Authors: Robert Michael
Tags: #Jason Bourne, #Sidney Bristow, #james bond, #spies, #Alias, #assassin, #Espionage
Frank had provided protection and cover for wives and families of criminals, innocent witnesses, and foreign dignitaries. He had never been assigned to a family unit like this.
For starters, Hallie was beautiful. Her auburn hair and vivid green eyes were alluring and distracted him. He was ashamed of this, but he was not a robot. He had served as a family unit with some stunning females. It had never bothered him before. He had been able to keep a professional distance while playing his role.
What made him even more uncomfortable, though, was Macy. He had never wanted children. Too many complications. Too much hassle. The world was too violent. Macy had changed his mind. He was positive that Macy still held something back. Acting the part was difficult for children, but eventually they adjusted. They normally became the strongest part of the unit in terms of living the “new life” as though it was the only life.
Macy seemed almost to resent him. It figured. Her father was a special man. He probably did not even know what he had left behind.
That bothered Frank the most.
How could he leave this family
“I will be down in bit. I have a message from the office and I need to confirm it,” he said to Hallie.
She nodded, biting her lip.
“We’ll keep it warm for you,” she said and turned.
He watched her leave, her hips swaying. She wore a pair of baggy jeans, a sleeveless top and no shoes. Her hair was up and tied in the back with a ribbon. She was beginning to show, but her body still held an attractive shape.
Frank shook his head and averted his eyes.
He pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and checked the message again. Went to the window and looked down at the sleepy street below.
The sedan was there.
Royster wants to meet with Hallie
, the message said.
Calvin Royster had met with Frank before he took the assignment. Royster was not directly working for the DOJ. He held another post within the Pentagon and evidently had a lot of pull. He did not offer Frank a business card or a title. He just acted as though he was in charge. Frank’s director had seemed nervous.
That had been months ago now. He was sure that Royster had not mentioned a visit.
Confirmed. Will leave for office after dinner. ET, 7:15.
The response three seconds later:
Bring me a breadstick before you leave...
Frank smirked. Deleted the conversation. Reached into the drawer by the bed and extracted his pistol. Put it in the leather holster at his back, and went downstairs.
The smell of Italian seasonings and garlic bread wafted into the entryway. His stomach responded with a low rumble.
His phone vibrated at the same time as the doorbell rang. He stopped and stared at the door. His hackles went up. He unhooked the snap on his holster and put his hand on his pistol.
He heard a chair scoot in the dining room.
“I’ll get it!” He called.
He reached into his pocket and checked his phone, his pistol in the other hand. He felt a bead of sweat run down his neck.
Royster is impatient. He wants to meet with her now,
the message said.
He looked up again and the doorbell rang once more.
There was something in his voice that set alarms off in her head. Hallie glanced at Macy. Macy was already getting sauce on her Hello Kitty long-sleeve t-shirt and oblivious to the situation.
Hallie got up and dropped her heavy cloth napkin in her chair.
“Stay here,” she ordered.
Macy looked up and blinked. She held a bread stick in one hand and used it to scoop sauce onto her fork. Lasagna was her favorite meal.
Hallie crossed through the living room and saw Frank at the door. She stopped.
He had his gun at his back and spoke to someone at the door.
Hallie’s first instinct was to run back into the dining room. She lay her hand protectively over the swell in her belly.
“It’s important, Agent McKinley. I must see her now. You are welcome to watch over the daughter if you wish and take the night off.”
Hallie recognized that voice.
Frank shook his head.
“You can put away the piece, Agent McKinley. I am not here as a threat. I
you here, remember?” the voice reasoned.
Frank’s brow was furrowed, his jaw set.
“What do you want from her? Hasn’t she suffered enough?” Frank asked. Something in his voice that made her sad.
He cared for her and Macy and that was a good thing. It was also a complicating thing.
Hallie worried that Frank might make a mistake.
