My life never really meant anything to me. I never thought I'd make it this long. Most kids dreamed of growing up and marrying their sweetheart. I didn't. I dreamed of how the end would come. Guns and violence fed my over imaginative mind when I was six, and every day after. But I can't blame it on her. I can't really blame anyone, it is what it is.
Today my hair was dyed, my wardrobe was changed, my fingerprints were burned, and I was pronounced dead. They say most recruits cry for the death of their old lives, they say it's allowed, no one will think you weaker because of it, they all went through it too.
I didn't shed a tear. It was the end of a life I never thought I'd live anyways.
Today I turned my back on the quiet, shy, ass of a woman I was and became Lindsey Hale.
You're name is Lindsey Hale, you have a brother twenty-three in Kansas, and a sister twenty-seven in Taiwan. He is a mechanic, she is a teacher. You're parents are dead. Old age. You are twenty-six. You have an apartment at three-seven-four Dorvin Place. It has been outfitted with everything you need. You cannot contact anyone you used to know as Serena Bours, if you do you will be terminated. Tomorrow you will report to the car wash on fifth and grand, you will state your name, and that you want two fresh car washes and a lavender freshener. If you are asked you work for Canapart industries, a chemical lab working on perfecting the human heart. Do you understand?
Of course I had.
So here I stood in my loft on Dorvin place. I would have taken this job even if it had offered a cardboard box in an alley way but as it was the loft in Dorvin wasn't half bad either. The loft sported hard wood floors throughout, and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city and out over the mountains. It was equipped with state of the art furniture, and of course the standard bug killers and emergency ammunition behind the main wall.
The car wash was well renowned for being the first gold leed car wash in the world. Of course now almost every car wash is certified gold leed and this small wash on the corner of fifth and grand has long been forgotten as their forefather. It was a small operation with three stalls for washing and four for vacuuming. Between the hours of eight-thirty and five a ten foot by ten foot store was manned by one employee selling all your car care needs. The door reflected a black haired woman with green eyes wearing a black tee and flared dark blue jeans, a pair of sunglasses sitting on her head. The image disappeared as I pulled the door outward. A blonde haired woman in her fifties wearing a cowboy hat and popping gum sat at the counter reading Elle magazine, she barely glanced up as the bell rang above the glass door. I scanned the room, nothing sat out of place. I moved toward the woman at the register, she didn't look up but droned out, "What can I get ya?"
"Two fresh car washes and a lavender freshener." The woman looked over the top of her magazine looked me up and down then pointed to the left, "Second stall in the ladies." I nodded to her thanks but she had already gone back to the latest gossip of 2018.
The second stall of the ladies washroom had a crooked handwritten out of order sign hanging on its door. I swung it open and shut it behind me. There was no water in the bowl.
Listen up Cadets! You have five minutes to discover the hidden globe in this room. Work in your twos. Keep your eyes open, what is out of place?
'Serena check this shit out.' Two stalls from the one I had just checked stood Bridgette and an empty toilet bowl. 'What do ya think?' Bridgette believed by talking tough she would achieve tough. It's definitely out of place. We crowded into the stall and shut the door. I liked working with Bridgette we shared an insatiable need to beat everyone else. We stared at the bowl. It's in the shitter, Bridgette confirmed. I nodded my head got down on my knees and forced my hand up the entrance and there it was a minute hole. I need something sharp and thin. Bridgette handed me her toothpick. Two seconds later there was a quiet pop. Bridgette pulled off the back flap and there a small door was opened with the globe sitting in all its fake glory.
The button was in the same spot this time though a small window was opened in the wall. A pair of eyes stared at me through the glass. Then a lock turned and I was suddenly on the other side of the latrines.
"Welcome to Project Truth. You must be Lindsey Hale. I'm Alison Greer, director of communications as in any of you screw up I clean the mess." She smiled as if it was a little in joke with herself. I curled my lips to make us both more comfortable. "I'll show you to your desk. Come along." I followed the clip clop pace of her high heeled shoes. "Here it is. The director will be out in..." she checked her wrist. "Ten minutes, meanwhile you can get to know you're twin recruit." She turned on her black stiletto and left the room.
"She's a perky one ain't she." I spun around to face my 'twin recruit.' He sat on a swivel back chair blonde spiked hair in a button down black shirt and blue jeans and a smirk that would make a girl swoon.
"She's director of communications, it's her job." I quirked an eyebrow and walked over to my side of the desk. With great reverence I pulled out the chair and sat down. I had dreamed of sitting at a desk with the opportunity of being a different person, a new person and now I was here. I reached out to touch the keyboard and the computer sprung to life. The word 'Truth' bounced back and forth on the screen saver.
"So how'd you get started?" The twin asked breaking the Kodak moment with my new life. How'd I get started?
'You have to stop coming here Serena people might think you're becoming an alcoholic.'
