Wind rustles fallen leaves;
Frosted air promising snow.
Darkness comes early.
Well, I was one over on line one and one less on line three so I figure I came out even:)
It hadn’t meant anything. She’d done her job. At least, they’d told her she had done a good job and making them happy was the fricking point of her entire existence. Or, so it felt. Regardless, she’d snared the bait and walked away. She done it so many time before, she could have been blindfolded.
Sometimes, she dreamed of an almost forgotten past; before the hurt and the pain, before the murder, before those men stepped in and saved her. Going from her family’s protection to protection by the government in what? An hour? More? It had been too confusing; all the screaming and gunfire, her father racked with bullets, his last gift falling dead over her body. Because she’d been under him, unable to move, the Cartel had assumed she was dead as well. She lay there until Conner found her.
She’s only been nine. How was she supposed to know one devil from another?
Different names, different hair colors, different lives. No where felt like home. She had nothing but the men who’d saved her, hidden her in the forgotten nooks and crannies of the world. And then, she found out what they wanted. They wanted her; they owned her. She’d never had a choice.
She lured men, and women, seduced them away from their families, from their lives, into a world in which they no longer existed. For all their families knew, they’d left for another woman or another man, never to be heard from again. The families would never find out different. They used the Bait until it died, or was so broken as to be useless.
Sometimes, she dreamed of the families left behind. Women’s faces. Men’s faces. Empty houses. Long dark nights and tears. Anger. Sometimes hate. Sometimes gunshots. Pills. Broken dreams. Broken lives.
For a long time, she’d believed they were right. Her life had been broken, destroyed, her parents, sibling, killed in front of her; a never-ending nightmare. What gave anybody the right to an unbroken life when she had nothing?
She’s come to realize, however, that no matter her broken life, she didn’t have the right to cause others the same pain. To abandon them to a fate more devastating than death.
The last one, he’d cried the night they took him away. Begged.
No right. No right whatsoever.
Clutching her bag, she strode towards Departure Gate B. They wouldn’t be looking for her yet, but as soon as they realized she’d fled, they would. She wanted as much distance and time between them as possible. She needed every minute to disappear.
“You coming, Miss?” asked the attendant as the last of the passengers were cleared for boarding.
Run. Run. As fast and as far as possible. So they won’t catch you. You’ll be free.
She couldn’t. She didn’t. Instead, she turned back, exchanged her ticket, and while waiting, pulled out her phone. Texted a number not yet deleted from her memory.
Trying my hand again, so here goes…
The scent of roses hides
Shadows cold under the dark sky
Soft baby warm light.
Yellow. As in piss poor. Rubber ducks. The sun. Lemonade. Flowers. And dead if the man heading into the bank didn’t perform up to snuff. He’d wanted to kill the bait before, had argued for it, but had been overridden. Nobody wanted to listen. Nobody wanted to believe.
It was dangerous to use one piece of bait too long. Too dangerous, not only to the bait – which didn’t matter to him – but to the job. There was always more bait. There wouldn’t be another mission should this one fail.
He drew in a long breath, not looking at the asshole beside him or the rest of the team watching from above; strategically placed around the street corner on which the bank was situated.
“Good afternoon, Mr Marshall. I hope for a productive meeting.”
“I am sure it will be, Mr. Jenkins. I am sure.”
Listened to the sound of walking. The rustle of clothes. The almost silent breath. Checking the bait’s vitals on the machine beside him, he cursed. The bait was going to panic; he’d been waiting for this to happen. You don’t pluck bait from the street and expect them to function in the high-stress situation of a mission. This one had lasted longer than the others. He’d almost believed things would work out this time.
More fool, he.
The sound of a door opening and closing.
“This will be suitable for your review, I hope?”
More rustling. The thump of a briefcase laid upon the table.
“I will call you when I am done.”
“Very well,” the bank manager replied, clearly reluctant to leave. “Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thank you,” the bait said a moment later. “I’ll give you a call.”
Rustle of clothing and the squeak of door hinges opening and closing.
Now, the fun began.
Gone, Part 2
He’d been tempted, yeah. What man in his right mind, even a married man, wouldn’t have been when the offer came tied in such a beautiful bow? Now he knew what the beautiful bow had concealed, but it was too late. He’d been snared and didn’t have any real choice in the matter.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
He could have refused, could have walked away, but they knew where he lived, had pictures of Susan, leveled threats he knew they meant.
