Trish had been staring at the ceiling for what seemed like hours. Even in the dim lighting that represented “lights out”, the ceiling tiles looked water stained. A long-legged spider started a journey across the ceiling toward the opposite side of her cell. She had started to think of it as her cell because it had been her home for the last three days.
The room was spartan: institutional green cement walls that reminded her of her elementary school before they tore it down; gray cement floor with a drain in the middle; a small table and a straight-back chair; a toilet; a steel framed bed with an impressively hard mattress. The smell of disinfectant was unmistakable. She suspected someone came in during her interrogations and swabbed it down, because the smell never faded. The only other room she had seen was the interrogation room. That and the hallway she traversed three times a day from the one to the other.
It was always the same two men: Special Agents Carter and Bloomberg; men in black, minus the shades, and no sense of humor. They always asked the same questions, dragging her through her personal history, her relationship with Jerrod, the hit-and-run, the black box. Bloomberg asked most of the questions, leaving Carter to take notes.
“We know he had contact with Al Queda operatives while in Afghanistan,” Bloomberg said. “Did you know about that?”
“Did he receive any unusual mail? Say, from outside the US?”
“Unusual websites he visited?”
“Miss Womak. We know he took a small, black box from Anderson. Are you sure you didn’t see it?”
“I didn’t see a black box. I didn’t see him take anything from that poor man. When can I see a lawyer?”
She was always careful to ask for a lawyer. And to contact her parents. Their answer was always the same.
“You are being held under the rules of the US Patriot Act. The box Mr. Max took contained government secrets. Matters of national security. You will not be talking to a lawyer or your parents or anyone else until we are satisfied that you have cooperated fully with us in our investigation.”
“We know you are, Miss Womak, but — “
Agent Carter interrupted. He had a raspy voice that grated on her nerves whenever he spoke, which wasn’t often. “This may be your last chance to distance yourself from your boyfriend. Tomorrow you will be transported to another facility. A facility that is along way from Boseman. A facility where they will not be nearly as nice to you as we are.”
Tears pooled in Trish’s eyes and overflowed, tracing parallel paths down her cheeks. She clasped her hands together to try to keep them from shaking. Were they going to “disappear” her? Did things like that happen in America? Parker always thought so, but he was the most paranoid person she’d ever met.
Carter continued. “We have reason to believe Mr. Max is an agent working with Al Queda in North America. How well do you really know him Miss Womak?”
The spider on the ceiling had stopped and seemed to be trying to decide whether to continue its journey or turn around and go back.
She and Jerrod had met at Bryley’s Sports Bar. It was supposed to be her and Derek and two other couples for drinks, a movie, and … whatever. Well, ‘whatever’ wasn’t happening. Derek was a no show. This was the second time he’d stood her up. It was also the last.
“Hey girl,” Briney said in her ear. “Don’t let it getcha down. He’s a loser.”
“Yeah,” she said. “That’s what I’m telling myself.”
“Trish,” Gary said. “Give us the word, and Brett and I’ll go dig him out from under whatever rock he’s hiding under, and kick his teeth so far down his throat they’ll pop out the other end.” Brett nodded.
She smiled at that, and accepted the beer their waitress Bunny placed in front of her. When Bunny walked away, Trish found herself staring into the eyes of a man two tables over. He was obviously staring at her. But since she was staring at him too, she could hardly hold that against him.
He was tall, even when seated, with dark wavy hair reaching almost to his shoulders. Definitely easy on the eyes. He looked away, giving her a chance to take the rest of him in. He was thin, almost skinny for his height, and wore a red-and-white checkered shirt, faded blue jeans and brown boots. He looked back at her, and then back at his friends, and then at her again. She smiled before she knew what she was doing. Then, for no reason she could think of, her eyes filled with tears.
“I have to use the bathroom,” she said, and got up from the table.
“Wait,” said Briney. “I’ll come with you.”
That was the last thing she wanted, but she was afraid she would burst out in tears if she tried to say anything.
She stood at a sink in the women’s room, both hands planted on the countertop, her whole body shaking. Tears ran down the face of the woman in the mirror, making a mess of her makeup. Briney put an arm around her.
“Hey, honey. What’s the matter?”
