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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Chapter 4 - Part 1


4
Jan had gotten dressed long before the sun had come up and Ward had packed the Explorer quickly as neither one needed very much, just the one packed bag each. Ward needed to get across the border before changing his identity. He had packed a couple items he would need for his role change. It fit into a small bag, no bigger than the small bag that they had always carried for the jobs they used to work on. The idea of the small bag had been both a habit and a necessity when working with the department. It would be less to lose on an assignment if it were left behind, expendable. Important items needed to be kept on the body, or in relative safety, and anything that was needed for daily routines usually could be gotten wherever a person was. It also made an agent more portable getting through airports and across borders, as well as quick.
Jan walked over to the window in the bedroom that overlooked the ocean and opened the curtain to see the last rays from the moon bounce off the ocean in the distance. Looking out to the deepest depths of the ocean she wondered where the dolphins were at this moment. Closing her eyes she made a silent wish, a prayer that they would both return here safely and quickly. Not something she normally did, but now was as good a time as any to start a new superstition. Ward walked out of the room without saying anything. Jan turned and followed Ward out the door and out of the apartment.
They got to the top of the stairs, crossed the patio, and out the ancient gates, the Explorer sat waiting. They got in and closed the doors without saying a word, both mentally preparing for the job ahead of them. As they drove away from the relative safety of their hideaway, Ward popped a CD into the player. It was soft and eerie music that seemed to fill every corner of the vehicle. It was the CD Ward played when he needed to reach a level of calm and consciousness that seemed to be beyond his ability at the time. The sound of the Native American flute filled every crevice of the vehicle, calming and soothing their nerves, as it worked its way into their very beings as well. Jan was unsure of what problem he was grappling with; and decided that waiting until he was ready to discuss it with her would be the prudent move. Letting the music again fill every spot in her brain she nonchalantly placed her hand on his leg to reassure him of her presence as they drove. She could feel Ward’s muscles begin to relax in response to her touch, and she could feel some of his tension fall away.
When the first two songs had faded to the back of their memories and the third was about to begin, Ward turned off the CD and glanced over to see if Jan was still awake. Jan, without turning her face toward him, opened her mind to let him know that whatever the topic may be, she was willing to discuss it with him. At first they didn’t talk, at least not out loud. He started to slowly share his thoughts with her, mentally letting his mind wander into hers, and hers back into his. There were fears. Crossing the border illegally at any time would be dangerous, but there was an added danger for both Ward and Jan every time they crossed. They now had to be careful every time they crossed the borders. Ward had made it easier to cross with the casual friendship he had achieved with one group of border patrol officers. His fears for Jan were different. Crossing illegally left a few more items to chance. They had planned and emotionally prepared for their identity changes and for the dangers they would both face, except for one. Jan had half prepared for it, but the danger still existed and there was no way to make it all better. Who they were and what they had done in the past had always been dangerous. The criminal elements were never nice, but there was now an added group of people actively looking for them, always looking for them, and it wasn’t only the criminals that they had to be careful of, it was also the department. This was what was truly worrying Ward. One slip could cause the entire operation to fail, and their lives to be ruined.
“Don’t get caught crossing the border. If they get your prints I
don’t have to tell you what will happen next. Gregg and the guys will get to you before immigration can even walk you back to the bus for Mexico,” his voice a lackluster tone as he referred to the current department head of the PED, and his previous partner. “He won’t ever give up, not until he gets both of us now.” Ward would know better than anyone else what would be in Gregg’s head. Over all the years that she had known him, he had never shared why they had split up as partners. It was unusual to request a change, but not unheard of. Ever since then, though, Gregg had been almost out to get Ward, catch him on anything he did wrong. He had even tried to get Jan to lure him back to the department in exchange for her freedom and future at one time.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 3 - Part 4


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.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 3 - Part 3



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.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 3 - Part 2


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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 3 - Part 1


3


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.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 2 - Part 3



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.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 2 - Part 2



Jan contemplated this question. When working with the PED department, they were given jobs and there was never a question of if they would do the job or not. Safety was a concern, but not a choice, at least not theirs. It was calculated and weighed in some office, in some place far away from the agents themselves and once all the pros and cons were settled, the assignments were handed out. Now on her own Jan had to decide if the job was really worth all the risks? Could they get the results they wanted? Could they stay away from the people they needed to?

Maybe Ward was used to this but Jan realized she wasn’t. The question took her off guard and she took her paper and walked away from the desk and over to the window. Looking back out to the ocean, she watched the waves play on the top of the water as she thought. This was what Ward was trying to get her to see, all this time. She hadn’t come around to it herself; and he finally had to place it in front of her. The pelicans and the seagulls seemed to be dancing on the wind. Ward sat down on the couch behind her, not trying to disturb her thoughts, but waiting for the question he knew would come.

