Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chapter 5

           The Watcher eased out from behind the tree near the gates of Sarah's house and looked after her car as it drove down the driveway faster then was safe.  Smiling, The Watcher nodded in approval.  Sarah was angry and was about to take that anger out on someone.  The smart guess would be on Jack Sheffler.  Too bad King was too disciplined to loose control.  Having Sheffler out of the picture would have made things so much easier in the long run.
           As the car's tail lights disappeared, The Watcher slipped up to the house and took a key from their pocket.  Holding the key The Watcher looked at it and wondered if in fact it would work.  The key had been obtained a long time ago.  That being said, Sarah King was almost completely lax in personal security.  An odd trait in someone working for The Company.  This house and everything in it was worth more money then could be spent in two lifetimes.  Putting the key in the lock and turning it, The Watcher felt a thrill as the lock gave way and the handle turned.  Stepping inside and locking the door behind them, The Watcher walked into the grand front foyer and looked around.  The sun had just set and a soft, gray light made it difficult to see very far.  It gave a dullness to the grander of the entryway.
              Walking quickly to the east wing, The Watcher moved with a purpose and sureness of someone who knew exactly where they were going.  Stepping into a study The Watcher looked around and thought for a minute.  The information hadn't been very clear but had been enough to make the mission move forward.  Walking around the room, The watcher tugged on gloves and started looking.  There was a safe in this room that needed to be found and gone through before King came back.  Hopefully the files that had been made up on Kirland and Sutan would be there as well.  Cursing softly The Watcher hoped those two idiots would get what was coming to them soon.
            Running hands deftly along the mantle of the fire place, The Watcher paused at the sight of a crack on the side of the moulding at one end.  Gently tugging in different directions a self satisfied smile came to their lips as a clicking sound finally indicated a lock loosening.  Looking to the right another crack in the wall had widened.  Pulling it open revealed a wall safe.  Even better, it was a simple combination safe.  Easy enough to get in to.  It was only a matter of minutes before the door opened and The Watcher shone a small flash light inside.
            The safe was broken into two shelves.  On the top shelf were a few boxes that held jewelry and a few old letters.  On the bottom were several files.  Eagerly taking the files out The Watcher flipped through them.  They were legal documents, dealing with Sarah's adoption by her aunt and uncle.  The Watcher quickly lost interest, it wasn't what they were looking for, but their eye caught a name on the last page that made them stop in disbelief.  Oh this was too good!  The Watcher smiled again, but this time it was an ugly, triumphant smile.  Taking a moment they took another look around the room and realized just how much dust was all over.  The Watcher's foot prints and hand hand prints were all over!  Swearing in frustration The Watcher took pictures of the file and put it back then started to clear away the traces of their presence in the room.  The dust was more than just a few months.  No one had been in this room in years!  Chances were King didn't even know the safe existed.  If she had ever opened it and gone through the contents, she wouldn't be working for The Company.  Touching the small camera in their pocket, The Watcher wondered just what they could get for this information.  The paper's they had originally come for but hadn't found were important, but this bit of information could be just as important.

                                ***                               ***                            ***

        "Congressman, I need you to look over the remarks for tomorrow's dinner and also you have a 6 am interview with MSNBC."  Jack took the papers handed him by Sean and started reading through the the latest version of the stump speech.
         "You know, I could give this speech in my sleep Sean." he said.
         "Probably but there are a few changes that are crowd specific.  Need to keep things personal."  Jack looked at him incredulously.
         "That's right.  Just me and seven hundred of my closest friends." he sighed.
         "Seven hundred of your closest friends with big pockets.  Shake them a little to get all the change in them."  Jack looked at Sean in surprise and smiled.  The kid was starting to get a sense of humor!  It was about time!
          "I'll take this with me to my room and look it over and call someone if I have any changes.  It's almost midnight.  How about we all try to call it an early night.  Go have some fun Sean.  I'm going to sleep."  Jack watched the young aid walk away and called after him, "And by fun, I don't mean strategizing.  Have a drink!  Talk to a normal human being about something other then the campaign."  Sean rolled his eyes and kept going.  Jack was pretty sure the kid was going to ignore him.  He was some kind of machine when it came to the campaign.  He thought Sean wanted him to win more then he did!
          Nodding to the secret service men outside his door he opened it while reading the stump speech.  Scanning it really.  He saw the few differences Sean had mentioned and made note of them.  Tossing the paper on the desk he shrugged off his suit coat and laid it on the chair.  Reaching to loosen his tie he turned around and stopped at the sight of Sarah King sitting with her legs crossed on the end of the bed.
        "Really Jack, politics are making you slow and soft." she said quietly.  He took her in from head to toe.  Her black hair was loose and wind blown but somehow perfectly framed her white face and green eyes.  She was dressed in jeans and a sweater.  A sweater he recognized as his.  For a moment he was back in Russia eight years ago with her.  They had been on a stakeout and lost the heat in the building they were in.  It wasn't winter thank goodness but it wasn't warm.  He had watched her shiver for an hour without asking for help before he pulled out the sweater from his bag and tossed it to her.  Sarah never asked for help.  She stood up and he snapped back to the present.
         "Want to tell me how you got past the boys outside?" he asked as he finished loosening his tie and turned back to the desk to pour a drink.  She paced slowly to the other side of the room, watching him like a cat watches it's prey.
         "Secret Service wouldn't think of stopping me.  I have higher clearance then you ever will as President." she said.  He offered her a drink and she shook her head.  Taking a sip himself he looked at the door and back at her.
