Smile for the Camera, Pt. 2

Bluh. So much for posting by seven. Still, I’m optimistic about the new schedule! We’ll see how it pans out as the month unfolds.

I wasted three hours at the Skillet, sitting in a booth and playing with my tablet while trying to keep my attention focused on the door. I bought two separate meals and three drinks to keep the waiters and waitresses from kicking me out, all for no pay off. I was annoyed and frustrated and just about to leave when James Castillo walked in.

He was wearing glasses with thick frames, a cheap looking baseball cap, and walking with a slouch, and I don’t think I would have recognized him at all if not for the oculars. I watched as he came in, finding him handsome in a way I couldn’t quite put a name to, and the HUD started flashing at me. 43% MATCH: JAMES CASTILLO flashed in the corner of my vision. I blinked it away and zoomed in, pulling up stills from his movies and photos from interviews. It definitely looked like him now that I was looking for it, and I wondered why the oculars didn’t give a higher percentage for the match.

I took a few pictures just so the afternoon wouldn’t be a complete waste, and then I began watching him. He pulled out a tablet from his pocket, unfolded it into a larger size, and began reading. A waiter came to take his order. He set down the tablet and ordered, a smile on his face all the while. Despite myself, I smiled at this. I’ve seen no shortage of people order without ever even bothering to look at their servers while staking out restaurants and bars and whatnot. There was something humanizing about seeing him actually talk and joke around with someone instead of instinctively dismissing them as beneath them.

I watched him for an hour, hoping that he’d do something interesting and again finding myself bitterly disappointed. No one came to meet him. No one recognized him. I supposed that there might have been a market for pictures of Castillo laughing and messing around with the waitstaff, but it wasn’t going to be enough to justify my wasting half a day’s worth of time and dozens of dollars on food that went mostly uneaten. If Castillo didn’t do something more interesting in the next five minutes than sit alone at a booth and nibble at his lunch, I was just going to get up and leave. Not every day would produce sellable material, of course, but it was still frustrating to feel like I’d been wasting time.

I let my vision drift across the restaurant. Maybe I’d missed someone more interesting coming in while I was focused on Castillo. I scanned the faces of the other customers, but the same message flashed across my vision as I lingered on their faces: UNACCEPTABLE SUBJECT. I sighed and turned my attention back towards Castillo.

He was gone.

I stood up from my table and tried to get a better look at his own. His plate had been cleared, a wad of cash folded and tucked underneath. Damned if that isn’t a metaphor for this whole stupid job, I thought. Blink and an opportunity’s gone. I thought about just going back to my apartment, kicking off my shoes and taking a nap on my couch while my television chattered away softly in the background.

I sighed. Ben was probably prowling the halls outside Sarah Mae’s condo in a stolen janitor’s uniform, minutes away from a big break, the lucky bastard. My mind lingered on this for a moment, but instead of depressing me or making me angry the way I had expected, the thought seemed to energize me. What made Ben so special aside from a sociopathic disregard for the privacy of others? Hell, I could do that. It wasn’t even that big a deal if you thought about it. There were cameras on practically every street corner, had been for a decade or more. Everyone was being filmed and photographed all the time anyway. What did one more matter?

I smiled to myself. Castillo couldn’t have gotten far. I hadn’t looked away from him for more than thirty seconds, and I was already heading towards the door, ready to step out into the world and see whatever there was he had to show me.

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