The phone rang in Richard’s office. He picked it up, simultaneously scribbling the new BetaFox password onto a pad of paper.
He knew that voice. It belonged to Scott Warden, chief of FBI special services in Southeast Michigan.
“You’re one of our best agents,” he continued. “A few years down the line and you can expect Presidency of the county services. So when I saw this report, I immediately thought of you.”
“If you would believe it, Peru. Can you be there in…” Richard heard rustling as the chief consulted his calendar- “On Thursday?”
“Richard, Richard. You know there’s no need to call me sir. I’ve known you for nine years now,” he reprimanded gently.
This seemed to please him.
“Ok, let me send over the dossier. I’ll fax you the details of your flight and landing times. You speak Peruvian tongues, right?”
“Well, yes. I trained in Peru and picked up some Aymara and Quechua, and I speak Spanish fluently.”
“Well, then. Stay safe, Richard.”
The phone beeped and Richard set the receiver down. A moment later, his fax machine started whirring as the papers Scott mentioned spewed out.
Booting up his laptop, he entered the FBI international database and submitted to a spyware check. The system cleared him and he typed in a 20-digit password. He was rerouted to the second barrier, and the scanner on his desk pulsed with a blue light. He pressed his fingertips in a specific, precise order, and it flashed orange before splitting apart on a join and revealing a pane of glass. He leaned forward, lining up his left eye with the sensor, and it clicked before shutting down and folding back up. The computer allowed him to access the database, and he clicked on the most recent notification is his queue. Scooting his chair forward, he began to read.
‘Dear Richard. I have enclosed your most recent assignment. If all goes well, you will return within the week. Keep your priorities straight and DO NOT COPY OR RETAIN THIS INFORMATION. Best Wishes, Scott Warden.
AGENT SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT
Richard A. Twillington
Dated August 16, 2005
On August 11, 2005, the FBI national headquarters picked up on a suspicious radio signal from the Chi’Chacu temple in Peru. The signal was scratchy and contained pleas for help and a kidnapping accusation.
It was unregistered and couldn’t be traced to a sender or station. The only thing that HQ got was the location.
Of course, we’re suspicious by any means of a signal from an Aztec temple, but when the contents include criminal activity, we’re certainly inclined to call in ops.
This is your mission. We want you to go to the temple without being observed by anyone. Search for broadcasting equipment and detain anyone you find there. If you see fit, begin criminal interrogations, but be subtle and don’t reveal the purpose of the FBI involvement. Be sure you are fully armed during the mission.
If you find nothing before Tuesday, August 29th, go to the nearest town and signal. We’ll pick you up before noon on the 30th.’
Richard finished reading and closed the window. The notification below it had a heading for authorization of firearms, and he opened it.
Authorize Richard Twillington, Agent BC0287, to carry firearms throughout the continental Americas.
Authorized to receive two military grade weapons and one Hand Grenade. Signed August 16, by Scott Warden, Chief of Safety Services and Special Operations, FBI district SE MI.
He logged out of the database and closed his computer’s lid. Standing up, he stretched, then walked across his office to the printer. Scooping up the sheath of papers, he examined the top one. It was a notice allowing him onto an Air Force copter at U.S. Air Force ROTC Det 390 making a supply run, and notified that he must be at the base at 6:24 AM or the helicopter was no longer obligated to transport him. The second page contained details, including the location of the base and the aircraft’s ID number. He committed #541128 to memory before flipping to the third and final paper.
It was a health notice explaining various diseases found in Peru and recommending vaccines, and on the back side was the office number of a staff FBI medical professional at the local FBI chapter and his name, John J. Herald.
Setting down the papers on his desk, he picked up the phone and dialed.
“Allison, I have an assignment.”
“Dear, I wish you would be careful.”
“Sweetheart, it’s my job. I don’t have a choice.”
Richard felt a prickle of annoyance at having to explain this to his wife, but he brushed it aside, returning to the conversation.
His wife sighed on the other end of the line.
“I’ll have to leave tomorrow evening.”
“At least this time it’s not a rush job. You’ll be home tonight, right? You know it’s not necessary to stay overnight at the office.”
“I’ll be back at seven.”
He interrupted her.
“I have to go, honey. I’m sorry, but I’ll see you tonight, all right?”
He set down the phone without waiting for an answer, swiveling his chair towards the safe set into the wall.
