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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 25. CDMX • XXV

“New car?” CJ tossed his bag in the back and slid into the passenger seat.

“Yep. First new one I’ve ever bought.” Spike nodded while polishing a spot on the vehicle’s roof with his suit’s sleeve. “The used one I got after graduation lasted longer than I thought it would.”

“You see a lot of Nissans in Mexico City. I think it’s the best-selling brand down there.”

“I’m still surprised you’re flying back today. I told you we arranged for the entire week off for you.” Spike had complained when CJ changed his flight to an early morning one, depriving the CIA agent of an excuse for not going into the office until after lunch.

“Talk to me about it when you get married and have kids.” CJ claimed as long as Owen and Liebe were okay he was too. They were his priority and at the moment he wanted to get back to them. “I miss my girl and my man.”

“No prospect on the horizon for me. Listen, CJ, Domogarov’s a big catch. You wouldn’t believe how many people at Langley want to kiss your butt right now.”

“I’ll pass” CJ pointed at a lone sculler in the middle of the Potomac as they crossed over the river towards Arlington National Cemetery. The snowstorm that had nearly paralyzed the city had run its course but the frigid temperatures remained. “He looks cold and lonely.”

“I remember days like this. My nuts froze more times than I care to admit during early morning, winter practices when I crewed at GU.”

“I bet!” Being an early riser, CJ had at times encountered the Hoya crew team running up and down the Exorcist Stairs when he went for a jog before sunrise.

“Hey, one serious thing I wanted to discuss. The Russians may want to speak with you at some point.”

The alarm bells were muted but most certainly ringing inside CJ’s head. “What about? When and where?”

“Duh! Domogarov’s disappearance, of course. The Vienna ruse we knew would only last for so long. They’re no longer searching in Europe, and we’re pretty sure they know we have him.”

“Yeah, but why me?”

“Jesus, CJ! Stop being dense. You revealed to their ambassador you knew Domogarov was intelligence, and you helpfully returned listening devices he forgot at your apartment.”

CJ cracked up. “When you put it that way…”

“Well, there’s also the security camera feed from across the embassy. It shows Yevgeny shaking your hand, you bro-hugging him before getting in your car while he stood holding an arm against his body. If we got it from that far away, you bet your ass the Russians have it too. That place must have cameras aimed everywhere.”

“Ooops. So, what do I do?”

“Hang tight until the end of the week. Make sure the ambassador knows you’re back at the embassy tomorrow. If the Russians offer us something worth it in exchange, we might let them talk to you. None of this may happen, okay?”

“Excuse me?” Shock made CJ’s voice rise a couple of octaves above his usual. “You may let them talk to me? You’ trying to piss me off? Don’t I get a fucking say? Who the fuck you think you’re talking to?” CJ did not like anyone dictating what he did. Work was one thing, but this wasn’t even his job. “I am not one of your underlings.”

“Ozzie was right. You do have a temper. No need to raise your voice at me, the decision’s not mine. And you do have final say. Look, I already told you your stock went from nothing to substantial in the intelligence community. At State too, I’ll bet. If anyone asks you to talk to the Russians, as a friend, I suggest you do. You’d have lawyers and security up the ying-yang with you to begin with. And you’d end up having the CIA wrapped around your little finger. You never know when we could be of assistance in the future.”

 

Ambassador Cox had a meeting first thing in the morning, so CJ was unable to see her when he stopped by her office the day after returning from Washington. He left a message with her assistant.

Although he did not look forward to dealing with Stephen Northman, CJ knew the best way to avoid additional conflict was to report to the man. He was surprised by the reception he received.

“Welcome back, Mr. Abelló. I wasn’t expecting you until next Monday. Did you accomplish what you had to?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” CJ could not decipher his supervisor’s expression. Neither a smile nor a scowl but an enigmatic look which made CJ wonder if Northman had been made aware of the real purpose of his trip. He decided it was unlikely. The man knew it involved the CIA but not the specifics. CJ decided to stick with the cover story.

“Then I guess congratulations on becoming a father again are in order.”

CJ struggled not to show his surprise. Northman was being nice? It did not make sense his attitude would have changed in some seventy-two hours. “Not quite yet, sir. Hopefully by the end of the year or the beginning of 2023.”

