An Inconvenient Spy Ch. 01byTexasFarmBoy©
The Chevy Suburban pulled into the drive and I knew that something was wrong. It wasn't the car itself; it was the fact that only a select few people knew where to find me and fewer still had the code to get through the front gate without setting off the alarm by the front door of the house. This visitor was at least very close to one of those very few that I actually trusted.
How did a 42 year old get to this state of paranoia? It is fairly easy I guess when you make a couple of choices when you are young and they blossom for the productive part of your life and then overnight, things disappear in a maelstrom of things that are not of your doing. Then you are retired not by your choice and are not employable by dictate. Every month a check is deposited in your bank account and a note arrives in the mail to remind you to keep your nose clean. At least, that is what the words mean.
So you find a quiet place where no one will bother you and you build yourself a fortress of solitude out of bricks and mental energy and you hope that a day like this never happens. Confused? So am I.
I graduated from college twenty one years ago with a degree in modern history and political science. With job prospects severely limited, I took an entry level job with an innocuous government agency. Three years later, my agency was absorbed by another one whose mission was virtually identical to ours. Five years and two more absorptions later, I was elevated to the rank of section leader and became privy to the real mission of our agency.
My original agency was organized to monitor local and regional economic and political movements in various countries which at the time seemed friendly and politically safe and write reports which went into some data bank or another. We never really knew where. The second iteration added social trends to these reports. By the time I made it to the level of section leader, we were compiling data on everything from marriages and divorces to the number of condoms purchased and the number of birth control pills prescriptions written and sold. In short we were compiling an in depth of reports on the social, political, and cultural practices of our supposed allies but who now appeared to be on the verge of wanting to expand their political influence in a number of directions, some of which were not in our national interest. In short we were the social spies for our overseers on our former friends and potential enemies. We weren't foot soldiers on the ground but historians, social scientists, statisticians and others who collected available data and put into a form that our mentors could decipher.
One of the great dichotomies of our time is that before the internet, a huge amount of money was spent gathering and assimilating limited publically available information and making sense out of it. After the development of the internet, we had access to more information than we could process with three times the number of people. Much of the information was inaccurate and mostly useless but you really can't put that stamp on it until you have at least looked at it. So the truth is that today we are awash in information, too much information. And that is the heart of my rise and fall.
The problem in the intelligence business is that you never want to be blatantly wrong or inconveniently right. Either condition makes you look bad in the eyes of those who authorize your paycheck. I had advanced and I had more and more responsibility and therefore more people looking over my shoulder. I had never been a political person and had always focused on the quality of my work and reports with generally acceptable results. My wrongs had never been blatant and my rights had usually been inconvenient but lost in the morass of secrecy. That was until the day that one of my inconveniently correct reports surfaced on page one of a major newspaper. For over a week the pseudo news talk shows had a field day condemning one branch of the government for their oversight. It took a week for another story to be planted that changed the focus from my report to a non-existent one that polarized more people than the original. The press had a feeding frenzy for those several weeks.
That proved to be just long enough for me to be retired and shuttled off to a state of non-existence with a warning to keep my mouth shut or vile things would befall me. The Congressional hearing that followed proved to be the usual mish-mash of conflicting ideologies and resulted in a total waste of taxpayer money with no resolution of any kind except for promises that no stone would be unearthed until the truth was discovered. That meant that nothing would happen until they could come up with a plausible story to baffle the most people. By then I was in a small two bedroom house on five acres in the country with limited phone and internet service. I became an instant and invisible non-entity.
For me, this change in life wasn't horribly traumatic because I had never married and had no family to force into exile. Others were not so fortunate. As the agency had grown and matured, several "benefits" had been introduced that I found handy. One was an unwritten and easily deniable policy that social contact with outsiders was discouraged for fear of leaks. As a result, single people like me were encouraged to date within the junior pool of analysts and if a married person wanted diversion outside of his or her marriage, they should seek it from this source also. This junior pool consisted of a wide variety of smart younger men and women all of whom had been vetted and trained and were considered safe. Being single, I had restricted my dating to within the pool for simplicity's sake.
As a result, when I retired, I had about a dozen women who I could call depending on what my interest was at the time. One woman loved to go to the theater and opera and she was my date for this events. Another was a sports fanatic and would be my date to any game that involved a ball. A few of the women the dozen women I had access too were not sexually active but most were. There were rumors that the girls had an informal sex club where they talked and trained using various techniques to insure that they were good lovers for their partners. There were also rumors that they kept score on the performance of their partners although no one ever admitted that this actually existed. This benefit continued into retirement to help insure that the retiree could have a social life without having to go through the usual "what did you do before you retired" conversations.
Related to this program was that a single senior analyst who wanted to be marry usually married a "safe" junior partner. The partner had the choice of "being retired" with a stipend when they married or he or she could continue working until children became involved. At that time, the partner was retired with a pension and an allowance for each ensuing child. While this program might offend a large number of people, it actually worked very nicely. Everyone knew the rules of the game and could find satisfaction within the framework of the game. To my knowledge, there had been no serious leak of any kind resulting from this arrangement. Even the few divorces that inevitably occurred were not overly contentious or public.
