Killing Time OST – 21a – Nerves

<< 20c – Dinner

Driving at a reasonable speed required all the head cooling thoughts I could manage. I knew where I stood now, albeit the shakiest grounds one ever threaded. My house wasn’t safe anymore. My secret basement might still be. The security surrounding the lab made Merrilyn Tech look barely professional. Things could be worse.
Things could be worse.
“They’re not transmitting.” Vexx spun around on the passenger seat and folded his frequency scanner back into his backpack.
“Good.” I didn’t wish to add an FBI safe house to the list of things I compromised today. “How are you holding up back there?”
“Stupid question,” Derek grunted.
“Lor.” Naomi’s voice managed to shake on that single syllable. “We’ve been friends for years. What’s happening?”
I smiled. Her mind sounded straighter than her tone. I could work with that. “Let’s just say I’ve hidden a couple of things from you.”
“Your dad tried to kill you.” Derek’s more negative reaction to shock pushed me to activate the child locks, a safety precaution so he wouldn’t try to jump out of the car.
“It’s complicated,” Vexx replied for me as the lump in my throat hindered my speech’s clarity. I had some issues to work through. “You’ll be in witness protection in no time.”
“But I have a career!” Naomi yelped.
I hit the break so hard Vexx’s head almost hit the dash.
“Your career? What about your family? Your normal, non-homicidal, non-sadistic blood relatives? My life’s ruined because someone put career before family. Complain again and I’m leaving you in that ditch. Got it?”
I took a deep breath, already regretting what I just yelled. Not very cold-headed of me. Vexx was pressed against his door, his lower lash line diking a few tears. He hadn’t been scared until this moment. Until anger that wasn’t anger burst out of me.
I rolled my shoulders back and resumed my drive.
“I didn’t mean that,” I sighed. “You’ll be safe. I swear.”
No one peeped a word for the rest of the road to the safe house. Gabriel sat on the porch, waiting for us. He rose when I turned into the driveway, his brows creasing when he realized there were four of us. His worry increased when he saw me exit the car in my birthday party sullied dress and a face he didn’t know.
“That bad, huh?”
I couldn’t keep the corner of my mouth from curving up. I opened the door for Naomi and helped her out of the car. Vexx took care of Derek.
“These two might need witness protection.” I looked at Gabriel intently. He nodded to my unvoiced message: “not sure I can trust them.”
“What about him?” Gabriel pointed his chin at Vexx.
“He’s family.”
“Under your protection then.”
“For what it’s worth.”
Gabriel still stood in front of the door, tense and hesitant. I held my breath. My closest personal safe house required us to take a plane and I couldn’t risk it. My shoulder got ready to slump but he stepped aside, silently inviting us in.
Getting as far of dad’s reach as I could: check.
Next step on the list was to somehow avoid becoming a puppet or a prisoner. If Gabriel wanted to double-cross me, I had just willingly stepped in the trap. He knew that and we were both aware that the only reason I even risked this was because all my plans blew up in my face.
The front door led us straight inside a small and comfortable living room. I pulled the blindfold off Naomi and she blinked in the bright light. Vexx released Derek as well.
“Naomi, Derek, this is Special Agent Gabriel Walker from the FBI.”
Naomi looked at me with wide eyes until she took in my voice and my dress, recognizing me despite the unfamiliar face. Only then did she analyze my speech and showed interest for Gabriel.
“Hello,” Gabriel shook their hands, reading their emotional state. I could almost see him switch gears when he started evaluating them to decide whether they were, indeed innocents. “I’m sorry about your evening and I’ll do what I can to help. Would you mind stepping in the bedroom for a bit while I chat with Alice here?”
Through the fog of stress, both Naomi and Derek caught the emphasis on my name and its meaning. They nodded and let Gabriel escort them to an adjacent room.
“I need to look at your head,” I said to Vexx. His injury bled quite a bit.
“Are you sure that’s wise?”
“We’re past playing it safe.”
“Oh really?” Gabriel stood in the hallway. I didn’t like his expression at all. “Do you have any idea how many protocols you’re breaking by barging in here?” My jaw clenched. “Using the safe house, relocating those two, it all comes with a bunch of paperwork. Way more then there should be for an underground op.”
“Wow. You sensitivity is astounding.” Vexx fumbled in his backpack. He pulled out some kind of router.
She told me not to ‘asset handling 101’ her.”
“I’m pretty sure that was before her father’s date shot at her and her birthday gift blew up.”
“Hey!” I barked. “Still standing.” The two men stopped their staring contest to look at me. “Gabriel, would you be so kind and fetch the emergency kit.” He pulled out a whole top drawer of a dresser and put it on the coffee table. “And turn off your chips, please.”
“Why?”
Vexx breathed to retort but I put a hand on his shoulder. How long would I have to play moderator between those two? “You’ll come in contact with more sensitive information.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Gabriel tapped a few key Morse code letters behind his ear. Vexx switched on his router-looking machine.
“All transmissions are off,” he said before leaning back on the couch.
I slowly pulled his fake face off. A part of it had melted and stuck to his skin. I picked the analgesic spray in the drawer and used it abundantly to limit the pain. Gabriel gasped when Vexx’s face came into view.
“That explains a lot,” he mumbled. “Any other famous presumed dead friends I should know about?”
Gabriel’s crooked smile was back. I wasn’t sure it was a good thing.

21b – Nerves >>

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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