Authors: T.K. Harris
Alex couldn't stop the images of Tommy’s expression when he’d recognized him, or the sight of all the fading bruises, from flashing through his mind. All night and most of day they had kept playing in his head, a disturbing slide show that wouldn't leave him alone. The way Tommy had held himself, the way he wouldn't look up after that initial recognition. The way he wouldn't listen when Alex tried to tell him it wasn't his fault.
The sound of the bolt sliding open sent him sitting upright. When the doctor entered he couldn't stop himself from leaping forward and pinning her against the wall.
Pain exploded in the side of his head and he found himself on the floor staring up at a guard, who was raising his rifle to strike again.
The guard looked at the doctor. He opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted.
"I have my orders and I just gave you yours. Stop and tie him if you have to. If you had been doing your job, he wouldn’t have gotten that close in the first place."
Alex watched the guard's face turn an interesting shade of red, rendered strange because he could see two of the same guard. As the man and another guard yanked him up, his vision began to clear.
"You bitch! How could you torture a kid
This time the guard punched him.
"I said stop! I can't get anything out of him if you kill him or break his jaw."
Handling him more roughly than necessary, they rapidly bound his arms with zip ties, tightening them just a little too tight. The doctor stepped aside as they led him out of the cell and followed quietly behind.
It was all Alex could do to contain his rage.
When they arrived at the room that Alex had first woken up in, the guards shoved him toward a chair, pushing him into a sitting position. He ignored them, directing his gaze to the two-way mirror and then towards the doctor who was setting her bag on the table in front of him.
As she pulled out a syringe, she said, "Now, Mr. Tough Guy, I have some more questions for you."
"I'm not talking to you, bitch."
She raised an eyebrow, lips pursed in annoyance. "You won't have a choice."
With a quick jab, she sank the needle into his arm.
"Feel better?" he asked through clenched teeth.
"Not as good as if you had screamed but it will have to do."
Turning to the guards she motioned for them to leave and then began pulling a variety of things out of her bag, one of which he recognized as a frequency jammer. Alex glanced at the two-way mirror and then back at the doctor, noting she had carefully put her back to the mirror, effectively hiding the jammer.
Pulling out her laptop, she sat in front of him and said quietly, "I need you to listen. I've been trying to think of a way to stop this and I can't. All this hacker stuff is beyond me, but it's not beyond you and if I'm going to help y-"
"I don't need your help."
, then you are going to have to help me figure this all out."
Alex was silent.
"What have you done to him?"
The doctor closed her eyes. "They isolated him. Then they beat him and the others a few times. I-"
"You did nothing to stop them!"
"It was done before I was called in! I
would have condoned this. I never have! That's
I do what I do, to try and stop crap like that from happening to people. To stop…"
She moved her laptop, hiding the frequency jammer before standing. Shoving her hands in her lab coat pockets, she began pacing. After a few minutes she continued, "I know what I do is distasteful to you, to many people. But I know of much worse things our military, other countries, most anyone,
do to try and get what they want. What
do, is try to stop that."
"Like you did with me?"
Her mouth pinched. "I didn't know they were bringing you in as early as they did and, like I said before, they had promised they would not do this or I would have been here when you arrived. My job is to get answers, stop disasters, and hopefully save people. All without breaking them."
There was anger and a hint of pain in her voice as she said this. Alex recognized it for what it was. Begrudgingly he asked, "Who was it?"
"The people that beat Tommy?"
"No. The person you lost."
She turned and looked at him, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "I didn't lose him. Not exactly. Jonathan, my cousin and best friend, was captured in the second gulf war. Five months passed before they found him, mostly by accident. They had starved him, beaten him, and kept him isolated for weeks at a time."
She shuddered and began pacing again.
"When they finally brought him home he just wasn't the same person. He never was again. Now he's in a mental institution. And he'll probably never get out."
Alex didn’t want to feel sympathy for her, but he was losing that battle. In an effort to stay focused on his rage, he asked through clenched teeth, "Will that happen to Tommy?"
She closed her eyes again, shaking her head. "No. I don't think so."
Walking back over to the chair, she sat and picked up her laptop. "I've done everything I could since I got here to keep him company and provided him, and the others, with things to occupy their mind. He talked a lot about you. He looks up to you."
Alex swallowed the sudden lump in his throat and said, "He's a good kid."
"Then help me figure out how to get him, all of you, out of here. They've built up so many lies, none of you will stand a chance in a court of law."
"You mean if we ever get there?"
