The Prodigy

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Chapter 32

I can’t believe we are finally departing for Italy. Earlier this week Josh, Kevin and I met with Dr. Morehouse and Benjamin Lucas. Fortunately, the great Katharine had a last minute urgent meeting and could not attend the practice presentation. Both Dr. Morehouse and Benjamin Lucas coaxed Kevin through his presentation several times and he spoke beautifully after several practice runs. We all went out to an informal dinner afterwards. I discovered Benjamin Lucas is a lovely person. I think Josh inherited his kindness and decency from his father. It saddens me that his wife cost him one of his sons.

On Friday night, we crawl all the way to JFK airport. Despite all the driving restrictions in place, which theoretically should have eliminated traffic in New York, the Long Island Expressway still resembles a parking lot. Jax and Mom are driving us as Mom insisted on seeing us off. Mom’s eyes had teared up more than once as she helped me pack. I know my Mom wouldn’t be this sentimental except for our upcoming mission. Also, it isn’t just the impending goodbye that is weighing on both our minds. Josh’s friend, Luis, had taken Jax and my mom out to a shooting range two weeks ago in preparation for Rosewood. Jax had hit it off with Luis immediately but mom was more reserved in her opinion. She thought Luis was charming but was completely nauseated most of the day from just having to handle a gun. It made her feel weak, as mom hates violence of any kind. Protecting my father and me would be the only reason she would pick up any gun.

“Mom, you are a million miles away. We are here.” I nudge my mom’s shoulder with a smile.

“Sorry, I must have been daydreaming.” We all get out in short-term parking and walk to Terminal C. Mom remains stoic at the entrance to the security screen. Fortunately, I don’t see Katharine Lucas anywhere in the vicinity.

“Have a good time darling. All three of you will be the stars of the conference.” Mom hugs me fiercely and then kisses Josh on the cheek. “Can I hug you Kevin?” Kevin nods his head shyly and holds his arms out stiffly. His attraction to me also seems to extend to my mother. Kevin loves when we run into mom at the Institute, most likely because mom is always kind to him.

“Be safe Nali. I love you.” With that, mom walks swiftly out of the terminal with Jax in her wake. I watch my mom walk away and resist the urge to run after her. It is so rare to see her show emotion in public.

Jax holds Branna’s elbow and steers her down a staircase to a parking garage underneath the terminal. He opens the car door and guides Branna into the front seat. Like many men, he becomes flustered in the presence of a woman in tears. Fortunately, Branna is a quiet crier. After a few minutes, she composes herself and breathes deeply while Jax starts the car.

“Sorry about that. Normally, I don’t show my emotions but saying goodbye like that is only a prelude of what’s to come. I knew since she was a baby I would have to let her go. I just thought I would be sending her off to college or backpacking around the world. If it was just a conference, I would have been so happy to see my little girl go off to Italy and see a little bit of the world.”

Jax holds her hand for a minute. “It’s all right Branna. You have only had each other for many years. This must be very hard for you.” He throws a hat on and asks Branna to lay low in her seat.

“Why? Where are we going?” Branna experiences an off kilter moment, like the one you have when waking up from an afternoon nap and everything is hazy.

“We are going to see Ziva and Luis for a final meeting to go over the plans. Another couple will get in my car and drive back to city with it in another hour.”

“We’re not in your car?” Brianna looks around in surprise.

“No. Sorry I forgot to mention it, but you were preoccupied. Luis arranged for the decoy. I met with him this week. It was his idea.”

Branna gets down low in the seat. “Do you trust him? Luis I mean.”

“Normally I wouldn’t because I am cautious by nature and would like to vet him properly. But he already knows about this operation through Josh and he is really good at espionage tricks. I have an idea of what service he works for but he will never confirm it. In a fight, he’ll be a good ally. His involvement also means that we are not the only ones trying to take down Lucas and Halliday. Although for Luis and his service, I get the sense Halliday is their main target.” Jax pulls onto the Major Deegan Expressway and heads north.

“Do you think we are going to be able to engineer the escape without a fight?”

“I think it could come down to a firefight. So does Josh. That is why he has Luis helping us. I suspect Luis can be rather handy in a dangerous situation.” Just then his phone beeps and Jax hands the phone to Branna. Branna reads out the message.

