A Warrior for All Seasons
Michael Hailey checked the address he had
been given then stared at the two-story house nestled in the center of
one of DC's toughest neighborhoods. This was the place. Exiting
the Bronco he took a moment to study his surroundings. It was amazing
how neighborhoods such as this were the same the world over. Only
the language seemed to change. They were all filled with desperate,
angry people trying to survive in a hostile world. A refuge of sorts
for the lost and hopeless, home to those society wanted to forget.
He looked at the well-kept house before him. There was nothing hopeless
or forgotten about this place. Maggie's Place was an enigma.
It was an oasis of order and life amidst decay and squalor. If what
Sam had told him was true then Maggie was as unique as her home.
A gutsy lady who believed she could make a difference and was willing to
put her life on the line to do it. Hailey admired her courage.
It must be a family trait. Sam had been the same way. He had
risked everything to defend the citizens of this country and in the end
he had paid the ultimate price. Hailey fought back his pain; he was
here for a reason. Grabbing a black duffel bag from the Bronco he
headed for Maggie's Place.
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Inside the house was as well kept as the
outside. The place was alive with activity. He saw kids
watching television, playing games in what looked like a Rec. room or quietly
reading. Nor were kids the only occupants. Quite a few women were
around, supervising the younger children or engaged in projects of their
own. There was also a flurry of activity as people scurried about
performing the myriad chores that went into the running of a household.
Stopping one of the teens Hailey asked for Maggie and was given directions
to the kitchen.
Entering the kitchen Hailey smiled at the
sight that greeted him. A shapely pair of jeans clad legs stuck out
from the cabinet below the kitchen sink. As he watched the shape
wiggled and a string of expletives flowed from the interior of the cabinet.
"Need some help?"
"Wha... oof!" With a yelp Maggie
crawled out from under the sink holding her head. "What do you think
you're doing sneaking up on somebody like that? Just what I need
another headache. Oh...” Maggie’s tirade broke off as she caught
sight of her unknown visitor. "Sorry, I thought you were one of the
kids. Can I help you?"
Hailey pointed toward the sink. "Looks
like you're the one in need of help."
Maggie climbed to her feet and glared at
the sink. "I managed to get the faucets in but the blasted thing
keeps leaking," She fixed Hailey with a speculative stare. "Know
anything about plumbing?"
"You're hired." Wiping her hands
on her jeans she held out her right one to Hailey.
"Michael Hailey." Releasing her hand
Michael turned to check the sink. "Now that we've been properly introduced
I'll see what I can do about this." Examining the pipes he discovered
the fittings loose. "Looks like you just didn't get the connections
tight. Where are your tools?"
"Here you go."
Michael looked at the offering in amazement.
A rusty pair of pliers, a bent screwdriver and a hammer whose handle was
held together with duct tape. "What are these?"
"Tools, what did you think they were?"
Michael just shook his head. "I'll
be right back." Retrieving his toolbox from the Bronco
Hailey soon had all the leaks stopped. "All done."
Maggie looked at the toolbox then gave
Hailey an impish grin. "So how are you with hinges?"
Hailey laughed. "OK, I’ll play Mr.
Fix-it and you feed me dinner. Deal?"
The rest of the afternoon passed
in a blur of broken hinges, loose bolts and missing screws. Michael
was surprised to find he was enjoying himself. It was good to lose
himself in the simple tasks. For once no one’s life hung on his actions
and he could put his pain aside for the moment.
Watching Hailey busy at work Maggie nodded
in satisfaction. Michael Hailey was just as her brother described
him. She could see the pain in his eyes and guessed at the cause.
She was still haunted by her brother's death and suspected that Hailey
was as well. They could both use time to distance themselves from
the hurt before confronting their loss. She wasn't sure why Michael
was here but she knew it had something to do with Sam. She just hoped
she was strong enough to hear what he had to say.
Hailey had just finished oiling the hinges
on Maggie's office door when she entered with a tray. Setting the
tray on the corner of the desk she lifted the cover with a flourish.
"Dinner is served. The dining room is a madhouse, I figured we'd
eat in here."
"Smells great, just let me wash up."
By the time Hailey returned from the washroom
Maggie had the desk covered with food. "Dig in before cook decides
to throw it out."
"Over my dead body. Is that pot roast?
I can't remember when I've had a home cooked meal."
Maggie watched her enthusiastic guest and
smiled. "Don't tell me they make you live off of field rations all
"Just about." Hailey suddenly stopped
eating and fixed Maggie with a suspicious look.
At the familiar glare Maggie couldn't help
but laugh. "At ease soldier, you're among friendlies. I've been around
spies long enough to recognize that look."
"I take it Sam told you about me."
"Yes, you didn't think, I'd let a stranger
wander around my house did you?"
"Sam said you had peculiar ideas, who knows."
"Peculiar huh? That's the pot calling
the kettle black, that brother of mind was always up to some harebrained
Hailey smiled. "Yes, that was Sam
"So tell me Michael why are you here?
Did you come to tell me another pretty fairy tale about my brothers death?"
"No. No, I came to tell you the truth."
Maggie studied the man before her closely.
He was an operative like her brother and trained to lie. Her instincts
told her that this time at least Hailey meant what he said. "OK,
“What did the brass tell you about Sam’s
“That he was killed in an arms deal gone
“That part is true. There was an
arms deal and it definitely went bad.”
“What about the traitor part?” Maggie
couldn’t keep her anger from showing. “Is that part true too?”
“No. Your brother was one of the
bravest and most honorable men I have ever known. He loved his country.”
“Then why did his country lie. Why
does the country he loved so much consider him a traitor?”
