Title: Capsizing The Sea
Summary: It's universally known the smallest shifts can cause the largest changes. The story we all know is that Jessica Angell was shot in the line of duty, but passed away under anesthesia at the hospital. What we do not know is that Jessica Angell refused to fade away- surviving the surgery, and what should have been a fatal bullet wound. When an opportunity for a new undercover operative presents itself, the Federal Bureau of Investigation swoops in, transforming Jessica Angell into an untraceable operative known as Sarah Vhann who is tasked with gathering evidence against a Russian crime syndicate known as The Black Hand. As the life of Jessica Angell ended, the life of Sarah Vhann was only just beginning.
Category: Action, Angst, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, Drama
Timeline: In canon, just AU where Jess's life/death are concerned. Everything that happened on the show is still happening, except Jess is alive in the background, and unbeknownst to everyone.
Ship: Don/Jess, several others later on
AN1: This is a rewrite of my story which was published 2 years ago. I'd been reading over it as of late, and thinking, wow. This was publishable? I plan to lengthen all chapters, clean up the dialogue, deepen the plot, wind in several sub-plots, improve characters, and hopefully make it a better story as a whole. I also plan on showing a bit more of a three-dimensionality, switching points of view to fully tell the story sometimes, among other things. (I'm not sure whether or not I'll delete the original... I'm somewhat sentimental...)
AN2: About Jess's surgery scene, I've tried to do as much research as possible into how she could've survived this ordeal alive while making her injuries as realistic as possible. I guarantee you that I am pretty wrong on some parts, but such is fanfiction.
AN3: A few details are sketchy in the beginning, and a few scenes are left out (most notably, informing Jess's family that she's dead). I've done this on purpose because many of these things will appear in my version of 'Pay Up' in my Warmness on the Soul series.
AN4: Virtual hug for anyone who spots the mild Bones crossover.
CHAPTER I: Descent into Darkness
Real loss only occurs when you lose something you love more than yourself.
Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Operating Room 7 of Dr. Carla Griblam
8 hours into procedure
It took a lot to impress Dr. Carla Griblam. Her superior intellect that took her through MIT and Johns Hopkins with nothing but her own, hard-earned money from various loans and scholarships funding her education and sheer willpower could sometimes leave her feeling slightly unimpressed by the exploits of others. She had single-handedly clawed her way out from beneath the poverty line to become one of the country's best trauma surgeons, and had seen more in her 27 years as a surgeon than some saw in full careers. She was the epitome of 'pulling yourself up by your bootstraps'.
But, she could safely say that she was thoroughly astounded beyond belief. Just over eight hours ago, an NYPD detective had burst through the doors of the ER, covered by the blood of the young woman in his arms. There had been no time to wait; she was bleeding out as the man set the dying woman on a gurney. As Dr. Griblam was briefed on the situation, she found herself wondering how the young woman had managed to survive as long as she had, and was considered stable enough to attempt the surgery that would most likely take her life rather than save it. While she was scrubbing in, she remembered betting the woman wouldn't last 10 minutes on the table.
The woman was struck twice with a .50 caliber weapon, once in the right shoulder, and a second time in the left abdomen. Initially, the shoulder had been her biggest concern, but Rashida, the nurse who was considered the head of the ER, had quickly ascertained that there was no bleeding in the lungs, and thus they were probably intact and functioning. After a very rushed cursory examination, the first of many lucky passes was discovered. The .50 caliber round had only connected with soft tissue of the upper right thoracic cavity. The bullet tract went straight through the shoulder, fitting almost neatly between the clavicle and coracoid process, narrowly missing both bones and the right lung. Needless to say, the shoulder wound was the least of their concerns.
Meanwhile, nearly half of her abdominal cavity was on display. A bullet of such large caliber could do so much damage. The wound the young detective received was about the equivalent of being shot at point-blank range by a sniper rifle. The wound was right on the border between the left lumbar and umbilical regions of her abdomen, but the wound was not perfectly straight as the shoulder wound had been. It appeared as though she'd turned slightly, most likely due to the fact that she was struck in the shoulder, and left her side wide open for attack. The bullet tore easily through her vital organs- her large intestine and left ovary were shredded, almost beyond repair, there were countless lacerations to her stomach and small intestine, and the bullet had finished it's journey after having torn a rather large hole in her abdominal aorta. That key artery was their biggest worry. The threat of shifting the bullet hung over their heads as they were very aware of it's position. The fact that the bullet was inside the wound it had caused was tamping off enough of the blood loss that she was still alive. Ironic, really. The thing that very nearly killed her also saved her life.
There were several other major arteries feeding blood to her vital organs that were also pulsing thick, black blood. It hadn't looked very hopeful. One of the most talented residents at the hospital was a young man named Jeffery Synova, who, much to Carla's delight wanted to become a trauma surgeon. The pair worked in tandem as though they'd been doing it for years, when in actuality, they'd been working together for barely a few months. While they worked on rerouting blood flow from several arteries and cauterizing the gaping wounds the bullet had left behind, they were beginning to medically lower her body's temperature to slow her heart rate and blood flow.
Dr. Synova had clearly wanted to remove the bullet from her abdominal aorta, worried deeply about possible damage to her spine if it shifted. "Dr. Synova, right now, that bullet is all that is keeping this girl alive on our table. As crazy as it sounds, we need to leave it in if we want to keep her alive."
Jeffery's eyes widened, but he did not take his eyes off of the electro-cauterizer he was delicately placing against the living flesh. His associate was in the middle of placing yet another tourniquet when he said, "That's against hospital policy."
Dr. Griblam did not slow her moving hands as she stated, "Which is more important, the hospital's policy or your Hippocratic Oath?" Her rhetorical question hung in the air of the ER as the two surgeons desperately moved to save the young woman's life. She'd flatlined twice already, only restarting her heart with large doses of epinephrine and vasopressin. Needless to say, her body wouldn't be able to handle many more drugs. The excessive medication could easily become more of a hindrance than a help.
Once they had a control of the majority of the blood flow coming from the sliced arteries, they turned their attention to the abdominal aorta. Dr. Griblam shuddered. It did not look good. The huge bullet was an imposing, unwelcome presence in the living cavern of her body, but it seemed to be tamping off at least some of the blood flow. It was lodged in a precariously dangerous position, nearly severing one branching renal artery, and it blocked the blood loss from two severed of four branching lumbar arteries. Again, Dr. Griblam was blown away that the woman was still alive.
