Liar Ch. 04 – Lost

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Thanks to those who have read the previous 3 LIAR stories. The first chapter of this fourth installment tries to bring readers up to date. While you can read this story separately, it is helpful for background to read the first three installments.

Thanks to “Andrew Martin” for reading and offering some edits to bring this together. Hope you enjoy this installment of the Max “Liar” series.

PRELUDE – Seriously?

The light switch slid upward quietly causing the room to suddenly be bathed in the glow of florescent light that spilled down the wall-to-wall mirror and filled the bathroom. Like most hotel bathrooms, it felt cold and echoed as I stepped up, barefoot to the sink.

Typically I complain about these “new” hotel light fixtures giving so little light it’s nearly impossible to shave. More about saving money than about offering guests enough light to see, these new bulbs always feel dim.

But at this moment, it was a whole different story. I was a bit grateful that the light was dim. My brain throbbed with a raging headache from the pace of life I kept over the previous months. Having barely returned from a short mission in Colorado, I was still adjusting to the two-hour time zone difference back home when I was shipped off to Milwaukee. Then a day after that, the fall shift to daylight savings time struck and disrupted me yet again.

“Man up!” I thought to myself as I rubbed my forehead. For a moment I just stood there with my eyes closed tightly shut, thinking about how I got to this moment. Self-reflection doesn’t come easy for me; or at least that’s what my shrink tells me. I pinched the bridge of my nose firmly trying to clear my brain of the banging inside.

Milwaukee! What an amazingly god forsaken place! What’s even more amazing to me is that the locals seem to think their city was attractive. Yeah, like a boarded up, rundown old city was attractive? Some locals even were delusional enough to think it should be considered a tourist destination. Milwaukee only caused me to remember how fantastic Telluride, Colorado had been in recent weeks.

Of course I probably could never go back to Telluride since I uncovered a property fraud scheme that lead to the indictment of the mayor and two of the largest property developers in southwestern Colorado. I’m pretty sure that the mayor is related to half the native population of the city. But then again, I might be able to pull off going back as Andrew or Seth. By going back while in character, or “in Legend” as the Bureau calls it, I could blend in without a problem.

That’s one advantage of being an undercover agent for so many years; if you piss people off just change your identity and move on. It’s how I’ve dealt with my entire adult life. Just recreate myself every so often. Throw out everything when it gets too complicated. Throw out the specific job, location, personality, attitudes, fake background, and legend, throw it all away.

The only problem with that is that I’ve started to throw away the people I’ve grown to know in those legends as well. Throwing away the people is the part that has changed me. When I started, it was easy. But now; not so much. I find myself keeping a shard of each legend so that I can go back and connect again as that “self”.

If my bureau chief ever discovered that I occasionally disappear and revisit previous assignment locations in legend, I’d probably be fired. In route to Colorado I had stopped in Kansas City and spent the weekend as “Andrew Martin” so that I could meet up with Cassie and her friends for dinner and an evening of fun. Even enduring a headache it brought a grin to my face.

Cassie was one of the few people who I met while undercover that came to know my true identity. Sleeping with her while “in legend” only to find out she was using me barely dampened the friendship that resulted. The Kansas City mission was more fun than it should have been.

My eyes squinted as they adjusted to the harsh, stark realization that I needed to get my act together. I had to get out of the place I was in at the moment. “Back to reality” I thought as I shook my head of the memory of Cassie. But then again what is reality? I find myself at a loss for a definition of it.

Beginning to adjust to the light, I slapped some cool water on my face and wiped away the excess with the common white hand towel that was already next to the sink. It smelled of the bleach used in hotel laundry and the perfume of a woman. I gripped the edge of the sink and slowly raised my face to see my own reflection.

The years of undercover work were catching up to me. The image I saw in the mirror was old and getting older every day. There are often random moments when I look at my own reflection and don’t know who I am. It’s not a psychological breakdown of losing myself in my legend. God knows there have been agents who have fallen into that never-ending loop. It’s more of a psychological reflection where I ask myself ataşehir escort what the hell I’m doing.

