Adam Fisch Has to Die

Stephen Kroszt arrived near the meeting place first, more than an hour early, but Paige Lissat didn’t know that. It was exactly quarter past nine in the morning when, as arranged, she first jogged past the isolated picnic table located in a remote corner of Washington DC’s 2,000-acre Rock Creek Park. She jogged hundreds of yards up and down the trail past the designated meeting point several times in both directions before Kroszt emerged from the woods. She nearly broke out laughing when she realized that the elderly man shuffling through the fallen leaves toward the table was indeed her former lover.

Kroszt looked nothing like the dashing head of counterintelligence (and one of the youngest members of the elite Special Executive Service) whom she had fallen in love with. Instead, unkempt tufts of gray hair matching a gray beard protruded from beneath his battered fedora. He was wearing a shabby oatmeal-colored tweed jacket, khaki pants, and scuffed walking shoes. Binoculars hung from a strap around his neck, and an olive-green messenger bag was slung over his shoulder. Wire-rimmed glasses and a puffy fake nose completed his camouflage.

In stark contrast, Paige Lissat was wearing form-fitting blue sportswear, her light zipper jacket matching her jogging pants and running shoes. Wraparound sunglasses concealed her eyes in spite of the deep shade in the woods on the overcast autumn morning.

When he neared the table, she stopped jogging and said, “How long were you going to let me run up and down these hills? My pulse must be 200. I haven’t been running in months, not since all this started. I hardly get out anymore.” She leaned against a nearby tree, stretching out her long legs in turn.

He said, “You weren’t followed? I mean, from your house, or at any other point?”

“No, of course not. If I’d been followed, I would have aborted the meeting. I did everything just like you taught me. I parked my car where you told me, and I took a bus to where you left me the bike. I changed outfits three times in three different ladies’ rooms, and I always left by another exit. Don’t worry, I’m clean.”

“Where did you leave the bag with your other clothes? If anybody finds it—“

“I told you I was careful. You know how well you trained me. Haven’t I proven it enough times already?”

“You didn’t bring the burner phone I left at the dead drop? Sorry, no, of course you didn’t.”

Paige briefly turned to face him. “Okay, Stephen, let’s get to it. What’s so important that we had to risk meeting face to face?”

“We’ll get to that. You look terrific as a blonde, by the way.” Kroszt sat on the bench on the side of the picnic table so that he was overlooking the trail, and removed his binoculars and his shoulder bag, placing them in front of him.

She leaned against the tree again and said, “This goddamn wig itches like hell.”

Gazing at her posterior, he said, “Well, I think you look very nice.”

“You, on the other hand, look like a retired GS-11 with a drinking problem. You look like you slept in the woods.”

“I’m out bird watching,” Kroszt explained. “You can check my notebook, and my camera.”

“I’m sure. Cover for action.”

“Right on; tradecraft 101. Oh, Paige, I wish I could hold you, and kiss you, it’s been so long…”

“Don’t even think about it, grandpa.” Lissat put one hand on the tree and grabbed an ankle behind her with the other, pulling it upward and bowing her back.

Kroszt continued staring at her and said, “It’s been so hard, not being with you for all this time. After everything that’s happened, you’re still the only one I can really trust. Oh my God, how did it all go so wrong? It was the most important case of our lives! We were going to save the country from that fucking idiot, and now it’s all a complete shambles.”

“We were a good team, Stephen. A very good team. God knows we did the best we could. Nobody could have predicted that loathsome creature was going to win the election in spite of all we did to stop him.”

Kroszt said, “But once he did win, we should have just walked away from it. We should have just stayed at headquarters, and worked from inside. Oh my God, why did I let Wiseman talk me into joining the Mullet team? In the end, there was no ‘there, there.’ Just as I’d feared.”

“Wiseman is a snake,” Lissat hissed. “If anybody gets out of this clean, it’ll be him. He’s already back at his old firm, pulling down half a mill a year.” Still facing the tree, she extended her arms and twisted her torso at her hips, maintaining her cover as a park jogger.

