Thursday, July 17, 2014

Today's my birthday!

Today is my birthday and I wanted to do something special for all the people who have followed my adventures. For one day only, I've made my book, The Codename: Carla Casebook, available as a free Kindle download on! The offer will only be available until 3 am Eastern time (12 midnight Pacific), so you have to act soon. Enjoy six of my strangest missions without any cost to you. C'mon, everybody likes free stuff, so check it out:

Now I have to run. My Mom and Aunt Trudy are taking me out for a birthday pedicure and lunch. See ya'!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Big Events and an Old Case Reopens

The Fourth of July weekend was one of the best I've experienced in a long time. For once, I was not away on assignment and could spend time with my family. We had a cookout in the backyard, stuffing ourselves on burgers and ribs. Then we drank too much beer and wine and watched the fireworks. It felt a lot like the Independence Days of my youth, except the composition of my family is quite different now.

My new family includes two people with whom I have no biological connection. I'm speaking of my mother's fiance Bradley Huggins and his daughter Roxanne. Bradley Huggins used to be my old high school principal and he and my mother worked together many years ago. After my dad died, he and my mother started dating. It was a big adjustment for me, trying to think of the guy who used to yell at me for putting on makeup in class as the object of my mother's romantic yearnings. I knew intellectually that he was not replacing my father, but emotionally I felt a little bit of betrayal. Anyway, all that's behind me. After all I've been through over the past four years, I'm only concerned with my mother's happiness and, for some reason, Brad (still can't get used to calling him that) makes her very happy.

I'm even getting used to Roxanne. When I met her almost four years ago, she was a bratty, superficial college student who was more concerned with wearing the latest fashions and having rhinestones on her phone than with any serious academic or career pursuits. I thought she was a real lost cause. Today she's...well, she's still kinda bratty and superficial, but she at least has a good job with a public relations firm in DC. She brought along her boyfriend to our cookout. Dark, smoldering good looks and smooth banter. He wore a crisp polo shirt and madras shorts. I wasn't surprised when Roxanne told me he was a lobbyist. Oh well.

Actually, I think I buried the lead.  Brad and my mom decided to get married this weekend! It's going to be a small affair with a few friends in our backyard. They know someone who is one of those Internet-ordained ministers, so he will be officiating. Best of all, my Aunt Trudy is in from Wisconsin. I thought it might be a little weird for my father's sister to watch his wife marry another man, but she and my mom are like sisters now. We had had almost no contact with Aunt Trudy for quite some time, but after my little adventure in the land of cheese a couple years ago, Aunt Trudy has become a regular fixture in our lives, even if it's often through the virtual world of email and Facebook. So she's been here since July 3rd and is hanging around for the wedding and my birthday on the 17th.

Which reminds me, in honor of my birthday, I've planned a little surprise. I'll let you know more about it next week. Now it's back to work. It's funny how people never quite go away when you are in the intelligence business. Once you think a case is closed, some aspect of it resurfaces in another form or fashion. The name Horatio Zaman has popped up again. I wrote about him in my book. He left us a little present and there's some very smart people in Princeton who are looking it over. Since I was the agent on the original case, The Colonel has asked me to work closely with the research people up there. I might be taking a long drive up I-95 in the near future.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Returning With Great News!

Yes, I'm sorry. I ran out on you without a warning. I should have at least left a note. The truth is, after my experience in New Mexico back in the fall of 2011, things got a little complicated. The Colonel gave me a promotion of sorts. No pay raise; just more responsibilities. I was so eager to prove my worthiness, I lost track of the blog. Or maybe I didn't need the blog as much.

You see, when I started the blog in the summer of 2010, I was expressing my frustration, my confusion, my loneliness, all the crazy stuff that was swirling around in my head. The new job was making me crazy. It was like my eighth grade math class. As the school year went by, I became more and more lost. I didn't understand what the teacher was trying to convey to me, but I was too ashamed to say anything. I assumed that I was the only one who didn't get it, although I'm sure at least half the class probably felt the same way I did. The algebra train was moving too fast for me and I wanted it to slow down so I could catch up, but admitting that would make me look stupid.

Then, somewhere around the spring, things started to click in my head. Those equations started to make sense. I was getting it, and my confidence soared. That is sort of what happened after New Mexico. Not to say that I haven't had some challenges. At times, I've questioned whether I could keep going in this job that's like a funhouse built on quicksand. But, as the old song goes, I'm still here.
And that brings me to my good news! I've been writing down my experiences over the years during those slow periods between cases. I've shared some of my work in this blog. Some of my more important cases, like the one in Vermont and the other in New Mexico, are simply too involved to cover here and really deserve their own books. And then there's the cases that are somewhere in between. For those stories, I decided to put them together in a collection I call The Codename: Carla Casebook. It's available now as a book with a real cover and pages with words and everything. Or you can do the electronic thing as well. I've included a few of my early experiences before the blog started, my second run-in with those creatures from Las Vegas, a brief return to the Navy, and my most personally challenging case to date. I hope you'll get a copy and catch up with some of my exploits both old and new. I'll also try to post more to the blog.