He’d thought, stupidly, he just need to help a few times and then go home, but that hadn’t been the case. A year now and to infinity.
He looked around, wanting to scratch his new-growing beard, but didn’t. One wrong step. He’d been living with that phrase for months now. One wrong step and you know what will happen.
He did, oh yeah. And he’d do anything to keep his wife safe. He’d wanted to tell her in the months they’d given him to tie up his affairs, make her think he was leaving for another woman, but he knew what would happen. The only way to ensure her safety was to remain quiet.
And so he had, walking away from everything which had ever meant anything to him. Susan, job, friends and family. He’d spent their marriage taking care of her, giving her whatever she wanted to make her happy. One, because he could, and two, to keep her safe with a wall of money between them and the world.
God, he’d been such a stupid shit.
He frowned; hated earpieces. It was them watching over his shoulder. Straight and narrow. Eyes on the prize. Staying alive.
He shook his head, running a hand through new-blacked hair, and stepped off the curve, walking quick and confident to the First Bank of Farmingham.* He had fifty minutes. Taking a steadying breath, he opened the door and stepped inside.
He’d been gone for two months when she realized he wasn’t coming back. The thought confused her. Why wouldn’t he come back? Was something wrong with their marriage? Her? Was something wrong with her?
Hadn’t she cooked his meals, cleaned the house, everything he didn’t have time to do when he was working so hard. Eighty hours some weeks. He never listened when she tried to talk about working less, being home more. They didn’t talk about anything anymore. He ate alone, often at 10 or 11 at night. He worked weekdays. Weekends. Holidays. Sometimes all night.
Has she not done enough? Was it her fault?
Slowly, she realized he had abandoned her, abandoned their home, their life, but mostly her. She’d nagged too much. Fussed about clothes left on the floor. By the hamper. Dishes left on the kitchen counter. By the dishwasher. Towels on the bathroom floor. The way stress was wearing him thin.
She’d tried to do right. Tried to support him, to help him. God knows, she loved him, even if he didn’t seem to want her anymore.
It occurred to her he had met someone, some woman, someone who listened to him and loved him, who wasn’t too tired when he got home to have sex. It didn’t matter what she wanted, at least not in the last year. Before then, everything had seemed perfect.
She loved him with all her heart and soul and life. He’d provided for her, for them, given her a huge house, two fancy cars in the garage, a pasture and barn for her horses. Romantic trips to far away places. Parties. Gala openings for movies and the theater. Anything she’d wanted, he’d given her.
Until this year.
She must have changed. He didn’t love her anymore.
She spent the next few weeks crying, frantically looking for him. Calling his cell. His office. His family. No body knew where he was and he never answered his cell. When his voice mail got too full to take any more messages, she stopped calling.
His boss told her he’d quit his job months before he’d disappeared, but couldn’t tell her why. He’d come in one day, given notice and walked back out the door. That was the last time anybody in the office had seen him.
It was then she realized he’d been planning to disappear for a long time. Had he lain in their bed late at night, thinking about how he was going to leave her? Anxious to be with the other woman?
Was the woman one of their friends? Somebody at his Office? A chance meeting at the Coffee Shop? If she just knew who and why, she might be able to accept his loss. As it was, his leaving left a hole in her life and her heart which she knew would never be filled. He was the only man she’d ever loved. The man she’d given herself to on their wedding night, the only man she’d ever been with.
After six months, she woke knowing she had to go on with her life. Either give up and die or move on. She’d tried to kill herself once, speeding around the narrow mountain curves, planning to drive off the road, but she been too afraid to go through with her plan.
She bought a farm out in the country. Sold the house and everything inside. Sold the fancy automobiles and bought herself a second-hand car. Donated all their fancy clothes. Sold her jewelry, the silver, all his things. Moved herself and her horses to the farm to start anew.
She adopted a dog from the Shelter. And a cat. Bought chickens and built a chicken coop by herself, complete with banged thumbs, frustrations, screaming fits, crying, mis-cut boards, broken nails. Back to the lumber store time after time, determined to succeed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but she’d done it herself. She even thought about getting a cow. Maybe some fainting goats.
At the end of the first month on the farm, near the end of the first year since his disappearance, her phone rang at midnight…