By Cindy and Walt
Four thirty came early. I seldom used an alarm clock but that morning I set my cell phone to wake me. It took me fifteen minutes to get myself ready to do my morning run. I was still a little groggy, when I went out the front of the apartment building, I waited about five minutes before Jamie came running up to me.
“Morning Laura, let’s get a move on,” she said grinning at me.
“Surely you can run circle around me. After all you are a cop and I’m a nerd,” I said. “How about a little wager. Loser buys breakfast.”
“You got it slut,” Jamie said.
I started running as soon as I saw her twitch. I was in it for the long haul so I just kept up with her for the first half hour. She was starting to falter as I knew she would. I kept up the same pace as before but I noticed I was pulling ahead. I was ready to quit myself when I saw the restaurant come into view. We had been out less than an hour, so I figure we had gone no more than eight miles. It would be a respectable distance even at Church Camp, but we ran on flat ground not up and down mountains so it wasn’t really possible to compare the two.
I made it to the restaurant a few seconds before Jamie. I sat at a table before she could get back from the bathroom. When she returned I said. “Order me the usual with coffee.” Then I turned and headed to the bathroom myself.
The food was on the table when I got back. I was tired and pretty much exhausted when I returned to the table. Fortunately Jamie looked as bad as I felt. She had definitely run to the point of exhaustion. However, I had slept all night and she had worked.
I had a mouthful of egg when she said, “God that was a hard run. I expected you to fall out all along the way. You are tougher than you look.”
“Not really, I just like the endorphin rush I get from wearing my ass out,” I said. “It’s almost as good as drugs.”
“What do you know about drugs?” Jamie asked.
“Emergency room visits,” I said simply. I didn’t dare tell her about my previous life style. “I generally do my workout on a bicycle though. Not as much stress on the body for the same results.”
“I don’t think you would enjoy bikes as much in New York as you do in Mississippi. Too many cars.” she said.
I didn’t tell her about the motor bike. I decided not to since she was a cop. We had finished breakfast and were working on the last of the coffee when I asked, “So you going to come home for a shower?”
“Thanks but no. I can drive home and shower there,” Jamie said.
“Okay, so we part here?” I asked.
“Yeah, I can head back to the car. It will be a shorter distance from here than it would be from your place,” she said.
“Okay, so you going to be around in the morning?” I asked.
“Sure I got miles to go before I sleep,” she said with a smile.
“Just a few,” I replied. I ran home since I had rested over breakfast. I showered and dressed for the day. I was back in my dyke business suit look, which I wore to the UN.
I rode the bike through the midtown traffic. It was a pain in the butt but it was much quicker than calling a cab and the waiting in traffic it would do. I weaved my way around the stopped cars. It probably saved me less than five minutes over all, but it made me feel that I wasn’t wasting time in a hot cab.
I went through the day as I had before attending boring press conferences and committee meetings. The meetings were about things I had no interest in whatsoever, but I dutifully went to them. You never knew when I would find something to write about.
First of all let me assure you I knew even then that I was no writer. I would send notes back to Church Camp who had someone write them into a magazine article. I would submit it to ‘Out of The Shadows’ and see if they wanted to buy it. I didn’t care whether they did or not.
I spent the whole week like that working on my cover. The cover was going to be the secret to the operation not turning into a blood bath. If it did there was a good chance that some of the blood would be mine.
Everyday I sent and received a coded message to Church Camp. The morning I had the breakfast with Jamie the coded message read simply, ‘Little Big Horn.’
I didn’t send a follow up or an acknowledgement. I simply destroyed what I could and sanitized the rest. Then I took the bike to the train station and left it unlocked. Trains were much easier to catch without a reservation and they run fairly often. I caught the first westbound train. I bought the ticket for cash to Cleveland Ohio. I got off the train in Pittsburgh Pa. I hung around the Coffee Shoppe across the street from the station for three hours, then went into the station at the last minute for the southbound train. I bought a ticket to Lexington Kentucky, but only went as far as Charleston West Virginia. I spent the night in a downtown hotel in Charleston. I had packed the jeans and tee shirts from the thrift store and tossed the rest of the crap. Before I checked into the hotel in Charleston I went into a barber shop and got myself a buzz cut.
I had stopped using the credit card and switched to cash in New York City. I looked a lot like a homeless woman or even a man. Since I wore a knit cap in the heat I looked pretty shady however, the cash convinced the clerk at the downtown motel, which had seen better days, to rent me a room.
