I sat careful and controlled at the table in the deli where we would meet. A whole world swirled and pitched around me. It was the metered pace of lunchtime and waiting lines and the little dance customers did as they sidled along the case of meat to get to the registers. I sat apart and altogether too still in comparison. Reaching my hand up to push my hair behind my ear, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He moved down the street towards the deli with a quick measured pace. His grey suit was tailored just shy of obscene - all smooth lines across lean thighs and perfectly tight fabric stretched over broad shoulders. A moss green tie flapped once in the breeze before he smoothed it against his chest with long, slim fingers that belied their own strength. In my mind I saw a flash of those hands curled around a sniper rifle on the day of my first qualification. He had been cool and condescending then but only until the first round exploded from my SIG-Sauer P229, slamming into the center of the target 100 yards away. Today his face showed nothing. What I had been hoping for I could not say.
The first chill of winter air followed him in and to our table. He sat without preamble and trained his eyes on mine.
“Margaret,” he said tersely in greeting.
The waitress stopped quickly at our table, pen in hand and waiting for our orders. Nicholas glanced at me, asking with his eyes if this was going to be an eating conversation or not. My head shook slightly.
“Just coffee for me,” he said. As he glanced up to meet the waitresses eyes, his hand reached across his torso in a move made to look as if he was keeping his suit coat from touching the table. I saw the tip of his middle finger touch the expertly concealed weapon on his side. He was worried. Or he just wanted me to know what the stakes were. Maybe both.
“I’ll have a turkey sandwich on sourdough. And some pimentos, please. To go.” No need to let the conversation run long.
“What can I do for you, Margaret? I assume your travel plans are in order,” he said as the waitress went to get his coffee.
“Yes, everything’s scheduled.” I hesitated. “About my pick up. . .”
“Ah, yes. Parker said she would be there when you arrive.” He noted the slight eye roll I barely contained. “Is there a problem?”
Parker was nice enough, I supposed. She could talk the ear off the Energizer bunny, but other than that she seemed fairly competent. I didn’t know how eager I was to have her along on this mission but I could endure almost anything for three months. I figured a short, lethal sidekick wasn’t too bad to have around.
“It’s fine.” I lowered my hands to the table and made three short gestures in sign language, about last night. . .
His green eyes flared quickly and he took a slow breath in, trying to control his response. He looked at me with barely controlled menace. I guess that was my answer.
In my head I imagined how my fist would feel as it connected with his face. I imagined all the ways in which I could make his heart stop beating and believe me, I know quite a few. It’s my job. I let myself feel the rage for half a second before clamping down on the pain of rejection and closing up shop. I looked away from his face, letting my eyes drift past the window for just a second. When I looked back he paled noticeably at my expression. I’d seen the look before, mostly on the faces of the people on the other end of my gun.
“Well, I guess that’s all then,” I said evenly.
Nicholas realized his slip and put the professional mask back on. “Have a good trip, Margaret.”
I watched his head slowly disappear in the crowd of the street.
The waitress came with my order.
“Turkey on sourdough. And pimentos.”
Another prompt pulled from my blog reader verification box. I gave myself a 700 word target today at ended up with 707. Not bad.