As Griblam and Synova made a plan of attack, heavy blood flow shoved the bullet from the renal artery, and it now solely blocked the two damaged lumbar arteries. Black blood began to quickly fill her abdominal cavity. "Damn it," Carla cursed, voice determined, but it was obvious she was losing hope. "The bullet shifted. If the artery is fully resected, we'll need to reroute to the other renal artery. It seems more-or-less intact. We don't have time for a graft. She might lose the kidney, but she's got two and at this point we don't have a choice."
"We can revisit the graft option later if she survives," Jeffery added, hoping dearly this woman would make it. He did not like losing people on his table. Granted, no one did, but the aspiring trauma surgeon had seen the other man who brought her in. The look in the NYPD detective's eye as he gazed at his fallen colleague indicated the two were more than that. "Suction," he ordered a nurse who began to calmly remove as much of the blood as possible from her abdomen so the two surgeons could have a clear picture of the damage.
An avulsion of the distal right renal artery was as obvious as it was severe, but it was about the best thing Dr. Griblam could've seen at the moment. They could temporarily fix it, using a catheter or an angioplasty could realign the artery, and a temporary stent could be used to keep it open, all the while preventing any more blood loss from that region. Griblam looked up at one of the assisting nurses, and ordered the properly sized angioplasty and stent, which were delivered in mere moments. Griblam was always very grateful for her well-prepared surgical team. Their preparedness had saved patients on more than one occasion.
After a quick check on the two lumbar arteries, and the major laceration in which the bullet sat. It did not look good. There was the main laceration to the artery which the bullet had caused, and then there was secondary trauma to the two lumbar arteries, which were spewing a small amount of blood, but the bullet was able to hold off enough bloodflow to those two veins that she was still alive.
Again, Dr. Griblam was blown away. This patient had literally sustained enough trauma to kill three people, lost almost enough blood to fill another person, and was still vastly injured; the temporary 'band-aids' they'd applied looked like the desperate stitching trying to hold together a broken doll, because that's exactly what she was. Broken.
Jeffery easily handled the angioplasty and stent on his own while Dr. Griblam began the arduous process of trying to figure out how to remove the bullet without killing her. She'd survived eight hours, and Carla began to pray that she would survive a few more. If they could use a balloon catheter to cut off the blood supply to the wounded area, it might buy them enough time so that they could harvest a leg artery to graft in for the damaged tissue. Granted, if they cut off blood flow in the abdominal aorta for too long... Carla didn't think about it. The girl was dead if she didn't do it. At least this way she'd have a fighting chance.
She began to prepare for what she would later consider one of the biggest risks she'd ever taken in order to save a patient's life. Hell, she'd already taken several enormous risks in leaving the bullet in. What was one more?
Two Hours Later
"Close her up."
Dr. Carla Griblam was thoroughly satisfied. Her patient lived. Even after two more episodes of fibrillation, and one more flatline, Jessica Angell (she'd later looked up her patient's name) had survived. Carla still could not believe it. That wound was fatal. Utterly, completely fatal. The surgeon did not understand how she could have managed to survive. If she had a particularly large ego, she could say it was her superior surgical skills that saved the woman's life. But deep down, she knew it was something else. If she was devoutly religious, she could say it was the hand of God that kept her on Earth. If she was a cheesy romantic, she could say that Jessica Angell had someone very important to come back to. Since she was none of those things, she just praised the wonders of the resilience of the human body. The patient was short one ovary, and many of her vital organs seemed to be held together by children's glue and dear hope, but she was alive.
When she was preparing to removed her bloodied scrubs, a herd of suited men infiltrated the OR. "What are you doing? You can't be in here!" Carla shouted angrily. Her mind immediately thought of all the infection they could expose her patient to. Her body, quite frankly, was far too weak to deal with microscopic invaders. They were still transfusing as much O negative as they could into her, and an infection was the last thing this patient needed while she was recovering from massive blood loss.
"This patient is now under the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No one is to leave this room until we say so." Carla eyed the one that spoke suspiciously. He was tall and muscular was about as much as she surmised before she laid into him.
"If you could wait until she's in the ICU to recover, that'd be just peachy. We need to start warming her up now. She's been too cold for far too long, and unless you'd like for her internal organs, which just took me over ten hours to fix by the way, to begin to shut down, you'll let me take her to ICU."
The man seemed undeterred. "You will have to begin warming her in here. What we have to say here must never leave this room. If any of this information is told to anyone, you will all be charged with treason. Is that understood?"
Carla scowled at him, seeing as how he was blocking the doorway, and the way she saw it, her patient's recovery. She turned to her nurses, "Get as many warming blankets as you can and start pumping her with warmed IV fluids." She turned back to the man, "Unless of course she dies of septic shock because we did not get her to the ICU in time."
Again, the man did not look perturbed by her outbursts. "None of you are to inform anyone that this patient is alive." Murmurs of shock and confusion rippled throughout the team. "We are placing her under the custody of the federal government."
"So you want us to lie for you?" It was Synova who spoke this time.
Unflinching, the man met his glare with a steely gaze. Jeffery could almost feel himself wither under the oppressive glare. "Yes. This victim's time of death was at 7:08 PM. She expired from massive blood loss coupled with her internal injuries."
"What about an autopsy? This woman was shot, there was foul-play!" Carla wasn't sure why she was arguing any more. It seemed to be a lost cause, but it was her duty to protect her patient. And she'd just gone through hell trying to fix her, so she sure as hell wouldn't allow anyone to just swoop in and take her away, federal government or not.
"The FBI will take care of the details. All you must report is that this victim died because her injuries were simply too great for her to handle." The woman that was Dr. Griblam was furious that she could not adequately care for her patient if they took her. The woman that was Carla was saddened that the woman's miraculous survival would never be acknowledged.
Finally backing down, knowing that the more she fought, the longer it would take for Jessica to get the care she so desperately needed after her surgery. She stepped out of the man's path with a look of reluctant resignation on her face. "I do not agree." It was as much of a concession as they would get.
Things happened quickly then. The man explained that she would be brought down to the morgue to give the appearance of death, and the FBI would obtain custody of her 'body' from the New York Police Department.
And Carla was faced with telling Jessica's family that she was dead.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Basement Floor, Morgue
New York City, New York
Dr. Sidney Hammerback stood before the covered corpse of a young woman. Her dark tresses were fanned around her head, almost as though they'd been purposely placed that way. Her face was relaxed, the result of having passed away under heavy anesthesia. He was happy she went as peacefully as possible. Her death had occurred such a short time ago, she still held most of her natural color, her lips and cheeks still a vibrant pink. It simply appeared as if she were asleep, a very eerie comparison to the truth. Sid knew it would not be long before her corpse began to lose its pallor. The rest of her was covered by a typical, blue morgue body sheet. Sid was very familiar with them. It seemed stiff, as though it was freshly starched. He could see no detail of the body that lay beneath the sheet. He supposed he could be glad about being spared the gruesome details for the moment.
