Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chapter 9

        Jack walked quickly from the suburban into the hotel and was met with a horde of reporters all shouting questions.  He answered with pieces of his stump speech and slowly made his way to the elevators.  He noticed his protective detail talking more than usual over their radios.  He wondered what was going on.  The elevator doors closed behind him, cutting of the cries for answers on campaign issues and he took a deep breath.  When the elevator stopped and the doors opened he made a move to go but a man was standing in his way.  It was a reporter he recognized that had recently joined the campaign trail.  He was surprised when the agents motioned him to come in.
        "Congressman.  My name is Sam Howe, I'm a friend of Sarah King.  She asked me to talk to you about some new developments."  Sam looked at Jack Sheffler and wondered what the man was thinking.  his face was blank, he didn't even blink at the mention of Sarah's name.  Jack turned to one of the agents.
           "We have a secure room for you on another floor Congressman."  Jack nodded and then turned to stare at the elevator door.  Sam shifted his feet, unsure what to say.  He wondered just how much he should reveal about his own relationship with Sarah.  He had been surprised when she had called him and said she had set up a meeting with him and the Congressman so he could pass on the information.  He hadn't know she was this close to him.  The reporter in him wanted to dig into that relationship to see if there was a story there but the part of him that wanted to stay in one piece knew to leave it alone.  He looked the Congressman up and down and realized that hip injury or no, he would have no problem taking Sam out.  Sam shook his head.  Why had he ever gotten himself involved with the world of spooks?  Even ex spooks like the Congressman never seemed to leave that world behind.
          The elevator stopped and they all stepped off.  It was only then that Jack realized the agents had neatly seperated him from his aid, Sean.  They walked to a room guarded by two more agents and went in.  Then it was just Sam and Jack.  The two men took a moment silently sizing up the other one.  Then Jack shrugged out of his suit coat and loosened his tie.  He went to the refridgerator and took out a water, offering a second one to Sam who declined.
           "How do you know Sarah?" Jack asked.  Sam shook his head and smiled.
            "Not sure I'm allowed to say.  Lets leave it at she helped me out of a difficult situation and we took a liking to each other.  I've been helping her look for her cousin."  Sam walked over to the table and set his briefcase on it, opened it and started to rummage through.
            "That's right.  Sarah said you found that letter Sharon wrote."  Sam nodded.  "I have to ask you Sam, do you think she is still alive?"  Sam stopped looking for the folder with the papers Sarah had sent him and looked at the Congressman in surprise.
            "Honestly sir, Until last night, I was almost sure she had to be dead.  Or at least hoped she was she has been gone so long.  But I also knew that saying anything like that to Sarah would land me on the ground in a rather unpleasant way.."  Jack laughed and rubbed his hip.
            "That's for sure.  Wait, what happened last night?"  Sam gave a small smile.  Was the Congressman dumb enough to suggest such a thing to Sarah?  She had been particularly upset when she had seen this name attached to Kirland's name. But the information he had was a game changer.  "Here we go." he said as he pulled the file from the bottom of the briefcase.  Walking over to Jack he handed it to him and let him look through it.  The first picture made the Congressman stop and put down his water.
         "You've got to be kidding me!" he said.  He flipped through the rest of the pictures then turned to Sam.  "Do they know where she is?"  Sam made a face.
          "No.  They lost her before she left the airport."  Jack kept looking through the pictures in disbelief.  Sarah had been right, she was alive!  Other then the darker hair, she looked the same, maybe a little thinner, more muscular.  He hadn't expected that.
         "What does Sarah need?  We'll be back in DC in a week."  Jack said, handing the pictures back to Sam.  He took them and looked at them a moment himself.
         "Yeah, she told me to tell you specificaly to stay out of the way."  He glanced up at the Congressman who had a startled look on his face.  "Meaning no disrespect, I actually cleaned up her message a little bit.  She thinks you are too much in the public eye to be able to do anything."  Jack swore and Sam bit his lip to keep from smiling.  He would have been just as mad if she had said the same to him.  "To be honest, I don't think there is much either of us can do right now. Analysts are working to see if they can find someone traveling with her or following her.  Trying to figure out if she is still in someone's custody and if not where she could have gone."  Jack nodded and started walking around the room slowly.   Sam could see he was frustrated.
         "I'm assuming it goes without saying we are completely off the record in here Sam." he said.  Sam nodded.  "Dammit I would give up this whole campaign to be back there helping her!"  Sam watched him a moment and then decided to see what would happen with a question that had been bugging him since he had spoken to Sarah last night.
           "Why are you running Congressman?"  Jack stopped and looked him directly in the eye and for a split second Sam wondered if he had gone too far.  There was a dangerous look in the other man's eye that was gone before Sam was sure he had even seen it.  Then he just looked tired.  Jack rubbed a hand over his eyes and walked a few more steps before stopping and turning back.
          "That's classified Sam." 

