Period of Adjustment Ch. 01-04bycoaster2©
This story will be submitted in four multiple chapter parts. It has been edited by ErikThread and DaveT with skill and care. Any errors are mine.
CSIS: Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. It looks after external security, but often crosses over RCMP internal security lines. The relationship between the two is strained, at best. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such department as "Section 3."
S.Q.: Sûreté du Québec, the Quebec Provincial Police.
The francophone name Denis is pronounced den-ee.
Kingston Federal Penitentiary is Canada's foremost maximum security prison.
It is not my intention to confound the reader, but there will be a requirement to shift from one name to another for a particular individual. I hope it doesn't prove too confusing.
Chapter 1: Getting out of Dodge
9:30am August, 26: Exit Interview, CSIS H.Q., Ottawa, ON
Present: Colin Stewart, CSIS (ret)
D. Taggart, Director, Sec. 3, CSIS.
Sandar Singh, Asst. Dir., Sec. 3, CSIS
"Good to see you again, Colin," the man growled as he dropped his obese frame into the padded chair with a thud.
"I'll bet," I sneered.
"I've asked Assistant Director Singh to be here to observe our conversation."
"You mean you want a witness present? Cut the bullshit, Taggart, you have this room wired for video and sound. He's not here as a witness. He's here to make sure I don't strangle you."
I spat out my accusation, and I wasn't very far from carrying out my implied threat.
"Still carrying a grudge, I see," Taggart sighed.
"You hung me out to dry. I spent over eight years in that prison, thanks to you."
"It was out of my control, Colin. I know I promised you would be taken care of, but it was taken out of my hands. There was nothing I could do. The most I could accomplish was to have you released early without parole."
"More bullshit! You had your nose too far up the Deputy Minister's ass to worry about me. You needed a fall guy for that little fuck-up, and I was it. At least you could have the balls to admit it."
Taggart sat silently, not responding to my allegation, a grim look aimed directly at me. It was time to give him the bad news.
"Well, Director Taggart, I have some demands that you will want to handle promptly, now that I'm out."
"Demands? You're in no position to make demands."
"That's where you're wrong. I've had eight years to work out my frustrations. There were only two recreational opportunities available that I found interesting in Kingston. First was the fitness room. I was very religious about maintaining my fitness. You might say I was almost fanatical. The other opportunity was the library, where I worked on my compensation package. The package that very shortly you are going to be handing me."
"You must be dreaming. You won't be seeing any compensation from CSIS."
"Well, that's where we disagree. You see, in eight years I've had a lot of time to document everything I know about CSIS, particularly where the political skeletons are hidden. I'm sure you wouldn't want that to fall into the wrong hands, now would you?"
"Are you threatening me? Do you really think you'll be allowed to do any such thing?"
"Well, here's the rub, Dwayne old boy. I have all that information safely tucked away where you can't get at it. However, if anything should happen to me, it will be delivered to a number of people who will undoubtedly be fascinated by it."
"You must be insane. You signed the Official Secrets Act. You know you'll end up right back in prison just for threatening me." Taggart was sweating now and his eyes were bulging, a sure sign he was stressed.
"And what would that accomplish? The information would be released, and you and a number of other prominent players would be up shit creek ... right where you belong. No, Taggart, I've set my compensation package, and you are going to pay it or you will regret it for the short time left in your worthless career."
The man sat, steaming inside, barely able to control himself. I had to smile. It was the thing to do in this situation. I looked at his dedicated lackey, Assistant Director Sandar Singh, another useless, self-serving parasite. There was little to choose between them. I could ignore him. He wouldn't speak unless spoken to, and then only with Taggart's permission.
"And just exactly what is this compensation package that you have dreamed up?" Taggart asked at last.
"I've tried to estimate the value of losing my freedom for almost a decade, losing my wife, my home, my reputation, the respect of my parents and friends, and probably any decent employment opportunity. Unfortunately, that number was so astronomically high that I couldn't conceive of any way you could meet it. So, I've settled for quite a bit less. I've decided that one million dollars per year of incarceration is more than reasonable. That would bring it near to $8.3 million dollars. Tax free of course."
