Friday, March 7, 2036
Spring of Discontent
Some “news crew” showed up unannounced yesterday afternoon, and demanded to speak to our guest families (aka the refugees). Maria and Guillermo were kind of groggy from their siesta, but didn’t like what they saw. They called us at the community center; Serena, Daughter Dearest, and I came as quickly as we could. We left Rene in charge of the kids — he would be the first to say I brought the big guns with me. Or they brought me with them.
The attitude of the newsies lit our flares, and we demanded their credentials. None of us recognized the New Talon News logos on the truck nor the names on their ID badges, and DD and Serena were ready to send them packing with as many dents as needed to get them going. I figured they’d make some comment about a hostile reception and threats, assuming they even were newsies, but they were rescued by the Smiths coming around the side of the house.
“Who are they?” the guy with the mike demanded.
“One of the guest families,” I said. “The parents, anyway. Their kid’s at the school. And no, we’re not going to let you browbeat a 10-year-old girl.”
“We’re not browbeating anyone,” the mike guy snapped. “We’re investigating reports of refugee abuse.”
“Abuse?” Mary looked puzzled. “Nobody’s abusing us. We probably couldn’t ask for better.” Sean nodded.
“You got that, right?” I asked the cameraman. “Of course, it’ll probably land on the cutting room floor because it doesn’t fit your preconceived narrative, won’t it?”
I got some dirty looks for that one. “Do you guys mind talking to us in private, then?” Mike Guy said.
“Sure,” Sean said.
“Good. Why don’t you show us your bunkhouse, then?” They walked off, and DD, Serena, and I all looked at each other.
“I smell a rat,” Serena said.
“A big fat one,” I agreed.
“With gas,” Daughter Dearest said with a grim chuckle.
I looked at the truck. “That name sounds familiar,” I said. “But not current.”
“Current?” Daughter Dearest said, watching the Smiths and the “crew” disappear into the apartment.
“Something from… before. Damn. I wish the Internet was still instantaneous. They’ll be long gone before we get any kind of search results.”
“What do we do?”
“Guys?” Serena said. “Why don’t you mail off a search?” She jerked her head toward the house. “I’ll wait out here for them and make sure they don’t try getting video of the doghouse and pass that off as refugee living quarters.”
DD and I looked at each other and shrugged. It would only take one of us to do the search, but I knew what Serena was really up to. We went in the house and emailed our search in: organization, individuals (Fred and Barney). It would get picked up with the next connection, and we’d get whatever was online about them in a couple of hours. Like I said, too long to provide ammunition, but maybe we’d get some idea of what they were up to.
Guillermo and Maria joined us in the living room after we emailed the search request. “Are they gone?” Maria asked, peeking out the window. “No.”
“Good call, getting us over here,” I told them. “Something’s rotten on Planet Georgia.”
“Those people,” Guillermo said. “They remind me of the ones who came looking for us that time.”
“Sí. The Patriot Clubs.” I remembered Kim giving me a panicked look as Christina wrapped herself around him, after the Riots left. I guess when you know, you know…
Serena came in as DD brought in another piece of firewood for the stove. “You send the search request?”
“Yup. I thought you were waiting out for them.”
She walked over to the stove and held her hands over it, standing to one side to let DD crack open the stove door. “Just thought I’d warm up a bit,” she said. “They’re still in the apartment. If they try going anywhere but back to the truck, the dog will let us know.”
“So… did you find anything interesting?”
She grinned and handed me a couple of business cards. “Just these. They have a box of them, I figured they won’t miss any. They’ll probably give Sean and Mary a couple anyway, but just in case.”
The cards had the usual contact info: names, phone numbers, email, fax. The usual stuff. The logo on the card matched the one on the truck, but included a slogan: “News You Need To Know.” It meant nothing to me, but felt a little… off. On the back of one, a few names and local numbers. “People hosting refugees?” I asked.
“That’s what I figure. They had the numbers on one of those note pads that stick to the dashboard, I used their pen.”
Daughter Dearest threw the stick in the stove, releasing a small plume of smoke, and took one of the cards. “News I need to know? How the hell do they know what I need to know?” She handed Serena the card. “What I need to know is, who’s giving them enough diesel to drive around half the state?”
“Y’all still smell the big fat gassy rat?” I asked. They nodded. “Me too. Let’s step back out, we need to keep an eye on them.”
“And set a trap,” Daughter Dearest said.
“Not a live trap though,” Serena suggested. Both the girls had an expression that reminded me of Mrs. Fetched when she was ready to rumble… a sort of wild-eyed axe murderer look. Lord, don’t give those guys any reason to set them off, I prayed. The carnage in progress might be entertaining, but the cleanup wouldn’t be. Maria and Guillermo saw that look too, and stayed inside.