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©02 The Media Desk

The EDUCATION of theHunter

Ch 4

     The interminably cheerful radio host announced that it was now tomorrow and started the next song. I shoved another handful of dry fake-fruit cereal in my mouth and tried to move my left foot in a way that didn't promise a cramp before the next commercial.
     I thought I knew the stakeout drill from years of watching TV cop shows. But, I didn't have a clue. I had never seen any of them have to take a bathroom break after hours in a car drinking coffee from paper cups. Yet I had just come back from my second trip over to the two junk cars sitting stacked up next to the ally.
     If something didn't happen soon, I was going to have to abandon this mission and try again next weekend. Two wasted nights of sitting watching the neighborhood cats prowl.
     The cops I was watching took turns. They would take turns walking around the block, they had another car stop by with a pizza and a newspaper, they had each other to talk to. I had this looser on the radio and a box of Laughie Puffs.
     Maybe something was wrong. I pulled the printout out of the pile of junk on the seat and read it again by the streetlight in front of me.
     The sheet explained this department's particular brand of perversion and the way it was covered up. Bishop42 had a list of three stakeouts in progress, this was the second one. They were all of more or less regular people that had somehow caught the attention of some of the minor powers in the city government.
     The couple these cops were watching were a good example. The wife was on the school board, her husband a manager at a car lot. Her 'crime' as it were, was opposing the plan from the school administration and the police department to put what amounted to a police sub station inside the high school.
     As of the last time I drove by the cop car, two plainclothes detectives were sitting in the car with enough surveillance gear to verify a nuclear disarmament treaty. There was no doubt they had the couple's apartment bugged, and were watching the windows with at least a high-powered night vision scope.
     What I was waiting on was a chance to raid the car and lift any tapes and recordings I could get my hands on and make a break for it. Then at home I'd change it over to digital and send it to Bishop42 who would relay it someplace to post on a WEB site that exposed the whole thing with a copy to people like the Civil Rights division at the US Justice Department. Seems there is a law against snooping on people that haven't even had a parking ticket in a dozen years.
     With sagging spirits, I watched the car start up and drive away. I had to follow them, at a distance. I wasn't going to let this go to hell without a fight.
     To my relief they pulled into an all night diner. Towards the back of the parking lot they slowed to a stop. There was a regular police cruiser in the lot. I thought maybe they had spotted me, but no, both cops got out and they walked up to the cruiser. They chatted for some time, then all four cops went into the diner.
     I couldn't believe my luck. The passenger side window was down.
     I didn't waste any more time. I walked quickly to the cars. There I could see the cops in line at the counter. With racing heart I leaned into the unmarked car and took film canisters, VCR and cassette tapes, and the top notebook. Then I ran back to my car and was halfway out of town before they decided if they wanted fries or onion rings.

     The information I got was dynamite.
     From cameras posted in the couple's rooms in awkward places they had captured them doing everything from eating supper to making love. The cassettes had phone conversations on them, recordings of bathroom noises, and the woman talking to her cat. The film developed into pictures of normal people with a normal life, except for a few of several of the cops mugging for the camera at the station. The notebook was most damning, there was a hand written note on department letterhead explaining when the couple was most likely to be home.
     I spent all day Sunday and Monday after work scanning and copying. Then using the same courier service I sent the package to what I knew was a dead-end mail drop.

     Bishop42 was ecstatic when I caught him online that week.
     Bishop42: Your last foray into unfriendly territory was most successful.
     theHunter: it was a miserable nights work, but it turned out
     Bishop42: The other raider that went on that run didn't have such good fortune.
     theHunter: ???
     Bishop42: His freighter took some damage, although he survived, he lost some experience points and a bit of alignment.
     This sent chills up my spine. Of course I knew there were risks. Stealing from a police car in itself is bad news, but doing it to crooked cops, could result in lead poisoning.
     Bishop42: But as soon as the enemy found out about the raid their general staff experienced a major shakeup. Seems carelessness was not the order of the day.
     theHunter: Breaks my heart! [grin]
     Bishop42: When the game is rebanged I look forward to having you on my corporation.
     This seemed to be a straightforward reference to the space game we both played.
     theHunter: I work alone. Usually. A corps of One.
     Bishop42: We shall see.
     theHunter: Oh?
     Bishop42: I have gotten you to type in several complete sentences in just the last few minutes. Things change all the time don't they?
     theHunter: some do some don't
     Bishop42: Watch out for 2ndGrace. She is very good at the game. Although she left my Corporation, I have a treaty with her.
     theHunter: who in the universe is 2ndgrace?!?!
     Bishop42: She comes, and she goes.

     Then he logged off and I was sitting in the game chat room alone again.
     It was a definite reference to somebody I would be meeting soon. But he said she had left his corp. I didn't know what to think. I looked up the references I had to anything to do with Grace, or the Graces, or any other angle I could think of, no help.

