137 Q Street
by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
Neysa sat under the shade of an old oak, the leaves on its heavy branches barely moving in the slight breeze. She was stunned. They told her she'd be leaving as soon as some paperwork was finished. She was free to go. No apologies, no explanations; she was free to go. She wasn't sure if it was a trick; she was afraid to ask.
Do they think I'll lead them to the money?
From an obscure corner of the deck, Morris watched her. He'd been in his office since the crack of dawn doing paperwork when his secretary alerted him to CNN. There, in living color, in the heart of London, a bank robbery was in progress. TV cameras had caught a glimpse of Amanda Labeau, her black hair tied in a neat braid, her green eyes sparkling as she thumbed her nose at an international audience, then charmed them with her impish smile. She shouted something as she jumped in the getaway car and he couldn't hear what she said, but there was no doubt as to her words. "Fuck you, Fibbies! and thank you!"
He didn't know if he was delighted or disappointed. They had incarcerated the wrong woman.
"A case of mistaken identity," the Director said. "Happens more often than we like. Have someone apologize. Pay her expenses to wherever she wants to go. Keep an eye on her for a month or so and close the file. Work with Interpol. We need to snag the Labeau woman before she wipes out the Euro dollar."
"And the FBI's statement if there are recriminations of this false incarceration, sir? If it hits the press?" Alex asked.
"We held her in custody under the guise of protecting our national security - the standard line. And you can add it's a private matter we're working out - it's between the woman and the Bureau. You'll handle it if it gets that far."
He made a few phone calls, rushed some paperwork through the appropriate channels and did what he could to ensure that Neysa Zirnikis would not be picked up by local law enforcement. Maybe, she'll cut her hair... can't believe that's really her name. Why did she act like she couldn't hear? How did she manage to tolerate all the noise without blinking? Maybe, she *is* deaf. Why do I care?
You care because you're wildly attracted to her.
Attracted, not wildly attracted, he scowled.
That's why you kept her on Q Street. That's why you rarely left her side for three days, forcing meds down her throat, running away when her delirium passed.
Wildly attracted, his conscience goaded.
The unmarked car dropped her off in front of National Airport, the place Neysa had written on her pad. She was still afraid to talk to anyone and was relieved when the driver simply unloaded her bags and quickly pulled out of the loading zone. Neysa slung her large carry-on over her shoulder and disappeared into National's lobby. In case anyone was looking, she checked her bag with a redcap as if it would accompany her flight, slipped him a twenty and asked him to store it in a locker. She asked another favor - she wanted a waitress in the coffee shop to bring her the key with her food order. There was a twenty in it for the waitress. He agreed and Neysa gambled, knowing she might never see her bag again. The only thing of value was her sketchbook but it was too big and too bulky and would be a red flag if she carried it. Without it, she had a chance to get lost in the crowd.
A cup of coffee and a piece of pie fortified her and she thanked the waitress, a twenty in her palm when the woman slipped the locker key under her plate. That accomplished, she went into the ladies' room, took her jacket off in a stall and left it hanging on the hook inside the door. She also rolled up her sleeves and wrapped her purse handle around her wrist so it was no longer on her shoulder and freed her hair from its confining braid. Joining a group of women leaving the restroom, she stayed in their circle and was in an elevator going up before the agent tailing her spotted her. She rode it up and down a few times until she braved exposure, found the staircase and made her way to the long line of cabs.
The manager at the Woodland Park Sheraton assured her that her luggage would be retrieved before sundown and welcomed her to the private suite she had maintained there for the last six months. "A pleasure to see you again, Ms. Z. Did you just arrive? We would have sent our van to pick you up," he added, admiring the beautiful brunette with the deep emerald green eyes. He couldn't remember ever seeing her hair loose before and his imagination played havoc with his professional courtesy.
"Thank you. I had some business that detained me," she smiled, using her voice for the first time in several weeks, a slight frog in her throat. "It's good to be back."
"Will you want a car at your disposal this trip?"
"Yes, and a driver, too. I'll let you know when."
Neysa felt a huge sense of relief when she entered her suite. Immediately, she opened the closet and the dresser drawers and was instantly comforted by seeing her personal belongings. She had planned a short business trip to New York when she was taken into custody. Now, she wasn't sure she wanted to venture out of her suite for a while. At least, I'm safe here, she thought with satisfaction. Standing in front of the ceiling-to-floor windows, she peered down at the life on the street before finally drawing the drapes. Or, am I?
After a quick shower and a change of clothes, she took the service elevator to the basement and exited through the one fire door that wouldn't sound an alarm when opened. A few blocks later, she waved her membership card to the guard standing at the entrance to the National Zoo. If she couldn't lose herself in a botanical garden, a rain forest or some other place filled with growing things, her next choice was to be closer to the creatures that always comforted her.
Neysa loved animals. She was a sucker for strays and she remembered that Ausma always threatened to make her sleep in the barn if she brought one more creature home. "But it's hungry, Ausma," she remembered the litany. "And cold. We cannot leave it." So, the creature would stay for a while, hand fed by the lonely Neysa who cuddled it, dog, cat, bird or otherwise. Slowly, but surely, when she was in school, Ausma and Inta found homes for countless puppies and kittens. The wild birds were freed as soon as they could fly. They kept the goat that followed the child home and milked it, but the mischievous raccoon had to be given away. Ausma tolerated the occasional floppy-eared stray dog; they generally wandered away after a few days and she didn't mind the scruffy cats Neysa dragged home. She was just grateful her little sister didn't bring lost ponies home, not that the child didn't want to, but young as she was, Neysa knew her sister's limits.
She stayed at the zoo, wandering familiar paths for several hours, trying to make sense of what had happened to her. She understood it was a case of mistaken identity; she didn't understand why she had been held in a house and not in jail. She didn't understand why the FBI couldn't check her personal information and verify it. Surely, there was enough to cause doubt in someone's mind that they had the wrong person. And what about blood type and DNA and all those other fancy things to identify someone? What about fingerprints? I can't believe the Labeau woman and I share all that, too!
She sat for a while on a shaded bench, thinking. Maybe that DNA stuff is just too much television. Maybe I'm too gullible. They didn't even fingerprint me. She thought about that for a moment. They didn't arrest me, either. Maybe that's why they didn't fingerprint me. Neysa sighed. I'd sue them if I could but I just want to put it all behind me.
The big guy was nice, her conscience nudged.
He smelled good.
He had nice strong arms.
Felt good when he put them around me.
His voice was like gravel coated with syrup.
More like chocolate.
You like chocolate.
Never saw his face.
Felt good to have his arms around you, rocking you when you were sick.
That was just a dream.
I think so...
Tsk. You didn't even get a chance to kiss him goodbye.
Neysa laughed at the thought. He's one of them. Not likely to bump into him again. Don't want to, either.
You sure about that?
Neysa wasn't sure but she wasn't willing to pursue the thought at the moment.
What about your pending contract to landscape some of the government's smaller properties?
Damn! I forgot! I'll... I'll call and cancel... come up with an excuse... something will come to mind. How could I have forgotten? How could I...? You were tied up for a while, the caustic side of her conscience snorted. Though, I don't think it would be in your best interest to mention that fact. It would certainly get back to the Director of the FBI.