Sunday, April 10, 2016

Summer Anthology Piece

I volunteered to write a piece for a facebook group's summer anthology. I don't know why I signed up..but I did...I literally wrote like thirty different things before I settled on what I actually wanted to write..and even still I'm like...meh. It's a different genre than what I typically write so I'm struggling with that, and overall, it's taking a shit ton of research and overall bullshittery...so yeah...comfort zone level: AHHHH!

I think if I can finish it, the story can be pretty good...at least in my head it's pretty good...so I'm gonna post part of it here...it's not done yet..I'm still about 7k words away from finishing it and I have two weeks left to get it done...this week killed me..my oldest auditioned for the high school's dance team, which left me picking her up from her school, dropping her off at the high school then going back two hours later to pick her up again. I need a vacation..just saying..anyways...back to the point...the story is called Black Swan. It is about DEA agent Shane Branson who finds out that his high school sweetheart, whom he thought was dead, actually isn't...and that she is actually tangled up in a worldwide drug cartel selling a very dangerous drug called Black Swan. Shane has to go undercover to infiltrate the ring and bring it down.

So without further ado...Black Swan


BC





    
"Branson, get your ass in here right fecking now," Special Agent in Charge Declan called out from behind his desk.
    I jump up and head into his office, sweat pooling in the armpits of my shirt. This is it, I tell myself. My chance to finally get out from behind the desk and into the field.
    "Yes, sir?"
    Declan looks up from the folder spread open on the desk before him. "Sit down Branson," he orders motioning one of the two chairs facing him.
    Nervously, I sink into the soft leather club chair and sit attentively. He frowns at me, his eyes scanning my face, his heavy jowls jiggling slightly with every labored breath he takes.
    "Several divisions have been working on a specific case for the last few years. A distributor that started in France recently made its way onto American soil and with their arrival, brought a new drug that has started flooding the streets of Denver."
    Confusion swirls through me. Denver was a hotspot for drugs since the legalization of marijuana a few years ago. Naturally, a few illegal distributions made their way to the party. I said with a frown, "I don't understand."
    "You don't understand what, son?"  
    "Why you called me in here, for starters. What is it you're hoping I can do?"
    Declan smiled, the expression not quite reaching his beady black eyes. "Today's your lucky day kid. I'm sending you into the field. I want you to track down the distributor and infiltrate the group. We need Intel if we're going to take this son of a bitch down. Three high school kids have already been hospitalized. We need to nail this asshole before someone dies."
    Swallowing hard I struggle to breathe against the lump in my throat threatening to strangle me. Undercover; shit. As I open my mouth to speak, I choke on the words and quickly press my lips together.
    "Hell, son, speak. Don't sit there flapping your gills like a goddamned fish," Declan barks.
    "Sir," I croak. "I have never been out of the office let alone undercover. Are you sure I'm a suitable fit for this assignment?"
    "Branson," Declan chuckled humorlessly. "You'll do it and you'll thank me for it later."
    I bit back the denial and accusations of sabotage, silently wondering what this man had against me. Declan sat behind his desk, his eyes daring me to give voice to my complaints. When he saw I wouldn't cave, he pushed a thick manila folder toward me.
    It looms on the edge of the desktop as I lean forward, retrieve the stuffed folder and glance at the label. A series of numbers and letters, the typical identifying markings of a D.E.A case file stare boldly up at me. Beneath the label is the word "black swan."
Curiously, I open the file and glanced at the first page. It is dated five days ago and describes an encounter a seventeen-year-old high school senior had with a woman who sold her something the girl called "bevy."
The statement continues, describing the remaining events of the encounter as well as the effects the drug had on her and her friends.
"Sir, what is "bevy?"
"That's what we need you to find out," Declan said. "You have today and the weekend to study that file, learn everything you can from it, and report to Intelligence first thing Monday morning. They'll set up with everything you need."
I brush the file shut, rise, and address Declan. "Is that all?"
He waves his hand effectively dismissing me. "Shut the door behind you." As I turn to leave, Declan calls out, "And do not breathe a word of this to anyone. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," I nod, clutching the file to my chest; I close the door behind me and make my way to my desk. Collecting my cell phone and car keys, I exit the office, holding the file tightly all the while trying to seem casual about it like the file wasn't of any importance.
Stepping out into the lingering summer sunshine, a wave of heat hits me. I don't know what I was thinking taking the position at the office in Houston. The heat here was a literal hell on Earth considering there was most likely still snow on the ground in my hometown of Fort Kent, Maine.
The inside of my car was like a furnace as I crank the engine and turn the air conditioning on full blast, cringing as boiling heat blows in my face. Tucking the file into the crevice between the seat and center console, I roll down the window and back out of the space.
Making the short trip to my apartment, I contemplate the day's events. Why would Declan choose me for this assignment when there were so many, better qualified, agents. I haven't been in the field, never been undercover. Hell, I had no idea how to even begin to go undercover.
Sighing, I pull into my designated parking space and shut off the car. Retrieving the file, I exit the car. Silence greets me as I enter my cool, dim apartment. Dropping the folder on the end table, I loosen my tie and grab a beer from the kitchen. Carrying it back to the living room, I sit down and grab the folder.
Opening it, I turn the first page over and skim the second. Another witness statement, from someone attending the same party as the first witness.
A quarter of the file was signed statements from partygoers. Setting them aside, I skim the rest of the files, all pertaining to the case in France.
For as much paperwork was stuffed into this folder there was very little information to go on. Everything pointed to a woman. Each statement claimed they bought the "bevy" from a dark haired woman who was anywhere from seventeen to twenty-five, average height and build. A few descriptions said she wore a necklace that looked like an 's' others said she wore no such thing.
Slamming the file shut, I swallowed the last of the beer and ran my hands through my hair.
This was going to be a lot harder than I imagined.

