THE BROKEN HAMILTON I have just come from Jack Bristow’s office. He wanted to thank me for saving Sydney’s life – and his, which he had not had the chance to do before. I’m no hero. The truth is, I was just doing my job. When I helped Sydney and Jack, I still thought of myself as a CIA agent, even though I had just found out that such was not the case at all. That was not Sydney’s fault; I should not have lashed out at her as I did. Now that the initial shock has worn off, I realize that she and Jack were just following orders – and that those orders were given to protect me and my family. Diane does not buy that at all. She has reluctantly accepted my decision to join the real CIA, but I’ll be sleeping on the couch for a while, I think. It’s hard for her; she didn’t sign up for this. She is furious at Sydney and the CIA for not telling me the truth about SD-6. She cannot understand why I would join them when they have betrayed me so badly. I no longer feel that way. As I told Sydney, how do I know I wouldn’t have done the same? Jack is a good man and a fine agent; I’m glad he is all right. He has always treated me with respect, and the look on his face as he thanked me for saving Sydney makes me regret my decision even less. If Diane had seen it, she might understand a little better. The others don’t think less of me because of the circumstances under which I came to be here; they understand. Most of my race have experienced discrimination and even outright hostility in the workplace; I had none of that at SD-6, and do not anticipate any problems here. I won’t claim that I’ve never felt the sting of prejudice; I have. If I walk into a store casually dressed, I have sometimes noticed the clerks watching me closely. And I have twice been pulled over for “driving while black.” But I have found that if I just keep my head, these situations, infuriating as they are, don’t have to get ugly. Of course there are whites who are narrow-minded and stupid, but they have no monopoly on that. And why should I let them bother me when I work with people like Jack and Sydney, who simply treat me as a fellow professional? My father always told me that walking around with a chip on your shoulder is a waste of energy. My father – I finger the small object in my pocket. It is my father’s old Hamilton watch. Jack handed it to me just before I left him, saying that it had been found in my desk at SD-6. If anyone knew racism, my father did. He grew up in the Mississippi delta as a sharecropper’s son. As a small child, he witnessed a lynching. At 18, he simply walked into town one day and bought a Greyhound ticket to Chicago. He was one of about 1 million blacks to move from Mississippi to Chicago between the late 1940s and about 1970. By the time I came along, he was a journeyman bricklayer, and a good one. While growing up, I remember him dressing for church and putting on that Hamilton, buckling its leather strap on his wrist and telling me that no one in the family had ever been able to afford a watch like this before. One day, Marcus, it will be yours, he would say – when you are the first in the family to graduate from college. He did give the watch to me, just as he had promised; but by that time it had a history. In 1965, he was in Selma, Alabama, to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A water cannon knocked him down, breaking his wrist and cracking the crystal on the watch. He never had it repaired; instead, he kept it as a souvenir. On the day I graduated from the University of Illinois, he handed it to me and told me always to remember what it stood for. He died a few years later in an accident at work. Jack smiled when I told him that story, saying that his father, too, had been in Selma – but had escaped with only a few cuts and bruises. Fearing just that sort of violence, Patrick Bristow had not allowed his wife or his 16-year-old son to go along as he had when the three of them joined the march on Washington two years earlier. Sitting down at my desk, I take the watch from my pocket and place it next to the picture of my family. I had not kept a picture of them on my desk at SD-6; I guess I just couldn’t stand the thought of Diane’s eyes accusing me every day. I had always told myself that I was lying to her to protect her and the children, but still it bothered me. Staring at my father’s watch, I know I have made the right decision. I am – and always was – a CIA agent. The fact that I joined SD-6 under false pretenses does not change that. There is nothing else I want to do. It is not about the cloak and dagger stuff; it’s about serving my country. I still believe in that, even after everything that has happened. Diane fears that she cannot deal with being married to a man in such a dangerous profession. But she is stronger than she knows. She will come around. I believe in her and I believe in our marriage. It will take time, but we will get through this. I am here to stay. My father would be proud of me.