Home Sweet Homelandbyshawalphamale©
"Elisabeth, can you come into my office at once, please?"
Elisabeth Manning looked up from her computer screen, surprised at the somber tone in Willard Aldredge's voice. He was usually a pretty unemotional sort of a boss, the kind of steady going and rather dull bureaucrat to be found in any government department in Washington. Then again, Elisabeth would have had to use much the same words to describe her own life; steady and dull. But something or someone had obviously got Willard fired up today. He was standing outside her cubicle with an expression on his face like an Enron accountant who'd suddenly figured out the real figures. Shocked and tense and very unhappy, that was how Willard looked.
"Sure. What's the problem?"
Willard didn't answer. He simply gave a shake of his head like a horse bothered by flies and stepped back to let Elisabeth walk in front of him. And it didn't need any female intuition to let her know that somewhere, somehow, the turds had really hit the turbine. So what could have happened to have caused major trouble for the Department of Transportation, and especially for that section of it responsible for drafting safety regulations?
There were three people waiting in Willard's office: two young men, and an even younger looking woman. Mid to early twenties, all neatly dressed in conservative business clothes, all staring at her with sharp, hard eyes. One of the guys spoke first; mid height, stocky, with hair as fair as Elisabeth's own, perhaps sharing some of her Scandinavian genes in his ancestry.
"Thank you, Mr Aldredge. Could leave Ms Manning with us for a while?"
"Sure, sure. Take as long as you like."
Elisabeth turned and gaped at the sight of her boss allowing himself to be thrown out of his own office by this upstart college boy. Willard might be an pretty easy going guy but he was always a stickler for the rules of the departmental game, and one of those rules was that nobody pulled any of his staff in for an investigation without Willard himself sitting in on it. Hell, that was her right as well, to expect her supervisor's support in a crisis.
"Willard, what's this all about?"
"Mr Heynig will explain things, Elisabeth. Bye."
The office door closed, Willard was on the other side of it, and she was alone with these three kooks. Oh God, had a 747 gone down, or what? The stocky one flashed a fancy looking ID card.
"Scott Heynig, Ms Manning. Investigating agent for the Department of Homeland Security."
Elisabeth felt as if she was going to faint. It was worse than an accident, it was a terrorism thing and somehow one of her safety regulations had failed to stop an attack.
"You don't look too good, Ms Manning. Don't worry, nothing's happened. Not yet, anyway. Here, sit down."
Oddly, the agent guided her towards the fancy leather desk behind the desk. It was certainly the best seat in the office: it should have been, it had taken a six months battle with the accounts office for Willard to get it.
"Sit here, Ms Manning. Or can I call you Elisabeth?"
"Yes, of course."
"A nice old fashioned name."
It was the other guy who'd spoken. In a kind of a sneering way. He was different again, tall and slim, olive colored skin, good looking in a Latino film star style. He was sitting down on the corner of the desk on her right and Scott Heynig was perching himself on the desk on her left hand side. Elisabeth felt hemmed in, as though she was under guard. It was an impression which strengthened considerably as the girl drew up a visitor's chair and sat down on the opposite side of the desk before opening up a notebook computer.
"I'm Catherine Haught. Also an investigator with Homeland Security."
Even under her present distracting circumstances, Elisabeth couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity for Catherine. Her suit was expertly tailored to do the best possible justice to her figure, but, as any passing star fleet engineer might have remarked, ye canna alter the laws of physics. And, in Catherine's case the laws of physics had decreed that no amount of sharp tailoring could effectively enhance a dumpy body with a bust line which was far more bust than line. Worse yet, it was topped off by a face that could charitably be described as 'strong-looking'. Indeed she bore a passing resemblance to a young J. Edgar Hoover, which was perhaps a professional advantage but hardly a romantic one.
Elisabeth often felt vaguely guilty about inheriting a metabolism which maintained her figure without any real effort on her part, while so many women had to walk around looking like Catherine. She also wondered what sort of physical performance standards Home Security operatives had to meet on recruitment and how Catherine had ever managed to waddle through them. But what she really wanted to know was why two - three? - Homeland Security people wanted to talk to her.
The Latino guy spoke again: "Jarrel Rohr: investigation agent, Homeland Security."
