Russell Long exited the car and retrieved the soda can. Russell wasn’t careful. He pulled the can from its hiding place and returned to the car without a glance around. If he’d looked, he would have seen his old partner watching him. I am retired now, but I could still play with the big boys if I had to, especially when the big boys were careless.
Word reached me from anonymous sources that there was a shoot-to-kill order out on me. I expected that. What worried me and lured me back into the country was the word that my former bosses had questioned my mentor and old friend LeAnne Talbot about my retirement and my whereabouts. We had expected that too. However, they had taken it to a new level. Informal questions had become formal, and the government, my former bosses, charged her with treason for aiding and abetting the enemy.
I let my mind briefly wander back over the years as I followed Russell’s car from the dead to the living side of town. We worked together for the Company for over ten years, and both of us had done things we hated in the name of national security. He was now the agent in charge at this station. I’d worked with him in the “Good Ole Days” when it was fun to be a spy, but I also knew Russell’s dark side. The part he kept hidden from the world. I’d seen him go dark and dangerous more times than I cared to remember. The last time was in Russia seven years ago, and it almost cost us our careers and lives.
We were undercover working on a construction site near the Kremlin, planting bugs to intercept messages from inside the compound. Our cover as construction workers gave us access to the grounds.
But a Russian general’s daughter who worked at the Kremlin had caught Russell’s eye. She drove past the construction site daily, and he became obsessed with her. He stayed after work one night and followed her back to the general’s estate. I trailed him. He cornered her there, and when she refused his advances, he became crazed. What he did not know was that I saw and videotaped his crime.
I should have reported him to our superiors, but the political climate was too volatile, and if our cover were blown, all hell would have broken loose. So, I hid the video where no one could find it. The authorities questioned us as we were on her daily route, but our construction worker covers held. I always suspected the Russians didn’t believe us, but they had no proof. The official report said she’d been raped and strangled by an unknown person. The Russian police had no solid leads and no suspects other than the construction crews working in the area, and there had been no arrest. The Company station director removed us from the country, and we returned to the states.
A year had passed since I abruptly retired from the Company, or more precisely, fled from the Company and disappeared. I had decided that I couldn’t do the work anymore, but one does not retire from this job and disappear completely, but that is what I did. My former employers had issued “shoot to kill” orders, but I had to come.
The black ops prisons that former operatives disappeared into and never heard from again were common knowledge. We couldn’t tell secrets if there was no one to tell.
However, I kept a few trusted contacts, and the rumors were that LeAnne was scheduled to vanish. She knew too much, and they wanted her out of circulation so that she couldn’t talk to anyone. The people who wanted me dead retained her to question her before she was sent to a black ops prison because they suspected she knew where I was. LeAnne had helped me disappear but did not know where I had fled.
I followed Russell’s Mercedes until he got to the area of town where there was extensive CTV. I dropped back and let him go because I knew where he was going, and I didn’t want to be recognized.
I spent the next couple of days outside the city to finalize my plans to rescue LeAnne. I had retrieved the information I had hidden and set certain wheels in motion, which would happen regardless of my success. Then I rested and waited.
I watched the comings and goings from my vantage point outside of the city, never daring to enter until now. My contact reported that Russell was alone with LeAnne at the covert location. The trek took longer as I avoided the security cameras around the city. The skills they taught me to keep the country safe served me well to keep myself out of the kind of jail they denied exists.
They held her in a black ops house that I knew well. As I neared the house, I realized this was my last chance to back out, but I couldn’t. I owed her.
Russell opened the door as I stepped on the porch. “I never expected to see you again.”
“You wouldn’t now, would you?”
“How did you find me?”
“I hung out at the sheds in Lower Town. You always hated to find new drop locations. Followed you until I was sure you were headed for this ops house. I heard you had LeAnne and plan to transfer her to a federal prison tomorrow. A prison she will never walk out of, will she?”
He scoffed. “You can’t stop it. Besides, we have what we want now—you.”
“Not going to happen, Russell, because LeAnne and I are walking out of here right now.”
Russell pulled his gun from its holster and aimed it at me. “You know I can’t let you do that.”
I smiled. “Yes, you can, and you will.” I pulled a manila envelope from inside my jacket.
“In here are the details of the Russian mission nine years ago—pictures, names, dates, and video of what happened when the general’s daughter died. It proves you raped and strangled her. We all know the official version and that they bought it. Barely. This will put you where you want to send LeAnne.”
“I can just shoot you.” He stuck the gun barrel against my chest.
“Within five minutes of my death, a copy of this report will go to your superiors and every major news outlet in the world, starting with the Russian press. How long do you think you’d last?”
He started to respond, but I dangled the package in front of him. He crossed the room and unlocked a door. “Get out here.”
LeAnne timidly entered the room and ran to me. “Thank you. I hoped you would come.”
Russell was still holding the gun on me. “Give me the file.”
“Sure.” I raised my arm as if to toss it to him, but instead, in one quick move, I sent an uppercut to his jaw, and he was out cold.
I dropped the envelope onto his body and grabbed LeAnne’s hand. As we hurried from the house, she asked why I had given Russell the information.
“No, there was only blank paper in the envelope. I mailed the real report to his superiors. Russell will pay for what he did.”
The drive out of town seemed to take longer than it did. For an experienced operative, I jumped at every sudden move that any vehicle in my sight made. By the time Russell woke up, the files I’d sent from an anonymous, untraceable email account would be landing on his director’s desk, along with the ones I sent to various news agencies. LeAnne disappearing would be the least of his worries.
Eventually, the Company would get around to LeAnne and me. Russell would tell them I was there, but we would be long gone before they came looking for us. The only way to truly disappear was to die, and that is what LeAnne and I did. I’d faked bodies before, but I never thought I’d be faking my own.
A raid on a cadaver farm provided the bodies, and the staged car wreck burned the bodies beyond recognition. I planted our DNA at the scene, so there was just enough material left to prove it was us.
Six months later, while sitting in a beach cabana with LeAnne, I read the local newspaper. On the back page buried under the local island news about the cockfight ring that had just been broken up was a small piece about a former US spy charged in the rape and murder of a Russian General’s daughter more than nine years ago.
As for LeAnne and I, we settled down to a quiet beach bum life. No black ops prisons for us. But I never stopped looking over my shoulder.