This story is by Annie Carter and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
A drop of sweat ran down John Rathbone’s neck. He loosened his collar and rolled up his sleeves as he paced through the plush carpeted corridor of NCIS Headquarters. He turned a corner and squinted. The glare of Quantico, Virginia’s midday sun streamed through the floor to ceiling window on the fourth floor of the west side, almost defeating the purpose of a panoramic view.
Rathbone, NCIS special agent since 1998, didn’t bother knocking on the Chief’s mahogany door.
He strode across the vast office, stopping abruptly in front of the black polished desk. His superior, Chief Steven Hunt, finished typing a message before looking up to meet John’s steely gaze. Hunt waited for a response from the notorious agent.
“You got what you wanted. Here’s my resignation,” said John, scowling as he slapped two Glock handguns and a sealed letter on the desk.
Steve, a severe looking wiry man with short gray hair, put his hand on his chin and frowned. Staring at John for maybe five seconds, he said matter-of-factly “You knew it would come to this, John. Make sure you hand your car key and swipe card in to HR before you go.”
John felt the vein in his forehead bulging. Clenching his jaw, he suppressed a surge of contempt and looked up at the ceiling to compose himself. Hunt had declared him unfit to serve after using ‘dubious methods’ and ‘unauthorised recording’ to track Deputy Chief Dean Cooper.
“Just let it go”, Steve had cautioned. “You dare to incriminate Cooper in the Libyian terror plot without one solid piece of evidence?” Yada yada yada, John had heard it all before. “You overstepped the mark this time, John!” The words had resounded in his mind throughout the previous night. Reddened eyes now revealed he had hardly slept.
With clenched fists John turned and walked away, pulling the door shut firmly behind him. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered, heading towards the lift. “Just wait ‘til you open that envelope!” John knew that Steve had a tendency to let correspondence pile up on his desk. That would give him enough time to sort out this botched investigation, before Hunt would open the letter to find no resignation, just a note stating, ‘It’s not over.’
Rotating an Audi R8 key between his fingers, John exited the lift, walked swiftly past HR office and through a swing door to the underground parking lot. Rules were meant to be disobeyed. Especially if the rules meant that a deputy city official would evade justice.
John paused to tie his shoelaces and think. Within seconds a violent blast threw him against the concrete wall. He opened his eyes to see the Audi engulfed in flames.
“Dammit!” he yelled. “Don’t tell me you’re in on this too, Hunt!” Steve obviously knew that John had no intention of leaving without the car.
John hastily removed his belt and bomber jacket, launching them towards the blaze.
He had parked the car in a spot secluded from CCTV cameras. There were precisely four and a half such parking bays at NCIS HQ. John made it his business to know such things.
Donning the official cap he never wore and ducking low, he crept behind cars and out towards Main Street, where he boarded a green city bus. He had to get downtown and find some answers.
Sitting in the third row, John nervously clutched a compact hard drive. It wasn’t difficult to persuade Bert, an elderly assistant janitor, to sneak the gadget out of Hunt’s office at 5am earlier that day. John and Bert had always had great rapport. “You won’t be breaking the law,” he lied. John had smiled when he found that Bert had done exactly as instructed: the hard drive was concealed under a yucca plant in the foyer and that’s where John found it when he came in at 6am, pretending to pick up dropped keys. “Good man!” grinned John, pocketing the device. Nobody had noticed anything.
John exited the bus on the corner of Third and Main Street, directly opposite his sister Claire’s law firm. A paralegal ushered him into the corner office and closed the door. Claire was out to lunch but was expecting John.
Standing behind the curved maple desk, with one eye nervously on the door, John began copying files to a secure site. They were still uploading when a loud shot shattered the side window, narrowly missing John’s head and smashing a glass-fronted bookcase. He dove to the floor.
“My God, John!” Claire appeared at the door, frozen with horror. “Get down!” yelled John. “I got what I needed.” What he’d seen from the downloads so far confirmed his suspicions. Not only the Deputy Chief, but also Hunt, was overriding NCIS policies to fast-track individuals of their choice into key roles. Both men must be embroiled in the plot to seize control of USS Arlington in the Atlantic. Hunt and Cooper must have facilitated last week’s terror atrocity in Boston!
John grabbed Claire’s arm and they darted through the adjacent office and out via a fire escape.