OK, three of them then, but why? Why was an HS team breathing down her neck? OK then, two guys in an investigation team were breathing down her neck and also inspecting her own bustline as though it might explode. Elisabeth fought down a panicky urge to giggle: a 36C bra packed with plastic explosive could do some serious damage if it went off.
Scott glanced over to the girl: "Catherine, show Elisabeth the ECHELON intercepts."
Catherine turned the computer around on the desk so that Elisabeth could read the screen. Her stomach felt as if she'd swallowed a beaker of battery acid and with undeniable reason this time. The computer screen was showing extracts from the emails she'd been exchanging with a guy Elisabeth had been doing some very serious flirting with over the last couple of weeks. Flirting, fuck, the pair of them had been screwing each other's brains out - virtually speaking anyway.
"What the hell . . ?"
Scott's authoritative voice rode straight over Elisabeth's outrage.
"Have you heard of ECHELON, Elisabeth? It's not exactly a secret, the European Parliament even had a debate about it a while ago, but it's not publicized much here in the States.
"ECHELON stations are only based on US soil or on the soil of our closest allies, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They intercept huge amounts of telephone, fax and email messages from all around the planet: some reports say maybe up to three billion messages every twenty four hours. The ECHELON computers scan each message for suspicious words or addresses. And it happens that the guy you've been writing to so freely is on our watch list of suspected terrorists. That's why ECHELON has been copying all the emails he sends and receives, and that's why we're here."
Elisabeth gaped at the agent in stunned disbelief: "But he's just a guy I met in a chat room. His name's Jesse Kansas, he lives in LA. He seems like any other guy. Why would I think he's got anything to do with any terrorists?"
"His offline name is Abbas Sarak, he was born in the Gaza strip, and two of his family have been suicide bombers. We think he has links with Hamas. But it's true he can pass as an ordinary American citizen. There's no reason why he shouldn't, he's been living in the States since he was five."
"But I didn't know anything about any of that! I was just chatting to some guy in LA!"
"Chatting?" The other guy, Jarrel, was grinning at her.
Elisabeth felt her cheeks flush as she realized they must all have read the emails she'd sent to Jesse, or whatever the hell is name really was. Oh, God!
Scott edged an inch or two closer to her along the edge of the desk: "Elisabeth, let me explain how the system works on something like this. A red light comes and a team like ours goes out to check on whether it's a genuine alarm or a false one. And if we decide it's a false alarm and sign off on that, then we get the blame if we've made a wrong call. If there's an incident down the track which leaves thousands of US citizens dead and it turns out it was because this investigating team made a mistake . . . well, our careers would be the least of our worries. We'd probably end up squatting inside cages in Cuba ourselves. You'd understand that."
Elisabeth nodded: her throat had suddenly tightened as if a noose was being put around it.
"OK, so what we do first off in a situation like this is a background check on the subject we're interested in. That's mainly pulling together our computer sources. So when I checked on you, Elisabeth, I found Ms Straight as an Arrow lady. Elisabeth Mary Manning, aged 32, has worked for the Department of Transportation for seven years, married to a nice guy called Peter for three years. Peter is a lobbyist for the chemical industry, doing very nicely, thank you, and you live with your nice guy as a nice couple in a nice twelve-story condominium with a nice view of the Potomac river. Nice seems to be the only four letter word I can find in your background, Elisabeth. Maybe it should even be stamped in big gold letters across the cover of your dossier."
He got up and walked over to the window, looking out across E Street towards St Dominic's Church: "What do you think, Jarrel? Do you think Ms Manning is nice?"
Jarrel had folded his arms and was grinning over them down at Elisabeth. "Sure, she's nice. Nice long blonde hair, nice face, nice figure, nice boobs. Yes, Elisabeth is certainly nice."
"Hey!" Elisabeth protested at the agent's comments on her breasts.
"Elisabeth," Scott cut in, "I think I really need to make you understand where we might be going from here. Now, one choice is to say that you're this altogether nice lady who just happened to get in touch with the wrong guy and now you know the score, the problem's over. If you worked for an insurance company and your husband was a dentist, that's probably what I'd do. I'd just warn you about not contacting Abbas Sarak again and then walk out of your life. Unfortunately . . ." Scott's voice trailed off as if he was unwilling to break some bad news. He glanced towards the female agent.