'They might be right.' I smiled in jest. At least that's what I kept telling myself. The bartenders all knew me. It was a regular stop most nights. Being five minutes by foot from my apartment was extremely tempting and I tended to always give into temptation. Tonight I had an unexpected visitor.
'I'll have a scotch and her order.'
'You come here a lot.' He told me as our drinks arrived.
My eyebrows scrunched in concern. 'You've been watching me?'
'We look for people like you.'
'Yeah and what kind of people would that be?'
He took a sip of his scotch. 'People who are looking for a life.' This time I arched an eyebrow in surprise. 'Like you said I've been watching you. Come down for an interview.' He drank the last of his scotch and handed me a business sized envelope. My name was scrawled across the front, the American flag pressed into the corner.
I could never have dreamed that would have brought me here."Right spot at the right time, you?"
He sighed, looked at me then his table. "My dad." There was obviously more, training taught me to see that. The one thing I could say about the life before the job, it taught me that patience really is a virtue. When he realized I wasn't going to pry he looked back up at me, green eyes matching my green contacts bore into me. I squirmed. It wasn't that I wasn't used to be scrutinized it was that he was trying to see me, and that was something I was not willing to share. "Wait I know you...you're Serena Bours, You're picture is up in the precinct I used to work at. You brought down an entire roster of snitches, they were talking about your work for months afterwards."
'Raven! Raven! God damn it answer me!' There was no response only the crackle of the dead line. 'Shit.'
It was supposed to be a routine pick up, but nothing about that pick up was routine. Connors and myself were sent in to retrieve information on John Donnelly's desktop. The area that Connors and I worked was run by a faction of the Irish mob, John Donnelly was their boss. Intel suggested that Donnelly was dipping into some major nuclear weaponry. We did these sort of pick ups in our sleep, we were a machine. But that day everything went wrong. 'Alright Harrier, good to go.' Connors gave me the thumbs up and I slid open the van door, 'See you in five.'
'I'm at the door.' I scanned the courtyard. It was clear.
'Links up. Go ahead Harrier.' A simple lock pick got me into the building. The room I was looking for was at the end of the hallway, left door. The building was quiet. In another three seconds I had the office door open. That's when it first went wrong. Inside the room was a teen girl bound and gagged in a chair. Her eyes didn't blink as she stared at me, the room stank of fear.
'Raven we got a problem. Teen girl, blonde hair, bound gagged.'
'Hold on Harrier sending to homebase.' I pulled off the cloth gag.
'Can you speak?' She didn't move, just stared at me with the same fearful stare.
'Harrier, her name is Annie Leetetz. Fillipino's daughter.' Fillipino was the Italian crime boss, but the two groups hadn't to our knowledge 'disagreed' before. 'Bring her in.'
'Copy Raven. One minute to download the package.' I moved to the computer slid in the flash disk and hacked into the information. While it copied onto the disk I moved to the girl and cut the binds holding her to the chair, she slid forward but otherwise didn't move. I grabbed the disk shut the computer back down. 'I've got the package. Coming out.'
'Annie, Annie listen to me, you'll be safe now but we have to go can you stand?' For a moment I thought I'd have to carry her, but then her head twitched and she pushed off the chair. She grabbed for me swaying on her feet and I held her up. We made it to the door when I heard the tires screech. 'What the hell' I could hear the surprise in Ravens voice. 'What is it Raven?'
'We've been made.'
'What? Raven.' I can't be sure what happened next, it was just a bunch of noise through my headset. Annie began to shake uncontrollably. 'Raven! Raven! God damn it answer me!' There was no response only the crackle of the dead line. 'Shit.'
People called me a hero that day I called it surviving.
I propped open the door with my foot and looked out the left. It was strangely quiet. With Annie leaning on my shoulder I inched along the side of the wall to where I could see the van. A black escalade was parked beside it the back door of our van open two men jumped out of the back of it. 'Raven.' I whispered, but there was no response. 'Wait here.' I leaned Annie against the wall. Looking back at the van I waited until the men had gone back behind their own black escalade to run, all I could think of was Raven. But I didn't get more than two steps before the van exploded.
It was protocol, if compromised get out and blow it up, but Connors didn't make it out. It was probably what some would call a fitting death, Connors lived for the job and he swore he would die for the job. He never did fail to disappoint.
With no other choice I ran back for Annie. 'We have to go.' I pulled her up and dragged her to the street. The blast had destroyed the escalade and the two men but there would no doubt be more on the way. Using the butt end of my revolver I broke the window of a green mustang. Unlocking the door I pushed Annie in. Just as the car revved alive, two more escalades screeched onto the road. I pulled out slowly hoping they wouldn't notice. It was a false hope. With all communications cut off I was on my own. I needed to get to a phone. The escalade charged down the street and I kicked the mustang into fourth. 'Annie seatbelt.' I heard her pull it across her chest as we pushed a hundred and fifty kilometres, kicking the brake and pushing down to third the car screeched as it turned a sharp right. The bigger escalade took the corner wide smashing a blue civic. I knew that two blocks down, then left and right would lead into an empty garage, if I could just lose the SUV for a few blocks. I pushed the pedal to the floor and the car didn't fail to respond speeding down the narrow back road.
