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Chapter 26 – Things Aren’t As They Seem
Elijah Pettit –
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FBI Field Office – Buffalo, New York
Standing here watching Ronald MacLachlan, for once appearing worried, through the one-way glass window is fucking frustrating. Jeffrey Acogi is sitting in an interrogation room down the hall, and more soldiers are being rounded-up as we speak. It’s barely seven in the morning, but more than half the organization is in custody, and we’re working on the rest. Scrambling units for a roundup at a moment’s notice all the way up and down the east coast wasn’t easy, but it couldn’t wait.
But what’s really frustrating is the young MacLachlan is still on the lam.
Bennett, my supervisor, falls in beside me. I finally look over when he says, “They found the body. We’ve got physical evidence and an eye witness. If that doesn’t convince these fuckers to talk, we might have to send you in.”
“I want to go to Virginia and be the one to take down that asshole. I deserve that after going under all these months. He needs to be found before he gets to the Augustine woman.”
“We warned her when we were there yesterday.” He looks at me and raises a brow. “I can’t say more, but I know for a fact her security is good. They know the threat is real.”
I look back to the senior MacLachlan as he sits with his arms crossed. He just invoked his Miranda rights and is waiting on his attorney.
I glance at my watch. “I’m wasting my fucking time here. If you have the body, there’s no need for me to stick around. The plane leaves in twenty and I want to be on it. We’ll be on the ground in Virginia in no time. Let me do my fucking job and finish this.”
Bennett looks to me and shakes his head. “You had a good run and you’re a good agent, but you know what this means, right?”
I’m pissed I couldn’t do more. Still, I’m not a good agent, I’m a fucking great one. I know exactly what’s gotta happen, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, so I growl, “I know. Now let me finish this in Virginia before I have to move on.”
He ignores my demand. “You’re not gonna get to choose where you go.”
I exhale, because I didn’t know that. That pisses me off. Just for that, he better let me finish this. “Dammit, Bennett. I’ve gotta be on that plane. The clock is ticking. You gonna let me go or am I gonna go against orders? Either way, I’m taking down Weston MacLachlan.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t fuck it up, Eli.”
I smirk. “I’m a good agent, remember? I deserve one more hurrah before you send me off to Timbuktu.”
He looks to the one-way glass and crosses his arms. “I’ve heard the word Texas mentioned, not quite Timbuktu. I’ll still miss you, even though you’re a pain in my ass at times.”
I don’t waste a moment. I need to grab my bag and make it to the plane.
“Pettit,” he calls, and I stop, frustrated. He narrows his eyes on me and lowers his voice when he stresses, “I want that little fucker alive. Now that we have him for multiple charges of capital murder, I want his ass rotting in a cell for consecutive sentences. Get it done fast, I’m ready to wrap this up.”
I say nothing but nod. After months of dealing with the MacLachlans, I’m ready to wrap this shit up, too.
Rolling Hills Ranch, hours later…
“Most of the Buffalo crew is in custody, including your dinner buddy, Ronald MacLachlan.”
As I listen to Asa brief me over the phone, I watch Maya from across the room. She was leading Bingo, but now she’s dancing around with the residents doing the Chicken Dance, of all fucking things. I’m not sure if it’s the news that the MacLachlans are out of business or watching my fiancée shake her ass with the old ladies, but one of the two makes me smile.
That is until she moves to Foxy and he rubs his old ass against hers. That’s enough to wipe the smile right off my face.
“Did you hear me? And what the hell’s going on there?” Asa asks.
“Yeah, sorry. I heard you. They’re dancing. It’s good for their circulation.” I turn away before I’m forced to watch Foxy go in for the bump and grind. “Won’t be very many more years until you’ll be moving in here.”
“I’m only forty, jackass,” he bites out before moving back to the topic at hand. “They have an eyewitness—Weston’s the one who killed Byron Murray.”
“Yep. When they find him, he’ll be charged with first degree at the very least. Who knows what else they’ve got racked up on him. Agents from New York, along with some from the Northern Virginia office, are in the area. I know you are, but be on the lookout,” Asa warns.
“I am. I’m not even leaving her on her own in the tasting room.”
The music ends and Maya returns to the front of the room for more Bingo. I take my seat next to Miss Lillian Rose and grab a new card off the stack being passed around the room.
“I wanted to update you,” he finishes. “If you need anything, call.”
I hang up and slide my phone back into my pocket.
“I can’t believe you and our little Maya are engaged.” Miss Lillian Rose smiles at me. “Have you set a date? Will we be invited?”
When we got to the Ranch first thing this morning, I sat down to eat breakfast with all the ladies, but that didn’t stop them from zeroing in on Maya’s left hand. There must be an extra chromosome in the female body alerting them to new diamonds in their vicinity. They almost found it faster than my sisters and their excitement was off the charts.
I can’t help but grin. “No date and I don’t know what Maya wants. But if it’s around here, sure, you’re all invited.”
“Whoop!” she exclaims. “Did y’all hear that? Grady said we’re invited to the wedding!”