“How do you decide?” Jan didn’t turn around.

“Babs, it’s different every time for every job and it’s never easy,” Ward didn’t continue. Jan didn’t turn around, but simply stared out into the ocean. Time stood still for a while as the sounds of the ocean seeped in.

“Can you get Eddy to try and find answers to these questions?”

“Maybe, the illegals tend to keep a lot of the information to themselves because of immigration. They shy away from most people; afraid anyone could and would turn them in. Since they seemed to have opened up this much to him, I’m sure he’ll get at least part of it as long as he can convince them they will get help with no strings. I’ll send out an e-mail to see what he can get, or already has,” Ward walked over and took hold of the paper.

“Good. As for the last question, I think I’ll take a little time and think about it. Don’t make any promises to Eddy,” Jan still hadn’t moved. She was not so worried about the dangers of the job, but the dangers from the agencies after them.

“Not as easy as you thought it would be?” Ward watched her move toward the door. He enjoyed watching her, but he didn’t enjoy seeing the struggle she was going through. He had been through it, the transition from agent to free agent; she just needed to take the last step and he couldn’t rush it. Until she made that decision he wouldn’t contact Eddy though.

“Maybe the choice is not as hard as I thought it would be,” and Jan walked out the door and up the small flight of stairs to the patio that was covered with red clay tile and adorned with all types of plant life to give it a cozy tropical feel.

On the way to the beach, Jan avoided thought. As she began to climb down the rocks, thoughts crept back into her head. Each step she took down the rock face seemed to add on another set of questions; all the questions seemed to have the same answer. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t faced death before; on some jobs that seemed to be the norm. It was more the fact that she now had the choice.

Taking the job Eddy had offered was not the question. Jan had to find an answer for the last question given to her. Her answer for Eddy had to be yes, and the dangers from the agencies would just have to be. Once they had the information then they could proceed how they saw fit. Jan was feeling something else and Ward was giving her room to experience it. It wasn’t a totally new feeling.

She had felt it before, just once, as she had looked at people on the street after she had escaped from the department for the last time. It was a feeling of total and utter freedom to do and say what she wanted. The idea that she could run away and be free of all the things and memories that held her to what her life had been. The easy way would be to continue on as normal, helping others, taking on assignments and solving everyone else’s problems. But no, Ward wouldn’t allow her to mindlessly follow that path unless she truly wanted it.

Feeling the warmth of the sun on her face she realized that this was truly the question that needed answering. Was this what she really wanted? The wind brushed her long brown hair off to the side as she sat down and closed her eyes. Taking deep breaths she fell into a profound meditative state, one that she hadn’t been able to achieve for what seemed like forever, and she let herself go.

When Ward felt her meditation begin he walked over to the phone and started to dial a familiar number. He couldn’t wait much longer to contact him, it wouldn’t be right. He listened to the ringing on the other end and then the familiar voice answered, “I’m here.”

“I need more info,” the conversation right now had to be direct; they would have time for small talk later.

“It doesn’t look pretty. Called a friend, says that the market for women has reopened big time, both here in Phoenix and in a few other cities in the Southwest,” Eddy took a breath. “Looks like these people may be involved.”

“That’s what I thought,” Ward walked toward the balcony again. He could see Jan out on the rock. He could feel her; knew how relaxed she was.

“Going to take it?” Eddy didn’t mince words, but Ward could tell that he wanted an answer.

“I’ll get back to you on that,” and with that he concentrated fully on Jan, “Jan wants it, but she has something to figure out yet. Same things we had to figure out. I’ll be in touch soon.”



The first thoughts that seeped in during meditation were centered on a time before she became involved with the PED. A faint smile brushed her lips as she remembered how excited she had been to get into college. She was going to study psychology. It had been hard to complete the first year, let alone four years. Money had been tight, but she had entered her fourth year at the university with a renewed feeling of success. She was sure she was going to make it. Her family had never been supportive of her choice and therefore they had never been a part of her college life. By the end of her third year, they had barely spoken to her.

At the end of her fourth year, when she was about to graduate with her bachelors, she was approached by a group of psychologists to join them in a study. At the time they had appeared to be psychologists. She had never heard of the group they worked for, but they offered her a job to do what she loved and had worked so hard to achieve. Assuring her that this work would become part of her masters, and later her doctorate, she signed on. The promise of conducting groundbreaking research, continuing her education, and make enough money to make this all happen had been too much to pass up.

It was with this group that all her experiences in her public and private life had started to change. Slowly, instead of being a college student on the edge, she had unknowingly started on a journey in which there was little hope of her returning to a normal life. Slowly her choices had been taken from her. In fact, it had been so slowly that she hadn’t even noticed at first. All contact with her family had ended over a two-year process and in that time she did earn her psychology masters, as promised, but it had cost her.

