Snyder walked to the door of Sergeant Cutler’s office. He knocked. Footsteps raced, a door opened and closed.
Cutler called out, “Who is it?”
Hmm. Cutler hiding someone? Odd. Couldn’t be a woman. The army didn’t care, and Cutler didn’t seem interested in that kind of thing. “Sarge, it’s Snyder.”
The door opened and Snyder entered.
Cutler said, “What’s going on?”
“It’s about Joey Parker. He was-”
Snyder lowered his voice. “A Christian fundamentalist. One day, we found him and his family dead. I remember they said it was poison. Do you know what that means?”
Cutler said, “I don’t know for sure-”
The closet door swung open and a man wearing a white suit and a huge diamond ring walked out. “Oh, yes you do, Cutler. Don’t cover it up.”
“Sarge isn’t lying.” Cutler was the only person he knew who had never lied. Body language always gave liars away.
“Either that, or ol’ Sarge here is as blind as a bat.” The man extended his hand. His ring glistened under the fluorescent light.
Snyder put a hand up. “Wait a second. Who are you, and what are you doing in Sarge’s closet?”
“A man unaccustomed to having to wait on non-commissioned officers. As to what I’m doing here, your guess is as good as mine. Ask your sergeant.”
Cutler sighed. “I’ve already told you, I don’t know.”
“As long as we’re all equally in the dark. Look, kid, I’ll give you the straight truth. Let me guess. This Fundamentalist kid’s family wasn’t tagged.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Protestants had this weird idea a microchip implant containing one’s financial data could somehow be their precious mark of the beast. Such kookiness was partly why Grandma won. Couldn’t get it from the official source without blaspheming, true enough, but there were other means to come by them.
“And they didn’t buy their food from the grocery store?”
“No.” How did this guy know?
“Then I know who do it. America’s traitor in chief. May he rot in Hell.”
Snyder frowned. “Why would Ivan have poisoned him? He could’ve just hung him.”
“Oh, he didn’t do it directly, kid. Ivan Dimitrov played both sides of the fence in the black market food game. In the name of Imperial Justice, he burned our farms, seized our cattle, and killed our delivery men. At the same time, when he pushed us out, he went in.”
Snyder arched his eyebrow. “So? What’s the difference between one black marketer and another?”
“Kid, I want my clients to live. Dead people don’t buy groceries. Nothing but quality ingredients here. But Ivan, he didn’t care if they died. He got his stuff by buying up expired items from grocery stores. Some working for him believed Christians ought to be wiped from the face of the Earth, so they intentionally contaminated it. Buying groceries at a Dimitrov black market was like playing Russian Roulette. All done at the behest of your grand government.”
The mob boss looked back and forth between Snyder and Cutler. “Heck of an outfit you fellas signed up with, huh? Cutler, call me when you figure out what you’re doing. I’m not gonna wait forever.” The mob boss left the office and the door shut behind him.
“You know we should probably report that guy,” said Snyder.
Cutler shook his head. “Technically, but an underworld figure can prove a valuable informant, even in our day and age.”
“True. I wonder if there’s any proof of what he said?”
“If there is, you’ll find it.”
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