Disclaimer: Uber Star Trek Voyager, JAG and X-files. No infringement intended since this is an original story. Among other things it is about same gender love between consenting adult women and if that is illegal where you are or offensive to you in any way - please hit your back button! 
Rating: Chapters vary between G - NC-17
Revised May 2, 2001

Pol - we had fun editing, didn't we? Thank you for your enormous patience and all the laughter.

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 9


Finding Shelter From The Storm

© GB

 

Part 10.

 

It was early evening.

Rain had begun to fall.

Wet, glistening asphalt reflected the street lamps and the headlights of the approaching cars.

Dawn sat at the narrow desk in the back of the van.

Wearily she rubbed her eyes, knowing they were red from being overstrained. She and Joan had spent several hours surveying the tall building.

In all that time Monroe had appeared only once but gone back in. All they could do was wait patiently and prepare in the event that Monroe made his move against Farlow.

As part of their mission preparation Joan prepared two backpacks.  

Both packs would provide each agent with enough firepower to take on a small contingent. Going through the arsenal in the van, Joan carefully selected two handguns and one Mini Mag for each of them. The Mini Mag was a better-developed version of the Israeli UZI, a small weapon that handled well and could deliver up to two hundred rounds in a matter of seconds.  The handguns, a semi-automatic Colt Python, chosen for it’s overwhelming firepower and a Remington .22; a weapon for close combat, completed their equipment together with two combat knives.

Dawn approved the choice of weapons. She even accepted the knife although she personally found knives repulsive and barbaric.

There were large amounts of ammunition stored in the van’s drawers. The brunette packed several rounds of it into their backpacks, including some titanium slugs.

She made a face at Dawn as she regarded the bullets that would penetrate most things.

“Let’s hope we don’t have to use them,” Joan said grimly.

“Yes,” Dawn replied, glancing at her partner as Joan moved further back into the van, looking for something. “You know what’s at stake here apart from Farlow’s life.  There is no way we can allow her research to fall into the wrong hands. It would alter everything.”

Joan nodded. “I know.”

She took out two bulletproof vests from a cabinet and put them next to the backpacks on the bunk bed.

Hubert had taken up residence on the bed too, looking like he was guarding and approving of Joan’s efforts. He sniffed the bag packs and then tilted his head, regarding them both with a decidedly amicable look in his brown eyes.

“There,” the brunette said and patted the dog. “All we need now is something to eat and our man.”

Dawn flashed a lopsided grin.

“Anything left in that fridge?” she asked.

Joan opened the small refrigerator.

“We’re in luck. Three Twinkies and a sandwich … oh, and diet coke!”

“Lucky you,” the doctor smirked. “Hand me a Twinkie.  I could use a sugar fix at the moment. You, no doubt are starving so take the sandwich.

Joan gave her partner a Twinkie.

Dawn ate it while watching the monitors. In the corner of her eye she saw the other woman open a Twinkie for Hubert as well and she quickly hid a smile.

Then she sat up straight.

“Start the engine, Joan,” she said, with new energy in her voice.

Dawn pushed some buttons and one screen went blank. A green tinted picture of the building they were watching, taken by an infrared camera, replaced it.

“There’s our man and it looks like he’s in a hurry,” Dawn called to Joan who had taken the driver’s seat.

Dawn followed Monroe’s movements closely.

The man left the building, walking briskly across the street to a dark blue sedan.

He tossed his briefcase in the back seat as he got in behind the wheel. Driving away he didn’t seem to notice the van pulling from the curb to trail him.

Joan kept her eyes locked on Monroe’s car. They could not afford to lose him in the heavy rush hour traffic.

He kept a modest pace. It wasn’t hard for Joan to follow him, staying two or three cars behind.

“I’m calling Jones,” said Dawn, reaching for the car phone on the dashboard.

She dialled her former boss.  

“Jones.”

“We’re on the move. Any progress on your part?” Dawn asked.

“Yes, we found what we came for. We’re in my car.  Are you headed in the direction we thought?”

“Affirmative. Will you be rendezvousing with us?”

“Yes. Jones out.”

Dawn hung up, knowing that if Jones’ phone was being monitored, the people chasing Farlow might be on to them.

“He driving towards Alexandria,” Joan said.

“This is it,” Dawn agreed. “Let’s hope he isn’t foolish enough to corner Farlow.

Joan nodded.

 “What did Jones’ have to say?”

“They found something at city hall. They’re driving towards Alexandria. When we figure out where this is going down, we’ll call them again. They should be able to get there in time, maybe even ahead of us, in this traffic.”

They both noticed Monroe shifting lanes, indicating a right turn.

“Here we go,” Joan said almost merrily but with a steely expression in her eyes.

Keeping a safe distance, she followed him on to the expressway.  The traffic was dense but moving at a steady pace.

“He’s in a hurry all right,” Dawn noted, her eyes narrowing.