Taggart snorted his derision. "You must be joking. Just where do you think I could come up with that kind of money?"
"Ah, Taggart, you always did lack imagination. It's simple really. You'll arrange for me to win a lottery prize. I noticed that the jackpot for this coming Wednesday is nearly thirty million, so skimming off a few million from the unredeemed prize account will hardly be noticed."
I sat back, grinning my satisfaction at Taggart's distress.
He was quiet for a while. "And with that, you'll go away?"
"Well, not exactly. You see, I don't trust you. So, I'll be happy to give you a few free samples of my little insurance policy. But rest assured, I'll have everything in a safe place ready for distribution if anything untoward should happen to me -- or my friends and acquaintances."
"This is blackmail. I don't believe you. I think you're bluffing. We've been watching you every day in prison. Nothing of yours has come out. You haven't had a single visitor that hasn't been searched and followed. I don't think there's any such evidence."
"You're a fool, Taggart. You know that drugs and contraband make their way in and out of Kingston on a daily basis. What makes you think you could put a stop to information?" I reached inside my jacket and slid a manila envelope across the table.
He was silent again. The sweat had migrated to his collar, now soaked with its yellowish stain. The man was extremely uncomfortable, and I knew I had him exactly where I wanted him.
I decided to push the issue. "You have until Friday to come up with the compensation. When you do, I will direct you to my bank." I stood, took a card from my pocket and passed it to the man. "The cell phone number on the back will find me," I said, turning to go.
"This interview isn't over, Stewart," Taggart barked.
"Yes it is. You have no hold on me any more. I'm the one who controls the agenda now. Don't let me down, Dwayne. I'd be awfully disappointed if I had to go to all the trouble of marketing my information individually. Good day." I turned and walked out the door, hearing it snick closed behind me.
I was sure I would be followed constantly in the near future, but since I hadn't yet settled on a place to live, they'd had no opportunity to have it wired for phone, audio, or video.
As happy as I was with my meeting with Taggart, I knew I had earned his wrath, and he was going to harass me as much as he could if I let him. The next part of my plan was clear. Assuming he would make the payoff, I had decided where to build my future. I still had my skills and my knowledge, albeit slightly out of practice. I still had my contacts around the world, as well as my friends on the job. I also still had anger at the betrayal by my employer.
I was sitting in a small sidewalk café in Ottawa's Bytown on a warm Friday morning. I was in plain view, but the road noise and general city clatter would make it difficult for electronic eavesdropping. I couldn't shake my tail, so I might as well let him watch. I'd almost finished my espresso when the waiter approached me and handed me a cell phone.
"It's for you, sir."
"Thanks." I'd given him the phone and a twenty dollar bill, asking him to bring it to me if it rang and someone asked for Colin Stewart. He had cooperated perfectly.
"Where do we send the money?" It wasn't Taggart or Singh, it was some flunkey. No surprise. Taggart wouldn't want the humiliation of admitting I'd bested him.
"International Bank of the Cayman Islands, Mr. Winston Ambleside, account code A-nine-R-four-seven-seven-three-J. Understood?"
He repeated the instructions back to me accurately, and I snapped the phone shut without comment. I slipped the phone into a trash can as I left the restaurant.
Step one. I could quit worrying about where my next meal would come from. Mr. Ambleside would transfer the deposit to a different account and then move a portion to my new account at a national bank. A platinum credit card would be issued with worldwide Interac access.
The funds my ex-wife had left me would have permitted me to live a few months before I found my footing, but now it wasn't necessary. She had pretty well cleaned me out, probably with the help of her parents. And what about my parents? I hadn't yet called them to let them know I was out, but since we hadn't communicated in eight years, it didn't seem that urgent.
I'd had too much time to plot my revenge on CSIS. Too much time to let the anger fester. The anger at their betrayal and abandonment of me. To allow my wife and relatives to think I was a murderer deserving punishment. The compensation package was just the first step.
My ex-wife Elise had been quick to file for divorce, seemingly before the guilty verdict was in. There were no children from our three year marriage, a fact for which I was now extremely grateful. My anger with her flowed back and forth as I tried to understand how she could so quickly dispose of me. I came to the conclusion that marrying her was a mistake. That was my fault. Most of what I did in my life I couldn't reveal to anyone, including my wife. Not much of a basis for a marriage.
