Cigarette smoke lingered in the air. Cheap musk mixed with the smell of drugstore brand antiperspirant. Sleeves were rolled up. Collars were unbuttoned. Sweat lined their foreheads.
Then, Mark Johansen entered from the only door: a dull, sterile, metallic door with no window. He didn’t need to knock. In one hand was his two hour old cup of coffee. In the other was a manilla folder whose contents remained unclear.
‘Jesus, is this an interrogation room or a sauna?’ asked Johansen.
One of the bigger guys was beyond frustrated with the scene.
‘Where’ve you been?’ he asked Johansen.
‘Fine. How are you?’
‘Don’t piss me off, Mark. I’ve been in here grilling this guy for three hours with questions he doesn’t seem to have any answers for!’
‘I’ll take it from here, Brody.’
‘It’s gonna be like that?’
‘Yeah!’ said Mark, with more than his usual gusto.
Brody hissed and walked out of the room.
‘What about me and Hicks?’ asked the two other guys.
‘Stay onboard with me for now.’
The guards were on standby. Meanwhile, Johansen sipped his cold cup of coffee and quietly opened the manilla folder. A few paperclips later, he slid black and white photos of Magnus to Dr. Ryan Daniels.
‘That’s him!’ said Daniels.
‘Ex-CIA turned Chinese operator, wanted for industrial espionage and spying in at least five different continents,’ explained Johansen.
‘He was my friend. He tried to kill me!’
‘Brody didn’t understand how you two met. Your friend is not Magnus Lauren as he portrayed himself. That is a complete alias he pulled out of his ass. His real name is Colton James Stoess, a foreign national who cooperated with the CIA and other American agencies in the early days following the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, or formerly known as the USSR. The post Cold War world wasn’t as pretty as history likes to see her. Your associate is from the East German block: only child to English communist sympathizers who emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1955. Colton was a teenager in 1991, perfect for infiltrating various hotspots for information. But he was really playing us all for fools.
‘He botched his final act with the CIA purposely in order to obtain microfilms containing sensitive information as it regards the names of agents who were working the field at the time. He pawned the stolen microfilms for millions of dollars in various countries, namely Communist China. The PRC were happy to continue doing business with him throughout the 90s and early 2000s. That is, until Stoess decided to go full on rogue.
‘He has enough insight into the operations of every major and minor government that he is considered a god among the underground spy networks, especially in Moscow. But he prefers to keep his distance from the Kremlin nowadays, opting more to playing dirty tricks on gullible Americans with access to classified data.
‘You’re lucky to be alive.’
‘Damn...thank God Martha and I are in federal custody,’ said Daniels.
‘I wouldn’t put anything past this guy. He was after whatever was on those data tapes. And it was more than just the one you have.’
‘But he was going to kill me!’
‘As a bargaining chip, that’s all. Once he had the data you stole he would start negotiating through private channels to bribe the American government for more. The bastard only needed you for so much.’
‘A silenced Pfeifer Zeliska .600 Nitro Express revolver: he’s obsessed with the gun for some reason. I think he has a fetish for killing with it.’
‘What do you want me to tell you?’
‘Everything you possibly can,’ concluded Johansen.