Trouble in Zion

Synopsis

Pat Marshall is enticed to join her friend, Harry Hamilton in a project for the U. S. State Department to provide surveillance of visiting guests from countries where terrorism breeds. The guests tour national parks and natural resources before attending a week-long seminar planned for Zion National Park on managing resources in their homelands. Pat and Harry encounter threats and near death adventures in the course of counterintelligence operations that change her outlook on life.

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Excerpt

TROUBLE IN ZION

by D K Elliott

I

Somewhere in the Middle East.

Abu Karem spread the trail map alongside photographs of Zion National Park and commented in Arabic. “A majestic sight, soon to be beheld in person. Such grandeur. Such wonder. A suitable setting to expose the crimes of an infidel superpower.”

The call to prayer of the muezzin echoed off the sandstone wall of the safe house. Abu Karem prostrated himself on his prayer rug, faced Mecca and dedicated the Koran’s sura verses to a successful outcome of the venture. Finished, he rose and proclaimed,

Glory to God! God is great!”

 

II

Center City Philadelphia

Pat Marshall bolted upright and quickly devoured the contents of her darkened bedroom with confused darting glances. The room was void of any incarnate or spectral creature. She breathed deeply and fell back on her pillow. It was Jimmy’s voice, no doubt about that. But I buried you in the family plot a year ago, little brother. Why are you back and what were you trying to tell me?

She focused on the dream sequence that had shaken her. Thanking me for avenging your untimely death… and telling me to stay away from any more involvement with the dark and dangerous escapades in the underbelly of international intrigue. You sure have a way with words, Jimmy. So, little brother, looking out for me from the heavens and not from the netherworld, I hope.

She thought about Arizona, thoroughly disgusted with the way she and Harry Hamilton, her PI protector, had been used by the FBI and the State Department a year ago. Harry almost died, and I was lucky to avoid having been shot and possibly killed, thanks to Harry. And Jimmy served as a State Department undercover agent and died in the service of our country. Now, State has the audacity to ask for help with more of its shenanigans—its death-defying games to manipulate world events. And I’m to serve again as a tribute and obligation to you, dear brother? Ha! Hasn’t our family done enough?

Thank you, Jimmy, for coming back in spirit to reinforce my decision to reject State’s proposition. She smiled. I looked out for my little brother all his adult life, and now he’s looking out for me from afar. She rolled over and drifted off to sleep.

The shrill of an alarm clock announced the start of a day Pat wished was over and done. She lay in bed dreamy-eyed and thought about Harry Hamilton… and about Scott Cantrell, her friendly park ranger stationed in Grand Canyon National Park. She smiled as she recalled how Harry had reawakened her to romantic love—he and Scott Cantrell. Maybe I’m a bit too modern, but I’m honest about who I am. My parent’s generation would say I’m a loose woman, but life’s different now. I’m glad I left the stoic, socially aloof Pat Marshall behind. I like fun-loving, sexually active Pat Marshall. She chuckled.

I’m sure Harry would like a lot more bed time, but now that we’re back in Philadelphia, I’m too involved getting my industrial design business up and running after that lengthy absence in Arizona. Scott wrote, hoping to entice me back there and away from Harry. If I do visit him it’s sure to be another attempt to keep me there permanently… in wedded bliss. She smiled. I’m still not ready for that, yet I can’t reject it outright. Maybe some day in the future when the stimulation of running a successful consulting business no longer energizes me.

She threw off the bed sheet and nightgown, dropped Harry and Scott from her thoughts, and headed for the shower. A quick check to see if the five-foot-eight body showed any signs of time. Looking good, Patricia. However, the hair needs a shampoo. She reflected on how she had often been complimented as the face of Nefertiti reincarnate.

