The Alexandria Project, Chap. 12: Now You See Me (Now You Don’t!)

 New to the Alexandria Project?  Find a plot synopsis and a guide to the characters here, and the earlier chapters here.  You can also follow the Further Adventures of Frank on Twitter

Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam SpadeFrank was leaning back in his cubicle chair, feet up on his desktop. That way he could keep an eye on Carl Cumming’s office down the corridor. The guy must have the bladder of a camel, he thought. Wouldn’t he ever need to relieve himself?
Finally, Cummings emerged, and Frank leaned forward nonchalantly, still tapping away on his laptop. Once the agent had passed by, though, Frank leaned backward again. 
Good. Cummings was headed for the reception area door - and now he was through it. Frank waited for a minute to pass, then grabbed his coat and his more than usually full backpack and walked slowly up the corridor, waiting for Cummings to return.  
Once he saw Cummings through the reception area glass, he walked the last few steps to the reception desk. As expected, Cummings noticed Frank’s coat. Trying to appear as if a headline had caught his eye, the agent picked a newspaper up from the reception area coffee table within easy earshot. Perfect.

Frank stood in front of Mary’s desk until she glanced up from the very important celebrity magazine that was commanding her full attention. “Yeah?”

“I’ll be back in a couple hours, Mary. I vowed last year I’d never leave my
Christmas shopping until the last minute again.”

“Good for you,” she replied, already looking back down at her magazine.
Frank pointed to his back pack. “Especially when I realize I should return half the stuff I bought already.” Mary ignored him.
A minute later, someone was standing in front of Mary’s desk again. She looked up ready to bark “yeah?” again, but then broke into a broad smile. This time it was that good looking young CIA agent. 
“What can I do for you, Agent Cummings?”
“I’m off to a meeting, Mary. If anyone calls, I’ll probably be a couple of hours.”
“Why of course, Agent Cummings. A couple of hours. I’ll be sure to let them know.” Mary made a show of writing this down. But when she looked up again, he was gone.
Once in the hallway, Cummings popped his earpiece in and punched the speed dial on his cell phone.
“IT Rat is leaving the building. Tail him and report back. I’ll provide support. Copy?”
“Copy. Tail IT Rat and report; you’ll support.”
Cummings was feeling crapulous. “You’ll have all the resources you need,” George had said. Indeed!  Here he was relying on some kid straight out of school. He’d be lucky if Agent Tyro even spotted Frank leaving the building.
Cummings took the elevator to the lobby level. As he marched out, Agent Tyro’s voice crackled in his headset.
“IT Rat just caught a cab.”
Half a minute later, “Following IT Rat West on Independence.”
Cummings left the LoC and hailed a cab himself.
Then, “North on 3rd.”

Carl stepped into his cab, and the driver looked over his shoulder, waiting for Carl to give a destination. Carl stalled for time. “What department stores are near by?”
“We got Filene’s, Macy’s, Neimann Marcus, Marshall’s, you name it.”
“West on Pennsylvania Ave” came the voice in his ear.
West on Pennsylvania; Carl took a guess. “Macy’s – on G Street.”
“You got it.”
The cab driver wheeled away from the curb. A few minutes later, Agent Tyro confirmed the guess, as he reported he was following Frank into Macy’s.
Not much later, Cummings was sitting in a “hubby” chair on the first floor of Macy’s, hiding behind the front section of the Washington Post, his mood becoming blacker by the minute. For this, he’d given up a high paying job in the private sector? Periodically, Tyro’s voice communicated the mundane details of Frank’s miserable shopping expedition.
Frank, it seemed, was running up his charge card on the 3rd floor, half-filling two shopping bags with the kind of innocuous items a middle-aged man without much imagination might buy for relatives he rarely saw. Agent Tyro grew increasingly bored; even worried that someone might think he was a shoplifter as he continued to loiter around the floor. He fingered the badge in his pocket, just in case someone approached him, and debated updating Cummings with a wisecrack next time. Nope; bad bet. Cummings’s sense of humor had been surgically removed at birth. 
Thanks to Vermin BrewingNow Frank had enlisted the help of a floor walker, and was following from one department to another other, back and forth and back again. How about a Sweater? No? Maybe a quilt? No? This nice afghan over here? No? Well… 
There they went again, the floor walker heading to yet another section, with Frank trailing behind.
Until suddenly he wasn’t.
Tyro realized that when Frank had passed the elevator bank this time, he had sidestepped into one just as the doors were closing.   Tyro all but ran to the elevators, reporting in more briskly this time. “IT Rat headed up. I’ll take the 4th floor; you take the 5th.”
Cummings stood up and headed to the elevator bank, but ignored Tyro’s request.  With both of them hopping in and out of elevators, Frank could easily pass them by.  Cummings placed himself closer to the elevator bank instead, where he could get a clear view.
This kid was hopeless.  Why wasn’t Tyro in the same elevator?  Dammit, the building had 8 floors!
Metro Center TerminalMeanwhile, Frank was stepping off the elevator on the 4th floor, and then immediatelyinto the adjacent stairwell. He raced down to the first floor landing, and then worked as quickly and quietly as possible. 
Into of of the shopping bags went the contents of the other.  Out of the backpack came a wig, dark glasses and a reversible raincoat.  He stuffed his backpack and coat into the empty bag, and over the railing went the other shopping bag. He listened for it to hit the subbasement floor 40 feet below. Good.
A moment later, Frank opened the stairwell door and walked onto the shopping floor as a reasonable facsimile of his elderly mother. A few steps later and he was past the unsuspecting CIA agent and onto the street. A light change and a few yards more, and one more anonymous shopper was riding the escalator down into the Metro Center subway station.
Long before Cummings and Tyro faced up to the fact that they’d been skunked, Frank was boarding a Glenmont train for a short ride of a few stops. As Cummings was banging on the guard’s office door to commandeer the video tapes of stairwells and exits, Frank was walking into Union Station, Washington’s Amtrak terminal. And as Carl was steeling himself to report to headquarters that Frank had given him the slip, his quarry was leaving a restroom, wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and his eyes casts down. 
Union Station, Washington, D.C.All the security cameras at the train terminal would later show was a middle-aged, suddenly homeless man shambling across the concourse, a garbage bag slung over his shoulder. In it were all of the belongings the figure had to his new name.
That was the last blurry image that Cummings saw late the next night that might arguably have been Frank. It hardly mattered, though because by then, he knew, Frank was long gone.

The question, of course, was where?

Carl can’t follow Frank on the run, but you can, on

If you were following Frank, you would have received this Tweet at 8:55 Tuesday morning:

Nice sunrise behind the Gateway Arch; granola bars for breakfast

– 0000 – 0001 – 0010 – 0011 – 0100 – 0011 – 0010 – 0001 – 0000 –

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Comments (2)

  1. Frank probably knows how the CIA (aka, Carl) works better than  I do. But I would not post on twitter while being on the run. But it is fun all the same.




    Or maybe Frank is setting Carl up to a wild goose chase? All the time staying next door?



    • Winter,


      Fact is, when it comes to Tweeting, Frank and Carl live in a different space-time continuum than you and I, so it’s safe for him to Tweet to readers of The Alexandria Project.  It’s a bit too complicated to describe in detail, so you’ll have to just take my word for it.  ; – )


      Tweeting will occur within the story, however, in future episodes (in fact, there was a clue in a prior chapter to this effect), subject to proper security measures by Frank – so stay tuned.


        –  Andy

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