Conspiracy of Swords
Disclaimers for Conspiracy of Swords: Please see Chapter One.
(This chapter is dedicated to my outstanding beta- reader,
Without her, this story would be less than what it is. Kudos, and lots of hugs, my friend.)
Teren stopped at a small restaurant on the south side of Baltimore. Pedro's was a favorite of hers, and she knew the owners fairly well. She was pleased to see the parking lot only half full. If there wasn't a huge crowd, they should be able to get her favorite booth.
Alex had heard of Pedro's, but had never been there. As they walked in, she noticed that Teren didn't even stop and give her name to the hostess. Instead, she stepped passed the 'Please wait to be seated' sign, and walked to the waitress station at the end of the cocktail bar. There was a man tending bar, wearing a white shirt and black vest. His hair fell in dark waves over his forehead, matched by the black of his neatly trimmed mustache. When he looked up and saw Teren, his eyes widened.
"Phillipe, how are you?"
"Teren! It is good to see you again." Phillipe reached out and shook Teren's hand. Alex could hear an accent in the man's speech, but couldn't identify it. "I am well, how are you? You look much better than you did the last time you were in."
"Yeah, well, that was when I was just out of the hospital. I've been recovering nicely."
"Thank the heavens. Are you here for a drink, or will you be dining with us tonight?"
Teren motioned Alex forward. "Actually, my friend and I are here for dinner. I was hoping my normal table would be open tonight?"
"Si'. It is not very busy, and not a lot of people ask for that particular table."
"That's fine with me. We're going to head over there, then, could you--"
"Not until you introduce me to this lovely young woman." Phillipe came out from behind the bar, and took Alex's hand. "Senorita, it is a pleasure to meet you."
Teren rolled her eyes. Alex just grinned.
"Fine. Phillipe, this is Alex. We're working together on something. Alex, this lech is Phillipe Garcia, the owner of Pedro's."
"Mr. Garcia, it's very nice to meet you."
"Ah, ignore Teren, she has no manners. And it is Phillipe, Alex, and a pleasure to meet you as well." He kissed her hand. "Welcome to Pedro's."
"Thank you, Phillipe."
Teren put a hand on Alex's shoulder. "Okay, we're going to our table. Phillipe, could you bring us a bottle of Borega Alguerra, 1989?"
"It is not a problem, my friend. You go, sit, and I will have Miguel serve you tonight, yes?"
"That will be fine. Thank you, Phillipe."
The table Teren led Alex to was actually very close to the kitchen, which made Alex wonder why Teren liked it so much. While all the booths were high backed and enclosed in glass, Alex thought it would still be very distracting to be so close to the noise of the kitchen.
When she slid into the booth, she was pleasantly surprised. While she could see the kitchen door open from time to time, and an occasional echo would drift into the table, there were none of the sounds she would normally associate with such a location. The only constant sound was the soft strains of a violin wafting down from a speaker over the table.
"It's amazing, isn't it?"
"The lack of noise." Teren smiled at Alex's nod. "It's one of the reasons I like this restaurant. For some strange reason, the acoustics here are dampened. I think it has something to do with the materials in the booths, they seem to absorb sound rather than letting it echo. But this table, especially seems to be separate from the others. Between the high wall here," she rapped her knuckles against the wall behind her, "and the one just inside the door of the kitchen, the sound is very muffled. With the music overhead, and the size of the booth, it's possible to completely ignore what's going on outside this table. And because it faces a different way from all the other tables, it's impossible to be seen." She shrugged. It's not complete privacy, but really damn close."
"It's very nice," Alex replied. "I'm glad you showed this place to me. If the food is as good as the atmosphere, I think I might become a regular."
"Do you like Spanish food?"
"You know, I don't know that I've actually tried it."
"It's not the Mexican you're probably used to. While there are Spanish influences in Mexican food, there is no reverse influence. Spanish cuisine is much more reflective of Italy and France than anything else."
"Really. I didn't know that. It makes sense though."
The two were interrupted by Phillipe who was carrying a bottle of wine, along with a young man carrying menus, and a bottle opener.
"Hello, Miguel, how are you?"
"Very well, Ms. Mylos. It is a pleasure to see you this evening."
Phillipe held the bottle in front of his guest. "Is this the one you were thinking of, Teren?"
"Perfect. Miguel, would you open it, please?"
