“Are you always so difficult?” Special Agent Jude Fallon seemed to savor a good rhetorical question.
When I was told that my FBI handler was named Jude, I thought I’d be working with someone who looked like Jude Law. No luck. Jude was shaped like an egg with legs. Her best assets were her slender legs that seemed to get lost beneath her wide frame, short neck, and full face. Worse, Jude Fallon made Judge Judy seem like a real softy.
“For someone who was granted immunity despite the fact that you destroyed evidence and went directly against orders from the judge to preserve the personal email accounts”—her mousy brown hair slowly swayed from side to side—“I’d think you’d be more appreciative.”
“I am.” My voice rose but so did my composure. “Jude, I am extremely appreciative. But,” I paused, knowing that in respect to this subject, I walked on holy ground, “I was granted immunity in exchange for my testimony. So it’s not like I walked away scot-free. I still have to testify.” When she didn’t rebuke me or roll her eyes, I continued. “I just don’t understand why I have to leave Napa. I did everything you wanted me to do. I worked in the hotel as a wine educator in a dark, damp cave.”
“Yes, well, the property is drawing too much attention to itself.” Her arms crossed over her dull gray blazer that seemed like the uniform standard for the FBI.
“That’s it? That’s all you’ll give me.” I was willing to beg for more info. “Jude, the Point’s a five-diamond resort—that alone draws attention. If you didn’t want me discovered, you should have had me work at some Travelodge along the highway.”
“That’s still an option.” When Jude exhaled, her nostrils flared, which wasn’t a very good look for her. “But I don’t trust you being so close to a truck stop.”
It felt like the air was knocked from my lungs. Low blow.
“That’s not fair.” My eyes stung, but I refused to let her see me crack. “What happened in Wyoming was different.”
“You’re right. In Wyoming, you just broke about a half-dozen federal and state laws.”
“That was never my intention,” I said, but it didn’t matter how many times I pleaded my case to Jude, she’d only see me as a rule breaker. Or worse, a criminal.
Still, my fate was in her mannish hands so the faster her tirade ended, the sooner I’d discover where I was being sent.
“So, where am I headed now?” My voice sounded as deflated as I felt. Until the Wyoming case went to trial, I’d forever be hopscotching from one Point resort to another, always with the intent of staying under the radar. Jude figured the best place to hide me was out in the open. People never saw what was right in front of them. And no one in Wyoming would ever think to look for me at a five-diamond resort.
“You have two choices—New York or Long Beach.”
I didn’t remember a Point resort in Long Beach, but I only googled their flagship properties. And I knew from online chat groups that the New York City Point Resort did not treat their employees well. Long Beach had to be far less crowded than New York City. Plus, unless it was false advertising, it had a beach. There weren’t any beaches in Wyoming. Score.
“Long Beach.” I smiled.
“Listen, Roberts, you draw any attention to yourself, you’re going to Kansas.”
I didn’t remember any Point resorts in the Midwest. “What’s there for me in Kansas?”
“But that’s a men’s prison,” I said.
“No, it’s a men’s penitentiary and you’ll be mighty popular there,” she said without a hint of a smile.
“So, the West Coast, then.” I tried to bring the conversation to something happy like the sun, a sandy beach, and not seeing Jude. A break from my egg-shaped handler would be welcome.
Mary Billiter is a weekly newspaper columnist and fiction author. She also has novels published under the pen name, “Pumpkin Spice.”
Mary resides in the Cowboy State with her unabashedly bald husband, her four amazing children, two fantastic step-kids, and their runaway dog. She does her best writing (in her head) on her daily runs in wild, romantic, beautiful Wyoming.