ASN 1.1: Orders

by Matt P.

She always hated her alleged boss’ office. He was an excellent analyst, although it had been too long since he’d been in the field, but what she hated most was the clutter. The office had wood walls because it was expensive, which was the same reason for the desk. It was insecurity, but that wasn’t even that part she hated the most—she hated the clutter.

Files and papers lined the desk, and the shelves behind him were filled with books on intelligence, field reports, and pictures. The pictures were of the man with politicians and political appointees, and they were another problem in the list. Someday she would make sure the list was presented to appropriate people in a position to do something about it.

“Ah, thank you for coming in. We finally have an assignment for you. You know, I must confess I wasn’t entirely comfortable with you being assigned to liaise with us, but…” he began. She gave absolutely no response to his words beyond staring at him. She’d found it unnerved most people, especially those without actual confidence—like a man who had to put up pictures of himself with politicians to make sure people knew he was important. And lo and behold after another moment of stammering, what she might have called ‘hemming and hawing’ if she were inclined, he simply fell in to an uncomfortable silence. He handed a file across the table to her, which she opened with a simple flick of her fingers.

The name of the location was a town called Border, Kansas. Just north of the Oklahoma border in Tecenoo County, the county seat…she didn’t pay attention to much of that. She knew she would memorize it all later so that she could appear to be a proper bureau agent. But she also knew this would be the case for why she was supposed to be ‘liaising’ with the officious man in front of her—and that after this, she could stop pretending.

Series of incidents late last year related to the Three Stripes killings, she read. That wouldn’t be it—she didn’t care about something so mundane as serial killers. Consultants to be sent to the local Police Department to discuss strategies for dealing with recent increases in the use of the drug commonly called Salvation.

That was it—the purpose of this whole endeavor, and her actual superiors’ interest in the drug trade and trafficking. There must have been something else in the case that flagged it for her involvement, but an increasing use of Salvation would have been enough to bring it to the top of the file no matter what. She continued to leaf through the folder, more for show than out of any actual interest, until she got to the last page and the list of locals of note.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll fly out in the morning.” They were the only words she spoke to him, and she didn’t give him any time to respond. She was on her feet and out the door in a few heartbeats, in to the hallway and walking back to her office. She didn’t know if he had intended to keep the file, nor did she care—it wasn’t like there was a security clearance he had that she didn’t. Quite the opposite.

Her own office was almost the exact counterpoint to his. It was small, which she preferred, and almost the Platonic ideal of spartan. There were two filing cabinets both with locks no one knew she had changed, a small desk with a secured laptop on it that she hardly ever used, and a phone. No pictures, no files, no clutter. As she put the folder down on the desk, the number of files on it increased an infinite amount. She briefly considered that fact as she slid down in to the simple chair, and flipped open the folder once again to the end. To a name she had most definitely not expected to see listed as a detective in a county sheriff’s office.

Deputy Marshal Walter Richards. Former Army (partial record attached).

She didn’t bother to look at the record, because she’d see the full one at her request—and she’d seen it before. She was not a woman who smiled for no reason or at trivial things, but she felt her lips quirking in to what she would have considered an amused smile at the thought of associating with Richards again—although she knew from long experience most people would have considered it more predatory then amused.

The last time was so…interesting, she thought. She hadn’t even been sure he was still alive, although she hadn’t exactly helped that last time they had worked…near each other. They hadn’t exactly been working together last time, and they had both known it—but that’s what made it interesting, after all.

She wouldn’t leave in the morning, because she needed time to prepare, both for the mission and for the fact that Walter knew who she was. Or at least who she worked for, and that required extra planning in advance. There were too many things too accomplish for her to not go in prepared, even before the charming addition of Major Richards.

Still, perhaps the trip would be exciting in more ways than she had anticipated.