As she watched across the activity across the street, Terrah couldn’t help but smile. Her freshly dyed brown hair air-drying as she followed every movement closely. Headphones plugged in. White noise filtering through them. An occasional crackle and voices speaking but gone within a moment. Despite the mass of black vehicles in front of the run-down hotel, she had a perfect view of the action below.
The hotel room she had rented earlier in the week was strategically chosen. Three floors above ground level. The perfect height to see what was happening below but high enough to go unnoticed. The curtains pulled back just enough to see. Several individuals at the center of all the activity wore bulletproof vests with rifles as their preferred weapon of choice. A utility belt with an array of items secured around their waist. Several police officers in their standard uniforms and issued weapons stood near barricades placed—keeping the crowd of people from interfering with their activity.
Between the media and bystanders, every movement was captured. In the background, a sleek black SUV stood out from the armored vehicles and police cars. Two people stood near it, wearing finely tailored black suits. They looked out of place. Displeasure etched into their faces. Neither of them wanting to be there but required to. They were watching and waiting.
Noises sparked to life in her headphones. Commands bellowed and followed.
Terrah hummed and began to pack her suitcase. Items all gathered near the desk and chair by the window. Every item neatly folded and placed. Rustling filling the space.
The two in black suits perked up when several people started exiting the building. Those wearing street clothing were escorted by heavily armed law enforcement members. Most of those in handcuffs were minorities and male. Frequent reports of fights, drug use, and prostitution all lent to a high probability of police raids. The hotel wore its seedy reputation as a badge of honor. Anyone looking for illegal substances knew where to go. The city’s police chief worked hard to shut it down entirely, but a final decision remained in limbo for years.
Today’s activity, however, might be enough to shut the place down permanently. The police were the last thing the owners had to worry about. This organized operation had nothing to do with local law enforcement, but federal.
Throughout all the masses of drug dealers, arms dealers, and pimps—a blonde haired woman was escorted out of the front entrance. Skinny, pale, and eyes dilated. Her body shaking as she came off the high from her drug of choice. Instead of being put on the sidewalk like the rest, she was escorted to the black SUV. The agents in suits approached her and spoke.
She was placed in the back of their black SUV and taken away. The remaining FBI officials spent several more hours clearing the scene. The street reopened to traffic in the early hours of the afternoon. She watched. Waited.
Terrah sent a text message on a burner phone before picking up her pre-packed bag and exiting her luxurious hotel room. The conclusion of the raid would be on the news later.
Dressed in designer labels and a new hair color, Terrah looked vastly different than just 24 hours ago. With her shoulders back, head held high, she checked out of the room and thanked the staff for a wonderful stay.
She walked out of the hotel and began trekking across alleyways to reach her destination. By the time she arrived, Terrah was sweating due to the heat. The water bottle in her hand glistened with condensation as she took several large drinks for it. Behind her, an abandoned building. Windows boarded up. Debris lined up against the aging brick. The entry hidden from the streets. No security cameras were placed outside to capture transients or passersby.
Terrah leaned against the brick siding, her mind running through the next steps of her plan. Nausea bubbled in her stomach. So much was at stake—and not just for her.
Being so close to the end was surreal. Over a decade on the run with one survival story piled on top of another. The promise of it all coming to an end never felt within reach. Not like now. Anticipation continued to build with every passing second. Terrah hadn’t seen Jaynes in months.
Her heart pounded at the mere thought of seeing him. While working, she could ignore the lingering ache of him being gone. Knowing he was getting closer pulled that feeling to the forefront. God, what would he look like? Changing appearances wasn’t anything new between them.
Soon, there would be no need to hide who they really were.
A red sports car turned down the alleyway, Terrah tensed at the sight of an unfamiliar vehicle in her proximity. Within seconds, the car pulled up next to her, a man behind the wheel. Sandy hair and hazel eyes that could charm anyone.
“You look like you could use a ride.”
The accent was unmistakable. British in origin and hadn’t faded despite living in America for over ten years. Terrah rolled her eyes.
“I thought we were going to keep a low profile.”
The man smiled. He was the textbook definition of a model. “This is a low profile. You’re wearing Chanel. I’m in Michael Kors. I needed a car to match.”
Terrah opened the back seat and threw her bag without regard. The duffle contained clothes mostly—ones that had been well-worn and ready to rip at the seams. They resembled nothing akin to her current outfit. The change was intentional for the time being.
Eventually though, she would need the practical outfits.
She got into the passenger seat and the man leaned in. Terrah gave him a quick kiss. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, Terrah.” In that moment, the world stopped between them. Her heart longed to be closer, to hold on to him tight. The smile on his face softened to the one she was familiar with. The one only she was allowed to see.