While she showered, she mentally rehearsed how to let the man from State who called, “What was his name?” know what she thought of the way the Department had used her and Harry Hamilton in the canyon caper last October. The government led us to believe we were instrumental in a covert operation to secure critical information for our country’s vital interests. Instead, they set us up as pigeons in a sham production to distract conspirators and potential killers from the actual operation. She gritted her teeth. Now, State’s back looking for more blood from me.

Furious, she snapped a towel from the rack while still lathered up, laughed, rinsed down, stepped out of the shower and roughly dried off. She wrapped a towel around her still moist body and headed to the kitchen for a quick breakfast of OJ, coffee and English muffins with cream cheese. Have to keep the body beautiful. Sated, she returned to the bedroom, dropped the towel and slipped into bra and underpants.

She stood in front of her wardrobe and contemplated the outfit to wear for the meeting with State. Although I’ve no intention of accepting their proposal, I feel an obligation to your memory, dear brother, to hear them out. After all, you’re a true patriot in my eyes, Jimmy. It’s the least I can do to honor you. We weren’t particularly close, but I did love you and cared for your well-being as an elder sister ought to. I still can’t get over how different you were from what I assumed until I dug into your life after your deathan undercover agent, a lover, a compassionate friend of the underdog and the disadvantaged. The latter cost you your life. Misty-eyed, she recalled the dream and his warning.

A white, open-neck blouse, blue skirt and a red blazer are just what I need. She smiled. “Okay boys, here I come, the all-American girl.” She picked up her keys and purse and marched out the door of her condo with a confident stride, head held high. She left behind a domicile enriched with first-class, eclectic furnishings from elegant shops in and around Philadelphia.

She drove her silver BMW 325 through downtown to the Federal Courthouse Building at 601 Market Street, parked in the nearest garage and walked to the building. Cleared through security, she took the elevator to the fifteenth floor, found the room, boldly entered and inventoried the setting with a quick scan of her designer eye. It was a typical conference room: an oblong table, straight-back chairs lined up around the table, a marble tiled floor and walls papered in a relaxing ecru shade.

A few chairs were arranged off to the side for more intimate discourse, occupied by four individuals. They rose when she entered the room. A glance at the three men and one woman assured her they were unfamiliar. At least State was sufficiently circumspect to not send anyone from the Arizona debacle. She relaxed.

A tall Afro-American man spoke first, focusing on Pat with an expression of sincere esteem. “Ms. Marshall, I presume?”

She nodded.

“My name is Ralph Cummings. I’m the person who called. My associates are Bill Davidson, Tom Lester and Dawn McBride.”

Each stepped forward to shake Pat’s hand. She acknowledged them without returning their attempts at engaging smiles.

Cummings stepped forward and took her hand. “We greatly appreciate you meeting with us, Ms. Marshall. Shall we sit?” He released her hand, and they sat in chairs arranged in a circle.

Pat picked up the message. It’s a meeting of equals. I’d better set a timetable. “My schedule allows me no more than an hour, as I mentioned when you called. We need to stick to that.”

Cummings responded, “Absolutely, Ms. Marshall.” He leaned back in his chair, folded his hands under his chin and fixed his eyes on her. “Few individuals in all my years with the State Department have exhibited the courage and intellect you exhibited last October in the Grand Canyon when you and Mr. Hamilton helped our country accomplish an extremely important and risky operation.”

Pat tensed. Here it comes, bouquets and challenges designed to call me back to duty.

Cummings continued with a candid expression. “I know all about that operation and how we used you and Mr. Hamilton. Let me, here and now, apologize again for our behavior, necessary as it was. We’re back again because we need help from exceptional citizens, such as you—people not identified with any government agency or program, or with any political force or adversarial coterie. However, until you agree to help your country again, I can’t reveal the full nature of the activity. All I can tell you is that it will involve a commitment of around two full weeks plus meeting time here in Philadelphia.” Cummings glanced at his colleagues, each of whom nodded.

