Heroes, p.24
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       Heroes, p.24

           Leigh Barker
“I’m telling you now, Director,” SecNav said, and nodded at the couch near the window.

  “I hope you have a damned good reason for sending a team to stamp all over CIA jurisdiction,” the director said, taking his seat.

  “I do.” SecNav lifted a bottle of single malt off the dresser and glanced at his watch. “Sun’s over the yardarm somewhere. Join me, Richard?”

  “It’s early,” the director said, then raised his hand and measured an inch with his fingers. “Easy on the branch water.”

  “I have intelligence that Milaris has committed all his operation to the demon electronic media.”

  “Maybe he hit his head. Or got paranoid.” The director took the offered scotch.

  “Could be. Could be he’s just been sampling his own product.” SecNav clinked his lead-crystal glass against the director’s. “The reason Milaris put all his eggs in one basket, we’ll get to. Right now we have a fleeting opportunity to grab everything we need to bring him down. And all of his cohorts in South America and nearer home.”

  “Still, this sounds more like a joint DEA-CIA operation than one for the navy.”

  SecNav sat on the sofa across the coffee table from Richard Callaghan, the director of the CIA. “Ordinarily I’d say yes and hand the whole thing over to you, but I have a team in play uniquely qualified to bring this mission home.” He raised his hand. “I mean no disrespect. I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever that your boys and the DEA could make this happen.” He gave the director a moment to nod. “But we’re operating against a closing window. By the time the DEA and your agency have sorted out the pecking order, the politics, and who will get the credit or the blame, that window will be firmly closed.”

  Callaghan sipped his scotch and watched his old friend over the rim of the glass. He was right, damn him. “So you have a team on the ground ready to make this happen?”

  SecNav nodded. “Near enough.” He looked at his watch. “Twenty-four hours.”

  “That’s tight. Why the rush?”

  “The reason Milaris has put all his family jewels in one sack is, as you said, a bit paranoid, but the reality is even more bizarre.” SecNav took another sip of his drink. “He started getting junk email.”

  Callaghan blinked hard twice. “What? We all get junk email. I get a shit load of it every day.”

  “Yes, but you’re not a drug lord with a whole tier of lieutenants to keep you at arm’s length from your customers. Only a handful of people in the world should know how to contact him. Now everybody knows.”

  “Junk email?”

  SecNav nodded.

  “But that’s just spam. It means nothing.”

  “You know that, and I know that, but Milaris is clinically borderline paranoid. He sees assassins behind every curtain.”

  “That’s not paranoia, that’s a fact of life in his business.”

  “He overreacted, which is good news for us. Some geek told him the only way he’d be completely secure is to have no outside network connectivity and to put his data in a place where it can be watched constantly. Which he read as put it all on one mobile system and keep it with him at all times.”

  “But that’s just nuts.”

  “It is. And the opportunity of a lifetime for us.”

  “So what’s closing the window?” The director held up his empty glass.

  SecNav took the glass and returned to the dresser to top it up. “The geek, whoever he was, wasn’t totally stupid. He told him to build a data center with leading-edge user access security, intruder detection, electronic eavesdropping detection, the works. And that’s just what he’s doing.”

  “How long?” Callaghan took the scotch and put it on the coffee table.

  SecNav sat back down and put his drink on the coffee table. “It’s ready now. Going through some techy testing stuff. My informant estimates a week at best. Two days worst case.”

  “Who’s your informant?”

  SecNav picked up his drink and sipped it without taking his eyes off his peer. “You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”

  “You go first,” Callaghan said, and smiled. “The intelligence you get…”

  “It’s yours. And the DEA’s, if you choose to share.”

  “Then what’s in it for you?”

  SecNav stood up. “The warm feeling I get from doing the best job I can for my country.”

  Callaghan drained his glass and stood up. “Sure. Warm feeling is what we do this for, right?”

  SecNav led the way to the door and held it open for him. “That and the big bucks.”

  Callaghan was chuckling as he left.

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