NOTES: Good news and bad news. I actually got off my lazy butt and wrote today. WIN. Now for the slightly bad news...tomorrow morning I leave for a week with my wife to celebrate our anniversary. Needless to say, I won't be writing next week. But there is more good news. Not only is the trip a celebration, it's also a fact-finding research excursion. I'll be gathering details on a locale that I'll feature in coming chapters. I won't give away where we're going, but you'll find out on the 12th. Sorry for the break, but know that I'll be spending the time spinning twisted tales for the rest of the novel. I can't wait! Have a great weekend and I'll see you in a little over a week...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done, so please keep your spelling and grammar fixes until the Beta Reader rounds.)
The Jefferson Group Headquarters
12:13pm, December 6th
The Jefferson Group leadership (minus Cal and Daniel), sat around the conference room table in they secure War Room. They’d just ended their phone call with Cal, who given them the latest of the situation in Florida and the conversation he’d had with the president.
“What can we do to get ahead of this thing?” asked Jonas Layton, CEO of The Jefferson Group. He’d made billions in the tech world but now served as the face of TJG. He was the newest arrival to the group of men who’d worked together for years. It hadn’t taken him long to fit in. Being a near genius with the talent for foreseeing future events lent itself well to what they did.
“I’ve got my bots trolling, but other than the little that’s been reported in the news, they’d found zilch so far,” said Neil Patel, twirling a mini-screwdrivers in his hand that he’d just been using to tinker with a pile of metal pieces sitting in front of him. Neil was a genius and had made millions for Stokes Security International with his inventions. There wasn’t a week that went by that he didn’t hand a new toy to one of his friends to play with.
“I saw me and top jump in the jet and give Cal and Snake Eyes some backup,” said Gaucho, a stocky Hispanic whose braided beard nearly hung down to the table. “He’s gonna need every shooter we’ve got.”
The Jefferson Group had anywhere between fifteen and twenty operators on-hand at any one time. They were a seasoned team of elite warriors, tested in battle and loyal to their team and their country.
“I know you can’t wait jump in our shiny new plane again, but why don’t we wait and see what Cal needs,” suggested Master Sergeant Willy Trent, USMC retired, his near seven foot dark frame towering over his best friend. “Something tells me we’re gonna be useful up here before long.”
Gaucho’s jaw clenched, but he didn’t disagree. The former Delta soldier huffed in frustration.
“Doctor Higgins, what do we know about this Steiner guy?” asked Jonas, jotting something down in his ever-present journal.
The Jefferson Groups resident shrink, and former CIA head interrogator, shifted in his seat. “Representative Thomas Steiner. Second ranking Democrat from New Jersey. Unremarkable life other than his time in Congress. Has had a run-in or two with the law, nothing serious. Both charges dropped. Lives alone. Works most days.”
“Do you think it would be useful to put him under surveillance,” Jonas asked, still taking notes.
“I would think that the question might be better answered by one of my colleagues here with experience in the field, but since you’re asking, I would say that starting with something passive, say using Neil’s talents?”
Higgins was alluding to Neil’s uncanny ability to hack into anything with an electronic pulse. No one in the room could remember a time when the Indian born computer geek had been stumped.
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” replied Neil, adjusting his new grey and black speckled Cartier eyeglasses. “Anyone else you want me to snoop on?”
“Let’s start there. I’m sure there’ll be more soon,” said Jonas. “Now unless you guys have anything else —“
No one did, and they adjourned to their respective tasks. The men of The Jefferson Group didn’t need handholding. They each had their place and worked like a mechanism specially made for combatting impossible missions. As the tech side went about their duties on the computers in the War Room, MSgt Trent and Gaucho headed to the kitchen.
“What are you making for lunch?” asked Gaucho, his stomach rumbling.
“How’s peanut butter and jelly sound?”
Gaucho rolled his eyes. Trent was a classically trained chef. His delectable meals were another bonus for the men working at TJG. Every Sunday the entire team gathered in the main house for a family style dinner cooked by Trent.
“Okay. You want me to make quesadillas instead?”
Gaucho’s head bobbed eagerly even though Trent had said it as a joke.