Hearing the pain in Maggie’s voice, Hailey
felt his own pain return. He pushed away the aching in his chest
and focused on his mission. He was here to give Sam’s family what
he had never been able to give his own…the truth. “A member of the
armed forces was selling high tech weapons to terrorists. Sam and
I were sent in covertly by the Agency to infiltrate the operation.
Our mission was to find the traitor and shut down his operation.
The mission was marked top priority, the military brass were really steamed.
Stolen weapons had already been responsible for a terrorist attack against
one of our embassies overseas and they wanted this guy bad. Everything
went smoothly until the night of the deal; it seems our terrorists had
a lot of enemies. A rival group got wind of the sale and decided
to crash the party.” Hailey paused as visions of death and destruction
flashed across his mind. “Sam and I managed to keep the weapons out
of enemy hands and to hold on to our target but everything else went to
hell. We were both hit and it took us a while to arrange extraction.
By the time help arrived it was too late for Sam.” Hailey pushed
away the dark thoughts of running and hiding in a hostile city while his
best friend quietly bled to death beside him, letting anger overcome pain.
“I woke up in the hospital two days later to find Sam branded a traitor.”
“Why Michael,” The pain and anger he could
hear in Maggie’s voice matched his own feelings. “What possible reason
could the military have for destroying the honor of a good man?”
Michael gave a bitter laugh. “It
wasn’t the military it was the Agency. After all his service his
own people offered him up as a sacrificial lamb.”
“Why? I need to know why, Michael.
It’s the only way I’ll be able to live with this.”
“National Security, of course. It’s
always National Security.” At Maggie’s blank look Hailey explained.
He had come this far he might as well tell her all of it. “The real
traitor was a high ranking Army officer. Weapons’ smuggling was just
his latest operation. It turns out that he had been involved in black
market deals for a long time. He possessed information the Agency
wanted. His contact list for the various terrorist organizations
alone is invaluable. There was no way they were turning him over
to the military for court martial and execution. “
“But they couldn’t just refuse to hand
him over either.”
“Exactly, feelings were still running high
the military wanted a scapegoat so the Agency gave them one.”
“They swapped a dead agent for a live resource.
The military gets its scapegoat, the American people get their justice,
and the Agency gets to keep a valuable source of intel. Everyone’s
“Everyone but the family of the dead agent.
What do we get?”
“Heartache, a great deal of heartache.”
“You sound like you know what it’s like.”
“I do, you are not the first family that
has been lied to for the good of National Security.”
“It happened to you didn’t it?”
Hailey shook his head at the painful memories
her question awoke. “It was a long time ago.”
Maggie reached out and lay her hand on
Hailey’s arm. “Please tell me. “
Michael looked into the compassionate gray
eyes and felt his resolve weaken. He never talked about his family.
No one could truly understand. Seeing his pain reflected in Maggie’s
eyes, he amended that thought. Maybe there was one person who could
understand. “I was recruited during my last year at Annapolis.
A mercenary group had come to the Agency’s attention as a possible source
of terrorist activity within this country. They needed someone to
check out the group from the inside. They chose me. I was in
my last year at the Naval Academy and my training would make me a prime
candidate for recruitment.” Hailey gave a sad smile. “The only
catch was that I had too spotless a reputation. A problem the Agency
soon remedied. They arranged for me to be brought up on charges for
cheating and drummed out of the Academy. My father never forgave
“Does any of your family know the truth?”
“No and I doubt they ever will. My
family comes from a proud naval tradition. In my father’s eyes I
betrayed my country and my family honor. He has not spoken to me
since and has forbidden the rest of the family from contacting me as well.
To him I am dead.”
“I’m so sorry Michael. Surely as
a military man your father must realize that things are not always as they
appear. Maybe you could try to talk to him, tell him the truth.”
“Once the Admiral makes up his mind that’s
that. He has tried and convicted me, end of story.”
“Well you won’t always be in a job where
secrecy is the norm and a bad reputation is an asset. Maybe one day
the higher powers will be able to set the record straight. Don’t
give up Michael.”
Hailey smiled, Sam had been right Maggie
was an eternal optimist. And who knows she might be right.
One day his family might know the truth but until that day he had to live
with his choices. “I’ll try Maggie.”
“Tell me something Michael was it worth
it? All the pain and loss was it worth it?”
“Yes. I believe in what I do Maggie
as did Sam. I owe it to my family to keep them safe, even if they
are not aware of my actions. I care about this country, I’d do anything
to protect its people.”
“Truly a warrior for all seasons.”
“Nothing. Listen Michael thank you
for telling me the truth. I know I can’t tell anyone but just to
know, well it means a lot to me.”
“Sam was my friend and you were the center
of his world. I...I just didn’t want you thinking badly of him.
Besides the brass was getting tired of you camping out on their doorstep
“So they sent you to pacify me?”
Hailey laughed. “I convinced them
that the only way they were going to have any piece was to tell you the
truth. You are Sam’s sister after all and probably just as stubborn.”
“Oh I’m much more stubborn. So how
long are you going to be in town?”
“A few days.”
“Good then you can come to the cookout
tomorrow. That is if you don’t have plans.”
“You can’t celebrate The Fourth of July
without a cookout and fireworks. Don’t tell me you didn’t know that
tomorrow was a national holiday?”
“I’ve been a little out of touch.”
“Then you don’t have plans?”
“No, no plans.”
“Good, then I’ll expect you here tomorrow.”
Maggie glanced down at the toolbox on the floor and then fixed Michael
with a speculative look. “Tell me Mr. Hailey, know anything about
Hailey smiled as he allowed Maggie to drag
him into the back yard where a stack of barbecue grills awaited assembly.
They worked in companionable silence each taking comfort from the others
presence. The pain would always remain but now there was joy as well.
It seemed the old saying that a burden shared is halved was true.
For now that was enough.