         "You're probably right.  So, you had to have had a reason to bully your way past Tom and Bill."  he set the glass down and leaned against the desk.  "What can I do for you Sarah?"
          She paced for another minute before picking up a file on the bed.  Flipping it open she took out  several pieces of paper stapled together and handed them to him.  He took it and started looking through them.  It was the arrest file he had done on Brian Kirland.  Looking up at her he could see she had gotten even more tense.
          "Brian was part of an Irish terrorist cell over here I helped take down when I was with the CIA.  The DA couldn't make anything stick to him.  And honestly didn't try too hard.  He was low level.  Didn't know much of anything."  Sarah stopped pacing and stood staring strait at him.  Her green eyes were practically snapping with anger.
           "There is a good chance he is one of the men who kidnapped and is holding Sharon." she hissed at him.  Jack stared at her in surprise and forgot the papers in his hands, letting them fall to the ground and taking a couple steps towards her before she stopped him with a look he recognized all too well.  One more step forward would probably end with him on the ground.
           "How do you know?" he asked.  Sarah resumed pacing and Jack watched her.
           "Sam found a note Sharon wrote two years ago in a house in Baltimore.  She gave two first names and a short description and his name and Richard Suton came up as possible matches.  You took this guy down and the cell he was with.  Why the hell would these guys want Sharon?  Why would they hold her for so long without making any demands or any moves?"  Her voice rose as she spoke and Jack relaxed a little .  The louder Sarah got the less likely she was to loose control of her temper.  It was when she went quiet that he would get worried.  Jack thought back and tried to find an answer for her.
          The cell he had taken down had been a radical off shoot of the IRA.  In fact, he had gotten help from the main IRA leaders to help bring them in.  The radicals had gone farther then any attacks by the IRA.  Their general thought process was if you weren't Irish you had no right trying to influence Ireland in any way.  From what he understood, this splinter group was in favor of pushing all but the Irish from Ireland.  And by Irish, they meant full blooded and members of a Clan.  He couldn't understand the thought process then and now he was even more confused.  Sharon King was of Irish descent, but her grandparents on her mother's side had left Ireland when they were newly married.  As far as he knew, they had no connection to the IRA.
            "Sarah, I'm sorry.  I don't know.  Kirland was a kid then.  Probably pulled in off the streets to be more an errand boy then anything.  The group his cell was attached to has been completely dismantled.  Six years ago the last cell was uncovered and lead to the core group.  All those people are in jail and those who somehow made it through the trials are watched carefully."  Sarah looked at him and then sighed in frustration, sitting back on the bed and folding her arms, scowling at the floor.
           "There has to be a connection Jack!  There has to be a reason she was taken and this man is the first real lead we have had in years.  Why?  Why are they holding her and doing nothing?"  Jack walked over and carefully sat next to her, leaving plenty of space between them.  She was still tense and the last thing he wanted was to have to explain why his body guards shouldn't arrest her for assaulting him if he said the wrong thing.
            "Sarah, you have to eventually consider the very real possibility that she--" before he could finish Sarah smacked her hand over his mouth and he tensed waiting for what he expected to follow.  If only his hip weren't so stiff he could take her down.  But she didn't move and neither did he.  After a moment she took her hand away and stood up to pace again.
           "Don't say it.  She IS alive.  She has to be alive.  No, there is a reason for all of this.  This guy worked for terrorists before so the chances of him going back to familiar territory is high.  I just have to figure out who and why they took Sharon."  Jack watched her pace a few more minutes before he realized she wasn't here to take her frustration out on him.  She was here to ask him for help and was having a hard time doing it.  He almost smiled but held it in.  A smile would be bad right about now.  Instead he switched directions.
           "Does The General know you're here?"  Sarah stopped and he knew he had hit a sore spot.   "He doesn't I see.  I'm not surprised I guess.  He gave me the lecture to stay out of things.  And to stay away from you."  Sarah looked at him and this time he did smile.  She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
            "I need your help Jack.  The General, he keeps things too compartmentalized for me right now.  I have to find Sharon.  I know she's alive and I have to find her."  Jack looked at her a moment and then nodded.
          "You don't make things easy.  Your timing could be a little better.  But I'll do what I can.  I still have contacts and I'll try to connect with them and see what I can find."  Sarah gave a small smile and sat down next to him again.
          "Will I get in the way of you winning?"  Jack smiled and shrugged.
          "A spook is running for president.  I think the secret service will get a work out like they have never had keeping up with me.  But thats who I am."  Sarah tilted her head as she looked at him curiously.
         "If that's true, why are you running for president?  Why did you go into congress?"  Jack just looked at her and smiled.
          "Maybe some day I'll tell you.  But for now, lets focus on Sharon.  Let me see what you have."  Sarah handed him the folders and he started flipping through them.  She watched him read for a moment before going to pour herself a drink.  Taking a large sip she winced as the scotch burned a trail downer throat.  She made a face.  She had never liked hard liquor but felt like she needed a drink.  Coming here she was going against The General and possibly costing Jack his bizarre run for the presidency.  But she was going to get her cousin back no matter what it took.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chapter 4

         "King!  King, hold up a minute!"  Sarah stopped and turned to see Emily Poke jog down the hallway towards her.  She and Emily had gone through training together what seemed a lifetime ago.  Emily's specialty was different from her's though.  While Sarah excelled in the physical hunt, Emily lead the team in the psychological hunt.  Their joke was Sarah played in caves and dark allies while Emily played with minds.  Psyche stuff that Sarah never fully understood.
          "Whats up?" she asked as the short, blond woman stopped in front of her.
