Mac looked longingly at his fourth Bud, or was it his fifth? It was starting to hit the spot. “Hey Elmer, give me a break. It’s sensitive right now. Can you handle it and call me back?”
Elmer grunted something unintelligible around ‘slurring your words, buddy’ and hung up.
Mac shrugged his shoulders and picked up his glass. A chili dog would go well with that, maybe fries with blue as well. He beckoned the bartender over and checked whether blue was available. It was. “Okay, set it up,” he ordered. “And a refill with a Jim Bean Black.” The bar drop-ins ebbed and flowed. Buddy had disappeared. First the early evening crowd; workers in need of a drink before facing the commuter traffic, followed by the singles and pre-theatre crowd. Then a steady regular spot, until the late-nighters emptied the theatres and joined the die-hards. Mac was among the steady regulars at that point, just forking his fries with blue topping when his cell phone buzzed. He took a look. Elmer returning his call. Or Elmer making a second call, he hadn’t quite figured who was calling who. He pressed the button.
“Mac,” said Elmer, his voice all excited. “We got a breakthrough. Riley’s broken the number code, well he’s narrowed it down to three persons, and he’s also got some synergy on the voice call. How about that, buddy?”
“Synergy?” asked Mac. “What the hell you talking about?”
“He needs you there to explain,” replied Elmer. “You want me to send a patrol car?”
Mac glanced at his watch. The dial seemed blurred. It was late. “I’m at the... Oasis bar. Give me twenty or so,” replied Mac. “I got to make a call first, ok?”
“Get some coffee down your throat,” advised Elmer. “You need a clear head.”
“Yeah, ok, buddy. He snapped his phone shut and ordered a pot of coffee. “Make it black. Goes with the blue,” he joked. That Bud sure creeps up unsuspecting like, he thought to himself as he chomped through his chili dog. The bar clock ticked over the two hour mark since he had talked with Coppola. He reached for his cell and called the number he had been given. “Is Mama there?” he asked, when the phone connected.
“Hold on pal,” said the voice. “I’ll go get her.”
So there was a Mama, thought Mac as he waited.
“You Mackenzie?” asked a female voice.
“Yeah, I was told to call,” replied Mac getting a little tired with the subterfuge. “You got a message for me or not?”
“We got a limo and two family members missing. Cell phones not answering. Last known whereabouts Wal-Mart, Smithsonian. Enquiries are continuing. Call back tomorrow first thing.” The call was disconnected.
That sobered him up. Just as well with the patrol cop on his shoulder. ‘Chunky’ Chuck Reynolds, no less, waiting for him to make a fool of himself. He gulped his coffee down and stood up a little shakily from the bar. “Okay officer, I’m coming quietly,” he joked. “And I’m not driving, ok?”
“This your bar tab?” said Chuck reaching out to take a look. “Chili dog with fries and blue, six Buds, two Jim Bean black, and coffee. That’s it?”
“Yeah,” said Mac trying to squint at it. He took out a fifty and gave it to the bartender. “You owe me,” he said walking out to the night air, and then quickly back in again to visit the john.
“Mac, what’s blue?” asked Chuck on the way back.
Mac laughed out loud. Tried not to slur too much. “Hey Chuck, where you been? Shark. Gives chili dog extra bite.”
Riley explained that the most probable medical history corruption according to his algorithms was either one line above or below the actual personnel file. If it was corrupted, he added.
“So if your numerology ‘mumbo jumbo’ is correct, we got a choice of three suspects for every medical?” asked Mac.
“That’s about it,” said Riley, looking a little hurt that his scientific calculations had been doubted.
“Okay, let’s look at the files again,” said Mac with an evident mistrust.
“I already done that,” replied Elmer, flicking through his notes. “Remember we picked out two medical histories that fit our profile. I cross examined them against the six personnel files and narrowed it down to two.” He consulted his notes. “Dan Shepherd, second team physio, and Coach Mason.”
“Is that our ‘best chance’?” asked Mac, deliberately avoiding ‘best guess’. “We got a whole lot riding on this.”
“Mac I’ve been working all hours on this profile. It’s as good as it can get. Trust me,” replied Elmer.
Mac turned back to Riley. “And did you get anywhere with the voice correlation?” he asked.
“Frankly, no,” replied Riley. “It turned out my recorded comparisons weren’t conclusive enough. The Feds could probably match it, but I don’t have anywhere near their equipment levels here. The best I can offer is a ‘maybe’.”
“Okay, let’s drop that for now,” said Mac. “We don’t want the Feds crawling all over us just yet. Thanks Riley. I owe you one.”
“Someday I’ll call it in,” replied Riley, getting up and taking his laptop with him. “Now I got to catch up on my life, ok?”
Another devil’s pact, thought Mac. “So where do we go from here?” he asked Elmer.
“See if Rusty has come up with anything. We might get a match.”
Mac looked at his watch. “Elmer, it’s midnight. I sure don’t want to fall out with Rusty if he’s hosing Cindy. This can wait until morning. Anyway, we both need some sleep. It’s Friday the thirteenth. It could be a big day.”