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That Little Something-Something Extra

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You know it’s coming before you even see it. The box of files arrives on your desk in the standard cardboard box ubiquitous to offices here and the universe over, except this box is floated along by Stasiak, who wears bloated smugness like one of his hideous neckties. It’s not the box that interests you, because they’re all pieces of the puzzle; it’s the contents, of course.

It’s one dossier in particular that stands as the center domino at the heart of the FBI’s embarrassment and the manhunt that’s sweeping the country.

Brian O’Conner.

This case is right up your alley, even if you’re just a lowly Junior Agent. It’s not like Stasiak wants you on his team. To him, you’re just a glorified paper caddy and paperwork bitch who’s on hand to make his life easier as he all but gleefully dances around the office, as his vendetta against O’Conner has been legitimized into a top agency priority.

Bits and pieces of the contents inside the box, folders documenting years before, rookie mistakes and deals made and broken, can wait, you figure. Because piecing together all that has happened with the jagged edges of sterile reports feels like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. All headaches that can be reviewed and unleashed upon the world after a hot shower and a glass of wine or two.


The hot shower you’ve just taken does nothing to make you feel the slightest bit better. Rather, you pinch the bridge of your nose and rub your temples in a futile effort to stop the rolling pulse of annoyance that rams against your skull with the same persistence as your parents’ snide remarks and digs at your profession of choice.

Pressing off on your cell is a godsend, as your mother has taken great pride in telling you all the reasons that being an FBI Agent isn’t as great you think because Brian O’Conner is now the poster boy for all that is wrong in the world. Dad, on the other hand, simply reminds you that you wouldn’t have to deal with paperwork or manhunts if you’d become a corporate lawyer, doctor, engineer, or concert pianist like he’d suggested years ago. All you want to do is throw your cell against the wall in the hope that it will smash into a million pieces, drink a little wine and find O’Conner just so that you punch him for making your life so much more incredibly difficult.

Dressed in a comfy t-shirt and shorts combo, you can already see your mother glaring at you in your head, you walk into the kitchen with the sole intent of finding your wine, a glass and a little peace before you get down to work.

It’s all easier said than done as that headache on the precipice of forcing you to quit and hit the bed before it breaks through and become a full on raging migraine is steering you far, far away from your objective. The box sits on the couch in stark relief against the wide pillows and well-used knit throw that hangs over the back. Standing on a lone cushion, it looks like the world’s worst birthday present and for you it might as well be such. Once the top is removed, you dive into web and trace all the extending arms that lead to Brian O’Conner.

As you take a sip of your wine, finely chilled and not too fruity to be considered a girl’s wine--you’re all about breaking the stereotypes-- you laugh, because if Stasiak had been smart, which he’s not, he would have added you to his team personally. See, because if relationships in the LA Office are broken to the lowest common denominator then you guess, it’s more than safe to call you and Brian friends.

Correction: he was your friend.

As you look around your apartment that’s caught in the stylistic throes of transitioning from late graduate student to successful career woman, you can honestly say from looking at the spaces here and there, and maybe a photo or two on the low tables and walls, that you and O’Conner were never that kind of friends.

The day you meet O’Conner, you apply the Physical Descriptors Field Test in your head and utterly fail to read him well, because you are sideswiped by his looks. You rattle off a sequence Caucasian male, late twenties, over six feet, lean build, when you stop short. Stopping short is the mild way of phrasing how you suddenly felt your knees buckle just the slightest and a sensation, a flutter and not gas from lunchtime burritos, tingle the insides of your stomach.

Brian O’Conner has a very specific set of looks. A set that makes you want to gently place your hands on his shoulders, sit him down and ask politely what the hell he thinks he’s doing here , but you don’t because that would be rude, and when he smiles at you and shakes your hand like a fellow teammate should, you feel even more compelled to like him.

