“Hey you can’t go back there!” Cam shouts as a man bursts through my beaded curtain.
Tall, Caucasian, short black hair, handsome, well he would be handsome if he wasn’t wearing a scowl of disproval. Black suit, black tie, gun bulge on his right side, tired gray eyes, he’s seen too much but doesn’t look a day over thirty. I’ve been around his kind enough to know exactly what he is.
“Sorry to disturb you Ms. Thompson but I need you to come with me.” He flashes his badge, FBI, as I suspected.
Cam bursts in. “Des, I told him to wait!”
Her young sixteen year-old features scrunched with fury. She’s a red-head, with a stereotypical red-head’s temper add in the extremely thick black eyeliner, black lipstick and all black clothes complete with biker boots, she’s downright terrifying.
Cam, short for Camellia James. Pretty, young, smart, damaged, and loyal to a fault, which is why I’m happy I met her. She man’s the front of Eko while I’m in the back reading fortunes. Can’t say it’s always been an easy go, me and Cam, but I trust her. I can’t say the same for whoever this fellow is.
I sigh, “It’s fine Cam.”
She huffs and walks back through the bead curtain.
“How can I help you Mr….”
“Agent Smith.” He folds his badge and tucks it away. “I’ve been sent to escort you to a secure location.”
“Agent Smith?… yeah.” I sit back in my chair raising an eyebrow. Like hell that’s your name dude.
“Ma’am, if you would please come with me.”
I suck my teeth, “see that’s going to be a problem. I quit, oh about three months ago, turned in my consultant’s badge and everything. You’re obviously new so I’m sure you don’t know any of this… but fuck you and fuck the FBI.”
“I heard you might say that.” He remarks dryly.
I smile, my exit from the FBI was done fabulously.
“Well I do believe in grandiose exits, equal parts flair and style. You should try it.” I look pointedly at the bead curtain, my hint can’t be any more obvious.
His facial features haven’t changed expression one single time. I mean, do they have a special FBI class I haven’t heard of? ‘How to scowl-101’.
“Usually when someone says, FBI, come with me, people tend to cooperate.” He’s starting to get frustrated. But there’s some other thing behind his eyes. Restraint, he’s keeping himself from doing something… bad.
Okay, Agent Smith just became interesting. I smile.
“Then those people are fools.”
“Ma’am, I’d rather not be here, at best you are a waste of the Bureau’s time and resources. At worst its endangering lives, so please, do stay… here.” He looks around the divination room with disdain.
“I will let Agent Carlson know you were unavailable.”
He turns to leave.
“How much?” I ask before he can go.
He turns to face me again. “I was told you would ask that as well.”
“I’ve got bills to pay.” I shrug.
“You and the rest of the world… Ma’am.” Smith says blandly.
I roll my eyes. “How much?”
“Your usual rate.”
A thousand for the consultation, half of this month’s shop rent. Can’t say I don’t need it, it’s been a slow summer, August isn’t shaping up to be much better and I’m already a month behind.
“I’ll be out in five.”
His features tighten further, didn’t think that was possible.
Never thought someone could walk through a bead curtain cool, but Agent Smith pulls it off.
I take off my long blue ‘ceremonial robe’, a white tank-top and blue jeans beneath, happy to be out of the drab thing. My breasts are small, I could go bra-less, but I never do, nice derriere, well in my own opinion it’s nice. I pull up my locs in a sloppy bun and grab my green cloth shoulder bag.
I blow out the candles around the room and head out to the waiting area of the shop. Shelves to my left filled with books, candles, incense, potions, lotions and poultices to cure every aliment you could possibly have, and if we don’t have it? We can ‘make’ it.
In front is the large shop window with ‘Eko Readings’ painted on it. Four chairs, all empty, taunting me with my failure. A coffee table, with an assortment of spiritual magazines spread on top for my nonexistent customer base, sits in front of the chairs.
To my right is a glass display case, register on top, inside raw gemstones. Align your chakra, clean your aura, we here at Eko do it all. Behind the counter is ‘Cam’s space’, she’s presently occupying the tall swivel chair behind the register reading some Goth magazine or another.
“Closing up early?” She asks, sarcasm dripping from her words.
“Yes Cam,” I wave a hand in the air, heading to the door on the right.
“Told you they’d suck you right back in.” She looks back at her magazine.
“Yes you did Cam.”
“I’ll lock up.”
“Thanks Cam.” Experience has taught me it’s better to avoid arguments with Cam whenever possible.
