CHAPTER THIRTY -TWO
Wednesday, 5:40 PM Washington DC
“I’m sorry,” the Undersecretary to the Secretary of State said.
He flew out of his office and she gulped. He was twice as handsome as his photo. Tall and fit, his long legs took him across the waiting room in two steps.
“I know I’ve kept you waiting out here a long time. But I’ve just been called to the White House.”
“Sir, if you don’t want to…”
“Talk about Michael Roper?” The Undersecretary said. “I know it looks that way, but nothing could be further from the truth. Would you mind walking with me?”
“Sure,” the freelance reporter said.
She had hoped to really nail this interview so that maybe, just maybe, Oprah would give her more work. The money from this assignment was rent and groceries for a month. She wasn’t going to give up easily.
He wanted to walk? She would walk.
Looking up at him, she was pretty sure she’d do anything he asked. She bit the inside of her lip to keep from giggling.
“Oh great,” the man said.
With the Undersecretary’s palpable relief, the reporter felt her confidence return. Smiling, she picked up her handbag, turned on her hand held digital recorder, and followed him out the door. The man glided down the hallway with purpose and speed. The reporter almost ran to keep up with him.
“I was the last one they rescued before they were all killed and Michael….”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the reporter asked. “Rescued? Who’s they? Killed?”
The Undersecretary came to a complete halt. Taking her elbow, he looked into her eyes.
“The Fey team,” he said. “I thought….”
“I’m sorry, sir. I was sent to ask you about Michael Roper,” the reporter said. “I….”
“About three years ago, I was held hostage.”
“What? Where? There’s nothing in your bio…”
The reporter searched her mind. Had she even read his official biography? She had at looked his Wikipedia page on the way here from her job at the grocery store. But his official biography….
“The ‘where’ isn’t a big deal. And I’m certain you’re right. There isn’t anything in my bio,” he said.
He continued striding down the hall.
“I wasn’t held long. I mean, I was held long enough to have…. Never mind. The Fey team was a special ops group that retrieved hostages. They went around the world rescuing people. American’s mostly, but important people from other countries too.”
“Wow. Why doesn’t everyone know….”
“You can look them up,” he interrupted. “They have a Wikipedia page. Have you used Wikipedia?”
“Yes, sir,” the reporter said. “But what….”
“Great service, Wikipedia.” The Undersecretary flashed his identification at a station in the hallway. Pressing past her question, he continued, “So they rescue me one day, take two days of vacation, then wham, the entire team is killed. Except for one guy. And that’s because his wife was having a baby.”
The Undersecretary put his hand on the stairwell door. Looking down at the reporter’s three inch heels, he asked, “Stairs OK?”
“Sure,” the reporter said.
“Gives us more time. And a little more privacy.” Moving into the stairwell, he said, “I won’t tell anyone if you want to take the heels off.”
The reporter blushed. Her feet were killing her, but these were her only dressy shoes. Looking into the man’s face, she saw his sincerity. She nodded.
“Where was I?” He asked. Seeing her hands were full, he added, “I can hold the recorder.”
“Ok, thanks,” she said. “You were telling me that the Fey team was killed.”
“Right,” he said.
“I woke up two days after they were all killed. I can’t tell you how… disturbing that was for me. I mean these people had just saved me, rescued me from hell, and now they were dead. I….”
They went down a flight of stairs before the Undersecretary spoke again.
“Anyway, Mike came to see me. He was visiting a friend at Walter Reed and stopped into my room. He told me that there were almost four thousand of us.”
“Us?” The reporter asked.
“People rescued by the Fey team,” he said. “Mike visited me every day. We’d talk about being held hostage and….”
“Michael Roper was held hostage?” The reporter interrupted.
“Uh huh,” the Undersecretary said. “He took even took me to get my ‘F’.”
The Undersecretary moved his watch to review a script Vivaldi ‘F’ tattooed on the underside of his left wrist.
“Almost everyone who was rescued by the Fey team has these ‘F’s. Mike said that the Fey….”
“Long story. Anyway, the Fey didn’t want to keep rescuing the same people over and over again so people got these tattoos. Frankly, it’s kind of a status symbol.”
“They all had them. The team, that is. These same ‘F’s in a green arm band on their right arms. The guy who’s left - Joseph - he has one too.”
“So the ‘F’ is a kind of marker?”
“Sure. Like a badge or a rank. If you look around, you’ll see that lots of people have these tattoos. Some guys have them on their arm. Most guy do their wrist because it’s noticeable and also subtle.”
