Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

#FridayFlash 39 - Just Another Day - Conclusion

So I know technically this isn't a flash on it's own, but it IS the requested conclusion to a flash I wrote a while back. So I hope you'll read and enjoy :) Just Another Day started with "As her lunch companion's head exploded, Mary took a last sip of her espresso before sliding out of the booth..." and ended with Mary considering a career change as she was unwillingly saddled with a partner. Here we have the conclusion :)

Comments very welcome! Thanks for reading :)

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Just Another Day - Conclusion

Mary’s day had started out poorly. Her main lead had been shot before she’d gotten any information from him and the math professor she’d questioned turned out to be the father of her missing person…

“Trevor Peters is my son.”

“Which is precisely why I came to speak to you,” Mary said with just enough derision in her voice to almost cover her surprise. The professor managed to convey his complete disbelief with just a look. He stalked past Mary out of the house leaving her to follow. She got in the passenger side of his car just before he pulled out of the driveway.

“You know where he went?” she asked.

“There’s only one place left.” He didn’t elaborate. “So what has Trevor done that would attract the attention of your employers?” the professor asked after a few minutes.

Mary didn’t even bother to give the standard confidentiality speech. “He wrote some code that can hack our systems,” she told him outright, “which makes him a threat to national security.”

She considered leaving it at that, but her internal code – sometimes at odds with the agency’s – wouldn’t let her. “What makes Trevor different,” she continued, “is that he gave it to us. He’s a brilliant hacker, but he’s using his skills to help his country. We have a vested interest in finding him before the killers do; not only for the sake of international relations, but because we can offer him protection.”

“Protection he doesn’t want,” the professor stated.

“No way of knowing until we find him,” Mary argued.

“He’s my son. I know.”

They drove the rest of the way in silence. Mary noted the twisted circling route the professor took; very much the way she would’ve driven. She wondered briefly what he’d done before he decided to teach undergrad mathematics.

Eventually they found themselves on a dirt road heading up into the mountains. After some time, the professor pulled off the road fairly deep into the bush and parked, a quick look around confirmed his car would be entirely out of site of the road. They hiked a short distance to a clearing; Mary was surprised to see a Kinkade style cottage with an elaborately landscaped garden in front of it. Somehow she’d been expecting a rundown shack, not something quite so elegant and effeminate.

“It belonged to his mother,” the professor muttered out the corner of his mouth, accurately reading Mary’s surprise. “It was her dream cottage.”

“That’s not his car,” the professor told her of the beat-up green Jetta in the driveway. “Trevor would never bring somebody here.” The warning was unnecessary; Mary knew from his body language that the car was a bad sign.

“I’ll go look,” Mary told him. The professor started to argue, but here Mary was in her element. “I’m faster and more flexible,” she told him. “I can get in and see what’s going on and get back unseen.” Acknowledging the validity of her point, he showed her the blindspots that would enable her to approach the house safely and suggested the best window to eavesdrop under.

Following his advice she darted forward. Her heart pounded in the loud but slow rhythm it always entered when she was in a tense situation. The shades were open – a novice mistake. She risked a glance and ascertained there was nobody in sight. Carefully, she crept to the back door, opened it a crack and ducked to the side. With no response from inside, she widened it enough to slip through and found herself in a hallway.

She could hear voices upstairs, but took the time to peer quickly into each room on the ground floor before focusing on them. She was alone for the moment, and judging by what she could hear it would seem that Trevor was still alive.

Her back to the wall, she crept slowly up the cottage steps, testing each stair to avoid a fatal creak. She cautiously approached the room. Risking a glance, she was relieved to see there were only three people in the room. Her quarry was sitting at the computer typing, his body radiating all kinds of stress. A man stood behind him watching the screen, left hand on his shoulder, the right holding a gun loosely at his side. Beside the door, but fortunately not paying quite enough attention was the last man, armed but also appearing entirely relaxed.

Mary took a second to consider her options. One against two, with a hostage. But she had the advantage of surprise. And they were relaxed. No problem. Of course she should call for backup, or at very least go get the professor. But by the time she left and came back who knew what state Trevor might be in? She hoped he was working slowly to prolong his value to the captors, but she couldn’t count on it.

She entered low, fast and loud, using her second of surprise to land a powerful side-kick to the groin of the man by the door while shooting the right shoulder of the man by the hostage. Maybe she wasn’t slipping, she thought with a grin. In the next second she snagged the gun the man writhing on the floor was reaching for and pointed it at the one she’d shot . “Don’t even consider it,” she told him as he went to reach his gun with his left hand; he was stronger than she’d given him credit for. A novice mistake. Definitely time for a new career. “You ok?” she asked the hostage, not sparing him a glance as she focused on the other two men. He grunted something she took for assent. She was debating whether she could trust him to do anything useful to help without causing more trouble when a creak on the stair alerted her to more company. Decision made, she kicked the last gun towards her hostage, suggesting he keep it pointed at the man she’d dropped, freeing her to point one at the shot kidnapper and one at the door. It placed her in a precarious position and she knew it, but it was her only choice.

Mary’s reflexes were fast enough that she managed not to shoot the professor when he entered the room, his own gun leading. “Not bad,” he told her on a split second assessment of the situation. “Trevor put that gun down, you could hurt somebody.” He admonished his son who appeared astounded at the appearance of his father. “Cuffs?” he asked Mary.

“Back pocket,” she told him. He tossed his son a cell phone with instructions to call 911 while he proceeded to cuff the two criminals.

The young man eyed his father warily while he called the cops; Mary figured this was a side of the professor he’d never seen before. “Thanks,” he told them, somewhat belatedly. “Who are you?”

“Mary Lipsitt, INR,” she told him, showing her badge for the first time. “We were hoping to talk to you about the code you provided us with,” she told him. “And offer protection against those who aren’t as civil as we are.”

“Protection offer’s just a little late,” he pointed out, “and besides, I already sent you everything I have.”

“That’s good to know son,” the professor said before calmly turning the gun on him. “When I suggested you were incapable of hacking the INR, I’d expected you to bring me proof I was wrong. But no, you had to go giving it to them instead. There’s entirely too much of your mother in you.” He stated, his disappointment evident.

Trevor sputtered to his father, disbelieving, but Mary instantly understood how thoroughly she’d been played. “Mary, if you still want the chance to speak to him, you’ll put your weapons down.” The professor commanded.

One against three, one hostage, and all alert. Less favourable odds. “You’re not going to let him go,” Mary stated the obvious, desperate to buy herself time to think.

“Why not? He has nothing left, so he’s nothing to me now,” the young man cringed visibly at that, evidently more upset by his father’s rejection than by the gun pointed at him. And the moment he cringed, Mary saw her chance. She shot him in the leg, causing him to drop screaming. When all else fails, shoot the hostage. She darted sideways towards the door at the same instant, barely avoiding the professor’s shot. He never had time to get off a second shot.

She caught movement out of the corner of her eye; turning she fired wildly at the man who the professor had only pretended to cuff. Her aim was off and as she straightened she heard a second shot. A rookie mistake, not accounting for all the weapons. Definitely time for a new career.

But it was one mistake too many.

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