Feeling the sticky briny humidity fill her lungs couldn’t have come at a crueler time. There in D’s mind, on that sandy beach, holding the only person she ever loved like a grandmother, leaning over her lifeless body, D also died a little. The blood that soaked the dead woman’s clothes now covered D like paint and the gun that did the killing lay nearby. Yanked harshly in to such a vivid memory of her beloved Treeny was unexpected; however, gaping at the black holstered guns on the Citizen Control Agent’s hip, nestled in to his persona like a limb is what pulled her backwards to long ago.
The death of Treeny was a stretch in time on what felt like an eternity, yet D remembered it like it happened yesterday. A memory far behind her and had nothing to do with what was about to hatch open like the stink of a bad egg. What you don’t know can hurt you, at least in this game and what D didn’t know before today, was handcuffs hurt. ‘I’m pretty much screwed,’ floated across her mind.
‘This day was unusual compared to most of the agent’s usual days,’ she thought. The cold sterile environment they were used to interviewing suspects in now deemed appropriate. With months of compiling evidence and chasing down leads glaring them in the face, they hoped the case would break wide open.
Agent Billy Hinkle entered the room and gave Agent Banks a piece of paper. D already knew what it read as she glanced down at the black dried inky substance on her fingertips, that they had no finger print match for her. Agent Hinkle was simple; she could read his every thought. Billy Hinkle was young, new at this job, and quite handsome in his CCD uniform. He was younger than lead agent Colin Banks standing next to him, albeit not by much, a few years perhaps. Newbie Agent Billy Hinkle knew he was inexperienced and didn’t believe he deserved the position he had been given.
She sat there watching Agent Hinkle’s movements with one question, ‘Why can’t I read your partner’s mind’.
They knew nothing about her other than the fake name on her passport, Stella Stevens. Not even what her voice sounded like. To them this strange girl definitely fit the description of an easy suspect that should be willing to talk or make some kind of a deal. She looked more like collateral damage for people the agents thought she was associated with in their surveillance.
Today D donned short messy orange hair, a purple streak through her bangs, black painted lips that remained closed with a small silver ball pinned to her lower lip. Her big oversize sunglasses sat on the cold metal table, and the black and white plaid trench coat she was wearing now lay over the back of her chair. She had no idea where her umbrella had gone, lost to the jumbled mess that happened when agent Banks slapped the handcuffs on her. The handcuffs that bound her wrists rested on her lap and tightened severely. She only shifted her head side to side to move the short purple and orange strands that fell in front of her eyes. She glanced now and then at the opened metal briefcase sitting on the edge of the table the two agents kept referring to in their questioning. A briefcase filled with a fake passport, thousands of dollars, a bankbook to an offshore account, and a pair of cheap lime green flip-flops.
Banks and Hinkle left D in the interrogation area walking to the attached room to quietly watch her actions behind the two-way mirror. To their surprise, there were many agents crammed in the small room watching this young suspect give agents Colin Banks and Billy Hinkle the silent treatment.
Banks eyes narrowed to slits, annoyed, he snapped at them, “Don’t you agents have real work to be doing?”
One older agent snarked, “Yes, but we like to see beloved pet agents get owned by a teenage punk.”
“We aren’t owned,” the young agent Hinkle responded, then leaned in and asked his partner, “She in’t owning us, right?”
Banks clinched his fists tightly trying to ignore them, and focused on his suspect’s behavior through the mirror.
No need to be a mind reader here, it was obvious who the leader of this CCD duo was. The two agents interviewing her were visibly different.
There was a reason Banks was the lead agent, Hinkle was no doubt a rookie.
She glanced at the enormous two-way mirror and immediately agent Hinkle’s thoughts flashed across her mind like a billboard sign.
‘Surely, the suspect has no idea of all of us watching her? Absurd, there is no way she can read our minds, although, she certainly looks like she is reading us,’ he thought.
D smiled at agent Hinkle through the mirror and winked, of course, she couldn’t see him physically, but his thoughts drew attention to him as loud as a train. This bizarre action of hers completely catches Hinkle off guard and he choked trying to hide his shock.
