Already Gone – Blake Pierce

Laura tensed her fingers around the grip of her gun, trying to make sure it wasn’t going to slip out of her sweaty hands. She was only one of many agents and cops surrounding the farmhouse, but that didn’t mean she could let her guard down. She had to be ready. Around them, a field of overgrown wheat whispered softly in the wind, the only sound that broke the silence of the loose circle of men and women. Each of them was focused on the farmhouse, the peeling paint on the doors, the smashed and boarded-up windows, the hole in the roof. A couple of crows wheeled lazily overhead. Laura tensed her hand again, loosening and then tightening her fingers to ensure her grip. She glanced to her side, where her partner was watching on with grim silence, his eyes trained on the special agent in charge. Most of the agents were also turning their eyes that way, waiting for the go-ahead. The silence from inside the house was eerie. Biting her lip, Laura tucked a loose strand of her blonde hair behind her ear as it threatened to stir in the breeze. She felt like there were ants crawling under her skin, the anticipation almost too much. There was so much at stake. If they didn’t do this right, the man who had kidnapped the governor’s daughter would have time to do some serious damage. She was glad she didn’t have the responsibility of being the one to decide when and how to storm the building—but at the same time, she itched at the lack of control.

She had been on dozens of raids over her career, but never where a child’s life hung in the balance like this. “The longer we wait, the more risk he sees us,” Nate hissed under his breath, only audible to her. Laura nodded almost imperceptibly. The kidnapper was almost certainly armed. How long were they going to give him before they went in? Nate shifted restlessly beside her, and she glanced up at him instinctively. Nathaniel Lavoie, her partner of several years at the FBI, was not good at operations that required secrecy. His six-foot-two frame stood out in the average crowd, towering over her. She stood level with his shoulders, which were currently tense and corded, his muscles all flexed in readiness. A bead of sweat stood out here and there on his black skin, but he was all focus, his sharp brown eyes fixed on the house. That put her at ease, knowing he was just as alert as she was. Laura took a deep breath to try to steady herself, concentrating on watching for a hand signal. When she looked back at the special agent in charge, a flare of alarm went through her. He was holding up a megaphone. No—surely this wasn’t right? There weren’t enough agents on the ground yet. They were still waiting for backup.

If they had to go in, Laura thought the better option would be to storm the place, not give him any time to react. If they gave away the element of surprise, the kidnapper could end up seriously hurting the kid… Or just coming out with his hands up, Laura reminded herself. Her heart was beating hard and painfully in her chest. She kept picturing her own daughter, Lacey, with a gun to her head, in spite of her determination not to. Lacey was about the same age as the governor’s daughter, who was around five years old. Not that Laura was entirely sure the picture in her head was accurate. They grew fast at this age. Would Lacey look different since the last time Laura had been able to see her? The pang of pain that hit directly in the center of her chest was so sharp Laura had to swallow hard. She breathed the fresh country air deeply, trying to steady herself again. Now was not the time to allow in the heartache that came with thoughts of missing her daughter’s life. “This is the FBI!” The voice blaring through the megaphone made Laura jump, and she immediately refocused an intense gaze on the house. On the side door that she and Nathaniel had been assigned to cover. “Come out now with your hands up. You’re surrounded!” There was silence. No movement.

Laura resisted the urge to move, to shift her weight to the other foot. She glanced out the side of her eye briefly to see her superior lifting the megaphone again. Something throbbed between her eyes. A distant pain. No. Not now. Laura tensed her jaw, trying to hold off the vision. Not now, when they were all relying on her to cover the side door. If the kidnapper came out that way and she wasn’t on the ball, and he got past them, if Nathaniel couldn’t cover him alone, if the child died because she was out of it, Laura would never be able to forgive herself. The pain intensified rapidly, like something exploding inside her forehead. No. Laura tried to hold on just a little bit longer. “This—” The pain was suddenly gone, along with her vision and hearing. Laura saw the killer driving his car along a narrow country lane, between overgrown fields on either side of the cracked concrete. Her view was grainy, distorted, like she was looking through a window smeared with dust and dotted with raindrops.

She was floating above him. He had a pinched look to his face, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles stood out white. He looked up ahead, and Laura saw what he saw: the farmhouse rising out of the fields in front of him, the roof and then the windows of the upstairs, the walls… And the agents, milling around in their dark blue windbreakers. Moving in and out of the house. Shaking their heads and gesturing. The sun glinting of a radio. The killer hit the brakes hard, then twisted and put his arm around the back of the passenger seat. He floored the accelerator in reverse, the engine revving up noisily as he threw the car backwards as fast as he could. Laura heard the pant and whine of his panicked breath like it was right in her ear as he reversed all the way to the last turning, sweat running in beads from his forehead. He looked forward again for just one glance, saw that nothing had changed. No one was racing down the lane after him. There was no noise, no flash of light. He swung the car around in the turning, completing a ragged circle and then firing the car in the direction he’d come from, raising only a brief puf of dust from the back tires before he was gone. Laura felt it hit her face, smelled the burning rubber. She blinked and found herself inside the car.

Alone in the front seat, the man laughed in disbelief, then focused on driving again. He’d gotten away. One moment more of inattention and they’d have been able to take him in. But he was free. And Laura knew they were never going to get a second chance to stop him. Laura gasped, blinking hard against the too-bright sun as her head throbbed. The inside of her mouth both tasted and felt like sand, as it always did after one of her visions hit. “Are you all right?” Nate whispered, his eyes still trained on the house as he leaned only slightly closer to her. “Headache,” Laura fired back. Her eyes were moving desperately, tracking the scenery around them. The kidnapper had been able to see the front of the house. That must have meant he was coming from her right—and there must have been a hill—there, behind the cluster of agents opposite the front door. What if the vision was wrong? Laura knew they weren’t always accurate. She saw what could be, not necessarily what would be. And if it was wrong, and the girl was inside the house… If she messed up now, the girl might die.

There weren’t enough agents on the ground to cover all of the exits alone. She had to move, and fast. She thrust her gun back into the holster by her side, knowing it would only slow her down as she ran, and broke formation, sprinting at a diagonal angle from the farmhouse. She felt rather than saw Nate move instinctively to reach for her, holding her back from breaking formation, his fingers closing on air. She knew the others around her were staring as she went. She heard the agent in charge shout her name. It didn’t matter. Laura plunged into the tall waving wheat, taking a direct route as fast as she could go. The thin fronds whipped at her elbows and around her body, and she knew if she put a foot wrong and went down it was all over. Behind her, she heard the command from the special agent in charge to go in. She ignored it. They were all going the wrong way, and she had no time to convince them of that fact. Laura was almost at the road, her progress hampered by the incline of the hill. She was almost at the top. Where was he? The agents were coming out of the house below when she threw a glance over her shoulder.

There was no one here. Was the vision too late?


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Updated: 26 July 2021 — 09:57

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