The Flop: César To Lose Patience

Their conversation had been brief. He showed up 24 hours later. Even though he was dressed, somewhat casually, a blazer and jeans, he looked important. I assumed that was a look he had practiced for a long period. When you’re a power broker, you want to look powerful, but not too much so. You still want those you control to think they are in charge.

“Madame Prime Minister, I’m glad you are well. How can I be of service?” She smiled, and motioned him in. “You can have lunch with me.” He gave a slight bow, Miles Cote was somewhat of a showman, and came inside. Augustus and I set on the sofa, he knew we were there, it was no use trying to hide. Jean Luc had positioned himself in the corner near them, on top of a side table.

They made small talk until the dessert came, and then Miles Cote sighed. “I had hoped this was going to take less time, but I have an appointment in twenty minutes. “Why not stop sparring and be precise?” Apparently, they both had been waiting on the other to attack first. “I was just waiting to see if I can force César to lose his patience. Apparently I’ve won the first one.”

She smiled so sweetly, he just laughed. “You are poised, I’ll give you that. How can I be of service?” I had been given orders not to speak, no matter what. It was very difficult, as smug as he was. “I would very much like not to have to worry about explosions, whether physical, or political. What price will my life cost me?”

He laughed. “Politics is an ailment. In my business, it’s a malady you wish to encourage, not cure. Still, this is one of the most wearisome side effects for a man in my profession. I constantly have to put up with politicians who assume I want them dead. Fortunately, they can rarely figure out when the sickness is true or imagined.”

I watched her reaction at this, it was ever so slight, but it was there. The Prime Minister tensed up, and I resisted the instinct to attack him. Jean Luc made a very low growl, a warning shot. Then, the Prime Minister’s face relaxed. “So, you’re saying I’m in no physical danger. Why do you not want me to die?”

“Madame Prime Minister, I don’t want to kill you, only control you. The person I want dead doesn’t even know it. I’m afraid that you won’t find out either, until it is much too late. What I offer is this. If you will agree to make two phone calls, I will not only let you live, I will allow you to keep your job.”

“First, tell me where I’m calling.” His voice never changed, but the room suddenly felt rigid. “One is to my office, and the other is the White House. Two four minute phone calls is a small price to pay to continue too, well just to continue. Isn’t it?”

The Flop: The Place d’Armes

“So, how do we get to him Prime Minister?”  She laughed, “That’s simple, recruit him.”  Augustus interrupted before I could tell her how crazy she was.  “That isn’t even logical.  If he is the man who has ordered your extermination, that would place the duck in front of the hunter’s gun!”

She looked at us both.  “Tell me something, how did Jean Luc know that they were there?”  “Probably some signal, something he was trained to pick up.”  “Exactly!  Uncle Augustus, did you file an initial report after you and Edward met?” “Yes.”

“Then you mentioned the cat.  They’re not amateurs.  If they really wanted us dead, we wouldn’t have had two near misses.  They want us scared, but alive.  The question is why.  The only way to find out what a con man is planning, is to con him yourself.”

I looked at Augustus, he groaned.  Jean Luc broke the silence with his own low growl.  Finally I spoke.  “Lady, your brave, I’ll give you that, but I’d never vote for you.” “Why?”  She asked, flashing her cutest politician’s smile.  “Because you are crazy enough not to blink!”

“It’s a good thing that most voters want someone who won’t blink.  Now, here is what we are going to do.”  She proceeded to lay out an ambitious plan that, you’ll forgive me sir, only a politician could come up with.  After hours of arguing, Augustus and I gave in.  We arrived at the Place d’Armes Hotel in Montreal around 3:00 am.

After 48 hours of rest and preparation, the Prime Minister placed the phone call.  “This is the Prime Minister calling.  I need to speak to Miles Cote.  He cannot reach me.  I will call back tonight at 8:00, I expect that he will be available then.  Otherwise, I will go else where.”

With that, she hung up the phone, swiveled in her chair, and looked at us.  “Cote is not accustomed to receiving orders, but the way I ended the call, he will be there.  It’s the type of authoritarian style that appeals to him.  He also knows that he can’t resist knowing what I’m up to.  For the first time in this whole ridiculous mess, I’m in the driver’s seat.” I had a feeling that would not change again either.

The Flop: Ugroza

“What was his real name?” I went into information gathering mode. Augustus continued. “We never learned it. He was off the grid, apparently this was his first assignment.” 

“What were they after?” Camille looked out the window. “Ironically, it was Project Eagle. We just never knew who wanted the information. They brokered it  to my Uncle’s enemies. Apparently they handled all the ops that way. Faceless, nameless, with a limited reputation.” 