“All clear. Was someone else watching us for a tail?” Branna sits back up in the seat.

“Yes. The stakes are high now. Neither Luis nor the two of us can be caught with Ziva. The whole operation would fall apart and we are out of time. Nancy, the nurse up at Rosewood, heard they are starting those injections within three weeks.”

Branna sits back and ponders this information. Deep in her heart she knew that the operation could easily turn violent. She just hopes they can make the escape without detection. However, she fears for the detainees that remain. They could be easily subjected to the memory altering serum as an act of revenge. Branna gets lost in her own thoughts during the drive.

“Hey, you’re a million miles away. We’re almost there. We’re meeting at someone’s house in Greenwich that Ziva has been living in. At least she is living in style on the run.”

“Sorry, I was just daydreaming.” They pull off at exit five and head towards the sound. Within ten minutes they are pulling onto an exquisite, gated property. They park under a portico and go to the front door. Ziva opens the door just as they are about to knock.

“I am so happy to see you.” Ziva hugs both of them after they enter the foyer. “Welcome to my hide out. Sorry if the digs are on the shabby side.” Ziva”s eyes twinkle as she says this. “This is my sister-in-law’s home. They are living in London for at least the next six months and offered me a place to stay. Before he was detained, Brad had sent them a message and asked them to help me if I should ever need it. They spread the rumor that I was house sitting for them in case the hired help is questioned. I am by myself in the house after Friday night. Come in. We have visitors.”

Ziva leads them to the family room with oversized couches and panoramic views of the water. Sadly, the blinds block the view. Luis is sitting in front of the giant coffee table with a map of the Newburgh area and the schematic design of Rosewood in front of him. Sitting next to him is a familiar face that Branna can’t place. They both stand as Ziva enters the room with Branna and Jax. Ziva introduces Branna and Jax. The woman on the right of Luis is Senator Cole.

“It is a pleasure to meet you.” Senator Cole speaks first. “Luis has worked for me for several years. He was assigned to a special task force two years ago to investigate Vice President Halliday. He asked me here today because of your interest in Lucas and the Rosewood project. I will ask you not to mention what you are specifically planning at Rosewood for legal reasons. We will only be speaking theoretically and off the record. I have authorized Luis to assist you in any manner he deems necessary. I also understand that you may have access to documents you are preparing to release to the media.”

“How come you couldn’t stop the building of Rosewood before?” Jax asks quietly.

“We wanted to do that but did not possess any legal means. We have suspected Halliday and Lucas have been instituting rather reprehensible policies for some time. There were many whispers about abhorrent medical procedures they were conducting but no one would testify to that effect. Plus, we needed documented proof. To make it stick, we need probable cause for even a search warrant for any documents that would support our investigation and many people fear those two. No one would go on the record for us. I understand that you may be releasing information regarding unapproved treatment at Rosewood, as well as other medical centers via social media. Theoretically, if that happens, we can launch a congressional investigation and get a cease and desist order to shut down any alleged investigational treatment at Rosewood while we conduct an investigation.”

“Could you really get that through Congress?” Branna asks. If that were true, the detainees would be protected.

“With the right amount of public pressure, we can. There are many in Washington who distrust Halliday, but are afraid to take him on publicly. Even though these rumors are true, they are rather fantastical. Rosewood was sold as a humane answer to house those convicted of treason under the guise of reforming them. After our storied past, no one is comfortable with a traitor to our country, but many of those convicted elicited much sympathy. The stories didn’t add up. It will take an enormous amount of pressure to expose what a lie Rosewood actually is. But more than anything, the average citizen still believes in freedom and democracy. There will be enough questions if the right information is released, theoretically that is.”

Jax, Branna and Ziva sit in stunned silence following the “theoretical” conversation. Jax finally speaks to break the silence.

“Well, thank you for talking to us. I would assume that this theoretical conversation never took place.”

“That would be correct.” Senator Cole smiles. “It is to protect you as well: I would never lie under oath. Should you have to do anything illegal to achieve the optimal results, I have no knowledge of it. I must go now. I wish you luck.” Luis walks with the senator to the front door. Just before she disappears from view she stops and turns for a moment. “Theoretically, I am counting on you.” She and Luis step out under the portico and close the door.

