It’s gone [excerpt]
From This Time Around, coming February:
Turns out convincing a sheriff that you were federal agents who’d just survived a plane crash in the mountains was even harder than it sounded—and that was after leaving out all the parts about the UAVs and the missiles and the gunman and the water tower. Their bruised bodies and ragged clothes actually added to the story, though, and after looking them both up and down for quite a while, the sheriff at least agreed to put in a few phone calls and check them out.
They waited alone on a bench in the front of the sheriff’s office, with just a single watch officer standing guard. He was more absorbed in his cup of coffee and newspaper than he was with Amy and Van.
“Ten bucks says the sheriff comes back and locks us up,” Van said.
Amy glanced over at him, one eyebrow raised. “You got ten bucks?”
Finally, the sheriff returned. Van couldn’t get a read from his expression. He was a young guy, relatively. Not clean-cut, he had a beard, but also fit nicely into his trim uniform. While he seemed genial and down-to-earth, he also had a born-and-raised-here air that made Van a bit nervous. He’d never been much for small towns. As far as he was concerned, any place that lent itself naturally to the setting of a horror movie was probably just no good.
“Okay you two, Agent Hemsworth, Dr. Jacobs. The United States Secret Service confirms that you—” he looked at Amy, “—are indeed a federal agent in the White House division and that you were, indeed, escorting one Dr. Evan “Van” Jacobs to an undisclosed location, one Dr. Evan “Van” Jacobs who himself was the subject of an FBI BOLO not less than twenty-four hours ago.”
“I can explain that,” Van said.
“Well… no, never mind I can’t really explain that.”
“Can you also explain why the FAA has no flight plan on file for your little cross-country trip? Why the Denver International Airport tower tells me you were on their radar for two hours before disappearing last night without transmitting any IDENTs?”
Damn, so Andy Griffith was thorough. Van and Amy looked at each other and then she stammered a bit as she tried to explain. “Secret Service aircraft aren’t required to identify themselves to local aviation authorities if the terms of the mission dictate it. And this, according to the person who ordered it, dictated it.”
“Uh huh. And just who ordered this so important top-secret mission?”
Amy looked at Van. He nodded. “The president,” she said.
That shut him up, but just for a moment.
“I tell you two what. I don’t believe a word of your story and if I hadn’t just got off the phone with the Under Secretary of god knows what agency in Washington D. C. telling me you are actually who you say you are, I’d have you locked away by now. We clear?”
“Now, I’ve been instructed to hold you here until a federal escort arrives to take you back to Washington for a debriefing. They seem as anxious to know what happened to you to as I am.”
“We don’t have time for that,” Van said. “We were supposed to be in San Diego last night.”
“Well, I’d be glad you didn’t get there then.”
The sheriff whistled, long and low. “You two really have been out of pocket, haven’t you? Big earthquake in San Diego early this morning. It’s gone.”