I jumped on the word. “Limited, so they do have one. What is it?” “How’s your Russian? They are called Ugroza.” I laughed, it’s pretty good, but I’m guessing that using the Russian term for menace is to throw people off. Still, it’s a bit dramatic.” 

“Smoke screen. They are famous for the fact that they are not. Everything you think you know about them turns out to be false.” Augustus smiled, then continued.  “This means that you learn, not from what they say, but what they do not.” 

Jean Luc growled.  Camille laughed.  “He’s right Uncle, that isn’t very helpful.”  “Uh-oh!” I mumbled under my breath.  She had just made a mistake that a rookie agent would only make once. 

Camille had underestimated her Uncle. If it were someone else, he would have pounced on the opportunity.  With, what I guessed was his favorite niece, he was just annoyed. Fortunately she realized her mistake and attempted to correct it.  

“Sorry Uncle, you’ve never been wrong before?  What does it tell us though?”  He continued, still slightly miffed. “It tells us that they are not dramatic, it is a ruse. They are based in Canada, it’s primarily where they’ve been active. So, I would say they’re former military. They’re connected to some politician, and given they’re activities over the last twenty years, they align with one of three people. My top guess is Miles Cote.”

I had not heard of him. “Who is he?” Camille stifled a laugh. “A very powerful, extremely dangerous man. He has little public notoriety, and that’s on purpose. Technically he’s only a political advisor, but his name is well known in private circles. They call him Clośet Cesar, or closet Caesar.”

The Flop: Break In

“You fly very well.”  Was that a compliment?  She must be tired, of course, almost dying can change anyone.  “Thank you ma’am, it’s a passion of mine.”  “Where to now?”  “Honestly, this wasn’t supposed to happen.  I have three other sites, but they may be compromised.  Up here, we’re too easy to track.  I got us here to buy a little time to think.  Any suggestions?”

“Antartica.”  She was starting to act more like herself.  “Not a bad idea, but we wouldn’t have enough fuel.  How about Vancouver?”  I looked at her.  “Next.”  I have to admit, I was no longer polite.  It came out before I realized it.  She laughed.  “So you’re finally going to treat me like a person and not a politician, that’s good.  Look, we’re not safe here or in Canada, I’m not a runner.  I’d rather have the odds stacked against me in my own backyard.”

So we touched down, picked up a vehicle, and crossed back in to Canada.  We were in an American television news van.  My sister runs a tv station.  I figured that would be the easiest way to hide the Prime Minister of the country, by changing her nationality.  She hated the blonde wig and colored contact lenses.  Jean Luc hated being smuggled in a camera case, but liked being free to roam the van once we crossed the border.

Augustus set up straight in his seat.  “Of course.  I know who is behind this.  I know why, and I know what to do.”  I pulled over at a small cafe and we talked.  “It’s about time.  You’ve been quiet for three days.  I knew you were thinking.  Who is it?”

He frowned when he looked at us.  “This entire time, something has seemed off.  It didn’t make sense that this was political, yet you share no enemies with your Uncle.  From every angle, it was an attack of vengeance.  The question was, who hated you that much.”

“No one. I was always very careful not to make personal enemies.  Political enemies do sweeps, if you’re clean, they stop.”  She looked at me and continued.  “Personal enemies don’t stop in finding out you’re innocent, they find out every thread of your life. They don’t search out crimes, they search out ways to hurt you.  Family connections, old boyfriends, …” She stopped talking.

Augustus cleared his throat.  “It has to be someone connected to him.”  She stifled the physical signs of emotion, but her voice was filled with it.  “Maybe, but it can’t be him, he’s dead.  I saw him.”  Augustus nodded.  “I remember, I watched Harris shoot him.”  I never pushed, when something is this sensitive, you let them tell you.

Augustus finally did.  “His name was Leo Rhames, they were in college.  He surprised her when she went home for the summer.  He proposed to her, and then supposedly left to visit his family.  We all had gathered for her Grandmother’s birthday.  It was at Harris’ estate, supposedly secure.  That night there was a break in.  Harris shot in self defense.  The burglar was wearing a mask.  I removed it, the face was Leo Rhames.”

The F.L.O.P. – Animal Rescue

“What’s the story on Jean Luc? Surely he’s more than a courier pigeon?” Jean Luc made a sound that said two things. One was that he was hungry, the second was he didn’t like to be insulted. “Sorry Jean Luc, no offense.” The Prime Minister admired him very much.

“Jean Luc wasn’t your typical animal. He was trained by a very special member of the Intelligence agency. He has taken down three operatives by himself once. Attaching that cat is like attacking a tank.”

