Keaton came to my house again. Only, get this, internet -- I was home alone.
Saturday was a busy day for my family, but not so much for me. Dad and Angel were at a bull roast for their volunteer group at Eden Mill, my stepbrothers were at their father's house, and Milo and Nikki were running errands in town. I would've gone with them, but I really had some talking to do with some of the other people in my life.
I started with Detective Goldman. Before last week, we'd been planning for as many martial arts lessons as we could both fit into our schedule, but the last week has been kind of trying for both of us. He answered after two rings of the phone.
"Detective. Hi, it's Celie."
"Hey, Celie. What's going on?"
His tone was ambiguous; was he asking what was going on in a general "What's up?" sense, or what was going on in the sense that he'd been interrogated by a dude who looked like R. Lee Ermey and talked like that guy from Fallout 3.
"Um...well, I really need to talk to you about some stuff."
"Did those FBI agents come to see you, too?" he asked.
I heard him draw a deep breath on the phone.
"This has landed me in a bit of hot water," he said.
"Don't be. It's nothing I can't handle. But just tell me one thing, Celie, and be honest; has Violet done anything wrong? Are we defending her innocence, or protecting her guilt?"
"She hasn't done anything. These guys are...they're not normal FBI."
"I know. FBI has no reason to be chasing an eighteen-year-old art student across the country."
Or a twenty-seven-year-old detective, I thought. Who knows how many others they've chased and caught without reason?
We were silent for a moment.
"They played me part of your interrogation when they were here."
"Is that even legal?"
"It's...that's...questionable," he said. It sounded like he was holding in a lot of frustration. "But rest assured it's frowned upon as hell."
"You were great, Michael," I said.
"Yeah, well," he said. "Have you talked to Father Kelly?"
"Not yet. I think he might be angry with me."
"Nobody's angry with you."
"This is all my fault."
"It's not," he said, much calmer now. "You didn't ask those men to come. I can't speak for the others, but I'm not angry at you. I'm still here, Celie."
Somehow that made me feel worse. Like when I was sick in elementary school and the nurse would call my mom, and she'd hand the phone to me and Ma would say something like it's all right, sweetie, I'll be there to get you soon. The fact that she cared somehow always came as a surprise to me.
After my talk with Detective Goldman, I called Riley. He'd gotten a visit, too, but Vi had told him that she thought they were after her so he was more or less ready for it.
Father Kelly was next. He was calm and cool, as usual, and knew all the right things to say. He said that I need to be more open with him from now on. I told him I'd try.
Finally, I called Violet.
"Watcha doin'?" she said. It sounded like her mouth was full.
"Nommin'." I could hear the smile in her voice. "Haven't had my chocolate fix in the last couple of days. The new drop things from Hershey are freaking godly."
I laughed. "Addict."
"Don't judge, fool."
I walked over to my computer, which was already on, and clicked the World of Warcraft icon. The sound was turned all the way up, so the sound of the startup reached Vi.
"What are you doing over there?"
"Starting up WoW," I said.
"Don't judge. Today's my day off. I can sit around naked and play World of Warcraft if I damn well please."
"Which you do."
"Which I do."
Vi said, "...You're not really naked, are you?"
"Then what are you wearing?"
I blinked. "Socks."
"Are they business socks?"
We laughed again.
"Be careful, though," she said. "Creepers could hack your computer and turn on your webcam and shit."
"My webcam only covers my head at this level. If creepers hacked my computer, all they'd get is a shot of my dirty, scandalous shoulders."
"Aw, yeah, girl."
My doorbell rang.
"What was that?" Vi said.
"You have a doorbell?"
"I have to call you back."
"Okay," she said. Her voice was suddenly very worried. "Stay safe. Keep alert."
"You, too," I said. "Bye."
I threw on a pair of jeans and an xkcd T-shirt I had lying around and went downstairs. Our door doesn't have a peephole, only windows on the sides, so in order to look out and see who's there, you kind of have to show whoever it is that you're home, thus obligating you to open the door. Sometimes I wish that we didn't have a system so functionally retarded.
Especially when behind the door is an FBI agent and here with me is, you know, no one.
I opened the door.
"SSA Keaton," I said, by way of greeting.
"Miss McLachlan, so nice to see you again," he said. "May I come in? I've called your father and he said it was quite all right."
Great. Now if I didn't let him in, he'd call my father and I'd get bitched out for having no hospitality when he came home.
"Certainly," I said.
We moved into the kitchen.
"To what do I owe the pleasure, Special Agent?" I asked sardonically. Even his presence was starting to make me angry.
"Miss McLachlan, the FBI has reason to believe that you've been having correspondence with a fugitive."
I blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Have you ever spoken to Ezekiel Strahm?" he asked.
"If I have, that's not illegal."
"It is if he has divulged information about his whereabouts."
"What is your relationship to Ezekiel Strahm?"
"Your parents tell me that you haven't had any romantic interests in quite some time."
"I don't see how that's any of your business."
"And reports have shown that he's been very fond of you --"
"Oh, yeah, you're right. Females can't possibly feel anything for the opposite sex that isn't puppy love. Please make your point," I said. Suddenly my voice didn't sound like my own. It had taken on a quality similar to that of razorblades.
"I'm only pointing out that it isn't unusual for a seasoned sociopath like Strahm to gain the attention and support of a loyal follower."
"Well, you know what they say about detectives from New England," I said with a snort. He gave me a question-mark look; he obviously didn't know. I sighed. "Besides, I'm not Zeke's follower."
"Then what are you?"
My eyes narrowed. "What I am is an emotionally grown woman who doesn't need a boyfriend to make my life complete."
"But you are friendly with Strahm?"
"How are you certain it's him?" I asked. "You could be thinking I'm somehow 'madly in love' with the real Zeke Strahm...or, you could be getting trolled by a clever nerd who thought it'd be funny to change his screen name. Either way, you look like a damn idiot, so I'm going to ask you again: What are you doing here, Special Agent?"
"You were in direct contact with Strahm when some of his crimes were committed."
"I thought this was about Violet."
He ignored me. "Technically, that makes you a witness."
"Oh, I'm a witness, all right."
We stood in silence for a moment.
"Can I ask you something?" I said.
"What's your unit name?"
"You are part of a department," I said. "What is its name?"
"We're a very unique branch."
"The name, Special Agent."
He blinked. "The Department of Specialized Containment Protocol."
"Oh, my," I said. "A whole department just for protocol?"
"It is very extensive."
"Oh, I bet."
I looked at the clock. "I hate to be rude, but I have a prior engagement. If you'd be so kind."
"Of course. Have a nice afternoon, Miss McLachlan," he said as I half-walked, half-shepherded him out the door. "Do try to stay out of trouble."
"It what I do," I said. Then I closed the door.
I turned my back to it and leaned against the heavy dark wood, right in the blind spot of the two windows. My knees gave out and I sunk down. The reality of what just happened sunk into me and suddenly my heart started to race. My breathing quickened. I tried to slow it; I was nearly in panic mode, when there wasn't anything left to panic about.
The past two days have been quiet, though. Almost nice. I'll try not to get too excited about it this time.