Chapter 16 of Silent Vector

Chapter 16, in which Nick Temple checks in at Langley

CHAPTER 16

MEETING OF THE MINDS

Nick Temple, tan and rested from an extended Caribbean vacation, walks through the spacious and modern foyer of the CIA’s new headquarters in McLean, Virginia. Although this is not Nick’s first visit to the vast complex, it is his first appearance since the Agency’s move to what is already being called “Langley” became complete in the spring of this year. To avoid the embarrassment of having to ask for directions, he convinced Bill Johnson to provide a description of the path to his office during his check-in call from Miami.

As he heads for a set of elevators, Nick can’t help comparing the gleaming new structure to the collection of cramped, often hastily constructed “offices” he has had the pleasure to call home since his earliest days with the OSS. The utilitarian, almost Spartan nature of his government-issue accommodations for the last 20-plus years rarely gave any hint of the resources or intentions of his employer. This spacious new building leaves little doubt in his or anyone’s mind that the United States in 1962 is a nation of vast wealth, power, and responsibility.

He turns right down a third-floor hallway and enters a carpeted reception area that could easily be the entrance to a white shoe, D.C. law firm. A young woman sits behind a large reception desk. An armed guard in civilian clothes stands to the right of the unmarked, wooden double-doors just beyond the receptionist’s desk.

Before Nick can get to the desk, he is greeted by the receptionist.

“Good morning, Mr. Temple. Mr. Johnson is expecting you.”

Nick is impressed: she’s efficient and cordial without being familiar. She reaches under her desk and pushes a button. A slight buzz emits from the set of doors. The armed guard opens the right door and Nick walks into one of the many sections of the vast intelligence-gathering nerve center that is the Central Intelligence Agency.

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“Let’s go see the Old Man.”

Nick Temple and Bill Johnson walk out of Johnson’s office. They revert to personal chit-chat on their way to see the Director.

“How’s Peggy?”

“Never better. She loves my new job. Home by six o’clock most days. Time to spend with her. No more running around dodging bullets and killing Commies.”

“She deserves a break.”

“What about Ellie and the kids?”

“Not a lot of contact. They’re not kids anymore. They’re both out of college. I get occasional updates, and that’s about it. So far as I can tell, she’s still making a nuisance of herself in Pasadena.”

“Everyone’s healthy?”

“They seem to be.”

“Glad to hear it. Here we are. After you, Nick.”

←↔↔↔↔↔→

“You look good, Nick.”

“Amazing what six weeks in the tropics will do, sir.”

“You got pretty damn lucky with that Jeep.”

“Guess it just wasn’t my time. Tough break for the car thief.”

“You play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.”

“To a crisp,” Johnson adds.

The three men share a laugh before the Director brings them back to business.

“We’ve got you on a flight to Cairo tomorrow. Ridgely’s cleared the local national who’s going to help us out in Kenya.”

“That was quick.”

“The Brits gave us their file on her. She had a mid-level clearance already. You’ll meet with Ridgely first. He’s got a line on the German in Mombasa. If he comes through Cairo, we might be able to grab him. If not, we still need to find out what happened in Voi. Should be a straightforward assignment for someone with her skills.”

“Her?”

“Didn’t Bill tell you?”

Nick looks at Bill who shrugs his shoulders.

“Anyone tell her what happens to women who work with me?”

“Not yet. We’ll leave that to your discretion. Hopefully by then she’ll already be committed. Bill’s got the file. You can read it on the hop across the pond.”

“Not to worry, Nick. No chance you’ll fall for this one.”

“Not my type?”

“Actually, she’s exactly your type. Smart, independent, and easy on the eyes.”

“So what’s the reason I won’t fall for her?”

“None at all. Just wishful thinking on my part.” 

The Director stands up signaling the end of the brief meeting.

“I’ve told Ridgely to keep us informed. He’s your first and last point of contact over there. If you think it’s going to take more than a week to get what we need, stay another week, but that’s it. Things have calmed down a bit, but the country’s still not stable. No sense pressing your luck. Stay in Mombasa while she’s in the field. If you . . .”

Nick cuts him off.

“I think I can handle it, sir.”

“Right, sorry. Old habits, I suppose. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“Good luck then. I hope there’s nothing to it, but all of my instincts tell me otherwise.”

Nick and the Director shake hands. Bill Johnson and Nick leave the Director’s office. They walk silently back to Johnson’s office until Nick speaks up.

“Mika, Vanessa, and what’s this one’s name?”

“Dalila.”

“A beautiful name. And a damned shame.”

“It’s not going to be like that, Nick.”

“I hope you’re right my friend. I just hope you’re right.”