On the flight back to Headquarters, Agent Fredericks mused on how familiar the blurry outline of Washington D.C below him was getting.
Every week, it seemed, Director Hoover wanted them to come back and talk to him about the case. What they'd uncovered, how close they were to getting the Red dog, and any other detail, significant or not, that happened to come into his head.
The plane touched down on the runway, just as it had so many times before. Fredericks knew exactly where every potmark on the asphalt was, and he could feel every one of them as the wheels rolled out and touched down.
Walking off the plane, getting baggage, of course Mister Hoover sent a car down, he always did. Fredericks hardly looked out the window as he pretended to be interested in his briefcase documentation. He just wanted to get back to the investigation.
Why did Hoover care so much? There was so much new information flooding past his desk, and there was so much these days, with the internal investigations, that Hoover probably hardly had any time to look over individual cases. He just got to smile and nod as agent after agent paraded through his door, not comprehending or taking real interest in any individual report.
Fredericks frowned loudly as he saw the FBI building come into view. At least he'd be out of this hole by the end of the day. He prepared his routine in his head as he got into the lobby. Just be in and out. As quick as possible. The elevator ride up wasn't much to talk about. Grey people in grey clothing. One had a briefcase.
Hoover's office, end of the hall. Talk to the secretary and get buzzed in. Look at Hoover, smiling genially and trying to look like the team dad, with an office draped in red white and blue.
Hoover paused upon seeing Fredericks enter the office. "You look troubled, agent. Penny for your thoughts?"
Fredericks paused, tightening his grip on his papers and blinking twice. "Oh, uh, sorry sir. Just had a lousy trip over. They need to fix the potholes in this city."
Hoover chuckled. "Don't I know it. What do you have for me today?"
Fredericks slid over a pile of documents, which Hoover grasped tightly and pulled onto his desk. Hoover put on some reading glasses, and pretended to glance over the papers. Fredericks could tell when Hoover wasn't actually reading. His eyes didn't move.
"You reported to my secretary over the phone, that you found something in Florida?"
"Shipping, sir. We believe the spy ring, if there is one, may be operating from there."
Hoover tightened his lips into a thin line as he pretended to study the documents again. "Is Agent Walsh already there?"
"Yes sir. We arrived together, when you dr- recalled me, uh, sir, back to headquarters."
Hoover leaned over the files. "So are you ready to move in, on what you might find?"
"Yes, sir. I explained it to you over the phone."
"Well, you'll be off again in the morning. It's always a pleasure to see you, son. Send Agent Walsh my regards."
As he was returned his files, slapped on the back, and hustled out the door so that the next agent could waste ten minutes of their time, Fredericks contemplated the likelihood of solving the case if he was recalled every week.
He decided it wasn't very likely.
It was about halfway between Jacksonville and Miami that the Ford broke down. Fredericks thought it broke down because Walsh had taken that corner a bit too fast and that as a result, they hit that bump and the wheel flew off. Walsh thought it was because Fredericks had left the map back in Atlanta, and they'd had to make do making notes on a fast-food restaurant napkin.
In either case, they were now both standing by the side of the road, with a smoking, three wheeled vehicle between them.
Walsh futilely kicked the fallen tire, and swore under his breath. "Where the hell do they get these cars?"
Fredericks shrugged. "Probably discounts them from the major manufacturers, get the duds from the assembly line." He shaded his face, and peered into the distance ahead of them. "You want to just walk? We're only around a couple miles away."
Walsh looked up and down the dirt road, then shrugged. "That's not too far away."
So, they walked. It wasn't a particularly long walk, as both partners walked in silence, occasionally glancing at the other to make sure they were still there. Around them, the foliage and oppressive heat made Walsh wish for the desert, and Fredericks wish for a sunhat.
But, they were soon at their destination. They walked past some official government cordons, an empty checkpoint, and climbed over rubble. They were rewarded once they'd ascended the last broken pillbox. There was a small concrete bunker, with a brass door and a nice wallpaper of kudzu vines. Printed above the door, in steel, was a label.
National Observation Bureau of the Office of Defense - Yorktown
Fredericks strolled to the entrance, wiping some grime from the label. "This place hasn't seen action in awhile, has it?"
Walsh grabbed the door, and pulled. "At least not from our side… oof, help me out with this thing, willya? It's pretty heavy."
They both grabbed, grappled, yanked and sweated on the door until with a final squeak and creak it slid open, revealing a very dark room.
