Authors: MJ Eason
I ached inside at the inevitable. With the end in sight, I wanted to stop time, hold onto this moment. Pray for it to go on forever.
Even though my body shook with sobs, it didn’t stop me from matching Roc’s need, kiss for kiss, and stroke for stroke. Touch for touch.
My legs wrapped around his waist, allowing him deeper access, but still it wasn’t close enough to touch his heart.
My tongue tangled with his, my hands skimmed across the tense muscles of his back, igniting a dangerous hunger inside and weakening his will to hold on to the moment.
“Roc…” His name sounded like a sob torn from me. I just wanted to look at him. Memorize every inch of him for the dark days ahead. Hold onto this feeling forever. But under his masterful touch, I was losing the will to hold on. My treacherous body tensed, then arched closer to his. Roc lifted his head and watched me climax beneath him. The sight of it sent him tumbling over the edge as well.
For a long time, neither of us seemed capable of breathing, much less moving. Roc’s weight lying heavy against me never felt more welcoming.
He let me go and rolled away before gathering me close. So many things ran through my head. But he said them first.
“I wish…” he whispered into the silence between us.
“What?” I turned my head to look at him.
“I wish I’d never touched you, Rainie.” At his confession, I started to cry once more. I tried to push him away, but he wasn’t prepared to let me go just yet.
He gathered me close, his hands stroking down my back. “I’m sorry. I just never imagined it would hurt this much.”
“Roc.” I tried to speak but the tears were still too close.
“I know I’ve hurt you. I can’t tell you how this makes me feel. I never meant to, Rainie. You have to believe me.”
“I know that.”
“I should go. I’m only upsetting you by remaining. If I stay, I’ll want to…”
He untangled my clinging arms. Sitting up, he brushed a thumb over the tears clinging to my cheek.
“Roc. Please don’t go.”
He touched my face gently. “You look so beautiful.”
I turned my lips against his palm and kissed it.
"Rainie.” My name tore from his lips.
“Don’t go. Please. Don’t leave, Roc. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
I could see hope take life inside of him briefly and then it was gone. “It does. We both know that it does. I can’t stay, Rainie. I have to go.”
“Roc, no!” I rose to my knees, uncaring that I was naked before him, and he couldn’t take his eyes off me.
“I have to go, Rainie. I have a job to do.” He reached for the clothing he’d left scattered near the bed.
Roc dressed and turned to look at me one last time. Then he walked out of my bedroom without saying a single word. But then no words were necessary. We both knew this was goodbye.
When I awoke the following morning, I was alone in bed. Roc was gone. I knew even before I called his house that he’d left on assignment already.
In the reality of this new day, the previous things I’d believed mattered no longer had much importance in my life. It’s funny how losing someone you love changes your perspective on life.
I’d never make it through this day if I thought about all the things I’d given up by letting Roc go. I needed something to take my focus off Roc.
I opened the document Mark sent. In his attached note, he indicated that he believed it had Jeremiah’s MO written all over it. After a quick pass through it, I was inclined to agree.
The man was a mastermind when it came to using obscure languages to communicate with his people. Usually they were only mildly challenging but this one, well, I struggled with it for hours before finally determining it was a form of ancient Aramaic. A language that my father had taught me as a child. I wondered if my father would have done the same for Justin.
I’d only just begun unraveling the document but already I sensed its importance. Something ominous was about to take place. I could feel it in the tone of the document. Unfortunately, I was rusty at the language and it was taking me longer than usual to transcribe it. I didn’t know the full content just yet, or how bad the things I’d find in there would turn out to be and until I understood the full impact of that document, I couldn’t risk letting anyone, including Mark, know what I suspected.
Seated in front of my computer screen, I read the first line once again. To the few people who might actually know the language, this sentence would appear to be a simple greeting from one friend to another. I didn’t believe it for a minute. It wasn’t anything so innocent.
