“Why would you have a self-replicating worm reporting to the EPA on your computer and 2 FBI agents breaking into your apartment?” Manny asked.
“I don’t know.” He frowned.
“Come on, Cee. You have to know something.”
“I don’t know anything.”
“Well maybe this is like that movie with Will Smith.”
“Huh?” Leave it to Manny to find a movie that fit the situation. He watched everything from anime to westerns and always found a phrase or scene to relate to real life. I wasn’t sure how a Will Smith movie was going to help him explain my situation.
“The one where he had to take his clothes off and jump across the balconies…” I shook my head at the references. Whatever movie he was referring to he’d have to figure it out on his own because I had no idea. “Anyway, he had something the government wanted, but he didn’t know. They froze his bank accounts, bugged his house, his clothes.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t take anything from the government.”
“He didn’t take anything either. Someone slipped it into a bag he had. He didn’t even know he had anything. All he knew was his life just got real crazy.”
“So you’re saying someone slipped something into my bag?” He shrugged. “Fine.”
I took my backpack and dumped the contents on floor. Manny’s tables were always covered with papers, wires, and hard drives, leaving the floor as the best place to sort the contents of my bag.
He sat down on the floor next to me and picked up the different items. Avoiding the feminine hygiene products, he examined everything else.
“What’s this?” He picked up the envelope. “It’s not addressed to you.”
“It ended up in my mailbox the other day.”
“Hold on?” He scratched the top of his head and looked at me. “This name looks familiar.”
“It should be. We took his ecology class together.”
“Right, but wasn’t he the one they found dead yesterday?” I nodded. “And you don’t think this might have something to do with…”
I shook my head and said, “No, it’s just some pictures of the ocean and a genome analysis of some algae.”
“You opened it?!?”
“I was going to send it back to the person that mailed it to him, but then last night the news said she was found dead and…”
“And you don’t think all this is related?” He sounded exasperated and started talking with his hands. I was already anxious and he was adding new levels to my anxiety.
“What? You do?” He nodded, stood up, and started to pace. “What, Manny? What does this have to do with me?”
He stopped and looked at me. His carefree expression replaced with seriousness.
“I don’t know what the connection is, but we know two things. Number 1 – Those two people didn’t die accidentally. And number 2 – whoever helped them transition to the afterlife is looking for you.”
“Me?” I shook my head. I didn’t believe this was about me. Perhaps it was ignorance, but Manny made the facts plain. Even with clarity, I still didn’t believe it. I was in denial. How could my world be turned upside down in a day because of an envelope?
“Cee, they planted a worm in your computer. This isn’t some credit-card-scamming, identity-theft internet scheme, this was done to find you and report back to someone in the EPA. The FBI broke into your apartment and I don’t know what’s in this envelope, but it’s not something they want to get out.”
The contents of the envelope took on a whole new meaning. Whatever I had in my hand was radioactive. Exposure to this information killed two scientists and although I had no idea what it meant, it posed a risk to me too.
By Angelique Grey