He plugged it into the wall and picked it up. Dial tone, check. He put it on speaker mode and turned to the rest of the apartment. It was going to need some serious clean-up, and he might as well see if he could tell how much damage there was.

"All right, phone." Snake sighed. "Messages."

"Please say your password now."

Snake scowled. He hated the password. He hated Hal for making the password up. He hated the phone company for making him say the password. "Hal kicks Dave's butt," he said in a low growl. "At Quake 13," he added with a shake of his head.

"You have- 1- new message. Listen to unheard messages, or choose another option?"

"Listen to the message."

"Message- 1. Sent- yesterday, at- 3. 05."

"This is Tyler." Tyler? Oh, crap. What had they done this time to get the head of Philanthropy on their case? "What the hell do you two think you're doing? I'm getting messages that you two are on the Interpol watch lists, again! You know the kind of difficulty that puts us in? And now I'm finding you aren't even using all that expensive equipment to look for Metal Gear, you're using it for some sort of personal vendetta?" Personal vendetta? Oh come on, it wasn't that bad. And it might be leading them to a metal gear, who knew...? "Look, just give me a call when you get in." Yeah, right.

"Delete, save or re-"

"Delete!" Hal could deal with Tyler when he got home.

"End of new messages. Is there anything else we can do for you today?"


"Goodbye, Philanthropy 31. Have a nice- evening."

Dave sighed. Where the hell was Hal? Coming home to find the apartment like this, he really needed a phone call. Still, no need to worry, right? There was no sign of a fight, and Hal surely would have done something...

What he needed to do right now was straighten the apartment up and take an inventory. The gun wasn't there, and that was worrying. Not only was it the only modified M9 he had, and by chance the original modified M9, but it was also the only gun that Hal would let him keep in the house.

Nothing he could do about it though. He might as well start cleaning. Move the heavy stuff first, then try to come up with an inventory. It didn't look like the place had been burgled, more like tossed, so the prospects of figuring out just what had been taken were pretty slim. At least, not without taking a few days to go through exactly what files were still there and what was gone.

A thought occurred to him. Had they been searching for what he'd taken from Julie's? If so, why hadn't they waited until he'd been back? He opened the blinds and looked down at the car. No suspicious activity around it. Everything was most likely fine... Still...

He made a quick dash down to the run down car and took everything out, placing the papers and blood samples in various pockets. Then, he pulled the gun out from the glove compartment. Not as safe as the M9 - if this one hit anyone in the neck, they'd be dead, not asleep - but it was protection in case anyone came back.

He took the stairs two at a time back up to the apartment, a little disappointed that the telephone wasn't ringing. Time to straighten the apartment up. It wasn't as though this was the first time the apartment had been tossed. Hal was usually the one who checked on what was missing though. He knew more about what was in all the files.

So Dave did what he normally did. He picked up the big furniture, straightened up the files and put them on Hal's desk. The computers, too.

It was getting pretty late. Dave glanced at the clock. Almost 8 o'clock. Hal should have called by now. Was this payback for leaving Hal alone here without a word?

Dave went to his room. What a mess! He righted the dresser and put the drawers back in. Had these people been looking for something, or just having fun throwing his clothes everywhere? He picked up the socks and underwear that were all over the floor, folding them and putting them into the drawers carefully.

Then he went to Hal's room. Who knew how much of this was from the people who destroyed it... Well, obviously Hal didn't rip his own posters off the wall, nor was he likely to have pulled all the clothes out of his closet, but underwear all over the floor was not entirely incongruous...

He put Hal's furniture back to the normal position, but left the clothing where it was. He made the bed though. Dave hated seeing an unmade bed. Assuming Hal called, he'd probably go to sleep in this bed. Speaking of Hal, it was now 21:00. If he didn't call soon... Well, Dave was starting to get worried. And he hated being worried.

Maybe Hal had left a note, hidden under all the papers that had fallen out of everything. Dave went over to the papers and started straightening them up. Not putting them in any order, of course, just straightening them up.

At 22:04 exactly, the phone rang. Dave picked it up. "Hello?"


"Hal! Where the hell have you been? You should have left a message on the machine, or at least-"

"Dave, I think perhaps you should listen instead of talking." A garbled, synthesized voice filled the line, and Snake's mind suddenly went on alert.

