"The Coffee House Spy" 5
Stacy turned from the window and holstered her gun as Brent walked back into the apartment.
“Did you get the license plate?” she asked.
“I framed a shot of it but I doubt it’ll be a lead.”
“You’re probably right, but I think I got a good one of the driver.” She held up the night vision binoculars she’d been using to watch the scene below.
“Great. Let’s take a look.”
Brent tossed off the fat suit's jacket and walked over to the laptop on the desk.
Stacy couldn't contain a giggle at his mismatched physique and Brent turned with a quizzical look.
“You are; you’re all fit and fine from the waist up but from the waist down…” She couldn’t finish the thought because laughter over took her.
“Yeah hysterical, I get it and after this assignment, I’m losing this fat suit from my repertoire,” he told her, brooking no argument, then he turned back to the desk and opened the laptop. “Can you stop laughing long enough to give me the SD card from your binoculars?”
“Sure.” Stacy swallowed her mirth and walked over to hand him the card.
Brent slid the tiny card into the laptop’s port and uploaded the image. He opened it and was pleased with the quality of the picture.
“It's a clear image; let see if we can identify him.” Brent activated the face recognition program.
“This might take awhile,” Stacy said and pulled a chair from the small dining table over to the desk but before she sat down, a high pitch bell alerted them to a match.
“That was quick,” she said inching her chair closer to the screen.
Brent gave her a look of concern. "It's a match but...not what I thought we'd find."
“What do you mean?”
“It found a match in the bureau’s personnel files.”
“It’s an agent? Why would an agent be watching us?”
They locked eyes in silent communication, telegraphing their mutual conclusion that something wasn’t right.
“Let’s see who our tail is?” Brent said opening the department file.
The picture inside was attached to an impressive profile. Brent didn’t need to read the dossier; he knew the name under that picture, knew it well enough to heighten his concern. This was no ordinary tail; this was an elite agent. It made no sense to have him on this assignment; why would he be tasked with watching them?
Stacy gasped when she read the name and whispered, “You’re right Brent; we do have a problem.”
“I’m officially aborting this mission.” Brent snapped the laptop closed and stood up.
“We can’t just abort; can we?”
Brent was about to tell her, they damn well could, but his phone pinged; he’d just received a coded message.
Stacy stood up and walked over to him. "What's it say?"
Brent pulled the phone from his pocket, seeing the code on his screen his expression turned grim. He held the phone up so Stacy could see the code. “We’ve got a meeting.”
“Good, then we’ll find out what’s going on here.” Stacy’s tone was cold; she was not fond of internal deception.
Brent’s phone pinged again and this coded message gave the meeting’s place and time, but it was another unusual protocol.
“Where and when is the meeting?” Stacy asked.
“At midnight…their coming here.”
“Here? That can’t be right Brent.”
He showed her the code. “It is and we’ve got three hours to figure out why.”
“I’ll order pizza,” Stacy said with a resigned grunt.
“And I’m going to get out of the rest of this fat suit,” Brent said already walking to the bedroom.
Stacy nodded; they both needed to be nimble in case they’d been set up.
Three men in camouflage and carrying guns slipped across the rooftops of the attached houses until they landed on the one they sought. One of the men picked the lock on the roof’s entry door allowing all three to slip silently into the building.
“Stay here; make sure no one follows,” The older man instructed the other two.
The men accepted the orders and quickly moved into position, their guns at the ready in their calm, trained hands.
The older man began to walk down the stairs with his hand in a casual but primed position at his side.
Stacy had just finished her third slice of pizza, a perfect blend of spices and cheese and was about to take another when there was a rhythmic knock on the apartment door. She stood up and placed her hand on her gun.
Brent nodded to her and his gun was primed as he walked to the door. He looked out from the peep hole and smiled. The middle digit that was perfectly framed in the circular glass told him it was not an imposter; their boss was here.
Brent opened the door. “Hello Diamond.”
The older man stepped into the apartment as the two agents inside holstered their guns. “I’d said I’m glad to be here, but I’m not.”
Stacy frowned at her boss. “I can’t say I’m happy to see you either. What’s going on here; why are we suddenly sitting ducks and what are we sitting here for?”
Diamond chuckled at her straight to the point questions.
“Hello Stacey; nice to see your edge hasn’t gotten any smoother.”
“Thanks for the compliment but I’d rather you tell me what’s up.”
Diamond, as he was known to his operatives, didn’t answer her inquiry instead he walked to the couch and took out a small listening device from his ear and placing it on the coffee table before he sat down.
What’s that for?” Brent asked taking a seat across from him in a side chair.
