The Ninja Tattoo – Chapter One. Have you read it yet?
Home Sweet Home – or more like Home Sweet Fortress. The FBI has brought Jason back to his house and have set up their base there. His living room has been commandeered for the work area – computers and phones clutter the floor. Agent Driscole is very unhappy with her detail.
Driscole’s face flushed a brilliant pink. She swallowed, blinked and looked very much like she wanted to cry. Jason felt sorry for about five seconds, then his anger came back tenfold when she punched him so hard he saw stars.
Clutching his jaw with one hand, he hurled his coffee cup across the room with the other. It shattered against the wall, splattering coffee all over the room. No one made a move to clean it up. The men watched the exchange between Jason and Taylor with mute horror.
“I’m so sorry,” Agent Driscole whispered. “Oh, Jason, I’m so terribly sorry. That was completely unprofessional.” She ran to the bathroom and got a wet washcloth for him to put on the rising bruise.
Still seeing stars, Jason shook his head slightly, trying to clear it. His ears rang, his jaw ached and the stars were starting to change colors and spin. He sat heavily on the settee, rubbing his jaw as Driscole tried to apply the cool cloth.
“Goddammit,” he grumbled. “I liked that mug.”
Tim Stuart started laughing. Soon, Greg Kisler and Alex Graves joined him. Jason didn’t want to laugh, it hurt horribly to do so, but he couldn’t help himself. The only one not laughing was Agent Driscole. Her eyes held deep sorrow and embarrassment. Jason took the cloth from her, his fingers brushing hers. She hopped back from him, nearly falling over the low coffee table. Jason grabbed her wrist, pulling her toward him to keep her from falling down.
Unfortunately, he pulled too hard and she tumbled onto his lap. Screeching, she landed in an untidy heap half on and half off his legs. Her face was again mere inches from his and the desire to kiss her doubled. Her hair fell loose, cascading around her face in a tangle of golden brown waves. Her eyes were a more remarkable shade of blue than he had originally thought, bordering on lavender. Her complexion was clear, although she could do with some sun, and her lips were a full, deep red.
Two other agents ran in the room, weapons drawn. When they saw Agent Driscole on Jason’s lap, they stopped.
“We heard a scream,” the leading agent said.
“And before that a crash,” the other replied.
“Nothing serious,” Tim told them. “Little incident with the coffee mug. Agent Driscole surprised Mr. Banes. No harm done. You can go back downstairs.”
“Yes, sir,” they replied in chorus, closing the double doors behind them.
“We shall have to stop meeting like this,” Jason said with a completely straight face. “Or people will talk.”
He righted Agent Driscole and helped her to her feet. Unsure what to do, she flopped down next to him on the settee, her leg pressed tantalizingly against his own. He knew he should move, but he was loathe to do so. There was something comforting about the pressure and nearness of another person.
Jason found himself horribly attracted to Taylor Driscole. She positively hated him, and that made his attraction that much stronger. Still, she’d be living there, right? And he had a way with women, or so he’d been led to believe by the dozens who had fallen prey to his charms and not inconsiderable skill in bed. She’d come around. It might take the rest of his life to do it, but he vowed that he’d make Taylor Driscole love him if it was his last act on Earth.
The men made excuses to leave, saying little as they backed out the door. Two of them took positions outside while the third took the coffee things down to the kitchen.
Left alone, Taylor and Jason relaxed slightly. A tacit agreement passed between them, the differences were set aside—at least for now.
“I’m really sorry about the….” She mimed a right hook to his jaw.
“Sorry I yelled.”
“No, you’re right. I let my personal feelings get in the way. This case is more important. It’s a step up, really, this job…. I was prepared not to like you.”
Jason frowned, puzzled by her admission. “Not like me? What’s not to like? More to the point, why?”
Driscole hung her head, staring at her hands. “You’re a thief,” she said quietly, as if that explained everything.
The set of Jason’s head and shoulders expressed his question nonverbally. So?
“My father owned a small store, kind of a Mom and Pop place in our neighborhood. Our home was upstairs. One evening when he was closing up, some street punks stormed in, robbed and shot my father. They looted the place and left him bleeding on the floor. My mother and I heard the shots, but by the time the emergency services arrived….”
“Your dad was dead.”
She nodded, twisting her fingers in her lap. “I was serious, what I said. I did become an agent to catch people like you.”
“No, you joined to get people like Orchid. If you wanted a man like me, you’d have joined an international task force.” He looked around, feigning surprise. “Crikey, look where you are!” He let his lowbrow, street tough accent come through full force.