“I like animals who can defend themselves. He isn’t jaded though, he still seems to be a normal cat.” She said as he lay on the arm of the couch. “Yes, his operative trained him that way. “I’ve heard about that program. My adviser’s suspect that the former trainer might now occupy a seat in the Oval Office.”

As you know Mr. President, I could not confirm this, but I will say her intelligence is good. Instead I responded, “Does it matter? He’s a pure bred you know, his ancestor was a pet of the Tsar’s.” “Why Jean Luc? Why a French name for a Russian American cat?” “He was named after a soldier that gave his life saving his trainer’s life.”

Just then, Jean Luc meowed. He rolled off the couch, and headed for the kitchen. “Follow him, now!” We barely made it before the explosion happened. The tunnel under the stove lead to the street. We were in the SUV flying through Las Vegas as fast as we could.

“Vegas? You made me think we were still in Canada!” “Ma’am, I never said that, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t stop you from thinking it. We would have been dead no matter where we were if it weren’t for Jean Luc. He must have smelled chemicals they used to set the charges. He has heightened senses.” She looked over at the cat carrier. “Thank you my sweet little Animal Rescue.” Jean Luc purred.

He got compliments, I got complaints. “Why Vegas?” “It was flashy, it was obvious, and I thought it was safe. It also is an easy place to hide an off the charts air port. Next stop, the desert. Ever rode in a spy plane?”

The Flop: Attack

“She likes me? You’re crazy! What’s this niece business? What else don’t I know?” “You are ready for questions two and three, but I fear you are not ready for the first one.”

I should have said something, I didn’t. Instead I went to the store. When I was outside the front door, I heard nothing, I expected loud arguing, but that’s wasn’t their style.

When I returned, I acted like nothing happened, so did they. Well, so did she, Augustus was amused, Jean Luc seemed mad at me. Without words, he made it plain that my actions had angered him. Apparently he had taken a great liking to the Prime Minister.

I was cooking when Camille grabbed an apron. The two observers retired to the porch. “You’ve yet to tell me who’s the one pulling the strings.” “Honestly, we’re not sure. We hope you’re safety will smoke them out.” “Who knows I’m missing?” “Only the ones chasing us. The nation thinks you’re at Camp David with the President and First Lady.”

“How?” “A very good actress that will never win an Oscar, but may win a medal.” She sat down with a strange look on her face. “It’s ok ma’am, we will return you home safely. It’s for your own protection.” The Prime Minister looked at me somewhat distracted. “Of course, I just can’t help but feel that something seems off. What would happen if I was needed right now? What if my country was attacked?”

“Don’t you see Ma’am, it has, when they attacked you, they have threatened the country. Our job is to keep you alive long enough to answer that attack.” She sighed. “My answer as Prime Minister has to be balanced and responsible. As Camille, I want to practice my judo.”

It was then that she proceeded to attack a small table with one kick. I looked at the rubble, then at Augustus, and finally at her. “So you’re Augustus’ niece?” She laughed and left the room.

The Flop: Board Games

“You win again Ma’am.”  I was really tired of saying this.  For two weeks Mr. President, two infuriating weeks, the Prime Minister has beaten me in every board game we’ve played.  Between that and arguing about the sports of Curling versus Hockey, I’ve not had a moment’s rest.

The Prime Minister seems to be fond of winning.  Augustus and Jean Luc keep staring at the computer screen.  I’m not sure which of the two of them has consumed more coffee.  Have you ever seen two people pumped full of caffeine, yet curl up and take a nap at a moment’s notice?

“I’ll ask you for the hundredth time, where are we?”  The Prime Minister sighed after winning again.  I frowned.  “Miss Prime Minister, I’m afraid that for your own safety, I’m not allowed to provide that information.”

We went through this routine at least twenty times a day.  This time though, she paused for half a second.  Then continued on as if nothing was different.  I was on guard, but didn’t say anything.  She was up to something.

“I’m hungry, want something?”  I shook my head no.  “Ma’am, if you are hungry I can cook whatever you require.  My Grandmother was a chef.”  “I may be a politician, but I’ve never liked to let someone else cook for me when I could. Cooking relaxes me.”

She’s a great cook, almost as good as me, maybe better. She started cooking everything in the cabinets. This lasted for about four days. We we’re actually enjoying each others’ company. Until she sweetly looked at me and said. “We’re out of food, can you go to the store for some eggs?”

I thought I had her. “No need, I have a supplier close to here. What else do you need?” She was rattled, but not allowing it to show. Then she smirked. “Milk, butter, cheese, and chicken.” I matched her smirk.

“I can get all of those in a half hour.” To which she replied. “It took us a day to get here. That narrows it down. You wouldn’t risk a city, it’s an easy target. So we’re on a farm?” I frowned, she laughed. “Why do you think I’ve fixed so many meals the last few days? Surely you really didn’t think I was enjoying your company?”

