Jan knew that she didn’t have any contacts, which she knew of, in the department right now. She had burned a few too many bridges herself for any of them to willingly stick out their necks for her. She also didn’t have enough time to contact any old friends who may be willing to work with her, given time. Over the years they both had a network of names on which they could rely. She could have always contacted Rob to have him arrange for an arrest, but not if he wasn’t in the Phoenix office. There was also the problem of him associating with her. She knew that Rob would be no help, if she needed someone to stay with, it just wouldn’t work. When she was still with the department, Ward had never once asked her to do anything on his jobs. She knew that it kept her reputation clean. She couldn’t risk getting involved with the department again. Neither of them had left on a favorable basis. Maybe this was because one really was never allowed to leave. If the department found either one of them, they would be kept, jailed within the department of course, for an undetermined amount of time. No trial, no lawyers, and no one they could count on. She was told on the last job with the department, it could be a lifetime. If she were jailed with them this time, she would not find it easy to get out, and she didn’t want to have to try.
“Interesting contact. Is he still on active duty?” Jan placed her feet back on the ground and picked up the empty bottles. Getting up, she began to walk to the kitchen.
“Not really, but I wouldn’t put it past anyone that retires to still have connections within any department. As you know, no one really ever leaves,” Ward smiled as he said this for they both knew they had left, and were now being hunted by the department that they once had worked for. Ward sat and watched her pick up the soda bottles and walk away. There was a knock on the door, and as Jan went into the kitchen Ward went to the door. Jan could barely hear the voices, but could tell the conversation was in Spanish, and knew who had to be standing there. She walked back into the room in time to see the door close and Ward holding a small, old, tattered bag filled with what she could only assume would be her clothes for the next week or more.
The bag was nothing more than an old cloth backpack that had seen many other good uses. As she looked it over she saw that it would suit her needs quite well. She could clearly hear Ward’s thoughts in her own head, ‘Want to try them on now or later?’ Jan only smiled, trying to erase some of his fears, and took the bag.
“Let’s see how I’ll look,” she took the bag, and went off to change into who she was going to become.
Ward had discussed his plans with Eddy and arranged a meeting place back in Phoenix. Running down the list of what they would need, Ward checked that Eddy would be able to handle a change of clothes, and even a change of cars. Eddy assured him that he would have no problem with either. Ward also let Eddy know whom he would need to contact for him before he got back into Phoenix. Those people existed on both sides of the law. Last, Ward asked Eddy to arrange a place for him to stay for a night or two, explaining that the apartment he had for emergencies was no longer available. Ward refused to stay with Eddy, knowing that it would put him at a higher risk than either one of them were willing to take. If for some reason his place was watched, or checked on, Ward would be a risk, and not a good one.
There were positives. He would not have to dodge the department anymore to meet up with Jan. They would both have to avoid contact with anyone who would inform the assistant director of their whereabouts. Neither one of them wanted to be invited for a lengthy stay at the department by the assistant director because there would be no way to ever leave. In one way it would be easier, in another, there was now no one in the department to run cover for them anymore. Ward thought for a moment, maybe he still would for Jan’s sake? Things had changed when Jan had left and maybe not so much for the good. With this feeling still on the fringes of his mind, Jan had walked into the apartment. He handed her the papers that he had made notes on, and left the room to be alone with his thoughts.
Jan watched him walk away, and didn’t question him. Looking down at the papers she saw all the information that she would need, the names of the missing women, their ages, the dates they were at or near the boarder, where they crossed, and where they might have met the coyote they used. The name of the coyote that had been used by the people already in the US had not been included in the information. They were probably trying to protect them. Then she read the information she needed most, the descriptions of the missing women. Strange thing was that the age of the women didn’t seem to matter much. One of the missing was only sixteen, one was twenty-five, and one was even in her early thirties. There seemed to be nothing in common except the fact that they all crossed from the same place or at least that was what their families had assumed. The only conclusion that Jan could make was that whoever was making these women disappear wasn’t picky about the age of the person he took, just the looks. This would help her out. Even though she wasn’t bad looking, in fact she was good looking, toned, and evenly tanned, but she was no where near the age of sixteen anymore, and was definitely looking at thirty in the rear view mirror age wise. She would be able to look the part of a twenty year old, but there would an added advantage if they weren’t picky.