Branna opens her mouth to say something and then closes it. She and Jax both look at Ziva for an explanation. Ziva explains that Luis and the senator had arrived only a half hour ago and she wasn’t aware of Senator Cole’s involvement until that moment. She also notes that she is not surprised that someone in the government took notice of the glaring discrepancies in the charges brought against the political detainees. Luis walks in as Ziva finishes speaking.

Jax addresses Luis first. “Are we still speaking theoretically?”

“Sorry about all this. The senator can’t dirty her hands. Breaking those detainees out is still a felony. If this operation goes south, she needs immunity. That is the way this game is played. If you succeed, she can help provide immunity for you from prosecution.”

Branna jumps into the conversation. “Some game. What about you? If you are arrested or killed, will your agency acknowledge you were acting under orders?”

Luis laughs. “They won’t acknowledge me no matter what happens. Otherwise there would be an investigation into how my group works. It is dangerous what we do. There is not much transparency within my particular branch of the agency, but it has to be that way to take on those running the government. Many would fear that we conduct unjust investigations, and with good reason. It has happened before. If it is any consolation, the senator theoretically believes in your mission and that you can succeed. Otherwise she would never have met with you.”

“Why a congressional investigation and not a criminal one by the justice department?”

“The attorney general is in bed with Halliday. Halliday gave him stock options in a number of his biotech companies. He became very rich as a result. He also failed to disclose that tidbit during his senate confirmation hearing, which is illegal. He can’t be trusted, although we don’t know if he is aware of all of Halliday’s illegal activities.”

“So the answer is that we will likely get help only if the social media campaign is successful.” Branna interjects quietly.

“That basically sums it up.” Luis replies.

“Well, I am relieved to see we are not the only ones trying to take down Halliday and Lucas.” Branna smiles tentatively.

“We want you to succeed. Personally, I want to do this for Josh. I One more thing before I leave, I have the names of some journalists who I believe will run with the story. They are high up the chain in their respective fields so they should be successful. I have not approached them yet. I wanted to wait until the day after the mission.” Luis looks directly at Jax. “It would be best to get to them immediately after the Rosewood mission and by that I mean within twenty-four hours. I would not approach them before the escape. We don’t want any leaks.”

“Are we ready for the escape? Is the tunnel complete?” Branna asks.

Ziva responds. “Yes, it was completed two weeks ago and we are able to walk through it. We only made one attempt stepping out of it when we knew there was a change of shift at Rosewood. We didn’t want to make any unnecessary attempts and be spotted.”

“Is the nurse on board with getting Michael and Brad out? Has she identified any potential issues?” Jax asks.

“She ’s good. She is a master in Krav Maga as well. The only major difficulty will be getting those imbedded transmitter chips out. She knows where the chip is on Brad because he came in for a physical. She has only seen Michael once and didn’t have the opportunity to locate it on his arm but she will try this week.”

“Michael can cut it out. It will make the escape faster.” Branna adds.

“As of now, I will be leaving a car for you to take up to Newburgh in the parking lot across from Madison Square on 34th Street. It can’t be traced. The VIN number has been taken off. The license plates are inactive. You two will have to wear wigs and disguises going through the tolls.”

“Branna and I are going up the night before and stay at an inn on the Hudson. Branna already requested a vacation day last month. That way we are not all leaving the city at the same time.”

“Good thinking. I also am arranging for the boat Josh will be driving on the Hudson. I think I will drive up with Josh, Analia and Kevin and have one of my men man the boat on the river, until we have to use it. It would be best to keep as many identities safeguarded as can be.” Luis pauses for a minute. “I can’t tell you what to do, but there are some of you, like Jax, whose career would be destroyed if he was charged with a prisoner escape. Also, Kevin and Analia. Josh has accepted the risks. His mother will suspect him of course when he takes off for Brazil.”

Ziva interjects. “I will be the fall guy. Luis is right about keeping everyone’s identities safeguarded. Especially, Jax and the kids.”

“That’s not fair to you. I will share the blame with you and send Matt and Analia somewhere safe.” Branna exclaims.

“I’ve been on the run for a long time. If I get Brad out, we’re going to take off to someplace that won’t honor extradition with the United States. We’ll come back once it is safe or the statue of limitations runs out on a prison escape. Let’s hope those will be the only charges.”