When they told her she had no social life, no family life, no life to speak of except with the group of scientists that had once so long ago recruited her. She had watched her ability to assess people’s feelings grow, but they promised more. With the carrot dangling in front of her, she took it, moved to Phoenix, and from that moment on, lived without a choice of her own. Completing over three different covert training camps she was well past trained and ready to move on. Over the next year Jan had learned the finer points of reading minds and working for the government as an operative. The more departmental work she did, the more she became the department. She thought it had been perfect, until she had met Ward.

Silence came over her mind as her mind returned her to the present. She sat just listening to herself breath for a while. The ocean lapping at memories that Jan had thought were long gone and buried. Slowly her thoughts drifted back to the first assignment and her first and only partner, Rob. They had developed an easy friendship, a father-daughter relationship, over the years. But the first assignment together wasn’t that way.

Rob was new to the department, but not to the world of espionage. He had been with another agency, and for reasons that later became clear to her, transferred to the PED. On their first assignment, or test, together all they had to do was gather information from an organized crime group in Phoenix. Pick up some easy information and return to the office to report in. It sounded less complicated than it became. In essence, what it had been was a test to see how well they worked together. After the introductions, power struggles and the planning session they began.

They had chosen to go to the casinos and just listen in, both with Rob’s ears and experience and her mind. Rob being a veteran of other departments was doubtful, to say the least, of listening to this ‘young girl who thought she could read minds’ as he had put it to their superiors. He had never said it to her, but she had heard it all the time from his thoughts. She had never shared that with him.

When they entered the casino they separated and began to work the room. Walking around the back of the casino and the near the private rooms, she got a lead. She went up to Rob and tried to encourage him to follow it with her. Without any other indicators, Rob refused to follow her lead in the casino. They argued, but they stayed together as a team even if it meant losing that lead. What they didn’t know until the debriefing back in the department was that it had been a set up, to test what would happen. They had passed. Once the information was confirmed, Rob began to change his mind about her abilities and their partnership began.

They were good memories, maybe not the ones she had planned as a child, but good memories. Jan slowly opened her eyes and understood why Ward had turned down the other jobs. Her future had to be her choice; it belonged to her and only her now. It was freedom, and even Ward wouldn’t take that away from her if she wanted to choose another path for her life. Choice was something she had not been allowed much of. It was something she needed to have and understand before she could continue with her life, the way she wanted it to be. ‘Shit,’ she thought. She hated it when he was right. Opening her eyes she turned and looked back up to the balcony. She saw him standing there again; and this time, there was a knowing smile on his face as he leaned, head tilted at a cocky angle looking down at her. He then turned and walked back into the apartment.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Hidden Promises - Chapter 2 - Part 1



2



Once they were back in the two-bedroom apartment, Jan went toward the computer and Ward went toward the bedroom door. She needed to see the message; he needed to give her space. The apartment was small, but contained all they would ever need. In one corner of the room was a computer set up that rivaled the best seen in any governmental department and could be illegally connected to most. A small, but efficient kitchen led off from there. The windows of the living room opened like doors onto a balcony that overlooked the ocean and all the furniture in the room focused on the view out the windows and balcony door. Two bedrooms and a bathroom led off the other side of the living room. In the master bedroom, which was where Ward headed, the windows had a spectacular view of the ocean and beach. The on-suite bathroom was modern, the bedroom comfortable and large. The other bedroom and bath were just that, another bedroom and bath, not that they ever expected guests. Ward stopped just short of the master bedroom door, pausing to take a breath first, he then continued.

“I’m going to shower. I suggest that you read the e-mail from Eddy and then do your research. No one here is going to hand you a file that contains all the information you need to know,” he turned to look at her. “Do your research. Then decide if it is a job you want to take on. Remember there are things to consider.”

Jan watched as he went into the room and contemplated joining him in the shower for only a second. Glancing back toward the computer, she knew he was right; there was a lot to consider. Sitting down she started up the machine and waited. Pulling out paper and a pen from the drawer, Jan noted the date at the top of the first page. After the computer started she opened the e-mail that Eddy had sent. He seemed about as close to Ward as one could be without knowing who they really were, or as she now had to remember, had been. Only one other person, besides her, was as close to Ward as Eddy, only Eddy had no clue that they were mind readers.

After leaving the department one might think it would have seemed easier to let the secret slip. That was far from what the reality of it was. More than before the truth would need to be hidden in order to allow them any type of normalcy. Of all the people who had left the department, of which she now knew of only one other, each guarded their secret carefully.

