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Mrs. Pine and the CIA
 
            “Just where do you think he is?” Arbuckle placed both hands on the table. “You may as well tell us everything. We already know ninety percent.”
            Mrs. Pine tried to lean back in the chair but she was tight against the wall. “Who are you talking about? Neither of us has done anything wrong. Why would the CIA be interested in Jerry?”
            Arbuckle rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “Quit wasting our time. Just tell us where your husband is?”
            She looked around her small kitchen at the other two agents. “Well, if you must know, he and Smitty are down at the pool hall. Jerry said they were going to have a few beers and shoot some nine-ball.”
            A big smile slowly formed on Arbuckle’s face. “Nine-ball, huh.” He nodded at one of the agents. “You got that down? It sounds like a code to me. It probably means a hydrogen bomb or some other weapon of mass destruction.”
            Mrs. Pine shook her head. “What on earth are you talking about? Jerry’s an English teacher. He doesn’t know anything about bombs. Just check the pool hall.” She paused a second. “Or better yet, why don’t you guys go down to the pool hall and talk to Jerry and Smitty?”
            Arbuckle backed away from the table and leaned against the wall. Another agent stepped forward. “Ma’am, I’m special agent Runyard with the ATF. We have reasons to believe your husband and Mr. Smith are involved with Osama bin Laden.”
            Mrs. Pine kept shaking her head. “Just what is the ATF? Are you sure you guys work for our government? Let me see your ID’s again. You keep asking such crazy questions.”
            “Ma’a
m, ATF means Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.” He held his ID out for a few seconds. He reached into his briefcase. “I have some photos here of your husband and Mr. Smith at a terrorist training ground. We raided the camp a few months ago and found these photos.” Runyard slid the photo in front of Mrs. Pine. “There’s your husband.” He used a pencil to point. “Right there in the black turban holding the AK47 over his head. Next to him is Mr. Smith with a RPG launcher.” He paused a second and then pointed at another person. “This man, Omar bin Sufi, has been connected to the bombing of our embassy in Lower Patagonia.”
            Arbuckle leaned away from the wall. “Tell us where they are, because as you can see, they are in deep trouble. Even with their cooperation, they are looking at ten to twelve in the Big House.”
            Runyard gently placed another photo on the table along with a magnifying glass. “Here Smith is using binoculars to see what your husband is hitting on a target range.”
            Mrs. Pine picked up the first photo and used the glass. “That’s not Jerry. It doesn’t even resemble him. And that certainly isn’t Smitty.”
            “We got both of them ready to put to the wall.” Arbuckle grinned at Mrs. Pine. “Quit stalling and tell us where they are. If you keep holding back information about terrorists, you are going to be in the slammer keeping them company.” He shook his head sadly. “And don’t tell us they are down at the pool hall. They aren’t there and haven’t been there for a good while.”
            Agent Runyard slid another photo across the table. “Here they are again talking with two women in burkas. They have no shame. Fraternizing with the enemy and serving in their army.”
            Mrs. Pine shoved the photos back at Runyard. “Whoa, wait a minute. You’re going too fast. What do you mean; they’re not at the poolroom? They’ve been going there every day for the last two weeks.”
            “No, no, no.” A small smile appeared on Arbuckle’s face. “He’s been lying to you all along. We think your husband and Mr. Smith have already landed in Tehran and are making their way to Baghdad. He’s probably traveling right now with one of those so-called female freedom fighter. We expect to see them soon on the Al Jazeera Arab Network.”
            Agent Runyard slid another photo across the table. “Here they are on the prayer rugs facing Mecca.”
            “Now I know it’s not Jerry. He couldn’t pray once a week. There’s no chance of him praying five times a day. Why don’t you guys just pack your bags and leave?”
            “We can’t do that.” Arbuckle glanced at his watch. “If you don’t tell us where those two are, I may have to arrange for you to be secured in the Guantanamo Stockade. We can’t have you running around giving them information.”
            Mrs. Pine tried to stand but the table had been pushed too close. “Have you guys lost your minds? Smitty and Jerry are retired teachers down at the pool hall shooting one-shot-harrigan or keely.”