Quickly, you learn that Brian is more than a handsome face. He has an interesting tendency of being shy, though stubbornly direct when he thinks he’s right. If anything, he always seems distant. Even in a room shoulder to shoulder with other agents, you notice that his body reads stiff and coiled, and he looks about as desolate as an iceberg on the Arctic Sea. He has no problems working on his own. In fact, even as part of a team, he has a tendency to work alone and usually does better at it than being paired with someone, with the exception of her that is.

You get his distance, his aloofness, which seemed to keep him miles apart from his fellow agents rather than a few scant inches. It never feels that way when he was around you. O’ Conner loosened up, if only by a fraction, and smiled easier at you than the rest. Maybe it was the baggage from his fuck-up as a detective back in his LAPD days that haunted him like a ghost. Things get sketchy after that, making the whispers and rumors around the office more interesting. According to Fed scuttlebutt, this isn’t the first time O’ Conner’s face has graced the television screen under the banner of Wanted. Which, like adding a couple of dashes of hot sauce to a five chili tamale, makes this whole affair far less palatable.

O’Conner is blessed with a natural skill of making simple questions sound far more enticing, like how are you today?, long one, huh?, I’m catching waves this weekend, how about you?, they all felt like mild flirting, when in actuality O’Conner was trying his best to be a nice guy in a sea of uptight suits with sticks so far up their asses they could taste bark.

As you flip through the LA file before switching to his Miami exploits, you remember the times when you had lunch together. Back then a stray thought crested and broke in the span of a couple of seconds. Despite their egalitarian partnership, he always offers to pay for lunch, no matter how hard she petitions to pay, he always tells her, “You’ll catch the next one,” but that next one never comes.

He’s the sort of guy, if his driving record is overlooked, appears to be the perfect specimen to bring home to the parents. Even if the surface has a mild shine of ditz, it’s a stereotype based on his hair color, which he dyed not long after starting the in the LA Office, as word would have it, and his laidback demeanor. You finally get it. The reason why he’s so great at undercover is because he’s the last person anyone would expect to be a cop.

As you look through the files, reading up on his run-ins with the Trans, the Golden Triad, Carter Verone, and most recently, Arturo Braga, you have to wonder if maybe O’Conner wasn’t just hiding being a cop, but being a rebel in sheep’s clothing.

The pieces remain scattershot to you and the day has worn heavily on you. Your headache has receded from your temples and you decide to hit the hay before it comes back to unleash cranial asskicking. The mystery of Brian O’Conner can wait until the morning.


Today is as good as any to hit O’Conner’s house. Funny thing is, this will be your first time there. This fits into your personal theory about Brian’s space bubble that was more or less as impenetrable as the borders around Chernobyl. Once or twice, he’s been to your place, but the offer was never returned on his behalf.

Some people like privacy. You can’t say anything to that.

O’Conner, however, embodies the adage about the idle hands being the devil’s playground. With all that Brian gets up to with his cars when authorities aren’t around, his hands are the most dangerous empty hands you’ve ever heard of.

Casa de O’Conner is less of a house and more of a bungalow.

A spot opens up in the middle of the sea of official looking sedans and vans belonging to the forensic unit. Before you emerge from the car and get your first look at Brian O’Conner natural habitat, the realization this is probably the most foot traffic this place has ever seen hits you. Hard.

Stasiak has already come and gone, and as you walk across the gravel leading to the short verandah, you allow yourself to feel a small modicum of relief. It’s better to have Stas the Spaz, Brian’s nickname for him, which will forever make you giggle, barking down orders through your phone and sending hastily written, often misspelled emails than standing in the middle of the investigation site like Napoleon, surveying his troops as they march off to battle.

A security hedge grows parallel to the wooden fence encircling the property. It stops short of bending around the front of the bungalow, turning ninety degrees for about two feet, then stops in deference to the mouth of the garage. The perfect edges are fading as weeks between the last trim are catching up and soon the hedge will begin a longitudinal encroachment on the garage’s space. Before, O’Conner would have noticed fairly quickly, and would have taken care of the situation to prevent scratching the paint on whatever he was working on.

