A mole is hunting John and his two associates. They must find the mole first.
Turning my attention to the corner of windows and bookshelves under my stairs, I watched Alia Dennison standing stiff with a tablet cradled in her arm. Bright light from a wide metallic ring beamed down on Alia and the empty chair next to her. Alia stared off into the distance and spoke to no one. It was weird watching her telecommute to Remi Shadix through a holographic projector.
For three weeks this had been going on. I’ve been trapped with Dawn and Mara’s arguing and Alia’s work. During the day I help Mara and Dawn go through the background checks of the higher ups, looking for the mole, but these two get into a lot of fights. Those are the times I walk away.
During the night Alia sleeps with me while Dawn and Mara are in the spare bedroom. There isn’t much sleeping going on. We all work late into the night and get up early and start over. Remi Shadix parties most nights, which keeps Alia up and then Remi gets up for her daily routine and Alia has to be there for any demands. The three of us just want to get through the background checks as quickly as possible.
There are Security Officers posted outside my door and at the main entrance downstairs. The only place I am allowed to go is to the office or home. Mr. Jackson is taking the threats against our lives seriously, but I wish he had not made us all stay together. I did not have much choice in the situation. Mr. Jackson cited imminent domain laws. While I am paying on my condo, the place is still AppleGates Union property. Since the corporation owns it they can put anyone they want in my condo. When I tried to object, Mr. Jackson reminded me they could also evict me whenever they wanted.
“I need a break!” exhaled Mara and pushed herself away from the table. I watched her march up the stairs to the spare bedroom.
I sat in Mara’s spot as a door upstairs slammed. Dawn moaned and buried her head in her crossed legs and arms. “What was your argument about this time?” I asked.
Without looking up Dawn mumbled to me. “We’ve gone through the information on all of the upper management who had access to the files on our assassination of Brian Walton.”
Dawn sat up and swished her hair back. “Well, we’ve compiled quite the list of bribes, laundering, blackmail, and misallocation of funds for prostitutes and drugs. But, there wasn’t anything that we could trace back to Walmart Corporation that would suggest a mole.”
“Great a dead end,” I took another sip of my tea, “Get off my table.”
Dawn moaned, flopping back on the table top. I’m glad for reinforced glass.
The next day Mara, Dawn, and I met with Mr. Jackson our Brokerage CEO and Mr. Coleman our supervisor. We sat tensely quiet as they reviewed the information we had dug up. Their grim visages said it all.
Mr. Jackson tossed the tablet with the information we dug up across the table at us. “This work is inconsequential. You were supposed to be finding a mole. Not digging up dirt!” Which meant he would do nothing about the information we found on the management and higher up brokers.
“I’m sorry sir,” I offered. “We just couldn’t find any evidence of a mole with those who had access to the data on the assassination.”
Mr. Jackson stood and buttoned his suit coat. Checking the short lapel was still standing up around his neck he looked down on all of us. “Expand the search,” and he marched from the meeting room with his personal assistant in tow.
The tension lifted as we all relaxed. Coleman adjusted his tie. “You heard him. You’re going to do background checks on everyone.”
“That’ll take months!” exclaimed Dawn, dropping her legs onto the edge of the table.
“And, a lot of people will come and go from the brokerage during that time. We won’t be able to catch them all,” added Mara.
“Alright then,” I stated. “We’ll start with seniority and flag anyone who is quitting or getting fired. We’ll work our way back from there.”
Dawn was not satisfied. “We’re missing something. Somehow someone had access to files that showed our assassination of Brian Walton.”
Mr. Coleman shrugged. “All things being equal they must have hacked our system somehow. I’ll have our programmers look for any signs of infiltration.” Coleman stood waved us towards the door. “C’mon, the sooner you get to this the sooner you’ll be done.”
I spent the next several hours at the office setting up the protocols for searching everyone in the Brokerage. I could have done the work from home, but the office oddly enough seemed like fresh scenery. Even though I endured several cracks about living with three women, it was still nicer than listening to Mara and Dawn fight.
