Having issued marching orders to their respective adjutants, Alex Harmon and Michael Bimonte readied themselves for their newly formed alliance. Harmon had agreed to cooperate fully from this point on and Michael was going to see to it that he honored his promise. Michael eyed the large envelope laying on the coffee table in the living room. It was quite disconcerting to know that, for all intents and purposes, the sum total of his life was contained in that package. As Michael considered what those files represented, something snapped into his consciousness mind; he crossed the room and picked up the envelope just as Harmon was reentering the room. Michael picked his life story up from the table and felt the weight of it in his hands. As complete as the information complied in the files might be, there were things which could not be quantified or documented. Harmon may have acquired a landscape portrait of his life but he would never know the substance or the depth of the life that had lived those events.
“You are an interesting case study Commander,” Alex Harmon said taking a seat on the sofa. “Dedicated, efficient, focused, loyal. Its fascinating how two people, existing nearly completely independent of each other for such a long time could be so similar. I thought that the differences were only in the motivation behind the choices you made, but now I see that I was wrong.”
“Am I correct in assuming that one of these exists for Taylor as well,” Michael asked nodding at the files on his table.
Harmon smiled, nodding. “I have studies of all the agents on my team. It is imperative that I know everything possible about an agent who will be placed in a deep cover assignment in order to maximize effectiveness and efficiency. Being thorough also allows me to limit the need for damage control should agent turn rouge or be otherwise compromised.”
“What exactly does that mean?” Michael let the files drop back on the table. “What does that have to do with what’s going on?”
Michael sensed that Harmon wanted to tell him something but wasn’t sure how to proceed. He circled around to the back of the arm chair directly across from where Harmon sat and leaned against it.
“You said that you’ve been looking for proof that someone within the Bureau was involved in the deaths of deep cover agents. Have you found what you’ve been looking for?”
“Did you ever wonder why Taylor came to work for me? Why she left here and never came back?” Harmon leaned forward positioning his arms on his knees.
“You’re avoiding my question.” Michael kept his expression neutral as uneasiness creped into his stomach. “You agreed to share what you know about this investigation. What have you discovered?”
“The answer you want is directly related to the question I asked.” Harmon replied flatly. “Did she ever tell you why she came to work for the Bureau, for me?”
Instinct told Michael to brace him self for what Harmon seemed so intent on telling him; he shook his head ‘no’ in response.
“Nature versus nurture, or in this case; nurture stimulating nature.” Harmon said absently as he reached forward and pulled Michael’s files toward him and ran his hands over them as he spoke, almost as if he were reading from the files.
“Taylor has an innate ability to detach emotionally from stressful situations, identify and neutralized potential threats and once identified pursue the target to its designated conclusion, an ability that makes her a skilled tracker and quite lethal should the situation require the termination of the targeted objective.”
Michael shifted uncomfortably as memories of his military service swirled in a dizzying eddy beneath the surface of his mind; Harmon was quoting from Bimonte’s DOD file substituting Taylor’s name for his own. For most of his last tour of duty, Michael had been a part of a special black ops division specially designed to locate and eliminate specified targets in the Middle East. If Michael understood correctly what Harmon was implying, apparently the FBI had a black ops division as well.
“Taylor isn’t just working a RICO investigation; she is hunting the leak,” Michael said looking away.
Harmon got up and walked over to where Michael was standing.
“When Taylor first came to the Bureau, she worked primarily with the Witness Relocation Program. Her job was to assist in the relocation of protected witnesses and also monitor and report any suspicious activity, activity that could indicate that the witnesses were in contact with former associates. During the course of supervising the transition of a witness against the one of the Ukrainian operations, Taylor uncovered a plot by the Ukrainians to hire some of the Gallo families’ muscle to neutralize the witness.”
“The same group that was working with Murphy,” asked Michael.
“No, not the same group, but closely affiliated, members of the same cartel.” Harmon took a few steps away. “That’s how we believe Murphy got involved with the group that has been ferrying the hydroponic marijuana through the reservation at Hogansburg.”
Michael acknowledged the connection. “Murphy was the hired muscle.”
Harmon nodded continuing. “We needed to determine if this was just a case of some thugs subcontracting their services or if the Gallo’s were looking to form a limited partnership with some of the Eastern European Syndicates.”
“So you sent Taylor in, set her up through the Bureau’s bogus law firm to work for Anthony Gallo.”