“You said guys?”
“Or gals,” he said. He rounded a corner to the first floor. “Listen, when I open this door the Secret Service are going to whisk me to the White House.”
He blushed, stammered a little bit.
“Here’s my phone number,” the reporter said. She put her card into his hand. “I love dinner, but breakfast is my favorite meal.”
“Do you have what you need?” He asked.
“I think so,” she said. “I assume dinner is off the record.”
“Yes, off the record.”
“Then is there anything you’d like to add?” She asked.
“I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for Mike Roper. The doctor’s cured my body. But Mike cured my mind.”
He ran a hand through his short dark hair.
“I mean, I had therapy. A lot of therapy. But just knowing that there were others and that they were doing well. I…. I owe my sanity to Mike Roper. He’s a great guy.”
He moved to push the door open.
“I’ll be done by 8, maybe 9? Would you like to….?”
“I like a late dinner,” she said.
“Great! I’m… I’m excited. See Mike saved me again.”
The Undersecretary pushed the door open and, as predicted, was whisked away by the Secret Service. Just before leaving the building, he turned and waved to her.
Smiling, she went home to finish the piece, and get ready for dinner.
Wednesday, 6:25 PM Denver, CO
“Merde,” Frederec said.
A woman’s angry voice echoed down the hall.
“What?” Mike asked.
Wearing a tux shirt and his boxer shorts, Mike stood with his arms out so that Frederec could make the final adjustments to his new wardrobe. Mike was afraid to move in case he was pricked by a pin or tore something or whatever he might do to such finery.
“Maman has seen Jill’s hair,” Frederec said.
“Listen, it’s not Jill’s fault. It’s not like she….”
“No, no,” Frederec said. “No one blames Jill.”
“Is your Mom going to terminate the contract? I know Jill’s been really excited….”
The woman’s angry voice came down the hall and past the door of the small room they were in. Frederec laughed.
“No, Maman is yelling at my father,” Frederec said. “She wants him to….”
Frederec paused trying to come up with the word in English.
“Castrate is probably the closest word… the person who did this to Jill.”
“Jill keeps her contract,” Mike said.
“Take that off,” Frederec said. “Here are your garments for Oprah tomorrow.”
Mike began to pull on a pair of Levi’s jeans.
“Oh right,” Mike said. He pulled off his boxers and took a pair of designer briefs from Frederec. “Jill?”
“Oui. Jill, her Katherine, they are part of the family now.” Frederec smirked. “I almost feel sorry for this Trevor.”
Wednesday, 8:10 PM
“Would you like to cut the cake?” Sandy asked Noelle.
“Daddy should cut it! It’s his ‘Happy Day’ cake!” Noelle said. Noelle sat on her knees on a chair at Sandy’s round dining room table. “Don’t you think, Nash?”
“Sure.” Nash mumbled from Sandy’s computer table.
Sandy had baked a delicate white cake with toasted coconut cream layers to celebrate the public announcement of Aden taking over Lipson Construction. Standing with her hand in Aden’s, she had felt Aden shake with anxiety. But when Jacob invited Aden to answer questions, Aden had been every bit the charming, professional leader. She, Noelle and Nash screamed and cheered for him. To avoid the press, the family retreated to Sandy’s condo for a sleep over and cake.
“Daddy has to get out of the bathroom,” Sandy said.
“Hey!” Aden came out of the bathroom in a bathrobe. “You’re the one who told me to wash off my nervous stink.”
Sandy laughed. Aden kissed her.
“Let me get dressed.” Aden scooted into Sandy’s bedroom to change into jeans.
“This week has been really fun,” Noelle said. “I’m glad we didn’t have to stay at Nuala’s house.”
“Milk?” Sandy asked.
“Yes please,” Noelle said.
“How about you, Nash?” Sandy asked.
“Huh,” Nash looked up from Sandy’s laptop. “What did you do to this?”
“It just stopped working.” Sandy shrugged.
“It’s pretty messed up,” Nash said. “Think I can fix it. You have wireless?”
“The building does,” Sandy said.
“Great. I’ll start a virus scan….”
“You’re a life saver. Thanks.” Sandy kissed the top of his head.
“Ew.” Nash bat at her with his hand then leaned back against her.
“What’s this about cake?”
