Secrets inside Her

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapters One & Two

Submitted: May 24, 2018

Reads: 109

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Submitted: May 24, 2018

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CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Nika was in serious trouble. She had a solution to her problem, but it involved a gun, a man with a limp, and preferably, no witnesses. She was crouched down beside an SUV, the SUV that belonged to the aforementioned man, on the lowest level of the British Columbia Spirit of Vancouver Island ferry, which was headed to the Swartz Bay terminal on Vancouver Island. It was freezing down on this level – rainy March weather added to the chill of the Pacific Ocean seeping up through the deck and Nika felt the bite of cold through her light jacket. The concrete floor was hard and uncomfortable under Nika’s feet and the air was noxious, smelling of gasoline and oil fumes. The ferry would dock in about 40 minutes and Nika wasn’t sure how much longer she could wait in this inhospitable environment. She was hidden from her pursuers and safe for the moment, so she was trying her best to find patience through her fear and discomfort.

Everything she’d done this past week was out of character for her. From her casual stroll away from Mr. Jackman’s compound, to her journey to Vancouver, to her stalking of the man with the limp. When Mr. Jackman learned that she had disappeared herself, he was furious, calling her on her cell phone from his private number, asking where she was, demanding she return to the compound. But she stubbornly (and stupidly, she now realized) refused. She wanted to be someone else, besides an operative for Mr. Jackman, for just a little while. She wanted to step outside his compound and experience the world. So many things she’d never done – like dine on succulent seafood in an award-winning restaurant, and drink red wine until she was drunk and flirty. She wanted to stand in the rainy Vancouver streets and get her hair wet; stay in the penthouse suite of a high-rise hotel where she could look out the window at night and see the sweeping, twinkling lights of the city. She wanted to wear high heels, shop for beautiful expensive clothes, have a manicure at a spa, and order room service for breakfast. She wanted to be an ordinary woman for just a little while.

She uncharitably blamed Kelsie Scott for her current troubles, the woman she disappeared in February. Kelsie was different from anyone else Mr. Jackman had ever asked her to hide. Most of the people Nika disappeared were older, intense and often difficult to work with – aware of their value and as a result, self-important. But Kelsie was none of these; Kelsie was just a little older than Nika, and soft, friendly and engaging. Nika thought that maybe she had found a friend for the first time in her life and was sad that she was going to disappear Kelsie.

The two talked a lot, mostly about Kelsie’s life as Nika was not allowed to talk about hers. Nika asked her questions, at first, because she needed to know who Kelsie was, understand the danger she was in and who she needed to disappear from, but the questions shifted from a professional interest to a personal one as Kelsie shared her story. Maybe it was because Kelsie was on the outside, not like the few other women Nika was acquainted with, field operatives who were generally solitary, a little hard, and often impatient with her.

Nika was too important to Mr. Jackman to be sent out into the field. She was required to train, but minimally; she rarely practiced her combat skills, didn’t spend much time on the gun range, never had to pretend she was anyone else other than who she was. From the age of 11, she worked for Mr. Jackman as his Disappearist, replacing his previous one who had been old and dying when she met him, when he had transferred his knowledge to her. She was raised by a companion until she was 18, privately schooled, and strictly monitored. She excelled in her studies, easily out-pacing her teacher until, at age 14, the teacher declared her graduated from high school and revoked his services.

Nika wanted to go to University, earn a degree, but Mr. Jackman wouldn’t allow her to leave the compound, so she studied online, earning dual degrees by age 16, in Science and Maths and then her first master’s degree in Pharmacology by age 18. Her second Master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology was in progress. She’d taken a three-year break from her studies to focus on her work. Still there were a lot of gaps in her knowledge, because books and computers and degrees didn’t replace practical knowledge; she didn’t know how to drive, she had no idea how to cook, and she’d never been on a date.

In fact, she had never been outside Mr. Jackman’s compound alone, and then very rarely. Until now. And that brought her back to Kelsie Scott, who was beautiful, and interesting because she was pregnant and in love. Mr. Jackman was not happy about the situation; Nika overheard the argument between him and the field operative, Dean Copeland. Civilians are loose ends; Kelsie Scott is a huge loose end. And she’s baggage, nothing to contribute to our operations, an albatross that could cost us in the long run.

