Amateur

Tyler was running scenarios for a recent plane crash. It was a domestic civilian flight, but a person of interest had been on the flight, and the circumstances were suspicious. They wanted to make sure it hadn’t been more than an accident. He’d requested access to all of the airline’s documentation, and the black box was being retrieved from the wreckage as he worked. It would be delivered the next day.

He started perusing the manifest, and almost dropped it when he saw Sandy’s name. Seated next to Maruc Trevelyan. The spy-turned-terrorist, responsible for ending hundreds of lives in bombings, as well as war crimes against his own people. He closed his eyes. Sandy’s plane had crashed. His mind went numb. He was pacing back and forth, but it was like he was watching himself. He couldn’t connect, couldn’t fathom the connection. He sat back down slowly and carefully, to pull up the rest of the report. Sandy had been spotted getting very cozy with Maruc pre-flight. His hands shook. He clenched them into fists. Sandy’s plan had crashed. He was on his feet again. There were no survivors. He hurled his chair against the wall, cracking two legs clean off. He drove a fist at the wall, unthinking, cracking a deep fist-shaped gouge. Pieces of white plaster fell onto the ground, and he sank to his knees, head against the wall.

Slowly he realized he’d been staring at the floor, bruised knuckles pressed against its cool hard surface. He took a deep breath, and stood, reaching for the phone, and dialed a familiar number.

“Daniel. I need some info.”

***

When Sandy woke up, her whole body hurt. She couldn’t see anything, and she was cold. So cold, her teeth were already chattering. She sat up slowly, feeling around herself. She had been lying on the ground, it was smooth and cold. She blinked, held her hand up in front of her face. She couldn’t see anything.

“Fuck.” Her voice was scratchy and quiet, but as soon as the word left her lips, lights flickered on, so bright she had to squint. Sandy looked around. She was in what looked like a basement, still wearing the same clothes she’d worn on the flight, only they were bloodstained and dirty. She pushed her hair back and felt a bandage. That would explain why her head was throbbing so badly. She dragged herself to her feet, only to discover that her left ankle was bruised and sprained badly. She could barely stand on it. She limped over to the door, leaning against the wall in intervals. The door was locked. “Fuck!” She banged her fist against the door. What the hell was going on? The last thing she remembered was the flight going down. Suddenly the door opened inward. She jumped back and stumbled, her hurt ankle giving way, and she fell to the ground. A man in a suit stood above her. His face was expressionless, the look in his eyes incurious as he studied her. “What—what’s going on? Where am I? Who are you?” She stuttered out, somewhat unnerved by his appearance. Two women walked in, dressed in fatigues.

“Upstairs.” The man uttered one word and left. The women moved forward and dragged her to her feet.

“Walk.” The woman on her left, a striking brunette, spat the word.

“Tell me what’s going on.” Sandy said, mustering up her courage, and looking the woman dead in the eye. Her response was a shove, again knocking Sandy to the floor. They pulled her to her feet.

“Walk.” The woman pushed her, and Sandy stumbled forward, crying out in pain as she landed on her left foot. The other woman stepped forward, grasping Sandy’s arm gently. She had raven hair and dark brown skin. She studied Sandy’s leg for a moment.

“She’s hurt Jane.”

“What?” The brunette snapped.

“My ankle! It’s sprained. I can’t—I can’t walk on it.” Sandy exclaimed. The woman named Jane looked at her ankle.

“We’ll have to carry her.”

“You carry her. I’ll report in.” Jane turned and walked out the door. The other woman looked at Sandy.

“My name is Diane.”

“Diane. What’s going on? Please, I need to know what’s happening.”

“It’ll all be explained in due time. Just cooperate, and everything will go okay for you.” Diane said soothingly, and then approached Sandy, lifting her as if she were a child. As Diane carried her up the stairs, however, Sandy did not find herself feeling reassured.