Taylor giggled, her eyes moist. She nudged him playfully with her elbow.
Jason’s heart stopped beating for the space of three breaths. He had the urge to kiss her again. Knowing that not only were there other agents all over his house, but she could kill him with her big toe, prevented him from giving in to his primal urges.
© Dellani Oakes
Sea of Destiny – Part 8. I love dialogue. I made myself laugh – I hope that’s a good sign?
Much to Jason’s surprise and delight, the FBI have brought him home — not because they care if he’s comfortable, but because the house is a veritable fortress. Jason has the most sophisticated security system some of them have ever seen.
There was a tap at the door. Kisler answered, his weapon in hand. It was Tim with the coffee.
“Nice coffee maker you’ve got, Jason. Top of the line!”
“Spent a bundle on it. I love coffee. Bugger grinds the beans, gives the perfect blend, filters the water, does everything but wipe my ass.”
The men laughed at that as they drank their coffee.
“Just how much money do you have, kid?” Tim Stuart asked. He was probably 10 years or so older than Jason.
“Do you want the real answer or the one I give the IRS?”
“You pay taxes?”
“I’m in investments as a side business. It gives me an air of legitimacy and something to fall back on in my dotage. You have to realize that a chap in my profession, if he starts young, has maybe twenty good years. That’s if he’s lucky and doesn’t get caught.” He shrugged, sighing heavily. “In any case, a man needs a retirement fund. I can’t exactly file for Social Security, can I?”
“I suppose not,” Tim answered.
“My investment business brings in a modest income. Around five million a quarter.”
The men choked on their coffee.
“That’s what you clear?” Greg Kisler gasped.
“Yeah, well, thereabouts.”
“Why steal things then?”
Jason leaned forward as if he were imparting the secrets of the universe. “Because investments are boring as bloody hell, mate.”
“So you steal things for the excitement?” Alex asked.
“There’s a thrill when a plan comes together and you pull the perfect heist that nothing, not even sex, can equal. Not even thirty-six hours of the most amazingly orgasmic Tantric sex….” He stopped abruptly as Driscole entered the room.
The men all stood as she walked in. Puzzled, she looked around until she spotted Jason. He was blushing, adjusting his pants.
“Agent Driscole,” he muttered. “Sorry.”
“Never mind.” He hoped she really hadn’t heard what he was saying.
“Nice little coffee clutch we’re having. Don’t you have a job to do?” She addressed the men.
“Taylor, be nice,” Tim chided. “We’re having a coffee with Jason. It wouldn’t kill you to talk to the man. We’re going to be living together, we should be on polite terms, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, relax,” Greg said. “You’re too tense, Tay.”
“I suppose you think I’m uptight too?” She glared at Jason.
“No, I was simply wondering why you hate me so much. Have I offended you somehow? If so, please tell me so I can apologize.”
“You really don’t get it, do you? I became an FBI agent because I wanted to put people like you
behind bars, not babysit you in your own mansion! I have better things to do, Mr. Banes.”
“Like what?” His tone caustic, his expression bland, he waited.
He was angry now. She had insulted and belittled him repeatedly and all he’d tried to do was make conversation. He’d apologized, dammit! And he hadn’t even done anything wrong!
“Like—well….” She sputtered, trying to answer that question.
“Agent Driscole, I’m a decent man when you get to know me. I’m polite, friendly and some folks even find me more than a little charming. I’m a nice bloke, me. So I steal things! I take things from rich, snooty folks who have more money than God and redistribute the wealth. I’ve never stolen from anyone who wasn’t heavily insured.”
“So, you’re trying to tell me that you’re Robin Hood, eh?”
Banes sneered. “Robin Fucking Hood? That’s who you’re comparing me to? He was a rank amateur compared to me! And he killed people. I’ve never killed anyone. Spiders in the bathroom, that’s my speed. The occasional wasp. Anyone can shoot things up and do a smash and grab. My plans are like works of art. Like Mozart symphonies and Botticelli paintings. And you’re comparing me to a man who shot the sheriff and ran around in tights. Thank you, very much, Miss Driscole!”
“You’re a thief! Where’s the artistry in that?”
“Do I insult your profession? Do I compare you to a street thug who’s only interested in shooting up the town—who feels she can do it with impunity because she’s in the FBI? Your comments to me have been less than complimentary and I want to know why.”
“I got pulled off a better job to do this,” she griped. “I’ve been removed from my other case with no explanation.”