The next page contained all the information that Ward had gathered for himself, and who he needed to contact. He had made an assumption as to why these women disappeared. From that, he planned where he was going to start his part of the mission. Most of the information he had collected led in one direction, and it wasn’t a direction that either one of them liked. All the information that Ward had gathered was written straightforward, in list form, without any emotion, and in a style very familiar to Jan. Jan was glad to see that he still used the same format that they had polished between them over the years. This would make working together easier as she would know just what to expect, and how to read through it efficiently.
While Jan would be busy gathering the information that she would need to hopefully locate both the missing people and the coyote, Ward would be investigating the other side of the coin, or what they feared was the other side of the coin. As they both were well aware of, most of the illegals, and even American nationals that were missing women didn’t have a happy life. They had been treated more like slaves and less than human, they could only hope they would be able to find them before it was too late. Assuming that they were still alive, that would be their goal. The only way to know for sure was for Jan to illegally cross the border, and Ward to approach this investigation from the marketing side as the leads steadily grew colder and colder. Ward had made a list of people to see, on both sides of the law, in the Phoenix area. The list was gotten from the files of Border Patrol, the CIA, and the FBI. Some of the names on the list she recognized from other times and crimes when both she and Ward had been with the PED department. Some of these people had been watched for many years. Almost every department, at one time or another had some kind of records on most of these people. The only thing that they had not been able to do yet was to bring them to trial for anything but minor offenses. They had been put on a list of other probable crimes, such as drugs and weapons running, but to Jan’s surprise, nothing had ever transpired. These were the people that would be the most knowledgeable about new comers in the field and the most arrogant, as they had never been caught or burned by any department. They may also be the most helpful with information in order to preserve their territory.
Ward also listed, when possible, the people he knew who worked for each of these organizations. By knowing some of the names, it would make getting into or dealing with the organizations that much easier. This is the side of life he would try to infiltrate hoping to pick up any leads about the missing women. At this point, Jan was unsure of whether he would pose as a middleman, or a new player. Most likely it would just be a quick decision he would make when standing in front of someone depending on what he could pick up from reading the minds around him. His way in was not going to be as clear as Jan’s. Neither role was without danger, and neither one of them dwelled on that fact.
Jan’s goal on this mission would be to put at least a couple of these groups out of the business of selling women, and catch the coyotes as well. Keep the goal in mind she thought, no matter what else they discovered. Faceless people with no advocate, migrant workers who only supported the economy of the US, and they were their only hope right now. They needed to return all three of these people to their families, whether or not they were legal residents of the United States they were part of the human race and had basic rights. They, at the very least, needed to find out what happened to them. In the best of circumstances, they would be able to do it all. Jan didn’t want to dwell on what the worst could be. She had never dwelled on it before and now was not a good time to start.
Ward had been listening in on her thoughts undetected from the other room for the last five minutes, and he could tell that Jan had finished digesting the information on the paper. Ward had also come to some conclusions himself that he was not prepared to share. He came back into the room quietly. At first no words passed between them, only random thoughts, feelings, and a few fears. Each knew the risks that were involved in this puzzle. If they were honest with each other, they would have to admit too that they were each more worried about the other than themselves. They stared at each other, still no words passing their lips, and now no thoughts being shared. There was nothing else to share; it was like old times, and the beginning of brand new times. There was no safety net on this one, no one for backup besides each other and any one in Ward’s network. Ward was the first to move and he walked into the kitchen. A moment later he came back out and handed her a cold cola from the fridge. He gave her a peck on the cheek and Jan took the cola and smiled back at the man she had loved from the time they had met. It was funny, but they were finally at peace with the decisions they had made and with that unspoken understanding. Jan broke the silence.
“Nice work,” she held the papers up. It broke the ice, and that is all she wanted to do.
“Still think this type of work is for you,” Ward walked over and sat down in the overstuffed chair looking out to the ocean. As he leaned back, he casually crossed his legs. He took a sip of cola, looked back smiling at Jan, and waited for the answer he knew was coming. She walked over to the corner of the couch closest to the chair and sat down, propping her legs up on his.