Now you wonder if anyone else has noticed this. A quick look through the bags collected by CSU will let you know how detailed they’re going with this. Surely, you know you think, as you walk up the creaky steps to stand on the neat little porch, Stasiak wouldn’t have considered that little detail.

Tucked into a shady corner is a lawn chair, the cheap generic variety often purchased at discount family save-a-lot stores. A table with painted white iron leafs and curling legs sits beside it. The glass tabletop is covered with shadows of black and grey, a lonely ring of grime blazes in the center. Upon close inspection and a small whiff later confirms the spots of dust to be cigarette ash, and the ring most likely from an ashtray. Another thing about O’Conner you don’t know.

A small cactus, withered and browning, shriveled in its red adobe pot sits in the back corner. Your imagination doesn’t take great leaps in conjecturing that he bought this one. The rest of the plants, all rooted in black plastic buckets and pots, all seem too needy for a guy like O’Conner. Hedging your bets on these belonging to a former tenant or the landlord seems more viable than Brian O’Conner shopping for houseplants.

Walking through the front door, you take a second once inside to look over the step. Not that what you’re seeing is truly indicative of how it was actually found; you want a sense of the life Brian O’Conner led when not in the office. Despite the presence of sterile suited lab techs and Feds in crisp cuts of black and gray, you can’t find any trance of the man known as Brian O’Conner, just an amassing of stuff.

Near the bookshelves below in the living room, you see Cooper, who happens to be a holdover from the Braga case, your Junior Agent in crime, and walk over to him looking for light conversation and news of any interesting findings.

“So anything interesting?” you ask as you take a quick scan of the shelves. Pretty light on books, save for a dog-eared stack of car magazines, a few engineering manuals and a couple of books that seem to fit everyone’s high school reading list.

Cooper shakes his head. “Nope, not unless you count all the jars with screws, bolts and nuts. It’s like he had a hard-on for mechanical trail mix.” Patting Cooper on the shoulder is all you can really offer. You know O’Conner was about as close to him as the two of you were. “I can’t believe he did this, you know? Why throw it all away… for some people he barely knows?”

Isn’t that what all of them are asking?

Why throw away a life that you’ve painstakingly put back together?

Since you don’t have a real answer for Cooper, you simply squeeze his arm and go about fulfilling the objectives of your assignment.

Residence O’Conner strikes you as a weird blend of auto shop meets surf shack, with just enough space for a kitchen and a bedroom to call it an actual home. Everywhere you look, there’s a mountain of stuff: car parts, surf boards, newspapers, tools; there’s stuff everywhere and in between, you still have yet to see any shape resembling Brian O’Conner take form against the cluttered milieu.

There’s a round four-seater table at the back of the room next to the kitchen. It overlooks the wide wooden deck above the hillside. This is obviously the best feature of the house.

The stacks of old newspaper are disconcerting and you feel simultaneously bad and relieved that it’s not you who has to go through each one looking for clues. You highly doubt Brian to be the letter clipping type or someone who would leave pages and pages providing detailed notes on jacking the prison bus, his escape and relocation plans for the near future.

On the right side of the house lie the bedrooms and bathroom. The bedroom is…disarmingly plain. There’s a bed, a dresser, a closet with a couple of suits, drawers with casual clothes and several pairs of battered Converse mixed in with shiny wingtips. This isn’t the picture of hurried packing; this is just a plain barebones existence. You read the room with the knowledge that the mattress, box-spring and all the carpet will be taken out before the end of the day. If O’Conner happens to be guilty of anything in particular, it’s bad fashion sense; otherwise the room is tragically bare and no shiny beacons putting to collusion and premeditation are waiting to be plucked from the mattress fibers.