           "When did you get back?"  Emily asked as she hit the down button on the elevator.
            "A week ago.  Just finished my debriefing and paper work."
            "So did you find him with the posters and CD's I said would be there?"  Sarah shook her head.  Emily had pointed her in the direction that ultimately lead to finding her quarry.  Oddly enough, purchases of Brittany Spears CDs and posters of the singer had helped.
            "You were right.  His son has some kind of twisted obsession with that girl.  Can't resist getting her music.  Once I found him it was only a matter of time before he lead me to daddy.  And daddy was pissed!"    The elevator door opened and the two stepped inside.
            "I believe it!"  Emily laughed.  Sarah shook her head.  The hard core terrorists sometimes had the strangest family members.  So much for blocking out the West and all it had to offer.
            "Anyway, I'm getting some time off.  A few weeks."  Sarah said.  Emily looked at her carefully and Sarah had to work to not let a single muscle twitch while her friend analyzed her.
            "That's right.  Your reporter friend found that letter Sharon wrote.  Interesting that."  Sarah looked at Emily, catching a tone of voice she didn't like.
            "Interesting how?"  Emily looked at her as if surprised she had spoken out loud.
            "What?  Oh, well, the obvious I guess."  Sarah waited patiently as the elevator doors opened and the two walked out into the lobby of the building that housed the offices for The Company.  As they walked outside Sarah put a hand on Emily's shoulder and stopped her.
             "Obvious?"  Sarah wanted to grind her teeth at the startled look she was given.  She had forgotten how Emily never seemed to understand people didn't always know what she was thinking.
             "Yes, well, she has been gone for five years.  That note was written two years ago.  I'm just surprised that after three years she wrote something that said she still wanted to be rescued."  Emily continued to walk to the parking lot but Sarah was too stunned to move for a moment, forcing her to run to catch up with the other woman.
              "Why wouldn't she?" demanded Sarah.  Emily fished her keys out of her purse and didn't look at Sarah for a minute.  Then she sighed and looked her strait in the eye.
              "By the time she wrote that letter, most people after three years have accepted their fate and even will form an attachment to the people holding them.  Her letter indicated this hadn't happened.  I'm just surprised by that."  Sarah knew she was staring at Emily with her mouth open but didn't care.
              "Sharon is stronger then that.  She wouldn't give in like that."
              "Sarah, even the most seasoned field agent would be fighting Stockholm Syndrome by now.  And Sharon was just a college student when she was taken.  A smart one, no doubt but she had no training, no knowledge of what to do in a kidnapping situation."  Sarah leaned against Emily's car and looked at the sky as if searching for an answer.  It had never once occurred to her that Sharon would do anything but try to get away or find a way to leave her clues.  That is what she would have done.  Until this moment, she had been so focused in on finding Sharon that she had never let herself think of anything but Sharon trying to get to her.
             Emily looked at her friend sadly.  She was a little surprised Sarah had never thought about this.  In every other respect, Sarah was a top field agent.  But she had a blind spot when it came to Sharon.  She always had ever since they had met.  Reaching up she gave Sarah's shoulder a squeeze.
             "Look, I could be wrong.  You King girls are tough.  Maybe she has more of you in her then meets the eye.  But Sarah, maybe you need to switch how you are thinking about this whole thing.  I heard you might have some faces attached to the names in the note.  Run those guys down, see who they are.  Then maybe, start trying to figure out why they might have taken Sharon and held her for so long."
              Shaking herself Sarah straitened up and gave Emily a small smile.
              "Right, two names we didn't have before.  Assuming they are the same guys.  I'm starting there.  I have their files and am planning a late night looking through them."  Sarah said giving the bag on her shoulder a small shake.  "The FBI did a pretty thorough run down on them.  I'm waiting to see if CIA has anything to add."  Emily nodded and unlocked her car.
              "Feel like going to get some dinner and a drink first?"
               "Thanks but I got a call from Sam this morning and I'm meeting him to go over things over dinner."  Emily looked at her closely and Sarah exhaled a breath of frustration.
               "What now?"  she almost snapped.  Emily pursed her lips and shook her head.
               "Rest some Sarah.  You just spent three months loosing yourself in the mountains and you just got back.  I know you want to find Sharon and I want you to find her too.  But you have to take care of yourself or you won't be any good to her."  Sarah took a deep breath to calm herself and gave Emily a quick hug.
             "Don't worry.  I promise to get some rest.  Just let me dive into this for now.  The General gave me three weeks.  I promise to take some of it to rest."  She stopped when she saw Emily's eyes light up.  She obviously had an idea and for some reason it made Sarah uneasy.
              "Good!  Because I have someone I want you to meet.  How about a blind date?  Only a double blind date.  Come with Harry and I."  Sarah didn't even bother to try to suppress the groan that came up her throat.
              "Oh god, no Emily.  No blind dates!  The last one didn't end well."
              "Please, that was six months ago and I thought you had fun."  Sarah caught herself this time.  She had almost blurted out that the date had been fine until they had run into someone else.  If Emily found out she would have lectured Sarah for another five minutes then force her on another date to make up for never calling the other date back.  It could be very confusing understanding Emily sometimes and even more confusing figuring out how she ended up doing whatever she suggested.  It had to do with the mind games she played with all day for sure.
              "Look, let me get a start on this new information.  I have already made plans with Sam tonight.  Once I find some free time I'll give you a call and me, you and Harry can go get some drinks."  Emily smiled and opened her car door, tossing her purse in.
              "Ok, so, next week it will be me, you, Harry and Robert!"  Emily jumped in her car, slammed the door and started it up as Sarah smacked the window with her hand.