***

He couldn’t get a straight story out of anyone. All his sources clammed up, and one tried to convince him that neither Maruc nor Sandy had been on the plane. When he’d had enough of the evasive answers, her decided to go out and get some answers as quickly as possible. He didn’t want to pendik escort use lethal force, but he knew, as he packed up his gear, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for Sandy. He swallowed, forcing any emotion that might emerge to the back of his mind. He was trained to deal with even the most devastating situations with ruthless efficiency, and he didn’t intend to disappoint Sandy now. Once he found out who was responsible, he would avenge her. And he would give no quarter.

***

The walls were steel. There was one light bulb, hanging almost comically out of the ceiling above her. It was swaying slightly. Sandy was seated on a chair in front of a table. A man sat across from her. He was balding, and his pale complexion looked sickly under the harsh light. Her ankle was throbbing, and she couldn’t find a comfortable position to place it in. As she shifted in her chair, the man in front of her smiled. Even his teeth looked dingy in the poor lighting. He smiled again, and Sandy immediately wished she were elsewhere.

“Sandy Washington. Nice to meet you Ms. Washington,” he said, curling his lip around her name like an epithet. “I am Mr. Foss. Would you like a cup of water?”

“Yes, please.” Sandy relaxed slightly at his civil tone. The door to the room opened, and Diane walked in, placed a small paper cup with water in it in front of her. She sipped it and immediately felt better.

“Ms. Washington, would you like to tell me what exactly you were doing on US Air flight 111?”

“Ah, I was heading to DC for work.”

“And what work would that be?”

“I’m a marketing consultant. I have a meeting with a client this Wednesday.”

“A client? Really. You expect me to believe that?” He looked at her skeptically. Surprised by his tone of voice, she responded defensively.

“You can believe what you want. But it’s the truth.”

“What is your relationship to Maruc Trevelyan?”

“Maruc? Who?” At her response, he snapped his fingers, and Diane entered again, and placed a manila folder in front of her. She glanced at Sandy, and then quickly glanced away. He flipped the manila folder open. It was full of pictures of Maruc in uniform.

“Maruc Trevelyan. Don’t tell me you don’t know him.”

“Wait a minute—the guy seated next to me? I met him at the airport.” Mr. Jones leaned forward, placing his hands on the table.

“What did he give you?” His voice was intense, eyes piercingly focused on her. She flinched back.

“What? He didn’t give me anything—okay you know what, this has gone on too long, too far. I know my rights. I want a lawyer.” Mr. Jones looked shocked for a moment, then he threw back his head and laughed. He stood casually, and strolled over to her chair.

“Your first mistake, Celia Romanova, would be in thinking that you have rights.” He smiled again, and slammed his open hand into the side of her face. Sandy reeled in her chair and fell to the ground. And then the room went black.

***

Tyler went to the crash site and was rerouted to the lab by the techs at the scene. It was nearing dusk, and as the crash happened earlier in the day, they told him that all the evidence was at the lab. When he asked about survivors, no one would tell him anything, so he headed back to his car, and pulled out maps of the area that he’d brought with him. He focused on them, unwilling, but not completely unable to stifle his sudden hope at the tech’s uncharacteristic terseness. Typically, they’d blab to anyone with his security clearance. He’d previously noticed an area on the map that was suspiciously absent of the typical topographic features of the region. A second review of the maps confirmed his suspicions; the lab was in the opposite direction. He decided to do a quick surveillance run.

He had been driving along the desert highway for a couple of hours, seeing nothing but an expanse of dirt, tumbleweed, and the occasional rock, when he noticed a strange rock formation that seemed to just sprout out up on the far right of the highway. A quick glance at his GPS confirmed that was the area he was looking for. He pulled over a distance from it, and was about to get out of his car, when a beige sedan suddenly zoomed out from behind the outcropping and came to a screeching halt next to the road.

Three figures, with the stiff bearing of professional soldiers, emerged from behind the rocks, and walked toward the car. They were carrying something. He pulled out a small pair of binoculars, and saw they were carrying a female civilian. Her head was down, and her legs we dragging, the soldiers on either side maltepe escort of her were holding her upright. As they moved to the car, her head fell back, and Tyler’s heart dropped. It was Sandy. She looked barely conscious. He didn’t know how involved she happened to get mixed up enough to be in a plane crash with Maruc, and he realized he didn’t care. All he knew was that he had to get her out of there. But there was no way to legally intervene. He started up the engine again, and barreled down the road toward them. His car was barely stopped as he jumped out, engine still running, and bellowed at them.

