Chapter Thirteen

Steve had one hand on the doorknob when he had to turn around. "There's something I just don't get," he said, returning to James. "You had everything going for you – everything - a great career...and a promotion before you'd even spent your first real day on the job! You had a brilliant future all lined up. At the rate you were going, in another year or two, you could've been working with Rudy Wells and gotten everything you wanted – legitimately! Why would you throw all that away?"

"Why should I wait 'another year or two' when I could gain that knowledge right now?" James countered. "How was I supposed to know that Frank would try to play the hero card?"

Steve sat back down. Once Interpol had him under arrest, James would demand a lawyer before he said another word. At the moment, he was talking freely. No point in wasting it. Since Steve seemed less angry (for the time being), Jaime let him go to it. "Okay," Steve allowed, "even if we left Frank out of the equation – which we can't do because we're talking murder -"

"Manslaughter," James argued calmly.

"Even so, we're still talking about the attempted murder of a Federal agent," Steve pointed out.

"Not true; my intention was never to hurt her."

"You fired a gun at her!"

"I fired a gun at an extraordinary piece of equipment – not at flesh and blood," James answered.

"Are you insane?" Steve sputtered. "Because for someone with a genius IQ..."

"James, how old were you when you graduated from high school?" Jaime asked.

"I don't think that has much to do with anything right now," Steve told her gently.

"Well, I do. How old, James?"

"Sixteen," James answered. "Well, fifteen and ten months."

"Yeah; I thought so," Jaime confirmed. "And college?"

"Almost twenty...but it was a double major," James told her. "Since then, I finished my Master's and...well, you know the rest."

Jaime nodded. "Why the hurry, James? Who was rushing you?"

Steve looked at her questioningly but she was obviously leading up to something, so he didn't interrupt.

"My parents – at first," James admitted. "But for a long time now, it's just been me."

"Internal pressure can be the worst kind," Jaime agreed. "There's nowhere you can go to shut it off."

"Exactly. And if I don't keep going, if I don't keep improving myself and gaining more knowledge...well, then I'll stagnate. Working with Rudy Wells sometime in the future was like the ultimate brass ring. There...but out of my reach."

"Only temporarily," Steve pointed out.

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," Jaime said softly.

"You do understand, then," James remarked.

"You've spent your whole life hurrying to cram in as much as possible," Jaime commiserated. "And most of it seemed effortless; as long as you went for it, you got it. After all of that, it's hard to slow down and wait."

"Yeah...it is," James agreed. "For me, it's impossible."

Steve was just about to remark that now James would have plenty of time to learn to slow down – but Agent Sikes opened the front door and called out to Jaime.

"Ma'am, the crate in your bedroom is demanding to speak with you. I'm assuming it's your radio."

Steve and Jaime looked at each other. "Oscar," they said in near-perfect unison. "I think we're about done for now," Jaime added, nodding toward James. "You'll be wanting to take him into custody, transferable to the US."

Sikes and Burrows took charge of James so Jaime could answer her still-squawking radio. "Hi, Oscar," she answered (almost meekly).

"Jaime, I just got off the phone with Interpol in Lima. They said you requested a coroner. A coroner? What's going on down there?"

"We...lost Frank," Jaime told him. "Oscar, we need transport back to the States – preferably tonight – for Steve, Rudy, Ted and myself. Also a secure transport for James; he'll be under arrest."

"Already?"

"Got a confession." She smiled wanly at Steve, as the realization hit her of exactly how much had happened in just 24 hours. When she had finished giving Oscar the 'Readers Digest Condensed Version', she began preparing the house to sit empty again while she returned to 'normal life'. Ted – having had quite enough of the jungle - started back for Lima with Interpol (and James), but Steve and Rudy stayed to help Jaime pack.

"Poor Frank," Jaime sighed, putting locks on the cupboards. "He was trying to stop James from shooting me..."

Steve wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder. "I know it's not really any consolation, but I'm sure they'll be a medal in it -"

"For his widow?" Jaime shook her head. "It's just so sad. And Oscar will probably have to shut down the program now."

"I won't let that happen," Steve told her.

"You can't make that promise..."

"Sweetheart, I've seen you in action out here; you know your stuff – forward, backward and sideways." He kissed her cheek. "Maybe even diagonally."

"Diagonally?"

"Gotcha to smile, didn't I?"

END