“And how is working with an international task force to catch a murderous, thieving bitch less important than what you were doing? You aren’t just babysitting me, Miss Driscole. You’re protecting an important asset. I am the only man who has worked with Orchid and survived. The bitch shot me and left me for dead, then proceeded to kill six innocent people. Do you for one moment think that their lives are less important to the people who loved them? Do you think that they aren’t important to me?”
He was yelling, mere inches from her face. Furious, he wanted to kiss her—or hit her, he wasn’t sure which. Either would have done, but neither would have been appropriate.
© Dellani Oakes
Not only is Agent Driscole angry with Jason, for some reason known only to her, she insults him. All that aside, there is something that attracts Jason to the chilly, blonde woman. Frustrating and disconcerting, he tries hard to hide his attraction.
After they’d driven about half an hour, the neighborhood became increasingly upscale and familiar. Jason looked around him taking in the details. It was hard to see from the back seat, but he was sure he knew this area. When they slowed down, making a sharp left turn into a driveway, he grinned. The security gate stopped them, but the driver leaned out toward the monitor, taking down his dark glasses.
“Agent Timothy Stuart. Package has arrived.”
Jason smiled happily, dark eyes glittering excitedly.
“By corky,” he said with a chuckle.
“What?” Alex asked him.
“Home Sweet Home,” he announced, holding out his hands toward the Spanish style three story mansion. “Gentlemen, Agent Driscole, welcome to Casa Blanca.”
Three of them gave him a questioning look. Agent Driscole gave him what could only be described as a withering glare.
“You’re kidding, right?” She said with a sniff of disdain.
“Seriously. This is my house. I call it Casa Blanca. Not because of the movie. You see, Banes means ‘white’ and it’s a Spanish style house, or casa…. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.”
“Cool house, JB,” Kisler, the youngest of the men, said. “Got a pool?”
“Indoors. And a hot tub, gymnasium, sweet home theatre. Just finished putting it in.”
“And you paid for all of this by stealing things from other people?” Driscole was disgusted.
“Actually, love, this is built with investment money that I made by removing rather expensive objects d’art from unsuspecting, disreputable people who thoroughly deserved to be robbed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Not to put too fine a point on it, since I’d rather not extend my jail time, but I had the unique opportunity of robbing some folks who’d stolen some priceless museum pieces for their own collections. I stole them back and returned them to the rightful owners.”
“Magnanimous of you,” Driscole said dryly.
“I thought so. The beauty of it is that they can’t complain to the coppers as they weren’t supposed to have them in the first place.”
“Did you steal them to begin with?” Alex Graves asked.
“Perish the thought,” Jason replied. “No. These were stolen long before I began my career. They’d been missing for twenty years or so, some of them. I happened upon the stash quite by accident when I was looking around for something else.”
“Do we want to know what?” Tim Stuart asked him, raising a quizzical eyebrow.
“Probably not,” Jason replied absently, biting his thumb.
They pulled up to the front door. The agents in the second vehicle flanked the first one before Jason was brought out. They moved quickly into the house, the agents taking positions outside the doors and windows.
In the living room was transformed into a huge office. Dozens of computer terminals and other equipment littered his once magnificent showplace. The Persian carpet was gone, replaced by what looked like a carpet remnant, on top of the slate tile floor.
Jason stopped just inside the door, horrified. “No! Where’s all my furniture?”
“In storage,” Driscole replied. “We have to have a command center.”
“In my living room?”
“It’s not exactly yours anymore,” she said with a sneer. “You’re a convicted criminal.”
“Yeah, but I paid for all this lot! I’ve worked hard to make this house magnificent. It looks like the bargain basement at Best Buy.”
“Can we move inside?” Tim Stuart asked. “We’re vulnerable here, Jason.”
Unable to speak, the young thief moved forward, his legs numb. He stood in the foyer eyeing the rest of his home. The dining room and library were all full of various pieces of equipment. Dozens of people wandered around. Phones rang, people spoke, noises blended into a din that he found uncomfortable.
“Could I not be a part of this?” He asked Greg Kisler. “I think I’m getting a migraine.”
“You’ll just be in the way,” Taylor Driscole said. “Take him to his room, guys. I’ve got to tidy up down here.”
“Could I get some coffee?” Jason asked.
“I’ll send bring some up,” Tim said. “I need some myself. How do you take it?”
“Light and sweet. Thanks, mate.”
“I’ll be up to debrief you in thirty minutes,” Driscole said as he walked up the stairs.
Jason had to suppress a chuckle. He managed until he got to the landing. His laugh burst forth in an explosive snort.
“Sorry,” he said to Kisler and Graves. “Forgive me, but that sounded vaguely suggestive.”
