No More Lies by Elle Gray
Nakamura Sculpture Garden, Capitol Hill District; Seattle, WA
It’s not the first time I’ve had a gun pointed at my face. It’s not a fun experience and not one I’d care to repeat, but I suddenly find myself hoping this isn’t going to be the last time. And as I stare up at the gaping black hole that looks big enough to swallow me whole, I get the feeling it just might be. Strangely enough, although I’m afraid, I’m not nearly as scared at the prospect of my demise as I thought I’d be. I’m more pissed than anything.
The man stands over me, his face hidden within the shadows of the hood he’s got pulled low over his head. I lick my lips nervously, my heart hammering in my chest, my stomach churning wildly. I cut my eyes to the left and then to the right, searching for a way out of this. Looking for something I can use as an impromptu weapon. My gun is out of the question—the moment I’d move for it, he’d pull the trigger, and it’d be game over.
“Listen,” I start, licking my lips nervously. “Let’s talk about this, huh?”
He doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t move. Nor does he pull the trigger. He seems to be enjoying drawing out the moment. He seems to be enjoying watching me squirm, letting my mind try to figure a way out of this mess knowing anything I do is going to be futile because he has the upper hand. That makes him a sadist. He’s enjoying the feeling of power he has over me. He’s enjoying the emotional toll I’m being hit with: knowing I’m going to die, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Classic sadistic behavior with possible narcissistic undertones.
If I weren’t frozen to the spot, I’d shake my head. Leave it to me to try to diagnose somebody who is holding my life in the palm of his hand. Even when I’m facing my doom, I can’t stop trying to solve the puzzle in front of me. I’m pretty sure that’s something Dr. Reinhart and I should probably talk about if I somehow make it to my next session.
I look up at the man. “Is there something you want from me? Why are you just standing there doing nothing?” I ask, my voice growing tight with anger. “Just pull the trigger and get this over with already.”
“Are you that ready to die?” he fires back, his voice low and husky.
I recoil at the sound of the man’s voice because it’s unfamiliar to me. At first, I thought the man standing over me was ADIC Stone. After all, he’s the one who called me to meet him, so it stood to reason in my mind. But now that I’ve had a moment to look at the man’s shape, I can tell it’s not Stone—and that voice just confirms it. Whoever the hell this is, he’s just standing there, lingering, enjoying the moment of his victory.
Could this be a hitman from the Thirteen? Have they finally caught up to me, ready to exact their sweet revenge after I blew up their organization?
But if that’s the case, why isn’t he pulling the trigger?
Sweat trickles down my back as I stare up at him and the moment drags on. The wait for the sound of the shot, for the feeling of the bullet piercing my flesh, feels interminable. It just cranks my anxiety even higher. My body is trembling, and I can smell the fear spilling from my pores like garlic after a heavy Italian meal. But along with that fear is a strong current of rage. I narrow my eyes and glare at him.
“What are you waiting for?” I snarl. “Pull the trigger already.”
A low, grating laugh drifts from the darkness of the hood that sends a cold chill sweeping through my body. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end, and goosebumps march up and down my flesh. This is it. I can’t believe this is really happening.
I close my eyes and let out a long breath as I prepare myself for the inevitable. And when the shot rings out, I flinch but don’t feel a hot piece of lead tearing through my body. Instead, I hear a muffled curse that makes me open my eyes and gape at what I see.
The man in the hoodie is running off, and I see another man running toward me. The newcomer is tall and broad through the shoulders in a three-piece suit and dark topcoat. He’s holding a gun, too, and squeezes off a shot at the fleeing man. My rescuer stops just beside me, protectively standing between me and my attacker; he squares up and raises his weapon. He fires three quick shots at the man who’d attacked me, but I see the sparks as his shots ricochet off the sculptures that fill the garden area around me.
“Dammit,” he mutters.
He stands there another minute, his gun held out in front of him in a two-handed grip, but then lowers it and turns to me. Still in shock, my body shakes, and all I can do is watch as my attacker flees into the darkness. He eventually disappears deeper into the garden and then is gone, fading into the shadows of the night. I look up at my defender and feel a confusing mix of emotions washing over me.
“Mr. Stone?” I stammer, my voice quivering.
None other than Assistant Director In Charge Maximillian Stone, legendary FBI agent and my boss, looks down at me. “Are you all right?”
“I—I’m fine. Thanks to you, I’m fine. I’m alive,” I reply, my voice still shaking.
He reaches down and offers me his hand, so I take it and let him help me to my feet. He steps closer and looks me over the way a worried parent would inspect their child after they’d fallen. None of this made any sense to me. I shake my head to clear out the cobwebs that seem to have taken up residence inside my skull as I try to figure out what is happening.
It takes me a minute to sort this all out in my mind and gather my wits about me again. The trembling in my body slowly ebbs, and even though I’m still a bit shaky, I start to feel more in control of my faculties. Somewhat, anyway.
“What’s going on here?” I ask, my tone thick with confusion.
“I’d say it looks like I’m saving your butt,” he replies with a chuckle.
I give him a frown that seems to take the wind out of his sails. His expression grows sober and the smile fades from his lips. He stands upright and looks at me in a way that sends tendrils of electric intensity crackling along my skin.
“We have a lot to talk about, Blake,” he says, his tone firm.
He nods. “Yes, we do,” he replies. “So, come on. Let’s get out of here.”
As we head out of the sculpture garden, a feeling of trepidation grows deep and thick inside of me. It cuts through all the noise and confusion in my head and forces me to pay attention. To stay alert. I have no idea what’s going on, but something clearly is. And all I know is that ADIC Stone arrived on the scene just in time to save me from taking a bullet to the face. But I also know that things aren’t always what they seem to be in this game.
There is always something going on behind the scenes in this Machiavellian world we live in. People always have an agenda. And in this line of work, you’d better catch on to what those agendas are—or you could end up on the wrong side of a bullet, fast.
I have no idea what Stone and I could possibly have to talk about or why he asked me to meet him in a dark park in the middle of the night. But now that the adrenaline of nearly being murdered is fading, I’d be lying if I said my curiosity wasn’t piqued.
Everybody has an angle. An agenda. And I’m curious to know what Maximillian Stone’s agenda is.
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|Epub, PDF||August 9, 2022|
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