Old Growth & Ivy (The Spook Hills Trilogy Book 1)

BOOK: Old Growth & Ivy (The Spook Hills Trilogy Book 1)
12.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub







Growth & Ivy


Jayne Menard



Old Growth and Ivy

Jayne Menard




Copyright 2015 © by Jayne B.
Menard.  All rights reserved.  This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced
in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise – without the
express prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United
States of America copyright law.


Standard Book Number



This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, cases, places, events and incidents are either the products of the
author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental





appreciation to my friends and family who supported my endeavors in writing
this book, through encouragement, inputs and editing.  My special
gratitude to my niece, Cindy, for her never-failing enthusiasm for this project
and for her insightful editing.



If you think a career as an FBI agent
is like watching a Hollywood action movie with lots of gadgets, spicy seduction
scenes, and constant field action, then you should think again.  In our
electronic age, an FBI field agent can spend hours, days, weeks, and even months
of desk time seeking the hard evidence that will break a case open.  The
work is often tedious, stressful, and intellectually frustrating.  You
spend years building your skills, only to find that your reputation is based on
the results of your last case.  Your life is on the line when you make an
arrest or a vindictive perpetrator sends his hit men after you.  Mostly
your life as an agent is so demanding that you have little time for a personal
life, not if you want to be the best at what you do. 

The Bureau gives you a place to
belong, although it can also become a place to hide from yourself and your
emotions.  I know because I was a federal agent for over 35 years.  I
have heard it said that my case success rate was exemplary.  Working on
Bureau matters damn near took my life now and again, both physically and
personally.  Don't get me wrong -- the FBI is the best.  My career
was challenging and satisfying.  However it was not enough.  This
story is about finding the neglected parts of my life.

  Steven J. Nielsen

Executive Field Director, Retired

Complex International Cases

  Federal Bureau of Investigation

March 1, 2014



At 7:15 in the morning Ivy Littleton
tore out of the driveway of her home nestled in the hills over Portland,
Oregon, turned left and zoomed along the street towards downtown where the
offices of her company were located.  She did not own the company but she
ran her business unit of 100 people as if she did.  She had been finishing
up her usual morning routine when their receptionist called sounding
rattled.  Three FBI agents were in the lobby waiting to see her.  Ivy
knew this could not be good.  Usually she liked Mondays.  It was the
one day of the work week when she felt recharged.  She had just three more
months of work ahead.  Her replacement has been identified and by the end
of the year, Ivy would be retired.  Soon this sort of panic at the office
would be some other executive’s problem.

As her SUV sped down the long hill
where trees were beginning to show the golden edges of warming fall colors, she
checked her appearance in the mirror.  She knew that despite her advancing
years, she was still an attractive woman, well-toned, with a vast amount of
silver-streaked black hair that curled and twined no matter how she fought to
tame it.  Her hair was the one part of her that still had the energy to
bounce along through her long days at the office.  Ivy was 62 with a long,
creditable career, working her way up from a college student with a load of
student loans to her executive position. 

Ivy pushed a tendril of hair back that
escaped the quick upsweep she attempted that morning, turned into the
underground parking lot at her office building with a squeal of tires and
parked, bouncing against the curb.  Grabbing her briefcase, she jumped out
of the car and ran to the elevator to the main lobby.  As she strode past
the building security desk, the guard told her that she had three visitors
waiting upstairs.  She thanked him, hurrying to the main elevator and

Part of what kept her motivated was
that on any day when she opened the door to their large suite of offices, she
never knew what might happen, between clients, prospects, employees and their
corporate owners.  She was unsure what would be worse: a visit from the
IRS, the DEA or the FBI.  The CIA might be worse.  She forced her
shoulders down and back, tilted her head up, and assumed a calm expression. 
Whatever happened, she knew of nothing wrong that their company might have done
in assisting companies and banks to comply with government regulations. 
In any case, she would not let the FBI agents see that she was flustered. 
Clearly they wanted to catch her off-guard by arriving unannounced so early in
the day.