    BC
Monday morning broke clear and humid as thunderheads gathered on the horizon. Static crackled in the air as I made my way into the agency.
As I entered the intelligence office's reception area, an agent emerged from the glass door dividing the area.
"Shane Branson?" she drawled, her voice sweet like sugared honey.
"Yes," I answered.
"I'm Special Agent Mallory O'Rourke. I'll be in charge of you assignment from here on out. If you'll follow me, we'll join the other agents in the conference room and get you caught up to speed."
She turns to the door producing an identification badge and swipes it. The door beeps, clicking open. Agent O'Rourke heaves the heavy glass door open and motions for me to enter. The office is quiet; the faint ringing of a phone breaks the silence, a hushed voice speaking quietly, the sound carrying across the room.
I glance around the seemingly deserted office wondering where all the agents are. Ahead of me, Mallory snaps her fingers.
"Come on Ace, everyone is waiting."
I follow her up a short flight of stairs and into a large conference room where more than a dozen people are waiting, seated around a large table. Laptops, tablets, and spread out across the surface. At the head of the table is a large monitor, the Drug Enforcement Agency logo filling the screen.
"Special Agent Branson, welcome," a bald man sitting at the head of the table says. His skin is the color of coffee, his eyes intelligent and sharp. "Please, have a seat."
I nod in welcome and take the first available seat closest to me. Taking the seat beside me, Agent O'Rourke folds her hands and turns her attention to the head of the table.
"Alright, everyone settled then?" the man addresses the table. A few of the agents shift in their seats, settling their folders and devices before turning their attention to him.
The man nods, turning his eyes on me. "As most of you know I'm Deputy Director Anthony Mullins. For those of you that don't, I supervise the day-to-day operations of this division, reporting directly to Director Robert Martinez. We're all here today to go over the Black Swan case. Who is familiar with the case?"
The man seated across from me opens his folder. "The case first came to the attention of Interpol a year ago. An agent managed to infiltrate the outer layer of the group before his identity was compromised."
"Where is this agent now?" I asked.
Deputy Director Mullins had the good grace to glance away, his eyes filled with regret. "He was killed two weeks after Interpol pulled him out. Car accident."
I swallowed hard, my heartbeat accelerating. "And now you want me to infiltrate this group? Respectfully, sir, I don't frigging think so."
"Special Agent Branson, we believe you might potentially know the cartel leader."
Jerking back in my chair, I gape at the deputy director. My thoughts whirl in my head, images flickering like a Rolodex through my mind, scanning faces for someone who would be selling dangerous and illegal drugs.
"She calls herself Leda now," Mullins supplies. "Leda Swan. However, when you knew her, her name was Lisbeth Sullivan. I believe you two went to school together, even dated for a while."
The air left my lungs as if someone had shoved a giant vacuum down my throat. Black spots danced across my vision as memories of Lisbeth and I danced to the surface of my mind.
"No," I stammered. "There is no way. She...she died twelve years ago."
"Or she didn't," the agent seated across from me muttered.
"No," I thundered, my fists pounding the tabletop. "Not possible. I watched her die."
Mullins shook his head, digging through his file and producing a stack of photographs. A cherry red headed woman with piercing pale blue eyes stared up at me from the glossy 8x10. Around her neck was a gold chain, a swan pendant hanging in the center of her chest.
Retrieving another photo from the stack, Mullins slid it across the table to me. I glanced down at the page, Lisbeth's pale blue eyes smiling up at me. Regret sucker punched me as I fingered the edge of the photo.
Mullins slid the third photo towards me, this one a replicate of the second one; however, Lisbeth's hair had been brightened to the cherry red.
"The proof is in the pudding," he said softly. "Leda Swan is Lisbeth Sullivan. I'm sorry Shane."
I closed my eyes, my fingers massaging my temples as Mullin's words bounced around my skull. "How?" I murmured. "How is it possible? I witnessed her death, sir. I saw it with my own two eyes."
Mullins shrugged, then gestured to the photographs. "That's what we need you to find out, Agent Branson."
I glanced at the photos again, then looked up at Mullins. "I'm in," I said. "Where do we start?"
    BC

