**** **** ****
Upon arriving in
"Commander Mayson," the secretary replied, incredulous that Bill didn't know who she was referring to.
"Oh. Right." Bill hadn't worked for a field office that used any kind of
ranking system outside of the standard Fed ranks. When it was
Bill spent the weekend trying not to feel sorry for himself. He kept focused on becoming familiar with his new
surroundings, driving around the city with the aid of a map, checking out
various bars and restaurants to find a good cup of coffee, a decent hamburger
and a decent mug of beer. He read the Atlanta Journal Constitution to
get a feel for what was of concern to the citizenry and to check apartment
listings. Of course, he had no idea yet what parts of town were
"good" and what parts were "bad" although he learned very
quickly that the Buckhead district on the northwest
Monday morning, Bill dressed in his grey three-piece suit and reported for his nine o'clock meeting with Commander Mayson.
Frank Mayson was a twenty-year veteran of the FBI, but had
only been Regional Director of the
It had been a violent and bloody path. Vowing to not have the city of Atlanta live through such times again, Commander Frank Mayson worked to restore the Atlanta field office's good status, keep the violence in the city down and keep the criminal element from gaining too much of a foothold.
So far, he was succeeding on at least two of those goals.
Violence was down and the criminal element, namely
Greg Turner's deceit and subsequent exposure badly damaged
It took time, but Mayson's honest and straightforward
leadership started to get
The ratio of newer, younger agents to the more seasoned ones
was off balance and the number of small mistakes, wrecked cars
and blown busts was becoming a laughable statistic within the entire FBI.
Mayson pleaded with his superiors in Washington for help with recruitment,
requesting for more seasoned agents be transferred to Atlanta and for some kind
of way to help justify preventing good agents from leaving the city, at least
for a couple of years.
If that was true, then Frank Mayson couldn't
understand why the LA field office had kicked Agent William Maxwell out and
sent him to
Commander Mayson couldn't wait to meet the guy and at nine o'clock Monday morning, he did.
Of course, Bill Maxwell had no idea what to expect in meeting Commander Mayson. Although first impressions were always important, Bill didn't go overboard on appearance. After all, and after twenty plus years, he was who he was. His grey suit was clean, but he wore his shirt collar open and necktie loose. For being so early in the morning, Bill looked like he had already put in a hard day. Thing was, he always looked like this and there was no sense putting forth an image any different.
"Agent Maxwell, welcome to
"Thank you, sir." Bill gave Mayson's hand a firm shake and then the Commander gestured for him to have a seat.
"I understand that this transfer was...sudden," Mayson said as he sat down behind his desk. "But I’m not all that sure I understand why you were transferred.”
“Um…they didn’t tell you what happened?”
“Oh I know what happened. You ran the Mayor of LA into a swimming pool.”
Bill cleared his throat, embarrassed. “Yeah, that’s what I did…”
“Accidentally, I’m aware. I’ve got a copy of the report here, it says how you were in a pursuit and your brakes failed and such. It’s obvious you didn’t intend to run over the Mayor.”
“So it was an accident. And as some kind of punishment, the
LA office felt it appropriate to send you here, to
“Ah, well, sir I dunno
if you’d want to necessarily call it punishment,” Bill said, not wanting to
completely offend his new boss right off the bat and agree that this transfer
Commander Mayson smiled. “Agent Maxwell, you need not have
to spare my feelings. I’m fully aware of what image
Bill was impressed with Mayson’s straightforward honesty and
he felt a little more comfortable sharing his opinion. "Well, um, with all
due respect to the
Mayson nodded, showing no offense to the statement. "This is why I don’t fully understand why you were thrown out of LA. Agent Maxwell, my first few months of overseeing this field office was spent firing agents under my command for corruption, for taking bribes, for using undue influence and the like. I have seen the worst of the worst. You were no more than doing your job and maybe only guilty of being a little overzealous. Sure, you ended up in an embarrassing situation with the Mayor of LA and it ended up on television. But from where I’m sitting, I don’t think you were treated fairly.”
"Well, thank you sir. But there had been talk that they could have terminated me for negligence."
"I think a suspension would’ve been more called for,
given your record. As it is, however, you’re here now.
You may not be happy about this assignment to
Bill couldn't hold back his smile. He let it break free and then cleared his throat and sobered himself. "Thank you, sir."
Commander Mayson nodded and shuffled some papers. "Now, we have some administrative things to take care of here...."
A little while later, Commander Mayson escorted Bill out of his office to show him around the building. Bill had his new ID pass card clipped already to his suit vest and he carried two folders, one with personnel forms and the other containing information for his first assignment. Mayson lead Bill down the hallway toward the "bullpen," essentially a squad room, where Bill would be assigned a desk and a phone. They were in the midst of conversation when they passed by an agent at the water fountain. Before reaching the bullpen, Bill and Commander Mayson suddenly heard somebody singing.
