I can’t believe it is Thursday and I haven’t posted anything this week!
Hanson and Gates waited patiently in front of the large teleconference monitor mounted on the wall. Their meeting room was small and rarely used. The metal-framed table in the center of the room provided just enough space for their laptops and could barely accommodate four chairs.
They had only been in the office twice since discovering the body under Ally Miller’s pool. Most of their work was done from home or the mobile command center; however, their office was the only place with a secure enough connection for these meetings.
Soon the large screen in front of them would split into four rows and five columns. Each project manager for the SIA would appear in a separate box. A red line would outline the box of whoever had the floor. The whole process reminded Gates of group therapy sessions she attended while in college. The red box was the digital substitute for the talking stick.
These meetings bored Gates. Each person had to give a status update – without revealing the secretive aspects of their assignments. Many of them asked her questions, which was the only reason she paid any attention at all. She could only imagine how boring it must have been for her partner.
The sudden click of front door lock perked up both of their ears. The office rarely had visitors – mostly sales people. But no one in Beaufort had access to actually unlock the door. Gates was certain she was hearing things, but the buzzer ringing as the door opened confirmed that someone had entered.
Hanson looked at her calmly even as he pulled his gun from its holster. He seemed torn between which gun to use – and eventually decided on the tranquilizer.
Gates and Hanson knew there was a mole in the SIA. Both of them assumed it was Brooks, but they could not be certain of it.
Hanson quietly rose from his chair and moved toward the open conference room door. As slow and silent as he was getting there, he was equally as adept at slinging his gun around down the hall. All Gates could do was pull her own gun and shield herself behind the open door.
She saw Hanson’s expression change instantly as a sideways smile crept up his lip. He did not lower his gun.
“Warm afternoon in Florida,” he called down the hall.
“The manatee are delighted,” a voice called back. Only then did Hanson return his weapon to its holster.
“Fuck, man! You of all people should know not to walk into a SIA field office without some kind of advance notice.”
“Spur of the moment decision.”
“Good way to die.”
“Perhaps,” the man said as he finally came into Gates’ view. He was ruggedly handsome with stark white hair cut high and tight. His weathered face looked as if it commanded authority and his black pin-striped suit was tailored to fit perfectly over his trim broad-shouldered frame.
“It is good to see you again, my old friend,” Hanson grinned as he accepted his visitor’s open hand and turned it into a manly two-pat hug. “But your timing is a little off. I have a meeting it a couple minutes. Perhaps I could meet you for lunch?”
“Are you in the habit of inviting people, who bypass your office security, out to lunch?”
“Well, I assumed you got one of your cronies to hack our database. No worries; it will be changed and encrypted before you get another chance. Is that a yes?”
“Actually, I am here on a business matter. I am certainly open for lunch, but we need to talk first.”
“Well, like I said, I have a…”
“Are you going to introduce me to you lovely partner, Agent Hanson? Or have you lost your manners?”
Hanson huffed and shook his head, “My apologies,” he stated, with mock formality. “This is Dr. Cynthia Gates. Agent Gates, may I introduce The Deputy Director of the CIA, Mr. Walter Thomas Ayers.”
The title rang home in Cynthia’s ears and she suddenly felt very small. Perhaps Hanson was too blinded by their obvious friendship, but she knew the moment the words came out of Hanson’s mouth – she was looking at her new boss.