“Well, okay then. Your desk’s overflowing with files; get through what you can over the next couple of days. But let me know if you need any assistance.”

“Thank you, sir.” CJ walked away shaking his head. This was not the same person who had antagonized him since his arrival at the embassy. He was not going to complain about the change.

He soon realized his intention to buckle down and review the stack of documents waiting on his desk would not be easy to accomplish. CJ had looked at half-a-dozen files before the first interruption. A large interruption. “Hey, Linc!”

“What’s the word, rockstar? I hear you’re gonna be a daddy again.” Lincoln Erickson was a friendly guy who smiled a lot but his grin at the moment beat any other CJ could remember. “Our buddy called after he dropped you off yesterday. He mentioned things went well.”

This was too easy. Lincoln opened with the cover story but referencing a call from who had driven him to the airport revealed the real reason for his praise. “Yeah, I guess. But she ain’t pregnant yet. She has a girls’ trip”the air quotes made Lincoln chuckle—“coming up, and she wants to booze it up. So we have to wait.”

“You guys around this weekend?”

“Yeah… Wanna get together?

“I’ll call Ozzie and plan something.” Lincoln pointed at the stack of documents. “I think you’ve got plenty on your hands. I’ll go away now. Good job, CJ.”

Praise from someone like Lincoln meant a lot. Maybe he was not an intelligence officer at the same level as Jake Cruz, but as an FBI agent, he worked counterintelligence and knew what he was talking about.

Surprisingly, the next interruption came from Northman. “Mr. Abelló, the ambassador would like to see you in her office.” Although he was not smiling, he delivered the message in a polite, professional manner. “Don’t worry about the files. You can work on them again afterward.”

Heading toward Ambassador Cox’s office, CJ replayed his two interactions with Northman; he could not figure out why the man was being borderline friendly after antagonizing him over the previous months.

“Go right in, CJ. She’s waiting for you.” The ambassador’s secretary motioned towards the inner office door.

Inside, Cox raised a finger, asking him to wait. “He just walked in, Sir Kent. I’ll give him your regards, and we’ll talk later.” While finishing her conversation, she indicated a chair in front of her desk for CJ to sit. “Welcome back, CJ. Kent George says hello.”

“Thank you, Madame Ambassador. The British Deputy Head of Mission? You called him Sir Kent?”

The ambassador appeared to be in good spirits, she tsk-tsked a couple of times. “See what you miss while you’re jet-setting back and forth to the United States?”

Margaret Cox sounded too damn happy for his taste. He had no idea what was going on, but everyone looked and sounded way chipper than he was accustomed to. If Northman cracked a joke later in the day, CJ was going to lose it.

“Anyway, the Queen announced his knighthood on New Year’s. The previous day, their ambassador stepped down, and Kent’s now the Court of St. James’ envoy in Mexico. I’m not privy to details, but I’ll assume this had been in the works for a while. There’s no way a new ambassador would have been appointed so quickly otherwise.”

“Great news! I’ll have to call and congratulate him. Ozzie and I enjoyed meeting him and Mrs. George.”

“I understand congratulations are in order for you and Owen too. You’re going to be fathers again?”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you. But it won’t be for a while. Our surrogate’s unavailable until early spring, but if everything goes well, she should give birth around year’s end.” CJ was not entirely comfortable with everyone knowing his private business, but he was realizing the intelligence community took cover stories seriously. He would not have been surprised if they arranged for an article in a newspaper about their IVF procedure.

“There’s one more thing I’d like to discuss, CJ. Based on what I’ve seen in the months since you arrived in Mexico, your talents are being underutilized. I think you can do better than consular clerk. And people at Foggy Bottom agree with me.”

“Ma’am?” CJ thought it would be those who helped train him, but he was over assuming too much. Someone seemed to throw him a curveball whenever he was not paying attention.

“I’m talking appointees as well as career diplomats, CJ. I’ll get back to you in the next couple of months, but I’d like to see you take a more active role in a different position. As a political officer.”

Political Officers were meant to keep an eye on the governmental climate in the host country and decipher and interpret events as they related to U.S. interests. They mostly worked behind the scenes, using their knowledge of local culture and history, to help policy makers in Washington.