I held down hard on the brake geared down and took the corner at a frightening speed. I lost the SUV just long enough to slide into the open garage, screeching to a jarring halt I jumped out just in time to pull the garage shut.
Advantages of working in the field I knew the lay of the land.
'Annie I need you to tell me everything you know about the man who kidnapped you.' When a young girl was kidnapped twice and scared to all hell she usually sang like a canary, Annie was no different. She didn't know much, I had no doubt that Fillipino had raised her in ignorance of his illegal dabblings. She had heard a name Rorchacs. I knew the name it was a club on the main drag.
Hotwiring a nearby Tiburon I took Annie to the nearest restaurant where I phoned for a pickup. I left Annie there with a three course sundae and drove to Rorchacs. Donnelly sat in a private booth in the back just like Annie had heard. I knew now that someone from within my organization tipped him off to our mission. He had planted Annie in his office knowing that our agency would take her, then he phoned up the Fillipinos and let them know what was happening. Donnelly was just a means to an end, I wanted to know who the snitch was. At any cost. I let myself into his private room. He didn't appear surprised to see me waving at his three henchmen to vacate the room. 'I don't appreciate you barging into my pub like this.'
'Tell me who your mole is.'
He laughed cynically his lips curling into the perfect smile. 'What are you talking about? Crazy girl.'
'Don't shit with me Donnelly I know you kidnapped Fillipinos kid and I know you planted her in your office for me to find. Then you tellied your pal Fillipino and tipped him off now you're going to join my partner in the afterlife if you don't tell me who your mole is.'
'Stupid girl.' He laughed. I knew Donnelly, studied him for almost two years, he didn't back down from guns.
'I know where your boy is Donnelly. You know what I will do to him?' Donnelly knew that I was assigned to follow his ass and he knew I knew every little nuance of his life. He also knew that up until this point I wouldn't interfere unless he made a significant threat.
'You wouldn't touch a little boy.'
'Maybe not but I'll make damn sure he'll never see you again. Trust me on that.'
He knew I was serious. His eye twitched in aggravation. 'You know what Bours.' I shouldn't have been surprised that he knew my name but I was. 'Yeah I know who you are. This kid came up to me with a list of demands and a threat that he'd take me in if I rejected the demands.'
'I don't believe you Donnelly, you don't do something unless there is something in it for you. See that guy over there.' I pulled out my glock and motioned to the man sitting just outside the door. 'Shall I remind you of the pain of a bullet to the leg.'
He laughed a deep throated laugh. 'I could care less about what happens in your organization but I like you girl you have something that those other shrimps don't.' He didn't care to elaborate. 'Daniels kids name was Daniels and all that was in it for me was fun.' I didn't believe him on that point but at the moment it didn't matter. 'You better not touch my boy, you got your information leave him the hell out of this.' There is they say honour among thieves, you think there would be trust among crime fighters. Daniels would pay for the death of Connors.
Icouldn't help but think about the fairness of it all. Connors had a wife and a daughter, he loved his family and his life. I had nothing, and wanted nothing. But he was the one six feet under and I was the one who still walked this life. I could never forgive life for such an unfair roll of the die.
"No." I looked at him I could feel my eyes flash in warning and I could see him flinch. "That is not me."
"Oh." He shrugged his shoulders in indifference looking back at his desk. "You're right, that girl had blonde hair and blue eyes."
I didn't doubt he knew I was that woman, but he gained a bit of my respect when he chose to drop it as a case of mistaken identity. I picked up a pencil from the holder on the edge of the desk and began tapping it against the desk. I tried to exercise patience like my past life had taught me but I hated being indoors sitting idol. I wanted to be outside walking in the crowds where everyone went about their own lives with no idea what I or anyone else was up to, it was a scary thought if you really dwelled on it. It was one of those crazy ideas that I liked to dwell on, luckily this morning someone granted me a reprieve and our 'perky' director of communications walked back into the room to tell us to follow her to meet our head honcho.
We hadn't met the big man yet. This being a 'top secret' organization all interviews were done by tape or mail. We were ushered into the glassed in office of one Rob Lucci. Surprisingly, I had met this man before he was the one who had first tapped me to enter this business four and a half years ago.
"Ms. Hale it is always good to see my hand picked recruits make it to the big leagues." Lucci smiled coming around his desk to shake my hand.
"It's good to be here, I can't wait to get started."