Again I really apologize for disappearing, but that's what us agents do sometimes. You can't trust us as far as you can throw us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Country Hoppin'!

The title sounds like a line dance, but it's what I've been up to for the last couple months. Let's see if I can get everyone caught up.

After Geoffrey's death, I took my boss's suggestion and spent a couple weeks in New York with my college roommate Becky (or Becca as she is now known to all her snooty New York friends and colleagues). Since Becky was usually busy with her job as a fashion writer, I spent most of my time alone doing touristy things, like going to museums and shopping. The one outing Becky and I did do together was when she took me along to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.  Fashion was never my thing, but I'm always open to seeing parts of the universe I'm not normally familiar with. To make sure I looked my best, Becky first took me to Bergdorf-Goodman for a quick makeover, then we headed uptown to Lincoln Center. Nothing really exciting happened, except that I met a fairly disagreeable woman there by the name of Vastiana Boatswain. Becky informed me that she was some sort of self-made businesswoman from Seattle. She certainly seemed like a self-made bitch.

Anyway, none of this would have been of any consequence except that, once I got back to work, I discovered that her bodyguard is in our database as a person of interest. I brought this to the attention of my boss, The Colonel, and he thought that maybe I should pursue the lead. This was fine with me since I was going pretty batty hanging around with my mom. No offense to my mother, but I needed a distraction from my thoughts of Geoffrey. At one point, I thought I could exorcise the pain by writing a story about our little adventure in Ocean City, MD last summer, but the writing only enhanced my pain and I abandoned it. Hopefully, I'll be able to share that story, but not right now.

So with a new assignment, I was shipped off to Seattle with a new identity. This time I am Carla Verdugo, a temp working for Ms. Boatswain's labyrinthine corporate empire. The agency got me set up in a nice, little rented house near Holly Park and, when I'm not  grabbing lunch at the Pike Place Market or shopping around Westlake Park, I've been a happy little office drone. Actually, I've managed to befriend Ms. Boatswain's assistant, Hector, so I can get closer to Ms. Boatswain and her imposing bodyguard. It took me several weeks, but I've managed to finagle a plum assignment.

So now I'm dashing this post off before I have to get on Ms. Boatswain's private jet for a business trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Along with the woman herself, I'll be traveling with Hector and the bodyguard. My job is to function as a purchaser of Native American art, but I'm sure this is just a cover for something much bigger. I just need to find out what it is. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Goodbye Geoffrey

I just got back from Geoffrey's funeral. For security reasons, I can't go into details about his death, but I can say that he went out in a dramatic way and he saved hundreds of lives. It all started Labor Day morning when he received an urgent call from Ryan Mayhew. I didn't want him to go, but I knew he had to. This could be the moment we finally shut this nut down. A few hours later, as I was drinking my coffee at the kitchen table, Chester Schifflet came banging on the front door. This did not make sense.

He pretended to be looking for Geof and made some lame story about needing help with a busted radiator. His jittery behavior betrayed him, but I tried to play it cool. Maybe too cool, because as soon as I turned my back, he threw a duffle bag over me and dragged me to his car. After a few hours of torture, he got zero out of me, but I eventually saw my moment and subdued him. I have a few burns and bruises, but I'm still intact. Chester is in a secure location.

Sad to say, Geoffrey wasn't so lucky. I hope to be able to tell his story one day, because his efforts were truly extraordinary, just as I always knew he would be when the moment came. I just prayed it never would. No body was found, but I was able to identify some body parts. These were cremated, as per his will.

The funeral was held in Geoffrey's home town of Richmond, Virginia. I drove his beloved Trans Am down there. I always thought the car was a gaudy, clunky joke, but on the drive down, I felt like I was letting go of an old friend. Well, maybe not a friend, but a tangible memory. A physical remainder of Geoffrey's carefree spirit.

The funeral was very nice, as was his family. They did not know exactly what he did (no relatives of any field agents do), but they knew it was potentially dangerous. Apparently, Geoffrey sought out danger his whole life, whether it was street racing as a teen or becoming a Navy SEAL, he always fed on danger and risk. His parents and sister seemed resigned to the fact that he might end up dead before his time.

