"I've already got a hit," Ramsey said, scrambling down from his chair at the computer monitor and running to the labs outside. "I scored. I found one."
Lucas followed Ramsey as he shouted in each room. "I found one." Dr. Fenway took off his scrubs and left the latest autopsies.
Soon J.T. and Molly followed Arthur Ramsey's noise into the conference room.
"You're sure," J.T. asked even before he sat down.
Arthur nodded. "Absolutely positive. It's Mercy, Arizona. They can't hide the way they eat. I got the electronic data interchange information for every grocery and restaurant distributor in the country. I crosschecked the purchase data from the two local markets, four minimarts and all the restaurants. Sales of high protein foods quadrupled over this time last year. The gas stations are now buying protein powder by the carton. Even the sewing supply store is selling Tiger Milk protein bars."
"Couldn't the population have increased without us knowing it?"
Ramsey shook his head. "Sales in Mercy of other commodities that I could get data on have gone down. Gasoline for example."
"The way gas sales skyrocketed they're down all over."
"They're down more than the national average. It's like there's a population reduction, in line with our recorded percentages of people dying off from the alien infection. Electricity usage is also down by roughly the same amount. No, less people live in Mercy than last year and they're using eating almost five times as much protein."
J.T. nodded. "Definitely worth investigating. What kind of town is Mercy?"
Arthur brought up figures on the main screen. "It's the seat of Wolf County and the site of a state prison. The last official census gave the population as 8,000, not counting the prisoners."
Arthur nodded. "Eight thousand. There are large commercial ranches, farms and copper mines all around, also some small gold mines. It borders the Santa Maria Indian reservation, where the Apaches have a large casino. That's sovereign tribal land and we can't send in any sort of Federal agent without getting a lot of attention."
Sean looked at the team calmly. "I've been preparing for one like this. It's the same cover we used in Allenville."
Arthur looked at Molly. "Marriage?"
Molly nodded. "The happy couple. When two strangers in love come, people roll out the red carpet. Everyone likes to see love and joy."
Arthur smiled, jumping up like he was going to hump her leg. "Hey? Why can't you go with me? I'm the love god here."
Molly managed not to throw up.
"I can protect her better," Sean said calmly. "I've even worked it into the cover story, and this one goes back months." He pulled up a picture from the Washington Post dated back in January, four months earlier. It showed the DC Police department SWAT team sniper taking down the shooter in a bungled bank robbery. One face was clearly his. "Cops don't like their picture in the papers, so they were all too glad to see me pull some tricks to get mine in and one of theirs out. Sergeant Pat Brogan. Nine-year veteran of the Washington DC police. When we leave, the real Brogan takes his wife on a dream vacation to the jungles of Borneo, all expensed paid courtesy of Threshold."
"Mary. An English and math teacher of troubled children at a fancy private school called the Searcher Academy." Sean pressed a button and brochure pictures from the Searcher Academy flashed on the screen. Molly was helping a charming child in a wheelchair with a reading book. "It's amazing what the right people can do with computer graphics programs these days. I've got half a dozen perfect pictures of her on the Searcher Academy brochures and web sites and more scattered in other places around the Internet. She's even got her face in last month's issue of the National Education Association's magazine."
"Married one year. No kids."
Arthur shook his head. "It's too perfect."
"After Allenville, I went searching for cover stories."
"Well it's your loss. You two will miss my big Superbowl party on Sunday. I'll have Guinness on tap. How about the rest of you?"
"How about you, Lucas?"
"Let me check with Rachel. Last year we went to her folks."
Fenway shook his head. "J.T. Someone has to monitor Arthur's binge drinking."
J.T. sipped slowly on his coffee. "I volunteer. Get some wings too." He turned to Sean. "I know someone needs to go in, but James Hogan knows you two. He may have distributed your pictures."
Molly shook her head. "Hogan knows our entire operation. Any experienced team member is equally at risk."
"If Hogan is there, I have the best chance of stopping him."
Arthur looked right into Cavennaugh's eyes. "Before you go trying to reason with them, remember one other little fact my data mining uncovered. According to FBI files, the town gun store bought over 2,000 semi-auto Romanian AK-47 clones, almost a hundred RPK sniper rifles and a couple of dozen .50 caliber long range sniper rifles. The Federal NCIC check system records almost 5,000 background checks from that shop in three months. It's all legal but that town is stocking for a war."