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After spending a few days in DC on vacation with her father, Veronica reports in for her 12-week internship at the FBI. As as excited as she is about the program, she feels really guilty about leaving Neptune. Due to Keith’s efforts to keep her out of jail, he lost the election to Vinnie and now faces a possible jail sentence when he returns.
On her very first day, she’s warned by the Assistant Director that the FBI won’t tolerate her usual behavior. Veronica vows to leave her old ways behind and become a true “team player.” But her plans are upended when fellow intern Melanie Phan needs her help to locate a missing FBI laptop. If Melanie doesn’t find it before Monday, she could be kicked out of the program.
Veronica is immediately forced to reconsider her old ways. But isn’t helping a friend the true meaning of being a team player?
This is the first title in a new series about Veronica’s internship with the FBI.
Read the First Chapter
MY first day of school.
I was six years old. Dad was a deputy in the Balboa County Sheriff’s Department, and Mom was still sober.
She had put me in a little green dress with white polka dots. Tied my hair (which was even blonder back then, if you can believe it) up into two pigtails with pink ribbons, so that they sat up off my head and wiggled every time I moved the slightest bit. Pure Cindy Brady.
And yes, I moved a lot. On purpose.
Dad was beaming down at me with that big smile of his. So loving, so approving. I can still see the look on his face. So proud, yet so scared that his baby girl was starting to grow up. Somewhere in the back of his mind, I’m sure he was dreading the day I left home.
I don’t know if these memories are actually my own, or are just from looking at the photos of the event for the past 13 years. Probably a little of both.
I saw that look again at high school graduation, but not so much when I went off to college last year. After all, I was only going to Hearst and still living at home. Not exactly the typical “bolting the nest” experience.
But this was different.
And that’s why Dad had that same sad, beaming smile again that he had in those photos. I could definitely see his mind drifting off to the past.
This time, instead of a little green dress with white polka dots, I was wearing a brand new, crisp dark blue suit and beige, open collar blouse. Instead of pigtails, my hair was pulled back in a sensible, tight pony tail. Every loose lock of hair was carefully fastened in place with a bobby pin. All of which was lovingly and digitally preserved for posterity on Dad’s smart phone.
And instead of going off to school, I was about to spend twelve exhausting, but incredible, weeks doing a paid internship at the FBI’s Operational Technology Division, tucked away in the woods of Quantico, Virginia. The remote location definitely added to the whole clandestine nature of the experience. It was spy school for crime nerds, and I was in pure heaven.
My summer home away from Neptune was a roomy, two-room suite at an extended stay hotel in nearby Stafford (technically, in the Garrisonville area along the northern border of town). Somehow, this suite felt bigger than our apartment and was definitely nicer. The spacious living room of beige walls and natural wood trim had a round table with three chairs, a couch with a small coffee table, and a large flat screen TV. There was also a small kitchenette, a much larger bathroom than we have at home, and a palatial bedroom with two double beds and (wait for it) another big flat screen TV. Even with Dad there, I had plenty of room to stretch out. I couldn’t help but think how cavernous and empty it would feel after he left.
My one beige suit back home didn’t quite cut it, and neither did our bank account. So thanks to the money I’d made working cases at Hearst (courtesy of Dick’s fraternity and other clients, plus some that Dad had to borrow), I also had a whole new FBI-approved wardrobe. The money also went to cover living expenses, rental car, and meals. Good thing it wasn’t an unpaid internship.
Since I was spending my summer on the East coast and Dad (sadly) had some spare time, we decided to make a vacation out of it. We came out early for a fun-filled week touring our nation’s capital. We’d gone non-stop, visiting the monuments to Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson, as many of the Smithsonian museums as we could, the International Spy Museum (of course), and even the Hoover building (double of course).
My favorite excursion was the day we spent at George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon — rescued from imminent deterioration in 1858 and lovingly preserved by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. It’s an amazing tribute not just to the father of our country, but what women can accomplish when men fail to act. No offense, Dad.
The whole time Dad was here we carefully avoided the ginormous elephant that took up the whole of both rooms: that when he returned home, he’d have to hand the keys to the Sheriff’s office over to Vinnie. And possibly face whatever consequences awaited him for trying to keep me out of jail.
Yes, I felt like I was running away and leaving Dad holding the bag. Which was essentially true, no matter how you looked at it.
But Cliff McCormack had assured me that my staying in the program (assuming the FBI didn’t kick me out anyway) would go a long way towards preventing my incarceration.
The entire ordeal was making me question whether or not my natural instincts are always wrong. I wondered if maybe I should pull a Costanza and just always do the opposite.
On the plus side, it put me closer to Piz, who was doing his own internship at Pitchfork Media in New York. Still a few hours away, but obviously much closer than California. We’d already worked out a visitation schedule where we traded back and forth on the weekends, with a few dates slotted to meet halfway in Philadelphia. And then there was always email, texting, and cell phones.
Speaking of the other side of the country, it also put me a healthy distance away from Logan. That was reason enough for both of us.
