December 8, 2012

Final Encryption - Part 3

In which we get a Bible quote, a 1936 General Electric Colorama E-126, and some nudity.

The nun led Ricky down a long stone corridor, to a chapel.  A few rows of cherrywood pews, four stained glass windows filtering the pale morning light into simple geometrical motifs on the floor.  The altar was some concrete modern thing from the sixties.  It reminded Ricky of a ’57 Buick, which made him think of his Mustang, and how it was probably stolen by now, by some greedy bastard who would soon regret being born.
“Don’t worry about your car,” the nun said.
“What,” Ricky snickered as they walked down the aisle, “you’re gonna tell me God will take care of it or something?”
“God has better things to do,” she said.  “And soon, so will you.”
“No I won’t.”
“Also, I think God hates red cars.  Now be quiet.”  She kneeled down in front of the altar, joined her hands together in front of her like a supplicant, and yelled:  “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!”
“Uh?” said Ricky.
The altar pivoted with a soft electrical whirr and revealed a flight of metal stairs descending into the ground.  “Matthew 23:24,” the nun said.
“What does it mean?” Ricky said.
“Not a clue.  But it makes a good password.”  She gestured Ricky to walk down the stairs, and followed him.  She still had the gun, but by then Ricky was too damn intrigued to think about running.  Who the hell was this crazy nun, and what was she doing here?  Where was here, for that matter?  It looked like some sort of religious building, an old convent maybe, but it seemed deserted, except for that man with the strange antenna contraption he’d seen in the yard.  And he couldn’t deny that the nun had a certain strange charisma that seemed to be drawing him in despite his best judgment.
They climbed down into a large concrete room overhung with fluorescents.  Wooden shelves, packed with books and documents, lined the walls.   Three rows of oak desks occupied the center of the room.  Sitting at the desks were eleven men and women, working under old articulated desk lamps.  Ricky took them in quickly and the first thing he thought was that they couldn’t have looked less well-matched.  Dress, age, looks, hair, everything about them was dissimilar.  The next thing that struck him was that, where they appeared to be doing some sort of office work, there were no computers. 
In fact, the only piece of technology he could see in the room was an antique, massive radio that stood in the middle of the room.  Ricky immediately recognized a 1936 General Electric Colorama E-126.  An array of cables and wires ran from it and disappeared behind a stone column.  It appeared to be off at the moment.
“Alright, that’s enough,” Ricky said.  “What the hell is this place?  Who the hell are you?”
The nun put her gun away.  “You’re right, I owe you an explanation,” she said.  “But first, take off your clothes.”
“I beg your pardon?” Ricky said.
“We need to search you,” the nun said.
“Really?  I think you just want to get yourself some eye candy, sister.”
The nun laughed.  “Oh, I’m not the one who’s gonna do the searching,” she said.  “Crowbar is.”
A man that looked like a mountain with tattoos rose from one of the desks and stood in front of Ricky, who found himself staring at sirloin-like pecs.  He tilted his head back until he was able to meet the mountain’s eyes, but found only a pair of knock-off ray-bans.
“Your mom has fed you well,” he said.
The nun turned chastely around and stared at the wall as Ricky stripped to his shorts.  Crowbar’s search was surprisingly gentle, which made Ricky more uncomfortable than the usual rough pat-downs he’d gotten used to on some of his cross-border ventures.
“So, what are you doing here working in a convent for a nun,” Ricky asked as Crowbar checked his leather jacket and looked through his wallet.
“Marie-Ange saved my soul,” Crowbar said in a soft voice.
“You always exaggerate, Crowbar,” the nun said in an oh-you-sweet-talker tone.
“What’d it need saving from?” Ricky said.
“He’s all clean, Ange,” Crowbar said without answering.
Ricky got back into his clothes and Marie-Ange turned back towards him.  “Crowbar Eddie did some work for the bikers several years ago.  He was what I believe they call a cleaner.  I found him in the Bordeaux jail.”
“What the hell brought you there?” Ricky said.
“A call from God.  Plus I needed to get away from the convent and all these women having their PMS at the same time as me.”
“So now Crowbar works for you,” Ricky said.  “Doing…?
Marie-Ange nodded.  “Yes.  The explanation.  So…”
A fast clicking sound from a desk in the corner interrupted her.  She turned.  The man at the desk spoke in an urgent tone.  “Marie-Ange.  We have activity on two.”
Marie-Ange walked quickly over.  Ricky followed, puzzled.  The man who had spoken was well into his seventies, with short silver hair and a well-groomed mustache.  A threadbare tweed jacket hung on his shoulders like it hadn’t moved in a decade.  He was manning what looked like an antique telegraph machine.  “This is Aurélien,” said Marie-Ange.  “He’s our telegraph operator.  I found him when he quit the navy.”
“Honorably discharged,” Aurélien said with a smile that bore such sadness that Ricky almost looked away.  “Cross of Valor and everything.  All for burning down a village.”
“What do we have, Aurélien?” Marie-Ange asked before Ricky could say something.
“Coordinates.  With the usual nine-letter intro code.  It’s him.”
Marie-Ange’s face tightened.  Four people, two men and two women, got up from their desks and headed for the stairs.  “Where?” the nun asked Aurélien.
“Old Montreal,” Aurélien said.  He scribbled an address on a piece of paper and handed it to her.
“Two hours.”
Marie-Ange’s jaw tightened.  “We won’t make it,” she said.
“We will if I drive,” Ricky said.
He had no idea what had made him speak up.  But he knew he’d put his finger into something that was about to eat him whole.


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