Miguel did so, and poured the requisite mouthful for Teren to taste. She did so, first rolling the red liquid in her glass, and taking a breath to savor the aroma.
Phillipe smiled, and motioned for the younger man to pour the wine for the two women. Once that was done, Teren turned to Miguel, motioning him to keep the menus.
"My friend here has never had Spanish cuisine, so I'll order for the two of us. We'll have two filete de ternera, and patatas a lo pobre. As an appetizer, we'll have a plate of a la plancha pez espada. Can you remember that?"
"Si, senorita. I will return with your appetizer." Miguel smiled at Alex, gave Teren a half-bow, and left.
"Phillipe, is he doing better in school?"
"Si, Teren, much better. He no longer misses his classes."
"Good. I'm glad he's getting himself together."
"I, too. It is kind of you to be concerned."
"Nonsense. He's your son, and you're my friend. Of course I'm concerned."
Phillipe looked away, appearing embarrassed.
"Now, my friend, Alex and I have business to discuss."
"Of course. Forgive me for intruding. Let me know if there is anything else I can bring you."
Phillipe bowed to Teren, nodded to Alex, and left the table, heading back to his bar.
Alex sipped her wine. "This is excellent, Teren. Is this from Spain?"
"Yes. It's from the Valdepenas region. Nineteeen eighty-nine was the last time they were rated outstanding in Valdepenas, and there are very few of those wines left. The Borega Alguerra comes from the Casa Borega winery. It's been in existence for nearly two hundred years."
"How do you know so much about it?"
"Well, I spent several months there. Perry's ancestors were from the Valdepenas area, and he had distant cousins who worked for the Casa Borega. He took me there, right after we became partners. Said if he could teach me nothing else, he was going to teach me to understand and enjoy Spanish wines. I got hooked on the place."
"So Perry was Spanish?"
"His family was, but his grandfather had come over as a very young man, just after the first world war, I think. He changed his name, moved to Kansas Ciy, and raised his family there. Perry grew up listening to his grandfather's story of the old country, and he decided to go there right after high school. He looked up his cousins, scraped up the money for the ticket, and shipped himself to Spain. He always told me that if his visa hadn't expired, he probably wouldn't have come back. He loved the Spanish wine country."
"And he taught you to love it, too."
Teren's smile was sad as her fingers played with her glass. "Yes, he did."
They were quiet for several minutes, during which time Miguel brought them a plate of hors d'oevres.
Alex took a slice and tried it. "Oh, this is wonderful. What kind of fish is this?"
"It's swordfish, sliced and panfried. Glad you like it. I thought you might enjoy this a little more than a plate of calamari."
"I've had squid before. It was alright."
"I could never get the taste for it. Perry kept trying to get me to try it, and the one time I did, was right before I came down with a stomach bug. I know it wasn't the squid's fault, but they just aren't pleasant memories."
Alex laughed at the way Teren's face scrunched up as she told about her problems with squid. It made her look like a child, and reminded Alex that there really was a person behind the cold agent she'd met.
"It's nice to see you smile, Teren. You don't do that enough."
"No," Teren agreed, "I guess I don't do that often, do I."
The two of them were quiet. Miguel soon returned with their dinners.
Alex quickly decided she loved Spanish food. "This is excellent, Teren. Thank you for bringing me here."
"I'm glad you're enjoying it."
"How did you find this place?" Alex held up a hand. "No, wait. Don't tell me. Perry brought you here."
"Actually, it was the other way around. I was trying to find someplace new to take him for his birthday about three years ago. I found this place, and he fell in love with it."
"Is that when you met Phillipe and his family?"
"Yes. Perry and I became regulars here."
They were quiet for several minutes, both concentrating on their dinners. Alex realized she was feeling very comfortable with Teren, who seemed to have left the assassin in the car for the moment.
"So, is your family from Spain as well?"
"No, Greece. My mother was third generation American, and my father came over after World War Two. He went to Chicago, where he met my mom."
"So, you were born in Chicago?"
"Yes, both my brother and myself."
"So was I."
"I know." Teren smiled at her. "I read your file."
Alex looked up. "You what?"
"I read your file. Graves brought it to me on Monday, before we met with you and Jackson. He thought I should see it, so I could figure out how to deal with you."
"And did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Figure out how to deal with me?"
Teren's smile widened. "Not even close."
Alex had to smile back at her. "So, since you got to read my file, can I read yours?"
"That would kind of be hard since it's classified."
