It had been an uneventful morning for Matt spent mostly office-bound at his desk attending to his back log of mounting paperwork.
The day had slowly edged its way to mid-afternoon and Matt took what he believed to be a well-earned break.
Matt and two of his colleagues strolled to their favorite café for a much needed caffeine shot. Trailing along with them was a young rookie experiencing work in an FBI field office for the first time since graduating.
Matt placed his order first — a large caramel latte, then he moved to stand off to the side to wait. He casually leaned on the wall with his arms crossed monitoring the comings and goings of the busy café.
While he waited his phone vibrated in his pocket. He retrieved his phone and checked the display. His face lit up. It was a text from Alicia. He opened the message.
“Hi Hun, going to gym after work. Will call u if I need a ride home afterwards.”
For someone as dedicated to a strict fitness routine as she was, this was not unusual. It made sense to Matt. Their gym in Bay Park is equidistant between work and home, so it avoided her having to go past the gym to their home to get changed and then head back out to the gym.
Matt’s frowning eyes lifted to the ceiling. She didn’t have her training clothes with her this morning when I dropped her off at work.
While still leaning on the wall Matt thumbed out his reply. “OK. Thanx Hun – I’ll C U 2nite. BTW what will you do for workout clothes…?”
Alicia’s reply was quick. “U know me I have spares at work.”
Matt smiled to himself and nodded because he knew that would certainly be the case.
Alicia was the consummate gym junkie. She would definitely have workout clothing everywhere, in case the impulse or opportunity for a workout presented itself.
“How will you get there?” He typed back.
“Getting a lift with Jen from work. You don’t mind do you?”
“Of course not. Have fun”, he tapped back then plunged the phone back into his pocket.
The barista caught Matt’s eye. His order was ready. Matt pushed himself away from the wall and collected his order.
After accepting his coffee Matt gestured to the Rookie standing unsuspectingly to his right.
‘He’s paying…’ Matt said to the checkout waitress. ‘For this one…’ he held up his coffee. ‘And these two as well,’ he pointed to his two colleagues, both of whom smirked knowingly as they sipped on their coffees.
As Matt savored his first sip he noticed the rookie’s stunned expression. ‘Oh, didn’t we tell you, Rodriguez…’ Matt began. He exchanged a sideways glance with his smirking colleagues. ‘Rookies buy the coffees during their first week in the field.’ He lifted his coffee to Rodriguez. ‘Cheers,’ he said before moving towards the exit. He grinned at his colleagues as they moved in step with him, exiting the café on their return to the office.
‘Rookies buy the coffee during their first week in the field…’ his colleague, Brad repeated. 'I must’ve missed that memo,’ he chuckled.
‘Sounded good at the time,’ Matt said with a shrug.
Matt turned back to see where the rookie was. He caught Brad’s eye and motioned with his head in the direction of the approaching Rodriguez. Grins emerged at the trailing rookie who was a good ten yards back and carefully trying to steady his coffee out in front of himself as he jogged to quickly catch up with his team.
Back in the FBI bullpen Matt decided to check on the progress of a surveillance operation he was leading. Before leaving he addressed his colleague Brad. ‘I’m just gonna head upstairs and check in on the Bonaduce matter…’ Matt began. ‘Why don’t you run through some old cases with Rodriguez…give him a chance to see what we do and how we do it.’
‘OK,’ Brad said.
As Matt departed the bullpen Rodriguez moved over to Brad’s desk and slid into the chair opposite Brad. He checked over his shoulders. After ensuring Matt had gone he said to Brad, 'Are these rumors about SSA Duncan true…? Rodriguez said.
‘Depends. What have you heard?’ Brad said.
‘Just that he is pretty tough. He doesn’t mess around with crooks and people who cross him…’ Rodriguez said. ‘Bit of a Dirty Harry sort of cop I hear. Not one to mess with.’
‘You’ve seen the size of him…he’s a friggin' Grizzly Bear…’ Brad said. ‘Would you like to mess with him?’ His question was rhetorical.
‘But what has he done to earn that sort of reputation?’
