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Still In Training


Frank came awake immediately. He was a light sleeper. The voice belonged to Jack Carson, his Academy roommate.  "Yes?"

"Marilyn's on the phone." By Marilyn, Jack meant Marilyn Phearson, Frank's mentor while he was training at Occoquan. Jack seemed calm but Frank was on edge anyways when it came to Marilyn phoning him late at night.

"Okay." Frank rolled out of bed and trotted to the door of their dorm room. Jack stayed awake all hours of the night and frequently Frank had to physically lift him out of bed to get him. Frank glanced at the clock on his way out the door--1 am. He was going to have to roll Jack out of bed, over the floor and through the door to get him outside in time for calisthenic training just a few hours from now. Once out in the hallway, Frank sprinted to the phone, knowing Marilyn would not phone him at this hour unless something was wrong.

He reached the phone down at the end of the hall. He could hear screaming at the other end of the phone line. He grabbed the receiver from the table.


"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEE!" The scream was cut short. Frank heard the insistent buzz of the dial tone in his ear.

"Damn!" Frank hung up the phone. Then picked it up and called his instructor, Agent Michaels.

"Michaels," the deep tenor on the other end said, not at all sleepy. Like him, Agent Michaels was fully alert upon opening his eyes.

"Donovan. Something's wrong with Marilyn. She called me but when I got to the phone, she was screaming. Someone hung up the phone."

"When did this happen?"

"Just now."

"Ok. Phone the police and get down to her apartment. You're released from calisthenics training this morning."

"Right." Frank clicked the receiver off, then picked it up for the second time, phoning the police.

"Agent Donovan, FBI," he told the 911 operator. "I've got an emergency at Agent Marilyn Phearson's apartment. 4423 Hyacinth Place, Lorton. I need police, and an ambulance at 4423 Hyacinth Place, Lorton," Frank stated.

"Sir? What is your name?"

"Agent Donovan, FBI, Occoquan. I need police, ambulances at 4423 Hyacinth Place, Lorton." Frank clicked the phone off. He knew the call was being recorded, and there would be some heat from Agent Michaels' superiors about this, but Frank wasn't concerned about that now. Besides, he would just brush the heat off.

He started to sprint towards the exit, then spun around and ran full throttle back to his room, finally remembering he was in his skivvies. It would not do for an agent in training to show up in an emergency unprepared. Agent Michaels, Frank knew, would be in his car, pulling on his shirt as he drove. Frank grabbed the first dark clothes he saw--his workout wear. He grimaced. "At least its freshly washed," he thought.

"What's wrong?" Jack asked as Frank started pulling on dark socks and his athletic shoes.

"Something's wrong with Marilyn. She was screaming when I got to the phone."

"She sounded calm when she asked for you," Jack said, running his fingers through the buzzcut he had given his sandy blonde hair and he was standing in the middle of the room.

"You sure about that? What did she say?" Frank asked.

"Please go get Frank," Jack replied.

"Did she sound upset?"

"No. She sounded pretty calm."

"Come," Frank ordered.

"Won't I get in trouble?" Jack wondered. He was unsure of himself but Frank knew he was capable of becoming much more than he thought.

"No. You were the last to talk to her, so Agent Michaels will want to ask you questions,"  Frank sprinted through the door with Jack close on his heels. Jack knew Frank would take the heat if he got into trouble for bringing Jack along. Frank seemed to shrug off heat when he did things his way. This trait made him a great partner. He knew how to handle himself in virtually any situation.

The two trainees got into Jack's jeep, and Jack drove off the campus and onto I-95. Frank put the blue police light on top of the Jeep's roof. His mind was in a whirl.

While they were driving to Lorton, Frank noted the structure of the last sentence he'd told Jack: "You were the last to talk to her." A shiver went down Frank's spine. The last to talk to her. So Frank was already thinking Marilyn was dead--a murder victim. She was his mentor, in her mid-30s, nicknamed 'tough old bird' by the other male trainees but nicknamed fondly. Frank fervently hoped Marilyn was all right.

As they pulled up to Marilyn's house, Frank realized two things. One, that the drive to Marilyn's house seemed quicker than usual and two, her house was surrounded by police, ambulances, FBI. Frank got out of the car, and noted there was a SWAT truck just pulling onto Hyacinth Street and he also noted DEA was crawling all over the place, their dark jackets proclaiming their role in this hostage situation.

"Agent Donovan, Agent Carson. There's been a breakout at the prison. Three cons, in for heavy dealing with one of the Colombian syndicates. Marilyn's been taken hostage," Agent Michaels' walkie talkie crackled.

"Agent Michaels."

"They're on the phone, sir." Agent Michaels walked over to the van and picked up the phone. Frank and Jack followed him. Frank knew from his training this would be a ransom demand. He wondered what the three wanted.

