Drama Fiction Suspense

Shanice knew this wasn’t a training exercise. There were strict guidelines throughout the organization regarding after-hours and off-site training. Whether it was her years of experience as an FBI agent or simply mother’s intuition, Shanice could tell the pressure of the cold gun barrel on the nape of her neck was there with intent to kill.

At thirty-four years old, Shanice Truman had faced near death before. She had been an agent for sixteen years and knew the sense of foreboding that only came with facing finality. Her right eyebrow bore the four-inch jagged scar from a switchblade knife. Her right knee – shattered by an unfortunate shot-gun blast during a harrowing escape – displayed a virtual road map of surgical scars likened to a backroads adventure map. There were many other unseen and long since mended battle scars on her 5’10” athletic frame.

“What do you want?” Shanice was not surprised her voice sounded so clear and strong. She was trying to buy time and get a sense of who her attacker might be. Only mere seconds had passed, but Shanice had already determined her attacker must be slightly taller than her, based on the angle and pressure of the gun barrel. Also, she was unable to glimpse any piece of clothing, shadow, or reflection in her peripheral vision, meaning that the assailant was of a similar build to her own.

“You know – stop stalling.” The location of the voice matched her assessment of height – the person was at least 3” taller than her and was directly behind her. Slight muffling – could be a mask? And had there been a hint of a European accent? Shanice wasn’t sure but did not discount the fact.

Shanice knew a few things that her attacker likely would not. First, from where they were standing by the kitchen entrance, she knew she could spring toward the utensil rack in the kitchen, dislodge the pistol taped under the cupboard, pivot, and fire accurately at her attacker in 3.5 seconds. A distraction would help, but her actions alone may provide a suitable surprise.

Second, she knew her fifteen-year-old daughter would be finishing her shower any minute and would parade out of the bathroom, one towel wound around her lithe frame, the other in hand, vigorously rubbing her chestnut locks. In the right light, you could see a hint of the same auburn shade as her own. But it was Reggie’s green eyes, aged by tragedy, yet attentive and questioning, that confirmed her heritage.

In the past three years, Reggie had been forced to grow up quickly.  Reggie’s father -  Shanice’s husband of sixteen years – had been killed in a massive drug bust in the Bronx two days after Reggie’s twelfth birthday. Correction, he was murdered, along with two other agents – the result of inaccurate intel.   Burying her father had weighed heavily on Reggie.  The day of the funeral, her mother had taken Reggie aside and told her that her life may be in danger. At twelve years old, Reggie was informed that her mother was an FBI agent, a fact that she must keep to herself and discuss with no one. The mother and daughter then spent the whole night talking, crying, and planning. In the morning, they took a car full of belongings and moved to their new home, a quaint brownstone in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn. That one night was the only time Shanice’s profession was discussed. Reggie had been provided with this crucial information for her safety, not for general knowledge to be shared.

The third fact Shanice knew, was that the modifications she had made throughout the house would be useful now.  Under the kitchen counter - out of sight of anyone reaching into lower cupboards, four buttons were strategically placed for quick access. Each button triggered a light switch in a different part of the house. The lights would turn on and flicker as though the bulb was ready to burn out.  This signal was Reggie’s cue to immediately flee the house through the closest exit and, staying in the shadows, make her way to the last house at the opposite end of the row. To Reggie, this was her aunt’s house – for Shanice, this was an FBI operative who would immediately bring support to her at the brownstone.

One of the reasons Shanice had chosen the end townhouse instead of one mid-row was for its multiple exits. In addition to the main front entrance and its accompanying foyer, there was a rear entrance on the same level, leading to a manicured lawn surrounded by an eight-foot cedar fence.  The third exit, from the oversized dining room window, was hidden from view by a fifteen-foot-tall, nine-foot-wide Green Mountain boxwood bush. Shanice had modified the window latch to provide a quick-release if needed. She had also cultivated a set of steps among the inner branches of the boxwood to provide a safe, hidden method to reach ground level. 

How had this person entered the house? Had they followed her and Reggie on their morning run? Aside from the occasional sit-down dinner, the only activity they did publicly together was their twice-weekly five-mile run. Even then, they had four different routes and never took the same route more than twice in a row. When they arrived home, Shanice always checked the heat sensor hidden under the mailbox by the door. The device was wired such that any bodies in the house would be detected, alerting Shanice and Reggie to intruders. There had been no such warnings today. If she survived – no, WHEN she survived - this encounter, Shanice would need to check the sensor.

 “I’m not stalling – that would be stupid since you have a gun to my head. But I really don’t know what you want.” Despite her situation, Shanice felt calm and in control. Her senses were heightened, and she was processing scenarios in her mind at top speed.

“I don’t have a problem pulling this trigger and scattering your brains across the room.,” the individual replied evenly. As if to reinforce this point, the barrel pressure increased on Shanice’s neck, pressing on the nerve, almost making her cry out in pain. “Now, where is the glass?”

Shanice almost smiled. This last exchange had provided her with all the information she needed to take the next step. Though few words were spoken, Shanice felt sure he had not heard the shower running, and if her assailant was alone, Reggie should be safe. She now knew her assailant was male and did have an accent – a Russian accent. This meant he was probably part of the mob her team was tracking. Finally, Shanice knew that he was looking for the drinking glass she had taken from the restaurant yesterday and provided to the FBI lab in Manhattan. The glass held the DNA of the person thought to be responsible for the death of her husband and the other two agents! And her assailant’s eagerness to retrieve the glass seemed to substantiate that fact.   

As if on cue, a car horn blared right in front of the house. Shanice would never know who to thank for this momentary distraction, but she took full advantage of the released pressure on her neck. Tuck. Roll. Spring. Grab. Crouch. Pivot. Release safety. Fire!

It was a perfect kill shot. The man had no chance to blink, let alone react to the sudden action. In death, his body tilted backward, the gun releasing a now harmless bullet into the ceiling beam. As he hit the floor, Shanice slumped against the counter, eyes never leaving her assailant. In the weeks to come, Shanice would learn she had executed her action in 2.7 seconds. The home security system had captured the whole encounter on video, including the hit man’s action disabling the sensory device. She would use this invasion as an example in her new role as the FBI’s National Training Instructor.

 The sound of the shower ceased. A moment later, Reggie flung open the door, a thick white towel wrapped around her body.  Vigorously towelling her hair as she headed toward the kitchen, Reggie said, “Mum, did you call me?” Reggie stopped suddenly in the middle of the hall, gasping and mouthing words without sound. Her eyes flashed from the still figure on the floor to her mother and back. Before Reggie had a chance to launch into the barrage of questions Shanice knew were coming, she said, “Yes, he is dead. No, I didn’t call you. Yes, I did shoot him - in self-defence. No, I don’t know how he got in the house. Yes, it seems he was alone. No, I haven’t called 911 yet. Yes, I do think you should finish drying your hair and get dressed – now.” As she finished the last comment, Shanice slipped the safety on the gun and laid it on the counter. Then, moving swiftly to her daughter, the two hugged tightly, pent-up tears of relief streaming down their cheeks. There would be so much more to discuss in the next few hours and days, but for now, everyone was safe, because of Shanice’s forethought. 

May 28, 2021 17:43

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