Reviewing the room they had her in, D was impressed with the CCD’s operation. To her it was getting interesting, although she never intended for it to get this far. Even though she worked for the government, she was a covert weapon few people knew existed. Her usual routine had not worked with agent Banks this morning and still having a trump card to throw down; she contemplated on how to accomplish this strategy. The longer she sat there the more detailed the questions were getting, not that it mattered, D wasn’t about to talk but she still didn’t like it. Why couldn’t she read agent Banks? This wasn’t the first time this has happened but it was the first time since she was on Trellis, which seemed like forever ago.
Remembering back to earlier in the day and how D wound up in the room with the agents baffled her. It was supposed to be an easy flight out of Washington but then- the wind gushed by, the glass doors of the airport terminal opened, the security dog got out of a guards grasp, and she found herself pinned against the cab door. All of this happened at the same time Agent Banks was headed in the airport on completely unrelated business. D dropped the briefcase and money spilled out on the sidewalk and that was the end of her quick trip. She couldn’t get out of Agent Banks’ detention. She knew the money looked suspicious, she wasn’t dumb, she was just a bit sloppy this time. All she needed was an opportunity to get away from him. That opportunity never came and now she was being questioned on a money-laundering scheme. Sure, she did know a little about it and she wanted to help, but not this way. She wanted to help on her terms, not the arrogant agent’s terms in front of her.
They watched the suspect as she glanced around the small room she was being held in and to their surprise, an unauthorized agent entered the room with a soda and candy bar placing it in front of her. She nodded in appreciation at the agent and he smiled back.
Banks and Hinkle watched with their mouths gapped opened in stunned silence.
“What… in… the… world…” Agent Banks uttered slowly.
D tore the wrapping off the top of the candy bar and popped the top on the soda, then she lifted her hands up with the big clunky handcuffs and motioned towards the mirror for the men to come back in the room. This was the most interaction she had initiated with either of them. Both men looked incensed at one another because of their young suspect’s boldness. The other agents in the small room erupted in cackled laughter. This young peculiar girl made Banks and Hinkle look like clowns. Not the type of clowns that were fun and jovial but the clowns that were beaten down by life with dry riverbed makeup packed on their angry faces.
Banks and Hinkle headed back to make their suspect talk and ran in to the agent that just gave their suspect candy and soda.
“Agent Ramirez, what would possess you to give our suspect,” Banks paused looking for the right words.
Agent Hinkle completed his thoughts, “Treats? Why would you give her a treat?”
Agent Ramirez looked at them both in a daze, and spoke confused, “Treats? I am picking up reports from the Chief. The only,” he paused before he used the odd word, “The only treats I have are on my desk.”
Banks squinted his eyes at the agent studying his face, and asked, “A soda and a candy bar by any chance?”
Agent Ramirez looked confusingly at Agent Banks and answered, “Yes. A candy bar and a soda.”
“Why would you share them with my suspect?”
Then Ramirez grabbed his large belly and shook it, “Do I look like I share treats?”
Banks sighed and then replied, “Just go. I don’t have time for your games. But this incident of interfering with my suspect will be in my report.”
“I DIDN”T GIVE ANYONE ANYTHING!” Ramirez shouted stepping closer to Banks until they were toe to toe.
Banks however was not intimidated and moved so close to Ramirez till the tips of their noses were close to touching, he spoke in a low even tone, “I will have some nice poster size pictures of the incident plastered in your office before the end of the day.”
Ramirez’s shoulders slumped downwards shaking his head as he turned away from Banks he muttered some profanity pleading his innocence as he slunk back to his office. When Ramirez returns to his office though, he will find his afternoon treats- gone. His soda and candy bar nowhere to be found in the small room. Scratching his head, sitting back in his chair he muttered, “This day has gone south. Where in the world did my snacks go?” Truly, he had no idea.
When the men came in the room D had taken one bite of the candy bar. Banks swiftly removed the candy bar and soda from her hands tossing them in the trash with a loud thump.
She continued to chew the chocolate and Carmel swallowing it and wishing she had the soda back. Her dark eyes stared back at Agent Colin Banks from behind the brightly colored bangs. Her teeth clenched so tightly together it was hurting her jaw.
