The water tower with the word NIXA, painted in red, had taken him by surprise. He had been so desperate to escape and follow the coordinates on the postcard, that Jason had barely paid attention to where he was headed.
Against all the odds, he hoped that she would be there, waiting for him. Jason took his hand off the steering wheel of the Civic he had stolen to rub away the dull pain vibrating in his chest. With delicate fingers, he touched the spot under his t-shirt where Phillips's bullet had been removed in a long and complicated surgery.
By some miracle (or luck, as the doctor in Washington, DC had called it), the bullet had missed his heart. The blood loss was extensive, more so than Jason's previous scrape in New York City, and this time, he had actually been clinically dead for three minutes.
The doctor had been evasive about the details, but he had flat lined in the back of an ambulance that was en route to a hospital in Zürich.
Somewhere in the chaos, Mia had disappeared, vanishing into thin air as if she never existed. Perhaps she thought he was dead and that she didn't want to face Cronin and the CIA on her own.
He knew better. She was doing what they were trained to do…keep running.
Jason remembered Cronin explaining to him in a stoic fashion that the last time he had seen the female asset was after the surgeon in Zürich had come out of the operating theatre. The surgeon had told them that Jason had made it through surgery, but was in critical condition. He had lapsed into a coma and the doctor had not been very optimistic of his recovery.
Cronin said that Mia had taken the news in silence before rising to excuse herself with a nod of her head.
As he finished, Cronin had waited for Jason's response and the asset feel Cronin's concern radiate from him. As Jason stared out the window of his room, watching the snow fall, he knew what Cronin was thinking.
Will you run, too?
He hadn't run. Instead, he let the CIA force him into seclusion at the hospital they had flown him to once Jason had stabilized. He vaguely remembered IV lines dangling in his vision and a nurse peering over him as she checked his vitals. At the time, he had thought it was Mia and he fell back asleep, happy that she was there.
Jason wouldn't admit to anyone, including the obnoxious "specialist" that had been brought in to evaluate his psychological help, that he was heart sick that Mia was gone. He wasn't the type to cry himself to sleep, but he had spent many nights curled up in his hospital, staring into the darkness and wondering where she was.
And she missed him as well.
The sound of the tires crunching on gravel brought Jason back out of his reverie. The shocking realization of where he was had worn off and he was back on autopilot. In truth, he was too exhausted to be shocked for long, having driven the entire sixteen hours without sleep or stopping to eat. His body had barely healed from his latest ordeal and he knew that his doctors weren't going to be pleased.
He glanced at the postcard placed on the dashboard, seeing a set of coordinates in familiar scrawl. Jason knew that it was from Mia as soon as he had found it on his bed when he came back from another nondescript meeting with another nameless CIA member (in truth, they hadn't been nameless…Jason hadn't cared to remember their names).
Using the GPS in the stolen vehicle and his training as an asset, Jason evaded the CIA and headed west.
The GSP told him that he was close to his destination and Jason felt his heart skip a beat. He gripped the steering wheel and swallowed, trying to keep his nerves at bay.
He found himself driving into a cemetery, the kind that was typical of a small Mid-Western town. Jason pulled the car over next to a tree and turned off the engine. He leaned back into the seat, his limbs shaking from fatigue, and sat there for a moment before exiting the Civic.
As he stretched his legs on solid ground, Jason saw a dark figure standing alone in the distance. Jason walked towards the figure, stumbling his way through rows of grave plots and headstones. As he neared the figure, he felt a sinking sensation as he realized it wasn't Mia, but Cronin.
How the man had known where Jason was heading was a mystery, but not exactly surprising to Jason. He waited for a sharp reprimand or a swarm of agents knocking him to the ground as he came up to Cronin.
Cronin stood in front of two headstones, his jacket flapping in the late winter breeze. Several yards away from the two men were three CIA-issued sedans. So Cronin didn't bring the heavy artillery…it didn't mean that Jason should stop worrying, but it also meant another.
Cronin knew that Jason was too tired to keep running.
"I'll give you a moment," said Cronin in a grave tone. He laid a hand on Jason's shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze before walking towards a dark sedan parked several feet away.
At first, Jason didn't understand what Cronin had meant until his turned towards the headstones.
Your parents, Rebecca and James, were killed in a car accident when you were seventeen.
As Jason dropped to his knees in front of the headstones, he closed his eyes, remembering Landy telling him about his parents. She had been sitting by his bedside at her makeshift desk, fussing over paperwork while trying to figure him out.
I had a feeling that they would be dead. Those words, said without emotion, were what he had told Landy.
Jason opened his eyes to see the names of his parents, people whose faces and voices he couldn't remember etched into stone. He felt a lone tear fall down his cheek and disappear under his jaw.
Why had Mia brought him here, he wondered to himself as he stared at the graves. On the tops of both of them were black pebbles, recently placed there by the looks of it.
Jason reached for one of them and looked at the object in his hand, feeling it's smooth surface against the skin of his palm, knowing that it had been Mia who had placed them there.
With a unsteady hand, Jason put the pebble back in its place and held himself up using the headstone as silent tears began to fall.
Jason couldn't remember how long Cronin had let him stay there, keeping a safe distance from the asset, but he remembered hearing the sound of Cronin's shoes on the grass of the cemetery, returning to collect his asset.
His body aching and crying out for sleep, Jason stood up and wordlessly followed Cronin to the sedan.
As the sedan pulled out to the main road, Jason settled into the backseat and stared out the window. The landscape should have been familiar to him, as he grew up in the small town.
Silence filled the vehicle as the motorcade rode farm land and other vehicles. Jason heard Cronin shift uneasily in the front seat. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cronin turning his head to observe Jason, watching the asset as Landy did.
Was he wondering if Jason would snap? He couldn't tell as Cronin was harder to read than Landy.
As the car made a turn towards the main road leading out of Nixa, a tree in the middle of a field caught Jason's attention. It was an oak and had no business being in there. In the distance was a barn painted in red that was fading from age and weather.
He remembered seeing this exact field in a dream, golden fields against a bright blue sky. Jason shivered.
"Are you alright back there, Jason?" he heard Cronin ask.
Would he be alright? He couldn't really say. If his memory came back, it wouldn't be whole – there would still be voids that were gone. The doctors wouldn't dare tell him, but he knew. Whatever he knew of his previous life, was gone – lost somewhere in the Mediterranean.
"Jason?" Cronin said.
He rested his head against the window and closed his eyes, feeling the cool surface of the glass pressing against his skin. Maybe this was Mia's indirect way of telling him to keep trying to remember who he was while accepting who he had become.
The agent driving the sedan said inaudible to Cronin, probably asking if he should pull over the vehicle.
"My name is David," he whispered, so softly that he could barely hear his own reply. "My name is David Webb," he repeated, his voice louder.
He heard Cronin settle back into his seat before replying, "Hello David."