137 Q Street
by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
Reagan National Airport
A.D. Morris watched from a distance as his agents circled their quarry. The woman was a beauty and for the life of him, he couldn't picture her robbing all those banks. But the facts were clear. Her case file was thicker than most, filled with her many successful exploits. She had successfully robbed federal banks, local banks, international banks, and even a couple of union banks. Her face had been caught on security cameras; her picture dispatched to law enforcement agencies across the United States. This morning an anonymous tip had been called in to the Hoover and had sent agents scurrying to National Airport. Once they had her in custody, he was confident she'd tell them where the money was hidden. Won't do her any good; she won't be able to spend it where she's going.
He watched one of the agents approach her and speak to her. She looked shocked. Alex thought she didn't react appropriately. It had been his experience that most felons tried to run or BS their way out of the situation when taken into custody. The woman acted like she didn't know what he was talking about. For an instant, he had a sick feeling they had the wrong person. He quickly dismissed it. She was the spitting image of the picture in his hand, the long dark hair wrapped in a neat braid, the startling green eyes, the high cheekbones, the long legs, the... Has to be her, he pursed his lips. Couldn't be anyone else.
Behind her dark glasses, Amanda Labeau watched the Fibbies move toward the woman sitting in a corner booth of the coffee shop. It was all she could do to keep from laughing aloud while she watched them take the unsuspecting victim into custody. It was only chance that she had spotted the woman who was a dead ringer for her a week ago. She had followed her home and continued to follow her. She was tickled pink when she saw her purchase airline tickets. Hacking into the travel agency's computer, she immediately knew the woman's destination. It took one anonymous phone call to the FBI and they knew where to apprehend the alleged felon. Amanda had dyed her hair red earlier in the day and congratulated herself for wearing dark brown contacts over her emerald green eyes. The woman's false arrest would give her enough time to leave the nation's capital behind and try her luck in other cities. Banks everywhere - time to move on.
They left her alone in an empty room in the basement. She remained handcuffed, with her hands behind her back. Even so, they had removed her jacket, her belt, her shoes, and her handbag and carry-on luggage. They even took the hairpins out of her sophisticated French braid. At first, a female agent stayed with her, talking to her softly, urging her to cooperate. The woman remained silent, her eyes open, staring into space, her only movement the pulse in her throat visible if one cared to look.
Neysa Zirniklis had been scared witless when the federal agent informed her she was under arrest for bank robbery and other criminal acts. She had no idea what the man was talking about and was about to protest when another agent approached and they quickly handcuffed her and hustled her out of the airport. She didn't deny anything, not even when they called her by another name. The shock of the arrest had rendered her aphonic; not even a moan passed her lips. She was instantly thrown back in time, back to that awful time.
29 years earlier
"Oh child, what have they done to you now?" her sister moaned when she saw Neysa sitting on the back steps, tears mixed with the blood on her face.
"Made my nose bleed," seven-year old Neysa whispered. "Hurts, too."
"You talked back to them, didn't you?" her sister sighed. "I told you to ignore them, walk away, come straight home. Why don't you ever listen to me?"
"They called me bad names," Neysa said quietly. "You, too."
"Said we were all sluts and whores?" Ausma asked, putting her arm around her little sister.
The child nodded.
"Said we were all daughters of the devil?"
The child nodded again.
"Do you believe we are?"
Neysa shook her head.
"Do you know what those words mean, Neysa?"
"They mean we're bad," she whispered.
"We're not bad, little one. You were a change of life baby. Mama was not a whore. It was just bad luck that Papa died before we moved here. Then you were born and worse luck that she died just after you were born. And just because Inta and I work in a bar does not mean we have sex with the men who drink there."
"They said the church won't let us pray there anymore," Neysa whispered, afraid to mention God and the church out loud for fear lightning would strike her dead.
"We have never prayed in that church, baby. We're not Catholic."