Along the walls that are not obstructed by mountains of detritus from his life, a few posters hang, mostly variations of cars that you can only assume are very fast. There’s also a long scene with a solitary surfer barreling through the pipeline of a huge wave with an aura of infinite peace despite the frenetic circumstances. Other than these, there are no shadows painted on the walls from pictures. No dust trails from removed photo frames. Unlike the smiling faces that dot the walls and nifty corners in your place, Brian’s is without an image of anyone close to him. Another mark of a good undercover agent—keeping who you are as far away as who you want them to see, and the distance constructed by O’Conner is widening from gulf to ocean with each passing second.

Whether deliberate or not, seeing smiling happy faces in this place feels inappropriate. Too happy faces would crowd this space that feels like it was only ever designed for one, and that’s Brian O’Conner.

There's no way of telling if either of the Torettos have been here or any of their as of yet unidentified accomplices. Leave it to the guys and gals in the lab to find a deeper connection. Until then you’ll observe and investigate the surface details. Somehow, you’ve managed to gather so much from so little. There’s nothing personal here, which makes this all seem just a bit sad.

With the exception of having a mild case of hoarding, Brian’s house is nothing special in particular. Just another example of what a fairly young guy will do with his space when free of nosy friends and relatives and a hearty obsession on his hands. You shake your head, admonishing yourself and cull the urge to scream “Wake up!” at the top of your lungs. You need coffee, which will come later, but sugarcoating the situation has nothing to do with caffeine withdrawal. The fact is that you’re having problems segregating Brian your friend from O’Conner Wanted Fugitive.

This place seals it for you. It’s empty, vacant of personal touch and despite the muggy heat, it’s cold. O’Conner’s house is just a shell, and like a hermit crab, he’s already outgrown it and moved on, but you know the truth. And that hard bitter pill you’re swallowing that tastes worse than Stasiak’s arrogance is that he was never here to begin with.

So you go back to why. That’s the question everyone’s asking and the answer at this point is like the riddle of the Sphinx, probably close at hand and staggeringly difficult. Long nights lie ahead of you, made longer still by your parents’ consumption of early evening news programs that somehow give them extra leverage to buoy their disappointment which has shifted from Brian O’Conner to you. Then, there’s Stasiak, who can’t find his ass from his elbow and expects so much given he knows so little.

You go to Starbucks, pick up a couple of different orders and an extra Chai tea for yourself. Once you get back into your car you contemplate screaming, because it’s as good an option as any, but stop yourself. The last thing the agency needs is news of another agent going around the bend under the low bar of sanity.

Making plans to polish off the rest of that bottle of wine that night gets you through the rest of the day with a smile and unflappable mask of dedication.


“It’s the sister, Mia Toretto that caused this. We get to her and we have both of them. Go to the Toretto house and find the connection,” Stasiak keeps insisting.

For the last forty-five minutes, you’ve been listening to Stasiak summarize the manhunt efforts and what ripping apart O’Conner’s place has revealed. The CSU are still combing through the personal effects of the Torettos and it’s too early to say anything conclusive. As you listen to Stas the Spaz, you imagine a flashing red neon sign above his head twinkling one word furiously, Wrong.

Your gut tells you that he’s so wrong, he’s not even close to being in the same continent as right. You know better, but you can’t say anything without proof. It’s just that years without a call, letter or a visit, absolutely no contact does not make for the right source material for an eternal romance, not unless this is how Stasiak operates then you’d easily guess that he’s closer to virgin than not. That thought makes you choke on a chuckle that thankfully morphs into a cough. You sip you chai tea and clear your mind of all things Stasiak.

The rest of the day you do your damnedest to not make eye contact with Stasiak. It works like a charm.


Polishing off the wine was an equally right and wrong decision. Right, because you need a drink after dealing with Stasiak’s attempts to lead. Wrong, because you polished off all that you had left and it added extra zest to the Margherita Pizza you’d picked up that evening. You’re not worried about the effects of wine and pizza on your physique, since an earlier workout kicked your ass and back. You’ve got an energy surge that makes semi-surfing look fun.

