The Worst Fear Excerpt Chapter Two

Chapter Two

2 min Read

Today is the day.

Lead Special Agent Markus Niles stood at his office window, staring out at the gray, rainy morning, caught up in ‘My Funny Valentine’ blasting on his ear buds. As far as Niles was concerned, Miles Davis’s rendition of the melancholy jazz classic was the perfect complement to such a dreary day, especially when the only item on his calendar was to wait for the call from General Petrone. Everything was in place, ready to go; he had made sure of that. What better way to pass the time than with the virtuoso trumpeter himself, serenading on his horn?


He concentrated on the music as he took in the view. His third floor office in the J. Edgar Hoover building didn’t face Pennsylvania Avenue and the spectacular National Mall, with its vast green space and stunning monuments like the Smithsonian. Even with twenty plus years at the Bureau and some high-profile collars, Niles wasn’t far enough up in the food chain for that perk. Still, he had a window, which was saying something, even if it looked out onto E Street and the infamous Ford Theater, the site of Lincoln’s assassination.


Niles knew he wasn’t your typical FBI agent, and he didn’t much care. Sure, in many ways he looked the part: six-one, black, fit, clean-cut, shaved head, all business. He had a well-deserved reputation as relentless, fearless and one who didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was known for his unconventional, even improvisational, approach to solving cases, for coloring outside the lines; at the same time, he made no secret of having a soft spot for victims of terror, especially the children.


But it was his wardrobe and choice of eyewear that he knew really set him apart. His specs, vintage ‘Malcolm X’ browline frames, gave him a bookish, non-threatening appearance; his suits, well, they were downright natty. Today, he sported one of his favorites: a shiny blue silk/wool blend, tailored to fit like a glove, an outfit that would be more at home on a jazz musician than a forty two year old career G-man.


Since day one at Quantico, his fellow agent trainees had teased Niles about his snappy attire, reminding him that the Bureau frowned on agents who drew attention to themselves. But Niles never let any of their chatter affect how he chose to dress – because in his mind, he was a jazz musician – or at least he had planned to be, once upon a time.     


As the jazz tune drew to its soulful close, Niles sensed someone behind him. It had to be Darleen; his secretary was the only one who would respect his private time like that. He removed his ear buds and broke into a smile of anticipation. “Yes, Darleen?” he said without turning around.


“Frank Dixon is holding on three,” Darleen replied. 

Niles’ smile faded a bit. It wasn’t the call he’d been waiting for. “Thank you, Darleen.” He looked over his shoulder at her and held up his earbuds. “And thank you.” 


“Of course.” His secretary pulled the door closed as she left. 


Niles strode to his desk and reached for the phone. Three-star generals are busy, he reminded himself, that’s likely why Petrone delegated the call to Dixon. Still, he felt a twinge; was there a hiccup? Niles shrugged it off and pressed the blinking light. “FBI -- remember, we know where you live.” 


“Yeah,” Dixon replied without missing a beat. “And we know what you wrote in that last email to your sister.”


“I don’t have a sister,” Niles shot back. “And y’all know that too.”


Both men laughed. Their interagency rivalry banter over the years had been a source of amusement for both of them, especially during the past twenty-four months when Dixon had been assigned to work on Niles’ team.


As their laughter subsided, there was just silence on the other end. That’s odd, thought Niles; Dixon always has a comeback.


“So, Frank -- are we good to go? Did he sign off?” 


Another silence, then Dixon spoke, “Sorry, Markus. The big guy wants a face to face. Today.”    


“Don’t fuck with me, Dixon.”


“A car is waiting for you downstairs.”


There was something about the NSA analyst’s tone that caught Niles’ attention. “Is there a problem?” 


More silence on the other end, then the line went dead.