"Catherine, let's hear from you."
Catherine gave Elisabeth the sort of smile a wolverine would give a trapped rabbit.
"But you don't work for an insurance company, Elisabeth. You work for the Transportation Department and since 9/11, that's become one of the most sensitive areas of government administration. Plus your husband knows just about everything there is to know about most of the chemical plants across the country. You two are a terrorist's dream couple: you can tell them how to hi-jack a plane and your husband knows exactly where crashing it will cause the most damage to a target city. No way will I certify you're in the clear until we've done a positive check on you and your husband."
"Yes, that's our problem," Scott agreed, still speaking as if he were rather regretful about the situation.
He came over and sat on the desk again, even closer to Elisabeth.
"Or rather it's your problem, Ms nice lady Manning. You see, when people know that Homeland Security have got an interest in somebody close to them, they get very antsy. To do a positive check, we have to ask around. Once the Transportation Department knows about your contacts with a possible Hamas link man, well . . . I guess they couldn't just up and fire you, Elisabeth, but I think you'd be well out of the loop promotion wise. In fact, I think you'd probably find yourself working your time out in some cubicle so far down in the basement that you'll be able to hear the trains going past."
"Of course, it's your husband we'd really be sorry about," Jarrel added. He didn't look any sorrier than Catherine Haught did.
"My husband? Peter? Why?" Elisabeth was now very alarmed indeed.
"Think about it," Catherine suggested in a smug way. "A lobbyist who has Homeland Security going around to all his contacts warning them to be careful about what they say to Peter Manning? How much lobbying will he be doing after that? He'll never see the inside of another office in Washington. I doubt if he'll even find anybody willing to sign him into any Federal building long enough to take a leak."
"But this is crazy!" Elisabeth protested. "I'm a patriotic American citizen, and so is Peter. We'd never betray our country. I had no idea who I was emailing with!"
Scott half turned towards her, lifted up his well polished shoe and pushed against the side of her swivel seat until it had moved around for Elisabeth to be facing him.
"Well, that's it, Elisabeth, that's what we've got to decide on, here and now. Do I tell your boss that everything is fine and give him a memo of thanks for his department's co-operation? Or do I go back to my boss and tell him that Elisabeth Manning needs some serious checking out? Just for starters, we're going to need to speak to all the guys from your school and college background about your sexual behavior. Because, according to your emails, you seem to have some problems there. Well, if I was your husband, I'd certainly call them problems. Have you ever told him about what happened in the boatshed at that summer camp?"
Jarrel sniggered as the hot tide rose even closer to the surface of Elisabeth's face: "Nothing like that ever happened," she said. "I was just role playing, that was all. Making up a story to send to a guy I was fooling around with. Some day I'd like to be a writer and maybe I let my imagination run away a bit."
"Your imagination!" Catherine was smiling in open disbelief. "Some imagination."
Jarrel was laughing as well: "Elisabeth, you even described the type of boat you got bent over. I'm with Catherine; if your imagination is that good you should be working in Hollywood instead of Washington."
"Let's just recap on what you wrote to Abbas, Elisabeth," Scott said. "You told him that you were at a school camp in the mountains working as a counselor. While you were swimming with another counselor you saw two boys pick up your bags, wave to you, and then go into a boatshed. So you and your friend followed them into the shed to get your bags back, right?"
Elisabeth shook her head in renewed denial: "It was something I made up, that's all. It never really happened. Please don't talk about it."
"Fine, we won't talk about it. I'll just tell my boss that you've got a psychological problem you don't want to discuss," Scott replied calmly. "Personally, Elisabeth, I think you're that kind of nice girl who gets hot and bothered every time a bunch of bikers ride past. I think you have a real desire to be made to perform group sex and I also think that's something that could really turn you on to working for a terrorist cell. Being gangbanged in a back room by a bunch of unshaven tough guys waving AK-47's around would really make your day, wouldn't it, Elisabeth? Even it wouldn't be quite such a nice thing to happen to such a nice lady."
"That's not true! I don't want to do anything like that and I'm not going to talk about it."
"You don't have to argue with me, Elisabeth. If you say you don't want to talk to us, no sweat. We've already said all we came to say, so we'll walk."