"I guess that's a no?"
"It's okay." Alex was quiet for a moment as Miguel cleared their plates from the table. She poured herself another glass of wine, and then leaned forward. "Since I can't read your file, will you tell me what happened in Eastern Europe?"
Teren stared at her. Alex stared back. Neither blinked.
"Why do you want to know about that?"
"Because you think it has something to do with this case. And I want to know what you know."
For several minutes the staring contest continued. Alex thought maybe she had pushed the other woman too far. Then Teren lowered her eyes, and took a deep breath.
"The CIA learned of a meeting that was going to take place in a small town on the border between Lithuania and Poland. There were four groups represented, including a faction from the US. There was a group from the former Soviet Union who were selling weapons, from rifles to surface to air missiles. There was a group from inside Lithuania, who wanted those weapons, but they had little or no money. The final representative was from Asia, and his associates had a ton of opium to get rid of. They wanted to get it into the Eastern Bloc countries. The Americans had all the money, as well as connections to Nazi groups both in the United States, and Europe. They were going to buy the drugs, which would be cycled into both Europe and the states. They were going to buy the guns, and send them to the Lithuanian groups with the understanding that in return, the Lithuanians would also become drug pushers. The money made by selling the drugs on the streets would allow them to purchase even more drugs and weapons."
Teren paused and took a sip of her wine. Alex waited, her hands crossed.
"The CIA kidnapped the two people who were going to represent the US faction. They replaced them with me and Perry. Our objective was to stop the negotiations, and cause dissension, without letting anyone know what we were doing. Before we left, it was decided that we should also kill the representative of the Asian drug cartel. After he delivered his cargo, hopefully, because then we could seize the drugs and destroy them. George was our emergency contact outside. He was to be available in case we needed a quick extraction, or we needed to get a message back to our homebase, which, for the mission, was Germany. George was placed as a bartender in a pub that was close to our meeting place. It was frequented by everyone at the meeting, so it seemed a good place to hide him -- right out in plain sight, sort of."
Alex nodded, but didn't speak. She didn't want to break Teren's train of thought.
"Well, we succeeded in most of our objectives. The gun dealers didn't trust anyone, the group from Lithuania, which actually had Nazi affiliation, was ready to pull out. We acted surprised, and upset with all of them. Then, we accomplished our second objective. We managed to slip into the room of the Asian boss, and I killed him while Perry downloaded all his computer records from his laptop. It didn't take long, and nobody knew what was going on. In the morning, they found him dead, strangled in his bed."
Teren finished her glass of wine, and Alex poured her another one. She wasn't trying to get Teren drunk, but it seemed to be helping the older agent tell her story, and Alex wanted to hear the rest of it.
Teren just stared at her glass. Alex waited, nervously.
"That morning, people began to pull out of the negotiations. There were weapons drawn, and people were scared. The Asian cartel wanted to find who killed their leader, but the others just wanted to get out of there." She took another sip. "And that's when he showed up."
Once again the silence stretched, endlessly. Alex finished her own wine, and still waited. When she finally couldn't stand it, she asked, "Who showed up? Mather?"
"Well, yes, he was in the car, too, but we didn't know that at the time. The car that pulled into the camp had the windows tinted very dark. The man who first stepped out was someone Perry and I had never seen. He wanted to talk, he said to the American representatives. Everyone could tell by his accent that he was American, and Perry and I were thinking fast trying to come up with something to say. Obviously, this man knew the people we had replaced. Sure enough, when we were pointed out to him, he laughed and said we weren't who we claimed we were."
Teren blew a strand of hair out of her eyes and continued. "We stared at him, and asked who the hell he thought he was. He told us, and we of course claimed he was the liar. That we knew the man, and this wasn't him. By that time, no one knew who to believe, and everybody was standing around with their guns drawn. We figured if we just kept our cool, and stuck to our story, we'd get out of there."
She pushed the glass of wine away, and leaned back. "And then George Mather got out of the car."
Alex noticed Miguel heading towards their table, and she waved him off. He glanced at the serious look on Teren's face, and quickly veered away.