            "No, Emily!  No!"  She watched feeling helpless as her friend drove away laughing.  Sighing, Sarah walked over to her car and found herself wondering how she could hunt down dangerous terrorists without flinching but couldn't get herself out of one of Emily's fix ups!  Throwing her bag into the passenger seat she heard a text message come in on her phone.  Need to meet now.  Can't wait for dinner.  Meet at Lincoln.  It was from Sam.  She felt her pulse quicken and completely forgot about Emily and blind dates.  Jumping in her car she left tire marks as she sped out of the parking lot and into DC.

                                           ***                            ****                        ****

             Sam stood at the base of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and paced back and forth five or six steps.  Every once in a while he would glance up looking for Sarah, then returned to his pacing, studying the ground as he went back and forth.  He didn't like having to disappoint Sarah by backing out of helping her for the next month but he disliked telling her why even more.
              While he didn't know the details, he knew there was some kind of history between Sarah and his new assignment.  Only rumors, things he had over heard during his dealings with The Company.  Nothing concrete but he had a feeling the history wasn't all good.  And he was about to send her back towards someone his instincts told him to keep her away from.  He jumped when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
              "Shit!  Don't scare me like that Sarah!" he exclaimed.
             "Sorry, but I did call your name a couple times as I walked up." she said, concern on her face.  "What's so important?  Did you find something?"  Sam pulled her down to sit on the steps.
            "Kind of.  Maybe.  By accident really." he stammered.
            "Sam, whats wrong?" she asked.  She had never seen him this worked up before.  He scrubbed a hand through his hair.  She noticed it was starting to turn from brown to gray, speckles spotting it here and there.  He looked at her and sighed.
            "I've been given a new assignment that will take me out on the Presidential campaign trail for the next month.  Just until the election."  Sarah blinked.  She was disappointed but she could keep looking even without Sam.  Although he had been her strongest supporter over the years.
             "That's too bad.  I was really hoping you could help me.  When do you leave?"
              "Not for a few more days.  I have to cover the guy while he is here but I'll have some free time here and there before Monday.  I'll help you all I can though.  In fact, I have this to add to the files you have already.  Not sure if it will be in there or not."  He pulled a folded piece of paper with scribbles all over it.  She recognized a picture of Brian Kirland, one of the men suspected, on it.  Next to the picture was a name that made her stop.  Jack Sheffler.
              "What does he have to do with Brian Kirland?" she asked.
              "Well, I was researching Sheffler's past with the CIA and found his name attached to the first arrest of Kirland about eight years ago.  He was suspected of being a part of an Irish terrorist cell.  Sheffler lead the team that broke the cell.  There was no concrete evidence against Kirland so he ended up walking.  He was written off by the DA as a low level lackey with no use."  Sarah stopped reading and looked at Sam.
               "Why were you researching Jack?"  Sam looked at her in surprise.
               "Boy kid, you really have been out of touch!  Jack Sheffler is the Republican nominee for president."
              Sarah immediately forgot about the paper in her hand and looked at Sam in shock.
              "Jack?  I know he was talking about running and something about primaries.  I was out of the country so often I never paid attention.  Last time I saw him he--"  She cut off and shook the memory from her head.  It hadn't been a pleasant meeting.  Looking back at the paper she partially crumpled it, seeing only his name next to the picture.  "What else was there about his arrest of Kirland?"
            "Nothing that I could find.  But my access is pretty limited.  Maybe there is something in your files.  Have you gone through them yet?"
            "No, not yet."
            "And the General hasn't said anything?"  Sarah's head snapped up at that.  The General had given her the two names.  He wouldn't have missed Jack being connected.  And he hadn't said a thing.  He was still playing the protector!  She felt a hand on hers and looked down to see she had completely crumpled the paper and was on the verge of tearing it.  Sam was trying to get her to relax and let go of it before she did.  Taking a breath she opened her hands and Sam pulled the wrinkled paper away from her and started to smooth it.  He didn't want to say anything more but he knew if he didn't, the anger he saw on her face would be directed towards him next.   "Look through the files but if you have to, get in touch with Sheffler.  He is in town doing speeches and rubber chicken dinners until Monday morning.  And he isn't staying at his home.  His whole group is at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill."  Sarah took a deep breath and reached for the paper again, this time handling it gently.
           "Thanks Sam.  You mind if I head home now?  I want to get into these files and I'm not hungry anymore."  Sam stood up and held out a hand to help her up.
          "Yeah, no problem.  I'll be in touch with you before I head out of town."  He watched Sara walk away and hoped he had pointed her in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chapter 3

         Sam sat at his desk and looked at a copy of the letter he had recovered from the house.  He had poured over it, analyzed and tried everything he could think of to get more information from it.  Nothing.  There was nothing more.  He threw the pen down he had been turning in his hand and rubbed his eyes.  There had to be something more.  He owed Sarah this.
         It had been six years ago that Sarah had pulled his ass out of the fire in Iraq.  He had gotten his  story, and a three month stay in an Iraqi prison.  Not something he liked to remember.  Sarah had been on the team that had rescued him.  He closed his eyes and immediately saw Sarah's face looking down at him as he lay on a dirt floor.  One hand over his mouth and the other shaking him awake.  He had clung to sleep as often as he could.  When he was asleep he wasn't being interrogated.  He thought he was seeing a beautiful angel all in black, with green eyes that stayed with him ever since.  Green eyes.