"Oh," Neysa sighed, relieved, not really sure what being Catholic meant. "What are we?"
"Lutheran," her older sister smiled, "though we don't practice it, but as soon as Inta and I get a free night, we'll take you to Mama's church. She would have liked that."
"Now," she smiled at her little sister, "let's get you cleaned up before supper. I think it's time to teach you how to deal with those bad boys and the bad things they say to you. Are you ready to act like a grown up, Neysa?"
"Yes," the child said eagerly, hugging the sister who was raising her. "Tell me what to do."
Three of them came into the room - three big men in suits. They made a production of removing their jackets, exposing their shoulder holsters, and rolling up their sleeves. If they thought to intimidate Neysa, they were too late. She had already moved into the safe zone. Her mind was elsewhere, lost in the past, her sanity protected by the thick shield she had cultivated as a child.
Though their voices were soft, they fired questions left and right. Where was she going? Did she always work alone? Where was the money? Where had she stored her weapon? Did she know she was going away for life?
"Answer me, bitch!" the tallest man demanded, his patience evaporated when she hadn't even acknowledged their presence. "Answer me or suffer the consequences," he threatened.
Neysa couldn't hear him. Her eyes looked straight ahead, her mind elsewhere. She was safe again, lost in childhood memories, away from the shouting men.
The water lapped gently at her toes, turning the sand to mud, leaving it smooth like satin under her feet. She dug her heel into it, making a pocket for the water to pool. Then the water was gone. It retreated, returning to sea, tiny sand creatures popping up here and there, making the child giggle at the wonder of it. Soon, it rolled back up to her, catching the hem of her dress and she scurried back, not wanting it to wet her underpants. Ausma would yell at her if she came home wet.
"If I thought you'd cooperate," the agent moderated his tone, "I'd take these cuffs off. What do you say? You going to cooperate?"
Beef rolls for supper, Neysa remembered. Ausma knows I love beef rolls. Spicy beef rolls with garlic and green onions and fried tomato slices. Potato pancakes with applesauce and sweet peppers and cucumbers on the side. Lemon cookies for dessert with almonds on top. The child she was, smiled. Ausma was the best cook in the whole wide world.
"You hungry?" another agent asked. "I could get you something to eat. Bet you're thirsty, aren't you? It's going to be a long night. Speak up while you can. Might not make the offer again."
They talked quietly, waiting for her to answer their questions. She didn't acknowledge their presence. They switched to yelling, shouting, and insulting her. She sat in the chair, her hands cuffed behind her back, and her eyes staring into space. Occasionally, she licked her lips, but she didn't say a word. When one of the men roughly grabbed her chin, demanding her attention, her eyes closed.
Supper was wonderful. Neysa was pleasantly full and eagerly helped with the dishes knowing Inta was going to read the bedtime story tonight. It was a favorite story - the one about the boy lost in the woods who meets a unicorn - a magical creature that looks after little boys and girls. She couldn't wait for Inta to read. Her sister acted out all the parts and she was so good at it.
A.D. Morris watched the proceedings behind a two-way mirror. The woman wasn't behaving according to profile. Again, he had that unsettled feeling that she wasn't who she was supposed to be. If she's Amanda Labeau, she'd be yelling, spitting, fighting... maybe, bargaining, whining, trying to dupe them. If she's innocent, she should be crying, complaining, protesting, yelling for a lawyer. She did neither. Who the hell is she? Is she one helluva good actress? Or, have we screwed up again?
It was late. He had seen enough. Tomorrow was another day. He tapped on the door, gesturing for one of the agents to come out. "That's enough for tonight," he said tersely. Take her to Q Street. We'll continue there in the morning. Make sure a female agent stays with her all night. She can use the bathroom, but no shower. Give her some water. Handcuffs in front, she sleeps in her clothes."
"Q Street, sir?" the agent's eyebrows shot up.
"You have a problem with my orders?"
"No, sir. Q Street, it is."