Sunday, March 21, 2010

Agent, Poet, Friend

a light corner, originally uploaded by Jenn Platt.
This week's picture had the kind of dark ambiance that instantly brought a story to mind. A story that I wrote a while ago. Which isn't really very dark, though it does take place at night. The original challenge was to make the protagonist a poet.

Read on for questionable haiku, shady government dealings, and chocolate!

On its cold shoulders,
The wind brings us colored leaves,
A last breath of Fall

"What utter shit," Kendra muttered, erasing furiously. She hated Haiku really, but sometimes it was a good warm up when she wanted to write something else and couldn't get started. She blew out a misty breath and stuffed the notebook and pencil back into her pocket, making sure it was securely zipped shut. She sat for a moment longer, bricks just starting to leech cold through her jacket and into her back, before she blew out another breath that could have been a sigh. If that was something she did.

Rolling forward she landed smoothly on her elbows, belly flat to the tar as she edged toward the ledge, her clothes rustling slightly as she moved, reminding her to be grateful it wasn't raining.

When she reached the edge she put her eye to the scope. The blinds were open just far enough to make out the living room beyond them. Which still didn't have anyone in it. She killed a few minutes adjusting the scope until she could almost read the cover of the Vogue on the coffee table.

"Rabbits run quick to ground,
They fear the fox and the truck,
That makes them dinner."

Kendra started and almost knocked the whole assembly over. She scrambled for her receiver. "God damn it Cameron, you're supposed to leave this line clear," she hissed, her heart beating too fast.

The speaker crackled, meaning he was wearing it on that damn scarf again. "But I got it right? Five, seven, five?"

Kendra rolled her eyes in direct contrast to the slight smile edging her lips. "Yeah, you got it," she agreed, not wanting to get into the subtleties of the form that she didn't really understand herself. She was much better with free verse poetry.

"Cool. I found this book yesterday that has-"

"Cam, not now. This is the emergency line," she cautioned again, imagining the reaming Cameron would get if Dorian heard him using the line to chat.

There was a rattling huff into the speaker. "Fine. You know it's not like he listens to the logs anyway."

Kendra couldn't argue with that, but Dorian had enough little moles in the system that it wasn't worth chancing it. Some idiot logging the transcripts might decide he wanted to move up in the world at the price of Cameron's ass. "Still-"

"I got it, I got it. Radio silence," there was a second's silence and then, "Killjoy."

She smiled and shook her head but didn't say anything back. Just as her elbows were starting to numb up and make her think about going back to the wall, the radio crackled to life. "Target sighted, ground floor."

"Copy that," she said just above a whisper, shifting her position slightly, finger threading over the trigger. She took even breaths to keep from tensing up. There was only one chance for this shot and if Scott made her miss it she was going to take the blame for wasting six months of recon and manpower. Dorian would just love that.

The main lamp coming on in the living room blinded her for a split-second and her finger tightened against the trigger. When her vision cleared she relaxed imperceptibly, watching for any sign of Scott. For one horrible moment she was sure he was going to skip the living room and the sofa and head straight to bed. Then his dark hair and ambling gait came into view.

He was heading straight for the window. She could feel the breeze coming from her left ruffling her hair. She compensated minutely to that side, waiting for the moment. And then he was at the window, opening it, his head bent.

She pulled the trigger, a nice smooth pull, and the glass cracked. The body fell.

She backed away from the ledge, taking the rifle and the scope with her this time. When she'd cleared the line of sight she stood, dumping the equipment in a worn duffel bag and hefting it over one shoulder. She unzipped her jacket to reveal a blue shirt with a bright red logo on it and she stripped off her gloves after she'd opened the door to the stairwell. She made it down to the first floor quickly, but not running, looking like just another tenant who didn’t want to wait for the elevator. She ducked out of a side entrance.

The van was already waiting. Between spotting Scott and getting on the highway only four minutes elapsed.

"I came up with another one," Cameron said, his pale face a sickly green in the instrument lights.

"Did you?" she asked, handing him her earpiece and carefully peeling off the contacts to the heart and temperature monitors under her shirt.

He nodded, taking the leads from her and expertly winding the wires. "Cats fly on the wind, better hunters to be sure or, just punted by dogs?"

Kendra bit her lip to keep from laughing. She passed him her bag, pulling out her gloves first. "Better keep your day job, Cam."

He frowned. "Do you know hard it is to be an IT guy all day and then do this at night?"

She shot him a look, one eyebrow arched significantly.

"Ok, ok, you do. But why couldn't I own a gallery or something? You don't even have to go in every day." He had his eyes on her but his hands were a blur, dismantling the rifle and settling each part into the foam lined case.

"Yeah, it's a barrel of laughs being on call 24-hours a day." She looked up past the driver and frowned. "Aren't we headed back?"

