IS MS. JONES REAL?
The central room they were in had originally been called the Bunker. It certainly fit the moniker. Depressing, gray, steel-reinforced concrete walls, curving to a popcorn ceiling that had another twenty feet of concrete pressing down on it. The Den was the center of the facility, the team room. Besides Ms. Jones’s office, Moms’s and Nada’s Command Post (CP) was adjacent to it along with the weapons room and the team living quarters.
Unfortunately “bunker” had sounded too last-days-of-Hitler and someone had started calling the room the Zoo. As in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, when the Cold War was still chilly. But then that era passed and the allusion faded.
So it had morphed from Zoo to Lions’ Den, in a time when perhaps a fiercer leader than Ms. Jones reigned, but that was too much work to sustain, so now it was just the Den.
It was a heavily fortified Den though, surrounded by layers of security that would make Fort Knox weep with envy, so it always struck each new man as weird that the door to Ms. Jones’s office was a flimsy, hollow-core affair, poorly hinged, leaving an inch opening above the floor. The reality, though, was that the office was more a sanctum. At least that’s the way every team member thought of it. It was Ms. Jones’s sanctum, one from which she had never come out. Each member had only been in once, to meet her when they had been in-processed.
Only Moms, occasionally with Nada, got to go behind the door more than once. This was one of those times.
The weird thing was that the flimsy door and the inch gap let every person in the Den hear every word spoken in the office. But only the conversations with Moms, occasionally Nada, and the in-briefs of new personnel, from which the existing team members could generate the newcomer’s team name. Because other than when someone from the team was in the office with Ms. Jones, there was never a sound. One would think Ms. Jones talked on a phone, or radio, or to herself occasionally, but such utterances were never heard. There was never the creak of a desk chair, or even Ms. Jones breaking wind.
Some even speculated Ms. Jones wasn’t real. She was a holographic image with a voice. After all, they could agree that during in-processing all they had seen was someone—or something—sitting in a darkened chair on the other side of a massive aircraft-carrier-sized wooden desk that had absolutely nothing on top of it. Forced to squint into lights aimed forward from above and behind the desk, lights that made one long for the days of the Gestapo and bootjacks, it was impossible to determine who or what was in that big chair.
So, for someone so secretive, one wondered why she would allow every word she spoke to every guest to be heard by every team member in the Den.
And eventually each new team member silently realized what the others had already figured out: there were no secrets inside the Nightstalkers. Anything discussed in there with anyone was information the entire team was privy to. Ms. Jones might have her own secrets, but she made sure the team had none among its members.
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