As the room erupts, and I only have eyes for Maya as hers go big. I’m not sure if she approves or not, but she loves these old codgers, so I’m not worried.
“When’s the wedding? I want to put it on my calendar and make sure I have an appointment to have my hair set,” Emma Lou yells.
“We’ll let you know,” I say loudly, so she can hear. “Maya needs to shop for a houseful of furniture first. That’s gonna start today.”
“You bought the house.” Maya smirks at me. “Maybe you should start shopping for furniture.”
Shrugging, I talk across the room for all the seniors to hear, “I’ve done my share of furniture shopping for the next decade—I bought a chair. That’s all I need. If you want anything more, you’ll have to go shopping.”
“You need more than a chair, you silly boy.” Miss Lillian Rose frowns at me before turning to Maya. “You need to set up that home he bought for you. You’ll need a full set of formal china for the holidays. I’m sure brides these days don’t register for silver, but you should. It’s time to make your own heirlooms your grandchildren will want someday.”
Maya shakes her head quickly and opens her mouth, hopefully to tell Miss Lillian Rose we don’t need silver anything when Betty agrees. “Yes, don’t skimp. Beautiful flatware is important. Sure, you might have to polish it, but it’s worth it in the end.”
The look on Maya’s face is one that tells me she doesn’t give a shit about that stuff. I clear my throat and I hope to make my point. “I think we can start with a couch and TV. Go from there.”
“Let’s get back to Bingo,” Maya says, and narrows her eyes at me, but since she’s biting her lip, I know she’s not complaining.
I showed her the rest of the house last night, but it was getting too dark and cold to walk around the property. Since I just closed yesterday, I don’t have surveillance set up yet and wasn’t taking a chance walking around the woods with Weston on the loose. I talked to Crew about extending his system across the street, he thought it would be easy, and made some phone calls first thing this morning to get it going. As soon as I can get her to buy some furniture, we’re moving in.
I can’t wait. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a home. I never considered my childhood house a home since my mom died. After that, it was basically a hellhole we were forced to survive in. But starting a new life with Maya? I can’t wait.
She starts calling out numbers again while Miss Lillian Rose talks my ear off about what we need to set up a proper southern home. But when Maya hesitates mid number, I look to her.
She’s tense and staring at the back of the room. Before I have the chance to turn and see what’s caught her attention, she screams.
I’m not far from her, but I instantly reach for my left ankle as I turn in my seat. When I look to the opening of the activity room, there’s Weston. But he’s not alone.
He’s grabbed the first person he could reach and has an arm around his neck with a gun to his head.
Weston’s voice barrels through the room, “I swear, Maya, I’ll blow his fucking head off if you don’t come with me right now.”
I hear faint screams and voices from the residents I’ve come to love over the past few months. They’re confused and scared, and rightly so. I’m terrified for their safety. Especially one in particular—my favorite of the bunch.
Weston’s here—and he has Foxy.
But he wants me.
I stand quickly from the table I’m sitting at, and scream, “Let him g—”
But Grady interrupts me and when I look over, he’s standing at the side of the room with his gun drawn and pointed directly at Weston, demanding, “Drop the gun.”
Weston jerks, causing Foxy to lose his footing and claw at Weston’s arm that’s cinched around his neck to keep hold. As spry as Foxy is, it’s easy to see he’s in pain. Especially when Weston roughly shoves the nose of his gun into his temple.
“Come with me and I’ll let him go, Maya. Do it fast, I’m tired of this shit. And I’m tired of seeing you with him.” At the last word, Foxy moans from Weston jerking him again.
“You stay right there, baby,” Grady says to me without taking his eyes off Weston. When he starts to move efficiently, stepping sideways toward the middle of the room, he keeps talking. “I just got an interesting call, Wes. Your dad and most of your cronies were taken down this morning. They’re being interrogated as we speak.”
Weston processes that bit of information for two beats before he looks back to me. “You’re coming with me!”
Miss Lillian Rose screams, “You let Foxy go!”
I move quickly and wrap my arm around her. Her old hand grasps mine as tight as she can, and I feel her body shake with fear.
Grady holds steady and speaks without hesitation. “Guess what else? I hear they have an eye witness as to who killed your buddy, Murray.” Grady moves two more steps, but I can still see Weston, and his face falls just a touch, but I caught it. Grady keeps talking. “That’s right. It’s over, Wes. Let the man go.”
“No,” Weston breathes and his hold on Foxy tightens.
“Yes,” Grady confirms. I have no idea what they’re talking about.
“Let me go, you damn little bugger.” Foxy tries with all his might to get away, but it doesn’t help.
“Please, Weston,” I cry. “You’re going to hurt him. Let him go.”
He doesn’t let Foxy go, but he shakes his head and looks straight into my eyes. “I can’t lose you.”
“Weston.” I lower my voice. “You haven’t had me for a long time. I’ll never come back to you. Now please,” I feel my voice crack with emotion and tears fill my eyes, “you’re going to hurt him. He’s done nothing to you, let him go.”
“Don’t make me kill you,” Grady says, his voice low. “I can, I will, and I’ll do it gladly.”
