Honor and Duty: Chapter 9 – Chris

I was in a tailspin after the meeting with Cordray and Jordan.  I had no doubt that with the information relayed to me, that my wife was involved in this, one way or another.  She hadn’t been out on a mission in two years, but that didn’t mean anything, not when a high-value terrorist was in the mix.  I had to hope that Simon would be able to keep her out of danger.  He had pull and influence, and there was no doubt that he loved his sister.  But then again, if there was one thing I was sure about, it was that Lauren Harrison-Evans was hard-headed and did what she wanted.

I had no choice but to call her brothers and start asking questions.  I knew they would close ranks, especially if they knew my marriage to their sister was in trouble.  But my mind would not stop churning, and I needed answers.  I figured each of them would have a different story and I could piece together everything for a complete picture.  But, if they had the same story, then it was rehearsed, and that would mean something was out of line.

Lauren’s brother Roger, a US Marshall, lived in Chicago.  I figured he’d be the best place to start since he would be the most “out of the loop.”  Sometimes Lauren would talk to Roger because he was far away and, at times, less judgmental than the others.  I thought that if she needed to talk to someone and keep it away from everyone else, Roger would be the person she’d call.  However, to my surprise, Roger said he’d not talked to Lauren in weeks.  He said he’d visited DC and had dinner with her, but since then he’d only spoken to Simon.  He did tell me that Lauren admitted the marriage was in trouble, and he said he was sorry to hear that.  I thanked him for his time and disconnected the call.

The next call I made was to John, Deputy Director of the FBI office in New York.  I’ve got no problem admitting that this man scares the hell out of me.  Out of Lauren’s four brothers, he’s is the most intimidating – and I’m a SEAL for God’s sake.  John went to law school and then went into law enforcement.  He’s been involved in very high-profile cases and is known for not taking shit from anyone, including members of Congress.  He’s had to fight for funding and explain actions following terrorist activity within the city.  Journalists fear him, but his team respects him.  He is also challenging to get on the line.  Fortunately, I’ve got his private number and get right through.

His voice is gruff as he answers the phone, “This is Harrison.”

I swallow the lump in my throat and respond, “John, it’s Chris Evans, I need a few minutes of your time to talk about Lauren.”  I thought I should get right to the point before he hung up on me.

“What about her?” John’s tone was flat, giving nothing away.

“Have you talked to her recently?  I can’t get ahold of her, I’m trying to make sure she’s okay.”

“Maybe she’s not interested in talking to you.  Did you think about that?”  I couldn’t respond, there was nothing I could say.  “Look, I’m sorry, I know things are rocky with you two right now.  I shouldn’t have gone there.”

“No, you’re right.”  I was preparing to tell him good-bye when he interrupted.

“I’ve not talked to her recently.  The last thing I heard was that she was working a new mission and was going underground.  She had to cut off all outside communications because she couldn’t have distractions.  Simon has said she’s fine and I believe him.”

“So, he’s talked to her?”

“Since they work together he sees her every damn day, Chris.  Look, she said you two were having issues and you were trying to reach out to her, she told us that when we got together for dinner before her mission.  Why don’t you just lay off?  She’ll come around when she’s ready.”

I tried to dampen down my anger.  He’s telling me to lay off?  I’ve not talked to my wife in almost five months and I’m worried sick about her, but he wants me to lay off?  “John, with all due respect, I’ve not talked to Lauren in five months.  I think I’ve given her enough space and have laid off enough.  I’d like to speak to her and fix whatever issues we have and know that right now she’s safe.  So, excuse me if my feelings are getting in your way.”

At that point, I hung up the phone.  I shouldn’t have lost my cool, but I also couldn’t take it any longer.  Maybe I was overly sensitive, I could accept that.  But right now, I was worried, and John Harrison wasn’t doing anything to help with my fears.  He said they’d all gotten together for dinner before her mission.  Roger alluded to that as well.  I couldn’t help but feel that this was an ominous sign.

The next call on my list was to Nick, an Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department in Washington.  He was the brother I got along with the best.  I wasn’t expecting to garner much information from him, after all, I’d not gotten much from Roger or John.  But I at least hoped that Nick would be nicer about it.  I was surprised that Nick answered the phone on the first ring.

“Hey, Chris, good to hear from you.  How’s Afghanistan treating you?”

I let out a laugh, “It’s hot and the natives are a little restless.”

“No shit, I’m surprised to hear from you.  What’s up?”

“I’m sorry to call you like this but I could use your help.”

“Dude, don’t you have JAG lawyers for when you get yourself in a bind?”

“Ha, yeah, but I promise, I’m not in trouble with the law.  It’s about your sister.”

