The door erupted in an explosion, devouring the six security locks. A small metal canister flew from the freshly made opening in the door. Samantha jumped from the couch as it bounced off the floor once, twice- BANG! A blinding flash of orange light followed the sound. Samantha clutched her face, falling to her knees in disorientation.
If anyone said anything she could not hear it over the ringing in her ears. Two sets of hands took a strong hold of her arms and pulled her up. Her blurry eyesight could make out the heavily equipped men in uniform that were dragging her. Police! She had not done anything wrong, had she?
The men tossed her on her bed, the gel mattress immediately seizing her as it molded to her body. Samantha laid there still overwhelmed by the quick strike. The two officers stood at the foot of her bed, watching her without staring at her. Samantha thumbed the release switch that should have cause the bed to release its hold on her, but there was no response.
“You have the wrong house.” Samantha stated, trying not to show her panic.
“I assure you we are in the right place, Samantha Baxter.” The two uniformed men stepped back as a plain looking man came forward.
“I have not done anything wrong,” Samantha paused.
“You are right about that, but we need to talk.” The man pulled up a chair and sat beside Samantha. “It won’t take long, and you won’t even miss the time.”
The man produced a small needle. Samantha attempted to wiggle away.
“You can’t…” She exclaimed but it was too late, the needle was pushed into her arm, stinging her skin.
“That will only help you,” the man said calmly. “Mr. Jonathan Marcs, you know him right?”
“Wait, who are you?” Samantha became hesitant. What did her secret boyfriend have to do with this? And how did he know about it? And if he knew, did her boss know?
“This will go a lot faster if you stick to my questions.” The man paused. “I am Agent Daffron.”
“Agent, from the Government Protection Agency,” Daffron stated as if it was obvious, and with a bit of annoyance. “Now can we get back to Mr. Marcs?”
“Jon is a client of Mr. Wineburn, my boss. I only talk to him when he checks in with me. I’m the receptionist,” Samantha stated with as much contempt as she could muster. “Jon is just a small business owner, what would the GPA want with him?”
“Samantha, the GPA is interested in anyone who plans to take down the State.” Daffron let out a sigh. “You seem to be far too able to ask questions.”
“Jon is hardly a terrorist.” Samantha let the shock leak out in her tone.
“You know this how? After all he only checks in with you.” Daffron was speaking sarcastically. “Is it because he does not fit the mold, the stereotypical terrorist as seen on TV?”
Daffron cut off Samantha’s sentence. “Or is it because you wouldn’t sleep with a terrorist?”
Samantha was shocked; how did they know? Of course! The GPA was capable of watching anyone in almost any place. She would have never suspected she was being watched. “Okay, you’re right. I see Jon a little more than at the reception desk.”
“I’ll say. I might also mention that the GPA takes interest in those associating with terrorists.” Daffron paused. “So, again. What do you know about Mr. Marcs?”
“I met him shortly after I started working at the firm. It’s a good job; you won’t tell my boss that I am sleeping with a client? I could lose my job.”
“I am growing tired of your distractions.”
“I am sorry. It’s the fog in my head.” Samantha was feeling lucid. But really, it was her own defiance that kept her rattling out the questions. If they wanted answers she was going to first find out what they wanted. What she could not figure out was why she was even talking to this Agent, likely a result of the injection.
“The haze in your head is normal with the medication I gave you.” He rested his hand on her shoulders.
Samantha let out a scream. “Get your hands off me! You can’t do this to me. I will sue you and everyone in this room. I have certain rights.”
“The next thing you’re going to say is that you pay my salary.” Daffron did not let go, stared into her eyes, turned vicious. “I am not some street cop and this is not about some speeding ticket. I assure you that you have no rights while I am in this room.”
Samantha withered under Daffron’s intimidating gaze. Her fear paralyzed her from reacting in the hostile way she had. She finally felt her breath return to her. She could only muster a whisper. “Okay.”
“Can we get back to Mr. Marcs?” Daffron took his hand off Samantha and sat back. All the calming nature had returned to his voice.
