Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prologue to "The Bering Sea," edit


Joshua Boatwright sat patiently, sipping from his small espresso cup, unsure of how he had come to be where he was, tucked into the back corner lobby of the Sheraton hotel in Crystal City. He looked out a floor-to-ceiling window onto a well kept courtyard. No, it was not his place to be there. Analysis was what he did, not personal liaisons. His calling in life was to assemble the smallest shards of data and form sweeping mosaics of truth, in a world filled with lies. Joshua was proud of his nickname, "Tevie," a shortened version of the motto he lived by. "Triple Verification" was that motto. Three sources to establish the veracity of each shard of data he added to his mosaics, to produce pictures of sanity in an insane world. His team of analysts, located four miles away, at CIA's Langley complex, had not conferred the nickname because of his work, however. Unknown to Joshua, they had given him the name because of their knowledge of his only recreation, which was watching television non-stop when not at the intelligence facility.

Diminutive and fidgeting, he sipped and fretted over the tops of his prescription glasses. They had jet black frames, for affect. He did not need them to read or drive. But they gave him a distinguished look, or so his ex-wife had told him, and they did help when examining the tiniest detail of photo intelligence. The Agency's electronic surveillance, although not legally allowable for personal use, such as tracking one's spouse, had proven ruthlessly effective, just after she'd commented on his spectacles.

A big man entered the lobby near its grand entrance. He wore an expensive blue suit. Its Italian cut did nothing, however, to disguise his morbid obesity. Joshua flicked his eyes towards the man, then grimaced. The man's florid complexion, bulbous nose and polished smile gave his identity away. The Senior Senator from Iowa stopped in the center of the large foyer, to take the place in. No assistants or attendants of any sort accompanied him, which did not surprise Joshua at all. The Senator noticed him sitting alone in the corner. Joshua glanced at him before looking down at a folder he had placed very exactly on his table. Noticing a slight tremor pass through his left wrist, he quickly tucked it down between his thigh and the arm of the chair. Never had he encountered anyone as an Agency representative, and certainly never a sitting senator, much less one who chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"There's no shame to having a little bit of fear here," he whispered inaudibly to himself, breathing deeply inward as he heard the powerful senator's approaching footsteps. Joshua squared his shoulders imperceptibly, his back ramrod straight. He had the weight and reputation of the entire Central Intelligence Agency behind him. He would neither genuflect nor grovel before anyone.

"You'd be their man?" the senator inquired very calmly, stopping astride Joshua's chair. Joshua started to rise and raise his right hand. He quickly caught himself, however, putting it down and reseating himself. He was not there, at a clandestine meeting, to be social, or to appear social.

"Stay seated," the senator said, paternalistically, his voice soft and silky. He lowered himself with visible difficulty into the narrow chair Joshua had purposely placed at right angles to his own before a low coffee table.

"Got something for me?" the senator asked into the silence between them. His tone this time flavored with a likability that the analyst instantly hated.

Before any reply could be made, the senator picked up the unmarked but highly classified file Joshua had placed on the table. Neither man said anything while he read its contents. Joshua noted that the lobby was completely empty, save for two clerks working registration near the entrance. The waiter, who had brought his expresso to him had never returned. Joshua hoped he wouldn't, for fear of having to touch the cup and allow the senator to see him shaking. Minutes passed. A bead of perspiration ran down his hairline behind his right ear. Fortunately, it was the ear opposite the senator's position.

"Says here that you boys are gonna go ahead and help me out," the big man in the blue suit intoned, before plopping the file back on the table.

"The usual Agency drivel," the senator commented, acidly.

"You gonna tell me what the plan is?" he inquired.

Joshua cleared his throat to steady himself, then followed his instructions.

"Your nephew is being justifiably imprisoned by a foreign government. His violations, meriting that imprisonment, are in keeping with what we normally associate with serious criminal behavior in our own country. The Agency does not normally involve itself in such matters, particularly where such deviant and anti-social behavior is involved." Joshua halted, having delivered his own righteous version of the background information he had been given during his briefing. After a few seconds of silence he realized that something was amiss. Without looking over, he felt the heat of tremendous anger flow toward him from the direction of the senator's chair. Instinctively, he dropped his left shoulder a millimeter or two in defense, before he caught himself.

"Just cut to the chase son. Don't make me come after your career." The senator's threat was issued in a low tone, more akin to that of an oversized cat purring than of a human voice. Joshua's throat froze, a tendril of fear coursing through him at the mention of his career. He finally cleared it by swallowing several times.

"We're sending our best man," Joshua gasped. "He's resourceful, violently equipped and experienced. No expense will be spared in this operation. But we're sending him in alone. We can't afford, no matter what measures you may or may not take, to have this operation rise to the level of an international incident. Not now." Joshua averted his gaze from the direction of the man from Capitol Hill as he finished his memorized message. He waited for a response, again trying to fathom why he had been selected for the role he was playing. He was in the dark, but Joshua sensed the reason. It was about the fact that his analysis group had provided the data which sanctioned the mess-of-a-mission the so-called 'best man' had pulled off, against all odds.

He heard the senator arise from his chair. He looked up, but the man was already walking away, his manufactured smile once more plastered to his politician's face. He had made no comment at all, not even in dismissal.

Joshua's shoulders pressed inward, and his head sank to the point that his jaw nearly touched his chest. His trembling fingers grasped the espresso cup handle. He took a shaky sip. He thought of the 'best man' the Agency was dispatching, then smiled weakly for the first time that day. That 'best man' had just come out of West Africa under the bloodiest of circumstances, having improbably accomplished his mission. The skewed manner in which his mission had been conducted would no doubt have the Agency looking like a stone cold, heartless and uncaring beast, and no one in analysis was taking that lightly. His grip steadied as he pondered over what he'd just done. He'd sent a low-life field agent off to save a drug-dealing nephew of a corrupt scumbag senator. This time not the remotest possibility of the mission's success existed.

Joshua Boatwright stood up straight, tucked the classified folder under his arm and strode across the lobby. His mind was already lost in formulation of the final mosaic, as it would appear, when the details of an illegal and doomed mission crossed his desk.

1 comment:

  1. A keg of dynamite with a long fuse hidden in a bin of fireworks: "Just come out of Africa. . .a low-life scumbag agent, to save a low-life scum bag nephew. . .and this time, there was not going to be the merest possibility of success." And my smile widens, while I hold up the taper's flame.