“The assignment will entail some slight risk to your physical well-being, albeit minimal. The four of us are involved in the operation, and we’ll carry the major burden for its success or failure. Without help from someone of your capability and character, however, our odds of success shrink considerably. We’ll answer any questions you may have, exclusive of the limitation I mentioned.” He sat back, crossed his hands in his lap and gazed at Pat.

She had not moved a muscle during Cummings’s oration. She remembered the caution the FBI and State laid on her and Harry Hamilton last year at the conclusion of State’s venture in the Grand Canyon: This operation never happened. You will not be identified with it, with the FBI or with the State Department. You are advised to put it out of your heads.

Pat wondered if that anonymity was a set-up so she’ll be available for future operations. So they want someone who has no connection to any government activity. How convenient.

She studied Cummings as he spoke and tried to get behind the deep-brown eyes focusing on her. Why has he singled me out for his operation? He’s attractive, articulate and a sincere spokesman for the group, but I’ve made up my mind. There’s no need for me to be concerned about trust or integrity because I won’t be depending on him or any of the other three. I’ll toss out a few questions to buttress my decision.

“What form of compensation will I receive to forgo my business activity for the time you’ll require of me?”

Cummings looked to Davidson, who frowned and responded. “We don’t have a figure to offer, Ms. Marshall. If compensation will get you on board, let us know what you consider fair remuneration for your time, and we’ll request approval from the Secretary’s office.”

Pat’s lips twitched in a half smile. “Given the time you’re asking of me, the risk you alluded to and the government’s ability to pay, I think one-and-a-half million will be fair compensation.”

Davidson looked to Cummings and shrugged.

Cummings turned to Pat, expressionless. “We’ll have to look into that, Ms. Marshall. Any other questions?”

Pat studied the four, one by one, as she responded. “What kind of protection will I be afforded? Who will I be working with?” She stopped at McBride.

McBride looked to Cummings, who nodded. She turned to Pat. “You’ll be working with another individual similar to yourself who we have yet to recruit. That individual will be your primary protection, as he’ll be armed. If your situation should ever become risky, we can provide you with a vest for body protection.”

Pat was certain her surprised expression spoke volumes before she said a word. “I see. My escort and I will be on our own. Sounds challenging. Do you think you can recruit Brad Pitt?” Her attempt at humor clearly did not sit well with the four, but she ignored their sour expressions. “Thank you for considering me for a starring role in your production. However, I don’t see how I can possibly tear myself away from my other commitments. Good luck in your recruitment efforts. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to end this discussion and get back to my business.”

She stood up. The four of them rose simultaneously. Pins in a bowling alley. She smiled inwardly.

Cummings reached for her hand, holding to his calm demeanor. “Thank you for considering our request. We are, of course, terribly disappointed you rejected it, but we fully understand. We all knew your brother Jimmy and were devastated by the way he was killed in the line of duty. It happens so infrequently that you’re never inured to the loss of a colleague you admired and respected. Well, good day, Ms. Marshall. Here’s my card if you should ever wish to get in touch with me for any reason whatsoever.”

Pat took the card, dropped it in her pocket and left the room. She walked away in silence and choked down an emotional sob as she visualized Jimmy’s body in the morgue that horrible day last fall.

Driving to her office, she was not as proud of her performance at the meeting as she thought she would be. The persons from State were pleasant and considerate, and they made no attempt to pressure me as the government agents had for the canyon caper. She felt flushed. You ought to be embarrassed, Patricia, with your flippant comments and summary dismissal of their request for help.

Despite the frightening, near-death experience with my involvement in State’s operation in the Grand Canyon, I never regretted taking that path because I owed it to Jimmy and our parents. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d not made every effort to learn the mystery of Jimmy’s death. Perhaps I should have given Cummings more consideration—asked more relevant questions to find out if I might entertain his request for help. Oh, well, that’s water over the dam. No sense replaying that meeting. I have business that needs my full attention.

