Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Elusive" - Issue #7


Issue #7

‘Change of Plan’

Written by Charley Biggs
Edited by Molly Ward

“Smith, so help me...," Gomez was putting a vest over her clothes.  She didn’t finish as he popped out from behind a tree with his phone to his ear.
            Wearing a vest over his dress shirt, sans tie, Smith pointed to the phone mouthing, ‘Thorney’ as he nodded mostly to himself, then grunted back into the receiver as apparently Jim was giving him some sort of rundown.
            The office building where the meet was taking place was close, only two blocks away.  Corriola was supposed to be there, along with one of the DeMeo sons, Christian.  There was a small and quietly busy staging area for one of three different FBI-led teams that would be converging on the location if and when the signal was given.  It was hot and bright outside, and Maria wore her sunglasses, a more modern version of the old aviators Jim often wore, whereas Smith wore sporty wraparounds that were more in keeping with his athletic appearance.
            Mostly ignored by the FBI field agents and the one special agent present, Gomez and Smith were left to keep in the loop with Jim, whom was calling Smith on and off in between updates directly from Rosenthal.  It was a convoluted mess, but Jim wasn’t trying to work it remotely, he was there in the office with Rosenthal.  Here, he could interact and represent the U.S. Marshals as the two deputies prepared to join in on the major arrest.  Calmly waiting on Smith to get off of the phone with what she could already tell was a jumpy and irritable Jim, Gomez ducked into the car they had rented from Lexington and pulled out her travel case, sliding an Oliva O Series Torpedo in a maduro wrapper from it.  Snagging her coffee, she walked to the rear of the car where she set the paper cup down on the trunk and proceeded to clip the head of the cigar before putting it to her teeth and swapping her cheap cutter out for a vintage zippo, a gift from Jim.  Cupping her hands around it as she flicked it open, Gomez lit the strong, heady cigar, turning it slowly to get a nice even burn, letting the smoke on her palate shut the rest of the world out for the moment.
            Snapping the lighter shut and cramming it back into her pocket, Gomez left the cigar in her mouth supported by dark red lips as she stood in a haze of smoke in the windless parking lot.  Toying with her coffee mug and unbothered by the crowd of agents around them, she took the moment to enjoy the cigar, its strong flavor and smooth touches mixing with the complex dark roast she was drinking washing over her. 
            Calm, Gomez's thoughts shifted to the task of getting Corriola.  The little voice in the back of her head said something was off.  At two in the afternoon, the meeting shouldn’t have been until later, or should have already happened.  Something in the way the FBI personnel were sculking and talking with each other left her feeling that this arrest was a bust.
            Maria cut her eyes toward Smith from behind the dark lenses of her sunglasses, she could tell that they were done here.  Walking towards her with hands spread, a gesture she’d seen Jim make quite often, she took the cigar from her mouth and draped her finger over it, taking her coffee mug in the same hand.  Gomez's now free hand lifted to halt Smith a few yards off as she exhaled a cloud of smoke.  “What happened?  Gimme the short version.”
            “Corriola didn’t show…Christian DeMeo did though."  Smith shook his head and tucked his phone away.  "The arrest is a go, but we’re not involved.   Rosenthal can’t get us in on it if he’s not here….”
            “What do you think?"  She asked.
            "Me?"  Smith took a moment to consider it, “I think that Corriola got here late last night.  His presence was coincidentally timed.  He probably left this morning for some other location.”
            “Not my idea of a good start with this guy…he didn’t just vanish.  He was tipped off."  Gomez hung her head, looking irritable.
            “No telling what happened.”  He shook his head.
            Maria washed the sour taste in her mouth with a swallow of coffee, then turned to look at the Agents preparing to make the arrest.  One in particular caught her eye as she spoke to Smith, pointing at him with her cigar.
            “Call Thorney.  Tell him we’re heading back to Lexington.  I’m going to talk to the supervisor here," turning away on the ball of her foot, she left Smith to get in touch with Jim and made a beeline for the small group standing around a large van.
            One Agent in particular was on a cellular phone talking calmly to someone on the other end, trying to assure them he was good to go.  Maria knew that position all too well, didn't envy it.  As she drew closer, it was easier to get a good look at his face...he was gorgeous. 
            Standing a little over six feet tall, built similarly to Smith, what she could only guess was about 190 lbs, lean and solid.  Tanned skin was offset by sandy brown hair that hung to his shoulders, and as she walked up to him to wait for his conversation to end, Maria was met a green eyed and toothy smile from the tall square-jawed man. 