Two weeks later, I boarded a plane headed to Denver. I had a new look, a new name, and an entirely new life fabricated down to the very last detail by the agents in the intelligence office. As I stared out the window at the clouds drifting by, the dark haired man in the window staring back at me still had the ability to shock me.
Fifteen days ago I was blond haired and blue eyed, a faceless member of the human crowd; unmemorable so they colored my hair the same shade as wet coffee grounds and changed my wardrobe. A few days worth of stubble shaded my cheeks. Coupled with the dark hair and edgier clothing, I looked like the kind of guy everyone in high school avoided and the one all the girls lusted after in college.
When I showed up for work the day after the transformation, Mallory did a double take, walking right into a filing cabinet and dropping the stack of files she was carrying.
"You...wow...this is so different," she gasped as I stooped to help her retrieve her folders.
"Yeah, you're telling me," I smirk. "I don't know who the hell I am anymore."
"You're Jesse Vance," she smirked. "Existential bad boy, no good attitude, and a rap sheet as long as I am tall. You, sir, are a badass. On paper at least."
I learned this morning that Mallory would be my handler; she would pull me out if things got out of hand. I would report to her and she would have my back.
I landed in Denver three hours after leaving Houston. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I exited the airport and made my way toward the line of cabs waiting at the curbside.
"Where to guy?" the cabbie calls through the partition as I slide into the backseat.
"Lower Downtown," I reply, setting my bag near my feet.
He eyes me in the rearview mirror nodding, then starts the meter as he pulls away from the curb. I stare out the window as the highway gives way to the city. When we roll to a stop outside a rundown motel, I shove some bills through the divide and sling by bag over my shoulder.
This place looks like a shit hole, I thought as I stare up at the crumbling fa├žade. Shaking my head, I push the door open and approach the desk, giving the clerk my name. I hand her my new credit card and accept the key.
Once inside my room, I pull out my cell phone and dial Mallory's number. She answers on the third ring with a perfunctory, "Hello?"
"Hey," I say picking up the curtain and peering down at the street. "I'm in Denver."
"Everything go alright on the flight there?"
"Nothing unusual. I'm heading to that bar from the reports tonight. Anything you want me to be on the lookout for?"
"Not anything specific. Just remember, lay low for a few days. Get a sense of what's going, who's coming and going, and try to establish some key players."
"Got it. I'll check in later."
"Alright. Be careful...Jesse."
"Will do. Talk to you later."
I hang up and toss the phone on the bed as I stare at my reflection in the mirror. Anxiety churned my guts as I inspected my face. I couldn't do this, could I?
Didn't matter if I could, I told myself. I had to. Lying back on the bed, I thought about the last time I saw Lisbeth. It was the summer after graduation; we were lying in the bed of my truck, parked in the middle of a field at the north side of my parent's farm, staring at the fading sky.
We were talking about the coming fall, about the path our lives were going to take. She seemed off as if something was on her mind that she was struggling with.
Memories were funny that way. Every time I revisited those moments, the ones occurring right before and up to, her death, I remember things I didn't register at the time.
Her sudden distance, her anxiety, and reckless behavior.
