I open my eyes to a dark room, the moon reflecting off the ocean. Dim light pours through floor to ceiling glass around my bedroom. The time on the phone says it's too late to be today and too early to be tomorrow.
The number is for FBI Headquarters in Washington. I swipe to answer.
Seven and a half minutes later, I'm showered and dressed, with this sweet travel bag I got from Kickstarter strapped to my back. As I step out into the night, the Southern California breeze coming off the Pacific is warm. Big oak doors close behind me with a satisfying thunk of the magnetic locking system. A Bureau car waits in my driveway.
"Nice place," says the driver, gazing up at the ultra-modern collection of concrete and glass boxes. Young guy. White shirt, black tie. Bureau employee. Civilian. "Whose is it?"
"Mine," I answer, tossing my bag in the back seat before climbing in the front.
"Wait, they told me you're an Agent."
"Damn, the pay band sure is different for Special Agents," he says, steering the car down the long driveway.
It's not the first time I've heard comments like that. Won't be the last, either. I may have walked away from Silicon Valley, but not the comforts. After the Sterling incident, I needed a change. I'd been taking for a long time and needed to give instead. Give away my money? Not a chance. I still own a large part of CastorNet, but someone else runs it.
A winding road led me to where I am now, giving something more valuable than money to the FBI: my time and talents. Theoretically, I work in the Cyber division, but reality is, I get called for any major case with a tech angle.
I've logged a lot of time on the road. But even for me, a wakeup call in the middle of the night from Assistant Director Burke, followed by a ride in a Bureau jet, is highly unusual. I love highly unusual.
"Big case?" the driver asks.
"Homicide," I answer, without elaborating.
There's a high-profile sense about the case, but Burke wouldn't say what exactly, just that it's top priority and sensitive. He told me to get on the plane, and I'd be met by another agent at the other end. A handler, if I know Burke.
He doesn't like to let me work alone. I get it. The Bureau is a place that elevates structure and procedure to an art form. Burke is a product of that environment. So, it's natural we don't see eye to eye on my approach, which I call efficient, but he says is undisciplined, or something. What really chaps his ass though, is that I'm successful. I close cases.
Traffic's light this time of night, even in LA. But somewhere out there in the darkness, someone's dead. Who? Burke didn't say. Why me? Whatever it is, it's more than murder. Middle of the night and skipping about ten different protocols for the AD to put me on a Bureau plane? Sounds political.
Whatever it is, I'll find out soon enough. Until then, I rest.
Hours later, the plane lands at a mid-size airport as the sun breaks over the horizon. The Gulfstream was all right. The one I had was nicer, but you know, Government modesty and all. Lavish interior or not, I know what each hour of flight costs. Someone thinks it's really important that I be here right now.
The plane taxis to a hanger far from the commercial terminal. I look out at the fence line. Anonymous warehouses. Sleazy strip clubs. No trees. Thick green weeds poking up through cracks in the asphalt. When the door opens, I take a deep breath of humid but not sweltering air. My world is New York, and California. This isn't either. It's somewhere in between.
There's another car waiting for me. Dodge Charger. Gray. Indiana plate with a dent in the bottom-right corner. No covert LED's in the grill or the headliner, so it's not Bureau. A rental.
Standing next to it is a tall, well-built, African-American man, his back ramrod-straight as usual, tie flapping in the breeze. Thomas Decker.
"Will Parker, as I live and breathe," he says with a smile. The one that car salesmen use to say: you can trust me.
"Decker. How'd they get you out of New York?"
"Love of country," he says, taking my hand in a grip so firm that I stretch my fingers out when he lets go. "How's LA?"
"Hasn't fallen into the ocean yet."
"Well, there's still time," he says, popping the Charger's trunk. "Let me get your bag."
As he tosses in my Kickstarter bag, I recall what I know about Decker: born in Chicago, raised in NYC. Football fan. Still loves the Bears, otherwise a real New Yorker. Military out of high school. Then college on a GI bill. Followed by the FBI. Last I heard, a Special Agent, Counter Intelligence division, out of the New York field office. Not someone you expect to find in Indiana.
"What's the deal? Why am I here?" I ask.
"To uphold the law and serve justice."
Oh yeah, and he's wound a little tight. We climb into the Charger and I look longingly back at the Gulfstream. They're already spinning up the engines. I'm going to be here for a while.
"Burke told me there was a murder."
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Rigged by D. P. Lyle.