The two agents chuckled with him, admitting that it did. They led him to the master suite, checking the room before he went in. The floor to ceiling windows were covered in heavy drapes. The room was very dim. Jason moved to the window to open the drapes, but Kisler stopped him.
“Sorry, Jason. You’ll have to do without your magnificent view. Boss’ orders. We considered putting you in a different room that was more defensible, but that would have meant moving all your stuff.”
“Small price to pay for my freedom. Well—relative freedom. Well, not really freedom at all, but at least I’m not in prison.”
© Dellani Oakes
“What’s biting her?” Jason asked the men quietly.
The meat shield shrugged, exchanging a knowing look. Jason wasn’t sure, but he had the uneasy feeling they might be laughing at Driscole, him or both.
He was cuffed, with his wrists in front of him, and escorted to the elevator. Driscole was nowhere to be seen, but she and more security men were waiting in the parking garage. Jason was led off the elevator, surrounded by a walking wall of muscle. He’d never seen so many big, well armed men in his life. Each man had a weapon in his hand. They all looked around carefully, checking for unknown menace. Jason didn’t know whether to feel very safe or very, very afraid.
Two black SUV’s were waiting a few feet away. He was taken to the lead vehicle and put inside. He was flanked by two members of the meat shield. Agent Driscole climbed up front and the rest of the team got in the second vehicle. She contacted the other driver and they took off.
“Why is it you lot like black?” He asked the agents.
“What?” The man on his left asked.
“Black,” Jason replied airily. “Could we be anymore obvious? Do you chaps buy every black SUV in America?”
The man on the left looked puzzled, the man on the right and the driver chuckled. Driscole stared straight ahead. Jason shrugged. He wiggled around trying to get comfortable, but his companions took up most of the seat. He was more of a wiry build himself, but he had very broad shoulders. Feeling slightly claustrophobic, he wiggled some more.
Mr. Left gave him an evil eye. Mr. Right eased slightly toward the door, angling his shoulders so the each had a little more room.
“Thanks,” Jason murmured, smiling a little.
The man said nothing, but nodded and a smile flickered for a second and was gone.
“May I ask where we’re going?” Jason directed at the group.
No one said anything. Driscole shifted in her seat, ignoring him.
“Oi,” Jason said rather more loudly. “I know I’m a criminal, but I think I’ve got a right to know if I’m going to be safe. Might I point out, that you need me—rather a lot?”
Driscole glared at him over her shoulder. Firming her lips, she inhaled slowly. “Look, Mr. Banes. I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to protect you. The less you know about our destination the better.”
“What? Am I going to yell out the windows and give it away? Who am I gonna tell, Special Agent in Charge Taylor Driscole? Eh? And while we’re having this lively repartee, perhaps you could ask one of the kind gentlemen to undo the handcuffs? I assure you, I’m not inclined to go anywhere. Besides, they’d break me in two before I even got to a door or disabled the driver—not that I know how to do that in any case. I’m a thief, not an assassin.”
Agent Driscole nodded to the man on Jason’s right. He took a key out of his pocket and undid the cuffs, putting them back on his belt.
“Thanks, mate. Jason Banes, thief.” He extended his hand.
Somewhat surprised, the man took it. His grip threatened to crush Jason’s hand. Instead of giving in, he met the other man’s bone crushing grasp with his own. He knew how to move his hand to make the bones and sinews grind together. He didn’t quite do it, but Mr. Right got the idea and eased up.
“Greg Kisler,” he replied politely.
“Pleased to meet you.” Jason turned to the man on his left and went through the same process.
“Alex Graves. The driver is Tim Stuart. We’ve been assigned as your primary team. We’ll be seeing a lot of one another.”
“We’ll be living with you—at least until the rest of the team members are assembled. Taylor’s in charge.”
“Is she?” Jason couldn’t help being happy about that.
“Enough socializing,” Taylor snapped. “He’s our primary, not our best friend.”
“Being polite, Taylor. We’re going to be under the same roof. We might as well be friendly.”
“I didn’t come to this point in my career to be chummy with a petty criminal,” she replied.
“Hardly petty, love,” Jason corrected.
“I am not your love,” she snarled.
“Expression only, I assure you. And I’m not asking to be your best chum. A little courteous conversation, maybe knock back the odd beer…. And I haven’t been a petty criminal since I was sixteen.”
His feelings hurt, he sat back in the seat with his arms crossed petulantly. Driscole stared straight ahead, eyes fixed on the road, her back ramrod straight. The men watched their environment, never taking their eyes off their surroundings.
