The creep behind Snyder prodded him with the gun to a chair. “Sit down, Junior.”
Snyder sat in the chair. Staying behind him, the man began to tie his hands.
Snyder turned his head. That face! “You’re Captain Blackjack McGraw. I saw you on the back cover of our textbook on black ops. You wrote the basic text, though I think the back cover said a few minor changes had been made.”
McGraw heaved a heavy sigh. He stopped tying Snyder’s hands.
Snyder said, “The back of the textbook said you died in 67 YE. I researched it in the archives, and it said your apartment blew up. It seemed suspicious to me.”
McGraw took a chair across from him. “Kid, I could kill you for what you know, and maybe I should.”
“Why won’t you?”
“Two reasons. First, I need you as ransom so I can get leverage from Cutler. ”
“What do you want from Cutler?”
“He’s strung me along for nearly two months, and my time is valuable. I can’t afford to be waiting around.”
“What’s your second reason?”
McGraw holstered his gun and pulled a cigarette from his coat. “I tested your DNA. You’re the son of my old partner.”
“My mother never worked in intelligence. And the egg donor was a druggie.”
“No, not your mother, your father. I knew your father.”
Snyder stiffened. “I don’t have a father. Unless you count my oldest brother.”
“That answer doesn’t surprise me, kid. He didn’t know about you either, or else Jim would’ve come and got you in a heartbeat. But as far as we knew, the girls we played with were fixed.” McGraw looked Snyder over. “Yeah, you’re Jim’s kid. His grandma was white. Guess you got her genes.”
After spending my entire seventeen years discriminated against for being a blond-haired, blue-green-eyed white guy, I highly doubt what you’re implying, McGraw. “No, I’m not Jim’s kid. He was just the sperm donor.”
McGraw raised his hand as if to backhand Snyder, but put it down. “I guess I can’t blame you for feeling that way. God knows if I had a kid I didn’t know about, he’d probably think the same. Your dad was my best friend, though. We got in and out of many scrapes together. He saved my hide more times than I can count. He was the one guy I could always trust.”
“What happened to him?”
“In 67, he infiltrated a church in Portland. He found nothing going on that was real terrorism or a threat to anybody but the empire’s ideology. Long story short, he converted. The Empire found out, and despite all his years of loyal service, they strung him up like a criminal after beating him to a bloody pulp.”
McGraw wiped his eyes. “I realized I was wasting my life. I was earning next to nothing, and for what? I was nothing more than an agent for our traitor-in-chief and a foreign dictator with delusions of grandeur. I set that explosion and faked my own death. Now, I’ve gone into business for myself.”
Snyder heaved a heavy sigh. Just his luck. His sperm donor went and became a stupid martyr. “So what business are you in?”
“Same as before, only rather than shaking down innocent civilians, I collect art, jewels, and information that can be used to acquire them.”
“So you’re an art thief, a jewel thief, and a blackmailer.”
McGraw laughed. “You got Jim’s bluntness. Some folks would say that. But I think I’ve moved up in the world morally. When I steal art or jewels, it only hurts rich people who end up collecting insurance. When I get the goods on someone, they deserve what they get and get off a lot easier than if I gave the information to the authorities.”
Nice justifications. He forgot the part where the insurance company increases everyone’s rates to cover their losses. Snyder stared at the gun McGraw still held on him. But perhaps it’s best not to argue the point.
McGraw continued. “On the other hand, working for the empire, you oppress poor people who want nothing more than to live their lives and be left alone, that and dig into everybody’s business.”
“Things are better under Donovan.”
“Yep, rather than our traitor-in-chief, may his soul rot in Hell, now we’ve got a dictator practically still in Pampers with his own Hollywood-esque personality cult.”
“Kid, don’t trust any politician. All a man can have confidence in is his wits and a well-cleaned gun.”
McGraw leaned back in his chair. “Kid, since Jim died, I’ve been without a partner. How’d you like to come on board? I’m betting your tech skills are more up-to-date, and I’ve seen your test scores. You’ve got great potential, and those guys are wasting it.”
Fine by me. If the Empire ever finds out what all I’ve learned, my life will never be my own. “One problem. I join you, and I get my head in a noose. Serving in the Army is all that’s saving me from a trip to the gallows on a hate crime rap.”
McGraw laughed. “You think those Army boobs or some local yokels can outdo Blackjack McGraw? Between the two of us, there’s no way they’d ever catch you.”
“If they didn’t kill me, Mama would. Trust me, you don’t want Azura Borden mad at you.”
“Azura Borden?” McGraw paused. “Oh yeah, I got her file once. Harriet Tubman.”
Mama Borden spent over two decades stealing embryos from breeders. He was the last kid she freed. And the first white kid.
McGraw whistled. “Never could catch that broad. I guess she carried you to term and you owe her.”
“Yeah, and it’d kind of be hard to see her being on the run for the rest of my life.”
McGraw nodded. “I’m lucky, kid. I don’t have anybody to worry about. Wife left me years ago, and the courts didn’t let me see the kid. I knew what kind of woman the kid’s mother was. She would have told him I didn’t see him because I didn’t want to. He’s better off. His father’s dead, and now he doesn’t have to deal with it. You, you got family. So, I understand, kid.”
“When do I get to go home?”
“First of all, will you keep everything in confidence?”
Snyder nodded. “Wouldn’t they think I’m crazy if I told them I had a conversation with a ghost? If I told them about you, they’d have to rewrite too many textbooks at the Intelligence School.”
“Okay, I buy it. You like having this information and the less people who know it, the more it means. You get to go home when Cutler comes and lays out the plan.”
“What if he doesn’t know?”
McGraw stood up and backed up to a cupboard with his gun trained on Snyder. He opened the cupboard and pulled out a Monopoly set from the top shelf. He brought it over to the table and holstered his weapon.
“Then, we’ll be here a long time. I’ll be the horse. Want to be the race car?”
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