            Drawing from the cigar and taking it from her mouth with the hand holding her paper coffee cup, she took her time as she smiled back, “So”, she said with a mouthful of smoke, “We won’t be involved today…”
            Shrugging, holding the cellular with both hands, the man nodded, “I heard…I’m sorry we can’t help you, but with no sign…”
            “True…any thoughts?”
            “Nothing right now..." that unspoken but lingering in the air.
            “However?"  Gomez tacked on, taking another puff of the cigar, smoke clouding around her glamorously as she held it and the coffee cup like a glass of cognac.
            "Well, we'll be questioning people after the arrest."  He chuckled, dragging his eyes across her face.  Gauging her.  "Maybe I could get copies of transcripts and bring them to you?"  A moment of hesitation, and he gestured with an open hand, "...maybe over a drink tonight?"
            "I'll be heading back to Lexington shortly," Maria answered.
            "So will we.  We don't have an office here..." he pointed out, still offering his open hand between them.  “I’m Cooper by the way.  Harry Cooper…”
            Taking his hand, Gomez flashed him a professional and somehow coy smile, “Gomez…Supervisory Deputy US Marshal Maria Gomez," then she hung her head as they let go of each other’s hands, chortling, “it's a mouthful, I know.”
            “Yeah!”, Cooper replied, laughing with her.  “I’m a Special Agent…not supervisory though.  I just happen to be one of the people most involved, hence how I'm-" he gestured, sweeping his hand around at the other agents, “-supervising."
            “Well, Special  Agent Cooper," reaching into her pants pocket, having moved her card wallet there when she put the body armor on, she fished it out and pulled out a business card.  “Here's my number, cell included.  Just text me a time and a place tonight.  I’m not going to turn down an offer to help, we need all we can get with this guy.”
            Taking the card, Cooper toyed with it.  “I don’t blame you.  I’ve been after him before, he’s tough to catch," and as Gomez started to turn to go back to the car with Smith, he held out a hand, “by the way-”
            “Yes?"  Gomez asked, pausing, free hand on her hip, an arched brow visible above the dark lens of her sunglasses as she looked at him over her left shoulder.
            Letting the hand drop, he smiled again, “call me Harry.”
            Grinning broadly, Gomez nodded, “well then, Harry…call me tonight and let me know where to meet you."  She began to walk off, making it a few steps before turning to look over her shoulder, “oh…and you can call me Maria.”
            Holding up the card to show her he was putting it in his pocket, Harry called after her, “see you tonight Maria…”


            In the busy downtown area of Columbus, not far from the university, a throaty rumble was heard coming up the street, a restored 1967 Plymouth Fury III rolled into view as it came to a stop at the entrance to a nice Apartment building.  Shutting the engine down, parking on the street, Jim Thornton stepped out of the car slowly, wearing a black pinstripe suit and a blue shirt with a yellow silk tie.  Putting his keys in his pocket, he went around to the entrance, but before he could open the door to the lobby, his date for the evening arrived.
            Jim, up until now, had been dreading this, but when Shauna came out to join him, he was actually taken aback.  Just standing there like he’d never before looked upon a woman, he was struck a bit dumb as he met her smiling gaze.  Oh, she still had a sheen of crazy that scared him shitless, but at present, she was looking too beautiful for him to ignore or push away.
            Standing there with both hands squeezing her clutch purse to death, and starting to color bashfully as finally a man she found herself undeniably attracted to was seeing her, and seemingly seeing her as a person and not an asset for the first time.  Wearing a classy dress of deep blue that displayed her curves, dark hair worn up, a strand hanging down the side of her face, and the silver seeming more frosting than the signs of stress that they were.  Shauna took her time as she picked her way to the car, it had just rained, and she was wearing a pair of brand new pumps after a quick search revealed she had neither dress nor heels in her closet that fit or weren’t belonging to a suit for work.
            “Shauna, I've got to hand it to you…you clean up well”, a serious understatement he reminded himself, because she was stunning.  Jim opened the car door for her, rolling his eyes.
            Looking up from the leather seat she slid into, Shauna made a coy expression, cooing back in return, “you do too…not so wild in this light.”
