Seth White closed the car door behind him. If the moon was out tonight, it was nowhere to be seen between the towering Los Angeles skyscrapers. Seth used to find the cityscape suffocating.
Lately, it had become a welcome cover.
“Alex, the lock.”
“I’m on it.”
Seth walked up to the storefront of Morten’s, cradling a backpack in his arm. Alex, a tall, awkward Hispanic kid, crouched by the store’s front door.
Seth glanced back at the beat-up black Honda they’d driven here.
The runt of the group, Quentin, watched them from inside the driver’s seat. He had a license, barely — but that didn’t mean he was a bad driver. See, he’d been drag racing since his feet could reach the pedals. He was their getaway guy. Roped into this by his big brother, Alex.
Seth noted the red light blinking under the car. Good.
Miller scanned the buildings above Morten’s, checking for anyone still up at this hour. He was the oldest, the leader — he decided on which robberies they pulled, and how.
The pack felt like it was a million pounds.
Alex pushed the door open. No alarm, as planned.
The Calvillo brothers, the final two members of the crew, went in first. They were brutes. From what Seth had gathered, they were already rich — they didn’t even need this job.
They were already in the most legal trouble, too. Seth reported more on them back to the FBI than anyone else.
“Anybody home?” Miller asked. Nobody replied.
Seth — or rather, Keller — was part of an FBI sting operation in LA, and he had been for the last six months.
“Light,” Miller ordered.
He was also the equipment specialist in this gang. Seth opened his pack and reached around the heavy mass, grabbing the flashlight at the bottom. He clicked on the light.
They moved deeper into the store, towards the back rooms.
Seth White was a poor 22 year old college dropout who didn’t have much to lose.
Keller Wagner was a 23 year old rising star in the FBI who had served as a dedicated officer in the Navy.
But he couldn’t operate as Keller or Seth right now. He’d dedicated himself to the plan. Don’t think. Just execute.
Moving past shelves until they got to the back, the crew found another locked door awaiting them. Alex shouldered his way past the Calvillo brothers and knelt by the door. He gestured to Seth, requesting his lock picking set.
Seth passed it over, glancing at a window on their right.
A shadow shifted outside.
Sloppy, Keller thought. Who would that be? Farah? Liam?
Tonight was the end of the operation. Keller had enough evidence to put them all away and to find the other crime rings. They would catch the crew red handed tonight, arresting them here, now. His mission was a success.
Or at least, it would be for a few more minutes.
He thought of his squad in the FBI. They would be disappointed to see what he’d become in the last weeks.
It’s okay. They’ll never know.
Seth had grown attached. His training should’ve prepared him for it, but Keller just wasn’t made for this. He wasn’t Keller Wagner pretending to be Seth White.
He had become both.
And no matter what he did now, he lost. This job had become a double-edged blade. It cut everyone, no matter what side you were on.
The thought of betraying his friends on either team sickened him.
He couldn’t do it.
Seth, Keller — whoever he was — he had to escape. The pressure had driven him to a conclusion. One he’d arrived at after a couple of sleep-deprived nights. It was simple enough. It got him what he wanted. The voice in the back of his head whispered that it was outrageous. Sinister.
Just as Alex opened the lock, tires screeched outside. Quentin was burning rubber.
“What the…” Alex muttered, looking back. Their driver was gone.
“Something must’ve spooked him if he left that quick. Grab the–” Miller started, but then the glass windows shattered and blinding lights and shouting cut him off.
The FBI was here.
Their strike was a familiar tactic to Keller. He took out his pistol, his thumb-sized remote, and punched the red button on the bulky mass in his backpack. Dropped it to the floor. There. It’s done. No more indecision — move.
Seth moved from the backpack, around the shelves of hardware as the store exploded in rubber bullets and taser wires. He rolled much too nimbly for an untrained gang member and came up in front of one of the FBI agents. Who was it? He couldn’t tell through the armor.
Probably better that way.
Keller waved amiably. The agent nodded and moved further into the store, ignoring Keller. They were to let him “get away” during the chaos.
Seth walked out of the building, trying to shut out the sound of his friends shouting in panic. Then, he broke into a sprint towards a nearby alleyway.
This was the only way out!
You know that!
I’ll still miss them, though.
The city shook as the massive explosion from Seth’s backpack obliterated Morten’s. Seth pressed the button down on his remote, detonating additional explosives hidden under Quentin’s car. The ground trembled again.
He took in a deep breath, his arms shaking. Free. Seth dead, Keller dead… Dead, with all his friends.
The man in the alleyway decided then and there his next identity would be different. No ties, no suffocating responsibilities — they were too painful, too messy. He’d be responsible for one thing and one thing only: Himself.
The man smelled the smoke of his past lives burning and laughed at a sudden realization. All the people he’d formed connections with were crisps inside that store. No matter what side.
Maybe I’m the double-edged blade.
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