            Arbuckle nodded at the third man. “Get that down. They sound like code words for mustard gas or the e-boli virus. These guys are dangerous. We may have to let the Secretary in on this.”
            Runyard slid another photo across the table. “Here they are firing an 8.3 mortar. When was the last time you saw you husband?”
            The sudden change of subjects momentarily confused her. “This morning. He said he was going to pick up Smitty.”
            Runyard shook his head. “They haven’t been seen in seven days. Are you sure it wasn’t yesterday morning or the day before that?”
            Her voice quavered for the first time. “It could have been. Jerry and I have been married so long we don’t even notice each other. I’m an early to bed and late to rise person. Jerry is the opposite. He comes to bed late and gets up early.” She wiped at her eyes for a second. “I guess I could have missed him. I really don’t pay that much attention to his comings and goings. My memory is not quite as good as it use to be.” She stopped for a moment. “What about Smitty’s wife? She’ll know where they are.”
            Arbuckle was shaking his head the whole time. “Not a soul over there. It looks like all the Smiths have pulled up stakes and gone.” He smiled faintly. “At least seven days ago. She and those other two treacherous traitors are on the road to Baghdad right now and you’re left here to face the music.”
            She slumped down in the chair for a second and then straightened up. “You’re all mistaken. They’re not traitors. I know where they went. They went to see Smitty’s children.”
            “We haven’t been able to locate the children.” Arbuckle barely shook his head. “Do you know where they live? We can’t find them. Give us their address and we can settle this right now.”
            “I don’t know where they live. One lives in the Oak Ridge, Tennessee area and the other lives around Aberdeen, Maryland.”
            “Good Lord,” Arbuckle said wiping at his forehead. “Did you hear that? One is where our country makes atomic bombs and the other is near a chemical and biological warfare facility.” He glanced at the third agent. “Make sure you get all of this. We have to let Powell in on this.” He leaned back against the wall and grinned. “We got us a whole nest of spies, turncoats and evil doers. I think our bulletin going to agents in the field will be to use extreme caution. If necessary, shoot on sight.”
            Mrs. Pine burst out sobbing. “What do you mean? You can’t do that. It’s against the law to shoot innocent people. Please check the pool hall again. That’s where they are.”
            Runyard slid another photo across the table. “Here’s your husband on a surveillance camera.”
            She glanced down at the photo for a second and picked it up. “This is Jerry. Where was this camera?” She studied the photo of Jerry smiling at the camera for a few seconds. “It looks like he’s in a store.”
            Runyard nodded his head. “It is. He’s buying a six-pack of beer at the local Seven-Eleven.”
            Mrs. Pine tried to slide the table away but Runyard kept pushing it against her and the wall. “What’s wrong with that? Jerry buys at least one six-pack of beer a week and the Seven-Eleven is on the way to Smitty’s.”
            “Get that down. A convenient place to meet.” Arbuckle paused a moment while the agent was writing. “A quick place to exchange information for money.”
            “Stop! Everybody buys beer there. There’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong with you people?”
            Runyard placed another photo in front of Mrs. Pine. “Look at the owner-operator. He’s an Arab. We think he’s originally from Morocco, Casablanca or somewhere else in the Fertile Crescent area. We’ve had him under surveillance for two years. We’re fairly sure he’s the ringleader of a terrorist group plotting to blow up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.”
            She put her finger on the man’s picture and pushed it back toward Runyard. “He’s not an Arab. He was born right here in town. His parents came here from Ethiopia.” She paused a moment and glanced at Arbuckle. “Also you guys had better get your geography straight. Morocco and Casablanca are not in the Fertile Crescent.”
            Her statement didn’t faze either one.
            Runyard gently slid the photo back. “We have a reliable quote from a pool hall patron that Jerry once said that the Bay Bridge was the worst thing that ever happened to the Eastern Shore. Your husband wished the terrorist had hit there instead of the World Trade Center.”
            She thought for a few seconds. “Well, so do I. Just think, there wouldn’t have been much loss of life and the bridge would have been cheaper to rebuild.”
