Burying the Past
Chapter 17

Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy

“ ... and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God,” Kara said, finishing the oath and lowering her right hand.

Taylor looked across Kara at Whitaker, who was looking up at her adopted daughter smiling. He hadn’t seen her do much of that over the last several weeks since Qasim’s death. He was happy to see a small glimpse at the woman he knew, but hadn’t seen in a while.

Whitaker had been stunned into silence after Taylor had fired, staring at him open-mouthed for what seemed like an eternity. It wasn’t that long, but it had been long enough for the Cavalry to arrive. Things had become the predictable madhouse at that point. Crawford had the scene cleared for technicians to process everything, and had separated them. He sent them both back to the Hoover building to give statements about what had happened once they had reached the water processing plant, through to the moment the chase with Qasim had ended.

Taylor was prepared to admit he’d gunned Qasim down after the man surrendered, but they didn’t get that far. He explained everything that happened up to the chase ending. Crawford had finished the last sentence for him when Taylor had paused to figure out how he was going to explain those last few minutes.

“According to Agent Whitaker, it was at that point you cornered Qasim in the alley where he was shot while fleeing the scene of the attack. Is that correct?” Crawford had asked him.

Taylor was more than shocked. Crawford had struck Taylor as somewhat of a realist, but Whitaker was not. He’d been sure she’d explain precisely what he’d done, not that he was ashamed of it. He knew it was technically wrong, but ultimately it was the only choice that made sense. He’d been willing to pay the price for his decision the moment he pulled the trigger. He agreed with Crawford, at least until he could talk to Whitaker about what she’d said. If he contradicted her statement, she could also get into trouble, which he didn’t want.

From there, it had been a whirlwind. The news choppers hadn’t captured that last moment behind the restaurant, but the video of the chase coupled with federal officers evacuating a four-block radius of DC was enough to put them into a frenzy. The FBI put out a statement that minimized what happened, but there had been too many people involved. Local PD had been giving a description and a warning about a gas attack, local fire and rescue had helped evacuate buildings and were made aware of the presence of poisonous gas. Officials from the public works department had to be told there was a hazardous leak, and to shut down all water coming out of that processing station, just in case.

Enough of those people were willing to talk, and it didn’t take long for reporters to put it together, especially with the news from the attack on Amberville that was still fresh in people’s minds. One reporter, and then several, made enough connections that they knew in general terms what had happened. The FBI had been forced to put out a statement. They were still vague, and Qasim’s name had stayed out of it for the time being, but they had to give the press something.

They’d decided to give them Taylor. He was already enough in the public eye because of his connection to Caldwell and the press conference. Joe had talked to the Attorney General and his political staff, and they’d agreed that if they fed the country a story about federal agents stopping what could have been the most deadly incident of domestic terrorism since nine-eleven, the justice department would come off smelling like roses.

Caldwell jumped on the story, and began talking up Taylor to the press. He’d tried to back off, not wanting to be anyone’s spokesman, but Caldwell had played on her connection with him while the Bureau made it clear this was part of the deal he’d worked out to get on the case in the first place.

He’d spent the next two weeks reading prepared notes from either the Bureau or Caldwell being everyone’s dancing monkey. Whitaker had begged off, saying she didn’t want to be in the limelight. While they still lived in the same apartment, she’d been putting in long hours closing the case while Taylor was swamped with media requests. He didn’t think her being so busy was a coincidence. The few times they’d been able to spend more than a few moments together had been icy, with Whitaker either giving him non-committal responses, or being as terse as possible.

Taylor had put his foot down about today, telling everyone his only priority was Kara’s citizenship ceremony. He hadn’t been sure Whitaker would make it, and had been happy when she’d turned up at the last moment.

She looked down from Kara’s beaming face, and her smile vanished instantly as she made eye contact with Taylor. He gave her a tight smile, trying to let her know how bad he felt about the way things were between them, but she looked away.

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