Aden was walking by the front door when there was a knock. He looked through the peep hole, made a puzzled face, then opened the door. With his forearm at Aden’s throat, a uniformed Denver Police officer pushed Aden all the way back to the wall. The table knocked over shattering a vase filled with flowers. The men stood face to face.
“We can do this hard or we can do this easy,” the Police Officer said. “Your choice.”
Noelle screamed and launched herself across the room. Sandy caught her before she reached the men. Nash came up beside Sandy to hold her hand.
“Let him go,” Sandy said. She wasn’t anxious or angry. She sounded mostly annoyed.
“Sandra,” the police officer said. “This man has a criminal record.”
“Uh huh,” Sandy said. “You’re history isn’t so hot either. You’re going to pay for the vase you broke.”
The police officer stepped back. He lifted Aden by the shirt and set him away from the wall.
“Aden, I’d like to introduce you to my ridiculous, overbearing, jerk of a Godfather, Seth O’Malley.”
“Now Sandy,” Seth said. “I had to be sure we could have a conversation. He has a violent record.”
“Well you scared the kids,” Sandy said. “Does it make you feel like a man to terrify two small kids?”
“Sandra,” Seth said. He held his arms out for a hug but Sandy just shook her head at him.
“You really overstepped your bounds this time,” Sandy said.
“Sandy,” Aden walked up to her and the kids. “I’m Ok.”
He hugged Noelle and Nash then stroked Sandy’s hair.
“We were just about to have some of Sandy’s cake,” Aden said. “Would you like to join us?”
“But Dad!” Nash said. “That’s police brutality. We should….”
“I’m all right,” Aden said. “Ever since Sandy told me that her stepdad was a police officer, I’ve wondered when I’d get… uh… introduced.”
Sandy nodded then went into the kitchen. She returned with a broom and dust pan which she trust into Seth’s hands. He raised his eyebrows, laughed, then set about cleaning up the flowers and broken vase. When he finished, he held his arms out and Sandy hugged him.
“May I introduce my friend Aden Norsen?”
The men shook hands.
“Aden Norsen. Nice to meet you,” Aden said.
“Yeah, sorry about that.” Seth pulled at his collar. “Sandy’s stepdad was my best-friend and the best person I’ve ever known. I saw Sandy’s name on your police report. Well, naturally, I got a little hot about that. Then I saw you and Sandy and the kids on the television tonight…. I guess, I’m a little protective.”
“She deserves it,” Aden replied.
“This is Noelle and Nash,” Sandy said. “We’re having a celebration for Aden. Is it Ok…?”
“Please join us,” Aden said.
Thursday Morning, 1:35 AM
Because Jacob could only sleep a few hours at a time, he and Jill fell into the habit of hanging out during the times he was awake. While he looked forward to the day he could sleep an entire night, he loved getting to know Jill in the quiet of the morning.
This morning, they were sitting on a feather bed in front of the fireplace. A large fire danced in front of them. While Jacob was cold, Jill was warm. She wore one of his white tanks and panties. The large tank exposed curve of her bare breast. She was playing with something in her hand. A pulse ran through him every time her nipple appearred in the tank top window. She was captivating and distracting at the same time.
A few hours ago, Katy woke screaming with horror that Trevor had stolen her away. Katy was now sound asleep in the middle of their bed.
And Jill was talking about her day.
“So Katy’s napping on my lap and Paddie was asleep against Colin’s shoulder,” Jill said. “Well, Alex says, ‘I’ve fought my little brother three times this year. Who do you think won?’”
“Do you know the answer?” Jill asked.
“This man with silver hair and blue eyes walks in the room like he owns it. Alex and Colin bow to him. I guess he’s their teacher. Anyway, he makes Colin show me just how much bigger he is than Alex. His arms are long and he’s like five inches bigger than Alex. He’s like fifty or sixty pounds heavier. Anyway, the teacher asks me: ‘Who would win if these two fought?’ I say, ‘Colin, of course’. But….”
“Alex won every time,” Jacob said.
“Isn’t that amazing? The teacher said that if you aren’t the biggest, you have to think the fastest to out maneuver your opponent. He said that Alex thinks really fast, so she always wins. He said the only way to win against Trevor is to out think him. Go after him head to head, and I will lose like I always have in the past. Then he showed me some simple movements that would keep Trevor off me. When Katy woke up, Alex taught them to Katy.”
“Sounds like you were pretty impressed with Miss Alex,” Jacob said.
“How do you know them?” She asked.