But Dean didn’t back down. Nika knew he would not. She didn’t have a close relationship with any of the operatives, but she knew each one of them well, who they were and where they were when they went undercover. It was part of her job, to help them with their covers, help them get in, and then, when the job was done, help them disappear until the next assignment.

Kelsie initially questioned Nika’s youthfulness, and Nika understood that. On the one hand, she was brilliant, extremely capable, and completely indifferent to the emotionality of circumstances. But on the other hand, she lacked life experience, had few people to socialize with, and sometimes came across as unfriendly and tactless. But Kelsie helped to soften her; tried to make her understand that words should be mulled over a little before speaking. Nika took her time disappearing Kelsie because Kelsie was generous with her experiences. Kelsie shared the thrill of love and intimacy, her happiness, her humour, her deft handling of the operative, Dean Copeland.

At first Nika couldn’t figure out how a woman could soften a man like Dean. Although he was one of her favourites among the field agents, he was not a gentle man. He was often blunt, impatient and bullish; but he smiled easily and always treated her kindly. When he and Kelsie were together, he was a different man. He seemed lighter and happier; he laughed and teased more. He was a man in love and Kelsie loved him back. That’s what made Nika’s heart ache. Because she wanted that, desperately. But she couldn’t share this wish of hers with anyone, because who was there to talk to? Who was there to understand?

And so, when she was putting the final touches on Kelsie’s new life, she started formulating a plan of her own. Not a permanent disappearance, but a temporary one, like a vacation from work. She talked to Kelsie about Vancouver, Canada – Kelsie knew a lot, the best places to stay, to dine, to shop. Kelsie was excited to give her advice and suggestions on what she could do, where she could go, what she could buy, should she ever visit. And Nika listened and filed it away in her memory.

But Kelsie also warned her to be cautious; Vancouver was a large city with a darkness to it; she told Nika she was a beautiful young woman and men could be such assholes. They’d take advantage of her, use her, some wouldn’t take no for an answer. “That’s how you know who the good ones are,” Kelsie said. “If they stop when you say no, and don’t get angry or stalkerish.” Nika laughed at her – no men on her vacation she promised; she would be too busy eating and shopping.

Kelsie smiled at her then, but it was wistful and sad. “Sometimes,” she told Nika, “you don’t have a choice. Sometimes things just happen, and you can’t control them.”

“What do you do when that happens?” Nika asked her.

Kelsie pulled a card from her purse, with his name on it, his phone number. She tried to pass it to Nika who declined. “I don’t need the card,” she said pointing to her head. “It’s up here now.”

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Finn McQueen’s leg ached and that made him foul-tempered, impatient and desolate. It was almost two years to the day that he’d been shot three times and left to die on the hard, concrete floor of an airplane hangar. It was also the day he became a murderer. But only two people in the world knew about that; Finn and the guy who shot him. And that was irrelevant in the moment. Right now, he was limping, feeling the twinge in his upper thigh, where one of the bullets shattered his femur, effectively ending his brilliant field career. Yeah, he could have gone back to the streets, but he was the hero of the hour, the cop that caught the bad guy and was rewarded with a promotion he couldn’t refuse. Now he was a bureaucrat, shuffling papers, dealing with union stuff, telling his officers how to manage their cases.

But on days like this, rain bucketing down, his leg forcing him to limp like an old man, he found it hard to maintain his stoicism. He’d been on the upper deck of the ferry, outside in the fucking rain, trying to walk the pain off, when six adolescent hockey players hopped up on junk food and adrenaline invaded his space. They were noisy and raucous, oblivious to the affect their behaviour was having on those around them. And Finn, not sure he could resist tossing one or maybe even two of them overboard, abruptly left the deck. He decided that sitting in his car, on the windowless, airless, lower deck of the ferry would be preferable to encountering more of those teenaged assholes.

It was the late Thursday afternoon before the Easter long weekend, and he’d missed his reservation, just barely making it on the ferry. Ending up on the lowest deck, sharing it with big tractor-trailer units, motorhomes and busses.  Fortunately, he had made it on or his mother would have been beside herself and then his father would have been beside himself because his mother was beside herself. Finn sighed. So many law enforcement agencies he could have joined in Canada or elsewhere in the world, that were far, far away from his parents. He tried to remember what drew him to Vancouver and in the moment, couldn’t think of a single fucking thing.