“Were we ever meant to live any other way?” She let his smile spread to her lips. Both sat and finished off their colas without finishing off the conversation. Staying in the moment they just looked toward each other, sharing nothing but raw feeling. Slowly the thoughts changed over to the problem at hand. They sat letting their plans formulate in their minds separately. Slowly their minds started to wander together again and in an easy exchange of information each knew everything the other had planned. Reading minds took energy, but they had found that reading each other never did. Still, they didn’t move for about half an hour and they didn’t talk. It wasn’t until Ward took out a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her that the verbal conversation began again. Jan read it. It contained one name, number, code and address on it. He watched her read the paper as Jan’s one eyebrow raised. She had a look of amusement on her face when she stopped reading and had digested the information.
She had always known that Ward must have had contacts within the departments, but this one was special, different. As the question began to formulate in her head, Ward answered it before she could even voice the question.
“He’s one of my contacts in Phoenix. He’s still in touch with the agency, and he will pass any information on to the appropriate departments without any questions if he knows you’re with me. He never believed that I went bad and still trusts my judgment. His information base is large enough as you can see, so he just doesn’t let the authorities know the information is from me,” Jan read the address again. It was an interesting cover. Not unexpected, but interesting. Memorizing the address, code name, and given name she handed the paper back to Ward and he continued the conversation, “You won’t have a phone. Nor can you count on keeping hold of any of the money probably, and Eddy may be busy with me. I also make it a policy to never stay with Eddy. He doesn’t need that kind of trouble. If you need to contact someone, he’s a trustworthy contact. He can make calls to any of the people you may need, and have the bad guys picked up. And, if you need, he will put you up for a few days. He will also know how to get a hold of me. Just give him my code name, and he is familiar with yours as well.”
“Does he light up the bat signal, send up flares,” Jan could hardly contain the teasing sound in her voice as the next set of words came out, “or is it your superhuman hearing that he relies on?”
“I prefer the red phone,” his mouth twitched up at the corners as he answered. He grabbed at her legs as she pulled them away playfully.
It wasn’t easy for them to work together. There were now two leaders with no one to hand them their orders. Jan noticed that it had been a while since Ward had coordinated with others or equals. He was definitely used to running the show. Many times, Jan needed to remind him that she was also capable of making choices, not just taking orders, as to how they were going to gather information, roles they would play and in what directions the investigation was going to go. In the end, after their roles were set, they planned most of what they were each going to doing separately; only occasionally checking with the other to make sure their plans would mesh together. It seemed an amiable relationship, and as they picked at each other’s minds during the process, both consciously and unconsciously, they were able to keep the goal in mind, as well as keep the plan on the same track.
After they finished the planning stage, and the job was recorded on paper, it was clear that Jan would be in need of a completely different wardrobe. Ward looked her over and decided the tan that she had gotten would help. They looked at each other, and Jan knew that the best person to help her shop would not be Ward, but on the other hand, she did know who to call on for the stylistic flare she would need. Ward nodded at her and she left the table without a word. They both knew where she was headed.
Jan didn’t fancy the idea of who she was about to talk to, or have to get by. Jan left the apartment by the patio entrance that hid them from the rest of the world. Knocking on the Garcia’s door the person she least wanted to answer the door did, Mama Garcia. Most of the time Jan was always happy to spend a few moments talking with her even if the same question would always come up, “When are we going to see some little ninos?” In her fluent Spanish Jan would always say they were not ready for them yet. She didn’t say that they would probably never be ready for them. As always, Mama Garcia would just ‘tsk’ and shake her head at Jan. This discussion was just not in her plans right now. Mama Garcia envisioned a house full of babies and more on the way. Somehow, they were not looking through the same glasses. Mama Garcia would have liked them to settle down, to stop all this nonsense. Without really knowing who they were, she would never completely understand why they could never stop what they did, and did so well. It was a programming that could never be undone, now, or ever.
“Is Manuel around?” Jan spoke fluent Spanish and sounded like a native. She had always been good with languages. Being able to pick up on the subtle nuances of a language by reading other people’s minds had always just polished off the edges, and made her sound like a local. Mama Garcia gave her an inquisitive look.
