A World Full of Monsters

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Chapter 44
Renewal, Part 2

More snow. More visitors. More questions.


The next morning it was still snowing off and on, but we did get to see – and record – some of the saplings shaking snow off their branches. I ‘introduced’ Ivor around the circle the same way I had Jo-Jo the day before, we checked the perimeter alarms, and then we all piled into the ATV to have breakfast and communicate with home base again. They were still working on resolving the phone tap issue, but Mike said to go ahead and turn our phones back on because he wanted to be able to get hold of us if something happened. The paperwork for the sale of the land had gone through without a hitch and the check had been cashed, so Dave was now the legal owner. He’d already gone out with Larry to buy an RV – or rather, GenoMod was buying an RV – to be a mobile lab, and he was planning to drive out to the site once he and Pete had everything set up and ready to go. Joey was still looking for the specialists we needed. And Rick had said he wasn’t worried about Mr. Knight, Mrs. Eames’ lawyer, because the only stipulation in the court documents had been that the property couldn’t be sold to anyone who was related to Mr. Eames and that Mr. Eames couldn’t continue or resume living there after the sale. Rick had also said that if Mr. Knight showed up for any reason we should treat him like any other stranger, just point to the sign that says access to the area is restricted to authorized personnel only and send him packing.

As soon as we’d ended the call, I got said sign out of the back of the SUV and picked a highly visible spot to put it in – something I hadn’t legally been able to do until the sale paperwork had gone through – after which Ivor and I went back to our tent to go over preliminary test results while Jo-Jo retired to his tent to read a book. Not like there was anything else any of us could do until the new mobile lab got there, we just had to stay put and guard the site until backup arrived.

A few hours later we heard another car approaching, and Jo-Jo told us to stay in the tent and let him run whoever it was off. We did open the flap and listen, though, just in case. The ‘visitor’ started off huffy, demanding to know what the new owner’s plans for the property were, insisting he had a right to know because the property was part of a case he was the legal counsel for and there were stipulations about usage and residency. Jo-Jo calmly suggested that he contact the realtor for that information instead of asking the site security guy, pointed out the sign, and asked if the man had authorization from the property owner to be there. When that answer was negative, he requested that the man leave. Politely, even.

His second request was just slightly less polite, and his third invoked the sign again and assured the huffy lawyer that there would be legal consequences if he refused to do as he’d been asked. “Local law enforcement does know I’m up here,” he said. “I checked in with them right after I arrived on-site yesterday, and they also know that the new owner doesn’t want anyone up here until the site has been thoroughly surveyed. Apparently the land in this area is becoming known as a lucrative investment, there’s a lot of competitive interest.”

The lawyer apparently bought that explanation – or just realized he wasn’t getting past Jo-Jo – because within a few minutes he’d gotten back into his car and driven away. Jo-Jo came back to our tent to fill in details. “That was the ex-wife’s lawyer, Mr. Knight. The bank notified him when the check went into escrow, and he didn’t seem happy.” He wrinkled his nose. “I may be asking for the standard GenoMod upgrade package myself soon, Danny. The guy’s body language didn’t give much away, but I bet his scent was saying volumes.”

Say the word and you’ve got it,” I told him. “All I could tell from over here was that he needed an oil change.”

He laughed. “I didn’t need the upgrade for that one. You’d think someone would take better care of a Q7.” Ivor’s ears went up. “Yeah. And he had black trim and rims, so probably the full customization package too. I have to wonder how much of Mrs. Eames’ half of the settlement is going straight into his pocket, after seeing that. I’m almost positive he’ll be back, though, so maybe we can find an excuse to remind him about his quarterly maintenance obligations.”

Ivor snorted. “We will no doubt be throwing our words to the wind, but it is worth a try. He had no respect for the posted sign?”

