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We're Too Young to be Cynics

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The light bulb hanging above his head flashed, on and off, on and off.

“Stop it.”

“I will stop when you cooperate, my friend.”

Mike pulled his hand from out under his head and flipped William off. “Fuck off,” he said mildly, not taking his eyes off the ceiling.

William sighed, flipping the light switch on and leaving it there. The mattress sagged as he sat down on the end. “Is it time for the annual Carden mope-a-thon?” he asked sympathetically.

Mike closed his eyes so he didn’t have to see William’s ‘listening’ face. “I don’t mope,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “I’m not moping.”

William patted his leg. “Of course you aren’t,” he said sweetly. “You’re just lying in the dark in a completely non-mopey way instead of getting ready to go out and get shitfaced and have a good time with us, your friends, because this is the anniversary of the day you were dumped by your sell-out of an ex.”

“Fuck off,” Mike repeated more viciously.

“Michael,” William shot back just as hotly. “Believe me when I say he did you a favour. Fucker got a suit and a haircut and a real job. You are better off without your sell-out, suit-wearing ex stinking up our bohemian ideal.”

Mike kicked his leg out, smirking with grim satisfaction at William’s outraged little howl.

“Fine,” William snapped. “Fester in the dark composing horrible sonnets to your one true love.” He kicked something on the floor out of his way. “Your sell-out twu wub,” he added sarcastically.

“Turn the fucking light off on your way out,” Mike growled in reply.

“Fine,” William said with a haughty little sniff. “But I stand by my statement. Tom Conrad went off to become a fucking accountant. He turned his back on the music, man. His soul was dead, and you do not want to be the one he sucked dry.”

Mike threw his pillow towards the door. William yelped, the door slamming behind him. Mike stared at the ceiling and sighed.

William had left the light on.

===
“Evening, sir.”

Tom smiled, sketching a vague salute with his free hand as he marched on down the corridor. Once you got past the front door, 99% of it was just walking with a brisk stride and an aura of confident boredom, like you walked these halls every day and had every right to be there.

By the time news filtered down to the agents at the gate that his clearance had been revoked, well, this would all be over one way or the other.

Tom turned a corner, glancing casually around to make sure the halls were clear. A handy water fountain gave him a leg up, and twelve seconds with his pocket electric screwdriver got him through the slatted vent and into the ventilation system.

Tom grinned without humour as he started belly crawling his way along the metal ducts. Whether it was a laptop or a supercomputer, electronics made heat, and heat needed to be blown away.

If you knew that little fact, you knew that you didn’t need to bother with the well-guarded front door.

A few minutes crawling on his belly, and he dropped lightly through another ventilation hatch into a room bathed in a soft white light. There was a single feature, a monitor and keyboard on a narrow plinth in the centre of the room. Tom studied the setup. It looked almost archaic, with an old-school grey plastic aesthetic. Was it too much to ask for a brushed steel cool-modern look for the most advantaged computer program of the century?

He started at the sound of distant voices. Rolling his shoulders to release the tension, he walked over to the plinth and pulled out a data cable, his phone, and a pair of sunglasses. The hookup took seconds. The automatic keychain program he had spent days perfecting loaded into the system. Tom put on the sunglasses and hit the oversized ‘enter’ key.

The room shattered into a million different windows of colour, thousands of pictures flashing by each second. The tones were muted behind polarized lenses, and Tom let his eyes defocus, lids almost closed, until cool, pristine whiteness filled the room once more.

He took a narrow case out of his breast pocket, and pressed the lumpy clay substance it contained into the keyboard. Patting his pocket to check that his phone was safely tucked away, he took a deep breath and started running for the far door.

The shockwave riding out half a second ahead of the explosion blew the doors off their hinges, sending Tom crashing through with enough force to set his ears ringing. But he was ready for it – the guards weren’t, and he took them down with a quick punch, a roundhouse kick, before they’d even shaken the stars from their eyes.

He ran for the nearest exit, fire door, window, whatever he could find. The building was alive with sirens now, smoke alarms competing with the harsher, braying note of a security alert. Tom found an unsealed window in a tiny office off the main hall. From there it was a straight drop onto the side wing of the building, then a series of short hops, from drainpipe to fire escape and onto asphalt.

He was going to make it.

He sprinted towards the boundary, letting his stride lengthen, two thirds to go, one half, one quarter. The first fence was almost at his fingertips when his back exploded in pain. The bullet ripped through his ribcage, and Tom choked, the blood pouring into his lungs through the hole the bullet left behind making him feel like he was drowning.

