Burying the Past
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
“What are you planning?” Whitaker asked as they got back in the car and headed home.
“I need to find a way into the investigation.”
“Yeah, I get that,” she said. “How? You know Joe isn’t a fan of yours. Neither are a lot of the other top brass. They don’t like your methods, and they all think you’re a loose cannon. There is no way in hell they’ll let you take part of an active investigation.”
“The rank and file guys I know like me,” Taylor said defensively.
“Yeah, cause you get results. That’s all that matters to the people in the field. The guys in charge have more to worry about. They have to answer to Congress if an investigation goes sideways. They have to deal with the press, who love nothing more than a juicy story with enough government screw up or corruption in it to make it sell. They have the ACLU and a dozen other groups coming at them every day, looking for the slightest slip-up. This is why the procedure is such a big deal for us. It’s what lets us walk the narrow path between all those groups and still get the job done. And you suck at procedure.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“You aren’t giving up though, are you?”
“Then, what’s your plan?”
In answer to her, Taylor pulled out his cell phone and hit a speed dial number.
“Kara,” he said when she picked up, “I need a favor ... Yeah ... Could you call your friend and ask her to get me in to see her mother. Tell her it’s important ... Thanks.”
Disconnecting, Taylor sat the phone in the center console between the two seats and caught a glare being directed at him by Whitaker.
“What?” he asked.
“You know what. You can’t keep going to the Senator every single time you need to get around the rules. For one, it’s taking advantage of that relationship, and two, it hurts her relationship with the Bureau. If the election goes her way, that’ll be bad for everyone. That doesn’t even begin to take into account what would happen once the media digs into your past.”
“They’re welcome to it, I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done.”
“Maybe not, but think about what’s there. Gunfights in city streets, gunfights in Russian towns, and if they get hold of someone like that kid Ronnie. I know you said you did what you needed to do to get him to talk, but the way that kid looks at you, it’ll read as torture to the papers.”
Taylor rolled his eyes.
“Ronnie’s a white supremacist, drug dealing, human trafficking scumbag. No one gives a shit about that low-life. I may have gotten aggressive with him, but people’s lives were on the line.”
“They won’t care about any of that. They’ll hear torture, and it will be off to the races. If you’re connected to a Senator, or worse, a sitting President, it will be congressional hearings and demands for criminal investigations.”
“The Senator’s smart. The times Kara’s gone to visit Mary Jane, they’ve always been careful about it, and it hasn’t gotten out. She meets them at a secure garage, get in an unmarked car with dark windows, and then offloaded in the garage at her house. I figure that’ll work for me too. I still think it’s bullshit that the kid’s gotta sneak around like she did something wrong, instead of treated like the victim, but it’s the Senator’s neck, and Kara said she was cool with it. It’s not like I’m gonna stand outside her front door or anything.”
“Except, you’re not just visiting her house. You’re going to ask her to intercede in a federal investigation, something a Senator isn’t actually allowed to do. If she does somehow talk the AG or someone high enough up at DoJ into getting you in on the investigation, there will be agents that’ll be pissed about it. They’ll know who ordered it. If you screw up, they’ll make sure your name, and how you got in on the case, gets out.”
“Then I’ll have to not screw up.”
Her look could have frozen a volcano, “We’ll see.”
Georgetown, Washington D.C.
Taylor hadn’t been too far off in his description of how he’d get to see the Senator. He’d gone to a secure garage at the Department of Agriculture, an agency the Senator had no direct business with, showed his ID to the guard at the entrance, and was directed to a specific parking space. There, a SUV with very dark windows was already waiting for him with a driver he’d met before, probably someone the Senator trusted since he’d also driven Kara on her trips to the Senator’s house.
Taylor had ridden in silence towards a very upscale section of Georgetown, working out how he was going to make the pitch. He’d been flippant with Whitaker, but he couldn’t dismiss her concerns out of hand. He knew she was right about how some people at the FBI viewed him, and how they’d react to him once again forcing his way onto a case. She’d also been right about the possible danger to the Senator.
It even occurred to him that she might say no. He liked Suzette Caldwell, something that always surprised him since he found most politicians he’d met to be completely worthless. For someone with as much power as she held, she was still a good person and seemed to try to do the right thing, when she could. She was, however, still a politician and had to operate in that reality, where perception was as important, if not more so, as what was actually true.
She could do the same calculations Whitaker had done, and would be aware she’d be opening herself up. Taylor, however, held the biggest IOU possible. After her daughter had been kidnapped, Taylor had traveled to the other side of the planet and saved her from a living hell. Taylor hoped bringing back her only daughter was enough to get around the political considerations.
Taylor pushed this all aside as he saw they were approaching the Senator’s house.
As mansions go, it was smaller than what most people would think. In Florida, it’d be considered just a large house, but at the price ranges of Washington DC, it definitely qualified. The garage was small and held no cars. It was more of a way for her security to get their charge into and out of her house without exposing her.
