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Truth in the Lies

How far would you go to learn the truth?

By Lisa VanGalenPublished about a month ago 5 min read
Top Story - March 2024
10
Truth in the Lies
Photo by Alexei Maridashvili on Unsplash

Kathleen Brannagh stared at the bundle of documents as if they might catch fire where they sat. She chewed the edge of her nail, nose wrinkling at the musty scent found in old houses and the pungent odor of fear combined with grief and disbelief. Overwhelmed, she stomped down the stairs. The past should have stayed where she found it -- in the back of a cluttered closet with moth-eaten baby clothes and stained photographs.

Decaying flowers dropped petals onto a neatly folded newspaper, the picture of the fiery crash that claimed her parents on display beneath the bold-type headline. Tears threatened to jump the border of her eyelashes. Kathleen angrily swept them away. The loss was numbed by distance and time, her family more strangers than relatives. If it weren't for her chubby cheeks showcased on the mantel, this could have been anyone's home.

But it wasn't. It was hers. And she wished a random lightning strike would take it all away.

***

Lucas Morgan stood in the shadows of the old oak, idly tracing the weathered letters carved into the ancient trunk. A once-familiar figure passed by the living room window in the house across the way. He wondered if she remembered him, thought about him, the way he had about her. Twenty-one years is a long time to stay gone. Yet not nearly long enough. She shouldn't have come back.

***

Kathleen shuddered as if touched by a ghost. Not impossible, considering the circumstances. Reluctantly, she turned back to her task, grabbing random items and shoving them into boxes. Knick-knacks were thrown in with clothes, fake flowers smashed by coffee table books of places she had been stationed. A bitter reminder of the career that had been snatched from her by innuendo and outright lies.

She endured three days of sideways glances and silent glares before the senior agents declared her guilty by association. A mountain of disinformation stood between her and redemption, forcing Kathleen to resign or face charges of treason. The allegations were unfounded, nothing more than idle gossip, but the adage "where there's smoke" had prevailed.

At the centre of the controversy lay Patrick Corrigan, her fiancé, who had been seen visiting the home of an associate who may, or may not, have ties to an international secret organization. It was absurd of course, as Kathleen knew all of his acquaintances. She had to. It was her job to know. The man was a former schoolmate of hers and no threat to anyone. But you can't prove a negative.

The slander train took off. If she knew about the contact, she must be in on the alleged transfer of national secrets. If she didn't know, she wasn't very good at her job, letting her lover fool her like that. With no way to salvage anything of her life, either professional or personal, she walked away. A week later, Kathleen slept alone in a tiny hotel room, possessions in storage and her life in tatters.

Coming home involved many emotions. Tired of digging through her family history, she stood at the front window, lifting the edge of the curtain to stare out into the night. The red glow of a lit cigarette sparked, highlighting a dark figure leaning against the tree. Kathleen stepped back, gingerly letting the fabric fall into place.

The answers lay in those documents, their presence a vindication and a curse. If only she wasn't so afraid to ask the questions.

***

Lucas cursed as he crushed the filter under his heel. Slip-ups like that that could get a man killed. It would serve him well to remember that Kathleen was a grown woman and a highly trained operative, much like himself. He slunk deeper into the shadows before running for the safety of his car. Maybe she hadn't seen him. But if she had, he had a bitter choice to make.

And if Kathleen found the papers Patrick sent to her father for safekeeping, Lucas would soon be found out. He prayed his contact hadn't been stupid enough to implicate him in the transfer or put his name in one of the reports. If Corrigan had named names, it wouldn't be just Lucas' career going up in smoke.

***

Pulling the file closer, Kathleen grimaced before opening the first file. Disbelief was rapidly replaced by the gut punch of betrayal. Flipping through phone records, transcriptions, and bank statements, they left her little choice but to sweep away everything she had believed and accept the truth of the rumours. Her colleagues had been right after all. With the blinders of love stripped from her eyes, Kathleen could now see the pattern Patrick had worked so hard to hide from her.

Crash! The sound of breaking glass echoed through the house.

Kathleen shot to her feet, the pages scattering over the dusty floor, her hand reaching for the non-existent holster. Scrambling for a weapon, her eyes glanced across a sheet of paper, the familiar handwriting forcing the final piece into the puzzle.

The door creaked open.

"Hello, lover," Patrick said. He looked at the mess, spying the one page he needed. With his handgun, he gestured to Kathleen. "Be a dear and pick that up for me."

***

Lucas crept up the stairs, much as he had as a teenager. Cautiously peering around the doorframe, he spied Kathleen bending over to grab the note. Patrick loomed over her, pistol aimed at the back of her quivering head. Kathleen's eyes, brimming with tears met his. Help me, she mouthed before standing to face her former fiancé.

"BANG!"

"BANG!"

As the echoes faded, Kathleen lay in a heap on the bloody floor. Lucas strolled over to Patrick's twitching body and raised his gun.

"BANG!"

***

Flat stones marked two fresh graves as the lone mourner limped out of the cemetery.

Bing.

Text message: Congratulations, Agent Brannagh. I hear your mole hunt was successful. Debrief at 0800 tomorrow.

Kathleen put her phone away. Time to go home.

fiction
10

About the Creator

Lisa VanGalen

I am a panster by nature, discovering my characters as they reveal themselves. To date, my novel writing has involved the paranormal or magick within a more familiar setting, blending it with mysteries, police procedurals, or thrillers.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (4)

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  • Glacier Heart23 days ago

    Why did she feel guilty ?

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Oooohhh - so good! Congrats on TS!

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Very LeCarré feel to this...

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