Chapter 26

April 24th, Tuesday Morning, Homeland Security

Homeland Security has their office building on the other side of the Mall from the FBI building. I can leave my office, head down to the 9th street exit and walk straight through the Mall to Homeland Security.

It was a cold, brisk morning and a rare, late April snowstorm had been dropping snow for the last few hours. It was still coming down and was expected to continue till noon. Nevertheless, I was up for a walk and I needed one.

I had spent the night in my office, going back over all of the evidence Pete had sent me. While I had thought his department was acting more like Keystone cops than professional agents, by the end of the night I decided I may have been the Keystone Cop and they the dependable agents.

When I arrived, Pete’s agents all looked warily at me. Interdepartmentally, we have good relations, but personally, our relationships were judged on a one-to-one basis, and, I admit, I often looked down my nose at these men and women, even periodically saying so, on the record.

“Frankly,” I thought to myself, “they could have sneered more, and I would have owned it.”

Pete started the meeting with, “As you can see, we are graced by the presence of our FBI friend.”

He paused and there was complete silence. The stone-cold looks were more frigid than the snow which had gotten into my shoes when I walked over.

I stood up slowly and tried to keep the grin off my face, but I couldn’t. I said, “I expected you to throw stones.”

“They’re outside,” someone said and most of them snickered.

“I’ll ask for an escort going back then,” I jested.

“Not from us,” someone else quipped, less of a jest than mine.

I saw a slight movement on Pete’s part, but didn’t want him to butt in. I needed to own this and deal with it, if I was going to get reliable interdepartmental cooperation from his team.

I made a calculated decision and arrogantly said, “I’m not here to offer you an olive branch.”

I immediately saw Pete sit back. I knew he was thinking, “Jack, if you’re gonna talk to them this way, you’re on your own.”

“And you don’t have to like me; that’s okay,” I said, a little less arrogantly.

“No problem with that, Sir,” said a wiry kid, respectfully, and a number of them laughed.

“But I’m also big enough to tell you I may have been wrong about this case. I have been holding you back and that may have been an error. That’s why I’m here, on your territory.”

I couldn’t help myself, I added, “I hope you consider it an honor that I’m here.”

By the last words I was purposely grinning. I’m good at keeping a straight face, but chose to not do so this morning, and sure enough, they loosened up for our meeting.

“You’re not really funny, Sir,” said the wiry kid.

“Oh yes I am,” I said, as slyly as I could.

And then he got me. I didn’t even see it coming.

“It’s the way you comb your hair, Sir,” he said.

To which even I laughed. I turned to Pete. “I like this kid.”

Pete smiled and nodded to me, as if to say, “Tell them why you’re here.”

So I did. “I came to your sit-rep today because of some information I got last night. Pete has accused me of not telling him everything and he’s right. I’ve been investigating this from another direction and then comparing my results with yours. Well, last night my team shared with me something very disturbing and I decided to humble myself and come over here to tell you about it.”

“Eating a little humble-pie?” asked Wiry.

I went on. “I have been most concerned with Perps #1 and #2, thinking they are the real bad guys and Perps #3, #4 and #5 are innocents.”

Wiry raised his hand and I nodded for him to speak. “Are we talking the same people when you state Perp numbers?”

“Valid point,” agreed Pete.

“Jack, with what you have uncovered, I don’t think we need to be secretive anymore on our internal documents. Do you agree?”

I stood there looking into space for a few moments and then agreed. “Perp #1 is the Preacher, Perp #2 is the Counterintelligence, CI-Guy, Perp #3 is the Prayer-Guy, Perp #4 is Issy, the female Religion Consultant and wife of Perp #5, whose name is Jude.”

I looked at Pete’s team and asked, “Are we on the same page so far?” I knew we were but a good working relationship demanded I ask the question.

They all nodded in agreement and I went on. Watching their faces I knew they were itching for the new information from my team which so radically changed my mind last night.

“I’ll admit, I have been unimpressed with your operational name, ‘Judas I.,’ but after last night’s revelation it’s more appropriate than you realize.”

I saw a number of people sit up straighter and listen more intently.

“Here’s our situation. For the last few years our street credibility has been drug through the mud, based on foolish actions on the part of a few people in our agencies and elected officials who have gotten away with obvious misdeeds.”

“I don’t have to explain this to you. You’ve seen it and lived it. Many of you have kids who have tried to hide from teachers and friends what their parents do for a living because they run the risk of being humiliated.”

Everyone solemnly agreed and I paused to take a drink from a cup of coffee which I had let cool down.

“We have rightfully been super-conscientious of doing anything which makes us look like we are a law unto ourselves. And, I want to thank you.”

I locked eyes with each agent before I continued. “I want to thank you for allowing me to hold you back, but now I think we have clear evidence on two folks, who I believed were completely above board. But it’s possible that they may be the masterminds, and maybe better said, the manipulators of the events we’ve been watching unfold.”

My coffee was now the right temperature. It was warm but not hot. I took another drink.

“Now, I’m not completely sold on this but I’m persuaded enough to come here and eat some crow.

