Emily nodded to Luis.
The translator welcomed the new arrival in the local dialect. The man he invited into the room was physically unremarkable. He wore a checkered flannel shirt and blue jeans. A ridiculous outfit, considering the heat and humidity. Maybe he was hiding something. Bulletproof vest? Bomb? Fulton couldn’t help but wonder. Historically Latins hadn’t been predisposed to self-martyrdom. Too much residual Catholic guilt.
Flannel Shirt was clearly nervous. He wrung his hands. His eyes darted around the room, never quite settling. He lingered near the door.
Emily took a stack of local currency from her coat. She tossed it onto the bed. Then another, and another. Fulton had never seen so much cash. Maybe she’d worn a corset of small bills beneath her coat.
Luis asked a question in rapid-fire Spanish. Precisely the kind of muddy, slang-ridden speech that gave Espanol Made Easy fits.
Flannel Shirt nodded. He reached into his pocket and produced a black cartridge the size of an index finger.
“The app’s on a standard DNA storage platelet,” Emily said. “It’s a three dimensional puzzle.”
“Spacial encryption,” Fulton offered. “Reese abandoned alpha numerics a long time ago.”
“You’re the expert.”
“What if it’s a hot dose?”
Emily’s eyes narrowed. “If that thing kills you he’ll be in a world of hurt.” She jerked her head in Flannel Shirt’s general direction.
“Tell him that, Luis.”
Luis told him.
If the threat unsettled Flannel Shirt he didn’t show it.
“Supposedly it’s disgusting,” Emily said. “Like somebody’s nightmare.” She sounded genuinely unnerved. Fulton marked that as odd. The woman had probably killed scores of people in her lifetime. Yet here was Reese getting under her skin.
“He had strange sense of humor. Some find it off-putting.” Fulton didn’t believe a genuine David Reese app was down here circulating on the black market. It would have come a long way, passed through a lot of hands.
Reese’s apps appealed to the kind of techno-fetishists who liked to fantasize with the safety off. His signatures were hyper-realistic imagery with sensory feedback. Your average retail consumer found this unsettling. He wanted an escape (to relax in a jacuzzi with a gaggle of models all sporting the same wasp-like waists and basketball-sized breasts) not spend his evenings immersed in Reese’s drug-addled fantasies. Never in a million years would Fulton have guessed Reese’s novelty pieces could command this kind of cash.
This was not the vacation and light consulting they’d pitched him in New York. This was Dr. Mitchell Fulton chasing rumors through a war zone.
Granted no one forced him to stay. He could have quit after passing that severed arm in the street. He could have gotten right on a plane. If not after the bomb then certainly after his first conversation with Emily, when she got done explaining how critical intelligence had been encrypted on a heretofore unknown David Reese app. How Fulton was their best shot at cracking it. All it would take was a meeting with a shady tech broker and a half hour in The Zone.
Emily made it sound so simple in her pitch on that hotel patio. But it didn’t add up. Fulton’s gut told him that from the start. Reese didn’t build things that were useful to governments and contractors and terrorists and drug lords.
And still Fulton hadn’t taken a plane home.
Partly he was in no hurry to get back to Robyn and her biological clock. There was also the doubt niggling at the base of his brain. Emily might be right. Reese’s magnum opus might have made it way down south of the border. There was a chance, however slim, that this heretofore unknown app might explain why he put a pistol to his head and blew his brains out.
So despite every indication that going along with Emily’s scheme posed a serious threat to his health and longevity, Fulton sighed heavily. “Let’s have a look,” he said.