By J. B. Tilton
The woman moved silently through the deserted building listening for any sound that might emanate from the surrounding rooms. The building was in terrible disrepair and apparently had been for many years. She was currently on the top floor of the eight floor building. Her prey was near. There were few places left for him to hide.
She exited the room she was in and looked around. The doors and windows were boarded over allowing virtually no light into the building. Here and there small shafts of light made their way into the building through cracks and small holes that appeared in the boards covering the doors and windows. Still, there was more than enough light for her to find her way through the building.
Only three more rooms remained to be searched on this floor. Her prey would be in one of those rooms. And with each one she entered she grew closer to him. Cautiously she made her way to the next room. The door was closed. Tentatively she checked the handle. As with the rest of the rooms in this building, this door was unlocked. Slowly she began to turn the handle.
Suddenly the door burst open sending her sprawling across the hallway. She struck the far wall and tumbled to the floor as the door banged against the wall. Standing in the doorway was a man that appeared to be in his 40s. His jet black hair hung limply to his shoulders and he brandished what looked like an iron pipe in one hand. Without a word he struck out at the woman with the pipe, intending to smash her skull with the pipe.
But the woman moved with blinding speed. She rolled to one side just before the pipe struck her and she came up on her knees. The pipe struck the wall behind her sending chunks of plaster flying in all directions. The man began to raise the pipe again, intending to strike the woman before she could rise to her feet.
Instead of rising to her feet the woman leaned back on her left leg and struck the man full in the chest with her right foot. The man was knocked back toward the window at the end of the hall, the pipe he was holding dropping to the floor. He tumbled to the floor and rolled a couple of times then sat up and looked at the woman.
Already she had risen to her feet and stood facing him. No fear showed in her face. Instead, her face showed no emotion. She started toward the man as he just smiled at her.
Suddenly another man wearing a suit and tie and holding a pistol appeared at the top of the stairs to the man's right. The woman, startled at the new man's sudden appearance, glanced at him, and then looked back at the man on the floor. Without hesitation the man on the floor rose to his feet with incredible speed, grabbing the new man by the wrist in which he was holding the pistol.
The man's grip was like a vice. The new man cried out in pain and the pistol he was holding fell to the floor. In one fluid motion the man holding him spun him around, holding his back to him. He reached up and placed his free hand around the throat of the man in the suit.
"Well, well, well," said the first man, looking directly at the woman. "Looks like the tables have turned. What do you say? Shall I just kill him and get it over with?"
"Let him go," said the woman deliberately. "It's over and you know it. You don't get away this time. Don't compound your crimes with another innocent death."
"Innocent?" questioned the man, looking at the prey he held in his vice-like grip. "You of all people see them as anything but innocent. Besides, what's one more death? We both know in the grand scheme of things it won't make any difference. I've already been judged and sentenced. We both know that."
"There's no reason to kill him," said the woman. "Just let him go and I'll tell them that you gave up willingly. They might go easier on you if you do."
The man looked at her once more and then just laughed. Without another word he suddenly threw the man he was holding at the woman. The short distance between them provided little opportunity for the woman to avoid the man in the suit as he fell into her, causing them both to fall to the floor. The man in front of the window smiled and turned to the window as the sound of men running up the steps could be heard.
Again the man didn't hesitate. He threw himself at the window just as two uniformed policemen reached the top of the steps near him. The boards covering the window were old and rotted. As the man threw himself at the boards they broke under his weight and he tumbled through to the open air beyond.
"No!" screamed the woman, gaining her feet and rushing to the window. She reached the window and it appeared for a moment that she would follow the man out the window to the eight-story drop beyond.
"Hold it," she heard someone behind her say. "Stay right where you are. You're under arrest."
The woman stopped at the window and looked at the ground below. The man she had been chasing stood up and looked back at the window. He just smiled at her, gave her a mock "salute", and then turned and disappeared around the corner of the building next door. The woman slammed her fist against the window frame knowing that she would never reach him in time.
"You fool," she said, turning to face the man in the suit. He had regained his feet and stood facing her, holding the pistol he had dropped only moments before. "You let him get away. If not for your interference I would have had him."
"My interference?" questioned the man. "Lady, you have a lot to answer for. You just interfered with an FBI operation. There are some questions and by God you're going to give me some answers. Don't try anything funny. I won't hesitate to shoot you if you resist." He looked at the two uniformed officers. "Cuff her. I'll question her downtown."
