Deep Cover

In one of the dead end alleys of the cubical farm, one of the dedicated workers leaned backwards in their chair and whispered around the barrier to their neighbor, “Hey have you seen Agent Johnson?”

Their neighbor scooted her chair out and answered, “She’s still undercover.”

“But we busted the exotic animal smuggling operation two weeks ago.  There was a shoot out and everything.”  Their eyes narrowed in confusion.

“Well, she said it would compromise future operations if they broke cover right after the bust.”

They leaned back into their cubical and scooted their chair out into the alley as well, “They?”

“Her ‘wife’ and ‘kid’ are still undercover with her,” she said.

“Wait, wait, where did we get the kid?  Aren’t his parents going to want him back?”

“His parents were agents.  After they died in the line of duty, he became a ward of the agency.  Unofficially he’s a junior agent if such a thing existed.”

They shook their head slowly.  “Jeez, that’s rough.  What about the ‘wife’?”

“Oh, she’s loving the suburban life.  Her apartment was on Third street.  The bad part of Third street.”

Their eyebrows shot up their forehead, “Wow, I know our salaries aren’t great but third street?”

“She has student loans and bad credit from identity theft.  Couldn’t get in anywhere else.”

“The agency could help with that?” they asked.

She spread her hands in front of her and shrugged.  “Not their problem as long as she showed up to work.  But now she’s in a nice house in the suburbs with a kid and wife.”

“I guess but they have to break cover at some point.”

“I heard the chief talking about moving them to witness protection.”

“They’re just going to become a family?”

“The Chief is a really good matchmaker.  We lose more agents to his team-ups than anything else.  Also, they had a big bonding moment during the car chase slash rescue slash shoot out.”

“I wonder if it’s too early to apply for a promotion?”

The Alibi – A Francine Non-Adventure

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I opened the door to my apartment, reached to the side and flicked on the light.  I froze staring at the gory and grisly scene that was my living room.  A man lay covered in and in a pool of blood.  A knife, one of my kitchen knives, protruded from his chest.  I closed the door and stood in the hallway silently cursing.

Time to take stock.  The dead man was an obvious crime thriller story hook.  I hadn’t actually walked into the apartment so I didn’t have any trace evidence from the victim on me and I had an alibi of sorts for most of the night so this probably wouldn’t turn into “Fugitive” scenario.  There was a dead man in my apartment which meant “someone” had killed him.  An obvious statement but it helped focus my thoughts.  Who had killed him?  Organized crime?  Maybe this was a burglary gone wrong.  Double crossed by a partner?  Whatever had happened I was stuck in the thick of it for now.  I could try to avoid the rest but I had to deal with this.  I needed to call the police.

I considered calling Jenny to come back so I wouldn’t have to face the police alone.  It might look odd, possibly incriminating, if I called my friend before I called the police.  I dialed 911.


An hour later, I was talking with a homicide detective who looked like he had stepped out of a primetime police procedural.  His hair was black slicked back with traces of salt at his temples.  Clean pressed shirt and tie.  Only a faint beard shadow betrayed how long he had been on shift. From inside his leather jacket, he pulled out a small notebook, flipped it open, and began speaking to me.

“Are you Francine Espinosa?” I nodded.  “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“No go right ahead,” I said feeling my hands were tied.  In most cases, it is ill-advised to talk to police but if this was playing out as part of the story hook, I would look like the prime suspect if I didn’t answer some questions.

“Did you know the victim?”


“Have you ever seen the victim before tonight?”


“The coroner places the time of death at around an two hours before you called 911.  Do you have an alibi for the time leading up to the time of death and after?”

“I do but it’s complicated.”  Why did this happen on tonight of all nights?  Not that any other night would have been better to find a dead body.

“Just start at the beginning,” he said with his pen poised over his notepad.

“Well, I was scheduled to work the evening shift–”

“And where do you work?”

“RJ Dudds.  The one in Southshore Mall.  But I called in sick to go see a movie.”

“What showing and did you go alone?”

“No, I was going with my friend.  The 7:10 pm showing of Mutant High 2”

“And their name?”

“Jenny, Jenny Farris.”

“So, you were watching a movie while the murder was being committed?”

“Not exactly.  Just before the movie started this woman I met online texted me.  We’ve been trading messages for a few days and seem to be hitting it off.  She wanted to meet in person for a date.”

“You left your friend at the movie theater to go on a date?”  He stopped note taking to look at me with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes.”  As long as I stuck to the truth I wouldn’t get tripped up.

“Ok and what is her name and where did you go?”  He resumed note taking.

“Amy Richards. Her profile name is catgirl4380.  We went to Josie’s Bar and Diner on Eighth St.”

“And the two of you were there for how long?”

“I don’t know how long she was there but I left after about half an hour.”

“You just left her in the bar?”

“No, I texted my sister to call me and pretend one of our aunts had a stroke.”

“You did what?”  He voiced raised slightly as his eyebrows shot up his forehead.

