The door clanged behind her. Could it really be? Was she free?
The warden motioned for her to follow him."This way, 97642." He grunted.
The woman silently followed the man.
They walked soundlessly through the bleak, dimly lit, halls, through several doors, and into a reception area, which was equally dismal. The walls, on which nothing hung, were a shade of cloudy gray. It wasn't exactly a kindergarten classroom around here. But this was Campbell County Prison, for crying out loud. It probably was a building code violation to have it any other way.
Low voices murmured, phones rang, and keyboards clicked. Various people walked around, sat at desks, or talked to one another in low voices.
The warden led her to a desk where she was briskly sat down in a chair.
An older woman gave her a file. She had brown hair with streaks of gray and glasses perched on her long nose.
The prisoner opened it cautiously, hoping against hope that it was the answer she was waiting for.
Inside the file, there was some paperwork. At the top of the first page, it said - "Parole notice?"
The woman with glasses nodded.
"The board deemed you eligible. If you'll sign at the bottom of the page, we'll have you out shortly after your parole hearing."
She offered her a pen. The woman gratefully took it and tried to control her trembling hands. She signed her name at the bottom corner.
An hour or so later, permission was granted for her release. She gathered her meager belongings and was about to head out the door, when a different warden came up to her. He put a hand on her shoulder and looked at her with sincerity.
"You've been given a great gift, Ms. Stone. Use it for good. Go and do something great. I hope I don't have to see you here again."
Monica nodded and replied, "Thank you, sir. I will. And I'll make sure I don't have to come back."
Monica walked out the door and into the late spring sunshine. She took a deep breath and smiled peacefully. She was free. And she already knew her first stop.
She took a taxi there and took in Odyssey's surroundings as they drove. They went down main street and even passed by Whit's End. She has only been there one other time years ago, back when she was working for Andromeda.
Another block later, they passed by Finneman's Market, the flowers were out front in the sunshine in vibrant colors of pink, yellow, red, white, and purple.
The taxi weaved its way through the streets and they passed by another place familiar to Monica. The old site of Novacom Communications, which had been turned into a 'Sky Feldstein' news studio.
After a while, they pulled up to Hillingdale. Monica thanked the driver and got out.
As she walked across the parking lot, her breath began to quicken and her pulse raced. She clenched her fists and shut her eyes tightly, trying to prevent the old, horrible, memories from resurfacing. They flashed across her synapses anyway.
The memories of the diving accident. She was vacationing in Florida, visiting her divorced father and her younger brother Duncan. Monica had bet that Duncan couldn't dive headfirst from the boat. He didn't want to, but she insisted on it. He was always more skittish about things like that, while she was the more adventurous one.
He eventually gave in and she regretted that moment ever since. The water was too shallow and Duncan hit his head.
She and her mother and father spent the next few terrifying days in the hospital, fearing for Duncan's life. Duncan was in a coma for several days, but he recovered from that. But he never gained back the use of his arms or legs. He was quadriplegic. And it was her fault.
Monica opened her eyes and she stopped dead in her tracks. She couldn't face Duncan yet. What if she had gone too far? She was already responsible for his condition! She couldn't just waltz in there on parole after being gone for years serving a prison sentence. She had done too much.
She turned around and began walking away. She wasn't sure where she should go now, she had no one to go to.
Well, she did know someone. Jason Whitaker.
Monica decided to find him. She remembered he'd said on one of his visits that he was running an antique shop, but she didn't know where. She began walking. She walked and entered a nearby shop. "Excuse me?"
"Yes?" the cashier asked, "Can I help you?"
"Yes, do you know where J and J antiques shop is?"
"Yes, just down this street, by Hal's Dinner, then two streets over. You can't miss it."
"Thank you very much."
Ten minutes later she walked into the shop. It was cozy and uniquely decorated.
A good-looking young man with thick, dark brown hair and soft brown eyes to match was sitting behind the counter at a computer, intensely focused on his work.
He looked up from his work with a start.
"Oh hello, may I help you?"
"Yes, I'm looking for Jason Whitaker. This is his shop, right?"
