Editor’s note: This column is part of a fictional weekly serial.
In retrospect, Cecilia could see how hacking the classified historical records of a foreign country’s security service might have been a bad idea. She’d done it a few times for her non-profit back home, always without informing her supervisors, of course, but the targets had always been much more innocuous and with fewer resources at their disposal for retaliation and investigation. Maybe those covert successes, and the satisfaction in finally putting skills acquired during long bored childhood winters to use for what she deemed a good cause, had gone to her head and somehow made investigating her grandfather’s past seem feasible. Just to confirm the major points, nothing too specific or international security-endangering.
Which is how she’d ended up first blindfolded in the back seat of an unmarked police vehicle and now here, in some dingy basement conference room, locked in but fortunately not handcuffed. It had all escalated unnecessarily quickly.
The door opened at the far end of the room and a middle-aged woman in uniform backed in, a mug in each hand. “Here, have some tea,” she said without unsmiling. Cecilia accepted hers automatically, unsure if it was an offer as much as a command.
“Is this really part of your headquarters?” she found herself asking, plowing ahead as if the situation weren’t precarious and bizarre enough already. “I honestly expected something flashier, unless maybe you don’t bother wasting the ritz and glitz on the people you plan to eliminate —”
The agent just looked at her over the rim of her mug. Even the slight smudge of lipstick over onto her cheek didn’t mar her unruffable stoicism.
“Look, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but this is honestly a misunderstanding. You clearly think I’m working for somebody to try to bring down your government, I deserve that, completely my bad, but I was just looking for some family history, really. My grandfather is —”
“We know who your grandfather is, or was,” the agent interrupted.
“Of course you do.” Cecilia rubbed her eyes with one hand, feeling like this was all happening out of order. “Can I call my mom real quick? It’d be a local number. Just to let her know I won’t be home for lunch.”
The agent, despite her calm, flat expression, seemed almost amused. “We’re not looking to detain you. Doing so would raise unanswerable questions we’d rather avoid. We’re going to release you, no caveats, with the expectation that once you know a bit more about the situation you’ll be as eager as we are to let these stories die with your grandfather.”
“You’re lucky I just met the guy, or I might be offended by that.” No one would ever believe she’d been this cocky, if she ever managed to share the story. “But let’s hear it. What is so bad that you expect me to just forget the fact that my grandfather once helped expose some massive criminal syndicate?”
At last the agent smiled. “Ah, now I see the misunderstanding. Your grandfather didn’t expose the syndicate. He ran it.”