“Look, Amy seemed nice and sweet online and through texts but in person, she had some rough edges. So yeah, I used my escape codeword with my sister and left her in the bar.”

I didn’t need to tell the detective that she had given off major chaser vibes.  Telling me she never would have known if I hadn’t told her.  Asking me when I was going to have the surgery.  Complimenting me on my make-up.

“Ok and what time was that?” he asked.

“About eight o’clock.”

“Did you go home at that point?”

“No, I grabbed a cab and texted Jenny and let her know that the date was a wash I would meet her at our after movie hangout.”

“And where is that?”

“Pancakes on highway twelve.”

“Did you go straight there after your date?”

“Yes, I sat and drank coffee for forty minutes until Jenny showed.  Then we ordered a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and talked about the movie for and hour.”

“If you didn’t see the movie, how did you talk about it for an hour?”

“I saw it opening weekend but Jenny doesn’t like to be super crowded so she’s been waiting for a weekday.  I was going to go see it again with her so we could do Pancakes after.”

“I see.  And after that?”

“Jenny drove me home.  I walked into my apartment, turned on the light, saw the dead guy and called 911.”

“So, let me get this straight.  You were scheduled to work at the time of the murder but called out sick to see a movie with your friend, Jenny.  At the last minute, you got a date with Ms. Richards so you canceled on your friend Jenny.  You left your date because she had some “rough edges” and had your sister call you with a fake family emergency.  You took a cab to the restaurant you and Jenny go to after movies and waited there for forty minutes until Jenny arrived.  The two of you had a stack of buttermilk pancakes and talked about the movie you didn’t see tonight but had seen previously.  Jenny drove you home and when you entered your apartment the unknown man was already dead.  Is that right?”


“Do you have any receipts from the cabs or the bar?”

“I do.”  I reached into my purse and pulled out the untorn ticket stub, two cab receipts, the short bar tab, and the receipt from Pancakes.  I shuffled them into the correct order and handed them to him.  He looked at them noting the timestamp on each paper slip.

“I’ve read political thrillers that weren’t that complex.”  He slapped his notebook closed.  “Even with these receipts, it’s going to take me all day to verify your story.  Are all your nights like this?”

“No, most nights I don’t find a dead man in my apartment.”

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Please Silence Your Cellphone Before the Heist Begins

Grey, our infiltration specialist, had secured the office we had chosen to do the hack from and released a squad of spider bots in the vents. With them running through the vents she monitored security movements on the floor. She had also used them during our insertion to scout the path into the building. I dropped Alex’s, our computer security and data specialist, bag by the desk as she started setting up and took up my station at the door. If the room was breached, I would run interference while Alex and Grey escaped via the pre-planned route. I would make my own way out of the building.

Alex had just finished wiring her portable into the building’s network when a phone began to ring. A soft cheerful tune that I recognized from a children’s show my daughter watched. I knew I didn’t have a phone on me. I looked to Grey who patted her pockets and showed me her empty hands. It couldn’t be…

“I have to get that,” Alex said. She rummaged around in her bag and pulled out a small flip phone and answered the call. “Hello Aunt Ruby … aha ok. You need to reset your router. Hmm … no, not your computer. The box plugged in by the wall … Yes … No the other one … Ok unplug it and wait ten seconds and plug it back in.”

She kept the phone pressed against her ear with one hand and typed on her portable to issue a string of commands with the other. Words began streaming across the screen. “Is it working now? … Ok, love you too.” She flipped the phone closed with one and and dropped it back into her bag.

“Did you just take a tech support call from your aunt?” I asked stepping closer to her.

“Yeah, look if I don’t she calls my mom and then my mom calls me and it’s a whole thing.” She leaned forward watching the scrolling text and typing commands that caused different screens of text to scroll by.

I glanced at Grey for support, she shrugged non-committal. I spun the office chair Alex was sitting in around to face me and locked eyes with her. “We’re inside the headquarters of a multinational corporation, that is run by very bad men, stealing data worth millions of dollars. If we get caught the best we can hope for is a quick death. You can not jeopardize our security by taking unsecured phone calls from your aunt. Understood?”

Her phone rang again. She looked down at her bag then back at me, “Can I get that?”


“Ok, but you have to talk to my mom when calls.”

Why Are You Doing This?

“I’m sorry what was that?”

“I… er… I’m sorry Supreme Commander I didn’t mean to question you. Please forgive me.”

“I was turned with my bad ear to you. I didn’t hear what you said. Please repeat it.”

“I… I… just asked why you wanted to take over the world?”

“Ah, that is actually a good question. You know know one has ever asked me that. In the past… let’s see I started planning in ’93 but my first attack wasn’t till ’95… twenty-one years, no one has questioned my motives. Do you want to know the truth?

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Seven Time Machines

It seemed simple enough when she told you how to travel through time. So, simple that a child from four thousand years in the future had done it on a whim. Four thousand years is a long time for advancements to be made but you thought with a few expansions on the tech needed you could do it.

The first time machine prototype’s particle collider was undersized and the necessary expansion of space though the eighth dimension caused it to implode.

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