It was New Year's Day, but that didn't matter. Trevor Wallace, the man who ran the Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security, said, "Come in," and I came in.
This past year hadn't been a bad one. I had gotten my usual bonuses and commendations. All that was left was to tie up a couple of loose ends for The Boss--and yeah, that was with caps--and then I'd see what I was up for: blonde or brunet for bed, Italian or French for dinner.
Ned, the day security man, wasn't around, but I didn't give it much thought, figuring he was in the can. He was an older man, and he'd been having problems with his prostate.
I passed his station and took the stairs to the seventh floor. Elevators were for the careless.
My secretary wasn't at her desk in the outer office, but that didn't surprise me either. None of the support staff were required to work on any of the major holidays. Most of the agents and directors weren't either, but I hadn't achieved the position of senior special agent by taking the odd day off. As far as I was concerned, I was always on the clock.
I turned on my computer, but instead of the wallpaper with Robert Sperling's face in a bull's-eye coming up--I'd lost good men because of him, and one day I'd make him pay in spades--a Word document opened.
By order of the President of the United States of America:
As of this date, the Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security has been disbanded, and your services will no longer be required.
It was signed by the CEO of Huntingdon Corporation.
"What the fuck?" I wasn't buying this. I stormed up to Trevor Wallace's office on the tenth floor.
Ms. DiBlasi, The Boss's secretary, sat staring at her monitor.
"Is Mr. Wallace in?"
"Where else would he be?" She turned to face me. Slow tears rolled down her cheeks.
Oh shit. The world must be coming to an end. I'd never seen her exhibit any emotion other than a supercilious disdain.
But I was too steamed to even knock on the door. I just shoved it open and stalked toward the desk. "What the fuck is this bullshit?"
The Boss's elbows were propped on his desk, and his face was buried in his hands. His Glock was on the desk before him. He looked up, and it was as if he'd aged a hundred years.
"It's over. Huntingdon has been forced into bankruptcy court."
"The vice president somehow learned that Huntingdon was a front for the WBIS. He's made sure all funding has been withdrawn. I'm sorry. He's always had a hard-on for me."
"I guess it's just as well he never asked you to go hunting with him."
The Boss laughed, but it was a hollow sound at best. I'd never seen him look so lost.
"What will you do, sir?"
He nudged the gun.
"Don't give the bastard the satisfaction!"
"It's not a question of satisfaction, Mark." He'd never called me anything other than Vincent. More than anything, that signified this was the end of... what? An era? The world as we knew it? "The WBIS has been my life. I'm too old to start again, and I have no intention of moving down to Florida to wind up in some senior citizens retirement facility listening to my arteries harden and playing canasta."
"I'm sorry, sir." It was hard to accept that The Boss was in his midseventies. He'd always been strong, vital, and in control.
"Don't be. I've had a good run." He studied me carefully. "You, though. You've got a long way to go. The CIA has put out feelers for you."
"Already? How long have they known?"
The Boss scrubbed his face. "Their e-mail showed up just after the one from Huntingdon."
"Bastards." I laughed bitterly. "As if I'd work for those fuckers."
"I'm requesting you do just that, Mark, if only to show them what the best can do."
It would be like bending over and asking for it, and if anyone but Trevor Wallace had asked this of me, I'd have told him to eat shit and die. But I respected The Boss more than anyone on God's green earth, and so I'd do it for him.
I felt my throat start to clog, something that hadn't happened since '91 when I'd learned Tio 'Ze, one of the decent men my old lady had somehow managed to bring home, had gone down in a nor'easter.
I cleared my throat and extended my hand. "It's been an honor, sir."
"I can say the same, Mark. Good luck."
As I walked toward the door, I heard The Boss thumb the intercom and request Ms. DiBlasi to come in.
She was walking around her desk as I came into the outer office. Her eyes were dry now, and her lips were in a firm line.
"Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"With the WBIS disbanded, you'll need another job." And at her age, it wouldn't be easy to find something comparable to what she'd had here.
"Thank you. Trevor always insisted you were a good man."
"And you didn't agree?" I grinned to show there were no hard feelings. She was one of the few women who'd... not intimidated me, because no one intimidated me... but I did respect her.
"Truthfully, I had my doubts. I always suspected you were concealing something."
The only thing I'd ever hidden was my actual birth date. I liked working in the field, and knowing when I'd been recruited that retirement was mandatory at the age of thirty-five, I'd fudged my birth records. Was she aware that I was going to be forty this year and not thirty-five as my records indicated?
And then I realized it didn't fucking matter. I wasn't going to be with the WBIS any longer.
"Thank you for your concern, but you needn't worry about me. Trevor and I have discussed the future. He'll handle everything."
I'd always had a feeling there was something between them beyond employer/employee.
She held out her hand. "Good-bye, Mr. Vincent."
"Good-bye, Ms. DiBlasi."
I was reaching for the doorknob when one shot rang out and then another. I paused for a second and then opened the door and left.