"Perry and I realized we'd been betrayed. George pulled out his CIA badge, showing it off to people. He also claimed he could prove we were CIA as well. I looked at Perry and he motioned to the briefcase I had just put down. It had a bomb wired into it, that would explode five seconds after the trigger was pulled. Perry stepped forward and was trying to distract everyone while I reached down and triggered the bomb. I threw the briefcase towards George, hoping it would kill him and the guy he was standing next to." She shrugged. "I never realized how long five seconds could take. He had time to catch it, and toss it into the midst of all the people who had gathered there. The bomb went off, and chaos erupted. If there was one thing we had done well, it was to make sure everyone there distrusted each other. The whole compound was filled with gunfire.
"Perry and I had taken off the moment I threw the case, so we actually made it to our car, and I managed to get the engine started. Perry used the emergency beacon in the car to alert our homebase that we were in serious trouble. Then it was a matter of getting out of there, and into a position to get picked up."
Teren reached for her wineglass again, and Alex noticed for the first time how badly the agent's hands were shaking. For a moment she wished she'd never asked the question, but then she realized that it was probably the first time Teren had told the story outside of a debriefing. It was a step in her healing, and Alex was gratified that she was the one Teren trusted to share this with.
"The area we were in was full of small hills and valleys, and the roads ran both over and around the hills. Perry told me to stay on the low roads, make them take the higher ones to find us. With the tree cover we'd be a difficult target, whereas they, on the hills, would be visible from a distance. It would have worked, too, if we didn't run into a truck on the road. I lost control of the car, and we went into a ditch.
"Perry's arm was broken in the crash, and I wrenched my knee. We weren't far from the designated emergency rendezvous site. We decided to head out on foot, trying to stay under tree cover. But the site was on the top of a short and rocky hill. We made it halfway up when we were spotted. Mather had a rifle, and we only had our handguns, so he could sit on the next hill over and pick us off, while his troops crawled up the slope towards us. He'd already hit both of us once, me in the arm, and Perry in the back. We were hiding between several small boulders. I was out of rounds, and had taken Perry's weapon, since he wasn't able to move very much. We just huddled there, waiting." She took a deep breath. "And that's when the helicopter came in over the hills."
Teren reached up and wiped her forehead. She realized she was sweating, and her stomach was in knots. The glass of wine was in front of her, and she lifted it without thinking, draining half of it without stopping.
"Perry told me I could make it up the hill. He said he had every confidence that I could do it. I asked him how he wanted me to carry him, and he said he didn't. He told me he couldn't feel his feet, and the feeling of numbness was growing. The shot in his back had severed his spinal cord, and he could barely lift his arm. He told me I had to go, but first I had to let him go. He took my hand, the one with the gun in it, and he told me to pull the trigger, and run like hell."
Teren realized she couldn't see anymore. Her eyes were wet, and she was in danger of crying in front of Alex. That wouldn't do. She needed to get herself under control.
"So, long story a little shorter, I did it. Perry put the fucking gun in his mouth, and I pulled the goddamn trigger, and ran for the fucking helicopter. I was at the top, and the copter was landing when I felt a pain in my side and stomach, and I fell. The copter crew was yelling at me to move, to get up, and there was gunfire everywhere. I crawled forward, and when I got close enough they dragged me into the chopper. I think I passed out then, because the only part of the ride I remember was them asking if they should go back for Perry, and I said no."
She was beginning feel sick, and she didn't want to see Alex's face. It would be too much right now, and she didn't think she could handle it. "They flew me to Germany, and then a week later they shipped me to Bethesda." Teren finished her third glass of wine, and stood up. "Excuse me." She headed to the restroom, at an almost frantic pace.
Teren just made it inside the stall before losing the contents of her stomach.
Alex sat at the table, staring at the vacant seat opposite her. She had no idea how to comfort the dark woman who had fled a moment before. She'd always prided herself on being able to deal with emotional distress in other people. It was part of what made her a good FBI agent, the ability to handle individuals in extreme emotional pain. But this time, she had no idea what to do.
She had wanted to reach out and hold Teren, even just take her hand. She'd even felt herself begin to move once or twice. But Teren had never shown that she would accept such physical comfort. She had instead seemed to fold in on herself, not looking at Alex at any time during the story. Alex had wanted to tell Teren that this pain would ease, and that she would someday heal from this betrayal. And she wanted to say she was sorry she'd asked, that she'd never ask anything ever again, if only Teren would let Alex comfort her.
But she'd been unable to say anything, and Teren probably wasn't going to ask her for anything, much less the comfort Alex was wanting to give.
It took several minutes for Teren to return to the table. Alex had begun to worry, and was glad to see the woman emerge from the ladies room. As Teren got closer to the table, Alex could see that all the walls that had come down for that short period, were now back up. If anything, they were reinforced.