Joan grinned joylessly. “I can’t help but think he has underestimated Farlow,” she said. “I’ve never liked the guy. He’s always so damn smug … so patronising.”

“Let’s face facts, even the two of us underestimated Farlow on more then one occasion,” Dawn stated grimly. “She’s brilliant, decisive and lethal. Even before all this went down she ran that research clinic, that entire institution, for over ten years with absolute power. Her word was law but something happened to change all that.”

Her partner shook her head.

“Someone must have tried to force Farlow to do something she didn’t want to do. Whether it was someone within or outside the government is hard to tell.   When she tried to walk away … they called in the heavy artillery,” Joan said.

“Yes. That’s what bothers me. These people are obviously well connected.   They’re well funded, well equipped and willing to do what ever it takes to accomplish their mission.

What really frightens me is the fact that they’ve managed to infiltrate the Bureau.  How else can you explain the fact that we were manipulated into chasing an innocent woman all these years?   I know all the evidence pointed at Farlow but in the light of what we know now … I wish we could have done things differently.”

Joan extended a hand, cupping the back of Dawn’s head.

“Don’t,” she said softly. “This isn’t the time to be second guessing our actions. We have to stay focused on this mission if we are going to save Farlow and stay alive ourselves. We can’t be uncertain how to do this when Jones and Sunny join us. We need to stay focussed.”  

Dawn squared her shoulders.

“You’re right.” She reached behind her and pulled Joan’s hand forward to her lips, kissing her partner’s palm. “Of course you’re right.”

The brunette smiled, still keeping her eyes on Monroe’s car, looking almost predatory in the flickering light.

“I know,” she said.

*****

Valerie Jones’ car was cold and Sunny shivered in the passenger’s seat.

The older woman glanced over at her as she drove down the busy street.

“We’ll soon have the heat on.”

“It’s okay,” Sunny muttered, clasping her hands tightly together in her lap.

Jones shifted lanes and took a right turn, overtaking several cars as she did so, causing them to honk their horns at her.

“That saved us going around three blocks,” Jones said, sounding pleased.

Sunny regarded the tall woman next to her.

She handled the car skilfully and even seemed to take pleasure in driving in and out of the lanes, forcing some of the other drivers to slow down in order not to bump into the red car.

They were driving along a busy intersection when the call from Dawn came. Jones talked briefly with her and hung up with a smug smile on her lips.

“We’re driving towards the Potomac,” she said. “Have you ever been to DC before?”

“No,” Sunny admitted.

“There is a large area along the river, called Alexandria. We were lucky to stumble over that old guy at the archive. The woman he described has got to be Farlow. It was a pity he couldn’t find the maps he showed her, nor the blueprints. I suppose she hid them. But he knew which mill she examined and where it was.”

“Yes, he was very helpful,” Sunny agreed.

Having talked to that old man, realising that he had seen Laura only yesterday, had made her stomach lurch. She missed her so much.

They had decided to take a cab back to the parking lot near the Monument and get Jones’ car.  

After driving for a little more than an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the congestion began to lighten as they drove along the Potomac. The further they drove along the water the more the buildings looked worn out and abandoned.

They had missed the crossroad they were looking for and had to circle back to find it.

Sunny kept her eyes on the signs and when she saw the old abandoned cotton mill she inhaled sharply.

“Is this it?” she gasped. “This looks like the building in that old picture at the archive!”

“Yes,” Jones agreed and drove passed the building.  

“But …”  

“No, we’re not driving up and parking outside it. We’re going to park a bit down from here and wait for Monroe to appear. Morrison and Tremayne will be right behind him.”

Sunny’s heart was pounding so hard she could hardly breathe.

“But Laura could be in there …” she managed.

“I know. But we won’t do her any good by charging in without any means of helping her. Trust me, Sunny. This is how it has to be,” Jones emphasised.

The blonde regarded her, wanting to object and make her turn the car around. All she could think of about was Laura.

An ice-cold feeling of perhaps being too late flooded her. Her eyes narrowed in a way that Laura would have recognised. Setting her jaw and pressing her lips together she pushed herself further back into the seat.

“I see,” she said emotionlessly.

Jones glanced at her as she made a turn and parked half way behind a wooden shack. From there they would be able to spot any cars arriving from the city.

“You do understand, don’t you?” Jones asked Sunny. “There’s nothing we can do until we get back up.”

She reached for her cell phone, dialling the number to the van.

Sunny didn’t take her eyes off the older woman. She raised an eyebrow questioningly when the seconds passed and there was no reply.

Jones hung up.

“Something’s wrong,” she said grimly. “They’re not picking up.”

The blonde regarded her coldly.

Then her eyes focused behind Jones.  

“There is more bad news,” she said motioning towards the road.

A dark sedan was pulling up into the parking lot of the abandoned cotton mill. There was no sign of the van.

*****

Laura moved her stiff, aching shoulders.

The old cotton mill had become increasingly cold as darkness had fallen. She had been sitting in the same position for over an hour now.

