"So this is her?" Tanya asked her boss looking at the photo of the sultry blonde in an evening gown. "She doesn't look like a vicious killer."
"Regardless of her appearance, Agent Mills," replied FBI Assistant Director Jon Banner, "Abigail 'Abby' Conner is the primary suspect in the murder of several other government agents. According to the information given to me by Dominic Edwards at the CIA, Ms. Conner was an Army enlistee who transferred to covert operations where she performed a variety of classified missions until her sudden disappearance a few years ago. Since going rogue, she has turned up at various intervals, including near the scenes of the aforementioned murders."
"The CIA has asked for our help in tracking her down and bringing her in for questioning. She was last seen in the greater Denver area, so we're sending you there undercover in an attempt to locate her."
"Am I to bring her in or just find her?" Tanya asked.
"Either will suffice," Banner answered. "If you think you can subdue her, then proceed. If it appears too risky, just report back with her current residence, and we'll dispatch a team to apprehend her."
"Sounds easy enough."
"Don't be fooled. This woman can be very dangerous, so don't do anything rash."
Tanya nodded, remembering all too well how things went completely wrong during her last assignment
Several days later, Tanya was sitting in a small Denver coffee shop. Abby's dossier indicated she had a preference for a very specific blend of coffee, and this shop was supposedly the best place in town to get it.
Tanya sat near the window, a pair of sunglasses serving the dual purpose of shading her eyes from the incoming sun and letting her observe everyone who walked into the establishment without giving away her attention. Her short brown hair was tousled up in a messy 'do, and she wore jeans, T-shirt, and a hoodie. She held up a Kindle trying to blend in with the other artsy-looking patrons of the shop.
Just as she was about to call it a day, a woman in a blonde ponytail entered the shop. She wasn't wearing any makeup, but the structure of her face looked strikingly similar to Abby's. When Tanya heard the woman order, she was sure she'd found her target.
Heeding Banner's warning, she lifted up the Kindle and peeked around it, waiting for the woman to get her drink. When she left the shop, Tanya tucked the Kindle into her bag, picked it up, and followed the woman out.
The woman she thought was Abby was about half a block down the street, and Tanya made sure to hang back and blend in with the crowd. Eventually, they reached a row of brownstones, and Abby walked up to one, unlocked the door, and went inside. Tanya made a mental note of its number and position and kept walking.
As she rounded the corner, she ducked into an alley behind the buildings. Slowly, she crept down the alley, counting the houses to figure out which one was Abby's.
Suddenly a hand clamped over her mouth. Before Tanya could react, she felt the sting of a needle right above her collarbone.
"You really need to do a better job of pretending to read," her assailant said before Tanya's vision got hazy and everything went black.
Oh, not again...
As Tanya regained consciousness, she realized she was once again in trouble. She was seated on a heavy wooden chair in the middle of a living room. Her wrists were duct-taped to the arms of the chair. Likewise, each of her ankles was taped to its corresponding front chair leg. More tape was looped over her chest and around the back of the chair. To make matters worse, Tanya could feel a rag inside her mouth which had also been covered with several strips of tape.
Tanya grunted as she tried to pull her hands free, but the tape around her torso prevented her from getting the leverage needed to dislodge them.
"Let me give you a tip, Agent Mills," said a voice to her left.
Tanya turned to see Abby sitting in a recliner going through her bag. She was holding her FBI badge and smiling.
"If you're trying to hide behind an e-reader, you should interact with the device every now and again. It's extremely easy to spot someone when they're pretending to read but never turning any pages."
Tanya fumed at her own stupidity. She'd hoped blending in with the clientele would be enough camouflage, but she had been too focused on her target to keep up appearances.
"The question now is what to do with you," Abby mused.
Abby must have noticed Tanya's reaction and sighed. "Please... if I wanted to kill you, I would have done that already. Why would I have bothered tying you up if I wanted you dead?"
Abby had a point.
"Let me guess -- My old boss, Dominic, called up the FBI asking you guys to find me so everything was above board, and I could be arrested and brought in for a trial?"
"Oh, that's rich!" she exclaimed, standing up. "Let me tell you the outcome if that happens. I'll either 'hang myself' in my cell one night, or I'll be shot dead while attempting a 'violent escape'."
Abby's use of air-quotes caused Tanya to wonder if her time on the run was making her paranoid.
"You want to know the truth?" Abby continued, since Tanya was in no position to say no. "It was Dominic who had those agents killed, not me! He and a close set of underlings have been double-dipping in the intelligence community for years, and when someone starts investigating a leak, they wind up dead. I got tired of his abuse of power and began gathering evidence against him. He must have gotten wind of it, though, because all of the sudden, evidence materialized tying me to the murders."
