Ben sat at his desk trying to figure out how things had gone so badly. He had watched the video at least ten times, it was nothing less than amazing. How had that geek ever learned to shot like that? Then he reminded himself the Jake Hammond wasn’t just another computer geek. He had been an Army Ranger with a fairly distinguished career. There was something missing though. Rangers don’t just go off to become geeks.
Ben picked up the phone and dialed a number for a friend he hadn’t talked to in a while.
“Paul, how are you?” he spoke into the receiver as his friend answered the phone.
“Ben, is that you? I have talked to you in a long time.” Paul answered with some curiosity.
“Yea it’s me. How is the family?”
“Ben how long did we work together. You never asked about them when we saw each other every day. Now you call out of the blue and ask about my family. Give over, why are you really calling?”
Ben thought great he is already put off and I haven’t even asked him. “Well it’s like this Paul, I am thinking of hiring this guy to do some work for the company I am with. He does computer Database work. The thing is something about him doesn’t feel right. He says he was a ranger, but he got out about eight years ago. Like I said though, something just feels off to me.”
“You always were one to follow you gut. What is this guy’s name?”
“Jake Hammond one second let me find his social.” Ben read it off to Paul. He could hear him typing on the other end of the line.
“Well I can tell you a few things. One he was in the army and he was a ranger. He does own a computer consulting firm. This is weird though.”
“Well from what I see he has a current clearance. There is also an annotation here that all deep background has to go thru this phone number. I have never heard of that.”
“Hmm. That does sound a bit odd. Why would someone have that on their file?”
“I couldn’t tell you. Hope that helps.”
Ben got the hint that Paul had gone as far as he was willing to go. “Thanks Paul. You still drink the Famous Gross?”
“I will send you a bottle for your troubles.” With little courtesy the call was ended. Ben sat back in his chair thinking. Why would someone’s background file have a contact number? The first thing that came to his mind was that Jake was a contract agent for one of the Alphabet soup club. He had seen several files of contract agents though, and they never had that. Maybe he was under some kind of investigation.
As he sat there in deep contemplation his phone beeped and Carl’s voice came over the intercom. “Ben we have a problem get up here to my office right away.”
“On my way Carl.” As he headed to Carl’s office the odd contact number kept popping into his head. Before he knew it he was in Carl’s reception area. He didn’t even hear Carl’s secretary as he opened the door for him he just went in.
“Ben,” Carl said without any preamble. “We have to go to Washington and Now!”
Snapped back to reality Ben asked, “Pardon me?”
“I said you me and four of your security guys are going to DC now. I have the corporate jet waiting for us. Can you be at the airport in two hours? We may be a couple days, so grab a quick change and an overnight bag.”
“Yea, ok” Ben was confused what was going on? Why were they going to DC?
The rest of the evening had been nice in Jake’s opinion. He and Kathy had sat and talked for several hours. He showed her his pistol even teaching her some basics without being at a firing range. She had kissed him about 1am and said she was going to bed. As she got to her room she looked back at him asking if he was going to stay up all night. “No I have a few things to do before I go to bed though.” She grinned at him went in not closing the door behind her. He rechecked the door then sat at the table and began to work.
He needed his laptop up and running. He had been about to just buy a new one to save the time, but had decided he wanted to rebuild this one instead. He inserted a CD into the drive and started it up. When the screen came up he went thru the mundane task of reformatting the entire hard drive. Then he installed the operating system and drivers for it. As soon as the machine was up and running he went onto the net. He wasn’t browsing though, he needed to connect to seedy side of internet, to reach into the dark corners where he had once been regular occupant.
He was starting to form a plan. First he needed to know what was so important, that someone was willing to kill to keep him from finding the data. He went to old hacker servers where he had hidden the data and pulled it down to his laptop. Then he went to a mirror of the dump site. He had set it up years ago, anything that was placed on the public sight was automatically copied to a hidden server buried deep within IBM that they probably didn’t even know still existed. After he copied down all the data and the CD images he began to try to piece it all together. It was pointless though. The information he needed wasn’t there. He finally decided to give up around 5 am. He didn’t go to his room though. He lay on the couch with his pistol tucked in between the cushions, and was quickly asleep.