After the barber shop and before checking into the motel, I had stopped at a grocery store for junk food. I didn’t leave the second floor room for the rest of the night. On the second day of my flight I boarded a train for Tampa Florida. A few hours later it made one stop on the outskirts of Metropolis. I exited there carrying my backpack. I had long since dumped the burner phone, so it was a land line pay phone that I used to call home. “Location five,” was all I said into the phone. I hung up before anyone had time to trace the call.
I sat in a diner not far from the train station with a BLT and waited. When I was sure enough time had passed, I walked back to the almost empty train station parking lot. As I walked through there was a red light in the window of the blue four door car. The light flashed at me. It was no more than one of those cheap LED mini flashlights with a red filter. It was also the signal that I was expecting.
When I got in the car, my hand was wrapped around the dagger’s toy skull ceramic ball I used for the handle. I recognized ‘Killer’ from the Church Camp. “What the fuck happened?” I asked.
“You got blown,” he said.
“How?” I asked.
“Andrew will explain it,” he said. I settled in for the ride to Church Camp.
“How about stopping by my house and let me see what is going on there?” I asked.
“Not a chance. First we find out what is going on, then we worry about your cover,” he said. “Andrew is pissed. This is the first operation he had to abandon. Sylvia is pissed and some of it is at you. There is going to be a full scale show and tell tonight. We have just been waiting for you to work your way home.”
“Well Jeremy and Alice were still at Church Camp,” I said. I hoped it was true. I didn’t want to think they might be involved.
“Yes, they have been out of touch with everyone. Their week here made them pretty good at digital image surveillance. They know all about camera placement and monitoring. Best of all they haven’t been blown as far as we know now. I am not supposed to tell you even that, but I don’t want you to doubt them,” Killer said.
When we got to the entrance, I got my first look at the parking lot. It was probably not a good sign I decided. It was at the end of a fire road. The difference between the Church Camp’s fire road and real fire roads was that under the dirt road of the Church Camp road was a foundation of gravel. No matter how much it rained the road stayed passable.
Once the car was parked, I followed along behind Killer with my backpack. He could have carried it, I thought. Then I decided he was probably not allowed to touch it. I decided that I might be under suspicion and no one would want to come near me till I was cleared. I knew that if I was guilty of anything it was somehow a mistake in judgment. That would get me dropped from the roster as quick as anything else.
Success was the only option in a Swamp Dog operation. I had obviously just failed since they had me come home with my tail between my legs. I hated feeling the way I did, but there was no other way to see it.
They wanted me to feel like I was going to be interrogated. That was meant to make me as uncomfortable as possible. I couldn’t go to dinner in the mess hall. I was being treated as a prisoner. The food was brought to me at the cabin on a tray by an operative who said nothing.
I stoked the wood fire and drank coffee until midnight when they came for me. Two of the very strong looking operatives showed up at the door. “Come with us please,” the larger one said.
I knew that it was an attempt to intimidate me. Even so I was worried, just like anyone else would be in a situation like it. I had a feeling they knew ways to make me disappear, if they wanted. It just looked like trouble anyway I looked at it.
They led me to a small cabin just a little isolated from the others. “Is it sound proof?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” the smaller of my two guards replied. He opened the door for me and I walked into the cabin. I was glad that it was summer. I expected they would have gladly thrown me out in the snow and ran a garden hose over me if it had been winter.
Sylvia Porter, Andrew, and Wilson the geek were there. I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be pretty. Sylvia motioned me to a chair. When I was seated she spoke.
“Rose we don’t do cover ups, so I’m going to give it to you straight. You got your operation blown. It wasn’t all your fault but you didn’t help it any.” she said. “Wilson is here because he shares the blame with you. He designed your cover story and it fell apart the first time you walked into the office of ‘Out of the Shadows’,” she said.
“What the fuck did I do,” I said.
“You did nothing at all. Ellie had met Laura Edwards at a career day recruiting drive. It was something no one could have anticipated,” Sylvia said.
“Bullshit, why the fuck did you set me up with a real person’s ID. We have never done that before,” I said bitterly.
“Look, it turns out in hindsight this was a big fuck up. I built the ID and I take most of the blame, but you aggravated it,” Wilson said.
“Don’t you fucking dare blame me for this fuck up. If I was blown on day one of the operation, how the fuck could I aggravate an already blown op?” I shouted.
