Watchdogs of the Veil Book 1: Paid in Blood
Carlton is ready to start his new life. Say goodbye to a life of crime, lies, and deceit. He only has to get away with telling one little lie to the FBI.
Paid In Blood snippet –
Carlton Priez Pierce smiled good-naturedly at the polygraph examiner for the Miami FBI. “We all done here?”
“Yes. You’re done.” The man did not smile back. Polygraph examiners generally didn’t. He merely looked at Carlton with that bland FBI professionalism that didn’t communicate if you were in trouble.
He felt like he was going to be sick, but he didn’t show it. He’d felt that way throughout the entire interview, but the techniques they’d taught him really worked. He’d passed with flying colors despite his nausea.
“All right then. Thanks, man. I’ll see myself out.”
The polygraph examiner didn’t reply, just bent over his work.
The painful roiling in his stomach was only natural. He was hoping to get a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and to do that, you had to pass a lie detector test. That was a challenge, even with the pristine background he’d purchased.
That background painted him as someone else, not the man who’d been coerced into working for the CIA. It also hid his gang membership by making him a younger man.
His contact had said putting it together had been tricky but not impossible, and they were sure it would hold up against the high-level scrutiny it would be exposed to. The fact that he’d never been arrested in his time as a gang member had made it easier.
Of course, that left the onus on him to make the most of his CIA training to keep the facts to himself and avoid getting caught.
Carlton left the examination room, and a blonde woman in a blue suit and skirt ensemble smiled pleasantly at him. “So, that part’s done. Nobody’s thrilled about taking a polygraph, but it’s better to get it out of the way.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. What’s next?”
“I expect we’ll be reaching out to you soon. The next step in the process is a panel interview with some of our field agents. They’re generally good at spotting who’s a good fit for this type of work.”
Carlton knew that, but he listened eagerly. “I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for everything!”
She smiled in response and wished him a good afternoon. He stepped out of the FBI offices and headed out into the Miami heat, then tugged down his tie and pulled his shirt collar open.
The FBI’s Miami headquarters was a slick new building located in the suburb of Miramar. A food truck was parked out front, selling slow-cooked brisket sandwiches to FBI employees on their lunch breaks. Carlton stopped at the window.
“Hey, man. I know this truck. You guys swing by my neighborhood all the time.”
The man in the truck took a long look at his face and then nodded. “Yeah, I seen you around. You want a brisket sandwich, man?”
“Not today. I’m headed home, but if I get this job, I’ll eat here all the time!”
“Good luck on the job, man.”
He would have gone ahead and ordered a brisket sandwich if not for the painful acidic feeling in his stomach. He had to get a handle on his anxiety before he could eat anything.
It wasn’t only the test that had taken him there. The heavens knew he’d faced that level of stress before, but not for this long.
A few months, even a couple of years, but this last round of pressure had lasted much longer than that and was made harder because not only had he been dodging his previous employers, but also the criminal elements they’d alerted to his continued existence.
Then there was the consternation caused by his ex.
These thoughts occupied Carlton as he strolled into the visitor parking lot. He methodically worked through the process he used to control his anxiety.
“It’s okay,” he told himself. “There’s no reason to be nervous. Just answer the questions.”
Carlton had developed the questions over a period of several years. He’d been through a lot of stressful and dangerous situations in his life, starting with his juvenile involvement in the gang and continuing through the work he’d done for the CIA.
He’d often faced overwhelming stress and fear, and in situations like that, he asked himself certain questions. What he’d discovered over time was that the questions really helped. If you asked them methodically and answered them truthfully, you could get a handle on the most terrifying situations a man could ever find himself in.
Question Number One: What am I afraid of?
He was afraid that they would somehow find out he was a former gang member turned CIA operative who was trying to go straight and get a job with the FBI. The reality was that he looked legitimate for a former gang member.
He had no tattoos, no bullet wounds, and no criminal record. He’d never been caught for anything; he’d never even been arrested. There hadn’t been anything for the specialist working on his new ID to chase down and expunge.
As a CIA operative, he’d worked mostly in South America, and while there was a paper trail, the new identity wasn’t connected. He’d thought about having the paper trail scrubbed, but since he didn’t think he’d ever be going back that way, it worked as a form of misdirection.
Anyone who knew his CIA identity could follow it south all they wanted. The trail would take them far away from where his current persona existed and reduce the chances of anyone hunting him from accidentally stumbling over him.
The “case of mistaken identity” cover was easier to enact if his former self had never been connected with places his current self now haunted.