            Jim didn’t have an answer other than to close the door on her before walking around to the driver’s side and getting in.  It was a blessedly short drive to the restaurant, and as the Valet came to take the old car, Jim put a finger under his nose, “don’t let me catch you burning rubber in this thing…behave and there’s twenty bucks in it for you.”
            Eyes lighting up, the young man took the keys and had the car rolling off at a respectable pace.  From the curb, with Shauna hanging on his arm, Jim watched for a long moment before walking her inside for dinner. 
            Seating themselves at a small table in the dim light, Shauna and Jim made their drink orders and relaxed, Jim taking a coffee and Shauna a glass of Riesling.  After making small talk, and getting Shauna to giggle a little, Jim finally sat back, toying with the rim of the coffee mug, his other hand under the table playing with his phone, sending a message to Gomez to see how her little meeting was going.
            Looking up from his lap, Jim’s grin faded and he canted his head slightly to the side, “so…any news on Corriola?”
            Smile turning to a cautious pursing of blood red lips, Shauna looked down and to her right before thinking of an answer, “not much."  Looking Jim in the eye, she shrugged, “we aren’t sure if Corriola was called for something else, or whether he was tipped off.  It was a real mess.”
            Staring at Shauna for a long while, processing her body language and words, he sighed, “a mess…but you nailed down Christian DeMeo.  A good deal, and it makes me wonder what he had to say to Corriola.”
            Biting her lip, holding her hands out on either side of her glass, she shook her head, “I haven’t received the transcripts or the recordings from the interrogations.  I have no idea what’s been said at this time….”
            “Sure about that?  Because I have a line on your end that says otherwi-" he swallowed his words, gripping the coffee mug and the edge of the table before tugging to loosen his tie.  Catching his breath, he glared at Shauna who was innocently sipping her wine. 
            “Stop that," he ordered flatly.
            “Stop what?"  She asked as she inspected the smear of her lipstick on the wineglass.  Meanwhile, beneath the table, one of her heels lay on its side, and her foot was in Jim’s lap.
            Starting to push away from the table, Jim stopped, realizing it would create a scene.  Not to mention how good it felt…so clenching his jaw, he tried to at least appear calm as the waiter arrived.
            “Good evening, what can I get for you this evening.  Might I say you make a lovely couple!”
            “Thank you," Shauna said with a pleased smile, meanwhile, Jim forced a smile, still maddeningly at her lack of mercy.  “I’ll have the chicken alfredo with the penne pasta…”, then she let off of Jim under the table so he could talk without embarrassing himself.
            Inhaling sharply, Jim grimaced at Shauna and then the waiter, “I’ll, ah, have….let’s see here," looking at the menu for the first time, he saw something at random that caught his eye, but he couldn’t pronounce it so he turned the menu so the waiter could see it, and tapped the item with a finger, "this."
            Nodding, and having the good grace not to correct Jim on the name of the dish, the man purposefully headed back for the kitchen to put their order in.  Jim was about to say something to Shauna, but promptly forgot it as that foot pressed back in to his crotch.
            “Why can’t we just relax and enjoy each other’s company?  Does it always have to be about work?"  She asked, her smile staying, but struggling to be held.
            Grinding his teeth, Jim shook his head, “it’s only ever been about-" catching his breath as she teased him, he tugged at his collar again, “-will you knock that off!”  He hissed.  “I only did this as repayment for the favor you did me…and the favor tanked.”
            She didn’t stop, but she did lighten her touch, her eyes went to her wineglass, “Jim…I’m sorry.  I did everything I could.  Corriola just wasn’t there…but if anything pops up…”, then she caught his eye, giving him a moment’s respite, “I’m here, Jim.  I told you I would wait.  That won’t change.”
            About to answer, there was a buzz in his pocket, and Jim tugged his phone from his pocket.  There was a message from Gomez: TALK TO ROSENTHAL.  INTERROGATIONS TURNED UP TARGET ITENERARY.  BOSS FOUND DEAD.
            Stuffing the phone back into his pocket, Jim grabbed Shauna’s foot, gripping it firmly, giving her a look of surprise, “anything pops up, huh?”  He asked, locking eyes with her.  “So…how about Christian DeMeo?  He have anything to say?  At least that you heard?”
            It took her several seconds, “Jim….”
            “Answer the question, Shauna.  I told you I wasn’t here for personal reasons, and I don’t intend on having a discussion about us tonight anymore than I did two nights ago.”
            “We got nothing from him so far as I heard…it-" she shook her head, her eyes growing wet, "-it could take some doing.”
