For Natalie Taylor, this would prove to be a long first day, and it was only one o’clock in the afternoon. Four weeks and three days ago, she had finished graduate school at Berkeley, completing her master’s degree in criminal psychology. When going into college, she had intended to join a police force in a large city, or possibly enter the FBI.
Plans changed a year ago when she witnessed a murder near the college campus. Although she was nowhere near the scene where the crime would take place, she was certain that she heard screams. She knew this was impossible, no one was near her, but she continued to hear the shrieks and wails, and they were accompanied by an intense feeling that someone was about to die. Refusing to believe herself delusional, she followed directions she knew she should not know, and she allowed intuition to guide her. She wandered several blocks, eventually arriving outside a small blue house in an upscale neighborhood. She felt like a stalker, peeking through the front window, but what she saw inside horrified her.
An almost surreal scene unfolded before her. A man, probably near thirty years old, wrestled with a red haired woman inside, who was screaming hysterically. Natalie could tell the woman was pregnant, and she was bleeding profusely from a number of slashes to her arms. The man’s face bled from several fingernail gouges. Natalie immediately rushed to the porch and attempted to open the door. It was locked. She continued to watch as the woman kicked at the door. The hinges began to give, so she kicked several more times, but the door remained closed.
The struggle continued and the woman bit down on her attacker’s hand, the pain causing him to pause a moment, which she used to detangle herself from the man’s hold. She ran towards the door. If she could open it, Natalie might be able to outfight the man and help her escape. Natalie saw an already bloody butcher knife lying on the floor. “Get the knife!” she screamed through the window. The woman instead continued towards the door, which Natalie continued to kick. The man retrieved the knife and ran towards her. Through the window, Natalie could clearly see the tip of the knife protrude through her sternum. There was a blood-curdling scream and then the woman fell silent.
The man within, aware of the interloper outside, unlocked the door. Natalie saw him comin, realized that he was armed and she was not, so she began to run. The blood-frenzied murderer promptly threw the door open and began to give chase. Natalie pulled out her cell phone and hit the speed-dial to call the police as she ran down the street. She was physically fit, and the man she fled was not. Within moments she outran him as she breathlessly described what she had just seen to the dispatch officer on the line. The man turned around and walked back towards his house, and climbed into his car. Natalie followed at a distance, and read the license plate numbers to the dispatch as it peeled out of the driveway and flew down the street.
Within hours the man was apprehended and Natalie was brought in as a witness. The detectives investigating the case found her story not only unlikely, but potentially incriminating. The FBI was called in to evaluate the situation, at which time she was interviewed by someone they claimed was a psychologist. In truth, he was a recruiter for the PSI. Impressed with her background, and her emerging mental powers, he revealed the existence of the agency, gave her his card, and invited her to apply when she finished school.
A year passed and Natalie submitted her application to the agency. They brought her in for testing. She was prepared for their initial tests where she was asked to prove that she was physically capable of handling the job by running a mile in under seven minutes, doing push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a laundry list of other exercises. After that, she had been given a test, which focused on her knowledge of investigative procedures, criminal law, criminal psychology, and other related fields. She had been prepared for all of those, and her scores were well-above average. Following that, they had given her another battery of tests that involved intuition: guessing games, gambling, and word associations. Again, her success rate was far higher than that of the average person. It was confirmed to their satisfaction that she had the knowledge to do the job, that she possessed psionic powers, and that she was beginning to be able to unconsciously use her those powers.
Following the testing, the agency offered her a position. She spent her first two months learning from the agency. It took little more than a day to absorb the background of the agency, what their objective was, and what her role in the field would be. The rest of the time was spent developing the powers that lay dormant within her mind. This had been the most difficult time she could remember because she knew that the talent existed within her, but it took a great deal of time and effort to learn how to consciously access those parts of her mind. Slowly she learned, feeling much like a toddler taking her first steps, and she still had a long road ahead of her, but new secrets were opening up for her every day. More importantly, she was now discovering new powers without the aid of her teachers.
Today, Natalie would put her training to use, no longer as a student, but as an agent. She walked to the office door and tried the knob. It rattled as she turned it back and forth, but didn’t open. “Odd that he would lock me out. I thought I was expected,” she said under her breath.