“Maya,” Weston calls for me one more time, but before he has the chance to say anything else, I see movement in front of me.
Betty is sitting next to where Weston is standing with Foxy, and by the look on her face, she’s determined. She doesn’t take her eye off Weston as she slowly brings her cane up, then all of a sudden, stabs him right in the crotch.
I have to hand it to her, she got him pretty hard for as frail as she is.
Weston buckles at the waist from the jab, loosening his hold just enough for Foxy to twist away. Weston tries to reach for him, but Foxy moves fast enough to escape his grasp. That’s when we hear scurrying in the hall.
But Weston, even keeling over in pain, lifts his arm enough to point his gun right at Grady. “She’s not yours!”
“Grady!” I scream.
Grady’s prepared, but his whole-body tenses right when someone from behind Weston clocks him on the side of his head. Weston’s wrist is lifted, his gun pointed to the ceiling before being twisted out of his hand. Weston instantly collapses to the ground on his hands and knees.
More men come rushing in, and I scream, “Grady, it’s him!”
It’s the man who grabbed me at the Buffalo airport, the man with Byron Murray who attacked us. This is the same man who just basically knocked Weston out and disarmed him.
“FBI, get your hands up!”
A team of men file into the room, but I can’t take my eyes off the one who had me on the tarmac in Buffalo. Trevor, I think? He looks the same, yet still, very different.
He’s tall with thick, dark hair and a trim body with a muscular frame. He’s bulky, wearing a bulletproof vest with FBI printed across the front and black utility cargos. If the bulletproof vest wasn’t enough to give it away, the badge clipped onto his belt loop is.
Trevor, the guy who tried to kidnap me, isn’t a bad guy?
He’s an FBI agent?
Miss Lillian Rose exclaims, “It’s the FBI! My stars, it’s just like my evening shows.”
Grady, who’s between the action and me, quickly pulls his hands back, pointing his gun toward the ceiling. “I’ve got a C and C.”
“Cain,” Trevor calls to Grady. “We know who you are and were expecting you to be close. You can holster your weapon—we’ve got it from here.”
The agents move to Weston, and since he’s still reeling from Betty’s brave shot to his groin and hit to the head, he complies easily.
The second I see it’s safe, I run to Foxy and stoop low to look into his eyes. “Are you okay?”
He crooks his head this way and that way, stretching from where Weston was holding him. I reach for his neck to rub it for him, hoping he just needs to loosen his muscles. The scene alone was frightening enough, let alone for someone at the ripe age of eighty-eight.
“I’m fine,” Foxy tries to brush it off, but it’s easy to see the relief in his face. It cuts through me he had to endure that because of me.
I put my arms around him, and he follows suit. “I’m so sorry. Are you sure you’re okay? I can get a doctor to take a look at you.”
However, I know he’s fine because he pulls me into him tighter and starts to rub my back almost to my ass with one hand, and fingers my hair with the other.
That’s when I hear Grady growl, “Are you kidding me?”
With all that’s happened, I have to laugh.
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When I finally disentangle myself from Foxy’s old-man grope, I look over to see Weston being cuffed by Trevor, and it seems Weston is just as confused as I am.
“You’re a pig?” Weston yells. “You fucker, I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.”
Trevor looks bored. “Probably, because now I’m an eyewitness to you murdering Byron Murray. Don’t think you’ll be able to plea manslaughter for that one. I also just got word you’ve got soldiers flipping for lesser charges. We’ve got agents on the way to locate two additional bodies and it’s not even noon. Looks like your time’s up, MacLachlan.” Trevor looks to a fellow agent and says, “Mirandize him.” We all watch Weston being led out of the activities room before Trevor turns back and offers his hand to Grady. “Eli Pettit.”
Grady puts his left arm around me and shakes the hand of the man we knew as Trevor-the-bad-guy. But as it turns out, he isn’t. Grady mutters, “Things aren’t as they seem. Nice work.”
Eli Pettit turns his attention to me. “Sorry about your fall, Ms. Augustine. I did everything I could to keep Murray from touching you—it wasn’t easy. Sorry I didn’t do a better job at keeping you safe.”
After all that’s happened, I melt into Grady’s side, not quite sure what to say, so I wave him off. “It’s, um … it’s okay. I’m fine, really.”
I feel Grady exhale. “Glad I didn’t shoot you.”
“I’m glad you didn’t either, but trust me, that wasn’t the first time I about got my head blown off working this case. I’m glad this shit’s over.”
Grady wraps his other arm around me and puts his lips to the top of my head. “So am I.”
Pressing into Grady, I watch Eli Pettit turn and follow the other agents and Weston as they file out of the activities room of Rolling Hills Ranch. “I can’t believe it’s over.”
“Took long enough,” Grady mutters before he sighs again. I feel his hand on my cheek that’s not scraped. “You okay?”
My face softens into a small smile and I lift up on my toes to kiss him. “Yeah. I think I’ll be okay until forever.”
“Forever is good with me.” He gives me a squeeze before he kisses me back, and we hear clapping around us from my favorite group of senior citizens.
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