            “I bet it could," he said coldly, then shoved her foot down out of his chair, making her wince and shift positions.
            “It takes time, Jim….”
           Sending Gomez a message, Jim ignored her for the moment: ROSENTHAL PLAYED US.  GET WHAT YOU CAN AND MOVE WITHOUT ME.
            Laying the phone on the table, Jim held up a hand without looking, stopping the waiter. “Box that and bring the check…”, he snapped.  Waiting for the man to go ahead and serve Shauna then depart, then he leaned forward as she picked at her food, “I hope whatever you got was worth it…because you just pissed away whatever trust I had left in you.”
            Realization hit her like a ton of bricks, tears welling up, “Jim…I-”
            Cutting her off, he sliced a hand through the air, making her jump.  “No…whatever you have to say, keep it to yourself.  You screwed us.”
            “Can I at least finish my dinner?”  She asked, trying to hang on to her composure.
            “Do what you want.  I’m leaving.”
            “But how am I supposed to get home?”
            “Take a cab, walk, blow some guy in the kitchen…either way you choose, it’s not my problem," taking his dinner and paying in cash, he left her sitting there shocked.
            An hour later, finished with her food, red eyed, and a little drunk, Shauna walked out the door to the valet, hoping somehow Jim had come back.  He hadn’t.  Digging around in her clutch, she searched through her stuff, including a compact 9mm pistol that made the valet shy away from her.  Phone forgotten, she sighed, trying not to lose that last shred of composure she had, and turning to the Valet, she pointed at him.
            “Can I borrow your phone?”, she asked sharply.
            Holding his hands up as if being robbed, the kid held it out to her, “Lady, you can borrow anything you want, just don’t kill me!”
            Narrowing her eyes and snatching the phone from him, she dialed a cab.


            Putting her phone away, Gomez looked up from the bar, surprisingly quiet for this time of the evening, and frowned at Cooper thoughtfully. 
            “This could end badly," she warned.
            Wearing a violet shirt and black pants sans the tie, sleeves rolled to the elbow, Cooper looked ready for the office more than for a night at the bar.  Sitting there with a margarita, he grinned, shaking his head to her warning, “I’ll be fine.  No one knows I made copies…or for who.  You’ll just have to owe me sometime down the road."
            Wearing a cream colored blouse and black skirt, Gomez looked the part of a woman on a date…just about.  Shrugging, she took a sip of her whiskey and then tapped the stack of papers he’d given her, “just watch yourself.  If they actually managed to get Rosenthal to lie to Jim…God only knows what else they are doing.”
            “Rosenthal?  Lie?  I find that hard to believe.”
            Picking up her phone, she waved it and set it back down, “well Jim wouldn’t lie…and he never jumps to conclusions.  She tried to tell him DeMeo was still alive."
            “Shit is right," she answered.  “This is going to get messy, and Smith and I will have to head out in the morning."  Sliding off the barstool, she was unexpectedly met by Cooper standing in time with her, hands to her waist.
            “I guess this is goodnight?"  He asked.
            Breath hitching in her chest, Maria parted her lips but no answer came.  Finally, slowly, her hands found his and after a moment started pushing them back down from her hips.  “Yes…this is good night."
            Harry smiled, glanced down at his hands hanging by his side and then looked into her eyes, “do it again sometime?”
            Smiling, Maria pursed her lips, “maybe…but if you grab my ass again, I may have to break your hand."
            “That’s cold," he laughed.  “If you’re taken, I’m sorry…didn’t mean to uh-”
            “It’s complicated.  Don’t apologize," reaching to take the stack of paperwork and reports, she patted his chest.  “I owe you one, Harry.  Just keep yourself out of trouble in the meantime.”
            Taking her hand and patting her knuckles, Harry nodded, “stay safe, Maria.  If you need anything, you have my number."  About to step away, letting her hand go, he stopped and turned around, “oh…and goodnight”
            “Goodnight," watching him leave ahead of her, Gomez picked her phone, went to Smith’s messages, and punched SEND.


            Now home, still in her blue dress, Shauna was standing in her kitchen barefoot, uncorking a bottle of red wine, her home phone on speaker mode as it dialed out.  Just as she got the cork out, a male voice answered, “what is it, Rosenthal?”
            “Mr. Roberts…the US Marshals know we’re withholding information," she answered, pouring herself a healthy glass of Merlot.