"Oh you will. That's where all of this is going."
"And when we start talking about the interrogations?"
"By now they'll have made up some story to either legitimize it or make it seem like you all collaborated to make up this story because you knew you were guilty. Now, are you going to help me or not?"
"How do I know I can trust you?"
He looked at her, studying her face, her eyes, the way she held herself. Finally he said, "We need proof this has all been a frame up. I have some of it, but no one will believe me if what you say about the trail of lies they are leaving is true. We need some help from the outside."
"Who?" She glanced at her watch. "Quickly, I am running out of time."
He told her about his logic bombs and what he'd hoped it would accomplish. Then said, "But I need to reach someone."
He shook his head. "No. As much as I’d like to let Tommy’s father know, I don’t want to chance him being taken too."
"Then who? And how do I reach them?"
Not wanting to explain the cloak and dagger dance he'd had with µβ he simply said, "Some friends of mine."
"How do I reach them?"
"You ready to type fast?"
She positioned her fingers over the keys, "Ready."
Without taking her eyes off of him, she typed rapidly, recording everything he said. When he finished she asked, "Won't they know it's not you because of your logic bombs?"
"Just type what I told you. If I'm right, they'll come find you."
Glancing at her watch, she reached over to turn off the jamming device and placed it in her bag. She had just pulled out another syringe when the door opened.
"Ma'am, there seems to be a problem with the audio. Agent Barrett would like you to hold off further questioning until we get it fixed."
"I have my notes."
"Yes, ma'am. But those are his orders."
Sighing heavily, she put the syringe back, closed up her laptop and said, "Fine."
Rising, she grabbed her things then said to the guard curtly, "Get it fixed fast though. I can't get them their answers if I can't finish my questioning."
Without a backward glance she left saying, "Make sure he's untied after you take him back to his cell. He won't be giving you any trouble."
Alex wanted to laugh, but knew it probably would result in another blow to his still throbbing head. Instead he kept his mouth shut, thinking,
I hope this works
He felt the guard's hands on him and the snap as the zip ties were cut. A few moments’ later needles shot up and down his arms and legs as the blood began to flow back into his limbs. The pain was brief though. He wondered again if he could trust the doctor. But it wasn’t like he had much choice. If it was a trap, hopefully µβ was smart enough not to get caught.
He would just have to wait and see.
Ken peered from behind the press conference divider and scanned the crowd of reporters in front of the raised platform. Karen's grip on his hand tightened as she noticed how many there were. Just in front of him, Mrs. Borne stood beside her son trying to look calm and only half succeeding. He saw her glance up at Duncan, giving him a quick squeeze on his arm before turning back to the platform where Commander Lee stood next to the Denver Chief of Police. The other two families had declined to speak or stand with them, but were sitting in the audience.
"Are you ready for this?"
Ken glanced at his wife's worried face and gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "We'll be just fine. And, yes, before you ask again, I think this will help."
Karen had the grace to blush. Since the commander had called them the day before, asking them to come and speak at the conference, Karen had asked Ken at least a dozen times if he thought it would work. Knowing she was worried about all of the negative results they had received from going public, he had reassured her each time that he thought it would help, but certainly couldn't hurt. At least, he hoped not.
"Ladies and gentlemen."
Everyone turned to look at Daren Kopeks, Chief of the Denver police force.
"First, I'd like to thank each of you for coming today. Up front, I would like to say that we hope that what we present to you will encourage you all to use your incredible skills to aid us. Because, today, we are asking for
Ken heard a murmur go through the crowd of reporters. Sally glanced at him and he gave her a nod and small smile before she turned back.
"Today I'd like to bring up two families, one of whom you've already heard mentioned in the media over the last several weeks, and get them to tell you a story that I am sure you will find as difficult to believe at first as I did. I can assure you, however, that we have enough of a reason to believe that what they are going to share has merit. After they speak, I have someone that will elaborate on the details."
Ken moved forward with his wife, following Mrs. Borne and her son, as the chief motioned for them to come up to the podium. As they climbed the steps, Ken continued toward the podium, Karen following. Earlier, Sally Borne had asked him if he would speak for them all and that she would speak, but only if she had to. As he stepped behind the podium, he glanced again at her, a questioning look in his eye. When she nodded, he turned to the reporters and began to speak.