“I met them through Mike,” Jacob said. ” I’ve also rehabbed a couple houses for them. I play hockey with Colin. I think mostly, they’re always up for some adventure. We’ve been fly fishing, backpacking, hunting….”
“Adventure? Yeah. I mean, who knew? Alex showed me her scars and stuff. I….” Jill beamed. “I feel really hopeful, like everything is going to work out.”
Jill looked down at her hands. While she talked, she had been playing with the object in her hand. She looked up at Jacob, then smiled.
“Thanks,” she said.
“For what?” Jacob asked.
“For not being mad about my hair,” Jill said.
“I’m mad about your hair,” he said.
“Well, not being mad at me,” Jill said. “It feels really good to be here with you and….”
“You’re really Ok if I go on birth control?” Jill looked down at the object in her hand.
“Sure,” Jacob said. “I am contractually obligated to provide one Marlowe heir. Since you have provided one, in such brilliant fashion I might add, I am off the hook.”
“That’s a joke,” he said. He smiled but she seemed a little lost in her head. “Hey.”
He touched her face and she looked up at him.
“I love children,” he said. “You want to have fifty kids? I’m in. You just want to have Katy? That’s fine with me. I don’t need to have my own biological children. I’m happy to adopt or just hang out at the school like I do now”
“So you don’t mind?” Jill bit her lip with anxiety. Her attention turned to the object she held in her hand.
Confused by the conversation, Jacob changed the subject.
“What is that?” Jacob asked.
“This?” Jill held up a gold button. “It’s not anything really. I play with it when I’m having a hard time. I’d forgotten about it. I mean, things have been so hard this year that…. Sandy reminded me of it when she… she removed my hair. She got it from my purse when I started crying.”
“May I see it?”
Jill set it in his hand. Made out of some kind of metal, the button was gold in color. It was round on the top, flat at the back with a simple metal loop to connect it to a jacket or maybe a shirt.
“I’ve had the button with me through almost every really hard thing for… Oh I guess, the last four or five years. It was my companion through the twenty-whatever hours I was in labor with Katy.”
“Trevor?” Jacob’s eyebrows shot up with surprise.
“He had school and whatever else. I was in labor for more than a day. He couldn’t afford the time.”
Jacob clenched his teeth at Trevor, then smiled at Jill. She was just stating a fact, not complaining.
“I can feel the bumps, but I’m not sure what’s on it.” Jacob set the button in her hand.
“I don’t really know. There used to be a pattern but I think I rubbed it off. I run my finger over it when I’m worried.”
“What does it mean?” Jacob asked.
“It’s a very long story and….” Jill sighed. “You’ll be asleep again soon. I’d rather you sleep, and get better, than stay up all night listening to me talk about the past.”
“Will you tell me tomorrow?” Jacob stretched his left arm out in a yawn. Jill was right about going back to sleep.
“Let’s see what tomorrow brings,” Jill said. “Mike asked Megan, Steve, Candy and me to be here with him tomorrow. Everyone is coming at eight for some kind of dress rehearsal or whatever. We’re going to be here at least until they leave for Chicago.”
“But you’ll tell me.”
“Of course. I was thinking….”
She raised her eyebrow then smiled.
“Yes, I do want to make love to you.”
“I’m so glad,” Jill whispered.
Thursday, 5:20 AM Fort Logan Cemetery
“Did you bring it?” Mike asked Alex Hargreaves.
Alex set a package of incense in his hands. Her team stood guard in the area. Two men had blocked off the road to the memorial. Alex and Mike walked toward the monument for the Fey Special Forces team. Eleven black granite slabs set in a semi-circle. A tall black granite obelisk marked the middle of the semi-circle. Alex gave him a Zippo lighter
Mike went from stone to stone saying a prayer and setting the incense.
Today was his big day.
Today he would tell the world about what happened to him all those years ago.
He had to come here this morning. He hoped the guys would be with him in spirit when he told to the world about them.
Clicking the lighter, he hoped that he did his dead saviors justice. He hoped….
“Ten minutes, Roper,” one of the men yelled.
Moving from stone to stone, he lit the incense. He stepped back to look at his work when he heard, “Ah fuck.”
Turning, he saw a news van pull up to road block. A reporter and videographer jumped from the van and were arguing with the soldiers. He knew that Alex and her team could easily destroy the transmission. Hell, they had equipment that could wreck a camera without ever touching it.
He whirled around to look at Alex. She shrugged.
It was up to him.
Blowing out a breath, he went to talk to the reporter.
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