As he stepped out of the car, not waiting for the driver to open the door, the Senator pulled open the door to the garage and stood back in invitation. That was just like her. Most of the ultra-wealthy would send a servant to collect their guest and admit them into their presence, mostly as a way of reminding their guest that they were, in fact, ultra-wealthy.
Caldwell wasn’t like that, at least not to Taylor. Of course, that could be because of his connection to her, she perhaps felt obligated to show him some added level of hospitality, but Taylor honestly didn’t think so. Little things like meeting her guest at the car seemed to just be who she was.
“Senator,” Taylor said as he stepped past her and entered her home.
“It’s Suzette, remember, John? None of this ‘Senator’ business between us.”
Taylor smiled inwardly. Congeniality aside, this was the politician in her she couldn’t turn off. Always schmoozing. Always charming.
“You’re an impossible man,” she said with a smile.
“So I’ve been told ... often.”
She patted him on the shoulder and led him to a small sitting room just off the front door, pointing him at a love seat while she sat on a slightly larger couch which sat catty-corner to it. He noticed that put his back at the window, and her facing the window, which was the security conscious thing for her to do. An heiress worth some ungodly amount of money even before she entered politics, she’d probably been drilled on where to stand or sit in any given situation by her security staff since birth. The position did give Taylor an itch between the shoulders since he wasn’t crazy about having his back at the unknown, but given their positions, there wasn’t anything to do about that.
“Thanks for taking the time to see me, Senator.”
“I always have time for you John. Kara made it sound somewhat urgent. What can I do for you?”
“Did you hear about the thing on the border? The murder of the agent?”
“Yes,” she said.
Her face showed nothing one way or another. Taylor was a good reader of people, but he was an absolute amateur next to her. He honestly had no idea if she knew where he was going or not, although, with her position as the ranking member of the intelligence committee, there was no way she didn’t know about the murder, or who was behind it.
“I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the man who killed him was Waleed Qasim.”
“Yes, I’d heard that.”
Taylor paused. Her neutral responses were throwing him a bit. He was now certain she knew why he was here, but he was also certain she was going to make him ask for what he wanted.
“Well, I’m sure you also know he was the man who held me captive back in the sandbox. I’ve requested to be allowed to participate in the manhunt for him since I have more first-hand knowledge of the man than anyone on our side, but they said no. I wanted to see if you could get me in on the investigation.”
“I see,” she said and looked at Taylor intensely for a full minute, the silence hanging between them. “John, you understand I don’t have the authority to ask the Bureau to do anything.”
It was a statement, not a question.
“Yes, Ma’am, I do. I also know there is very little you couldn’t make happen if you put your mind to it.”
“I think you have an unduly high opinion of my influence.”
“Maybe, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
“Why should you be allowed to participate in the investigation? They have several experts with knowledge of him, experienced in counter-terrorism, and trained to do this exact thing. How would your involvement help apprehend this man?”
“They have experts, sure, but all they know of Qasim is what they’ve read on a one-page profile written on him by someone who’s never met him, and a list of crimes he’s attached to. No one on our side, alive anyway, has met the man. Except me. I spent three years, off and on, talking to him. I know how he thinks. He’s not your run of the mill terrorist. He won’t be setting up a cell, rounding up marginalized teenagers, and strapping bombs to their backs. He’ll have a plan, and it won’t be small. Treating this man like any other terrorist is a mistake.”
“Did you explain that to Director Solomon or Agent Crawford?”
It did not surprise Taylor in the least she knew the names of the people Taylor had met with.
“Not in so many words. They weren’t interested in hearing my opinion. They just wanted me to ID him and then get out of their hair.”
“What if you were to go back and explain your concerns to them?”
“Ma’am, you’ve met these guys. Sure, they’re good at their jobs, and they mean well; but they have ... difficulty ... seeing outside of their preconceptions. They know what they know, and they rarely want to hear anything that goes against that. It’s why they hate me so much.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“Ha, sure I do. They absolutely hate me.”
“But not for challenging their preconceptions.”
“Yeah ... ok. I’ve given them enough flak since the thing in Oklahoma, I’ll give you that. It doesn’t mean I’m wrong about how they’ll take my advice, and it doesn’t mean I’m wrong about Qasim. If they go after him their way, a lot of people are going to die.”
She was quiet for a long time, staring at Taylor, although through him would probably be a better description.
“You know this is a pretty big request, right? I’ll be sticking my neck out for you.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I do know that. If you feel it’s too big, then you can say no. I’ll understand. I know you have big plans, and I don’t want to throw any wrenches in them. I’m not here to trade on favors or play on any debts you might feel. I’m just asking ... as a friend.”
She was quiet for a few more beats, before smiling, “My God, John, we’ll make a politician of you yet.”
“Like hell,” he said, smiling back.
“I can’t make any promises.”
“I’m not asking for any. If you can’t get me in, I’ll find him on my own. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to do it. All I’m asking is for you to try.”
