Tom looked at his watch for what must have been the hundredth time. The numbers seemed to creep as they changed. My watch can’t be broke. It wouldn’t show anything at all if it was. I never thought a minute was this long.
It had begun two nights before. When he came home, Judith handed him a letter. On the outside there was a notice advertising a waterbed sale.
“This looks like junk mail,” she said, “but I didn't want to open it in case it came from the Justice Cooperative. I looked up that store. They're not in the Yellow Pages.”
He opened the envelope. “You're right. It is from them.”
CONFIRM THAT YOU RECEIVED THIS MESSAGE BY GOING TO A PAY PHONE AND CALLING THIS NUMBER BETWEEN 7:00 AND 7:15 PM EITHER OF THE FIRST TWO EVENINGS AFTER YOU RECEIVE THIS.
He noted that the phone number was a local one, but didn't recognize the exchange. He continued reading.
LOCATE ALL THE PAY PHONES WITHIN TWO BLOCKS OF YOUR HOUSE. YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE REPORTS USING THEM. DO NOT USE THE SAME PHONE TWICE IN SUCCESSION.
FROM TIME TO TIME YOU MAY NEED TO STAND BY AT A PAY PHONE TO RECEIVE A MESSAGE. YOU WILL BE INFORMED OF THE LOCATION OF THE PHONE AND THE TIME TO BE THERE. THE INFORMATION WILL BE CONVEYED IN A “WRONG NUMBER” CALL TO YOUR HOME TELEPHONE.
THE ENCLOSED PAGE GIVES A LIST OF BLOCKS WITHIN THE CITY. TWO DAYS AFTER YOU CONFIRM RECEIPT OF THIS LETTER, YOU ARE TO DRIVE PAST THESE BLOCKS BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 8:00 PM AND 9:00 PM. SEE WHETHER THERE ARE ANY RED OR GREEN RIBBONS ON LAMPPOSTS OR TREES IN THESE BLOCKS. USING A PAY PHONE, CALL THE NUMBER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE BETWEEN 9:45 PM AND 10:00 PM THAT NIGHT AND REPORT WHAT YOU FOUND.
Again, the phone number was a local one.
“I don't know of any pay phones around here besides that one at the Seven-Eleven. I'll use that to call them tonight. But I guess I'd better locate some others near here for future use.”
“Are you going to make that check for them?”
“I don't see why not. After all, this is just looking for ribbons. It's no big deal. This must be how they check people out before they trust them with more information.”
“But up to now, Tom, you haven't really taken part in this conspiracy. This may not seem like a big deal, but legally it commits you. Once you do that, legally you're as guilty as the people who have already killed someone.”
“What choice do I have, Judy? It's this or kill Grubbs myself.”
“I know. We've already been over this. We don't have any other choices. But it still scares me.”
Now he was making the rounds for the Justice Cooperative. He’d located the blocks on a city map, and plotted a route that took him past them. He had pulled into a convenience store parking lot near the first block on the list, to wait until 8:00 PM.
Finally the hour changed, and he pulled out of the lot. The first one was the even-numbered 300 block on Elm Street.
That lamp post is clear. So’s the next one. How ‘bout that tree? Nothing. Wait. What’s that? Yep. A red ribbon around that tall tree down the block.
He made a checkmark on the list, then continued to the next block on the list. He found nothing there. Nor on the next one. He finally completed the survey. Out of ten blocks, two had red ribbons and one a green ribbon.
Wonder how many people there are joining the Justice Cooperative? Am I the only guy making a survey tonight? Evidently they have leads on ten people that I’m checking out. If this’s a typical night, there must be lots of people who can’t get justice through the system and are desperate enough to get it for themselves. It shows I’m not alone.
Having completed the survey, he drove into a convenience store and pulled up next to the pay phone in the parking lot. He dropped in a coin and punched in the number.
“Hello,” a male voice said, and repeated the number he’d called.
Tom read off the code number at the top of his list of blocks, then the sequence number of each block on the list, with a “yes” and the color, or a “no,” after each number.
“Thank you. You will receive further information by the usual means. Good-bye.”
Well, that was short and sweet. Even if anybody was listening in, they wouldn’t learn much. If they were intentionally tapping the wire, though, they’d already know what was going on. I sure hope no cops have found out. Judy was right. I can’t back out now. I’m in the game, and I’ve got to see it through.
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