Agent Michaels put on the speakerphone.

"Is she hurt?"

"No. But two things. One, a reduced sentence for our homeboy, John Winters."


"Early Parole."

"No deal," Agent Michaels said.

"Yes, deal. Or chicky here gets her throat slit. She put us in the gray box when she was a DA. Make sure Agent Donovan gets here," The phone clicked off before Agent Michaels could say that Agent Donovan was already here.  Agent Michaels looked perplexed and the corners of his mouth started twitching.

Frank shuddered to himself. As soon as he heard the name John Winters, his mind started working with the information Marilyn had given him about the mens' case after a seafood dinner at Phillips, on DC's southeast waterfront. Marilyn had enjoyed walking down on Hain's Point and watching the boats float by on the Potomac River and as they walked, she told him about Jonathan Winters.

They were dealing with a revenge motive. The three cons wanted to cut a deal but the first thing they wanted was to ensure their immediate superior was out early. He was their leader, and they wanted him out. That was their primary motivation. The early parole for them was secondary, else they would have just disappeared into the netherworld of crime, perhaps down to Miami where they'd become drug runners again for one of the Colombian syndicates. They were lackeys, men who needed direction and protection. Had they been able to protect themselves, they would have hotwired a car from one of the residential neighborhoods around the prison.

The three knew the FBI and DEA would combine forces, and they knew time would be added to their sentences. The three had families, Frank knew from his conversation with Marilyn along the bike path on Hain's Point. She'd been the DA responsible for cracking the drug ring the four were operating in the nation's capital. Drugs were being run in speedboats from Colombia to San Juan, then onto Miami and New York. John Winters had gotten hold of some of the Colombian white being offered in New York and decided to start dealing in the District. He'd recruited Anthony Dean, Jerry Minter and Alan Nicholson to be his dealers.

Jonathan Winters was a paternal figure. Marilyn had told Frank about John Winters, after rhapsodizing about Phillip's crab stuffed shrimp. Her unlikely combination of mixing business conversation with comments about food had told the psychology part of Frank's mind that Marilyn was upset about something, notably about the conversation which followed her food comments.

She told him that John Winters, through his other contacts, had provided for the three mens' families via trust funds in the Cayman Islands after the four were sent to jail. US officials were forever trying to get Cayman officials to crack coded accounts belonging to known criminals but thus far, Cayman officials turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the DA's requests. Anthony, Jerry and Alan hadn't been educated past the tenth grade and they'd always done poorly in school. They needed John to take care of the bank accounts in the Caymans, most likely because whomever was operating the trust fund while the three were in jail had lost the coded account book.

That stopped Frank. He knew how to deal with the situation now.

"Agent Michaels, call them back," Frank ordered.

Agent Michaels spun around. "What?" He was not really surprised Frank, still an FBI trainee but soon to graduate, would order something like this. Frank was a precocious student. Summa cum laude from Oxford. Looked to graduate top of the Academy with perfect scores. He was perhaps the best agent the FBI had ever laid hands on. He'd rise to the top, fast and easy. And he'd stay there. Of that, Agent Michaels was sure of. Frank Donovan was not a man who'd rise fast and easy then fall hard.

"They lost the coded bank account books to their Cayman trust funds. They're worried about their familes. All of them have wives, young children, financially dependent on those trust funds. Their families live in Anacostia and recently there were three gang shootings near the neighborhood where they live. Tell the men we'll have the Caymans send another copy of the coded bank book. Until that arrives, we'll provide emergency carryover funds to their families. Have the assistance done now, and have their wives call Marilyn's house to tell them they received emergency funds."

Agent Michaels spluttered, but understanding dawned on his face. Ransoms didn't always have to be carried out. Jonathan Winters wouldn't get early parole. So long as the hostages got free, unharmed if at all possible. He knew Cayman officials wouldn't provide another copy of the coded bank book unless the person who set up the Cayman account showed up in the Caymans, in person. But he could arrange for emergency assistance to their families. $3,000 in emergency funds to their families was better than a dead Agent. And Agent Phearson was one of the best. A good mentor for Frank, she had taught him to reign himself in. Frank had studied well, paid attention, and was now doing his mentor one better.

"Relay that order to the field and have Agent Donaldson back at Occoquan carry out the order. I want emergency funds in the amount of $1,000 to each wife by three am!"

"Sir! It's nearly 2 am!" Jack interjected. He was stunned at Frank's brazenness at telling Agent Michaels' how to handle the situation. They hadn't even graduated yet, this was their first hostage situation, and Frank was doling out orders to control a hostage situation like he did it for breakfast every morning. Damn, Frank would be good--no, Jack thought. Frank would be the best the FBI ever laid their hands on.

"Agent Carson! I keep emergency funds at the campus, no need to worry." Agent Michaels told him.