How did I get to this place in my life? Yeah, Billie was now gone. As I stared my own reflection down, I drudged up again the hurt of it. Billie had “taken a trip.” To the uninitiated, that sounds wonderful, like she got to go to Hawaii and was sitting on a beach somewhere soaking up the rays. But to those of us in the agency, “took a trip” is a better way of saying she pulled retirement, let the agency relocate her, and suddenly she no longer existed.

Running cold tap water into a clear glass from the marble shelf, I reached to my travel bag. Two dear friends were waiting for me there. I rolled the OxyContin tablets in my palm for a second before popping them into my mouth and gulping them down with the water. As the dry, sticky tablets hit the back of my throat I wondered how long it would be until “I’d take my trip.”

It’s not easy to book a trip like the one Billie just took. It takes NSA and FBI working together. Need I say more? But Billie pulled it off. Her phone numbers no longer reach her and nobody but our inner circle of team members, even mention her anymore. Some were sorry to lose her but for others there was a deep sense of envy that she got out alive.

Maybe it is a psychological breakdown I’m going through. Just the thought of Billie being gone, makes me care less about anything. Honesty here. Yes, I’ve thought about it. There are moments when I think about taking out my Sig 9mm and sending myself on a one way trip. But thoughts like that only come to the forefront in the darkest moments of my life. Like every night.

Gripping the edge of the vanity, I hovered over the sink with my eyes clenched shut. The attempt to shut out the noise of life wasn’t working so I hoped the drugs would kick in quickly to take the pain away. As I did, I thought of Jessica. My new life since clearing her of the charges against her was pretty good. She was younger than me, gorgeous, blond, funny, and a great fuck. I used her while under cover to convict her husband. She used me to clear her name of any involvement when she found out I was an FBI agent. And we both had fun using each other. We enjoyed each other, but we both knew we were together only because we were thrown together during a case.

I heard movement in the bedroom and glance over at the bathroom door. The mirror on the back of the door perfectly reflected the mirror in the hallway, reflecting the girl on the bed. Like a pinball of images I can see her there. It’s not Jessica. It’s not Billie. Hell I can’t even remember her name. So what the fuck do I care, it’s just another warm body of a warm human I manipulated to get what I wanted. Not the sex, although she was pretty good in the sack. But I needed information. So fuck her, use her for information, and toss her aside as just another throwaway person. Then rationalize it as just a part of the job.

Turning my attention again to the reflection in the mirror in front of me, I exhaled slowly and stared straight ahead. It taunts me. The light caused my eyes to reflect a line of florescent light across my pupil like a photographer’s ring light. I loathe that person… the person I’ve become. I lie, I cheat, I steal, I use people, I put people in jail; all in the name of justice.

“Do you have to leave so soon?” She called out from the bedroom. Her voice was direct while her image ricocheted from mirror to mirror into the bathroom.

I glanced back. Her long, bronze leg stretched lazily across the pure white sheets as she sat up. The contrast of her dark skin against the white was alluring; even if I knew her tan was from a spray can or a booth. Who the hell tans like that in Milwaukee? When was the last time the sun actually shared any warmth in this hellhole of a town?

Her hair was tussled due to our dalliance. Kinda cute I thought. For a moment of self-indulgent pride I thought to myself, “I caused that!” Then my self-indulgent grin faded as I thought about the aftermath of people I’ve tossed aside along the way. “Yeah, I caused that.” It was an almost audible thought that passed breathily through my lips.

“Sorry babe. But you know people will be waiting for me.” I said to the mirror but also to the woman still naked in the next room. I stepped into the small hallway of the hotel room and put on the underwear that had been thrown against the wall the night before. Then I started dressing in the diffused light from the bathroom.

Dark suit pants were buckled after tucking in a neatly pressed, dark, dress shirt. I pulled the jacket off the hanger and folded it on my arm before going back over to the bed.

Bending down I kissed the passionate woman. She was a mature, brown-eyed beauty who knew how to take care of herself. Either that or she knew a great plastic surgeon. She knew how to take care of a man too. As we kissed I gripped her breast, causing her to arch her torso into my kadıköy escort hand. It was warm and her button like nipple pressed against my palm, begging for additional attention.