As a retired senior analyst, I still used the service regularly except that with my remote location, I only had easy access to three junior analysts within a reasonable drive. All three were fun dates and we enjoyed our time together when I took advantage of them.
The other benefit was one that appeared to be good but I felt was a double edged sword. We each had a mother with whom we maintained all contact with the agency. The mothers were experienced junior analysts who had never made the rank of senior analyst but who were transitioned into the role of administrative mentors for retirees. Most of them were women and they were our sole contact to the agency on everything from paycheck problems, insurance issues, and other such mundane matters. They also maintained a website that we could visit for a sanitized version of agency news and PR. The other edge of the sword was that they most certainly were reporting our status and attitude to their superiors. A regular report of a bad attitude generally led to a visit from "counselor" to discuss an attitude adjustment. I didn't worry much about that since, once I was out, I tended to look forward and didn't spend much time looking in the rear view mirror.
I had settled into a sedate life as a retired hobby farmer who puttered around on my John Deere tractor and planted various vegetables and herbs that I sold at the local Farmers Market. I also made several homemade candies that sold fairly well at the market. I didn't need the money but the money was a convenient way to measure the success of my ventures. Most of the money I made was re-invested in things to use around my homestead or just parked in a saving account I had. This was my life after retirement or at least the part of my retirement that anyone knew about.
The other part of my life was the paranoid part. While roaming the area around my property, I had discovered that the adjacent property had a series of caves carved out by eons of weather and erosion in a solid rocky outcrop on top of a hill. They weren't deep as caves go but they were fairly tall and could provide shelter and protection from the elements and man if necessary. I realized that I was an open and easy target for anyone if they choose to make me one.
At this point someone might ask why I might become a target since I wasn't involved in external activities and overt actions. But the truth was that once we delved into the social, political, and especially the religious fabric of the countries we studied, we began playing with fire. The rise in fundamentalist religions worldwide also brought about the rise in the age old tradition of revenge. Revenge was especially strong in those highly placed individuals whose lies and fabrications were brought to light. My highly publicized inconvenient truth had put a spotlight squarely on a well established family whose history was filled with stories of intimidations, manipulations, and outright corruption. Even with the cloud of the following cover-ups and distractions, I had a feeling that there were people afoot trying to locate and cause me great discomfort.
As a result, I bought the adjacent land under a corporate cover I created. The land itself had little use for farming or development so I was able to buy it for a very low price and was able to pay cash for it in a simple deal. I then began quietly fortifying it. In fact, I turned it into a very comfortable place with electricity, heat and ventilation, tile floors, and running water. The other thing I discovered was that from this point, I had excellent cell phone connections and that I could tap into four or five WIFI hot spots. I used the dial up line at the house for routine internet things like talking to my company mother but I bought a laptop and set it up from day one under my nom de plume and a generic e-mail address which would be difficult to trace back to me directly. I also used this laptop for my other activity which was to write erotic novels which I had begun selling on an e-book publishing site also under my pen name.
It wasn't perfect by any means but I had two places and one of them could not be easily traced back to me. It would take a fairly sophisticated search and analysis to link the two personas I had. So I felt relatively safe in my life as I watched a female get out of the Suburban after penetrating my space.
She looked familiar but I couldn't place her. She had dark hair but my memory suggested a blonde. She had a nice slim figure with a firm bust and slender hips. My mind wanted to think twenty pounds heavier and a flatter chest and rounder hips. The one thing that triggered something the strongest was her smile. For me, it was always the smile that triggered my memory and this smile was in my registry but I couldn't put the rest of the features with it.
"Good morning." I said, trying to be pleasant as my brain went rapidly through my data base of pretty smiles.
"Good morning, Jeff. I can tell that you don't remember me."
"I will admit that you are familiar but I can't place you for sure."
She laughed, "Eight years ago, I was blonde and a little heavier than I am today. We went to a number of art and craft fairs and flea markets together. You also brought me toe curling orgasms in bed later."
"Natalie Crawford, of course. I knew the smile but the dark hair and the trim figure threw me off. How are you?" But my suspicions were raised since I had had no contact with her for almost seven or eight years.
"My name now is Natalie Fisher and I would be better if you can help me out. Can we walk in your garden for a bit?" There it was, she had a company -related problem and these problems were only discussed where there was no possibility of a listener.
"Sure; I would love to show you my garden. Let me get my bag." I went in the house and brought out what appeared to be a gardening bag. In fact, it contained a scanner which should be able to tell me if someone had planted a listening device anywhere nearby.
I smiled and took her arm as she moved close to me. We walked the hundred yards to the garden. My meter showed a device nearby but we were walking away from it. When we got to a clear spot, I stopped and started pointing at different plants and things but asked, "What's going on Natalie?"