Kathy woke at 6:15 out of habit. She lay in her bed for several minutes replaying the events of the previous day. So many things had happened. She didn’t think she would be able to sleep but she had been wrong. As soon as she had lain down she was out. The stress of the events had worked like a heavy duty sleeping pill. As she lay there she thought about Jake. He was like and onion where she had thought of him as an apple. He wasn’t just some geek who didn’t know how to take care of the simple things, as she had described him in her thesis. When she had seen him the day before, running from the front door towards her with a gun in his hand, she had been scared. The look on his face was something she had never thought to see on him. It wasn’t the look of intense concentration, it was the look of a man who knew he needed to do something and was resigned to do it right. It was like he was scrubbing the floors, just something that had to be done right.
At first that had bothered her. She would not of believed he was capable of that. While talking to the police she realized how impossible what Jake had done was. Every cop she relayed the story to had a look of pure amazement on their faces after she told the story. When she later found out he had taken the gun from the guy at the door, her brain just refused to accept it. Jake was a Geek. He sat in front of a computer for days on end forgetting to eat or sleep. He didn’t know how to kill people, but he did, and from what the police had said he knew how to do it very well. She had been shocked when he told her in the store he loved her. Not by the admission of it but by the look on his face. He had been truly terrified. It only took her a heartbeat to realize why. He was afraid she was going to break his heart. He had told her the simple truth in that he wasn’t afraid to die just to lose her. Those words and the look on his face had been the reason she was here now. She had been debating whether to leave and go home or not. That is until that moment. After his revelation she knew she couldn’t leave him. Not because of him but because hurting him would hurt her.
“Ok Kathy it is time to get up” she told herself, and did just that. As she slipped on the sweats from the day before, she really liked the police sweats, she wondered if Jake was still up or if he had slept last night. She crossed the room expecting to find him sitting at his computer when she got to the door.
At the first sound of Kathy’s door opening a little more Jake sat up drawing his pistol and scanning the room. His movement startled her. Kathy was sure he had gone from dead asleep to wide awake in the beat of a heart. Though he scanned the room with the gun, it was never aimed at her. The way he moved spoke of a familiarity and knowledge though.
“Didn’t mean to scare you, I’m sorry” Jake said as he rose from the couch and walked to the door to check it.
“Did you sleep?” she asked.
“Yea I did. How about you, where you able to get some rest?”
“Surprisingly enough I was out like a light.”
“That’s the adrenaline effect from yesterday.” He said as if she had never heard of it, he seemed different somehow. “Jake, are you ok? Is something wrong?”
“I went through the data last night after I rebuilt my laptop. Nothing. There was nothing to tie to the data we already had.”
“Why is that so important? If we don’t have whatever they don’t want us to have then they will leave us alone right?”
“I seriously doubt that Kathy. Those people didn’t want us dead because of what we had. They wanted us dead because of what we might have had. What we could have. I am pretty sure they will try again. The only way we can be safe is if they are afraid of what we can do with it.” He walked backed to the couch and sat down looking at her still in the doorway.
“So what are we going to do then?” she asked walking to the chair across from him.
“I have a few ideas but I need some help and some time to think it through first.” He sat looking at her and knew he had to get her to safety.
“Jake, I don’t like what I just saw flash across your face. Why do I think you are going to dump me somewhere and go after these guys on your own?”
“Because you can read my mind maybe,” he chuckled softly.
“That is not what you are going to do. Do you understand me?” she said with more than a little heat in her voice.
Jake wasn’t surprised. He knew this was going to be somewhat of a sticky situation with her. How do I make her see reason he thought. “Well the first thing is we need some breakfast. Then we need clean wheels. What do you say we shower change and head out to eat?”
“Sounds good.” With that she headed to her room.
While Kathy was in showering and getting ready Jake quickly went to his room and did the same. In True Army fashion he was showered shaved and dressed in 3 minutes flat and waiting in the sitting room before she came out still drying her hair with a towel. “Did you already shower and change?” Kathy asked in amazement.