"Are you ready to go, Alex?"
"Sure. Are you okay to drive?"
"Yes." Teren said nothing else. She simply grabbed her coat and headed for the bar.
Miguel joined her there, and she waited while he ran her credit card through the scanning machine. She signed the bill, and strode out of the room, not even looking at Alex. Alex glanced at Miguel, then at his father. Phillipe was behind the bar watching his friend leave his restaurant. As she went through the door, he sighed, and shook his head.
Alex followed Teren slowly. She wanted to take a few minutes before getting into the car. The emotion seeping from behind Teren's carefully placed walls had been strong enough in the restaurant; Alex didn't want to think about what it would be like to be in a small enclosure with the volatile woman.
Thankfully, Teren seemed to gain more control as she drove. They were still quite a ways out from DC, but as they slowly got closer, Teren seemed to relax. Finally, Alex felt she might be open to another conversation. She searched her mind for something to ask, and finally came up with one.
"Why did you shorten your name from Terentia to Teren?"
The darker woman gave Alex a ghost of a smile. "Why do you ask?"
"Curiosity. Besides, I like the name."
"Good. You can have it." She glanced at her passenger, but realized Alex wasn't going to give up. "I always hated the name. It's too long. And besides, it just doesn't fit me."
"Oh, I don't know about that."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, didn't anyone ever tell you what it means?"
"No. Why, what does it mean?"
"Terentia is Greek, and it means 'guardian.'"
Teren snorted. "Yeah, well, that's a joke."
Alex didn't answer. She thought the name had been very appropriate.
"Alright, I get to ask you a question, Alex."
"What kind of a middle name is Edrea?"
"It's Hebrew. It means 'powerful.'"
"Is Alexia Hebrew?"
"No, that's from my mother's side of the family. They were Jewish, but they lived in Greece for several years."
"Do you know what it means?"
"Yes. It means 'aid.'"
"'Aid?' As in aiding others?"
"So, your name means 'powerful aid.' That's appropriate."
Alex laughed. "Everybody always thought so when I was a kid. I would bring home stray animals, and usually they were injured in some way."
"Sounds typical. Why didn't you become a veterinarian?"
"Because I hated biology. Besides, I was much more interested in people than I was in animals. I hated seeing creatures in pain, but I never wanted to play doctor on them."
"So, why the FBI?"
"They recruited me when I was in college. I thought I could do the job, so I applied for the Academy."
"No, that's an excuse. Hell, I got recruited by the Bureau, and I knew I could do the job. You had to have had other offers. Why the Academy instead of one of the other places?"
Alex thought about it. "I guess it has to do with my father."
"Because of his experience in the Holocaust?"
"You know about that, huh?"
"You'd be surprised how thorough those files are. Besides, all your psych reports say that it's part of your motivation."
"Well, I guess that's part of it. But there are other things as well."
Alex took a deep breath. "When I was nine, this family moved into our neighborhood. They lived across and down the street from us. My father went over to introduce himself. He was the first one, and for a long time, he was the only one who would talk with this family. After all, they were the first blacks in our neighborhood, and nobody else really knew what to do. Several wanted them gone, and others didn't care. But my father cared. He knew that they needed people in the area to support them, or they would end up victims of those who couldn't see past their skin color. So, he organized a neighborhood picnic at a nearby park."
Alex turned a little towards Teren. "Now, you have to understand, everyone loved my dad. He was great with kids, he was generous to a fault, and he was always willing to lend a hand if someone needed to buld a new garage or if the kids in the area wanted a tree house. He was respected, and even though some people didn't like the fact that he was Jewish, or that he was a practicing Jew, he was still a very popular man. So, when he gathered everyone at the park, and introduced the Wilson's, everyone began to warm up to them.
"So, the Wilson's became a part of our neighborhood, and I was good friends with their daughter Lisa. She was about three months younger than me, and she was in my class at school. We grew up together. She was so pretty, and as we grew up it was her the guys all lusted after. But she always ignored them. It wasn't that she wasn't interested in boys, she was. She just wasn't comfortable around them. Even though she was very pretty, she was shy, and it took a while for her to be comfortable with anyone she didn't know. Most of the guys weren't interested in spending much time getting to know a girl. They wanted to make out, and if you didn't, they didn't stick around."
