Chapter 1 - An Eye for an Eye
"Do you know why you're here?" came the snide voice of Kyle Evans. He looked at me squarely, eyes narrowed. I met his gaze, fidgeting with the rope tied around my wrists. I was trying to keep calm. I knew from years of torture from my brother that all they want is a reaction. Unfortunately my brother's torture was much less dangerous.
"Ryan will kick your ass," I growled, glaring at Kyle. His lips curled up into a disturbing smile.
"Sweetie," his voice dripped with disdain, "Shane is the reason you're here." Now that wasn't true. There was no chance my Ryan was involved with this psychopath. There was no way he was Shane Moss - serial killer. Kyle looked down at his iPhone, the screen lighting up his face. The sun had long gone down and the only light in the room was a small lamp in the corner. "In fact," Kyle began, smiling, "Shane should be here any minute."
I felt a lump forming in my throat. He was bluffing. He had to be.
"Damien said you'd be here," a familiar, warm voice said from the doorway. When he stepped in the room, I swear all the blood in my veins went cold. There was no way. I had made the call to 9-1-1. I knew. I knew he wasn't Ryan Leonard. He was Shane Moss. I knew that. I just couldn't believe it.
"Ryan?" I said in a voice barely above a whisper. Ryan's head shot over to me. Instead of the warm smile I was accustomed to, his eyes looked dark. He narrowed his eyes, before looking back to Kyle.
"You tied her up?" Ryan asked irately.
"Does it matter? Tie her up or let her pace back and forth - it all ends the same way," Kyle replied, laughing evilly. I could feel the calm state of mind I had forced myself into dissipate.
"Ryan, what's going on?" I asked, keeping my tone firm. Ryan looked at me like I was a lost puppy - pity.
"You know too much," he said softly, pulling the handgun from his back pocket. My eyes widened as it registered - everything I had put together in the last six months was about to be what killed me.
"Why are you involved in that?" I asked, my voice shaking. "Those kids were dying and you were a part of it?" All the fear left me, all I could feel was rage.
Kyle cackled in the corner. "Sweetheart, your fiancé was the mastermind behind it."
"So what it was doing to me - that meant nothing to you?" I asked. Ryan avoided my gaze. "Every time one of those kids died, it broke my heart and every single time you told me it was going to be okay, but you were lying? Don't you-"
"Shut up," a deep male voice came. A larger, taller stranger entered the room. He pulled his phone out of his black suit. He looked at me irately. "Don't you get it yet, princess?" I stared at him blankly. "Shane was using you. Until you went snooping into shit that is none of your damn business. Then got one of our guys locked up." Garrett Campbell - the pediatric surgeon. I shook my head in disbelief. I thought he was just a horrible surgeon.
Kyle pulled his own gun from his suit pocket. "So let's just call this an eye for an eye," he snarled, pointing the gun at me. I closed my eyes, feeling tears sting the corners of my eyes. "Seriously, Damien?" I opened my eyes, seeing the larger man, Damien, holding his hand to stop Kyle.
"I want Shane to do it. She's his part of the plan, he should get to have the pleasure of ending her life," Damien stated, a cruel smile planted on his face.
I looked at Ryan or Shane or whoever he was, who no longer looked sad as he pulled his gun up. How had I been living a lie for the past year? How was I in love with someone I didn't even know? I swallowed. "I thought you loved me," I said softly, feeling the tears silently fall down my face.
"All part of a plan, remember?" Ryan snarled, echoing the words he used when he proposed to me, a much different context.
"Untie her first, Moss," Damien demanded as Kyle pulled out a pocket knife and cut the ropes on my wrists and legs. As soon as he broke my wrists free I punched him square in the nose which caused him to yell out in pain. I jumped up but Damien grabbed my arm and slammed me onto the table. I yelled out as my head exploded in pain.
I heard the door swing open as my vision blurred. "Put the girl down," was the last voice I heard before my world went black.
I didn't feel like I was in pain. I felt heavy. Like someone had filled my veins with lead. I could hear movement around me but I decided to keep my eyes closed for a little longer.
This happened every morning. I always woke up before my alarm. My insomnia prevented me from sleeping through the night so I always woke up before Ryan. I should at least say goodbye before he goes to work...
I opened my eyes. My small one bedroom apartment this was not. I turned my head to see machines by my bed which I could now hear pinging softly with my heartbeat.
"She's awake," I heard a nurse say. I looked over to see a small, blonde woman writing on a chart furiously. "Go get Agent Perry."