Trish swallowed a sob. “I don’t know. I just — all of a sudden I just needed to cry. I don’t know why.”
“Because of Derek?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” She took a tissue from Briney’s hand and wiped some tears away. “I was looking at this guy a couple tables away. He looked at me and we just — I don’t know — stared into each other’s eyes. And then I started crying.”
“Wow,” Briney said. “A real charismatic guy. Makes women cry with a single glance.”
Trish choked on a laugh. “Stop that. I can’t laugh and cry at the same time.”
“Sure you can.” Briney found another tissue and wiped away some tears of her own. “I do it all the time.”
When they came out of the women’s room, he was there, the tall guy with the deep brown eyes, leaning against the wall opposite the door, arms crossed.
She took one look at him, said “Oh God,” and tried to retreat back into the women’s room, colliding with Briney, and finally just stood there with her back to the stranger, her hands covering her face.
Briney glared at him over her shoulder. “Who the fuck are you and what do you want?”
“Um,” he said. “I um — well, I wanted to make sure she was all right.” He had a soft, deep voice, a kind voice.
“And exactly why is it any business is it of yours?”
Trish put her hand on Briney’s chest. “It’s okay. I can handle this.”
She turned around and straightened herself to her full height, which didn’t make much difference since she was still a foot shorter than him.
He looked down at her and said, “I’m guessing some jerk stood you up.”
What the hell, was it that obvious? Did she have a sign around her neck that said, I just got dumped. Feel free to take advantage of me on the rebound? That made her mad.
“I suppose you think that makes me easy game?”
He frowned. “Uh, n-no. That’s not what I thought at all.” He looked around like he was hoping for a way out. “I don’t know what I thought. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
He ran his fingers through his hair. It was an adorable move, and he was obviously trying to think of something to say that would get him out of an awkward situation. She was starting to feel a little sorry for him.
“Crap,” he said. “I plead temporary insanity. Brought on by the most beautiful red hair and prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”
She had to admit that it was a pretty good line, helped along by a hint of a southern drawl and deep brown eyes. But she wasn’t ready to let him off the hook, yet.
“Did you just say crap?”
Briney snorted. “Honey, I’m going back to our table. You obviously have the situation under control. Join us when you’ve put Mr. Foot-In-the-Mouth here out of his misery.” She squeezed past them. “And you guys might want to get out of the hallway. You’re blocking traffic.”
“Well?” She demanded, giving him her sternest glare.
He stared at her for several moments with a deer-in-the-headlights look, and finally stuck out his hand. “I’m Jerrod.”
She wasn’t expecting that, and didn’t have an immediate come-back. She looked at his hand, which was about even with her chin. “Lower,” she said.
He looked puzzled and then lowered his hand, which she took with hers. He had a strong grip and his hand was warm and she could smell his aftershave and her heart did an unexpected flip-flop. She was acting like a fifteen year old on her first date.
“I’m Patricia,” she said. “My friends call me Trish.”
“Can I call you Trish?”
“Jury’s still out.” She embarrassed herself by giggling like a high school girl. “Do you really think I have beautiful hair? And pretty eyes?”
He laughed. It was a pleasing, uninhibited laugh. “Woman, you have no idea.”
She liked that he called her a woman instead of a girl. “You can call me Trish.”
She moved in with him a few weeks later. That was two years ago. Jerrod wasn’t an Al Queda agent; he didn’t have a mean bone in him.
The spider on the ceiling of her cell had traversed two-thirds of it’s journey across the room when she stopped watching it and rolled on to her side to try to sleep. They were trying to place doubts in her mind about Jerrod. To drive a wedge between them. To win her over so that she would reveal something she was holding back. But she didn’t have anything to hold back. She had told them everything she knew. What would it take for them to believer her and let her go. That’s all she wanted. She just wanted to go home.
Jerrod’s doppleganger stood in the middle of the sparsely furnished room. Trish looked like she was asleep, which wasn’t surprising given that it was nearly midnight.
It had taken him a while to figure out Parker’s Latter Day Saints reference. A check at the local library had revealed that Bozeman had a small FBI field office and used local police facilities to hold and interrogate detainees. Salt Lake City, on the other hand, was where the FBI’s division office for Utah, Idaho and Montana was located. They had detention and interrogation facilities there. Parker was probably right about them having transferred Trish to the Salt Lake City office.
