Change in Behaviour

Josef Budzyk Part 2

Sunlight crept into his eyes and Josef pulled himself upright. He was suddenly feeling the rush of knowing something arduous nears its end. His hands trembled as he wiped his thumb over the tablet home key, meaning it took three attempts before the damn thing unlocked. Such was his urge to wrap up the evening. There was the usual mild frustration as he opened the app, approved the VPN tunnelling, signed in with one password, then signed in with another to signify it was indeed Josef Budzyk. Finally, he got in to his case log. As denoted by the last three weeks, Hing would leave his front door soon, so Josef’s old station wagon needed to get out of plain sight. He prodded the car’s digital screen and the rear-view mirrors all adjusted into a new configuration. Tiny windscreen wipers screed off the droplets of water from sputtering rain still drifting through the morning air.

He pulled around the corner to a parking spot edging a four way intersection, perpendicular to the apartment block’s door, allowing him a clear view down the street along the path the subject usually took. A group of kids, three of them wearing the same school uniform jumpers, the rest a jumble of modern fashion, bleated loudly beside the vehicle, pushing each other at the red pedestrian light. Josef gave them a cursory glance, a reflex settled by their neutrality, and looked back in time to see Hing strutting down the path towards them all. He looked down at his tablet, tapped ‘now’ to mark the time and hen pecked the on-screen keys, ‘A. Himg leaving apartment southbound’. “Fuckin…” and he adjusted Himg to Hing.

When he looked back up, Hing had turned left, hugging his own block to stay under cover. The small man moved along the length of Josef’s car and continued behind it. Rather than turn, Josef peered in his rear-view mirrors. The expectation was for the subject to turn right at the end of his block. This would allow Josef to move around the opposite block, repositioning to see Hing enter a run down shop front. Once inside, the awkward digital notes on Josef’s tablet said Hing wouldn’t leave again until lunch. By that time, the next shift would’ve relieved Josef and he’d be tucked up on the couch pounding episodes of The X Files on VHS.

A notification popped up on the tablet, his relief shift operator saying she was inbound. After he marked it as read, the message deleted itself. So close now! Hing neared the next intersection, pressed the pedestrian signal button, waited a moment. Josef adjusted the side mirror slightly, leaned in a little further than protocol. Why was the subject looking over his shoulder? The opposite way? Why was he turning? No! The crossing light blinked green and students and punters crossed the street, but Hing turned and walked away, around the corner of his own block. Josef grunted as the couch evaporated from his mind. He shoved down the handbrake.

A quick head check and he slid around in a sharp u-turn, picked his way through patchy traffic. He long-pressed a button on his steering wheel and the speakers came alive with a clear, hard dial tone. An operator picked up and Josef spoke his passphrase for the voice recognition software. The operator acknowledged Budzyk and listened. “Subject’s deviated, moving south down - shit,” he revved around a small truck, desperate to keep on the trail but stay unnoticed. He finished his dictation of Hing’s movements and asked about the relief. He winced, waiting.

“No,” the operator replied. “I’ll have her on standby. Call in when you’ve got a fixed location. She’ll take over from there, but follow by any means until subject is stationary.”

“Roger. Out.” He hung up and gripped the steering wheel until his palms hurt. He turned at the green and kept behind the little bastard, watching as he strode along, crossed to the other side where the housing disappeared, where doorways and walls gave way to chain link fences and lots filled with containers. As Josef rolled along the street, he allowed the grumpiness to make way for mild excitement. “You owe me, Mr Hing.” The man slowed at a gash in the fence, looked over his shoulder and kept walking. Josef pulled off down a side road, got out and took up position behind a garbage skip near the gash. After about ten minutes the subject returned, having walked around the block. A sloppy attempt to shake anyone. Habit had got the better of Hing. The slight man slipped through the gash in the fence. Josef took note of the faded companies plastered on the steel containers as he made his way towards the lot.

The X Files tapes would still be there when he got home.

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