“Porque?” why, there it was, the question she wanted to avoid. There was plenty going on in her head, and most of which Jan picked up on whether or not she wanted to.
“I need to discuss where I might find some specific items to buy,” Mama Garcia was about to ask another question, and then realizing she already knew the answer she just turned to leave. Jan noticed that as she turned, her shoulders drooped just a bit more, and for a moment Jan did wish she could be the person Mama Garcia would want her to be. But as quick as the moment came, it left.
When Manuel entered the small living area, Jan waved for him to come outside, knowing that the conversation was about to take a turn that Mama wouldn’t like or approve of. It would be better, easier on all, if her ears never heard it.
“Manuel,” she spoke in English to him just incase there was anyone close by listening in, she didn’t want to make it too easy for Mama to hear and understand, “I’m in need of some clothing that would make me look more like a native. To be a bit clearer; a native that is about to illegally cross the boarder.”
“Why?” it was an honest and question, “You are an American, you can go across any time you want. Even Ward does it and he is wanted. Planning something?”
“Yes. Now, where can I get some clothes?” she wanted to bring him back to the topic and away from the job. Manuel just gave her a look. Manuel was not a person that could be of much help to them, only cover if necessary. It had been Manuel that Ward had had to save ages ago, and at times he was too eager to try and return the favor. She knew that Ward had also promised the Garcias that Manuel would always be safe from the trouble he was in, and this is why they took such good care of the place for them. It was also one reason that it was easy for them to stay quiet about the location of the apartment, they didn’t want Manuel ever put in danger, and they knew that Ward lived in a constant state of danger when he was away from this place. Right now though, all Jan wanted was the clothes she would need to complete her transformation.
“It will be hard, you don’t look Mexican,” Manuel folded his arms and looked her up and down quickly, and then again slowly. He wasn’t totally being honest.
“I’ll deal with that later. Will you help me with the clothes or not?” she just needed him to give her a location of a shop, but she could see that it wouldn’t be that easy as the next question came from him.
“I will go. What size?” Jan decided not to fight it. It would save her time.
“Eight or small, and make sure they are realistic. A small old bag as well to pack in, one with a wide strap if possible,” she waited until he met her glance again, “By the way, the sooner the better. Can you have them to me by tonight?”
“Do you need them to be from any particular region of Mexico, or other Central American country?” Jan shook her head no. The only thing she thought would really be important on this job was that she was female, “Then I can have it here by tonight.”
“Thanks, I’ll be by later to get them,” Jan turned to leave then stopped. Turning back toward Manuel she asked, “Wait, can you drop them by so your mother won’t worry?”
“I understand. Yes. You are planning on crossing the border illegally? It is dangerous,” Manuel was still looking at her, this time with just a hint of concern in his mind. Jan smiled, letting his concern for her touch her heart.
“That’s what I’m counting on,” and Jan, turning, went back through the patio gates. This time as she walked through the beautiful garden patio back to the apartment, she hardly noticed the beauty around her. She was busy thinking about just how she was going to pull off the rest of the costume. She felt alive again. There was an excitement she felt when she thought of working again, and as she bounced back into the living room of the apartment her thoughts were interrupted.
While she had been up talking with Manuel, Ward had been talking to Eddy. It had been a conversation that left him just a bit unsettled, and Jan picked up on this. Eddy had given the information they had wanted and more to Ward. His conversation had been a good one with the day laborers that were missing relatives. It hadn’t been the first time that people had gone missing, but like Eddy had said, and they had known, the other leads were too cold. The migrants had known it when they had told him stories of their relatives that had disappeared, so he had left the other information out. Mostly it was about people who had never wanted to meet up with them really. What they needed to focus on were the ones that they knew were missing for other reasons than ones of their own.
It wasn’t until the next morning that either Ward or Jan got back to the computer. Without any thought, Jan opened Ward’s e-mail account as he finished up in the shower. When the program finally opened, a letter popped up on the screen. There, in front of her, was a note from Eddy.
