Alpha, p.2
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       Alpha, p.2

           Daniel Schmidt
 

  Chapter 2

  The odds were stacked against me, but I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I took a few steps, positioned myself behind the hood of a large truck, took out my pistol, and ensured a round was in the chamber by pulling the slide partially to the rear.

  The occupants of the SUV near my building exited first, armed with assault rifles and wearing ballistic vests. I raised my pistol but stopped before I got it up over the hood of the truck.

  “Police” was stenciled across the fronts of their ballistic vests. I froze and squinted to make sure I saw things correctly. They looked like police – the haircuts, the vests, the radios, the way they moved. I shoved the pistol back into its holster. The occupants from all three vehicles moved towards me quickly, assault rifles raised. When they got close enough they shouted.

  “Police, put your hands up!”

  They knocked me to the ground, tore everything out my pockets – my wallet, my pistol, my coin – and then handcuffed me with my arms behind my back. One of the SUVs pulled up beside us, and they stuffed me into a back seat. Two burly men squeezed in on either side of me. We tore out of the parking lot and down the street.

  The guy in the front passenger’s seat rifled through my wallet and pulled out my faux driver’s license. He was on his cell phone quickly and I heard him give my fake name and date of birth. After a minute or so I heard him curse and he tossed my wallet onto the dashboard.

  “You’re undercover?” he said, looking back at me.

  “What are you talking about?” I asked as innocently as I could.

  “I’m being told you’re an undercover cop,” the man said.

  “Who were you talking to?” I asked.

  “That doesn’t matter, my people are telling me you’re an undercover cop. Is that true?”

  I wondered who exactly these guys were. I had met most of the local cops in town because the agency I worked for used their station. But none of these guys looked familiar.

  “Who are you and why am I in handcuffs?” I asked.

  The man pulled out a wallet and showed me his badge and identification card. He was a federal police officer. I asked him a few questions about his academy and field training and he gave the right answers. We had even had some of the same instructors and he had been in the class right after mine.

  “So, are you a cop?” he asked again.

  “Yes, I’m a cop,” I said softly.

  “Who’s your supervisor and what’s his number?” the man asked me.

  I gave him my supervisor’s name and number.

  The man got on his phone but didn’t call my boss. He explained to someone else that I was an undercover and then gave the person he was speaking with my supervisor’s information. The man nodded his head a few times, hung up, and looked back at me.

  “My boss wants to talk to you.”

  “You could have just asked me politely. The guns and rough-housing really weren’t necessary.”

  The man up front cursed and then punched the dashboard.

  “We didn’t know you were undercover,” he hissed.

  We drove in silence to the east side of town and its large industrial buildings, railroad tracks, and few people. At the end of a dark cul-de-sac we pulled through a bay door into a huge concrete building and a rolling door slammed behind us. I stepped out and was un-handcuffed and then led into a small square room. Concrete bricks made up the walls, and dull gray concrete made up the ceilings and floors. I sat in the one cold metal chair in the center of the room. A single lightbulb hung from the center of the ceiling, casting a dim light on a dark wooden desk in front of me where my wallet and the coin the woman had given me was placed.

  I waited for nearly half an hour before the door opened and a middle-aged man stepped inside. He was tall, thin, and didn’t look like he had any muscle to him. He wore a dark, well-tailored and expensive looking suit. Large rings sat on each pinky finger of his thin hands. He had dark, straight hair, and I noticed he wore a little bit of makeup around his eyes and on his checks. His dark brown eyes locked on to me.

  Without taking his eyes from me, he closed the door. His eyebrows narrowed just slightly before he strode forward to place himself directly on the other side of the table. He reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a leather wallet, flipping it open to reveal a badge and government identification card.

  “Special Agent Luke Smith. I’m with counter-terrorism. Don’t ask for the details because we don’t give them.” He reached into another pocket and threw my fake driver’s license onto the table. “That’s a pretty good fake I.D. but your real name is Paul Trent right?”

  “How did your guys know who I was?” I asked.

  “Someone in the dispatch center recognized your cover name when my men called it in.”

  I nodded my head. It made sense – most outside agencies used the local dispatch center when conducting operations, and a few people knew me there.

  “So what can I help you with?” I asked.

  The man acted like he didn’t hear me. “I talked to your supervisor and told him what has happened.”

  “You talked to my supervisor? What’s his name?” I asked.

  Luke gave me my boss’s name, my boss’s boss’s name, and a few people I had only heard about but knew worked high up in the agency.

  “Okay, so why am I here?” I asked.

  Luke placed both hands on the edges of the table and leaned forward. “We have been conducting surveillance on the woman who gave you that coin,” he said, nodding at the coin on the table.

  “And?” I asked.

  “That woman is part of a terrorist organization that specializes in kidnapping. That coin is an invitation into their group.”

  My heart fluttered a bit and my palms started to sweat, but I forced a smile to try to hide my reaction. “A terrorist group in this little town?”

  Luke clenched his jaw. “This group has been active for almost a year in this little town, as you call it, and during that time they have killed four of my agents and kidnapped at least six people.”

  “That’s news to me,” I said, genuinely surprised.

  “There are reasons you haven’t heard about them.”