He rolled his eyes at me, so no.” He got out his phone. “Yes, Dispatch, this is Jon Jolivet…yes, up at the old Eames place. We told Officer Kelly that we’d let you guys know if anyone showed up out here, and we just had a visit from the former owner’s ex-wife’s lawyer. He was demanding details of the sale, I told him he’d have to get that information from the realtor and then asked him to leave as he didn’t have authorization from the new owner to be on-site…yes, we posted the notice as soon as the sale was final. Yes, Mr. Knight. Yes, initially, but he did end up leaving without incident…oh he did? As a matter of fact we did – company policy, just in case someone tries that. Of course, it’s not a problem; tell him to bring a flash drive and I can download it from the card. Oh, and let him know that Dr. Vargas drove up here last night to join us, so there are three vehicles and three people on-site now…yes, Dr. Vargas is also a villeluvu…sure thing, and tell him to be careful, it snowed quite a bit up here last night and it’s still coming down. Okay, thanks.” He disconnected that call and immediately made another one. “Mike, we may have a problem. Mr. Knight was just up here. I directed him to leave the property, he tried to argue with me but he ended up leaving without incident, and then while I was on the phone with local Dispatch letting them know he’d been here he tried to call our encounter in as an aggressive altercation. No…no, I told them to stay in their tent out of sight, just in case…no, but they’re sending someone out to get the video I captured of the encounter…possibly, but the local LEOs don’t appear to like Mr. Knight much so I’m not too worried about it. Yet, anyway, we’ll see if he tries anything else. No, he definitely didn’t seem happy about the land being sold, but he also gave no indication that he knew GenoMod was involved. Yeah, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. No…yes, I let them know that Ivor was out here too. I’ll call when the officer gets here and conference you in so we’re all on the same page. Okay…yeah, I will. Bye.”

This time he tucked his phone back in his pocket, and I cocked an ear; Ivor and I had heard most of the other side of both conversations, of course. “So if Mr. Knight shows back up…”

Do absolutely nothing except point to the sign and remind him he’s not authorized to be here,” Jo-Jo said. “Also, keep well out of reach and make sure you stay within view of the dash cam at all times. A lawyer should know better than to call in a false complaint, so the fact that he did it anyway concerns me.”

Yeah, me too – especially since you told him the police already knew you were out here.”

It is possible he had confidence that someone would act on his complaint sight unseen,” Ivor pointed out. “The town is not very large. A successful man may have enough standing that he expects a certain amount of favor to be shown to him.”

Point,” Jo-Jo agreed. “The police don’t like him, but if he’s got connections higher up that might not make a difference.” He considered. “Okay, slight change of tactics: The next time we hear someone coming, I want both of you out in front of the SUV where you can be clearly seen before they hit the turnoff. If that makes them piss their pants or drive off the road, too bad.”

Ivor smirked. “Danny is the one who makes people wet themselves; it is from me that they run. So we can do both?”

Hopefully you won’t do either, at least not on purpose.” Jo-Jo was grinning, though. “But better that than pop out from behind something and give some idiot an excuse to shoot at you – The Most Dangerous Game is a great story, but I don’t feel like doing a reenactment of it.”

Yeah, we don’t either.” He went back to his tent, and we sealed ours back up. “It’s a story about hunting people for sport,” I explained to Ivor, knowing he might not have gotten that reference. “The title is a play on words.”

He snorted. “It would be playtime for us, if someone were stupid enough to try such a thing. But I would much rather they did not.” I just nodded, deciding not to mention the time last year when…well, the guy really had been stupid for trying it, even Agent Ben had said so. Ivor pulled me back down onto the blankets. “Agent Ben told me that story while he was in Mexico, of course.” He nuzzled my ear. “And all of the other stories as well. He said I should know what I was getting into.”

I nuzzled him back and pulled the laptop over, waking it up. “You knew before he did. Now, back to Subject 5 and those damned antennae. My preliminary tests and the originals aren’t showing anything different, but there has to be some reason he’s got them and no one else does…”

 

A police officer showed up just over an hour later, and she did a very satisfying double-take when she saw Ivor and I standing there by the line of vehicles with Jo-Jo. Who cocked an eyebrow when she got out of her vehicle. “Dispatch didn’t warn you that Dr. Darling and Dr. Vargas were up here?”

She shook her head. “I’m here about a trespassing complaint that was called in. You can’t camp up here, this is private property.”

We’re only camping to provide security for the site until the owner gets here,” I told her. “Your station knows we’re here, Mr. Jolivet called it in yesterday right after we arrived on site.”

They sent an Officer Kelly up to check our I.D.,” Jo-Jo confirmed. “And I called in just a little while ago to report a Mr. Knight who came up here and tried to say he had the right to trespass on Dr. Montoya’s property because of some litigation involving the previous owners.” He pointed. “As soon as the sale was final, that sign was posted – no unauthorized personnel allowed on-site. There are concerns that someone may attempt to vandalize the property, I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen. Dr. Darling came up to get started on the site survey, specifically the post-wildfire regrowth that’s coming in because there are some unique plant species in this area.”

We’re waiting for Dr. Montoya to send up a mobile lab so we can decide what needs to be done here,” I added. “Possibly a few more experts as well.”

The snowfall has slowed our progress,” Ivor put in. “We had hoped the weather would remain clear for a few more days, but it was not to be.”

She focused on him. “You’re not from around here.”