“I have two men on the roof; this gives me a heads up if something goes down.”
“You have them wired?”
“And you wouldn’t?” Diamond countered with a smirk.
Brent shrugged but his eyes said, of course he would.
“So what are you thinking might go down, has it something to do with the chip?” Stacy asked her boss, her impatience clear in her tone.
“No, this has nothing to do with the cuff link; in fact, I’ll take it from you now.” Diamond assured her.
Stacy wasn’t satisfied with his answer and neither was Brent.
“If it’s not the cuff link then why is Thiesel watching us?” Brent cut through the glib and into the heart of the issue.
Diamond’s brow rose considerably. “You saw him?”
“Got a great head shot too if he’d like to go into acting,” Brent smirked.
“I’ll have to talk to him about that,’ Diamond mumbled.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you talk to him about just tell me why he’s been put on babysitting duty.”
“It’s to do with …that dog,” Diamond told him with obvious hesitation.
“What about the dog would be interesting to anyone?” Stacy asked.
“That we haven’t been able to discern; I’m hoping you'll uncover that answer.”
Brent’s eyes darkened with pain.
“Sir Harry was given to me by an operative I trust and I have no reason to suspect ulterior motives,” Brent insisted but he was seething with anger at the memory that still haunted.
“I know; Russ was a hard loss.”
“Hard loss, is that all he was?”
“No, and I don’t take what happened to your brother without pain either,” Diamond maintained in a tone that may have been edged with regret, but it was still cloaked.
Brent’s eyes remained shadowed and cold but he managed a tight nod.
“If you’re here then you have some intelligence on this, or you wouldn’t be acting on it.” Stacy observed with a scrutinizing eye on Diamond.
“We haven’t anything but chatter,” he told her then turned back to Brent, “Did Russ say anything about the dog’s owner when he gave him to you?”
The pain intensified behind Brent’s eyes and he had to close them for a moment before recounting the last time he’d seen his brother.
“He said the dog had lost its owner but he never said who that was, only that the owner was a trusted friend who’d lost a battle with cancer and entrusted the dog’s care to Russ.”
“Brent, I know this is difficult for you and I’m sorry this is somehow connected to your brother but-.”
Brent was unconvinced of Diamond’s concerned and interrupted. “No, you don't know, and I agree with Stacy, there has to be more to what you know and you're not disclosing.”
“I don’t have more to offer.”
“And I don’t see how the dog that had been with Russ for nearly a year when he asked me to watch him, could suddenly be of interest to anyone?”
Diamond’s expression clouded but he avoided answering. “He gave him to you before he left on that…mission, didn’t he?”
Brent stood up rattled by the unanswered questions he had regarding that mission. "Yes and as you know, he didn’t return. You’ve been a vault on the details of that mission Diamond but in light of this new concern, I think its time you open that vault and tell me about it.”
This time it was Diamond’s eyes that shadowed with pain and Brent was surprised by the slip of the stoic operative’s mask, but more so because it roused his suspicion.
“What are you guilty of Diamond?”
“I never sent him on a mission; whatever he was investigating, or chasing, was not sanctioned by the office.”
“What? Why didn’t you alert me then; I could have partnered with him?”
“We didn’t realize he’d gone off path until after he went missing.”
Brent seethed with impotent fury. “If that's true, I had a right to know everything you knew at that time.”
“We knew nothing, but with the chatter we're hearing, we had to review his disappearance and that prompted us to put Thiesel on bodyguard duty, to protect you both.”
“From what damn it?” Brent wasn’t pacified by the contrite answer.
Diamond stared at the volatile agent in front of him and he didn’t blame him for the outburst but he could only offer a direction.
“We thought, since you have access to your brother’s apartment, there could be something there. Have you gone through all of his possessions?”
Brent gave a snort of disbelief. “That’s funny; his apartment was packed up and stored away by the bureau’s order; I wasn’t allowed to go through any of it.”
Diamond’s mask slipped further and showed true dismay. “I gave no such order; when was this?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“Then we have a bigger problem Brent; if an order came from within; there’s a mole.”
“Are you kidding me?” Stacy demanded. She’d remained silent, listening to the conversation with deference to Brent’s pain over his brother’s disappearance, but she couldn’t contain her outrage at this new twist of information.
“I wish it weren't true but...you’re both now in greater danger than I thought."
“Then Emily is in danger too,” Brent accused, seething at the lack of timely information that might have helped, “And you know, she doesn’t deserve to be.”
“I’m aware of that,” Diamond concurred, “But you’re going to have to keep her innocent of the facts while still protecting her and the dog.”
Stacy frowned at the two of them. “Are you kidding? I say we fill her in and get to a safe house.”