            “I thought you had it handled?  Deputy Marshal Thornton was supposed to be easy."
            “His partner found out that DeMeo was dead.”
            “Jesus Christ!  What else do they know?”
            “I’m not sure.  Thornton went cold as soon as he was tipped off.”
            “Was it one of our people?”
            Eyes widening, Rosenthal shook her head vehemently.  “No!  It can’t have been, they were all briefed.  Must have been one of the local cops that were involved in the arrest."
            “Still think you can keep a line in on the Marshals with Thornton?”  Roberts asked.
            “I don’t know," Shauna said, managing to keep her voice steady, but a tear slid down her cheek, “he doesn’t trust me now.”
            “Figure it out…but we need a line into that office again.  There’s a lot riding on this, and you’re skating on thin ice.”
            “Sir, this is wrong…it’s unethical.”
            “Ethics is a matter of perspective…the Federal Bureau has a job to do, and the Marshals are now swimming in our territory.  I doubt a committee would hear you out…and besides, you’re getting close to retirement age.”
            Shocked, her jaw dropped, “I’m forty-three!”
            “Close enough to retire in a few years...if you don’t want to be forcibly retired instead of that promotion, I’d suggest that you get this case back on track.”
            “Yes sir."
            “I don’t care what you have to do to Thornton, get him back on your side!" Hanging up, Roberts left Rosenthal alone in her kitchen, wineglass in one hand, head in the other.  How could she get Jim to trust her?  She just lied to him about a case that the Senate Committee overseeing the review of the US Marshals was watching closely.   Short of turning Roberts into the Internal Affairs people, she wasn’t sure it was possible…and she had been so close to getting him to let her in.
            The FBI was asking her to throw away a relationship all because one of the directors had it out for the other agency and had a line in on the Senate committee.  Shauna had tried everything to stay out of the middle, but kept getting sucked into it. 
As the realization that she was fighting a losing battle with both the FBI and James Thornton hit her like a ton of bricks, so did the tears.  Sinking down to the floor, back against the cabinets, Shauna Rosenthal sobbed into her wineglass.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"Elusive" - Issue #6

Issue #6
By Charley Biggs

August heat was in full swing, and the grounds on the perimeter of the Federal Prison in Lexington, Kentucky were sweltering.  Since the escape of one Michael Corriola, a mob enforcer from New Jersey, the fence had been repaired, and guards on double duty.  Near the area where the man had made his way out, along with several State Police uniformed officers, US Marshals Deputy Smith was squatting to get a closer look at the sets of tracks near the fence.  Behind him a few paces, Supervisory Deputy Maria Gomez was lighting a Liga Privada T52 Belicoso with a torch lighter, letting her current partner get his bearings.
            Both Marshals wore suits, Smith, though sweat rolled down his face, still looked fresh from the office in his black suit, white shirt and yellow tie, his badge at the opposite side of his belt from his sidearm.  Wearing a blue blouse with the sleeves rolled to her elbows, Gomez had removed her suit coat and was wearing her black pinstripe pants, badge and gun hanging from her belt along with her handcuffs. 
            Tucking the lighter in her pocket, Gomez thinned her lips, blowing out a stream of smoke from the corner of her mouth before using the fine cigar to gesture around them, “So…we can see that three people were here.  At the same time you think, Smith?”
            Between them, the officers I uniform held their silence, and Smith shook his head, “No…if I had to make a guess, the other two were here far earlier to leave a package for Corriola.  He left alone as best I can tell, he hit the ground running and didn’t stop, and the tracks are in different areas with varying amounts of wear…”, he turned and stood up to look at Gomez, “What do you see?”
            Gomez clenched the cigar in her teeth and pointed to a barely perceptible break in the tall grass, “A path…”, she said thickly around it before taking it from her lips slowly, pointing with the hand that held the cigar, “It’s been followed already, yes?”, she asked those standing around them, rewarded with nods.  “Well…”, resting her hands on her hips, she shrugged, “Since the other two left him a package by our best guess…he didn’t have a ride waiting.  That means he either stole a car or hiked…and something tells me our ‘Jersey boy’ with the mob isn’t really an outdoors kinda guy!”
            Smith turned to the gaggle of police nearby, “Any car thefts or carjacking incidents in the past two weeks around the time of his escape?”
            As the deputies hesitated, trying to get consensus, Gomez was ahead of them, waving her phone at Smith, cigar handing from her mouth as she sent a message to Thornton.