My parents were a different matter. Why had they given up on me so easily? Not a word or a visit all the time I was in prison. Why? It was a question I needed to answer, but not immediately. If it could wait eight years, it could wait a little longer.
More urgent was losing my tail long enough to retrieve my stash. I had been assured by my former partner, Anwar, that it was still untouched by anyone. I wonder if Taggart knew just how despised he was by the troops that did the real work. Anwar was just one of several in CSIS I could still count on.
First, I needed to disappear for a while. Allow Taggart and his minions to forget about me. Being visible would just rub salt in his wounds, and that might provoke him into doing something stupid ... like terminating me.
I was staying in motels, but no more than one night in any room. If I liked the motel, I might change rooms once or twice, but generally I would just check out and look for another place. It would frustrate my shadow and keep me from getting too comfortable. I had nothing to move other than a carry-on with some clothes and a briefcase that contained my newly purchased laptop and another disposable cell phone.
The day after my release, I had bought a used car with some of the remaining cash that Elise had so thoughtfully left me. It was a non-descript gray Taurus of recent vintage, indistinguishable from the thousands of others like it in the country. I had it checked thoroughly for any tracking or bugging devices, and I was satisfied that it was clean. I kept it away from the motel, knowing it wouldn't take more than a couple of minutes for someone to add the necessary electronics to monitor my movements.
With the aid of Ottawa rush hour traffic and some old driving skills, I shook my tail and made a roundabout approach to my cache of necessities. It was twenty kilometers out of town on a country road, and I waited patiently for an hour to make sure no one had followed me. I stepped out of the car, and walked a hundred meters up a hill, the path covered from above by giant maples.
The stone cairn was still in place with the memorial plaque facing the pathway. Amos Belliveau, age 78, was buried here. Amos apparently took some things with him to the Promised Land, including a new Glock .40 caliber pistol, 200 rounds of ammunition, a Globalstar Satellite Phone with two rechargeable batteries, two Canadian and one U.S. passport, as well as thirty thousand dollars in used U.S. notes. I put the sat-phone and the passports into my briefcase, and stashed the cash, gun and ammo under the spare in the trunk. It would do in the short term.
I took a roundabout way back to Ottawa, checked out of the motel and began the long drive west. I had briefly considered using Halifax-Dartmouth as a base of operations, but in the end I knew that Vancouver had better access to the places I might have to go. Multiple daily non-stop flights to the U.S., Europe and Asia made it the logical choice.
Fairly certain I had dropped my shadow, I drove until dark, stopping for the night at an off-the-highway motel east of Toronto. The desk clerk recommended a very nice restaurant within walking distance, but I was happier keeping the car in sight. I drove the block-and-a-half to the heritage-style building and parked directly in front under a street lamp. The place wasn't very busy on a Tuesday evening.
When I returned to the motel, I retrieved the gun and cash from the trunk and took them into the room. I had a simple hiding place in my briefcase for the two unused passports. When I crossed the border tomorrow, I would be Nathan Poirier, and there would be nothing about me to alert U.S. Customs officials. I had purchased and registered the Ford in the same name. A photo I.D. driver's license, thoughtfully provided by Anwar, matched the other documents. I was confident no one would notice that the photos of me on the passport and the driver's license were identical.
I hid the Glock in the engine compartment against the block just above the oil pan. No one wanted to mess with a hot exhaust manifold. A heat-resistant case would protect the weapon.
The cash and ammunition were a larger problem, thanks to their bulk. I broke the money up into six, five thousand dollar packets, and spread five of them around the inner panels of the car. The ammunition was wrapped in aluminum foil, and tucked up under the dashboard. A thorough search would find them both, but I wasn't expecting one. I'd previously determined the money didn't have any traces of drugs for the dogs to pick up. I scanned the car once more for any tracking devices, but found none. Deciding I had done what I could to evade detection, I went to bed and slept soundly.