“Yea us men have it easy.” He said with a smirk on his face. Kathy thru her wet towel at him. “There is coffee on the counter there, and a travel mug in the bag on the floor in front of it. As soon as you’re ready we can take off.”
“Ok, I am about ready just want to blow dry my hair and put some makeup on.”
Jake walked to her and put his arms around her. “I love you.” He said, and kissed her softly on the forehead.
She looked up and him and said “I love you too.”
He pulled away and saying, “Once we leave this room, everything is an act. We have to put on a show for these people. We have to show them what we want them to see.”
“Do you really think they will believe that you are just going into get a new radio in your truck?” She asked.
“No, but I want them to think that. That way when my truck leaves clean they will follow it. Once we get to the shop we will take off in a taxi and head to the office. I have to go to The Morning Dew as well.” Seeing the question on her face he answered it before she could ask. “I keep some money and other things there as well as a few bottles.” It finally made sense to Kathy, why he used the shop.
“Jake,” she paused gather her courage. “Are you a spy or something? Why do you have a drop box in a wine shop? How do you know how to shot the way you did?” Jake could see the accusation in her eyes.
“No I am not a SPY.” He said adding a great deal of scorn to the last word. “I am what they call a contract agent. I do odd jobs for some of the countries agencies.” He trailed off.
Kathy was stunned. He sat on the couch looking at her waiting for her to run. He could see that in her eyes. She simply asked “For how long?”
“It started when I was in the army. Once I got out I did a few jobs a year for them. Then I transferred all that type of stuff to a second company I created off shore. I don’t do any field work at all anymore.”
“Any more? That means you did. That you used too. Right?”
“Yes when I first got out some agencies passed work to me thru the company. I hired the help I needed as consultants.”
“So you have no idea if the men from yesterday are from this laptop crap or from some mission you did trying to get revenge on you, Right?” She was totally pissed off now. Who was this guy?
“The guys yesterday had nothing to do with anything I have done in my past I am 99% sure of that. They are something else they are here because of the laptop.”
“What makes you so damn sure Jake the super spy?”
“Kathy please I am not a spy. I am sure because they wiped everything off all of my computers while we were at the police station.”
“So why don’t you call your handler or contact man or whatever you guys call it, and find out what the hell is going on.” She was shouting now. Jake on the other hand was sitting on the couch peaceful as could be. He wasn’t raising his voice he wasn’t even upset that she was.
“Kathy,” he stopped and looked her in the eye. Then continued, “Kathy, I , I was hoping this wouldn’t be a problem. I am who you think I am, a computer geek, but I also do contract work for our government.”
“Computer work is that what you call it?”
“Look I don’t do anything except manage and plan ops now. I love you and debated whether I should tell you about this at all. I decided that if we were going to get married to hell with the rules, you dissevered to know.”
“The rules? What the rules say you can’t tell anyone even your future wife?” she was starting to settle down and walked over to sit beside him on the couch. Jake picked up a remote and turned on the stereo. “Kathy if you will give me a chance I will tell you everything. I just ask that you give me that chance. Then if you want I will make sure you are safe and you will never have to see me again. I will understand either way.” He looked deep into her eyes and began to speak again, “I love you and you are my life please give me the chance.” She nodded her acquiesce, and Jake began to tell the story.
An hour later they sat in the same place on the couch. Jake had told her almost everything and she had just listened until he had run down. At that point she asked several questions, which he answered willingly. When they were done talking Kathy picked up the remote and switched off the stereo. “Jake, I love you as much now as I did last night. Maybe even more for your honesty. I can’t say I understand, but I do accept. I Love you and I want to be with you.”
Jake starred at her for a long time. Then as if nothing had happened he said, “I love you, you about ready to go?”
Kathy felt like slapping him so hard his eyes would swim in his head. All she did though was Stand and head to her room saying, “I love you too. Can you give me about ten minutes please?”
“Sure thing Gorgeous.” His words stopped her on her way to her room she turned to see him grinning at her from across the room.
Carl and Ben sat in the sitting room of one of the three bedroom suites on the eighth floor of the Hay-Adams Hotel waiting for their guest.