He managed one more step before falling down, landing hard onto his shoulder as he managed to turn into the impact. His hands clutched into his chest, clawing at his phone, fingers tapping out the command he hoped he’d never have to use.

A heavy boot kicked his shoulder, sending fresh waves of pain through his body. Tom rolled onto his back and smiled up at his shooter, feeling the blood trickle out of the corner of his mouth.

“Too late, Macy,” he sighed, chest rattling as he struggled to draw breath. “Sorry.”

His thumb pressed ‘send’ as greyness began to seep into his vision. Macy scowled at him, cocking her pistol. “Whatever,” she snapped, leveling the weapon at Tom’s heart. She sneered. “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart.”

Tom closed his eyes as she squeezed the trigger.

===

Mike scowled at the strings and plucked a sour note. He put the guitar aside and flopped backwards onto the mattress, making the ancient springs squeak. Even he didn’t want to be with himself.

Fucking Valentine’s Day. Fucking Hallmark. Fucking friends who fucking left him here alone.

Fuck them all.

Mike pushed himself upright with resolute determination. He was going to get very drunk. Tomorrow would get here sooner that way, and then it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day for another 364 days.

He found a half-finished bottle of vodka on the shelf over the sink in the kitchen. Perfect. Unscrewing the cap, he took a swig, scowling at his reflection in the darkened window.

There was a chime of digital bells from the computer. Wandering back up the passage, he didn’t bother to sit down. He just leaned over and tapped his mail program, cursing until it blossomed up from where he had parked it on the task bar.

He slammed the bottle onto the table top. Mike blinked in surprise, waiting for the name in the sender field to change into something more logical.

Because there was no reason in hell for Tom fucking Conrad to be sending him emails, the bastard. This was William’s fault. He invoked the name of the beast, and now here it was, responding to the summons. Mike was tempted to send the message straight to silicon hell, but his finger hesitated, cursor hovering over the delete key.

Why was Tom Conrad sending him emails now?

The cursor drifted down the screen slowly, almost of its own volition. Mike made a face, grabbed the vodka, knocked back a generous belt to steel himself, then opened the email.

One line. “You always did the right thing.” And an attachment.

What the fuck did that mean? Pissed off was gaining the emotional upper hand, and he double-clicked the attachment. The file unzipped itself, unfurling a single text box.

Am-G-G-Am-C-G_____.

There was a cursor, blinking, waiting for a response.

Mike scowled at the screen. He was almost ready to turn away and go back to drinking for oblivion, but he could hear the faint echoes, Tom’s voice clucking, calling him chicken, teasing and laughing.

Am-G-G-Am-C-G. The opening chords of the first song they ever wrote together, back when they were young and stupid and so sure they were going to be rockstars.

He hesitated a second longer. “C-C-Am” he typed into the field.

The screen went blank. Mike rolled his eyes. “Of course it’s a fucking virus, you fucking bastard!” he yelled at the screen.

The screen exploded, a kaleidoscope of colours and images and stuff that seemed to burn its way through his retina and into his brain. Time ceased to have any meaning. There was only the tsunami of imagery.

Then it stopped, the computer powering down with a little whine and the faint, acrid smell of burning wires.

Mike rocked on his feet, once, twice. He blinked up at the ceiling, wondering vaguely how it had got up there. Then there was nothing.

====

Mike groaned as someone whisked open the curtains. “’uck off,” he groaned.

“Michael, Michael, Michael,” William scoffed. Mike heard the glassy chime of a bottle being picked up, sniffed, and put back down on the desk. “Did you have a good pity party? Half a bottle of vodka, all by your lonesome? If you keep this up, I may be forced to make you admit you have a problem.”

Mike tried to protest, but he felt tongue-tied, his brain too heavy for his skull. He settled for pushing himself up off the carpet with a groan.

William sighed sympathetically. “Want me to lie to Gabe for you?”

Mike winced, scraping his tongue over his teeth in a futile attempt to get rid of the fuzzy feeling. “Nah, just give me ten to have a shower.”

He staggered out into the living room five minutes later, towel wrapped around his waist and water still dripping from his hair. “Has anyone seen my fucking work shirt,” he snapped at the room in general.

