It’s almost noon. What I’d really like is to be deposited at my truck, parked across town at the Courtyard Marriott. We both decline. Albright leaves, returns in a couple of minutes with her supervisor. Introductions are made. We walk down the hall to a small conference room, where there is a speaker phone in the middle of a long table. She looks at her watch, punches in a number, and taps her foot while we hear the electronic ring. When the call is answered, I’m a little surprised to hear
“Good. Thanks for joining us,” says Albright; “As usual, this conference is being recorded. I’ll let folks introduce themselves just so we can make sure everyone can hear the discussion.” She nods at me.
“Gideon Marshall.” I assume that Burkholder recognizes both the name and the voice.
“Mykala Marshall.” She assumes the same.
“Kyle Peterson, Level Four Supervisor.”
For the next hour, Mykala and I are both questioned extensively about everything we have witnessed during the past two days. At the end, Albright closes the conference.
“Thanks, ladies and gentlemen,” she says; the word choice is a little bit surprising, given what we’ve heard from various people during the last week. “We’ll be in touch.”
We walk back to Albright’s office.
“Thank you for your time, Dr. Marshall,” she says, extending her hand. “And especially to you, too, Mrs. Marshall. I’ll drop you back at the hotel. Feel free to stay an extra night and enjoy the pleasures of Oklahoma City, but be sure to send us your receipts when you get home.” She hands Mykala a card. “I think you already have one of these, but here’s another, just in case.”
Our drive back to the Courtyard Marriott is another twenty minute study in Oklahoma City traffic and Albright’s ability to negotiate it easily. She pulls into the parking lot next to my truck. For some reason, that white Dodge pickup looks almost like home, a comforting vision of our real life instead of the surreal one we’ve been living for the past seventy-two hours.
“Got everything?” she asks.
We make a quick search of the Suburban, retrieving personal belongings, including Mykala’s purse with her weapon, a purse that’s destined, I suspect, to be replaced with one from which she can quickly get dangerous.
“We’ll be in touch,” says Albright, evidently her code for ‘you are now a part of this investigation whether you want to be or not.’ “Thanks again.” This time the smile lasts almost three seconds.
“Inspector Albright,” I ask, realizing it will probably be my last opportunity to do it; “why, exactly, were we sent on this trip?”
“Mrs. Marshall was brought along as protection for you.” I can’t tell whether she’s serious or not, until she adds “detective Burkholder recommended it.” She looks at us both, almost as if studying us. “You will eventually be an expert witness in a murder trial. Some of the evidence used in that trial will consist of the kinds of materials you’ve encountered over the last couple of days.” It’s the longest string of words I’ve heard out of Linden Albright’s mouth in the past week. “We want to make sure you don’t come across as too naïve about the business. You’ve been going to school, professor, whether you realized it or not.”
I did realize it.
“Have a good trip home.” Inspector Albright gets into her Suburban, puts on her dark glasses, gives us that three-second sort-of smile, waves, and is gone.
“Okay,” I ask my bodyguard; “home or the night lights of OKC?”
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” she says.