     The next day after work I drove out to a shooting range I had joined. Since coming into my strange hobby, I had acquired not just the .454 but an old military rifle rebored to 30-06. Now I was well on my way to becoming comfortable with them.
     The regular pistol range was busy with a class, so I walked down to the shotgun range to do some free shooting.
     The huge .454 revolver was feeling better in my hand since that rather shaky beginning in Mexico. I would never be up to match grade with it. But I could hit what I aimed at. The only problem with the thing was the price of the ammo. I was pondering looking into getting a reloading press for it when I heard someone firing a semi-auto down the range.
     My first instinct was to draw out dad's trusty .38 special, then I looked to see who it was. Thinking I may get to meet 2ndGrace.
     The person shooting was a woman all right. But there was a very obese man with her. She pointed what seemed to be a .380 downrange and began squeezing off rounds.
     Before she emptied the clip the center of her target had disintegrated. I was impressed.
     Then her partner raised his weapon. It was even bigger than my .454. I wondered aloud if it was a fifty caliber or maybe a 10mm. Nobody answered as the boom from the gun echoed through the range like a shotgun. His round shook the target support pole like it had been hit with a hammer.
     I let my .38 talk, used the speed loader in my other hand, then dropped to one knee and ran those out.
     When the couple stopped shooting I called down to them, "DOWNRANGE!" And repeated it until they both waved. Then the man walked down to his target while I was going that way.
     My score was passable. Every round I had fired had gone through the paper, maybe not every one in the target outline, but enough I was satisfied.
     The big man hung his target up and started back to the stalls. I headed that way.
     It wasn't until he started firing with his cannon again that I realized the woman was gone. I looked around for her, but thought she was just out to the bathroom.
     After packing I walked up to the office. She was nowhere to be found. I signed out and bought a spare jar of gun cleaner in the pro shop. Then got in my car and left.
     I had that feeling you get when you think you are being followed.
     The woman was right behind me. She saw me see her. I pulled into a gas station and parked next to the vending machines. I got out of my car with dad's .38 in my hand stuck in my pocket.
     "Thalia?" I asked the woman as she rolled down her window.
     "Very good. But I prefer 2ndGrace."
     "So now what?"
     "You are buying me dinner. Then we'll clean your guns, and I'll give you some pointers."
     "You're Bishop42's firearms instructor?"
     "Not entirely. Although you seem to be coming along in that capacity."
     "Who was your rather large partner back there?"
     "A guy from the range. He doesn't play the Game."
     "Well. You want to follow me home?" I grinned at her.
     "I thought you'd never ask."

     That night, Friday evening, and all weekend, I got more of an education in more things than I had in my total school and professional career.
     2ndGrace seemed to know everything. And what she didn't know, she could find out almost instantly through some mysterious voodoo on the Internet.
     I learned how to blend into a crowd without blending into the crowd. How to rig car license plates to fall off at convenient times. How to conceal something as massive as a sawed off double-barreled shotgun and not have it show.
     2ndGrace's instructions never let up. She was with me all weekend. I mean, she was with me all weekend. She had pointers on everything from shaving to eating. And it all made sense, to a point.
     "I never realized I closed my eyes when I brushed my teeth." I said.
     "Could be deadly if a bad guy was watching." She smiled.
     Even in bed she offered instructions. "You couldn't get up right now if you had to." She said interrupting another of her lessons on another subject.
     I looked up at her. She was sitting on top of me with her hands on my upper arms. I tried to move, I really did, but it was useless.
     "If I was here to seduce you and hold you for an accomplice, you would be waiting to greet Saint Peter."
     "Is that the Bishop's boss?" I grinned.
     "The original one." She frowned. "You let yourself be put in this position. What can you do about it?"
     "I was always taught that if a good looking woman wanted to be on top and hold you down, to let her." I said without struggling any more.
     "You have to change your thinking. That's why I am here. I'm serious, get out of this so you could defend yourself."
     I thought about it. Then came on an idea. Her backside wasn't overly large, and its pressure on my thighs was minimal. I kicked both legs up in the air and brought them down on the bed hard while using the force to sit up. It worked, she went sprawling half off the bed. I leaped on top of her and used my weight to hold her down.
     She did something I didn't even see and ended up back on top of me. I rolled over sending her into the closet door. Then I just managed to grab her arm and pin it behind her back. I forced her onto the floor on her stomach lying on my side on top of her facing her feet.
     "Well." I said breathlessly. "That is a series of positions I bet they don't talk about on that radio show."
     She laughed with half her face into the carpet. "But you had to think about it. Better to not get into that position to begin with."
     I ran my free hand down along her back. "What can you teach in this position?"
     She sighed as I found a sensitive spot, "The only message I am here to teach you is that there are times to minimize your exposure to unfriendlies."
     "How about exposure to friendlies?"
     She tried to melt into the carpet. Slowly I eased off her arm and continued my work.
     "We should maximize our exposure to friendlies." She moved to do just that.

     By the end of the weekend I had evidently learned what I needed.
     She fixed breakfast Sunday morning and seemed to be in a mood to talk.
     "Why did you join up with the Bishop?" She asked me.
     "I was going to ask you the same thing."
     She shook her head. "You haven't asked me if I have ever met him."
     "I know better. Even if he was the fat guy at the range you'd tell me no."
     She nodded. "You are learning. But from what I understand he..." She trailed off.
     "Go on. You're committed now."
     She dumped even more sugar into my coffee. I had already watched her put twice what I take in it into the cup and idly stir. "I've heard a rumor that he's something like a quadriplegic that has an eye motion interface into his computer. That he lives on the NET now."
     I rescued my cup and dumped it. There was still enough sugar in the bottom of the for two more cups as it was. "I'd believe it. But a guy I met thought the Bishop was a woman."
     She laughed. "How do you like your eggs?"
     "Without the shell." I pointed into the pan.
     "Sorry. I don't cook often."
     "So why did you?"
     "I thought you'd be hungry."
     I shook my head, "No, join up with Bishop42 and his Crusades."
     She thought about it. "The same as you I guess."
     "You mean you have no idea."
     She nodded.

     Monday a package was waiting on my desk.

end 4 Education

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