The US Marshall’s Witness Protection Program had never had a breach of security since its inception in 1971. It was a testament to the dedication, training, and professionalism of its agents. Frank was one of the best, but he was off his game lately.
Hallie dropped her hands, relaxed her shoulders, effecting a calm demeanor, and put a lie of a smile on her face.
“We have unwelcome guests for dinner tonight? Sally said that Bob could not resist my cooking. Why don’t you let them in, Frank?” she asked as she approached the entry.
Frank glanced at her with warning eyes. She thought that would be the moment their guest would attack.
The moment passed and she pulled the door open further.
Calvin Royster stood in the entry, his eyes intense. He wore a pressed suit of wool and a bright red tie. His hair was cut short and he had not shaved. He was handsome in a college prep-boy way. She had dated guys like him before. Seemingly engaged and winsome, but secretly vain and manipulative. Ambitious to a fault. Cruel and confident.
“Mrs. Braxton. It is good to see you. May I come in?”
She stood staring at him, thousands of thoughts colliding in her head. She realized she held one hand across the swell of her abdomen the other still held the door.
She shook her head but said with a quick return of her smile:
“Of course! I hope you like Italian. I am afraid I have made enough food for an army, but my daughter will have it all gone before we make it to the table if we don’t hurry.”
Royster stepped past her and she noted Frank’s eyes warning her to be careful. She felt as though she had made a grievous error.
She closed the door behind her, ignoring the agent in the sedan parked two doors down and across the street.
Calvin smelled like leather and mint. His smile was warm and genuine.
“You look incredible. When is the child due?” he asked politely as Frank patted him down.
She disregarded him.
He smiled despite Frank’s roughness. He seemed not to mind. Calvin looked over his shoulder as Frank pulled his arms over his head and moved his hands along his chest and back.
“You know, I am your superior, right?”
“Standard procedure,” Frank said through clenched teeth.
“You are here to see me, I presume,” Hallie said, crossing her arms subconsciously across her breasts.
His smiled beamed.
“Yes I am. I would like a word with—” he began.
“Mommy, who’s there?” Macy asked, skipping into the room.
Calvin looked down as Frank scooped Macy up.
Macy looked at Frank crossly. She hated being picked up. It was for her own good.
“Macy. Good to see you again,” Calvin said.
“I don’t know you,” Macy said with indignation as she struggled against Frank’s chest. She stared at Calvin and made a face. “And my name isn’t Macy. It’s Callie Braxton.”
“I’m sorry. I must be confusing you with another pretty girl I knew before,” Calvin said, his smile brightening.
He turned back to Hallie.
“Can we have a moment?”
She glanced at Frank and confirmed her suspicions: he had known Calvin was coming. Part of her wanted to be angry at this, but she pushed it down.
“We can have some privacy in the study,” she said, indicating the room behind him. “Frank, the lasagna is getting cold. Would you be a dear and put it in the warmer for me? And can you get Callie to clean up?”
Frank dropped Macy to her feet.
“Sure,” he said. He did not seem happy.
“I’m fine. I only spilled a little,” she said defensively.
She never looked at Frank directly.
“We’ll be right out,” Hallie said to Frank.
Calvin was playing with a globe when she entered. A yellow lamp on the desk lighted the room where Frank filled out his reports. Her heart pounded in her chest.
Calvin’s sudden appearance could mean anything. She hoped it did not involve Jake. She would not be able to handle it. It was one thing to move on as though he had died and another entirely to know that he actually had. She steeled herself.
“Why are you here? We are finally settling in.”
“Really? It looks like to me there is some major tension here,” Calvin accused, never looking up from the globe. He ran his finger along it, making it spin.
She set her mouth firmly. She would not let him get under her skin. Whatever his reason for being here, he seemed intent on playing coy and superior. Guys like him never change.
“Frank is a professional.”
“I know. It’s why I chose him.”
She was getting impatient. Hallie did not want to play this game all night. Frank was likely getting nervous.
“You did not come all the way to Missouri just to observe our family chemistry.”
