3 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: The Monk

Continued from Part 2: Pride and Extreme Prejudice

The Tenth Daughter of Memory 
Muse 3:  An Extraordinary Discomfort

The Monk

Edmond Chase pulls the vibrating phone from his pocket and checks the small screen.

“It’s done. Send the maintenance team.” The message concludes with an address.

Damn.  Chase drains his Macallan and shakes his head. Un-fucking-believable.

He hadn’t thought it possible, but she gotten Fariq al-Abayghur. You’d think that after all these years, he’d have learned not to doubt Mercedes Karpov when she said she was going to do something. 

Pressing speed dial on his phone, Chase brings up a number and forwards the text, alerting maintenance to a clean-up job. He knows that within minutes of receipt of the text, the scene will be secured by a local contact until a full team arrives to remove all trace of the events that took place there.

Just what those events were, Chase doesn’t know, and he doesn’t want to know.


Chase is the division head of The Nemesis Group, Europe. The public face of Nemesis is that of a multi-national management consulting firm. The group does, in fact, provide consulting services to clients on every continent, but that business is a cover for its true raison d'être.  The Nemesis Group’s true identity is known only to a few in Washington who serve as oversight.  

Chase was in the Navy stationed in Little River VA, fully intending to serve until retirement, when Marc Welliver recruited him to Nemesis five years earlier. The black ops group was in its infancy, created to address the growing threats of a changing world.

At first, Edmond Chase had been reluctant to leave the Navy to go off and play spy. He’d always thought of himself as career. But Welliver, an Assistant Secretary of State who’d survived several administrations, was compelling on the subject of the back-door security organization.

“Every country has one,” he’d told Chase. “We know that. Maybe if we’d been on the ball here, we wouldn’t have been wide open to attack. But shee-it, no, here we sat with our fingers up our asses, all complacent in our belief that this is the United States; it’ll never happen here. You see how that turned out.”

While listening to Welliver make his pitch, Chase remembered the rumblings that there had been clear signals predicting the unthinkable attack on US soil. Clearly they had been ignored, by those too busy with their asses, no doubt.

“Well, they did it once and they’re bound to try it again,” Welliver continued. “But not on my watch; not if I can help it. We need Nemesis and Nemesis needs you.”

As a SEAL on the Advanced Special Operations team, Chase’s unique skill set made him an ideal candidate for Nemesis.

“You’ve sold the powers-that-be on this?” Chase asked? “The President has signed off ?”

“INR is behind it. That’s all we need.”

The Bureau of Intelligence and Research -- INR, as it was known – was originally established during WWII as a part of the OSS. It was now a part of State.  

“Join us, Ed,” Welliver had urged. “We can stop them. Find one loose thread and pull it, and we can unravel a plot before it can be implemented.”  

It was a bit like closing the barn door after the horse ran away, Chase thought at the time, but Welliver was probably right. The bastards would try it again.

“Oh, and if it’s getting your twenty in with the Navy you’re worried about, don’t.  Your time in will continue to accrue while you’re with Nemesis,” Welliver said.  “Besides,” he added with a chuckle, “the pay’s a lot better.”

He had been worried about that. Well, that and the fact that concealing his life in the shadows had proven to be extraordinarily uncomfortable whenever he’d tried to step out into the sunlight and just be a normal guy. He knew that joining Nemesis would carry him even deeper into a life he couldn’t share.  Funny thing about women: they thought you were hiding something if you didn’t tell them everything. His wife had eventually gotten tired of asking, and left him after a year of marriage. He hadn’t gotten past a few dates with anyone since.

What the hell, he thought. This was not a life conducive to relationships, but it was one he loved, discomfort be damned. He’d pretty well resigned himself to spending it alone anyway.

“OK, Marc. I’m in.”