“Because when Ellie reached out to the UN Security Liaison at Home Security, she told them there was a breach attempt. First thing Home Security did was tell her to give them a chance to put a tail on you. They ran you back using the CCTV cameras. They also talked to your cab driver. They knew you had eaten in the restaurant closest to you, so they gambled that they could make contact with you,” Sylvia said.
“Jamie?” I asked.
“She isn’t a cop. She is CIA,” Wilson said. “You got chummy with a fucking CIA agent. What were you doing trying to line up a piece of ass?”
“Back off you prick. You caused all this shit. You are trying to crawl out from under it now,” I said.
“Both of you shut the fuck up,” Sylvia said. “Rose is right. Without your fuck up there wouldn’t have been a CIA agent involved. Wilson is also right, if you had vetted Jamie, you could have blown this earlier and saved yourself.” You should know better than to try to form attachments in the field. What possessed you to accept her at face value?”
“I made the first approach, but I should have known better. So is there anyway to save this cluster fuck?” I asked.
“Lets start with what happened,” Sylvia said.
“I caught the chatter about an unspecified threat to the UN. That gave us time to pull the plug and extricate you,” Wilson said.
“My ass, I got myself out of there with no help from you guys,” I said.
“Hold on now Rose, we taught you how to get home safely. So that’s why we didn’t put a team in to bring you out,” Andrew spoke for the first time.
“Okay, how much do they know?” I asked.
“They know you were sending and receiving coded Email. They couldn’t have broken the code. We got you out before they could get a warrant to search your apartment. Without breaking the code, they can’t even have a hint what the plot was. They just know you were trying to gain access to the UN,” Sylvia said.
“Even if they did there were no details in the message. We weren’t that far along. So we have minimal damage,” I said.
“It is manageable. That is the good news,” Wilson said. Sylvia gave him a nasty look, so he shut up.
“The only link to us is you,” Sylvia said. “But fortunately we can manage that too.”
“Are you going to cut me loose?” I asked.
“Your only crime was impersonating Laura Edwards, and she isn’t going to make fuss,” Andrew said. “If we come up with a plausible explanation, we can stop this at you.”
“So what’s the plan, plant drug information on me? Then have me tell them I was planning to make smuggling contracts at the UN?” I asked.
I saw the look Wilson gave Sylvia. It was obvious that was his idea as well. “So is that the plan, throw me under the bus?” I asked.
“The up side is you didn’t actually make contact with anyone. If we could just hide you till it blows over we would, but they have your prints. The Rose Seabold ID might hold up till they forget this Misdemeanor and it blows over, but we can’t afford to take a chance using you again for a while.”
“Or ever,” I suggested. “So that’s it?”
“Yes that’s it, I’m afraid,” Sylvia said. “You know we could never let you go to jail.”
“Yeah if I made a deal with you, I would make one with the CIA. You sure you are going with this? I would just as soon know if you plan to make me fish food?” I asked.
“We don’t want to make you fish food Rose,” she said.
“Well I know the only way you could know for sure, would be to kill me,” I said.
“You have enough to lose, if all the shit you did comes up, that we feel sure you will keep quiet. Thirty days in a nice local jail or life in prison is a pretty good incentive to keep quiet. That’s why we pulled the plug quickly,” she said. It was a convincing speech.
“What about Jeremy and Alice?” I asked.
“We are going to take them under our wing,” she said.
“So this is goodbye?” I asked.
“Yes, but you know we will keep an eye on you,” she said.
“Yeah I know,” I replied. “One more thing, the quiet pardon for previous crimes?”
“Here,” she said, handing me the document signed by the Governor of the State.
I stood and said, “My name is Rose Seabold and I used to be a spy.” I laughed like hell at the obvious theft of the TV show’s opening line.
“Well not exactly,” Andrew said.
“You had to have the last word,” I said and walked out the door. I found my way back to the secret parking lot and my truck.
I was thoroughly depressed. I had a feeling I not only lost my part time gig but my friends as well. I was sure that Church Camp would warn Jeremy and Alice to sever ties with me. As for me I would be expecting the shoe to fall at any time.
I had time to work out my story. I had faked the ID to wander around the UN hall hoping to meet diplomats, so that I could have sex with as many as possible. It was a serial fuck sort of thing.
Like Sylvia had said I was guilty of Impersonation, but since they could not prove any criminal intent, it was unlikely that anyone would prosecute me.
The Church Camp just didn’t want me traced back to them. Neither did I. There were definitely some skeletons in my Church Camp closet.
