At the time of the proposal, I worked for an eLearning software company based out of a university. During one of the in house training sessions I realized this one learner was being quite suspicious. I watched this gentleman’s actions and computer screen and realized he was trying to tap into the company’s private server. Worried about possible theft of information, I turned the learner’s information into computer techs so the system could be checked for malicious activity. After telling Dustin, he emphasized that I should contact a much higher up authority in the university to make sure this learner was watched outside of the company. So I did. Even though I didn’t hear anything back from my boss, I assumed that the name was passed up the ladder. And I left it at that.
One Sunday afternoon Dustin and I were taking our time starting the day. In fact, we had planned to go to a movie later. Suddenly there was a bang at the door. Not expecting any visitors we both looked at each other in that "who could that be" sort of way. Dustin ran downstairs to see what it could be. I watched him as he slowing walked up the stairs with a package in his hands. He had an unusual shocked look on his face. Worried, I asked what was wrong and told him that he was scaring me. He took me by the hand and said that we need to sit down. Of course I was frightened by this. He looked me in the eyes and said " You know there are certain things I can’t always tell you about what goes on in the military." I said, "of course." Dustin continued with a very serious look, "Well, I do more than fly for the Air Force". Dustin was taking intelligence and counterintelligence classes for his masters and I could remember the many times of interrogating him about why he choose to study government and military intelligence. So I answered "well it doesn’t surprise me". He begins to explain that his "second job" is not dangerous but that they rarely allow significant others to become involved in knowing what is going on. Trusting everything he said I of course nod my head and proceeded to ask questions about how he got involved. He interrupts and says "the reason this is shocking is that your name is on this package, too." He continues that I am somehow involved with this "operation." He continues to look in my eyes and ask if I am ok with this, truly saying "Are you up for the adventure?" Knowing how much fun we have together all I could say was "yes, of course." Thoughts of the many years to come of secret travels and missions flowed through my mind. The idea was movie-like and I was shocked I was one of the leads. I always knew we would eventually work together but I had no clue it would be so soon and in this kind of way.
So he opens the package and takes out three pieces of paper and two books. The papers consisted of subway routes, a satellite photo, and weather for one week in Paris, France. The books were a French to English Dictionary and a Paris 2008 Tour book. There was also one other document made up of only 5 lines of random numbers and letters . He says, "I guess we’re going to Paris."
To be honest the thought of going to Paris was extremely exciting to me. I could finally see all the wonderful art I read about in Art History class. Again I tried to ask questions. He politely replies "I can’t tell you anything until we get the next package as it will tell me what level of clearance you have." "So when is this next package going to get here?" I ask anxiously. We go through the papers and find that our flight is out of GTR in four hours. Dustin says that due to the amount of time we have at home that more than likely the package will be waiting for us at the airport. We both rush to pack for a week long trip to Paris in four hours (much harder than you think).
I continue to drill him with questions but he seems to have an answer for everything I ask. Dustin’s parents were supposed to come in for Thanksgiving. He tells me we don’t have to worry because you don’t generally get in this business unless you have a family member involved. He calls his dad and says, "The Cricket game is on." We drive a nervous twenty minutes to the airport figuring out the common story to tell anyone we were suppose to visit for Thanksgiving as well as anyone we run into. Dustin says that if we see anyone we know at the airport to tell them we are going to visit a cousin in Atlanta. We arrive at the local airport and find another package with Dustin’s name on it at the ticket desk. Dustin tells me with a serious look that we can’t open it when other people are around. He says "There is a message in this package that will tell us the mission and how much I can tell you about my past." Of course with GTR being so small we see everyone. I am afraid I will say something I wasn’t suppose to so I stay quiet for most of the wait.
We get to Atlanta and hide in an empty terminal to open the package. In the envelope there was an article about universities and the FBI working together to fight terrorism. It all starts to make sense. Dustin works on the code with the article. The mission is for me to identify the suspect from work in a certain local area of Paris the night we arrive. Initially I was a little worried I wouldn’t remember what the gentleman’s face looked like. After pondering about it a clear picture pops in my head. I was confident I could point him out in a small group. The last line of the code said he was free to tell me everything about his past. So of course I started asking questions. Dustin so gracefully tells me "we will have to wait until we are home to talk about anything. You never know who is listening." However, he does feed me some information always having an answer.
During the flight to Paris I was quite anxious. I tried, but couldn’t sleep a wink. We arrive at the airport Monday morning and find out about the transportation strike going on that week. Dustin tells me not to worry, there is a car waiting for us. Indeed, a chauffeur is standing outside the terminal with a card with our names on it and a Mercedes Benz. We make it slowly to the hotel due to the huge amount of traffic from personal vehicles. The hotel is beautiful! We can see the Eiffel tower and the World’s Fair Ferris wheel from our room window. Everything was still so surreal to me. Dustin hurries me up and we are out the door trying to find a taxi. The ride to Montmartre was gut wrenching. I didn’t know how dangerous this mission would be. We arrive in plenty of time for dinner and a glass of vin de table to calm my nerves. During the dinner an artist sits at the next table. We start a conversation and before we know it he has joined our table and is drawing a sketch of me. Dustin receives a phone call and steps outside. When he returns he mentions "our friends" are running a little behind. Once the portrait is done we began to make our way down to the location to identify the suspect. As we are walking I notice a man looking closely at me from afar. I whisper to Dustin "what if they recognize me first?" I tell him that "I got pretty close to the guy during the training, there would be no reason he wouldn’t recognize me." Dustin says we won’t get close enough for him to know who we are.
We continue to walk wasting time and not looking too suspicious ourselves. He gets another call and says the location has been moved and that we have backup if we need it. We make our way and then he receives another call. After he hangs up he grabs my arm and turns around. He tells me we have to run because they recognized me. We started running through the random alleys of Paris and he mentions there is a safe
house at the next block. We get to the door and Dustin keys in a code for it to unlock. The door opens and the surreal is starting to become very real. We slam the door shut and he tells me to "get away from the windows. I’ll be right back. Just stay here" and he runs upstairs and knocks on a door. He speaks French to this woman and then calls me up. He walks us to another apartment and unlocks the door. We go inside and lock the door behind us. Dustin looks out all the windows and tells me to go upstairs and find the two briefcases under the bed. One has a gun and the other has a radio. I look up and down the closet, under the bed, and everywhere and these cases are no where to be found. Then, I hear a bang at the door. Dustin runs up stairs and I tell him there are no briefcases and he says we’ve been set up. My heart starts to race and I realize this not so dangerous mission may become very dangerous. He continues, "There are men outside with guns Mel we have to climb out onto the roof". He looks in my eyes and says "I am so sorry I got you into this. I never wanted to hurt you or put you in danger. I love you so much. I love you!" He opens the huge awning window and I hesitate and he says whats wrong. I tell him I must take off my shoes before I climb out the window. He quickly says we don’t have time. We have to go NOW. SO he gets down on a knee and clasps his hands and I am about to put my shoe in his hands but I don’t feel anything. I look down and there Dustin is on one knee with a ring box open. "Will you marry me?"
I was speechless for a moment. I know I slapped him on the shoulder when it hit me and then of course breathing heavily I start to cry, my heart still racing. Yes I say YES!!!! I pull him up and kiss him. He points to the window and there, over the rooftops of Paris and in full view is the Eiffel tower, sparkling like the new ring on my finger.
And that was it, the spy game was off but we did have an amazing time in Europe for the next week and I finally got the true story of how Dustin had masterminded the most incredible adventure of our lives….at least for now!
Proposal Story by:
West Point, MS