When the wine and pizza are done, you slide the coffee table to the other side of the room and arrange the files’ contents as a series of events on a timeline. Layered in a comprehensive timeline, the pieces files tell an interesting story.

Stasiak is as resolute about catching O’Conner and Toretto as Elmer Fud is about hunting that rascally wabbit. His sticking point is Mia Toretto and unlike O’Conner and big brother Toretto, Ms. Toretto doesn’t even have a speeding ticket to her name, though speed is something she can clearly handle as evidenced by the bang up job she and the rest of the crew did in flipping the prison bus and liberating Toretto without any casualties.

So Stasiak has convinced all the brass to turn their eyes on Mia Toretto as the reason O’Conner flipped. As you go back to the first encounter between O’Conner and Toretto, you see nothing more about Mia Toretto than a few lines.

Only living relative of Dominic Toretto.

Possible romantic entanglement with O’Conner.

Shares titles of the house, market and garage with brother, Dominic Toretto.

Learned O’Conner’s true identity prior to scattering of the Toretto, his associates and O’Conner.

There’s another file, one thinner black and unlabelled. It haunts agents with the ominous weight that a permanent record does for grade school children. This is only a copy of the real file, one that you manage to sneak, copy and replace as soon as it catches your eyes. Your sleight of hand proves to be the only time it is ever appropriate to call yourself a ninja.

FBI tabs on all its agents and employees, though most never know it. Even the ones that have reason to have additions made to their files don’t have files as thick as O’Conner’s. After the first two pages, you find that the rumors are indeed true; O’Conner was a fugitive and made it across the country to live in his paradise for street racers in Miami. That is until Agent Bilkins caught up with him and wrangled him in for an assignment.

The official word is post-traumatic stress disorder and a light duty sabbatical on his personnel record. The Black file says fugitive, and you have to admit that O’Conner’s mug shot is the sexiest line-up photo that you have ever seen. There’s no kicking that out of bed. Reports made periodically by his superiors and general surveillance sweeps show him to be squeaky clean.

So clean, he sparkles.

Five years pass without Brian contacting Mia Toretto. Not a phone call, a letter or an email. Nothing.

So you’re back to square one, what is the missing piece?

You realize you haven’t thought much about the male Toretto in this situation. Seems the running assumption is that O’Conner became friendly with Toretto when he was his mark, but the willingness to help him was inspired by Brian’s affection for the sister and coercion due to the threat of Dominic’s sociopathic violent streak.

Shaking your head, you literally clear the thought from your head. When you stop, your eyes land on Dominic Toretto’s prison mug shot like it’s at the end of your mental Twister spinner wheel. First impressions are important; you’ve only seen Toretto in photographs and surveillance video from the botched meet with Braga. Again, that failure can be chalked up to Stasiak, who if memory serves you correctly is probably destined to screw this investigation up as well. Normally, you’re not a pessimist, but Stasiak has a way of getting under your skin. Maybe all those wisecracks about you being a ninja or your perplexing decision to be an agent rather than a forensic accountant have finally got to you, but you’re sure he’s nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is, especially when it comes to his notes and files about

Dominic Toretto.

Something is missing. You just can’t put your finger on it. There’s more than your superficial analysis. Things you know at the moment: Dominic Toretto is approximately the same height as O’Conner, but wide like a Mack Truck instead of lean. If he ever smiles, then you’d assume that he’d be quite attractive. As it is his mug shot conveys an image of man that at first glance looks like he chews nails for breakfast and spits them out like old chewing tobacco.

Holding his picture up, you get a better look at the two-time con and serial wanted man. O’Conner’s most recent personnel shot sits on a file at the edge of your foot. Something pings in your gut advising you to pick it up. Brian O’Conner and Dominic Toretto, side by side like they’ve been every night on the evening news, they’re the two most wanted men in the country outside certain Islamic extremists and homegrown terrorists.