Once the men were seated in front of her, she pointed to the small notepad in the younger agent’s pocket. D yet to speak made Banks’ muscles blaze. He was sure the young suspect could see the redness flush his face and he knew he had to keep his cool with the inquisitive crowd watching from behind the mirror.
“Agent Banks, should I give this to her?” Hinkle asked, lifting up the notepad out of his shirt pocket.
Since D was somewhat amused at how the agents were handling her, she wasn’t exactly eager to let this end but she couldn’t let it go on much longer. Agent Banks perplexed her.
Of course, D said nothing staring at Agent Banks green eyes, letting silence densely pack the void between them. Banks did not want to break the stare-down D had created but he wanted answers, looking away he grabbed the notepad from Hinkle. Agent Banks ripped out a sheet of paper sliding the paper in front of her with a pen.
With clinched teeth, Banks mustered all the civility the situation demanded and directed, “Miss, why don’t you write down your real name, who you work for, and the reason you were found at the airport with this briefcase. Also, why you have shown up in our surveillance the last few weeks?”
D lifted her hands up and the heavy handcuffs clinked against the metal table, with her left hand she picked up the pen.
“Are you really left handed?” Agent Banks mused, watching her every move.
She let out a small barely noticeable grin, ‘He’s good,’ she thought.
D carefully marked down something that would undeniably intrigue them; Agent Banks had left her no choice. She slid the paper back to him slowly across the cold table. He quickly picked it up reading what this strange detainee had written, the name Peter Coughlin, a phone number, and with small spread-wings carefully drawn under it. If Agent Banks was a product of Trellis, D should be able to read his facial expression when he viewed the feathered wings she sketched.
“Is this a phone number? Coughlin? The Secretary of Defense? You are telling me you work for the Secretary of Defense? On the other hand, are you hoping to buy more time? What do these wings mean? You are not in art class.” Agent Colin Banks was enraged, D was sure of his anger and she didn’t need to read his mind to know that, the tight muscle that feathered across his clinched jaw line screamed his emotions.
Undoubtedly, she was wrong, there was no way from what D could tell, did Agent Banks know anything about Trellis, or perhaps he just didn’t remember. If he was a product of Trellis and didn’t remember then she wanted to know how he got off that torturous island and away from that surgical Frankenstein Doctor.
Banks handed the paper to Hinkle and directed him to go call the number the young female suspect gave them.
As D pulled Peter Coughlin in on this failure of hers, she knew without a doubt would make that obese man irate, especially this close to the Fort Knox project she was scheduled to help with next week. Frustrating Peter Coughlin was like a bonus for D, in fact if this was a video game, D was sure she’d be given extra points for irritating that man to the level she did, it had become entertainment for her.
“You know Miss— I am growing weary of this game you are playing!” He slammed his hands down on the desk in front of her.
‘Overly-dramatic,’ She thought trying to hold her poker face without rolling her eyes.
“Look, Miss, either you are really smart or really stupid, and I am betting on the latter one? Do you know this isn’t Spies and Disguises 101 you are playing? You look like you are fourteen; do you know how dangerous this is and what charges you are facing here?” He stalked towards her then leaned his backside against the table shifting his weight until he loomed over her. She knew immediately that he was trying with his large presence to intimidate her in to cooperation.
‘Fourteen! Spies and Disguises 101? You are close, Agent Banks,’ She laughed on the inside, he had greatly underestimated D, and she was ok with that. She was pleased her wardrobe today fooled everyone in to thinking she was younger than she was. Dressing as if she had a chip on her shoulder, she thought would make her look young, had worked well for her in the past, and clearly was working now.