"Who was the tall dark stranger there, Maxwell is the name..."
Bill hadn't heard that smooth
voice, or that in-joke vocal refrain, since he had worked in
Bill grinned with surprise. "Kenny! Kenny Hygate, I don’t believe it…"
"Wild Bill, how the hell are ya?" Kenny smiled broadly as he extended his hand to Bill.
"I'm pretty good for an ol' geezer," Bill replied, shaking Kenny's hand. He was happy to see a familiar face. "How the hell are you?"
"The same. What in blazes are you doing in
"I could ask you the same thing."
Kenny snorted and pointed to his ID pass clipped to his sharp light brown suit. "I work here."
"No kidding?" Bill looked down at his own and flicked it with his finger. "So do I!"
"What?" Kenny looked at Mayson. "Is he kidding?"
Mayson smiled. "Nope. He just started this morning."
Kenny looked at Bill. "You got out of
"Yeah, well, ya know,
uh...change of scenery isn't a bad thing. An assignment here in
Kenny shook his head. "You're still a terrible liar, Bill."
Bill pressed his lips together and nodded. "I got reassigned."
"They threw you out?"
"Well, not exactly threw me out, um, more like...uh...yeah."
Kenny cringed in sympathy. "What happened?"
"I really don't wanna talk about it," Bill said. He then smiled, changing the subject. "But I'm glad to see you're here."
"It's good to see you. Listen, I won't keep you, I'm sure the Commander here has a lot to show you and of course, all the appropriate hazing that has to be done..." Kenny grinned at Mayson.
Mayson looked at Kenny with mild amusement. "Actually, I was going to introduce Bill to you because his first assignment is working with you."
"Really?" Kenny looked at Bill. "My apologies."
"And since you two already know each other," Mayson continued, "Agent Hygate would you like to show Agent Maxwell around?"
"I'd love to."
"Great. Agent Maxwell, welcome again to
Bill nodded. "I will, sir. Thank you."
Mayson turned and headed back for his office. Bill and Kenny headed toward the bullpen.
be like old times," Kenny said. "God, how long has been since
"Something like that."
"Damn, we're gettin' old."
Bill made a face, as if to say don't remind me.
Kenny chuckled. "So when'd you arrive in
"Well, you've come at a most interesting time, Bill.
This gig in
**** **** ****
After his first day wound to close at the Federal building, Bill found his way to Kenny's desk. It was good to have a friend in town and when Kenny suggested grabbing a beer after work, Bill readily agreed.
Kenny took Bill to a bar not far from
“So how did you end up in
"I came voluntarily." Kenny smiled. "You
forget I'm from
Bill nodded, remembering. "So you wanted to come back to the green, green grass of home?"
"Something like that."
Kenny looked reflective. "Actually, I started out in
"I remember. I'd been in
"Yep. You and I and whatshisname there, busted chops and busted cases and ...."
"And kept gettin' ripped off by First in Line Kline!"
"Yes! Oh man, I’d forgotten what a pain in the rear he was! I wonder what ever happened to him?"
"Well, he must've ended up first in line somewhere.
Probably got a nice cushy job in
Kenny chuckled. "Well, if it's any comfort for ya, Bill, Commander Mayson doesn't put up with any of that
kind of crap here in
"Why is he called 'Commander'? I've never heard of a Special Agent-in-Charge or a Regional Director having a rank like that."
Kenny smiled. "It's an
"Guess so." Bill paused to take a sip of his beer. "Anyway, he seems like a good man."
"Frank Mayson is the best thing that coulda happened to this field office after Greg Turner. Although he's still got a tough row to hoe."
Bill was curious. "What happened with this Turner guy?"
"It's a long story, Bill, and it's ugly."
"Mayson said something about how when he first took over this office, he had to purge a lot of bad agents?"
Kenny nodded. "The short version, Bill, is Greg Turner
was in the back pocket of
"The corruption went that high?"
"Yeah. The fallout wiped out ranks on both side of the law, by jail and by bullets."
"Which side won?"
"Ours did. Barely."
"Well, I'm glad you survived it."
Kenny smiled. "I'm like you, Bill. I'm a survivor."
"Beats the alternative."
"That it does." Kenny paused to drink his beer.
"So after just a few short days, what do you think of
Bill chuckled. "Ah, it's different. Definitely a different kind of city."
"Yep. What's your wife think?"
Bill's smile faded and he glanced downward briefly. "Um, she...passed away a few years ago, Kenny..."
Kenny was stunned to hear the news. "Oh Bill, I'm sorry..."