            Runyard slid out a photo of the Bay Bridge. “So you agree with your husband that the Bay Bridge should be blown up.” He smiled up at Arbuckle awaiting her reply.
            “No, of course not. You’re trying to twist things. Jerry may have said that but so have half of the people on the Eastern Shore.”
            A soft ringing came from Arbuckle’s coat. He hurriedly opened his cell phone. “Arbuckle here.” He listened for a few minutes, nodding and grunting into the phone. He kept his eyes on Mrs. Pine the whole time. He grunted one last time and closed the phone.
            “It seems we have another very reliable source.” He grinned lewdly at Mrs. Pine. “Only this time it’s a female reliable source.”
           “Oh God, I’ll bet it was Ruthie. What did she have to say? She knows everything that happens in this town.”
           Arbuckle’s smile faded. “This female source swears that your husband and Mr. Smith left for Atlantic City seven days ago. They were going to play the slots.”
          “You got the wrong men. Smitty and Jerry would never play the slot machines. You’re guaranteed to lose playing those things. They’ll be playing cards or shooting pool. Smitty is the hustler.”
           Arbuckle ignored Mrs. Pine. “We’re checking all the casinos in Atlantic City. A sizable reward is going to be offered for any information leading to their arrest. All flights going to the Middle East six or seven days ago are being checked. Especially flights to Tehran or Damascus.”
           Colby slid another photo across the table. “Look at this one. Your husband is practicing making different types of fuses. He is hooking a dummy stick of dynamite to an alarm clock. He certainly doesn’t look like a card player to me.”
           Mrs. Pine brushed all the photos to the end of the table. “You are all crazy. Crazy as a bunch of loons. None of those pictures show Jerry or Smitty. In some of them there is not even the slightest resemblance. Why are you guys trying to implicate my husband and Smitty? Do you have a quota to fill by the end of the month? Is that it? Now you are playing catch-up with innocent people.”
            Arbuckle pointed at the pile of photographs. “What innocent people are you talking about? Your husband and this Smith traitor are guilty as sin of espionage against the USA. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t aid some of those terrorist from 9/11.”
          “I want to call my lawyer.” She looked at the wall phone hanging out of reach. “Then I’m going to call the ACLU and have every one of you idiots fired.” She pushed hard against the table, trying to get enough room to be able to stand. “Let me out so I can get to the phone. You guys are getting in deeper trouble the longer you keep me against my will.”
          Arbuckle grinned and shook his head. “The congress and the president passed the Patriot Act which gives me absolute authority in the field of protecting our country against terrorists like your husband and the other nut.” He reached in his pocket as his phone sent out a short burst of sound. “Arbuckle here.” He kept nodding and mumbling, “Good work. Keep after them. I want all of them in custody within twenty-four hours. Notify our agents to be on high lookout. Terrorist level orange for these guys.”
          He moved his eyes back to Mrs. Pine and slowly stroked his chin. “Well, well. It seems like we had two men and a woman get off in Tehran six days ago and two men and a woman five days ago. Our agents are absolutely one-hundred percent sure that one of those groups is your husband, Mr. Smith and his wife. From what we know right now, our agents are sure they left in the direction of Baghdad.” He thought for a few seconds. “Road conditions are terrible and train passage is nonexistent. I would say that right off hand, your husband and the other two traitors are very close to Baghdad. We will be ready for them.”
          Mrs. Pine folded her arm across her chest and leaned back. “You’re crazy. You’ve lost your minds completely. Jerry and Smitty are down at the pool room and Smitty’s wife is visiting her grandchildren down in the Carolinas.”
          “Look at this photo.” Runyard kept his hand on the photo so she couldn’t brush it away. “Your husband is aiming a large caliber machine gun at a low flying plane.”
          “A bunch of nonsense. In the first place, it’s not Jerry and then you can’t see what the gunman is aiming at. Why don’t you just admit you got these photos from your own photo shop? I bet you turn these out by the hundreds trying to snare innocent people.”
          “Here he’s holding ”
          She tried to brush it onto the floor. “I don’t want to see anymore of these fake photos. I want you guys to get out of here and leave me alone.”
          The third agent stood and motioned toward the stairs. “I have to use your bathroom.”