There was a chorus of vague negatives. Sisky and Butcher were planted in front of the TV shoveling Lucky Charms into their mouths as they watched cartoons. Michael Guy looked up, frowned, and looked around. “Hang on, mate, I think I remember…” He extended his leg and poked at Sisky with his bare foot. “Shove over.”

Sisky rolled into the Butcher, and Michael pulled a faded green polo out from under him. Mike caught the awkward toss, grimacing at the mess of creases. There was no time to iron it, even if he could remember where the iron was.

“Pants are also useful,” William pointed out helpfully as he jiggled the keys.

“Give me a fucking sec, okay,” Mike growled, looking around for the clean clothes pile he was sure was out here yesterday.

“Kitchen,” Michael Guy called out.

Mike waved another thanks as he headed through the arch into the joke of a kitchen. Cleanish clothes were piled on the counter, and he pawed through them until he found a pair of jeans that would pass.

He wandered back out, buttoning the fly. On screen, the cartoon credits rolled off the screen, and the face of a newsreader appeared to a swell of dramatic music.

Sisky made a rude noise. “Remote,” he called. “Shit, where is it.”

Mike ignored them, focused on flipping his t-shirt right way out. As he pulled it over his head, the news reader was replaced by scenes from a press conference. The agitation on the couch grew louder as they began pulling out the cushions looking for the remote.

Mike glanced at the screen, some old dude in a uniform—
namerankserialnumberschematicfloorplanterroristplotprojectcodenamehunterinsurgentcellassasinplotguarddetailtravelplantopsecrettopsecrettopsecret

“Mike!”

Mike blinked, feeling himself rock on his feet. “Huh?”

William snapped his fingers in Mike’s face. “Dude, come on, wakey wakey. Duty calls.”

===

The General scuffed her toe through the ashes and rubble, all that was left after billions of dollars of investment and countless hours of effort. “One agent did all this?” she wondered aloud.

“One rogue agent,” her colleague corrected in mild rebuke.

She scowled. Tom Conrad theoretically was one of hers, though he’d been under so deep for so long, she really couldn’t say much more about him. She’d read his file on the way over: by all accounts, a gifted and talented agent, with few known associates and no prior indications that he was about to turn.

“We still don’t know how, let alone why,” she pointed out, looking up at the sound of feet crunching over the rubble. “And we may never know, since he was killed rather than captured for interrogation,” she added sharply to the young woman in civilian clothes who was picking her way through the debris towards them.

“Sorry, ma’am,” the newcomer replied with a smirk as she stopped to a halt and snapped out a salute that managed to be both textbook and a hairs-breadth from insolent at the same time. “But I didn’t think you’d want him getting over the fence.”

The General rolled her eyes. “Major Misa, not only did you kill our suspect, you also failed to recapture the Intersect.”

“It’s not like you can catch software with a net,” she said with an insolent little shrug.

“Major!” the General snapped. “I don’t think you understand the severity of the situation.”

Misa just shrugged, hands in her pockets, arrogance insolence radiating off her in waves. “It’s an intelligence program,” she said dismissively.

The General took a deep breath. “It’s not just an intelligence program,” she said slowly, choosing her words with care. “It’s every piece of intelligence we had, processed and databased to mine every connection, ever link.” She took a step forward, quietly pleased when Misa snapped automatically to attention. “The Intersect is all our secrets, coded to show the full picture. The Intersect was meant to make it so we’d never be caught with our pants down again. The Intersect was the core of our new intelligence strategy.” She took another step forward, until she was almost nose to nose with the young Major. “And now the Intersect is out of our hands. I suggest you get it back, before I reassign you to scrub toilets in Siberia until you rot.”

Misa’s nodded curtly, her shoulders pulled back, spine straight. “We’ve already tracked the email he sent to an address in Chicago, ma’am.”

The General scowled. “Then why are you still here?”

Misa snapped a salute, turned, and strode out of the ruins of the Intersect chamber.

The General watched her go. “Can she do it?”

Her companion stepped out of the shadows. “Macy Misa is one of my best agents,” he said smoothly.

The General snorted. “She’s trigger happy.”

He made a noise, but didn’t deny it. “She can handle anything that comes up.” He smiled at her, a sudden expression that crinkled the corners of his eyes. “It’ll be okay, Greta,” he added in a voice barely above a whisper. “We can still save this.”

She sighed, and shook her head. “You always were an optimist, Patrick,” she replied just as softly. She sighed again and looked around the wreckage. “But for this, I think we need an insurance policy.”