She wanted to cover all angles.

The spot she had chosen was optimal for her purpose. She had a clear view of all the entrances and adequate cover and concealment behind some heavy machinery.

She had been furious with herself for almost nodding off an hour ago. She had pinched herself hard to stay awake.

She was so tired. Not having slept well for the last couple of nights and then making all the preparations. She was beginning to worry about making mistakes out of sheer fatigue.

Suddenly Sunny’s face appeared in her thoughts.

Laura gasped soundlessly, not prepared for such a strong image. It was overwhelming and it left her feeling very vulnerable. She wanted to close her eyes and just engulf herself with memories of how it felt to hold that tall, curvaceous body to her own.

Sunny’s touch was unlike anything she had ever felt.

Her hands were soft and strong at the same time. There was a certain shyness about the younger woman that stirred both tenderness and arousal in Laura.

She knew that Sunny was inexperienced when it came to love. For some unfathomable reason that she might never find out now, the beautiful woman was a virgin. Thinking about it she realised that Sunny had changed the subject quickly when it came up.

She needed to approach Sunny regarding this. If the younger woman would allow her to get close again and Laura managed to survive the next few hours.

Laura smirked unhappily.

She didn’t know what broke her out of her reverie.

One minute she was thinking about the only happiness she had experienced in a long time and the next, she was holding her breath, listening intently.

There was a soft, almost inaudible scraping noise.

Laura moved carefully a little to the right, peaking along the closest machine.

She couldn’t make out anything. The large hall was dark. The street lamps cast an eerie light through the dirty windows and the rain running down them painted a moving pattern on the floor.

She heard the noise again, this time more clearly. It was coming from her right.

She knew it had to be Monroe.

She also knew he wasn’t alone.

*****

They had been following Monroe at what seemed to be a safe enough distance.  

Driving along the Potomac and entering the Alexandria industrial area they had reached an intersection that turned out to be fatal.

Joan kept her eyes on the dark sedan. She was afraid to lose sight of it; there were a number of roads leading from the one they were on. The darkness and the rain only made matters worse.

The sedan drove across the road and then everything happened quickly.

Two cars from opposite directions drove into the intersection just as the van was crossing it.

One cut them off, making Joan gasp and throw the van to the right. The other car collided with the passenger door, making a large dent in it.

The two women bounced painfully against their seat belts.

A loud thud and a howl indicated that Hubert landed on the floor in the back of the van.

Two men jumped out of the first car and aimed guns at the windshield.

“Get down!” Joan shouted, tugging at her seatbelt with one hand and pressing down the central lock button with the other.

She glanced to her right and saw that Dawn was sitting slumped in her seat, not moving.

“Dawn!” she yelled.

She flung herself to the right, pulling Dawn towards her. Opening the clasp on Dawn’s seat belt, she freed her partner dropping her quickly to the floor of the van.

Suddenly Hubert was next to her.  

The dog closed his powerful jaws around the shoulder pad of Dawn’s jacket and pulled her to the back of the van. Joan threw herself after them.

The phone rang but there was not time to answer it.

Reaching for the gun in her belt Joan took the safety off and cocked it.

Looking carefully to the front of the van, she could see the men outside moving in.

Suddenly several shots were fired.

Joan ducked but the bullets ricocheted off the glass, leaving only a scratch marks.

Grateful for the state of the art van, Joan decided to ignore the goons for now.

She leaned over Dawn, feeling her pulse. Relieved to find it strong and steady, she moved her partner over on her side.

The agent then reached for one of the backpacks with a grim look on her face.

Pulling out the ammunition, she dropped the clip from the Colt and slammed the clip containing titanium bullets into it.  

She grabbed one of the bulletproof vests and laid it over Dawn. Then she reached for the second vest.  Pulling it on, she stealthily moved up to the front of the van.

Peaking over the dashboard she saw the men, two of them aiming their weapons at the van, the other two arguing. They were about seven feet away.  

Hastily she crawled to the back of the van, climbing on top of the bunk bed and she slid open the hatch in the ceiling.

With a feral grin she rose.  She was just slim enough to slip through the opening.

Aiming carefully she pulled the trigger.

Taking out the armed men nearest the van she quickly turned towards her other two assailants and fired as the raised their guns towards her. 

Shooting both men in the chest, she climbed back inside. Not missing a beat, she was back in the driver’s seat.

Turning the ignition she was relieved to hear the engine roar to life.

Joan backed the van clear of the two cars, and then speeded away; veering around the four bodies she left behind. She didn’t know if any of them were still alive and she didn’t give a shit. There would be time for that later.  Looking in her rear view mirror she could see traffic coming to a stop and a crowd forming in the intersection.  Somewhere in the distance she heard a police siren.

Cursing, she kept driving along the road that Monroe had taken, hoping to spot the car.

Grabbing the car phone she punched in the numbers.

Several signals went through before an out of breath Jones answered.

