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denylistianto > Eileen Reed - Ground Zero > Part 15
"No, I don't think so." As Atkins nodded and turned to go, Eileen said, "Wait. There is something."

"Sure," Atkins said. "What?" There was no hesitation, no furtive guilt or telltale dampness around the forehead or upper lip. If this plain, st.u.r.dy man was a murderer, he was hiding it very well.

"Why is a clearance so hard to keep? Art just mentioned it to me a few minutes ago, and you told me yesterday if I arrested someone they'd lose their clearance."

"Jeff Blaine told me you were in the military," Atkins said. "Didn't you have to worry about them there?"

"Not really," Eileen said wryly. "You really had to screw up big time to lose your clearance in the Air Force. Drugs, conviction. Arrest wouldn't do it, or every Sat.u.r.day night a dozen airmen would lose their clearances."

"Not in the civilian world," Atkins said. He put his hands in his pockets and leaned a big shoulder against the door frame. "If you get too deep into debt, you're out. They run a credit-card check yearly."

"Who does?"

"The DIA. Defense Intelligence Agency. They do civilian clearances. If you have too much drinking, any drugs, any arrests, any big financial problems, you're out. Still, though, we have those spies like the Walker Ring, or Aldrich Ames. They do a lot of damage, selling secrets."

"I know they do," Eileen said. The hatred against spies ran deep in any pilot or soldier. Eileen knew if she'd had to fight in her plane she'd be going up against technology that was stolen from her own country. There was nothing worse than a spy. Eileen felt that they were the worst of thieves, stealing from a whole country instead of just one person.

"We hate them too, here," Atkins said. He jingled the change thoughtfully in his pocket. "After you play a few War Games and lose, you don't mind the background checks so much. I don't think anyone minded."

"Are those background checks in these folders?" Eileen asked.

Atkins shook his head. "Those are kept at DIA. I suppose you could get them from DIA. I've never seen them, myself, not even my own. I wouldn't want to see them. They get really personal." Atkins looked away, into the Gaming Center, where the screens whispered with their spiderweb pattern, repeating and repeating. His eyes looked sad. "I wonder what happened to her," he said, and Eileen realized Atkins was looking at Terry's door. "I wish I knew."

"Me too," Eileen said. "I appreciate the files."

"Okay," Atkins said. "If you need anything, let me know. I'd appreciate if you'd keep the files with you until you can give them back to me personally. I wouldn't want anyone else seeing them."

"No problem," Eileen said.

After the door swung shut, Eileen sat down with a huge sigh, the folder in her hands. Nothing about Nelson Atkins betrayed anything but the most profound innocence.

She looked at the folder. She could go over that later. Right now, the tape had barely begun. Eileen found the proper b.u.t.ton and p

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