He said, “They take care of their own, I’ll say that for them. Not like us, hiding in the woods like a couple of fugitives. Nobody will hire me; hell, nobody will even return my emails! I’m a complete pariah. Let’s face it, we’re both screwed.”

Paige Lissat said, “There’s still the impeachment inquiry. Adam Fisch—”

“Adam Fisch hasn’t got squat! He’s holding deuces face down and calling them aces, just like he did during the Mullet probe, and we both know how that turned out. Once he’s forced to show his cards in front of the full Congress, it’s going to be another disaster. It’s going to be even worse than the Mullet hearing. And we’re running out of time—Hardum is going to be dropping indictments any week now. And William Rabb will be standing right next to him in front of the cameras. Let’s face it, Paige, if things continue on this track, we’re both screwed.”

She turned away from the tree to finally face him and said, “Stephen, I don’t want to go to prison.”

“Nobody ever does. Hey, Brannigan told me that McDare has flipped.”

“Randy? No way! I thought he was going to stick to the script to the bitter end. ‘Never give up the con,’ that’s what he always said, right? Wait—you’re in touch with Brannigan? How?”

“Paige, Paige… you know I can’t get into that.”

“Shit. Shit! First Klepper, now McDare. What about Rosenblatt?”

“Ron was always working both sides. I take it as a given he’s been cooperating with Hardum all along. Hell, he was willing to wear a wire into the Oval Office, so I assume that he’s been recording everybody since day one. That weasel is only out to save his own neck.”

“While we were trying to save the country from that menace.”

“Yeah. And now we’re left out in the cold. The fall guys.”

“What about Homey?” she asked.

“The Pope? Homey’s so far out in La-la-land that he actually believes everything he ever said. He could pass a polygraph no sweat. He’ll never flip. His ‘higher loyalty,’ and all that garbage—it’s amazing how delusional he is.”

Lissat said, “If it hadn’t been for Homey, we’d have never gotten involved in the first place. Homey and McDare.”

“That’s all water under the bridge. But it was Brannigan who planted the seeds and set everything in motion. Brannigan, with Klepper as his willing stooge. And then Homey, the true believer, and then it just rolled downhill from there to us.”

“I still can’t believe it’s come to this. Stephen, we’re fucked! And I don’t want to go to prison!” She sat down across the table from him and dropped her head into her hands, breathing deeply.

When she looked up again, Kroszt said, “There’s still one more play that can save us. Paige, do you still trust me? Really trust me? You used to say that I had a brilliant mind, that I had an uncanny ability to see the future. Well, I see both of us in orange jump suits if we don’t take active measures ASAP.”

“I don’t understand. You mean like another insurance policy? Isn’t it too late for that?”

“No,” he said softly, staring at what he could see of her face, her eyes still hidden behind her sunglasses and her fake blonde bangs. “Not an insurance policy, not this time. I’m talking about active measures. Going kinetic. Impeachment is going to be another dry hole, no matter how our friends in the media are spinning it. Hardum’s DoJ train is going to beat the impeachment train into the station, and Fisch has nothing anyway. But that doesn’t mean we’re completely out of moves. Adam Fisch can still serve a useful purpose.”

Lissat shook her head dismissively. “Adam Fisch is an idiot, a real douche, we both know that. A useful idiot and a reliable team player, but still an idiot. How can Fisch possibly help us?”

Kroszt paused, and then answered, “He can help us by… dying. Or, to be more specific, by getting himself killed.”

“Fisch? K-killed?”

“Yes, killed. But not by just anybody.”

“Stephen, what are you talking about?”

“Adam Fisch has to be killed by a Prumt supporter. You said that I could see the future? Well, this is what I see if Fisch is killed by a Prumt-loving smelly Walmart hillbilly: his assassination will absolutely flip the narrative in our favor. Poor Adam Fisch will become an instant martyr, murdered while he was searching for truth and justice against the evil forces of Harold Prumt. By the next day’s news cycle, people will think that Prumt pulled the trigger himself. The new narrative will write itself: ‘Harold Prumt was so afraid of being impeached, that he sent out dog whistles calling for Fisch to be assassinated.’ The Fisch assassination will totally derail Hardum’s investigation. Fisch will lie in state under the Capitol dome; it’ll be glorious. That moron will be more use to us dead than alive. In a very real sense, his murder will be the final article of impeachment; it’ll seal the deal. Then, in the passion of the moment, we’ll get at least twenty Republicans to vote to convict… and we’ll finally be able to drag Harold Prumt out of the White House.”