"Already here, Lorna," a tall, black man stated as he walked in the door. Lorna and the other nurse nodded as Agent Perry entered the room. He looked at me, a small smile on his face. "Can you ladies give me a moment alone with Miss Anderson?"
"Of course, Agent Perry," Lorna stated, motioning the other nurse out with her.
After the door closed, Agent Perry picked up my chart, glancing at it before walking over to the pinging machines next to my bed. He looked stern as he looked from my chart to the machines.
"You're probably better at reading this than I am," he started, looking at me as he sat down in the cold metal chair next to my bed. He handed me the chart.
"How would you know that?" I croaked. Damn, my throat was dry. Agent Perry handed me a glass of water.
"It's in your case file," he stated as if this was common knowledge. I had a case file? I stared at him in confusion for a moment before looking down at my chart.
Patient Name: Amelia Mae Anderson
Admitted: June 27, 2012
Preliminary Problems: Forced trauma to back of skull - apparent concussion
I could feel the back of my head throb in pain now. I reached my hand back to rub the spot, but flinched as the lightest touch caused it to explode in pain.
And it was like a flood. The entire night came back to me. Ryan, Kyle, and Damien with their guns pointed. Ryan's face when I asked if he loved me and he looked emotionless. I felt a panic rise inside me.
"What happened to Ryan and Kyle and Damien?" I asked, looking up from the chart.
Agent Perry frowned slightly. "They got away," he stated, clearly disappointed. That means they were still out there. And knowing what I know... He must have read the panic on my face as he said this. "You're safe. No criminal in their right mind would come within a hundred mile radius of this place."
"This place?" I asked, still confused.
Agent Perry blinked. "I'm sorry," he apologized, "you have no idea, do you?" I shook my head as he blew out a sigh. "You're in CIA headquarters, Miss Anderson."
"I'm what?" I asked, sitting up. The machines buzzed wildly as I did this. I glared and sat back, trying to force my heart rate down.
"We couldn't send you to a normal hospital," he replied, as if this fact was completely obviously. "Those men would hunt you down in seconds." Thanks. That definitely made me feel better about going home.
A slender, red headed woman stormed into the room. "I said five minutes," she stated, glaring at Agent Perry. She looked over at the machines, which were still pinging at above average rates and then at me. "You're stressing my patient out-"
"Relax, Dr. Birch," Agent Perry said, standing up from his chair. "I'll discuss this with you more later. Right now, rest." He offered an awkward smile at me, that I chose to believe was suppose to be comforting.
"When do I get to go home?" I spoke up. The hospital wouldn't be happy about me being out for too long - even as a medical emergency. Surgical interns were given no mercy.
Agent Perry froze as he stood in the doorway. "That's a matter to be discussed later," he stated sternly.
"Out, out," Dr. Birch snapped, slamming the door after Agent Perry. "Your numbers just keep going up, sweetie." I cursed the machines for giving away everything I was feeling as a lump rose in my throat. Either I was more seriously injured than I thought or there was something much bigger at work.
I stared down at the case file for Mia Anderson, rubbing my eyes from the lack of sleep I got last night. I hadn't had a field mission in a long time. Not since Victoria Stokes. Not since I had completely failed her.
Failed her... A voice in my head mocked. I could still hear his voice mocking me. I shook the thoughts out of my head as I looked down at my file. This was different. I was better now.
Agent Perry stormed into the room, my best friend Agent Michael Palmer behind him, shrugging to me. Apparently, Agent Perry was not in a good mood. I leaned back in my chair, this should be fun.
"Good morning, Agent Perry," I yawned, smirking as he glared at me, sitting down at the long oak table. Michael silently plugged in cords behind him, watching the screen of his iPad light up. He nodded at Agent Perry, sitting down next to me.
"Is that her file?" Michael whispered, looking over at the papers spread out in front of me. I stared at the picture attached to the many pages we had put together about her job, her interests, her medical records - her life. I had a hard time believing they could pin someone down on a piece of paper, but they certainly made a good effort.
A blue-eyed, smiling brunette stared back at me as I pulled the photo out from under the paper clip. Mia Anderson was gorgeous. Her head was tipped back as if she was laughing, her brunette-deep red curls falling behind her. This woman was happy. Smiling. Carefree. This woman was nothing like the woman Agent Perry said was lying in our medical ward, exhausted, and probably scared.
"I swear you got the good part of this mission," Michael said quietly, taking the photo from me. I rolled my eyes. He was referring to her model-esque qualities.