Cameron shook his head. "Dorian isn't back until tomorrow. Wants to debrief then."

"So you're dropping me off?" Kendra felt a little better; the prospect of a debriefing when she had to be up in five hours hadn't been very appealing.

"You got it," he confirmed as the van stopped in the alley behind her building.

"See you tomorrow," she said; ducking out and hearing Cameron close the door quickly behind her.

She barely heard him say, "Goodnight."

Fifteen minutes and she was out of the shower, padding through the living room in her robe and socks. She was going to have one glass of Riesling and a piece of dark chocolate and then she was going to bed. Hopefully meaning her eyes wouldn’t burn when she had to supervise hanging the Monets in the morning.

She was breaking off a piece of chocolate when the phone rang. It wasn't her work line so she didn't tense. She did frown a little though, there weren't many people who had her number, and no one who did should have been calling at 2am.

"Hey Diane," she said, reading the caller ID. Even at 2am she didn't have it in her to tell Diane to fuck off.

There was a drawn out sniff and then a wavery voice. "I didn't wake you up, did I?"

Even if she had, Kendra would have been completely awake at this clear evidence of crying. "I was up. What's going on?" she asked, tenser than she’d been at any other point in the day.

Diane sniffed again. "Craig is cheating on me."

Kendra’s back teeth ground together in an effort to stay calm. "That ass. You're not still at the apartment are you?" If Diane had any ideas about confronting him, Kendra wanted to put a stop to it. She could tell, even after two outings, that Craig was the dangerous kind when provoked.

"Actually, I’m outside your door," Diane said sheepishly.

Kendra hung the phone up and checked her peephole. Diane's distorted face stared back. She opened the door, fumbling a little with the deadbolt. "Get in here."

"Thanks," Diane said when the door was locked again.

Kendra took in everything from her wet hair to her worn boots and finally settled on the overnight bag. "Here, I’ll take that." She plucked the bag out of Diane's cold fingers and set it just inside the spare room. "Do you want tea or coffee?" she asked when she saw Diane was just standing listlessly in the center of the room. She had to wonder if the agency would relocate her if she killed Craig with a brick.

"Tea's fine," Diane said, brushing her dark hair back from her eyes.

Kendra nodded. "Sit. I’ll get the tea and you can tell me everything." In the kitchen, out of view of the sofa Diane was heading for, Kendra put the water on and then threw back her entire glass of wine. She shook her head slightly, rinsed the glass out and put away the chocolate before she dug into the cupboard for tea. She only had chamomile from the last time she was sick, and she couldn't remember if Diane liked that. She decided to chance it when the kettle built up a loud whistle. She poured the water over the teabags, put honey in each cup, and carried them both carefully into the living room.

She faltered a step; Diane was curled up on her sofa tucked into an old throw, just her hair and pink face visible. Her huge dark eyes were half closed, bottom lip pouting, calm and almost innocent. Nothing like Diane. Diane was, Kendra tried to think of the right word, but then Diane was looking at her and Kendra was moving again. "Here. Chamomile was all I had."

"That's fine," Diane said, taking the mug and holding it between both hands.

Kendra took the other end of the sofa and felt like she was a mile away. "What happened?" she prodded gently.

Diane didn't look up from her drink. Her voice was low and bitter. "His secretary caught him."

When she didn't say anything for several minutes Kendra asked, "Does she know you? The secretary?"

Diane nodded. "In passing, she used to work for Alex, so we saw each other at some events."

"Who's Alex?" Kendra asked quickly.

Diane looked up, surprised by the tone or the question. "You know, my stepdad. He never liked Craig much, I’m thinking about telling him to get Craig fired. You think that's-"

"Alex is your brother Andy's dad?" Kendra asked with a new tightness in her stomach that seemed to amplify the buzz from the wine.

Diane was frowning slightly, clearly annoyed. "Yeah, Andy's my half brother, you know that."

Kendra wondered if she really could be paralyzed with shock, but she managed to unlock her jaw enough to say. "So, Alex Scott is your stepfather?"

Diane nodded, her frown edging into a scowl. "Does it matter?" she demanded.

Kendra shook her head. "No, sorry. So his secretary?" In her head Kendra saw Scott's head drop out of the window, the top of it gone. She knew he'd looked familiar. He and his son Andy were the same face aged thirty years apart. How could she not have seen it? How did no one else? Agents weren't supposed to be involved with ops that had any personal connection.

Kendra made the right outraged sound when Diane told her how Craig and the new temp had been screwing on the desk Diane had bought him.

And then it hit Kendra like a bullet, two things that made her head want burst.

Tomorrow she and Diane would having another teary conversation, this one about Alex Scott. And there was no way this had been an accident. The agency knew who her friends were. They probably had bios on everyone Diane had knew. Her stepfather would be pretty high on the list. Which meant Dorian had sent Kendra to kill him on purpose.

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