"It was after I left
Kenny could see the loss was still painful for Bill and he felt bad for having inadvertently reopened the wound. "Damn, Bill...I'm sorry..."
"Hey, it's awright, Kenny. We haven't seen each other for years, you had no way of knowing."
"Yeah, but still..."
"Don't worry about it. It's
done... I don't know what she would've thought of
"Yeah, it was. She liked
Kenny chuckled. "How could I forget? I made dee mistake of drinkin' dee water..."
Bill laughed and the two friends were soon reminiscing on old times and Bill was back to his old self again. But in the back of his mind, Kenny knew better. Time may heal all wounds, but after six years, Bill Maxwell was still hurting...
**** **** ****
On the outskirts of
A night watchman kept post at a guard shack near the entrance to the lot and every hour or so did a foot patrol around the perimeter. He never expected trouble, but was vigilant nonetheless. The impound lot itself was out of view of the road and most of the cars in the lot were worthless wrecks, cars seized after chases or vehicles that were used for transporting contraband. Seized higher-end vehicles that belonged to drug dealers or other criminals where kept in a different lot, under heavier guard.
Many of the vehicles in this lot eventually wound up in a salvage yard, stripped for parts and then crushed. Some cars were to never leave the impound lot and had been sentenced to remain there until they turned to dust.
One such vehicle was a modified 1966 Dodge Charger, painted battleship grey with blacked out or grey plated windows. A matching grey plate covered the front grill with two slits on either side to allow the light from the headlights to shine through, not unlike the headlight covers used on cars during World War II. The back window had a grey plate over it with an opening just wide and long enough for the driver to see where he had been. Another grey plate also covered the tail light expanse. No license plate graced the vehicle. The door handles had been "shaved,” make and model badges, wiper blades and even the VIN number had been removed. The cosmetic modifications for the most part gave the car a demonic look.
And it was a demon purpose that the car had been modified for. The crowning touch was the front windshield, which was dark as night and had a cut out on the passenger side just wide enough for a rifle barrel to poke through. The windshield itself was made of bullet resistant glass. Additional modifications included a beefed up suspension and souped up engine.
Despite all this, the car had failed at its single mission: To kill Federal agent William Maxwell.
Having thwarted the hit attempts by Johnny Diamante, Agent Maxwell had finally busted the long time dope pusher after fifteen years of pursuit. Since the car was too big to placed on his desk as a trophy, Maxwell ordered that the car remain in the impound lot indefinitely and its final resting place was between an old Ford pick up and an aging Desoto. It could be seen clearly from the front perimeter of the impound lot.
A small group of men dressed completely in black clothing, crouched behind some trees and brush several yards from the front of the impound lot. Patiently they waited for the guard to start making his rounds. When he did, they moved.
Walking the backside of the impound lot the guard suddenly felt something behind him. He began to turn and go for his gun when a hand with a cloth came roughly over his face. There was a brief, sweet odor and then he saw nothing more.
Two men lifted the guard bodily and carried him to the front of the impound lot, where three more men were waiting. One of the three went to work on the chains that locked the gates to the impound yard. They left the guard on the ground, near his small guard shack, where he was oblivious to the world.
The chains were cut and clattered loudly in the night as the gate was released. "Let's go! Let's move!" The men opened the gate wide and hurried into the lot.
The men all went directly for the old Charger first. A quick inspection found a flat tire. Black duffle bags dropped to the ground and the men moved like a NASCAR pit crew. The trunk of the Charger was popped open where they found a still useable spare tire. Another man was under the hood, removing the old battery and putting in a new one. Within minutes the flat tire was changed, the new battery wired up and the Charger was ready to go.
The Dodge coughed and sputtered then finally roared to life. The men threw their duffle bags into the trunk, slammed it shut and then disbursed within the yard toward other cars. In some cases, keys were still in the ignitions, others had to be hotwired. Engines soon fired up and once every man had a vehicle to flee in, gravel spit from beneath tires as the cars lunged to the exit of the yard, the old Charger leading the way for the mass escape.
**** **** ****
The first two weeks in
They began to clash a little bit, however, over the
seemingly tangled relationship between the FBI and
Bill, in turn, couldn't help but
think of what Kenny had told him about the previous bureau commander, Greg
Turner. There had been a clandestine inappropriate partnership between
When Bill wasn't busy with FBI
work, or getting mixed up with the Syndicate, he had finally found an apartment
in one of
The good news was at least Bill knew somebody in
"So," Bill said on the phone to Ralph when he made that particular call one night, "you can ship the rest of that stuff to me."
"Okay," Ralph replied. "Pam and I will pick it up Saturday and get it out to you."