Tanya didn't know what to believe. There had been rumors about Edwards exceeding his authority, but nothing could ever be proven. However, Abby could also be playing her to set up another flight attempt.
Then again, why was Abby still here? If she merely wanted to escape, surely she would have left by now. Likewise, she could have just shot, stabbed, or poisoned Tanya earlier if she really was a cold-blooded murderer.
Abby stopped pacing and caught her breath. "I'm getting too worked up and need to clear my head. Sorry to have to leave you like this, but until I know I can trust you, you're going to have to stay tied to that chair. I'll grab us some food, and maybe we can come up with something."
Abby grabbed her jacket and left the house, leaving Tanya with her loyalties in question.
Tanya gave Abby a few minutes to leave the house and started thinking about what to do. Until she had a definite answer, Abby was still a threat. She examined her predicament and tried to come up with a way out of this.
Then it hit her. She was still wearing the hoodie, and the tape was affixed to it. While she couldn't pry her way loose, if she could slip out of the hoodie, she might be able to free herself.Okay, it looks like the zipper is below the tape on my chest, so if I can get my shoulder out of the top, I might be able to pull my hands free.
Tanya shifted back and forth in the chair, twisting and pushing with her chin until she exposed her shoulder. Now came the hard part. The tape on her wrists was tight, so she pressed down with the ball of her hand, stretching the tape as much as she could.
Then she flattened her hand and leaned around, twisting and working her hand between the sleeve of her hoodie and the tape until she felt her hand begin to slide underneath. Moments later, her hand popped free from under the tape.
She found she couldn't simply pull her arm free of the hoodie, but she just grabbed the sleeve from inside and pulled the fabric away from the adhesive. In moments, her hand was free!
Quickly, Tanya reached up and peeled away the gag. She debated yelling for help, but if Abby was anywhere nearby, that could put her in more danger. Instead, she reached over and began unwrapping her other wrist. Once it was free, she pulled away the tape from her chest and went to work on her ankles.
No sooner had she gotten free of the chair when she heard a key in the lock. Tanya grabbed the roll of duct tape, dashed over to the door, and stood to the side as Abby entered.
Abby cursed when she saw the empty chair, but was unprepared for Tanya jumping her from behind. Abby went to the floor, bumping her head on the hardwood and getting the wind knocked out of her at the same time.
Dazed and gasping, she was no match for Tanya pinning her wrists behind her back and securing them with the tape. Tanya also bound Abby's legs at the ankles and thighs.
Once Abby caught her breath, she screamed that Tanya didn't understand. While that was true, Tanya needed to think, and she couldn't have Abby attracting the neighbors, so she slapped a few strips of tape over Abby's mouth to grant her a few moments of silence.
While Abby thrashed on the floor, Tanya sat down on the recliner. Abby's earlier accusations were a definite possiblity, but she used to lie as part of her job, too. Likewise, being constantly in hiding and on the run could be making her paranoid and/or delusional.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Tanya looked down at Abby wondering if it was someone who overheard the commotion or just a salesperson.
"Agent Mills, are you in there?" asked a male voice.
Tanya opened the door and saw a well-built man in a suit standing on the other side. "I'm Agent Mills," she answered. "Who are you?"
"Agent Felix Barker," replied the man. "You hadn't checked in all day, and Banner told me about the tracking device in your Kindle. I came to make sure everything was okay."
Tanya was a bit surprised about the tracker, but she was grateful for the assist, even if it was no longer necessary.
"It is now," answered Tanya. "Come on in."
As Felix entered the room, he spotted Abby on the floor. "I see you captured your target as well."
When Abby saw Felix she began violently thrashing and attempting to scream through the gag.
"She had the upper hand for a bit and told me quite the story," replied Tanya. "When we take her back to headquarters I'd like to..."
Tanya gasped as Felix leveled a gun at her. "Ms. Conner isn't going back to headquarters," he said, "and if the two of you have been talking, then you won't be either."
Tanya fumed as she watched Felix stage the scene, helpless to do anything about it.
She was seated in the recliner with her hands bound tightly behind her back with more rope encircling her waist and pinning her wrists at the base of her spine. Her legs were crossed, bound at the ankles and knees, and a taut rope ran from her knees up and around her neck ensuring she couldn't stand up. Even if she tried, she would choke herself in the process.
