Y MINUS TWO
UPPER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
Jason Macmillan found the park bench in question. A moderately attractive 40-something woman sat on it, wrapped in a fur-lined parka, smoking a cigarette.
“Ms. Simmons?” he asked, when he was still a polite distance away.
She glanced up and flashed him a business-casual smile. “You must be Jason.”
He shook the thin hand she offered and was surprised at the electricity that passed between them. His eyes and mind told him she was nothing fantastic on the desirability scale (especially around the Washington-New York axis, which was crawling with hot, horny women) but his body didn’t agree.
He sat on the bench, with less than a yard of space between them.
“It’s not that cold yet, is it?” he asked, with a meaningful look at her expensive coat.
“It’s partly psychological,” she said, taking another puff of her cigarette. “I keep hearing what a bad winter we’re in for one of these years, so I’m bundling up in preparation. Plus I just spent a month in Hawaii, so my blood has thinned out.”
He nodded toward the huge building where the Council met. “They should be out by now, shouldn’t they?”
“Oh, their meeting’s been adjourned,” she said, with assurance. “But there’s the usual hob-nobbing to do afterward. And then Lawrence goes through his dog walking ritual. Are you familiar with that, yet?”
Macmillan shook his head.
“Well, you are new, after all,” she said. “His show champion dog has its own dedicated driver and vehicle. Can’t be getting shedded fur all over the limousine, now can we? Then his dog handler escorts the dog to Lawrence and hands it off. Lawrence walks with it for exactly half an hour, then hands it off back to the dog handler, who hands it off to the doggie driver, who takes it out of sight, out of mind for the rest of the day.”
She didn’t seem scornful or bitter. Rather, amused. But not quite mocking.
“Has he given you the speech about Border Collies?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he replied.
“Oh, then you’re due for at least one. He’s got dates and places, names of breeders and dogs. He’ll tell you all about how Collies were bred to help herd livestock. They’re born with the herding instinct and even his spoiled, urbanized pet unconsciously tries to herd him away from traffic and other perceived threats. Lawrence is fascinated with the whole concept of herding, in fact.”
“He hasn’t opened up to that extent with me, Ms. Simmons. He probably doesn’t know yet if I’ll work out.”
“Call me Jade,” she said, patting the bench surface right next to her. “Come here. I don’t bite.”
Macmillan scooted over until they were right next to each other.
“I hear you started out in the Louisiana Highway Patrol.”
He acknowledged the question with a slight hunching of the shoulders. “Yeah. But that was a long time ago.”
“Impressive that you’ve climbed so far.”
Her voice was sensuous–almost hypnotic. He was turned-on despite himself. Forget Viagra—this broad was an effective cure for erectile dysfunction all by herself.
“I think I like you, Jason. So I’m going to share a little privileged information up front—otherwise it might take you some time to figure out: Lawrence wants to meet with both of us at once in order to foster competition between us. So don’t be surprised if he seems to be pitting us against each other sooner or later. He believes we’ll both work faster and harder for him that way. Ironic, isn’t it? So Free Market of him.”
“So you’re my competition, then,” Macmillan said, trying to reciprocate her subdued, playful manner.
“But I don’t think it should be totally competitive,” Jade Simmons told him, with direct eye contact. “I prefer cooperative arrangements.” She glanced pointedly at his left hand. “So you’re married.”
“Is that a problem?” he asked, smoothly.
“That’s up to you,” she replied, patting his thigh this time.
He wasn’t sure how to respond. He was used to being the sexually aggressive one.
“I’ll save you some more time,” she continued, chuckling. “The only reason you’re in this is because your assets are expendable, whereas mine are valuable enough, Lawrence wants to save them for future operations if possible.”
This sounded like an insult, which rankled Macmillan. His agents were sharp and well-trained. So elite even the CIA wasn’t privy to their ops. How could her guys be less expendable than his? Maybe she meant only his civilian informants.
“I agree with him,” she said, “which means I want you to succeed. So the game is rigged in your favor: if you can get your dominoes lined up, you get the operation.”
Lawrence Bertrand appeared around the corner on the sidewalk, flanked by two imposing bodyguards, with his Collie leashed at his side. He was a tall, thickly built aristocrat with a nose like a vulture’s beak, probably in his mid-to-late 60s.
As Bertrand’s small entourage drew closer, someone else arrived at the park bench and stood beside it, waiting—obviously the dog handler.
Bertrand made it to the bench, handed the leash to the handler, exchanged a few words about the Collie’s diet, then dismissed him. The two bodyguards wandered far enough away from their boss to provide some privacy, but close enough that they could go into action in case Alex Jones popped up out of a trash can with a video camera or something.
