Chapter 6

January 16th, Monday, FBI Headquarters, The Cage

Pete and I entered the Cage at exactly 10 a.m. the next morning.

“How was your date?” asked Pete.

“None of your business,” was my reply.

“No, I’ll tell you this, Pete. It was nice and boring, man. Nice and boring.”

Pete smiled and I said, “I like getting older. All I’m interested in is some good companionship.”

That seemed to satisfy him. He nodded and said, “Let’s get started.”

“Let me start off by telling you, Jack, this is all still very sketchy. Very few facts and very few conclusions. But that’s not bad news; because it also appears we have caught the bad-guys very early into their plan.”

I nodded, making notes and then I asked, “So, tell me what you know.”

“At this point we know the Perp is someone in the Warner Robins Air Force Base Counterintelligence Unit.”

This had my attention, so I asked for details.

“Patience, my boring old friend.”

I have been in enough courtrooms to watch an attorney take the jury along a circuitous route and tie up the loose ends in his or her own way. So, I sat back and put my pen down on my tablet.

Pete continued, “Thank you. When I say he is in the CI-Unit, I mean, the documents we have seen are from Warner AFB, Counterintelligence.”

“What documents?” I started to ask and then stopped.

“My team seems to think he is exploring, like the Junior High kid you referenced the other day, only it’s not a kid.”

“Why not?” I wanted to ask but I refrained.

“The documents are very innocuous and could have been written by any pastor or rabbi or mullah.”

“Or Junior High kid?” I asked.

“The point is,” he went on, ignoring me, “We believe the Perp is doing a trial-run, an experiment. Again, to what end, we don’t know, but the fact is he has successfully uploaded documents, and not just to one candidate’s office as we thought before, but to both candidate’s Religion Consultant’s servers.”

He paused; I picked up my pen and made some more notes.

He went on, “Now that he’s done this once, it paves the way for him to do it again.”

“So, what do you want to do about it, Pete?”

He hesitated, which I did not like. But I can play this game too. I know the sales process; it’s called the “silence close.” He who speaks first loses. So, I waited.

Pete didn’t say anything, he just looked at me. And I looked at him.

He started to grin, because he knew that I knew what he was doing, but I remained quiet.

Finally, he leaned forward and said, “Okay, you may not like this, but we’ve been at this for two weeks and we still have next to nothing. I think. . .” he paused, clearly questioning whether he should say the next words.

I looked intensely at him and I hoped I had conveyed my thoughts, but obviously I hadn’t.

He sucked in a deep breath and said, “We need to start surveilling people in the candidates’ offices so we can. . .”

“Are you out of your mind?” I snapped.

There was silence again.

I stood up now. “You are on a very short leash, Pete.”

“These religious. . .” he started to say.

“You have no cause for anything you are thinking about the candidates’ offices, Pete. The truth is, it could still be a Junior High kid, albeit a holy-roller, but you. . .”

“Alright, alright, alright! You made your point, Jack. What do you want us to do?”

I regained my calm and sat down again with my old friend. “Look, you’ve said it yourself. Your team, who’s the best in the business, behind my team, has been on this for two weeks and you still have nothing. Monitor Warner Robins and stay on this. Be a bulldog, but do not get anywhere near the candidates’ employees. If your team does, Pete, I’ll be putting them in jail.”

Pete sat back, “Mighty strong words, Jack.”

“Pete, how bad is your memory? Do you really want to find yourself at the bottom of the elections fiascos we have had to deal with in the recent past?”

He joked, “Kinda makes you want to go back to ‘hanging chads,’ huh?”

“Have I made myself clear, Pete?”

“Crystal, Jack.”

“Good,” I said. Then to end on a better note, I added, “Hey, my Washington Redskins are still in it.”

“Yeah, but they’ll lose this Sunday to my 49ers.”

As we were walking back to my office I told Pete to get me regular field reports, so I could see what his team is doing on this case.

He challenged me, “How regular?”

“Twice a week, Monday morning and Thursday night, until I’m comfortable with your operatives.”

He drew back his lower lip, as if to say, “Eek.”

Instead, Pete said, “Today’s Monday. I’ll have your first report on your desk by 5, Thursday afternoon.”

I watched him go and then I said to myself, “I hate this. I really hate this.”

When I got back to my desk there were fourteen messages, but one stood out. It came from one of the candidate’s offices. It was their cyber manager. It read, “Experiencing some cyber anomalies with my religion consultant’s server, can I come by?”

“Crap,” I mumbled.