Love On the Run Pt. 03bymadam_noe©
© Nora Quick 2013
"Safe house" was a total misnomer. Jessie was taken to an apartment building a good ten blocks from the beach. It was new construction, lacking in personality, and the building was one of several, the parking lot a maze.
"Hard to find someone in here," the female agent told her as Jessie stared around.
Agent Soto was about her age, petite and pretty, but her personality was pure steel. Jessie liked her instantly. Soto's partner Klein was another matter. Three times in the drive over he'd pestered Jessie about remembering the events of that long-ago night, even offering to hypnotize her. He was tall, skinny, pale, his face hidden behind a bad haircut and large glasses. He only let up when Julian yelled at him. Klein and Soto were both young, but Soto seemed to have the right amount of patience for that line of work.
Henry had had to say goodbye at the office. He'd tried to kiss her lips but she gave him her cheek, feeling guilty. If she had any sense she'd tell him about Julian, but what would she confess? That she and her case handler were bumping uglies on the down low for no particular reason aside from unreasoning animal lust?
With no idea what to do she had just gone with the flow, and let Julian herd her out to an SUV with what he called "the second shift crew." Now they walked her up to the second floor on back stairs that were completely closed off from view, and the younger agents spoke like comfortable old friends.
At Jessie's heaving sigh Soto took pity. "The entire building is ours. You're in the center of the top floor, on either side are apartments staffed twenty-four-seven with agents. There are three other...witnesses in the building," Soto said. "As the old man considers you high-priority one of us will be stationed inside, one outside, and one down in the car."
Julian opened the door to the apartment and turned on the light. "Plus the guard at the gate is one of ours. You're completely safe, Jessie."
"I'll take door duty first," Klein said, pulling a folding metal chair from just inside and setting it up. "May as well get the most boring station out of the way."
"You take inside," Julian told Agent Soto. "I'll go down to the car. Change at midnight."
"Sounds good. I like being inside now, I can catch the nightly news," Soto said.
Jessie watched him go and then looked around. It was a typical sterile apartment, white walls, beige carpet seemingly designed to attract stains, and basic furniture straight from Ikea. She'd seen it in movies dozens of times and found the reality novel. The kinds of towns she'd spent ten years sticking to usually had home made décor, inherited furniture, and utensils liberated from any hotel or restaurant in the area the closed. The result was an explosion of personality, while this apartment was nothing but restraint.
"You watch TV much?" Soto asked.
"Not really. The places I spent most of my time in didn't have television access as a rule."
"Ten years...that's a long time to be on the run. How did you disappear so well?" She flopped on the couch and Jessie took the matching padded chair. "I ask because you'd be surprised how many people do it. If you came on as a consultant we could pay you, maybe catch a few of these bastards."
"It's not that hard. There are corners of the world that aren't so anal about keeping records."
Soto gave her a hard-edged look, a perfect cop glare, but when she met Jessie's serene, implacable expression she sighed. "There's food here," she said after a pause, digesting that answer. "Help yourself. I'm going to watch TV and cat nap. Usually the person on shift inside naps. And don't worry about Klein, he's my partner and he's an asshole, always has been. He's a good agent, but I don't spend any more time with him than I have to, I'd recommend the same."
Jessie wandered into the kitchen and poured a glass of milk, finding a box of Nilla wafers. She hadn't had any since she was a kid and the little snack was comforting. She wandered finding two sterile bedrooms, a bathroom aside from the combined living/dining room and small kitchen.
She tried watching TV but was bored, and found some books in the larger bedroom. Curling up with a Sue Grafton mystery, the next thing she knew she woke in the dark of night. Peeking out into the apartment she saw Agent Klein laying on the couch in the dark, shifting in sleep.
She dragged her bag into the bedroom and found her phone, plugging it in before she realized it wouldn't work there. The disposable phones she used worked in South America, and she'd never upgraded to a phone with an international plan that worked on other continents.
She changed into night clothes, brushed her teeth, washed her face, and pulled out her contacts which felt dry and stiff. With nothing left to do, she curled back on the bed under the covers and fell back asleep.
The next time she woke, it was to the familiar feeling of Julian's body curling behind hers. "Your turn to sleep now?" she asked sleepily.