I awoke at dawn, just after six am, and went through my usual routine. I checked the car through the motel rear window, but I couldn't see any sign that it had been disturbed. I had set up my usual tells that would indicate if anyone had tried to get into it, but they were just as I had left them.
A quick breakfast at the local café and I was on the road destined for Port Huron, Michigan. I chose it as a likely spot for entry as it was always busy with trucks and cars, and was not known to be the subject of intense scrutiny. It proved to be the correct assumption. I stopped in the outskirts of Flint for the night, satisfied now that my former friends weren't following me, and weren't easily going to find me.
It took five days to cross the U.S. I was beginning to take pleasure in my freedom for the first time since my release, and I wasn't in much of a hurry. Interstate 80 would take me right across the continent to San Francisco, then I-5 north to Canada. I was able to relax and enjoy myself for the first time in nearly nine years. I had cash to pay my way, so no credit card receipts would betray the whereabouts of either Colin Stewart or Nathan Poirier.
The five days on the road gave me plenty of time to think about my future. What did I want to do besides exact revenge on Taggart and the bastards he worked for? I was never going to get my wife back. My parents might finally accept me some day, but only if I could explain what I had been doing. That was a no-no in any event, so I would just have to find a believable story that wouldn't put them in harm's way.
And what about the rest of my life? Spend it looking over my shoulder, wondering who was watching? I don't think so. I needed to disappear. I could move to Europe and hire myself out for special security services. I could change my appearance and become Nathan Poirier permanently. I had all the secure contacts I needed to make that happen without word getting back to Ottawa. So now, Colin ... make up your mind.
Well ... not just yet.
As I rolled down I-80 across central California, I had been seeing signs indicating an upcoming junction to Napa Valley. On the spur of the moment, I took the exit and drove through the rolling hills until I hit Hwy 29 North, and followed it into Napa. It was a continuous collection of wineries, B & B's, restaurants, and gift shops. Disappointed, I continued north until I came to St. Helena, stopping in the small town.
I pulled over just past the post office and walked into a small gift shop-cum-café and checked the chalkboard menu. The choices were certainly California funky. Avocado, white asparagus sandwiches on pumpernickel, with sprouts and a brie cheese spread. Definitely different. I ordered a sandwich and a glass of unsweetened iced tea and sat at a table, testing a very uncommon taste experience.
I was listening to a conversation between a couple at the next table as they decided where to go next. They were pretty typical tourists, I thought. This was a day trip, and already they were tired of the tourist traps, wine tours, gift shops, and assorted special interest locations that seemed to be everywhere.
I heard the waitress tell them that it wasn't like that twenty years ago. Today, she said, many people went north to the top of the valley, and found it more to their liking. Towns like Geyserville were still largely unspoiled, but that wouldn't last forever.
I filed the information away, paid the bill, and walked back to my car. I sat there for a while, looking at the California map I had bought at my last gas stop. I wasn't in any rush to be anywhere, so I might as well go see some of the sights while I was in the area.
I drove to the north end of the valley, where it connected to highway 101, and found Geyserville. It took an hour to work my way up to the small town, but when I did I was happy I'd made the effort. I looked around for a place to stay and checked into a modest motel on the edge of town.
I drove into town, looking for a restaurant. It had been a long time since I'd had a good Mexican meal and I decided tonight was the night. I passed on a chain restaurant in favour of Mama Rosita's, a family store-front cafe at the north end of town. I'd made a good choice. The food was fresh, home cooked and authentic. I downed a couple of Negra Mordellos with my meal before heading back toward my room.
On the way I stopped at the gas station across the street from the motel and picked up a six-pack of MGD and some junk food to finish the evening. After more than eight years of prison food, I felt I was entitled to these little excesses. I fell asleep with a half-gone bottle of beer in my hand and the TV on Leno. A couple of hours later I awoke, finished the beer, snapped off the TV, pissed away the previous beers, brushed my teeth, stripped, and fell into bed. I was out in a matter of seconds.
I awoke at my usual time of sunrise and discovered I only had the fringes of a hangover from the previous night. One coffee and a breakfast would fix that. I strolled out the door of my room into the warm, soft air and scent of the Alexander Valley. A man could get to like it here. I walked toward the town, looking for a restaurant for breakfast.