Brad held Rodriguez’s questioning gaze. He allowed a few beats to pass while he thought for a moment. ‘You want an example…’
Brad checked his left and right. ‘I’ll give you an example…’ Brad said. 'We were on a raid down in Chula Vista. Heavy drug trafficking ring. Violent sons of bitches they were...There were several teams involved in the raid. Matt’s team….Our team, secured the rear yard in case anyone did a runner out the back door when the search team breached the front door. Matt and another colleague hid in the neighbor’s property on the west side, while I hid in the neighbor’s property on the east side with him,’ Brad gestured to Miles seated nearby. ‘When the entry team stormed the front door, one of the suspects burst out the back door carrying an Uzi. He sprayed the back yard with rounds as he ran, presumably in case anyone was waiting. We held our position and the suspect went over the back fence into the rear alley. But he didn’t run. He stood there in the back alley with his weapon trained on the rear fence, ready to shoot anyone who came over the fence after him. That’s the sort of shit we were dealing with,’ Brad said. ‘Life was cheap to them. Anyway…’ Brad continued, ‘Matt suspected the crook may have been waiting in the alley, so to check, he lobbed one of those plastic, molded outdoor chairs over the fence. Matt was right. As the chair flew into view, the crook blew it to pieces. He then turned his weapon on the rear fence where the chair came from, spraying it with round after round. At that stage, I had no idea if Matt survived that. While the crook was pre-occupied with killing the fence…I made my way into the lane, leveled my gun at him and when he stopped firing, I shouted at him to drop his weapon. He started to turn towards me so I squeezed off a round…’
Rodriguez’s eyebrows lifted. ‘Did ya get him…?’ He sounded excited.
‘Actually, the round missed…’ Brad said, sounding a little dejected. ‘But it was close enough and he shit himself. Gave up. Raised his hands. I told him to drop the weapon and kneel with his hands on his head. He did as he was told. When Matt came over the fence he was pissed.’ Brad shook his head for emphasis. ‘Matt was now eyeballing the mother fucker who tried to make Swiss cheese of him. When Matt questioned the crook, he spat at Matt. That was his second mistake. Matt checked the lane way was clear, then shot the crook in the chest…killed him instantly.’
Rodriguez's mouth fell open.
‘Then he called it in to dispatch to report one of the fleeing offenders was killed during an exchange of gunfire…’ Brad said.
Rodriguez slowly shook his head. ‘Wow…’ He checked over each shoulder then leaned into Brad. ‘Isn’t that illegal…?’ He said quietly.
‘Isn’t what illegal?’ Brad said.
‘Isn’t that murder…shooting someone like that?’
Rodriguez frowned. He was little slow on the uptake. ‘You said he shot the crook in the—’
‘Exchange of gunfire as the crook was fleeing…’ Brad said firmly. ‘Check the report,’ Brad said. ‘That’s how it went down, OK?’ Brad held a firm glare at Rodriguez.
Rodriguez frowned as he held Brad’s glare. Then the pennies dropped. His eyebrows lifted in realization. He nodded. ‘Gotcha...’ Rodriguez said. 'I understand…”
‘Yep, I got it…’
Brad nodded. ‘Good…’
Brad’s colleague Miles approached Brad’s desk. He must’ve overheard the war stories. ‘I’ll give you another example, Rookie…’ he said to Rodriguez. He perched one butt cheek on the side of Brad’s desk. ‘We had a case a few years back when one of our undercovers was ambushed and killed at a buy. We suspected we had a mole. So Matt decided to wait until we could cut some of the weaker gang members from the heard… you know, get them on their own to find out who the mole was. We followed two of them to an industrial area up in San Carlos. They go there to gamble. When they left in the early hours of the morning we pounced. Grabbed both of them and took them down to a derelict building near Pacific Gateway Park. Tied them to a chair, but they refused to talk about who the mole was. Told Matt to get fucked… all that sort of shit. Matt smashed one of them across the shins with this huge steel bar…You could hear the bones break…’ Miles cringed before continuing. ‘But they still wouldn’t talk. Anyway…long story short, these guys wouldn’t tell who the mole was, said they would be killed if they spoke. Matt said you will be killed if you don’t. They didn’t believe him. He blew one of the guy’s brains out, hoping the other would talk. He didn’t, so his brains went up the wall as well. Matt left them there for the rats, insects and wildlife…’
Rodriguez sat opened mouthed. His eyes flicked from Brad to the colleague. ‘Is that true…?’ He said.
‘Absolutely…’ Brad said. ‘I was there…but it didn’t happen.’
‘Wouldn’t ballistics trace the rounds to his firearm…?’
Brad scoffed. ‘He used a burn weapon… It’ll be rusting in the Pacific somewhere by now…’
Rodriguez shook his head. ‘I guess the rumors are true then,’ he said.
‘You better believe it…’ Brad said. ‘Crooks and people who cross him…’
‘Did you find the mole…?’ Rodriguez asked.