Side by side, they fit in an opposites attract sort of way, like bad boy versions of Batman and Superman, though you can’t see either of them wearing leather and vinyl in a non-ironic sort of way.

Why now, you wonder. Toretto’s conviction serves as the catalyst of this current lawless spree. The explosion is the hijacking of the prison bus and springing Toretto. The match is, well, you don’t know what the match is; it’s the reason behind all of this, and your gut and the evidence is telling you that the match you’re looking for isn’t limited to Mia Toretto or Leticia Ortiz.

The connection between them is almost tangible like a glowing thread tying them together. It’s almost as if they knew each other before O’Conner’s initial stint undercover, but there’s no evidence to support that theory in the slightest. You see it in the eyes; though one set is celestial blue and the other dark chocolate brown, they carry the same cocky glint of defiance. No flatness hides there. That spark of cocksure wildness speaks of fierce intelligence and all those near misses, times when ten out of ten people would end up dead, they survive, because the other is there. Suddenly, you sit back, press your hands into your hair, because your head has been rocked. You have to reassess everything. Absolutely everything. That connection you’re looking for is more than a love of fast cars and being reckless.

Usually, they investigate the superficial facts, the secondary and tertiary connections, and relationships that lead to the suspect’s, ultimately negative, goal. Since this isn’t a mass murder spree, anti-government militia, religious cult or ideological dispute, the investigation is remaining pretty superficial, restricted primarily to dates, times and events, and not cause and effect relationships. It’s all so literal, which is shortsighted on Stasiak and the brass’ part.

Because you see between the lines. And between those black and white lines of testimony and recounts from cops and feds alike lies subtext that people seem to be stepping around like they’re potholes in the street.

These two, Brian and Dominic, are an exercise in dedication, highly unpredictable and creative. When expected to go right, they go up, and when expected to go left they drive in reverse going back in the direction that they’d already come from, without blinking the entire time.

You go back to the files.

L.A.

Miami.

L.A. again.

Mexico.

Highway 1 outside of Lompoc.

Each one of these times was all about Toretto. Dominic, you correct yourself, placing your feet in O’Conner’s battered Converse for a couple of hours, heads south probably, while you head southeast to Miami. You take a little time to get your shit together, go to the Academy on the recommendations of Bilkins and Markham, and return to L.A. Not once do you hook up with the sister. Instead, you wrangle a deal for Leticia Ortiz aka Letty, Dominic’s last known squeeze. She bites the dust at the hands of Arturo Braga and you start sniffing around the Toretto house the moment you get a whiff of Dominic in the air.

Then, you cart off Toretto, millions of dollars in drugs and Braga, use them as leverage and start over in crafting a deal for Toretto. In Mexico, you end up busted up and vulnerable. If Dominic carried a grudge, this would have been the moment for him to finish the job like he’d done with Mr. Fenix or scatter back into the wind. He doesn’t run out on you and you end up visiting him with a higher frequency than his own sister while in jail.

Pulling yourself out of Brian’s headspace, you have to wonder what was said in between the moments that aren’t in the files. What transpired to build such dedication? Sure, cars were built in the meantime and acted as a backdrop for several of these conversations and barely there rescues. Names, that’s all they are to you. Nissan Skyline GTR. Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Dodge Charger R/T. Toyota Supra.

Junior Agent doesn’t mean your vision is limited. In fact, you’re seeing far better with a little wine, pizza, and a couple bits of tiramisu in your system than your levelheaded superiors. Because the pieces are piecing together like Jell-O in mold. Agents like literal bites of information. So why were they shying away from what’s literally right in front of them? The O’ Conner-Toretto partnership shapes up like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, minus leaping off a cliff, though you’re pretty sure they’d somehow manage to survive that too.

Taking the easy way out means buying into blackmail as the root cause. But, clearly, that’s not the case. Blackmail in undercover happens; officers and agents alike report it or work their way out of it. The fact remains that there’s too much conviction and planning executed by Brian on Dominic’s behalf. The final straw is tossing his lot in with Toretto, which is an unforgivable sin and there’s no takebacksies in this game. Brian is well aware of what he’s doing. He didn’t look back after making his deals during the Braga case. Didn’t care about whispers of suspension.

