Sam woke up on a bright sunny, yet chilly November morning. The warmth from under the covers was reason enough to not get out of bed. His pregnant wife, who was sleeping soundly next to him, was the perfect reason not to get out of bed.
Sam rolled over to face his wife, Sara, and gazed upon her. She glowed even when she was asleep. These were the perfect moments that he lived for. Just to look at her.
He reached over to stroke her hair and moved a lock behind her ear and then ran his finger down her cheek to her chin. She stirred and smiled before opening her eyes and looking at Sam.
“Good morning, beautiful.” Sam said with a smile.
“Morning, honey,” she answered. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Whatever you and junior want,” Sam said with a smile.
“Bacon. I would like some bacon. And an egg.”
“You stay right here. I’ll be back in a few minutes with bacon and an egg.”
Sam got up and went to make his wife breakfast. He heard his cell phone ring a special ringtone. He froze and the blood drained from his face. He went to his phone and looked at the display. It read Unavailable. The phone rang for the fourth time and he answered it, but no one said a word on either end.
“Hello,” he stammered.
“Mr. Smith?” The voice was soft and inviting. She had a sweet southern accent and the image of a short, beautiful woman with wavy flowing auburn hair came to his mind.
“No, I think you have a wrong number.”
“Is this 848-5083,” asked the voice sweetly.
“No, it’s 848-5038,” came the automatic reply.
“Silly me! I’m so sorry to disturb you.” The line went dead and he stood there with the phone still pressed to his ear. A million questions went through his mind all at once overloading his circuits. He began to tremble and dropped the iPhone to the ground causing the glass to splinter just as if it was a windshield that was hit with a bullet.
What did they want him to do? Why now after seven years of silence? He trained nonstop for two years for this and waited for seven. What the hell is going on?
He went back into the bedroom and looked at his wife who was just beginning to maneuver out of bed. Sam started to get dressed and didn’t say anything.
“Honey, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”
“I, uh, it was the office. I’m so sorry but I have to go in for a little bit.”
“But Sam, it’s Sunday morning! They never call on a weekend.”
“I’m sorry babe. They just said it was urgent.” He avoided eye contact with her. He hated to lie to her, he was never good at it and she could always see through it. But lie he did, and she didn’t seem to notice.
He finished getting dressed and went to the side of the bed where she silently sat and gave her a kiss on her forehead and then knelt beside her.
“I’ll give you a call when I can. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to make your own bacon and eggs this morning.” He smiled, lifted her pajama top over her swollen belly and kissed it before he left without saying goodbye or I love you.
Sam sat on the park bench overlooking a pond with the city skyline as the backdrop. It was still chilly out and he took a sip of steaming coffee while he waited. He impatiently looked at his watch for the third time in as many minutes. Every jogger, every dog walker, every person that walked past him caused the pit in his stomach to be a little deeper. What could they possibly want now?
“Hello, David,” a male voice said behind him. He began to turn and thought better of it. “How’ve you been?” An older man walked around the bench and sat down beside Sam. Sam didn’t say a word.
“You never were one for unnecessary talk, were you?” When Sam didn’t speak the man laughed. “Right. Well, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve been called here. After all, seven years four months and nineteen days is a long time to go without hearing from your employer. The truth is, we didn’t need you until now. We have a job for you. You’re not going to like it, but if you don’t do it we’ll do it for you and it will not be pretty and you’ll be included in the contract. I wanted to get that out of the way right off the bat. Are we clear?”
Sam paused and considered his options which weren’t many. “Clear,” he said quietly.
“Good,” said the man jovially. “I don’t need to remind you why you volunteered for this job do I?” He emphasized the word “volunteered”.
“Good,” he said in the same jovial tone as before. “All you need to know is this contract is high priority. An enemy of the state that has eluded us for years who we just found three days ago. This is a terrorist that has bombed clinics, refugee camps, cafes, hospitals, you name it, they’ve bombed it.
“She joined al Qaeda as a special operative in 1999 in Lebanon. Her two brothers were a captain and a major in the Lebanese army and deserted to join the terrorist group with her. They aided the men that attacked New York in 2001. She’s pretty important if al Qaeda allowed a woman to be in the inner circle.”
Sam sat there and listened not knowing what else to do. He had trained for this. To be a sleeper agent. To do one job and then disappear. To help his country in its time of need. To do his patriotic duty. He knew he received paychecks from the government, but they went to a secured bank account that he would get the information to only after the job, whatever and whenever it was, was done.
The man reached under his coat in the special breast pocket and pulled out a large envelope. It was paper-thin and sealed. He handed it to Sam, who paused before he took it.
“I’m going to need more information if I’m going to find and kill this terrorist.” He couldn’t believe he was saying this. He never willingly hurt anyone in his life let alone killed them. But he was caught up in the patriotic fervor of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and signed up for this knowing full well what it entailed. But that was eight years ago. He was a different man eight years ago. He had a wife now, and a baby on the way. He had two other people to think about now. He wasn’t on his own with no family to answer to like he was back then.
“There’s a photograph in there, David, of the contract. That’s all you’ll need. On the back of photograph is an address. When the contract is filled, you will go to that address and ask for John Carter. You will be shown into a room with a safe deposit box. In that safe deposit box will be the bank account information which will be your paycheck and a key to another safe deposit box. Further instructions will be in that box.”
The man got up and started to walk away as if nothing had ever happened.
“Sir,” Sam called out to him. The man stopped and turned around to face him. “I don’t mean to question your judgement or the agency’s judgement, but am I really capable of filling a contract on such a dangerous terrorist?”
“David,” the man said as he took a few steps closer to the bench, “We conducted an extensive background check on you eight years ago. We know your background. When we found out about this terrorist, we went back seven years ago and tracked your every move up until last Thursday. You signed a contract with the government of the United States of America. You will fill this contract and you will fill it gladly because it will protect future citizens of this country. You will then drop of the face of the planet. Sam will cease to exist just as David has ceased to exist. You will grow old and bounce your grandkids on your knee and will not be able to tell them of how you saved them from the terror and horrors that children all over the world suffer through every day. You won’t be able to tell them that. But you will be able to talk to them and bounce them on your knee. That is reason enough for you fill this contract. Your physical life will continue on even though Sam’s will not. You will be monitored periodically for the rest of your life. You won’t know if the nice lady next to you in the checkout line at the grocery store is an agent or not. You will not know if your child’s little league coach is our agent or not. You will not know. But as long as Sam ceases to exist, you will not have a problem. You are capable of doing this. We wouldn’t have assigned it to you if we didn’t think so.”
With that the man turned on his heels and walked away. Sam sat there for a minute which seemed like an eternity holding the envelope in his hands. He turned it over and slid his finger under the sealed flap and ripped it open. He felt inside and pulled the photograph out. He looked at it and his heart stopped beating for a fraction of a second. The picture caused his breathing to stagger and he felt as if he was punched in the gut. He was looking at a fifteen year old photograph of his wife.
To be continued…