After those first initial words jumped out at me with all the hidden hatred disguised as a friendly greeting, the writer’s voice took on an even darker theme.
There was a reference to something called ‘the eyes within.’ I’d never seen this particular phrase mentioned before in any other FLA document. The next line was much easier to translate. The whores of Babylon. I’d heard this rhetoric used before. From previous references, I believed ‘whore’ referred to the Bureau, while Babylon meant the U.S. government. The writer was taking every precaution to keep the words of this document secret, which lent further proof to its legitimacy.
This type of rhetoric went on for several more paragraphs, but the implication was clear once I’d cracked the code, which had taken a little longer than usual given the complexity of the language.
There were code names for at least seven of the top terrorists operating in the U.S. We’d had these guys under surveillance for years. Those named were members of at least five separate terrorist groups. This held unimaginable possibilities.
These cells claimed responsibility for terrible acts of violence against our people in the past. But these guys hated each other almost as much as they hated our government. They disagreed on just about everything. If the document was believable, then how could they put aside those differences to work together?
Was this the real reason Justin came back into my life after all these years? Was my brother trying to warn me of what was about to take place and maybe trying to clear his name in the process? If I could convince Justin to turn himself in, would he be willing to share this valuable information with The Agency in exchange for a new start on life?
I had no idea where the document originated or how Mark got it in the first place. Was this part of something found in the raid on Jeremiah’s hideout?
Normally, I wasn’t privy to such details. Part of the security tactics Roc put into place. The less we knew, the less likely we were to be a security risk should someone capture us.
I picked up the phone and called Mark. The second he heard my voice, he suspected something.
“Rainie, what are you up to?” Which really meant ‘why are you calling me?’
“Not much, really. Listen Mark, I’m still working on the document you gave me, and there’s something I need to ask you about it. Can you tell me where you got this piece originally?”
“Rainie, what are you doing? Have you found out something already?”
"No…I mean, I’m not sure yet, Mark. But I need some background on this particular piece.” Mark’s silence told me how odd this request must sound to him. “Look, Mark I know this is unusual, but it’s important. I’m having difficulty decoding the piece. I was hoping a little background on the document might help.”
“Rainie, you know that’s not normal procedure.” Mark wasn’t buying my story, but at the moment, I didn’t care. “What makes this one so different? Why do you need to know?”
“I know what normal procedure is, but there are exceptions to the rule, and I’m telling you this is one of them. Understanding where the document originated will help me with the exact interpretation.” This was an out-and-out lie. I’d already started translating the piece, but for personal reasons, I had to know.
“You know I’ll have to check with Roc first. I mean, he has the final say in changes to procedure. Unless you’ve already spoken to him about it?”
I stood with the receiver in my hand, trying to decide just how far I was willing to take this crusade. Just how desperate was I to prove my brother’s innocence?
“Roc’s not here and besides, I did talk to him about it last night. But if you still want to bother him with this, then…”
My answer met with another uncomfortable pause in which I fully expected Mark to challenge me. Mark was waiting for me to say something else to reassure him Roc knew what I was doing. When I didn’t, he asked me to hang on while he brought the information up on his computer.
He suspected I was lying. I heard it in his voice, but he wasn’t ready to confront me with my lie just yet.
I listened to him mumble to himself as he scrolled through the endless pages of information he kept on his computer. In my mind, I always pictured him hunched over his computer day and night, squinting and typing away.
“Okay, here it is. You want me to send you the file?” This surprised the heck out of me since Mark never offered to share his files with anyone, including Roc. But then I think he believed in some strange way I might be the key to figuring out what Jeremiah Silvers was really up to in D.C.
“Sure, that’d be great,” I told him, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.
“Okay, but you have to promise you’ll let Roc and me know as soon as you find out anything. You know how critical this is, Rainie.”
I promised Mark I’d pass along any information I found as quickly as possible. As soon as the file downloaded, I began to read Mark’s notes. Surprisingly, he had very little real information to go on in them.