He inclined his head. “No, I am un residente permanente in Los Angeles, but I came there from Mexico City.”

You have your papers?”

For fuck’s sake, really? Ivor just nodded, though, not even smelling annoyed. “I will need to reach inside my coat to get them.”

Just move slowly.” Now Jo-Jo was smelling annoyed, and a little bit suspicious, but she didn’t do anything when Ivor reached inside his coat and got out his wallet, handing over his green card and his driver’s license. She looked them both over, then handed them back. “Okay. And you’re out here why?”

He’s my husband, and we both work with Dr. Montoya.” I cocked an ear. “Why is your radio repeating ‘10-22’ over and over again?”

That would be Dispatch saying ‘disregard last assignment’,” Jo-Jo said. His phone rang, and he waited for her nod and then very slowly took it out of his coat pocket. “This is Jolivet…yes, apparently someone called in a complaint about illegal camping on private property. No, but the officer did insist on checking Dr. Vargas’s papers and then demanded to know why he was out here…yes, I realize that and so does he, it’s fine. Sure, no problem.” He held out the phone. “Officer Brown, Dispatch says they weren’t able to reach you on your radio or your phone.”

She gave him a dirty look, but she took the phone. “Who…no, I was out of my vehicle responding to a 419 complaint…no, but it came from…okay…Really? No, I didn’t know, but that’s also what the three individuals out here just told me. Yes, okay. Handing you back to the phone’s owner now.”

Jo-Jo took the phone back, reassured Dispatch again that everything was fine, and then disconnected and put his phone back in his pocket. “Someone is playing games,” he told Ivor and I. “Officer Brown was sent out to check on possible trespassing by the former property owner, someone told someone else at the courthouse that they thought he was camping out here. They used the guard station’s radio to call for someone to come check it out. Dispatch is not amused.”

Officer Brown made a face. “I’m not either, believe me. Dispatch has the new owner’s contact information?”

Yes, but we can give it to you if you want it,” I told her. “He’s supposed to be coming up here himself later this afternoon.”

That’s fine, if the station already has it then I don’t need it.” My ears went up and so did Ivor’s, and she blinked. “What?”

Car coming.” It came into view a minute later, blue-black with black trim, fancy spoke rims, and tinted windows. “Damn, no wonder you guys were upset, that’s a really pretty car.”

Upset…”

He is abusing such a fine engine by not doing proper maintenance,” Ivor grumbled. “I am sure you can smell it too.”

She sniffed. “Oh, that. Yeah, he definitely needs an oil change.” She raised an eyebrow at Ivor. “Car guy?”

He’s the only person I know who has unironically owned Italian leather driving gloves,” I told her, and her scent spiked with amusement; Ivor’s did too. “I only know that smell means the guy hasn’t bothered with routine maintenance in a while.”

Yeah, that’s about where I am too.” She stiffened back up into professional mode when the owner of said car got out, a medium-height man with perfectly styled short blond hair and the remains of a ski tan. “Sir, unless you’re authorized to be on this site…”

I came out to see if the trespassers had been run off,” he huffed. “My client is part owner of this land…”

Your client was part owner of the land, the money from the sale went into escrow this morning,” I told him. His scent, only partially masked by his cologne, said he knew he was lying. “If you want to talk to the new owner, he’s supposed to be up here later.”

He frowned. “The sale is going to be contested. This land was supposed to be sold to developers…”

Then that’s something you’ll have to take up with the new owner,” Officer Brown told him. “In the meantime, the posted notice is valid and the individuals already on-site are authorized to be here. I just confirmed it with Dispatch.” She indicated his car. “Go back to town, sir. I’m sure the realtor over the sale can put you in touch with the new owner.”

I have a right to be here, on behalf of my client!”

Mr. Knight, Dr. Montoya’s lawyer said you weren’t allowed on the property,” Jo-Jo told him. “I told you earlier that you weren’t authorized to be on the property, and your response was to argue with me and then call in a false complaint saying you and I had a ‘violent encounter’. I repeat: If you have questions about the sale, you should speak to the realtor or to Dr. Montoya, or to Dr. Montoya’s lawyer. If you come out here again, I’m going to report you for trespassing, possibly with intent to commit vandalism.”

Ooh, for some reason that struck a nerve. Officer Brown was shaking her head. “Sir, get back in your vehicle and go back to town. If you don’t, I’m going to have to cite you for trespassing.”

He held his ground, but his scent said he was getting desperate. “I need to inspect the property for my client, Officer.”

She shook her head. “Come back with authorization.”

He faked getting mad. “I’ll have your badge.” And then he got back into his car and drove away again.