“Tremayne here,” Joan said harshly.

“Where the hell are you?” Jones barked, sounding as if she was running.

“Driving along the river. I just passed a factory with three large chimneys.”

There was a brief silence.

“Drive on for about half a mile and then turn left after a closed lunch restaurant. Keep driving until you see my car. It is a red BMW.”

“What’s going on?” Joan asked, daring to glance back at Dawn’s motionless body, guarded by Hubert.

“We’ve got trouble, but I guess you know that.”

“Do I ever,” Joan mumbled. “I’m turning now.”

“You’ll be here soon.” There was a click as the connection was broken.

Joan hung up.

She turned to the left and after passing a large, abandoned building she spotted Jones’ car and pulled over.

The agent got out of the car, still holding her cocked gun in her hand.

Valerie Jones emerged from behind the shed. She looked tousled like she had been running. Raising an eyebrow she regarded the battered van.

“Ran into trouble?” she asked shortly.

“Affirmative, four of them as a matter of fact,” Joan stated solemnly. “Dawn was hurt when they crashed into us. I have to check on her.”

Both women entered the van. Dawn was just beginning to sit up.

“Are you okay?” Joan asked and sank down next to her partner.

“Yeah … I think so,” the doctor answered, rubbing her temple. “I think I banged the other side of my head this time.”

Without bothering to cover up her feelings, Joan hugged the woman she loved for a brief second. She was pleasantly surprised when her partner didn’t withdraw right away, rather leaning into her for support for a few precious seconds.

Then Dawn freed herself and looked up at Jones.

“Where is Sunny?” she asked.

“That’s my bad news,” the older woman replied gravely. “I left the car to get a clear view of who was approaching us. When I had confirmed that it was Monroe and that there were two other cars coming from the other direction to join him, I returned. She was gone.”

Joan swore.

“Damn, what does she think she’s doing?” she groaned.

“She’s joining Farlow,” Jones said, clenching her teeth. “I should have realised that she wasn’t going to take orders from me. From you, perhaps, but not from me.”

Dawn got up, swaying a little at first, but then squaring her shoulders with a determined look on her face.

“So, we now have one mad scientist trying to take out the bad guys alone and one love struck motel owner who is trying to save said scientist. Great!”

She frowned.

“We need to get in there.”

Jones nodded.

“I’ve called for back up,” she said. “When Sunny left, she forced my hand. I had to make the call. They’ll be here shortly but that may still be too late.”

Joan took one of the backpack, removed her jacket and strapped it on. Dawn pulled one of the bulletproof vests on and then reached for the second backpack.

“Dawn, are you sure you’re up to this?”

”There’s no other choice. We can’t wait for backup. We have to move in now. I’ll be fine Joan, honest.”

She looked at Dawn for a moment before nodding.

Jones regarded them and pulled out her gun.

“We need to go in the back way,” she said. “The cars are parked close to the old offices. We should go in from the other end.”

Dawn nodded.

Joan opened the back door of the van. The three women stepped out into the rain. Hubert jumped out after them before any of them had the chance to stop him. Strangely enough he stayed at Dawn’s side, as if he was still guarding her.

Cautiously they circled the old cotton mill, listening for voices or anything that would betray the whereabouts of either the missing women or the Monroe and his associates. Only silence met them.

They reached the back of the mill. It was devoid of vehicles or people. A large door was located twenty yards from the corner and Joan picked the padlock holding a rusty chain with ease.

The door opened without too much noise and they all slipped inside.

They halted, waiting for their eyes to get used to the darkness. Then the three women moved slowly along the wall, staying hidden by the remnants of old machinery.

Dawn turned her head and made a sign to slow down.

She looked at Joan and signalled that she and Jones should stay put.

Joan tried to shake her head, to let the redhead know that it wasn’t safe to go on alone but Dawn was already moving.

Then Joan saw her partner stop in her tracks at the sound of the characteristically husky voice of Grace Farlow.

“That’s far enough, Monroe.”

*****

Laura held her position along the wall.

Scanning the hall with eyes that were used to the dark, she could easily make out the shape of a tall man in a dark overcoat. Monroe.

He was walking casually, with the confidence of a man thinking success was just around the corner.

Monroe was getting close to where she wanted him to stand and she knew she had to reveal her presence.

“That’s far enough, Monroe,” she said, satisfied that her voice was strong and carried over the large hall. The resounding echo would make it hard for him to locate her.

Monroe stopped walking and turned his head.

“We meet again,” he said. “I hope you’ll honour our deal. You promised to take me to Farlow.”

Laura smirked. Monroe sounded smug.

“I have every intention of following through,” she said, rising from the floor. Careful not to make a sound she circled the large machine in front of her. She was still out of sight as he was standing half turned away from her. “You’ll see Farlow when I’m certain that you have honoured your part of the deal.”

Monroe shrugged.  

“I’m here, aren’t I? I came alone.”