“Ok. I’ll see what I can do,” she said, standing up. “Now, before you go, Mary Jane would throw a fit if I didn’t make sure you stopped and said hi to her before you left.
It took two days to hear anything. Taylor spent the time hanging out with Kara, helping her with her homework. Kara was a smart girl, but she had missed so much of her schooling, which had basically stopped at a third-grade level. That, coupled with how proud Kara was, not wanting to be seen as incapable or needing help, generated a lot of frustration.
He hadn’t told her, but his big hope was that she would reach the point where she could join other people her age and continue on the normal trajectory, just another young adult. It wouldn’t be for several years at least, he knew that. His goal was to get her able to pass a GED test in the next two years, around the same point other kids her age would be graduating high school. Hopefully, she’d be able to head to college with other kids her age.
If it was just him, Taylor wasn’t sure he’d be able to get her ready in time, but the Senator had offered, or rather demanded, over both Taylor and Whitaker’s protests, to pay for several very capable tutors, who came in every weekday to help. In spite of his own trip to ask for a favor from the Senator, he wasn’t a big fan of living off someone else’s largess, which included taking care of his responsibilities for his new ward.
Of course, it wasn’t just the school work that needed to get cleared up, but they were working on those other things, too.
He also managed to have several of the conversations with the attorney he and Whitaker had gotten to handle the adoption proceedings for Kara. Normally, adopting a foreign national, especially a teenager, was a drawn-out process. Thankfully, they had the cooperation of several people at state, who’d submitted statements in support of the adoption. While Taylor was confident it would all go fine, it still meant a lot of paperwork to get taken care of.
He was reading over the latest batch of that paperwork when Whitaker came home from work and sat across from him at their small dining table.
“You’ve really stirred up some shit, this time,” she said, crossing her arms and looking at him accusingly.
“What happened,” Taylor asked, setting down his pen and giving her his full attention.
“Joe got a call from the Attorney General today. He apparently had very pointed questions to ask about the investigation, how it was going, and if Joe had everything he needed. This is a high profile case, what with a dead officer and a known terrorist, so it’s not unusual the AG would be calling to ask for an update. The weird part was when talking about the resources available to us for the case, he specifically brought up your name as a subject matter expert.”
“I’ve been saying all along no one knows Qasim as much as I do.”
“Don’t give me that shit. Joe knows the fix is in. This is the second time the AG has specifically inserted you into a case, and Joe’s no fool. He doesn’t know how you managed to make it happen, but he knows you’re behind it.”
“So he’s pissed?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe. He actually tried to tell the AG no, saying you were a loose cannon. He said he’d consider having you come into the offices here to consult, but that’s it. I think his words were ‘that man is going out into the field over my dead body.’”
“How’d that go over?”
“Not well, especially when the AG reminded him that, from the records, the last time the Bureau used you, it worked out well. We don’t see it that way, but all the AG can see is results, and if you just look at that, it can look like the thing in Dallas and Oklahoma ended well.”
“John, you know I love you. I think you are exceptional at what you do. You’re like a bloodhound once you get the scent. You are, however, not a cop. You suck at following orders, suck at following procedure, and you have a bad habit of shooting people.”
“So you agreed with him that it was a bad idea?”
“Yes, I did. I wasn’t in the room, but I’d already made a pitch to Joe about keeping you out.”
“Don’t ‘Lola’ me. I know this guy is a big deal for you, and I know how much getting him means to you. Hell, if I were in your place, I’d feel exactly the same. That’s part of the problem. Even if we put aside your past history with the bureau and your tendency to shoot people, you’re too close. They don’t allow acting agents to participate in investigations they have a personal tie to. People with emotional connections to a case make emotional decisions, and those never end well.”
“What did the AG say to all that?”
“He didn’t care. All he cares about is there’s a terrorist on US soil, killing federal agents, and he wants it to stop. When Joe said ‘no,’ again, the AG said that you were being deputized under the US Marshal’s special deputy program, and seconded to the bureau under the JTTF.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, for the duration of this investigation, you’ll have a badge and will be allowed to carry a gun.”
“No shit. Joe did get it, in writing, that this was for the duration of the manhunt for Waleed Qasim. As soon as it’s over, you’re out.”
“I can live with that.”
“John, you’ve made some real enemies, here. The AG didn’t tell him that the nudge came from outside DoJ, but Joe’s figured out you have a contact with someone with enough juice to make it happen. The Senator covered herself pretty well, and kept her name out of it. I bet only the AG knows she’s the one who asked for this, but she’s managed to make it happen. So, the only person who’s going to get the fallout from this, is you; and you are going to get fallout.”
“I knew she was smart enough to make it work out for her. I can live with the fallout. I take it you aren’t going to tell him how I managed it.”
“I haven’t yet. He knows I know, and he’s been very careful not to ask me about it.”
“Will you tell him if he asks?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t think he’s gonna put me in that situation. You’re lucky Joe’s a stand-up guy. A lot of other agents would one-hundred percent ask me.”