My early morning beach run on sucking, squishing, hard-packed, shifting sands marks the ebb and flow of my wrong way life.
I race up the dunes to my rental cottage ending with a lung busting, leg killing suicide sprint.
I sense them before I see them. There’s no red dot on my chest, a head shot maybe, easy ending, no pain.
Not this time, but soon.
Two agents this visit. Sensible shoes, dark suit, serious face, Special Agent Morris and smoldering, hatchet handed, Special Agent Sanders.
A command, disguised as a request, consulting, name your price, contract in hand, business class, round trip ticket to the District of Columbia.
They wait. I shower, pack, call my attorney.
They drive me to the airport, escort me to my departure gate, watch me board.
Special Agents Classy Dresser and Ambitious Ass Kisser meet me at my gate on arrival, drive me to Fort Mead, chaperon me to a square, squat, solid building with no windows. Deposit me in a government office with a mid-level bureaucrat. Male, white, on edge, uncertain, what to do with me, how to act around me. He really wishes the agents would stay.
The agents accelerated their departure, rocketing away from my presence.
The bureaucrat is startled by my request to use the restroom. Someone has instructed him not to let me out of his sight.
A puzzled female employee is drafted to accompany me to the restroom. I call my attorney, report my location and situation. I relieve myself, wash my face and hands. I stare at the long thin face looking back at me, no makeup, no lip gloss, bad haircut, inch long recently-healed scar on right cheek, tired, dead eyes. Is that me? Could be me or my corpse, death mask…
Back in the office, reeking of testosterone, the administrator, who fired me six months or was it six years ago or six lifetimes ago, dismisses the bureaucrat, offers his hand, cold eyes, stiff, forced smile.
I ignore the hand, study the eyes until he blinks, looks away.
“Neith, we need your assistance, an interview, you are our last hope before we resort to— “
“I need to speak to the team you had interrogating the captive.”
“That’s not necessary. You— “
“Now! But, breakfast first, in a quiet place, but not this office.”
The color drains from his face, lips thin out, eyes squint, “Neith, be reasonable, time is of the essence here. This kind of insubordinate, demanding, disrespectful— “
Forty minutes later, after breakfast, and surrendering my phone, purse, and running shoes and being patted down and passed through two metal and contraband detection devices I’m in an interview room with sleek, sexy agent Kawano and clever, angry agent Dorset.
I watch them. They stare at me, exchange looks, fidget express their growing irritation.
Dorset, complains first. “Underhill, we aren’t under investigation here. We’re too busy to play games. Ask your questions, please.”
I turn to Kawano. She gives me the evil eye. “You can look at the interview recordings. You can see us in action, such as it is. Neith, you don’t need us. You can read the background reports and incident reports, and you will know as much as we do.”
I stare at the wall between the two of them. I wait.
“Fuck this shit! I’m out of here.” Dorset stands, red-faced.
I address Kawano, “What does the captive— “
“Kawano, explodes, “The captive? The captive? Have you read any of the reports? Have you been briefed?”
I respond to the still standing Dorset, “No, to all of the above.”
Dorset shakes his finger at me as he spits out his reprimand. “Shame on you! You’re ill prepared to conduct this interview. No wonder they fired you.”
Kawano’s now standing. “The captive’s a twelve-year-old black girl. A child. She hasn’t spoken one word since we found her.”
I stand. “What does the captive sound like? Describe the way she sounds.”
Dorset’s back wagging his finger at me. “Are you for real? Honestly, are you listening? She hasn’t said a fucking word. Not one fucking word.”
I turn back to Kawano. “What sounds do you associate with her?”
Kawano searches my eyes, understands my question, slowly sets down, pauses, answers tentatively at first. “Peace, serenity, no, no – “ She closes her eyes and nails it. “Nothing! The void. No sounds.”
Kawano keeps her eyes closed. There’s a thin sheen of perspiration on her forehead.
I turn to Dorset. He sits down, looks at me, looks away, responds. “I, I don’t listen, but she drowns out the noise. Just, I can’t describe it…”
Kawano, her eyes open, is staring at her partner.
“Have either of you touched her?”
They both shake their heads emphatically, no.
“Good. So, if you were to touch her what would she feel like?”
Dorset responds with hands up like he’s being robbed at gun point. “Shit, Underhill, you ever touch dry ice? Like that only ten times the intensity.” He pauses. “You don’t have to actually touch her to feel her… it’s like being near a dry ice stove. Does that make any sense?”
I nod yes. I turn back to Kawano.
Kawano exchanges looks with Dorset as she talks. “You can’t touch her without becoming her.” She takes a deep breath. “I want to touch her more than… I need to touch her. I dream of it.”
We sit silent, thinking, feeling, wanting.
Dorset touches my right hand gently, speaks slowly. “Underhill, they found her here at Fort Mead in a super secure location. No way she could be there. No way at all. No CCT footage, no alarms tripped, no sightings. She just appeared.”
Kawano, sighs, “Neith, what is she? What’s going to happen to her?”
The interrogators have departed, left, fled. Glad to go. The administrator’s in the interview room with me. He’s frightened of me, of the captive, of the whole situation.
“Neith, I, we… are you ready to interview her?”
“Why? Why would I need to?” If I see her again I will touch her this time, my dreams fulfilled, my nightmares realized. The death of me. Better a sniper’s kill.
“To understand? To learn? Underhill, that’s why you’re here. We desperately need to understand what we’re dealing with. You know that better than anyone.”
I stand, look down at the administrator. “Don’t play games. She’s not a toy or a tool you’ll ever master. Destroy her if you can. Now, before you become her.” Before we all become her.
I plead with him. “Do it quickly. Not like last time. And the same with Dorset and Kawano. No mistakes this time.”
I pat the administrator on the shoulder as I leave for my rental, the beach, the solitude, my dreaded dreams.
Banner Image: Fort Meade By Sallicio (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons