At the time of the proposal, I worked for an eLearning software company based out of a university. During one of our in house training sessions, I noticed one learner was being quite suspicious. I watched this gentleman's actions and computer screen closely; I realized he was trying to tap into the company's private server. Worried about the possible theft of information, I turned the learner's information into computer techs so the system could be checked for malicious activity.
I later told my fiancé, Dustin, about this whole fiasco. 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 that day. 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 had been taking intelligence and counterintelligence classes for his masters, so this news did not really surprise me.
He began 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 nodded 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 to explain 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 that 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 the 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 asked anxiously. We went through the papers and discovered 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 weeklong trip to Paris in four hours (much harder than you think). I continue to drill him with questions, but he seemed to have an answer for everything I asked. 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 called his dad and said, "The Cricket game is on."
We drove a nervous twenty minutes to the airport, trying to figure out a common story to tell anyone we were supposed to visit for Thanksgiving. Dustin said that if we see anyone we know at the airport, we should 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 told me, with a serious look on his face, that we can't open it when other people are around. He said, "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 saw everyone. I was afraid I would say something that I wasn't supposed to, so I stayed quiet for most of the wait.
When we arrived in Atlanta, we hid 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 worked on the code with the article. The mission was for me to identify the suspect that I caught at work trying to break into my company's computer server. This was to be done on the night we arrived, in a certain local area of Paris. Initially, I was a little worried that I wouldn't remember what the gentleman's face looked like. After pondering about it, a clear picture popped into my head. I was confident that 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."
During the flight to Paris I was quite anxious. I tried, but couldn't sleep a wink. We arrived at the airport Monday morning, only to find that the transportation strike was going on that week. Dustin told me not to worry, there was a car waiting for us. Indeed, a chauffeur is standing outside the terminal with a card with our names on it.
Due to the huge amount of traffic from personal vehicles, it took a while for us to reach our hotel. The wait was well worth it. The hotel is beautiful! We could 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 arrived in plenty of time for dinner. I even had a glass of wine to calm my nerves! During the dinner, an artist sat at the next table next to us. We started a conversation; before we knew it he had joined our table and was drawing a sketch of me. Dustin received a phone call and stepped outside. When he returned, he mentioned that "our friends" were running a little behind. Once the portrait was 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 whispered to Dustin, "What if they recognize me first?" I told him, "I got pretty close to the guy during the training, there would be no reason he wouldn't recognize me." Dustin said that we wouldn't get close enough for him to know who we were. We continued to walk wasting time and trying not to look suspicious. He got another call; he informed me that the location has been moved and that we had backup if we needed it. We began making our way to this new location, when Dustin receives another call. After he hung up, he grabbed my arm and turned around. He told me we have to run because they recognized me.
We started running through the random alleys of Paris and he mentioned that there was a safe house at the next block. We got to the door and Dustin keyed in a code for it to unlock. The door opened, and the surreal started to become very real. We slammed the door shut and he told me, "Get away from the windows. I'll be right back. Just stay here." He ran upstairs and knocked on a door. He spoke French to this woman and then called me up. He walked us to another apartment and unlocked the door. We went inside and locked the door behind us. Dustin looked out all the windows and told me to go upstairs to find two briefcases under a bed. One had a gun and the other had a radio. I look up and down the closet, under the bed, and everywhere and these cases are nowhere to be found.
Then, I heard a bang at the door. Dustin ran upstairs and I told him that there were no briefcases. He explains that we have been set up. My heart started to race and I realized this "not so dangerous mission" had become very dangerous. He continued to say, "There are men outside with guns Mel we have to climb out onto the roof." He looked in my eyes and said, "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 opened the huge awning window and I hesitated. He asked what was wrong, and I explained that I had to take shoes off before I climbed out the window. He quickly says, "We don't have time. We have to go NOW."
He got down on one knee and clasped his hand for me to put my foot in for a push. I didn't feel anything. I looked down; Dustin was on one knee with a ring box open. He asked, "Will you marry me?" I was speechless for a moment. I knew I slapped him on the shoulder when it hit me, and then of course breathing heavily I started to cry, my heart still racing. "Yes," I say YES! I pulled him up and kissed him.
He pointed to the window. I walked over and was mesmerized by the rooftops of Paris and a full size view of the Eiffel Tower. It was magical! And that was it, the spy game was off, but we did have an amazing time in Europe for the next week. Eventually, I got the true story of how Dustin had masterminded the most incredible adventure of our lives!