            Smith raised his hands, “We’ll find out…meanwhile, stand by for a special bulletin.  If we end up looking for him, he’s not someone you’ll want to get in a traffic stop…I think it’s safe to say we have what we need for the time being, thank you for all of your help”, clasping his hands, he watched as the State Police left the scene and waited for them to be gone before turning to Gomez, “Now what?”
            Gomez was tucking her phone back in her pocket when she took the cigar from her mouth, lips curling into a knowing smirk, “Now we wait, Smith…we don’t have anything on Corriola for the time being.  How about the drug ring in Detroit that we are working?”, she asked, starting to make the walk back to the government issue sedan they were using, the heels of her boots, though blocky, sinking slightly in the soft ground, though it did not really hamper her; being outdoors was far more natural for Gomez than most would realize.
            Smith shook his head, “Nothing we can act on, there are informants, but the FBI won’t talk to us…these cases, all of them, are nasty”
            “That’s what happens when they get that much press, Smith.  We can’t expect cooperation…”
            “I wonder why all the pressure…?”
            “Politics…let’s get back to the hotel and wait for Thornton to get back to us.  We can look over our paperwork and see what else can be worked”


            Bent over a keyboard typing like a mad man, Jim Thornton was scrambling to get a same-day request in with the state police for information on potential car thefts or carjackings in the area.  Drinking coffee and having rolled his sleeves up, he’d been in the office since four in the morning trying to pull everything into a cohesive picture, and it was shaping up.  The problem was trying to put a pin on the spot this guy was going to run…that was the thing he couldn’t nail down.
            As soon as the request was fired off, he picked up the desk phone and dialed that all-too-familiar number, waiting for the other end to be picked up.
            In Lexington at the hotel near the airport, Maria Gomez was sitting around in old grey sweat pants and a purple sports bra, hair loose and shoeless as she read through a case file for a different case and drank a Corona sans the lime.  When her phone went off, the ringtone she’d chosen for Jim going off, she answered it within the first few bars of music, “Go ahead, Jim…what you got for me?”
            On the other end, Jim was holding the phone against his shoulder with his chin as he tapped away at his computer, pulling up what he’d made for notes…he was really getting into this more modern form of note taking, and was convinced that Smith was a fucking genius!  “Well, let’s start with why this guy was so important to bust out…”
            Taking a swig of beer, Maria, hummed, nodding.
            “He’s a cop killer…a specialist…and I get the scary feeling the DeMeo family is pulling him to disrupt an investigation involving a major interest…but I can’t quite get it narrowed down.  If Smith is nearby, get him in there so he can join in…”, he suggested.
            Without a word, Maria was on her feet, swinging the adjoining door open and giving a swift bang to Smith’s door.  Seconds later, the tall muscular man answered wearing nothing but a towel, which made the older Marshal arch her brow, pointing and saying loudly, “Pants! Get there!”, to Smith, and twirled a finger as she hit the button for speaker so Jim could be heard, “Conference with Thorney…not doing it in the nude”
            “Why not?”, Jim said from the phone, “You know I’m naked right now!”, instantly, this was followed by a loud, “OW!  Dammit boss!”
            Maria had been taking a swig of beer and was now coughing and spluttering loudly as she heard the slap to Jim’s head from Valentine as it simultaneously happened with Smith’s dropping the towel at the sound of the outburst.
            After all of the excitement died, and Maria was done wiping her face where she’d actually had beer come out of her nose with Jim’s antics and his usual miscalculation of Theresa’s hearing, her and a now clothed Smith were sitting on the edge of her hotel bed listening as Jim began to explain further.
            “Bottom line here is that he is out with a purpose…sounds Hollywood, but sometimes it actually does happen, and this looks like one of those times.  Corriola isn’t alone by my best guess, and as soon as I find out about him stealing a vehicle, we might get a leg up.  Right now the DeMeo family is under multiple investigations in different locations…it’s not easy to pinpoint where he might be.  The scary part is that there is an ongoing FBI op in Kentucky going on…I’m concerned that that could be where he is slated to go…if so, it might be tricky to get him.  The FBI has people in the family, and that could complicate things…so I’m calling Rosenthal to set up a lunch and talk possibilities on the side just in case”, it made his skin crawl, but Jim would do what he could on his end…even dealing with that psycho if he had to.
