The Wretched

Retching is always a great way to start a day. Bent over the toilet she offered no regrets, no silent prayers of abstinence. Life came with a cost and this was another debt she found herself having to pay. She wiped her mouth and stood. Staring at the person in the mirror was the hardest obstacle to have to face day after day. Knowing yet another sunrise would have to be seen only solidified the contempt burning inside and showed on the face staring back at her.

What had become of the idealist? When did things go wrong? Why did breathing hurt so much? How many times did she want it to end? She couldn’t blame the alcohol anymore. The answers were still out there, somewhere between right and wrong, somewhere in the nights not so long ago passed by in a blur.

They say everybody has their price. Who are these they, and what the hell do they know about a price?

The television was still on from the night before. Reporters were talking with a small box playing in the upper right of the screen showing police lights flashing and crime scene tape. Something had happened, someone was dead. She had seen it too many times to think it was anything else. She picked up the remote from the end table and turned off the screen.

The phone on the table by the door beeped, a text. She had no need to look. It was from her boss, she was late and didn’t care.

It was almost comical how the gun on the countertop seemed more like an anchor than it did a lifeline. The weight of its steel fighting against the current, bringing everything to a suffocating, sinking standstill. The need for it now passé, the cost too high to stay in what they would call the game. But it was a duty, right? It was a calling that only few would ever dare accept. They also say that time heals all wounds. Yeah well, what the hell would they know about that either? Time just makes it hurt longer.

She picked up the gun. Too many times she wondered if she would even hear the sound of the bullet as it tore its way through her head. Today was a good day; she left it in its holster and snapped it onto her belt. Running her fingers through her long auburn hair she stared at a fake smile in the mirror then she pulled on her jacket and walked out.

The drive in this morning would not take her to the cubicle some would call an office. This morning she would start the day in what had become a needed relief from the normal. The committee was to report directly to the agency head and had been methodical. They tried their best to give the appearance of impartiality, but she knew it was for show. Somehow though, the break from responsibility was just as important to her as the supposed new findings.

The committee, more like a pretentious group of over the hill, far removed from the real work, investigators. For all their years, they had about as much knowledge into the intricacies of modern field work as she knew about sitting behind a desk crunching numbers all day.

The drive took just under an hour. She managed to remember only starting the car and the final turn into the parking garage. Numbness was God’s only gift to the wrecked, and what a blessed gift it was. If only she could make the days pass as quietly she would be in a better place.

Let’s get this inquisition over, what do you say?” the woman in the rearview stared back without an answer.

There was no panic in her as she walked towards the front door, although she suspected the front door would soon not be offered to her anymore. On the outside forced to look in would be her fate. A small price to pay for doing what she felt she had to do.

She liked the building. The marble floor made it seem cold, calculating, and indiscriminate. Reality told her different, it was far from indiscriminate and today would only confirm it.

Agent Allister,” the man began, shuffling papers in his hands before throwing them down on the table, “before we render our decision are there any matters you would like to offer for yourself?”

She looked at the old man and then at the others sitting in judgment. If she had any balls she would have tell them all to go to hell, but she didn’t have the guts and they were right to hold the review. She should be in jail. Would’ve been if she didn’t have the badge. But when she finally found her man, he was pleasuring himself over the lifeless body of Jamal Waterson, a missing five year old boy she’d been searching for, for almost two months.

When she called it in the first Uni’s on scene wrote it up just like she told them it happened. Coming up to the house she had seen him through a broken window. Went around to the back and opened the unlocked door. Confronted him, identified herself. Shot him twice as he lunged for a weapon.

It was only her good luck that he actually had a weapon in the house. It took almost five minutes to find it and toss it by his head.

Of course that’s all taking liberties with how it truly went down. The committee wasn’t stocked with rookies. And although her story sounded reasonable, the evidence was far from conclusive. Which was the only reason she was sitting where she was now sitting.

Well, Agent?” he asked again.

No, sir,” she answered, still numb, with no emotion. “I stand by the triple-oh-two as written. I have nothing further to add.”

Very well,” the old man says before looking down the table to the left and right. “The summary as written will be submitted for the record without prejudice.”

She sat almost shocked. Without prejudice meant they were buying it.

This committee concurs, unanimously, and finds this to be a justifiable homicide—for the record. Off the record, Agent Allister, what you did was reckless. You showed no regard not only for your personal safety, but for the ass load of shit that could have rained down on the Bureau had this went another way … I hope you understand the gravity of what’s happened here today.”

Yes, sir,” she managed to spit out. “Thank you.”

Don’t thank me. I wanted to punch your ticket. One more stunt, you won’t be able to find work as a security guard. As it stands, you tracked that son of a bitch down. And that’s gotta count for something. I want the entirety of the scene cataloged, and every minute detail entered into ViCAP. Should take a couple of weeks, maybe a couple more if you’re doing it right.” He waits for a reply, eyebrows raised.

She gives it almost as soon as she realizes he was waiting for it. “Yes, sir. Catalog.”

That’s all. You’re dismissed.”

She stands up and wants to bow to them but refrains, turns, and walks out the door—amazed it was on her own without an escort and not in cuffs.

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