"What have you got for us, Hanlon?" The woman behind the desk spoke sharply. "Have you learned anything useful?"
Hanlon was perpetually uncomfortable in this office—and it was clearly designed with just that purpose in mind. The simple act of crossing the distance from the door to the desk left him feeling like an intruder into a sacred space. The Director's desk sat atop a dais, so that he had to look up in order to address her, and when she leaned back in her seat, he was forced to address the empty air. There was a large Labelle company seal etched into the Ashford Black Marble of the wall behind the chair, flanked by flags of the United States and the various branches of the armed forces. The room's primary lighting fixtures shone from behind the desk, which made it difficult to read the Director's expression.
"I can't say for sure, ma'am," he replied. "But, of course I'm still not sure what this is really all about."
"You know what you need to know."
"I just had a call from my agent. She's with the target now."
"What records are those?"
"O'Keefe's file. She seems to think O'Keefe spent some time in the military."
"How ever did she discover that?"
"So, it's true, then." He frowned.
"What did you tell her?"
"I gave her the standard line: I told her I could neither confirm nor deny."
"So you had previous knowledge of this?"
"No, ma'am. I had no idea until tonight."
"Why didn't you simply deny it, then?"
"Well, ma'am, as I had no knowledge, I assumed it was something we'd want to look into ourselves before—"
She cut him off, "Are you a complete idiot?"
"Ma'am?" Hanlon stiffened at the Director's reproachful tone. "I know I don't have all the facts, so I didn't want to commit to—"
"You didn't know, because you didn't need to know. You were in a position to deny any such knowledge without being dishonest. Stop trying to think above your pay-grade, Sergeant."
"Yes, the agent, she ...?says she thinks someone else may be watching O'Keefe, and she asked me about a Gary in maintenance—I assume she meant Gary Harold."
"What about him?"
"She wanted to know if we had Harold watching O'Keefe, as well."
"And let me guess ... you told her you could neither confirm nor deny?"
"Fine, then. That will keep her distracted. If you're through, here ..."
"There was one more thing, ma'am."
"Spit it out."
"She asked if I'd heard of a Project called Strange Animal. She seemed to think—"
"I believe it's time we rid ourselves of the woman. Pay her in full, and terminate her contract. She's served her purpose."
"You heard me. Just do it, and be glad you're keeping your own job after this little fiasco."