“He needed legal services and we are one of the best. Jon said it was also the fact that he wanted to support another local business. He comes in for advice, legal issues with his money, creating legal service contracts and documents. I think he pretty much uses every service our firm offers, which is a lot.” Samantha stopped. She realized by Daffron’s blank stare this was not enough to satisfy the Agent. “After about his fifth visit…”
“Sixth visit, actually.” Daffron stated dryly.
“After his sixth visit, I guess, he asked me out on a date. It is not allowed, and I told him that. But he was so charming and, well… I could not resist.”
“I bet.” Daffron pulled out a file and looked at it closely. “That was about six months, twenty dates, or three sexual encounters ago. Depending on how you measure time, Samantha.”
“I suppose. How long has the GPA been watching me?”
“Six months, twenty dates, or three sexual encounters, depending…”
“On how I measure time.” Samantha turned to look away from him.
“Exactly,” Daffron stated with a sound of satisfaction. “So tell me, have you been to his shop?”
“You already know I have.”
“I suppose I do.” Daffron paused for a moment. “Does he have a lot of customers there?”
“You know that too.”
“Nevertheless, I would like to hear it from you,” Daffron stated. Samantha realized by the sound in his voice that perhaps he did not know much about what goes on inside Jon’s shop.
“I have never paid much attention, honestly.” Samantha turned back to face the Agent, really taking him in. For someone who knew everything about her last six months of life, she had never seen him before. His dress was a plain blue suit with a hat pulled down to obscure just enough of his face. “Don’t you think the fedora is a bit cliché for a Government Agent to be wearing?”
“Perhaps, but you are distracting from the real issues.” Daffron looked at the folder as he spoke. “Based on what we have seen of his store traffic, he should barely be breaking even each year. Tell me, does he live like he is struggling?”
“I think you are trying to convince me Jon may very well be a terrorist.” Samantha paused. “You already know the facts you have. What is it you need from me?”
“Fine.” Daffron shut the folder and looked Samantha in the eyes. “We don’t know what Jon is doing in his shop, and we are hoping you do.”
“So you need my help? Well what if I don’t want to help?”
“If you didn’t think it was possible to live in a worse place than this,” Daffron gestured to the small studio apartment while looking around. “I can show you one. If you like your home, you will help us.”
“I am not a criminal.”
“We know, but failing to cooperate with me can make you one. Can we get back to my questions?” Daffron waited for Samantha to nod. “Have you seen Jon meet with anyone?”
“Just my boss.”
“So your boss handles Mr. Marcs’ account himself?”
“Does your boss do that a lot with low profile clients?”
“No, not really. Only friends and big shots get his attention.”
Daffron said what she was thinking. “So either he has a lot more money than you realized, or Mr. Marcs is friends with your boss. If they’re friends, I wouldn’t worry about me telling Mr. Wineburn about your involvement with Jon. But, think about it hard. On your dates it is always high class dining, well except for those lunches at the diner. His gifts are always extravagant aren’t they? Sure, he drives a typical sedan and lives in a typical suburban home. Of course, Mr. Marcs has always been good at hiding his money, except when it comes to the ladies.”
“He has done this with others?” Samantha was hurt by the thought that others had been rained on with Jon’s generosity and affection.
“Of course, but don’t be upset. He is clearly far more in love with you than the others.” Daffron let out a sarcastic laugh. “I have already been here longer than I wanted, or should be. You keep digressing from the situation at hand. Was there anyone else you can remember Mr. Marcs meeting with? In private?”
Samantha tried to recall. Her mind was not very sharp. Then suddenly the thought came to her, as if someone had allowed her access to it. “There was a man, a rather unimportant looking person. It was the first time I had been to his shop. A man came in. They went to a back room for nearly an hour. I was about to leave, figuring our date was canceled, when they both came out.”
“Does he cancel his date often?” Daffron asked.
“More than I would like.” Samantha let a little bit of aggravation come out in her words. “He is always late or something. Some damn last minute customer, he always says.”
“Do you know the name of the customer he met with?”
“No. Jon said it was a business deal.”
“Samantha, I think you have worn out your use for the GPA.” Daffron made a gesture to the damaged front door. “We hoped you might know more about what goes on inside his shop.”
