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Chapter X

The basement of the Mullihan Building was a byzantine collection of narrow passageways, cramped rooms and crowded storage lockers. The lighting consisted of flickering, harsh fluorescents and the occasional contraband lamp. The corporate culture of Section Starfire was notable in the staid and proper world of Federal bureaucracy. The agency recruited almost solely on the basis of idealistic political fervor. The agency itself had been created as a rear-guard action during the first tumultuous 100 days of the Roosevelt administration. FDR was concerned that his attempt to rescue capitalism from itself would attract leftist resistance. Bringing his worst critics into the political process would go a long way to preventing the failure of the New Deal. The SSF were active throughout the later part of the decade in investigating reactionaries, militant fundamentalists, and Charles Lindbergh. With World War II, their sphere of action became increasingly subsumed by the OSS, the father of the CIA.

Thus the people who worked at the Mullihan did so because of an innate partisanship and a nostalgic loyalty to a government that no longer existed. They worked at Section Starfire because in someway they wanted there to be room for leftist organizations in the Federal Government. These were people who read Marx, the Nation, and the Socialist Worker and yet still mouthed the words to the Anthem at baseball games.

Frankie Goldstein watched these humbled idealists, these patriotic socialists, with barely suppressed rage. He had begun stacking binders around his desk in a rampart, pencils sticking tips up to further discourage stop-bys. His days were occupied filling out transfer requests, walking the ten short steps to the department mailbox before returning to his desk to tap his fingers in increasingly sophisticated rhythms. Currently he was working on a samba.

He blamed Brazil for his predicament. The CIA was punishing him for a clerical error. How was he supposed to know the guy had connections back state-side? He looked like a Communist. He even talked like a Communist, well, at least while he still had a tongue.

A head appeared above his ramparts. Frankie gazed at him, waiting for the pinko to catch the hint. The man appeared unperturbed by his attempts at intimidation, casually putting forth a hand.

“Who you supposed to be?” asked Frankie.

“Your new mission leader, Marcus Delacroix,” he said. Sensing reticence the agent withdrew his hand.

Frankie knew the name. “I’m not an active field agent, Shield.”

Marcus looked genuinely perplexed. “You are Frankie Goldstein…”

“That’s right.”

“And you were a field operative for the CIA.”

Frankie crossed his arms in front of him. “Not anymore.”

A look of frustration crossed Agent Shield’s face. “Look, I don’t have a lot of time. Something has come up and I need an experienced interrogator. I need someone who’s been in a fire fight before. You fit the bill. You’re either interested in joining up and ditching this desk or you’re not the man I was told you are.”

Frankie got up, straightened his shirt and tie. “Look, you don’t know who I am. And I don’t care what it says on my files or what anybody’s said about me. This was somebody’s idea of a joke, putting me in this nut hatch, so here I sit day in and day out. And maybe that’s making me a little crazier every day but you know what? I’m never going to be crazy enough to sign onto one of your Trotsky suicide tours. You can put that in my file...”

Marcus sighed, producing a folder from beneath his arm. “Your file looks pretty full already,” he said, rifling through dozens of transfer request forms. He showed Frankie a few, so he could see how each one was machine-stamped with the same terse pronouncement: Request Denied.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting the results to change. Why not try something different?”

Grabbing his jacket off of a coat rack, Frankie pushed past Agent Shield, growling, “Different gets you killed.”


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Chapter LXI

“Frankie, listen to me. You have to pull the trigger.”

Frankie was silent. The rifle rested at his shoulder, just like he had practiced. He had D sighted, the slender cross-hairs pointing to spot just over her right eye. There was a slight Eastern wind which would pull the rifle to the left. He made his calibrations and rested his finger on the trigger. Perhaps a dozen men who could make this shot. He was one of them.

“This is the way it has to be, Frankie,” Marcus said. Was that nerves in his voice, or genuine terror. “If she doesn’t die, then The Master will just go on. We get this one chance and that’s it.”

In the scope, D was going through a strange contortion. Her body shuddered and she threw her head backwards as she rose first to her feet and then straight up into the air, suspended a full foot above the ground. When he had her reacquired, she was looking right at him. This was impossible, but it was plainly and obviously true. The girl knew where they were.

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