Chapter 29

Thursday May 17th, FBI Headquarters

Pete was sitting in my office, report in hand.

It was the end of the day, but I decided I needed another coffee. I offered Pete one, who said he didn’t drink coffee after noon anymore. I wish I could stop drinking coffee after noon.

“I thought I’d bring it to you in person,” he said with a grin.

He uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, handing me the file. We were sitting on the chairs in front of my desk, which I think is more comfortable and less confining.

I read his report which contained nothing new. In the back of my mind I had this niggling thought, “Am I listening too much to my mom?”

She had called earlier this afternoon and I took the call since I was between appointments.

“Hey, Mom. How is everything?”

“Oh, good Jacky. Real good.” After a moment’s hesitation she continued on, “How about with you?”

“Good, good. Just working hard, trying to keep you and all your Bridge playing friends safe from villains.”

She normally chuckles at those kinds of statements, but this time she didn’t and I waited till she spoke.

“Jacky, I just want you to know I’ve been praying for wisdom for you.”

“Again?” I said, a little too flippantly. Quickly correcting my words, I added, “I mean, thank you, Mom.” I couldn’t help myself so I also said, “With all the prayers for wisdom, lately, I should be pretty smart.”

She just chuckled and said, “One would think so.”

And then she let out a real snort. I could tell it embarrassed her, but I asked, “Where did that come from?”

“Oh, I just thought of something your dad used to say.”

My dad was former military, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who had worked with some sort of a church ministry in Iraq after Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was killed by a roadside bomb.

Mom was telling me what made her snort. “Your dad used to say, ‘Grey hair is a sign of wisdom’. . .”

I picked up the refrain, because I remembered the rest of it, “. . .Or it’s a sign you keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”

“What does that have to do with me, Mom?”

“I don’t know, son. I didn’t say it did.”

“I have to go,” I said.

“Okay, but thinking of your dad just now made me wonder. . .”

“Yeeeeees,” I said, dragging it out, because I knew what she was going to ask. I hadn’t been down to her place in Florida since Christmas.

“When are you going to visit me?”

“Soon, Mom. I mean it. Soon.” And I did mean it.

So why was I thinking about that call, now, with Pete in my office?

“Tell me what we have on the two Religion Consultants, if there’s anything new.”

Pete leaned forward and asked, “Are you getting cold feet about this ‘watching and listening’ job?”

The way he asked the question made me curious and worried. “You’re still not surveilling, are you?”

“Not exactly,” he said.

“Look, Pete, what we found is against their employment contract, but not against the law.”

I decided to circle back around to my question on surveilling, so I broached a different subject and asked, “You’re not recording anyone’s conversations, right?”

“Not exactly,” again, from Pete.

“Pete,” I was now concerned, “They have given us reasonable suspicion, but only in the slightest way. I told your group we should watch more closely. What did you do, Pete?”

“We have a watcher in each candidate’s office.”

I let out a huge sigh, “Pete, you are going to get us. . .”

But he cut me off and said, “They are there to only watch and listen to the Perps. Any conversations they hear they are merely reporting, not recording, and they are doing nothing regarding the candidates or any other staff, unless it directly relates to our Perps.”

“Alright,” I said, still a bit hesitant. “What isn’t in the report?”

“How do you know the report is missing some information?” asked a surprised Pete Beecham.

“Because I know you, Pete.”

He smiled, “Yeah, it’ll be in Monday’s report.”

I nodded for him to continue.

“Two things. First, Issy’s boss. . .”

“The candidate?” I asked.

“No, the Chief of Staff. She believes Issy to be leading the candidate astray. And second, Jude is passing on information to his candidate which he is getting from some obscure seventeenth century Christian pastor. And this information, this document, came from Perp #3.”

I buried my head in my hands. “Tell me there’s more, Pete.”

His eyes lit up and he said. “We found an encrypted file in both of their servers, obviously deeply hidden.”

“Have you cracked the encryption, yet?”

“No, not yet.”

But he smiled.

“What else?” I asked.

The documents are completely encrypted, except the file name, which is Operation Judas.”

I was still nonplussed.

“Do you know who Judas is in the Bible, Jack?”

I nodded but Pete went on as if he needed to explain it to me. I just let him. “Judas is the most outrageous of all of the traitors. These two know they can’t name the file as to what they are doing, like “Our Traitor File” so I think, actually, we, my team thinks, they are using this code name to be clever.

After a moment I asked, “These are two religious freaks, how would they know about encrypting documents? A big day for them is when they see something exciting in Scripture.”

“I don’t know,” Pete stammered. “I’m working on that. But there’s one more thing.”

I leaned back, nodding my head, as if saying, “Alright, what else?”

“We still haven’t figured out why Perp #3, the Prayer-Guy comes out here every Tuesday and Wednesday, and never varies the days.”

“Pete, I’m still thinking you may have a case here, but just barely, which means I am trusting your guys to remain super careful, keeping everything as close to the vest as they can.”

He nodded in understanding, which I realized was the best I would get from him.

“I don’t see any comments on the Warner Robins counterintelligence character though and his pastor. Why not?”

“We’re following up on them, Jack, but in all honesty, all we’re seeing is an arrogant pastor, gorgeous, but arrogant, and a trail from the counterintelligence unit which looks like curiosity-seeking Junior High kids. If we brought it to his superior’s attention it would get him in trouble, probably demoted, but unless it’s something serious, do you really want to bring that upon one of our own?”

“Pete, while your team keeps an eye on all five of the Perps, I still think the best you’ve got on the Religion Consultants is that they are colluding, which would be a violation of their work agreement.”

“I hear you, Jack, but I intend to keep looking, because I think there’s more going on than just that.”

As Pete got into the elevator, Grace entered my office with two FBI reports. One read, “Safe House-3 Sit-Rep” and the other read, “Analysis, 1656 Voter’s Guide.”

Pulling out the cover page for each I jumped to the overview.

OVERVIEW: Analysis, 1656 Voter’
s Guide

Subversive Statements: None

Questionable Statements:

  1. Implied Voter Booth Tampering
  2. Explicit Manipulation of National Direction

OVERVIEW: Safe House-3 Sit-Rep

Transcript of Billy Marshall and Sammie Prescott

Sometimes I think being in the spook business makes us paranoid. We end up believing everyone is out to tamper with or manipulate someone or something.

Maybe my mom is right; I need to start attending a venue where regular people go.

I had just read the basis of my team’s analysis on the 1656 Voter’s Guide and rubbed my eyes.

They took the wording which says, “God can and will, change people’s minds behind the voting curtain, so they vote for the person He wants them to,” and from that they extrapolated this might have something to do with voter booth fraud or tampering?

And then, where the document says, “To know the direction God is leading a country, look at the leaders He gives them,” they decided this clearly must mean they intend to manipulate our country’s direction.

I think my analysts need a break.

I read the transcripts of Billy and Sammie’s meeting. These poor kids have no idea they’re being recorded. “Why wouldn’t they recognize that?” I thought to myself. “I’m a little disappointed in them.”

At first, I was angry at them taking this rogue direction of looking for evidence to clear Jude and Issy. It is bad form and rarely ever makes for a good investigation when you begin with a commitment to the outcome you want to see. “Let the clues direct the investigation” is the mantra we’re taught at the school. But these two kids have determined the end result and are now looking for clues to substantiate it.

I should just close them down. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it could be good to have a team looking at similar facts, from a different perspective.

After all, if they keep meeting in Safe House-3, I’ll not be surprised by their findings.