“You can’t do that Stacy. It would alert the person stalking the dog and it would tip off the mole,” Diamond warned her.
“He’s right,” Brent said, hating to have to agree but he did. Then he turned to Diamond. “We’ll keep her oblivious and safe but you have to tell us everything you learn, as you learn it.”
“Of course,” Diamond agreed and picked up the listening device put it back in his ear, preparing to leave.
“Your word isn’t good enough Diamond; I want a direct line.”
Diamond stopped and looked at him. Then he shook his head. “I can’t-”
“Do it…or I’ll go to the top,” Brent wasn’t bluffing.
Diamond couldn’t blame him; he’d demand the same if the circumstances were reversed.
“You’d have to protect it from exposure, at all cost,” Diamond warned.
“Just like you’re protecting my bother?” Brent countered with troubled eyes.
“We’ll find him.” Diamond promised.
“And I’ll protect the access.” Brent’s checkmate was understood.
Diamond held out his hand and Brent handed him his phone.
Diamond set a number into the encrypted contacts that only a trusted few had; of course he’d have to report the new ears on the line, and he would…eventually.”
Diamond had left nearly an hour ago and Stacy continued to watch Brent’s caged movements as he tried to wrestle with the new information, and all the deceptions.
“Are you sure we have to stay here? Can’t we tell her and take her to a safe place?” She asked again.
“No. Diamond was right about that, we have to pretend we don’t know anything has changed and if we had to have a protector out there, Thiesel is one of the best.”
“Sure that makes a difference; I just love being watched.”
Brent chuckled. “Then the sooner we figure out why someone wants Sir Harry the sooner we can lose the tail.”
“That’s true but you know this means you’ll have to continue to wear that fat suit.”
Brent grimaced. “Yeah, I know our characters have to stay in play. Mr. Peter Perocino will be making an appearance in Emily’s life and his sister will be a constant intrusion.”
“Very funny, you’d better be nice to your sister; she can make up embarrassing stories about her brother that he may not like the pretty Emily to know.” Stacy teased then laughed at Brent’s sour expression. “Well, I'm tired so, good night big brother.”
“Text when you’re safely home.”
Stacy nodded and stepped out of his apartment but out in the hall her expression hardened; her hand gripped the weapon in her pocket and she was fully aware of the danger a simple shadow could hold.
Brent had appreciated Stacy’s attempt to lighten his mood; he needed to keep his focus on the assignment and find the reason the dog was important to someone, before that someone found the dog. He couldn't get lost in the hope that the reason might lead him to his brother. He couldn’t focus on that hope, or get sidetracked by personal pain, in fact, he had to feel nothing.
Stacy’s apartment was in the building next door but she didn’t walk down the stairs and go outside and get to it. Instead, she took Diamond’s indirect route and stepped from rooftop to rooftop to her attached building and she had a key for the roof’s access door and entered it without detection.
Stacy’s living room window faced Emily’s living room window. She looked out and saw the furry target curled up asleep on the couch. “Why would anyone want that dog?” She wondered; she didn’t think he was all that special. Then she turned her attention to the street below and noted the dark car was back in place. Their tail was on the job.
She took out her phone and texted Brent that she’d arrived safe and reminded him to go to sleep because tomorrow was the first day of the rest of his P.P. life. She added a laughing emoji and ended the text, your thoughtful sister, Heather.
She smiled knowing it would irk him then she closed her phone, and the drapes, and went to bed.
Sir Harry lifted his head from his large paws and whimpered. The collar on his neck itched and he growled low in his throat not liking the annoying sensation. He tried to shake it off but it wouldn’t slip off so he jumped off the couch and went to paw the bedroom door.
Emily heard a thudding on her door and with sleep clouding her thinking she opened the bedroom door to find Sir Harry rolling on the floor outside it, his feet kicking at the door. He seemed to be trying to rid himself of his collar.
“What’s wrong buddy; have you got a flea under there?” She asked and feeling sorry for the dog, bent down and unhooked the collar. “There you go boy; is that better?”
The dog gave what sounded like a pleasurable sigh and she laughed.
“I’ll bet that feels good," she commiserated and scratched the matted fur on his neck. Then she looked at the collar in her hand and turned it over. The back of it was rough, very rough, like sandpaper; no wonder it was hurting him, she thought.
“Okay boy, tomorrow I’m buying you a new, softer collar.”
The dog licked her hand, got up and trotted back to the couch. Emily tossed the torturous collar into the trash can in her room and went back to bed.
The odd clinking sound it made when it fell into the empty basket didn't register; she was already lost in thoughts of sleep.