Ivy stepped out of the elevator,
smoothed down her jacket, walked briskly over and opened the glass door to
their reception area where three men in ominously dark suits were
waiting.  One was pacing and swung mid-stride to face her.  Even
though Ivy was six feet tall, she had to tilt her head up to look him in the
eyes.  He had to be six and a half feet and substantial, yet he looked
trim, fit and about her age, with broad shoulders, a flat stomach and strong
hips.  He reminded her of a mighty giant sequoia which had needles with
thick, sharp points and rough, stringy bark.  Ivy tended to classify men
as trees and the results were only sometimes flattering.  Ivy sucked in
her abs, resettled her shoulders and forced herself to retain a calm, friendly

“Steve Nielsen.  FBI,” the big
man said without preamble.  “You run this operation?”

“Ivy Littleton, the executive in
charge.”  She held out her hand.

He reached out and took it.  His
handshake was firm and brisk and his skin was dry, but not rough.  His
fingers lingered on hers for a moment causing an unexpected sense of
warmth.  She kept her eyes fixed on his.  No way was she losing a
stare-down with this brusque man.  If he wanted to intimidate her, he
would find that she did not give ground easily.

“May I see some ID?” Ivy forced her
voice to be crisp and professional.

She looked at the big man’s badge –
Nielsen, she said to herself.  Steve Nielsen.  Then she met the other
two agents, checking their credentials also -- Agents Brian Tovey and Michael
O’Leary, although he called himself Moll.

“What brings you here?”

“A court order for certain banking
information in your possession.” 

Nielsen had such a deep voice that the
words came out in a low feral rumble as a warning not to mess with him. 
Three federal agents and a court order.  Ivy knew this was going to be one
heck of a day. 

“Let’s go to my office,” she said,
turning towards the door to enter their suite of offices.  As she ushered
the men down the hallway, her mind was racing to devise a plan to handle the
situation.  She settled the agents in her office and then buzzed her
assistant for a coffee tray. 

Nielsen looked impatient.  “This
is not a social call.”

She smiled at him, feeling that errant
curl slide against her cheek.  “I am sure we all will work better if
properly fueled.  Now, could I please see this court order?” 

He clicked open his briefcase, took
out a folder and handed a short document to her.  Ivy read it
quickly.  The order requested that all data and any related documents
received from three of her banking clients be turned over immediately to the
FBI for analysis in conjunction with a case related to human trafficking. 

“Why come here?  We only examine
specific time periods of data for our clients to assess compliance with banking
regulations.  You could obtain a much broader spectrum of data from each

Nielsen glared at her.  “The why
is not
  We have a court order and we
want the data now.”

She glanced down at the business card
he had tossed on her desk, looking for his title.  “Director Nielsen.”

“Just Agent Nielsen, Ms. Littleton.”

“Agent Nielsen, you must understand
that we take care to safeguard the client information entrusted with us. I must
verify that you are indeed FBI.  I need to confer with our legal counsel
and obtain a certified copy of this document directly from the Court to ensure
it is bona fide.  You have clearly given me a copy.  We also must examine
this request in the context of our contractual obligations to our clients,
where we are required to protect the confidentiality of their data.”

“We need the data now.  The court
order specifies the immediacy of the timeline.”

“I will call our Internal Counsel to
start the ball rolling,” Ivy said firmly.

Her assistant came in with a tray of
coffee, cutely supplying the three federal agents with bright white corporate
logo coffee mugs, and asking if they would rather have tea, water or soft drinks. 
She included a plate of buttery shortbread cookies from the stash they always
kept for guests.  Ivy thanked her and requested that she clear a meeting
room for the three visitors, then she swiveled in her chair, put the court
order in her desktop printer/scanner and emailed a copy to Corporate. 

Ivy invited the agents to have coffee
while she dialed the phone, luckily reaching the man who served as their
internal counsel after only a short delay.  She explained the situation
and asked how to verify that the men were federal agents.  Their three
cards were spread out on her desk.  As she talked, she scanned in the
agents’ cards and sent them off to the attorney.  While the attorney read
through the emailed court order, Ivy watched the three agents.

The two younger men were good-looking,
in their late thirties, fit and well-dressed.  Each seemed more agreeable
than their big, pushy friend, who was clearly the hard-driver of the
group.  She noticed that none of them wore wedding rings.  Ivy would
never call the one named Nielsen handsome, although he did have a rugged
appeal, silvered hair that was only slightly thinning, and intense, gray-blue
eyes.  Despite his demanding manner, Ivy felt a physical reaction to him
that tingled along her torso.  She noticed that notwithstanding his
grumblings, he quickly tucked into the cookies and coffee, lacing his with
sugar and cream.

