Rather than the SCIA facility Altin expected, the address Agent Ryans gave him over the phone showed all the signs of being a quiet apartment in the heart of Grey Meadow.
Almost immediately after he rang to be let in, the door swung open and Agent Jenning strode past him. "Go on in, Bryan's in the living room," she said, gesturing vaguely towards the still open door as she climbed into that ever-present ice cream truck. As Altin stepped across the threshold of the entrance, he heard the sickeningly sweet music start as it drove away.
Agent Ryans was inside the door...watering houseplants? Yes, yes he was, with a cheesy little farm-style watering pail and everything. This was the first time Altin had seen him out of his ubiquitous suit and aviator shades, and he realized the agent must be offduty.
"Apologies for my wife's quick exit," Ryans said, glancing up. He smiled towards the door for a moment. "Jen has an appointment elsewhere in the city that can't be rescheduled."
Wife? Altin was certainly making quite a collection of "not even going to ask" moments over the years. He was starting to feel like he had woken up in an alternate universe, one of those you see in movies where everything's just different enough to confuse the hell out of you.
"Do you know why you're here, Mr. Snickerson?"
Altin shrugged. "Not even a little bit."
"In a word, recidivisim." At Altin's blank stare, Agent Ryans -- Bryan -- continued. "Almost seventy-five percent of released inmates originally convicted for theft steal again."
"Hey, now, wait a second, I haven't done anything--"
"Oh, we know," Ryans interruped. "My question is: what are you going to do to maintain that admirable devotion to law-abiding behavior?"
Oh. Oh. That was just about as perfect an opening for Altin to introduce his idea as he could ever have asked for.
"Actually, I have a...proposal for you. I mean, for the SCIA," he corrected himself. "You know better than I do that the Organization is massive, right? It's everywhere."
Ryans smirked. "That is part of the general problem, yes..."
Altin took that as an encouraging sign. "Well...what if it wasn't? Part of the problem, that is." He could tell he had the agent interested. "Look, I was talking to...uh...one of my coworkers, and apparently everyone thinks I singlehandedly deposed the boss. Which in some weird way makes me the new boss. Which is just awkward all around, because my kid wants to grow up to be a cop and this is just going to get really complicated really fast." Stop rambling, man, and get to the point. "What if I changed the Organization? We've got resources even you don't have." Altin hesitated a second, but dove in when he saw Ryans following his own train of thought to the obvious conclusion. "Does the SCIA have any need of a...freelance consulting group?"
Agent Ryans stared at no point in particular for a minute, considering possibilities. "Mr. Snickerson...I will need to confirm this further up the chain of command...but I believe we can come to some sort of arrangement, yes."
By the time Altin returned home from what proved to be a particularly profitable discussion of details, night had already fallen, and he was thrilled to see the result of one of his many calls earlier. The construction company he had hired had torn down the old stone fence that only seemed to annoy the horses (Spot more than the rest, of course) and had, with the profits from reselling the material plus most of his savings, managed to add on a full second barn to the property, leaving Altin with enough stalls for all the four-legged family members, whether they be horse, zebra, or mystical trans-dimensional being.
He hoped the construction work hadn't inconvenienced Elsie too much on her special day.
Altin had made it home just in time, and it was about time Elsie got a long-overdue party for her birthday, instead of just a mostly empty house and a cake. Of course, Elsie being Elsie, she spent so much time with her studies that she barely knew any of these kids, but it was close enough.
Elsie thought the flippers would be practical for life in a coastal city, but the Watcher vetoed that in a heartbeat.
And for a while, life on the Ripley-Snickerson farm looked like it might begin to be somewhat normal.
Yes, that's right, my federal agents are named Bryan Ryans and Jen Jenning. Or rather, Jen and Bryan Jenning-Ryans. I'm quite proud of my naming skills at the moment.
I don't believe you've seen this ghost before, but he's been around "off-camera," so to speak. That's Wallace Ripley, Kirk's father. You can see him from when he was alive in their family tree.
Oh, and if Ryans failed to explain it properly, the rate of recidivism is the likelihood that a criminal will repeat his crimes.