Washington, DC – Sunday, Feb. 23, 6:00 p.m. EST
Anna was not exactly surprised when Charles de Jeanbourg called her—she was used to sources aiming to spin a story, and plenty of people called journalists all the time telling bald face lies hoping to mold reality. She was, however, taken aback that he contacted her so soon.
“Well, Mr. de Jeanbourg, you are quick,” she said.
“You have been asking around about me,” he said. “I’d like to talk.”
“And why is that?”
“I’ll tell you when we meet.”
“I bet you will.”
“How about now? At Union Station.”
She paused, thinking of Viktor. “Give me fifteen minutes.”
“There’s a Belgian coffee shop near the entrance on the west side. Do you know it?”
“I’ll meet you there.”
“How will I find you?”
“Buy two cups of coffee, sit down and I’ll find you,” he said, and hung up.
Anna opened the ride share app and entered a new destination. Within a few minutes, she was on her way. Once more, she tried to reach Viktor, to no avail. She left a message.
When they reached the semicircle in front of Union Station, traffic was piled up. Despite his efforts to follow the navigation system and get in the correct lane, the driver missed his turn-off. Anna told him to stop, but he overshot the main entrance to the station. She stepped out a block further down Massachusetts Avenue than necessary.
“No worries,” she told the driver. “Have a great night.”
She walked the block back toward Senate Park. The crosswalks and lanes in front of Union Station were as convoluted as ever. What failure of urban planning had caused this tangle of roads, and why did it perpetuate? Was Charles de Jeanbourg already there?
At the café, she bought the two coffees, sat down and waited. Various single men stared zombie-like at their electronic devices. Nobody made eye contact with her, not even the undesirable variety. Anna was about to dial Viktor again, when a thirty-something man wearing black sunglasses landed in the chair across from her.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said, removing the sunglasses.
She took him in: hair—brown, trim cut, contrasting with shaggy beard; skin—basic pale, no obvious tattoos; eyes—blue; features—average, handsome in a nondescript way, like that actor who’s in every movie but whose name you forget, Paul something; clothes—tapered rust-colored jeans, pointy black leather oxfords, black belt, grey long-sleeved collared shirt, nice but not too expensive. “It’s fine,” she said, wondering what path led this hipster to the CIA. “I was surprised you came to me, though, and so soon.”
“Mm-hmm,” he said, handing her his wallet and showing her his driver’s license and ID cards.
“Here. And tell me how you heard about me.”
“Let’s get straight to it, then. No idle chitchat? Don’t you want your coffee?” Anna pushed one cup closer to him.
“Thank you,” Charles said. He took a sip, making a slurping sound.
Anna reviewed the contents of his wallet. The ID cards looked realistic. But what if they were fake? How would she know? She shrugged and handed them back. “To answer your question,” she said. “I spoke to Sara Reedman, Evy’s friend.”
“I see,” he said. “She told you about me?”
“Where is she?”
“None of your business,” Anna said. “Now, Sara told me that Evy said you guys went to grad school together.”
“That much is public knowledge.”
“Drop the attitude, de Jeanbourg,” she said.
“It’s de Jeanbourg, soft ‘j,’ like ‘zh.’ The ending sounds like ‘pour’ not ‘iceberg’.”
“Fine, de Jeanbourg,” she said, re-pronouncing his name. “But you are the one who told Salazar to contact Evy. You sang her praises to him, and that’s why he asked her to do the gig for the Agency.”
“What did she say about Salazar?”
“You must know more about him than I do. He’s your boy. Sara told me Evy liked him. She said he was a flirt, smooth but funny. In short, Salazar offered Evy your gig and she took it. He knew which buttons to push, right? What the heck, Charles! Evy got killed because you drew her into this CIA nonsense without knowing what she was doing.”
“It’s not what you think.”
“It never is.”
“I can’t speak freely. Clearances, leaks, you know, everything has to stay locked down, and I can’t jeopardize anything. But I wanted to hear your account.”
“Oh, great. Now you have my version of what Sara said that Evy said that Salazar said. Glad I could help you out with that. You don’t want to jeopardize anything? Nou and Evy are dead! I’m out of work. Viktor is in the hospital. Sara is afraid of her own shadow. And you can’t tell me anything? Where are we supposed to go from here, Charles?”
“Look. Evy was my friend too. I’m doing the best I can. But…there are many layers.”
“Like a cake,” Anna said, rolling her eyes and getting up. “Good day to you too.”
“Wait. I do have one thing for you.”
“By all means. Spit it out.”
“This may come as a surprise. But here it is: Giovanni Salazar does not have anything to do with the Agency.”
“That name is most likely an alias. We don’t know his identity, and he is not one of ours.”
“What?” Anna repeated.
“The man is unknown to us.”
“Which means that Evy was not working for the CIA?”
“Yes,” he said. “I mean, no. She wasn’t. At first, my colleagues thought she was a traitor. But I knew she didn’t have the constitution for that—and besides, she wasn’t anti-American. She was always telling people how the U.S. had its shortcomings, but it was the best country in the world. Finally, after checking her out, my colleagues backed off. Now they agree that she thought she was working for the CIA. It’s just that she wasn’t.”
“Then who was she working for?”
“Exactly,” he said.
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“Jones, I’m afraid I have to go.”
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.