She studied agent Banks; no wedding ring, of course she didn’t think anyone could stand his frosty impersonal demeanor for long, so that didn’t surprise her. His standard black on black CCD uniform was neatly pressed stiffly. Precisely trimmed sandy colored hair, worn and weathered boots but clean of dust and dirt, 6’2” maybe 6’3”, 220lbs. His agitation had his body temperature raised and his clean-shaven face was warming the smell of his aftershave as it drifted through the room when he moved. Even though they were in DC, he talked with a slow southern accent. He seemed to be the kind of guy that was normally unruffled, but as D had discovered, she had a knack for ruffling feathers. He was positively from the south, not sure from where yet, but she was narrowing it down. Not a heavy accent, but it did pepper his words. The more he talked the more information she attained. This was something she was not trained to do, well not really. She never really had to study people, she could get the information she needed by other means but she loved to people watch.
As he paced the room, D studied him for scar marks on his scalp, some sort of telltale sign he had been a patient of Dr. Vincente Salvaggi at some point. These little incisions D was far too familiar with were harder to hide on a male with short hair. When he looked away she eyed his hairline and scalp for irregular hair growth and scars. She saw no visible markings, at least where she could view from her chair. There had to be something irregular about him, something hidden keeping her out of his mind.
As D was developing her own line of questions, Agent Colin Banks was not stopping with his.
“Miss, why the lime green flip flops? Were they supposed to be worn in a transaction of some sort? Where was your final destination going to be?” Banks asked with tension in his voice.
Agent Hinkle rushed back into the interrogation room with jolted force pushing the door open and startling Agent Banks who was enveloped in his interrogative tactics. He seemed surprised his suspect didn’t flinch, as if she had been expecting the surprise intrusion. He was right.
“Banks, you need to come out here!”
“Hinkle, I’m busy right now!”
“Now!” Hinkle commanded with urgency. D knew immediately by the agitated look on Colin Banks’ face that Hinkle never spoke so disrespectfully to his Citizen Control partner.
Agent Banks looked down at his suspect and she raised one eyebrow slightly at him and smiled dryly, as if to say ‘checkmate’.
Banks followed Hinkle to the hallway leaving the door ajar. “This better be good, Hinkle!”
Hinkle could hardly get the words out of his mouth without stuttering, “I called that number and it was Secretary of Defense Peter Coughlin, HIS ACTUAL NUMBER! His people said he was already in the building. Banks, the Secretary of Defense is downstairs and his people have started the process of combing our offices of all our evidence of her. They want us to cease and surrender all gained knowledge. They won’t even acknowledge a name. I keep asking who she is and get stonewalled!”
“How is he here already? Did someone tip him off?” Banks asked already knowing the answer, there was a mole among his CCD colleagues. This realization brought a low grunt from deep in his chest.
“Someone had to tip him off. This is getting deeper by the moment. What do we do, Banks?” Agent Billy Hinkle asked wide-eyed, new to the inner workings of this complicated office matrix he had been thrown in months before against his will.
About the time he finished his sentence, Secretary of Defense Peter Coughlin appeared behind them.
“Where is your suspect?” Peter Coughlin asked in a low rumble. He was an overweight man in a heavily decorated military uniform.
“Sir, I’m Agent Banks,” Colin Banks announced as he reached his hand out to shake Coughlin’s, only to be ignored. “Sir, I cannot hand over months of investigation to you, I think this woman, I mean, girl, holds the answers to close this case. We have been following the currency with no more leads. Until today when she was attacked by a search dog and then dropped an exceptionally large amount of cash out of her briefcase, with an exceptionally good, fake passport. We do not have a name, she has not spoken, and we know nothing- yet. Please, a little more time with her.”
Coughlin ignored his requests and marched past both the agents to the opened door behind the men where D was detained. He grabbed the passport off the corner of the table and flipped through it, growled – yes an actual audible growl which tickled D, then threw the passport down in front of her.
“Take the handcuffs off of her,” Coughlin demanded sharply as he looked down at her with a disgusted look she got caught in the first place, then directed his attention back to agent Banks. “Look, I am not discussing this further. I am sure you like your job here in the agency, and I could get you put on at the White House if that is something you would like, son, or I could place you at some off the wall outpost on the outskirts of the Philippines guarding an empty building? Which would you prefer?” He stopped and stared coldly at agent Banks then with booming authority yelled, “Now release her!”
