Richard Murphy kissed his wife and their two children goodbye. “Don’t have too much fun,” he warned them playfully. His family would be visiting his wife’s extended family, but Richard could not attend because he would be processing tax returns for temporary American expats at the “accounting firm” he worked at. His family was used to his excuses and didn’t question it.
He sighed, swirling his brandy in the Waterford glass, sipping the strong liquor slowly and channel surfing lazily. Without the screams and joyful laughter of his two children Nola and Devlin ringing in his ears, the Murphy family’s lonely Irish abode made everything seem gloomier than it should be. He was an American sent to Ireland to work for the Section Seven branch there. Richard met and married his Irish wife Moira while undercover.
He hadn’t told her the true nature of his job, but he was comforted in the fact that she knew his real name. Dozens of lovers littered the graveyard of his past that had no clue of his real name. They were never vetted by Section Seven and even if the lucky few did pass the vetting process, Richard had already become John Clarkson, human resources manager, or Brandon Kelly, architect, for those assignments.
Richard didn’t know when he fell asleep, but he certainly recalls leaving the TV and lights on when he did. It was also incredibly cold, he realized, as he opened his eyes. He shivered. It was late April and Richard was sure he left the heater on to combat the icy winds and the rain the weatherman had been promising. Richard stood up to fumble for the light switch.
“Don’t move, Agent Murphy,” said the frosty voice of someone in front of him.
Richard blinked in the darkness. “Who’s there?” he demanded, reaching down for the gun he kept concealed in his easy chair.
“One more move and I will kill you,” the voice threatened him. The voice was American, very feminine. It definitely sounded like the voice belonged to someone from somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. Maryland, maybe?
“What do you want?” Richard replied.
“The cipher text.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he refused immediately.
A shot rang out and hit the wall directly behind him. Richard could feel the bullet whiz past his head as he froze in terror.
“Jesus Christ, I’m telling the fucking truth!”
“Very well,” the voice replied. Another, more muted, shot rang out, and Richard buckled. He was hit with a tranquilizer dart in his arm and everything went black.
“I’ve called this meeting because one of ours – Agent Richard Murphy – was kidnapped last night,” David began, very business-like. He flashed Murphy’s agency headshot on the screen in front of them.
This was a briefing, called by David and members of the elite Section Seven SWAT Team, and was joined by Marlene and Agent Jaime Wilder, her duty driver for the Gauntlet. He was Agent Murphy’s partner.
“I’ve called you all here because you have a vested interest in Agent Murphy. We have received this telephone call today that serves as his ransom note,” David continued. He pressed another button to play a message.
A heavily disguised voice began, “We have Murphy. In exchange for him, bring the cracked cipher text and the Fedorov suitcase to the single-story warehouse in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire at 7 o’clock tonight. One minute late and Murphy will die. There will be no further contact.” The message ended abruptly and David clicked it off.
“So what are we doing then?” the SWAT team agent known as Savage asked.
“Officer Griffith and I are being sent in to complete the trade,” David said sighing. “The powers believe Officer Griffith is ready for this type of work.”
Marlene stared at him soundlessly. ‘No!’ she was screaming inside her head. She stared in silent trepidation at the plain silver ring sitting on her right hand finger instead.
“And you won’t be alone,” Coulter, the SWAT team leader, assured her. Something about his comforting smile calmed Marlene down a little.
“We’re monitoring the perimeter of the warehouse as we speak,” Limbaugh explained. “Currently there is no activity there, but we’ll know the minute they enter the building.”
“Something’s not right,” Marlene said, half to herself. The men watched her with some interest.
“I think Officer Griffith has a point,” Wilder continued on Marlene’s thought. “It seems too easy.”
“We know Pagano is behind it and she’s had a huge chance to steal the cipher text from Officer Griffith while in Oxford,” Hannity added.
“So why include Murphy if she physically saw the cipher text in Marlene’s possession?” David finished up. He paused, thinking about their logic. “This is one of her games. We’ll play straight into her hands and manipulate the situation to give us the upper hand. We’re bringing down Pagano tonight.”
Struggling to remember every piece of advice the SWAT team gave her, and the training Oliver put her through, Marlene felt confident that she would make the swap and no one would get hurt.
“Ready?” David said, squeezing her hand gently before knocking on the warehouse door.
“Copy that,” Marlene said, her heart pounding in her throat and her adrenaline coursing madly through her veins. She knew that O’Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Savage were hiding strategically around the warehouse and if she said the word, they would come running with their guns blazing.