In all his years as a medical examiner, he'd never been forced to autopsy someone he knew, someone he considered a dear friend. The closest he'd ever come to doing such a thing was when Anabel Pino's body had turned up on one of his tables. He recalled the feeling of dread that crept up on him as he realized who it was, the slow nausea that made his stomach churn as he remembered how she'd laughed with her deadened mouth, how much she loved Marty with her no-longer beating heart... alas, that love took her to her grave. He remembered refusing to do Anabel's autopsy, and the knowledge that he could not do the same now nearly paralyzed him. He'd given Don his word that he would be with her the whole way, and he would do just that. He hadn't seen or spoken with Anabel in several years. Now, the body that lay before him had once been inhabited by someone he considered a dear friend- the last time he'd spoken with her had been yesterday. He found himself desperate in trying to recall the last thing he said to her. It is strange that the most insignificant things suddenly become the most important things. Death seems to have a way of turning the world upside down.
"I'm so sorry, Jessica," he told the young woman. It was strange, seeing her so still. Jessica Angell had always been a woman in motion. He could only imagine the pain going through Don's conscious at the moment. The young detective left only a moment ago with the frightening whisper, when referring to Jessica's killers, 'And God help them.' Sid had no doubts about the other man's intent as he stalked out of the morgue, leaving a wake of despair and darkness behind him. The aging medical examiner could only hope that Flack would do nothing foolish. And Sid held no illusions that the hope was strong. As a practical matter, Flack had just lost the love of his life. To Sid's knowledge, they hadn't really come out and told anyone they'd been seeing each other; it just seemed to become a widely known assumption about the partners.
He had originally planned on packing her up and shipping her back to his own morgue, perhaps in the notion that he knew Jessica would want to be somewhere familiar. He was well-aware of her aversion to autopsies. He remembers her telling him once she didn't want to be autopsied. "Unless I drop dead, and you guys have no idea why, and have exhausted all possible alternatives, then, and only then, can you autopsy me." He was saddened by not respecting her wishes, because it was quite obvious how she was killed- the .50 caliber bullet to the left hemisphere of her abdomen. Any other caliber of weapon, and Sid would've called it a recoverable injury. As it was, the kidnappers just so happened to be packing military-grade weaponry, not to mention the man who would fatally wound Detective Angell plugged two .50 caliber bullets into her relatively small body with a Desert Eagle pistol. The fact that she was able to withstand two spoke fathoms about her pain tolerance, balance, and just plain stubbornness.
The Desert Eagle is, simply put, a semi-automatic rifle packed into a hand gun. There is a reason people call it 'The Hand Cannon.' Using a gas-operated system normally found in military-grade rifles, the Desert Eagle lacks the normal short recoil or blow-back designs, allowing the barrel to not move as it fires. It's a combination that spells 'deadly' for whoever is on the receiving end of a bullet. It has almost no practical use in the real world, mostly being a gun built to intimidate.
Sid had planned exactly how it would go, had already begun the process of filling out the precursory filing for the autopsy, and had only to obtain a signature from the nearest attending to finalize the body transfer. He found it despicable that her body was now treated as evidence, as property of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital until Sid himself filled out the paperwork that would officially rule her death a homicide, and custody of her remains would go to the New York Police Department Crime Lab. Despicable, he thought again.
With a deep sigh of resignation, Sid stepped towards the metallic table, steeling himself to prepare her body for the imminent transportation.
The events that followed are somewhat of a blur for Sid. Some moments stand in his mind with a crystal-clarity, like a photograph, while others are glazed over and hard to recall. Sid would later assume it was the brevity of the moment, but it made it no less poignant.
A tall, heavy-set African American man with a neatly trimmed goatee and a shaved, bald head came in first. He was an intimidating presence- his tall frame hadn't an ounce of fat on it, only heavy, thick bands of muscle stretching over large bones. His dark, almost black eyes had the ability to intimidate any soul they set their sights upon. At that moment, he set them upon Dr. Hammerback.
He flashed his credentials. Federal credentials. "Agent Victor Reagan, Homeland Security. Do not touch that body."
Sid placed himself between the intruders and Jessica. Federal government be damned, he wasn't letting them get anywhere near her. He'd promised Don. He'd promised. "This body is the property of The New York Police Department," the ME said, sounding more authoritative than he thought he even had the capacity to.
"Not anymore," stated Agent Reagan, producing an Executive Order to the startled medical examiner. "I have orders to take this body as evidence in regards to a recent terrorist threat."
The crisp white paper trembled slightly in his hands. There was the president's signature, right there in the corner. He recognized the names of several other high-ranking Washington officials... Secretary of Defense, director of Homeland Security, Secretary of the State, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation... It was all he could do to try and speak in his defense, "This woman was not killed in a terrorist attack. She was killed during a kidnapping attempt of Connor Dunbrook." Sid's voice rose in crescendo towards the end of the sentence, realizing that he was right. A terrorist threat? How stupid did they think he was? "I'm sorry, but it would be irresponsible of me to just release this body without proper inquiry into what purpose you have with her," he asserted.
Agent Reagan gestured to the Executive Order, "Perhaps the President of the United States' signature was not enough for you?"
Sid could clearly see the annoyance etched on the Homeland Security agent's face. The aging medical examiner sighed, "I understand, it's just that... this is the body of a very good friend. And I promised that I would be the one to perform her autopsy when the time came."
Agent Reagan seemed to soften slightly. "If you allow us to take her body, there will be no need for an autopsy."
Sid looked up in shock at that. No autopsy? It's what Jess always wanted. As much as he knew Jess liked him, she would've preferred to not have him rummaging around in her insides. "Then... why... why are you taking her body?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but that is highly classified information."
Sid sighed. He cast a glance at Jessica's body. By now, he noticed a team of roughly four individuals had gathered around her body, waiting for Agent Reagan's okay as to whether or not they could move her. "She never wanted an autopsy... you may..." Sid struggled to find his voice. "Take her." It pained him to say those words, pained him to disregard a friend's wishes while honoring another's.
Agent Reagan placed a hand on the ME's shoulder. "We will take good care of her. I promise."
Roughly 12 hours later
Washington Hospital Center
4th Floor, Surgery Recovery, Intensive Care Unit
Washington, D.C., United States
Being in a coma after massive blood loss is a trying experience, like trying to swim through sand. Everything in your body is sore, every breath is an effort, every beat of the heart is pulsing unwilling blood through seemingly shrunken veins.