“Will you be with us at Rosewood?” Branna turns her gaze to Luis.

Luis grimaces a little. “Theoretically speaking, you will have tactical support waiting near the area where Josh brings the boat. They are people who know how to be invisible. I have spoken with Ziva about this and she can fill you in. I am sorry but I need to get going.”

“Sorry, I have one more question. What about Kevin? Will he be able to penetrate the electricity grid?” Branna directs her question to Luis again.

“Kevin is a godsend. He has incredible programming skills. He had no trouble breaking into the grid and has practiced multiple times. Even better, he knows how to cover his tracks. Only a very sophisticated programmer will be able to detect how he got in and it is unlikely they will look until after the escape.”

“Thanks Luis. Just wanted to check.” Ziva adds her thanks as Jax accompanies Luis to the back door for a chat.

Ziva murmurs. “I can’t believe we’re almost at the finish line.”

“Me neither.” Branna and Ziva sit down on the couch. “Have you been living here this whole time?”

“No. I had to contact Brad’s sister weeks ago and recommend that she take a long trip. They’ll be investigated once we get Brad and Michael out. When I talked to her, she offered to let me stay here as a house sitter. Apparently, Brad had a crush on me for years and she knew all about me. Fortunately for her, they come from family money and can afford to take off. Her husband owns his own securities firm and they have a large office over in London. I have been here two weeks pretending to work on a thesis. Fortunately, Katharine has no idea about my relationship with Brad, otherwise she would have staked this house out. How are things with you and Analia?”

“Analia has been holding up well. I am just upset about our impending goodbye in two weeks. I cried when I took her to the airport terminal today. Tell me, are you a little nervous about reuniting with Brad?”

“Are you asking am I afraid that Rosewood has changed him?” Branna nods in agreement. “I have thought about it but I guess I just put it out of my mind. The important thing is to get them out and then we’ll deal with the psychological consequences after.”

“I feel the same way. We’ll just face what comes afterwards. Are we taking them to the safe house immediately after the escape? They may need medical help. I really wish I had my medical license now.”

“I asked Luis if he could get his hand on medical supplies. He asked me to give him a list of the probable medications we may need. I ordered, some half normal saline, IV tubing, sedatives and antibiotics. I already have bandages and gauze. We can do the medical care. Luis also warned me that we might have to change our plans in a hurry. He’s thinking we may have to get on that plane with Analia, Josh and Kevin and fly to Brazil if we run into problems.”

“I hate the though of that. I want the kids, my baby, to get out as safely as possible.”

“I think we are just going to have to adapt to our circumstances as they arise. It would be great if we all got out safely and could all sit back and have some tropical drink in Rio.”

“Yeah that would be nice.” Branna smiles at her friend. She just wishes that she could share in her optimism, but she’s been suffering from some terrible premonitions about the upcoming mission.

“What would be nice?” They had not noticed that Jax had returned to the room.

“Drinking something delish on a beach in Rio.” Ziva squeezes Branna’s hand as she says this.

“That would be nice. Have one for me.” Jax gives them both a troubled look. Brianna feels a cold chill run through her. Jax will remain in danger even if the mission is initially successful. She realizes that for so long she has focused on getting her husband out, but there are larger issues at stake.

Ziva stands up and excuses herself to get some food to celebrate the beginning of the end. “I am going to get the appetizers that I’ve prepared. The last two weeks I’ve been feeding the maid and the gardener. Otherwise I would go mad with boredom.”

“Darling you are already mad.” Jax gives her a wink and Ziva smacks him on the butt as she walks out. He looks at Branna after she leaves the room.

Branna walks over to Jax and stands in front of him. “Sorry Jax. I feel terrible that we will be leaving you behind to do the dangerous work.”

“Well, I will have help. At least I think so. That is what I was discussing just now with Luis. I may have to leave town if the scrutiny gets too much. I am meeting with him in two days to get fake credentials in case I need to board a plane out of here.”

Ziva returns with a platter of flatbreads, hummus, and three glasses of wine. Ziva hands out the glasses and raises hers in a toast. “Here is to a successful mission.”

“From your mouth to God’s ears.“ Branna replies.

“Slainte.” Jax raises his in return.

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