"As most of you know, my name is Ken Moore and this is my wife, Karen. We have been putting out ads for many weeks looking for our eighteen-year-old son, Tommy. As the weeks passed, we didn't have a lot of hope that we were ever going to see him again. But some evidence arose that the police and a few other people have been investigating, including my brother, Alex, who works for the NCCI
He paused to squeeze his wife's hand. She gave him a small smile and he continued.
"The initial evidence, however, seemed to be a dead end. That is until I received a call from Mrs. Borne telling me that her son Duncan-" He gestured towards Sally and her son. "-who happened to know Tommy from school, had some information she thought might be important."
"Though he feared something might happen, Duncan bravely came forward a few days ago and told her that he thought his dad’s disappearance might not be what they had originally suspected. You see, just like our first evidence - that appeared in the form of another friend of Tommy’s who told us a similar story about someone else’s disappearance - Duncan told his mom that his father disappeared on the same night as Tommy."
He stopped at the sudden wave of questions, each coming too fast for him to distinguish. The chief stepped forward and Ken moved away from the microphone.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, if you could please hold your questions for later, Mr. Moore has further information I think will catch your interest."
Ken could see that the reporters were reluctant to stop and yet they seemed surprised that there could be more. As the chief stepped back, Ken cleared his throat and then continued.
"Chief Kopeks is correct. After the initial evidence and then this new information, the police started looking at Tommy's and Frank Borne’s disappearance from a completely different angle and what they found is both encouraging and disturbing.
It turns out that on the same night my son and Frank disappeared, there were a few
disappearances throughout the Denver area. One we already suspected, but after some additional investigation, it turns out there was a third person taken whose son also knew Tommy. And, as the stories began to come out, we began to suspect that their disappearances may be related to an effort executed by the FBI."
He watched interest turn to incredulity on the face of every reporter and he had to smile. "Yes. I know. Until recently, I had a hard time believing this as well. And it gets stranger. You see, a few nights ago my brother, who was helping us look for Tommy, also went missing."
He paused to let that sink in. He was still trying to come to grips with it as well.
"Due to some other information the police will get to in a moment, we not only have reason to believe that our loved ones have been taken by the FBI, but we have reason to believe that this is directly related to an announcement made just a few days ago by Senator Gillespie in regards to his hacker program and the five people they have taken into custody."
The questions began to flow again and Ken raised his hands for silence before continuing. "These four, now possibly five people, guilty or innocent – and I have reason to believe they are innocent – were not taken in broad daylight. As far as we know they were not read their rights nor have any of us – their families – been notified of what has happened to their loved ones. Even the police have not been able to get a straight answer from the FBI."
One reporter blurted, "Then why are you coming forward saying the FBI is connected?"
At this, the chief stepped forward once more and Ken backed away with relief.
The chief looked at the reporter and answered, "For one, as Mr. Moore just stated, the senator announced that they had, through his program, managed to make several arrests of alleged hackers starting around the time of these disappearances. Second, though we have not been able to get confirmation from the FBI that these people were being held, we also did not get a denial. Lastly, the other evidence, some of which we will relate, points to the likelihood that these people inadvertently may have stumbled upon one of the traps used in the senator’s program to catch hackers."
"If you have this evidence, doesn’t that mean these people were hacking?"
"We don’t know. Maybe they were. Regardless, if the FBI is holding US citizens without due process, we need to know. The families need to know. They have the
to know what has happened to their loved ones."
More questions came and the chief, along with Commander Lee and Ken, tried to answer them as best they could. When Ken noticed his wife tiring, he held up his hands. When everyone had quieted down he continued, "I apologize. I'm sure you have many more questions and the police will answer what they can. I just have one last thing to say and that is to ask you all for your help. Please."
He stopped to scan the audience, making eye contact with as many of them as possible before continuing.
"Please help us find our son and my brother. Help us find Duncan's father and the others who have disappeared. I believe that the only way we're going to find out the truth is if we force the FBI to talk, and get them to tell us the names of the five people Gillespie mentioned. If they are hiding this, then what else can they be hiding? No matter who they are, they cannot just swoop in, take American citizens, and disappear with them as if this were some third world country.
If they have my son, I want to know. And, if they have him I want him freed because I know he has done nothing to warrant this. And I have no reason to believe the others have either.
Help us find our relatives."
With that said, he thanked the reporters and then stepped from behind the podium as the chief moved forward to continue speaking about their findings. As Ken led his wife from the chaos, he prayed that this would work. Because, while he truly believed his son and brother were with the FBI, hearing the FBI admit this would make it more real. It also meant, that soon, they might be able to see Tommy and Alex again.