Agent Perry looked up from his newspaper, glaring pointedly at Michael. "Agent Palmer," he began, his voice stern, "I don't care how attractive this young woman is, she is our project. Not a potential girlfriend." He looked at me as he said this last part, to which I raised my hands up defensively.
"Not even on my radar," I said, smirking. I was all about the job. My job was to keep her safe, and that's all I intended on doing.
"That's what I like to hear," he nodded in my direction - as close as he ever got to a smile. I nodded back, leaning back in my chair. I shot up as the door opened, other agents filing into the room.
They filed in chattily, staring at the blank screen at the head of the table. I put all the papers back into Mia Anderson's file. I'd have time to read up more later.
"Good morning, agents," Agent Perry said, silencing the chatter as everyone turned their heads towards him. Agent Perry pulled up a slide show, the same perky picture of Mia Anderson flashing on the screen as the one tucked away in my file. "This is Amelia Mae Anderson," he began, hands behind his back as he paced back and forth.
"She was the fiancé to Ryan Leonard, AKA Shane Moss," he stated. Whispers filled the room. We all knew. Shane Moss had been on the FBI's most wanted list for about ten years, always running from city to city, hiding behind various identities. "Last night, we got a call saying she called 9-1-1 with information about his murder ring. The call cut off before they could get her location. After locating cell phone signals, we placed her at the abandoned boat house, and rushed to the scene. Miss Anderson was unconscious and Moss managed to flee.
"We arrived at the scene just in time and managed to secure her, but Moss and the two other men at the scene fled before we could get our hands on him."
I nodded, most of us knew these details already, but the debrief was necessary.
"This is the first time in five years we've been this close to catching him. He's not getting away this time. I'm going to relay our immediate plans. Beginning with the fact that Miss Anderson is not safe. We received calls early this morning about suspicious activity around the local hospitals and our guys watching the apartment they share said they discovered another car watching it in the area."
He looked to me, to which I nodded, sitting up in my chair. Everyone shifted their gaze to me. I saw a few whispers, feeling my anger boil.
"-not field ready-"
"-the best we got?"
Were among the insults I could hear. Everyone screwed up. I suffered everyday for what I did. But I was the best they ever had. And that hadn't changed because of one mishap.
"What's the plan?" Michael chimed in, silencing the whispers with a glare. I breathed in, thankful for him in that moment. Michael was mostly an ass, but he had his redeeming moments. Like this one. He was the only person who never questioned my capabilities as a field agent after the incident.
"Glad you asked, Agent Palmer," Perry stated, clicking to the next slide. "Our first course of action is to place Miss Anderson in witness protection while we hunt down this psycho. Moss is looking for her, no doubt. She has information worth killing for and she revealed his location and true identity to us when no one could for the last five years. Agent Matthews will take her to a safe house in San Diego for a few days while we secure a more long-term location."
I sat up eagerly, watching Nurse Lorna pull the various needles out of my arm. She had confirmed that I was in the clear - no more bleeding, concussion fixed.
"You cannot bother her!" Dr. Birch yelled, chasing after Agent Perry as he stormed into my room.
"This is urgent, doctor," he snapped, freezing in his place as he noticed me, sitting with my legs hanging over the site of my bed, eyes wide in concern. "Sorry, Miss Anderson."
"Am I going home, Agent Perry?" I pressed. I wanted my own clothes and I wanted to take a long bubble bath. They had let me take a shower this morning, but I still felt dirty.
"Errr, not exactly," Agent Perry hesitated. I raised my eyebrows. He did not seem like the kind of man that hesitated.
"Not exactly?" I repeated, crossing my arms. Lorna looked concerned and Dr. Birch - still annoyed.
"It'll be explained," he stated firmly, "but I need you to come with me." I looked to Lorna, who gave me a sad smile. A smile full of pity. Whatever this was, it wasn't good.
I slid my feet into the navy blue flip flops they had provided me with this morning and followed Agent Perry out the door. I followed him down the hall, into a giant elevator, and down another hallway - the entire time completely silent.
He opened a large oak door that read - "Debriefing Room 1002" - on the silver plate next to it. In the room stood a small steel table and four matching chairs. A tired, but incredibly attractive, dirty blonde man sat in one of the chairs, pouring creamer into his white mug of coffee. He looked up momentarily and then offered me the same sad smile Lorna had given me. The amount of pity I was getting was starting to irritate me. Why couldn't anyone be straight with me?