The sensation was all too familiar to Jessica Angell as she awoke slowly, feeling as though her entire body had been ripped apart and put back together again. She tried to sit up, but the air was forced out of her lungs and tears stung her eyes when she felt a stabbing, agonizing pain shoot through her abdominal area. The first thing on her mind was confusion. What on earth happened?
Her mind was a jumble of images and sounds; shattering glass, unending blue, complete and horrible pain unlike any she'd ever known, sirens, the feeling of vertigo, and then utter silence.
She breathed carefully, closing her eyes and trying her best to rearrange her scrambled memories. The last thing she could clearly remember was her assignment. Guarding Conner Dunbrook. Yes, that was it. She was on courtroom duty, and she remembered being a little grumpy about the assignment, knowing that it was job for uniforms and not a detective, and she'd told the captain as much... was this at the courtroom? No, somewhere else, with tables and chairs and a window that encompassed nearly an entire wall... They were at the Tillery Diner, that was it. She could clearly remember the large bay window. In fact, the clear glass window stood out in her mind amongst the rapidly organizing clutter of her memories. She remembered ordering her favorite breakfast... Don's teasing about her predictability in breakfast? She remembered that... Was he there? She didn't remember him being there. No, she remembered suddenly. He called her. They made plans to meet up when their shifts ended.
Their conversation ended before he could tell her what time he'd be over. Why?
She sought the source of the shattering glass noise that had dominated the flashes of memory. What had shattered the glass? Was it a sniper? No... something bigger. A vehicle. A vehicle drove straight through the diner's front window. The massive bay window that stuck out in her memory like a sore thumb.
Her detective mind automatically provided an answer: a kidnapping attempt. It must have been. She was escorting a very high-profile witness to the courthouse. A kidnapping is the only straightforward explanation. And she remembered the weapons. Military-grade.
And she remembered the Desert Eagle.
The one that shot her.
You were shot. The realization startled her. She'd come very close before to being nailed by a bullet, but each time it turned out to be a graze. She'd been stabbed, sliced, and a myriad of other injuries before, but never shot.
Her mind was slowly re-righting itself, and she easily pulled up the memory of shooting at the man wielding the Desert Eagle, the feeling of being punched in the chest, holding her footing and managing to empty the rest of her clip, (she thinks she remembered hitting him...) and then she was on the ground with an intense burn of pain in her side.
She remembered Don's eyes, panicked and terrified, over her. She remembered feeling safe now that Don was there. Whenever he was with her, she always felt so safe. She remembered letting her eyes drift shut with the knowledge that she didn't have to protect herself anymore, that her partner would take care of her.
With her painful memories completely open to her, she began looking around the room. She was in an impersonal hospital room, outfitted it white. There were no windows, which she was painfully aware of. She thought she was alone until she spied a young woman who was wearing black pants, a pair of combat boots, and a green blouse. What Jess did not miss was the gun and holster on her hip and the gleaming, gold badge next to it. Why would I be guarded by a plainclothes cop? "Who are you?" Jess called out, her voice sounding a bit off to her own ears.
She jumped slightly, obviously not noticing that her charge was awake. "Agent Susan Cheney."
The word agent threw Jess off slightly. She'd been expecting an officer, a detective at the most... a closer inspection of the badge made the injured NYPD detective realize it was not a police department badge. If she was correct, it appeared to be an FBI badge. The FBI? Why would the FBI be guarding me? "Why are you here?" She asked, but then another question seemed slightly more pressing as her priorities became clearer and clearer. "Where am I?"
"Washington Hospital Center."
"Washington? As in D.C.?"
Jess paused. "Why am I here?"
"You'll have to speak with Agent Reagan."
A brief pause, and then a sarcastic, "Not the talkative one, are you?"
Agent Cheney didn't find it very funny, and wisely chose not to answer. Instead, she pulled out a cell phone, dialed a number, and spoke into the receiver in a very hushed tone. "She's awake... Yes... Yes... Yes, sir. I will." And with that the call was over.
"Is Flack here? I'd really like to speak with him." Understatement of the century, she realized.
Agent Cheney looked confused. "Who?"
"Detective Don Flack? He was the one who brought me in." Why wouldn't Flack be here? Sure it was D.C., but she knew that he would've followed her anywhere so he could be there when she woke up. For that matter, why wasn't he here, next to her holding her hand? "He is here, isn't he?"
Now Agent Cheney just looked downright uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to wait for my superiors. I can't answer any of your questions."
Jess was getting suspicious now. Why wasn't Flack here? Nothing would've been able to convince him to leave her side unless she were dead. Nothing. "Why isn't he here?" She'd moved past the notion that he was here, and was now only concerned about why he wasn't. Had he been injured too? No, she remembers him carrying her to the car... he was fine. But then why wasn't he here? She needed him, desperately so, and she wasn't one to admit she needed something very often.
The door opened, and Angell's heart leaped into her throat, thinking that Don was finally here, and that everything would be okay when she was safe and warm in his tender embrace. Just as fast as the hope made her stomach tighten, it all disappeared in an instant when she saw two suited men who were most definitely not her partner enter her room.
One was a massive African American man whose mere presence made the room temperature drop at least 5 degrees. His neat goatee, bald head, and dark eyes seemed to scream intimidation. He carried with him a standard issue semi-automatic, and a credentials that looked to be federal, minus the gold badge Agent Cheney carried.
The second man carried a gold shield identical to Cheney's, but his presence was significantly less threatening that his counterpart who obviously needed to shop at the Big & Tall stores. He was slender, and seemed to be lost in the stiff, boxy design of his suit. The gun he carried looked similar to Big & Tall's, only its presence seemed much more out-of-place. His cropped blonde hair appeared heavily styled with hair gel, but his most striking features were his dark green eyes, which surprisingly complimented him well.
Big & Tall spoke first. "Good morning, Miss Angell."
She was about to chew him out for calling her 'miss' and not detective when she realized that she had no idea what time it was. Not having the patience to put on a mask of politeness, Jess asked outright, "Why am I here? And where is my partner? And who the fuck are you?" She cringed at her swear, knowing full well she shouldn't have let her censorship slip so easily, but quite frankly, she couldn't bring herself to get concerned over it. The questions she'd just voiced were much more pressing on her mind.
Stickman seemed put off by her language, but Big & Tall seemed oddly pleased and smiled slightly. "Agent Victor Reagan, Homeland Security."