She continued to smile and stooped to touch a tomato plant. "I don't know. I married John Fisher a year and a half ago and retired to just be his wife. He didn't want me involved. Six months ago he told me that if he didn't call me or come home by 9:00 in the evening, I should pack a bag and tell people I was going to visit my sister for a couple of weeks. Then he said to come to you and wrote down the address and the gate codes in my date book. He didn't call or come home the night before last; so I left yesterday morning and drove in the direction of my sister's place. I got up at 3:00 this morning and came here. Do you have any idea of what is going on? He didn't tell me any more than that."
I moved us toward a row of bell peppers and replied, "I've stayed far away from things since I retired and haven't heard from John since he helped me move two years ago. I heard that he got married but didn't know it was you."
"I worked for him for two years while he was mentoring under you. I never told him that we dated for awhile. He always said that you were the one person who he trusted the most. We got married a year and a half ago and I retired."
Cautiously, I asked, "Did he say anything, anything at all that might help?"
"A week ago he reminded me of his note and said it was a K19. I don't know what that means. Do you?"
I did. "It is a code we used that means he was being followed and that it might be about me. I imagine that he didn't say what he was working on?"
"No, he didn't. Rumor at the time said that he picked up a couple of your projects but he had others. Most of yours were spread around to several people."
"That is the way it usually worked when a senior retired."
"What can you or we do from here? I hate to admit it, but I'm a little scared."
"You should be. I guess that I need to ask you how much you trust me right now?"
"Jeff, I trust you just about as much as I trust John. You treated me extremely well and I liked it a lot. When they promoted you, I was sorry to lose contact with you but understood the situation. I just did my job until I started working for John. He idolized you and how you managed to keep yourself focused on the work and not the politics. He was royally pissed off when you got dumped on. So there is no one I trust more than you in this situation."
"Good; I hope I can live up to your trust. I think that the first thing we need to do is go run a couple of errands and make a few calls. Let's take your car and go to town. At least there we can be a little anonymous. What kind of clothes did you bring?"
"Mostly sundresses and shorts. My sister lives in LA."
"Then we need to get you some jeans and a couple of shirts to wear around here. I think that you need to stay here until we can find out something to go on. When we get to town, call your sister and tell her your car broke down in Kansas or somewhere like that and that you will be a couple of days late getting there. I would expect that they will have her phone tapped. Keep the call short so they can't trace it and use a pay phone. I'm going to check in with a couple of other sources and see what they might know."
"I'll do whatever you say."
"We are clean here in the garden but there is a bug somewhere between here and the house. Keep things on other subjects until I check out the house and your car."
I led her back toward the house and we talked about plants and vegetables. The bug seemed to be near the spot where I had a load of compost delivered several days before. Other than that, the porch and house were clean. Someone had gotten interested in me in just the past couple of days, it appeared. Surprisingly, her car was clean. I guessed that if she had waited another day to leave, a bug would have been planted. Things were moving quickly but were not fully functional yet.
We drove into town and stopped at my favorite café for lunch. Natalie was tired and hungry from her early departure and she ate heartily. When she finished, she went to the pay phone in the corner and called her sister and was off the phone in less than twenty seconds. When she returned, she said that she had gotten her sister's voice mail and left her a message. That was good since there wasn't any chance of getting into a longer conversation. I hoped that her whereabouts could remain hidden until we found out what was going on or at least for a week.
When she finished telling me about that, I sent her to the local farm supply store and told her to buy several pairs of jeans, blouses, a vest or jacket and a pair of good walking or hiking shoes along with a hat and put it on my account. I felt that her using her bank cards was too risky. I told her that I would be in the library if she finished before I caught up to her.
In the library, I used one of their computers and logged into the news website and was surprised to see a popup telling me to log into an ad website using a certain password. This meant that I had a message and that the password could only be used once. If anyone else accessed it, the password would not work. Therefore I was assured that only I saw the message. I logged in and found a disturbing message waiting.
I had been on a team of three senior advisors who developed our coded message system. We spent weeks evaluating all sorts of possible situations. Some of them almost seemed like they were straight out of a James Bond movie but when we finished, we felt that we could quickly alert anyone of any kind of situation that might possibly arise. The first letter indicated the threat level and its certainty with 'A' being simple and 'Z' being critical and dangerous. The first number indicated the threat. 1 meant being watched; 2 meant being followed; 3 meant imminent danger; 4 meant a signal that the message was being written under coersion; and any other number was jibberish. The second number indicated who the threat was directed at. A 1 meant that the sender was the target; a 5 meant that a number of people were the target; and a 9 meant that the recipient was the target. John's message through Natalie meant that it was a moderate level threat with fairly high certainty and that he was being followed as the target.
My message that morning was P39. Things had heated up quickly and was getting dangerous and that meant someone was looking for me. This was followed by a space and another number. This number referred to the project involved and this told me that my inconvenient truth project was the reason. This led me to believe that someone or more than one of the family involved was looking for revenge. Somehow, they determined that the best way to find me was through John. I logged out of the message and went to the date site and entered my three local girl's numbers. Two were on line and the third was out of the loop for a couple of days. I asked the two to meet me for dinner at a certain place they both knew at 5:00. I got quick acknowledgements from both.