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Black Book Bereaved

by Chris Hoover 2 years ago in investigation
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Behind the Wall

It wasn't long after the passing of Phil that his wife Andrea began to organize all of the things that he had left strewn throughout his basement and workshop. Phil had been a loving husband and great father to their only daughter, and she cherished all the little things that they had shared through the years. As with the passing of any relative there comes the task of going through all their things that must be saved or parted with. Phil loved to tinker in his spare time in the evenings and spent a great deal of long nights in the basement. To which she paid no mind, because he was home, and not out drinking with the guys, just right there at home. What she was about to experience though, would change her forever.

Having gotten through most of the mundane task of choosing which things to throw out and the laborious one of which to keep, she stumbled on a small catch connected to the back of his tool bench. Immediately filled with curiousness, she used the screwdriver on the bench to unclasp the latch. Much to her surprise there was a large hole in the wall just behind the bench which was to her amazement on hinges, so that it could be used as a door. The tunnel that had been carved behind this hole in her basement wall led into a secret room which she had never suspected could have existed under her own home. Not taking long to realize that something was completely wrong with this situation she immediately called her daughter Ashley to come over and inspect this shock find together.

Ashley hurriedly threw what little she needed together to jump in the car and head over to her mothers to find out exactly what was going on. Driving well above her normal comfort level because of the anxiety in her mothers voice she was hurdling across town to help soothe the situation. Arriving quite shortly after she had gotten the call, and moving at a break neck pace into the basement, she came upon her mother, who was too terrified to enter the carved out space alone. A space that had clearly been there for quite some time. Both of them, engulfed with sheer terror at what could be awaiting them at the end of the tunnel, the shaken pair looked to each other as to give a subtle but important facial queue that it's time to go see what this is and why it's there.

Ashley being strong for her mother, grabs Andrea by the hand and simultaneously grabs a flashlight off the bench. She leads her mother into the fairly well kept tunnel, not one you'd think of from Indiana Jones. It spanned about five feet high and three feet wide going back nearly fifteen feet until it reached a larger chamber the size of a child's bedroom full of file cabinets, a desk, and a single lamp. Flipping the switch on to see the contents of the room more clearly, sent chills down each of their spines. For how could this good man have kept such a secret from them their whole lives?

Still in shock, the two began to sift through the file cabinet drawers to ascertain what was so important that it required a secret tunnel and underground room that was only known to him, and it became abundantly clear that Phil had been living a double life. One that he felt necessary to keep from his wife and daughter. The why would reveal itself when Andrea opened the drawer to the desk and found a little black notebook, and an envelope with twenty thousand dollars cash inside.

Amazed at what they had just found the two wide eyed women both sat down at the desk, and Andrea adjusting her glasses began to skim through the pages, unable to decipher the majority of what she was looking at. Handing the book to Ashley who flipped through in bewilderment, she also was unable to discern what it meant. With the exception of one thing that both of them could understand. A phone number, with their area code.

Scared, confused, bewildered, and somewhat frightened, both Ashley and her mother we're stuck in the churn of emotion and racing minds, juxtaposed into a position of vexation. What to do? Call the number? Close it all up and pretend they'd never found it, never to speak of it again? There was no truly correct response in this situation because neither of them were able to grasp at the time what exactly was Phil doing. It was clear enough that he was keeping his secret for a reason but the why remained a mystery. What his wife and daughter could not know and for good reason was that Phil was a code breaker for the CIA and had wanted to shelter his family from any sort of recourse that could have potentially blown back on them. Which was paramount to him as next to his secret, they were the most important thing in the world.

Phil had died from a sudden heart attack and hadn't had a chance to get his affairs in order before his passing, which left a vacuum not only in his personal life for his family members, but for his associates in his field as well. The nights he spent "tinkering" in the basement weren't actually spent on electronics or woodworking. They were spent breaking enemy cypher's to aid in the war on terror. His love of math and code breaking from an early age was simply too much for him to cast aside even though he worked a regular job as a finance manager at a local car dealership, and had a happy marriage and picturesque family. Phil had been recruited directly out of high school for his aptitude and intelligence for pattern recognition and problem solving, but had been told that his work as a civilian contractor for the agency would have to be kept to absolute secrecy, even from his family.

Phil's life was as average as it got from an outside observers perspective. He mowed the lawn on Sunday, Tuesday bowling league, neighborhood cookouts on Saturday's for the game, and always the evening family dinner. However, at night, he could not help himself from delving into the deepest part of himself. The necessity to beat the challenge of breaking another code. He had recently been tasked with a new cypher that was giving the agency trouble, and it had been earmarked for him and several other key code breakers for SIGINT. They needed the actionable intelligence encrypted by this cypher to insure the safety of service members deployed in the field and it was likely that he was going to yet again be the one to solve it as he always had been a leader in the field unbeknownst to anyone but his secret coworkers. Until now.

Armed with nothing but a phone number, Andrea and Ashley decided that to get any semblance of closure as to what was really going on with their beloved husband and father was to see who picked up on the other end of the line. It took the better part of a dozen half dials before Ashley worked up the courage to hit the last digit and wait for the buzz in her ear. After just two rings an older gentlemen picked up the phone and says, "Did you do it?" to which Ashley replied, "No, this isn't Phil, it's his daughter." Resulting in the line immediately going dead. Ashley, knowing now that this was likely someone who her father knew called back again. This time with a different and more surly older gentlemen asking how she had gotten this number and who she was. She state who he father was and that they had come upon this black book that seemed to be very important, important enough to hide from even them. It wasn't 10 minutes later that men in black suits were knocking at the door, with very directed questions as to what materials they had found, instructing them to forget that any of this had ever happened. Having left with the black book, they might have a shot at the cypher. But, with no explanation, and no real closure, the two ladies were left to wonder what exactly it was that Phil was up to all those years. But, at least they had twenty thousand reasons to stay quiet.


About the author

Chris Hoover

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