"Special Agent Thomas Reed," Stickman said, apparently prompted by Big & Tall's introduction. "FBI. Head of Organized Crimes."
"Why am I here? And where is my partner?" The last question was the one she wanted the answer to the most, but they decided to answer her first question first.
"You've been selected for a highly classified undercover mission. One that would require you to completely sever all ties to your identity as Jessica Angell," Agent Reagan informed, face grim. He'd never been in a situation such as this, and the girl was so young... so young to give up so much. He felt as if the government was giving her no choice. They'd already declared Jessica Angell deceased. They'd forged all the necessary paperwork to prove through a paper trail that Jessica Angell was dead. Suppose she refused the assignment, he mused. What would she do? Go back to her grieving family and friends and say 'Just kidding'? Cruel and unusual punishment was banned in the Bill of Rights, and that situation would be a sickening example of punishment that was both unusual and cruel.
She paused, turning over his words in her head. "'Sever all ties'? What do you mean?" She was afraid of his answer.
He sighed, sympathy softening his features. "You were declared dead after ten hours of surgery. Jessica Angell, by any official means, is deceased."
At that moment, time seemed to stand still. She could scarcely breathe. I'm dead? If she was declared dead then that meant... "No! I have to find Don, tell him I'm okay. And my family... they need to know..." She attempted to sit up and swing her legs over the side of the bed, but cascading waves of pain stole the remaining breath in her lungs, and her motions came to an abrupt halt.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Angell, but this mission is extremely important. If you refuse to take it, it will take several more years to find a suitable person who has the capabilities to perform this assignment to the level we require."
His words barely registered with Jessica, the only words she could think at the moment being that she is deceased. no one knew she was alive, save for the federal government. "I... I need to..." her words were becoming garbled, her mind and heart racing.
"I understand that this is quite overwhelming for you." Special Agent Reed didn't sound very understanding.
Jess closed her eyes, taking a deep, cleansing breath in through her nose, and then let it out with a quiet 'ahh' through her mouth. She repeated the action a few more times before she reopened her eyes with a new focus and clarity. They wanted her for a mission. She needed to find out the details. "What's the mission?"
Agent Reagan looked relieved that she was willing to listen. "We have an opportunity to introduce an undercover into the Russian gang, the Black Hand. They are a-"
"I know who they are," Jess interrupted as gently as possible. Her knowledge of the Black Hand wasn't by any means complete, but she knew very much about them considering the fact that their main base of operations in the US was run from New York City. In her some private moments, she dreamed of being the one who would finally bring the organization down.
The Black Hand, Черная Рука, was a global criminal network, considered by law enforcement to be one of the worst gangs of the twenty-first century. They were world-renowned for being close to impenetrable to undercovers, and were known to metaphorically 'have a finger in every pie'; they commonly export controlled substances, illegal weaponry, stolen antiquities and merchandise, and recently became known in the human trafficking underworld.
Founded sometime in the fifties in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Black Hand was the brainchild of long-time criminal Mischa Rusakov. Rusakov was a retired USSR interrogator who dabbled in the criminal element long before he left the military. Known for his brutal interrogation tactics, Mischa made his grand entrance onto the gang scene in obtaining, exporting, and dealing illegal firearms. He started off small with mostly stolen military-grade weapons, and over the years increasing in bulk until Rusakov became a household name when it was revealed that he was able to obtain an undetermined number of nuclear warheads. However, it appears Rusakov never sold off these warheads, keeping them for himself so that he could have all the chips when it came to dealing with threats from either the government or other criminal organizations. It was a conservative but smart move in a business where proper preservation of the organization's future was often put to the side in favor of increasing profit margins.
His illegal weapons trade was a criminal syndicate before it was officially named. Police around the USSR began to know his operation as 'The Hand of Death.' Whether or not he took inspiration at that or not, towards the end of his life, Mischa passed on control of his gang, which he'd officially named The Black Hand, to his eldest daughter, Sabine Rusakov, in the mid-seventies. The Black Hand was passed down through the generations, the head of the organization only being direct descendents of Mischa Rusakov.
Sabine Rusakov, much like her father, became a worldwide criminal phenomenon with her cruel, ruthless, and backstabbing tactics. Under her leadership, the Black Hand finally broke through Russian borders. It's first international base was formed in Japan, and from there, strong support developed in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and several other countries in Central and South America.
Not long after she established overseas chapters, Sabine married Aleksandr Kaskov. Kaskov's criminal connections were extensive. He'd not long ago formed his own gang, but it's believed that he saw an opportunity for greater capital gains if he merged with the Black Hand. No one was sure if it was a business arrangement or love that drove them to marry.
Aleksandr and Sabine soon had a child- Dmitri Kaskov- in 1980. Following him were Svetlana Kaskov in 1982, and the youngest, twin brothers, Adrik and Alexei in 1989. Recently, it was discovered that Aleksandr was diagnosed with one of the rarest diseases known to man- also, one that is incurable and untreatable. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. A prion disease that vaguely resembles a severe case of Alzheimer's, CJD causes dementia, confusion, hallucinations, muscular twitches, seizures, deteriorated motor and coordination skills, and worst of all, personality changes that can change the affected person into someone else entirely. If the word on the street was correct, the eldest son, Dmitri was now running the show while his father's mental and physical health slowly deteriorated.
Jess was absolutely shocked that there was even an opportunity to get an undercover into the system. The Black Hand was notorious for being impenetrable to undercovers. And on those rare occasions when an undercover could penetrate the ranks, they could pick them out dangerously easily.
One such occasion included the Black Hand hacking into a TV network's signal, and broadcasting the slaughter of 5 undercover cops on live television to send a bloody and violent message: if we catch you, we kill you. It was a horrific event, one that made even civilians aware of the Black Hand's dangerous message. Police precincts across the country ramped up their Organized Crime units after the event, but undercovers became a rarity.
"An undercover opportunity?" Her doubt was clearly evident in her words. "How did the feds pull that one off?"
Special Agent Reed seemed to warm up to her a little. "We can't share with you all of the details until you agree to work with us."
"What would I be required to do?"
It was Reed who answered this time. "We need you to become essentially a big-time criminal who is able to infiltrate the ranks in a reasonable manner, and climb the 'gang leader career ladder,' if you will. The main objective of this mission is to gather enough evidence to prosecute and put away any and all available leaders the gang might have. Many probalems with undercovers that came before was that they were going after relatively small fish. We are going for the whale shark. It would require a highly-trained undercover, and a completely untraceable identity, which you already have. The FBI would train you until you can be put on assignment."
