The End of Me
Page 24

 Tara Brown

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"Twisted ankle."
She carried in my purse and dropped it in my lap. "This thing has been vibrating so much, I almost stuck it down my pants."
Coop grimaced and pressed an ice pack on my ankle. I winced from the cold and opened the stupid clutch. I pulled out the phone and sighed, "Twelve missed calls."
Something silver caught my eye. I frowned; I’d forgotten I had put it in there. I reached in and clutched it in my fingers. It always made me feel stronger.
"What's that?" Luce asked.
I opened my palm and ran my thumb across the engraving, "Locket from my dad for graduation."
"What's it say?" she smiled sweetly, making her face light instead of intense.
I smiled back, "It's his grad date and mine. We both graduated from Fort Huachuca, twenty-five years apart."
"Yeah? Cool. Your old man was well known. He ran some crazy ops, back in the day. The cold war had to be awesome." She sat on the folding chair across from me.
"Yup. He worked a lot during the cold war." My level of pride for the man was immeasurable.
Coop leaned his head in, "You wanna take a shower with me?"
I frowned and was about to throw my shoe at him, but he winked and scratched his head.
I shrugged, "Sure." The house must have been full of bugs. I slipped the locket around my neck.
He came and picked me up in his arms, "You can't walk to the shower with that bum foot." he grinned.
Luce laughed, "You wouldn’t rather my help with the shower, Evie?"
I cocked an eyebrow, "Pretty sure I would rather it, but I have a really disturbing desire to see what he's packing."
Luce laughed, "You know it’s one of two things, Evie, and neither is a good thing."
I laughed.
Coop winced, "You guys say we're dirty."
"Payback. We owe you for the centuries of oppression and abuse." I laughed.
He climbed the stairs, "Do not even get me started on the things you owe me."
He stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. He started the shower and turned on the fan.
I didn’t know what was happening, but he pulled his shirt off and I smiled like an idiot. He lifted mine off and then dropped his jogging pants but kept his briefs on.
I slid my pants down and stepped out of the runners and socks gingerly. My ankle was pretty swollen. At least it wasn’t a sprain. I stood in just my panties and bra and shivered slightly.
He lifted me up and carried me to the shower. Our skin against each other was hot and sweaty. He closed the door and whispered, "I was apart of something about your dad once. That locket reminded me of it."
My stomach sank, "I don’t understand."
He swallowed, "I saw files once about a mole op your dad was heading up. The review of the op basically didn’t happen, until after he had died. They were looking for something. They felt that he had kept vital information from his reports, purposely."
None of it was about James or me. It was about my dad. I was a pawn. Was that possible? I shook my head, "My dad was a hero. He never betrayed his country. He died for this country."
He shook his head, "I didn’t say he was traitor. I said he kept things from the files purposely. He might have been keeping it safe from eyes and ears for a reason. I was new when it happened and, honestly, the locket is the only reason I remember it."
I whispered, "You have a photographic memory. I've seen it."
He nodded, "I do, and I remember it like it was yesterday, they had taken all your dad’s things into custody, nothing was cleared for your mom to have from his office. I was new; we were to go through his things, cataloguing everything and boxing it up. Everything was considered to be suspicious and we were to run all documents through known codes."
I frowned, "He wasn’t a mole. He was a good spy."
His eyes trailed down my throat to the locket. He reached up and grabbed it between his fingers, grazing the swell of my chest. "There was a receipt for a locket. The surveillance team had seen him buying it. We never found it though. A team was sent to your parents’. We searched everything, the safe, the cellar. There was nothing ever found. They were pissed about us not finding it. I remember that. I also remember, that James let them conduct a thorough search of your house and nothing was ever turned up there. It was way back in the day. I was brand new. We were interviewed separately afterward, about the things we found, and the ways they were handled." His eyes twinkled, "Weird way to handle a deceased man's effects. Especially when he’s a national hero."