Abby wasn't faring much better. While she, too, was bound at the wrists, ankles, and knees, Felix also bound her elbows together and had her standing near the door. He took a long rope and tied one end to her elbows. Then he weaved the rope through her wrist bindings. He threw the end over an exposed rafter, pulling her arms upward, and tucked the end between her thighs before tying it around her waist. Abby moaned at the awkward angle of her arms combined with the pressure against her crotch.
Both of them had their mouths stuffed with rags and the leftover tape was wrapped completely around their heads and mouths, ensuring none of their cries would be heard by anyone.
This proved to be a good decision because both tried to scream when they saw Felix begin setting up a bomb atop the coffee table in the center of the room.
"Here's how the report is going to read," Felix bragged to his literal captive audience. "Agent Mills got caught once again, and Ms. Conner attempted to blow up both her and any evidence she might have left behind. Unfortunately, she didn't set the timer properly, and the bomb went off before she could get away. It's an ironic end to a traitor combined with the tragic loss of a valued, if ultimately inept, agent."
Tanya had to admit it was a good plan. The blast would likely incinerate the ropes binding Abby, so it would look like she was near the door when the bomb went off. Unfortunately, she didn't want to be the "innocent victim" in all this, nor did she like being referred to as "ultimately inept".
Felix double-checked the women's ropes, making certain they were tight, and then went to the bomb. "I think an hour should be sufficient time for me to get away," he said aloud.Four would be better,
thought Tanya hoping for more time to escape or be discovered.
Without another word, Felix activated the bomb and left. Immediately, both women tried to free themselves.
Abby tried to twist her hands free, but her cruelly-bound elbows prevented her from moving her arms much at all. Added to the fact she had to stand in such an uncomfortable position, and her struggles were practically useless.
Tanya knew it was up to her. She tried pulling her ankles up to her hands, but the inability to move her knees very far kept the knots away from her fingers. Like it or not, she was going to have to figure out some way to deactivate the bomb.
Locking her legs as best she could, Tanya lunged forward and off the edge of the chair. The impact on the floor shifted her legs, and it was all Tanya could do not to choke and accidentally inhale the stuffing in her mouth.This is almost worse than being hogtied.
After regaining her composure, she shifted back into a sitting position and tried to come up with a plan. The bomb was on top of the coffee table, and she was on the floor. She wouldn't be able to lift her hands up as long as they were tied, so that meant having to get the bomb down or come up with some way to get on top of the table. It looked to be made of solid wood and capable of holding her weight, but the problem was getting up there.
Tanya glanced up at Abby for some reassurance. Abby was nodding her head downward and mumbling something incoherent. Tanya frowned as she looked around. The coffee table had a compartment on either side of it, and Tanya started moving to the end closer to Abby.
Abby nodded enthusiastically as Tanya neared the cabinet. She managed to pull the door open with her feet and peered inside. There was a box cutter! Tanya placed her feet inside the opening and hooked the knife out onto the floor. Then she twisted around to where she could grab it with her hands. She extended the blade and began sawing at the ropes binding her wrists.
As soon as she pulled her hands free, she began tearing away the gag. "Hang on, Abby," she said as she spat out the stuffing. "Let me take care of this bomb first, and then I'll get you free."
The bomb was a basic design. Tanya noted, however, that disabling it required pulling out two wires on opposite sides simultaneously, meaning she wouldn't have been able to disarm it while bound. Felix obviously didn't think they'd be able to get free so quickly and had that in mind when he set up the deathtrap.
Tanya untied the rest of her ropes, then stood up and went over to Abby. "We're safe now," she said as she untied the ropes binding Abby's arms. Tanya let Abby remove her own gag as she began working on Abby's legs.
"That was way too close," muttered Abby once she could speak again. "Do you believe me now?"
"Absolutely!" Tanya exclaimed as she began walking to her bag. "Let me get the Director on the phone and fill him in on the details. We can put you in protective custody until charges are formally brought up against Edwards."
Suddenly, Abby grabbed her from behind and the box cutter appeared directly in front of her face.
"No way," growled Abby. "Your boss may be an honest Fed, but Edwards's influence runs deep. If I'm in government custody, I'm in danger. Luckily, I've got a better idea that should work out for both of us."
Tanya cursed herself for untying Abby's ropes instead of cutting them away since she now found herself bound with them. Tightly hogtied on the couch with a thick rag tied between her teeth, she stared at the manila folder sitting directly in front of her face. It supposedly contained all the evidence Abby had that would incriminate Edwards.
Abby had taken the box cutter and Tanya's phone, saying she would phone Director Banner once she was a safe distance away. Considering Abby looked somewhat remorseful leaving her like this, Tanya was inclined to believe her.
It wasn't like she had a choice, though...The End