© Dellani Oakes
Judge Walker is still concerned that she might have made a mistake letting Jason go, but there’s no turning back. For some reason, she feels confident that the young thief won’t let her down.
“Do you think I did the right thing?” Honoria Walker put aside the papers, staring at Kyle in earnest. “Should I have sent that boy to prison instead?”
“Honey, you couldn’t have convicted that boy for crimes he didn’t commit. You aren’t built like that. Besides, you’re not looking at the bigger picture here.”
“What’s the bigger picture, Kyle?”
“If this kid comes through, you’ll have been responsible for taking down an international thief and murderer.”
“How can we be certain she really exists?”
“Something put a smile on that lad’s face, and it should wasn’t self-induced. She’s real all right. And we’re going to nail her.”
“I hope he doesn’t get in over his head. He’s just a kid.”
“That kid has survived for nine years as a criminal, Honey. The first five he lived on his wits alone, surviving the streets. He’s taught himself seven different languages, honed his accent to sound like a gentleman and has more silk shirts than Jay Gatsby.”
Honoria smiled, raising an eyebrow at his literary allusion. Kyle rarely said things like that.
“I’d hardly compare him to The Great Gatsby, Kyle.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Gatsby was a self-made man as well and he acquired most of it illegally, just like Jason.”
“Dare I ask where they will be keeping him?”
“No mystery there. The safest place they can.”
“They aren’t locking him up in prison after all?” She was horrified at the idea.
“Nope. Far better than that, Honey. They’re taking the boy home.”
* * *
Jason was tired of waiting. He felt trapped by his jail cell. Now that he knew he’d be getting out of it, he hated the wait. Never having been patient, he had always forced himself into situations where he had to take things slowly. Impatience could be overcome by the right amount of stubbornness, something he’d proven many times. If nothing else, he was tenacious and that would see him through.
He forced himself to sit down and stop pacing. It was hard to do, but he promised himself a good pacing if he’d sit there for five minutes without fidgeting, twitching or fiddling. As the clock ticked past the four minute mark, he heard voices outside. Standing, he moved to the center of his cell, adopting a pose of calm attentiveness—just the opposite of what he was feeling.
Six people walked up to his cell. Two were guards, the other four he didn’t know. There were three men and a woman. The men were all big, strong, muscular and knew how to handle themselves. He was good at sizing up opponents. These guys could quickly and efficiently kick his ass. He was a decent brawler, but they were trained martial artists.
The woman was medium height with an athletic build. Her hair was an average shade of light brown, worn in a sloppy bun as if she couldn’t be bothered to style it. Her eyes were a common shade of blue, her complexion and looks attractive, but not impressive. She carried herself like a professional and her silvery gray suit coat bulged slightly under her left arm. She wore loose fitting, low riding pants that matched the jacket. Her shirt was stark white. She wore a tie, narrow, silk, gunmetal gray. Her makeup was minimal, severe. She had dark sunglasses perched on her head.
Putting the glasses to her teeth, she bit on the end a moment before speaking. “So, this is him, huh?” She looked at Jason like she was inspecting disappointing livestock.
“Jason Banes,” he said, stepping forward with his hand extended through the bars.
The men flanked the woman putting themselves in front of her like a wall.
“Cool it, guys. He can’t hurt me from in there.” She stepped forward, extending her hand.
Her nails were short, unpolished, well manicured. Her grip was strong, her fingers and palms calloused. Jason got the impression that she could kick his ass too. He took her hand, meeting the intensity of her grasp with equal pounds per square inch. His disarming smile flashed, making no impression whatever on the young woman.
“And you are?”
“Special Agent in Charge, Taylor Driscole.”
“You’re Agent Driscole?” He grinned, still holding her hand. The other hand went immediately to his head. Long fingers brushed his curly hair out of his face. “I was expecting a chap. Nice to meet you.”
“This isn’t a social visit, Mr. Banes.”
“Jason,” he corrected automatically.
“Mr. Banes,” she said firmly. “You’re to be released in my custody. The men and I will escort you to a secure location. They’re setting up surveillance and checking security now.”
“All right. How soon do we leave?”
“I’ve got a few more papers to sign, then you’re officially my headache.”
“I won’t be one, I promise. I’m house broken and I do know how to treat a lady.”
He wasn’t really trying to flirt, but Special Agent Driscole seemed to think he was overly familiar. She snatched back her hand, glaring at him.
“Get him ready,” she told the men with her. “Move into position,” she said to the cuff of her jacket.
“Yes, ma’am,” her entourage replied in chorus.
Driscole strode to the door, slapping it with her palm, knocking it aside angrily.
© Dellani Oakes