If the FBI manages to catch up with Team O’ Conner-Toretto and fulfill Stasiak’s biggest desire, Brian will end up sitting side-by-side with Dominic in Lompoc. Only the difference is that Dominic’s done time before and has muscles that would make a pro wrestlers blush. You don’t have enough fingers to count down the strikes Brian has against him. That nifty trick for surviving he has, if he’s lucky, will hold up in Lompoc as well. But one word: cop or fed, will have him dead before dawn.

Speaking in hypothetical postulations doesn’t answer your question; stating facts does. Five facts stand out in your mind:

1. Team O’ Conner-Toretto put NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers to shame in car handling.

2. They manage to survive extraordinary circumstances.

3. Brian O’Conner is singularly dedicated to Dominic Toretto.

4. Dominic Toretto is just as committed to Brian O’Conner.

5. They love Mia Toretto and have not left her behind like before.

With that, you finish your notes and go to bed, because tomorrow will give you more daylight to ponder the elephant in the room.


A few weeks go by and gradually the search dies down since Team O’Conner-Toretto has made like Casper and disappeared into thin air. Evidence is hard to come by. Any sights are by way of calls to the national phone banks, which more than likely come via crackpots looking for a way to spout off about their theories of alien infiltrations, government conspiracies and internal regime changes.

The last sign of them was in Mexico five weeks ago. Now the assumption is that they’re not even on the continent anymore. Agencies south of the border haven’t made them, which isn’t that unlikely, professional bias aside. Considering a former federal agent and a professional criminal are rolling together, you’d be more surprised if they actually managed to get caught.

Then Toretto and O’Conner steal three cars from a moving train and kill three DEA agents on the same train in Brazil. Maybe you overestimated their desire not to be caught.

New scuttlebutt says Lucas Hobbs is on his way down to Brazil. He’s not the kind of man to be forgotten after an initial meeting. He’s the size of a mountain, has more muscles than a Greek statue and embodies all the dickish qualities about movie cowboys. Yet, like O’Conner and Toretto have an uncanny ability to get away, Hobbs always gets his man. Or men, as the case may be.

You’re pushing yourself hard this morning, running the streets and through the park trails a couple of blocks away up through the hillside paths. Putting in the extra effort is a preemptive maneuver to counter the mountain of food your mom is sure to pile on your plate when you go to your parents’ house for dinner that night. As you run, you cross your fingers, hoping your parents will let the investigation pass without a negative comment about your career. One can only hope.

You slow up when you reach the crest of the hill. With a few minutes to spare, having beat a personal best, you stand atop this little peak and look out at the L.A. sprawl. Most of the music on your IPOD has passed by in a blur of rhythmic noise. None of it managed to surpass the volume of your thoughts.

A song ends, something of the techno-pop designation, the sort that gets the blood pumping and acts as a metronome for your feet as you push yourself further and faster. The hilltop is surprisingly empty for such a beautiful, clear seventy degree southern California morning. Two seconds pass in silence before stirrings of Spanish guitars on the surge of a sweet hip-hop backbeat fills your ears.

The irony of the sound makes you release a deep bottom of your gut quality laugh. You continue laughing as the first verse begins and gradually, you sober up as you transcend hearing the song and actually transition into listening.

That missing piece that you’ve been dancing around falls into your lap via your headphones; never in a million years would you have expected it to be delivered this way. Change a few lyrics and flip the pronouns to the masculine and the answer is right there.

You toe your sneaker into the dirt, gold like the dreams of new residents and fugitives on the run. If you stick to the facts, continue a literal analysis, you think after a deep breath, you get all the pieces to the missing conversations, condensed into lyrics that answer the daunting why in plain English.

Bonnie and Clyde.

