The rain came down in sheets. Special Agent Carrie McDonald wiped
her face on the sleeve of her black windbreaker. No use. Everything was soaked.
Special Agent Susan White joined Carrie at her lookout post by the
cordoned-off stretch of highway. “Thank god that’s someone else’s mess to clean
up.” She squinted at Special Agent Cortez talking to a Travis County Sheriff’s
Deputy next to an SUV in the ditch with its wheels still slowly revolving in
the air. He looked like a swarthy, drowned rat. Carrie felt sorry for him.
The San Antonio field office would take the rap for this
clusterfuck. She tried not to feel relieved about that.
The scene on this stretch of highway was straight out of the
latest installment of The Fast and the Furious. A pick-up and a black sedan lay
upside down across the lanes, flattened and still smoking. The railings that
SUV had crashed through were mangled shards of metal. A fourth vehicle lay out
of sight in a deep ravine, curls of smoke marking its resting place. Everything
was illuminated sideways by the setting sun. The ambulances were long gone, but
the coroner’s van still idled nearby.
Three dead drug mules. Two civilians, on the way home from a choir
recital, also dead. And three seriously injured Austin PD detectives made it a
calamity beyond the usual drug bust.
Would they ever work out exactly what had gone wrong? Right now,
the narrative was confused and short on detail. As far as the forensics team
had worked out, one of the unmarked law enforcement vehicles had been en route
to head off the suspects fleeing hell over leather from the sting op gone south
in downtown Austin. That had been where Carrie and Susan had been detailed to
cover one of the routes out of the city. The sedan, carrying two agents from
the FBI’s San Antonio field office, was in hot pursuit. Poor visibility, a
narrow stretch of road of hairpin bends and a car full of stressed-out perps
under the influence had made for an explosive combination. The drug
traffickers’ car had swerved on the opposite lane to overtake the SUV carrying a
mother and teenage daughter just before another narrow curve. They’d met a car
with three Austin detectives racing to aid the operation head on, and the world
had exploded in screeching metal and glass.
Carrie gave a sigh. She nudged her partner. “Come on. Cortez says
to call it a day.” It wasn’t like them getting soaked here made the slightest
bit of difference. The hillside swarmed with LEOs from Austin PD, the Travis
County Sheriff’s Department and the San Antonio field office. Two Criminal
Investigation agents on loan from Baltimore were of scant use in the clean-up.
Susan nodded as Cortez’s angry voice carried up to them. “Let’s
get out of here.”
Their rental sedan sat thirty yards back from the cordoned-off
scene, and Susan pointed the keys at it. The lights flashed and the doors
clicked open. Even in the middle of a crisis, she’d never leave a car unlocked
that contained weapons and ammunition. Behind her back, Susan was sometimes
called Agent Lily White. Carrie appreciated her partner’s uprightness. It was
one reason they got on so well and she chose to work more with her than any
Thinking of Susan’s nickname made Carrie smile, but when she slid
into the passenger seat and her gaze took in the carnage on the highway, the
smile quickly faded.
Fucking hell, this one’s gone sideways.
“Gibbs’ll want a report.” Susan buckled up.
“Yeah.” Carrie sighed. She reached into the backseat where their
luggage was stowed and dug in her carry-on for a towel. As she slid back into
her seat, the wet windbreaker made a squelchy sound against the fake leather.
She grimaced and wriggled out of the jacket, dropping the sodden thing in the
She quickly rubbed her short hair dry, then handed the towel to
Susan, who took her time to undo the knot at the back of her head, wincing as
the rubber band snagged on her long auburn tresses. She folded down the visor
and tried to untangle the mess that the wind and rain had made of her do.
Usually Carrie envied Susan her beautiful hair. Tonight, not so much.
She folded down her own screen and smoothed down the much shorter
strands of her dark brown bob. She looked a fright, with chapped cheeks and a
sodden collar. At least her hair would be as good as dry before they got back
to the motel. “I hope they can give us our rooms back for one more night.”
“We were the only ones in that place for the last three days,”
Susan pointed out from under the towel. “More likely they’ve gone bankrupt
since we checked out. Maybe we should find somewhere else. Somewhere less—”
“Dank?” Carrie suggested. Susan snorted.
“Yeah.” She sighed. “Gibbs would flip his shit if we upgraded on
the company dollar.” She chucked the towel in the back and started the car.
“Back to the Bates Motel it is.”