I caught myself blankly staring at my heads up display for several minutes. All this paperwork had fried my brain. It was time for a break. I closed down my terminal and headed downstairs to the gym. In the elevator my phone buzzed. I pulled up the floating holograph of Dawn’s head.
Her hologram locked eyes with me. “I need to talk to you now. I’m at your place,” Dawn’s head dimmed into nothingness. That was strange. Dawn is usually more talkative on the phone.
After meeting up with my security detail in the garage, they drove me back to my condo building. On the way home the two security officers joked with me about their babysitting detail. They could not believe a couple of brokers needed protection. I just smiled at them when they said we must not be as tough as the rumors say.
Staring out the window I watched the pedestrians walking in their raincoats and umbrellas. It was raining just enough to be a nuisance. The cold wind off the coast didn’t help. It was a dark grey day. What little sunlight that got through the clouds would disappear in about an hour, with the sunset.
Once deposited in front my building, I trotted up the stairs to the front door. One of the posted security officers was going through an elderly woman’s bag. The other officer opened the front door for me as I flashed my broker badge.
At the entrance to my condo the two security officers lethargically nodded at me and stepped aside so I could enter. Dawn was sitting on my table with a tablet heads up display in her lap.
“I really wish you’d stop sitting on my table.” I pleaded with her.
“It’s comfortable up here and I can see everything,” Dawn slid the tablet off her legs as she unplugged a data chip from it.
“So, what was so important you needed to see me?” I then noticed Alia was not in her usual spot telecommuting to Remi. “Where’s Alia?”
“I had her go hang out with Shadix. She doesn’t need to be here right now.”
“OK.” I was on edge. Something was wrong.
“This has all the information on it that I found,” Dawn said as she handed me the data chip. “I figured out who the mole was.”
That piqued my attention. “Who is it?”
“We were only three agents that knew about the assassination, but we never checked ourselves,” Dawn explained. “I took the liberty of skipping the check on myself…I trust myself…Anyway, you were clear, but Mara wasn’t.”
“Mara wasn’t, what?” came Mara’s voice from behind me at the front door.
I turned to face her.
“I did background checks on you and John,” Dawn said. “John cleared. You didn’t.”
Mara’s face went blank. After a moment of standing there frozen, “Ah hell,” Mara lightning fast pulled her handgun from under her coat. There was no time to react. The shot rang out. Dawn’s body collapsed backwards onto the table.
I and dove behind the kitchen counter. More shots sounded. I felt sharp pain in my shoulder and the back of my thigh as I landed on the floor behind my cabinets. I pulled my weapon.
The front door slammed open and several shots were fired. Silenced followed the sound of bodies dropping to the floor. I paused for a second then popped up over the counter with my gun out in front of me. No one was there. Making my way around the kitchen counter I found the two security officers from outside lying on the carpet blood pooling around them. Swinging around I looked at Dawn’s lifeless body. There was no time to check any of them, but I did grope at the pain in my shoulder and the back of my leg. I was grazed by her bullets.
I mashed the comm button on the security screen of the main entrance. “Security! Stop Agent Mara McBride! She just…” before I could finish the sentence the main door security officers were sprayed in the back with bullets. The desk woman dropped behind her counter.
I took off running down the hallway to the stairs. On my way I noticed a trail of blood on the floor. The blood led the way to the elevator. Mara must have been hit by one of the security officers. Five flights of stairs between me and the main floor. I took the steps down two at a time. Halfway down the flight I would jump over the rail to the next flight of stairs. Even though they were grazes, each one seared as I pounded down the stairs. Adrenaline helped me move past the pain.
In the lobby my eyes were drawn to the two motionless security officers. A mouse like screech came from the front desk. I swung my weapon around pointing it at the sound.
The woman behind the desk barely peeked over the counter. Shakily she pointed outside. “She got on that bus.”
I flew through the front doors and leapt at the bus. The doors had just barely started to close when I wedged myself between them. The bus lurched forward as the brakes locked up.
Pulling myself through the doors I swiped my identification chip and called out. “Bus, verify identification. Broker John Carrio.”
