Chelsea sat huddled in her tan parka by the leafless cherry trees that overlooked the Potomac across from the Jefferson Memorial. The McDonald’s lunch sat in the bag next to her, cold and barely touched as she jammed her gloved hands in her pockets to keep them warm. In her purse was her own registered hand gun. She felt a twist of nausea. 

This was her worst anxiety and it was coming to pass. Josh did not ultimately trust the CIA to locate him if he disappeared.

The mysterious woman on the bench next to her, the Deep Throat, spoke. “During the first Gulf war, there were thousands of treasures taken from Iraq’s national museum and never returned, and there were many weapons taken.”  

Treasures. During their internet chat, Josh had said something about gold. Chelsea’s neck began to tingle warningly. So Josh was not casually talking about stories from the Quran when he chatted online. He was giving her clues, in case she ever needed to know.

“They were hidden by Saddam Hussein and later by ISIS, all over the country. Your husband was working on a building where some were hidden during the wars. There are Islamic legends and locals don’t like it when people are poking around looking for gold.”

Her brow furrowed while her mind assimilated pieces, some of which she knew and some of which she didn’t. “That’s just part of it,” Deep Throat hissed. “Wait, here comes somebody.”

Some die-hard lunchtime joggers were approaching from a distance equivalent to two blocks away. They were crazy, it was freezing outside. Some geese swooped in across the icy gray water and gobbled up prey, and she found herself vaguely wondering how polluted the Potomac was and if it ever made geese get sick. The feet jogged behind them and down the sidewalk into the foggy distance.

“So what is the other part of his assignment?” Chelsea asked. 

“He found out things that helped connect some dots to larger things that are national security. They pose great danger to the U.S. and its assets and the rest of the world. You can find a private detective in Babylon Metro and ask about the local legends about the gold. Maybe some local Iraqis know where your husband is being held.”

“Why should I do that? Can’t the CIA do that?”

A gust of wind blew, so cold it paralyzed them and stopped them from talking for a moment. They huddled with their chins down in their coats until it subsided.

“Mrs. Evans, an intelligence agency must not get caught by enemies trying to find someone who is non-official cover. This you know. It is called ‘plausible deniability’. They have other avenues they can explore. But you can do this part.”

“I can do this part,” Chelsea echoed, her mind numb with confusion. Was this woman going to take her in circles, give her so little she would still not know what to do?  

“That is not for me to say. I cannot say more.”

Here was her own personal Deep Throat, but she didn’t even know what to do with this information. How was she going to find a detective in Babylon Metro who would believe some wild tale about a missing architect on a treasure hunt for gold from an Iraqi museum? 

They sat without speaking for a bit and then Chelsea said, “When did you last see my husband? Please tell me.”

“Right before he left. I can tell you, he was very focused, very sure of what he needed to do.”

Of course. Josh would always be. “Please, can you tell me anymore? I promise I will tell no one.”

“No.” Then the Deep Throat added, “He and I, we made an agreement some years ago. If something happens to one of us, the other will give the family a message. You must never talk about me. It could be a danger for me, and danger to him and many people.” The sunglasses face remained resolutely fixed on the Jefferson Memorial, never once turning to look at Chelsea, but from slipping peeks at the profile Chelsea could see a taut wistfulness. The woman held a memory of a debt owed, something she wished to repay. “I must go.”

“Thank you,” Chelsea said, even though she had no idea how to hire a detective in Iraq. “I know that whatever you did to come here and tell me this, it was hard for you.”

The Asian-American woman did not answer. She stood and then turned to go. “Good luck, Mrs. Evans.”  


Robin Eschliman is the author of four books in The Agent Series. She is the owner of a commercial real estate firm, a radio talk show host and television guest, former City Council member, wife and mom, and a rescuer of Sheltie dogs. She resides in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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