I step out into the shared entrance to the upstairs portion of the building, the stairs to my right. As usual my landlord’s mother, Mrs. Mulaney, is sitting on her landing, in her chair, bible in hand, scaring off my customer base.
“Corrupted more souls today I see.” She scowls down at me.
Mrs. Mulaney, dark brown skin, full of wrinkles, eighty years to the day if I’ve ever seen it. Always wearing a white cap to cover her gray hair, and reading glasses perched on her nose, an assortment of housecoats she rotates through, today is little pink and purple flowers day.
She’s fire and brimstone old school religious. If her son David had told me about her I would’ve never signed the lease. I’m honestly considering filing a lawsuit over him withholding information like having an old bat-shit crazy of a mother occupying the space above me.
Sure, everyone thinks she’s harmless until she burns the place down in an effort to cast out the devil downstairs…. like the devil would have any desire to be her neighbor.
“Sure did Mrs. Mulaney.” I reply cheerfully.
“You will burn!”
“I’ve got plenty of Neosporin.” I wave turning to the left and out the door into the balmy August heat of D.C.
It’s been a humid summer, hot and sticky and even as cheap as I am, I’ve had the A.C. blasting all summer.
The street is small, more of an alley than a street really. A standard issue black FBI SUV, dark tints, is parked half on the curb, half off. I assume to leave a sliver of space for other cars to squeeze past. There’s normally no parking on the street due to its small size, but of course what’s a no parking sign in the face of the mighty FBI?
I jog down the short four stairs and tug at the front door, it’s locked. The window rolls down, only a crack.
“Civilians in the rear Ms. Thompson,” Agent Smith says not even looking at me. He rolls back up the window not waiting for my response.
“A thousand dollars Des, a thousand dollars.” I whisper to myself and turn to get in the back of the SUV.
I slam the door and put on my seatbelt. At least there’s air conditioning.
The SUV is new, all black leather, I wonder how they got their hands on it. All I’ve been hearing about is budget cuts. Reason number two why I stopped consulting with the FBI, they wanted to cut my fee. The center console of the SUV is a radio with a laptop on a swivel arm, facing Agent Smith.
He puts the truck in drive and off we go to god knows where.
“So where to?”
“Patuxent State Refuge.” He hands back a thick brown folder, I take the packet.
“Two young children went missing three days ago, a boy and girl, twelve and five, siblings. The girl escaped, was found wandering Route 197. She says her brother is still there, under the ground. We’ve been unable to locate him, its been a day since she’s been found. We’ve had the dogs out, canvased most of the park. We’ve had fly-overs done, planes equipped with thermal imaging…”
“It’s been too warm.” I shake my head opening the file.
“…It’s been too warm, the ground still holding too much of the heat, he’s too deep, or…”
“Or he’s already dead.” I sigh.
“… or he’s already…”
He turns, “do you talk through all debriefs?”
I shrug and open the packet.
He turns back around. “With the permission of her parents we brought the young girl back out to the woods, hoping something would seem familiar. But she froze up as soon as she got out the truck. The parents keep trying to push her.”
“She’s caught in a nightmare…”
“The shrink wants to take her back to the hospital but the parents won’t have it. Dr. MacKaye is working on getting a restraining order against the parents.”
I sigh, “the FBI at its best.”
“So you agree with what the parents are doing?”
“Terrorizing their daughter to find their son? No, but I understand it.”
The folder is full of maps, marked with where they’ve searched, pictures of the young children, I pause at the photos.
The daughter is pretty, large expressive brown eyes, dirty blonde hair, a very cute smile and a little happy birthday hat sitting askew on her head, she must’ve just turned five. The boy’s hair is darker, hazel eyes, he’s too serious to be so young, or he’s not happy to be at his sister’s party.
The packet of information also contains the parent’s occupations and every one of their known associates, the same standard work up. It’s amazing how much the FBI can find out about a person. Most of it useless.
Sure the FBI can pull up a credit-card bill and see that a young man walks to work the same way every day and stops at the same coffee shop every day. But they don’t know that the same young man who walks the same way, to buy coffee at the same shop, has a crush on the girl that works next door at the comic book store. So he walks three blocks out of his way just for the occasional glimpse and the rare smile through the store window. They don’t know how much it makes his day. They can find out what people do, but I can tell them why.
I shake my head, pulling myself away from the old memory, a forgotten echo.
There’s nothing in the file about any suspect, which makes me wonder…
“So how did the Spook Squad end up with this one?”
“That’s classified.” Agent Smith’s voice like iron.
“And reason number three why I left the FBI.” I say in a sing-song voice.