        Foot steps came up to his desk and he opened his eyes to see his editor standing next to him.  Bob Billings, editor in chief of the Washington Word, had been his boss and friend when he had been taken prisoner and had used every favor he had been owed to get The Company to rescue him.  Sam sometimes wondered what kind of connection the man had with The General but then dismissed it.  He had learned that in this one instance, it was better to know as little as possible about The General. His reporter's curiosity took a back seat around that man.  Sitting forward, Sam pushed the letter from Sharon into a folder and opened his laptop.
          "What can I do for you Bob?" he asked.  Bob leaned against the cubical wall and handed Sam a mug of coffee.
            "I know you are deep into the Sharon King case, but I haven't seen you move on it in a week and I need you to cover something for me."  Sam looked away from the lap top and leaned back with a sigh.
             "I'm still working on this story.  Sarah is coming in tomorrow and hopefully a fresh pair of eyes can get somewhere."
              "She has her boss, the FBI, Homeland Security and even the CIA looking for clues all over.    If there is something to be found, they will find it.  But I need you working for me again."  putting the coffee down Sam rubbed his face with both hands and growled in frustration.  He couldn't argue though.  He was an investigative reporter but didn't have the resources all those other people had.
               "Ok, whats up?" he asked, mentally pushing Sharon's story to the back of his mind.  He watched Bob shift his feet for a few seconds and wondered what was going on.
              "So Amy is out on maternity leave and Kyle is covering the democratic candidate and honestly, I don't trust any of these kids on the political desk to cover the republican candidate…"  Sam stood up quickly and looked at his boss in disbelief!
              "You aren't serious?!  Politics?  What do I know about politics?" he said, hearing his voice starting to rise.  Bob looked him in the eye and went from friend to boss.
              "Exactly why I want you on this.  You know enough to write the story and you aren't emotionally involved like these kids are.  Unbiased journalism in politics is getting harder and harder to find.  Kyle and Amy are my best but Amy can't take a baby on the campaign trail."
              "But this lead on Sharon.  I promised Sarah we would work together on this." Sam said, realizing he was sounding ridiculous.  Bob looked at him and shook his head.
               "You have about a month left until the election.  Virginia is the candidates home state so it's not like you won't be here at all.  Sarah will understand.  I promise to give her any help I can but Sam, there isn't much information to go on."  Sitting back down Sam picked up the pen on his desk and then threw it back down.  Bob was right.  All they would do was stare at the letter and look over the information he had gotten from it, which wasn't much.  His questions around the neighborhood hadn't turned up anything.  People couldn't remember what was happening two years ago.
             "Fine.  When do I fly out?" he finally said.
             "You don't for a couple days.  The guy is home through the weekend for rallies and speeches in the area.  You'll have a chance to catch up with Sarah.  Oh yeah, and here is a bit of news that just came out.  The guy use to be a spook!  We knew he worked for the CIA but apparently before he went into management he was a field guy.  Maybe that will get your brain working.  Could be an interesting angle here."  Sam looked up surprised.  A spook turning politician?  He tried to imagine Sarah running for office and smiled.  Never in a million years.  This guy must have completely turned management.  No one he knew who worked in the field and loved it would willingly give it up for desk work, much less politics.  Not without a good reason.  He turned back to his computer and started a search.  There had to be a reason.  Bob watched him and nodded as he headed back to his office.
              Sam pulled up his search engine and typed in the candidate's name, Jack Sheffler.  Next to it he wrote CIA and then enter.  The entries that came up made him smile.  The usual BS.  It just meant a little more digging.  Something he was good at.  He glanced once at the folder with Sharon's letter.  He was so good, he could dig for two things at the same time.

                            ***                         ***                         ***
             Across town, Jack Sheffler waved to the people behind the barricade outside his hotel.  He smiled for the cameras and almost started laughing at how ridiculous it was that he lived only a few miles from here but was unable to stay there because of the media mob that followed him everywhere.  Secret Service would have made it work but in the end, he felt sorry for his neighbors and decided not to put them through the circus every time he came home.
            Jack was young for a politician, only 46.  He knew that was in his favor.  He walked over to the barricade to sign autographs and meet people.  He was tall, well over six feet, and his close cut, black hair had wings of gray at the temple and sprinkled through out his hair.  His PR people said he looked handsome and distinguished and had advised him not to dye his hair.  Shaking his head at the thought he smiled, shook hands and signed books and papers and pictures.  He sometimes felt more like a movie star then a candidate for president.
          "Congressman, how do you feel things are going?" a reporter shouted.  He turned and smiled as the cameras caught him from every angle.
         "I'm confident we'll be holding on to our lead all the way to the White House." he said.  One of the many lines he was allowed to say.  He sometimes felt like the whole campaign was a script and the guy who read it best one.  So far, he was winning.  He felt a tug at his elbow and saw his Press secretary, Sean, giving him the wrap up signal.  He turned back for one more sound bite.  "I believe the American people are already speaking.  They want a strong leader and I'm ready to step up for them."  He waved and turned to get into the black suburban.  As he settled in he looked to his left and blinked when he realized Sean wasn't sitting next to him.
             "Hello Jack." The General said.  "Your man Sean here said you don't have a lot of time so I'll be brief.  A mutual friend of ours is back in town.  They have new information and are following up on it.  I'm saying this for your own good son.  Stay away.  You can't help her anymore.  And even if every eye in the country wasn't on you like a hawk on a mouse, I would still tell you to stay away."  Jack looked the man in the eye and took a moment to reign in the anger he felt rising.
"I can help, even if it isn't directly.  I know h--"
"No!  It will only make things worse for both of you.  I knew you would find out they were back though and wanted to head you off.  I mean it Jack.  You've chosen your road and there is no way it leads that direction anymore."
