Special Agent Anthony Hutchins faced his Washington D.C. office window. Anyone who knew him, which he prided himself on believing few truly did, would know he was distracted today. He stared at the worn photo he held in his hand, grazing it with his thumb lovingly. It had been a few days since he had taken it out to remember the life he had given up over a decade ago. It still pained him. He ran a finger over the face of the woman in the photo and felt his eyes get tight with unshed tears. The baby she held in her arms was as beautiful as the woman. Perfect. A perfect life he should have known was too good to last.
Anthony pressed the button on his intercom to reply. "Yes, Denise."
"I have the articles you requested. Should I bring them in?"
Anthony opened his desk drawer and returned the picture to its hiding spot. He doubted anyone took the time to go through his desk here at the office, but he trusted no one. Having the picture at all posed a risk at exposing things better left secret.
"Yes, please. The door is unlocked."
He was notorious for being a recluse both at and away from work. When he was in between assignments he remained in his office with the door closed and locked. He ventured out only to go to lunch if he neglected to bring something from home with him in the morning. Occasionally he would be forced into being social with other agents but most learned long ago to leave him alone.
Denise entered and smiled at him. Anthony recognized years ago that Denise's smiles extended beyond professional salutations. He had not given her any hint that he might be interested in her and kept her around because she did not gossip with the other administrative assistants on the floor. She was a pretty woman, younger than he was by at least a dozen years. She was always dressed nicely and today was no exception.
The black dress she wore was simple but had she been going to a dinner party after work would have been appropriate there as well. She had blonde hair that she wore just above her shoulders and was always well kempt. She alternated between glasses and contact lenses. Anthony never knew what made her wear the glasses some days.
He had been tempted a time or two to ask her out for a drink. He was human after a while and contrary to popular belief very much alive. But he could not do it. He would close his eyes and see another woman's face. She was the only woman he would ever love so there was no point in going through the motions with anyone else.
"Thank you, Denise. How are you this morning?" He shifted his coffee cup to the side of his desk blotter to make room for the file folder she held in her hands.
"I'm fine, Agent Hutchins."
"Oh, he's fine, Agent Hutchins, thanks for asking," she said, handing him the folder.
"I'm glad he's doing all right." Anthony was touched by the affection Denise showed her retired greyhound dog. She had been worried about him for the past couple of weeks because he had stopped eating as much as he normally did. Anthony had never had pets, but he knew what it was like to worry about someone you loved and tried to care for. Anthony lived with that concern every day.
"Will there be anything else?"
He glanced at the folder on his desk and ran his fingertips over the front of it. He was not sure he really wanted to look at its contents. "No, thank you, Denise. Hold my calls until I tell you otherwise."
He smiled slightly at her formality. She was the only one who knew he did not care whether he was addressed as Agent, Sir, or just Anthony. She had called him Anthony once, but despite the fact he had not corrected her she never had dropped the formality of Agent or Sir again.
Anthony was not sure how he had gotten such a loyal assistant. Someone must have wanted him happy in this prison of a life forced upon him. That or she was not at all what she seemed to be. Anthony was not stupid and did not think anyone was that good an actress so he chose to believe she was just good at her job and knew nothing about him.
He took a sip of his coffee, wishing it was something stiffer than that and finally mustered the courage to open the file folder. The contents could change his life. He was not sure if that was good or bad yet but he had to know if the people he loved were in trouble. He had kept his curiosities at bay for so long that he had no idea what was in store for him in the folder.