Patrick’s mouth set into a hard, thin line. “Misa’s my best agent, and she works alone,” he cautioned.

“Not this time,” Greta told him firmly.

====

Mike stared blearily at the wall of televisions, the cartoon loop melting into puddles of colour and noise.

“Mike?” There was a vague clicking, and Mike blinked until William’s fingers came into focus. “Earth to Carden,” William said, snapping his again.

“What?” Mike snapped. He’d swallowed a fistful of Tylenol in the staff room, but his head was still throbbing.

William leered at him. “Hot mama at twelve o’clock,” he hissed, taking Mike by the shoulders and spinning him on the spot. “I do believe that is my cue. Back my play?”

A petite brunette was standing alone, looking speculatively at the speaker stack. Mike gave William a baleful look. “You go help her; I’m just going to stand here ‘til my head explodes, okay?”

William tsked under his breath, but he straightened his shirt and sauntered over, a broad smile on his face.

“Is Bill on the prowl?” Mike glanced over, rolling his eyes at Nate’s hungry expression.

“Who let you out of kitchen appliances?”

There was a scoff, and Suarez popped up on Nate’s other side. “Take pity on us, we only ever get the middle-aged mamas coming in to buy whitegoods.” His tongue was almost hanging out of his mouth. “Trust me, she’s not the whitegood-buying type. Woo and hoo!”

Mike made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat.

“Not your type?” Nate asked, never taking his eyes off William. “Does Carden prefer blondes?” he added teasingly.

There was a short laugh, and Mike turned to see Sisky wandering over. “Carden prefers boys,” he said easily. “Which just means more for us – oh, here he goes!”

Despite himself, Mike found his attention drawn to where William had stepped up to the young woman, his body language easy and open. This far away, Mike couldn’t hear them talk, but he had heard William’s patter enough times by now to know the gist of what he was saying.

He blinked as the dark-haired woman turned to face him, arms crossed. She leaned in slightly, peering at his nametag. She shrugged, said something, turned and walked away.

William looked shell-shocked. Mike hurried over, Sisky, Nate and Suarez hot on his heels. “Bill, you okay?”

His mouth gaped for a moment. “I…she…wow.” He sucked in a deep breath. “Obviously she doesn’t like tall and handsome strangers. Perhaps she has been recently burned by an amorous affair gone wrong. Yes, that must be the only explanation.”

Mike shook his head and wandered off as the other guys started weaving this huge and improbable story to account for William’s spectacular crash and burn.

“Excuse me?”

Mike turned. The brunette smiled winningly at him. Her eyes flashed to his nametag, and her smile sharpened, turning into something a lot more seductive.

For a split second, his mind filled with the echo of gun fire and the smell of cordite and blood, and Mike suddenly understood, in an abstract kind of way, why William was looking so shell-shocked. “Hi,” he said automatically. “Welcome to Buy More, how can I help you?”

She took a step closer, invading his personal space. “My name’s Macy,” she purred. “I need some help.” Her smile was warm, but her eyes were cold. Mike shivered and took half a step back, almost knocking over a display of CD spindles. “With a computer program?”

Mike held up his hands in warding. “Ah, you need to talk to the Alexes, they’re our computer specialists; I work AV.”

He almost sighed in relief when three voices said in tandem “Did someone call?”

Mike beamed at them – normally, he found them to be creepy little fuckers, like some kind of mutant telepathic triplet-beast, but right now he was overjoyed to see them. “Alexes, this lady needs some help with a program, if you’ll excuse me?” The words almost tripped over each other as he wormed his way around the little group and made a beeline for the door marked ‘Staff Only.’

He slumped against the grey walls as the door swung shut behind him. As he half expected, it banged open a second later.

“Dude, dude,” William said, taking him by the shoulders and shaking him gently. “I thought we had a deal. Any ladies who miss the whole ‘bats for own team’ vibe get passed off to your trusty wingman – namely, me! How could you give the introduction to the Alexes of all people!”

Mike shook his head, brushing off William’s hands. “Man, I swear, she had, like, psycho-killer eyes or something.” He waved his fingers vaguely in front of his face for emphasis.

William made a face. “But what a face! What a body!” His eyes lost focus, his expression dreamy. “I bet she saves orphans, or is a famous surgeon, or something.”

“Or something,” Mike agreed. “Listen, I’m going on break. Tell me when psycho orphan killer lady is gone, okay?”

