Chapter 16

February 29th, Wednesday Evening, Atlanta GA

Clyde entered my office before church with his four-year-old daughter, Sofie, so while I wanted to bite his head off, I found myself complimenting the lovely little urchin, even though Clyde and his wife spelled her name wrong. Poor girl is going to be corrected every year in school and only learn how stupid her parents were.

She was on his lap and he mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

But not as sorry as I was.

“I’ve started uploading files.” That was all he said, and for tonight, that would be enough.

I said, “Thank you,” nodded my head towards the door and he and the little brat left.

I had to be strategic about my next steps. Having ministry leaders beholden to me was one thing, but I needed to begin to make physical contact with some of the principals.

“But how often?” I wondered.

I sat there thinking about how I dreaded flying to Washington D.C. every few weeks.

And then I thought of this prayer guy. “Hmm.”

I texted Clyde, “Did we make the donation to the prayer-guy?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

 Same Evening, Washington D.C.

Even though we have small groups during the week, we also have a Wednesday night prayer service. Issy was out of town on the campaign trail but I left work early to attend.

I like our prayer services. A full one third of the church shows up which is a big deal. Our pastor combines short explanations of verses with a chorus or verse by a small praise team and then we in the congregation pray, based on what was just read or sung.

It happens so smoothly that we run through a one-and-a-half-hour prayer service in what seems like a few minutes. It’s really a sweet time. And tonight was no different.

As I was walking out of the church Harold tapped my shoulder from behind. I turned and I think my smile faded a bit. Nevertheless, I held out my hand, which he grabbed briefly.

He mumbled, “Pastor wants us to work out our differences or he said he would step in.”

His wife was behind him, looking down, not wanting to meet my eyes, so I gave her the courtesy and didn’t say hello to her. I focused on Harold.

I asked, “Do you want to go into the worship center and talk?”

But the strangest thing happened. He just looked at me. We stood there for an entire minute before his wife prodded him.

I don’t know for sure what was going through his mind, but I was thinking about the can of Chicken Noodle soup that awaited me at home. And then, as if I was watching Wile E. Coyote, Harold’s face started to turn color. He was fuming, and I was trying to not laugh.

I think his wife noticed me holding back because she said, “Harold, why don’t you two. . .”

“No! No, I can’t yet.” And he walked out the door with his wife in tow.

She turned back and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” and they were off.

Later that night when Issy and I talked, we prayed for Harold, asking the Lord to soften his heart and to give me the presence of mind to be sensitive to his anger, while being obedient to the Lord. Among other things, I prayed that my words would be full of grace, seasoned with salt,[i] rather than salty and seasoned with grace.

Issy said she’d be home the next afternoon and we said goodnight.

 Same Evening, FBI Headquarters

I sat down with these two computer geeks, Sammie and Billy. They had made their hello’s in my waiting room, where I purposely let them sit, unsupervised for a good fifteen minutes.

Grace, who is accustomed to working late, kept her eyes and ears on their conversation. It was not recorded, but it was listened to.

When she showed them into my office, she gave the slightest shake of her head. They had passed my test. They did not bring up why they were here, even though both knew, and they both knew the other one knew too.

“I’m getting too old to keep managing clandestine activity,” I was thinking as they walked in.

“I thank you for seeing me this late. For obvious reasons, I don’t want you two seen by others, at least not together.”

They both nodded and I continued, “There’s a reason why the US Government Cyber Crew (USGCC) was initiated. And there’s a reason it is non-partisan. And this, what we’re doing tonight, is the reason.”

Again, they both acknowledged the fact.

“Last week, Sammie, when you and I met, I didn’t show you any of the files Billy had for me, because they were not redacted. It is critical that in these meetings, every single public name and private message is completely redacted. The only way you two can work together is if your principles can trust your counterpart.”

I paused and drank nearly a full glass of water. “With that being said, I recognize the hypocrisy of redacting names but not redacting electronic addresses, or signatures. We will have to live with that because the electronic signatures are our concern and you both need to have access to them.”

