A Life Apart

Chapter 20: The Turning of Millie (pg. 103)


The click of the door bolt jolted her out of her ruminations. She restrained herself from jumping out of her chair. She merely turned her head and greeted the dark figure entering the room, “You’re late,” she said. He didn’t reply. Instead, he strode across the room and dropped his satchel on the bed. It was the same satchel he had carried at their first hotel room rendezvous. Then he sat on the bed, facing her. He seemed to be surveying her carefully before choosing his words.

Finally, he leaned forward and began, “Millie, you’ve helped our cause. We’ve learned that General Perry wants BTM, that he has pushed the Pentagon to acquire it, and that intelligence operatives have been engaged to suppress knowledge of these facts. It is perhaps disturbing to you to discover your apartment has been bugged. Now you can understand why I told you not to talk on our cell calls unless you’re in a public space. The Pentagon’s actions tell us something important: they’re taking excessive precautions. For what purpose, you might ask? Well, I believe you hit a nerve. Further, I believe that nerve is an actual plan for immediate deployment.”

He rose and walked to the lone window in the room. Millie hesitated to ask him the question that was on her mind. With his back facing her, he continued, “I know you are thinking that your services are no longer needed. But we still don’t have access to actual deployment plans. The fact that so many copies of BTM are being ordered only confuses the matter more. How large is the BTM network being planned and where? Are they all intended for my client in some multi-dimensioned invasion or for military espionage on a broader scale? If the latter, exposure could alert the world community—a diplomatic embarrassment for the U.S. If the former, then there’s even greater concern.” Suddenly, he turned and pointed to the satchel. “I could give you the money we initially agreed to and we could close out our arrangement. But, you see, we really haven’t lessened the fears of the country that hired me. They prefer that America not invade or, if not possible, that America be forced to wage a war of attrition against a well-prepared insurgency. America can conquer, but never rule. So, you see, there is only one course of action for us, that is, you and me. We must either forestall an invasion or—what would be more desirable—eliminate America’s capability to target insurgents before they can mount an attack.”

Millie sprung to her feet. “You’re crazy! We—and in particular I—can’t stop America from doing anything!”

“Yes, we can. We can eliminate BTM.”

Millie fell back into her chair, as if the wind had been knocked out of her. “You . . . you can’t be serious. What do you propose we do: break-in and steal the software or blow up the building? There’s nothing we can do. There’s nothing I’m going to do! Remember, you promised me that nobody gets hurt, that I wouldn’t be asked to do something I’m not willing to do.”

“Millie, relax. We use soft power. Let’s look at this situation realistically. Solvetur is owned and managed by John Paxton, right? He has total control of the company. He can decide not to honor his contract. In fact, he could destroy the software and close down his company if he chose to do so.”

“Sure, he’s going to give up all he’s worked for, his dream. There’s nothing that could persuade him to ‘do so,’ as you put it.”

“Ah, but you underestimate the work you’ve already done for me. First of all, we have that intimate picture of you nestled against his chest.” He tilted his head to the side and continued as if thinking out-loud, “I still would have preferred a picture of you in bed with him. It would have been more persuasive when you threatened to show it to his wife. But apparently he cooled in his feelings for you.”

“You’re wrong on both counts. First, I think his marriage is already on the rocks. Secondly, I think ‘he cooled’ for a different reason. A woman knows when a man finds her attractive. He would be with me right now if it weren’t for his feelings for his family, most especially his daughter. There’s something wrong with her. I don’t know the specifics. But I suspect that’s why he abruptly cut off all contact with me, even before the Pentagon intervened. I think he doesn’t want to disappoint her.”

“Good! We have his weakness. Now we just have to figure a way to exploit it.”

“Then you can count me out.”

“Millie, you can’t take yourself out of this. I thought I made that clear at the beginning. Have I not kept my word? Nobody’s been hurt. And nobody will get hurt. But I think we can persuade John Paxton to kill BTM. He has so many vulnerabilities: familial and monetary.” He walked to the bed, picked up the satchel and approached Millie’s chair. Standing over her, he reached in the satchel, pulled out three packages of 100 dollar bills, and placed them on her lap. “I’ll give you the rest at our next meeting. Also, if our plan works, I’ll throw in the bonus—the doubling of your reward.”

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