"Coffee, Miss Anderson?" the man asked politely, his velvety voice made my heart melt.
"Yes, please," I replied in equal politeness. He nodded and got up, revealing how tall he was. He had to have at least a foot on me. His light blue button-up had the sleeves pushed up revealing his toned arms. I shook my head, trying to erase my thoughts. I was just tired - that was the explanation for the gawking.
Agent Perry sat down at the head of the table, setting his large, white Starbucks cup down. I squinted at the writing on the side - 'Americano'. I smirked. Of course he was an Americano guy. When I worked as a barista through college, all the serious business types drank Americanos.
I sipped my coffee, trying to remain calm. I took a deep breath, releasing slowly. There was no need to panic. Yet.
"Miss Anderson," Agent Perry began, "this is Agent Matthews." We have a name! Sort of. "He's our best field agent." I nodded, still waiting for the part that pertained to me. "He's also highly involved with our witness protection program." My head shot up. Witness protection program? That was for people who were being tracked down. People who weren't safe. People who... Were like me. I swallowed, feeling like I dry swallowed a pill.
"Witness protection?" I asked, my voice shaking. I saw Agent Matthews look down. Like he had done this a million times. Like he knew what my reaction would be.
"Yes," Agent Perry stated, clearly irritated with my need to repeat phrases. "You're not safe here. Moss has his guys watching your apartment and checking up at the hospitals." He paused, looking down at his notes. "Apparently he's unaware we have our own medical facilities." He chuckled, as if this was a joke. "We feel that it is best to move you to a safer location for a little while where you can stay safe under a different identity."
I choked on my coffee. "What?" I said, wide eyes. "You want me to leave and go to some unknown place and be a completely different person?"
"Not alone, Miss Anderson," he reasoned. "That's what Agent Matthews is here for."
I looked at Agent Matthews. Not even five minutes a go, he was just a handsome stranger. Now I was expected to run off and hide with this guy? That was their solution?
"Why can't you just find him?" I asked, feeling my head throb.
"We are, but you have to understand - he's an incredibly difficult man to find. And we're afraid he'll try to hunt you down if we let you out." I swallowed again, the lump in my throat getting larger. Ryan, or Shane or whoever he was, was out there trying to kill me. In one phone call, I had obliterated whatever life I had. Which hadn't really been a life because I was living a lie. I was a tool to Ryan, just as I was just a subject to the two men sitting in this room. If this was a nightmare, I just wanted to wake up.
I suddenly felt tired, weak, and defeated. "So what's the plan?" I asked tiredly. I could see Agent Matthews' face faltered from his serious expression to sympathy.
"So what's the plan?" Mia Anderson asked tiredly. I could tell she had given up. And why shouldn't she? She just found out her entire last year of life was a lie and she had to leave whatever she had left behind without a second glance. Still, it was hard to see the confident, bright-eyed girl from the picture look so small and defeated now.
"We leave for San Diego in an hour," I chimed in. Agent Perry shot me a glance. I shrugged. It was my case after all.
Her head shot in my direction as if she forgot I was there. "San Diego?" she asked, clearly confused. It was a little far from Virginia, but that was the idea.
"Yes," I began, sitting up straighter, "we have a safe house located there. We'll stay here until we come up with something more long-term."
"Long-term?" she asked, looking even more panicked. Great. All I was doing was making her feel worse than she already did.
I cleared my throat nervously. "Unless we find him before then," I said more gently, trying to give her hope. She nodded, looking at her coffee cup thoughtfully. I could see her eyes shining with tears.
"But I can go get my things?" she asked, looking up.
"No, we have to leave as soon as possible. And besides," Agent Perry cut in, taking back control of the conversation, "Moss has men guarding your place. It's not safe."
All Mia did was nod. I could tell she had given up.
"Agent Matthews will debrief you on the plane," Agent Perry stated, standing up, "and Miss Anderson," he said, more gently, more human, "we will catch this guy."
She pursed her lips, but nodded. He waved to leave, giving me a nod.
"We can debrief tonight, Matthews," he stated before shutting the door.
"Agent Matthews," she began, standing up as well.
"My name is Tyler," I said firmly, standing up as well, "we're going to be living together. You can call me Tyler."
She retuned a small smile. "Thankyou," she stated, pulling her navy blue sweater around her tightly.
"We'll go shopping once we get there," I stated, acknowledging that the clothes we gave her were too big. She nodded.
I opened the door for her, walking silently to the plane.