I looked at Ivor; he looked at me. “We still did not tell him to change his oil.”

Nope. Next time, I guess.”

Jo-Jo was already back on the phone. “Yes, Mr. Knight was just here again, attempting to get onto the property…no, no violence this time either, but he did threaten Officer Brown’s job when she told him the posted notice was legal and he’d have to come back with authorization…no, I can tell you right now that Dr. Montoya won’t authorize that. Yes…yes, if you want, but at this point I think it might be more efficient to just have my home office send you the video…my dash cam is motion-triggered and automatically uploads all activity using a satellite link, ma’am, that’s standard field equipment for us. Yes…no, we wouldn’t mind at all. Okay…okay, yeah, appreciate it. Sorry this is turning into such a…” he laughed. “…Yeah, I can understand that. Thank you. Hopefully we won’t have to be in touch again soon.”

Officer Brown had gone back to her radio, and I could hear her agreeing that yes, her sticking around was probably a good idea. She came back shaking her head and smelling like she couldn’t decide whether to be unhappy or not. “They want me to stay here until someone relieves me or Dr. Montoya is on site, whichever comes first. Any idea why the former owner’s ex-wife’s lawyer is so desperate to get in here?”

Jo-Jo shrugged. “I could guess, but that’s all I’d be doing – guessing.” His scent was saying he didn’t think giving her more information was a good idea just yet, and I understood why; Dispatch hadn’t given her all the information they had either. “Do you guys know something we don’t?”

She shrugged back. “There was some weirdness up here a few years ago, a professor poisoned some of his students with experimental drugs, and they all lived in this area. They died, he went to prison, one of the parents tried to sue the university.”

I let my ears go up. “Experimental drugs? This town doesn’t seem like a big enough base for that sort of start-up.”

Oh, you’d be surprised – it’s everywhere these days.” She grimaced when a few fat flakes drifted down, followed by more. “Well crap, here it comes again. I’ll be in my vehicle if anything happens – if he comes back, let me handle it, okay?”

No problem, Officer,” Jo-Jo agreed. “We will all come out enough to be clearly visible, though.” She raised an eyebrow, and he jerked his thumb at me and Ivor. “We’re just asking for trouble if we let a pair of villeluvu suddenly pop out and surprise someone. Some people have never seen a modified human before, and these guys look more like wolves than not.”

She nodded. “Okay, fine – just stay back.”

She got back in her vehicle and shut the door, and Jo-Jo went to the ATV to report in to Mike again and arrange for the dash cam footage to be sent to the police station. Ivor and I went back to our tent, communicating with scent and body language because we couldn’t be sure Officer Brown didn’t have a listening device – I call it understandable paranoia, Ivor calls it reasonable precautions. And just to check, we did wonder out loud a bit if Mr. Knight’s weirdness could have anything to do with the pelt bounty, and then for good measure I mentioned that I didn’t think Officer Brown’s hairstyle suited her and maybe some highlights would help? Less than two minutes later, her door opened and she got out, not closing the door. “Okay, I turned it off!” she called out. “And no, I’ve had highlights, they looked stupid.”

We got back out of the tent. “I can’t tell if they would or not, honestly,” I told her. “I just said the most stereotypical thing I could think of.”

She laughed. “Yeah, I could tell – your fake gay voice isn’t all that convincing. “So do you guys really not know what’s going on?”

I shrugged. “Like Jo-Jo said, we’d just be guessing. I doubt he’s after the pelt bounty, because he didn’t know Ivor and I were here the first time he showed up. And this time he did see us and he didn’t act like a fanatic.” She was looking as well as smelling confused, and I shrugged again. “Some people don’t consider modified humans to still be humans anymore, Officer – and some people think we’re a threat to society.”

I think you’re people who made a poor life-choice,” she said honestly. “But then, I also feel that way about people with two pounds of metal stuck all through their skin. It’s not my problem unless you do something else that makes you my problem.”

Fair enough.” I smiled, which wasn’t the reaction she’d expected and sort of disappointed her – she’d wanted her prejudice confirmed by a bad reaction or an attempted defense, apparently. “My go-to analogy on the personal choice front is usually face tattoos.”

Yeah, those make my list too.” She offered a half-wave and got back into her vehicle, and we went back into our nice warm tent. And cuddled up together to play games on my laptop, because we’d both heard the high whine that meant she still had the listening device on. It was now really obvious that she didn’t know who we actually were, we weren’t going to help her figure it out.

