This is a continuation of ‘The Standoff‘
“Brian, you’re not giving me much of a choice.” Michael took another step forward. “Put down your weapon. You’re angry. I get that. But killing Clarke right now —”
A shot rang out.
Michael’s eyes widened as Adam Clarke’s head flung backwards, and his body slid off the bench and crashed onto the cement floor. Blood and bits of brain, skin and hair created a Jackson Pollock-esque painting on the wall. Then Michael pivoted hard to his left to see Josh lowering his gun.
“He needed to be put down,” Josh said unapologetically.
“He was our only goddamn lead!” Michael barked.
“He was a pawn,” Brian chimed in.
Michael swung his head back in Brian’s direction. “What do you mean?”
“I recorded Clarke’s confession.” Brian pulled out his phone and held it up. “Angelique Romero’s ultimate target is Guy Denault.”
“The PM?” Josh asked with disbelief.
“Yes,” Brian confirmed. “Everything’s on the recording.”
“A forced confession.” Michael took a step forward and examined the corpse on the floor. “You shot out both his kneecaps. He’d have said anything —”
“I got his confession,” Brian snapped. “Now we know the real target. What else do you want?”
“I want you to stop acting like a five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum,” Michael shot back, then ran his hand over his face. “What the hell were you thinking? Going off half-cocked on your own?” He raised a hand when Brian opened his mouth to speak. “Don’t even bother. I don’t want to hear it.”
Then a stony silence settled that Josh broke with, “You two should get out of here. I’ll call in my clean-up crew and grab a ride back with them.”
“There are surveillance cameras everywhere,” Michael said with an edge.
“I’ll take care of that too.” Josh already had his phone to his ear. “Go!”
Michael glared at Brian, then crossed to him, took his gun and shoved him towards the exit. No words were spoken until they were in the Range Rover and on the road.
Brian spoke first. “It’s not a complete disaster.”
“Brian, please,” Michael said with restraint. “Just sit there and don’t say another bloody word, or I swear I’ll knock your teeth down your throat…”
A return to silence. And Michael held his gaze to the vehicles in front of him, didn’t dare to sneak a sidelong glance of Brian. What the hell was he thinking? He understood, or tried to, how much Brian had been betrayed by the man who, for most of his life, he thought of as his father. But Brian’s actions had put not only their mission at risk, but the whole country. Yet he was thankful that Josh, and not Brian, had executed Clarke. That was a whole other mess to be dealt with later.
“What are you doing?” Brian asked.
The Range Rover stopped a block away from the Agency. Michael killed the engine. Undid his seat belt, took out his gun and checked the magazine. Of course, it was full. He hadn’t fired a shot in a few days. Opening the door and without looking at Brian, he said, “Get in the driver’s seat. If I’m not back in twenty minutes, leave without me.” Balanced on the curb with the door ajar, he added harshly, “Just be ready to move when you see me.” He slammed the door, then walked determinedly towards the monstrous stone building. Approaching the entrance, he had his ID badge in one hand and the other on his gun and ready to pull it. Drew in a deep breath as he entered the building. Several security guards eyed him but didn’t react. When he swiped his ID card across the screen reader, he waited for the green light to flash, which it did. Then he walked through the turnstile.
His eyes travelled to every person and surface around him, waiting for that moment when someone moved to take him down. But it never came. People ignored him, like he didn’t exist or was no longer a threat. Or was he walking into a trap? He rushed into an elevator just as the doors were closing and pressed the button for the tenth floor. When the doors slid open, again people looked at him but didn’t react, at least not the way he’d expected.
“There you are,” a deep voice called out.
Michael spun around to see the lanky brunette rushing towards him. It was Todd Manfield, a senior analyst with whom he’d always had a trusted working relationship. Still, Michael moved his hand towards his gun, but then lifted it to meet Todd’s outstretched hand.
“The Interim Director is on a warpath trying to find you,” Todd announced when the handshake was over.
“Joe Demers?” Michael asked, a test to check Todd’s loyalties.
“No.” Todd escorted Michael to the stairwell and, once the door had closed behind them, added, “This one’s been appointed by the new Attorney General, and they’re cleaning house…”
Up one flight of stairs, they burst into the quiet corridor and strode towards the office in the corner that had belonged to Adam Clarke.
“Agent Reid, please, come in,” was the conciliatory command from behind the desk.
Michael, standing just inside the door, didn’t move. Looked at Todd, who gave the slightest nod of the head as approval. Of what? That this wasn’t a trap? He still wasn’t convinced and stayed where he was.
“Todd, give us the room.” The slim woman came towards Michael, her hand extended. “I’m Lauren Platt. And you, Agent Reid, have been hard to track down.”
At the release of the handshake, Lauren gestured Michael to sit. She returned behind her desk and eased onto her chair. “I can tell you’re suspicious, but I’d like to assure you that I’m on your side.”
“You’ll forgive me, Ms. Platt,” Michael said dismissively, “if I don’t just take your word on that.”
Lauren removed her red-framed glasses and leaned back in her chair. “You met an associate of mine about a week ago. Julia Rideout. She took you to James Coburg. We’ve been working the Excelsior file together, trying to connect the dots to Adam Clarke.”
“Adam Clarke is dead,” Michael said bluntly.
“Did you kill him?”
“But you know who did.” Lauren slid her chair closer to her desk. “Was it Brian?”
“Are you saying that to protect him?” Lauren asked with a hint of suspicion. “Fine. I’ll go out on a limb and take your word on that. For now. But with Adam Clarke dead and Joe Demers missing —”
“Demers isn’t missing,” Michael interrupted. “I have him in custody at an undisclosed location. He’s been useless, but Clarke gave us a lead before he died. Angelique Romero’s main target is the PM.”
“You’re sure?” Lauren stood. “Where? When? How?”
“That’s what I’m going to find out.”
Lauren waved her hand. “You’re not doing this alone. I can offer you the full support of the Agency. Whatever you need —”
“I need you to stay out of my way,” Michael said, matter-of-fact. “Because, frankly, I don’t know how many other agents worked for Clarke. I don’t know who I can trust. And it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.”
“You can trust me, Michael.”
Michael crossed his arms. “Prove to me that I can…”