A long time ago, in 2003, the Troubador wrote a beginning: How High a Price. Susan Conroy spent at least 2 nights with John Stickner. Early Conroy came home from a business trip early, and discovered her lies and her absence.
Many have provided a finish – all quite good. This one is different. It is a conclusion, and then a conclusion to my conclusion. – confused yet?
If you haven't read HHAP, do it before continuing. Otherwise this story won't make any sense at all. After reading HHAP, you'll have to decide if this conclusion re-redux makes sense. It all came to me as a finished piece, I take no credit for it-- blame my muse.
[From the original]
Sliding the glass doors open to the patio he stepped outside. As he slid the door closed he heard his wife's sobs.
[And now-- ]
Early stood in the darkness of the patio, looking at the clouds overhead. He sat heavily on a chair and looked back through the patio door at his wife.
She had stopped sobbing and went to the kitchen. She got herself a glass of water and gulped it down. Wiping her eyes, she straightened her shoulders, and opened the door. "Early, will you listen? I want to tell you the whole truth. Please don't interrupt."
Early turned his head and looked at her. He motioned to a chair across from his. She sat down. He was a patient man, his negotiating skills had taught him to hear what the other side had to say. No sense trying to evaluate what the other side had to say, until they said it.
"Early, my job at Jenson, Sharone, and Anderson is not my primary job," Susan began.
'Oh this was going to be good, ' he thought.
"It's true that I'm a lawyer. But I'm never going to get to be a partner based on what I do for them. I do most of my work for them, but sometimes I get called away to work for that 'other firm.'" She made air quotes with her fingers around 'other firm.' "Yes, the CIA. I'm their legal counsel in the Northwest. When they have something that has a legal – or possibly illegal – aspect, they call me.
"That's where I was for the last two nights. The Mounties broke a possible terrorist cell in Vancouver. They called us of course. It got bucked from the FBI to Homeland and back down to CIA.
"We got activated. John Stickner is my handler and boss. He and I, and two other agents, went up to Vancouver and participated in the interrogation of the four terrorists. I can't tell you what they said, or I'd have to kill you." She smiled at him. Early wasn't smiling, just listening with his negotiator's face on.
"That's why I said all this had nothing to do with you. Nothing to do with us. It doesn't." She reached a hand out toward him. "Early, I'm not supposed to be telling you this. I'm supposed to be letting my cover work itself out. But I can see that it isn't.
"Please, Early. I know it sounds unbelievable. And I can't prove it. It's all clandestine. But it's true. Please believe that. We've been together a long time. That should get me a little trust." She looked at him.
Early Conroy made his living by reading people. But Susan was a lawyer – at least part of the time, if her story was true. A lawyer lies for a living – or maybe they call it, presenting the facts in a more favorable light. And she was a good lawyer. She could lie. Could she lie to him? Maybe.
He spent a long time looking at her. She sat back in the chair, looking hopefully at her husband. She had tried to tell her backup story as honestly as she could. She didn't know if he'd buy it. She wet her lips and tried to relax as much as possible.
Early thought that Ronald Reagan got it right: trust but verify.
But that was the problem with Susan's little story. By definition there was no way to verify it. He decided to go with his gut, and his gut had already formulated its conclusion. Susan's story was a bunch of crap. Too pat. She was trying too hard to relax.
He reached into his shirt pocket and came out with his cell phone. It was late, but probably not too late.
He punched in a number that was not on his speed dial. In was in the 202 area code: Washington, D.C.