        Jack felt his fists tighten and he forced them to relax and unclench.  Choice hadn't been in the cards for him.  Seven years ago he would have never chosen this road and the General knew it.   The suburban pulled to a stop in front of another hotel and The General took ahold of Jack's arm, ignoring the wide eyed shock of Sean, watching in disbelief at the exchange.
        "I mean it.  And don't think I won't find out if you try anything."  He let go and stepped out, casually walking into the hotel and disappearing.  Jack watched him go, ignoring Sean's questions of what was going on.  He hadn't seen her in over six months and the last time they had talked in person she had nearly taken him down in a fit of rage when he had suggested giving up looking for Sharon.  His leg ached just at the thought.  He rubbed the side of his leg where the bullet that had taken him out of the field had torn his hip apart.  Taking a deep breath he shook his head.
"Nothing Sean, it's nothing.  Forget everything you saw and heard."  Jack said as he got out of the vehicle, straitening his jacket.  Sean looked at him in disbelief.
"Congressman, how--"
"Just a visit from an old friend is all.  Don't I have an interview to get to?" he said, clapping a hand on the other man's shoulder, guiding him towards the hotel doors.  Sean took a breath and looked at the papers in his hands.
"Yes.  Yes, you do with CNN."  Jack nodded and walked into the hotel, glancing around for The General but not surprised when he didn't see him.

The Watcher looked away slowly as they saw Jack pan the lobby.  He wasn't looking for them but better to be careful.  No telling just how sharp eyed this politician was.  The Watcher had been warned about him.  But he was perfect, exactly what they needed to stir the pot a little.  The General had certainly told Jack to stay away from Sarah.  Shaking their head The Watcher laughed quietly.  Hadn't the old man learned that telling someone no was the best way to get them to do the exact opposite!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Chapter 2

      The sun was just creeping over the horizon as Sarah sat on the terrace behind the house.  She cradled a mug of coffee in her hands and stared out over the gardens.  They were in bad need of care.  But she wasn’t actually seeing the shrubs and paths that made intricate designs towards three separate, empty fountains.  Beyond the gardens were the empty stables and beyond those, acres of rolling hills that were backed by the distant mountains.
She had only slept five hours but she felt they had been the best five hours in a long time!  Feeling the chill in the air she pulled the hood of her jacket over her head and took a sip of the steaming liquid.  Real coffee!  Taking another sip she smiled remembering cousin's first taste of the bitter, black brew.  Her face had screwed up into a look of utter disgust and she had tossed the rest of the mug down the sink.
“How can you possibly drink that stuff?”  Sharon asked in a demanding voice as she stuck out her tongue at the taste left on it.  Sarah looked at her younger cousin and rolled her eyes.
“It’s strong and that helps keep you awake and alert.” Sarah said.  Sharon made a face at her.
“I’ll find better ways of staying awake.” She said.
“How do you stay awake at college?  Every college student I know lives on the stuff!  Or is it different at Harvard?  Big Ivy League girl too good for the drink of the common man?”  Sarah teased.  Sharon tossed her blonde hair and looked up at her older cousin with her blue eyes sparkling in defiance.
“Yes.  As a matter of fact.  I’m smart enough to know that making my taste buds shrivel up and die from disgust won’t help me in the long run!”  She put the mug back down on the counter harder then necessary and walked out of the kitchen.  Sarah laughed and followed her, calling after her she was sorry.
Smiling at the memory Sarah uncurled from the large iron chair and stretched.  Sharon had been touchy about their wealth.  For some reason, she wanted to pretend that it and the benefits that came from it, like her first class education, didn’t exist.  Sarah could understand.  People had treated both of them differently when they found out they had money.  Or rather, had inherited it.  Picking up her coffee mug she looked at it and sighed.  It had only been a few weeks later that Sharon had disappeared.
Sarah had already started working with The Company by then.  That spring break had been a special treat, the two of them being home at the same time.  She had come to live with her aunt and uncle when she was only a couple years old.  She was seven when Sharon had been born and had adopted her cousin as her own from the first day.  It had been well the two had grown up so close.  At eighteen she had become her cousin’s parent for real.  Scowling into the mug in her hands she wondered if she would ever be able to remember the car accident without feeling like her whole world was collapsing.
Shaking herself she set the mug on the table by the chair and walked the long width of the terrace.  It spanned the whole back of the house.  She tried to clear her head of all the memories that were cluttering inside.  The accident, the funeral, the years that followed of taking care of Sharon, going through college a little at a time herself.  Giving a small growl, Sarah turned and started running.  Off the terrace, through the gardens and beyond the stables.  Running would clear her mind.  She pictured the cool air pushing all those memories away and soon her mind was free.  But she kept on running.  If only for a little time, her mind was her own when she ran.
                                         *                       *                       *
The General checked the clock in his car as he drove up the long drive to Sarah's house.  6:30 am.  She should be up by now.  Normally he would have waited for Sarah to come to him after her debriefing but this couldn't wait.  He stopped in front of the house and looked at the mansion that would have looked better in the english countryside then the rolling hills of northern Virginia.  He hadn't been to this house in years.  Even now he hesitated getting out of the car but eventually climbed out of the suburban he preferred to drive over the standard government sedan.