His younger brother Tim was the exception. As he was driving me home to Bethesda after the funeral, he unloaded on me. It started when I chose to use the word "selfless" in describing Geoffrey's actions.

“Selfless, eh?" he barked at me. "No disrespect, but I don’t see it that way. It’s exactly what he wanted. To go down in a blaze of glory. Never mind how we felt. I know my parents put on a good show today, but this is killing them. No parents want to see their kids go before they do. It’s one thing if it’s God’s will or something, like a disease or a flood. But to throw yourself into harm’s way…damn show-off.”

I couldn't argue with him. Perhaps he is right. Maybe all of us in this business are a little selfish, seeking thrills we would never experience in ordinary, civilian life. Is it fair to our friends and family? Maybe not. Somebody has to do the dirty work, though, and thankfully there are those who crave the risk. Whatever. I'm too exhausted to think about it.

So I'm back living with my mom again. Poor woman doesn't know what to make of me, especially since she thinks I work for an investment firm setting up branch offices around the country. Surely, I could settle down by now. I have to wear long sleeved blouses for awhile until the wounds heal. That's a bitch with the heat and humidity. In fact, this endless rain we're having in Maryland reflects my whole mood this week. It's like some dark spectre has descended on the whole state.

Worst part is, I'm on administrative leave, so I can even track down the elusive Mr. Mayhew. My boss, affectionately known as The Colonel, shut me down during a debriefing on Tuesday. There I was, practically a year after my last big failure, having to answer for another botched undercover mission. Last time, I was responsible for the death of one of our targets. This time, I was responsible for the death of one of our own. Okay, I wasn't really responsible, but it felt that way nonetheless. The Colonel was surprisingly sympathetic, but he was not going to budge on the imposed R and R. He suggested I contact my old college roommate, Rebecca. She's working in New York now and he thought I should go visit her. It's unbelievably creepy how he knows more about my personal life than I do.

I told him I'd think about it. Might not be a bad idea. Connect with someone from the past. Someone who knew me before the Navy. Before Iraq. Before this cloak and dagger crap. Seems like a million miles away now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Damnation Alley

I have a message for the Carribbean and the Gulf states: We don't send our blizzards down to you; don't send your damn hurricanes up to us!

The last week and a half has been a shaky experience, quite literally! Just as we were hearing the first news on Hurricane Irene heading for the east coast, we get a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rolling up from Richmond, Virginia and sending its shockwaves as far north as Canada. People say they always remember where they were when a earthquake hits, and I can certainly attest that I will never forget my location during this one. I just happened to be sitting on the toilet in Geoffrey's trailer. Not the most expansive bathroom in the world, I was knocked off balance and slammed into the rattling shower doors. I ended up on the floor in a tangle of panties and shorts with one foot wedged between the toilet and the vanity and the other foot between the toilet and the wall. It took me a minute to realize that I had just experienced an earthquake since I had never felt one of this magnitude before. We do get the occasional tremors on the east coast, but nothing like this.

I eventually pulled my dignity back together and hopped on the Interwebs to see what was going on. Turned out everyone was okay and life quickly got back to normal, if you could call my current life normal. The leader of the group we've infiltrated, Ryan Mayhew, has become increasingly more agitated and aggressive. His rants are more vicious and his normal cool is slipping into jittery insecurity and paranoia. Geoffrey tells me not to be too concerned, but I think Ryan is on the tipping point. He's going to make a move very soon. I feel it in my bones. Trouble is, he's extremely tight-lipped about what his plans are. At least, he's tight-lipped with Geoffrey and me, which makes me think he's already on to us. I've been pleading with Geoffrey that we should simply shut this guy down now with what we currently have, but Geoffrey doesn't feel that it is enough.

"We need for him to show his whole hand," Geoffrey tells me. "So far, it's all bluff and bluster."

In the midst of all this tension, Hurricane Irene came knocking on our doorstep last weekend. Given my pensiveness, I decided to head further inland and spend the weekend with my mom. Geoffrey didn't want to leave his trailer, so he stayed behind and toughed it out. The storm was pretty rough even in Bethesda, but no major damage and my mom's power never went out, so we felt pretty lucky. I was a little uncomfortable seeing my mom after such a long separation, but we fell right into our old routines and had a pretty pleasant weekend. The threat of the storm probably made us more tolerant of each other.

The weird part was being away from Geoffrey. He's been my tent pole through this whole assignment (that sounds a little dirty now that I read that over). This was the first time we had been apart in months, and I got the sense that maybe he wanted me to go away for awhile. Perhaps I've been leaning on him too long and he's feeling some strain. When I drove back to Centreville on Monday, I made a silent vow to show more courage in his presence. My first test came when I discovered that he had no power or water.