 

On Wednesday, the week after her meeting with State, Pat received a telephone call at work. She picked up and heard a familiar voice—a very familiar voice.

“Hey, Pat, it’s Harry. Have I caught you at a bad time?”

She smiled. “No, you haven’t. So, what’s on your mind? You’re not getting itchy pants, are you? I told you we’d get together in another week or so. Have a little patience.”

He laughed. “You’re too quick for me. No, my libido did not impel me to call. I wanted to tell you of my new client and the case I’ll be working on.”

“Since when does a private investigator discuss his cases with disinterested third parties? I thought you boys were more circumspect than that.”

“I’m not spilling any beans. I think you’ll be astounded when you hear who the client is. I’m back working for the State Department. They have need for someone they can trust who is an unknown in the policy and security arenas. Because I was an anonymous hero the last time they used me, I’m eligible again. Best of all, this time I’m getting a fee for my services. What do you think about that?”

Pat hesitated. Should I tell him about my meeting with State? “That’s news. I guess our experience in the Grand Canyon obviously hasn’t soured you on linking up again with State’s venturesome escapades. Don’t tell me you’re in the mood to take another load of lead for a chance at heroism?”

“No, I’m not in the mood to be a target for some trigger-happy assailant. I can’t tell you anything about the case, except to say it’s a lot less risky than the canyon caper. I thought you’d find it ironic that I’m back where we were almost a year ago.”

Cummings’s card was still in her desk drawer. For some reason, she was reluctant to toss it away. This new aspect of State’s request for help was puzzling. She had thought about possibly reconsidering their request. “Will you be operating alone, or will you be working with others?”

“That’s a strange question. I’ll be working with others. Why do you ask?”

“Anybody other than State Department personnel?”

“I get the feeling you know more than you’re willing to reveal. Am I right?”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“They’re busy recruiting another operative to partner with me. Are you interested?”

She stalled. Do I really want to trade-off another leave of absence from my business to help Harry survive State’s chicanery? That’s taking friendship a lot further than common sense suggests. Oh, well. “Maybe. I have to confess; they tried to recruit me, but I turned them down.”

“Wow! You turned them down? Well, good for you. I can understand why. Will you really reconsider? We did make a great team back in the Grand Canyon.”

She smiled. “Yes, we did, didn’t we. I have to think about it. Right now the idea of getting back in the saddle with State is more than I’m prepared to deal with. I’m right in the middle of some business negotiations. I’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Please, do not mention me to anybody from State just yet. I have Cummings’s card, and I’ll call him if and when I decide to come aboard.”

She hung up, leaned back in her chair and thought about her dream. Well, Jimmy, it seems I’m about to do something I may regret. I’ll probably kick myself for not heeding your advice.

 

By Thursday evening, Pat had not made up her mind whether to sign on to the State Department project. In a way, I feel I ought to take Jimmy’s place in serving our country, but why should I? After all, didn’t I fulfill that obligation last October? Besides, I have a business to run, and I can’t serve it well running around the country as some kind of amateur agent for the State Department. On the other hand, Harry had put his life on the line for me, and we work well together as a team. He needs someone of my intellect to keep him from doing rash and foolish things.

The thought of working with Harry changed her perspective of another tour of civic duty. She visualized him and their relationship. I can understand women being attracted to Harrywell-built, six-foot, black wavy hair, dark-brown eyes, and a face not only well proportioned, but also full of character. His smile and devilish eyes send tingling sensations down my spine. I not only enjoy his looks, but also his company. Face it, Patricia, you warm to images of him in your reveries. That night in bed, she drifted off to sleep while reminiscing about the joy she found when she rediscovered her sexuality a year ago with Harry Hamilton.