William waved him off. “Fine, I’ll protect you from the girl. But you owe me!”

Mike flipped him off and beat a hasty escape to the staff room.

===

Mike thought he wasn’t prone to paranoia, but it seemed every time he stuck his nose out into the storefront, there was a petite brunette lurking around: by DVDs, in consumer appliances, then outside by the yoghurt cart set up by the main doors to the mall proper. He gave up after an hour and sequestered himself in the store room with a clipboard and a set of boxcutters for protection.

He looked up as the cage door rattled. “Still hiding?” William asked with a smirk.

Mike flipped him off, turning back to look at the mess he’d made. “Tell me, Bill. Why the hell could someone pour what I think is half a bottle of vodka into the sound system.” He kicked one of the speakers the store rented out with his sneakered foot.

“Oh dear,” William asked, one hand over his face. “Dead?”

“Like a dodo.” Mike snarled and tossed a tangle of cables onto the floor. “Along with everything that was hooked into the system at the time. Total overload, everything’s fried.”

“Alas, poor sound system,” William said, completely unsympathetic. “Shall we take a long lunch in its honour?”

“Fuck yes.” Throwing the clipboard onto the floor, Mike stood up and stretched slowly. “But can we sneak out the back way?”

William laughed loudly. “Don’t worry, Michael, I’ll protect you from your stalker girl. All, what, ninety pounds of her?”

Mike flipped him off as he leaned against the release bar and pushed open the deliveries door. He dropped down onto the asphalt below the loading dock, his hands patting down his pockets until his found his cigarette packet. His lighter flickered, and he sucked down a grateful drag. “What should we get? Sausage?”

William smirked at him. “Wow, your dry spell must be getting long if that’s where you mind goes for lunch.”

Mike looked at William, unimpressed. “Just for that, we’re getting sausage and you’re paying, and,” he added, pointing his cigarette at William. “If you make one more crack about my love life, I will fucking fellate it in front of you.”

William waggled his eyebrows. “Ooh la la, let me get the video camera.” Mike took off across the parking lot, William jogging to catch up. The sunlight was making Mike wince, his head aching as the glare bore through his eyes. “But, seriously, dude,” William said. “ I didn’t think you were that hard up against the end of the Kinsey scale. Why the sudden girl-phobia?”

Mike wished he’d remembered his sunglasses. “It’s not girl-phobia,” he corrected gruffly. “It’s a her-phobia. Something about her, man, I don’t know, just sets off warning bells.” He shook his head and rubbed his temples, trying to clear from the back of his mind, weird fleeting images of a petite little girl spinning around into a high kick that sent a uniformed man with a big gun crashing to the ground.

William was smirking at him when he lowered his hand. “You’re fucking odd, Carden,” he said without rancour. “Also, don’t look but the belle of your ball is watching you from her car.

Mike pushed open the door with both hands. “Kill me now,” he griped as the smell of overcooked sausages and onions filled his nose.

“How does death by cholesterol sound?” William shot back as they joined the line at the counter. “Seriously, dude, if you want me to cover for you, I will. You don’t look so great, and besides, if you disappear, maybe you can lose the stalker.”

Mike waved him off as the line inched forward. “Like I can afford to drop the hours. I’ll be fine, I can make stocktake last the rest of the day.

William stared at him for a moment before turning away to look at the menu hung over the counter. “Ooh, that’s right, it’s Thursday. My favourite special day.” He let his eyes drop. “Alas, no wiener-girl today.

Mike ignored him.

“Hello, wiener-boy,” William said loudly as they came to the front of the line. “Is my darling wiener-girl not in today?”

The low, amused chuckle caught Mike’s attention. Normally, people either laughed nervously or just started backing away from William’s inanity. “Sorry, Sarah quit.” William mimed staggering backwards, hand to his brow. “Sorry,” the guy behind the counter repeated. “I’m Kevin. I’m new.” He smiled. “Can I take your order?”

Mike stuttered through his order and backed up as William paid and led the way back out to the tiny tables lined up outside overlooking the parking lot.

Alas,” William said as he sat down, somehow managing to take up one entire bench by himself. “Your bad luck today is contagious, no more Sarah. But on the upside, your stalker girl’s car is gone.” Mike breathed out a sigh of relief. “And wiener-boy was staring at you like he’d like you for lunch.” He made an obscene slurping noise. “And the way you were staring back, I’d say the feeling is mutual.”