"Sounds like most adolescent males."
"True." Alex began fidgeting in her seat. "When we were fourteen, there was another family that moved into a house on our street. Like always, my father went to welcome them to the neighborhood. But when he came home, he wasn't smiling anymore. He was much quieter, for days after that. I asked him what was wrong, and he just shook his head, and said that people who didn't remember the past would relive it. Then he'd hug me, and tell me to do my homework. Things were like that for almost a week, and then the kids from this new family showed up in school.
"They had moved to Chicago from Indiana. Their last name was Dibbles, and they had three children, all boys. The youngest was in our grade, and is name was Kevin. His brothers were Bob, who was a senior, and Jimmy, a sophomore. All three of them made it very clear that they hated black people."
Teren was concentrating on the road. She glanced at Alex occasionally, but was content to let her tell the story at her pace. After all, Alex had listened to her tale of Perry's death, and never interrupted. If this was the only way she could pay the FBI agent back, she was more than willing to do so.
"It wasn't long before the Dibbles had divided the community. Those that had been willing to accept the Wilson's found themselves at odds with those that hadn't. The battle was waged in broken windows, graffiti, fights at school, and slashed tires. The Dibbles began a community group called Chicago Whites for Racial Purity. It was Klan, pure and simple.
"Everything came to a head one night when Lisa and I went to the movies together. It was just us and a couple of friends who met us there. I don't remember what we saw, but I know it was the last time I ever went to that theatre."
Teren was pulling off the highway into the city traffic. Instead of her normal speed, she slowed down, even allowing an occasional car to pass her. She wanted to hear the end of the tale.
"Kevin Dibbles and his brothers showed up. They took seats in the row behind us, and made snide comments all through the film. By the time we left, the other girls were embarrassed, and Lisa was in tears. I was furious. My father was supposed to pick us up, and I got Lisa to leave a few minutes early. I didn't know the Dibbles would follow us, but they did.
"They found us by the curb outside. It was late, and most people hadn't gotten out of the movies yet. Lisa was still crying, and I had my arms around her. The Dibbles surrounded us, and asked me what a white girl would want with a nigger like Lisa. I told them they were just jerks, and they should go screw themselves. I kept hoping my father would get there before anything happened. But he didn't, and suddenly the Dibbles were trying to grab us.
"Kevin and Jimmy tried to pull me away from Lisa. I took a swing at them, and the fight was on. While I tried to keep them from ripping my head off, Bob pushed Lisa up against a wall, and was trying to pull down her underwear. I kicked Kevin in the balls and ran, trying to stop his brother from raping Lisa. He backhanded me into the wall, and I just kind of slid down it. That was when my dad showed up."
Alex's fidgeting was getting very pronounced, and Teren was fully aware of the emotion coming from her passenger. She was trying to concentrate on driving, but was finding it more and more difficult.
"Kevin was still lying in a heap. I'd gotten him really good, and I think he passed out at some point. My dad pulled the other boys off of Lisa and me, and told me to get to the car. I had to half-carry Lisa, but I got her over to the car, and into the back seat. I looked back to see if my father was coming. He wasn't. Kevin's father had joined the fray, and his sons were holding Dad while Mr. Dibbles punched him. I told Lisa to stay put, and I ran for a payphone.
"The police eventually got there, and all four of the Dibbles got taken to the station. My father went to the hospital. A policeman drove Lisa and me to my house. She called her parents, who came over right away. When they heard about my father, they began calling everyone they could think of, and by morning, there was a collection being taken up to pay for my dad's hospital bills. My mom went to the hospital to be with him, and I stayed with Lisa and her family.
"I guess that was when the tide turned. The Dibbles had always known we were Jewish, but they'd never messed with us. After the fight, though, they included us in the same category as the Wilsons's and added Jews to the list of people that their group felt were undesirables. But they had miscalculated. They had messed with someone that everyone in the neighborhood loved. Even the people who didn't like the Wilson's weren't willing to accept what the Dibbles said about my father. It wasn't long before the only members of Chicago Whites for Racial Purity were the Dibbles. Eventually, they quit, and moved out of the neighborhood."
They had entered the DuPont area, and Alex finally noticed that she was almost home.
"Anyway, I think that was the reason I chose to study hate groups, and that led me to wanting to work with the FBI. I did a lot of research on hate groups around the country, but I decided I really wanted to be a field agent, and here I am. They paired me with David, and life hasn't been the same since."