“Thank you, ma’am. I’m willing to serve however I can be the most useful.” It would probably mean an end to his nine-to-five schedule and an increase in social events.

“Okay, get back to work. Nice job.”

“Thank you, Madame Ambassador.”

 

A little past noon, as CJ turned off his computer and locked his desk drawers, Simmone showed up. “Come on. I’m buying you lunch.”

“Hey, Simmone. What’s the occasion?”

“Gossip.”

The offhand comment made CJ grin and rub his hands together. “Who we talking about?”

“You.”

“What? Me? Why? I haven’t been in the papers or done anything interesting recently. Where we going anyway? Some place fancy I hope.”

Weaving an arm through his, she guided him toward the exit. “You get to pick the corner; we’re having street food.”

“Okay… I like that stuff. I still don’t know why you want to talk about me.”

“We can start with your trip to Vail. I want to hear about it. We’ll also be discussing the gender of your next child. You guys want a girl or a boy?”

“Ten fingers and ten toes, anything else’s irrelevant.”

“I’m impressed, Mr. Abelló. Considering you already have a girl, I thought you’d want a boy to take to sporting events and roughhouse with.”

“And what makes you think we won’t be doing that with Liebe and her sibling whatever gender? You seem to forget girls can do whatever they want as long as we don’t pigeonhole them into antiquated roles.”

“I forget when, but Owen did mention a few people expect you to run for office one day. You do, I’m working on your campaign. I wish more men were as enlightened as you.”

“Why, thank you, ma’am.”

“And I want to hear about your trip to D.C. too.”

“What about it? I went to meet our surrogate in person and sign final documents. Ended up enjoying a couple of meals with old friends.”

“Right. You come into the embassy from being on vacation, and after ten minutes in the office, you leave again. That doesn’t look suspicious. Not at all.”

“I did not leave after ten minutes.” CJ did not like where the conversation was headed.

“Fine, fifteen minutes. But don’t think people didn’t notice you had a visitor wearing a dark suit and an earpiece. What up homie?” She had stopped at a food stand selling seafood tacos. “I’m having shrimp.”

“Sound good. I’ll have the same. Anyway, that guy? His name’s Jake Cruz, but everyone used to call him Spike when he was in college. I’ve known him for years. I was in high school when we met. He graduated from Georgetown right before I started there. Since he was in town and had a couple of free hours, he wanted to say hello to me and Ozzie.”

“And who does he work for now?”

“That doesn’t matter. What you should be doing’s thanking him. He talked me into the Foreign Service School, so he’s responsible for you having the pleasure of working with me.” CJ was uncertain how much he was allowed to disclose, but decided to err on the side of caution. Using jokes to deflect tough questions always worked for his father; Brett had it down to a science.

“Ceejaaay…”

“What?”

“He had spook written all over his face.”

“Uh… that’s not a PC word these days.”

“Screw political correctness. He ain’t a brother anyway. What’s going on? Does this have anything to do with the rumor some Russian showed up at our door one night in December?”

“What Russian? When did that rumor start? And who started it?” Finding new ways to maneuver around Simmone’s constant prodding was proving difficult.

“CJ… Come on. Someone said they spoke to someone else who overheard two marines talking. Why are you acting dumb?”

“Because I’m dumb? Sounds like how rumors got spread in high school.” CJ’s deadpan delivery earned him a raised eyebrow. “Look, Simmone, do you really think if I was working with an intelligence agency I’d admit to it? Give me a break. Those guys lie for a living. I’m too damn honest.”

Simmone cracked up. “Oh, Lord help us. Misdirection. You’re starting to sound like one of them already.”

 

His final interruption arrived close to quitting time. Jimmy Chen came by and offered to buy him a drink at the Sofitel next door. The hotel’s bar was frequented by embassy personnel so the two of them stopping in for a cocktail after work would not seem out of the ordinary. The place had booths where they could speak privately since it was swept for bugs daily.

“After how weird today’s been, I could use a martini. I’ll text Owen and let him know I’ll be a little late.” Once there, CJ settled on Hendricks on the rocks with a lime.

“Why was today weird?” Jimmy, claiming he had a couple more hours of work before he could call it a day, ordered a Perrier.

