CAUSE AND EFFECT

CHAPTER ONE

by

Sabrina Lonewalker

Kermit Griffin shakily unlocked the door to the apartment he maintained here in Carlsburg and almost staggered in, closing the door behind him quickly. The first thing he did was turn up the heat. Man, he had forgotten just how cold the Northern Steppes of Russia could get in January. He had spent so much time in the Middle East lately that when Paul suggested this assignment, he had jumped at it. Now, he wished that he hadn't taken it, and not just because of the weather.

Kermit walked into the tiny kitchen after tossing his coat and briefcase onto the sofa and made himself a pot of very hot, very strong coffee. As he waited for the coffeemaker to do its job, his hands gripped the edge of the granite countertop, his knuckles turning white.

"Dammnit," He thought, "You really let this one get to you, Griffin. How could you have been so stupid? You let your guard down for one freakin' minute and all hell breaks loose. Maybe you shouldn't be doing this anymore, not if this is what's going to happen." He forced his mind to go back over it all again, to see where exactly it all went so wrong.

It was to have been a fairly simple assignment, according to the briefing Paul gave him. All Kermit had to do was go in, find a certain set of very classified, stolen documents that were extremely secret and then get out, bringing them back home. Simple assignment, right? WRONG! Kermit hadn't counted on meeting her, a young woman named Mariska. She wasn't even involved with what he was after. He had met her at the small coffee shop she worked at, behind the counter. Her dark hair and those dark blue eyes of hers had definitely caught his attention. They had gotten to talking everytime he had come in and they became friends. It was never more than that, cause Kermit knew better.

What had excited him was the day they talked and she told him that her brother worked in the very building he needed to get into. In that conversation, he had learned the various entrances and exits, plus the presence of a highly sophisicated security system. That presented no problem for him, he knew he could get past it. Three nights later, he had penetrated the building and it's systems and had gotten what he was after. Two days after that he was preparing to leave to return home when he stopped to say goodbye to Mariska but she wasn't there. When he asked one of her co-workers where she was, he got a shock.

The police had rounded up her and her entire family because of the theft of some classified documents. Her brother was known to work there and the police believed that she and her brother had worked together to steal the folder in order to sell it as the family desperately needed money. Kermit had left in a daze. 'Strange,' he thought to himself, 'She never mentioned needing cash.' He couldn't help them he knew, not without exposing himself for what he really was. The return of the documents were vital to his government and, more importantly, he couldn't let Paul down, no matter what. It was one of the hardest things that Kermit Griffin had ever done, to walk to the station and board the train that would take him south, to the meeting with the agent who would get him out of Russia.

Once in the train compartment, alone, Kermit sat huddled in a corner. Mariska was a friend and a total innocent, but there was nothing he could do to help her. He knew the techniques the police there would use in their interrogations, hell, he had been through that before himself and he knew she had no chance at all. Hopefully, by the time she mentioned meeting him, if she ever did, he would be long gone and out of the country. He stared out the window at the snowy countryside, not really seeing it as it passed rapidly by.

He finally reached Moscow and his contact. Three hours later, he was on a plane and on his way home. Upon arriving back in Carlsburg, he turned the folder over to Paul, who looked at him keenly, sensing something was wrong, but said nothing, for which the frog was grateful. Kermit had then driven here, to his refuge, his hiding place.

He almost jumped out of his skin as the coffeemaker beeped that it was finished. He then poured a large, steaming mug and took it with him as he moved to his computer setup. He took a long swallow of the hot, inky black fluid, feeling its warmth rush throughout his entire body. The heat in the apartment was helping too, as his bones began to lose that chill that had become a constant, tangible part of him during the past two months. He let out a soft sigh and then sat down. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he called up the screen he wanted. He then proceeded to hack his way into the Russian Police database. What he found made his blood run cold again, in spite of the coffee and the heat from the furnance. Mariska and her entire family had been executed as traitors. He stared at the information on his computer screen, not wanting to believe his own eyes.

"Damn! Dammit all to hell! You can't even complete a simple assignment without getting someone killed, can you Griffin?" He asked himself. He changed clothes, packed a duffle and dashed off a short e-mail. Then, he locked the apartment behind him and, tossing the duffle into the back seat of his green Corvair, he got behind the wheel and just started driving.

He wasn't sure just where he was going or what he would do once he got there, but he knew he had to do get away and wrestle with this himself or he was going to end up doing one of two things, either go completely insane, or he was going to take out his Desert Eagle, put the muzzle into his mouth, pull the freakin' trigger and end it all.

TBC