Before the huge Marine could whip out another comeback aimed at his friend’s ethnicity, the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” said Trent. “You go get the tortillas ready.”
Again Gaucho didn’t catch the joke, and rushed off into the kitchen. Trent shook his head with a rumbling chuckle.
The doorbell rang again. Trent looked through the small peephole and grinned. He opened the door with a flourish, bowing at the waist.
“Good day, milady. To what do we owe this pleasure?”
Diane Mayer smile was strained. Trent caught the look on the pretty U.Va fourth year’s face.
“Is everything okay, honey?” he asked.
“I know Cal’s not here, but I thought I might come talk to you guys anyway.”
Diane and Cal had been dating for a few months, something MSgt Trent and the others were more than happy about. Not only was Diane a great gal, able to put up with the constant ribbing between Cal and his friends, but she’d brought peace back into the broken-hearted Marine’s life. After losing his fiancé, they’d worried that Cal might never find true happiness again. Trent was pretty sure Diane was the one.
She didn’t know what Cal and his team officially did for a living, but Trent was pretty sure she knew. Neil had found out that prior to enrolling at the University of Virginia on an ROTC scholarship, the blonde co-ed had served one enlisted with Naval Intelligence. He’d never voiced his opinion to Cal, but the crusty master sergeant figured it was only a matter of time before they let her in on their little secret.
“Come on in. I was about to fix some lunch. Want some?”
Diane shook her head. “Is there somewhere we can talk?”
Trent realized that this was the first time she’d been in the house/headquarters. Cal spent most nights at her place when he was in town.
Trent led her inside and turned into the small parlor that sat just inside the front door. He closed the french doors and they both took a seat.
Diane took a deep breath, then said, “I know I’m not supposed to know what you guys do around here, and I’m not going to ask. Cal’s probably going to kill me when he finds out I came.”
“Why don’t you just tell me. I’m sure he won’t mind. If he gets out of line I’ll smack him around a little.”
Diane looked up and smiled. “Promise?”
Trent drew a cross over his heart and put three fingers in the air. “Scout’s honor.”
“Okay. You know I was in the Navy, but do you know what I really did?”
Trent would’ve preferred she not ask the question, knowing that she would assume that Cal had been spying on her. But it looked like the cat was out of the bag anyway.
“Intel,” he said.
She didn’t look surprised. “I assume you know how I feel about Cal too.”
“You two are pretty close.”
Trent wondered where the line of questioning was going.
“I love him, Willy,” she blurted. “I would do anything to keep him safe. But I know I won’t always be able to do that. He’d his own man. Stubborn and proud, but I love him.” She looked at her hands and went on. “I still have friend in the intelligence business. I won’t tell you where because it doesn’t matter. When Cal came back from his trip overseas, you remember, right after we started dating?”
Trent remembered. Cal had led the hand-picked international coalition that drove the stake into the heart of ISIS. He’d been wounded in the process. Nothing major, but impossible to hide from Diane.
“I do remember.”
“Well, I reached out to two of my old friends and asked them to…I don’t know how to say without sounding like a stalker…but I asked them to keep an ear out for the name Cal Stokes. Now, before you say anything, there’s not surveillance or anything like that. It’s more like a Google alert. Something comes across their desk through various intel gathering networks, they promised to let me know.”
Trent’s insides churned. Diane was right. Cal wouldn’t be happy. He’d consider it an invasion of his privacy instead of what it really was: someone who loved him watching out for him.
Diane went on. “Yesterday I got a call.”
“We met for breakfast. I had to drive up to Warrenton to see him. I can’t tell you who he’s with, but he said that in the last two days there’ve been repeated mentions of Cal.”
“He couldn’t say?”
“Couldn’t or wouldn’t?”
“I think couldn’t. He did say that he thinks it’s someone in government based on certain systematic indicators.”
Trent nodded. “What was the context of the conversations?”
Diane reached in to her purse and pulled out a thin stack of folded paper. “The transcripts are right there. I’ll leave them with you.”
Trent took the stack and asked, “Diane, what do they say?”
The composure she’d been trying so hard to maintain left her, tears streaming form her eyes as she said, “They want him dead, Willy. They want to kill Cal.”
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