“I ended up talking to a bunch of people, and most wanted to discuss my quick trip to Washington. It was all about the pregnancy shit except for Linc and Ambassador Cox who danced around the real reason for the trip.” CJ decided he might as well disclose Simmone’s suspicions. “You know Simmone Newman?”

“Yeah, Human resources.”

“You got it. She suspects the IVF thing was a ruse.”

“But it wasn’t. It was a real appointment. If anyone calls your doctor, that’s what his office will say.” Jimmy grinned. “We checked.”

“Okay, but she saw Spike when he stopped by my desk and mentioned something about the dark suit and the earpiece.”

Chen retrieved a small notebook from his coat’s breast pocket and jotted something down. “I’ll have a chat with her. Anything else interesting?”

“Well, the strangest was Northman being borderline friendly. That scared the crap out of me.”

The satisfied smile and nodding suggested Chen was not surprised. “I had a chat with him two minutes after you left with Jake. Let’s just say we had a come-to-Jesus moment.”

CJ was a tad confused. “What do you mean?”

“I simply explained you were more than the average greenhorn, and he should stop being a jerk. I suggested one day in the not too distant future you could end up being his boss. I think he finally realized you won’t be reviewing visa applications and replacing passports forever.”

“I think you just paid me a compliment. Thank you.”

“Jake had nice things to say about you, CJ. Both before and after the flight. But there’s one thing you screwed up, and I need to bring it up.”

Somehow, CJ knew what was coming. “Hurting him, right?

“Yep. Listen, you were magnificent during most of the operation. We can’t believe how smoothly you played the entire evening. Domogarov must have been shocked when you and Owen turned down sex with the dancer.”

“No brainer. That would never work with us. But it nearly destroyed my calm. I was already angry he violated my home, and I was ready to strangle the motherfucker. At the ballet, when he tried to entrap us by pimping out a straight married man, I came close to losing it again. Prolly why I did what I did.”

“I can understand that. And the anger helped fuel your desire to bring him down. But, and this is a big but, it could have backfired.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” CJ lowered his eyes to the table and played with the napkin under his tumbler. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine. I’ll chalk it up to youth and inexperience. Don’t do it again.” He finished sounding like a parent even though he was barely older than CJ. “Bring your temper under control, and I bet you’ll move mountains.”

 

“So, somebody agrees with me you have a temper? Imagine that.” Owen’s smugness bordered on gloating. “I don’t want to say I’ve told you so, but…”

“Stuff it. Look, I may have pushed the envelope a bit, but I did what I felt was right.” CJ tossed Liebe up one last time before sitting with her on the couch. “And anyway, it all worked out in the end. Plus, I got Northman off my back for now as a result, so it’s a win-win.”

“Was he told to be nice to you?”

“Nope. Jimmy told him he should reconsider his attitude towards me because the CIA suspected one day I could very well be Northman’s boss.”

“Is that what they think? That you’ll be Secretary of State?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? I mean, the CIA shouldn’t be concerned with domestic policy, so I don’t think they’re trying to influence American elections or State Department appointments. That’s the FBI’s job.” His grin was intended for Owen, but it was Liebe who matched it.

“Well, can’t you use your decoder ring to read some secret memos or something? Maybe they’ve mapped out the rest of our lives for us. I wouldn’t want to mess them up.” The secret agent man jokes had escalated since CJ had traveled to Washington.

“No, but my new X-ray vision glasses will let me walk around looking at hot, naked guys.”

“Wanker.”

“Whatever.”

Liebe was obviously getting tired, she had barely moved in the previous couple of minutes.

“I think we’re losing her, Oz. Let’s put her to bed.”

“Go ahead. I’ll turn the lights off and join you in a minute.”

“You gonna tell her a story tonight?”

“I doubt it. I think she might already be asleep. Go on, put her to bed.”

“Okay… Hey, one more thing. They may leak some sort of story about me being part of something or other with Domogarov. They’re trying to get ahead of the Russians before they claim I kidnapped their guy. We may get some calls from reporters.”

“Oh, great, just what I wanted in my life.”

“No comment.”

“What?”

“That’s your response if anybody asks you anything. You’re a farmboy lawyer trying to protect the environment. You just want to make the world a better place for your daughter. If they persist, tell them to call the embassy since you work at the Nature Conservancy.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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