Question Number Two: What could go wrong to make that fear a reality? With all the lying he had done, both on paper and face to face, it was quite possible they’d find something in his story that didn’t add up. If that occurred, one of two bad things could happen.
They could lock him up for fraud, or they could dig too deep in trying to uncover the truth about him. If they dug too deep, who knows what the CIA might do to cover up his involvement with them? Some of what he’d done for them in South America was not suitable for public consumption.
The irony was that he wasn’t a bad man. Sure, as a former criminal and Agency spook, he had a shady past. Still, he would never have chosen any of it for himself if he’d had any choice.
He didn’t choose the gang but had been born into it. In a neighborhood where gang members were often third generation, the remarkable thing wasn’t that he’d joined but that he’d chosen to leave. As for the CIA, they’d used him for their own purposes. Their recruitment methods had been closer to blackmail than anything else, and he’d gotten out of that life as quickly as he could.
Now, all he wanted was to use his skills to do some good in the world while making a living and getting back to the ones he loved. If he went inside, whether for fraud or anything else, there was a chance that someone he knew from his old life could be in there with him.
Hell, someone he’d known through his Agency work could be in there, especially if he did time here in Florida. If anyone recognized him, they could snitch on him for something if they didn’t try to kill him. It all depended on which faction they were part of.
Random people trying to kill him was not much of a threat in and of itself. He could handle himself, but it would draw more attention to him while he was locked up, and that was not a good thing.
As he got into his car and clicked the seatbelt, Carlton asked the next question in his process.
Question Number Three: What can I do to prevent this from happening?
Apart from disappearing into the west, there was nothing he could do. He was so deep into this charade that if they were going to catch him, they already had what they needed to do so.
If he stayed, he would either come out of this process as a bona fide FBI field agent or locked up for lying to the government. It was a hell of a gamble, but with the risk came a hell of a payoff.
Running wasn’t an option anyway. Before he started up his car, Carlton pulled out his wallet and looked at the only copy of a picture he had taken nearly five years ago—a picture of a dark-haired young woman with the bronze complexion and distinct features of the Chehalis people, Washington’s “People of the Sands.”
The young woman in the picture was sitting on a couch and holding a baby boy. The photo was blurred because it was taken from outside the trailer they were in and from some distance away. He’d had a fling with her while hiding on the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation after a particularly messy situation with the CIA. The baby was his son, Tuula-hwip or “Tully,” even though the child did not know he was the father, and the young woman did not acknowledge it.
Carlton looked at them both with loss and yearning in his eyes, then closed his wallet and put it back in his pocket before starting his car. If there was one thing he knew, it was that the young woman in the photo—Marla “Marly” Lusk—would not let him have anything to do with his son if he wasn’t legitimate.
That was why he was here. He had followed her to Miami when she came here on a grant from the University of Miami to participate in an educational program for mothers with young children. She would be here for a few years, which gave him a chance to get the FBI gig, earn a good solid income, and build a trustworthy reputation.
Maybe then she would no longer think of him as a shady character she should never have trusted. Maybe then she would let him back into her life as well as Tully’s. When they eventually went back to the Chehalis reservation, which Marly was hoping to do as a social worker and trauma counselor, he could put in for a transfer to the Seattle office.
Even if they gave him the transfer, it would be a hell of a commute. An hour and a half, depending on traffic, but he would be able to build a life with the two people he loved.
That was his crazy and likely suicidal plan, created out of pure desperation when he’d learned he had a son. As far as Marly was concerned, he had been a bad decision. A questionable character she’d had a fling with. She’d had a son as a result, but that didn’t make him the boy’s father in her eyes.
To earn his way back into her life, he would have to demonstrate that he was capable of something more. Something that would cancel or at least balance the less wholesome aspects of his past. This crazy FBI plan might do that. How did you prove that you were one of the good guys? By transforming yourself into one of the good guys.
Pulling out onto the highway, Carlton Priez Pierce clenched his jaw. Like it always did, that photo had reminded him of what he was working toward. It had reminded him of his mission. There was nothing he could do but stay the course, so that was what he would do. Working his way through the Miami traffic, the FBI’s most unlikely recruit drove back to his apartment.
It’s a tricky line that Carlton is walking. he certainly seems well-intentioned. However, you know what they say about good intentions. Find out if Carlton is able to pull off his plan on March 21, 2023, when Paid in Blood: Watchdogs of the Veil Book 1 is released. Until then head to Amazon and pre-order it today.