Talk at the bar

June, 2017 — Denver, Colorado

Ross greets the whole gang at the door as they enter his hotel “room”. That’s how he described it when he talked to them all on the phone, because he had more on his mind at the time than talking like a travel agent. The hotel describes it as a “Premier One-Bedroom Suite” with a corner view of downtown Denver as well as the mountains to the north. It’s a heck of a place, complete with couches next to the windows and two separate tables for entertaining or meetings. It is kind of fun to see their surprised looks as he shakes their hands. It’s better than feeling guilty about having let them all take the tour of Front Range without him.

Everybody shakes hands with varying muted greetings—it’s obvious that they’re all still in shock—except for Don who doesn’t say a word and looks at Mike like he’s got the Number of the Beast tattooed on his forehead, and big Shawn who puts his hands on Mike’s shoulders, says “Jesus, man. What the hell? But it’s good to see you!” And then gives him a bear hug that make Mike worry about his ribs.

They all come in, and Mike closes the door behind them. He intends to speak first, but Don beats him to it.

“Mike,” he says, “thanks for the invite. But this is—” he shakes his head then holds Mike’s gaze. “You got some explaining to do on this one, Mike.”

“Oh!” Shawn laughs. “No shit!”

“Yeah, look, guys,” Mike begins.

“We’ve never worked on government stuff before, Mike,” Quentin says.

“Oh, is that what this is?” Walt interjects. “That looked like government stuff to you, did it?”

Shit, I’m losing it already! Mike realizes. He judged correctly that they would not discuss anything in front of strangers no matter how shocking it might be, but the flip side that he should have realized is that they are now keyed up to the point of exploding with everything they have seen today. He makes a little calming gesture with one hand, for all the good that will do, and hurries to the room’s desk where there is a pad of paper.

“You know damn well—”

“Look, guys,” he says loudly, cutting Don off. About the last thing he needs is for Don to go off on one of his Last Days riffs. Then there’d be no stopping them at all. The surprise at his loud interruption gives him the half-second he needs. “Look,” he says, getting to the desk, “I know it’s a big project, but it’s Homeland Security, so you should expect that. And for the kind of money they’re throwing around, I think we can probably all live with that.

Sitting down behind the desk he grabs a sheet of paper off the pad and starts scrawling on it with a pen. Damn it, he should have thought of this before they ever showed up. Obviously they weren’t going to just walk in and stand there staring at him!

“Mike,” Walt says. “What the hell, man.”

“Look, I’m sure you’re all tired after your trip and that tour,” Mike says too loudly as he hurries to finish the writing. “How about we all just get some rest and talk it over in the morning?”

He finishes and desperately looks up at them. Thank God, they’ve all finally shut up and are staring at him. This does not sound much like the Mike they know.

He holds up the paper, willing everybody, especially Shawn, not to do something stupid like referring to it—or reading it, for God’s sake!—out loud.

On the paper he has written:

Don’t Talk Here!

Talk at bar, hour from now!

And under that he’s written an address over in the Five Points area. At least he had time to do that kind of research before they got here.

Don’s eyes widen, Walt’s narrow, but Mike sees that the whole gang knows what he’s telling them. He doesn’t work with dummies.

On top of what they’ve just been shown today, the idea that his room might be bugged is kind of hard to take.

To their credit, nobody says anything for a few seconds. Walt is first to break the silence.

“Yeah, Mike,” he says deliberately. “I guess you’re right. See you tomorrow, then.”

Then he takes out the little notebook he always keeps in a pocket, and writes down the Larimer Street address of the bar.

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