“Fuck off,” Mike growled, keeping his eyes on his soda.

William laughed delightedly. “Oh, Michael, you’re adorable. And, may I say, about time you got back on that particular horse.”

He smirked to himself, and Mike held up a finger in warning. “Whatever horrific mental picture you currently have playing, please don’t share it.” He dropped his hand suddenly as the door opened and Kevin backed out, juggling two trays. He dropped one at the only other occupied outside table with a cursory nod, then sashayed over to Mike and William. “And two specials.” He glanced at the identical meals before carefully putting one in front of William and the other in front of Mike with a sweet little smile.

William twisted to watch him go. “Wow,” he said with raised eyebrows. “Do you need a cigarette after all that eyefucking?”

Mike ignored him and picked up his sandwich. A piece of paper fluttered out from beneath it. William snatched it out of the air and unfolded it before Mike could react. He started to laugh.

“What?” Mike demanded, making a futile attempt to snatch it back.

“Dude,” William crowed, waving the scrap of paper like a flag. “He gave you his phone number.”

====

The little bell above the door dinged. “Sorry, we’re closing,” Kevin called out.

“You’re an idiot is what you are.” Kevin turned slowly, smiling as charmingly as he could with a tomato-shaped sauce bottle in one hand and a dubious dishrag in the other. “Also," she snapped, glancing around the tiny shop with a professional's eye. "You’re in my way.”

Kevin carefully put the sauce bottle back on the table, arranging it neatly with the serviette dispenser and the salt and pepper. He would swear that he could hear Macy’s teeth grinding from here. “I’m here on orders, Major,” he said at last in the same cheerfully bland voice. “Remember those.”

Macy stomped across the tiny seating area and got up in Kevin’s face. Kevin kept his smile neutral as he let his hands drop to his belt and the knife he had concealed there. “My orders,” she growled. “Are clear. And you’re not a part of them. I have the situation under control.”

Kevin winked at her. “Yeah, the mark and his friend were talking about you when they came for lunch. At least I think it was you. Crazy psycho-stalker girl did seem to fit the bill.”

Macy took a step back, and folded her arms over her chest. “Oh, you think you can get closer?” she sneered.

Kevin shrugged. “Major, we’re on the same side. Find out what he knows, re-secure the Intersect, get the hell out of suburbia. It’s not a competition,” he added with careful emphasis, watching Macy’s face closely.

Her eyes narrowed. “I’ll find out what he knows,” she said confidently. She cocked her hips. “No-one says no to Macy Misa for long.” She bit her bottom lip, studying Kevin. “As soon as I get him out of the house, you can do the B&E and get the computer,” she added magnanimously.

“So kind,” Kevin said with a smile sharp like knives. “Or vice versa.”

She laughed in his face. “You? What, you’re going out for beers and sports night? He’s not that kind of guy, sweetheart.”

Kevin suppressed the urge to mock her back. “Oh, I think I’ve got a better sense of what kind of guy he is than you.”

Macy spluttered, her rant cut off by the sound of a cell phone ringing. Kevin held up one finger for silence as he flipped it open. “Hello, Kevin Jonas speaking.” He beamed at her. “Yes, Mike from lunch today. How could I forget, I did give you my number, remember?” He laughed, winking at Macy. “No, my big plans for tonight was leftovers and the Next Top Model marathon,” he replied with a flirty little giggle. His eyes were hard. “Yes, I would love to go to dinner with you. Give me your address, I’ll pick you up at seven. Uh huh,” he said, making no move to write it down. He already knew it. “Great, see you in a couple of hours.” He snapped the phone shut.

Macy was spluttering, incoherent with rage.

Kevin’s smile was angelic. “I’ll keep him out for at least four hours. I know he has roommates, but I’m sure securing the computer without them noticing won’t cause you too much trouble.”

“YOU!” Macy spluttered, finally managing to spit out an incoherent growl of rage.

He took a step forward and patted her shoulder consolingly. “I know what boys like,” he told her with a wink. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get the smell of onions off me before my hot date tonight.” He tugged off his apron and tossed at her. “Remember, you get the computer. I’ll get what he knows, that’s the deal. You stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of yours, and we can finish this and go back to real jobs.” The bell above the door rang again as he let himself out.

Macy yanked it open after him. “You fuck this up, I’m cleaning house and taking you out with the trash, Jonas,” she yelled after him.

Kevin smiled to himself and kept on walking. This assignment was starting to get fun.