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Rage Against the Dying

Ten days earlier …

I’ve sometimes regretted the women I’ve been.

There have been so many: daughter, sister, cop, tough broad, several kinds of whore, jilted lover, ideal wife, heroine, killer. I’ll provide the truth of them all, inasmuch as I’m capable of telling the truth. Keeping secrets, telling lies, they require the same skill. Both become a habit, almost an addiction, that’s hard to break even with the people closest to you, out of the business. For example, they say never trust a woman who tells you her age; if she can’t keep that secret, she can’t keep yours.

I’m fifty-nine.

When I joined the FBI there weren’t many female special agents and the Bureau took advantage of that. A five-foot-three-inch natural blond with a preteen cheerleader’s body comes in handy for many investigations, so they were willing to waive the height requirement. For a good chunk of my career I worked undercover, mostly acting as bait for human traffickers and sexual predators crossing state or international lines.

I did the undercover work for nine years. That’s about five years longer than usual before agents burn out or lose their families. Because I never married or had children I might have done more time if it hadn’t been for the accident that necessitated fusing several vertebrae. It could have been worse; you should have seen what happened to the horse.

The surgery made problematic many job requirements—leaping across rooftops … dodging knife thrusts … lap dancing. I could have taken disability but couldn’t see what life would look like outside the Bureau, so the second half of my career was spent in Investigations. Then I retired.

No, that’s not the whole truth. Toward the end I was having a little difficulty making decisions. Specifically, a couple of years ago I killed an unarmed perp near Turnerville, Georgia. Contrary to what you see in movies, FBI special agents seldom use deadly force. It causes the Bureau embarrassment. Look at Waco, or Ruby Ridge. As for the agents, they’re not trusted so much anymore and the defense can use it against them in court, paint them as a rogue who might plant evidence or slant the facts to fit a case.

There was an investigation by our internal affairs group, the Office of Professional Responsibility, which cleared me with a decision of suicide by cop. The civil suit by the relatives of the guy I shot took longer and was more expensive. That’s another thing you don’t see in the movies, that the evil serial killer has a large extended family, including a sister with a limp who teaches special needs children and who testifies that her scumbag brother is the sweetest person who ever lived.

The family claimed I shot him because I was afraid he wouldn’t get convicted. They lost, but it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. By that time my career was over and they reassigned me to the field substation in Tucson, which everyone told me was a lovely place but that felt a lot like Siberia, only hot. I hated the agent in charge and lasted a little less than seventeen months before opting for retirement, which is what they were hoping for in the first place.

Now that’s the whole truth. Mostly.

For a year I gave retirement my best shot. I joined a book club, but the other women started ignoring me when they found out I never read the book. I tried yoga at the advice of a therapist who said it would help my “anger issues” but was kicked out by the Bikram instructor after she wouldn’t let me drink water in a humid room with a temperature of one hundred degrees. I’m the one with anger issues? Namaste, my ass.

I kept going to the gym every other day to at least stay in shape, which had always been pretty good, and absolutely necessary given the work I did. I had to be able to improvise, to be flexible. I had taken special ops training from a Navy SEAL named Baxter. That was his first name. I can’t remember his last. We were very close and he was wise, for a trained killer. Whenever I picture Black Ops Baxter he’s cracking crass jokes about teaching me to use my cleavage as a weapon. He’s dead now, Baxter is.

Come to think of it, like the kid in that movie, I might know more dead people than live ones.

But back to my retirement: it felt like I was still undercover, temporarily posing as a Southwestern Woman of a Certain Age. If anyone asked me what I did for my work, I told them I investigated copyright infringements. That always killed the conversation because everyone has copied a video at some point.

I’m still gifted at disappearing into whatever environment I encounter, fading into the background, happy to succeed at what other women my age dread.

That’s who I am, and that’s what I hid from my next-door neighbors, from my beloved new husband, and sometimes from myself. No one likes a woman who knows how to kill with her bare hands.

Rage Against the Dying
by by Becky Masterman

  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250038162
  • ISBN-13: 9781250038166