            Smith chimed in, “It would make better sense that he’s working local…this isn’t the forties, they wouldn’t be restricted to one guy these days.  Where in Kentucky are we talking?”
            “Bowling Green…”, Jim said, “Sounds out of the way, but considering it’s a major shipping route, I believe they are using trucks and vans to ship drugs.  Though why DEA isn’t heading up that investigation, I’m at a loss…hence my meeting with Rosenthal”
            “Thorney…if it’s Bowling Green, they aren’t distributing drugs…they are moving people”, Smith said, getting a look from Maria as she popped open a cigarillo tin to pull out a Macanudo Ascot.  “It’s not a widely known fact, but that’s a human trafficking hub, particularly for labor”
            Thornton was silent for a while as he added that to his notes, “So they are sending workers out from there?”, he clarified.
            “Yes…particularly tradesmen shipped from South America and parts of Asia.  They blend right in after getting off a boat in California…also Russian mob ships girls through there as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the op included Russian assets”
            Maria clicked her lighter shut and spoke around her cigarillo, “Jim…get Rosenthal tonight.  Don’t wait…if they are this organized, we need to be on top of what’s going on”, then she took the cigarillo out of her mouth, speaking in a haze of smoke, “If this guy is out to target investigators, that means there’s a threat to Rosenthal, and if they spot us in Lexington, that could mean us too”, this revelation earned a concerned look from Smith, though Gomez seemed unmoved.
            Tensing, Thornton cracked his neck audibly before he sighed, “I’ll get her now and tell her to meet me at the house.  You two watch your back in the meantime and prep to move over to Bowling Green”
            “We’ll get ready…just don’t get in a hurry, Jim.  Keep us informed and we’ll sit tight”, Maria said calmly, not willing to let her old partner get overly excited and anxious.  “We aren’t even sure that this is what’s happening…he could be headed for the investigation in Houston.  Find out what you can and call us back”
            “All over it…be safe guys”, and with that, Thornton set the phone in the cradle and the call ended.
            Maria was clenching the ascot in her teeth as she shifted where she said, reaching over to her bedside table to check her sidearm.  “Shmith…”, she said slowly, “You’re shpending the night here in my room…we are only lishted under your room…”
            Smith took a few moments as he puzzled out what she was saying, and when it hit him, he scratched his head, “Wouldn’t that be inappropriate?”
            Setting the cigarillo in an ashtray, Maria stood up, setting the gun down and walking over to the main table to grab the tv remote, “Wouldn’t taking a bullet to the head because you didn’t spend the night in here be more inappropriate?”, she asked in turn.
            Smith had no answer…in this case, she was absolutely right.  Standing up, he headed to his room to make it look like he was still there, turning on the tv loudly, and retrieving his firearm…he hoped that Jim was on the wrong track here…but if he wasn’t…


            Supervisory Special Agent Shauna Rosenthal was a short and thin woman with memorable curves at her breasts and hips and dark hair that had streaks of silver at her temples which only seemed to give the oddly bubbly and usually smiling woman more appeal.  Beautiful and dark eyed with a bright personality, it was odd that this little woman was one of the most productive and aggressive FBI agents in the nation…and even more odd that she was absolutely infatuated with James Thornton.
            Off duty and wearing a lavender tube top and skin tight jeans, hair loose around her tanned shoulders, her boot heels clopped against the driveway as she stepped out of her jeep.  Pausing to grab a six pack of some craft beer from her passenger seat and to adjust her bra so her cleavage looked more inviting, she walked up to knock on the door of Jim’s house.
            When it opened, Jim had a Monte Cristo White Churchill hanging out of his mouth, and he nodded to come on in.  Smiling brightly with a show of brilliant white teeth and bouncing on her toes, Shauna almost squealed as she greeted him, “Jim!  How are you feeling?!”, and one hand holding the six pack, she stepped across the threshold, all but throwing herself into the equally short man as she hugged him tightly, pressing her face against his shoulder, “I was so worried about you…it’s good to see you back on your feet”, and then she stepped back as he let her in, offering him the beer.
            “You know where the fridge is Dingbat…”, Jim grunted, closing the door behind them.  “I’m fine, and I’m back to work.  I didn’t call you over on a date, though…I need your help”
            “Anything!”, she said brightly, heading into the kitchen to deposit the six pack, taking two out and opening both.
            Jim walked into the kitchen to join Rosenthal and was handed a beer before he could take the cigar out of his mouth, “Thank you…anything, huh?”