Rubbing my eyes, I cleared my mind. I wasn't certain about anything anymore. I didn't know if my memory had been altered by the idea that Lisbeth wasn't actually dead or if I was, in fact, remembering things more clearly now that I knew she wasn't dead.
Either way, there was a mystery to be solved here. One I needed to know the answer to finally.
    BC
That night, I headed to the bar in question. Stepping through the door, I cringed inwardly at the smell. Old beer and stale body odor permeated the space, lingering on the bar and in the booths. Fighting to keep my features even, I took a seat at the bar and nodded at the grizzled old man with a dingy towel draped over his shoulder.
He tipped his chin curtly and made his way over. "What can I get ya?"
"Whatever's on tap, don't really care as long as it's cold," I said briskly.
The man shrugged and tipped a surprisingly clean class beneath the tap and gave the handle a firm pull. Gold liquid splashed into the glass, rushing toward the brim. The head overflowed, dripping down the side of the glass.
Sliding it across the bar, he said in a sandpaper tone, "three fifty."
I rolled my left hip up and dug my wallet out of my back pocket. Retrieving a five-dollar bill from the fold, I slapped it on the wood and picked up my beer.
Taking a long pull, I glanced around the rowdy bar. No one seemed out of place or like they were waiting for something.
To my left, a couple sat awkwardly at a table, she had a bruised cheek, he wore his bad attitude like a jacket on a brisk winter day. I observed their limited interaction with each other, taking note of the way she didn't look him in the eye and the way he didn't look at her at all.
I finish my beer and order another as the bar door crashes open, a group of twenty something's stumbling through the entrance, laughing loudly. Falling into the stools beside me, they call for shots, chanting as they pound their fists raucously on the top of the bar.
When their drinks are delivered, they fall into a hum of conversation, the rise, and pitch escalating with the conversation. I catch wind of the word "bevy" and try to keep my body from reacting.
"Yeah man," the guy sitting two stools down from me says to the guy on his right. "It was the best high I ever had."
"How'd you score?"
He shrugs and brags, "Some chick just walked up to me outside of The Hollow and tells me to open my mouth and stick out my tongue."
"And you did?" his mate asked incredulously.
"Dude, if you had seen her, you would. She was hotter than hell itself; of course, I opened my mouth. So anyway, I'm standing on the sidewalk near the alley with my tongue hanging out and she pulls out this skinny metal tube and pops the top. She drops this little purple pill into her hand, sets it on my tongue, and tells me to close my mouth and shut my eyes; fifteen minutes later, I'm screwed up seven ways from Sunday. It was the best high I'd ever had with none of the side effects."
"And it's called bevy?" the other guy asks.
"Mhmm."
"How do I get it?"
I shift in my seat, angling my body towards the group.
"She gave me some card," he mutters, reaching for his wallet and pulling out a glossy black card with a white swan embossed on it, a phone number in the center of the bird. "Call the number, I guess."
I glance at the number, repeating it over and over until Icommitted it to memory. Turning away from the group, I pull my cell phone out and enter the number into my contacts.
Finishing my beer, I slid off my stool and head toward the door anxious to get back to my room. As I step outside, the cool night washes across my skin and anticipation rolls through me. I had the number, hell I had a lead. Not bad for my first day.
    BC

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