For a moment it looked like the woman might resist. But as the policeman handcuffed her hands behind her she offered no resistance at all. She just glared at the FBI agent who glared back at her with anger in his eyes.
* * *
FBI agent Gregory Simons had been questioning the woman for more than two hours and in that time had gotten exactly nothing out of her. According to her identification her name was Elizabeth Gordon and she was a bounty hunter based out of Illinois. All he had been able to get out of her was that the man she had been chasing, one Rupert Groning, was a wanted fugitive that she had been hired to bring back.
"My patience is beginning to wear very thing, Miss Gordon," Simons said. "If you don't start coming up with some answer pretty soon you're going to have more trouble than you know what to do with. Now tell me what you were doing in that building. And why you interfered with an FBI operation."
"I've already told you. I was hired to bring Groning back. I tracked him to that building and I had no idea anyone else was there. And if you hadn't interfered I would have had him. You cost me a great deal of money this afternoon."
"I don't give a damn how much money you lost, lady. We've checked. Groning isn't under any charges in Illinois. Now tell me who hired you and how you knew he was in that building."
"I never said he was wanted in Illinois. I work all over the United States. As for who hired me, I'm afraid that's confidential. And I've already told you. I've been tracking him for a long time. I tracked him to that building and I was there to bring him in."
"All by yourself? Without even a weapon? My wrist still hurts from where he grabbed me. How did you expect to bring him in all alone without even a weapon?"
"I figured he come along quietly," said Elizabeth sarcastically.
"I'm sick of this. Tell me what I want to know or I'll throw you in a hole so deep it will take a week for daylight to reach you."
"I think I've been pretty patient up to this point. What about my phone call? If I'm not mistake, I get to make a phone call."
"You'll make a phone call when I say you do. Just answer my questions and I'll let you call anyone you want."
"Well then, what about a lawyer? You did arrest me. That means I'm entitled to a lawyer."
"You're entitled to what I say you're entitled to. Nothing more."
"Agent Simons, a moment please," came a voice over the intercom.
"Sit tight," said Simons. "I won't be long."
Elizabeth looked at the mirror on the opposite wall as Simons left the room. She had no doubt that others had been on the other side of that glass watching the interrogation the entire time.
"What is it?" Simons asked angrily as he entered the room adjoining the interrogation room. "I don't like being interrupted during an interrogation."
"Agent Simons, the interrogation is over," said a man in a suit and tie standing in front of the mirror. "She asked for a lawyer. You know as well as I do that the minute she mentions the word 'lawyer' you can't ask her any more questions."
"Need I remind you, Captain, that the woman is my prisoner? And this is an FBI matter. You have no jurisdiction here and I'll thank you to stay out of it."
"I realize that," said the police captain, a slight hint of anger in his voice. "I also realize that we're only assisting you in this matter. But I don't need to remind you that this is my precinct. And the Richmond police department is not in the habit of violating a suspects rights or violating the law simply because it suits us. The woman has asked for a lawyer so the interrogation is over until her lawyer gets here."
Simons just looked at the captain for a moment. The captain was right, of course. He had been an FBI agent for more than 15 years and had conducted his share of interrogations. He normally prided himself on adhering to the law. But this was not a normal situation. Still, he knew if he continued with his interrogation at this point he might jeopardize everything he had worked for.
"Fine," he said finally. "We'll wait until her lawyer gets here. I'll be in there with her when he gets here."
"No more questions," said the captain. "Until her lawyer gets here anything she says will be inadmissible in court and I won't have you tarnishing our image by performing an illegal interrogation."
"No questions," Simons promised. "But once her lawyer gets here I fully intend to continue with the questions."
Simons left the room and returned to the interrogation room. Without a word he took a seat opposite Elizabeth. She just looked at him as if she hadn't a care in the world.
"Your lawyer should be here soon. I thought in the mean time we could have a little chat."
"I didn't think you could question me without my lawyer here."
"Not about the case, I can't. But that doesn't mean we can't have a chat about other things. Nothing that I could use in court, of course. But surely there's no harm in just chatting."
"Well," said Simons, picking up a bracelet, "how about this?" The bracelet was a single piece of a silver-colored metal. On the top of the bracelet was etched what appeared to be a "V" with a small circle at the two top points. "What is this exactly?"
"Family heirloom," said Elizabeth. "It's a family crest of sorts."
"Interesting," said Simons. "I always thought family crests were much more elaborate."
"Some are. Not all. As you can see, that one is quite simple."
"Yes. What's the 'V' stand for?"
