"He's a master of disguises, and he has lived nine lives. Maybe one of them was yours."
Detective Anvil Brown sat at an outdoor table of the Lone Star Cafe in downtown Houston, Texas, sipping a beer. A cool December drizzle soaked the ground. Unseen for the overcast of an early winter storm blowing in from the Gulf, the sun rolled over and died in the west.
Across the table from him, sat Special Agent Kyle Nagosaki. Kyle sipped a highball. They were off duty, and he felt one or maybe two wouldn't hurt.
"It's a shame," grumbled Anvil morosely, and he sipped his beer, his leather overcoat squeaking with the movement of his left arm. He didn't have an opportunity to wear it much in south Texas, that coat, and it seemed new, though it was three years old. It went well with the black leather gloves he was wearing to keep out the chill. "We nearly caught the little bastard at the station. Whoever he was."
"Is," asserted Kyle. "And nearly is not nearly enough."
Anvil Brown shrugged his shoulders, and closed his eyes to see the burning sedan, a man's form sitting in the driver's seat. Nope, no way out of that. He was dead meat. Barbecue. "So, tell me about him, then, since we have some time."
It was Kyle's turn to shrug. He sipped his highball, and wondered what his kids were doing at the moment.
"It's a long story, even as long stories go."
"Give me a bit of the beginning, some of the middle, and a little more of the end. I'll try to piece it all together from there."
Kyle sighed. "We don't know his real name. We don't know where he was actually born, though he first turned up in Michigan. We couldn't find any records indicating he attended school anywhere in the world." The agent raised his eyes and his brow to indicate the depths of his statement, "And I truly mean, anywhere in the world."
"And no criminal record, of course."
"Nothing official, anyway, though we believe we have a complete profile on this individual."
"Though you don't have a name."
"When we catch him and charge him, we'll give him a name. You can be sure of that."
Sergeant Brown sighed, and stirred his long neck around in its little pool of condensation. "You really think he walked away from the wreck?"
"I believe he was never inside, in the first place. At least, not at the end, when it really mattered."
Shaking his head, the policeman smiled broadly and groaned. "No way you're going to tell me the guy is THAT good. I mean, I've known some cons in my time, some of them slicker'n snot on a brass doorknob, but this guy, if you're serious...."
"This guy," agreed Kyle, downing the remainder of his drink, when a waiter appeared to take orders for their second round, "Is like nothing you have ever seen before."
"Like a super spy, or something?"
"No," stated the agent emphatically, "He's not affiliated with any government or agency. He's strictly in it for himself. It's what he does. It's his job.
"We think he's off the grid, and has been all his life."
Brown wrinkled his face. "Off the grid?"
"Out of bounds of our data gathering means. In fact, we think he was born in a shack somewhere and educated covertly to do exactly what he does."
"Covertly? That's espionage, right?"
"Could be anything. Anti-government militia. Religious fanaticism. Anything. We think his parents trained him well, in their own way, and that he learned the rest as he went along from one mark to the next, each con a bit more sophisticated than the one before." Leaning closer and lowering his voice, Kyle conspired, "Off the record, this guy scares me. Why? Because he's so damned good, that's all I can say. A real professional, and no professional training that we can pin point. That's what makes him so dangerous. That's what scares me."
"He's not playing by any of the rules we know. He's written his own book. He has his own designs. And he's weird. He doesn't think the same way we think. He's... abnormal that way. Off the record, I say the guy's a genius, of Einsteinian caliber."
"Only this guy doesn't ponder the nature of the universe."
"This guy," spouted Kyle, sitting back again and thumping his index finger to the tabletop, "Ponders anarchy."
Brown whistled appreciatively, seeing the true concern in his peer's eyes, hearing it in his voice, feeling it from his tone. "And he was running around loose."
"Is. Is running around loose. He's still out there, Detective. Believe that."
"Come on, Agent Nagosaki, we all saw the guy burn! He's toast."
But Kyle was shaking his head, having none of it. After an impatient glance for their waiter and his next drink, he said, "What if I told you that I've seen this guy burn before? More than once. Now you see. It's one of his... tricks. It's like he knows the limitations of our forensic laboratories firsthand... like he works at Quantico during the day. When they get the test results back on that corpse, it will match the man he was supposed to be. But it won't be him."
"Jesus." Brown amended himself. He had seen SOMEbody burn. Now, he wasn't so sure whom. "And he's off the grid."
"Not anymore, no. As I said, we have a complete profile on the perpetrator. DNA. Fingerprints. Everything."