She reached up and put her hands around my neck, trying to draw me back into bed. “Hon, please. You know I’ve got to go to work today. People will begin arriving in an hour or so.” I mumbled through lips that were still pressed to hers.

Letting go, she pouted and fell back into bed, resigned to the fact that I really was leaving. I grinned and went back to the bathroom to finish buttoning my shirt.

“Will you call?” She whispered as I finished the top button.

“I will. I promise.” I said.

“When?” She pleaded.

“Later today hon. You know how incredibly busy I’ll be today.” I called back.

With that I tucked the white insert of my clerical collar into place before reminding her, “It’s Sunday.”

1 – Now What?

This time around it was nothing more than a glorified stake out. Well, that in addition to interviewing the staff at Saint John The Evangelist church. Rev. Jeffrey R. Haines, the pastor had contacted the FBI with concerns that well known crime syndicate leaders had been visiting the building in the afternoons. He had observed them sitting closely together in the middle of the sanctuary; their henchmen standing guard at the rear.

The church that once had served solely as a place for the congregation to worship, had now become also a museum, arts performance hall, and lecture center. Just walking into a church churned up memories of being dragged to a fundamentalist church as a kid. It’s not that my parents were all that religious. But my father, also an undercover FBI agent, took us while playing the part of a doting husband. He wasn’t undercover at the time; that was my reality as a child. He was just playing the role, living the lie. I learned from the best.

Being in a church reminds me why I’m an agnostic. I’ve seen the good and the bad in people. Yeah there are a few devout and sincere people in churches. But they’re few and far between.

Now this church, like churches across the nation, had become a relic of the past. Hundreds of people toured this building daily and crowds gathered weekly for pipe organ concerts. With the decline of the city it was one of the few remaining centers of culture in a vast wasteland of drab.

This was an off day. Few tourists wandered through and there were no scheduled concerts or events. So I was bored beyond belief. I sat in the darkness, my head leaning back against the padded seat. From my hiding place I could see through the lattice woodwork into the main cathedral. But of course that would be if my eyes were open. My brain still throbbed with a hangover from too much alcohol the night before. My cock throbbed, having been spent to excess from too much Megan the night before. Fuck! Megan. That’s her name. Knew I’d remember sometime along the way.

Megan was the long legged, middle-aged beauty that had wandered into the cathedral several days in a row. I thought she might be connected to the problems Father Haines had contacted us about, but after a … lets say…. “thorough probing” … I was pretty sure it’s a dead in lead. She seemed to be just a screwed up woman with sexual issues trying to find hope and answers to her confusion.

I could be wrong. But at this point I had ruled her out of having anything to do with this. That didn’t stop me from doing a bit of private counseling, if you catch my drift. God, I had to do something in freakin’ Milwaukee to avoid my brain from splitting from the intense dullness of this place.

It did seem a bit odd to me that Megan had been seen with so many of the mob’s henchmen. Her regular visits to the church had more to it than just a religious thing. Still, by this point I didn’t see any connection.

Suddenly I felt the framework of wood around shake as a body fell into the seat next to me. It was next to me but separated by a highly polished and darkly stained wood, wall. Yeah. I was hiding in the confessional booth.

“Father, bless me for I have sinned.” The female voice on the other side of the wall called out.

I fumbled for a moment trying to consider what to do. My head dropped back against the seat in irritation. I thumped my brain against the high backed chair three times in mocked frustration before speaking.

“I’m sorry my child. It’s not time for confessions….” I started to shut down what I knew Rev. Haines would not want to take place in his church. I certainly had no right to hear confessions as a guest in this place. Of all the people in the world who was I to hear confessions?

But she interrupted me quickly. “Father! It’s been two weeks since my last confession and I cannot wait any longer. I saw your door was closed and I assumed that you were accepting early confessions before Mass.” She spoke quickly, with urgency.

“Again, you will bostancı escort bayan need to wait until the proper time. Father Haines will be hearing confessions later this afternoon.” I replied.

“I have sinned greatly,” She said urgently. Her voice seemed soft, sweet, but I couldn’t judge an age.