"Yeah. He's in the back." he stood up and turned to the back room. He opened the door and peeked in. " Jason? Someone's here to see you."
Jason walked out, cleaning his hands with a cloth. "Thanks Richard." He gasped. "Monica?"
The corners of her mouth turned up, "Hi Jason."
His hands started to fidget slightly. "How are you?"
"I feel better than I have in a long time. I guess that's the way you feel when you first get on parole."
Jason grinned. "That's great!"
Richard smiled broadly. "Congratulations." He remembered how it felt.
"Thanks." Monica smiled quietly. "But I need to talk to you Jason, about the next steps. I thought you might be able to help me?"
Jillian scampered down the spiral staircase as they were walking away.
"I'll be happy to do what I can," Jason replied. "And if you need help with finding a job, my Dad can help. He knows lots of the local business owners, and…." They walked into the back room.
Jillian signaled to Richard to be quiet and tiptoed over, placing her ear against the door.
"What are you doing??" Richard hissed.
"Shh! I'm trying to hear what they're saying!"
She looked at him like he was crazy. "I'm not dropping anything, I'm trying to listen in on what they're talking about."
"That's what eavesdropping IS!" Maxwell looked at her sternly. "Now back off!" He whispered forcefully.
Jillian rolled her eyes. "Fine, fine. You're no fun, you know that?"
Richard's face didn't change. He sat back and crossed his arms. "As opposed to an hour ago, when I was adorable, and eligible for dinner out?" He fired back.
Jillian knew he had won. She huffed and stalked off, her six-inch high heels clicking on the wood floor.
The door opened squeakily. Jellyfish's heavy footsteps echoed in the deserted building. He walked down the dank halls. The place smelled of sheetrock and ceiling texture, as though it had not been lived in or used in a long time. He walked up two flights of stairs, down another corridor, all the way down to the third door on the right.
He opened it cautiously.
A man was sitting in a swivel chair with his back turned to him.
"Jellyfish, I presume?" The voice was oily and malevolent.
"Yeah, I'm uh, reporting in."
He set his computer case down. "Well, I had some trouble getting here. The police got on my tail, and I had to disappear for a couple of days to allow my trail to 'get cold' as they say. Pretty clever if I do say so myself." He smiled smugly.
"Hm." the man replied disinterestedly, "but did you make contact?"
"And you know what to do?"
"He said you would tell me what to do."
The man heaved a sigh and turned around. The swivel chair squeaked a bit as it rotated. "Very well."
He motioned for Jellyfish to come to his desk. He opened his computer and clicked on a video file. It seemed like security camera footage. The video showed a rather grainy video of a man going inside a building. About thirty seconds later, he and another man came out of the building, running like the devil was chasing them. Six seconds later, the building blew up. The camera's view was almost immediately obscured by dust.
Jellyfish nodded, impressed. "You don't kid around, do ya?"
"The camera was just a plan for the possible contingency our man would escape, and it worked. The man escaped." He huffed exasperatedly, "Don't you just hate it when civilians get involved?."
"Why do you want this guy, anyway?"
"The boss wants him out of the way. He is a contingency in himself, he caught on to us the first time and blew up the whole operation from the inside. He did it once, and it's a very real possibility he'll do it again. He's an FBI agent, so he's even better equipped than he was the first time. His name is Robert Mitchell. I'll play the clip again in slow motion."
This next time Jellyfish watched more closely, trying to memorize Mitch's appearance, as well as he could from the video. But it was the other man who caught his attention. His eyes nearly popped out of his head. "Maxwell," he muttered confusedly. " But that ain't possible."
"You know the civilian?"
"Yeah. He's the reason I had the run-in with the police."
The man's brow furrowed and he scowled. "What did you do to draw his attention? Did you act aggressively towards him in any way?"
"It was supposed to be a simple job. It was just a little thank - you for landing me in the slammer a few years ago."
"He was a witness?" The man questioned. His voice grew in intensity.
"Key." Jellyfish replied.
"That was a terribly stupid move, now you have the police after you!" He nearly shouted.