I continued, “I have been looking at this CI-Guy, Clyde, wondering if he could think this up. But I can’t get there. He’s a buffoon. And then there’s the Preacher; her arrogance warns me of her strong motivation, meaning she may think she deserves to be in a place of influence, but my reason leads me to think she doesn’t have the brains to carry this off either.”

“As for the Prayer-Guy, he’s clearly no dummy, and he has connections in D.C.; but I’m still wondering if he’s being manipulated or doing the manipulating? Is he innocent? I’d like to think he is but his firing from the university keeps me from being convinced.”

I slowed down to be sure everyone was tracking with me.

“And then there’s Perps #4 and #5, Issy and Jude. To my mind, they were once considered pure as the wind driven snow. Now my curiosity makes me ask, ‘How far have they traveled down the dark side?”

“Could they be unelected civil servants who are taking advantage of a long-awaited opportunity? Have they set themselves up to win, whichever Presidential candidate is elected? What were their political leanings back in school and are their current decision-making, policy-advisement, etc. consistent with who they are and who they claim to be? Also I am now wondering if Issy’s relationship with Perp #2 is really this recent, or if they have been preparing this for a long time.”

“What added up yesterday, no longer adds up today,” offered Wiry.

“Exactly, and now that I have allowed myself to think in these terms, I realize there is a lot I do not know about them.” I acknowledged Pete and proceeded, “The bottom line is, do we have a couple who have worked the system for a long time, in the hopes of seeing their long-awaited plan come to fruition?”

I paused, not really looking at anyone.

My discomfort over what I had just suggested about Jude and Issy was interrupted by Wiry. “What do you think they want? Money, power, what?”

“If we are right about Jude and Issy, which I am afraid we may be, then I think the ‘why’ is as simple and as dangerous as their own self-righteousness. They want to advance their perspective, no matter how it is done.”

“The end justifies the means,” Wiry said, as much to me as to the others in the room.

“Precisely,” said Pete. “And that’s the incredible gravity, troops. If this holds true, they do not care what the voting public says. They won’t let their ideology be hindered by something like, who wins, which is why they’ve worked so hard to be on both sides of the fight.”

Slowly and with the strongest emphasis, I said, “If that’s true, these two people are a clear and present danger to the sovereignty of our elections. The gloves come off as soon as we tie them to a crime.”

“Tell them what you found and how you found it,” said Pete.

“I can’t give you the details on how I found it, but I have two operatives, one in each camp, running recon for me.”

“What I can tell you,” I went on, “Is that Jude and Issy clearly conspired to work together on a policy paper for Issy’s candidate. The reason this is a big deal, is first, a condition of their employment agreement is to never coordinate with their spouse, and secondly, it appears they uploaded the document to Issy’s computer in such a way that it could only have been done for the purpose of hiding an email trail.”

“They have purposed to deceive,” Wiry said.

“Affirmative,” replied Pete.

“That’s the way I now see it, too,” I replied.

Pete then asked, “Jack, do we know what their ultimate end game is?”

I shook my head, “No.” Then he continued.

“What you found last night can easily get them fired, and that would be the end of it, as far as those two are concerned; but it wouldn’t deal with the other three. So, what do you suggest?”

“Simple,” I said, “These five Perps didn’t just come together. This has been a long time in the making. We need to get to the bottom of it and then connect all the dots. I don’t care what their motivation is. I’m concerned about determining if this is home-grown or if there are foreign powers involved. Then we need to determine how big this is. Are there other players?”

On my way back to the office I got a text from my mom. “Hello Jacky, love you, Son. No need to call me back. Two things: First, I’m praying for wisdom for you and secondly, last night I heard a podcast from a pastor who is from D.C. or goes to D.C. or something. But he who talks about prayer like I do. I really liked him. Let me know if you’re interested.”

“Hmm,” I croaked, “No, Mom, I’m up to my ears in prayer people and I’m thinking their prayers are bunk!”

Of course, I only thought it and didn’t text it. Instead I responded, “Thanks, Mom. I think your God is giving me wisdom. Regarding the other, I’m kind of busy. Love you.”

 Same Day, Afternoon, FBI Headquarters

“Jack,” Grace rang me, “Mr. Beecham is on, said it’s urgent.”

“Yeah, Pete.”

“Guess who just ‘accidentally’ met today? The Prayer-Guy and the Preacher.”

“Hmm,” was all I said.

“She had just come out of Issy’s boss’ office.”

“How do you know it was chance, Pete?”

“I don’t think it was chance, Jack.”

“Then why did you say it was?”

“Because that is what the Perps said to one another, loud enough for my guys to hear.”

“These Perps’ tradecraft is good, Jack, very good.”

“Hmm, so, Prayer-Guy has contact with Preacher, who was just in Issy’s boss’ office.”

I sat for a moment scratching my chin. I needed to go home tonight to get a good night’s sleep. And then I got excited and asked, “Was Issy there, too?”

“No,” Pete said, disappointed. “She was out on the campaign trail.”

“Got it. Keep me posted,” I said and hung up.