He pulled her close once more and kissed her again. Every second of contact breathing new life into her. When they broke apart for the second time, his touch lingered. She leaned into his hand.
As much as she wanted to hold on to this moment, their lives wouldn’t wait. “We better get going if we’re going to make our next destination.”
The boyish grin was back as the man shifted the car into gear. “Yet another reason why this car will come in handy.”
The blonde woman sat in a bland-looking room. A faux mirror on one of the walls. She had been left alone for several hours now. The remaining drugs in her system finally wearing off, leaving her shaky and anxious. Her mind raced through the possibilities of what was to come. Nothing she conjured could even compare to what was about to happen.
The heavy door to the room opened, handle hitting the wall. A tactic of intimidation but she didn’t even bat an eye at the noise. Two people in tailored black suits walked in. One a woman, the other a man. The woman had dark hair and eyes, athletic in nature, and sharp features. Her face severe as she carried herself with confidence.
The man slumped his shoulders slightly, but his beady eyes thinly veiled his contempt. His muscles were accentuated in the suit and were an obvious product of many hours at the gym. She would have been intimidated but it was mainly for show.
They glanced over her appearance, but neither of them addressed her current state. There wasn’t much to say for someone whose clothes were stained and torn from repeated use. The crooks of her arms covered in needle marks, makeup smudged, and hair greasy.
She didn’t give a damn what they thought.
After all, they only had one thing they wanted from her. Something they both knew was pointless, but here they were once again. Different room, same conversation. Their eyes met. She didn’t back away.
“How is coming off your high treating you, Terrah?” the female agent asked. She didn’t answer. Her legs shaking underneath the table. “You know, we hate doing this.”
“We’ll go over your rights once again—in case you forgot from the last time.”
Who could forget?
The rights were recited. She consented to being recorded and to speak freely at the time.
“If you’re back here, that means Jaynes is likely nearby. The two of you are never far from each other.” She glared at the female agent. Mutual contempt held between them. Straight to the point as always. “Let me remind you that your cooperation is important, Terrah.”
The woman scoffed at the statement. “There’s nothing in it for me.”
The air became colder. She smirked, knowing exactly that she had struck a nerve. Neither of the agents had much patience—let alone tolerance for dealing with someone like her.
Still, the female agent forced a smile. “Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a lot I can offer you. You’re looking at years in prison for drug possession, drug paraphernalia, assault, conspiracy to commit murder, illegal possession of a firearm, and aiding and abetting a fugitive.”
The smirk never left her face. “Those are serious charges to accuse someone who is speaking freely to you.”
“For you Terrah, I’m willing to work out a deal to where you serve a reduced sentence along with entry into a cushy rehabilitation program. You could start fresh, leave this life behind, and become the person your family would be proud to have back in their lives.”
“But only if I tell you where Jaynes is.”
She fell silent, letting the time pass in effort to feign her contemplation of their offer. Of course, she had no intention of revealing that information. Not now. Not ever. It was the same song and dance over and over. Flat out refusal was her usual go-to. She decided to change things up a bit.
“I don’t know where he is.” If they were thrown by the answer, neither showed it through their expressions. The only sign that it had any effect was the long pause after her statement.
“My patience has grown thin, Terrah. I know he tells you everything. Now, tell me where your husband is.”
Her eyes widened. “How do you know about that?”
“We have our sources. We’ve kept the information tight-lipped. We want to bring in Jaynes ourselves and can’t do that if one of his many enemies comes after him first.”
The woman didn’t respond. The feds weren’t supposed to know about their marriage. They had done it in secret and out of the country. No one was supposed to find out.
She let out a laugh in the small room. “And you think that because we’re now married that I’d sell out my husband?” Her response caught the others off-guard. “I’ve never betrayed Jaynes in the twelve years I’ve known him. What made you think that I would start now?”
The stunned silence didn’t last long. The female agent recovered much quicker than her male counterpart. She straightened her posture before speaking. “Terrah, let’s be reasonable, you know what a danger your husband is to society. The people have been terrorized by his hands. Lives have been torn apart because of his actions. We can’t let this continue.”
She leaned forward, closing the gap between her and the agent. The other woman pulled away slightly to create more distance between them.
“Let me make one thing clear, Agent Corbin. I will never help you catch Jaynes McConnell. I’ll die first before that happens, she growled.
The door to the small room opened. A flash went off followed by smoke. It covered the entire room. She coughed and tried to cover her nose and mouth. Then, several rounds went off. One of them hit her body, tearing through her body.
More shots were fired and soon all the sound that remained was the blare of a fire alarm.