Samantha saw a man in a brown suit, much the same style as Daffron’s, enter the room. She struggled to think of something that might help the agent. If she was put in jail she would surely lose her job. “I really didn’t know to look for anything. I don’t know much about the operations on an auto shop.”
Daffron pulled out a large syringe. “I am going to give you something to help you forget this ever happened.”
“You’re going to erase my memories?” Samantha frantically pressed the release button again and again. The bed refused to let her go.
“Calm down, Samantha. It will only effect the last few hours, most of which you spent watching that same old movie you seem to love. You won’t even know it happened. Besides, it is relatively safe.” Daffron stuck the needle into her arm.
“Relatively?” Samantha panicked and struggled against the gel’s grip on her.
“Well, you will go into cardiac arrest.” Daffron pushed down the plunger with a slow steady force.
“I don’t want to die!” Samantha screamed.
An ice cold began to rush over her body, slowly flooding over her arm and across her body. She began to gasp for air in panic as she realized the cold flowing blood was reaching her heart.
“Relax, you will only be dead for a few minutes. Our doctors always get a revival.” Daffron said calmly. Samantha closed her eyes feeling sleepy. “Well. Almost always.”
Samantha woke up with a start. She could still feel the coldness of her blood in her arm and chest. She pressed the release, as soon as the gel released she jumped out of bed. She struggled for breath to calm herself. She looked around her.
Samantha took a breath again to relax. Her body was already beginning to warm up. She got up slowly and made her way to the front door. The door was fully intact, all six locks bolted shut. Even the familiar old dent from a party she threw was still there. She began to breathe a bit more regular as she realized she was awake from the nightmare.
Samantha looked at her clock, there was no point in going back to sleep. She may as well get ready for work. Somehow she had to pay for this overpriced dump.
As she slipped out of her nightgown she rationalized all the ridiculous things she had dreamt about. She was mad at Jon for canceling their lunch date yesterday, that’s why he was demonized in her dream. Agents drugging people for questioning, that didn’t happen in free societies. Yet, by the time she was dressed for work, she was still unconvinced.
She got to work a little early that morning; she chose to drive to work but still left at the same time as if she had walked. Samantha did not want to be out in the open for a walk. Samantha walked into the high rise building and past the security desk. She smiled at the two security guards who always watched her intently as they sat at the desk. Where they involved? Impossible, they just enjoyed watching a woman in form fitting business dress walk by.
She pressed her thumb against the reader until the light went from red to green. The elevator doors opened and she got in. She took the elevator to the twelfth floor.
By the time she stepped out of the elevator her thoughts were on her day of work. Reminding her of the things she would need to get done, rather than focusing on an impossible dream. She saw Jon waiting by the office door. As she approached him she looked around to see if anyone else was around.
“Awfully risky being here so early to meet me.” Samantha smiled. “I need this job, if Mr. Wineburn sees you…”
“I am here for an emergency appointment.” Jon smiled at her. “I would kiss you but you would say no. Can we meet for lunch, down the street at the usual spot? I won’t be late again.”
“Sounds great.” Samantha smiled and unlocked the door. “Come in and sit down. Mr. Wineburn should be in soon.”
Samantha watched Jon sit at one of the large overstuffed waiting room chairs. She went to her computer behind the cherry wood reception desk, clocked in, and then began looking at the day’s appointments. “He is booked solid today.”
“I called him already. He will see me.” Jon said.
“I didn’t know you had his cell number. So are you good friends?” Samantha smiled to take the edge of her statement.
Jon just laughed. Shortly later Mr. Wineburn came in, Samantha greeted him as usual. He nodded to her and then took Jon back to a conference room. Just before leaving he turned around and smiled. “Are you okay, Samantha? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I am fine, sir.” Samantha smiled warmly. “Rough night’s sleep.”
“Too many sweets before bed will do that.” Mr. Wineburn went into the conference room.
She began to look over the schedule for the day. It was mostly the regular big shots who ‘kept this town running’ as she had heard Mr. Wineburn brag. There was one new name, a new client.
Samantha took a deep breath to conceal her fear. She knew that name. Why was he coming to her office? It was a new client meeting, last of the day. Surely this must be a coincidence.
