“Greg? Greg! You alive in there?”
Greg looked up from the hypnotic white glow of his computer screen, embarrassed that he didn’t know how long he had been staring into it, lost in thought. “Wha-? Oh, yeah. Didn’t get enough sleep last night.” He turned his chair to face his coworker Virgil. “What’s up?”
“You gotta check out the tapes we have on this dude we just started tracking. He’s going all out.”
Reluctantly abandoning his daydream, Greg got up from his chair to follow his colleague into a nearby cubicle. Standing behind Virgil, he watched the surveillance video that was being replayed on the screen. It occurred to him that, despite his growing distaste for his chosen line of work, he was supposed to laugh and scoff at the man’s concerted, but futile, efforts to disguise himself from governmental monitoring. Forcing out a chuckle, he said, “He must not know that he looks even more conspicuous when he changes outfits every three blocks.”
Virgil zoomed in on the man to get a closer look at his features. However, Greg could only notice the distinctive zigzag pattern on the man’s shirt, and his heart dropped. He recognized the pattern. The shirt belonged to one of the men that attended the dunk club.
“He’s walking into the poor sector before we lose him,” Virgil commented; to Greg’s ears, the voice sounded a thousand miles away. “I keep telling people, we gotta get at least some cameras in that sector. A lot of stuff goes on in there that we need to know about.”
“Yeah,” Greg replied, trying to think fast but feeling like his brain had been soaked in molasses. “Hey, could you put me on this case? I’ve got some incidents in that sector that I’m looking into, drugs and stuff, maybe he’s connected somehow.”
Virgil raised an eyebrow, partially because Greg had never volunteered to take on an extra case in his life, but consented anyway. “Go for it.”
Greg walked back to his desk and sat down, debating his next step. He briefly considered ignoring his responsibility to enter a Suspicious Person Record, but dismissed that thought; it would draw far too much attention to him if noticed. It would be better to enter the SPR, then deliberately neglect to do any follow-up on it. That would get noticed in time as well, but Greg had a (well-earned) reputation for not always staying on top of his workload, and it would buy him some time to warn that man (who Greg now remembered went by the nickname “Dragon”, and who was a fantastic leaper with hands large enough to palm the ball) to either find a different way of getting to the club, or to not go at all.
Greg had an internal laugh at the second option. The dunk club held too much allure to be ignored, and he knew it.
Sitting in the bleachers of the old gymnasium, Greg watched Dragon execute a series of high-flying slam dunks, thinking about how he could tell the man what he knew without coming off as awkward. He was still the newbie, and now he had knowledge to offer which would likely cause a major shift in the dynamics of group. Everybody was appropriately secretive and cautious, but they didn’t let that attitude morph into full-fledged paranoia.
“You’re thinking about something,” Emma observed, looking up from her notes. “Perhaps relating the uncommon dichotomy of your governmental position and your presence at an illegal, underground activity.”
“You’re gonna have a great book when all is said and done. Real juicy. Lots of drama,” Greg replied with a grim smile. “Somebody in my department noticed one of those guys,” he continued, gesturing towards the group of men on the court. “I took over the case, but it still made me nervous. That’s what I’m thinking about.”
“Do they know about this location?” Emma asked. If she was concerned, her expression didn’t reveal it.
Greg shook his head. “Not yet. They’d have to send somebody in person to tail one of us. There’s no cameras within a mile of here.” In general, the Public Surveillance Unit knew that the many abandoned buildings in the area could be used for illegal purposes, but they relied on the very real threat of extended jail time to discourage large-scale criminal enterprises.
A large section of the group of men were walking towards the bleachers, bottles of sports drink in hand. As they sat down to chug down the electrolyte-fortified, audaciously-colored fluid, Greg saw his chance to butt in without being too forward about it. “Hey, you guys be careful out there, alright? We got Dragon here on camera switching between disguises.”
Nate, Greg’s coworker, looked shocked, but the rest of them kept a relaxed demeanor. “I’ll just pick one and stick to it, I guess,” Dragon said with a laugh. “Or I’ll take a break for a month or two, maybe volunteer to pick up litter, make ’em think I’m a real good citizen. But what about you, man? You been working on your hops?”
Greg checked that his shoelaces were nice and tight, then grabbed his basketball and theatrically stepped onto the court. “Actually, I have.”