Iron Angels – Snippet 30
“I like him, this professor friend of yours.”
The smile hadn’t left Temple’s face ever since they’d departed the University, leaving Vance behind with Edwin White. Temple was happy to meet Ed, but what could possibly come of it, what with her being exiled to the Washington, D.C. area and Ed out here in Chicago? Unless she swung a transfer to the Chicago field office someday after all the people she pissed off retired from the Bureau. Yeah, right. Once more Temple was getting ahead of herself. And Jasper sure as the Lord above made little green apples wasn’t playing matchmaker. There was no way he’d want her steaming in on his buddy, Ed. Call her old fashioned, but she wasn’t down with long distance or internet-based relationships.
“He’s a doctor, no kidding, but he’s not all that braggadocios.”
“Excuse me,” Temple said, “but did you really say braggadocios?”
Jasper grinned. “How about we chat about Hyde Park a little more, you’ll be back to your old self in no time.”
Temple huffed. “When I gave you a hard time on the way to meet your wonderful old crusty white guy professor buddy — you thought that was my ‘old self’?” Temple glanced over at him, and raised an eyebrow.
“Hey, I never said Ed was white. You made the assumption, remember? After giving me a hard time about what’s his name — Farrakhan? Oh, you’re gonna wanna hit the exit here and then straight on down Indianapolis Boulevard. We’re gonna have to meet up with the source I told you about, Carlos.”
“Let’s back the conversation up a bit. I need to apologize,” Temple said.
“Not what you think.” She reached over and turned on the air conditioning. “I was a bitch early this morning and not at all cold — temperature wise,” she added, glancing at him. “You thought I was gonna apologize for the racial stuff, didn’t you? Well, think again.”
Jasper scratched his cheek, and a smile fought its way on to his lips. “I sorta hoped you’d apologize for the nasty coffee you brought me this morning. Where did you get that motor oil anyway?”
“My little secret. But don’t get on my bad side, I can get more where that came from.”
This ride was much better than the morning’s. Temple’s mood had improved considerably, and Jasper was much less of an ass now that he was awake and caffeinated.
A stream of steady clunks rocked the rental car.
“Great roads you have in this neck of the woods,” Temple said.
“They’re constantly repairing,” Jasper said. “But with such heavy daily traffic and rough winters, keeping the roads in navigable condition is nearly impossible. I think the roads on the Indiana side are much worse than Chicago’s.”
“I’m guessing a lot of trucks go along with all the industry in a relatively confined area,” Temple said. “Right?”
“Yes. There’s no question this area benefits greatly from industry, but it is or was no friend to the roadways or the ecosystem. This is mostly steel country, and still is — although a lot of jobs in the steel industry have been lost.”
“Plants moved overseas?”
“No, automation mostly. A lot of the secondary industries got hurt worse. That’s why you see so many abandoned buildings and plants in this part of Indiana.”
“Where are we headed?” Temple finally asked, happy to change the topic to the task at hand. “You don’t want to hit your rez first and change before we meet the source?”
“What? No. What I’m wearing will work for the purposes of this meeting.”
“If you say so.” Temple glanced sideways at him and pursed her lips.
“It’s fine for a diner.”
“I suppose,” Temple said. Jeans and an old olive green t-shirt, likely left over from Jasper’s Marine Corps days, were unacceptable in her version of the Bureau, and certainly in Hoover’s Bureau of the past. Of course, in Hoover’s bureau, Temple would never have been a Special Agent. Not simply because of her skin color, but also because of her gender. Despite all that, the Bureau enjoyed a reputation built on Hoover’s ideals — and one of those was agents looking the part. Suits. Clean cut, that sort of thing.
“So anyway,” Jasper continued, “I want to do a daylight drive by of a few areas before we meet with Carlos. The diner has decent food, but don’t ask for a cappuccino. We’re going out of the way, but unless we get caught on the wrong side of a long train, we’ll be fine.”
“No worries there.” Temple was pursing her lips again.
“You’re a former marine — ”
“Not former. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
“Yeah right, so you’re a former marine and you sip cappuccinos? You expected one from a diner?”
“Whatever, but once a Marine always a Marine, there’s no former,” Jasper said. “Turn down this road, I think we can do two things — speak with the old woman who’s van was stolen, she’s at St. Catherine Hospital, and why not pass by the Euclid Hotel and the house we visited last night?”
“You’re thinking it’s odd so much is happening in such a confined area, aren’t you? See? You’re predisposed to working SAG type leads.” Temple grinned.
“It’s logical for any type of investigation. For instance, the animal control place would make sense if the attacks were easily explained, but the fact that the mangled bodies were found near the Euclid Hotel is too coincidental.”
“Okay, but I’m not sure what we’re looking for.” Temple didn’t argue and simply followed his directions to the diner.
After a minute of silence, Temple said, “Wow, this route seems circuitous. Have you ever worked counterintelligence?”
“No, not really. Not beyond helping out some of the other squads when necessary, why?”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re performing a surveillance detection route.”
“Maybe I am. This route wouldn’t exactly be the one most people take to where we’re going, and I wanted to ascertain if any interested parties tailed us, but what I said a few minutes ago, still applies.”
“Since you brought up the subject, anyone following us?”
“I don’t think so. I didn’t want to tell you the plan simply because you may have driven differently. You’re not upset, are you?”
“Do I look upset to you?”
“To be honest, I have a hard time reading you.” Jasper sighed. “Not that my expertise ever rested in reading women, obviously, based on my ex-wife Lucy.”
“Something tells me you’re being a little too hard on yourself. It takes two people to tango, you know. We all have relationships go pear-shaped on us.”
“See all those train tracks on your right?” Jasper nodded out the window. “We’re on Chicago Avenue now, cutting across East Chicago.”
“Train tracks, so what?”
“Yes, but look at the sheer number all lined up. More rail runs through northwestern Indiana than almost anywhere else in the United States.”
“Again, so what?”
“I’m thinking if I’m part of a cult, we hide in this area, what with all the noise, trains, and industry. The exact location of these events is niggling at me — why are so many strange things happening in or around the Euclid Hotel? There are plenty of train tracks around, but the hotel overlooks a fairly busy intersection with residences not far off. There are better, more deserted places in the area, and even more in the next city over, Gary, where anything goes.”
“Hiding in plain site most likely,” Temple said. “And in an abandoned building no one cares about and no one visits.”
Jasper shrugged. “Let’s drive through and see if any ideas shake loose. Perhaps we’ll have some questions for Carlos when we meet him at the diner.”
At least plenty of green remained in this part of the state. Industry hadn’t destroyed all the plant life — and there must be plenty of animals roaming about despite the large number of people and dangerous surroundings.
At Jasper’s direction Temple headed down Elm Street, toward St. Catherine Hospital.
“The building looks old,” Temple said.
“I think it was built in the twenties. I’m a big fan of that time period,” Jasper said.
Temple’s eyes widened. “You? Really?”
“Yeah. The area needed a hospital because of the heavy industrial focus and number of workers in the East Chicago area. The exterior has changed over the years, but the original spirit of the building has been preserved by keeping the brick and the original arches resting in the middle of the main entrance. They’ve increased the size of the hospital substantially over the years.”
“Come on,” Temple said. “That sounded as if you recited it from a book or some Wikipedia entry.”