"It's not a 'V'. I'm not really sure what it is. My, uh, parents never really explained it too clearly to me."
"You wear a family crest and you don't even know what it stands for?"
"Like I said, it's a family heirloom. That's why I wear it. Why the interest in a piece of costume jewelry?"
"Just trying to get to know you better, that's all. Maybe try to understand why a woman would want to become a bounty hunter. Not the easiest type of work."
"No, but it pays well. And I get to set my own hours."
"Still, a man like Groning is extremely dangerous. A person could get killed going after him."
"I thought we weren't supposed to talk about that."
"Just an observation. No questions. I imagine you've tracked down your fair share of criminals. According to the check I ran on you you've been a bounty hunter for the last ten years. Since you were 22. At least that's when your license was issued."
"That would be about right. And, yes, I've tracked my fair share. I've never failed to bring one in yet. And I'm not about to start now."
"You know, even though you've asked for a lawyer, any information you choose to freely give me, I can still use. Look, it appears you were just doing your job. And I don't want to jam you up. If you'll just tell me what I want to know you'll be free to go."
"I've already told you. I was hired to bring Groning in and I tracked him to that abandoned building. I didn't know the FBI was after him and I didn't know you were there. What's your interest in him, anyway?"
Simons looked at Elizabeth for a moment. It seemed he was thinking something over. Elizabeth could tell there was something on his mind and apparently he was trying to decide if he should tell her.
"Groning killed my partner," he said finally. "About 18 months ago. We were tracking him and had cornered him in an old, deserted factory. He seems to prefer abandoned buildings. Anyway, Mac and I separated. Before I knew what was happening Groning suddenly appeared behind Mac. I couldn't get to him in time. Groning snapped his neck like it was a dry twig. So as you can see, I have kind of a personal interest in getting him."
"I'm sorry about your partner, Agent Simons. But I've already told you everything I can. It was only luck that we were there at the same time. I'm tracking him for a bail bondsman who doesn't want to lose the bail he put up for him. That's all there is to it."
Suddenly the door to the interrogation room opened and a man wearing a three-piece suit walked in. Elizabeth looked up at him and Simons stood up.
"You must be her lawyer," said Simons.
"Not really," said the man, producing an FBI identification. Simons looked at the identification and a perplexed look crossed his face.
"Assistant Director Curtis," said Simons. "I don't understand, sir. What are you doing here?"
Curtis picked up the bracelet and looked it over. He then looked intently at Elizabeth who simply stared back at him without any expression on his face.
"Etinek?" Curtis asked Elizabeth.
For a moment she appeared startled. Then she quickly regained her composure.
"Sey," she replied.
"Reklats?" questioned Curtis.
"Sey," Elizabeth replied.
"I'm sorry, Agent Simons," said Curtis. "Considering your near obsession with Groning, when I heard about what had happened I decided my presence was required. The captain filled me in on what happened."
He picked up Elizabeth's identification and looked at it. He showed her his FBI identification, flipping the identification card over so she could see the back of it. Simons couldn't see the back of the card.
"Miss Gordon, I'm Assistant Director Jameson Curtis of the FBI," he said. "I'm sorry about the misunderstanding. You're free to go with my apologies."
"No harm done," said Elizabeth, picking up her personal items from the table. "I guess Agent Simons was just doing his job."
"I must protest, Assistant Director," said Simons, a hint of anger in his voice. "She interfered with an operation and allowed a known serial killer to escape. We can't just let her walk out of here. She knows more than she's saying and we need to know what that is."
"Agent Simons," said Curtis, turning to the younger man, "I'm not used to having my orders questioned, especially by a field agent. Miss Gordon has no information that can help us in this case. As for interfering with your operation, she's already said she had no idea you were there so unless you can prove she deliberately interfered with your operation there's no case here. She's free to go and that's all there is to it."
"Yes, sir," said Simons who was clearly not happy with the situation.
"Again, Miss Gordon," said Curtis, "my apologies."
"That's okay," said Elizabeth. "Good luck finding Groning, Agent Simons. Of course you'll understand if I try to get him before you do."
"This isn't over," Simons said. "Don't get in my way again."
"That's enough, Agent Simons," said Curtis. "Finish up here and meet me at the field office as soon as you can."
"Yes, Assistant Director," said Simons. He was in for it now. And he wasn't even sure what it was he had done.
Elizabeth finished collecting her things and left the room. Agent Simons stood looking at Assistant Director Curtis wondering just what the hell was going on.