"Eventually," he whispered, nuzzling her ear.
She was tired but well aware that in just a few hours he'd go off shift, and she had no idea when the marshal service would send someone to scoop her up. Knowing it could be their last time together she turned in his arms and sought his lips with her own.
Julian slid his hands beneath her shirt, palming her bare breasts. Her nipples hardened instantly and she arched, rubbing against him, seeking more sensation. One of his muscular thighs slid between hers and even through her shorts Jessie was damp, aching.
He slipped her shirt off as she used her legs to kick the sheets down. He was already gloriously naked and in the thin moonlight filtering in through the blinds he was a pagan god. Reaching up, she loosened his hair and let it flow darkly over his shoulders.
"I love the way you look with it down."
He cupped her cheek, thumb stroking the corner of her lips. "Your eyes. They're green."
'"I took out the contacts, this is my natural color."
"Beautiful," he murmured and dipped his head.
As he sipped at her, their tastes mingling, he struggled with her shorts until they were off and she was naked. He enveloped her, hands stroking everywhere, mouth sliding down her neck. She stroked the sleekly defined lines of his muscles of hi back and sides, too anxious to wait.
Slipping her hand between them she found his cock already hard, and guided it to her pussy, stroking herself with him. His groan covered hers and Julian moved her to her back, sliding between her thighs.
"Jessie, look at me," he said as his the broad tip of his cock teased her opening.
She met his gaze and he slid in, slow and sure, stretching her, filling her perfectly. She wrapped her legs around his waist, ankles locking as she bowed her back, aching for more.
"Open your eyes," he ordered when they fluttered close.
She did, whimpering when their hips met. Jessie clasped his large biceps, squeezing as she panted, and he kept still. Groaning out a wordless plea, she tried to thrust from below but it was impossible. He was marking her, it was a feral claiming and she knew that, but her body just wanted the glorious release it had been promised.
Once more he swooped down and when his mouth took hers he began to rock his hips slightly. Buried inside, each pass dragged his cock across the swollen spot inside that thrilled her. Soon it felt as if a wall tumbled and she began to meet his thrusts. His rapid movement allowed her passion to meet his, and sweat slickened their bodies.
Julian held her ass, tilting her pelvis so he stroked across the spot inside with more pressure. All the while his body rasped against her clit. Jessie cried out into his mouth, burying her hands in his hair, arms gripping him. Again and again, and again he thrust into her and she felt her body sizzle like a lit fuse.
Then she exploded, and took Julian with her. As they came together both moaned, bodies slowing a gentle rocking pulling deep pleasure from them. The shocking contrast of slow gentility after hard speed deepened the pleasure, and she felt her body creaming, straining, coming apart. Julian shivered, moaned, spilled deep inside her.
After, it was so damn easy to follow his roll and settle against his side. She could feel him awake but couldn't care. Tomorrow would bring something new, probably a life without a place for Julian. But for the night, for the next few hours, she could just pretend.
She was asleep before he kissed her gently and pulled her close.
In the morning Jessie had breakfast with Agent Soto consisting of Count Chocula and milk. It was just an hour after Julian had left. Twice more they'd shared their bodies, once fast and desperate and the last time had been almost playful. She had a glimpse of the old Julian, the smiling, easy going one.
"So looks like you'll be here two weeks," Soto said at last.
That startled Jessie enough she dropped her spoon. Recovering it, she tried to affect a callm tone. "Oh?"
"We got the call at seven this morning, Klein got it down in the car and let Agent Vasquez know. We'll be watching you until they can send someone from the marshals. The investigation into Diego is going to take a long while, so this will be mostly downtime. Think of it as a vacation, albeit a boring one."
No wonder Julian had been happy when she heard him on the phone through the front door. They had two more weeks. The first emotion to hit was relief and hope...then worry crept in. Why was Julian playing games? He pushed her away, then talked her into an affair while pushing her towards Henry, then he was relieved to have more time with her? Worse, why did she care?
She didn't want to be tied to one person. Sure, someday, after she was established in a new life. But even then, it couldn't be Julian. His work brought him into regular contact with the people she was hiding from. But Henry...was Julian right? Would Henry really follow her into this new life...and did she want him to?