Jade Simmons made as if to stand. Moving quicker, Macmillan shot to his feet and made room for Bertrand to sit on the bench. Bertrand took the offered space. Macmillan stood facing the seated Bertrand and only then noticed that Jade was still seated. She smirked. She had only feinted at rising. This was some sort of power play, to establish that Macmillan was lower on the totem pole than her.
Macmillan would like to get her alone, where he’d show her exactly where to stick the totem pole.
“I trust you’ve introduced yourselves,” Bertrand said.
“Yes sir,” Macmillan said.
Jade nodded. “How was the meeting?”
Bertrand frowned. “All this oil fracking on private and state land is a nuisance. But still, we’re at the point where, with or without more quantitative easing…” his words trailed off and he looked annoyed. “That’s hardly any of your concern, Jade.”
The reprimand didn’t seem to bother her that much, but it kept her mouth closed for a moment.
“How is the initiative coming along?” Bertrand asked her.
“I’ve got penetration across the board,” she replied. “Per your instructions I’ve concentrated on the DomTer cells, and we’ve got assets in or close to leadership in 38 states. We’re pushing for full permeation, of course, but in the mean time we’ve got fully trained, invested assets who are ready to go right now.”
Travis turned from her to address Macmillan “I’ve got Jade going at this from a different angle, but her priority is identical to yours. We need assets tuned and fueled up PDQ, waiting on the ‘go’.”
Pretty Damn Quick was a lofty goal when you had to accomplish all that was cut out for Macmillan and the people under him.
“Your predecessor not only failed,” Bertrand told Macmillan, scowling, “but he managed to lose valuable assets in the process. I think part of the problem was, he promoted operators to leadership who were too hands-on. Brice Mallin was a hell of an operator; but the wrong man to run the show. Chiefs plan; Indians execute. Show your fangs a little, but I need you and your command structure where you can observe and administer. That means delegate and supervise. Unfortunately, it also means recruiting, to replace the operators we lost.”
Brice Mallin had a big reputation as a bad dude. But not only did he lose three teams of shooters overseas, he wound up greased himself.
“Yes sir,” Macmillan said.
“The teams we spoke of,” Bertrand went on, “with the civilian assets prepped for high-profile…that is your priority until further notice.”
Civilian assets. So that was it, after all. That was why McMillan’s teams were considered more expendable than whoever Jade Simmons had working for her.
“I want to see significant progress very soon.” Bertrand now glanced at Jade to include her in what he was about to say. “With any kind of operation like this, discretion is of the utmost concern. We can’t expect the press to be able to continue damage control for us with the same success they’ve had in the past.” His scowl deepened. “There are too many rogue elements out there now.” He gestured toward the headquarters building. “We’re working on that problem, but frankly, we might not be able to accomplish much until after you’ve done your job. Anyway, we’ve got to police the situation tightly, and there are these rogue elements trying to start trouble…most are crackpots, but there’s this one B.I.A. agent that doesn’t know his place.”
“Are you saying we’ve been compromised?” Jade Simmons asked.
“They’re all poking their noses into our business,” Bertrand replied. “This one was snooping around one of our prior operations. He’s not a blogger or reporter or anything like that, but he’s kicked up some dust in his little backwater. The risk is, having some training in investigation, he could stumble onto current operations. Perhaps even our priority initiative.”
“So you need him out of your hair?” Macmillan asked.
Bertrand coughed and made a face. “It’s trickier, now. He’s running for sheriff in his home county.”
“Too high profile,” Jade said, nodding.
“Not if he starts making waves again,” Bertrand said. “For now he’s backed off. So let’s get what we can on him. He’s got family. And if he does become sheriff, he’s got that to lose. In any case, I’m putting him at the top of our database.”
“Yes sir,” Macmillan said.
“Understood,” Jade said.
Bertrand directed his focus back on Macmillan “You should have the mission parameters already.”
“Yes sir,” Macmillan said.
“I want you to be prepared to operate anywhere on that list of venues. And I want every item from the criteria addressed.”
That was a tall order, but not impossible. Macmillan welcomed the challenge.
“Above all,” Bertrand said, “we can’t have loose ends. The press can’t smooth over sloppy work as well as it could in the past. They can’t until we sort out this whole Internet boondoggle. Eric Varney will help us with background checks on recruits, as always. But beyond that, you need to do some careful screening of your own. And keep on top of it, even when candidates pass. Attitudes can change. Someone might decide to stop being a team player.”
Bertrand was paranoid, Macmillan decided. Nothing on Earth could turn a made man once he’d graduated up through all the layers of concentric circles to get here. C.I.A. and NSA employees didn’t even have the clearance needed to be a part of this organization, now operating within a subcompartment of the DHS. Most of Congress didn’t even know the organization existed.
“If there’s any security breach whatsoever,” Bertrand said, “well, let’s just say you don’t want to be the person responsible.”
The link to False Flag is also on the upper right sidebar. You can watch the accompanying Youtube video here.