Saturday, December 8, 2007

Preview: Blackout

Am I a liar or what? I said this would be up last weekend. I have a small excuse in that I couldn't find the Word file until Monday. As for not posting it until tonight...I got nuthin'.

Aside: Just finished watching Hairspray. I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for a musical, and I thought it was a pretty fun film. No performance to savor as much as Richard Gere in Chicago (though James Marsden comes damn close, making the most out of his supporting role) but it was toe-tappin' fun, as Marge Simpson would say.

So without further ado, I give you the first bit of a story I'm working on. It's rough, and the story's not finished yet, so this could look different when the story is posted in its entirety.

"Operation: Blackout"

I was led into a conference room and asked to have a seat. Then the agent left, closing the door behind him, and I was left to continue wondering why they’d brought me here. Five minutes later, a different man came in. This time it was someone I knew. I’d known him as a suck-up analyst named Richard Franklin. Ten years later, he was a suck-up deputy director named Richard Franklin. He dropped a file folder on the table and looked at me. He forced a smile.

“Good to see you, Dan.”

“I really don’t need the happy-faced coddling, Rick. Why am I here?”

His smile dropped. He took off his thick-framed glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You know I’m actually glad you’re in a foul mood? Means I won’t have to bullshit you.” He looked like crap.

“Jesus, Rick, what the hell happened?”

“Simply put, we are up shit creek.”

I sat back and crossed my arms. “And am I supposed to be your paddle?”

He smiled, but there was no humor in it. “I sure as hell hope so, Dan.” He took a deep breath. “Look, all of our differences aside, we really need you to play ball.”

I stayed silent for a moment, studying his face. Whatever had him spooked, it was serious. I decided to drop the attitude. “What happened?”

He sat down across from me. “Ten hours ago, the Agency was authorized to take action against a warlord in Africa. A simple elimination; take him out, try to quell things before there’s a power struggle. You know the drill.”


“Well, something that’s been put into effect since you left, is that everyone is assigned a codename for security purposes. Heads-of-state, ambassadors, dignitaries, anyone that might pop up on our radar is randomly assigned a name.”

“Okay.” He was getting antsy.

“The operative assigned to the warlord was sent a telegram containing the codename and orders to maintain a complete communications blackout until the job was done. For deniability, of course.”

“Of course.” This kind of bureaucratic ass-covering was one reason I’d left the Agency in the first place.

“And…well,” he laughed nervously. “This is where we have our problem.” He rubbed the back of his neck and tugged at his tie. “Our man was sent the codename ‘Nightingale.’ Only that’s not the warlord’s codename. His codename was ‘Mockingbird.’”

“Who’s ‘Nightingale,’ Rick?”

He looked at the floor. “The Vice President.”

“That’s a pretty big goof, Rick.”

“I know.”

“But what’s the problem? Just send another telegram telling the agent to stand down. The guy should know it’s a goof-up anyway.”

“That’s the problem. He won’t ask any questions. He’ll carry out the op to its end. He’ll kill the Vice President.”

I felt a sickness in my stomach as I realized why I was there. “Oh, God, Rick. You sent Murdock?

“He’s our best!"

“He’s also got a screw loose. I told you that when I left, ten years ago! I can’t believe you’ve still got him running around out there!”

“He never questions orders,” Rick said stiffly. “He’s a good soldier.”

“You should have had him eliminated, Rick. He’s unstable. I saw what he did in Geneva. And you’ve still got him working assassinations? What idiot signed off on that?”

“Goddammit, it doesn’t matter!” He pounded his fist on the table. “It doesn’t matter,” he repeated quietly. “We have no idea how to find him. That’s why you’re here.”

“Me? I was his spotter for three ops! Three! And I’m the best you’ve got? I probably spent less than ten days with him, total.”

“That’s the most anyone ever worked with him, Dan.” Rick slumped in his chair. “You’re our best bet.”

“Then you’re fucked.”

“You won’t help us?”

“Dammit, Rick, I didn’t say that. I’m not going to sit back and watch while he kills the Vice President, even if I didn’t vote for the guy. I’m not that much of a bastard.”

“Your country thanks you.”

“You can save the patriotism. Because I don’t care how valuable an asset he is to you. If I find him, I’m putting a bullet in his head.”


Read on, faithful few!