The front door opened and Julian stepped in. He was showered and changed, dressed in a button-up long sleeve shirt and trousers. Clean shaven and with his damp hair queued back, he was stunning. Jessie watched him pull off his sunglasses and pull a manila envelope from under his arm as he thanked the new man on the door. On his belt he had a badge hidden in a leather cover, a gun in a webbed holster, and a radio he turned down the crackling volume on as he shut the door.
"Soto, you can head home. Day team arrived. We'll keep one on the door, one in the car. Jessie, I have a possible lead."
Soto pushed back from the table and stood with her bowl, bringing it to the sink with a yawn. "All right. Be back here at sixteen hundred sir?"
Julian nodded and took her place.
"You stay safe Jessie. See you tonight."
"Bye," Jessie called as the other woman left.
Julian set the folder down and looked at her. "You left your contacts out."
"If I'm going to be stuck in here, I don't need them. I will need new hair dye soon, red fades fast."
"There's a pad on the fridge, put down anything you need and we'll get it." He opened the folder then and took out a photo printed on ordinary paper. "This is Gonzalez, do you know him?"
She took the paper from him and stared at it. The man it showed was tall, slim, his open Hawaiian t-shirt showing a slim build with the illusion of muscle, and a huge coiled snake tattoo with the head on his chest, the tail peeking out from under a sleeve.
His hair was short, white, matching his short beard, and his smile showed a gold tooth.
"That's Johnny Bones," she said at last.
"Juan Gonzalez, street name Johnny Bones," Julian confirmed after reading it on a sheet. "That's who your stepfather worked for. He's in charge of getting product from Diego through plane drops in the keys. He picks it up and trucks it in, guys like your stepfather distribute at the local level. He also sends a shipment north on interstate seventy-five."
"Charming. He used to come over once a week to the basement to play poker. He gave me candy every week until one week when he said I had a sweet ass and would fetch a good price. Jimmy punched him and Johnny pulled a gun, walked out grinning. That was two weeks before..." She couldn't finish the sentence.
He nodded. "Gonzalez is slime. He was supposed to die, that was part of the five million, payment for Gonzalez's death. Funny thing, though, after you- Jimmy died, Gonzalez stayed on."
She set the photo down and sat back. "That doesn't make sense."
"You know how you thought there might be something hidden with the money?"
She nodded, thinking. "I have no idea what."
"Suppose Johnny Bones here got the money and whatever it was. It could be protection enough. That's the only reason I can figure that would keep Gonzalez alive when Diego wanted him dead."
She shook her head. "No, if he had something to blackmail Diego he'd be dead instantly. And Diego wouldn't keep sending men after me if he knew Johnny Bones had whatever it is Diego wants."
Julian sat back now, blowing out a puff of frustrated air. "You're right. But why is Gonzalez still alive then?"
"Why did Diego want him dead?"
Leaning forward again, Julian steepled his fingers. "Gonzalez is skimming as far as we can tell. It's subtle, small, but it'd already been going on for close to twenty years before Jimmy died. Diego had no proof but he knew, and he trusted Jimmy to take his place. In one fell swoop he planned to lose a liability and gain a man he could trust. Instead Jimmy died before he could carry the plan out. Gonzalez is still skimming, but less so now."
She thought for a long moment, dancing her spoon through the overly-sweet cereal. "Maybe Gonzalez doesn't have whatever it is Diego wants, but he knows what it is. He could be blackmailing Diego."
"Blackmail only works if you have proof. It's not enough to know."
"Then it beats me why Gonzalez is still alive. Why are you showing me this?"
"I want you to contact Gonzalez."
She stared at him for a long moment, unsure if he was serious. "You want me to what?"
"Contact him. We need more information. If you contact Johnny Bones and tell him you might know where the money is, my guess is he'll jump. Make the offer to meet and talk, offer him the money in exchange for your life, tell him you want out."
"And what could I possibly gain?"
Julian relaxed noticeably. "I agree with the thought there is something besides the money Diego is after. Perhaps Gonzalez will tell us what exactly it is."
She pushed back from the table and stood, pacing, concentrating hard enough she missed the way his eyes drank up the sight of her long, strong legs visible beneath her skirt. "He's not going to believe me. Diego's men found me at Carlos', they knew I was heading back, they knew about you."
