Langley, Virginia, United States
January 8, 2010
The tech department of the CIA was unnaturally quiet when Agent Bay Grace walked in carrying a battalion of Starbucks coffees. The technology experts sat hunched over their desks, tapping away at their paper-thin keyboards and peering at their large computer consoles. The usual chatter that Bay, as the head of tech, had become accustomed to was absent, replaced by an electric sort of forlorn silence that was alien to the cluttered tech room.
“Coffees,” announced Bay to the room at large, his voice dripping with false enthusiasm. Somehow he knew before he spoke that the reaction he got would not fulfill his hopes that the lack of enthusiasm in the room was directly related to the lack of caffeine.
A few people glanced up nervously, but most remained bent towards their computers. Bay adopted a puzzled look beneath his windswept black bangs and walked cautiously across the floor to his desk.
Bay’s workspace was at the end of the long rectangular room, his desk set up so that he was facing all the others, able to oversee the entire department. Junk was piled on his desk around his computer, old soda cans and candy wrappers spilling over the rim of his small trash bin and on to the smoothed concrete floor. His computer was surrounded by small devices, wires spilling out of their insides, and between two bookends was a host of disks in paper sleeves, organized by type and level of classification.
Bay set the large drink holder down carefully on his desktop and slid two warm paper Starbucks cups from it, taking a sip from one. The hot liquid scalded his tongue and he spluttered loudly, spraying a fine mist of coffee over the poor tech operative sitting in front of him.
Agent Enrique Gonzalez looked up calmly.
“Good morning, boss,” he said, pronouncing each syllable with a punctuality that suggested he was not amused. “Thanks for the coffee.”
Bay offered him the second paper coffee cup, careful to hold it by the corrugated cardboard heat guard. Enrique looked at it warily for a moment and then snatched it from him. He took a swig of it and then winced as it burnt his mouth.
Bay sat on the corner of his desk, uneasy in the relentless hush. “So, Ricky,” he started.
“So,vato,” said Enrique, not looking up from his work.
Bay shot him a glare. “Why’s everyone so quiet this morning?”
Enrique shrugged unconvincingly. “The boss came by looking for you earlier.”
Bay almost choked on his coffee. “And no one bothered to say anything?” he spluttered.
Enrique smiled and shook his head shortly. “But I just did, didn’t I,vato?”
Bay was already halfway across the room by the time Enrique finished speaking. He erupted out the doors and strode purposefully down the deserted hallway towards the heart of Clandestine Services. He saw no one on the way there, save for a few desk workers in their various paper-cluttered grey offices and cubicles. At the end of the confusion of halls he hurried down was a circular sort of communal area, at the far end of which was an empty conference room. Bay peeled off along the left wall of the round room and stopped outside a windowless wooden door.
Straightening his wrinkled Bon Jovi tee shirt, he knocked twice on the door. For a second nothing happened, but then there was a voice from the office on the other side.
“Come in, Agent Grace.”
Bay leant on the door handle and coaxed the heavy door open, barely allowing himself space to slide through before letting the door clunk shut. The office was well-kept, organized and prim down to the carefully carven eagle on the front of the oaken desk, the studiously alphabetized book collection against the opposite wall. The woman behind the desk wore an olive colored dress that was only a few shades darker than the ugly green paint on the walls, and her deep red hair was drawn back in a severe bun, only a single curl out of place.
Agent Jillian Hawthorne looked up when he entered, dropping her pen back into the black mug that read#1 Spyin the corner of her workspace. “Sit down,” she said curtly.
Bay sat down hard in one of the sparsely stuffed chairs opposite her desk and began twiddling his thumbs. “I heard you were looking for me, ma’am,” he said, shifting in his seat in an attempt to rise up to her level.
Jillian crossed her legs and sunk a little in her chair, confident that the small hidden platform her desk was set on would keep her above the tech agent in the chair before her. “Yes,” she said simply. “I need you to drop everything you’re currently working on.”
She gave her words a moment to sink in, waiting until Bay’s expression relaxed enough to seem normal, and then continued. “I want you to dig up everything we’ve got on a Mossad agent called Mary Cohen. Honestly, I don’t care who you have to hack to get it. By the time you leave for lunch I want to know everything there is to know about her.”
Bay eyed the Director of Clandestine Services with that probing look that all employees of the CIA eventually come to adopt. “If I may ask why, ma’am?”
Jillian regarded him for a long moment with an eyebrow quirked. “Just a routine swap, Agent Grace. Nothing to be worried about, I assure you,” she spoke with such false sincerity and audacious formality that Bay had to bite his tongue to keep from demanding to know what she was hiding. The tedious game of chess that the sharp-witted members of Clandestine Services were forced to navigate daily required more political patience than artless inquiry.
Instead he waited for Jillian to speak again, his hands clasped in his lap to discontinue his useless fiddling.
After a long minute she did, smiling in that trademark Jillian way that Bay had come to associate with lemons and serial killers. “Dismissed, Agent Grace.”