First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
Office of Dick Chambers
HOLLOCORE, DALLAS, TEXAS
December 21, 2019, 3:45 P.M.
Pessimist: One who builds dungeons in the air.
~ Walter Winchell
Dick Chambers was on the phone with Reggie Brown, head of security for Hollocore.
“What do you mean, they put the courier on a plane to Bermuda? That wasn’t the plan, Can’t these guys do anything right?”
“You what? You don’t know where he is? Hell, Bermuda is a small island. How could you have lost track of him?”
Chambers stood up.
“You lost track of him at the airport, Wade International? It’s not LaGuardia. Find him, damn it, or you’ll be working as a security guard in Wal-Mart.”
Chambers slammed the phone down and plopped down in his desk chair. He was muttering to himself again about the fools that worked for him. He hit the intercom button. “Shirley, get Special Agent Douglas Jennings on the phone.”
He continued to mutter to himself while he waited. It only took a minute. The phone buzzed. He picked up the receiver . . . “What do you mean, don’t call you at this number? I’ll call you at any number that I want. I have your director’s cell phone number. James and I were planning on having dinner the next time I’m in DC. Would you like for me to call him? . . . Okay, then. Tell me what’s going on with Brazil. Brown has lost track of him . . . I know he’s in Bermuda, but where? . . . And why the hell is he in Bermuda? . . . I thought you told me this fellow would do what he was supposed to do. Wouldn’t be any trouble . . . I know all of that. And why, in the name of Mike, did your man in Paris put him on a CIA flight to Bermuda with those agents from the Paris office?” Chambers’ voice was rising higher now. “Aren’t these the same bozos from the Paris office who lost one of their laptops that contained the identification and facial recognition data on every courier our government has or has used in the last twenty years? . . . Why didn’t you guys just paint a bulls-eye on his back and announce on the public address system he was on a mission for the U.S. Government? . . . Look, I don’t want any more excuses or screw-ups. Find him, unless you want to retire early from the Bureau.”
Chambers slammed the phone down a second time. “I shouldn’t have allowed those idiots to handle something this important.” He walked over to the windows that looked out on the city. Another cloudy day. It looked like it might rain. He put his right hand in his pocket and fondled his good-luck piece. He looked at his Rolex watch. He needed to hurry. He might be late for his next meeting. And he didn’t like being late.
December 21, 2019, 7:45 P.M.
If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you to go on in spite of it all.
~ Dr. Martin Luther King (12/24/1967)
TransSea had arranged a reservation for Jeff at a relatively nice hotel near their offices in Hamilton. He could walk there, and would. He arrived at Wade International late in the afternoon, had a sandwich at the airport, and went directly to the hotel and checked in.
As he began to walk toward the offices of TransSea, his excitement about the possibility of again having a well-paying job grew. His confusion also grew as to why he was to meet the representative of TransSea at such a late hour, 9:00 P.M. Most shops and businesses had closed hours before. The section of Front Street housing the TransSea offices appeared to be abandoned for the night.
The building, with a bright, metallic blue TransSea embedded in a sea of stars, was easy to find even in the dark. There was a security guard at the front desk who took Jeff’s name, looked at his passport, and told him he would not need to sign in. He said that Mr. Perkins was expecting him.
“Fifth floor.” He pointed to the elevator.
Jeff crossed the small lobby as the guard watched. He pushed the elevator button and noticed that his heart was pounding and he was perspiring even though it was a relatively cool evening. Jeff looked down at his shoes. I should, he thought to himself, have worn the other pair. The door opened on the fifth floor. There was a reception desk, but no one was there. He stepped off the elevator.
Jeff looked in the direction of the voice.
“Yes?” He could see a person standing in the dimly lit hallway to his left. The figure motioned for him to follow, and Jeff complied.
Halfway down the hall, the figure turned into an office. Jeff followed. The office was small and also dimly lit. A couple of chairs, a small desk. No papers or books or pictures or electronic devices of any kind.
The figure turned to face Jeff — a man in his late thirties, well-dressed in a gray business suit and tie. Jeff was wearing a clean shirt and jeans; the blazer dated back to high school, the one that he wore to senior prom. There had been no money in the last few years for what his mother would call dress-up clothes. He and his family had only been able to afford the basics.
“Please sit down. I’m Philip Perkins.” He smiled. He had a soft voice. He remained standing.
“Thank you,” said Jeff, his voice cracking as it usually did when he was nervous. He sat down.
“I would offer you coffee, but all of the staff are gone for the day.”
Jeff assured him that he would be fine without coffee.
“Your flight and the hotel?”
“Oh, very . . . very fine, sir.” Jeff smiled again.
“I think we are here to discuss a job,” said Mr. Perkins. “In fact, two jobs. The first will require a few days of your time and some travel.” He walked to the office window and looked out. “And the second, a permanent, well-paying job at our offices in Dallas will be offered to you if you do the first job to our satisfaction.”
