Xavier was typing furiously on his phone when the flight attending stopped next to his seat just before take off.
“Excuse me sir, but I need you to put your device in airplane mode please. We’re taking off momentarily.”
“Of course, Ma’am. Just composing an email to my sick mum.” He smiled at her and she gave him a smile mixed with pity before moving on.”
“Ok, I’ve known you for about four hours and there’s no way you’re emailing a sick family member,” Mika said in an undertone.
“You’re shrewd. I wasn’t but know the attendant will be super nice to us for the flight.”
“Sneaky bastard. Wanna tell me who you’re getting in touch with?”
“Friends in Italian intelligence. Since we’re ‘going after’ Guzman in Milan, I’m alerting a couple of old friends that I may be being set up and will probably need a place to lay low.”
“Now who’s the shrewd one?” Mika asked, playfully punching him in the arm. “I can’t believe my own dad would be setting me up though.”
“Why do you think the director’s setting you up?”
“Gut feeling. Our relationship”s been pretty strained since my mom was killed in a car bomb attack in Turkey a couple years ago. For reasons unknown to me, I think he blames me for her death, even though I was forbidden from ever working on the same assignments as her. I honestly think he’s lost it and just wants me gone. I can’t figure out why he’d be dragging you into the mess though.”
“Because I was the analyst covering that region at that time.”
Mika was seething as she read the briefing packet that her father had prepped for their mission. It was above her pay grade, above her skill set, and way below her standards. She’d joined the intelligence agency to apply her skills of code breaking and document analysis to help fight terrorism, both at home in London, and across the globe, not to become an assassin, much like her father. It was infuriating.
“This is way above my skill set and well below my moral standards,” Xavier spat as he tossed the dossier on the seat of the car. “I’m not an assassin, I’m an analyst. I don’t shoot people for the hell of it.”
“I’m a code breaker and document analyst. I think I do?” Mika shot back at him.
“Of course not. However, you’re known to have kicked enough ass to have earned the respect of everyone at the agency.”
“I only do that when I don’t get the information I’m looking for.” Mika tossed her dossier on top of his. “Do you get the feeling somethings missing from these?”
“There’s nothing missing except for the fact that it reeks of a set up. This isn’t right Mika.”
“Preaching to the choir buddy,” she retorted as they got out of the car. Neither one noticed that the driver was frantically dialing a number on his phone.
“It’s me. Sir, they know it’s a set up.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said the voice on the other end, “we proceed as planned.”
Mika and Xavier stared at the director with mouths open. Elimination wasn’t in their wheel house as intelligence operatives. Usually those jobs when to the black ops team.
“Why isn’t black ops handling this one?”
“Because Anton has his hands in all kind of pies, including my black ops people. I don’t know who I can trust anymore, which is why I chose you two for the job.”
“With all due respect Director Hathaway, Operative Hathaway and I are simply intelligence operatives. We don’t have the clearance to carry out this kind of mission.”
“Well you see Operative Watson, that’s why I’m the director. I can give the clearance to people for these kinds of missions. Now here’s the briefing packets, your tickets, and passports. The flight leaves in three hours. I suggest you get a move on it.”
“You owe me more that a long leave of absence dad,” Mika said as they turned to leave. “A whole lot more.”
“Hello Mika dear. You’re being crass like awalys.”
“I’ve spent the better part of five days in meetings or in airplanes. The mission better be damn important if I don’t get my well earned leave time.”
“I promise, you can have as much time off as you wish after this mission.”
“Well spill the deets daddy dear. I assume you’d like us to get started as soon as possible.”
“Direct and to the point, your mother hated that about us.” Mika crossed her arms and tapped her fingers, clearly annoyed with how long her father was dragging this out. Meanwhile, Xavier was still trying to process the fact that the very attractive blond next to him was the director’s daughter.
“Sir, before we begin…”
“For fuck’s sake Watson, keep up. I’m the director’s daughter. Now moving on.”
“Please excuse my daughter, Watson. She’s always this crass and unlady like.”
“I’m a damn spy in a very male dominated profession. Crass is what gets the boys to take me seriously.”
“You’ve also kicked the asses of half of them,” the director threw in. “Anyway, you wanted the mission details so here they are. Find Aton Guzman and eliminate him.”
Mika was dumbfounded. She’d spent the last five days in and out of various debriefing sessions and airplanes. All she wanted now was a hot shower and a nice long rest in her bed.
“What the fuck do you mean a mission? I’ve spent the last five days in and out of debriefing sessions or crammed into an airplane. I want a hot shower, a long rest, and some fish n chips from my favorite vendor in Trafalgar Square.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just the errand boy. The director himself picked us for this op.”
