“So I was thinking,” Madison said to Bryce across the cafeteria table. “When Mr. P. was rattling off all the things you can’t do to get a story—”
“Like trespassing?” Bryce asked.
“Yeah, that was on the list. Another thing he mentioned was wiretapping or using listening devices.”
“You haven’t done that, have you?”
“No, but I was thinking maybe I should,” Madison said.
“Wait.” Bryce stared at her. “Hold up. You are saying that there’s a list of things you can’t do, and you’re using that as your to-do list?”
Madison smiled. “Exactly.”
“Oh, honey,” he said. “That’s not how it works. At all.”
“Well the way I figure it, I already broke the rules, and they definitely already know about it.”
“Since you told them,” Bryce said.
“Since I told them,” Madison repeated. “To be fair, she was pointing a gun at me.”
“That whole thing is insane. But okay. Go on….” Bryce put his chin in his hands, elbows on the table.
“Right, so however I get this story out, I’m going to have to deal with the fact that I used some questionable methods to get it. So what’s one more questionable method added to the mix?”
“Your logic is impeccable,” Bryce said. “And completely fucked up,” he added.
“Right? So I was thinking that since Mr. Black goes to that warehouse, they probably have some kind of an office in there. And maybe if there was some way to listen in to what they’re saying in that office, I might get a lead I can follow.”
“You don’t know that any of that is true,” Bryce said.
“Well, no. But it stands to reason, right?”
“Maybe?” Bryce shrugged. “How do you get a listening device in there, though? You can’t seriously be thinking about breaking in again.”
“I don’t know. They mentioned at the IHOP that they have a computer network in there. Do you know Cindy Peterson?”
“The math nerd?” he asked.
“Yeah. She is super smart about computers and stuff,” Madison said. “I was thinking maybe she could help me come up with a plan.”
“She’s super uptight,” Bryce said. “I don’t think she’d want to get involved in anything shady.”
Madison pursed her lips. “Yeah. You’re probably right. But it doesn’t hurt to…” Madison was distracted by the school resource office, who she noticed was waving her over. “Hang on. Officer Charlie needs me,” she said.’
Madison slipped out from the table and walked over. “What’s up?” she asked.
“I looked into that tag,” he said.
“Oh. The license plate? And? Nothing to worry about I guess?”
Charlie shook his head slowly. “The guy is bad news,” he said.
“Yeah. He’s got a record. B and E. Drugs. Did some jail time a while back. Nothing violent, but he’s definitely trouble.”
“Oh,” Madison said. She wasn’t too surprised, since the first time she saw him, he was armed and working for people who seemed to be doing something illegal. But he helped her get away, and he returned her phone. She was hoping he might be a good guy. Like Bryce said, “Mr. White.”
“Have you seen him since you got that picture?” Charlie asked.
“No,” she said.
“That’s good. If he keeps hanging around and bothering you, I could get him violated.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Madison said.
“Call his parole officer and tell him the creep is hanging around teenage girls. Then the PO finds some parole violation and the next thing you know, the creeper is back at Joliet.”
“Oh. That seems kind of harsh. You said he isn’t dangerous, right?”
“I said he hasn’t been busted for anything dangerous. You can’t tell what a person might do, based on what they’ve gotten caught doing.” Charlie was making eye contact, and Madison realized that he had been for the entire short discussion. It made her nervous. “A long list of priors is never a good thing.”
“Let’s just leave it be, for now,” Madison said. “If I see him again, I’ll let you know. Okay?”
“Yes, ma’am. But I urge you to treat this seriously. This guy is bad news,” Charlie said.
“I hear you loud and clear. Thanks, officer. I really appreciate you looking into it.”
“There’s one more thing. Probably doesn’t mean anything, but…” he stopped talking.
“Oh?” Madison asked, hoping that might prompt him to finish his sentence.
“It’s probably just a coincidence. But you and he have the same last name, Miss Johnson.”