The location of the office was easy to find on the web. It took a while, using the teleporter’s voyeur capability, to find Trish.
He was surprised at how little security the place had, even at midnight. A video camera occupied a corner near the ceiling, but there was only one security guard on duty in the control room for the detention block, and she was thoroughly engrossed in a book.
He played with the field width until he was sure it would contain two people. He didn’t want leave one of Tricia’s hands or feet behind. He materialized in the center of the room and reset the teleporter for an empty warehouse two blocks away. One step brought him to the bed where he grabbed Tricia and manhandle her out of the bed and into his arms. She let out a yelp and tried to pull away, but by then he had dragged her into the middle of the room and hit the jump button. They appeared in the warehouse.
Trish had his arm in a death grip as she looked around. “J-Jerrod?”
“Just a sec,” he said.
He faced east, pictured the motel room in his mind and moved his doppelganger. A few blurred seconds later, they were standing in the room.
It took Jerrod the better part of an hour to get Trish calmed down. Several times he pulled the device out of his coat pocket to show to her, but she wanted nothing to do with it.
“You took it from the dead guy’s body?”
“No,” he explained for what seemed like the hundredth time. “He gave it to me and told me not to let them get it back.”
“Who are they?”
“I don’t know. Probably whoever shot him in the back.”
“And you used it to rob a bank?”
He sighed. “An ATM.”
They had covered this ground several times. For some reason, she didn’t seem able to hold it in her head. It was as if she couldn’t believe what he was telling her, so her mind refused to hold on to it.
She was standing at the window, looking at the parking lot. She turned around to face him.
“So let me get this straight,” she said. “You got this device from the dead guy, and it gives you almost super-human powers, and you decide to use it to rob a bank.”
“Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so good.”
“How would you put it?”
He was sitting on the room’s only chair. She remained standing, glaring at him from across the room. It had not occurred to him that she would be so upset. She’d go ballistic if she knew about the woman’s fingers.
“I’m not claiming it was the right thing to do,” he said. “But it’s not like I have decided to take up a career as a bank robber.” He frowned. He hadn’t really thought about what he was going to do with the device in the long run; he was too focused on getting away from the FBI. “What else could I do? I needed to disappear, and that takes money.”
She pursed her lips, always a bad sign. “I notice you didn’t mind spending a little money on some fancy clothes. And an expensive Scotch.”
“Well,” he admitted, putting his drink down. “I might have gotten a little carried away on that part.” He grinned. “You want to go shopping tomorrow? Spend a few thousand on some new clothes?”
Her eyebrows went up and he could tell she was thinking about it. She frowned and said, “Don’t change the subject.”
He finished off the scotch he had been nursing since the conversation began. Actually, it was his second.
“Besides, 84,000 bucks is a drop in the bucket for a bank like Wells Fargo. It’s a rounding error at the end of the year.”
She dismissed his argument with a wave of her hand. “That’s not the point, and you know it.”
“So we’ll find another way to get money,” he said. “The point is we’re not going to be able to go back to our old jobs. We’re fugitives. On the run.”
He paused, and looked her in the eye. “At least I am. You don’t have to be. If you turn yourself in, especially if you get a lawyer first, there’s a good chance they’ll let you go once they figure out you don’t know anything.”
She glared at him. “They threatened to disappear me.”
“Really? Damn.” That was a scary thought.
He put his head between his hands. “I’m sorry I got you into this.”
“I gotta pee,” she said, and disappeared into the bathroom. She was in there for a long time.
After a while he said, “Trish? Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” The toilet flushed and she opened the door. She was pale and looked like she was going to cry again.
“Hungry?” He asked.
“Let’s get something to eat.”
They ate at Denny’s, which was becoming his go-to eatery. It was two in the morning when they climbed into bed. They made slow, gentle love, and lay together in each other’s arms.
Jerrod was dozing off when she said, “Maybe I could pick up a few things tomorrow.”
He propped his head up on his arm. “Clothes, shoes, a few accessories.”
She gave him a lopsided grin. “A girl wants to look her best when she’s being pursued by the FBI.”