Chase had never regretted that decision. It was through Nemesis that he’d met Mercedes Karpov.
Chase’s career with Nemesis began in the newly established New York office, seeking identification of a terrorist thought to be in the city.
Although it was the first time he’d worked with a Nemesis team, it was not Chase’s first time out of the gate ferreting out someone flying beneath the radar. Under his leadership, the team built a growing case file of tidbits garnered from the CIA, FBI and assorted brethren of the domestic and international intelligence community. It was a report from NSA that had put them on the scent of a NY City cop named Phil Brin.
Chase carefully read the NSA report analyzing chatter they’d picked up about Brin.  Not a bad cover, he’d thought at the time. License to carry right out in the open, entrée to go just about anywhere in the city unchallenged... He’d wondered briefly how Brin could get past the security gatekeepers at NYPD if he truly were a terrorist as they suspected, but he knew that the right connections combined with enough money could buy admission to even the most private club.
Chase and his team thought they were on to something. An immediate 24-hour tail was put on Brin, but the only place it led them, besides through the streets of his duty patrol in the Village and Soho, was to one bar after another. Chase was discouraged, but ongoing chatter continued to support the theory that Brin was involved in something, and besides, he was the only lead they had.
“Keep on him,” Chase insisted. “He’s bound to make contact sooner or later. The info we’re getting has to mean something, and we’re going to find out what.”
Then everything they thought they knew about Brin was called into question.
About six months into the investigation, their target was killed. Brin’s death was easily chalked up to an on-the-job fatality, but it was hardly that. Fortunately, it was Frank Millen, a Nemesis operative, who found Brin in the alley outside one of his favorite dives in the meatpacking district rather than anyone else. Nemesis was able to slap a lid on it and keep the true nature of his death on the QT. Millen was on Brin's tail, but lost him when a trip to the head had actually taken Brin out the back door of the seedy bar.  When Millen gave chase a few minutes later, it was already too late. Brin was propped up against the dumpster behind the bar, looking for all the world like a sack of trash awaiting pick-up. Thinking he had passed out, the Nemesis agent put a foot against Brin’s shoulder and gave a shove.
“Go home and sleep it off, guy.”
Brin’s body pitched forward, and hit the filthy pavement face first.
“Well, that’s just fucking great,” Millen muttered, squatting down to take a closer look.

When he spotted the small hole at the base of Brin’s skull, Millen groaned. If he was not mistaken, it was the work of a killer known only as “The Monk.” No one had ever been able to offer a description of The Monk. It was as if the man (presuming it was a man) were invisible. The Monk had struck only a few times in as many years, and he never made a mistake that authorities could find. International law enforcement had been singularly unsuccessful in identifying the killer, let alone finding him.
If he were right, Millen knew a long, sharp object had been shoved up the spinal cord  at the base of the skull and into Brin’s brain, passing through the parietal lobe and into the frontal lobe, and killing him instantly. It was a quick and effective means of killing someone without much fuss. At first blush, it would appear that Brin was just another lush who’d drunk himself to death.  By the time anyone questioned it, The Monk would be long gone. But not before leaving a calling card, as Millen also knew.
Millen rolled Brin over far enough to give him access to the breast pocket on his shirt. He gingerly stuck two fingers in and pulled out a card.
 He nodded to himself and hit speed dial on his cell to call Chase.
 “You’re not gonna like this, Ed.”
“Don’t tell me you lost him again.”
Millen laughed mirthlessly. “Oh, no, I’ve got him.”
He went on to describe what he’d found.
“Crap.” Chase sighed. “ OK, get out of there, and take The Monk's card with you.”
The NYPD had investigated with perhaps more vigor than the case warranted – Phil Brin more important as a dead cop than he ever was as a living one – but found nothing they could use to charge anyone. Eventually, the case was moved to the bottom of the open case pile. Nemesis, however, stayed with it and with much better luck. They hadn’t followed the crumbs of the carefully-laid trail of misinformation that led the NYPD astray, after all.
The real trail brought Nemesis no closer to The Monk than they'd been. But their investigation did lead them  to Russia, and a revelation about Phil Brin – who wasn’t Phil Brin at all – they’d never anticipated. 
One thing was clear: Grigori Karpov, aka Phil Brin, was no terrorist.
Continued in Part 4: Sagittarius


  1. intriguing...enjoying the twists in this patti....

  2. Very tight - well written and intense. I'm reminded, in a way, of Myron Cohen's story of "Goldberg the Spy" - but that in itself, is a long story. :)

  3. All I can say so far is... this is pure cinema. Very, very good so far.

    Picky note... "Advanced Special Operations team" jumped out at me as being made-up. Granted, this is a fictional piece, but you should consider using a real USSOCOM group for that description.

    Typo in the next paragraph: "Chase asked?" (two question marks)

    Odd note... I just did a report on the INR. Crazy timing.

    Another picky note: I don't think Chase would've been worried about his retirement accrual at all. It's common knowledge (especially at his level) that transfers within that community carry-over benefits.

  4. "But their investigation did lead them to Russia, and a revelation about Phil Brin – who wasn’t Phil Brin at all – they’d never anticipated."

    Hmmmmmmm, what now?

  5. Last sentence is leaving me intrigued!


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.