          Mrs. Pine shook her head vigorously. “No way, the bathroom is dirty and not for you guys anyhow.”
          The agent stood there. “I got to go. It can’t wait.” He looked at Arbuckle.
          Arbuckle nodded his head. “Go ahead and then look around. There may be a cache of AK47s in the bedrooms.”
          “You can’t search my house. Where’s your search warrant? The constitution protects home owners from over-zealous and lunatic officials. Stay out of our bedrooms.”
          Arbuckle shook his head and pointed at the stairs. “Do a good and thorough search. You guys may just get a commendation for this bust. It’ll look good on your records.”  He grinned as the agent trotted up the stairs. 
           He turned back to Mrs. Pine and was thinking what to do when his phone rang. “Arbuckle here, have you located these three traitors?” He grunted a few times. “You know exactly where they are?” He listened a few more seconds to the man in Baghdad. “If you know where they are, go get them. Send a Marine squad in.” He pressed the phone closer to his ear. “Speak clearer, your signal is breaking up.” He held the phone away from his ear.
          “What’s the matter, getting a lot of static?”
          Arbuckle ignored her and shook the phone. “Come on, call me again.” He tapped it lightly on the table. On cue, it rang again. “Arbuckle here, what going on?” His forehead furrowed in concentration. “Are you sure you know where they are staying? The exact house?” He listened a few more seconds. “OK, send in a squad of Marines. Get them out of there. I want them on a plane flying back here in a few hours.” A few more seconds went by. “You say it dark and too dangerous to go out on patrols of a night. Do you have a helicopter in the air right now?” He listened a bit. “OK, good. Have that helicopter put a smart missile right through the window. How soon can you have that done?” He listened only a second. “Ten minutes sounds good to me. Call me as soon as the job is done.” He clicked the phone and dropped it in his pocket.
          “What are you doing? You realize you are going to kill three innocent travelers. You don’t even know who they are. They haven’t done a thing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You are the one who should be taken out and shot.” She put her hands over her eyes and sobbed lightly.
          “You should be crying. Your traitorous husband and the other pair are spending their last ten minutes on Earth. They are lucky I didn’t capture them and intern them for life at Guantanamo Bay.”
          The kitchen was quiet for the next ten minutes, Runyard put all is photos in his briefcase. Arbuckle tapped his phone lightly against the table while Mrs. Pine wiped her eyes. The phone sounded abnormally loud.
          “Arbuckle here, what the message?” He waited a few second and began grinning. “A bull’s eye. You say the whole block is destroyed. Good work, I’ll put in a citation to your commander.” He dropped the phone in his pocket and nodded at Runyard. Get all your stuff packed. We’ll go as soon as he comes down from the search. We’ll take her and hold as a possible enemy combatant.”
          “Come here, quick.” The man at the top of the stairs was pointing at Arbuckle. “Come here, I have something to show you.”
           Arbuckle wearily climbed the stairs. “What is it? We’re ready to go.”
          “Read this letter from Pine to his wife.
Arbuckle read the letter and wiped the sweat forming on his forehead. “You mean they’ve actually been in Las Vegas for six days participating in a nine-ball tournament?
          The agent nodded. I called the casino and checked. This Smith guy won the tournament and won $25,000 dollars. The match was live on ESPN yesterday.” He nodded downstairs. “His wife didn’t see the letter and never missed him. She really thinks he’s at the local pool room.” He glanced downstairs at the woman. “Her memory is not very good.”
          Arbuckle wiped harder at the sweat. “We’re OK, just be quiet and deny everything.”
          “OK with me, but did you see when Pine is returning?”
          His hands shook holding the letter. “Holy cow, he’s returning at five today.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s five of five right now. Let’s get out of here, now.” He took the steps three at a time, yelling for Runyard at the same time. “Come on, we got to go. There’s an emergency at the airport. Let’s go, now. Leave her, we don’t need her any more.” The three men ran past a man on the sidewalk, jumped into a vehicle and spun a rooster tail of stones leaving.
           “Dear, who were those three men I just saw leaving our home?”
          “You’ll never believe it.”