The mechanical female voice chimed throughout the bus. “Identification verified.”
“Emergency override. Halt bus.”
“Confirmed,” the parking brakes hissed.
The bus was half full with passengers who were transfixed on me and my gun. They gathered their belongings closer to themselves and shrank into their seats trying to make themselves smaller targets.
“Bus,” I called out again. “Lock all exits.”
“Negative. Safety protocols forbid me from locking the doors while there are still passengers aboard.” Damn.
“Mara. Come out. You can’t get off the bus, without me shooting you.”
A man towards the back stood up slowly. Sweat beaded on his face. He was petrified. Mara’s head poked out from around the man’s shoulder. Her free arm snaked over the other shoulder to hold him in place. Her gun appeared at his side pointed into his ribs.
“Mara, you’re done. That man is AGU property. Shooting him is destruction of property,” I raised my gun a little higher. “Now I’m still a broker and on a mission. I can do whatever I want to that property. If you don’t surrender I’m going to shoot him and then I’m going to shoot you.”
The man flailed forward towards me. Trying to keep his balance he ran straight at me. Mara called my bluff as she pushed the man forward into me. We all went down on the floor. Before I could get the man off of me Mara was up and out the side door.
I could hear Mara screaming something outside as I untangled myself from the man who curled up into the fetal position sobbing. I pushed my way through the side door. My body locked up and I slammed into the ground. I tried unsuccessfully to move my arms and legs. I fought hard, but blackness over took me.
The first sensation I remembered was the hard surface I was laying on. I could sense the harsh light through my closed eyes. I tried to move my arm to shade my eyes. Sharp pains ran from my shoulder to my hand. I groaned as I slowly lifted my body off the metal cot. I hunched over the edge and slowly opened my eyes to see Mr. Coleman sitting cross-legged and cross-armed on a metal toilet. I was in a holding cell.
“I hate being stunned.” I groaned.
“You’re lucky security only hit you with the stunners,” Coleman said. “You raised some hell on that bus. I know you legally could have shot that passenger, but I can’t believe you told him that you could.”
Ignoring the criticism I asked, “Did Mara get away?”
“Apparently she came off the bus screaming about a gunman on the bus. Security concentrated on you, letting her get away.”
“So, now what?”
“Well Mr. Jackson wants you put on admin leave, but you’re the closest thing we have to a lead on where Mara would go.”
“Mara’s injured. She needs medical help.”
Coleman relaxed from his sitting position on the toilet. “I think I can help with that,” he stood. “You ready to get out of here?”
Coleman and I found ourselves in the outskirts of Seattle amongst all the slummers and rundown buildings. I felt like a dog following my boss through the debris of the streets. I was not sure where he was going and he was not talkative.
After about twenty minutes of what seemed like wandering around Coleman stopped in an alley. He faced a set of stairs going down into a building. Crudely painted on the wall next to the stairs was ‘Doctor.’
I followed Coleman down the stairs and through a door. Inside was a waiting room full of slummers. They all looked more miserable than usual. Some were nursing wounds, others were sick with the flu or something else. I desperately wanted a surgical mask and gloves.
A woman in grey hospital scrubs stood up from one of the slummers. “May I help you?”
Coleman turned to her with a genial smile. “We’re looking for the doctor.”
She was obviously nervous about the two men in front of her who were clearly not slummers. She crossed her arms over her chest and steeled herself. “He’s with a patient.”
Coleman pointed towards a door at the back of the room. “Through here?”
“Wait!” she called as she jumped in front of my supervisor.
Coleman whipped open his suit coat showing his sidearm tucked under his shoulder. “Do you want to be arrested for illegal administration of medical care?”
Her ebony complexion turned ashen and she shook her head as she stepped aside. Coleman strolled quietly through the back door. I was close on his heels.
The back room was very clean and well lit. The walls had been scrubbed and holes had been patched. Clean white tile covered the floor. There were three full beds each separated for privacy by curtains. In one of the beds was a young girl. Her face was smeared with dirt. She clung to a ratty stuffed animal that was missing an eye. One of the legs was ripped off and stuffing was poking out of the opening.