Friday morning, Pat woke refreshed and clear-headedno visits from Jimmy during the night with warnings about getting involved with his old employer. She thought of her and Harry working as a team, facing high adventure again. It has an appeal I’m not likely to find in my business activities, as much as I enjoy the latter. I need more information before reconsidering the challenge Cummings presented. I’ll call Harry and explore the nature of the project. He’ll trust me sufficiently to provide some description of the task we’ll face if I climb aboard. She leaped out of bed, tossed off her nightgown and headed for the shower, humming some silly tune she could not quite place.

 

Meanwhile, Harry Hamilton sat in his briefs at a 1950’s style kitchen table in his tired apartment on South Twenty-sixth Street in Philadelphia. His usual morning repast of coffee and stale Danish lay there half consumed. He still missed the cigarette companion, having at least the sense to abandon that habit years ago. He often wondered why he still noticed its absence, not that he was tempted to start down that path again. He smiled. I guess old habits never completely disappear. One habit that will never go downhill and disappear is my hots for Pat.

They got together periodically since they had returned from Arizona and after he had fully recovered from the gunshot wound to his chest. They dined, went to shows and occasionally bedded down at her place afterward. He reflected on their relationship. The sex is still as satisfying and light-hearted as it was in Arizona. The fact it’s playful and not obligatory is what makes it high-spiritednot only in the saddle, but afterward. No greater commitment is expected or desired. Harry, you are one lucky guy.

I always thought I was meant for bachelorhood, but I’m not that sure about Pat. In fact, lately, I’m somewhat doubtful about myself; ever since I fell in love with her when we were in Arizona last year. She’s approaching thirty, and the ticking clock may influence her attitude about marriage and family before long. I’m sure Cantrell hasn’t given up on his pursuit of her. Well, maybe she’ll join me on the State project. That’ll help keep Cantrell at bay for a while longer and give me more time to test the waters.

Harry had an active case keeping tabs on a john who was thought by his wife to be playing around. He never bothered to keep count of how many of these cases he handled since becoming a private eye. The cases interested him as a source of hard cash and, on occasion, as a source of new female conquests—sometimes the girl friend and sometimes the wife. I always feel a tinge of sympathy for the johns, knowing I’d have been one of them if married to many of their wives. Still, I have to make a living, and at least it’s honest work. And PI work is a lot more rewarding than the insurance investigator job that launched my career.

Harry threw on slacks and a rumpled shirt, not having an acquaintanceship with irons or ironing boards, and left for his office. His beat-up Mazda Miata still chugged along. He smiled and patted the dash. Just keep on going. I got better uses for income than replacing you, ol’ Betsy. Besides, it gives clients the impression my fees are reasonable. The only wealth he had ever accumulated was the equity in his apartment when it went condominium, and he, along with Wachovia bank, bought in. In the ten years since that transaction, he saw his investment quadruple in value.

After he arrived at his office, he was at his beat-up desk less than ten minutes when the telephone rang. He picked up. “Hello, Harry Hamilton, private investigator, how may I be of assistance?” It was no prospect, but he was not disappointed.

“Hi, Harry, it’s Pat. Do you have time to chat?”

He smiled. “For you, my dear, I always have time. What do you wanna chat about?”

“I’m still reluctant to commit to the State Department for any activity, undercover or otherwise. Before I rule it out, however, perhaps you can enlighten me on the nature of the project.”

Now, Harry had a problem. How much can I reveal without violating my security obligations to State? He searched for the right words he hoped would swing her aboard. “Well, I can tell you it doesn’t involve assassins or insurgents. The risk of having to face threatening individuals is minimal. It does involve foreign dignitaries visiting in the good old USA by invitation of our government. My role and yours, if you join me, will be to shadow the foreign guests and report what we learn to State Department agents who head up the project. I can’t say more until you’re on board.”

“Sounds like undercover work to me. Am I correct?”

“Not really. It’s more what I do for a living, tailing johns, and no more risky than that.”

“Oh, really. Don’t some of your so-called johns carry protection?”