"What happened to the Wilsons?"
"They still live down the street from Mom. Mrs. Wilson served as President of the PTA when I was a senior. Mr. Wilson is a retired postal worker."
"And Lisa? Are the two of you still friends?"
"Yes. She got married while I was in college, and now has two kids. Her husband's white, and an investment banker. The last time I was back home, their youngest son had just turned two."
"It sounds like there were some positives that came out of a really bad experience."
"Yeah, there were. I think there were a lot of lessons learned. I know it changed my life, and my father's. He wasn't quite the same after that. He became a little more protective, and a little less likely to welcome newcomers to the community. But I think even he realized that it had worked out for the best in the end."
Teren pulled up to the curb in front of Alex's building.
"I think it did, too."
The two women looked at each other in the light from the street lamp. It had been an emotional night, and neither of them really knew what to do now. Alex didn't really want to just let Teren drive away, yet she couldn't think of a reason to keep her there.
Teren couldn't decide whether she wanted to leave because she was tired, or because of the intensity of their talk. But when she really thought about, she didn't want to leave just yet. So, instead of leaving, she sat there, watching Alex.
Alex finally remembered the question she'd wanted to ask when they got in the car.
"Teren, who was the man with George Mather?"
Teren raised an eyebrow. "Didn't I tell you that?"
"No. You just called him 'the man' or 'the guy.' Did you ever learn his name?"
Teren nodded. "His name was John Treville. And while he's not a card-carrying member of anything, he is a part of this, somehow."
"How do you know?"
Teren took a deep breath. "Because he's a shareholder in Kittredge. He also is a member of the board of The Talcott Companies, and Vice-President of East Penn Telecom."
"That's where Brogan works."
"Yes. He's also a member of the Board of Directors for Martin Richmond's CMF."
Alex took in this information quietly. She realized things were getting even more complicated.
"How much of this can I share with my team?"
Teren tensed. "Why do you have to share any of it?"
Alex thought about that. "You're right. I can always work around the fact that I know John Treville had his hands in the dealings in Europe. I can ask Ben and Mark to look at the records here. That should show us the connection."
Her companion visibly relaxed.
"I need to ask you to please show me what you took from Mather's house."
Teren looked away from the younger woman. She had wanted to open the pouch in the privacy of her home, but Alex had broken the rules by letting her take it from the scene. Hell, they hadn't just gotten rid of the rule book, they buried it. She supposed this was something she owed the agent.
Slowly reaching into her jacket pocket, Teren withdrew the small leather bag. She turned on the overhead light, and loosened the ties on the pouch. Teren upended it, letting its contents slide into her hand. When she saw what it was, her vision blurred.
"It's Perry's pocket watch. George had always wanted it, and when I realized I'd left it behind on Perry's body, I cried. His father had given it to him, and his father's father had passed it down to his son. It actually dates to before the turn of the last century."
Alex gently took it from Teren's hand, holding it up in the light. It was gold, and the engaving was in Latin.
"Do you know what the engraving says?"
"'Time is the most precious thing a man has. Use it wisely.'"
"Who's the quote from?"
"I think it was his great-grandfather."
Alex reached for the clasp on the watch to open it. She saw the face of the watch, and noticed the diamonds set beside each of the numbers. It was an absolutely beautiful watch, she decided, and she felt no guilt for letting Teren take it from the scene.
Then she noticed that something was stuck in the casing.
"Teren, can you pull out your flashlight? I think there's something here."
Teren frowned but did as Alex requested. When she focused the beam on the inside of the watch casing, she drew in a short breath.
There was a key attached to the watch. It was a long square key with holes on each side.
"Teren, do you know what this is to?"
"I've never seen it before. It wasn't there the last time I saw the watch."
"It looks like a key for a safety deposit box. Do you know if George had one?"
"Not a clue."
Alex reached in, and carefully pried the key loose.
"I'm taking charge of this, Teren."
"No problem. I just wanted the watch."
"It's yours. Now, we have two problems."
"One, where is the box that this key fits. And two, what kind of story are we going to invent as to why the key is here, and not at the scene."
Teren shook her head. "I didn't mean to cause you so many problems, Alex."
"Hey, I don't mind problems like this. Just do me a favor, please?"
"No more pointing guns at my partner." She met Teren's eyes with a half-smile. "I'm not gonna hear the end of that for weeks."
To Be Continued
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