“Ah!  Lauren mentioned that there was some tension between the two of you.  She said she didn’t react well to you going to Afghanistan and you ended up extending your tour.”

“That’s true, she didn’t give me a chance to explain and then when she gave me the cold shoulder I extended my tour.  I’ve been trying to get in touch with her and she won’t answer my calls.  I’m trying to fix things with her Nick, but she’s making it impossible.”

“I didn’t realize you two still haven’t spoken.  How long has it been?”

“I spoke to her before I drove to the base to deploy, she’s not talked to me since a day or two before that.  I don’t want to lose her, she’s my world.  We both could have handled it differently, but I need to get things right with her.  Have you talked to her lately?”

Nick didn’t answer right immediately, I began to worry as to what he would finally say when he did speak. “I’ve not talked to her.  The last we were all told was that she was working on some big operation and had to cut off all communication.  We had a family dinner and she told us about Simon being her only contact.  He relays messages back and forth and lets us know she’s okay.”

With the three calls all telling me she was on a mission, I couldn’t help but think my fears were valid.  If Simon was her only contact, she was in deep.  “Nick, can you do me a favor and get a message to her?  I need her to know that I love her, I want to work it out.  I know I’m asking a lot, but I can’t lose her.”

“I’ll ask Simon to relay to that her,” Nick took a deep breath and I could tell he was struggling.  “If it helps, I hope you are able to work it out.  You’re good for her, so hang in there.”

When I hung up with Nick I felt so much better than when I hung up with John and Roger.  The problem was, I still needed to talk to Simon.  If he were, in fact, seeing and talking to her every day, he’d know what her mood was like.  He could tell me how she was really doing and not the line he was feeding to the other brothers to keep them content.

However, calling Simon would not be quite as easy.  Sure, picking up the phone and dialing his number was easy enough.  But Simon was the oldest of the Harrison brothers and, by default, the most protective of Lauren.  Simon had stepped down from his position within the CIA to take a job in the same department as Lauren.  He wanted to make sure she was treated fairly and given every opportunity for advancement.  I always felt he was pulling her strings but Lauren was adamant that he was just protective.  Whatever the situation, if Simon saw me as being the bad guy in our marital discord, he’d shut down the minute I called and keep me from getting any information.

I had no choice, I was determined to find out what was going on, so I dialed his number and waited for him to pick up.

“Hello, Chris.  I must say I’m surprised that you’re calling after I’ve already talked to your mother.”

“What?  When did my mother call you?”

“A few days ago, said she was concerned since she hasn’t talked to Lauren and she knew that you hadn’t either.  I never imagined you’d get your mother to do your dirty work.”  His tone was acrimonious and his remarks snide.

“I did not ask her to call, in fact, I asked her not to reach out. However, I guess I am calling for the same reason.  I need to talk to Lauren, I need to hear her voice, Simon.  I need to know she’s safe.”

“It’s not possible, Chris.  You have my word that she’s safe.”

“I’m in Afghanistan, villages are being pillaged and burned.  Simon, swear to me she isn’t in the field and that she’s safe in Virginia.”  There was silence on the other end of the line, all I could hear was Simon’s breathing.  “Simon, tell me she’s in Virginia.”

“I,” Simon began to fumble over his words, “I can’t give you any information.  I’m sorry.”

“You can’t or you won’t?  There’s an important distinction.”

“Chris, she asked me not to tell you anything.  I can just say that she’s safe.”  I could tell he was evasive and he had changed his narrative with me but I wasn’t going to argue with him.  It wouldn’t do me any good, I’d get nowhere.  “I’ll tell her that you’re worried about her, I know that will mean a lot to her.  If it means anything, I think she wants to fix things with you.  I think she has regrets.”

I could feel a lump form in my throat.  If Lauren felt regret, why wouldn’t she answer my calls or talk to me?  I needed more than Simon giving me hollow words.  I needed something from Lauren.

“Thanks, Simon.  Tell her to call me, will you?  I need to hear her voice.”  With that, I hung up the phone and tossed it across my bunk.  I had just spent the last hour or so on the phone with each of Lauren’s brothers and had come to the realization that my wife was most likely on a dangerous mission.  Simon’s fumble after I mentioned the villages that were being burned confirmed it, even if he didn’t want to say the words.  I had to hope she was in a safe place, feeding intel to agents and genuinely safe like Simon assured me.

I kicked myself for not asking him when she voiced her regret?  I should have asked when was the last time he talked to her.  Simon at least gave me some hope that maybe Lauren would be willing to work on our marriage.  I needed to cling to that.  Maybe that’s why I’d not been served with divorce papers, yet.  If she really wanted to end things, she’d have been ready to dissolve our union and move on.  Maybe there is hope, and as I’ve said before, hope can be a dangerous thing.

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