The large warehouse door creaked open on its own accord. Sitting in a spot of harsh light, Richard Murphy was sitting tied to a chair, bound and gagged. Moving as slowly as possible so as not to alarm his kidnappers who were obviously nearby, Marlene and David stood in the light and looked down at him. His eyes were closed, but he looked none the worse for the wear.
“We’ve got the suitcase. All we have to do is enter the cracked cipher text,” David said in a loud, clear voice.
“Outstanding, I knew you could do it,” said Richard’s kidnapper. Syrai stepped out from the shadows and stood behind Murphy, her dark eyes showing no compunction at all.
“Syrai?” David asked dumbfounded. “What? I don’t understand…”
“You wouldn’t, would you? You were so in love with the idea of being in love, that you never questioned me,” Syrai said coldly. “If you had just asked what I did when we were apart, I would’ve told you.” She paused, waiting for it to sink in. Marlene wanted to kill the woman so badly. “Hate to break it to you like this honey, but I work for Aurora Pagano.”
“Give us Murphy and we’ll let you walk out of here,” Marlene said, finding her voice.
Syrai switched her icy glare from David to his sister. “And you. You didn’t even call me out. You could’ve prevented Pilar’s death, you know. Not Sophia’s, but definitely Pilar’s. Sophia’s death was a warning. Pilar’s was just because Aurora wanted to see her die.”
Marlene’s eyes bugged out of her head. “Don’t you blame me, you cruel bitch.”
David watched this volley of conversation between them before he spoke again. “You knew?” he said softly, looking down at his sister.
“I was ordered not to tell,” said Marlene weakly.
He moved away from her, finally seeing his sister for who she was. “You knew?”
Marlene nodded her head, unable to say anything in her defense. She reached out for him, but he flinched in silent anger.
Syrai laughed callously as this played out in front of her. She moved her right hand to mimic talking. “See, that’s why I freelance. All these rules and regulations, betraying your very own brother, and all that. I couldn’t stand it. I’m much better off now.”
She removed a gun, a modified Socom, from beneath her parka. Aiming at David, she fired directly into his neck. Another tranquilizer. He fell in a heap, his hand still clutching the briefcase. She eyed Marlene, who had reached for her gun and was aiming at Syrai’s head.
“In case you’re just joining us, not all of the lies I told him were untrue. I actually fell in love with him. But having you around complicated things. Just another death you can blame on yourself.” She smiled evilly at Marlene and the lights went out.
“Lawrence! I repeat Lawrence!” Marlene screamed, firing shots into the last place she had seen Syrai. Lawrence was the code word they had decided on to activate the SWAT team.
The Section Seven team, ideally, all began to converge on the warehouse, when another voice screamed, “Halt! Stand down!”
“What?” Marlene commanded. “Repeat your last!”
“There is C-4 wired throughout the building!” Hannity’s voice yelled.
“How the hell do I disarm it?” Marlene said madly. Her heart was pounding. Fumbling for the light above Murphy, she flicked the lights back on. David was gone. So was Syrai. The briefcase was abandoned by the departing double agent.
“We lost ‘em,” Savage added.
“Damn,” Marlene muttered to herself. Richard Murphy woke up, his eyes wild. He was stamping his feet madly and struggling against the ropes. Marlene removed the gag on his mouth and cut his bindings. But he didn’t leap up from the chair as Marlene expected him to.
“C-4, can’t leave seat,” he said breathlessly.
“A trip wire to activate the C-4 is attached to the chair!” Marlene barked into her com.
“Relax,” Coulter coached her. “Take a few deep breaths. The perimeter is secure, but we can’t enter the building until you disarm it.”
Marlene cleared her head and followed the rest of his instructions. She kicked herself for listening to O’Reilly, who joked that there wouldn’t be any C-4 around and she wouldn’t need the can of coolant spray in the Section Seven supply warehouse. She gestured for Murphy to move, after she tugged the wire attached to the block of plastic explosives. He had been watching her fixedly as Coulter muttered the directives to disarm the C-4 in her ear. He slowly lifted himself off the chair and breathed a sigh of relief.
“We’re not out of the clear yet, Agent Murphy. There could still be a remote detonator somewhere around here,” Marlene said, relaying Savage’s message.
Guiding Murphy outside to the cool night air, the SWAT team descended on the warehouse as Marlene guided Murphy to the rescue van.