"Never were a patient one." He winked, and I had an unnerving feeling he had continued to watch me.
"Mr. Ryans." So my twin had a name, or a last name at least. "It's my pleasure to have you two join our program. Please take a seat." He motioned to the two hard backed chairs before walking back to his own swivel chair. "You two were the best of the best and I have little doubt that you will fit in with our field ops. But first your first 'mission' is for me. There is a pawn shop three blocks up, the shop is run by Dirty Harry, Dirty because he runs a little diamond smuggling business. We have Intel that he has just bought two large crystals for one Mr. Ko. This one's easy bring back the crystals. Oh and there's a sweet little cafe right beside the pawn shop, bring me back a coffee would ya."
It may have been a silly little assignment but it was the first of bigger ones to come and I couldn't be more thrilled. "Oh and Hales use your feet for this one, the bike'll be here when you get back." Now I knew he had been watching me.
"They gave you a bike. That sucks." Ryans, my 'twin' recruit chuckled. "They gave me mustang cobra." He said it in all his manly glory that I almost felt bad when I pointed out my bike as we exited the car wash. "Not that kind of bike." I watched his face dawn in realization that the bike Lucci had been referring to wasn't a pedal bike but a tricked out Suzuki GSX-R1000 in candy red.
"The cobra ain't half bad either Ryans." I gave him a nudge in the ribs. Cars and motorcycles had always been a passion of mine and I liked showing my prized possessions off.
"Okay." We stopped in between the coffee shop and the pawn shop. "So I'll go get the diamonds and you grab the coffee." I took a step toward the pawn shop.
"Whoa, hold on why should you be the one to get the diamonds and the credit?"
"Ladies first?" I quirked.
"Uh uh that doesn't work in the work place especially our workplace."
"Okay fine," I relented. "I'll get the coffee you get the diamonds."
He paused shocked, I don't think he thought I would push over that easily and it made him pause. It was my plan though and I was banking on his male ego getting the better of him. "Good." He took the bait I smiled.
"See you in five." Ryans and I may have been the smartest of the interviews but I don't think he was quite up to par. See, the pawn shop up from the car wash is owned by a Garry Stewards not Dirty Harry and Stewards specializes in coins not diamonds. I also know that a G. Stewards retired from the US CIA in twenty-ten and had moved to the Vancouver area. I do my homework and I always get what I need to know. So if what I know is right this is a test to find the clue in the mission. I knew coffee was the object, getting it the way Lucci wanted it was probably the test. The diamonds were for a one Mr. Ko and Ko is Swedish for cow, one milk. Two large crystals, two large sugars.
With coffee in hand I smiled at Ryans as he sauntered up to me. He held up the velvet bag containing the crystals. "Good job." I smiled sweetly stroking his ever growing ego.
"Don't worry I'll be sure to tell Lucci you held the door for my speedy exit." He said it with jest in his voice, it made me feel a little sorry for the boy, he was about to be burned. We walked stride for stride on the way back to the carwash almost like a battle of wills sizing each other up, seeing who would be the first to fall behind. I'd like to think I already got ahead of the eight ball on this one.
Alison Greer led us back to Lucci's office and I wondered why there was no one else present in the building.
"Twenty minutes." Lucci checked the clock on the wall behind us. "Not bad." He clicked his tongue along the roof of his mouth. He stared at the two of us standing just in front of his desk. He was waiting for us to initiate and I was waiting for Ryans to bring forward his loot first. I didn't dare look over at him but I wondered what was going through his ever thickening skull, maybe he wasn't as dense as I had been painting him.
"I got the crystals." Maybe not. He smiled a smile that would make any girl go weak in the knees, things were beginning to make more sense. It's a good asset to have on your team. If I wasn't on the job I would've fallen head over heels for the boy and I had no doubt he could make anyone man or woman do the exact same thing.
"So you did." Lucci nodded in an even tone making Ryans smile falter just a little. "Take them to Alison, she'll handle them. Anything else?" I suppressed a smile that was threatening to break my lips at the face Ryans was pulling at the moment. Taking a silent breath a stepped forward and set the coffee on Lucci's desk. He took the cup in his left and held it to his lips, it dribbled into his mouth. I waited, Ryans waited. "Excellent." He set the cup back down. "This was the work of both of you?"
Without missing a beat I spoke. "We're going to make a great team." It was a direct answer but it was in all its glory the truth.
If I was the brains and Ryans the beauty we could destroy our missions. "Good." Lucci looked hard at me and I understood then that that was what he intended to happen.
"You couldn't have let me in on that." Ryans grumbled as soon as Lucci's door was closed.
"I thought I'd knock you down a peg before we worked together." It was a bitchy thing to say I knew it, but I wanted to see what he would do.
Not much. He gave me a look that would cool a fire but he also gave me a twinkle of the eye that said he could play and he would and that I should be careful.