“Taylor knew that whoever was trying to get to the informant was getting inside information on placements and movements of the witnesses in the program. Since the Ukrainians approached Gallo family members for help, she though the best way to get the intell we needed was to go straight to source of the problem. We let the hit appear to go down, staged to look like it was successful and then apprehended the shooter. We made sure Taylor was one of the lawyers assigned to get the alleged hit man off, cleared of all charges. After that, it didn’t take her long to then work her way into Old man Gallo’s good graces.”
Michael listened carefully and tried to digest the information. Part of him was filled with pride; the assessment and planning of the operation needed to get inside the Gallo operation sounded a lot like how he would have proceeded. As Michael listened to Harmon speak of her skills and accomplishments, knowing that Taylor exhibited some of the qualities which he prided himself for, brought feelings of regret at not having played a more active role Taylor’s formative years, for not being there to help her as she chose a path for her future. He began to feel uncomfortable listening to stranger who knew more about his daughter than he.
“Taylor worked closely with Anthony Gallo for eight years before the old man decided to start giving his son more responsibility. Gallo recognized that he wasn’t getting any younger, and as more and more crime family bosses were turning up dead or coming under indictments, he felt the time was right to start transitioning to a peaceful retirement and at the same time maintain involvement through Taylor.”
“Taylor was the conduit for Old man Gallo to keep some control over family business.” Michael said as the picture Harmon painted became clearer.
“Yes, and to a large degree, she still serves Anthony Gallo in that capacity even though it appears that she is only Mathew Gallo’s lawyer.”
“You must have acquired quite a bit of useful information on the inner workings of how the underground syndicates operate.”
Harmon crossed his arms like a college professor delivering a seminar. “On of the most interesting things that have come t light through operations like this one is how legitimate the syndicate has become.”
Michael was surprised by the observation. “Do you mean legitimate as in legal?”
Harmon smiled and a quite chuckle escaped his lips. “Hard to believe isn’t it. Do you remember the scene from The Godfather II, when Michael Corleone is describing how his family will be almost entirely legitimate in a certain number of years?”
Michael nodded at the reference. “But that was a movie.”
“Whether we like to admit it or not, fiction has its basis in fact,” Harmon returned to his seat on the sofa across from Michael. He leaned back and crossed one leg over the opposite knee.
“You’re saying that Gallo’s are no longer involved in illegal activities?”
Harmon shook his head smiling. “I’m saying that the majority of their day to day business dealings operate within the bounds of the legal system.”
Michael huffed. “We’re talking semantics. If the syndicate has gone legit, then why do people who get in their way still go missing or turn up dead?”
“The laws of competition and survival of the fittest still apply, the last one standing wields the power and because if the syndicate ever really goes completely legit, you and I are out of jobs, my friend.” Harmon smiled.
“So if everything has been catalogued and documented and controlled, what went wrong,” Michael pressed, pushing the levity that had slipped into the room aside. “Why did agents start dying?”
“Same rules apply to those of us who choose to try and maintain order.” Harmon got up and began to gather his belongings. “The lure of easy money, luxuries that civil servants can only dream of while scum like Gallo live like kings. Watching the bad guys go free while you sweat and slave to uphold what’s right, do that for too long and even the most saintly man is tempted to sin.”
Michael watched the casual affect drain from Harmon’s face as a more cynical one emerged.
“I know I don’t need to convince you that the rules apply to everyone or else they have no purpose. The difference between them and us is that we demand different types compensation for the wrongs committed.”
Harmon took a deep breath before continuing; he looked around the room and noted the absence of any recent family photos. He rose from is seat and crossed the room to face the wall where a framed photo of Michael, two women, one of whom was Taylor, the other he assumed was his younger daughter. Harmon assumed it was taken just after Taylor’s graduation. He felt Bimonte staring into his back and turned back to face him.
“We in the law enforcement of the new era have been forced to settle promote a rather unholy alliance. We have chosen to allow the syndicate to police their own as long as they don’t pose a threat to the general public. When they cross the line, we do what’s necessary to push them back across and in so doing maintain the balance of power, a reasonably peaceful coexistence.”
“You know who the leak is,” Michael said reading Harmon’s eyes. “Taylor figured it out.” Michael felt the anger rise in his gut at thought of being lied to again. “How long have you known,” he accused.
“Not long, just within the hour.” Harmon brandished his Blackberry. “Taylor didn’t say who; she just said she knew.”
“Where is she?” Michael made no effort to disguise his anxiety.
“She didn’t say.” Harmon pushed some keys on his Blackberry and handed it to Bimonte. “Here, in the spirit of full disclosure and cooperation.”
Michael took the Blackberry and read the message displayed on the screen, noting the time stamp.