         He was an older man, his hair long ago gone completely white.  He claimed it was more from the stress of the job then his actual age.  But who was he kidding?  Walking up to the door he fished a key from his pocket and hesitated before turning it in the lock.  It had been over thirty years since he had done that.  The motion was still familiar.  He went through to the kitchen and saw the coffee maker on.  She was up.  Probably out running.  He went to the back terrace and seeing the empty coffee mug on the table, he started to pace impatiently.  He had things to do but he also owed her the information he had.  Considering leaving the file with a note he caught movement out of the corner of his eye and saw her running towards the house.
           He stood there watching Sarah approach and absently tapped the folder on the table next to him.  She hadn’t seen him yet and he took that time to study her.  Physically she seemed fine, if a bit harder.  The General frowned and his dark eyes were clouded with concern for a few minutes.  His white hair made him look more like a grandpa then the battle hardened man he was.  When he had been assigned to running The Company after 9/11 he had already had his eye on Sarah; for years in fact.  Clearing his throat he nodded as Sarah saw him.  She slowed to a walk and looked at him confused as she approached.  He had never come to her house that she remembered.
“Out for a run I see.” He said.  He stood and picked up the folder.
“I didn’t know you even knew where I lived.” She said, breathing hard.  She walked past him towards the house.
“You haven’t figured out by now I know everything Sarah?” he said, following her.
In the kitchen she filled a glass with water and drank it down, not looking at him.  He stood there waiting.  He knew what was going to come.  She thought she was good at hiding her temper when really, it was her greatest weakness.  Slamming the glass down hard enough to make him wonder if it was cracked she rounded on him.
“No more missions!  I finally have a real lead on Sharon and I need to follow up on it!” she said, pointedly not looking at the folder.  She relaxed a little.  “Besides, I haven’t even started debriefing and writing up this last one.”  Leaning back against the counter she crossed her arms and her glared at him, her green eyes daring him to disagree with her.  He tapped the folder on his hand and then set it on the counter.
“No mission.  I did some digging myself after that reporter told me what he had found.  He isn’t the only one who can ask innocuous questions.  I am in the intelligence business.”  He smiled a little and pulled a mug out of a cupboard and poured himself some coffee.  Sarah stared at the folder for a minute before picking it up.  There were pictures of two men in it.  Brian Kirland and Richard Suton.  She looked up at the General in shock.
“How did you get this?” she asked.  “Have you found them?”
“Not yet.  But I have people out looking for them.  The FBI is helping out as well.  Everyone wants in on this hunt for you Sarah.”
“Do we know anything about these guys?” she asked, sitting at the table and pouring over the folder.  “Ties to terrorists?  The mob?  Any reason they would take a college student and keep her hidden for five years?”  She never could find even a hint of a reason for the kidnapping.  The most obvious would have been for money but no demands were made and no movement on Sharon’s trust fund had been attempted.  The fund was fully available to her now.  She was well over 25 by now.  Thinking of that made a lump raise in her throat.  Five years!  Would she even be the same person as before?  Would she still be Sharon?  She felt the General put his hands on her shoulders and squeeze lightly.
“Sharon is not a quitter.  She’ll be ok.” He said as if he could read her mind.
“Five years.  How can you possibly know that?”
“Because she’s related to you and something tells me stubbornness runs in the family.”  Sarah smiled and closed the file and stood up, facing the General.  The look in his eyes was a mix of concern and determination.  For a split second she had the urge to reach out and hug him.  But in that second of hesitation, his eyes went back to the hardness she recognized and she realized a hug would have been the worst idea she had ever had!
“I hope so.  I better get dressed and head in.” she said, handing him the folder back.  He took it and nodded.
“I hear you had some success in Afghanistan.  That’s good.  I think you’ve earned a break.  When you finish the paperwork, take a couple weeks.  Maybe connect with that reporter.  He is a little useful to have around right now.”  Sarah looked at the General and nodded.  “I’ll see myself out.”
*** *** *** ***
The Watcher eased back behind a tree as the old man left the house.  They had been sitting on the house for two weeks, waiting for movement.  It seemed the hunter was finally home from the wars.  The Watcher held their breath as the car left through the gates that stayed open.  Not very good security for someone who had made enemies around the globe, and at such a young age.  Settling down in the shadows The Watcher considered the information they had.  A note from two years ago had been found by that journalist and now Sarah was about to start running about looking for her cousin again.  Emotional.  Emotions got in the way.  But perhaps they could be used.  Drumming fingers thoughtfully on the tree, The Watcher smiled.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chapter 1

Sarah King pulled through the large, wraught iron gate and smiled as her headlights flashed across the fa├žade of her home.  The house was dark as she pulled up in front of it.  It had been three months since she had been home.  Three months in the terror filled mountains of Afghanistan.  Working her way from place to place with marines and sometimes alone.  Somehow, in those three months she had grown to love the wild and raw beauty in those mountains.  Sometimes in the morning, as the sun rose, she would watch it work it’s colors across the sharp rocks, making a moment of peace in the middle of the chaos.  Giving her a moment of calm in the middle of her hunt.  That was what she had become, a hunter.  Looking for those that did not want to be found.  She had learned to live in the shadows like them in order to find them.  Sitting in her car she put her head down on the steering wheel and wondered if three months living like that had taken a bigger toll than she had imagined.
With a deep breath and a shake of her head she pulled her keys out of the ignition and got out of the car.  None of the outside lights were on but she could still see the house in her mind.  Three stories, white stone and floor to ceiling windows across the front.  The two wings stretched out to either side with the large, glass doors leading into the main house.  Taking a deep breath she smelled the wet pines from behind the house.  A fresh, clean and cool smell.  She let it fill her for a minute, washing away the dust, rocks and exhaustion of the past three months.