                                      ***                                   ***                         ***

         Sarah put her head down on her desk and resisted the urge to fall asleep.  She couldn't sleep!  For the first time they had real time proof that Sharon was alive.  She had to keep going until she found her.  Lifting up her head she picked up a picture of Sharon looking almost directly at the camera.  She didn't look scared, sick, tired or in any way like someone who had been missing for five years.
         "Where have you been?  And where are you now?" she whispered, trying to will an answer from the photograph.
       "All good questions.  We'll find the answers, don't worry."  Sarah looked up at Emily and dropped the picture.  She had to ask the question she had refused to even acknowledge in her own mind.  The pictures made no sense.  As much as Sarah didn't want Sharon to be hurt or traumatized, she had been gone five years.  And the letter she had written was two years old.
        "Emily, I know I stopped you before from talking about this but these pictures...it wasn't what I was expecting."  Emily sat on the corner of the desk and picked up one of the photographs.  She studied it for a few minutes.
         "Any number of things could have happened.  My guess, just by how well she looks, is that they took care of her physically.  Her face seems calm.  She is always looking forward or occasionally to the side, like most people walking through an airport.  I watched the footage carefully, she never looked behind her, she never hurried.  She didn't seem scared.  She could be completely fine.  She could be following directions or she could also be just someone who looks astonishingly like Sharon."  Sarah shook her head.
         "I heard once that supposedly there is a large number of people out there who have someone who looks exactly like them.  A doppelganger.  I can't believe that is all we are seeing.  If she wasn't wearing that scarf...Sharon had a small birthmark on the side of her neck.  Just a small, brown spot.  If I could just see..."  Sarah trailed off and Emily put a hand on her shoulder.  They both jumped a little at a throat being cleared behind them.  Emily stood up and nodded.
         "General." she said as she went back to her office.  Sarah turned around and looked up, wondering what he wanted.  He pulled a chair over and sat down, tapping a folder on his knee.
        "I know this is a bad time but I need you in Russia for a few days."  Sarah looked at him in disbelief!
        "Now?!  For what?"  he handed her the folder and she opened it.  A growl started in the back of her throat.  "Yuri is getting on my last nerve General."
         "I know.  But with things heating up over there, he is getting nervous.  He wants out and honestly, he is becoming more of a liability than a help there now.  And he only trusts you.  You brought him to us and he doesn't trust anyone else to bring him here."
         "He had to pick now to defect?"  She stopped and looked up, an idea forming.  "You don't think there could be a connection do you?  I mean, we never learned who took Sharon.  And honestly, I thought at first the reason was because of me.  That someone was trying to get to me because of my job.  Could someone over there have figured out Yuri was working with us?  Could they have been controling him all this time?  Could--"  The General held up a hand and she stopped, realizing she was starting to babble.
         "I know you are looking for answers but I can guarantee they aren't there.  Yuri has been carefully watched.  She was taken long before this mess over there got under way.  Take a team, extract Yuri and come back.  Maybe we'll have something more by then."  Sarah sighed and nodded.  The General got up and walked away as she gathered her things.  She looked one last time at the pictures and put them in a drawer.
         The General watched Sarah go and sighed.  He needed her out of the way and this was the perfect excuse.  He couldn't believe Sharon had shown up after all these years.  The fact that from the cameras she seemed in good health, while good for Sarah, concerned him.  He returned to his office and watched the footage of her walking from her plane through Dulles.  He paused it and zoomed in on her face.  With her hair dyed now she looked so much like her mother.  Sighing, he closed his computer and sat back thinking.  Something was wrong.  And he had to find out what before Sarah got hurt even more.

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