He laughed. “Only in the paperback novels. I’ve yet to run into one who did. If they are running around on the little woman, they’re smart enough to not have weapons lying around the house, but we digress. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Uh… yes… but I know you can’t give me more specifics. How will we be cast in our role as observers?”

“I don’t know, maybe as a loving couple living a normal, carefree life. Do you think you can handle that?”

She laughed. “That will take some real acting on both our parts. Well, thanks for the info. Now, the ball’s in my court. You’ll know in a day or two what I’ve decided. ’Bye.” She hung up.

Harry sat back in the chair and propped his feet on the cluttered desk. What will she do? He had never sought a steady relationship with one woman in his adult life after having tried it as a teenager and found it stifling. There were too many good-looking gals ready to play games, and he was a prize chess piece for them. Variety was the spice of life for Harry Hamilton. While dating a lady, he never tried to deceive her into thinking he was available as a permanent partner. If that turned them off, he moved on to the next one. Pat, however, was a different story.

She’s the only woman I ever viewed as a true love. It kills me that she’s attracted to Cantrell. Who am I to fret over that, however. It amazes me that I can date other women and have it not affect our relationship. We’re true friends as well as lovers; a rare association outside of marriage. I cannot envision life without my best friend, Pat.

 

Pat had called Harry from her office. She smiled and shook her head as she visualized him sitting in his dingy business accommodations. Pat Marshall operated out of one of the newer office buildings in Philadelphia, luxuriating in her modernistic furnishings. Of course, she had need for the upscale office to reinforce her image as a top designer with her clients. They were both fair and above board with the services provided to clients and with their fees. This quality flowed over into their relationship with each other, cementing their friendship over the past year.

Pat’s warm feelings for Harry surfaced as she sat and mulled over the question, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” She glanced at Jimmy’s image on her desk, remembered him as the younger brother she cared for when their parents died, and made up her mind. She picked up the phone, took out Cummings’s card and dialed his number.

 

Cummings and his associates were in his office rating several prospects to team with Hamilton when the telephone rang.

McBride picked up. “Hello. Dawn McBride here.” She covered the mouthpiece and turned to Cummings, eyebrows raised. “It’s Marshall. She wants to talk to you.”

Cummings took the receiver, moved to the edge of his chair and nodded to the group. “Hello, Ms. Marshall. This is Ralph Cummings. I hope this call means you’re willing to reconsider joining our little group?”

“I’ve decided to sign on to your project if you still need me, providing Harry Hamilton will be my partner. I’m ready to meet with you whenever it’s convenient.”

Cummings leaned back. “That’s great news Ms. Marshall. I can’t thank you enough for accepting our request to join the team. Yes, Mr. Hamilton will be your partner throughout the operation. I can’t say more over the phone. Can we meet here in my office Monday morning at ten?”

“Yes. I’ll be there at ten.”

“Thank you, Ms. Marshall.” Cummings hung up and turned to his associates. “Well, it worked. Getting Hamilton on board was a stroke of genius, Bill.” He shook Davidson’s hand. “Now, let’s be sure we forget about our little deception. It never happened, correct?” The other three smiled and nodded.

 

Pat found it hard to concentrate on her client work for the rest of the day. She was about to start down a road on a journey of unknown purpose and unknowable outcome. She felt her muscles tense up and her throat become dry. She searched for insights that confirmed her decision to get involved in another furtive government operation, in spite of feeling her family had done enough for their country. She struggled with her cognitive dissonance until she decided to call Harry late in the day and share her concerns. Maybe he can help me overcome my reservations about joining in State’s project. She dialed his office number—the answering service picked up. She dialed his home number—a similar result. Next try was his cell phone.

“Hello, who’s calling?”

He had told her he never gave his cell phone number to clients, only to a select few associates and friends. She knew he was not in the business of holding client hands twenty-four seven. She responded, expelling a heavy breath. “It’s me, Harry. Got a minute?”

His voice perked up. “Sure, Me, what’s goin’ on?”

