BOUND by Donna Siggers
Each breath I take is with the purpose of bringing down the organisation Ashbeck built – the one that Jade Collins now fronts. Infiltrating my mind despite his death, the legacy he’s left behind remains detrimental to so many. Provoking mistrust among our team, he’d lured Jade away into his midst. Shadow he’d called her, which suits her dark nature. I’d never taken to Jade from the moment we met. There had been a mutual mistrust between the two of us. She’d disliked that I hadn’t conformed to her wishes during our first meeting and upon reflection maybe I was reading more into her character than I first comprehended.
Jade or Shadow as she’s known in the other world she inhabits, is a brutal and cold-hearted killer. RAVEN, the case that controls my life had bought us together within a team that had been met with conspiracy and corruption at every turn. It’s become wholly apparent that the only person I can trust is myself. Once a prominent member of this team, Jade had switched alliance in favour of Ashbeck. She was the reason he had remained a step ahead of our investigation the whole time.
Our boss, Kerry Preston was privy to this information for two months before she shared it with the rest of the team. Now in police custody and awaiting a decision on what will happen with her, the one thing she has clarity on is that her career is over. Kerry and Jade are sisters and Kerry’s silence has stood in the path of justice. With all honesty I can say that I’m no longer shocked at the depths those around me are willing to stoop for personal gain despite what it costs the investigation.
Upon reaching the flat a quick tour had revealed a small open plan kitchen and living area, one small bedroom with a double bed and a wet room en-suite. The whole space was minimalistic, modern but very small. I’d been forced to spend time with this man in far worse conditions, it was true but felt that they were being optimistic to think I was willing to share a bed with him now. A shudder running the length of my spine and fully visible to Liam alerted him to my uneasiness,
“We’ll be fine. I’ll put a pillow between us if you like.”
I walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where I’d noticed a white envelope. Picking it up I read the name on the front, Mrs Peterson. Instinct told me it contained bad news and as my fingers fumbled to break the seal the tiny hairs on my arms stood to attention. Lori Peterson had been the undercover name they’d assigned me last year. I sensed this was about Sam. With trembling hands, my fingers continue to fumble as I remove the folded white paper, held it towards the light from the window and give the words upon it my full attention – words that hit my senses and spun my world into turmoil,
Dear Mrs Peterson,
It is with much regret that I write to inform you of the demise of Mr Peterson. He was involved in an incident and, unfortunately died of his injuries. The funeral has already taken place and once his ashes are available you will be informed of when and where to collect them. Please accept my personal condolence. HS.
Leaving me speechless and feeling numb in a life that had just rocked, my emotions are a mixture of loss, guilt, love and hate that I can’t fully grasp. Handing the note to Liam I begin to pace the length of the living space. Sadness encompasses my entirety because I wasn’t with Sam when he had needed me the most: I hope he hadn’t died alone. Fighting back tears, I try to speak but no words form. Liam tries to embrace me, but I avoid him. Continuing to pace relentlessly, wishing the one man I had relied on until very recently was still here I know I would forever wonder if my presence could have saved him. This letter is a finality I’m not ready to accept and it takes away the choice for me to make amends. No longer do I have the chance of looking him in the eyes and forgiving him. If Jade is responsible for that, God help her.
Finally catching my arm, Liam steers me towards a chair and sits me down. I’d no idea how long I’d been lost in thought and pacing but he’d made a drink and I’d not noticed. Placing a cup of sweet tea in my hands he demanded that I drink it. Not many words were shared for the rest of the evening.
Liam’s alarm alerted us we had been granted a new day. Experience had taught me that finishing it was no longer guaranteed. I’d woken encased in his arms, forever protective of the ‘subject’ he’d been allocated. It was a surreal situation. Either still asleep or pretending to be, he wasn’t making any effort to move so I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, willing my body to relax.
“Oh no you don’t,” he teases. “That’s not even funny. Get yourself up and make me a coffee, it’s your turn!”
He had a point. I can’t remember the last time I’d made a drink.
With what had quickly become our morning routine in America out the way, Liam presented me with a box from under the bed. Our superiors had certainly made sure we had everything we required to blend in, especially as I might be recognised today. Within the box was a number of hair pieces (male and female), coloured contacts and the paraphernalia that goes with both. Opting for long, almost black hair and dark brown contacts I was securing the wig into a French plait when Liam walked in carrying our second coffees,
Concentrating on the task at hand I hadn’t paid any attention to his appearance, instead I was fixated on making me look different to how I looked before my last image change and to how I looked now. My mind was also on Sam and the process of the pair of us going undercover as he prepared me for my first experience of it last year.
Finishing my look, I finally turn around. Gone was the blonde, blue eyed man I’d come to know. Stood before me was a man whose dark hair was starting to grey a little and I had to wonder if this was his natural look. He’d opted for the hazel eyes which looked good too. Giving him a big smile, my worries forgotten for a moment,
“Wow to you as well!”
Looking in the small cupboard in the corner of the room Liam hands me some clothes,
“We don’t have much choice yet, but this should fit over the vest,” he said passing me an outfit and a blouse. “Plus, it’s the only thing suitable for today.”
“St Katherine’s Dock is where it all began, Liam.” I say before proceeding to fill him in on the joint investigation between the original detective team that had included myself and the Custom and Excise team that bought Ashbeck to justice and placed him behind bars. “It didn’t stop him though, and from his cell he managed to operate his business at such ferocity he got high profile names on board that ensured his escape plan was executed.” Filling him in with a brief overview of events bought him up to date to the point he joined in on the action.
Despite having worn a vest for many years, I despise them and if for a moment thought that there was a way in which it could be avoided it’s something I’d do. I don’t think I’d ever become accustomed to how cumbersome they make me feel. Liam either sensed this or had been briefed on it and watched me closely to ensure I placed it on my person before helping me into my jacket. Maybe it was just his way of showing he cared.
Anxiety was rising from somewhere deep within me at the thought of our watery location: images of water torture and of jumping into the English Channel from a burning boat kept washing through my mind making my heart pump hard and causing me to perspire and shudder.
“You’ll be fine, I promise.”
Forcing a smile as we head towards the flat door, I place a confident look on my face ready to take on the day despite how I felt on the inside.
I don’t feel at all fine.