The TV in the background startles FBI counter-intelligence Agent Steven Solarez during his early morning ritual of checking the weather on his tablet, sending a swig of burning hot French roast coffee everywhere.
Holy crap, he thinks, listening to the reporter on CNT.
"According to the Washington Observer, over 200 million dollars were transferred from the U.S. Government to a Hemispheres Airlines bank account, effectively funding most of the wrongful death claims for the victims of flight 310, which left D.C. for New York City and crashed in Quarryville, Pennsylvania about two years ago. Official sources with the Department of Justice are strenuously denying this claim."
Solarez feels his cell phone vibrating on his waist, slides it off its holster, and reads the incoming text message.
Emergency meeting @ 8:30 AM with Director. Confirm.
His mind whirls. Once the proverbial cat is out of the bag, can you ever shove it back in? This is bad, for sure. But he didn't hear any details of why the money was paid to the airline, so maybe whoever leaked it doesn't have the whole story. Maybe.
He texts his confirmation to his assistant, Dean, then decides to add more.
Find Amanda Michaels now. Tell her not to talk to the reporters. Put two agents on her 24/7.
He smiles knowing she stands far from helpless now. It was a fantastic move on his part to give her training at Quantico once school let out, virtually the same as a field agent undergoes. Weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and avoidance driving techniques. He had to pull a lot of strings for approval, but given the role her father was undertaking, it made sense. Sounds like his idea may prove useful sooner than he thought.
Next, he calls Andy Michaels and braces himself for an onslaught.
"I just heard the report on the radio. Do you know what this’ll do to my practice? My reputation? Do you?" Andy barks as soon as he answers, mentally cataloguing every material possession in his Georgetown home and imagining his lucrative practice going right down the rathole.
"Careful, this isn’t a secure line. Yeah, I get how serious this is."
"How about my clients who settled their cases? What if someone decides I knew everything..."
Solarez interrupts him. "Stop! We need to talk in person. You did nothing wrong, so don't start panicking. We’re putting protection on Amanda immediately. No one talks to any reporters until we have a solid response plan, hopefully around noon."
"What am I supposed to tell my partners and my staff?"
"Tell them you can't comment now, but you’ll issue a statement soon."
"Are you kidding? I can't say that."
"You can't tell them anything until you look into the allegations. Better?"
Andy contemplates this a few seconds. "Completely unconvincing." He tries to come up with a logical explanation, but the more he thinks about it, the more furious and anxious he gets. He was never comfortable with the confidential information the DOJ lawyer had shared with him, that the U.S. did indeed pay the $200 million. His clients trusted him when he recommended they settle their wrongful death claims. Sure, they all were awarded reasonable settlements, but that was before he learned of the secret government payout to the airline. He realized then if anything about sabotage leaked later on, there would be hell to pay.
"What about the press when they start calling?"
"I want you to call Stein at the Department of Justice to confirm everything is still okay. He assured me all my settlements were legal."
"I'll talk to him."
"My head is ready to explode."
"Tell you what, I have a meeting with the FBI director this morning, but when I’m done I’ll drive to the hospital. Can you get back over there?"
Andy isn't listening. He’s still thinking about the news story. Whoever leaked it must have an agenda. Why would the Chinese, who sabotaged the plane, leak it? Makes no sense. Maybe a disgruntled FBI or CIA employee? It's possible, but who, and what was their motive?
"Of course, yes. Text or call me when you’re leaving and I’ll be there."
"We’ll work this out," Solarez promises, but Andy has major doubts. What is it they say about hiding the truth, he thinks? It usually floats back up to the surface no matter how hard you try to weight it down.
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