August 17th, 2013 Hotel de Richmond, Richmond, Virginia.
“I cannot believe we have a mission already! I thought I had three more weeks of...”
“So, are you telling me you’re not ready to get to work, Agent Biltmore?” Aaron asked.
“No, I’m not saying that, sir, but this is some serious shit!” Biltmore exclaimed, his voice echoing throughout the lavish conference room seated in the heart of the Hotel de Richmond. “I just don’t know if we’re ready.”
Aaron cocked his jaw and sighed. He folded his arms and looked down at the new agent with a raised eyebrow. “School’s over, Biltmore. It’s time to get dirty,” the CHR chief said and then glanced over at Cole; a man seated just two chairs away from Chris. With a hand to each side of his head and elbows on the wooden surface of the hotel conference room’s long, shiny table, he sat intently reading over the mission brief spread out in front of him as if his life depended on it. “What about you, Agent Hitchens?”
“Sir? What about me?” Cole asked, lifting his head from his hands in confusion, apparently interrupted from some thought. He inadvertently let his hands slap the table as he brought them down.
“What do you think about the mission?”
“Oh, I have no issue with it, other than the fact there ain’t a more senior field agent with some related experience on our team,” Cole replied and tapped the documents spread out before him. “I think it might make things too risky with only me and Agent Biltmore.”
“Thank you!” Biltmore exclaimed. He looked over at his new boss. “Please, tell me it’s not just us, sir?”
“Cool your jets, boys. We’re waiting on a couple more people,” Aaron replied, rolling his fingers on his shirtsleeve. He glanced at the gold Timex watch on his wrist. “They should be here any minute, now.”
As if on cue, the door burst open. A tall, beefy man in his late fifties wearing a leather biker’s jacket, a gray beard, and matching long hair tied in a ponytail, stepped inside followed by the stench of a cigar. A billowy cloud quickly filled the room like a smoke grenade.
“There goes the no smoking deposit,” Biltmore said.
Cole laughed and looked up at the bearded man. “How’s it going, Santa? You here with my Harley Davidson?”
Smoke escaped from between the older man’s lips as he opened them to speak. “Hah, you jokers are as funny as hemorrhoids,” he retorted in a deep growl, the cigar still clenched in his teeth.
Aaron coughed, shook the large man’s hand, and then pointed at the two new agents. “Hitchens and Biltmore, this is Agent Nicholas Carol.”
“Just call me Saint Nick, greenies,” the man said. “It’s the code name the elves at Langley gave me.”
Chris and Cole looked at each other and then burst out laughing.
“Dammit, I like you already,” Cole exclaimed. He stood up and extended a hand over the table for the man to take it.
Biltmore also rose from his seat and repeated the gesture, waving off a puff of the smoke that billowed from Nick’s cigar.
“Agent Carol has been with Special Activities for over two decades. He has the connections and resources in the Middle East we desperately need to complete our mission.”
“I smell Saint Nick beat me here!” said a voice from behind the big man.
“Mike!” Cole exclaimed at the appearance of a stocky man in a dark blue suit with short, dark hair as he entered the room. “What the hell, brother? Twice in one day?”
Biltmore raised an eyebrow at Cole’s outburst.
“You assigned to this op, too?” Cole inquired energetically.
“Yep, looks like it,” the FBI agent said and shrugged his shoulders. “I guess the CIA needed a professional to keep an eye on your country ass. Make sure you don’t go all bullet in a bonfire on anyone else!”
“Ha! Well, since I didn’t get a chance to say this when you showed up earlier...” Cole stood and walked around the table to give his friend a hug. “I still owe you one. You know that right?”
Mike slapped Cole on the arm. “Naw, buddy, it’s the other way around. If you hadn’t decided to choose me over your militia friends, I would be a dead man.”
“Well, after my father-in-law died, there was no controlling the crazy bastards. We all understood that the emerging leadership wasn’t about waving the flag and patriotism like it was under Pops. It was about murdering people, drugs, and prostitution. You know as well as I do that this was no longer my style...not to mention, they were gonna up an’ kill you. I know you told me not to, but I couldn’t just let you die like that,” Cole added. “Fed or not, you were...are my friend.”
Mike laughed. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I did warn the others involved in the op about you, but they didn’t listen. You really messed some of them up pretty good.”