It’s never been as one-sided as Stasiak and analysts have suggested. Toretto has had a thousand and one opportunities to take revenge or drop O’Conner like a hot stone. Instead, they ride off into the sunset and kick up dust in South America, because that’s what they do: drive too fast and cause dust-ups wherever they go.

The few meetings in their lives can be described as hit and runs—short, violent, explosive; apart they are each slightly less than stable, together they’re amorphous and volatile to just about anyone who crosses their paths in the wrong way. A bond was established when they met six years ago. Despite distance and total separation, the bond has been honed into a diamond lattice that anchors them to one another. It places them on the brightside of life and death situations and allowed them to skip continents for greener, freer pastures.

As the song finishes, you realize that you possess the sole piece of information that would bust the case wide open. A code dictates you provide the answer to the million dollar question, to fork over the missing piece to Stasiak. If it had been someone other than Stasiak, you’d feel far more compelled than bitterly reluctant. That literal missing piece that connects all these dots into a logical sequence of events instead of coincidental collisions in a couple of lives is the reason that O’Conner and Toretto are BrianandDominic.

The secret ingredient is love. Though duty compels you to spill what you’ve figured out about Brian and Dominic, your moral code won’t allow you to backbite a friend like this. So Sophie Trinh won’t be adding her name to the list of famous treacherous BFFs.

Nope.

There’s no seat reserved for you next to Judas and Brutus.

You can’t say that you like what Brian has done, but you understand it completely, and a part of you that has always been a hopeless romantic wants to swoon at the thought.

The love between them is real. Whether it’s been consummated or not is not your business. Handing it over to others who are willing to dissect and dangle it as a piece of bait is not your style. It’s bad enough that Hobbs is on their case. The last thing they need is Hobbs possessing a boulder-sized piece of leverage in his search and destroy campaign.

Some would say that you have to submit what you know as a show of solidarity to the DEA agents they killed. You know Brian or you think you know him well enough to rationalize that killing cops or other agents isn’t his style. This little golden nugget of info belongs to Brian and Dominic exclusively; by proxy you as well since you unraveled the mystery.

You’ve learned to swallow bitter pills when it comes to your parents, Stasiak and other jerks at work. What’s one more?

Most people rarely experience anything as comparatively awesomely kismet and tremendous as the relationship between Brian and Dominic. Maybe that’s a good thing, because you’re not sure the world could survive more than a handful of such explosive unions. You can honestly admit to being curious as to how this will all play out.

So you tuck this information into the back of your mind with no intention of letting it see the light of day. It will never see the inside of a file and you should, as a result, feel some guilty instinct for betraying your badge. But you’re left wondering if this is how O’Conner felt the first time he’d been on the edge of arresting Toretto.

As long as you’re willing to admit that you’re a bad, no, conflicted, agent in your head, offer kindness to Stasiak and help Cooper with his paperwork as a sign of contrition, you think it’ll all be okay.

You’ll keep it this way.

The law is black and white, but loving someone at times can be all gray. Junior Agent or not, this is one idea that doesn’t need further distillation.

You take another deep breath, wondering if O’Conner and the Torettos are ready to start running again, since Hobbs will crash into them like a runaway freight train. Another breath and a new song that reinvigorates you for the descent of the hill and back into the park, you run down with a clear headspace for the first time in weeks.

Brian better be happy as his shenanigans have aged you prematurely by a couple of years. If their paths ever cross again, you’ll be sure to tell him just that, though you really hope that they don’t. Running fast and steady, you leave behind weighty thoughts in the clouds of your floating dust.

You smile. Junior Agent, your ass. There’s nothing small about your job. You take hard knocks, deal with copious amounts of paperwork, kickass, and keep secrets like Fort Knox. The only thing you can’t do is drive a fast car well.

You’ll get cracking on that, just like you’ll be nicer to Stasiak when you go into the office. Not hardly.

But that’s a secret for another day.

The End