Augustus spoke up. “No you don’t Camille. Normally I address you as Prime Minister. Now you are behaving as my sister’s child. Tell the man the truth.” My brain was hurting.

As you probably know, it was beyond my clearance, Camille’s Mother was Augustus’ half-sister. This was hidden to protect his family. Augustus’ enemies may have attached family members to get to him. This was the second most important revelation of the day.

The first was a bit more personal. “Tell the man the truth Camille!” She pouted like an eight year old, went to her bedroom, and shut the door. I looked at him. “What is the truth?”

Jean Luc purred oddly. “You’re right Jean Luc, to be so smart, he is a little slow. She likes you my boy, that’s what makes her so furious. Camille is angry at herself every time she sees you because she likes you.” Now I was angry.

The Flop: The Cat’s Eye

Jean Luc jumped into her arms.  He was pleased to meet another person who simply adored him.  The Prime Minister was happy to meet someone whom she didn’t have to worry about how they would vote.

“Hello Augustus, how are you?”  “I am well Madame Prime Minister, how are you?”  She finally looked at me.  “I have a feeling that I am better than I will be in a few minutes.  Why are you with him?”

“Allow me to answer that by first showing you what I found in the cat’s eye.”  Augustus held up the small contact lens that Harris Patel had made.  Inside it were the plans for project Eagle.  It laid out all the protocols, but it’s value wasn’t in the information it held.

The lens was a message to his niece.  It was the only way that she would agree to a, if you’ll forgive me Mr. President, crazy last resort sort of action.  She sighed, “All right, it appears that I have no choice.  One question Augustus, why did the President have to send him?”

Augustus laughed, “He knew how much that you like him.”  She actually smiled.  I smiled back, and then she frowned again.  This was going to test my patience.  We left the hotel room through Augustus’ “special exit”, through the ceiling, just in time.  This was right before the guns went off.

The Flop: The Ambassador’s Niece

Everyone thinks that the governments of friendly nations are friendly.  You and I know that is not the case.  As a matter of fact, one of the most animosity fueled relationships I’ve ever had was with a fellow agent from another English speaking country.  We ended up as friends, but it took two months in the jungle of Central America, and almost dying, to make it happen.

I mention this to explain my relationship with the Prime Minister.  She didn’t like me, I didn’t know why.  As far as I could tell, Camille Anais Fortin, and I had never had any unpleasant issues.  Still, from the moment we met, she seemed to loathe my very existence.  That was going to make this mission extremely hard, considering what I was here to do.

As you know, The Eagle was a joint venture between Canada and the United States.  It had only been used once, and that proved to be a disaster.  Still, it was the only weapon that we had in our arsenal that might accomplish the task.  When I was given the news month’s earlier, I wasn’t very happy about it to be honest Sir.  Now, standing in front of her, I despised it.

For the Presidential record twenty years from now, she was a year younger than I am. She was attractive, with dark hair, and green eyes.  Her parents had both been successful private business people who did heavy philanthropic work.  These causes lead her at nineteen to set her sights on a political career.

I admired her honesty, which of course had resulted in political enemies.  In her first time as Prime Minister, she was poised to lead her country into an economic gold rush.  Thanks, in no short supply, to the technical advances they made in health technology.  These were programs that she championed, and had paid off more than even she had expected.

Sadly, as usual, it meant that someone was targeting her to stop it from happening.  They had tried politically, manufacturing phony scandals that hadn’t stuck.  They would have threatened her family, but her parents were gone.  She had no siblings, or close relatives, that they knew of at the time.  As a last result, they had hired at least two assassins to eliminate her.

We felt that the only hope for both of our country’s immediate good, was her survival.  Normally, her country’s intelligence agencies would protect her.  That was of course, until the director of their most secret agency had been compromised.  We had proof that he, and an unknown number of agents, were receiving orders from a political faction in their country.

Thankfully, Harris Patel, the Canadian Ambassador, was the former head of their intelligence network.  He knew that only a small team could protect her.  In his hay day, his brain child had been The Eagle.  It’s failure cost him his job, and it’s reactivation had cost him his life.

This little acronym might end up placing me in a Canadian prison for the rest of my life. It stood for, “Extract, Abduct, and Guard Lead Executive.”   Patel said the golden eagles that nested in the Canadian mountains near their base inspired the name.  I hoped that the second time this plan was put in action would have better results, but I was skeptical.

So here I was in Canada to save his niece’s life. They found this out right before they killed him.  Unfortunately that mission also meant convincing Meyersmith to disobey orders.  Worst of all, it would result in kidnapping Canada’s leader.  If she didn’t like me before, she’d hate me now.