A curtain slid open to reveal a fourth full bed and the doctor. He immediately recognized we were trouble. “What do you want?”
Coleman smiled at him clasping his hands in front of him. “Doctor. I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we are looking for a woman on the run, who has been shot.”
The doctor busied himself with writing in the chart on his tablet. “I haven’t treated any gunshot wounds in a long while.”
My supervisor got up close to the doctor and smiled. “We would know if she had checked into one of the reputable clinics. You are the only place she could go.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t help you.”
Coleman’s smile disappeared. “You have been a sort of amusement to the CEOs with what you do here. But, if you’re going to hide terrorists we will shut you down. Then where would your poor slummers go?”
The doctor looked up at us. “If I give her up, I’ll lose the trust of these people.”
Coleman stepped into him. “Where is she?”
The doctor’s eyes darted to another door in the room.
I heard the shot from our right. Before I could react my boss toppled onto his side. The doctor took cover behind a desk. I pulled my sidearm and took aim to my right just in time to see a ghost white Mara standing in the door to the other room. She dashed for the main door to the waiting room. I was able to squeeze off two rounds, but both missed her.
I dropped down next to Coleman. He had a bloody hole in his arm. I helped him sit up. “Don’t just sit there! Go after her!”
I stood pausing for a brief second.
“Don’t worry,” Coleman said. “I’ll have the good doctor fix me up.”
A commotion sounded from the waiting room. I ran through the door into mass hysteria in the room full of waiting slummers. Keeping my gun held out in front of me I scanned the room. Everyone was huddling on the floor. They screamed louder when they saw me and my handgun.
The nurse piped up from the huddled group pointing at the front entrance. “She came through here waving a gun!”
Out the main door and up the stairs into the mist like rain. I found no one moving in the alleyway. I pulled out my mini flashlight from the side of my belt. I shuffled down the alley quickly towards the main street flashing the light in the eyes of the slummers that huddled against the building wall. Out on the street there was no movement, just piles of blowing trash.
Stomping back into the alley I kicked a small box in front of a slummer.
“Hey!” the slummer yelled. “That was my table.”
I stopped and took a deep breath. I turned back to the upset slummer. “Sorry about that.”
Back in the slummer clinic I found the doctor applying a compression bandage to my supervisor’s arm.
I asked, “Did she contact anyone while she was here?”
The doctor ignored me. I waited for a few seconds for him to finish with the bandage and an arm sling. When he stepped back I grabbed him by his scrubs and threw him against a wall. Leaning into him, “I’m tired of screwing around! Where did she go?!”
The doctor swallowed hard. “I don’t know where she went, but she did use my tablet to contact someone.”
“Who?” I demanded.
“I don’t know.”
I dropped the doctor to grab his tablet. A few taps on the tablet brought up an AGU Communications Officer. “John Carrio. Broker ID 3219”
“Confirmed,” said the floating operator’s head.
“I need to see the comms for the past hour on this tablet.”
After a few seconds, a list of six calls appeared. Only one was audio only. Opening the audio file, I listened carefully to the unknown male and Mara’s voices go back and forth. Finally, the man gave Mara a destination. It was a boat at Pier 39. Berth G.
For as long as it took me to get out of the slums and find a security patrol I thought for sure I would miss Mara at the docks. It was way past midnight when I arrived. There was no activity around the berths. All the lights on the yachts were out. Those with masts swayed back and forth from the gentle current underneath them. It was peaceful.
Finding berth G, I circled about the ship looking for any signs of life. It was a small motorized yacht. I don’t think it was built for long travel. There didn’t appear to be anyone on board. Once on I searched below deck and found no one.
I decided to make myself comfortable at the table below deck. I had a good view of the cabin door and through the small windows that surrounded me. I sat back and took two relaxing deep breaths. I checked my gun to see I had a full clip and laid it on the table in front of me.