“Soldiers! Where are you taking the prisoner?” He strode up to them, confidently. They whirled around, and one of the soldiers fingered their gun.

“Who are you?” The female soldier supporting Sandy asked, warily.

“CIA. Operation Hyde.” The soldier’s eyes widened but she stood her ground.

“Hyde? What’s your name and rank, sir?”

“You know I can’t tell you that. Now answer my question.”

The third solder stepped forward menacingly.

“Why don’t you answer ours?” He growled. Tyler smiled, and spreading his hands non-threateningly, stepped forward.

“Look-” he moved quickly, grabbing the soldier’s gun and pushing it upward by pulling it toward him, while simultaneously smashing his fist into the man’s face. There was a sickening crunch, and the man felt to the ground with a thud. The other two soldiers dropped Sandy and reached for their weapons, but by the time they unholstered their weapons, Tyler was firing. They both fell to the ground, bullets in their foreheads. Tyler quickly put the safety on the gun, put it in the back of his pants, and picked up Sandy gently. She was out cold. His rage at her attackers grew as he carried her back to his car, and quickly laid her on the back seat and buckled her seatbelt. He drove away from the scene, leaving the soldiers in plain sight.

***

Sandy lay on the bed in the hotel room, shod in a white t-shirt. He walked over to the side of the bed, and she turned her head. A dark bruise marred her smooth brown skin. She looked up at him, and the sadness he saw in her brown eyes tore at his heart. He couldn’t believe he’d ever let her walk away.

“Hey. Are you doing okay?” He asked.

“Feeling better.” She said, looking so forlorn that he walked over and gently rested his hand on her back.

“Don’t worry. We’re going to figure this out.” As he spoke, her eyes filled with tears. She opened her mouth, and then looked away, hair falling in waves across her face. Tyler swallowed. A white hot rage at the people who had done this to her filled him.

“Tyler,” she was looking at him again, her voice barely audible. She raised her hand to his forearm, tugged on it gently. He looked in her eyes, and sat down on the bed, lifting her gently into his lap. He was surprised how easily she moved, and how well she fit as she sank into his lap, clasping her arms around his shoulders. She rested her head on his shoulder. “I’m so glad,” she began, voice barely a whisper, until it broke. “I’m so glad you found me. I—I was so scared…” her voice trailed off and she began to sob. He held her shuddering body until she calmed down, and lifted her face. He stroked it gently, avoiding the bruise on her cheek.

“It’s okay now.” She looked up his voice, eyes red and still bright with tears.

“How do you know? What if they come for me?”

“They won’t come.” He said, steel in his voice.

“Tye.” Her voice broke on his name, but she continued. “Tye. You can’t promise me that.”

He looked at her silently for so long, she was surprised when he answered.

“They don’t know where you are. And the only people who know what I look like are dead.” He said emotionlessly. She didn’t react immediately, but after a moment closed her eyes on a sigh. He stroked her cheek with his thumbs, and then with his lips. She leaned into his kiss, and turned toward him in his arms. He inhaled quickly as she turned in his lap, her soft body rubbing up against him in all the right ways. He felt simultaneously aroused, and guilty for being aroused—she’d been through hell. He cleared his throat, and pulled back a bit. “Maybe—” the words got stuck in his throat and he had to clear it again. “You should get some rest.” She looked up at him, confused and surprised for a moment. She scooted forward on his lap a little more, until her soft hips were pressed against his belly. He was sitting stiff as a ramrod now, in an effort to hide his reaction. Her face softened, and she smiled, a little.

“Do kartal escort you want to hold me?”

“Do you…want me to?”

“Yes.” Her voice was so quiet on the last word that he had to strain to hear it. At that he pulled her back into his body, and leaned back on the bed. She snuggled into him, hair tickling his nose. She fell asleep cradled in his arms.

