Road Kill

Road Kill is a thriller that starts with an average day for government intelligence analyst who sits in the wrong seat on his early morning flight. When the passenger who sits in our hero's intended seat ends up dead by poisoning, the story quickly accelerates to a cat and mouse game. The main character is being framed for possessing intelligence that he did not gather. He must go on the run in an attempt to clear his name and stay alive.

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4. Part 4 - In the Mothership

Road Kill – Part 4

Don Massenzio

Donovan was a great person to have on your side. I had seen him back my colleagues based only on scraps of evidence and their hunches. I didn’t, however, want to be on the other side of him. I had also seen the results of his ‘discussions’ with former colleagues that had crossed him in some way by being careless with their handling of information or digging where they shouldn’t be. As I mentioned, the key to my agency was compartmentalization. No one person had enough knowledge to put together what was being investigated. This gave me comfort, at least back when I wasn’t being investigated.

It was absurd. I took every assignment given to me. I traveled to whatever corner of the country asked and stayed in whatever mid-level hotel the government had an agreement with. I never complained. I did what I was asked. Now, within a single day, someone apparently tried to kill me and I was under investigation by my own people for something I wasn’t aware of. Happy Monday.

I was escorted to one of the dormitory style rooms that were part of the Mother Ship’s underground city. The rooms seemed generous for those under our protection, but, now that I was going to be residing in one, it seemed like a jail cell with curtains (and no windows). I was relieved of my cell phone and laptop. There was no outside contact to be made from this room. The small flat screen television on the wall only displayed heavily censored movies and television reruns. There was no news or anything live allowed to be broadcast to the dormitory rooms. We didn’t want those under protection to have any idea what was going on outside. What I always thought was a prudent precaution was now adding to my sense of being imprisoned.

Donovan told me that the people that wanted to talk to me were all busy and that I could cool my heels here for a while. I knew the drill. They were going through my work area and all of my computer files with a fine tooth comb. They had taken my laptop and phone and would be putting them through forensics. I had that strange feeling of guilt that was similar to what I had in Catholic elementary school when someone had done something wrong in the class and, even though it wasn’t me, I still felt guilt and had the urge to confess just so that things could get back to normal. I knew this was irrational, but early imprinting runs deep.

I grabbed the remote from the small desk and flipped through the three closed circuit channels that I was allowed to see. The choices included old reruns of the Andy Griffith show, the Disney animated version of Tarzan with Rosy O’Donnell as a gorilla (casting by Donald Trump?), and, ironically, reruns of 24. I settled on the adventures in Mayberry wishing that I was in this quaint little town where the sheriff didn’t need to carry a gun.

After about an episode and a half, there was a knock on the door. Before I had a chance to acknowledge it, the door opened and Donovan’s assistant, Jay Rosnick, poked his head in. Rosnick was ex-special forces in an unspecified branch of the military. He was intimidating without trying to be so, and fiercely loyal to Donovan.

“He wants to see you,” Rosnick said.

I didn’t have to question who the ‘he’ was. I turned off the television and followed Rosnick through the organized maze. Many of the people I passed knew me and, as they glanced up from their work, I could tell that the word had gotten around the Mother Ship that I was someone under scrutiny.

Rosnick delivered me to Donovan’s office. Donovan was seated behind his glass and chrome desk, leaning back in his chair with his hands folded behind his head. This had the effect of wrinkling his forehead to make him look like some kind of bulldog with a crew cut.

“Have a seat,” he said, trying to fake friendliness. I’d seen this tactic before and it did nothing to put me at ease.

“We’ve started our preparations for debriefing you, but I wanted to have a chance to talk to you one-on-one before we formalize the process.”

I knew what this meant. They had found something and he wanted me to cop to it and save them a bunch of time. Again, I flipped through the Rolodex in my mind and nothing jumped out.

“Okay, let’s talk. Now, what are we talking about?” came my witty reply.

“You are going to play it that way?” Donovan said, leaning forward with his hands clasped on the desk.

“I’m not playing anything. I don’t know anything.”

“We’ve been through your activity logs and it jumped out right away.”

“What jumped out right away?”

“I must admit, I didn’t think you had this skill set. Who was paying you, or did you do it without a buyer in mind?”

“Honestly Donovan, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Really. You are going to sit there and tell me that you didn’t hack into the peripheral files? You left a trail that Stevie Wonder could find on your computer. As good as your hacking skills are, your ability to cover your tracks sucks.”

Peripheral files? I certainly knew what these were. They were like the decoder ring that tied together pieces of compartmentalized analysis. The analysis by itself was marginally interesting. It might contain patters of bank transactions or emails, but the peripheral files put context around those lists of things. Someone possessing pieces of the analysis along with the peripheral files could bring down a corporation, or even a country. They could also sell the information to the highest bidder. Basically, it was an offense that ranged from blackmail to treason. I started feeling the Catholic elementary school guilt again as my palms began to sweat. I had to plead my case and try to find out what was found.

“I don’t know what you found, but I can only tell you that I didn’t hack into anything. I wouldn’t know where to start and I wouldn’t know what to do with the information if I found it. I have no reason to jeopardize my job and, frankly, my life by doing something so stupid.”

“That’s where I scratched my head at first. Then, I believe, we found your motivation for doing this.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re going to keep up this ignorance act? It’s getting a bit tiring.”

“It’s not an act. I’m truly in the dark about all of this. What possible motivation did you find?”

“Well, it appears you are a bit overextended. You have bank loans against your house, a loan for a boat, a leased corvette, and a personal line of credit for $50,000 that’s overdrawn.”

I felt bile begin to rise in my throat. If I had eaten anything, it would have emerged on Donovan’s desk at that point. None of these things that he was talking about sounded familiar to me. I started to come to the realization that someone was doing an effective job of setting me up for a fall. I didn’t know who or why, but one thing was clear, the things that were found so far would not be the end of it. Another thing also became clear, if I stayed in the Mother Ship, no one was going to be on my side. If I had compromised this agency, the justice system wouldn’t exist for me.  I would disappear into the bowels of some secret prison to rot away. I had to find out who was setting me up and why, but I couldn’t do it from here. My strategy had just changed from one of cooperation to escape. The problem was, I was in one of the most secure facilities in the world. I wasn’t sure how escape would be possible.

Donovan could see me thinking. He emulated a look that he probably believed passed for disappointment and signaled for Rosnick to rejoin us.

“Take him back to his room,” he said, then to me, “This is just getting started. You might want to think about how you’re going to play this.”

As I was escorted back to my room/cell, I observed my surroundings as calmly as I could while my subconscious screamed that I needed to find a way to escape and clear my name.

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