She was about to knock on the door, when it swung open and she faced a man of about thirty years of age, a medium athletic build, brown hair, with what was likely an Irish heritage. He immediately reminded her of someone she’d seen before, but she couldn’t quite place it… a singer or actor…. “Haven’t you heard of knocking?” he asked impatiently. “You should try it sometime rather than just assuming that the door is open.”
“Sorry,” she stammered.
“Come on in,” he said, gesturing into a dimly lit room. “I’m sure they told you already, but my name’s David Snow, and this will be our office.” He reached out and shook her hand, “It’s nice to meat you, Agent Taylor.”
Natalie entered the room. Within, she saw two working spaces. One desk was clean, with a keyboard, mouse, monitor, an organizer for office supplies, and a filing cabinet within arm’s reach of the desk. On the opposite side of the room was a second desk, which was piled with clutter. The keyboard was buried under a newspaper, several loose sheets of paper, and a pizza box with three slices of what could only be cold pepperoni pizza. “Getting much accomplished?” she asked innocently.
Snow grinned. “To be honest, I was taking a nap. Richards sent down a case to work on last night. I spent the better part of the morning reviewing it, then I had to wait for them to finish processing your security badge and showing you where all the bathrooms and fire exits are before we could get started.”
Natalie took a seat at her immaculate desk and turned around in her chair to face Snow. “So what are we looking at?” She asked.
A somber look came over Snow’s face. He tossed the case file to Natalie. “In Los Angeles, we have one dead agent and another who’s missing, but presumed dead. They were investigating the murder of Dr. Russell, one of the leading psionic researchers in the field. I studied his work when I was training for this job. He seemed to have disappeared a few years ago, but it turns out he was employed by the Clark-Reynolds Technologies company. We have no suspects and few leads. Our plane leaves for LA in three hours.”
“So this looks like some kind of investigation gone awry?” Taylor commented. She skimmed over the first two pages of her report. “So Agent Holt was found dead by security guards in a building belonging to the Clark-Reynolds Technologies Company. The company conducted their own investigation, then notified the authorities of the body? What ever happened to the laws about not disturbing a crime scene?” Taylor read on. “And the Clark-Reynolds Technologies Company happens to be the same company that employed Dr. Russell. Do we have any reason to believe that they aren’t the ones responsible for both murders? Some kind of a corporate cover up…”
“I considered that,” Snow said, “But I would be pretty surprised if that were the case. They do a lot of contract work for the Department of Defense. I don’t think it’s in their best interest to kill federal officials who are trying to catch the murderer of one of their top researchers. Of course I could be wrong.”
“But the report says that they were evasive when dealing with Agent Holt,” Taylor added.
“Which is unusual for a privately held company how?” Snow remarked.
“It looks like we have our jobs cut out for us.” Taylor said. “So, since we’re going to be partners, how did you end up without a partner?”
Snow smirked. “I’ve been working undercover for two years. I’ve seen the inside of several organizations that were intent on destroying this country, committing mass murder, exposing our spies overseas, and had a dozen other anti-US agendas. Most of them were either fairly small or worked in cells. My job was to find the top men and decapitate the organizations.”
“So why aren’t you doing that anymore?” Taylor asked.
Snow shrugged. “Maybe I’ve dodged the bullet one too many times, maybe the PSI decided I’m too valuable to discover dead in a ditch somewhere. It was time to move on to safer work.”
“Work where they can keep closer tabs on you?” Taylor suggested.
“Yeah, there’s that,” Snow admitted. “Some of the directors believe I’ve been undercover too long. They think my loyalties might be shifting to something unpatriotic and self-serving.”
“Are they?” Taylor asked bluntly.
Snow shook his head, “It’s all a power play. Someone higher up is trying to advance their own career by exposing double agents. It’s a noble goal, but one that I fear is a waste of time and resources, not to mention the careers of some promising agents.”
“So someone has you pegged for a traitor and they’ve reigned you in so that they can gather dirt,” Taylor said.
“And that’s where you fit into the picture. As far as I can tell, Richards is on my side in this witch hunt, so he figures that he’ll put you and I together and you’ll either give them the evidence they need, or clear my name.”
“So nice to be needed.”
To be continued...
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