"Yeah. It's just a few boxes, nothing special. Other than the guns." Bill maneuvered around his half-furnished apartment holding the phone in hand. He glanced toward the window. "Boy, it's raining like cats and dogs here, Ralph," he commented before setting the phone down on a milk crate. "Um, you been doing anything with the suit since I've been gone?"
"Well, not really. No."
"No? Ralph, you're supposed still be doing stuff with the suit, that was the deal remember?"
"I know, Bill, it's just...there hasn't been anything, really. I don't have the inside line to Bad Guy Central like you do so I don't know what's going on. I only know what's on the news and such and most of that is long over by the time it hits the airwaves at 6 o'clock."
"Ralph, you live in
"Well, I'm not exactly in the habit of looking for trouble..."
Bill chuckled. "Well, try to get into the habit, Ralph. You gotta keep doing stuff with the suit otherwise, uh, our little friends are going to be just a little disappointed with us. We had a nice operation going there before...um, before I had to leave..."
Ralph smiled. "You worried about letting the green guys down, Bill?"
"Uh, well...yeah. Kinda. What I'm really worried about is getting beamed up into that ship again and getting some kind of lecture from all of this. They're watching, Ralph, you know that."
"You're sounding a little paranoid, Bill..."
"I'm not paranoid! It's just...well, you and I both
know when the chips have fallen completely off the table, they've...they’ve
shown up." Bill paused. Maybe his being shipped to
"No, they haven't."
"Oh. Well...they're probably lookin' for a new partner for ya..."
Ralph didn't like to hear the subtle hopelessness in Bill's voice. "I don't want a new partner. Look how long it's taken me to break you in..."
"Ralph, it's hard to work as a partnership when there's 2000 miles between you."
"I know, but...I don't want a new partner." Ralph
paused. "Bill, are you trying to convince me to go to
"No, I'm just..." Bill didn't know what exactly he was trying to say. "I just don't want to see you give up with the suit, Ralph. They picked you for a reason. I'm sure they could find somebody to...take my place if it came to that."
"They picked you for a reason too," Ralph reminded him. "Now yeah, they're probably
watching and maybe the fact they haven't contacted me is a sign that your time
"I promise. Next time you call me, I will have a complete and full report for you."
Bill hoped that would be true. "Okay, kid. I'm holding you to that."
"A full report, Bill," Ralph vowed.
What Bill had a hard time trying to say to Ralph was the
fact that he had been the number two Fed in
Bill had only smiled in response. He liked having that kind of secret. He liked the work he and Ralph had accomplished, the bad guys they had busted, the lives saved. He was proud of that. He liked the recognition he had received even though most of it, if not all of it, belonged to Ralph.
But now, he was right back to where he was before meeting Ralph, only with a record he didn't know if he could live up to. The words of JJ Beck came back at him in mockery. "Mr. Maxwell is nothing more than an uninspired, middle level, mediocre federal agent..."
The comment had offended him at the time. Now he couldn't help but wonder if it was true. Had he been, and would he now return to being, mediocre?
Was Ralph right? Had he taken the easy route too often and relied on the kid too much?
After hanging up with Ralph, Bill pondered these thoughts as
he looked out the window of his apartment to the lights of
It wasn't so much that Bill didn't want to let the green guys down. And as much as he didn't care for the hovering space craft and bright lights and dark nights in Palmdale, it wasn't that he feared them and their space ship.
No, he didn't fear them...
...Not nearly as much as he feared becoming irrelevant...
**** **** ****
After talking to Bill, Ralph took Pam to dinner. When they returned to Pam's VW Beetle later, the radio began to play as soon as the car started up.
Ralph looked at the console. "You didn't have the radio on before..."
"No, I didn't. Did you turn it on?"
It was a station out of Palmdale. The DJ cued up the next song, the opening music playing behind his announcement. "Now for a request going out to Ralph from...you know who...."
Brook Benton's soulful voice then came through the speakers...
Hovering by my suitcase,
tryin' to find a warm place
to spend the night...
Pam looked over to Ralph who was staring at the radio console. It had been awhile since Ralph had a car radio pick up a station from way the hell out in Palmdale. Ralph recognized the song and realized that Bill was right. The green guys were watching.
Heavy rains are fallin',
seems I hear your voice callin'
A rainy night in
A rainy night in
Lord, I believe it's raining all over the world
I feel like it's raining all over the world...
As the song played, Pam had guided the VW out of the parking
lot. While back in
Neon signs a-flashin',
taxi cabs and buses passin'
through the night
A distant moanin' of a train
seems to play a sad refrain
to the night
It's a rainy night in Georgia,
such a rainy night in Georgia
Lord, I believe it's rainin' all over the world
I feel like it's rainin' all over the world
How many times I've wondered
It still comes out the same
No matter how you look at it or think of it
It's life and you just got to play the game...