I hugged myself harder, "He gave the locket to me, the week he died. It was four years late. He had already given me tons of things for graduation, so it seemed strange he was giving me this too. But when I saw the dates, I was pretty excited. He never wanted me to enlist. Then, he never wanted me to go CI, even though my entire life had been spent preparing for it. The last straw was James. We had fought because he hated James. He never seemed happy for me, or the choices I made. I told him I didn’t want to see him, it was after the wedding. He came and picked me up in a weird car I had never seen before, and we drove to a place by the water. We sat in the car in the rain and he gave it to me and told me he was sorry for saying the mean things. He was glad I was leaving, retiring when the baby came. He never wanted this life for me. I thought it was because, he thought I couldn’t do it, which hurt. He had always protested when I made choices, but then he was proud of me when I completed them. This felt like he was glad I was leaving."
Coop’s eyes burned down on mine for a moment. I couldn’t help but pull back and stop the moment, we were obviously having. He wiped the water from his face, "He wanted you safe from it all."
I glanced up into his face and nodded, “I think so. I think he wanted me out of that life and away from James. At least if I wasn’t at work, I wasn’t the laughing stock of the office.”
He looked conflicted about things, "We need to run those dates and see if it's some kind of code."
A terrible feeling bit into my stomach, "Are my kids safe?" I asked feeling the nerves filling me.
He nodded his head, "You remember the orders I gave?"
I nodded back, preparing myself for the worst.
"That was FBI. It wasn’t CIA or military run. I have a friend in the FBI. No one will know where they are. I don’t even know. I gave the orders because Martin's team specializes in mole operations. I wasn’t sure what we were dealing with and I know he’s the best. They make the snap decision in the air and the pilots are members of the team. When you wanted them hidden, I had a bad feeling you knew something."
I finally breathed, "Oh my God. Thank God. You're much better at this, than I've been giving you credit for." The move was smart. It was something my dad would have done. He never trusted anyone. I looked up at him, "Where are we gonna go?"
He whispered back, "Not a fucking clue. If we leave here and you don’t go back to Servario, we won’t have any help or resources. The people looking for answers in your dad's shit were my bosses, our bosses. They told me not to take you from Servario. I disobeyed a direct order. Until we have some answers, we need to be off grid. This shower is the only place they can’t hear us if we whisper. Not to mention we probably have about an hour, before they arrive here and take us into custody."
I sighed and looked down at the locket, "It's just a necklace."
He forced a grin, "Nothing about your dad was ever simple. He was a genius. Let's not talk about this again, until we're out of here. They always have eyes on the house. We need to get out of here and regroup."
I looked up, getting a face full of water. I sputtered, "I know where we can go."
He nodded and stopped the water. We stood there in the dripping and silence, he clenched his jaw. I looked down and forced my thoughts away from his lips. I heard him open his mouth and interrupted whatever he was about to say, "Pass me a towel, please."
"Sure," he sounded weird. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want any of it. I wanted to be a parent and a widow, even if it was fake, and forget the rest. I defiantly didn’t want to think about the things I had done with Servario, or the fact I was still thinking about him. The memory of his face in parking garage tugged at me.
We dried off, not speaking. I hobbled, still soaked, to the bedroom and changed into the spare clothes.
Downstairs we met in the kitchen, "Who wants breakfast?" Coop asked.
Luce nodded and glanced at Jack, who nodded back at her.
"IHOP?" Luce asked.
I nodded, "Yeah, I love it there." It was a lie. I hated all chain restaurants.
I followed Luce to the dining room, which was filled with black cases. She opened them and started putting guns in her pants and boots. I followed suit. It felt weird to hold a piece again, it had been so long. I had only trained with them; I never was forced to work with one, ever.
The walk to the car was tense and awkward. If the eyes on the house were suspicious before, they would be increasingly so, after we left.
Chapter Ten - Hot-wire my heart
The car we stole, after we ditched the car we left in, was a beater. The vibration was annoying me. I looked at Luce next to me in the backseat and frowned, "We need a different car."
She laughed, "I know. We'll ditch this one and take another."
Coop looked back at me, "Where are we going? I got on the eighty like you asked."
I swallowed, "Salt Lake City."
He frowned, "What?"
I nodded and laughed, "My uncle Fitz lives there. He'll know what the heck is up with the locket."
He frowned, "Why is that? Why don’t we have a record of a Fitz? I’ve never seen that name before. Is it short for something?"
I couldn’t get the smile off my face, as I shook my head, “No, he's not exactly an uncle." I was excited to see him, nonetheless. It had been years.