Of course seeing this appointment yesterday is how her subconscious got the name. Samantha smiled to herself at her own irrational fear. I’ll worry if he is wearing a fedora, she thought.
The morning was uneventful and she was on her way to meet Jon at the usual lunch time meeting place. It was just far enough that she was not likely to run into any coworkers on their lunch breaks, but not so far as to make her late getting back.
She walked in and looked around. Jon was not here yet. She was a little annoyed by that, though he was not late yet. She looked over at the bar; a rather plain looking man looked at her. He was not someone who would stand out to anyone. As she made eye contact he looked away. The coldness in his eyes was startlingly familiar to her. She was certain she knew who he was.
She waited another ten minutes before she called Jon’s phone. He did not answer and she left a rather rude message about failing to keep his promise to her. She hung up and looked up to see the man from the bar walking up past her. She stepped out of his way, despite that fact that she was nowhere near his path.
She got her meal to-go and left looking carefully as she crossed the street.
She was now very bored at work, it was a common problem after three. Samantha had finished all her busy work including the back log of calls from her lunch break. The phones did not ring much in the late afternoon and she got a lot done.
She was still quite mad at Jon, who had still not returned her call. Anger with Jon brought other negative thoughts to her mind. She looked around to make sure no one was watching her work and then pulled up Jon’s file on the computer.
She looked over the rather secretly written files. She had seen other client files in the course of her work, but these entries made little sense to her. She was, after all, only a receptionist, but even she could see something was hidden. Jon made a lot of money for the owner of a small shop, a shop she had not seen many visitors enter. Perhaps Jon was big with parts sales over the net, after all many people ordered things over the net. Samantha saw a lot of different cryptic cases. Samantha was no lawyer, but she could see Jon was moving money and trying to keep it legal. Samantha closed the file. She was just being paranoid.
She had never thought about how much Jon made over last six months, or three sexual encounters. Samantha shivered. This dream was clearly making her very paranoid. She closed the file. It was time to dismiss it for what it was, a horrible dream. She checked her phone again. Why hadn’t Jon called back?
The door to the office opened and Samantha jumped as she recognized the man from the bar, now dressed in a sport coat and slacks. The man approached the desk. “I am here for an appointment.”
“Henry Daffron?” Samantha didn’t know how she knew it was him. It could have easily been one of the appointments for the five other lawyers.
“Yes.” The man was clearly taken aback by her knowledge of his name.
“I will let him know you are here.” Samantha paused. “Your name sounds very familiar. Have we met before?”
“I am sure I would remember if we had,” Daffron smiled, “a woman as charming as yourself.”
She smiled back. “I’m sorry but your flattery is wasted, we can’t date clients.”
“A rule I am sure some might break.” Daffron leaned closer. “You wouldn’t do such a thing I am sure.”
Samantha tried to hide her concern. His name, his eyes, and his demeanor were all too familiar to her. Is it possible to dream of someone whom you never met? “Mr. Wineburn rarely meets with new clients. You must be a powerful man.”
“Of course not,” Daffron smiled. “I requested to speak with him. I have some information to share with him, and I am sure he has some information for me.”
Mr. Wineburn came out and brought Daffron to the conference room himself. The meeting lasted for some time and Samantha went home without seeing her boss leave.
It was the next morning when she found her boss waiting for her as she came in to work. He waved her to come to his office. She came in and took a seat only after he gestured to one.
“Samantha,” Wineburn spoke with a bit of compassion in his voice. “I have been made aware that you are dating and are rather romantically involved with Jon Marcs, a client of mine.”
“Who told you such a thing?” Samantha faked a bit of contempt in her voice.
“Samantha, I know it is true. Besides, you also accessed his files, and that was just yesterday.” He slid a check over the desk. “I hate do this, but I have to let you go.”
Samantha took the check before the words slipped out of her mouth without thought. “It was that Henry Daffron, he told you didn’t he?”
“The man you met with last night?” Samantha saw the look of puzzlement remain on her bosses face. She stood up. “Never mind, I’ll gather what few things I have here and leave.”
It did not take long for her to gather the few pictures she had and the few supplies she had brought from home into a small box. As embarrassing as being fired was, she did not want to leave any personal belongings behind. She didn’t want to come back to this place.
