Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keep Your Head Down

The setting sun turned the blue-grey sky a brilliant pinky orange.

Keep your head down.

She didn't like the sound of it. Did he mean it figuratively or was it a sleep-on-the-floor kind of suggestion?

She drove toward the interstate without bothering to open the package he'd given to her. She wanted to throw up. She wanted to get on the interstate and drive until she found a town where no one knew her. But she'd taken the first step. She went to them.

"Come on, Alisha," she muttered and gripped the steering wheel tighter with both hands. "You're not the one who did anything wrong. In fact, in this whole mess, you are the only one who did anything right."

Her pep talk did little good.

The lights of a truck stop 10 miles out of town glowed in the simmering darkness. She pulled off the highway and into a spot where she hoped to see arriving traffic without being too noticed. The envelope shook as she removed a map, the promised visa card and her hotel information. Another 90 miles until she could rest for the night. The place looked generic. Just a little hotel, right off the interstate. One of a dozen or more lining the highway promising a soft bed, cable television and internet connection. She smirks as she thought of the Fed's reaction if she fired up her internet and checked her email. He'd have a heart attack. She half-way wondered who was watching her more, the Feds or her boss.

A quick glance at her gas gauge and she knew she needed fuel for the car and for her body. She pulled a baseball cap tight low over her eyes, tucked the visa card in her pocket and tried not to think about what it meant.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Novel Unfolds: Alisha

*Here's a third installment of an online novel I started last year. Look at my first two posts for the beginning of the story. Promise I will try to keep updated better!

Alisha glanced around her, the sudden quiet of the neighborhood growing as children disappeared inside to eat dinner. Had they realized yet that she took the paperwork with her when she left? Were they looking for her car? Would they think to track her here, to her hometown?

She gulped air to keep the panic attack at bay when she spotted the man walking towards her. He looked like her little brother with sandy hair falling over his eyes, a toothpick hanging from his mouth and jeans covering his lanky frame. He took the swing next to her, stretching his legs in front of him and criss-crossing his tennis-shoe clad feet.

"Did you bring it?" he asked without looking at her.

"In my car."

He picked his teeth for a minute and studied the street in front of them. "Did anyone follow you?"

She shook her head.

"You're doing the right thing, you know," he said, his voice anything but reassuring.

Her chin quivered and she nodded.

"Just keep your head down for a few days. You took some vacation time, right? Your bags are in your car?"

Another nod.

"I have the location of a hotel for you. A room paid for with cash for 10 days and a visa gift card with money for food. And there's a disposable cell phone too. But don't use it. I'll call you in a few days to let you know how things are going." He stood and walked from the swing set, never looking back.

She walked to her car and thought about the irony of the contents of the gift box she would give him. A gift to him. A gift to the federal agency who paid his salary. They would catch another fraud. But what kind of gift was it to the man who'd given her a job, the man who showed her the ropes of the investment industry, the man she'd discovered was stealing from almost every client. Butterflies bumped against her rib cage as she handed the brightly colored package to the agent beside her. Hugged him as though he really was her little brother as he handed her the paperwork she needed to hide for a few days. It was all part of the pre-arranged plan.

She drove away. No looking back. No time for regrets.