He walked down the several flights of stairs, stubbornly refusing to use the elevator. He was not going to give into the discomfort. If he did that now, at the age of 31, he would be doing it until the day he died. The lower deck was deserted, understandably so. There was not a single reason anyone would spend the ferry ride down here sleeping, reading, or eating. This deck was windowless, damp and freezing; it smelled like the remains of an abandoned chemical dumpsite and wasn’t safe to wander alone. There were too many hiding places among the busses and tractor-trailer units. Of course, that was the cop in him overthinking – there were very few reported criminal incidences aboard the BC ferries.

Finn weaved his way through the vehicles, parked bumper to bumper. Some were too close to walk between and Finn had to circle them. Eventually he spied his grey Jeep Patriot at the tail end of the deck and beelined towards it. He limped around the front bumper of the SUV, deep in thought about his various grievances with the world and failed to notice the woman until she stood up in front of him and pressed the barrel of a gun into his stomach. “Unlock the car,” she whispered urgently, a slight accent framing her words, “and get in the driver’s seat.”

Finn looked from her to the gun and then back to her again. Something died inside him the night he killed that useless excuse of a human, the night he almost died himself. It had nothing to do with the moral ambiguity of being judge, jury and executioner – given the choice to do it over again, he would still shoot the son-of-a-bitch between the eyes. No, it had more to do with the knowledge that he chose the time and place of his own death and with that came two years of bleakness that he hadn’t yet found a way back from. Sure, he was grateful to still be breathing, but all the things he thought were important to him were lost in that exchange of gunfire. He didn’t see the point of creating an artificial life with a wife and children. He barely saw the point of his job anymore. And now, he was standing in front of, no… towering over… a young frightened woman who was trying to convince him to be afraid of her and the gun she was holding between very shaky hands.

“Give me the gun,” Finn said quietly. “Before you hurt yourself.”

“No!” He could see she was annoyed that he wasn’t more afraid of her, see her tighten her resolve and then shove the barrel a little harder into his solar plexus. “I told you to get into the car.” She tried to sound menacing and Finn tried his best not to chuckle.

“Do you have a name?” he said softly.

“Look, you fool. I am in danger and I need to get out of sight before I am spotted. Get in the goddamned car.” She spoke almost flawless English despite her accent.

Finn assessed her slowly, with his cop’s eyes. She was short, an inch or two over five feet and slight; her wrinkled clothes hung loosely on her. It looked like she’d slept in them – wet, dirty running shoes, grungy jeans, a red cotton camisole, somewhat hidden by a partially zipped grey hoodie, too light to be effective in this chill. She was early to mid 20s; dark brown untamed hair fell loosely below her shoulders, fierce hazel eyes with flecks of gold crowned by full dark eyebrows, a small straight nose, milky complexion and an impatient set to her beautiful full lips. A little tiger, he thought as he felt a pull of attraction. Finally, he said, “I’ll get in the car after you give me that gun. You do realize that I’m a cop?”

“I know you are a cop. Why do you think I chose you?”

Finn raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I have no idea why you chose me. But if you force me into my car at gunpoint, then I become your hostage and you have effectively kidnapped me. Which generally results in a long jail sentence in a high-security prison. On the other hand, if you give me the gun, I’ll be happy to let you get in my car and we can drive off the ferry together, no laws broken.”

He watched her lovely face as she mulled over his words. He could almost see her brain working. Then she flipped the gun around and passed it over by its barrel. “Kelsie Scott said you could be trusted.”

He almost dropped the gun when she uttered Kelsie’s name. “You know Kelsie?”

She scowled. “You have the gun. Can we get in your goddamned car now?”

Finn unlocked the SUV with his key fob and pulled open the back door. She didn’t wait for an invitation, scrambling past him and pulling the door shut behind her. He stood beside the Jeep looking at the gun in his hand, a Colt 1911, like the one he had at home. He pulled out the magazine. Yes, and loaded. He shivered. Another mystery, he thought as he reached for the car door. How could it not be if Kelsie Scott was involved?


© Copyright 2019 Jasmin Quinn. All rights reserved.

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