“But that just means Spence will become president—”

“Yes, but not for long. Don’t worry about Spence, he’s a realist. We can work with Spence, he’ll get the picture. Then, come November, the heroic Admiral Crowhurst will be elected to save the republic. Crowhurst will fire Rabb, shut down the Hardum investigation—and we’re back to business as usual.”

Admiral Crowhurst?

“It’s all set. Crowhurst is very close to the Klantons. Brannigan says it’s going to happen at the convention. We just need to force Prumt out of the White House before November.”

Paige Lissat’s mouth was agape. After a few moments she murmured, “Stephen, I’m speechless. The sheer agility of your mind! But can all this really happen?”

“We have Fisch’s schedule and his movements down to the minute and the meter. It’ll be no problem beating his security, we just need to get a patsy into AR-15 range; a couple hundred yards. But that’s not the problem. The problem is finding the right patsy. It can’t be just anybody; it has to be a Prumt supporter.”

“Stephen, I still don’t understand what you’re saying. Kill Adam Fisch?

“Damn straight. To save the country from the menace of Harold Prumt, Adam Fisch has to die. At this point, it’s the only play bold enough to save us, and save the country. But I can’t do it without your help. That’s why I asked you to meet me here. The shooter—I mean—the patsy, he has to have a connection to Prumt. Been to a rally, worn a MAGA hat, something like that.”

“But what does that have to do with me? I don’t understand.”

“Paige, a few years ago at a Christmas party, you introduced me to a professor; sociology, history, I can’t remember which. Georgetown, AU, it doesn’t matter. You both implied that he was a talent spotter for the agency. You said he lives in your neighborhood, right? Later, you told me that he had a sideline hobby of weaponizing psychos. He’d ask his students to tell stories about the craziest people they ever met, just sort of casually, but then he’d track them down and befriend them, and plant his own ideas in their heads. You said that he told you that he’d actually done it, turned lunatics into human weapons.”

“I remember the party, and I still know the professor, he still lives there, but I never really believed him about that part. I thought he was full of shit, actually. Sort of a Professor Munchhausen, trying to impress me with his tall tales. Taking credit for what a few psychos had done on their own.”

Kroszt replied, “That’s not how I remember it. You seemed pretty sure about him, back then.”

“Maybe… maybe you’re right. Maybe it could happen that way… maybe. But I just don’t know about all this. Kill Adam Fisch? Are you serious?

“Adam Fisch has to die. You just have to contact the professor, and convince him to produce a plausible patsy. He knows you, he’ll trust you. He still lives near you, right? I’m sure he has some possible candidates on his list. I’ll take it from there. The patsy doesn’t even have to pull the trigger, he just has to be stashed nearby. It’ll be an AR-15 with a scope, so the patsy just needs to be in the same building. We’ll choreograph the rest.”

“An AR-15… that’s a nice touch. Very nice. Smart. That’ll be worth a lot for selling the new narrative.”

Kroszt said, “The patsy doesn’t even need to own a gun, we’ll take care of that too. It’ll be a ghost-gun with no serial number; what they call a ‘milled-lower.’ That’ll be even better than if it was one he’d bought on his own. It’ll look like an ongoing MAGA gun-nut conspiracy, with more shooters still out there. It’ll cause a total panic, and that’ll work in our favor too.”

“You’re really sure about this? You actually want to have Adam Fisch killed?”

“To save the country, Fisch has to be assassinated. And it has to be blamed on Harold Prumt.”

Lissat stared across the table at her former lover, then said, “Stephen, if we set this plan in motion, and if it goes wrong, it’ll mean our necks. Yours and mine. As it is, you’re looking at maybe five to ten, and I’m looking at three to five. We’re still pretty young. We can survive it, we can outlast it. But this… this is… this is murder.”

“Paige, this is about saving our country, and saving ourselves. So Adam Fisch has to die.”