“You are right. I came to retrieve something of mine that I believe you have.”
She furrowed her brows in confusion.
He watched her reaction.
“Don’t tell me you don’t have it.”
She shook her head.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
He turned toward her, the globe held out in front of him in both hands. Their eyes locked. His words were like ice.
“You took my weapon.”
She tilted her head.
“I thought—wait, wasn’t that a government issued piece?”
“No. Before you say that you turned it over during your de-briefing, I checked that. I sent my men down to evidence and it was not there. It was listed on the checklist. I went myself and interviewed the officer in charge of evidence. He said you never gave it to them.”
His eyes accused her.
“I do not have your weapon, Calvin. I handed it to the agent in charge.”
“I think that was his name.”
“Agent Watson is dead. My weapon was linked. He and the man under his charge were found dead yesterday. Tortured. A military official high in the chain of command.”
The hackles on her neck raised.
“I don’t understand. Surely you are not accusing me of murder. And certainly you are not claiming that I am somehow complicit in this missing weapon.”
“No. I suppose not. Don’t worry, Hallie, I am not in any trouble. But I am perplexed.”
“I did not have anything to do with it. I am just as sure that Jake didn’t either.”
He nodded. Screwed up his mouth.
“Of course not. We know where you and Jake are. Always. Are you sure it is not here? That maybe someone placed here without your knowledge?”
“I am sure,” she replied. “Is Jake alright?”
“Right as rain. He is no longer in my department, as you are aware, but I am kept abreast of his assignments. Nothing of concern. Do you miss him yet, or is Agent McKinley an adequate replacement?”
She did not answer him.
He watched her for a bit. She was pretty sure he did not breathe.
“Fine. I will drop it. Just tell me if you see it.”
“Who would set you up like that, anyway?”
“Who, indeed.” He set the globe down on the desk and walked around to Frank’s files.
“Does this have anything to do with the death of that CIA director?”
Calvin looked surprised.
“Possibly,” he said guardedly. He seemed to consider something before saying, “Has Jake ever spoken of a man named Lars? Used to be his manager inside Galbraith.”
“Uh. Yeah, sure. He spoke of him before he went undercover. Lars was one of the members of Galbraith that intrigued Jake the most. His ties to Russian Mafia and Al Qaeda money laundering made him a target of an investigation. We had no idea what we were getting Jake into.”
“Yeah, that Lars,” Calvin said, averting his eyes.
“What about him?”
“Have you seen him?” he asked, toying with an eraser.
She furrowed her brow.
“Not that I know of? Should I? Wait. I may have seen him before.”
Calvin turned, interested.
“I took his car the day those guys showed up at my house. At least, I think he is Lars. He and some lady claimed they were there to help me. To help Jake. I shot her and threatened him. I haven’t seen them since.”
“You haven’t seen them since?”
“No. I think Jake spoke to them. He didn’t say, but when we came back from Colorado, he had information we did not have before.”
Calvin nodded. He did not seem pleased.
“I can confirm that Jake did meet Lars and Violet in Denver. He hurt them pretty bad.”
Hallie did not react to that. She had come to grips with Jake’s violence.
“He can do that sometimes,” she said flatly.
“So, you haven’t seen him since?”
She shook her head. She was sick of repeating herself. She put her hand on her forehead.
“I would remember. What is all this about, Mr. Royster?”
He stared off at a calendar on the wall and sniffed. Took a big breath and sighed.
“I don’t know. Something is not right.”
She did not say anything but watched him like he was a dangerous snake or a caged panther.
Calvin turned and sat in the office chair at Frank’s desk. He spun around, leaning back in the chair, his hands behind his head.
“Did Jake and his father talk at all recently?” Calvin asked suddenly.
“Are you crazy? If they had, Gabriel would have been dead sooner.”
Calvin leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and nodded, staring at his hands.
“I thought so,” he replied. He looked up. “But would it have been possible that President Vine had given Jake something?”