It was essentially what she'd always wanted, but rarely spoke about. The FBI was like the major leagues for cops. Her father had often spoken of the Bureau with great respect, and she remembers wishing she could one day be among them. But this mission... was unlike anything she'd ever done, or even thought she had the capacity to do.
Become a crime lord? Flirt with danger at a much more personal level than she'd ever encountered before? Jessica was a woman who did not doubt her abilities, and one could make the argument that she was slightly cocky about her ability to handle a gun, but this... was something entirely foreign.
As it was foreign, it was also groundbreaking. It was the reason most police officers got into the law enforcement field- to stop crime. And now, there was a magnificent opportunity to strike back at the heart of one of the largest, and most vile criminal organizations ever created. It was that deep-seeded sense of justice, that wish to stop a crime before it started was what prompted Jess to assist Stella in her one-man crusade against Sebastian Diakos- the attractive allure of striking directly back at corruption.
This was an opportunity that would make her famous. She could go down in history as the cop who infiltrated the Black Hand. The Black Hand. The cop who took them down. It could be her. It would be her. She wanted to do it-put away hundreds, if not thousands of scumbags and make the entire country, probably the entire world, a lot safer.
But, the ever present worry of the repercussions of her 'death' worried her greatly. She was very concerned about her family, but mainly Don. What did he do when he learned she was dead? Would he be okay? She had the utmost faith in her partner as one of the strongest people she knew, but was this mission worth sacrificing her happiness? Their happiness?
In the recent weeks, they'd begun to have lengthy discussions about the future, about what they wanted in their future. At some point in their relatively short relationship, Jess had begun to assume she'd end up with Don, that they'd have a couple of kids, move out to the suburbs and be a stereotypical family with a minivan and a Golden Retriever. Both and mutually agreed that the other was a definite part of their future. It was interesting ground they were walking on- they seemed to agree their futures would be with each other, but they hadn't yet said 'I love you,' even though she'd wanted to say it for a long, and she was fairly certain he did too. Could she give up their futures for this? Her heart was torn, desperately wanted to say 'No', to say she needed to be with Don too much to ever accept this assignment. As much as she dearly loved him (she knew all along... she had a feeling he did too), being a cop was as big a part of her as anything, and her sense of duty to the people she served, to fighting crime, would never fade. She knew it was just a big part of Don, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn't want her to abandon her duty, the chance to protect millions, just to be with him. He wouldn't. "Would I... ever be able to go back?" Jess managed.
Agent Reagan seemed to understand, but his face wasn't encouraging. "I suppose it may be possible, but... the likelihood is... not very good."
"So... no, I wouldn't," Jess said slowly. The finality, the enormity, and the absolute, terrifying uncertainty was beginning to dawn on her.
Special Agent Reed finally softened towards her. "It would probably not be possible. Witness Protection would probably require you to stay off the radar, even after the mission is finished, depending on how everything pans out." She appreciated his blunt honesty.
She tried to envision what Don would tell her if he were to hear of what she was being asked to do. It hurt her to envision his face, to imagine not seeing him ever again. There was a truly physical pain in her chest as she imagined it. "My partner's not here, is he?" she asked, finally knowing the answer to the question she'd been so desperate to know.
"I'm afraid not," Reed answered.
She squeezed her eyes shut again. I'm so sorry , Don. I love you. "I'll do it." And with that statement, her fate was sealed, and Jessica Angell began to cry.
1 month later
Outskirts of Richmond, Virginia
It had started with the dreams, the nightmares that seemed like they were reality; the subconscious can lock you in your own personal hell when the false security of sleep makes you lower your defenses. They always ended the same. Jess would bolt awake, and make a mad dash to the bathroom to vomit until her stomach muscles began to cramp, and acrid, black bile forced its way out of her, burning anything it touched. The night was a torture chamber, and the day was plagued with flu-like symptoms and biting migraines that would blur her vision and make standing up impossible.
And that was how it began that night.
She began to dread the night time.
There were faces everywhere. She was nowhere and everywhere all at once. The landscape had a distinctly ethereal quality about it, nothing permanent, everything shifting. Nothing could be focused on except for the faces.
Twisting and contorting in agony, they were the faces of the people she loved. Her mother, her father, her brothers, her niece and nephew, her friends... Don. She heard their tortured shrieks of terror, and they were all pleading for her to help them.
She ran, their images just in front of her fingertips, then they would flit away, just away from her fingertips. Taunting her with her inability to help them.
Then suddenly the scene became crystal clear. There were no longer twisted faces in a dream-like landscape that resembled a Picasso painting. Now it was photograph crisp, and she could feel pain emanating from her stomach, could feel the shards of glass digging into her back, feel her life slipping away.
She tried to scream, and no sound came to be. She saw Don's eyes, the ice blue that always held so much warmth as he regarded her. They were now filled with pain. She couldn't tell if it was physical or emotional, but all she knew was that when she tried to reach out, to touch his face with her hand, he disappeared in a moment, turning into a million wooden shards that rained down on her face.
And then she had nothing to live for, and she felt the world growing dimmer and dimmer...
With a gasp, Jess's eyes shot open, regarding her surroundings with a bit frantically. A dream. It had been a dream. Her body was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, and the sling that held her right arm immobile itched her shoulder irritatingly.
She tried to sit up, but as usual was halted abruptly by the pain in her abdomen. As soon as she fell back into her pillows, another petulant need would not be ignored.
She shot up faster than she was supposed to, much faster than her healing injuries could accommodate, rushing to the bathroom attached to her bedroom.
As always, she threw herself down in front of the toilet, and her body began expelling any non-essentials on board. As her body convulsed, painfully, as the severe wounds on her abdomen were not close to being healed yet, Jess's mind was mildly calm. The scene was not an uncommon one. Most of these dreams would end the exact same way: with her writhing on the bathroom floor while her body punished itself.
When this particular episode ended, she somewhat shakily rose to her feet. Her stomach was beginning to settle, but she could feel her pulse near the injury site, and the pain was slowly fading. She rested her left hand on the counter next to the sink, and then turned it on, ready to use the cool waters to sooth her sweating face. With the monotonous sound of water bubbling from the faucet, the dim light of the bathroom revealed a patch of red coloring the left side of her tank top. She gritted her teeth, and jammed the water tap off.
This situation was that bullet's fault. The nightmares. The PTSD. The FBI taking her. All because of that bullet wound. She found herself glaring hatefully at the small area, slowly darkening with her blood. Getting a hold of herself, she shucked the shirt, her torso completely bare in front of the mirror. The expansive wound dressing of gauze and medical tape was surely becoming soaked with blood- and the bleeding seemed to stem from several places. The bleeding was far too slow and weak to be from anything vital, so she wouldn't have to panic over that. But, she noted with discontent, she would have to remove the gauze and inspect the stitches and staples herself to make sure nothing was popped or ripped. And changing the dressing was not a pleasant experience.