He paused briefly, trying to see if he could recognize anything from what was left of the real voice. "Who is this?"

"My name is unimportant, Dave. Your friend Hal was doing something he shouldn't have done. I'm not sure what to do with him now." Snake grimaced and waited. "But I think you have something I want. You stole something in England. Perhaps we could work something out, Dave?"

"I wasn't in England recently. You'll have to help me out." Snake smiled and flicked a switch. Good thing he'd let Hal convince him to put a tracing doohickey on the phone... As long as it wasn't broken...

"Now Dave, you wouldn't want me to hurt your friend, would you? He's pretty. There are so many ways to hurt pretty boys."

That was... what was he saying...? He couldn't be implying he'd... "What do you want?"

"You took blood samples, apparently. I'm a bit angry with her for having kept them, of course, but it seems I have something to offer you, so I would like them returned."

"Fine. We'll exchange them, then?"

"That's right, Dave. A nice little exchange. Now, why don't you just go to your car and drive to Wakefield subway station. There will be a cell phone there. I'll make sure it rings. It should take around 10 minutes to get there from where you are, but I'm sure a man like you can make it in 5."

The phone disconnected with a click. Snake glanced down at the tracer. It had done its job, but unfortunately, the number was attached to a cell phone. Not helpful.

No time to worry about it. Snake ran out of the apartment, not bothering to close or lock the door. He took the stairs a flight at a time: one of the advantages to being in great shape was the ability to get places quickly.

The car was, once again, having troubles, but after a few swift kicks, started. He drove to the station at 50 miles an hour, making it in slightly under four and a half minutes, according to his own internal chronometer.

The cellphone was already ringing. People were looking around trying to find it. Luckily, Snake had better hearing than them. He picked it up and waited for someone to speak.

After ten seconds of waiting, he decided to break the silence. He needed Hal back. "Well?"

"Hello, Dave. You're going to go on a subway ride this time. I hope you brought exact change."

"I want to speak to Hal."

"Would you leave him with me if I didn't let you?" Snake said nothing. "Ah, how similar."

"To whom?"


"Hal. Can you see anything?"

"No," said Hal.

"You okay?"

"I guess. Look, Dave, I- hey!"

"Enough." Snake cursed the garbled voice. "Take the train to East 180th. Take the phone, and don't try to phone out. We'll know." The other end clicked.

Snake growled. Snake did as he was told. He didn't have exact change, so he jumped the turnstiles when no one was looking. When he got to the station, the phone rang again.

This time, nothing more than a location. "Morris Park." He got onto the green line and rode there.

Apparently, they were already done with the little game because the next call told him to get out and go to a dentist's office in the area. He followed the instructions to the letter, then slipped into the alleyway they had indicated.

Hal was on the ground, kneeling with his hands and feet bound, a blindfold on his face, and a dozen laser-beams aimed at his chest. Snake was fairly certain these weren't laser pointers. A man stood next to Hal, his face covered by a mask.

"Do you have what we wanted, Dave?"

The accent was different from whoever had been on the phone. Snake glanced up. They were sitting ducks here. "Yes."

"Dave, don't give them anything."

Snake ignored Hal. "Well?"

"Put them on the ground." Snake did so. "Now take your friend, and don't let him do stupid things. He's a lucky man. Anyone else might have been killed."

Snake nodded. "You're lucky yourselves. If he'd been hurt..."

"My employer wanted me to give you both a message. Stay out of our business, Dave, Hal. Or our interests will have to take action against you."

Snake smiled and pulled the bindings off of Hal's feet and hands. "Your employer's interests should be less interesting. Let's hope we never meet again." He undid the blindfold and guided Hal out of the alleyway and away from the sights.

"Dave, what did you give them? These guys are-"

"Shut up, Hal."

Hal did as he was told, but looked none-too-pleased. It was obvious that he was only doing it because he felt Snake might have a real reason for keeping him quiet.

The subway ride was quiet. Dave almost would have slept, except that he was feeling even more paranoid now than usual. The car ride was worse, as Hal kept trying to say things. Dave gave him Looks that told him he'd better not.

When they got home, Hal sighed quietly. "We got trashed."

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