“That’s bull,” Laura stated calmly. “You’ve posted agents around us. You’d be a fool not to.”

Monroe stiffened, his hands clenching.  “My mistake, I should’ve told you,” he tried to amend. “Just a precaution, you understand.”

“I understand perfectly.”

“Where is Farlow?”

“Not so fast. I need reassurances. What have you done to ensure her safety?”

The tall man pivoted slowly, apparently trying to trace her voice.

“I’ve discussed this with nobody except my closest men. They are loyal and can be trusted.”

The scientist almost laughed out loud at the blatant lie.

“Really. So, where are they now, these trusty fellows of yours?” the scientist drawled.

“As you pointed out, they’re guarding the doors.”

Laura knew he was lying. She was sure the men were already inside the building, perhaps even in the hall.

“Good,” she bluffed. “I want Farlow to feel that it’s safe. She will enter on my signal.”

“She’s here?” Monroe asked incredulously, losing some of the indifference of his tone of voice.

“Close by. Remember, my signal could just as easily tell her to vanish. She’s good at that you know.”

Monroe nodded.

“Yes, she is. There’s no need for her to run any longer. New evidence has been brought forward. She’s no longer a suspect in the bombing,” he said, sounding eager.

Laura felt herself go pale.

There it was. Out in the open, the barefaced proof she needed. He had allowed his greed, his desire to get his hands on her to speak too quickly. He really must be desperate.

“She’ll be pleased to know that, agent Monroe,” Laura said, her voice huskier than normal.

“Can you signal her?” the man asked, not bothering to show his impatience anymore.

“I could. But I’m not totally convinced that she won’t run when she sees your men. I think you need to call them, to let her know that it is all above board here. After all, she’s been on the run for a long time; surely you can understand her trepidation.”

Monroe hesitated.

“But the protection …”

“Call them, Agent Monroe,” Laura demanded softly.

The man raised his left wrist to his mouth, issuing orders in a low voice.

Doors squeaked and three men entered from three different directions. Nobody passed Laura and she knew there had to be at least one more man lurking about somewhere. These guys always travelled in pairs.

“Number four too, please,” she said in a low voice before retreating behind the machine and moving towards the other corner.

Monroe sighed and talked into his wrist again.

A fourth man entered just behind where she had been standing and Laura rolled her eyes in relief that circumstances had protected her from being discovered.

The five men now stood in a wide circle. Laura felt herself go cold.

“So, gentlemen, are we all assembled?” she asked, her voice a low growl.

“We’re all here,” Monroe stated, looking around him.

Laura grinned joylessly.

“So I see,” she murmured.

She inhaled deeply and then moved out behind them. Her sneakers made her footsteps soundless.

“You better drop those guns, boys,” she suggested amicably.

*****

Dawn looked back at Joan and Valerie Jones.

All of them had frozen in their tracks when they first heard Farlow’s voice.

‘Farlow?’ Jones mouthed, raising an eyebrow at Dawn who nodded.

The older woman shook her head and moved past Joan to join the doctor.

“What on earth is she up to?” Jones mumbled.

“She sounds confident,” Dawn whispered back.

Jones pressed her lips together. “I know, that’s what worries me,” she said grimly.

Joan joined them.  

Dawn looked at the large dog behind the brunette, making sure that Hubert would not be able to get by her. The dog regarded her calmly before sitting down and looking like he knew exactly what was at stake.

They listened in on the conversation between Farlow and Monroe.

“She’s got him right where she wants him,” Dawn said quietly. “She’s confusing him by talking very loud. I can’t pinpoint where she’s standing. Neither can he, since he’s standing in the middle of that large hall with the sound echoing from all directions.”

The doctor squinted into the hall. The darkness was not as imprenetable as it had seemed when they first walked in. She could make out Monroe’s silhouette and also something dark in the shadows further down the hall.

“He’s definitely not alone,” she whispered to Jones.

“Will she realise that?” Joan asked worriedly.

“She’d better,” Jones mumbled, shifting the gun in her hand.

Dawn was relieved to hear Farlow demand the presence of the other ‘agents’. The doctor doubted that any of the men joining Monroe in the hall were from the Bureau.

“Number four too, please,” they heard Farlow order.

This gave them enough time to press against the wall as a fourth man walked dangerously close by them.

Hubert didn’t growl but a silent hiss emerged from his throat, making Joan put a stifling hand over his nose. The dog quieted immediately. Dawn gave a small sigh of relief.

Joan had moved in front of them and was now scanning the upper ledges. Dawn realised that she was looking for more shadows, for any sign of unwanted surprises that Monroe might have cooked up for Farlow.

A shimmer in the dark caught her eyes and she grabbed Joan’s arm, pointing to a ledge about thirty yards down the hall.

Joan’s eye narrowed as she tried to focus.

Then she saw it.

Standing steadily with her feet well apart, aiming a gun down at the men in the machine hall, was Sunny.