The doctors told her that this would happen- if her blood got pumping to much, or if she overexerted herself, it would start to bleed, and she could pop several stitches or rip out staples. She took her discarded tank top and folded it over itself a few times, and jammed the garment between her teeth. She then proceeded to suck in a breath, and began to pull off the gauze, medical tape, and dressing that protected the various wounds on her stomach. The pull in reality wasn't too awful, but each millimeter became more and more painful as it tugged at the scattered holes and cuts in her body. A slow burn of fire worked its way across the afflicted area, and she began to tremble with the pain. Her teeth bit fiercely into the tank top to keep from screaming in agony as the fire felt like it was consuming her from the skin inward. She wished she could rip it off quickly, but alas, that too it seemed posed a threat of tearing out stitches and staples. She winced when she felt the loose strand of a stitch catch the gauze bandage as she worked it off, and so she slowed her pace even more, despite the pain it caused.
Her jaw slackened, and she dropped the tank top from her mouth when she was finally finished, letting out a small whimper to combat the stifling silence. She soon sighed in relief, though, when she saw all stitches and staples were intact. Her healing wounds were disgusting sights to behold. Several surgical incisions were still healing around the obscenely large hole caused by a .50 caliber round, some held together with stitches, others by medical staples. In places it seemed to be mending, but in others, it hurt to even look at, let alone touch. The patching job looked harsh to Jess's untrained eye, but slowly they were healing. Some were black with dried blood, fewer were inflamed and red, much to Jess's chagrin. A thorough bathing with hydrogen peroxide would soon be in order to prevent any further infection.
Her eyes flicked to the first time the the healing shoulder wound- the one she hardly noticed any more (that and the almost healed surgical incision on her leg where the doctors had harvested a transplant artery to save her life.) The only reason she paid it any mind was because she was stuck in an obnoxious sling, which the FBI wanted her to wear at all times so that the damaged muscles of her right shoulder would heal properly. She protested this, at first, until she learned that she may never be able to fire a weapon again if she didn't. That quieted her protests pretty quickly. Sometimes, the only way she got through the night was having a gun in her hand. She wouldn't load it of course, but the sentiment would remain, she would feel safe with the cool synthetic plastic-metal in her palm. Her psychologist was having a field day with that one.
Her psychologist assigned to her by the FBI, Something Sweets, was a godsend no matter how obnoxious Jess sometimes perceived him to be. Normally, Jessica Angell would wait out a problem. She was never one to reach out for help. Ever. In a male-dominated profession, she had to thicken her skin and depend on her own self-reliance to get any shred of respect. While in the hospital, she'd experienced terrifyingly real nightmares that saw her heart rate spike and sweat soak her sheets. Jess hadn't thought anything of them. She had just been through a traumatic experience, and nightmares were expected, right? But only a few days after she got out of the hospital, the flu-like symptoms started. She thought she had just that- the flu. But when it didn't go away after a few days, she got worried.
She went to the (FBI-approved, of course) doctor first, who gave her the startling news. She was likely suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A disorder that would never completely go away, but could be managed through medication and intensive psychiatric therapy.
Jess saw only one way out- attend the sessions, fix herself, and get on with her life. Sweets seemed to like to talk about her past, which didn't settle well with her. She did not want to talk about the past where she was happy. It would only make her doubt herself and this mission that much more. Because if things stayed like this, the constant struggle against her own body, she knew she would seriously consider abandoning the mission.
Tears streaked out of her eyes noiselessly, almost as if she did not notice them at all. Her eyes squeezed shut. She did not like to be weak. She was strong, and she knew that. But here she was, the strong Jessica Angell, reduced to a shell of a woman by a measly case of PTSD. Her left hand balled into a fist, so hard her nails created little half-moon indents in the skin of her palm as she considered how weak she must look. And how strong she needed to be. She would not be defeated. She was self-reliant, could draw on seemingly non-existent reservoirs of strength inside of her, and push onward. With that sentiment, she brushed her tears away with a look of resolution in her eyes.
She knew she'd be right back here tomorrow night, but the strength she drew from would sustain her for tonight and tomorrow. She began to redress her injury. She was nothing if not resilient.
9 months later
Officially: Apartment of Sarah Vhann
Unofficially: Temporary residence of undercover operative, Special Agent Jessica Angell
24th Floor, Capitol Apartment Complex
Washington, D.C., United States
Her feet pounded the treadmill steadily, sweat slicking her skin and dampening the shorts and sport bra she wore.
So much was happening. Too much was happening. In the span of less than a year, her entire life was over. Jessica Angell was dead. Any government database would tell you as much. She'd looked up her own autopsy report. It was chilling to read about the events that had claimed her former life. According to the report, Jessica Angell had met her untimely end on the operating table of Dr. Carla Griblam and Dr. Jeffery Synova due to extreme blood loss and complications with internal injuries caused by a gunshot wound to the abdomen. According to every doctor she'd ever seen, she should not still be breathing, and thus, her death had seemed... reasonable. Rational. An expected turn of events after she was shot. But she hadn't. She had healed quickly, although she was now short one ovary (not that it mattered much, anymore. She'd only ever imagined kids with one man... and she couldn't see him ever again.) and she was scarred quite obviously and severely. Her doctors assured her the scarring would fade, but she'd always have a permanent reminder of what had claimed her former life.
Running was somewhat of a comfort- something that Jessica Angell did often when she was feeling stressed. Granted, she much preferred to run outside, but the sometimes-vicious bullet scar on her abdomen acted up mid-run, and caused her great pain. It was not a pleasant experience to have it flare up when she was a half-mile from her apartment with no wallet, cash or anything on her to get a cab or a bus. The last time it happened while she was out, it was only luck that a good Samaritan had stopped their car and helped her back to her apartment. She didn't know what would've happened if that person hadn't stopped.
Such a flare suddenly came on, causing the breath to flee her lungs, and her knees to buckle. She hit the emergency stop on the treadmill before crumpling to the rubber track, a hand coming up to cover the scar on her abdomen. She lay on her back, but almost every muscle in her body was tensed, writhing in the unexpected agony emanating from her stomach. The rough skin felt cool to the touch, but just below the surface felt as though a red-hot knife had been thrust into her body and had begun to twist. Her teeth gritted, her breath escaping in a pained hiss.