The attorney came back on.  “How
long will it take to give them a working copy of the data and files?”

“Just a few hours.”

“That all?  Here’s the way I see
it.  We could go to the Court and delay the process and then wind up in
the same place we are now or we can comply at this time.  I would prefer
that we get it done while you are still there.”

“Understand.  What’s next?”

“To be safe, I have to consult with
our external attorney firm that has more experience with these situations than
I do.  Send me a copy of the contracts for each of the banks and any other
agreements we have with them, particularly as related to safeguarding their data.”

“How long will that take?  The
agents have impressed upon me the urgency of this request.”  Ivy was
tucking the wayward lock of her hair back again when another one popped out on
the other side.

“Gathered time was of the essence from
the Court Order.  I will call you back later this morning.  In the
meantime, keep them away from your staff, see if they will sign our standard
confidentiality agreement, and have your folks prep the data.  Don’t let
them take any data or files offsite or even download them.  Setup server
space for them and demand they work onsite.  I’ll draw up a quick
agreement.  They may not sign any documents.  After all, they are the

“Got it.”

“What a way to start the week.  I
hope they are at least good eye candy.”

Ivy had to smile.  “Yes, I am
lucky there.”

“Wish I were in Portland today to have
a look -- back to you as soon as I can.”

Ivy put the phone back in its charging
slot, stood up from her desk and went to pour herself some coffee.

“It will take some time to do the
necessary research on our obligations and conflicts.”

“Time we don’t have,” Nielsen barked
at her.  He jumped up and moved closer, as if to coerce her into faster
action by his sheer size.

Ivy put her hands on her hips, but she
did not step back.  “Agent Nielsen.  I have dropped everything to
address you and your court order. I am being cooperative, not obstructive.”

One of the other agents nodded. 
Ivy thought he was the one named Brian.  He had warm brown eyes that
showed a hint of amusement at the confrontation in front of him. 

“Is there someplace we can work in the
meantime?” he asked.

The big agent looked over his shoulder
and glared at him. 

“My assistant will show you to a

“I am not leaving your office until we
have the data,” said Agent Nielsen.

“For all three of you, please do not
talk to my staff.  I do not want them rattled.”

“And we do not want the banks tipped

“Now, Mr., I mean Agent Nielsen, I am
going to meet with a couple of my technicians.”

“Great. I will listen in.”

Ivy inhaled deeply.  “I am going
to tell them that you are here at my request to perform an audit of our data
handling practices.  The FBI is offering this new service to companies
handling sensitive information.  Got it?”

He regarded her for a moment. 
“Works for me.  We don’t want the real reason getting back to the banks.”

For the next half-hour, Ivy met with
her technicians, spelling out what data she wanted, its exact source and how
she wanted access set up for the three agents.  Nielsen listened intently
but stayed quiet.

After they left, she said to him, “You
will only access the data on-site for analytical purposes.  You will not
download it or take a copy.”

“If we find what we’re after, we will
need to produce evidence in Court.”

“At that point, I suggest that you
obtain the data directly from the banks.”

“And if for some reason, we
can’t.  Then what?”

“We will make a secure copy.  It
will be turned over to our legal counsel for safekeeping and your requests may
go there directly.”

She watched the big agent considering
that option and let out a sigh of relief at finding that he had a reasonable
side, when he said, “We can live with that.”

She pulled out a big chart and placed
it on the table in her office.  It showed how the data flowed from clients
into her company.  She explained where the original source data from the
banks was stored and then began to explain how they did their analysis work.

Nielsen leaned over closer and pointed
about a dozen steps down in the chart.  “I want copies of this version

While Ivy was impressed by his quick
comprehension of the complex chart, what he was requesting was outside the
scope of the Court Order.  His closeness was unnerving, especially as he
seemed to be sniffing her perfume.  She stepped a little to the side. 

“That data has been manipulated by my
staff.  There is a risk it could have been altered.”

“I’m interested in the notes on their

“Some of which are speculative –
interim thoughts.”

BOOK: Old Growth & Ivy (The Spook Hills Trilogy Book 1)
12.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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