“Oh please tell me we are seeing the director before we leave.”
“He’s expecting us now.”
“Oh good. Well lead the way errand boy.” Xavier grimaced as his words flew back at him but led Mika to a waiting car. As the navigated the London evening traffic, Xavier took the opportunity to study the woman in the care with him. She was tall, at least five ten in his estimate, her royal blue eyes looked brighter against her blond hair. The jet lag couldn’t hide the fact that her face was exquisite, chiseled yet soft and delicate, a combination he knew made her deadly in the field. The car came to a sudden stop and jolted him out of his thoughts. Neither said a word as they made their way to the directors office.
“Ah, Xavier, I see you found her. Hello Mika.”
“Hello Dad. Now what the fuck is this about a mission?”
Mika had the sensation that someone was following her through the airport and she didn’t like it. She’d already had a rough couple of weeks after a big bust and the opportunity to wipe out a drug lord once and for all blew up, quite literally, in the faces of several intelligence agencies around the world. Now she was being sent home while the directors played politics and sent their star agents into the field to figure out how the mission blew up. After going through three different shops, Mika finally spun around and confronted the man following her.
“Who the bloody hell are you? Why in the bloody hell are you following me? And who the hell taught you to follow someone? You’re so bloody obvious it’s not funny.” Mika fired off the questions rapidly to a man that was a good foot taller than her.
“I’m Xavier Watson, I was instructed to pick you up at the airport by the director, and I was trained by Daniel Weber, but apparently I need a few more lessons.
“Damn right you do. I spotted you the minute I left the flight deck. Danny is getting sloppy in his old age. So why is the director’s golden boy here?”
“We’ve got a new mission.”
Mara looked at her watch and sighed, she’d been standing here waiting for Tom for over an hour now. It was so unlike him to keep her waiting this long. She glanced down at her watch again and with a look of disgust, she got up and left the restaurant, determinedly avoiding looking at people. She just knew that they all had looks of pity on their faces.. She’d seen those looks several times before when Tom had stood her up on previous occasions, only to come rushing in at the last second just as she was getting ready to leave. She was over it. Done with his crap, his lame excuses for being late. She knew the truth, saving his ass and his marriage was more important to him. As she started the long walk back to her apartment, she became disgusted with herself . Why had she held on to the man for so long? Was it because she had daddy issues as her last shrink had suggested when she complained about Tom nearly standing her up for the third time in a week. Well no more, she was done with him, done with his lies. Determined, she held her head up and stepped into the crosswalk. This step, she thought, was the first step in a new life and on a new path.
The earth was silent, almost too silent for Detective Jess Linden’s liking. The recent snowfall dampened any approach footsteps, which caused her to jump about a foot when her partner arrived.
“No sign of anyone coming or going.” Jack Archer said,
“We can thank the snow for that,” Jess replied, briefly glancing at her partner before looking back at the body. “Weather reports have the snow starting around midnight. Body was discovered at six-twenty, snow covered most of it.”
“So the body was dumped here sometime before or around midnight.”
“That’s the theory right now. Crime scene is searching a fifty yard swath around the body but I don’t think they’ll find much.”
“You’re probably right. ME wants to move the body now.”
“Do it. We’re not going to learn much from this scene. Tell the ME we need prints and DNA sent up as soon as possible.”
“You got it Jen,” Jack said as she wandered back to her car.
Gracie struggled against her restraints, furious that Martin had left her tied up in this stupid shack. He knew she had no information into her partner’s current investigation, hell he hadn’t been at the station for two weeks now. While she continued to fume, Martin walked back in.
“Ready to talk yet?”
“Talk about what? I known nothing of what Jack’s working on. Aside from one chance meeting on Tuesday, I haven’t seen him in two weeks. He quit coming to the station.”
“Gracie, you’ve known the man for years. You’re even sleeping with him. Why are you lying to me?”
“Marin, I swear to you, I know nothing of what your brother is working on. You have to believe me.” Gracie’s eyes flashed with fear as Martin pulled out a knife. “Martin, no, please. I honestly don’t know what Jack’s working on!”
“Put it down Matin,” a deep male voice commanded. Through her tears, she could see Jack in the doorway. “Grace really doesn’t know anything about what I’ve been working on. I kept the investigation out of the station for a reason,” he said as cops flooded the room. While Martin was led out of the room in cuffs, Jack untied Gracie and held her tight. “Grace, I’m so sorry that you got caught up in this. I should’ve known Martin would try something.”
“Jack, promise me you’ll tell me what this is all about later.”
“Good. Can we go home now?”
“Yes, we can go home now.” Jack squeezed her shoulder before they walked out of the room.