“Glad to see that you two have decided to join the world again,” as she read down the note she could almost hear Eddy saying it. “Got a bunch of good descriptions, information and even some names. Give me a buzz and I’ll let you know the details.” Jan closed the e-mail before Ward could enter the room and she walked into the kitchen to fix a quick breakfast. This news would be better on a full stomach she decided. Hearing Ward come out of the bedroom, she called him over to eat breakfast before he got a chance to read the new e-mail. Ward sat down at the table and picked up the spoon. When he saw that she had boiled eggs and made toast he knew that something must be up. Jan never did anything more than toast for breakfast, or something that might resemble it, when she made breakfast. Although when he cooked she was always happy to finish off eggs, bacon and any other fixings that might come with it, if he made it for her. He gave her a knowing smile. Letting her stew a moment, he began to eat.
“Eddy e-mailed. Sounds as if he has what we need to get started,” she took a breath and looked at him. “Ward, we’re taking the job,” her voice held an air of confidence. Ward continued to eat and didn’t look her way. “Did you hear me?” she had expected some kind of reaction and when none came she was surprised.
“Yes, and okay,” Jan looked at him confused and Ward finally stopped eating and looked back at her, “I always knew you would want to, you’re just like me, but you had to know that yourself. You had to have the choice. You see it took me a few months away from the job to want to go back and then nothing could stop me. I figured you wouldn’t be any different; just wanted to give you and us, the time first,” he continued with breakfast. “I also had to be sure that’s what you really wanted,” Jan made a face he didn’t see and took a sip of coffee, choosing not to respond to the last comment he made.
“Eddy wants you to buzz him to get the information. Now we just have to plan out the details before starting,” it was routine procedure, and that’s one thing Jan knew would never change. There was a plan, always a plan A and B. The plan was there for safety, for routine and for each other. It was the routine paperwork and research that made all jobs safer.
After breakfast they sat at the table with paper and pencil determining their roles and options for this job. As the plan began to develop, Ward could have told Jan that he wasn’t happy with the risks she would need to take; but the risks on any job like this usually never changed. They had always taken risks and that was one of the many hazards of what they did. It was also what they liked to do, and they had the best training. And after all, she was probably not going to be too pleased with the risk he was going to take either. Both being in the same emotional boat made it easier, as well as more difficult, but they tried only to focus on the job, not each other. Jan realized that she had never asked Ward the most important questions before she had decided to join him on his, and now her crusades. She had only just assumed the answers. Being on the other side herself now, it was time to find out the answers. She had to wonder just how they would get justice for those who had been wronged? Who did he call? Just how did he do all of this?
“What do you do after you find and catch the bad guys?” Jan rested her elbows on the table, folded her hands and rested her chin on them. She tried to look casual. His left eyebrow raised a little as he raised his head to look at her straight in the eye.
“What do you think I do?” he had issued her a challenge. Looking at her sarcastically, he awaited her answer. Jan looked back into the eyes of the man that she thought she knew.
“Well, I would hope you find some way of turning them, or the information, in to the correct authorities,” Jan was beginning to feel a bit uneasy as she tapped into his thoughts, not sure of what she might find there. Knowing that it might not be the answer she would want to find, she stopped and waited.
“I’d like to tell you that every job ends up with the bad guy in jail, but you know differently even from your past experiences with the department,” he let her into his thoughts now, sharing their past experiences, and then just his past jobs after the department. “Most of the time it works out the way everyone would hope. I can get local authorities, or friends to help out. But there are those times when the goal is the most important thing to keep in mind and the bad guys go free.” Jan could feel his pain from those experiences that had not worked out the way he planned. She didn’t miss the clouded thought in the back of his mind that her last assignment in the department had been one of the ones that had caused him pain. Knowing that, she decided to let it go and get out of his thoughts for now. As always, the mission was what was important. Determine the goal and plan the mission; the rest of what happened was, of course, the icing on the cake or the fly in the soup. Some things in their lives had changed though; now they decided the goal and what was important. This case was promising to be as big as some jobs they had worked in the past, not the biggest, but substantial. No one in the official world would take it on yet, not without some more proof or people who could fight for their right to be heard. Ward had watched her face and her thoughts, as all the worlds collided in her head, and the crystallization of who they were now, became clear in her thoughts. Ward smiled as he saw the realization dawn in her mind and in her face that they were the vigilantes, the ones who fought for those who had no one to turn to. They returned to planning out the mission with a renewed sense of vigor.