“I just don’t think it’s …” I tried to interject.

“I slept with him! I confess it. We spent the whole afternoon in carnal sin.” She blurted out.

Silence fell across the space between us. The steps of parishioners in the rear of the sanctuary echoed gently against the marble walls. Suddenly, the thought of hearing a confession was becoming a bit more appealing. It wasn’t nearly as dull as just sitting here for another two hours doing nothing.

“Confess your sin now.” I tried not to grin as I urged her on.

“Forgive me, Father for I have sinned; it’s been two weeks since my last Confession. I accuse myself of the following sins. I have lived with the sin of envy, the sin of rejecting the poor, and the sin of infidelity. I have had sexual relations with a man that is not my husband. I cannot tell you the number of times.” Her voice began to waver as if trying to put into words her raging thoughts. “I believe it was four times but it may have been more.”

I nearly choked as she gave commentary as to her confession. Regaining composure was difficult as she concluded her thought, “I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life, especially this sin of envy, stealing and infidelity confessed previously.”

There was a pause. I knew enough from childhood and from having used my priest legend previously, that I needed to lead her in a prayer of penitence before advising her. Then absolve her before hearing her recite the Act of Contrition. But knowing the A B C of an action is not the same as knowing the nuance of daily practice. Certainly she would figure out that I wasn’t really a priest.

Yet in the midst of the awkward silence I found that I couldn’t help myself. My curiosity was aroused. Yeah. It was my “curiosity” that was “aroused.” So I chose to advise her.

“My child. You need to confess the whole experience. Not just the fact that you had an affair or an infidelity. You need to tell me about it.” I said sternly.

I could hear her breathing heavily as she gathered her thoughts. She shifted in the seat, causing the crushed velvet cloth of the seat to rustle.

“You can do this. It’s your path to forgiveness,” I chided, edging her on.

“I .. I met him at work. I showed him a few houses. He’s looking to buy a home and, … I’m a realtor…” She muttered in random spurts. “I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life, especially this sin of envy, stealing…”

“No penitence doesn’t that easily. I need you to tell me everything. Every detail. Tell me the horrible thing you’ve done.” I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity, wondering if she’d buy it. Certainly she wouldn’t fall for it; she was a real catholic.

“Father. Forgive my bluntness. But are you saying that I have to confess every detail of my infidelity?”

I paused, wondering if I could get away with this before speaking “You don’t understand what I’m saying?” I couldn’t believe my own comments to this poor woman. Yet it was my voice. Was I sick? Yeah, I’m sick. Using people like toys for my entertainment was becoming the norm. I wasn’t always like this. Early on I was idealistic and believed that I could make a difference. But now people’s pain became my amusement.

At that moment I discovered that I was really going through confession. I was not only falling into the pit of using people but making a sport of it along the way.

I could hear her sigh softly and shift in her seat. I assumed she was pondering her response. “Father, I..” She began, but hesitated. She understood that I was asking her to tell me the gritty details of her sinful encounter, to own the failure. I was asking her to do something that I couldn’t bring myself to do: admit my own humanity.

I realize that I couldn’t force her to do this. My judgment was clouded and it was time to back down. But then I heard her sigh more deeply. Through the shadows of the veil, I could see her drop her head into her hands. But she softly replied.

“It had been a long day of showing homes. Mike, that’s his name. He has a very specific taste in homes and I was trying to go from place to place, getting an idea of what he wanted.” She spoke with a calmer, softer, deeper voice now. The impatience of ‘going to confession’ was changed into actually confessing.

We arrived at a lovely, four bedroom, three and a half bath, place in Elm Grove, on Circle Dr. It was a Tudor and stone home that seemed to fit his personality.

A light rain was beginning to fall so we headed up the sidewalk a bit too quickly. The sidewalk was one of those quaint ones with paver stones. In our haste, the heel of my right shoe slid off the stone pathway and dug into the yard. It caused me to slightly twist my ankle. Oh, it was nothing serious, not even painful. But it was just enough that I spent the rest of that showing, avoiding situations where I would have to stand in one place.

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