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The passing of theHunter

Ch 50

     "You still Huntie."
     I was still Huntie. But I was no longer theHunter.
     Except in the space trading game.
     Bishop42 told me there was no point to changing my ID.
     Keia wanted to have a party to celebrate my promotion. But I talked her out of it.
     Nobody knew except her and Centre. Nobody else could know.
     Keia had been told by Bishop42 that she was to send to me all the stuff she used to send to him.
     He would now be getting the data and reports she used to print out and surface mail to something called 'Prime Consulting'.
     Conga came in and made a bunch of racket about how now there was a new Bishop to break in and train on how to do things.
     I smiled and added to his tirade about how the new guy was probably a bureaucrat from some paper shuffling office at the Treasury.
     Second Grace said she had gotten her first communique from Bishop43 and he had misspelled the name of the agent she was supposed to meet.
     I shrugged and said that had happened to me too.

     Keia smiled the whole time.

     My actual office was in the basement of a massive government complex in downtown DC.
     I had to go in twice a week to do all sorts of everything.
     From reviewing missions that succeeded and failed to forwarding evidence and information to other law enforcement agencies to dealing with people from everywhere and everything. I was the voice or the pen that answered questions from some prosecutor in Nevada about an investigation into union corruption, I dictated a memo to the US Attorney General about some evidence, I talked one of our own agents into staying on in maybe a different capacity from a field operative. My voice was scrambled electronically. My handwriting was done by the same dictation machine the last three Bishops had used.
     From the outside, the change was almost transparent.
     The office staff treated me like I had worked there for twenty years. And to some of them, I had.
     Most of my work was done from home. I communicated with Bishop42 daily for several months, sometimes hourly, about what I was to do, about what I should do. Some things he had begun he finished up, others he let me make the call and told me there was no right or wrong in many cases.

     The Chief Justice came by the basement office one day.
     "Oh, you're the new one. Good Luck. See you around." He said.
     We shook hands.
     And he left.
     Bishop42 said that as long as things were cool, I may not even hear from him again. He had talked to him only a dozen or so times in the last three years or so, and two of them were about me. One about some exploding train cars. Another about a certain import from Africa.
     "And I hope you have at least one agent like you to ride herd over."
     "Thanks a lot." I said into the phone.

     I had a new computer at home.
     The thing was so secure it took me up to twenty minutes to get past all the precautions, including a retinal scan and it checking two different fingerprints.
     It was for official eyes-only stuff, it did not have a hard or floppy drive or a printer. The thing was tied into a secure fiber optic cable run directly into what was essentially a computer in a vault watched by armed guards and attack dogs.
     Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for security, but I felt all that was a bit excessive. I tried to get out of using it, but there were times when the business that needed done could only be done on it.

     I recruited my first agent.
     A former college athlete who had an uncanny ability to disguise himself simply by doing something like putting on a pair of glasses. The difference in his appearance could be unsettling if he just combed his hair different. Part of it was he changed the way he held himself, his mannerisms, and even his speech patterns like you change socks.
     Peter Sellers was called the man of a thousand faces. New agent Javelin was the man of at least five hundred.
     I assigned his preliminary training to Conga.
     I assigned his technological training to theHunter.
     Hey, I was the boss. I could do that.
     Bishop42 confided in me that he had often assigned himself the training for agents in pursuit and defensive driving.
     "You never sent me to that training."
     "I've seen you drive. I should have sent you to that class they give drivers with too many tickets."

     Keia buried me with information on every proposed mission and assignment. Every mission wrap was a novel length folder. I had details nobody needed to know, I had information that was interesting, but useless. I had to wade through everything and then some to get to the point.
     Bishop42: She is thorough although a bit over zealous at times. What I had her do for me was to give me all the essentials on the first page or two, and the complete information was attached if I needed to reference it.
     theHunter: You could have told me that six months ago. It would have saved me eyestrain.

     I think Second Grace knew something was up, but she never let on.

     One advantage of my new job was I got to pick my pilot.
     Falcon was like a kid with a new toy.
     The small powerful corporate jet was only a couple of years old, and had just gone through a complete refit.
     "We're invisible to all but direct observation." He said as we flew west one time.
     "Our transponder says we are a crop duster."
     "That's nice."
     "Our radio is double scrambled so if you did hack it and listen you'd think we were talking in Korean."
     "This thing can glide in without power and soft land from forty thousand feet, and all three life support systems have their own power supplies."
     "Now that's good to know."
     Falcon played with two small knobs. "Look out at the wings."
     "They're blue." I said from my seat at the workstation in the back.
     "We're blue. Watch."
     The wings slowly lost their color, then changed and darkened to deep red.
     "Ain't that cool?"
     I had to admit it was cool.
     "A flying chameleon." I said.
     "Yeah, exactly. Hey! This plane needs a code name."
     "It's got one. The Air Force calls it something like Sovereign 301."
     "I like Chameleon better."
     And so it was named.

     I had thought being in charge of personnel and other operational details was going to be dull.
     But it was far too soon I had to do two things that Bishop42 said he hated most about the job and would not miss in his new roll.
     I had to bury one agent, and fire another.
     1951 had been in a traffic accident. She was coming back from delivering some delicate documents to another party and simply got ran over by a woman with a van load of kids and a cel phone.
     The agent left no family of consequence, Second Grace was her 'In case of...' person.
     Rathskeller read her eulogy. I played the part of Command and Control by standing in the back in a Blues Brothers suit and dark glasses. The memorial service was small, the others in attendance were Second Grace, 1951's landlord, and a couple of others.
     The agent I fired was something that had been working for months.
     We used double, triple, quadruple agents. It was part of our stock in trade. The agent in question was listed as a double agent for us and his State Bureau of Investigation. OK, no problem.
     Then we found out that he was also a mole for another fed outfit. Then we found out that some incidents he had been involved in may not have occurred exactly as he had reported.
     I sat in a small hotel room rented for this very occasion, heavily disguised and wearing a bulletproof vest. Centre, my backup, was out of sight in the bathroom behind me.
     Bulldog shifted nervously.
     "If you had been up front with us then, this wouldn't be happening now."
     "But Bishop." He stammered. "I didn't give them anything I shouldn't have."
     I looked him in the eye. I didn't like what I saw.
     "We cannot risk an outside leak. If their system is not secure, the information you provide them could get out and tip the bad guys to our operation."
     He stopped fidgeting.
     I took a deep breath and turned toward the mirror to inspect my nose.
     Bulldog moved.
     In my peripheral vision I saw him step back and reach into his belt.
     He was quick.
     I heard the shot, but the impact against my vest was glancing at best.
     I reached under my jacket and drew.
     There was a tremendous explosion in the room.
     He was thrown against the far wall and squeezed off two more shots at random. But as his body slumped down the wall he lowered the gun. The expression on his face was something I had never seen before. He seemed almost grateful.
     Then I stepped toward him and removed my disguise.
     "Damn. You're not the Bishop. You're the Hunter." He said breathing heavily, he dropped his small semi-auto.
     I put the .454 back in its side holster.
     Bulldog collapsed.
     Behind me there was a soft "Damnit. He got me."
     I looked over at Centre. He was wrapping a hotel towel around his leg.
     "It's nothing." He said as I reached for the phone.
     In a few minutes Bulldog, now the late Steven Neivo, was taken away.
     Centre put his hand on my shoulder.
     "It's OK Bishop. I think Bulldog resigned after all."
     Maybe I was slowly becoming Bishop43.

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