“I know and I feel real bad about it ’cept for one. I don’t recall the name of that jackass just that he was the tall one with the porn ’stache. He just wouldn’t shut the hell up and then when he put his finger in my face it was game on.”
“That fool from the ATF? The one whose nose you broke? Yeah, I know who you are talking about....I want to say it was Bill Jamison or somethin’. But you’re right, between his arrogant attitude and that damn mustache, he made me want to bop the shit out of him, too. Heck, I can’t believe that fool colored the thing so damn dark. It’s full on unnatural.”
Cole nodded with a chuckle. “Like a black caterpillar. Well, with all that aside, I am glad you’re here, Mike, erm, Agent Moore.”
Mike grinned. “Thank you...Agent Hitchens,” he said in the same sarcastic tone, and the two men laughed.
Interrupting the banter, Biltmore stepped forward looking at Mike, but pointing toward Cole. “So, you’re the famous Agent Moore this one here keeps talking about, then? Are you sure your sister didn’t pull some strings to get you in our overseas gig?” Chris asked.
Chris nodded in affirmation. ”Agent Biltmore.”
“Right, sorry.” Mike narrowed his eyes at Chris and then offered him a hand. “Believe me, Agent Biltmore, this ain’t no vacation. I would much rather be here in the good ol’ US of A, sittin’ under the air conditioning and sippin’ on a beer than where we’re gonna be going.”
Biltmore rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air. “You know you sound like Cole, too. Damn, I’m surrounded by a bunch of hillbillies.”
“Yeah, maybe so, but I did graduate top of my law school and ace’d the bar,” Mike responded.
“Alright, now that we’re acquainted, Agent Moore would you please close that door? It’s time to get down to business,” Aaron said. “So, gentlemen and FBI agent let’s...”
“Ha! Your’re hilarious, SAC (Special Agent in Charge),” Mike said with a grin and placed a hand on the door to close it. Something stopped it. He peeked around its edge and pulled it open with one hand, sweeping another around indicating for someone to enter.
“Wait a second, boys. Don’t get started without me,” said a lovely young woman stepping in through the opening. She wore shoulder-length dark hair, a tight Metallica t-shirt, and camouflage, rip stop BDU pants.
Chris instantly sat up upon the woman’s entrance, eliciting a chuckle from Cole. Biltmore seemed strangely transfixed on the new arrival..
“And you are, ma’am?” Aaron asked, surprised at the last-minute intrusion.
“...sent by the boss lady to keep you guys on the straight and narrow,” the woman with bright red lipstick said with a grin. “I’m Agent Delinda Thorton.”
“Hey, honey,” Nick responded in recognition as he grinded his cigar out on his combat boot’s sole. “Don’t you know your place? This ain’t women’s work.”
“What’s going on you old chauvinist douche?” Delinda shot back.
Nick and the woman began laughing.
“So, it’s safe to assume you two are acquainted?” Mike asked.
“Yep,” Nick replied, removing a chair from beneath the table for Delinda. He patted the seat indicating to the woman that it was hers if she wanted it. “I was asked who else might be needed on this op...I told the higher-ups we’d need her. Delinda is from the PAG side of Special Activities, the Political Action Group. We’ll really need her expertise. She’s a damn genius.”
Delinda grinned and approached the table. “Asskisser, much?”
St. Nick laughed.
Chris watched the young woman walk across the room intently. Delinda gave him a confused look and he cleared his throat, quickly turning his attention toward his new boss.
Cole covered his mouth to keep from laughing aloud.
“Excellent. Well, take a seat, Agent Thornton and welcome to the team,” Aaron said, clicking off the lights. He stepped over to a laptop sitting open on the table, tapped the space bar, and spun it around so everyone could see the screen. “Are you there, Director?”
“Yes, I’m here.” A woman’s face appeared on the screen, the face of CIA Director Annalisa Moore. “Agents, as I am sure you all know by now, you are being assigned a rather important task. Your mission is to bring down human trafficking networks operating out of Afghanistan. Now, this is a project that is not only near and dear to me and one that will change a lot of lives for the better, but it’s primarily a mission that, for now, involves a family member of someone very important here in Washington... the Vice President of the United States.”