Myron held up his hands defensively. "It was supposed to be an easy job! The sweet taste of revenge and no more."
The man's oily voice turned malicious. "But it wasn't."
"Cool your jets, it's not like they put out an APB on me! It's only bad if I'm going back to Chicago, right?"
"You most certainly will not be going back to Chicago now. But that was never the plan for you, not right now, anyhow. And you can be sure I'll find where this Maxwell is. I'll send someone. You won't need to worry about him."
"So what am I gonna do exactly?"
"You need to keep Mitchell out of the way. Wreak a little havoc."
Jellyfish smirked, "That'll be no problem." He stood up to leave and picked up his computer case. He opened the door and was about to walk out.
"And Jellyfish." He spoke up once more.
He turned to face the man. "Uh, yeah?"
The man's voice grew evil again. "Don't even think about compromising this mission."
"Um, sure - Mr. Charles. Wouldn't dream of it." Jellyfish walked out.
Myron's footsteps echoed down the nearly deserted hallways. He wondered if Charles knew about the computer he had back when he worked for Blackgaard. He couldn't possibly know - could he? Who knows? Both Charles and the Boss could get just about any information they wanted. It wasn't outside the realm of possibility. However, Jellyfish knew it would be better for him if he kept records and covered his bases. Besides, what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them, right? But for now, he had to figure out how to keep Mitchell out of the way so they could complete their mission. What was their mission, anyway? He didn't know, and at this moment it wasn't his concern.
Tasha Forbes scooted back from her desk and stretched out. She looked dazedly out the window taking in the Washington D.C. skyline. The dull hubbub of traffic hummed at the road three floors down. She had been working on paperwork for Mrs. Meido, to send to some FBI Agents who were in Odyssey, so they could escort her to a high security prison in Springfield.
She could hear her coworker walking to her cubicle. She rolled her eyes and ran her hand through her auburn hair. "Oh no." she murmured under her breath.
Agent Sierra Rolland could be a real pill. Tasha could tell by the way she was walking, that she was not in a good mood. She straightened up and put on her best polite, indifferent face.
Rolland walked in. She wore tall high heels, khaki slacks, and a white wrinkless collared shirt. She frowned coldly.
"Forbes?" She always talked this way when she was in her 'all business' mode.
"Yes?" Tasha answered warily.
"I'm just making sure you're getting your report finished."
"Yes Ma'am." Rolland was not by any means her boss, but most of the time she talked to her as though she was. Her presence seemed to command it. "I'm nearly finished."
Tasha nodded. "Yes ma'am."
Sierra questioned further. "Do you know who will be faxing it to them?"
"That would be me." She replied with a hint of annoyance.
Rolland gave a sour smile and nodded curtly. "Good."
Tasha smiled politely.
Sierra turned sharply and walked out without a word.
Tasha sighed quietly and sat back in her chair and closed her eyes, letting her thoughts wander. Rolland was never much for praise or goodbyes, just like Donovan, but at the same time not like him at all. With Donovan you could tell if he was proud of you. She was just cold.
Rolland was good as an agent, but needed work when it came to people skills. She could also be nosy when it came to work, which irked Tasha greatly. She preferred autonomy and Rolland badgering her with seemingly endless amounts of questions was annoying. She did not know why she asked so, but it made her uncomfortable, and she wasn't sure why. She had only been working with Tasha for a few weeks, but she couldn't tell if it was just her personality. She never seemed to do that to any other agents. She barely cared what the other agents did, but maybe it was just Tasha for some reason? Or maybe it wasn't…. Her eyes snapped open, she jerked to attention and reached downward.
Tasha fingered the flash drive she kept on a keychain on her computer case. She wasn't sure why she did it, perhaps she just wanted the comfort of knowing that it was still in safe hands. Her own. Tasha would not call herself a control freak, but she never let that flash drive out of her sight, and for good reason.
Inside it lie the secrets of a very powerful computer program. It wasn't the first time she had been hunted down because of it. Could it be? She didn't want to assume anything, but Rolland certainly did arouse enough suspicion for her to be on her guard. Something she had not needed to do in a long time.