Ward had been watching Jan meditate. He often did this from the balcony as she sat on the rocks deep in thought. He found it relaxing just to watch her, and today was no different. He saw her laugh, felt her laugh, and knew that she had made the final leap into the present. She was whole. As he walked back into the apartment and over to the computer he knew that the last thing he ever wanted was to have her in danger. It truly scared him, but that wasn’t the woman he had married two years ago.
He sat down at the computer and started up the links to the departmental computers. He wanted to see if there was any information on coyote activity. He knew that Jan had already done some of this work, but he also knew that double checking information was a necessity for safety. As he sat and waited for the links to connect, he remembered the first time he had seen her.
He was about six years younger. He had just finished an unscheduled overseas assignment and was coming back to the United States. Both Ward and his partner had reentered the country in L.A. on separate planes, and as Phoenix was the closest office decided to go there for a while until all the reports were completed. Over the years he had spent with the PED, he had two partners. His current partner, Gregg, thought that Phoenix would be a good stop. That way they would be able to catch up with some old friends. Gregg would never have guessed what came next.
Walking into the office and over to claim an uncluttered desk was when he caught his first glimpse of her. She was hunched over a desk. It wasn’t as if he was a novice, but something about her was different and he hadn’t even seen her face. He could only see the back of her head and the brown hair loosely tied in a ponytail. It wasn’t reading her mind, he wasn’t even about to try that here, but there was a connection, an attraction, even without reading her.
Ward didn’t know if he had stared too long, or if his thoughts had slipped somehow into hers. He didn’t even know if she could read minds, but she turned to look at him and smiled. It was a smile that spoke volumes. Their eyes locked, his breath caught in his throat, and that was all the encouragement he needed.
From that moment on they had taken every chance they could to get to know each other, in all senses of the word. It started with coffee and lunches, and as the relationship progressed it led to late night desserts and more. It hadn’t been easy, they were usually on assignments in opposite directions, but there was something between them, something that neither one of them could escape from.
Later he had transferred to Phoenix to be closer to her, although that’s not what the official request said. His move had been a good fit. It meant a change of partners for Ward, and that had been a positive. Ward and his partner had not been getting along. It hadn’t been a good fit in the beginning and it was getting worse. Gregg and Ward had not been seeing eye to eye for a quite a while and the jobs had been not been going well. The department had approved Ward’s transfer papers and moved him, silently thankful that Gregg stayed in Virginia.
He had been reassigned a partner in Phoenix, and it seemed to have worked for a while. It also gave him a chance to work with another friend that he had gone through training with. He had been stationed in Phoenix as well. The most important thing to Ward was Jan. It was when he had been reassigned that he got to know her more intimately as well. They even worked a few jobs together.
The more they were together the more they wanted to be. It was not only the fact that they had achieved the ability to freely roam through each other’s minds, communicating without words; they had connected even deeper. They became inseparable any day or night that they could afford to be together, but they didn’t allow anyone to know about it. Later, when the department learned of their growing involvement, they had surprisingly encouraged it, for a while. But it wasn’t long before they began to frown as they saw their control slowly slipping away. They were forbidden to see each other, and they complied, at least until the department thought that it was over.
After that, Jan and Ward met in secret. They never again worked together. He finally left the department under unfavorable conditions and officially charged with criminal activity. Even that didn’t stop them. At first Jan thought that maybe the charges were true; but as they continued to meet in secret she learned without a doubt that he was not guilty. She never really knew just what had happened until a couple of months ago when it had been necessary for her to learn about it. They had married in secret and now lived together in secret away from the department that they had been entrapped in. Deep in his thoughts, he never heard her come in. He never heard her move soundlessly across the room behind him.
She was skilled and he was distracted by his thoughts. She had seen his thoughts, carefully picking at them so that he would not detect her. Slowly she came up behind him and when her hands touched him, tracing the muscles in his back, he turned off the computer and stood up in one fluid movement unalarmed and totally aware of her now. His arm reached out to grab her. She ducked just as quickly, slipping away into the bedroom knowing that he would follow. With the information he wanted from the computer pushed aside; he walked toward the bedroom, removing his shirt in the process.