As she was dressed in dark clothes, she wasn’t easy to spot, but her blonde hair glimmered and so did the metal in the gun she was holding in a professional manner.

“Oh, god,” Dawn mumbled. “The cop’s daughter. Damn.”

“I’ll go,” Joan said. As Dawn nodded approvingly, she began moving soundlessly down the narrow corridor along the large hall, holding her gun with both hands against her shoulder.

Dawn regarded Sunny, momentarily grateful that the blonde had the sense to stand still and not make a sound. She could only hope that the men didn’t think to look up, or that Sunny would do anything hasty in trying to protect Farlow.

Jones had now spotted the young woman too and was making a face at Dawn.

“Guess we found her,” she said solemnly.

“Yes,” Dawn replied.

She motioned to the older woman to follow her and the two women moved closer to where Dawn thought Farlow’s voice originated from.

The next thing they heard made them stop.

“You better drop those guns, boys.”

Farlow was setting her plan in motion.

*****

Joan moved soundlessly along the narrow corridor that stretched along the large machine hall.

She knew there had to be a staircase somewhere, leading to the ledge where Sunny was standing. Moving around a corner, the brunette was facing three doors.

She couldn’t open the first door. She pulled hard at the doorknob but it wouldn’t budge. The second door led to a small room, probably a former office of some kind. There was an old wooden desk and a knocked over bookshelf.

Joan raised her gun to her shoulder and opened the third door.

There was a metal staircase leading up in a narrow circle.

She tried walking up a couple of steps. The metal whispered under her feet, but she was relieved that it was almost inaudible.

Holding on hard to the railing Joan walked in the darkness, hoping that she would reach the top and Sunny, before the blonde did something to aggravate the situation.

Joan remembered telling Dawn that Sunny was a loose cannon but she never imagined the young woman take such an initiative. Sunny was standing perfectly still on that ledge, resembling a nemesis on a mission.

She reached the top of the stairs and now she could hear Farlow and Monroe’s voices again.

There was a doorway to her left. It had a broken door, hanging loose on its hinges. She moved through it, carefully not to scare Sunny.

The blonde was standing in the exact same position about twenty-five yards from Joan.

Cautiously holding her gun to her shoulder with one hand and the other one slightly extended in front of her, Joan started walking along the ledge. It was also of metal, with thick, dirty ropes as railings.

When she was ten yards from Sunny, the young woman spotted her in the corner of her eye. She twirled soundlessly, aiming her gun at Joan.

Joan quickly put a finger to her lips and motioned Sunny to stand still and to not say anything.

Sunny’s eyes widened, probably from relief and then she turned her attention back on the small crowd beneath them.

The agent moved closer and stood just behind the blonde.

“We need to get out of here,” she whispered.

Sunny shook her head.

“Listen to me,” Joan mumbled. “Jones and Dawn are down there, trying to figure out a way to get Laura out. We don’t need to worry about you getting trigger happy up here.”

Sunny pressed her lips together. Looking over her shoulder, her expression made Joan shudder. There was a definite lack of emotions if you didn’t count the cold burning fire in her eyes.

“Sunny, please,” she tried. “Laura wouldn’t want you to risk yourself like this. If they start shooting down there, who knows where all the stray bullets and ricochets are going to end up.”

The blonde only shook her head again, resumed her position with her gun steadily raised.  

Joan followed her aim. Of course, the other woman was aiming directly at Monroe.

“Okay,” Joan hissed. “If I can’t convince you to come with me, you’re going to have to put up with me up here instead.”

She knew she couldn’t get Sunny to budge and there were no way she could let the young woman remain here alone. She moved to Sunny’s left and assessed the situation below.

Farlow was standing with her back turned towards her and Sunny, about twenty yards away. Monroe and his goons were standing in a wide circle, facing Laura.

Farlow pulled her hand out of her pocket and held up something Joan couldn’t identify.

“I told you,” Laura continued, her voice velvet over steel, “drop the guns.”

“We’re on the same side in this, remember,” Monroe tried.

“Oh, I know, but Farlow is very suspicious,” the auburn haired woman stated firmly. “If she comes in here and sees that you have not complied … she’ll run.”

“But you can tell her …”

“The guns,” Farlow interrupted callously. “No debate.”  

Joan could see Monroe tensing and knew that her boss was being cornered in a way that might turn very ugly. Facing this woman without being able to hide behind his gun was not his forte.  

Slowly, all of the men reached inside their coats and jackets and removed some form of weapon. Tossing them on the floor, they looked to Monroe for guidance.

Joan smirked. She wondered what was going through her boss’ mind.

“Good,” Farlow said, taking a step towards them. “It’s reassuring that you can provide such a sign of good faith, Monroe. Now kick them over to me.”

The agent hoped that Monroe didn’t detect the not so subtle hint of sarcasm in Farlow’s voice.

“Now maybe I can let her enter,” Farlow continued as he and the men kicked the weapons towards the woman facing them.