I was probably going on the CIA watch list, but more than that I couldn’t foresee. Obviously Porter didn’t want Church Camp on the CIA watch list, so I got sacrificed. It wasn’t my fault, but it was enough my fault to get exposed. Being exposed was all it took to get moved to the ‘no longer available to work’ list.
I didn’t leave the house for two days. I was depressed and didn’t want to see anyone. The Village would run on autopilot for a while, so I didn’t go out except to buy food. It became easier as time passed to not go out of the house. Even when it was necessary I rushed home to hide.
After almost a week of being a total recluse Carlos came to my door. “Someone said they saw you at the plaza. Why have you not been to The Village?” I shook my head and attempted to close the door.
“We are going to finish this talk right now,” he said very aggressively. “I need to know what is going to happen next. I have a family to feed and I will have an answer before I leave.”
He said that as he pushed past me. I could have grabbed the can of Wasp and Hornet Killer I kept by the Door. I could have given him a shot in the face, but I chose not to. I actually didn’t care what he did to me honestly.
“What do you want specifically?” I asked.
“The houses by the store building will be finished today. So what should we do next?” Carlos asked.
“Carlos I’m not sure what I will do next. I suppose we can convert the store to a gift shop. That sounds the easiest thing to do,” I said. It sure sounded like a way to get rid of Carlos.
“Then you will be by to give us a direction,” he said.
“Give me a couple of hours to shower and dress. Then I will be by to look at the store building,” I said.
“If you are not there by lunch, I will come kidnap you,” he said making sure I knew that he was not joking.
“I promise,” I said. When he left I knew that it was time to close down this cover ID and move on. I could move on as Rose Seabold, but the life I lived was too easy to trace. It would only be a matter of time before I became a liability to Swamp Dog and Silvia Porter did not like liabilities, of that I was quite sure.
So I was suddenly back in the game only now I was a free agent. No team would have me. Well no team that wouldn’t cause me to eventually end up in jail. It was going to be hard to disappear without any help from my friends, but that’s the way it had to be.
I decided that I was not going to leave everything and just walk away. I wanted to recover as much of my ill gotten gains as possible. It was going to be necessary to get back on the cash economy and do it quickly. I would continue being Rose Seabold for a while. I would begin to siphon off money and convert it to cash. I still had some money in the grease pit.
All the planning put me in the mood for settling the Village thing with Carlos. At least in the short term.
I heated the water, which I could remember how to do. Then I took a shower and dressed in a short sleeve thermal shirt and cargo pants. My hair was no more than a quarter inch in length so it was easy to dry for the ride to the Village. I did indeed plan to ride my stabilized bike there. I had the 40ah lithium hundred mile battery pack when I left the house, so the ride to the Village was a piece of cake.
I pulled from the county road onto the privately paved street of the Village. First I rode up the tenant occupied artist section of the Village. Then I rode down the sold out section of the Village. It was inhabited mostly by older folks. Finally I back tracked to the section under renovations. There were five house in that section and three had already been sold. One had a For Sale sign and one was being repaired when I arrived.
When I walked into the house, I found Carlos working on the flooring. He was replacing a part of it with flooring from a demolished house. “See I did make it,” I said. It had just taken the realization that I hadn’t prepared my world to leave it. That had to be done or it would haunt me. “Finish up what you are doing and we can look at the store,” I said.
The two of them got to a point where Carlos felt comfortable leaving Juan to do some last minute fixes. At that point he stood up to stretch, then join me for the half a block walk to the commercial building. I say that only because it was made of concrete blocks like the Country Store in which I lived. Otherwise it was just a one story open room. It did have a small wooden access attached to the rear.
There was no plumbing inside the block structure. So we would have to work out something. If it operated as a gift shop it wouldn’t need much water. I could install a water tank and a holding tank for sewage. It would require pumping out but it would do till the county decided to take it over so they could tax it for services. That would follow in due course once they saw the chance for revenue.
“The roof is down and I expect it would be easier and cheaper to tear this thing down,” Carlos said.
“Do we have enough lumber to repair the roof?” I asked.
“Nothing long enough,” he said. “We could build some post and beam things out of smaller rafters and joists we have stored on the factory site,” Carlos said.
“Then do that. I want to save it, but I don’t want to pay someone else to prefabricate trusses. I would rather pay you to build the roof on site. The building wasn’t all that big. It was about thirty feet by less than twenty. Just a long, thin building, it had been originally built like a factory.