She proceeded to tell him of her call and scheduled meeting with Cummings.

“Are you calling to tell me you’ve decided to sign on to the operation, or is there something bothering you?”

She hesitated for a few seconds. “I’m not sure. One part of me is being pulled into their project and another part is being pulled away. I made a date to meet with them, but I can easily change my mind. I don’t want to go into the meeting if I’m not fully committed.”

“You’re right. Don’t meet with them unless you’re committed. How can I help, if that’s why you called?”

She bit her lip. “I’m looking for help, but I don’t know what to ask for. It’s not that there’s one or two specific questions I need answered. I guess I’m confused, or maybe somewhat frightened about what I’ll be getting into.”

“Don’t worry. All your concerns will be cleared up after you meet with them. I’m actually looking forward to the job. It promises to be a lot more interesting and rewarding than tailing johns. I bet you’ll feel the same way once you get into the game. Let’s have dinner Monday night after your meeting so we can compare notes. What d’ya say?”

She picked up on his tone, knowing him as she did. “I’m guessing you’re sitting in your favorite watering hole, The Irish Pub, nursing a Scotch on the rocks—your typical TGIF routine. Have I got you pegged or what?”

He laughed. “Am I that transparent?”

“You bet you are. How many have you had?”

“Only on my third. They help me relax after a busy week . . . and before I go to dinner.”

“Yeah, and they also cause you to be a bit overconfident about your opinions. Okay, I’ll buy your act. Pick me up at my office six-thirty on Monday.”

She hung up, sat back in her black leather, reclining desk chair and stared at Jimmy’s picture, deep in thought. Well, brother dear, look what I’ve got myself into. I pray your warning was to shelter me from the cruel world—merely a reversal of roles and nothing more.

She left her office, drove home and decided to put aside concerns about the State Department and possible consequences of her decision to go ahead with its project. Once home, she fixed a dinner of lamb chops, baked potato and salad. She ate, sipped an expensive Merlot and watched the evening news. After dinner, she relaxed in a lounge chair and read The March by E. L. Doctorow until her eyes drooped. Then, it was into her nightgown and under the covers. She was fast asleep in a matter of minutes.

 

Harry left the bar after finishing his third Scotch and wandered to the Down Home Diner for a quick meal of strip steak, French fries and green beans. He preferred the chef’s green beans because he prepared them southern style. A cup of java, a wedge of apple pie and he was set for the evening. He left the diner and walked back to the bar, looked over the action, and saw nothing worth pursuing. Upon reaching his car, he checked for parking tickets, found one, tore it up and drove home to his flat.

He watched sports highlights on ESPN until midnight, his butt planted in a worn-out vinyl recliner and feet propped on a beat-up hassock. He often thought his place had all the charm of a floozy’s frock at four AM. Feeling drowsy, he got up, dropped his outer garments and slipped into bed in his briefs. He lay there for several minutes remembering the relationship he shared with Pat Marshall last year in Arizona and fully expected it to be repeated in a new adventure. The memories brought forth a warm sensation he fought before he drifted off to sleep.

 

Meanwhile, the calm in Pat’s apartment was shattered. She was caught in a grip of shear terror. Hands reached out, grabbed her and pulled her out of bed. She struggled desperately and tore at the faces and clothing of her assailants. All she saw were dark figures with indistinct faces. She tried to scream, but nothing came out. Where are they taking me? What have I done? What do they want to do with me? She was not in her apartment, but in a vast wilderness in the dead of night. She bolted upright in bed as the nightmare faded from view and slowly regained control of her emotions. Oh, my God, Patricia, you have to get hold of yourself. You have to decide to go ahead with State or back off. You can’t wander in limbo, worrying whether you should or shouldn’t. She hyperventilated, lay awake for the next hour, and slowly built resolve to stay with her commitment to fulfill her brother’s role in serving their country.

 

 

 

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