I let my words seep in and Sammie clarified, “So, when Billy and I exchange documents, we redact principles names, but allow electronic signatures and addresses to remain, right?”

“Correct,” I said and then nodded to Billy and he gave a number of pages to Sammie, all of which had major redactions.

A few minutes later she put the pages down and spoke. “After our meeting last week, I started looking for spam emails which looked suspicious.”

She speaks with a southern drawl that is more Billy Graham, than Bill Clinton, which tells me she did her growing up years in the area of North Carolina. And it reminded me of the vast number of dialects in the south alone.

She continued, “In all honesty, I didn’t find any which caught my eye, but with these IP addresses, I will start looking for specific bad guys.”

“You two need to find a clandestine way to meet because I don’t want you in my office every couple weeks, unless we have appointments.”

“Can we go out to dinner, and talk?” Billy asked a bit too eagerly.  I saw Sammie blush.

I cocked my head towards Billy, which made him blush, and then the two kids looked at each other, saw the other blushing and then blushed all the more.

Nothing was said for a few moments. I couldn’t believe it. They liked each other. I was afraid I would need to hold their hands if I didn’t dump them.

“Look,” I said with my ‘dad voice,’ “Are you two going to be able to work together?”

The both sat up straight and tall, “Yes, sir,” they said in unison; I wanted to believe them.

I then went on. “I have a safe house in D.C. which you two can use. It is in the condos behind the News Museum on Pennsylvania Ave.”

They were both trying to picture the location. “It’s on the other side of the Archives Metro Station, from here.”

That seemed to help so I continued, “The condo’s address is 565 Pennsylvania and our condo is on the third floor. Sammie, when you two meet, you go in and out through the front doors and use the elevator. Billy, you go through the back entrance on C Street and take the stairs.”

I looked at both of them and they nodded. I then handed them two cheap phones. “These are not agency issue phones and they will not be tracked, especially if you keep your texting limited.”

I paused and decided I wanted to see them blush again. “I want you to use these phones as if you are flirting with one another.”

I paused and smiled watching them react. I think I even chuckled at them.

To my surprise, Billy recovered first and started suggesting signals, times and meanings of certain phrases they’d use to text to each other.

I sent them over to a table on the other side of my office so they could work out their tradecraft and I read reports. Fifteen minutes later they returned and began telling me their plans.

“Stop,” I said, “I don’t need to know. I trust you to figure it out, work with each other, and put a clear noose around our bad guy, or bad guys.”

“I have an additional directive for you two. There may be friendlies from another agency looking at your servers from their offsite location. If you see them, record it but do not let them know you are watching them.”

“Yes, sir,” they said in unison, again. It would have been cute if I wasn’t so fatigued by this problem about which we seem to know so little.

“Goodbye, kids,” I said, nodding towards the door.

“One more thing,” I said as they got to the door. “Do not speak of these things outside this office or the condo. Which reminds me. You’re not dating, right?” And they blushed again. “So, outside this office you go in different directions. If you find yourself in my elevator together, you ignore each other completely.”

They nodded and left.

 March 1st, Thursday Morning, Atlanta GA

“Who in the world does he think he is?” I was fuming when I got into my black Model S. It does zero to sixty in under three seconds and if I were not careful, I would test that right now. I hadn’t been this angry in. . . I don’t know when.

The so called “Prayer-Guy” had just turned down my request. What kind of an ignoramus is he? Didn’t he know that my donation of a thousand dollars required him to figure out how to accede to my request?

“But that idiot dismissed me out of hand,” I fumed while purposely backing my foot off the accelerator. “So, his precious little congressmen and senators need their privacy, do they?”

I yelled towards the closed window, “You’ll pay for this insult, you moron!” I wanted to yell it to the passing world. I started to lower my window so others could hear my anger. But the wind would mess up my hair and I immediately changed my mind, after all I paid good money for this “do.”

[i] Colossians 4:6