Monitoring: Peter Newsome [null]
Vienna, Virginia, USA
1:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
17:30 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
The room that Peter is looking into is stark and cold, a series of panels that run a veritable rainbow of light to dark gray and every color in between. A single set of sausage-shaped fluorescent light bulbs hangs over a metal table, bare on one side and covered with papers and notepads on the other. Dan Heron is sitting on the covered side. Across from him is Sinjoro Akvo, who Simon had called the man in green. His hands are folded over each other, handcuffs arranged awkwardly, but Peter can still see a bit of the bandages wrapped around Akvo’s left hand. It was a very unlucky strike that Viejo made, or at least it must be from Akvo’s perspective, seeing as it separated him from a solid inch or two of his hand, plus one of his fingers, but Akvo is hardly in any position to complain. Not that he seems inclined to, at any rate; he hasn’t so much as mentioned the damage done to him.
Their folding chairs are made of a lightweight plastic, strong enough to support several hundred pounds but not very effective in the unlikely case that someone decides to use it as a weapon.
There is silence on both sides of the glass. Standing beside Peter, Mary shifts her weight to the other foot. April taps a pocket notebook with her pen. Bert and the children are absent—it might not do for the kids to see this, but this could just as easily prove to be a bad time to leave the kids unprotected.
“Let’s start with the basics,” Peter says, his voice flowing over the speakers. “What is your name?”
“Right. And what’s your full name, Señor-o Akvo?”
Akvo smiles softly. His head moves turns slightly, like a quarter of a shake. “Sinjoro,” he corrects, and then, “En Akvo Malklara Oni Fiskaptas Facile.”
“That doesn’t sound Arabic at all,” Peter says to the others. One of the first things that Peter did after leaving Alien Eats was start checking the audio that they picked up against voice recordings from around the world. By the time that they had returned, he had narrowed it down to an accent from Dhahran, in Saudi Arabia.
“So it’s a fake name,” Mary says. “It’s too long to be real, anyway.”
“In some cultures people have very long names, actually,” April counters. Mary is about to respond, but Dan is speaking again after marking something down. “What about your…partner? What was her name?”
“Full name?” asks Akvo, and Dan nods. “El Diablo Sabe Más Por Viejo Que Por Diablo,” he reels off.
Dan’s face scrunches up. “That… I know Spanish. That isn’t a name. That’s a full sentence,” he says.
“It is,” agrees Akvo.
Dan taps a pen against the paper in front of him and circles something. “And what is your name supposed to mean?”
“In muddy water one catches fish easily. It is a proverb,” Akvo explains.
“Esperanto,” he says. “The language of an undivided Europe.”
“Something tells me that the two of you weren’t really named after proverbs.”
Akvo smiles. “Then you would be wrong,” he says.
“Who are you, really?”
“I am—I was, I am,” replies Akvo haltingly, with an odd cadence to his words. “Hm,” he muses. “Am I truly free to speak?” he says, but he is looking at the wall, away from Dan. He is turned away as well from the one-way mirror which the others are standing behind, as if to make it clear that he is not speaking to them either. “I am the doorway and I am the city of knowledge,” he says finally, returning his attention to Dan. “But make no mistake, you are the one with the bandages over your hands,” he adds.
“What the hell does that mean?” whispers Mary. “He’s lifting his damn hand right there. What is he saying?”
“He’s just making things up,” April replies, but Peter shakes his head. That doesn’t sound right. There’s something about it that doesn’t seem to square with what occurred at the restaurant.
Dan leaves his seat and circles around the table. “If we don’t have a name for you, well, then, you might as well not exist at all,” he says. “We have more authority to act according to our discretion than perhaps you realize. I can break your fingers and cut them off by the inch with pruning shears, leave you in a cramped box for a day, deprive you of sleep, waterboard you, and then do it over and over until I get tired of it and invite some friends who are even meaner than I am, and when you break, and you give me even the smallest bit of information, we can kill someone and send it back to Simon to start the whole thing over again without losing any time at all.”