I know better than to try and pry any information from him… well there is one way… But it would cost me too much to do.
The spook squad is a special, over worked and underpaid, division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation D.C. office, think X-files but a lot less alien encounter. The spook squad operates as an offshoot of the Behavioral Science Division.
They deal with crimes of the occult nature. When the truly off their marker humans, and not so human, in the good ol’ USA take things a bit too far. I’m just waiting for the day they come to lock up Ms. Mulaney, or maybe they’ll be there for me.
Ritual murders and mass suicides is the usual flavor. All in the name of some archaic god or another, the spook squad mops up the mess, and it is usually a mess. It’s a bloody job they do, don’t know how they sleep to be honest. More often than not I’m called in for my extensive knowledge in the occult and my other, less recognized, abilities.
I don’t care how they invoice it, as long as my name is right on the check.
I set the packet to the side, none of this will help me.
“I may need to know this classified information to help.”
“Don’t really see how you’re going to help period.” Anger riddled through his tone.
“You don’t like me.”
“I don’t know you Ms. Thompson, I’m only here as your personal driver.”
Ah so that’s the problem.
“Who’d you piss off?”
“Well I’m guessing you don’t like your assignment to the spook sq….”
“I am an FBI agent, I am not spook squad.” He snaps, his gray eyes seem to almost glow as he stares at me through the rearview mirror.
Yes, finally a reaction.
“So who’d you piss off?”
He looks back to the road.
“You should spend this time going over the file.” His mask of self-control back in place. The slipup here and gone in the blink of an eye.
I don’t know what it is, why I like picking at people’s shells, it’s a dangerous game I play. I have a scar that wraps around from beneath my right breast to almost the base of my spine, it serves as a reminder that ignorance is bliss.
“The file is useless.” I clear my throat gently.
“The file we’ve put together, hundreds of man hours you glance at for two minutes and call useless?”
“Guess you’ll divine your way into finding the boy.”
“Have a problem with my methods?”
“If people want to pay you money for parlor tricks and card games that is their right as American Citizens.” He waves a hand in the air, “but the bureau using a psychic in an official capacity is absurd… no offense.”
I huff, “If you have to add no offense, its offensive and I’m not a psychic.”
“I don’t really give a shit what you are, the problem is what you are not.”
“Because I didn’t drink the kool-aid and become an agent?”
I wait for him to say yes. I mean who turns down an offer to join after surviving Quantico? Who works for years to get in and then when they finally accomplish the goal say, never mind?
But he doesn’t respond and we ride in silence, neither of us understanding my choice.
“So what’s your first name Agent Smith?” I ask to break the tension.
I scoff smiling. “Did you just make a joke Agent Smith?”
His thumb taps on the steering wheel. “No.”
I can sense his desire to not talk anymore so I settle back in my seat and soak up the A.C., not talking is fine by me. Before long we hit the hellish D.C. five o’clock gridlock and Agent Smith flips on the sirens. After 9/11, people get the fuck out of the way.
We break through the city and get on the beltway, sirens on we seem to almost fly cutting a swath through the traffic. He cuts the drive time to the densely wooded area in half, getting us to Patuxent Park, in rush hour traffic, in a scant twenty minutes. If I had a car, I’d want a siren attached. I wonder if you can get that kind of thing on e-bay.
The road into the park is small, hardly enough room for two cars to pass one another. The trees are thriving and we are surrounded by greenery. The sun can barely cut through the dense foliage.
An identical SUV is parked, blocking the road. After Agent Smith identifies himself the other Agent moves his SUV out of the way in a very orderly fashion.
Trucks, cars, ambulances, park police, half the world is out here, lights flashing. Agent Smith pulls off the road and comes to a stop. I sigh hopping out the SUV, the heat of August engulfing me immediately.
Agent Smith takes a moment to lose the jacket but tucks his badge in his belt. He’s wearing a gun-holster on his belt, standard issue glock 22 securely strapped in.
People trample in and out the woods, wearing vinyl jackets, with the big yellow FBI letters on back. I haven’t spotted anyone I know, anyone from the spook squad. The faster I can find another escort the better.
Agent Smith goes to the back and pulls two more windbreakers out. I groan under my breath.
“Densely wooded area, it’s good to have some type of identification. It’s not optional.”
I snatch the jacket from him and toss my cloth bag in his back seat. I shrug the offending material on, having both the magical ability to make you sweat and whisk moisture away, and they wonder why I didn’t want to join? This shit is standard issue.
“Lead the way.” I gesture forward.