Bro would have been more disappointed about the FBI visiting their apartment, only he (like everybody except the FBI, apparently) had a soft spot for John. As things were, Dave got off with a hair ruffle and the unspoken promise of weeks of payback. It helped that the FBI’s warrant was only for John’s letters, and so when they looked pointedly at the piles of smuppets and shitty swords, they were met with twin uncaring Strider gazes, each brother raising a single don’t-give-a-shit eyebrow over their opaque shades.
The suits left without the letters they’d come for. (why would I keep them, like some sentimental 1940’s girl pining for her man away in the navy, you expect me to have like a shoebox full of everything egbert ever mailed me) It was true he’d gotten rid of the physical copies, no need to keep them around taking up space. That didn’t mean he didn’t have any copies; as soon as the door had shut behind their unwelcome visitors, Dave’s laptop was hurtling toward him, spinning like a blunt oversized ninja star. As he caught and opened it, Bro was behind him, looking down over his shoulder.
“Explain.” Dave was already opening the scanned files, John’s always-blue handwriting filling the screen.
it is really exciting working here! we are so close to roswell, you don’t even know! hee hee, what if i find an alien? wouldn’t that be so cool?? i bet you and rose think aliens don’t exist. when i find one you will be so jealous!
i’ll send you some photos of my job. i’m not actually allowed to take pictures in some places but i’ll sneak one in somehow…
ha ha, you’re gonna have to wait for those photos i promised! i tried being all stealthy and snapping a couple on my cell phone but i got caught and it got confiscated. i don’t know if they’re gonna give it back. it is super inconvenient not having a cell phone! i don’t want to have to buy a new one but its been like a week. i still wanna get some photos to you too, the layout is so neat! it’s like i see new things every week. none of it phases jade though, what with all her crazy robots.
i’m getting more used to grocery stores and restaurants out here…
==> Skip ahead to the good stuff.
i’m kind of worried. there’s this stuff about security clearance and they told me i can’t talk about it to anybody even you and rose and jade. even dad! and if it was just like super secret sciencey formulas i think i’d understand, like if they were going to make some super awesome cake formula and they didn’t want somebody else to get it, so they could sell it for tons of money. but it’s not like that and everybody here acts like it’s nothing but i don’t like it. i wish i could ask somebody for some advice! i guess if everybody else here thinks it’s normal, then it’s fine? and i know for sure they’d kick me out if i said … anyway, this internship is like a really rare lucky break and there’s tons of people who’d kill to be here! i gotta play it cool.
sorry for rambling. it’s just been bugging me lately but i can’t even really talk about it except in all this vague circling around the topic. so don’t worry about it! i just needed to get that out!
anyway, hee hee, i found this great store with discount dvds and guess what they had on sale…
did you get my last letter? i haven’t heard back from you. is your phone broken? are you getting my texts?
i’m really sorry and i’m gonna miss everybody so much. i didn’t wanna do this because i think now i can’t ever talk to any of you again. it woulda been a lot easier to just go along with what everybody else said, and pretend it wasn’t a big deal. then i could have gotten hired anywhere i wanted and had a great job and traveled to see you and everybody else! i could just pretend i’d never seen it, and left it behind here. but i thought, if i ever did get to tell dad the truth, i don’t think he’d have been very proud of me. and i couldn’t just let it go. it’s important even though nobody here seems to think so. so i’m not doing this because i don’t care about you. you’re one of my favourite people and i’m so sad to think we’ll never get to talk again, or meet face-to-face.
i wish i could have all my favourite people together. i wish you all could meet each other, i bet it’d be interesting. we could have a movie night! i know you would all make fun of me for how much i like nick cage, like even more than you normally do. but it’d be worth it. you guys could tease me all you want if we could just have a night with all five of us together. just pizza and movies and no big worries.
it’s hard, growing up and having grown-up responsibilities and making big life-changing decisions. it’s hard, and nobody here understands. but i think if i could tell you everything, you would.
thanks for being a great friend.
PS i guess you should probably get rid of my letters. i don’t think i said anything dangerous in them but better safe than sorry!
