“Hey buddy,” Malone said warmly and gave Cooper a bear hug. “Long time no see. Decided to hang out in our country for a bit, eh?” he smiled.
“Something like that,” Cooper said and scanned the mall’s food court to see if they were under surveillance. Just because he didn’t notice anyone didn’t mean he wasn’t being watched. Ever since he agreed to help Ant and Al he felt like he lived in a fish bowl. Always being watched. It was with some reluctance Ant agreed to give Cooper the weekend off. But the fact that did give in to this request made Cooper suspect he and Malone weren’t entirely alone.
Besides, he had worked with Ant for over two months now, he was pretty sure Ant would not be surprised to find him here. He never seemed too shocked by any of Cooper’s antics. That’s why Cooper looked around again unable to believe he had given his team the slip.
Part of the agreement he made with Ant was he would stay in California near their base of operation in case of emergency. The fact that he was in a mall’s food court in Salt Lake City, Utah was a breach of confidence. But it had been too long since he had seen Malone and he needed to touch base. He needed an un-spy confidant to help him with perspective.
“You are on your lunch break so please, let’s get something to eat,” Cooper said focusing on Malone.
They decided on a place and ordered their food. After they sat down Malone said, “so, what’s up? Something wrong?”
Cooper took a sip from his drink and shrugged his shoulders. “Define wrong?”
“Uh oh,” Malone said. “Talk to me.”
That was the cue Cooper waited for. He leaned forward. “What if I told you I am currently working on a special task force for the government?” He instinctively said it just a notch above a whisper.
Malone studied him a moment then broke out into a smile. “Okay, what game are we playing? What is this?”
“I’m serious,” Cooper said.
Malone laughed and took a bite of his hamburger.
“I work with a couple of CIA agents that head their own special task force. A big guy named Ant…”
Malone snorted. “Of course.”
“And his partner. Her name is Al.”
“Al?” Malone asked. “Is this the ice-queen you wrote me about? You said you met her in Vegas.”
Cooper squeezed his eyes shut. He forgot he had sent a cryptic letter after he had left Vegas with the team. He also forgot in his vengeance of being coerced into service his description of Al had been a little harsh. But what he regretted was the fact that if by chance she wasn’t listening to this conversation she would somehow still get wind of it. Their next sparring session will be unpleasant. For him.
His assumption was correct. Both Al and Ant were sitting in a surveillance van listening to the conversation. Ant looked quickly at Al. “Looks like we will do a little extra sparring practice next week,” she said.
“Look,” Cooper said leaning toward his friend. “The people I’m working with they know who killed my mom and they are going to help me find him.”
Malone’s smile disappeared. “Your mom? I thought that was a robbery gone bad?”
“That’s what we were told but turns out there was more to it than that.”
“What are you saying?” Malone asked.
“Oh, sorry about this,” Cooper said and that was the last thing Malone heard. At least he had the luxury of being rendered unconscious when the two of them were taken to the van out in the parking lot. Cooper was not so lucky.
Cooper could see a couple of janitors approaching their table.
The van door opened and the two bodies were pushed inside. “Ow!” Cooper said and looked up to see Ant staring back at him.
“Are you crazy?” Ant asked with what some would consider a low yell. Cooper knew that was just how he sounded though. “What were you thinking? Did you actually think you would get away with this?”
“No, I have been around you long enough to know you don’t trust me. I knew you would be listening,” Cooper said and looked at Al, “sorry about the ice-queen comment. That was before we started working together.”
She looked away.
“Don’t trust you?” Ant asked his voice raising. “Don’t trust you? Of course we don’t trust you. This is not how you earn trust.” His face was getting as red as his shirt.
“I needed to talk to someone,” Cooper said his voice now raising. “The past two months has been a lot to process.”
“What are we?” Asked Ant. “You talk to your team. You should talk to your team. That’s what a team is for.” His voice lowered.
“That’s what friends are for,” Cooper said matching Ant’s tone. “If you want me then you have to accept the fact I am a package deal. Before our team, Malone was my team. He will be on my team after this team,” he pointed to both Ant and Al, “is long gone.”
All three of them looked at Malone who was still blissfully unaware of what was happening.
“That’s not how this works, Baldwin,” Ant grunted. “You may have just ruined your friend’s life. Hope it was worth it.”
Cooper looked at his friend. It was a selfish motive that prompted him to do what he did. He knew the consequences but went ahead with his plan anyway. For the past couple of months Cooper hadn’t been able to process everything that happened because he didn’t have anyone to talk to. He needed to be able to talk so that he could move on. The first few missions had been a bust and the superiors were close to shutting the task force down. Now that Cooper knew his mother was murdered, he needed to know the whole story. So, he needed Malone.
He knew that by following through with his plan the three people in the van – the three people closest to him – would be upset. But he did it anyway. There was no turning back now, he was going to find out the truth about his mom and the Samson Pill and why he was even part of the mix.
Hopefully, Malone would forgive him eventually.
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