"No, no, please don't go," Elisabeth begged urgently. "This would kill Peter. Please, I'll do anything you want me to do to prove this is all a mistake."
"Will you?" Scott asked mildly. He raised his shoe again, resting it on the seat between her legs.
"How about undoing my shoe then?"
Elisabeth hastily moved to obey. She didn't understand what was happening but she did know that whatever happened she had to keep Peter out of this nightmare. Her fingers were shaking so much that she'd probably have gotten a lace completely knotted, but the agent's shoe had a velcro tag that came loose with a single tug. He dropped his foot to the floor and eased it out of the shoe.
Scott's fingers closed together like crab's claws and then he pushed his hands forward to indicate that he wanted her to pull her skirt further back along her legs. For the first time she suddenly understood what Scott wanted from her.
"Elisabeth, it's a simple deal. If you want us to risk our asses to cover yours, then the least we expect is a piece of it in return. Hey, look at me when I'm talking to you."
She raised her eyes to his. Scott's cold blue irises were examining her as dispassionately as a technician inspecting a malfunctioning computer. Only the curve of his lips and an air of tension seemed to reveal how much he was enjoying Elisabeth's humiliation.
"What's more, nice lady, if you really need some exciting moments to make your life complete, then you don't need to deal with any outsiders. The United States government will be happy to supply your therapy. In our time and for free."
Elisabeth gasped and looked over the desk towards Catherine. The female agent was still smiling, apparently neither surprised nor shocked by Scott's words.
"Go ahead, don't mind me, kids. Go on and enjoy yourselves. I've got my own agenda here, but we'll discuss that later."
Scott's stockinged foot rose and rubbed itself slowly down the side of Elisabeth's left calf. It felt hot and slightly scratchy. Her legs began to tremble.
"Elisabeth, I'm still waiting. Do you want me to put my shoe back on and leave?"
Elisabeth reached down to her black skirt and slowly drew it back over her dark pantyhose to a point well past her knees. Scott's foot settled on the seat again, as before, except this time it was down flat on the leather. Then it slid forward in pursuit of the retreating skirt, the toes disappearing out of view under the rucked up hemline. Elisabeth instinctively closed her legs against the intrusion, trapping the toes between her thighs. She gasped and glanced towards the door. Christine rose and went over to it, securing the lock.
"Don't worry, nobody is going to come in for a while," Scott said reassuringly. "The way your boss reacted to our ID, he's probably hiding out in the broom closet by now. So I think you'd better open your legs again, Ms Manning."
Oh God, they were all looking at her and what else could she do but obey the agent's order? The arch of the foot caught against her skirt, drawing it tight against the outside of her knees as she spread them apart in obedience to Scott's commands. The toes slithered towards once more, as far as they could between her thighs, then burrowed underneath them until they were jammed below the gusset of her panties.
Oh God, the amused look on the watching faces as those damned toes made her grunt by wriggling around underneath her pussy. This was crazy, Scott was virtually ravishing her, even without a stitch of clothing being removed and with his arms still folded as he kept talking.
"Can you tell us some more about this camp thing, Elisabeth?"
His foot had twisted around a little, the toes were rubbing up against the valley below her thin underclothing and her voice quivered as she tried once again to make him understand the truth.
"It never happened, it never happened. Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I made it all up."
Scott nodded as if he understood.
"OK, well, as agents we all think that we're pretty good at knowing when people are telling us untruths. That's what we're supposed to be trained for. So you tell us everything you told your boyfriend in LA, word for word, and we'll have a vote afterwards on whether or not you're just a plausible liar. Jarrel, you want to help me out here?"
Scott removed his foot from where it had been and knelt down to take a firm grip on Elisabeth's calf. She was surprised, even more so when Jarrel did exactly the same thing with her other leg.
The two agents worked as a team, both lifting her feet off the carpet and pulling off her shoes.
"And up some more."
At Scott's order the men rose and lifted her feet in their hands, pressing her spine deep into the back of the big swivel chair. The wheels underneath it rolled the chair up against the wall, leaving Elisabeth's legs stretched out and parted in front of her, her toes up at the same level as her chest. Scott and Jarrel were each holding one of her feet between their clenched knees and lightly massaging the soles with their thumbs.