Before dialing the combination, he tapped the logo twice. The lock clicked and he and pulled out a folder labeled Police Fatality- Internal Investigations. He set it down and withdrew a stapled packet. Opening it, he began to read, marking comments on the left margin as he spotted points of interest.
Glancing at his watch a few hours later, he shrugged on his jacket and flicked the light switch. Stepping out the door, he locked it and called out a farewell to the secretary.
He grabbed a root beer from the cooler and chugged it, draining half of it, before capping it and calling the elevator. The doors slid open and he tucked the bottle in his pocket before pressing the button for ground level. The elevator began slowly descending the shaft, and a few seconds later the doors slid open, revealing the lobby.
He stepped out, the doors closing after him, and walked out the door, taking a newspaper from the rack on his way.
Enjoying the summer breeze, he walking briskly down the block and stopped at a dark blue BMW SUV. Fishing the keys out of his pocket, he unlocked the car and slid into the driver’s seat, tossing the paper onto the seat besides him.
It landed with the front page up, and he saw an upside down image of a man’s smiling face as he left a bank. The headline read ‘Aran Noutcutalt Exits Chase Bank Monday Night After Signing Billion-Dollar Deal.’
Aran Noutcutalt was always making the news. He was a local billionaire who was involved in international and local affairs. Richard had read his extensive FBI files, and the man was painted as a highly intelligent philanthropist and businessman. He was similar to dozens of other men, the wealthy socialites happy to “invigorate the local economy.” It was well known they all simply wanted the media attention.
Richard turned his attention back to the wheel. Inserting his key, he rotated it in the slot and the GPS popped up. Lights blinked on and he steered the car onto the road, heading towards a suburban area of the town.
After 15 minutes, he pulled into a circular drive and parked the car in front of the garage. Getting out of the car, he grabbed the paper and tucked it under his arm. He climbed the steps leading to the door, and had barely inserted his key before the door swung open, revealing Allison.
“Richard! Dinner’s just on the table,” she said, no doubt relieved that he’d kept his word and had arrived at seven.
“I’m coming,” he said, following her into the hall.
He hung up his jacket while she bustled about the kitchen, setting hot dishes on the table and turning off the stove. She reached into the fridge and took out a large bowl, along with the butter dish.
Dumping the newspaper on the counter, Richard sat down at the table. Allison set a plate of steak, green beans, and a bread roll in front of him. She handed him a tall glass of beer, sloshing at the top, and went upstairs. She came back down with their 3-year old son, Jacob, in tow, after Richard had taken a large sip of beer, set the glass down, and spread his cloth napkin over his lap. She filled plates for Jacob and herself, and poured milk into a glass for Jacob and sparkling water into another glass. They sat down and the three of them began to eat.
“Do you have anything to pick up tonight, before you leave?”
“I have to stop by the offices for briefing and a medical.”
Jacob, who had been silent the entire meal, looked up inquisitively with his bright blue eyes.
“Daddy, are you going away again?”
This was the part of his job Richard hated most. He hated having to leave his child behind, he hated traveling, and most of all, he hated explaining his absences to Jacob.
“Yes.” He cleared his throat, suddenly self-conscious. “I’ll be back before next Tuesday, all right? That’s only twelve days.”
“Daddy, don’t go!” Jacob began to sob into his glass. Richard looked helplessly at his wife. She began to comfort Jacob, and Richard scraped his chair back, standing up abruptly. Draining his beer, he picked up his empty plate and deposited it in the dishwasher. He took his newspaper and left the house, calling over his shoulder “I’ll be back by 10!”
At this time of night, the streets were mostly quiet, and he had a peaceful drive downtown. He parked the car without bothering to put money in the meter, remembering his special plate and knowing no policeman would walk into FBI territory, where the most junior man outranked even a lieutenant. And every man in the FBI offices of Ann Arbor knew he drove a blue BMW.
He navigated the winding hallways to the doctor’s office at the far end of the building. Knocking on the door softly, he entered the office, where the doctor came out immediately and welcomed him into the examination room. Richard submitted to a brief examination and waited to receive the results.
“Of course, the FBI stay in top physical condition, and are regularly checked for diseases and injuries. You’re in superb condition for a man your age, but I would still recommend getting vaccinations. Better safe than sorry.”
“Certainly, whatever you think.”
Richard rolled up his sleeve and received two jabs in return.
Noticing the time, he stood up.
The doctor beamed. “Look after yourself, won’t you?”
“I will,” Richard said, exiting the room.