Joan heard Sunny inhale sharply and nudged the young woman warningly.

“Yes,” Monroe said, raising his hands. “I think it’s time.”

Farlow chuckled. Nudging the discarded weapons aside she shook her head.

Joan shivered at the callous sound. She knew that the moment of truth was here. There was no way to stall it.

“It certainly is,” the woman below her and Sunny replied. “For once you are absolutely correct, Monroe.”

Farlow took a step towards the men again and held up her left hand.

The agent could see the scientist holding a small object but she couldn’t make out what it was.

“See this?” Farlow said, her voice a low, dangerous growl. “You don’t want me to push this button, but I will if you don’t talk.”

“What are you talking about?” the tall man in front of her said, raising his voice. “You’re supposed to call Farlow. We have a deal.”

“Oh, you stupid man … you really have no clue, do you? I am Grace Farlow.”

Monroe froze in his place, staring at her.

“You’re bluffing,” he said.

“Try me,” Farlow said, her voice sinking into a hiss. “Why don’t you try to get closer and take a good look? Not too close, though, or I might have to press this button prematurely.”

Joan was now fully aware of what the device in Laura’s hand was.

“Damn it, Farlow,” she mumbled, glancing over at Sunny. “Okay, that does it. We need to get out of here right away. Come on.”

Sunny regarded her stubbornly.

“No. You can leave if you want to, I’m staying.”

“For heaven’s sake, Sunny! Laura has a detonator in her hand and is threatening to blow this place to smithereens. We need to get out. Now!”

Sunny looked down at the small woman facing the five men.

“A detonator?” she mumbled, looking visibly shaken. “But that means …”

“Yeah, I know what it means. Come on.”

Joan tugged at Sunny’s arm, trying to get the tall blonde to move.

Sunny resisted at first but then began to quietly walk behind the agent.

“If she detonates, she …” she whispered.

“She means to take them all out. That could include her,” Joan whispered back over her shoulder. “Now move!”

*****

Laura held up the detonator and watched Monroe’s face distort from rage.

“So, you’re Farlow,” he said coldly. “Do you mind telling me why we had to go through this song and dance?”

“That’s a stupid question even from you,” Laura replied calmly. “I had to make sure you came in person. I had to make sure you would bring your trusted fellows here. Since they are probably as corrupt as you.”

The tall man lowered his hands, clenching his fist.

“What are you talking about?” he growled.

“Oh, come on. No need to pretend anymore,” the scientist drawled.

She knew she was taunting him but it was necessary. Only if he lost his temper, if she could bait him enough, would he start talking.

“You may have fooled most people at the Bureau. I, however, have my own sources and they all say the same thing. You’ve been playing both fields for a long time, Monroe,” she continued, deliberately making her voice sound mockingly cheerful.

 “You’re obviously doing some powerful person’s dirty work for them.

For instance, you’ve been the commanding officer of the agents hunting me down since the beginning. Isn’t it amazing that even when they got within spitting distance of me … they never caught me?”

She laughed.

“I became good at hiding,” Laura said thoughtfully, not taking her eyes off the men. “But you know, I wasn’t that good to begin with and yet they were never even close. Then there was that disaster at the warehouse. Now tell me, Monroe … how is it that your agents could be there so promptly and still miss me? Your rookies ended up dead but that wasn’t your intention, was it? Wasn’t it all just an elaborate plan to get rid of those very skilled agents that were so hot on my trail?”

This comment made Monroe take a step towards Laura.

She held up the detonator, her thumb on the red button.

“Stop right there,” she snarled. “One more step and we’re all dust.”

“You have no proof,” the man said angrily, but stopping where he was. “You have nothing.”

Laura cocked her head.

“Now isn’t that interesting?” she grinned. “You say I have no proof. I would have thought that an innocent man’s first words would be that I was wrong?”

In the corner of her eye she saw one of Monroe’s goons move towards her.

“Don’t be stupid, you there on the left,” she said, not taking her eyes off their boss who was standing less than ten yards from her. “Get back to where you were.”

The man hesitated and then took a step back.

Laura smirked.

“Good thinking.”

Monroe was furious.

“You’d think that a smart man like yourself would’ve anticipated something like this? Or recognised me? I can’t imagine how many times you must have stared at my picture. Have I really changed all that much?” she said, grinning brightly at him.

“Bitch,” the agent suddenly spat. “You fucking bitch!

He really was very predictable.

“You seem to have lost your cool,” she now provoked him. “Are your men here aware of how capricious you can be? Or are they still under the impression that you are in charge?”

Monroe glanced involuntarily at the younger man to his right.

The scientist smiled maliciously.  

“Uncomfortable, isn’t it? To feel these unspoken doubts from people who are supposed to trust you.”

This was the last straw for the tall man in front of her. Monroe took two quick steps forward and found himself staring down the barrel of Laura’s gun. She shoved the detonator in his face, her thumb hovering above the button.