She took her box and left the building. She wished she had chosen to drive today as she carried her box down the street. She felt the emotions well up inside of her. She was mad, and sad, but not about losing this particular job.
She had her worries: How she would pay her rent? How long would it be until she found work again? There were jobs out there, but being fired from a prestigious law firm would no doubt taint her ability to get work. She had too much pride to ask Jon for money, though his lack of contact with her likely meant he was not in her life anymore.
“Can I help you carry that box?”
Samantha turned and saw Daffron looking at her. He was wearing a blue suit and a fedora. Words came to Samantha’s mind so she spoke them. “Don’t you think the fedora is a bit cliché to be wearing?”
“Perhaps, but you’re distracting yourself from the real issue,” Daffron spoke cautiously. “You remember don’t you?”
Samantha looked him over and the cold feeling began to rush over her arm again. She dropped the box to the ground and ran. She ran hard and fast. She fumbled to find her phone to alert the police, but it was in the box she once held.
She ran her way out of heels and continued to run until her legs could no longer take the punishment. She stopped at the open field of a park and looked around. Seeing no-one, she sat down, not out of fatigue but out of sudden sickness. She was dizzy and began to dry heave with nausea. Several moments passed before she regained herself and stood back up.
“You’ll be perfect for the job. You are in top physical form, and very inquisitive.” Daffron stood there holding her shoes and the box. “You are looking for work, aren’t you?”
Samantha stared at him blankly. Her reflexes told her to run again, but something in her mind made her stay. “What job?”
“Agent. It’s a good job, easily quadruple what you used to make. Good benefits too.” Daffron smiled a large, almost evil grin. “You could say it is the job you’ve dreamed of.”
“What do you need from me?” Samantha inched away from him, ignoring his humor.
“Don’t run again.” Daffron held out her shoes. “This meeting is purely optional, but the GPA could use your help. It will be beneficial for us both.”
“I have not seen Jon. He is not calling me anymore. I doubt I will be much help to you.” Samantha took her shoes and slipped them back on her feet.
“Jon has been with us, though I doubt he will remember it. You are the only person who ever has.” Daffron took a breath. “We know nothing about what Jon does inside the shop. Nothing we have can hear what goes on inside. We know enough about Jon to know who he really works for.”
“You need me to spy on him.” Samantha paused, noticing Daffron’s eyes appeared warmer to her, almost inviting. Her fear of him was almost gone. “What makes you think I will betray Jon to you?”
“I am not asking you to betray Jon. I am only asking you to help protect your country,” Daffron said. “I can give you the means to prove Jon is innocent, if you still believe that after you see the files. Besides, you need the money.”
“And then once I prove Jon innocent or guilty, and GPA has no use for me, then what?”
“I am offering you the job of Agent. Trust me, once Jon is in custody, there are plenty more to track down.” Daffron handed Samantha back her box. “It is up to you. I guarantee you a good life in this line of work. But once I walk away the offer is rescinded.”
Daffron turned around and started to walk away. Samantha began to think quickly. Could she really let him walk away? It had to be a good job. Besides, what loyalties did she really have to Jon?
Samantha realized she was only trying to rationalize her deep desire to take the job. The money would be good, and the job did interest her.
Daffron was at the street corner when Samantha called out. “I will take it on the condition that the fedora is optional.”
It had been three more months, fifteen more dates, or four more sexual encounters before Samantha discovered everything she needed. She sat on a Doctor’s stool, Daffron standing over her shoulder.
She looked at Jon in the hospital bed. His arm was bandaged up from an injury during his arrest. She knew things about Jon now and there was little sympathy in her eyes.
“There is no need to question him.” Daffron rested his hand on her shoulder.
“Without me we would have no case, I want to hear it from him.” Samantha said coldly.
Jon opened his eyes, only to promptly slam them back shut.
“It’s bright in this room,” Samantha said in a calm reassuring voice. “The fog will clear in your head soon.”
“Samantha?” Jon said as he eased his eyes back open. “Is that you?”
“I’m Agent Baxter, Mr. Marcs. The GPA has some questions for you.” Samantha put on her cynical smile. “And, you won’t even miss the time.”
by Richard Flores IV