He looms over Akvo. “You might think that this isn’t so bad, that you won’t remember because it’ll happen to a version of yourself that you, personally, won’t remember, even though the fact that I’m not sitting in that chair with a binder full of the information that we’ve acquired is proof enough that you, yes you, are going to be experiencing all of that and it’s some other asshole who will be getting off scot free. Maybe you’re betting that Simon just makes simulations when he sees the future and because you’re aware of all that’s happening right now, you can’t possibly experience the things that I’m talking about and you’ll inconvenience us without any cost to yourself.”
But why the need for threats? Akvo had seemed willing to speak with Simon and Hannah, even allude to a couple of things more clearly than he had with his most recent comments.
“Maybe you even know for a fact that that’s how it would go down,” Dan says, and he crouches down a little, eye level with Akvo. “So I promise you that, once we get everything that we need, I will do it all over one more time for keeps, even though you couldn’t possibly give us anything new because we will have gotten all of it before through Simon. Or,” he says as he slowly walks around to his side of the table, “you could tell us everything right now.”
Akvo looks down in apparent consideration of the offer. Perhaps he’s considering the finger that he’s already lost and whether it might be better to cooperate and keep the other nine intact. He wiggles the four that remain on his left hand, moving them as if playing a very small piano, then lifts them to his face, bites down on one of them, and spits his middle finger across the table.
“Holy shit,” someone mutters at Peter’s side. He isn’t sure who said it.
Dan looks as offended as he does surprised. No doubt he’s given something like that speech before, albeit with modifications to account for future sight shenanigans, and then there’s the middle finger to take into account. Peter is eighty-percent sure that Akvo didn’t choose that finger arbitrarily.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you before,” Akvo says, smiling toothily, a spot of blood on his lower lip. “You’re fun. I think that I’m getting a handle on this. You’re miscalculating, though, if you think that Simon would cooperate with you. He’s read too much idealistic fiction. You would have been better giving him gritty crime novels. It would have been better for you if Hannah had received his virtue instead.”
“He’s hiding things,” Peter says, “but I don’t think…”
“What?” says Mary.
“I can’t stop thinking about how Viejo tried to keep him from touching Simon,” Peter explains. “I don’t know. Tell him to ask about it. What do we have to lose?”
Mary nods and sends a text. Dan pulls out his phone and sets it on the table beside his papers, and nods in their direction. “Why did you kill your partner?”
“She made a sudden movement in my direction with a knife. You saw what sort of wounds it could inflict in determined hands,” he says when Dan makes a disbelieving noise. “How can we know for sure that she wasn’t going to kill me just then? I had to strike, you see. It was all totally permissible. Anybody who was monitoring the situation would be forced to agree.”
Dan pulls a little at his collar. “But nobody’s watching you now,” he says carefully. “You can speak more freely now, can’t you?”
Akvo shrugs and turns his attention to the small bleeding stump on his left hand. “Now? I’m getting bored now,” he says as he brushes it against his right sleeve. .
Dan shakes his head and walks away, leaving Akvo behind as he enters the viewing room.
“We need Simon to talk with him,” Peter says. “I don’t know what’s going on but he was willing to speak with Simon before.”
“Unless that was all a lure to get Viejo into some sort of position where he could kill her,” Mary points out. “Still, it’s the best that we have to go on,” she says, and Dan nods.
“What was the meaning of the other phrase, the one in Spanish?” asks April.
Dan sighs, and looks back to the interrogation room. Through the one-way mirror, they can see Akvo sitting in his chair, examining his stump and occasionally smearing it against his clothing, at least as much as he’s able to with the handcuffs restraining him. If the man’s aim is to play mind games then Peter has to admit, at least to himself, that it’s kind of working.
“The Devil knows more because he is old than because he is the Devil.”