“So, we’re trying to catch whoever’s harassing the Lakers,” Mason says.

Graham scrunches up his face in concentration.

“That’s a sports team,” Chen stage-whispers.

Graham’s face relaxes.

Mason sort of grunts and I can tell she’d have something to say (or maybe just be making the same faces I am at him) if she weren’t behind the wheel.

She gives us a rundown of the information we have, so far, which is basically that someone’s spray-painting the lockers and the locker room with insulting, but largely non-threatening, messages. Nothing’s gone missing (or, if it has, it’s nothing anyone cares about – we can probably ask them to inventory towels and things), no one remembers any shadowy figures lurking about, and someone-not-us is going to comb through hundreds of hours of security footage and thousands of ‘fan’ letters – because it doesn’t seem to match any of the known hate mail or threats.

To be fair, it does seem to be pretty tame messages. Not collect-it-for-evidence type stuff. And the players themselves haven’t seen anything or run into anyone (which is probably a good thing, since they’re never going to be there for us to talk to), and we’re going to need to send over pictures for forensics (handwriting matching) and extranormal fingerprinting for patterns (everything else matching), and we can dust for prints and hold magnifying glasses up to our eyes while we pronounce things interesting and deduce…whatever.

All in all, it doesn’t actually take that long to explain, and we ride the rest of the way in silence, and I once again consider the wisdom of sticking four people who barely know each other on a case together. Especially a case that takes two at most. With a driver who hates music, or has a migraine, or is intentionally driving us crazy, or something.

We step inside, and make our way to the locker room entrance closest to the court, where there’s a little frowny face graffiti that may or may not be related to anything at all. Mason grabs video of it. It’s blue.

“Oh, it’s basketball,” Graham says, apparently enlightened by…I have no idea, actually, we’re surrounded by basketball things.

Chen gives him a look like what did he think it was, moron. I refrain from giving him a look at all. Mason’s still got that huge camera pointed at each and every message, word, and letter, and just shrugs it off.

Funny how I think of the camera as huge when it can’t be much bigger than camcorders always were when I was little, and I never thought of them as big, for cameras at least. I wish someone would hurry up and program something into our phones so we could just use those. I know the recording technology is there. I’ve seen the websites where people fuck around with it. That’s on normal phones with normal video hardware; it can’t be that hard to program something to capture power traces on our supposedly top-of-the-line proprietary tech.

Unless the things that patterns wants are more difficult to capture than that, I don’t know, I, like every sane person, don’t engage that precariously in depth with patterns.

“I just assumed it was a professional fishing team,” Graham adds. “You know, lakes.”

I give him an intense look of not being able to tell whether he’s joking or not. Scratch that, all of us give him that look, including the high schooler or really young looking college student who’s been charged with showing us around. He’s wearing his ID card proudly hanging from a bright purple lanyard with little logos all over it. Everything else about him is just about as khaki colored as humanly possible, including his weirdly beige hair. It’s kind of disconcerting, actually.

And that’s leaving aside the kind of people who are that into their lanyards.

(God, I hope this isn’t the guy who got ‘bad vibes’ off of it. That’s just exactly what I need to deal with. Some borderline esper, best case – probably just an escrow with an acute sense of paranoia.)

I watch Mason film the very team-spirit wall-sized ‘You suck!!’, wondering if it means anything that it says ‘you’ specifically, and not ‘Lakers suck!!’ or whatever else.

“Here,” Mason says, handing the camera over to Chen, “email these to Javier, I have to go find someone to tell me how the cameras are programmed in case they’re being fucked with.”

“Who the fuck is Javier?” Chen asks, but Mason’s already gone. He turns to me. “You think that’s a first name or a last name?”

I rack my brains for a minute trying to figure it out, and then blurt out, “Lucinta Javier, forensics,” because, yes, I do remember that giant shrine thing with the life-size cardboard cutouts.

“Javier with all those signed shirts?” Graham asks, walking up to exchange his full evidence bags with empty ones, and I arrange them in the bag to make sure we’ll have enough space for, I don’t know, everything ever? It makes my head hurt to think about all the exclusionary DNA.

“That’s the one,” I agree.

Graham looks around. “I guess this is one of her teams? You think Mason wants us sending them to her for reasons, or just for bragging rights?”

“Probably for reasons,” I say.

He shrugs. “I don’t know how collectible crime scene photos are.”

Chen chuckles. “Oh, very, in the right crowd. Not a very big crowd, mind you.”

“Maybe more so when it’s famous,” I say.

Mason comes back, flicking a USB stick between her fingers, the way people do with coins sometimes, when they can actually get that talent down without, you know, cheating and resorting to TK, especially with something that much heavier than a coin.

“You,” she says, pointing to me. “You were saying something about me behind my back.”

“What?” I say.

“No?” She raises an eyebrow, then turns to look at Chen and Graham. “Okay, you two, which one of you was it?”

“Uh,” Graham raises a tentative hand. “I said you were maybe trying to brag. To Javier.”

“Uh-huh,” she says. “It’s always something. I mean, apparently it’s barely something, wow, do you guys just look incredibly guilty, always?”

“I sent it,” Chen protests.

Mason shrugs. “She was so pissed they wouldn’t send her out here, because she can’t match paint types from a photo, you know. I told her the paint type was probably not as rare as all that.”

“I’m bringing her a couple scrapings, anyway,” Graham says. “She can see them when we get back. One from every color from every message. Also the frowny face.”

“Yeah, she’s not really pissed about the paint, Graham,” Chen says.

Graham cocks his head.

“She wanted to meet the team, Graham,” Chen says.

Graham snorts. “They’re not even here.”

Chen shakes his phone at us. “Well, she did text me to tell me to steal something if I could, and I quote, ‘maybe a jockstrap’, and she doesn’t even know me, so.”

“Yup, fairly excited about being included at all,” Mason says. “She bullied the rest of the techs into letting her take over. I mean, not much bullying, because she has that category-match thing.”

“They should’ve just let her come,” I say. “We probably could have stopped her from ransacking the lockers.”

Mason snorts. “You know we’re all here exclusively because we hate sports, right?”

“I don’t hate sports!” I protest, reflexively.

“Well, neither does Chen,” Mason says. “Meanwhile, I talk about sports constantly, but I guarantee you I’m not here because they trust in my professionalism.”

“I just don’t bring them up,” Chen says, with a shrug. “I gave up after the third time someone explained the rules of baseball to me. Slowly. Even for baseball.”

I hear that.

Graham cocks his head. “I hate sports.”

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