Oubliette: “Bitter”

Note: This is part of an experimental creative writing exercise. If you want to read more or start from beginning. You go to the Oubliette page. Please note the earlier stories are crude. 🙂

Owen sat in the poorly lit meeting room of the Kissington CIA field office along with three other well manicured men. Of the others in the room, he know only one of them. That man was Assistant Director Lewis Stone under whom he worked for the past five years. The other two men looked familiar but he did not know them. He might have seen them around the field office or even on the few times that he had to the George Bush Center. They did not introduce themselves nor did Stone introduce them. Awkward silence hung over the occupants. Owen watched them as they shuffled their papers and sent text messages on their phones. If there were clues for the purpose of the meeting, he did not see them. Even Stone was not giving any hints.

Today was a day that Owen has been hoping for the last several months; he would finally be able to do something useful with his life. To be escorted to this small meeting room the moment he checked in with security was a disappointment to him. Owen felt that his life came to a halt on that day and he fought hard to overcome his injuries. The physical therapy was a long and difficult journey that filled him with excitement on every small achievement. To go through that and to be held back by barren white walls with only a ticking clock to keep company, when he was needed to make the world safer, was frustrating.

After waiting for what seemed forever, the door swung open and another man hurriedly entered and sat down. This man unlike the others was not well manicured. His suit was slightly wrinkled and his thinning head of grey hair was oozing perspiration. He sat his briefcase on the table, opened it, and produced a folder. After looking in it for a few long moments, he spoke.

“Good morning everyone. I am sorry to keep all of you waiting my flight arrived late. Agent Holt, we have not met. My name is Sam Trader and I am a member, along with James and Bill, on your disciplinary review board.”

Trader reached his hand across the table towards Owen. Owen took his hand and shook it. Trader look at his papers some more and with a serious expression on his face, he started talking.

“Agent Holt, this is an unofficial meeting to inform you of the board’s pending adjudication of your actions on the night of October 13, 2015 in which eight field agents and about a dozen civilians were killed. As you know, a disciplinary complaint was filed and there has been an ongoing investigation of those events. The board is aware that you are suffering from amnesia as a result of the trauma that you suffered and that you are unable.. or unwilling… to give an account on the events of that night. In the course of this investigation, it was discovered that you were conducting an unauthorized investigation and that all evidence that you have gathered either disappeared or destroyed.”

As Owen sat there listening to these words, he felt like he had walked into an alternative reality. There was something terribly wrong here and he was taken by surprise.

“It will be the boards determination that you acted willfully negligent and was responsible for destroying evidence in an ongoing violation. It will be the recommendation of the board to seek your dismissal and referral for possible criminal charges.”

This was the point that Owen could not stand any longer. The expression on his face quickly changed from shock to anger.

“Excuse me!” interrupted Owen. All four men in the room looked at him. When Trader acted as if he was going to continue, Owen continued.

“None of this makes any sense. I was never given an opportunity to defend myself and nobody is following procedure.”

“Agent Holt, you are out line.” snapped Stone.

“I’m sorry Lewis but this is wrong. I have not had a chance to give my side of the story in this investigation. I never had an opportunity to see the evidence and I certainly was not allowed to see my files! You expect me to just sit here while I am accused of breaking the law?”

One of the other men in the room spoke up. “Agent Holt, there were no files that could be recovered and we could not find any evidence that those files even existed. Trust me, we did a very exhaustive search. As far as the guys in forensics could tell that if they existed, they were intentionally deleted and all record of them erased.”

Owen responded. “Are you calling me a liar because if you are, I would like it if you were upfront about it.Those files would have been in document management per department policy.”

To this, Stone answered. “Agent Holt, I examined your file history and I did not see any evidence of the files in question.”

“There is no evidence that those files existed. Unless you can produce those files, there is simply nothing to consider.” added Trader and he continued.

“The board’s recommendation is based on the evidence at hand and you have not been able to justify your actions. If you feel that this investigation was handled in bad faith, you will be free to file an appeal.”

After a brief tense moment, Trader took his glasses off and look at Owen. “Agent Holt, you have been in service to the CIA for almost 10 years and the nation for longer than that. You served honorably in the Army and earned several distinctions I might add. Assistant Director Stone spoke highly of you and even said that you are probably one of the best agents of the agency. To your credit, there is someone higher up who must like you. Despite the board’s recommendation, you are to be transferred to another agency. Assistant Director Stone will be providing details of the transfer when he receives them. Until then, you are on administrative leave until the transfer is complete.”

Trader ended the meeting. “If you have no further questions Agent Holt, this meeting is finished. Security will be here to escort you to out.”

After placing his notes back into his briefcase, Trader and the other two men left the room. Only the assistant director and Owen remained. The moment of silence between the two seemed to last forever. With each click of the clock, the weight in the room increased until Owen broke the silence.

“What the hell, Lewis?”

The assistant director kept quiet. He was doing all he can to avoid making eye contact with Owen.

“Were you in on this railroading?”

“I did all that I could Owen. I couldn’t believe it when they first told me about it. You are the last person I would have suspected of doing something like this. I even had to tell you to stop being so anal a few times… After I saw the evidence, there was just no way I could have ignored it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?”

“I was under orders. I was not told why. I was just told to not discuss the investigation to you. I’m not authorized to tell you more than that.”

There was a knock on the door and a pair of security guards entered. Owen stood and left the room with the two men.

 


Owen did not remember how he ended up at Harriet’s Confections, a bar near one of the local universities. All he remember was that he walked out of the field office feeling as if he was stabbed in the back. Assistant Director Stone was even part of this conspiracy. He wondered how the agency could betray him like that. He tried in vain to piece together the reasons why he would even conduct an unauthorized investigation.

There were many questions that Owen had and struggled in his attempt to make sense of it all. He remembered waking up in that hospital and was barely able to remember his name. Over the course the next year, his memory had mostly came back but the six months prior to the “incident” never did. He was able to heal his body and spirit as best he could but there was always the hole in his mind that he could never fill.

Now, he is seated in a dark barroom with dozens of loud and obnoxious college age kids. Many of them were talking loudly and drinking way too much. Some were making fools of themselves. It was the beginning of the spring semester. Owen figured that if you were going to get into mischief, this would be the time to do it.

Owen sat there listening to the barely audible music over the roar of the patrons while staring at his empty glass. The song was some guy singing about being crazy and when the song started repeating “I think you’re crazy,” Owen could not help but to smirk.

“Owen?”

Owen looked up from the table. It was Agent Jones, a tall lithe woman that he knew from the agency. He worked a few cases with her a few months before the “incident” and was very impressed with her. She looked at him and said, “I never thought of you as a person who would be in a place like this.”

He squinted at her. “Why would you think that agent? You should have seen me during my Army days.”

She laughed. “Well, I just would have thought you would prefer some place… more mature. Please call me Jane. Why are you here?”

Owen knew he probably should have taken offense to that. He was not that much older than her. Damn, she was right though; he is out of place among these kids. He looked at his empty glass. “I’m here to make mistakes. Seems that it is what I’ve been doing lately and I don’t even know why.”

She gasped and sat down. “The rumors are true then?”

Owen nodded and answered, “Depends on what your heard. Yes, I am on leave pending transfer to another agency. I guess I have a benefactor to thank for that.”

A waitress walked by and sat a drink in front of him. He picked up the glass of white fluid with a touch of yellow and looked at it. She looked at it as well. “What are you drinking?”

“They call it a lemon drop.”

“That has to be bitter.”

Owen thought for a bit and smiled. “Yes, but no more than I.”


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