“Okay, how does this look?” I asked. The question brought Dad back to the present. “And I am not asking if it makes my butt look big,” I added as I turned around and modeled my new look.
“That’s one I wouldn’t answer anyway,” he replied. “You get all the tags off?”
“Yes,” I answered, double-checking my sleeves just to make sure.
“How about the jacket?” he asked.
I turned back around and he shook his head with disapproval. He grabbed the scissors from the dresser and clipped the threads holding the tails together.
“Don’t want you going in there looking like a rookie,” he said with satisfaction.
There was that smile again. I could read every emotion in his face. Just like in those pictures. His little girl was growing up. And she was doing it 2600 miles from home, working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“My daughter the Fed,” he finally uttered, shaking his head, but never losing that smile. “Though I was thinking I might like ‘G-Girl’ better.”
“Maybe if I was wearing a cape,” I replied.
“G-Woman?” he countered.
“Still a little dated, don’t you think?”
“What can I say?” he replied. “I’m a little dated myself.”
“Bogie would certainly approve,” I assured him.
STAFFORD is one of those nondescript towns that could have been anywhere and largely existed out of necessity, thanks to the FBI Academy and the Marine Corps Base. It also has the good fortune of being on I-95 and (theoretically) within an hour’s drive of DC. Most of the residents there work for the government in some fashion. A lucky handful work at Quantico, which is only a twenty-minute drive. But the vast majority of them carpool, ride-share, drive to the nearest Metro station, or whatever else they have to do to brave the horrendous traffic back and forth into DC each day. It’s pretty much the end of the line for people who commute into our nation’s capital.
Luckily for Dad, the hotel was close to a shopping center: complete with a movie theater, park, plenty of stores, and an intriguing selection of fast food and name-brand restaurants. But if you look hard enough, you can find bits and pieces of the small town that it had once been. Those were my favorite parts. Dad, on the other hand, was fascinated by the chains that only exist on the East Coast.
He didn’t want to keep the rental on my first day. But I didn’t feel good about leaving him stranded on his last day in Virginia.
Fortunately, I was able to hitch a ride with one of my fellow interns. Since we were all staying in the same hotel (known around the Bureau as the “unofficial dorm”), I got to meet some of my fellow students before the program started.
My carpool buddy was Melanie Phan, a Finance major from Duke University in North Carolina. To say her parents had high expectations would be an understatement. They made Parker’s parents look like a couple of free-wheelers. But after meeting them, I got a better understanding of why they were so controlling. They’d both been refugees from Vietnam and just wanted her to make the most of the opportunities they risked their lives to provide. When Melanie told me later about some of the things they endured, it made me appreciate the US a whole lot more. We may not have been rich like the Kanes or the Casablancases, but we still had it a lot better than the Phans.
The one caveat to carpooling was that Melanie wanted to leave an hour early. Her parents, not surprisingly, were very big on punctuality.
Okay, make that two caveats. Because even though it was Melanie’s rental, for some reason her parents had insisted that I drive. They were clearly more concerned for her “cocoon of safety” (as Melanie liked to call it) than honoring the actual guidelines of the rental agreement.
Despite living in the US for over twenty years (and the fact that Melanie was born here), they still saw themselves as refugees. And strangers to American culture. I think they took solace in the fact that Melanie had an “American friend“ who knew the ropes.
In my case, perhaps a little too well.
Dad was there to see us off and make sure that we left the parking lot safely. Another promise to Melanie’s parents. I’m not completely sure they realized he wouldn’t be staying the whole twelve weeks. Or even the first. I am sure, though, that they would have stayed themselves if they hadn’t needed to get back to the family restaurant.
“Don’t forget to say hello to Agent Robinson for me,” Dad reminded me for the umpteenth time as we got in the car. Most guys got off on Mrs. Robinson. For Dad, it was Agent.
He’d met Special Agent Charles Robinson ten years ago back when he was still Sheriff in good standing. It was an extortion case involving a struggling actor who foolishly thought he could make a few extra bucks off the Kane family. Dad really liked Agent Robinson and was ecstatic when he found out that I’d be working with him.
“Can’t promise I’ll see him on my first day,” I reminded him, again for the umpteenth time. “But if I do, I’ll tell him.”
We made the short, twenty-minute drive through town, past a smattering of chain stores and middle-class neighborhoods, before heading deep into the surrounding woods. Eventually, we reached the Marine Corps Base. We drove past the rifle range and water tower, then turned up Bureau Parkway to finally reach the security gate where we presented our IDs.
The Marine on guard looked us over carefully and verified us on his tablet. I have to admit my heart stopped for a minute and I wondered if he would actually wave us through. My fear was that Melanie would be allowed in, and I’d be left stranded out by the gate.
I was convinced that my past had to catch up with me at some point. It didn’t help that Professor Landry, who’d recommended me, was on trial for the murder of Mindy O’Dell. And Dean O’Dell, who’d recommended me, had been murdered by Landry’s assistant.
Getting accepted was only the first hurdle. When they started sending FBI agents to Neptune, I was certain I’d never pass the background check. Arrested yes (twice, in fact), but thankfully never convicted.
Not yet anyway.