The guard in the monitoring station glances at the bank of screens in front of him and adjusts a remote camera until his colleague at the event appears on the monitor. He keys a microphone in front of him and says, “All quiet on the grounds, Jasper?” The event is an exclusive art opening in the top gallery in town catering to only the highest of high rollers, and security is tight.
Jasper looks into the camera so he appears to be facing his distant compatriot and raises a thumb. He replies, “Yep. Nothing but the sound of money being rustled down here, Wally.”
“Looks like the crowd’s thinning out. How many you got down there?”
Jasper takes a quick head count. “I’ve got sixteen.”
Wally surveys his monitors. “You sure about that? I’m only seeing fifteen.”
Jasper counts again. “Nope. Definitely sixteen.”
Wally checks again. “Okay, I’m seeing six at the bar; four at a table and another five scattered around looking at the artwork.”
Jasper surveys the room. “Are you counting the guy in the corner?”
“What guy in the corner?” Wally says.
“Tweed jacket, jeans, long, dark hair with a glass of wine,” Jasper says.
Wally readjusts cameras but can’t bring the man up on any of them. “I got nothing here.”
“I thought you had a full 360 degree view from there,” Jasper says.
“Apparently not,” Wally says. “Check him out.”
Jasper walks over to the man, while Wally monitors the audio of their exchange. “Afternoon, sir. Mind if I ask your name?”
“Not at all,” the man says. “The name’s Nash.”
Jasper gets on his radio. “Wally, do we have a Mr. Nash?”
Wally checks the guest list. “Not that I can see.”
“Sir, would you mind coming with me?” Jasper says. “We just need to verify your credentials.”
“Oh, sure. I understand.” Nash suddenly looks Jasper in the eye and says with firmness, “Listen to me. I have an invitation.”
Jasper gives him a blank stare. “You have an invitation.”
The man checks his pockets.
“Yeah, it’s right here.” He pats his coat pockets. “Oh, I guess I must have left it in the car.”
Jasper still displays no reaction. “You left it in the car.”
“Yeah, maybe I should just go get it,” Nash says.
“You should just go get it,” Jasper says, matching Nash’s inflection and cadence.
“That’s a great idea, Jasper,” Nash says as he moves toward the exit. “I’ll be right back.”
Jasper nods, with a grin. “You’ll be right back.”
The man exits. Wally watches on the monitor as Jasper moves away from the place he was standing. Wally radios him. “Jasper, where’s the guy?”
Jasper looks around, confused. “What guy?”
“The one you were supposed to be checking out,” Wally says.
Jasper looks around the room. “It’s weird. I remember approaching him and speaking to him, then he was just gone.”
“People don’t just vanish,” Wally says.
“This guy did,” Jasper says.
“Then we’ve got problems,” Wally says. “The way he was talking to you made him sound like a pusher.”
“A pusher?” Jasper says.
“Someone who can push his thoughts onto others,” Wally says.
“I thought that was just an urban myth,” Jasper says.
“Apparently not,” Wally says. “We need to contact Mr. Ryan.”
“Mr. Ryan,” Jasper says with a note of discomfort. “Are you sure it’s that serious?”
“We have a man who’s able to avoid our monitors and who can push his thoughts onto others — have you dealt with something like that before?” Wally says.
“No,” Jasper says.
“Neither have I.” Wally tells Jasper to stand by and dials a number. “Central command, please. Yes, this is unit 31. I believe we have a situation for Mr. Ryan.”