He said that the storm was a wild ride, but he'd been through worse. Having no power and living on bottled water was a bit of a hardship. He had taken the precaution of filling the bathtub with water ahead of time so we could flush the toilet. By Wednesday afternoon, we finally had power and I could get back to communicating with the outside world.

So here I am, still a little shaken but with clean hair and a clean body and fresh food in the refrigerator. Life should be getting back to normal and I should be looking forward to the Labor Day weekend, but something's still a little off. Something wicked this way comes, I just know it.

P.S. - Kick some Falcon butt tonight Ravens!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Queen of the Trailer Park

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a major crush on a boy who will remain nameless on the very off chance that he might stumble onto this blog. He was a sophomore and a wide receiver on the football team. I was on the gymnastics squad and, in the early part of the school year, we both trained outdoors. My training really suffered because I was forever daydreaming about that beautiful hunk in the tight spandex pants. Of course, there was no chance at all that we would ever hook up. I had my sturdy little gymnast body and he had a girlfriend with much more to offer in the chestal region. God, how I pined over that boy, spilling my guts into my journal night after night.

As the school year progressed, I slowly got over the guy, eventually resigning myself to the fact that it just wouldn't happen. Once I came to that realization, life seemed a whole lot better. I suddenly woke up to all the other things in my life that I enjoyed so much (e.g., my friends, going to the movies, the camraderie of my gymnastics squad, etc.) and got on with life as most teenagers do. I even got asked out to some dances, although the boys were never worth taking seriously. Once I was feeling better, I wrote in my journal less and less, until I finally stopped altogether.

This is my roundabout explanation for why I haven't been posting as much in this blog as I used to. Originally, I needed the blog when I was in Las Vegas, all alone and in over my head with a very strange assignment. When I returned home, I continued out of habit and because I needed to vent about my strange life with my mother. Then I was alone again on my new assignment on the Eastern Shore and feeling pretty depressed.

Fortunately, Geoffrey came along. He is my partner in this assignment and, dare I say it, my partner in personal matters as well. It's amazing how much another person can stabilize you when you are feeling so adrift. Geoffrey's a little older and more experienced in field work, so he gives me confidence. The past few months have been so blissful with him that I haven't felt the need to write lately. In fact, I fear I might be too complacent.

Geoffrey and I have been living in his trailer in Centreville. I gave up my apartment in Chestertown and quit my job at the bar since the commute was more hassle than it was worth. My boss, Prune, was understanding, but I knew he was chagrined to see me go. I think Geoffrey wasn't so keen on me quitting either since it was a good cover, but with our targets living further south, I just didn't see the point in driving up to the bar five or six nights a week.

Also, it's given me more free time to volunteer my services to the home grown terrorist cell we are monitoring. I've been doing research for them on various plots in the works. Our leader, Ryan Mayhew, will not disclose which plot we will eventually put into action or when. He's a master manipulator and paranoid as hell. It's a little creepy to be this close to people like Mayhew, but just like the Vegas job, I've learned to detach my true self from the role. Geoffrey has helped me to hone that skill even more. I hate to entertain the thought but I almost feel like Geoffrey and I could find the right balance of work and personal life.

We managed to get away for about a week on sort of a holiday, although it started out rather strangely. A few days before July 4th, Geoffrey received an odd text from his younger brother who's been spending the summer in Ocean City between semesters in college. His girlfriend had disappeared under mysterious circumstances and he wanted our help. The situation was indeed strange and I think it may be best if I save it for one of my short stories, but the experience shed some light on the bizarre sightings I had of the creatures in the white van. I'm hoping that, after the events in Ocean City, they won't be back to bother me anymore.

Since we were down in Ocean City, we managed to find a vacant room and spent a few extra days there. It was nice to forget about our crazy lives and jobs and just be a couple for awhile. Driving down Coastal Highway in that ridiculous black Trans Am of his, my head resting on Geoffrey's shoulder, I felt like I was in college again with my first real boyfriend and the world was still a brightly wrapped box filled with exciting possibilities.

Now  I'm back in Centreville, playing Carla, Queen of the Trailer Park, but it's fine. I removed the orange streaks from my hair after the Orioles made complete fools of themselves in Boston a couple weeks ago. With the NFL on the verge of signing a new collective bargaining agreement, I'm ready to put Ravens purple in my hair and watch some football!

I also have a birthday coming up this weekend. Never mind how old! I've given up on counting. I'm just looking forward to Geoffrey's surprise for me.