He drove home and went to bed. The remaining hours he had passed in a blur, and before he knew it he stood in the hall of his home, clutching a suitcase.
“Dear- I just-” Allison broke up and stood anxiously. Trying to cover up the silence, she picked up Jacob and held him tight. As Richard hung his jacket in the closet, knowing it would be unnecessary in Peru, Allison set down Jacob.
Richard leaned in and kissed his wife before bending down and picking up Jacob. He kissed him gently on the forehead and set him down. He nodded curtly and picked up his suitcase, opening the door before closing it behind him.
The taxi he’d called was idling in the driveway, and Richard strode down the steps, clambering awkwardly into the cramped backseat of the tiny Corolla.
“Air Force ROTC Det 390, right?” asked the driver.
Richard nodded and the driver shifted gear, rolling down the bumpy brick drive.
They arrived at the base and Richard paid the driver, grabbing the suitcase and heading to greet the pilot who stood waiting for him.
“You’ve got a room here overnight and then your copter is leaving bright and early tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Richard said.
The young pilot started walking and Richard followed him, blinking in the bright lights that lined the runways.
They arrived at a small, cramped room.
“There’s a bathroom down the hall. Let me know if I can do anything for you, all right?” Richard ushered the pilot out gracefully, and sat alone in relief on the cot. He flipped on the desk lamp which perched on the nightstand and turned out the overhead light. The lamp’s dim glow flicked, and Richard resigned himself to a miserable night. Fishing a novel about Peruvian natives out of his suitcase, he began to read, looking up only to check the time. At 11 o’clock, he closed the book and turned out the light.
Morning came fast and Richard was woken by the same man who’d shown him to the room last night.
“It’s 5:56,” he said.
Richard clambered out of bed and pulled on a sweater.
“Do you happen to know the way to the runway?”
The young man grinned. “Sure do,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I’m piloting your copter. So look smart.”
Richard shrugged, not caring either way, and they went back to the main runway where he’d arrived the night before. Besides the runway was a large bunker and a helipad, and the pilot lead him to a dark green helicopter. They both climbed on, the pilot sitting in the cockpit while Richard was left to make room for himself among the boxes filling the rear of the copter.
They rose into the air a few minutes later, and Richard stared dully at the labeling of the boxes until he drifted off. The helicopter landed a few hours later, and Richard was jerked awake by the heavy winds blowing across the helipad and making the helicopter swing around before setting down on the tarmac.
A customs official came for Richard, and he was led to a Jeep by the side of the runway. The security hut allowed them to leave the base, and they drove down a bumpy road for about half an hour before parking outside a dusty, muddy hotel.
The man took him to the desk, and a whispered, hushed conversation occurred between the clerk and the customs official before the clerk led Richard to a staircase. The official handed him a locked box at the bottom of the staircase, and Richard knew that it contained two guns and several clips of ammunition.
“You know the code, and the Jeep’s for you,” he said, leaving the hotel as the clerk and Richard mounted the staircase.
After the clerk left him alone in his room, Richard spun the lock on the case and looked up to see a cockroach disappearing beneath the door.
He recoiled in disgust before returning his attention to the case, which clicked open and revealed the promised firearms. He loaded one of the guns and tucked it into a holster beneath his sweater before exiting the hotel.
He sat in the Jeep, rotating a map of the area in confusion for a few minutes, before he set off on a narrow road disappearing into the jungle.
Richard’s heart beat at nearly twice the normal rate throughout the drive to the temple. He parked the car where the road ended and trekked through the jungle for a mile, consulting a compass, before he arrived at a clearing.
In the center of the clearing sat the temple. Richard knew little about ancient history, but he could tell it had once been a thing of beauty. It was covered with gold designs, which showed the age of the temple clearly.
Richard approached the temple warily, looking around and absorbing every detail. He reached the temple and went around the right side, where he found a narrow passage leading into the heart of the temple. He entered it after a moment’s consideration and slowly walked towards a turn in the passage.
Suddenly, he stopped and felt inside his sweater. He pulled out the gun and clicked off the safety latch, aiming in front of him.
Only after he was positive of his ability to shoot anything or anyone that attacked him did he continue moving through the passage. He rounded the corner, feeling for a flashlight in the darkness of the bend.
Suddenly, the gun was pulled out of his hands, and a bullet slammed into the wall of the passage. He was hit over the head with something and collapsed on the ground, feeling himself being lifted and carried back the way he’d come before darkness overtook him and he lost consciousness.