I wondered how long it would take for Mara to show up. She probably did not take any public transportation for fear of being recognized by security officers. She did not have a car. Most likely she was making her way here on foot, trying to avoid cameras and security. It will take her awhile.
In that time when the night sky fades and before the sun peeks over the horizon I watched a pair of black sneakers walk along the berth. The sneakers climbed onto the yacht and stumbled around on the deck trying to do something to prepare to take off.
I picked up my gun and slowly made my way to the cabin entrance. Silently I climbed the short stairs to the deck where I waited with my gun pointed at Mara. She was bent over the cabinet under the seating. She held her side and grunted every few seconds. Mara finally stood up with what seemed to be a lot of relief, but still cradled her side.
Mara let her head fall backwards to look up at the orange spreading through the sky. “I’m too damn tired and hurt to fight you. Are you gonna shoot me or what.”
“When did you see me?” I asked.
“As I walked up to the boat, I saw you sitting at the table down below.”
“Why didn’t you run?”
Mara clumsily turned around to stare at me with dead eyes. “I really don’t have anywhere else to run,” Mara perked up a little. “Why don’t you come with me? We could use you.”
“You’re just trying to get me to let you go.”
“Actually, no. The Patriots are interested in you.”
“Yeah. There are tens of thousands of us. They’ve created an organization that is going to start taking back control of the U.S. from the corporations. We sold the information about the assassination to Walmart to hopefully start a hostile takeover in retaliation.”
“Why are they interested in me?”
“Your father was one of the founders of the...”
The side of Mara’s head exploded outwards. A long range shot echoed through the air. The force of the bullet threw Mara’s body sideways flopping her halfway over the side of the boat.
My natural reaction was to take cover, but a reflection flashed across my eyes. I looked to the top of the buildings on the pier. A second of scanning the roofs revealed Mr. Coleman standing with his arm in a sling next to a kneeling sniper.
I looked over the edge of the boat to see Mara’s long purple hair bobbing in and out of the water. I dragged her body back onto the deck and took a seat to watch the brokerage vehicles come to a screeching halt on the pier. Brokers and tech piled out of the vehicles running down the dock to the boat.
The first broker on the scene politely ordered me off the yacht. I stood up feeling as lifeless as Mara. I walked mindlessly up the dock passing a few more techs and brokers. I was distracted trying to piece together what Mara was talking about. She was not working for a corporation. It was an organization of patriots and they wanted me. My father was one of them.
My supervisor met me in the parking lot of the pier. He was still in the same bloody dress shirt, but his wound was well tended and the sling was a brand new one with pads for the neck and arm. He must have been to a real hospital first before organizing the attack on the boat.
“Why did you shoot her?” I asked.
“She was a traitor,” replied Coleman.
“She was going to tell me everything.”
“What did Mara say?”
I paused for a moment before saying anything. The Brokerage did not need to know everything. “She wasn’t working for a corporation. She said patriots are organizing and trying to destabilize the corporations.”
“She was feeding you a line if crap. We’d know if there was such a group. There’s been nothing even in the rumor mills about patriots.”
“Maybe your intel sucks!”
Coleman stood quietly waiting for me to calm down. “Go home. We’ll call you when we need you.”
Three days later I stood with Alia in front of an incinerator at the funeral home watching flames lick at the small window in the door. Mara McBride’s body was being reduced to ash and her remains would be disposed of like trash. The fate of a traitor. There would be no funeral. Not even a place marker somewhere showing that she existed.
I stared blankly at the incinerator contemplating the questions Mara had left me with. How did my father help organize the patriots? Why did they want me? How were they going to destabilize the corporations in North America?
As for the case, Mara was considered the mole, but as for which corporation she had been working for was left unsolved. None of the higher ups believed me about the patriots. It was all chalked up to the usual corporate espionage.
The whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. Because of the whole mess, it was recommended I take an extended paid vacation. I was assured that I was not a concern in the investigation, but I needed to take some time to clear my head.
Alia squeezed my hand. I turned to look at her. She smiled at me reassuringly and said, “C’mon. We need to get going so we can make it to Dawn’s funeral.”