“No place like home.  Or at least so the story goes.”  Giving a start, she turned towards the voice in the dark.  Relaxing she recognized Sam’s voice.  He walked closer and she saw him hunched inside a coat.  “Aren’t you cold?” he asked, reaching out and rubbing one of her bare arms.  She smiled and shrugged.
“Feels good.  How did you know I was home?” she asked, turning towards the house, keys in hand.  Same followed her and smiled.
“The General.”  Sarah gave a small laugh and pushed open the glass door.  Flicking on a light she looked at the grand, front hall.  Marbled floors stretched up to a mahogany grand staircase.
“Be it ever so humble.” She murmured as she made her way through sitting rooms and the library to the kitchen.  Sam followed her, barely noticing the grandur around him.  He had known Sarah for a while now.  The opulence and wealth she had inherited  no longer made him hesitate.  He knew she only kept it for the memories.
In the kitchen he watched as she made a pot of coffee.  The fridge was almost empty, and what was in it didn’t look healthy.  As the smell of coffee wafted through the large kitchen she leaned against a counter and studied him.
“Why is the General letting you know where I am?” she asked.  Her black hair hung down her back in a loose pony tail.  Her pale skin and bright green eyes once more made him wonder what her actual hair color was.  Red?  Blonde?  He noticed her tapping her finger on the counter and brought himself back to the question.
“Ah, yes, well, normally a call to a journalist would not be something he would do.  But, he knew I had some information for you that you would want right away.”  He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her.  Opening it, her eyes widened when it got to the end.
“Where did you get this?” she asked, her breath coming faster and harsher as she looked from him to the letter.  Her hands were almost shaking and he made a move to reach out to her but she stepped away.  “I’m serious Sam, where?”
I found it in a house in Boston.  I was doing a story on a murder that happened and I got a chance to look through the house it happened in.  This was stuffed behind some loose paneling in one of the bedrooms.  And before you ask, the murder was gang related and involved a guy.  No, I had the paper analyzed and was told it had been there probably for two years.  But it tells us that at least two years ago she was alive and in Boston.”
Sarah reread the words that had obviously been hastily scribbled.  But the hand writing matched.  For five years she had been hunting.  Longer than she had ever hunted for anyone.  The trail had been cold for three years now.  This note though, it gave her a hope she hadn’t had in three years.
“All the resources of every agency out there and you find this by chance.  It’s frightening that I’m down to chance now in finding her.” She said.  Sam gently laid a hand on her shoulder and this time she didn’t pull away.  Looking up at him, he almost winced at the desperation in her eyes.  “Tell me you know who was living there two years ago.”  The urgency in her voice made him sigh.
“It was abandoned at the time.  But, this was a recent find.  I’m still working my contacts and also the neighbors.  Someone might have seen something.” He said.  He felt her tension slowly start to fade from her body.  She folded the paper and put it in her pocket.  Getting down two mugs she poured the brewed coffee and handed Sam one.
“Once I finish paperwork I’ll have some time off.  Maybe I can help out.” She said.  She wrapped her hands around the warm mug and stared at the contents.
“Sure.  That would be good.  The General figured you would want to.”  Sarah smiled at the mention of The General.
“I can’t believe he is still talking to you.  I thought for sure he would have happily buried you in a deep, dark cell after Iraq.” She laughed.  Sam gave a small laugh that ended in a cough as he tried to swallow.
“Oh, he would have loved nothing more!  But, I managed to wiggle myself out of that.  He finds me helpful now and then to have around.  My circles are different from his and I’ve been able to give…assistance…on a few occasions.”  Sarah looked at Sam in surprise.
“Don’t tell me he recruited you!” she laughed.  The look of consternation on Sam’s face made her laugh harder.
“No.  Nothing like that.  Although I’m sure he probably sees it that way now that you mention it.  I did him one favor to save my hide, now I guess it has become a habit to help him out now and then.  Although, recently, it’s been a little more often.  Damn!  He is a crazy…”  Sarah put her coffee down and leaned against the counter laughing even harder now.
“Oh Sam!” she gasped after a minute, “Welcome to the club.  As unofficial as he is leaving it, you are now a member!”  She reached over and gave his hand a squeeze and tried to surpress her laughter at the look of disgust on his face.  “It’s not so bad, really.  You can kiss any social life goodbye but there are perks.”
“Yeah?  Like what?  That psycho isn’t even paying me for the work I’m doing.”  Sam grumbled.
“Be glad he isn’t.  At least this way he is leaving you a tiny hole for escape.”  Sarah watched Sam come to grips with the fact that like it or not, he was working for The General.  The leader of the most secret intelligence agency out there.  The journalist wasn’t exactly happy, but she could see his brain working, recognizing that maybe, he was doing some good.  Reaching over she gave him a small hug.
“Nice to have you in the family Sam.” She said, “And thanks for this.”  She touched her pocket where the note was.  He shook his head and looked at her.
“Crazy son of a…”he trailed off.  “Yeah well, no problem kid.”  He set the coffee down and shrugged his coat back on.  “I have some things to finish up but I’ll be back around in a week or so.  Might have some direction by then.”  Sarah walked him back to the front door and let him out.  Locking up behind him she headed up the grand staircase and into the East Wing.
Walking in to her bedroom she tossed her keys on her dresser and frowned at the layer of dust they landed in.  She really should have had someone looking after the place when she was gone.  Dismissing the thought she pulled the paper out of her pocket and smoothed it out, rereading the note scribbled on it.
I’m here, I’m alive.  They move me every couple months.  They still won’t tell me why or who they are but the two who are always with me are called Brian and Rick.  European, perfect English.  Help me!  Find me!