Banks nodded at Hinkle who stood in the doorway. Agent Hinkle rushed to her side and fumbled to unlock her, showing how new he really was to this agency. D stood up, rubbed her wrists, grabbed the trench coat, looked at Coughlin, and then glanced at the briefcase and passport on the table.
Coughlin answered, “Yes, take them. I have a car out front.”
D picked up her sunglasses, placed them slowly on her face, and looked at agent Banks one last time before turning to leave. Even with the dark rainclouds hanging outside she still felt the need to fit the script of a suspicious suspect, and oversized sunglasses screamed that loudly.
Coughlin then leaned towards agent Banks and explained extremely little but enough Banks could read through the implication, “Let this go, it sounds like you have done a good job on the case you are investigating, but she is in no way tied to it.”
“So she is a high priced call girl for DC fat cats?” Banks retorted, defiantly, his voice dripping with ire.
“Hardly son, but if that is what you need to believe, then believe it. This is a case of National Security, and not just our National Security. You would be messing with the pillars holding our social system up across the world if you follow this any further. This is bigger than you, me, her, or this agency. Let it go.”
“Well, at least tell us her name.”
“She doesn’t have a name, she doesn’t exist. Got it!” Coughlin snarled, furrowing his bushy eyebrows together. He stopped at one of his lackeys he brought with him and ordered one last search of the office for any remaining evidence or any surveillance they may have taken of their female suspect. The team Coughlin brought with him, did comb the CCD offices with a fine toothcomb while Banks seethed in the corner as his only apprehended suspect to his case was ushered away.
Banks and Hinkle glanced out the window and down at the busy wet street in front of the CCD building, a black SUV sat waiting with the door opened. There from the building’s shadow emerged their suspect, D, easy to spot with her bright orange hair. Before proceeding into the back seat she lifted her sunglasses off her face slightly and looked up at the building to the window where Banks and Hinkle were standing, placed the sunglasses back on her face and climbed in the SUV, only to be whisked off to ‘doesn’t exist land’.
Hinkle stood mesmerized and stuttered out, “It’s as if she knew right where we were standing. How did she know to look up to this window? No one can see into these windows. She is creepy if you ask me,” He murmured as he gulped his coffee.
“No one asked you.” Banks gruffed back.
Hinkle looked at agent Banks studying the cold expression concerning the bizarre event they just witnessed. Quietly Banks watched the SUV out the window on the rain soaked street below. If lead agent Banks was thinking anything other than frustration, he wasn’t revealing it to his partner.
A curvy blonde woman gingerly floated by behind the two agents looking out the window. She was carrying a bottle of water in one hand and an apple in the other. Her CCD badge hung from around her neck and was an obvious contrast against her fitted black shirt.
“Did your suspect get away?” She asked in a low silky tone that made agent Banks grate his teeth harder in annoyance.
Billy Hinkle clearly awestruck by the woman’s beauty answered, “Not exactly get away, Agent Casey. She was just taken.”
Banks turned to leave the conversation but not before asking Agent Beth Casey one question, “Why are you on my floor?”
Her eyes widened and then she let out a smile revealing her perfect features that would make any woman feel inadequate, “Your floor? We are assigned floors now? I must have missed the briefing.”
“You did miss the briefing, you miss all the briefings. Do you even work here anymore?” He belted back tersely.
She lifted her water and apple into the air as in a signal of defeat and backed away, “Clearly you have misplaced anger. I am going back to my floor.” Then narrowing her eyes at Agent Hinkle. “On the other hand Billy if you ever get tired of working for this jerk you can come be my partner.”
Billy was clearly enamored by her beauty and she knew it. He stumbled out the words, “Agent Casey, you already have a partner.”
“Yes, but I would definitely make the trade.” She answered as she winked at him, walking away.
Banks lightly shook his head back and forth in disgust, “Stay away from that woman, Hinkle. She wants what is only good for her. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself.”
Billy Hinkle watched the woman maneuver effortlessly around the corner hallway, and he watched the men in the office observe her as she walked by them. It was like staring at the sun. They knew they shouldn’t look but they just couldn’t help themselves. Agent Casey was certainly a force of her own and Colin Banks knew that fact far too well.
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