 

Some three hours later, the next vehicle we crawled out of Pete’s tent to greet turned out to be Larry’s truck. “The new mobile lab won’t be here until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest,” he announced, mainly for Officer Brown’s benefit because the rest of us had known that for an hour already. “So I brought a bigger tent. Dr. Montoya arranged for a Porta Potty to be delivered to the site today, though, because we all know how Dr. Darling feels about using the bathroom outside.”

I huffed at him. “Remind me not to share my Skittles with you. You brought a bigger sign too?”

I brought a permanent sign, and the Insta-Post foam for setting it in the hole,” he said. “Jo-Jo and I can put that up first, and then I’ve got some markers for parking and the site surveillance cameras.”

Jo-Jo nodded. “Headquarters already called you in?”

Before I left, and faxed them a copy of my I.D.” He raised an eyebrow at Officer Brown, ignoring the fact that ever since he’d gotten out of the truck it had been really obvious to anyone with a nose that she liked what she saw. “They tried to send that to you, but I guess your phone’s not getting much signal up here so they weren’t sure it went through.”

I had it turned off to conserve the battery – left my charging cable at home,” she admitted, pulling it out and turning it back on. “Yeah, there it is. Let me confirm your I.D., please.” He handed over his licenses, she checked them and then handed them back. “Okay, you’re good. And they said that as soon as you got here I should come back to the station, but they also asked me to get a picture of the new notice and make note of its location.”

No problem, it’s going pretty much right where the little one is.” Larry got out the post-hole digger, and then he and Jo-Jo kicked snow off their chosen spot and put up the sign with its big red letters that said ‘AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY’ and smaller print that informed visitors the site was under 24-hour video surveillance along with an emergency number to call and the logos for both GenoMod and Elite. Officer Brown took her pictures, lingered a little bit asking Larry hinting questions about where the number went and what kind of company Elite was, and then she left. We waited until we knew for sure that she was too far out for the listening device to do her any good before anyone said anything else. “I hate it when they’re in heat,” Larry commented, rolling his eyes. “Dispatch told Mike to have me tell you guys that Officer Brown is okay, just lazy – they said she starts having ‘signal issues’ every time she gets out far enough that no one will spot her taking an extended break, and she uses that ear-extender toy to let her know if she needs to get alert again.”

Yeah, she’s also just a little bit into racial profiling,” I told him. “Her scent change when Ivor said he was from Mexico City gave that one away.”

Ivor shrugged. “It did not bother me, to be asked for my papers, but I know it bothered Danny.”

She shouldn’t have asked you to show yours if she wasn’t also checking his and Jo-Jo’s too,” Larry told him. “Racial profiling is a big no-no in law enforcement here, at the very least they’re not supposed to be obvious about it.” Jo-Jo’s scent spiked, and his eyebrows went up. “What? No…”

Yep. She actually told Danny she considered what he and Ivor had ‘done to themselves’ to be a bad life-choice, but followed up with it not being her problem unless they did something wrong.”

Jesus. So she had no idea who they were?”

Nope. And Dispatch didn’t tell her either – as in, they told her absolutely jack.”

Officer Kelly did tell us to let as few people know about GenoMod’s involvement as possible,” I pointed out. “They may have decided she just didn’t need to know.”

Point.” Jo-Jo sighed. “Okay, before the snow gets any worse, let’s delineate parking and get those cameras up and connected. And if we put the big tent right over there, it will block the view of the saplings the way the vehicles are doing now.”

We can put the smaller tents to either side of it,” Ivor agreed. “Danny and I will do that. The toilet?”

We’ll have them put it on this side of the slab,” I told him. “We don’t want the truck to come any further in than that, and since this side is where the pipes were it won’t be in the way of the helicopter either.”

 

Once everything had been moved around the way it needed to be, the site actually looked like it deserved a sign banning unauthorized people from coming in – with all the snow that just kept coming down, it looked like we were some kind of northern expedition. The big tent is a high-quality field tent with reinforced windows and room to stand up, not to mention space for a folding table and chairs, and it has its own portable fan heater. We moved into it and set everything up, and then we ate and after that some work actually got done. Not that there was a whole lot more work we could do, at least not on the regrown tree-people issue, but we did what we could and then worked on other things. Like the paper that was getting presented in Zurich in January.

The one Ivor and I would write about plant-modded humans would have to wait for the next conference, of course. Which hopefully will be somewhere warmer, like Cancún. I even know the perfect resort they could hold it in…

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2 Comments

  1. Toby

    Oh wow, as you said the plot gets deeper. Though I wonder what the lawyers conflict of interest is… developer investment he planned on taking part of or the ex agent/government coverups.

    Really enjoying the ‘episode’ and hope to see more soon.

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