Jeff smiled a third time. He had a toothsome smile. “I’m certainly interested in both jobs, Things have been a little tight for us over the past few years. I want to get back to work.”
“I’m glad to hear your interest. You were trained as a seaman by the U.S. Navy?”
“And you even tried out for the Seals, but, unfortunately, you weren’t selected.” Perkins tome was more one of a statement than a question. Jeff put his head down and looked at the floor. Perkins continued to stare out the window.
“Yeah, that’s why I didn’t reenlist.”
“Yes, I know,” said Perkins.
“So, what about the job — or jobs?” asked Jeff, trying not to show the old anger he felt with the Navy rising inside.
“Well, Jefferson, let us focus on just the first job. As you know, TransSea has a close relationship with our military, especially the Navy. An information package that is critical to our country has been taken from our government’s possession. Our government has lost track of the package and the individual who took it. We know he is here in Bermuda and may be traveling back to Boston in the next few days on a cruise ship.” He paused and turned to face Jeff. “We have arranged for you to join the crew of that ship here in Bermuda. You must locate this individual and take the package from him before the ship docks in Boston on Christmas Eve.”
“So, I have to find this guy by Christmas Eve?” Jeff tried to make eye contact with Perkins, but failed to do so.
“Yes. We do know his female accomplice is an American and also a crewman.”
“So, when I locate this person, I must take the package from him . . . without killing him.”
“Yes. We would prefer it that way.” Perkins placed a package wrapped in brown paper on the desk.
“Our security people thought that this might come in handy.” He handed Jeff the small package. “I think you are familiar with this device’s operation.”
Jeff looked at the package.
“It’s a tranquilizer dart gun,” said Perkins, as he turned and walked back to the window.
“If you decide not to work with us, just toss it in a waste bin before you board your plane for home.”
“And I have to take the package away from him without him having any knowledge of who I am.”
“Yes, that is critical. Again, you must deliver the package to our office in Boston no later than midnight on Christmas Eve.”
There was a pause in the conversation. Perkins was staring out the window again.
“We will pay you ten thousand dollars for your trouble . . . up front. We will wire the money to your wife when you set sail.” Jeff started to speak, but Perkins cut him off.
“And if you deliver the information package to our office in Boston by midnight Christmas Eve, we will provide you with another fifteen thousand in cash and a permanent job in the New Year. Think it over tonight; email me your decision. Send the email to this account by 8:00 A.M. tomorrow.” He turned and handed Jeff a slip of paper with the Gmail address. He looked at Jeff again.
“The Saint docks tomorrow afternoon. Be on board the ship by 4:00 P.M. The chief steward, Ron Wilson, is expecting you. Any other questions?”
Jeff had none. Perkins showed him to the elevator,
Jeff walked back to the hotel and called his wife. Jeff felt he had no choice. He hoped he was making the right decision. He told Judy to expect a large signing bonus by wire and that he would be home in a few days and to explain to the kids that he would not be home for Christmas, but that he would see them as soon as he could. Judy continued to sound suspicious of the whole affair. She had questions, but she didn’t ask them, True to her word, she would this time go with her husband’s judgment. She prayed this was the right thing to do.
Jeff did not sleep well that night. He was up early, had coffee and a scone, and emailed Perkins the word “Yes” at 7:30 A.M. He went back to his room and tried to sleep. He couldn’t. He checked out of the hotel at one and took a taxi to King’s Wharf. The Saint had docked at one and was taking on fuel and supplies. He was welcomed aboard by Wilson, his duties were explained, and he was given a quick tour of the ship and assigned a cabin. His cabin was on Deck 2. He walked around the ship. He was waiting for the employee cafeteria to open. He was hungry. While he waited, he stared out at the Atlantic and thought about what he had just signed on for.
He had never killed a man. Not even in Afghanistan. He had hunted all his life. He was an excellent shot. And he wasn’t going to kill this man. If he did, it would be an accident. He was just going to take from this man something that was not his and return it to the rightful owner. He was doing the right thing. Jeff was a man who always tried to do the right thing.
Cabin of Joann Lawrence
December 22, 2019, 3:23 A.M.
Joann could not sleep. She was full of energy. She had another strange dream, although she could not remember it. She was frightened. She heard voices coming through the door from the adjoining cabin. The cabin was occupied by another crewman. A man named Emanuel. They had only exchanged greetings. She knew nothing of the man.
Her room was filled with a bright blue light. She assumed it was the moon. She was afraid to look out the porthole. She was drawn to the voices that she heard. She went to the door to the adjoining room and listened. The voices stopped. She heard the cabin door to the hall open and close. She went back to her bed, but still could not sleep.
Morning finally came. She was first in line for breakfast in the employee cafeteria.