Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'll Get Back to You on the Career Part


Jenny was halfway through her second martini and getting that faraway look in her eyes she got when she drank a few with him. Funny, when he had first met her she didn’t drink seconds and pretty much kept focused.  As they spent more time together, he at first thought it was the liquor.  But then, as a favor he had picked her up once or twice after girl's nights out.  She hadn't had it then either. She had just been silly and tipsy.

Oh well. He hoped the look didn't mean what he thought it meant. But it probably did.

Ike and Tina, the couple they were watching, paid the bill and left. Their names weren't really Ike and Tina of course.  He knew their real names but Jenny didn’t. That protected her. She knew what he did and when she was around, what her part was in it.  She just wasn't sure of whom he did it for, why and who he was doing it with. Unlike Harry, Jenny was a new features editor at Equestrian Quarterly whose other interests were writing and travel. He had been managing editor for a few years and his interests included surreptitiously taping other people's conversations in a bar then dropping the data chip into a safe box near a Doubletree hotel. That's where he had picked his gun up last night and that's where they were going now.

Oh, and of course travel.  Just not to destinations one would normally think of.

Harry pointed at the half empty glass. 

"You want to finish that? We're going out. Let me buy you a fresh one in a half hour and this time, I'll join you."

"I can hold out for that."

"You look spectacular."

"Not that that is going to help."

"No, it’s not. But you still look spectacular."

The doorman hailed a cab off of Massachusetts Avenue for them. It was late June and the summer heat had been slow to the city so the air conditioning wasn't blowing Antarctica into the back seat. He was glad to ride with the windows open.   It was how he drove in his car.

"I brought chalk." Jenny said as they passed Mt. Vernon Square.

"You think of everything. But I've got a piece too."

“Of course you do.”

The cab pulled up to the hotel and he paid.  Harry and Jenny made a scene of looking through pockets and purses, ostensibly for the hotel passkey.   The driver scanned the lobby and street, not seeing his  next fare, he melted into the traffic and was gone. They crossed the street to the mailbox. Harry dropped the chip in, chalked two quick hash marks midway down the left side of the box and they left. He knew the Bar Rouge was about a block away and they made a decent Manhattans. The water and vermouth combo had put him off martinis for tonight.

For all that it was a fairly pleasant June Thursday evening, there weren't a lot of other people out on the sidewalk.   That made Harry all the more certain something less than good was up when the droopy pants with hoodie kid,  jay walked across the street and positioned himself twenty feet behind, pacing them.

The kid quickened his pace and passed them, then spun abruptly. One hand was under the front of his hoodie.

"Hey, wonder if you can help me out?" the kid said.

"Depends. You lost?" Jenny said nothing but took his gentle nudge to step a little behind Harry.

"Nah, but I think you might have something I want. Just want you to help me."

"Now that wouldn't be a gun you've got there, would it?" he asked.

"What if it is?"

"Well, you could get into a lot of trouble. This town has some tough gun laws that protect innocent citizens. That’s why only bad guys have guns.  Unless you’re one of the good guys and I’m guessing not…” the Smith and Wesson was pointed at the kid's forehead now. "the clothes are all wrong."

"What you want?" he could see the kid start to shake.

"I want you to put your piece on the sidewalk. Then I want you to leave, very quickly. You're between me and a nightcap. Never a safe place."

What the kid put down was a rusty thirty eight with two shells in it. Probably wouldn't fire but just in case they cylinder wound up in a different concrete flower pot slash barrier than the frame. The shells would get flushed at the bar.

At the Bar Rouge, Harry and Jenny toasted, more to the eavesdrop than the mugging, but he could tell she was a little shaken.

"It would be nice to be able to hold you tonight. It would be comforting." She said.

"It might be, but a hug is all that's going to happen."

"So we're sleeping in separate beds again?"

"They're both queen size. Think of all the room you'd lose. Anyway, we're only pretending to be what we seem. Can't cross that line."

"Why not?"

"Because that would be too easy. We'd be a couple.  I'd fall in love with you.  Then I wouldn't be able to focus on the job and we’d get killed.”

“We wouldn’t get killed, we’re already better than that.”

“Can’t take that chance.”

"You're already in love with me."

"Well yes, but I can still plausibly deny it."

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