Chapter 4 of Sleeper Cell

The Director bounded into the car as his driver, Garret, softly shut the door. Garret had grown accustomed to a little witty banter while driving the Director however he knew there would be no talking today. Closing the partition after he entered the car he eased into traffic and continued to watch the navy Ford Taurus that had been tailing them for the past two days.

The Director was furious. A prominent doctor dead for over three months and he just finds out? Unfathomable. Heads would roll for this and he would see to it. Who ordered the hit and why?  This program had been in the works for years. This was beyond presidents. Presidents serve for a few years, cash a check for the rest of their lives, and hope their successor doesn’t completely undo all their “hard work”. He thought of the other heads of the intelligence community. How many of them knew what they were working on at the agency? Had Dr. Loveitt shared information with his colleagues? Scientists tend to be believe in the “greater good”. They still sip that pathetic brew of “good will toward man” and “this will being peace in our time”. They never learn. Peace cannot be manufactured or contrived. Nothing in a lab will create that unless it’s the cure for cancer.

The car hit what felt like a pothole, jarring the car. Quickly he fastened his seat belt. That’s all his wife needed, for him to die before their anniversary. He smirked. It would make for one heck of an excuse. He was already in enough trouble at work, he wouldn’t add to it. He was already struggling to keep the agencies multiple secret projects just that, secret. The press was always looking for a weak link. Someone looking for money or a little glory. Espionage wasn’t what it used to be. Too many do-gooders. Not enough of the “for the greater good”.

The car pulled to a stop outside of the house. Garret got out and opened the door for the Director. They exchanged goodbyes and Garret waited by the car for the Director to enter his home before driving off. He glanced in his review mirror, noticing for the first time that the Ford wasn’t following him. Tension in his body however did not release.

He climbed the five steps up the the front porch and took his time examining the street. The lovely trees were just beginning to bud. Soon every car would be covered with pollen. He hated the stuff but he loved the freshness of spring. He frowned to himself then smirked. His wife would laugh at him if she could read his mind. Since when did you become a sentimentalist?

He couldn’t think of why he’d chosen to come home rather than go back to the office. His wife wouldn’t be home, the kids still has three more hours at school, and he hated to be home alone. Since taking over the position of Director he’d hated to be anywhere alone. He felt unsafe. He could never voice that feeling. Never give utterance that fear. The fear that bubbled up anytime he was on his own. Fear would be the undoing of a lifetime of hard work. A slap to the face of all those cold nights spent in the car on some pointless stake out. He’d worked his way to the top but he truly felt for all his effort he and Henry 4th had something in common, his head hadn’t rested easy since his promotion.

He entered the house with his cheery warm colors, comfortable couches covered with linen throws, potpourri filled ash trays on the coffee tables and lamps. This was his home. The family photos that lined the walls. The glamorous wife with the flowing auburn hair. The three smiling children with deep chestnut eyes. They were all his. Somehow despite the craziness of his life he’d had a family that not only knew who he was but adored him. He had his wife to thank for that. He had to remember to wrap her gift, the second part, tickets to a show at the Kennedy Center couldn’t be wrapped.

All these thoughts swarmed in his mind as he entered the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. His wife has recently given it up but continued to buy his favorite brand. Adding the fresh cream mix his wife made every two days he took his cup to table.

Hearing a nose in the hallway he turned around and was surprised to find his wife standing at the threshold. But his surprise gave way to dread and he observed her clothes. The sharp, tailored, black pants, the crisp white shirt, the black blazer. His wife was an agent?

“Have a seat hon. I’d hate for you to fall and hit your head. The toxin should kick in soon.”

His mind froze, toxin? The coffee.

She smiled. “Close, the creamer. Never could understand why you’d want fresh creamer every day,” she said as she sat at the other end of the table.

“Who do you work for?”

She frowned. “Does that matter? Before you ask no, you weren’t my cover. Our marriage was real.”

He felt his throat slowly beginning to tighten even as the muscles in his face began to relax. He was dying.

“Was real?” Color seeping into his drooping cheeks.

His wife’s face was blank, emotionless. “You don’t have time for anger right now, any irritation will increase your blood flow and quicken the reaction of the toxin. It’ll be a worse end than I planned for you so please, try to be civil.” She ended her speech with a smirk.

He’d been living with a cold blooded killer and hadn’t known but he couldn’t bring himself to hate her. To his own disgust, he wished she worked for him.

“Fine. To business then. Why are you trying to kill me?”

“My agency was working with Dr. Loveitt on a serum that could enhance brain function. He was murdered before he could finish his research and deliver it to us. We want to know why you ordered the hit.”

He paled. His legs were growing numb and he felt like his skin was crawling. What the heck had she given him?

“What did you drug me with?!”

“A mix of my own devising. I specialize in toxicology, contract work”, she said shrugging, “now, why did you order the hit.”

How had he lived with this woman and not known this part of her existed? The love of his life was literally killing him.

“I found out about the hit a few hours ago. I didn’t call it in. I didn’t order it and I’m not sure who did.”

She glared at him. Twenty-six years they’d been married. She knew when he was lying. He wasn’t lying. He didn’t know and she’d possibly just ruined her best chance at the answer and the documents for the serum.

“What about the documents for the serum?”

“The documentsss he smuggg-led out were never retrieved. The- e- they weren’t in the apartment.”

She was beginning to panic. He was going quicker then she suspected, perhaps he had lost some weight after all. Either way, the information she needed he didn’t have.

She paved the floor. She always paced the floor when she was deep in thought. He found the gesture oddly amusing and infuriating. She was deep in thought while he slowly died at dining room table her mother bought them as a wedding present. He hated this table.

She stopped and turned on her heels. Tears slowly filled her eyes. He thought he was about to see the beginning of an Oscar worthy performance.

“They knew. They knew you had no idea who ordered this hit. They knew I would follow orders to take you out because they told me the one thing that would make me consider it. They showed all this “proof”?! They wanted me to kill you so you wouldn’t get the answers.” She sank to the floor directly in front of his chair.

He said nothing. They’d setup his wife and she’d actually followed through. No heads up, no compunction, she’d thought he’d betrayed this country and had poisoned him as payment. The irony was galling.

“Please say something” she begged, tears rolling her cheeks she clutched his hands, they barely warm.

“We had a good run”, he croaked, a hoarse sounding chuckle escaping from his lips.

With the saddest look on her face she nodded. Her heart told her to try and make the antidote. Her brain told her it was too late. Already his eyes were unfocused and glassy.

“Kennedy Center.”

“What?” She snapped back to reality squeezing his hands tighter.

“Your anniversary gift…a concert maybe…”

His words were slurring, he was fading rapidly. So rapidly. How much of the creamer had he used? Angrily she thought, it doesn’t matter now.

“Tell the kids I loved them, will you?”

His lids fluttered twice. A twitch about the mouth and he was gone.

An agonizing scream tore from her lips. She leaned over his body and wept. She shouted at the walls of the empty house that they would pay. Everyone involved would pay.

Five minutes later the house was a ball of flames. It’s owners would be found in the rubble. The Director and his wife would receive all the proper honors. It’s the least they could do for such faithful service.