He picked up the phone and called the phone inside Marilyn's house.

"You ready to deal?" Anthony's voice asked instead of saying hello.

"We can do emergency funds of $1,000 to each of your wives until a copy of the Cayman bank account book can be sent to whomever is handling the trust John set up."

"The book needs to be dropped off where we tell you. You will leave the book, and no one stays around to see who picks it up."

Oh sometimes people can be so naive, Frank thought. They should know by now we'll have someone with a high powered telescope watching the drop off point. And the person picking up the package would be none the wiser. But he nodded to Agent Michaels.

Agent Michaels found himself in an awkward situation. He was taking orders from a trainee, in a hostage situation. But Frank was right to tell him to agree to Anthony's request, Michaels thought. We can always surveil the drop off point with a high powered telescope and the person picking up the package would be none the wiser.

"Done. We'll have your wives phone the house when they receive the money. It should be within the hour. Meanwhile, I want proof Marilyn is okay."

The phone clicked off. Michaels thought Anthony hadn't accepted the deal, but then he saw the blinds on the front window being raised. Marilyn was standing there, a bowie knife held to her throat by Jerry Minter. There was a cut on her face, Michaels could see, but he also saw that it wasn't serious. Someone had made that cut to get her attention, and later to get the attention of the FBI.

Frank was satisfied. He knew Anthony would accept the deal. Anthony's three kids were all under the age of four and still needed diapers and formula. He was trying to provide for them but he could have earned the money honestly. He had brawn, was capable of working in heavy lifting. Frank sucked in his breath when he saw Marilyn. Her eyes locked onto his and he saw she was scared.

An hour later, the phone rang. Marilyn was now sitting in front of the window, tied to a chair. Alan and Jerry took turns watching her while Anthony paced in the background.

"Agent Michaels."

"My wife called. Said she got $1,000 in cash and a sack of groceries from a FEEBIE agent. He counted it out, gave it to her and left." Frank, Jack and Agent Michaels winced at the colloquial name civilians gave FBI agents: FEEBIE.

Agent Michaels noted to himself to thank Agent Donaldson for thinking of the groceries.

"Will you surrender peacefully?" Frank asked.

"Who's that?"

"Agent Frank Donovan," Frank said.

"You the one working with Marilyn? She said you'd know what to do. How to handle this."

"Yes." Frank gave as little information as possible to minimize problems.

"Will you surrender peacefully?" Frank asked Anthony again.


"I need you to let Marilyn go, then come out with your hands on top of your head," Agent Michaels cut in.

The phone clicked off. Marilyn's door was open and she was shoved out unceremoniously. She stumbled, rubbing her newly unbound wrists but recovered her balance as two FBI agents took her by the arms and led her away from her home.

Anthony, Jerry and Alan exited the home, with their hands on top of their heads. They were immediately surrounded by Agents, DEA and the local police.

"Almost a perfect textbook example of hostage negotiation and surrender," Agent Michaels muttered, more to himself than to Frank or Jack.

FBI agents cuffed the three men and put them in waiting squad cars. The cars squealed off.

Agent Michaels looked at the two trainees. Agent Donovan would be marked for special advancement. He'd shown guts when he'd invited Jack along, but then again, Frank knew he might need backup and Jack was good backup. Frank always watched his back and he watched the backs of his teammates.

Jack didn't possess leadership potential but he showed a keen mind, especially on surveillance. But Frank? Frank's nifty guess as to what the men were really angling for was genius. Pure genius. He'd known without having to be told by the hostage takers. Oh, yes. Frank would be the best the FBI had ever trained.

"Agent Phearson! Are you all right?" Agent Michaels heard Frank's voice ask Marilyn. Was his voice softer than usual? Agent Michaels thought he detected an undercurrent of personal concern for Marilyn when he asked her if she was all right. Was there something between the two?

"Yes. Shaken and a little cut up, but I'm fine, really," she told him. Agent Michaels turned to say something to her and stopped in his tracks. Frank was holding Marilyn's face in his hands and he was intently examining the facial cut.

"A few stitches, and all will be fine," he said, his voice soft.

"I know."

"Let's get you to the hospital," Agent Michaels said. "I want that cut looked at." He turned to Agents Donovan and Carson.

"By the way, Frank, good work tonight. When I spotted Agent Carson with you, I had intended to reprimand you, but on closer examination, you showed good judgment in bringing along available backup. Both of you will receive written commendations to be placed in your permanent file."

"Thank you, sir," both Frank and Jack said simultaneously. Frank took Marilyn's arm and helped her into Jack's jeep.

Agent Michaels watched the three drive off. Now there's something going on with Agents Phearson and Donovan, he thought. Whatever is between those two, Agent Phearson had known Donovan would be able to help her and get her out of the hostage situation better than he himself could. Damn, he thought again.