“Gone to plug the leak.”
Even though he was still annoyed at the perceived slight, Michael was relieved that, although her whereabouts were still unknown, Taylor was safe, at least for the moment. He bent over the coffee table and picked up the envelope containing his files.
“I assume you’ll want these back,” he said handing the package to Harmon. “I lived what’s in there; I don’t need to read about it.”
Harmon accepted the package, tucking it under his arm and turned to leave, when something suddenly occurred to him, stopping him in his tracks. He became motionless as he began piecing puzzle pieces together in his mind. As Michael came up behind him, ready to depart for the Trooper Barracks to meet Carson, Harmon stopped him as something he had over looked suddenly became clear.
“The night Taylor arrived,” Harmon began. “Where did she meet you?”
Michael was taken back by both the look of enlightenment that had filled Alex Harmon’s face and the urgency in his voice.
“At my office,” Michael responded. The look on Harmon’s face made him question his memory of the event for an instant. “She was waiting for us, like you were waiting for me tonight. Why?”
Harmon waved the package containing Michael’s life history. “After Wallace Murphy was murdered, Taylor and I were trying to determine how the leak was obtaining pertinent information and funneling it to the Gallo’s. She thought someone had been hacking into the Bureau’s personnel files, learning who was assigned to what operation and using the information as kind of ‘to-do’ list.”
“Who ever the leak is using the information to target under covers who have or might stumble on the information exchange operation.” Michael said finishing Harmon’s sentence.
Harmon fished around in his jacket pocket and produced a thumb drive.
“Do you have a computer here,” he asked as he scanned the room.
“In my den,” Michael said disappearing down the hall; a moment later her reappeared carrying a lap top. He set the laptop down on the kitchen island and booted it up as Harmon joined him at the computer. When the device was ready for use, Harmon inserted the thumb drive into the laptop’s USB slot and accessed the files stored on the portable drive. Michael watched Harmon’s face as he intently reviewed the indexed files before turning the screen towards Bimonte.
“These files,” Harmon said placing his hand on the package. “These files are hard copies of files stored electronically in various government data bases. The Patriot Act grants authorized agencies, such as the FBI, access to this information, which is how I was able to compile the information to construct a profile of you.” He paused to make sure that Bimonte was following him. He pointed to the list of coded file names listed on the screen.
“I call these files my “I-Files.” They are dossiers just like yours, containing all obtainable information on field agents assigned to special investigations and other areas under my supervision. The information contained herein was complied by me, no one else ever sees any of it, and the files are protected by a special encryption code which, until now, I was certain prevented anyone but myself from accessing the contents.”
“You mean to say that someone accessed your files and has been selling the information.” Michael summarized as he scanned the information displayed on the screen.
“Selling it, using it to identify and target under cover agents,” Harmon qualified as he highlighted several of the file codes. “The files I have highlighted an the screen are the I-Files for the eight deep cover agents that have been killed over the past four years.” Harmon‘s fingers flew over the keyboard; in a flurry of key strokes he starred several other file codes. “The starred files are informants who have either disappeared or have been confirmed dead.”
The two men stood staring at the screen considering the implications of the realization Harmon had reached when a look of a mixture of surprise and panic settled over the FBI agent’s face. One file had been altered, renamed and moved to another folder and another was missing entirely.
“What is it,” implored Michael. “What’s wrong?”
“Taylor’s I-File,” Harmon repeated himself, eyes wide. “Taylor’s I-File is missing.”
Bimonte read the expression on Harmon’s face, certain that the spirit of cooperation and full disclosure was about to end, but he asked the obvious question anyway. He was as equally surprised that Harmon not only answered, but answered honestly.
“Who else besides you could have gained access to these files?”
“In theory and in a perfect world, no one should have been able to gain access,” Harmon rubbed his mouth and swallowed hard before continuing.
“In actuality, there are only two people who know enough about the existence of these files, enough about me and enough about computer technology to have pulled this off without my knowing.”
The enormity of Harmon’s statement filled the room and its implications weighed heavily on both men. Harmon ejected his thumb drive from Bimonte’s laptop as Michael finished gathering his effects before they made the twenty-minute drive to the Trooper barracks. Without further discussion, Bimonte and Harmon headed out the door towards Bimonte’s car. Both men were so absorbed by their thoughts and focused on what lay ahead that neither saw the dark figure obscured by cedar bush by Michael’s front door as they got into the vehicle. Michael only had an instant to register the presence standing by the driver’s side door before the flash of a gun shot and exploding window glass made it impossible for him to see anything but darkness closing all around him.