            “I did say it…what do you need, Jim?”, Rosenthal asked as she sat on a barstool delicately and leaned forward to tug her boots off, setting her beer on the counter.
            Jim, leaning against a counter about as far back from her as he could get short of leaving the kitchen, considered it before he asked, using the cigar to gesture and point at Shauna, “Well…we are looking for Corriola, and have reason to believe he might be hanging out in Lexington before he heads elsewhere.  Wondering if you had anything on the DeMeo family that would point to his next step?”
            Letting each boot fall haphazardly to the floor and pulling her socks up, Rosenthal took the bottle from the counter and watched Jim as she rolled it in her hands and took a few drinks from it.  Staring at the neck, she nodded, “Well…I know he is headed to Bowling Green next.  We let him get out because his presence will help us knock down that entire operation…”, then she looked up at Jim, concerned and frustrated, “Jim…we are moving in for that arrest tomorrow.  Corriola is on the list of people we are supposed to take in”
            Jim shook his head, “This is coming down as one of our main cases…I can have Marshals in Bowling Green first thing in the morning.  But Corriola goes with us”
            “Jim, I-“
            “You said ‘anything’…”, he reminded her, “I know this is a tall order with the Senate committee, but the Bureau doesn’t get to play games with us regarding an escaped prisoner.  That’s our jurisdiction…all I’m asking is for you to tell me what’s going on”
            “Well…”, she said, setting the bottle on the counter again as she stared at her fingers, “The meeting is taking place in the afternoon…we have several informants in the area, and one of them will give us the signal that everyone is there…if Corriola doesn’t show, the meeting is a bust and we’ll lose everything”
            “Then I’d suggest you get my people in on this…”, Jim told her, picking his cigar back up and puffing it back to life slowly.
            “Jim…don’t do this with me.  You know I’d do anything for you…”, then she whispered, “I told you I’d wait for you…”
            Spluttering, he shook his head, “Don’t bring that up!”, he snapped, waving a hand, “You know damn good and well the FBI doesn’t have the juice to out muscle us over an escaped convict!  Just get my people in on the arrest so they can pick Corriola up.  We’ll get you access to him for interrogation regarding your case…I’ve already cleared it with Valentine.  We have to bring him back in”
            Shauna frowned, and took another drink, then slowly, she started to grin widely.  The whole thing was a bit unnerving for Jim, whom didn’t have anymore room to back away. Then she nodded, “Fine…it’s my op anyhow, I’ll make sure Gomez and whatshisface make it in…and they are safe, Corriola checked into a hotel outside of Bowling Green this afternoon…”, she added in this afternoon, “But you owe me”
            Jim spread his hands, “Name it”, he sighed, knowing he was going to hate this.
            “Dinner!”, she said grinning broadly, “Not a bar, Jim…a nice dinner.  Wine, a classy dimly lit place, candle light…”
            “…me puking on the deck”, Jim muttered into his beer, earning him a laugh as Rosenthal got up and came over to him.
            Throwing her arms around his neck and leaning forehead to forehead with him, she smiled sweetly, “Come on…we both could use a change of pace.  I’m not asking you to hurry…just one date”
            Grumbling, Jim nodded, “Fine! Fine!  As long as our people get in on the arrest, I’ll take you on a date…”, he said in resignation.
            “Great!”, and much to Jim’s surprise, Rosenthal took his cigar from his mouth and kissed him.
            Shoving her off and scrubbing the back of his mouth, Jim grimaced, “Get off!”, reaching for his cigar as she danced back away from him, taking the cigar with her, puffing on it playfully.
            When Jim reached to retrieve his cigar, she danced back father, skidding back into the cabinet where the sink was, “Come on, Jim, you’re faster than that”, she teased.
            “Woman!”, Jim started, finger raised.
            “Man!”, she fired back, smiling and giggling as she toyed with the Deputy.
            Jim threw his hands up, “Fine!  Keep it!”, he grumbled, “I’m not chasing you”, but when he went to turn away, she caught his arm.
            Pulling at him to draw him in, Rosenthal pulled Jim so that he was almost pinning her to the counter as she looked at him, dark eyes shining, setting the cigar on the edge of the sink.  Resting her hands on his chest, she whispered, “I missed you…”
            Jim hung his head, “Well…I-“
            His lips were stopped by her finger, “Shhh…”, and they both just stared into each other’s eyes for a long time.