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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 125: Brown 150
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Derek entered the room with Sea Turtle and Chameleon; Ambassador Morris and Colonel Simpkins were standing on the other side talking and looking out the window. Chameleon caught their attention.
“Gentlemen. Sorry if we kept you waiting; we came directly from the airport.”
Derek noticed a tray of sandwiches and several cans of soft drinks on the table, along with paper plates, paper cups, and napkins. He sat and grabbed something that looked good while the others were talking.
“No, we’ve just arrived ourselves,” Simpkins offered. “This is Ambassador Morris, and I’m head of security at the British Embassy, Colonel Simpkins. I’m afraid I don’t know your names?”
Derek spoke, “No, we probably all get that a lot. It’s part of the covert operations and undercover assignments that we’re often involved in. I don’t know their names, either, only ranks and code names; they know some of my names, but I think not all of them. I was Kyler Bryant when I was working in your embassy; I’m here as John Adams now. Neither of those are one of my birth names. I’m with a highly classified branch of British intelligence, although I was originally born American. This is Sea Turtle, head of a CIA strike team that works with us, you can call him ‘Captain’ if you prefer, and this is his field commander Chameleon, or perhaps ‘Sergeant’.”
“I’m sorry,” the Ambassador said. “You are the decorated secret agent who found our security leak? Forgive me, but you don’t look much older than my daughter.”
Derek grimaced. “I get that a lot, too. Who I am, and in fact what I am, is so secret I’m not sure it’s been explained to the Queen. Suffice it that I am a lot older than I appear and have decades of experience in special missions. At the same time, I’m going to admit that I have never been given an assignment quite like this--which doesn’t worry me because my last assignment, to find the leak in your embassy, was also a completely new type of challenge for me. However, this time we don’t have as much time.
“I’m told you asked for me specifically. What do you hope I can do, specifically?”
Morris and Simpkins looked at each other, and seemed to agree that Morris would speak. “I’m told that in the days before we arrested Williams, you knew where Samantha was fairly constantly. We thought perhaps you could find her now.”
“I knew where she was because I had become suspicious of her movements and had attached several bugs to her--tracking, audio, camera. Simpkins recovered those and returned them to me before I left yesterday, so I don’t have anything like that on her now. I never actually followed her; I knew where she was because I tracked her movements electronically.”
“So you can’t help?”
“I didn’t say that. I just don’t want your expectations to be too high. There are quite a few things I can do, some of them quite unusual and unexpected, but I have not yet figured out how to use them to find her.
“The guess is that she left the embassy looking for Dorin. As far as I could tell, she never went to wherever he lived--something about it being inappropriate for him to have her there alone. They had a favorite park bench, a coffee shop they frequented, and an ice cream parlor. They went other places, but I wasn’t tracking her long enough to know if they had a favorite restaurant. They never went to any hotels while I was tracking her.”
Derek thought he noticed a look of relief briefly on the Ambassador’s face.
“So I would begin by asking people in those places whether they recognized either Dorin or Samantha, and see if we can track him from that. Of course, you’ve probably already done that as well as it can be done by a foreign power who is a guest in the city, and you didn’t need me to fly out here and tell you the obvious starting point. So I guess I should ask you what’s already been accomplished. Colonel?” Derek took a bite of the sandwich and opened the soda.
“Well, we realized that she was missing last night, and it took a few hours to confirm this. It wasn’t until this morning that we concluded she was searching for her supposed boyfriend, and we had to compile those locations and generate pictures of both of them. For him we had to work with the images from your planted camera; for her we had a lot of pictures but needed something that would not reveal that she was the Ambassador’s daughter--at present not even the Bucharest police know she is missing. So by lunch time we were pursuing those lines, but there were no reports returned when I left to come here.”
Derek nodded and swallowed. “Don’t tell the local authorities yet. It’s possible that she found Dorin and is staying with him, but not if he didn’t really love her, like we think. He might have decided to continue to pretend, in case his handlers wanted to do something else with her, but by now that decision will have been made. It is also unlikely that the people holding her would be recognized as criminal elements by the local authorities--they would be part of the military, or whoever runs their intelligence service here. So bringing in the authorities would only mean they would run interference for the kidnappers. If we discover that there’s a criminal element involved, we’ll tell the police then--simple enough to say that she’s a teenager who disappeared, and at first we assumed she was staying with a friend.”
He put his index finger to his forehead and thought a moment.
“Someone needs to search her room--probably your wife, Ambassador. We would love to find a diary, but you can be fairly sure there will be trinkets from dates--movie, concert, or theater tickets, maybe a program, maybe something from a restaurant. If we find a diary or journal, someone will have to read it and extract every fragment that relates to her relationship with Dorin. I can’t imagine that she doesn’t have such a thing--she would have felt compelled to tell someone, and there is no one she can trust with that kind of thing. Or is there?” He paused, thinking. “I’ll have to go through the personnel files again, and someone will have to question all the teenage girls in the embassy. I’ll also try to wade through the recordings again, maybe I can find something there. She might have a friend she confided in.”
“I can’t authorize access to the personnel files,” Simpkins said.
“That’s not a problem. I still have the London copies on my computer. It would help, though, if you have any incidents in which Samantha got in trouble with some of the other girls--not fighting with them, but being caught doing something they shouldn’t. That would probably let us know who her friends are. It might be you have to question your men on that, since it’s possible they responded to something for which anyone else would have gotten in trouble, but the ambassador’s daughter got a pass. We need to get that, find out who her friends are.
“While I’m thinking of it, if we do get to the point of telling the Romanian authorities, Colonel, you should go tell the highest ranking officer you can contact, in person, and probably I should go with you because I might be able to read him. We want to see whether he is surprised or whether he already knows she is missing. That’s not a perfect proof of anything, but it could be a significant data point.”
He stopped and thought for a moment. “Am I forgetting anything?”
“Read him?” Simpkins asked.
Derek looked at him, and thought a moment. “Yes, I read minds. I’m not very good at it, and it’s probably not going to be that helpful in the present situation because I don’t speak Romanian very well, and most people think in their own language, but I might be able to tell how he reacts.” He ignored the skeptical look on Simpkins’ face. “Anything else?”
Everyone else looked around at each other, but no one had any immediate suggestions.
“Fine. Ambassador, you and your wife will go through Sammie’s things, Colonel you’ll see if you can figure out who her friends are and continue the canvassing, and I’ll dig into the personnel files and recordings looking for any links that might be helpful. Everyone keep everyone informed of whatever you have. Good? Questions?”
He looked around, and it seemed everyone was satisfied if still processing. He grabbed a couple more sandwiches and put them on his plate, and stuffed another can of soda in a pocket.
“Captain, I should get started. I assume my luggage has made it to my room by now. I can easily track it, but I expect that would make the embassy people uncomfortable, so who do I see to get to my room?”
“Come, we’ll get you settled,” Sea Turtle replied.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #265: Versers in Motion. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: