“When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” – Thomas Sowell
“Driving around Washington DC these days can be a Bear,” called out the Colonel, waving to the agent prominently with a wide smile from his hotel lobby chair.
“I walked,” Josh replied hurriedly in a loud whisper, frustration palpable. Their dialogue had begun WAY too early, and Agent Stephens now sped his pace toward the author, veteran, and Presidential candidate. A “Person of High Interest” his team was aware of on an SCI level, his mind’s internal debate began. But the Colonel was no longer under surveillance, his team declared him cold, and a good citizen can talk to a Presidential candidate. His mind’s defense only provided a small comfort, for many could view this meeting as ill-advised, if not treasonous. Colonel’s bellow across DC’s InterContinental lobby amplifying the agent’s nervousness, Josh still managed to keep his speech volume loud enough for those in close proximity to discern, calm and normal in tone. He was certain the Colonel couldn’t hear him from this distance.
How did he know I’m the federal agent he was meeting today? There is no way he could have recognized me, unless… it had begun, or the battle was raging on, he wasn’t sure. Just nerves, just paranoia, press forward. Agent Stephens’ face reddening further, he now fumbled in his pocket, ensuring his phone was off for a third time. A scene from the original movie “Jurassic Park” came to mind: “Dotson, We got Dotson HERE!”
Suspecting he and the Colonel were the only people anyone would remember being in InterContinental’s hotel lobby that day, the agent took a deep breath, again trying to slow time… Relax. He focused on the positives.
Inconspicuous at best, Josh’s firearm was imperceptible to the naked eye, and his FBI badge was intentionally covered by his sportscoat at beltline. After all he did to ensure his meeting today was quiet, Josh Or something was telling him to… He motioned a peace sign to the Colonel, wearing shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, and forced a smile through his discomfort. After all, he was the one who asked the author to meet him.
Time needed to slow, the thought pressed harder. He needed to RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE of this moment. THE SIGNIFICANCE of THIS DAY! It was LOUD in his mind, though not a word audible. As if being provided for him by something outside of this world, a passage of Scripture flowed into his mind, followed by what felt like a young man’s voice. “’I tell you the Truth, if these voices didn’t speak up, the stones themselves would cry out.’ What you are about to do?? Phwew, thank you Sir.”
In stride and on mission, Josh stole one last glance to his powered-down cell phone. Re-securing it in its silent pocket, his forearm instinctively brushed over his holstered weapon, and a calm again came to him. Check, all is right where it’s supposed to be. Deep breath. Whatever had been going on these past few months at work… then at home as he began remote work… then hearing The Call and feeling his world collapsing about him… Joshua Stephens took another deep breath. It is now, he reminded himself, arriving next to the marine, still sitting in his hotel lobby chair. Slow Time – it’s not a race to do it fast, but a chance to do it right.
He felt like he was in a movie, a Super-Hero that Venom had latched itself onto, all for the good of the world, and his plot critical moment had now arrived! Reflecting on his life up to this point, Agent Joshua Stephens took in the Colonel. A lot had been put into this day, a lot was at risk, and the Agent could feel his blood pressure rising. Slow is fine, just remain aware.
A lot had to happen for Josh to get here – secretly breaking away from his team long enough to interview one of their “persons of interest.” It had been over a year now since 24 hour surveillance was called off, since the FISA judge ruled, and, although he was certain his team would have no footage of the day’s events, he wasn’t sure about the enemy’s… in any case, it felt delightfully devilish to see his contact, not relay anything to anyone, and be on his own time.
The Agent’s mind had been rationalizing this meeting for months now, and so it continued. He had called an author, why shouldn’t he? If he told Agent Michaels he was going to talk to one of their subjects, it would have raised flags where there didn’t need to be any raised. He was a good man, a good agent, and a good citizen who wanted an answer to a few questions and took some time off work to ask it – that was all this was. In Life, Joshua Stephens performed in school, thought Eagle Scouts was damn cool, and applied to the FBI. At least, that’s how he saw it. To him it was a chance to do good in the world, and it seemed one of the few logical choices at that time in his life. And now, he was being a good citizen, using his time away from work wisely, and that is why his FBI badge was concealed. Why was he hurried? Relax.
“Colonel Middleton?” he confirmed, keeping his voice low in hopes the Colonel would talk quieter.
The rank always got ‘em, reminding him again WHY we were here, what Jake was doing, his intended purpose. “What’s that?” he managed, looking up from his phone. “Have a seat,” he offered.
“I’m Josh Stevens, I spoke to you on the phone,” he started, wishing the Colonel’s cell phone was turned off at least. “I’ve seen your pictures and I recognize you Sir,” he pointed out, again wondering how the Colonel fingered him across the hotel’s lobby. “I would like to start by saying this is off the record as you requested. My given name is Joshua L. Stephens, I work for the FBI on a team led by my immediate boss, Special Agent Gabriel Michaels.” Reflecting again on his choice to arrange this meeting, Josh took another deep breath, still standing before the seated retired officer. “And to the best of my knowledge, none of them, no one has any idea I’m here.”
Again, Josh’s mind reviewed his impromptu checklist: Work cell is fully charged but silent, ringer OFF, Vibration OFF, location ON, sitting in his work desk drawer in a file named Signed Contracts. No one would expect to see it there, no one would hear it, yet it would reveal that Josh had been at his desk during this time to those who didn’t know better, and had a justifiable alibi for being it such a strange location – it must have slipped into there on accident while he was working. All wifi and bluetooth was turned off in his office, he put it in airplane mode before leaving the building, silent once to the street, turned off once confirmed no one questioned where he was going, and secured in a Silent Bag before this meeting. No one knew where he was, nor could anyone know where he was going… There is NO HURRY – the voice him strongly.
“I’ve been thinking about this, Mr. Hand. If I’m here and you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time?” – Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
“I’m Agent Stephens, the one who called you,” Josh tried, extending his right hand. From the Colonel’s odd blank stare, Josh now felt he was in another world entirely. Opening a piece of paper shriveled in his left hand, the FBI Agent read the words aloud. “Did you find the Hotel Ok?”
“Driving around Washington DC these days can be a Bear,” Jake replied, nearly as loud as when Josh was across the room. As the Colonel relayed that he hated the fact that there was never anywhere to park, Josh felt in panic mode, like every hotel camera and microphone in the world was pointed at the loud men in the middle of The InterContinental lobby.
Now looking the young Agent Joshua Stephens up and down, the Colonel truly had no idea what to do…
“But when they hand you over, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that hour you will be given what to say.” – Matthew 10:19
“I’ve never been to the National Spy Museum!” Jake excited boldly, rising from his lobby chair with a wide grin. Cringing, Josh felt as a soldier searching for cover. Although he had once read that the Colonel’s disability included a severed hearing nerve and surgical removal of his inner ear, his vision of this day did not include the marine’s booming voice, and he didn’t know what to do with it. Just nerves. Just paranoia. Press forward.
“I cannot control the volume of my voice.” – Will Ferrel, Saturday Night Live
Feeling as if on a movie set, Eye of Sauron centered right on him, Josh envisioned that if anyone were ever to review the hotel lobby’s camera feed for anything suspicious, THIS was it. Paranoia. was a camera in the hotel lobby, Josh suspected that Silent phone In any case, The InterContinental’s entire hotel lobby now knew where the two were going…
Sheepdog-ish grin disarming, the Colonel’s eyes now beamed a pleading smile. “Seriously, I haven’t been. Spy Museum sounds awesome. Can we go??” Eyes widening, Jake rose with a smile and a shrug. “I’ll walk with ya, it’ll be fitting,” he decided, reaching out to shake the young agent’s hand. “And, on the way, you can tell me why Joshua Stephens from the FBI called me. But first we pray.”
The marine stopped abruptly, grabbing Joshua by his shoulder, the two forming a small huddle just outside The InterContinental’s glass doors. CVS store and man on a mountain bike their only witnesses, they prayed the Lord would guide them as they set out boldly to the Spy Museum.
And that’s when all Hell broke loose! shouted Venom. Although the Colonel’s odd behavior made Josh a little uncomfortable, the truth was he was little thankful for it. One of the reasons he phoned the author was because he sensed he was supposed to… like he’d never be able to hear His Mission unless he asked to… and thus he closed his eyes and asked Jesus to join him…
“Father Lord,” Colonel Middleton began, “I pray for Joshua and I. We know, Lord Jesus Christ, that when 2 or more are gathered in your name, you are right there with them. And we pray now that you will hear us, watch over us, and lead us in the direction you have set out for us. I pray that, as you reveal Your Promised Land – explain to Agent Josh,” he stumbled, “what it looks like, what it is you want from us down here, and how a righteous man can best walk in faith with you… that you’d provide us with the courage and strength to accomplish your holy will.”
Joshua Stephens opened his eyes, but the world he now viewed had already been forever changed…
“If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny; consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” – Yoda
“You gettin’ ready?” the marine smiled, pushing the young Agent now, “Or?” Whether Agent Josh Stephens committed treason when he phoned the author of a manuscript determined by his team to be SCI still remains under speculation, but this scene in his life he remembers vividly and will NEVER FORGET. The Colonel eyes were wet, as though perhaps he was tearing? Was he in pain? Contemplating something? Or did his eyes water because he was THAT EXCITED about going to the Spy Museum? Josh could feel the Inspection taking place, the marine in front of him shaking his hand. Colonel Middleton smiled at him now. “Or are you gettin’ ready to get ready?”