Hey, it started out friendly enough, Have you fallen off the edge of the world? Haven’t heard from you for a while. Know you two might not be up for a problem yet, but I have one if you are interested. Seems like a few colleagues of mine are missing relatives (females) they sent money to, to have them brought to the states. Not all of it is on the up and up so they are afraid to go to the authorities to ask for help. Most likely wouldn’t get any help from anyone else anyway, only a free trip home to visit the family if you get what I mean. This doesn’t seem like the normal request. They have used chicken farmers before, so it isn’t like they don’t know what to expect, but something has gone really wrong. They say they aren’t even getting ransom requests and they haven’t been contacted by any of them at all. If you are inclined to help, send me a line, and it was signed Eddy.

Jan knew the slang that Eddy had used in his e-mail. Coyotes were the people who transported illegal aliens across the Mexican-American border. Often the people they transported were referred to as pollos, chickens, no more than a meal ticket for the coyotes. It was an underworld ignored by most of the world and nearly impossible to stop. Coyotes provided a way for desperate Mexicans, as well as other nationalities, to cross the border into a world that they thought would bring them endless opportunities. Often, the situations they encountered were in actuality no better than what they left. Most are able to make some extra cash and send it back to their families in Mexico, but the human price they pay is high.

Treated as substandard humans, with pay and living conditions that usually matched, only a few were really better off. Over the last few years the patrols had gotten better on the borders of California and Texas. Arizona was the only place to get across with any certainty. The fee to cross was high, being somewhere between a thousand and two thousand dollars to take a long treacherous walk across a very unforgiving desert. A higher fee would almost guarantee being transported across the desert in some kind of vehicle that had been modified to hide people, but not always.

Jan jotted down a couple of items on the paper and closed the e-mail. Two things she would need to know would be where and how they contacted the coyotes. Had they contacted a coyote in the same town or had it been many different places? She would need a full description of each missing family member, a picture if possible, and the names of those missing. She then began to access the files available to her from the Bureau of Immigration.

Ward’s computer set up was something to marvel. She had never had better access to files and information at the department. It seemed that no program locks or encryption codes could keep him out of the main frames of any computer. After Ward had unceremoniously, and without permission, left the Paranormal Enforcement Department, or ‘PED’ for short, he had managed to gain access to the data bases that the government had to offer. The ones that Ward had not gained immediate access to, he had worked on breaking the access codes; after all that was one of his talents the department had trained him for. Now Ward had a network of information that would rival the top officials in any US department; security clearances were not a problem for him, nor did he have to wait for permission anymore.

Jan looked at her notes and something made her skin crawl. If these people and others had disappeared, where did they go? Who did these coyotes meet up with after they crossed the border? These were not run of the mill coyotes. Jan wrote down a couple more questions. What types of things could these people be used for besides earning a few dollars for getting them across? Could it be drug related? Or was it worse? Was it slave labor they were selling these women for? Jan knew what else these women could possibly be sold for, none of which would be good dinner conversation. She wanted to know if any other governmental agencies were working on cases related to this. The last thing she wanted was to cross anybody else’s path. Jotting down information she read and might need, she continued to read the computer scene. She now had two groups of people she would need to keep track of during this investigation.

Jan knew that finding a coyote and getting across would not be a problem. The problem that existed was to find the right coyote and try and follow the path the missing people had taken. The more information Eddy could get to her, the better. Jan suddenly remembered that she was not the only one that could work the case. Depending on the information they received, how they proceeded in the job would have to wait.

Jan looked at her questions again and tried to think of any other information that she would need to know before starting the case. First, exactly who, and how old, were the people they were missing? Next, did they know which coyote the missing people were going to use to cross the border? And, at what place were they going to cross? How much was the fee and was it paid up front? For now, that was what she needed from Eddy. Hopefully, he would be able to get some of this information for them, without it there may not be a case.

Now the next set of questions was more for Ward. Was there anyone buying people from coyotes for unknown or known reasons, or is this a new and dangerous trend? Some of the other information would have to be collected as the case went on. Jan decided that she may need to make a list of agents and agencies that could be working any related cases as she read through the list. This may be important; it wouldn’t be good to run into anyone they didn’t want to see while they were looking for the missing people. After all, they wanted to be missing people themselves. As she scrolled down the computer screen over and over again, she noticed that there weren’t any names she recognized in any department working on any cases that would be related to coyotes, or illegal entry from Mexico. That would be a bonus for the both of them. That’s when she understood what Ward had been waiting on from her.

Ward looked over her shoulder and nodded his head as he read the questions on the paper that she had written. A small drop of water from his wet hair dropped onto her shoulder. There was still one question she was missing, and it was the one he needed her to contemplate. He picked up the pencil and added that one question, ‘Is it worth dying for?’

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