Okay, so that means a first draft of the novel is complete! That's a great feeling. Time to start back through it adding, deleting, enlarging, shrinking, etc. Comments are welcome. I'm already not happy with the book's last line, but that's what editing is for, right?
The CIA’s cafeteria is just starting to fill up with the daily lunchtime crowd. Chet Brinker, certain he is still a Company pariah, sits down with a tray of food and an Arnold Palmer at a table by himself. Rick Laurel, brown bag lunch in hand, sits down next to him.
“Hey, man, nice sunburn. The face peel is particularly attractive. When did you get back?”
“Cut it short?”
“Yeah. Got bored. Johnson’s probably going to take the opportunity to deliver some pain my way on the squash court again. Oh, well.”
“No text messages, no vacation pics, nothing, buddy. Thanks a lot. Where’d you go, by the way?”
“Sorry about that. Just trying to unplug a little. I went to Florida. Tried the Gulf Coast this time. A little sunshine, a little salt water, read some books. Nothing too exotic. Fell asleep on a beach in Sarasota. Thus the burn.”
“You need some true excitement in your life. Try SPF 50 next time. Uh oh, look who’s coming. The boss must have a welcome back ass chewing all worked up for you.”
Assistant Director Zimmerman’s Secretary comes over to the table.
“Any sense denying it?”
The secretary smiles.
“None. Remember, we’ve met, and I’ve read your file.”
“Oh yeah. Career highlight day, as I recall. Join us for lunch? Rick’s buying.”
“No, thank you just the same. Assistant Director Zimmerman would like to see you in her office as soon as you’re done here. No hurry though.”
“Got it. Thanks.”
“See you in a bit,” the secretary adds before leaving.
“This have anything to do with your vacation?”
“I have no idea, my friend. With any luck, we’ll be having lunch right here tomorrow.”
“My money’s on a golden parachute.”
“Does the CIA do that? That might not be such a bad deal.”
“Just kidding. This is the government we’re talking about, and it’s not like you’re a member of Congress. Nope. Probably just a couple weeks pay and a cardboard box for the stuff in your office. Could be your last lunch, so take your time.”
“I plan to. Maybe if I just keep eating then I’ll never have to check in with Zimmerman. She said I could take my time, right?”
“I believe that’s called avoidance behavior. Good plan, Chet. Seriously good plan.”
Chet Brinker sits in the waiting area outside of Assistant Director Zimmerman’s office reading a dated Sports Illustrated. He looks up from his magazine.
“Any hints? Good news? Bad news? Any hints at all?”
The secretary shrugs and smiles.
“I’m as much in the dark as you are, Mr. Brinker.”
The ADCI comes out of her office, walks briskly over to Brinker and commands, simply, “Come with me. You’ll want to see this.”
Brinker puts his magazine down, stands up and does as ordered.
“Where are we going?” he says as he struggles to keep up.
“A couple of doors down. You’ll see.”
Within moments they are standing outside the door of Bill Johnson.
“This will only take a second,” Zimmerman informs him.
Before Brinker has a chance to ask for some clarification, two FBI agents lead Bill Johnson, who is in handcuffs, out of his office and past Brinker and Zimmerman.
“I hear they have a couple of squash courts in Leavenworth, Bill. Maybe I’ll stop by and let you kick my ass again.”
Johnson starts to respond, but Zimmerman cuts him off.
“Get him out of here.”
The agents take him away.
“I’ll walk you to your office.”
Again, Brinker does as directed. Now the ADCI’s pace is more relaxed allowing Brinker to walk by her side. They talk as they walk.
“I hear there’s an opening higher up in the Slavic section if you’re interested.”
“So it would appear. How’d you get him?”
“Reverse engineering, so to speak. Once the shit hit the fan in Armenia, the dominoes started to fall. I’ve got to stop mixing my metaphors.”
“Yeah, that’s a real career killer,” Brinker jokes.
“At any rate, half a dozen people at the phony construction site started singing. FSB was allowed in by the Armenians and they can be pretty persuasive.”
“It’s in there genes.”
“We were pretty sure there was someone from stateside working with them after your Tel Aviv encounter. That was confirmed, but not with an identity. Then, with FSB’s help, we flagged the phone records of Stolypin and Raznochenko for starters, found several calls made from a series of one-off cell phones purchased at various big box retailers in the States. We put NSA on the calls. They found them in their databank in the clear, and listened. I recognized Johnson’s voice, simple as that. He should have scrambled it. We confirmed the phone purchases, all paid for with cash, but all within 10 miles of his house. Incredibly, the prick thought he was in the clear after most of his buddies were killed. He’s been coming to work as if nothing happened for the last three days. The FBI’s pulling everything out of his apartment as we speak. He’s cooked.”
“Wait, Tel Aviv? How’d you know about that?”
She stops in her tracks.
“Are you asking me how the CIA found out about a shootout in a Tel Aviv hotel? Hell, all we had to do was read the papers. Shin Bet kept us in the loop from the moment you made contact with Moscowitz.”
“So you worked it without Johnson in the loop?”
“He was too eager to dump your crazy theory. I thought I’d give you some rope, see where you went with it.”
“A helluva lot of rope, if you don’t mind me saying.”
“Made it easier to walk away from if there was nothing there.”
“So I was expendable?”
“All of us are, Chet. Don’t kid yourself. Come on, let’s get to your office.”
They resume walking.
“Seriously, you should put in for Johnson’s job.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“In the meantime, get back to work. We’ve got someone else on the document review, and I’ve got a couple of files on your desk I want you to take a look at. Let’s plan on lunch in my office tomorrow to go over them. That work?”
“Absolutely. And thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Thanks for a terrific job on putting those lunatics out of business. We came damn close to a brave new world. Too close.”
“All in a day’s work.”
They turn the corner, and a large, hastily-constructed banner reading “CONGRATULATIONS AND WELCOME HOME,” taped to the wall above Brinker’s office door comes into view. Rick Laurel and half a dozen other agents Chet recognizes as old hands from the Slavic section stand just beyond the door. As Brinker stops in front of his door and looks up at the sign, they break into applause. Brinker grins broadly and then shakes their hands one at a time.
“Honestly, I really didn’t do much. A higher power, as they say, seemed to have matters well in hand.”
The ADCI takes over.
“Accept the moment for what it is. Being right counts for something, Chet.”
“Florida, my ass. How stupid do you think I am?”
Once again, the ADCI steps in.
“Careful there, Agent Laurel. You could be talking to your new boss.”
They all look at Chet. He shrugs.
“Okay, on one condition.”
“Name it,” Zimmerman responds.
“I get to keep wearing my Jerry Garcia ties.”