It had been two weeks since his encounter with Jacob Cutter and that woman, Hope, and Sam still couldn’t explain what had gotten into him. Sure, his unwavering ambition had gotten him into trouble in the past, but it was nothing like the obsession that had consumed him. He had lost all sense of perspective, and instead of taming whatever power Cutter held, it had nearly destroyed him. His temporary insanity had cost him his career, his thumb, and now his freedom.
After fleeing the aborted kidnapping, his former colleagues had taken only hours to track him down. He had been weak and disoriented from blood loss when they pulled up to the sleazy motel where he had holed up. In a way, he was fortunate. If he had spent a few more hours in that condition, he might have died from shock or an infection. Then again, considering what lay ahead of him now, he might have been better off dead. Being a cop in prison was not something to look forward to.
The sound of the gate at the end of the hall opening roused him out of his contemplation. It was late, so the only ones being locked up now would likely be drunks too stupid to take a cab home. Sam didn’t want to have to face another round of accusatory stares from the duty officer, so he rolled over on his bunk and mashed the thin pillow over his head.
“That’s him,” said the officer.
Sam peeked from under pillow as the key turned in the lock of his cell. A man entered the cell and stood in front of the bed with his hands in his pants pockets. Twenty-five, dressed in a dark suit, and sporting a buzz cut – Sam wondered what he wanted with him. He slipped out from under the covers and sat up on the bed.
“Just leave the door open,” said the man.
“Are you sure?” asked the cop.
The man nodded toward the hallway. “We won’t be long. I’ll call you when I need you.”
The duty officer threw up his hand in resignation, leaving the two of them alone to talk.
“You’re a sad piece of work, Dregg,” said the man, leaning up against the wall across from the bunk. “Look at you. Up to your ears in shit, and you don’t even have a clue what’s going on.”
“And just who the fuck are you supposed to be?”
“Me? I’m your ticket out of here, if you’re smart to take me up on my offer.”
Sam still had a cop’s sense for sizing people up quickly. This guy had the confidant posture of a man who could take care of himself despite being alone in a cell with a violent criminal. It wasn’t just cockiness, however. He moved with a predatory, cat-like grace that suggested he’d had training, probably military. “Okay, I’ll bite. What do you want with me?”
“We need you, Sam. Your country needs you. We’re under attack every day, but most people can’t even see it. You’ve had a peek behind the curtain, though. You know there’s more going on than meets the eye.”
“My country is about to lock me up for the next twenty years,” said Sam, “in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“That’s one option,” said the stranger,” or you could help me catch the woman who put you in here, Hope Maybury.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed at the mention of her name. “All right. You’ve got my attention. Maybe you better start explaining yourself.”
“Not here, and not now,” said the man. “It’s either come with me and I’ll explain everything, or rot in this hole until you die. You’ve got thirty seconds.”
Sam stood up and looked the man in the eye. “You make it sound like I’ve got a choice.”
“Everyone’s got a choice,” said the man.
“What’s the catch?” asked Sam. “You don’t just stroll in and make an offer like that unless there’s a downside.”
“They said you were a smart one. The catch is we keep you for as long as we need you, and if you tell anyone about our work, we’ll put you in a hole that makes this cell look like a beach resort.”
“So government work then? Something off the books?”
The man folded his arms defensively, and Sam knew he had hit the mark. “In a manner of speaking. It’s not without its benefits, but it’s dangerous work. You might not like what you find where we’re going. You might live a lot longer if you say no.”
“This isn’t living,” said Sam, “and I’m not staying a minute longer than I have to. What do I have to do to get out of here?”
“Follow me. They’ve been processing your release papers while we were talking. They should be done by now.” He strode out leaving the cell door open behind him. Sam watched the man leave and disappear around the corner. He shrugged and followed him out into the hall.
To be continued…