Brad and Miles exchanged a brief glance. Miles responded. ‘Believe it or not…it was one you guys…a rookie who sold us out.’
Rodriguez fell back in his chair. ‘Really…’ he said. ’That’ll give us genuine Rookies a bad name…so you got him then…?' Rodriguez said as a question.
‘Oh yeah… we got him,’ Brad said. ‘Got life for it…and rightly so.’
Matt interrupted their chat session when he returned to the bullpen and summoned his team over to his desk. He sat perched on the front of his desk with his arms crossed while he chatted to his gathered team.
As the team’s Supervisory Special Agent, Matt updated the team in relation to the latest ongoing surveillance their field office was conducting on known crime boss Alphonse Bonaduce.
Their target was suspected of bringing semi-automatic weapons and cocaine shipments into the US and moving them through fences in and around San Diego.
Matt flicked opened a manila file on his desk and removed a number of ten by eight black and white FBI surveillance photographs of Bonaduce. One-by-one he handed them to his team.
‘Bonaduce and his crew of misfits have been in the FBI cross hairs for several months, but their counter-surveillance is considerably advanced,’ Matt said.
He flicked a finger at one of the photographs held by a team member. ‘Bonaduce is like a Hollywood cliché,’ Matt began. ‘He regularly dines in his favorite restaurant in the city, sitting all the way down the very back, often with no-one else in the room. There is always one or two body guards located between him and the street to protect him from unwelcome visitors. His heavies regularly swept the restaurant for bugs, so it was impossible to plant any listening devices in, or around his favorite dining table.’
Matt discussed with the team the progress of their U.C. who was posing as a fence looking to buy from Bonaduce, but he was still yet to make any contact.
Matt noticed the Rookie’s expression appeared vague. ‘You look lost Rodriguez…?’
‘U.C…?’ The rookie said with a puzzled glance at each of the team members.
’Yeah, U.C…It means ‘undercover’, Matt said. ‘We have an agent working undercover trying to gather evidence against Bonaduce.’
Rodriguez nodded, ‘Ah…like Donny Brasco,’ the Rookie said. His enthusiastic smile flicked to each of his gathered colleagues, as if seeking recognition for knowing about the 1970s case. ‘I loved that movie,’ he said, oblivious to the derision on the faces of the gathered agents. ‘That movie was one of the reasons why I joined the FBI,’ he proudly announced.
Matt held a stunned gaze on Rodriguez. He frowned before exchanging cynical looks with his grinning colleagues.
Matt slowly shook his head. ‘Operation Donny Brasco…was over thirty years ago son,’ Matt said in a condescending tone. 'Times have changed since Pistone infiltrated the Bonanno crime family. We are little more advanced now…and so are the crooks for that matter,’ he said. ’Plus…our UC isn’t trying to infiltrate any family. He’s trying to pass himself off as an interested buyer so we can get an understanding of the details relating to the ’what’ and the ‘where’.’
Rodriguez nodded in response.
‘Duncan.’ The voice of their Unit Chief boomed across the open plan office.
Matt turned to the voice. His Unit Chief, affectionately known as Lew to the crews, bellowed from his office doorway. Matt rolled his eyes.
With his tanned skin and thick silver-grey salon styled hair, their Unit Chief bore a striking resemblance to former US president Bill Clinton. But it was the Lieutenant’s love of smoking cigars, rather than his Clintonesque appearance that influenced the humorous nickname of “Lewinsky” by the crews.
The unfortunate nickname was a witty reference to the alleged scandalous late nineties sexual affair between Clinton and government intern Monica Lewinsky where, during their affair, a cigar was alleged to have been used as a phallic sex toy.
Over time the nickname shortened to “Lew” without losing any of its intended humorous inference.
‘We’ve got ears on Bonaduce…’ Lew barked. ‘Can you get back up to Comms now...’ Lew directed. ‘I want you there to monitor what goes down,’ he said, then retreated back into his office. Before Matt could turn away, Lew’s head poked out through the doorway a second time. ‘Oh…and take the kid with you,’ He flicked his hand in their general direction. ‘Be good experience for him,’ he said then disappeared back into his office.
Matt looked at Rodriguez. ‘You been to Comms before?’
Rodriguez shook his head. ‘No. what is it?’
Matt picked up a file, pushed himself away from his desk and started to walk towards the elevators. ‘It’s our communications room – the nerve center,’ he said back over his shoulder. ‘We call it the Comms Room.’ Without looking back Matt said to Rodriguez, ‘you coming… or do you require a more formal invite?’
Rodriguez jumped to his feet and jogged after to Matt.