they heard your conversation just now, but I should be able to find some history of their activity on your IP address.”

“Do you have people that can get on it right away?” he demanded.

“Senator, it’s late, and most of my employees are either off-duty or otherwise occupied,” Finch said carefully. “But if you can wait until morning, I’ll send my best man out to sweep your house.” He turned to give Reese a significant look. “I’m sure he won’t mind the road trip.”

“I adore road trips,” Reese smiled. “And I absolutely love the Hamptons!”

“Ah. I see,” Russwood said, considering this. “In that case, you can ride out with me tomorrow. If there are any devices lurking in my house, I would like to find them myself! Although god knows I’ve looked everywhere…”

“John is very good at what he does, Senator,” Finch assured him. “He has a great eye for detail. It’s one of the skills for which I hired him, and he’s yet to let me down.”

“Oh, Harold!” Reese murmured, calling up a blush.

“Meanwhile,” Finch continued in a businesslike tone, “I’ll see if I can’t trace your hackers from the mainframe at my office. Given that we don’t have a clear picture of what the hackers want, or why, or even who they are, I think it’s best if we keep only necessary personnel in the loop. I may require some additional help in performing the trace, but I promise you that everything will be conducted in the strictest confidence.”

“I appreciate that,” Russwood said with feeling. “And honestly, I’m just glad you could tell that my phone was hacked! I feel much better knowing that my fears were not groundless.”

“Fred… I owe you an apology,” Elizabeth remarked, stroking his hand where it lay on the table. “But I didn’t know about your sixth sense… You’ve hardly ever spoken about the war…”

“Some things… it’s better you don’t know,” he told her, not unkindly, clasping her hand.

The Russwoods’ daughter called later to report that she had arrived safely at the Havers’ house, which did allow her parents to relax somewhat. Finch, meanwhile, interviewed the Senator on any potential enemies who might choose to eavesdrop or monitor his activities. He dubiously named a few business rivals and one up-and-coming politician who had butted heads with him on policy, but shook his head in disbelief when pressed on the likelihood of any of them taking such extreme measures.

“What about your son-in-law?” Reese asked. “Is he out of the picture?”

“What, Evan? I should think so, yes,” Russwood retorted. “He’s in a rehab facility upstate. Janet left him when she found out that he was doing cocaine, and soon after that he was arrested for possession. It broke his parents’ hearts, of course, but it gave them the incentive they needed to get him into a good program. He’s allowed to come home on the weekends and has supervised visits with Isabella every two weeks. But if you’re asking if he could have organized something like this, I would say that’s highly doubtful. The idiot doesn’t have enough sense to avoid speeding when he has illegal drugs in his car!”

Finch made another note in his pocketbook, “check son-in-law Evan, drugs,” and drank the last of his port. It was more than he wanted, especially after the wine, but because the Senator had insisted in buying their drinks on top of paying for their cover charge, Finch did not want to appear ungrateful. The live jazz band finished their first set about then, and as it was obvious that Mrs. Russwood, at least, was ready to turn in for the night, the party stood up to leave.

“John, I wonder,” Finch began while walking towards the elevator, feeling significantly less stiff than he usually did. Reese had already slipped his arm in Finch’s, not only as a gesture of affection but also to lend him some support.

“What, Harold?”

“I could use a breath of fresh air. Would you mind taking a walk around the block?”

“It might be a bit chilly without your coat, Harold – not that I mind, but I wouldn’t want you to catch a cold…”

“Well, perhaps not the whole block.”

“All right. Maybe just to the corner and back.”

“If it wouldn’t be an intrusion,” Russwood put in, “a brisk walk sounds like just the thing right now. I need to clear my head and re-think who might have done what you’ve suggested.”

“By all means, Senator – you’re more than welcome to join us,” Reese told him, smiling sweetly. The Havers promised to see Elizabeth safely to her room, so the three men exited through the hotel lobby.

“I just love the city at night,” Reese commented, maintaining a steady yet easy pace for Finch. “Especially with all the Christmas lights!”

“Do you have plans for the holidays?” Russwood politely inquired.

“Not yet. We usually play it by ear.”

They came to a corner and Finch noticed a park further down that street, its trees lit up with lights.

“I think we can make it there and back, John,” he said, patting his arm where it lay on his own. Reese could not help grinning with pleasure as they continued on their way, but a little further down, a figure emerged from the shadows of an alley, pointing a gun at them.

“Oh dear, Harold,” Reese said mildly. “I believe this young man is committing a felony.”


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