This story is by B. Shuan Smith and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Andrea’s burner phone vibrated in her right hand, a text:
Ten minutes, and it’s all over. Andrea went from room to room in her home, memorizing it. She touched her wedding photo with Tom, she loved his green eyes and sandy blonde hair. Next, she was outside her daughter Kelsey’s room. She ran her hand along the door molding. For eight years, Andrea had pushed a pencil through Kelsey’s raven black hair to mark her height.
I need to stop. Andrea hurried downstairs. The blue rain jacket she wore made her warm. A purple gym bag waited near the front door. It was filled with some clothes and a few toiletries.
Her burner vibrated again:
Soon, I leave it all behind.
The text she feared would result in the death of her family. She would then go for her target, one of a dozen high ranking U.S. Officials that had yet to be selected. The text she got instead was to disappear. To leave her husband and daughter wondering what happened to her, wonder who she really was. Her secret was coming out and it would destroy her family. She couldn’t stop it.
Andrea felt for the pill in her jeans pocket. She was only supposed to use it as a last resort. If she used it, her family would still find out her secret. They would still be questioned and humiliated.
Tom, I’m sorry for what’s to come…
Andrea would return to a world she had been absent from for a long time. A world she no longer knew. A world that had changed greatly. She would be expected to start a new life and forget her old one. Forget Tom. Forget Kelsey.
Her burner vibrated, another text:
Delayed! What delay? Andrea paced back and forth. She looked at the staircase, debating whether to take one last look upstairs.
Her personal smartphone vibrated. It was a text from Tom:
Where are you? K has a room.
Andrea stared intently at the phone’s screen. Kelsey’s tonsils had been removed. Andrea wanted to be at the hospital when her daughter woke up. She was on her way when the text came from an unknown number. It was simple:
The text told her three things. Get to her first burner, which she kept at home. The C told her that she’d been compromised and needed to leave. The 1 also told her that she was not in danger, yet.
Without getting to see Kelsey off to surgery, Andrea had rushed home quickly. When Tom texted about where she was, she replied she was stuck at work. It wasn’t the first time. She worked as a sign language interpreter, with Central Intelligence Agency employees who were deaf and hard of hearing.
The access Andrea had could have resulted in a great amount of leaked information. But that wasn’t her assignment. She was a sleeper, waiting to be activated. Now she would run.
Andrea thumbed a quick reply to Tom:
Just got in the car.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. I’m sorry!
Her burner vibrated:
Andrea wiped the tears away, shoving both phones in a jacket pocket. She snatched up the gym bag, taking in her home one last time. She exhaled, turned and opened the door. Pulling it shut behind her.
She put her hood up, as it had been raining for the last hour. A black four door car waited at the curb. Seconds later Andrea was in the front passenger seat. Two blocks later she finally looked at the driver.
“I’m Mal,” He didn’t look at her. She couldn’t see his face. He had a black coat with the collar pulled up and ballcap on, “There’s some water and snacks behind my seat.”
Andrea glanced in the backseat. A couple bags of chips and bottled water were in a plastic shopping bag. As she turned to look out the windshield, Mal’s knuckles caught her attention. They were red and bleeding.
He saw her looking at his knuckles. “The delay caused those.”
“I spotted a guy observing your house. I subdued him and found his CIA ID. He’s in the trunk. You’ll kill him later.”
“To test your loyalty.”
“Was he there for you or to follow us?”
Andrea didn’t know what to say. I must prove myself?
Her personal phone vibrated in her jacket pocket. As she took it out Mal said, “You were supposed to leave that.”
“I meant to.”
Five minutes later Mal drove the car down an alleyway between two multistory buildings. He pulled over near a dumpster on wheels.
“Smash it and kick it under the dumpster.” He commanded.
Andrea slowly got out of the car. The rain continued to pour. At the dumpster, she looked back at Mal. He was on his own phone. Probably calling in what just happened.
She looked down at her phone, Andrea’s phone. She stared at it for a longtime.
“Let’s go!” called Mal.
Andrea looked back, Mal was standing in front of the car. He’d left the car on and the driver door open.
Here’s my loyalty!
She quickly closed the gap between them. Keeping her right arm bent she brought it up in an arc, striking him under the chin with her elbow. Mal stepped back, dazed. Andrea kicked him the groin, causing him to pitch forward. She grabbed him by the hood of his jacket, throwing him head first into the grill of the car. Now on his knees, she grabbed his head and slammed it down on the bumper. Mal collapsed in a heap.
Andrea searched him, finding a Glock handgun and suppressor in his jacket pockets. She went to the driver’s side of the car, popping the trunk. After screwing the suppressor on the Glock, she lifted the trunk lid. A man in a black tracksuit stared back at her. His hands were flex cuffed in front of him. A cut on his forehead was bleeding. He looked a little dazed.
“You know who I am?” she asked.
Andrea took a knife from her pocket. While pointing the gun at his head, she cut off the cuffs.
“Out!” she commanded.
He did. She pointed to the front of the car. He stopped when he saw Mal on the ground, moaning. Andrea went back to the driver’s side. She threw her burner in the dumpster and the knife at the man’s feet.
“You may need it for him.” she pointed the gun at Mal.
“You won’t get far.” he shouted.
“I don’t plan to.” She got in and had the car going in reverse before pulling the door shut. On the street, Andrea blew through stop signs and ran red lights. Fifteen minutes later she was at the hospital, parking in a handicap spot. In minutes, she was through the entrance and at the elevator bank. She checked her phone, Tom had texted the floor and room number earlier. On the elevator she pressed three.
Less than a minute later Andrea stepped off the elevator. She saw signs pointing to the right for rooms 320 through 340. Kelsey was in 328. The door was closed when she found it a couple of turns later. She pushed it opened slowly.
Kelsey was awake and sitting up in her hospital bed. Her eyes lit up when Andrea came in. Tom was sitting in a chair next to the bed. He smiled, as though it were forced.
Kelsey signed MOM by placing her right thumb to her chin, with all five fingers expanded. Andrea taught her daughter sign language when she was little, she would use it while recovering.
With her right hand, Andrea put up her thumb, index and pinkie finger, while keeping her ring and middle finger down. She held her hand out, with the palm facing toward Kelsey.
“I love you.” A tear rolled down Andrea’s cheek as she spoke and signed.
Tom got up from his chair. He looked at Kelsey and said, “I need to talk to mommy, ok?”
Kelsey nodded, looking up at the TV. Tom pointed toward the hallway. Andrea watched Kelsey for a moment, before leading Tom out into the hallway.
“Andy, put your hands behind your back,” he said after the door closed. She did. Tom clicked the handcuffs onto her wrists.
“I’m sorry,” Andrea murmured. She glanced back at him and saw his FBI badge clipped to his belt. “You’re a happy accident.”
“And Kelsey?” He asked.
“The cherry on top.”
“Who do you work for?”
Andrea gulped. “A terrorist organization that the world does not know.”
She expected him to turn away or yell, but he didn’t. They stared at one another until two men in blue FBI jackets took her by the arms. Andrea looked over her shoulder as they escorted her down the hallway. Tom signed I love you, before she was ushered around a corner.