General Fiction posted September 18, 2018


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The opening chapter

Betrayed From Within

by bob cullen


The President's first four words; "We have a problem," set the tone. Her next sentence, "I need someone I can trust implicitly, someone who knows Homeland," upgraded the urgency to catastrophic.

Five hours later, Ashe stood to attention before the Presidential desk in the Oval Office. "Sit down, Ashe." One didn't disobey an Executive Order nor did they dare to assume a reason for their presence. He saluted, sat and held silent.

"I have a task for two, you and the retired one."

"Tyler's out, Madam President," Ashe countered. "He still holds himself responsible for the death of Meredith."

"That's precisely why he will assist. This is a fight to protect the legacy left by Meredith. The new Director appears intent on toning down the role of Homeland, redefining it as a diplomatic body rather than maintaining its present status as an active enforcer in providing the security our country needs to maintain proper balance. Dale Gregory, the new Director argues that role is adequately filled by the CIA and Homeland is merely an unnecessary duplication of that body. And sadly, it would appear there is growing support for this vision in Congress.

"And quite honestly, Ashe, we both know we can't allow this to happen." The President spoke with the determination she was known for. "Any reduction in Homeland's role will only weaken the defences of this country. We both know that," concluded President Adriana Tollerson.

"You'll never get him to change his mind. He promised Jess no more."

"I have an idea." Ashe Morgan listened as the President outlined her plan.

"That just might work," said Ashe. Her explanation justified the deceit. Ashe sensed it was her idea. She was one clever lady. Ashe asked one question. "When?"

"Tomorrow." Everything about this President impressed Ashe. She was, he believed more honest than any person he'd ever encountered, and such an improvement on her immediate predecessors.

"Will the reporter co-operate?"

"That's the one detail beyond our control. I'm banking on her reputed desire to deliver the absolute truth."

*

Alison was relaxed, talking on the phone while taking her evening stroll, oblivious to all around her. The collision was unexpected and physically jarring. The impact knocked her off her feet, winded her and left her gasping for breath. She crashed to the ground with force. He'd come from nowhere, running in apparent panic.

"Get this to my friend." The words stunned her. Alison felt a small package pressed into her hands. The man was back on his feet and sprinting. She recognised him. What was he doing in Washington? He was scheduled to play tennis in LA tonight. Alison saw the pursuers, two of them, guns in their hands. Shock gripped her. The weapons discharged and the fleeing man fell. The shooters dragged the body to a waiting car. It sped off.

Alison struggled to her feet and rushed to where Ashe Morgan had fallen. The amount of spilled blood suggested he was in all probability beyond help. The chasers were gone. Alison saw their car disappearing in the distance. What to do? She remembered her phone. She should take a photo. The phone had been knocked from her grasp. Alison ran back to where she and the fleeing man had collided. The phone was gone. Had the killers picked it up?

Without knowing why, or even examining the object thrust at her by the victim, the journalistic instinct in Alison sensed a story. Was it a random attack? She sensed not. Why him? What had Ashe Morgan done? And most important of all, who were the killers? She secreted the evidence in her bra.

In less than three minutes the first police car arrived. Inside five minutes the crime scene was cordoned off by six more vehicles. Alison found herself surrounded by uniforms.

"Are you all right, Miss?" asked the senior officer in attendance. "An ambulance is on the way."

The mention of ambulance triggered an avalanche of pain in her knees, elbows and forehead. She'd fallen heavily. A glance at her knees and elbows revealed blood. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and discovered more blood. She slumped to a sitting position on the footpath. A young female police officer wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.

Ambulance officers tended to Alison's injuries prior to placing her on a stretcher. The patient was then lifted into an attending ambulance.

More cars arrived. Alison observed an attitudinal change come over the senior Police officer. He had been relegated to minor importance. The demotion coincided with the arrival of the suits and their distinctive Chevrolet Suburbans. She figured FBI. Forensic teams were pouring over the scene. Alison now knew her instincts were spot on; the story took on new significance. The big boys were involved. The package, now resting next to her breast, created unprecedented excitement.

Two of the suits approached as the ambulance driver was about to close the patient's door. "May I have a few questions?" one asked.

"Sure," Alison replied.

"Can you tell us what happened?"

"Ashe,......."

"Did you know him?" he interrupted.

"Only as a sports lover, he was the best young tennis player I ever saw. I never saw Sampras in his youth, but I can't imagine anyone being better than Ashe Morgan. I'm a sport's reporter for the Post. My name's Alison Coutts." She didn't notice the reaction the mention of the name Ashe had on the other as yet unidentified investigator.

"Can you tell me then, Alison, what you saw?"

"Ashe came round the corner like Usain Bolt. He ran straight into me, knocked me down, got up and took off again. No apology, just crash. She made no mention of his five words of conversation. Or the package he'd thrust into her hands. Next thing I see is two other guys hurtle around the corner with guns drawn. They commenced shooting. Ashe didn't stand a chance."

"What happened to his body?"

"The two killers picked him up, threw him into the back of their vehicle and sped off."

"Was he dead?" asked the unidentified suit. He appeared to be a man accustomed to being in control.

"He looked dead to me. I don't understand why they took his body."

"Obviously, without a body it's impossible to prove he's dead which makes the substantiating a charge of murder more difficult. But this hit exhibited all the markings of a professional execution and professionals don't miss from thirty feet. I'd be amazed if anyone could survive that."

"Why would they take his body?" asked Alison.

"Removing the body eliminates the risk of leaving forensic evidence and identifying the type of weapon used which in turn leaves the prosecution's case lacking in detail. When there's no body, defence can argue the victim is in hiding rather than dead, therefore making conviction more difficult. But when there's a witness who saw the actual shooting it makes no sense whatsoever.

"Can you think of anything else, Alison?" he asked.

"Yeah," she paused. "I dropped my phone. Maybe they might have picked it up."

"What's the number?" He wrote the details on a slip of paper and then called to a colleague. "Get a trace on this? It still may be in the killer's possession."

"I'd love to get it back it contains all my contact details." The officer displayed little interest in her request.

"One last question, Alison, did you see which way did the killers headed after the shooting?"

"I can't be certain, but I did see a car speeding south."

"Thank you, Alison, you've been most helpful. If you remember anything else, please call me on this number." He handed her his card. It bore the name Kent Campbell and his employer. He wasn't FBI, he was from Homeland.

"One last question, Alison," asked the employee of Homeland Security. "Did you get a good look at them?"

"They wore balaclavas, gloves and sports shoes."

"What about the car?"

"It was a small sedan. I think the badge read Lexus."



The first chapter of the third Calin Roberts novel.
I'm seeking honest feedback so please don't hold back. Six stars are nice but three and four stars will lead to improved writing. I hope.
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