"Yes, but did they know I work for the DEA?"
"Maybe, but think of all we just discussed. What if Johnny Bones has blackmail material on Diego that has nothing to do with the money?"
"What do you mean?"
"Julian, I know how these guys work. I spent too many years in Jimmy's world not to. It's entirely possible that all that is keeping Gonzalez alive is that he knows some secret tied up with the money, and has been claiming to Diego that I know and am in cahoots with him. He's likely convinced Diego that if he dies, I have some sort of instructions to take the information public. I could be his safety.
"It makes sense. If that is the case, then Johnny bones would tell Diego that I have the proof. No wonder he keeps sending men after me."
He stood and stopped her pacing, putting his hands on her arms. Despite the madness of their discussion the feel of his hands on her made Jessie shiver. Julian seemed oblivious to this, his face tight with deep concentration. "Jessie, you might have something there, but it's a guess. We need more evidence to know what the hell is going on. We can only move forward with hard evidence."
"How do we get it?"
He dropped her arms and strode to the counter. "Make the call and find out. I'll have your phone activated here this afternoon, so when you call a South American number will show. Offer the money for your freedom, and tell him you'll be in Miami in two days. Try to get him to talk as much as possible."
"Why two days?"
"It takes forty-eight hours just to get the paperwork through to approve wires, extra men, and a secure location."
Jessie couldn't help but smile. "I think I see why so many men like you become mercenaries."
"Some think the shorter life expectation is worth the freedom from red tape."
Jessie smiled wider at that and leaned against the fridge, folding her arms. "So I make the call when the phone is working, try to set the meeting for Friday, don't piss my pants, and wait around for two days...is that all?"
He smiled back, pleased she wasn't fighting him. "That's about it."
"So...when will I see you again?"
He pushed crossed to her eyes dark and intent. When he drew near Julian leaned in and traced his lips across hers. "I have to go into the office, set up your phone, discuss the plan with my boss. I'll be back tonight. I suggest you take a few naps today, I don't plan to let you sleep when it's my turn to stay inside."
He pulled back then, teasing her and Jessie let herself enjoy it, shivering from the promise his body was delivering to underscore his words. "Well then bring some movies to watch, this place is boring as hell."
He laughed and kissed the bridge of her nose. "I'll be sure to bring something...stimulating." Letting her go he scooped up the file and headed for the door, her laughter following him.
The agent with Jessie was named Williams, but she asked to be called Helen. An older woman in a pressed suit, her white hair was styled high, and large expensive glasses covered a beautiful face. The unexpected guest had arrived after lunch and announced she was there to coach Jessie. Unfortunately she made Jessie's blood pressure go up with the news her phone was already working and Helen wanted her to make the call before dinner.
"Do exactly as we practiced."
"Why isn't Ju- Agent Vasquez here?"
"Meeting with the boss, it's how it goes. If you successfully set up the meeting he will be there. Your handler isn't always going to be the agent on point, that's just how it goes. Miss Andrews you can trust me."
The way she said it, devoid of all emotion, didn't inspire much trust, so Jessie felt no need to reply.
"Are you ready?" Helen asked the younger agent whose name Jessie had already forgotten.
He nodded and pressed a button on the machine wired into her phone. He was recording.
With a deep breath Jessie dialed the number they'd given her and tried not to panic. The last time she'd spoken with this man Gonzalez he'd made her feel like slime had crawled all over her body, and now she had to grovel. It wasn't in her nature, and despite what the agent had told her, Jessie would play it her way. The agency might have a script, but they didn't know Johnny Bones the way she did. He was lecherous and oily, and the only way he wouldn't dismiss her as a woman was if she was a ball buster from the word go. In his world only solid threats counted.
"Yeah?" Gonzalez said, answering on the fourth ring.
"Jimmy Juarez," she said simply, deviating from the script. Jessie ignored the sharp looks sent her way and took another deep breath.
"Who this, bringing up ghosts from the past?" His voice was chillingly cold.
Jessie took a deep breath, fighting frostbite. "I killed him."
He laughed then, and it was the sound of shards of glass cutting flesh, tinkling to the ground in hot blood. "The little bitch! You're still a sweet piece of ass, according to Diego. Why don't you come see me honey, I'll help you make some money."