* * *
Rose’s mother swirled the drink in her glass contemplatively. “I’d have expected this sort of thing from you,” she conceded.
“Or Dave,” Rose added, fingers resting tense on the home keys of her laptop, just this side of the pressure needed to impact them.
“Or Dave,” her mother agreed, carelessly brushing Rose’s hands aside to scroll through the .pdf once more, sending the scanned blue-inked letters flying across the screen. They were both heedless of the mess of their house, sitting crosslegged on an overturned wizard statue, laptop propped between them. Neither of them had bothered reining in the sarcasm for their visitors, and in return the visitors hadn’t bothered being careful with their search, or even making any pretense of not tearing the place apart. Rose knew her mother would be brining this up for weeks in carefully constructed guilt trips, never mind that the woman had already stated her intent to remodel, and that it was none of it Rose’s fault.
Well. Save for the part where she hadn’t cooperated with the governmental agents, denying that she had any remnants or copies of the letters from John, and claiming to not remember any of their content other than John’s endeavors to get his supervisors and coworkers to watch Con Air, and how he secretly missed his dad’s cooking though he would never admit it. It was possible that if she had directed them to the laptop with the .pdf file of each and every one of John’s letters she had received, they would have been content with that, and left without ransacking the house.
It was also possible that they would have believed there was more to it than that, and torn the house apart in their search regardless.
It was wholly irrelevant, because Rose had no intention of helping them pursue her friend.
Her mother’s smooth fingernail tapped against the computer screen, sending out tiny electronic ripples and earning a swat from Rose. Her mother knew she hated it when she did that.
“ ‘all five of us together,’” the older woman read aloud, sipping from her glass. “Who is he talking about here?”
“Himself and the rest of us, of course,” Rose condescended. “Dave, Jade, myself…”
When Rose fell silent, lacking a fifth name to complete the count, her mother picked up the thread of thought. “It seems unlikely he confused the number accidentally. The four of you have always been so tightly-knit… Your correspondences have never indicated there was another member to your little circle of friends?”
Rose’s mind was already building and tearing down plans of how to inquire with Jade and Dave—did they know this fifth person? Did they know more about what John had done? Had John’s letters to them been littered with any other clues that could be picked apart and pooled together to determine just what had created this huge federal issue? Obviously their pesterchum handles would be watched, they couldn’t discuss things freely online, and if she was to suggest another method of communication, that would be noted and subsequently tracked as well. Visiting the others would be the worst by far. They’d be pulled in for questioning faster than her mother could mix a martini.
“I wonder if it was this unknown fifth element that caused your dear John to enrage the governmental offices so. I really never would have expected it from him—he lacks the cunning and guile, not to mention the resources, to evade such focused pursuit as the FBI will give.” She paused only to drain her glass. “He believes a little too much in the inherent good of others. Whatever he’s done, he thinks he’s made the Right Decision.”
And that was the scariest thing, Rose thought, scarier even than the implication that her mother had been reading all her pesterlogs somehow, to have such a handle on John’s character. If—when John got caught, he wouldn’t fight. He would try to talk to his pursuers and explain to them why he was doing the Right Thing.
Rose powered down her laptop and turned to her mother.
“In light of your intent to remodel the house this summer, I was considering perhaps taking a vacation to stay out of your way.”
“Oh, but then how will I know if you like the changes to your room?”
“You would have personally ensured that my room was modeled to become the antithesis of anything I ever wanted. It’s safer for all involved that I leave as soon as possible.”
“Oh Rose, why would I ever do something like that? I’m your mother. I love you. I just want you to be happy!”
“I’ll be back just in time to get my things and leave for college. It will be like I was never here.”
* * *
so this is probably a bad idea contacting you ‘cause i bet all your mail’s monitored and stuff. so if some fbi guy gets this, once you’re done reading it for clues about where i am, can you give it to my dad please? because i really wanted to let you know that we’re okay (for now at least) and that i love you. you probably didn’t want me to grow up to be on the run from the law but i’m not hurting anybody. i didn’t hurt anybody, that is definitely the opposite of why i’m on the run.
i really miss your cooking.