They stayed in the hotel for a couple days while Sandy’s ankle healed. Tyler had them checked in under a fake ID and swapped the car out on the second day. He chose a nondescript grey sedan with lightly tinted windows, and left the truck out in the city next to a scrapyard, with the keys in the ignition. He figured it would be gone within hours. When he got back to the hotel room, Sandy was laying on the bed in sweats, watching television morosely. Her ankle had healed surprisingly quickly in the past two days. She looked up, eyes wide when he walked in. When she saw it was him, smiled tightly, then spoke, “I think we should leave, Tye.”

“Did something happen?” Tyler sat down next to her, resting gentle hand on her shoulder. She leaned into him and smiled.

“The lights have been flickering a lot.” She said.

“When?” He kept his hand on her shoulder steady, so as not to concern her.

“Um, not sure maybe a couple minutes ago?”

“Get up. We have to go.” She sat up instantly, reaching to the floor for her shoes.

“Now?” The question was superfluous, but she asked it anyway, to distract herself from the terror buzzing in her stomach. She took a deep breath.

“Yes.” And he was dragging her out the door. She stumbled behind him in sweats and half-tied sneakers, still limping slightly from her almost-healed ankle. Tyler had wrapped it up for her each night, and the pain had subsided significantly. His hands, long and thick-fingered, would brush against her calf, her shin, while he removed the ace bandage and settled her foot gently on a bag of ice. “Don’t move,” he would caution, placing another bag on top of her foot, his light brown face serious, hazel eyes smiling.

She was jolted from her recollection as they entered the lobby. He pulled her behind a pillar, just as two men in suits walked past purposefully. She caught her breath, hands over her mouth. He twined his hands in hers, and pressing them against his chest, touched his mouth to hers. Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment.

“We need to get outside,” he said, his lips moving against hers. Sandy fought to keep her trembling under control. She was so afraid of being taken back to that steel room. Tyler squeezed her hands encouragingly, and moved casually away from her. “When I go, you’re going to walk out the front door.”

“Okay.” The word came out somewhere between a squeak and a whisper.

“Now.” Tyler let go of her hand. Sandy stepped forward, palms sweating. Her ankle throbbed as she put her full weight on it, trying to hide her limp. She tried to relax, and move toward the door at a natural pace. She wanted to look back at Tyler, but instead forced herself to sweep a measured gaze around the lobby.

Two elderly ladies sat in overstuffed chairs to her left, laughing and chatting in front of a false fireplace. To her right, a man pretending to read a magazine. She gulped and turned her head back toward the glass sliding doors. They whooshed open, the chilly night air hitting her body, carrying her along to the parking lot. She didn’t know what his car looked like.

“Oh no…” She expelled the words quietly.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” A young, fresh shaven bell hop in a dark grey uniform walked up to her, smiling.

“Um, I’m just, waiting. For my friend.” She forced a smile, felt herself baring her teeth.

“Right. If you’ll just come with me?” His hand snapped out, grasping her shoulder with bruising force. Sandy didn’t think. She kicked him in the knee, then stepped closer and kneed him in the balls. He shouted with pain and cursed, clutching at his wounded areas, so she turned and ran, ignoring the dull pain in her ankle. She heard him shouting after her, and then pursuit. She ran past a line of cars, and a tall balding man in a grey suit stepped out. He leaned forward, crouching, and smiled at her. She shrieked and tried to slow her momentum.

“Sandy!” Tyler was suddenly in front of her. The man in front of the car turned in surprise, right into Tyler’s fist. The blow stunned him, and the man staggered. Tyler’s foot lashed out into the man’s abdomen. He grunted of pain, and he fell to the asphalt. Tyler kicked again, this time his foot connected with the man’s face. There was a wet thud and a crack. “Get in the car!” He shouted, swiftly left-hooking another attacker while tossing the keys to her and gesturing to a deep blue Mustang. She caught the keys and turned toward the car, only to run smack into a fourth man.

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