“Back off!” she shouted. “Back off or the last thing you ever see will be me pressing this button!”

*****

Dawn flinched.

“She’s rigged some explosives,” she mumbled to Jones.

The older woman sighed and leaned in closer, trying to assess the situation.

“Has she made them kick their guns away?” she asked quietly.

“Yes.”

“At least that’s something. We need to make our move soon, before this gets out of control.”

Dawn agreed. She wondered if Joan had reached Sunny. She was afraid to lean any further forward to check. She certainly hoped that Joan had overheard the dialogue between Monroe and Farlow.

“If you have any suggestions, I would be happy to act on them,” she whispered over her shoulder.

“Back up should be here any moment,” Jones said, “but we’re out of time.”

“I agree. We need to get in position to back Farlow up. I’m convinced that these guys have more up their sleeve and she knows it. She hasn’t taken her eyes off them for one second and she is willing to push that detonator no matter what Monroe thinks.”

The two women moved along the corridor, to a second opening.

Dawn leaned into the hall carefully, staying hidden behind a large machine. Looking up at the ledge she saw Joan pulling Sunny along. So her partner knew how deadly the situation had become. Good.

Reaching into her backpack she pulled out the Mini Mag.

“Move,” she mouthed to Jones who nodded grimly.

Both women retraced their steps into the corridor, moving back to where they stood earlier.

Dawn knew she must find a way to cross the large hall.

Jones would take up position at one of the doorways. They couldn’t wait for Joan.

***** 

Monroe stumbled backwards.

Laura tried not to give in to her rage. She was furious at him of course but she had to stay in control if she was going to get this fool to talk.

“Tell me, Monroe,” she hissed. “Why you have sunken so low as to sell out to some illegal organisation. It has to be a well-organised crowd behind this pursuit. It has cost them a fortune.”

He glared at her and pressed his lips together.  

“Who says I sold out? You’re a woman accused of killing all those people, including her sister and her brother-in-law?  Who’s going to believe you?” he growled.

“You forget a couple of things very conveniently,” the auburn haired woman said smoothly. “One; you have falsified documents at the Bureau for years. Two; you have endangered the lives of agents under your command. Three; you are responsible for the death of two rookies. Shall I go on?”

“All circumstantial, you have no proof.  You obviously are a dangerous woman and your research is just as deadly. If I had to stoop to unconventional mean to ensure your capture so be it. Who would find fault in that?  As for Morrison and Tremayne, I’ve done nothing to endanger them. Neither one of those two have any clue that this is going down.”

Laura felt herself go cold.

“Really?” she said in a low, menacing voice. “You’re very confident. What about Sunny Stewart? She certainly was endangered.”

Monroe gave a crooked smile.

“Oh yes,” he drawled, “your favourite blonde. Now tell me, Farlow … how did you land such a babe?”

Laura held her breath, knowing that she had him right where she wanted him. There was no way he could have known about Sunny unless he had monitored her the last week. Either he had received information from the men that chased Sunny outside the motel, or the men who ran them off the road.

“She’s an innocent in this,” she hissed.

“Correction,” the agent smirked, “she was an innocent. Being bed mates with you sort of changed that, didn’t it?”

The oily tone of voice made Laura’s stomach lurch. Gripping the detonator harder in her hand she regarded the man in front of her with repulsion.

“Thank you for enlightening me,” she said tight-lipped. “You have no idea how grateful I am.”

He laughed, but she could detect a glimpse of uncertainty as he clenched his right hand.

“Grateful? I don’t know what you mean. There is no way you can get out of here. Unless you mean to push that button and kill all of us, including yourself.”

She forced herself to remain standing where she was. All Laura wanted to do was put a single bullet through his smirking face.

“So you admit that you sent your goons after me and by doing so, endangered Stewart and anybody else who came in contact with me,” she insisted.

Monroe’s eyes narrowed and glanced around him.

“You’re pretty adamant in trying to get me to talk,” he said slowly. “One would think that you’re wearing a wire or have a tape recorder here somewhere.”

Laura could only smiled. She had done just that but nowhere he would ever find in this poor light.

Seeing her triumphant smile, the angered man leaped forward, making her take a couple of steps back. She clutched the detonator to her chest and aimed her gun at him.

“You know what?” Monroe grinned. “I don’t think you have the balls to pull either the trigger or press that button. You’re in here with us and I bet you are eager to get back to that blonde, aren’t you?”

He made a new attempt to close the distance between them by circling to her right.

Laura stopped in him in his tracks.

“That is where you are wrong,” she said.

Raising her gun she fired twice above their heads.

The men threw themselves on the floor. Rolling towards their weapons, they tried frantically to reach them.

Laura moved backwards, firing between in front of them.

Then she smiled.

A soft, secretive and loving smile formed on her lips as she whispered; “Oh, Sunny.”

The detonation of the C4 plastic explosive was nothing compared to the ear deafening thunder when the large factory roof caved in.

*****

Continued in part 11
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