  “So you thought I was a recruit or something?”

  Luke nodded his head. “When my men saw you accept the coin we had no choice but to sweep you up for questioning. What did she tell you?” Luke asked.

  I sniffed. “She was kind of vague but she wanted me to come fight for her, and said she would come back tomorrow to tell me more. Whatever that means.”

  Luke clenched his jaw.

  “Did you snatch her up too?” I asked.

  “We don’t dare go near her. She is very well protected,” Luke said.

  “I didn’t see anyone else there.”

  “Believe me, she had plenty of protection,” he said.

  I shrugged my shoulders. “Okay, so what now?”

  “This group is trying to recruit you into their organization and I think this is a golden opportunity for us both. We’ve been unable to infiltrate this group and because of that we are blind to their actions and motives,” Luke said with a half-smile. “When I found out who you were, I couldn’t believe it – an undercover getting an invitation into this group is beyond anything I could have hoped for. It’s almost too good to be true.”

  “It’s crazy,” I said with a little bit of surprise.

  “I’ve already cleared it with your supervisor. He’s good with it.”

  “That woman knows my real name. If she knows my real name she must know who I really work for,” I said.

  “You’re former military?” Luke asked.

  “Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?”

  “You’re single, not a lot of family?”

  “I don’t have any family, never have.”

  Luke nodded. “These people recruit ex-military guys like y
ou into their organization. They like single men with military experience who don’t have a lot of attachments. That’s the person this lady is recruiting, the real Paul Trent.”

  “Then she must know I’m a cop,” I said.

  “Your agency has kept your training and employment under wraps. No one knows whom you work for; your people went to great lengths to cover that up. That woman would not have given you the coin if she knew you were a cop. She’s not stupid, and they always do their homework,” Luke said.

  “Maybe she’s trying to lure me in.”

  “For what?”

  “You said they specialize in kidnapping. Maybe someone found out who I really am and they hired people to snatch me up and get rid of me. Terrorists have to pay the bills just like everyone else.”

  “You fit the profile of their recruits, not their victims.”

  I leaned back to look at the ceiling.

  Luke rapped the table with his knuckles. “This is way bigger than what you’re working right now. Way bigger. We’re talking about terrorists, really bad people, people who murder, kidnap, and most importantly, people who are trying to bring this country down. You just got an invitation into their group and we can’t pass this opportunity up. We need you to infiltrate their ranks, help us take them down and find the people they kidnapped.”

  I leaned forward and took a deep breath. “What are these guys about? Who are they?”

  Luke shrugged slightly. “We don’t know their exact motives or aims; they are very tight-lipped, very organized, and very professional. It’s scary how good they are, but we believe they are planning more kidnappings and possibly a large-scale attack. We need to find out where and why quickly.”

  “In this little town?” I asked, surprised that someone would target a small city in Northern Arizona.

  “This town is not so small anymore. It has seen tremendous growth in the last decade, especially at the university and in private research and development firms. There are plenty of targets, both people and places.”

  “What kind of attack would they be planning?” I asked.

  Luke shrugged. “We don’t know, but with their level of sophistication anything is possible.”

  I let out a long breath. “That lady knows who I am. I don’t like that.”

  “Your boss told me you’re working white-collar stuff right now?”

  I nodded my head.

  “This is way bigger than your little fraud cases, way bigger and more dangerous.”

  “Exactly, way more dangerous, because they know who I am.”

  Luke narrowed his eyes. “I know I’m asking you to risk a lot, but we don’t have a choice. We have never been offered this kind of opportunity before. I am confident you were recruited because of the real you, the single man with no connections and military experience. I am confident that they don’t know you’re a cop.” Luke leaned closer. “There are a lot of lives riding on this, it is worth the risk.”

  I stood and turned around to face the back of the room. “You said they have killed some of your agents?”

  “Four of them.”

  “Have you recovered any of the people they kidnapped?”

  “No.”

  “Any idea where they were taken?”

  “We have no idea where they were taken or what they have done with them,” Luke said dryly.

  “Who were these people they kidnapped?”

  Luke clenched his jaw. “Mostly young, single women.”

  “What’s their motive?” I asked.

  Luke shrugged his shoulders. “They don’t ask for a ransom or make demands. The people they kidnap just vanish.”

  A tingling feeling crept into my stomach. “I’m nervous that woman knows my name, my real name. Being found out is the constant, gut wrenching worry I deal with everyday as an undercover. I don’t like the idea of infiltrating an organization as myself – it feels wrong.”

  Luke cracked the smallest of smiles. “But, on the other hand, that might make it a whole lot easier, being yourself. You don’t have to pretend, you don’t have to act.”

  We stood in silence for several minutes until Luke reached into his coat again and pulled out a handful of small photographs. He tossed half of them on the table. “These are the agents they killed.” He threw another handful of photographs onto the table. “And these are the people they have kidnapped.”

  My eyes ran over the photographs and Luke continued. “Are you going to do nothing for them?”

  I picked up one of the photographs, a smiling young woman. I stared at the photograph for a few seconds and then let it fall from my hand.

  “Okay, I’ll do it,” I said finally.

  A smile spread across Luke’s face. “I knew you would.”

 
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