Despite the constant threat of a breakdown such as this, Jessica ran a lot. Some people were built for a life of indolence and inactivity, but she was not one of them. And she hadn't experienced these bouts of crippling pain every time she exercised. Sometimes, she would be eating, or lying in bed asleep and the pain would become everything her mind knew.
She forced herself up, her legs carrying her to her kitchen where she could find her painkillers. She made her way to the cabinet above the sink, and she flung it open, shoving aside several nearly-identical prescription bottles before she found what she was looking for. She gripped the orange bottle in her hand, willing the pain to dissipate on its own. Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the bottle and the counter top, teeth gritting in an effort to not scream. She did not like to use the painkillers; she still had an almost-full bottle. She preferred the topical cream that worked almost as well to quickly kill the pain, but she'd run out, and had yet to pick up her prescription. She damned her forgetfulness.
In truth, these spells did not happen very often any more. The FBI had really pushed her rehab and recovery, so she was glad that at least it didn't hurt every waking moment any more. She could sit up, move her shoulder, stand, walk without pain. She remembered times when Don would tell her about the pain of his scar from the bombing, and at the time, she thought she understood it. Now, however, she realized how naive she'd been about his injury. Of course, she'd been the supportive friend and partner, but she didn't truly understand the pain. The utter agony.
She waited a few more blazing minutes, but could not stand the pain any longer. She popped the painkillers and swallowed them dry. She felt the effects a few minutes later, and straightened herself up, and drinking a small glass of water before heading to the bathroom.
As she stripped out of her sweaty clothing and turned on and hopped in the shower, she was suddenly very grateful the FBI had pushed her rehab so much. She was far from a masochist, but the pain gave her a focus and clarity the likes she hadn't seen in a long time. And it also gave her something else to focus on besides Jessica's death. Besides the fact that she'd likely never see her family again. Besides the fact she'd probably never see her friends again. Besides the fact that she would never see Don again. Physical pain was cake next to the emotional throes she'd experienced early on.
She'd gradually learned to shove her emotions down, suppress Jessica Angell and all that she'd ever stood for. She learned to project and portray Sarah Vhann, a false persona who was a ruthless, well-known power-player in the criminal underworld who has dabbled in every criminal element possible- from human and drug trafficking to mercenary and assassin work. Sarah Vhann can strut with the best of the worst, the closest to human scum you could get.
Jess had learned very early on that she'd been specially selected for an assignment that had taken years to bring to fruition. Cleverly using CI's, among various other criminal connections, the FBI had been feeding false evidence and intel on this Sarah Vhann since early 2003. It was a precarious position, but it was one of the most arduous, well-planned undercover operations that the Bureau had ever undertaken. The FBI had to take very serious precautions in introducing the undercover Sarah Vhann. They quickly ruled out using any existing undercover operatives the FBI had. It was mostly unnecessary, but they did not want over five years of careful planning to come crashing down because the Black Hand knew the operative.
Enter Jessica Angell.
With her supposedly-fatal bullet wound, it was the perfect opportunity to create a completely untraceable, new identity.
As soon as she'd been well enough after her injury, she'd thrown herself into her undercover training, to forget her past that would not be a part of her future, to ignore the looming threat of her PTSD, to forget Jessica Angell for a little while. She'd become fluent in Russian, and complex and intricate language that she'd drilled herself in since day one of training. Hours upon hours of linguistics classes with the FBI saw her learning the language in just a half a year. An arduous task before her, one that was completely and utterly consuming in time and intellect and would completely occupy her brain for hours on end, the budding undercover operative would throw herself into her study of the language with an intense fervor.
Her study of the Russian language, along with her physical therapy, and her undercover training left her with little time or energy to think about the past and what could've been. She'd learned to master a number of other weapons, mostly guns and military grade weaponry she'd be dealing with whilst entrenched with the gang, but she'd really taken to knives. She found she had a strange talent for knife throwing, and she became do adept with any sort of blade or knife, many of the other undercover trainees began to call her 'Blade'. Throughout her months of training, she gained the knowledge a well-seasoned crime lord would have. It was uncomfortable knowing the kind of information that included what shipping containers would best hold trafficked human slaves or which government agencies were notorious for not thoroughly checking shipping containers for illegal substances.
She turned off the shower, having finished washing her hair. She wrung it out before reaching for her towel and wrapping it around herself.
After blow drying her hair, she hastily put it into a French braid that hung just below her shoulder blades. She quickly dressed, knowing that her undercover partner would be arriving soon. She pulled on a generic teal blouse, comfortable black pants, and her favorite combat boots that the FBI had allowed her to keep. It made her happy that she had at least one thing that tied her to her past life. It was a ridiculous notion that a pair of boots were keeping her tied to her former identity.
She finished tightly lacing them when she heard a knock on her door. He was here.
She opened the door to the massively tall sight of Special Agent Andrew 'Andy' Anderson, otherwise known as Sarah Vhann's older brother and bodyguard, Lucas Vhann. Jess loved teasing him about his name and ridiculously stoic nature. She could swear she'd never seen him crack a single smile; he had only one expression- blank and professional. He was close to seven feet tall and possessed black hair that was shaved so close to the scalp you could scarcely tell what color it was, and a pair of bright, almost sea foam green eyes.
"Well, hey there, Sunshine."
As usual, he didn't crack a grin. She wasn't expecting it. Her teasing was more for her benefit than his. "Good morning, Sarah." Always they called each other by their undercover names. Just in case. She rarely called him 'Luke' as she often made up nicknames on the spot. 'Sunshine' and 'Eyore' were particular favorites of hers.
Initially, Jess had protested having to have an undercover partner. Her outrage was understandable since she had believed the FBI didn't think her capable of completing the mission by herself. But, after calming down and thinking rationally she realized it would be a smart move having another person helping to gather evidence, and to keep her sane. The FBI had also informed her that the mission had been originally plotted to accommodate two agents. "Ever the joker," she said with dry sarcasm. She began to holster the gun she always wore on her hip. "We've got a meeting with the informant in a half-hour."
Andy nodded wordlessly. The informant was another FBI deep-cover agent who'd obtained the necessary information we would need to contact the gang's leader, namely Dmitri Kaskov, and where they would be able to find him. The information was highly classified, and extremely important. 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step' never rang truer than now. This first step would fully launch their campaign against the criminal organization, and after meeting with the informant, they would no longer be able to contact the FBI unless it was a dire emergency.
"Let's roll," Jess, or rather Sarah Vhann, said, as chipper as the situation would allow, as she and her partner hurtled towards the dark unknown.