“So you going to tell me what we are doing here?” asked Ben
“We are meeting with the man in charge. He wants us to brief him on everything that is and has been happening. He should be here shortly.”
“And why are we meeting him here?”
“Well we couldn’t meet him at the White House could we? How would it have looked us walking into the West Wing to see him?” Carl chided.
Ben’s blood seemed to freeze in his veins. Did Carl mean they were meeting the President? He didn’t say another word until there was a knock on the door. The door opened after the knock came, not waiting for an answer. After all you didn’t keep someone as important as the White House Chief of Staff waiting in the hall.
Tom Green came in with an expression that said he was less then pleased to be seeing either man. He walked to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. He turned and walked to the chair sitting at the head of the coffee table.
“So what is this foul up I had to fix and why?” he demanded and took a drink from the cup.
Carl Avery was not as big a wimp as one might think when you first meat him. However, today he turned to Ben and said, “You had better tell him Ben you are the operational security guy.”
So it was going to be Ben’s fault, he thought to himself. “Sir since you are a busy man I will try to keep this short.” Mr. Green nodded. “About two years ago we had one of our field guys, a sales men type not a security guy, was killed in New York. He was killed by a cab driver who stole everything he had including the cloths he was wearing. The police caught the cabby killer but we never recovered his laptop. About a week ago it came into the possession of one Jake Hammond. He is a Database programmer in Santa Rosa California. He bought it from a friend of his that runs a new and used computer store. It seems this Jake guy is nosey. He started digging thru information on the machine. When he couldn’t figure out the database he started digging. His assistant, a Kathy Kettlemen, wound up on our home site. We have a security program that install in order for anyone to view our website. This program started looking thru her machine and then the entire network. It found the files, they are marked with our company name in the properties of the file. When this happened the alarms started going off in the main office. We immediately sent a team to northern California to watch the two.
We over heard him trying to find the disks from that were stolen at the same time. He did locate someone who said they had the disks. He originally was going to have them shipped to him. We had planned on intercepting them in route, and replacing them with some junk. He then changed the plan to have the guy he was getting them from place them on a server. When we heard this it was decided to remove Mr. Hammond and Ms. Kettlemen. Our team went to the home to do this. When they started Mr. Hammond dispatched them with little to no effort. Then he called the police. The police have the bodies at this time. A second team is in Santa Rosa. They are watching the house and monitoring the transmitters in the vehicles. We have no way to know if the bodies can be traced back to us at this point. I think that covers it doesn’t it Carl?” Ben asked trying to make sure some of the mud fell on him too.
Carl said, “Give him the background on this guy.”
“We did a standard background. He was an Army Ranger with the 2nd ranger battalion. I called a FBI friend he checked and his file has a contact number. In the 18 years I worked for the FBI I never even heard f such a thing.”
Tom Green sat drinking his coffee with a look of deep concentration on his face. He finished his coffee and stood. He walked to the counter and sat the cup and saucer on it. Then he turned and said, “The bodies were picked up last night. The entire thing was wrapped up by the NSA as an internal national security matter.” He sat his coffee cup down and looked them both hard in the eyes. “Fix this buy the guy off send him to hell. I don’t really care. You either fix it or there will be problems.” He turned and headed to the door.
Before he got there Carl asked, “You had us come here to tell us that?”
Green turned back towards the two. “Look Carl you are in charge of the company to take care of this kind of thing. Do you really want me to get involved? Maybe you would like me to take this to him?”
“That wasn’t what I was saying,” Carl complained. “We need some help though Tom. We need access to information we don’t have. This guy is definitely more than just your average computer geek. But, all the files we have access to say he is just that. He has some army training but not like we saw on the video from his house.”
“Ok, I will get you a contact number to get you whatever information you need. I will call you at your office as soon as I have it.” He paused then went on, “wait never mind I will call you here with the information. I want you two here for a few days just in case we have to talk to him.” With that he left.
“What exactly did he mean by that?” Ben asked Carl.
“Don’t worry about it Ben. You heard him we wait here. He will get us what we need.”