Fredericks crouched and walked in, holding one hand on the brass doorframe. "Hand me the flashlight, please?"
Walsh dug into his bag, and produced the torch. "Do you see something?"
"No, but I want to."
Fredericks clicked the flashlight on, and looked around. In front of them were two doors, both wooden. One was labeled "ENIGMAGRAPH CHAMBER", the other "Project NOBO"
Standing, Fredericks walked towards the first door. "Doesn't look like anyone's been here. Maybe the intel was wrong."
"Maybe. But that could also be what they want us to think."
Fredericks nodded, and pushed the door open.
Inside, there were five desks, five typewriters, and mountains of yellowing, wet papers.
Walsh dug around in the first pile of papers, looking for anything interesting. Most of the papers were completely uninteresting, boring documents with no information. The one that did have information turned out to be a small scrap of a yellow label. Walsh held the label in his hand, and turned it over. There was writing here, typed small and pressed together.
TO THOSE WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
test test test test test test Enigmagraph 112 test test test
Fredericks leaned over one of the typewriters, grabbed a scrap of paper, and typed on it. "Hey. Walsh. Tell me if you can read this, or if it does anything."
Taking the paper, Walsh scanned it over, and handed it back. "Yeah, that works."
"… Walsh? All I wrote on this was 'hi'."
"Did you?" Walsh took the paper back, glanced it over again, and handed it back. "I guess you did."
Fredericks frowned quietly at his companion. "I don't think you're reading this."
"Of course I'm reading it."
"I wrote that you were a fat goon."
Walsh tilted his head. "I don't remember that at all."
Fredericks crumpled the paper, and tossed it towards the trashcan. "Guess we know what that does."
Walsh walked around one of the typewriters, poking it with his finger. "That's the opposite of a good thing. How long've these things just been sitting here, open for anyone to copy?"
Walsh patted the typewriter, then headed to the doorframe. "This alone is definitely enough to get this place searched. We ought to check out the other room, then clear out of here so the cleaners can do their thing."
Fredericks walked behind him, placing a few unreadable papers in the evidence bag. "You got it, partner. Lead the way."
The second room was a pristine example of a ransacked lab. Broken beakers, shredded papers, mysterious broken piles of electronics that might have once contained useful information, all lay among many other artifacts. The flashlights' beam swept across the floors and ceilings, zigzagging until they could realize the true damage to the room.
They both shook their heads, disappointed. "Damn."
Then, the beam of the flashlight fell onto one folder. Wet, but intact, it lay on the floor, its contents still unmolested inside. Fredericks crouched down, and picked it up. There was a message scrawled on the front.
[…] Do not reveal anything about any projects or policies you have seen. If questioned, this is your script.
“Where are you?”
“What are you doing?”
“Who are you?”
Fredericks flipped it open, and pulled the papers into his hand. He flipped through them, making sure to read every individual paper. "Well, this is interesting."
Walsh peered over his shoulder. "Shine the light on it, I can't see in the dark."
Fredericks lifted the light to the folder, and Walsh looked on. He was looking at serious stuff. Writing and diagrams of men, standing in crowds without being seen, walking into bases draped in swastikas, and coming out covered in blood.
"Looks like some nutty covert ops stuff, from the war?"
Fredericks frowned. "Just lying there? Someone wanted to leave it out for us."
Walsh grabbed the file, and stuffed it into an evidence bag. "Look, I think we should split. This place is feeling less safe by the second, and I don't like the idea of invisible super soldiers left alone in the dark."
"You're being paranoid."
Walsh took a brisk pace in walking out the door, and was followed soon after by a grousing Fredericks. They had a helluva lot of people to contact in not a lot of time, if they wanted to get out of here anytime soon. Which they did.
Another plane ride. At least there was a purpose behind it this time.
Fredericks looked around at the other people waiting for a plane. There was an old woman in a babushka, reading the Wall Street Journal. A little girl and her mother, sharing a soda pop, and two businessmen wearing identical outfits, save for the color of their hats.
But why were they looking at him like that?
Fredericks glanced up from his book, at the people surrounding him again. Yes, they were looking at him. All of them.
"Flight 56, please come to the gate…"
Every one of them stood, and began filing towards the plane. After a moment, Fredericks followed them. If he was being shadowed, there was no reason to make them suspicious.
"Now boarding, Flight 56 to Washington…"