What it boiled down to was the CD had simply arrived at The Agency’s doorstep anonymously. Most of the information on the CD had been garbage with the exception of the document I was translating. Mark still wasn’t convinced the document wasn’t a hoax meant to throw us off what was really in the works, or if maybe, one of his snitches was doing a little counterintelligence of his own.
After searching through the information for several hours, little in the file proved useful. I wondered if this might be the real reason Mark was so willing to share it.
I stopped reading and wondered if this was just a hoax, as Mark initially believed. After all, it would take someone so charismatic that they could convince the other groups’ leaders to put aside their differences and work together under one command to pull off what the document suggested. I didn’t believe that person was Jeremiah Silvers, or my brother.
All of the reports I’d read about those guys told me just how impossible that would be, because to them it was as much about the power as it was the cause. It just wasn’t conceivable—was it?
Certainly, any attack by the joined, organized terrorist forces listed in the note would be all but impossible to prevent. If someone were able to unite these groups under one common cause and leadership then how were we going to stop what we didn’t know was planned?
That afternoon I picked up the phone a dozen times to call Roc. He needed to know about what I’d found out and what I suspected, but each time, I couldn’t make that call.
I needed to make one more attempt at reaching my brother. Somehow, I had to convince him to tell me the truth once and for all, no matter how bad it was or how deeply he was involved in this plot. And I had to do it before it was too late. Before it was out of my control.
By keeping silent, I crossed some line that I might never come back from. I believed that Roc would never forgive me if he knew what I was up to nor would he let me go through with it, which was all the more reason why I couldn’t tell him the truth just yet.
I was slipping deeper into a place I had no business going. Quite possibly my cover, along with my team members, had been exposed to the enemy. I’d memorized all the risks by heart and none of them stopped me.
* * * *
When Mark called an emergency meeting for the following evening, I wondered if I’d waited too long. Had someone uncovered my secrets and, if so, how close to being brought up on federal charges was I?
“Has something new happened?” I asked Mark when I arrived at the meeting, trying to sound casual.
“Yes, it’s very important that everyone be here tonight. With Roc gone, we’re already a man short. This means the rest of us will be pulling double duty for the time being.”
At the thought of Roc, I tried to hold it together. But I needed to talk to the man who had been his best friend for years.
“He’s really gone, isn’t he, Mark? I can’t believe it. Are you sure?”
Mark sighed, avoiding eye contact. “Yes.”
“He didn’t want you to tell me, did he?”
“No. He thought it best to just leave things the way they were between you.”
“I can’t stand this, Mark. I can’t stand the thought of losing him. I never thought I’d feel this way. I miss him so much.”
“Rainie, for crying out loud, why now? Why do you choose to express these feelings now, and to me of all people when for as long as I’ve known about you two, you’ve treated Roc as nothing but a side note in your life? Do you know how much you hurt him?”
I shook my head in disbelief. “No Mark, please don’t say that.”
Those words were like a knife to my heart. I loved Roc. I never meant to hurt him.
“Well, it’s a little too late for that, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. Nothing, just forget I said anything,” Mark said.
“He’s not coming back, is he?”
“Why should he? What’s waiting for him here?”
I flinched as each of those words struck me. Mark blamed me for our failed relationship.
“He’s going back to working for the Bureau?” I asked, fighting the tears that were close.
“I don’t know. I can’t say.”
“He’s never coming back, is he?” I said the words again but I still couldn’t believe them. I took Mark’s silence as my answer. “What happens to The Agency now? Will we still stay together as a team? This was Roc’s passion. His creation. No offense, Mark, but Roc was the glue that kept us all together. We aren’t exactly the types to get along, as you well know.”
“No, you’re right. But we don’t really have a choice now, do we? No one ever really gets out of this. We’ve made a commitment to it. But I’ve talked to Ed and we need to get someone in as quickly as possible—someone qualified, although replacing Roc will be all but impossible.”