In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she was assigned the mission, days before the story on the book starts. Enjoy!
It was morning. A cold, gray London morning to be precise. I was crossing Lambeth Bridge to meet Ferdinand at the Albert Embankment. I remember how I had studied every possible map before coming here, anxious to start working in the field again…
Then I was sent to an office, filling forms and filing papers.
Fuck yeah, the Interpol agent life!
I pushed my gloved hands further into the pockets of my leather jacket, feeling the gun concealed inside, praying it wouldn’t turn into an ice cube. Thing is, I grew up in Miami, spent summers in the Caribbean or Southern Spain. Nothing as cold as this. Nothing.
I got off the bridge and turned right on Albert Embankment, down the steps, and soon enough Ferdinand’s smile came to sight. Always bright, always inviting. I often found myself dodging it as if it were throwing daggers at me.
“Scarlett.” He kissed my cheek and offered his arm to me.
“Fer.” I nodded. “I’m freezing.”
“Oh come on! You’ve been living here for how long?”
“The two most boring years of my fucking life.”
He sighed. “Let’s walk.”
So we did. I walked on his left, thinking that maybe, if things got funny, I could just push him into the water and make a run for it.
“Did anyone follow you here?” He was eyeing me out of the corner of his eye.
“You said you needed to talk to me. I don’t have all day. I have papers to file.”
“Moretti asked me to call you.”
“Moretti? He sees me every day at the office. Barking orders and making me brew his coffee.”
“Have you been in contact with Cisneros lately?”
I waited until a man jogged past us to answer that, taking my time.
They often tell you not to stay friends with your ex-boyfriends. But Ferdinand was my colleague and his ranking was higher than mine so, yeah, I was stuck with this one.
“Every time they use a sniper to kill some drug dealer I pray it wasn’t you. Then I dig up the details and see your name all over it.”
He didn’t mean that literally, of course. I knew how to do my job. In and out, quick, nothing that could be traced back to me. Then I was back to kicking the copy machine and dragging my boots on the rug, just so I could give someone a nice jolt.
“You gonna turn me in?”
“You know I won’t.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Let’s go grab a bite.” There it was again, the smile under those gleaming brown eyes. Ugh.
He liked the pub on the corner of Tinworth Street, so we went there and, to my dismay, sat at one of the tables outside.
“Tell me when my nose falls off because I won’t be able to.”
“I don’t want anyone eavesdropping on us.”
A waiter gave us the menus and I asked for a cup of coffee. Really hot coffee.
“It’ll ruin your appetite.” Ferdinand said, matter-of-factly.
“Better for me, maybe I’ll lose some weight. I should, really, I can’t carry a gun between my thighs since they rub together. There are some agents that have this huge thigh gap. One could stick an Uzi between their legs.”
He chuckled. He knew it was true. Fer never bullshitted me. I was no femme fatale, no eye candy. That’s how I liked it, though. I was a Plain Jane. I’d blend in without any difficulty.
And I wasn’t asked to fuck anyone either.
The waiter brought me a steaming cup of coffee. I took off my gloves and held it as if it was a baby chick, feeling the relief of warmth in my hands, at last. I inhaled its aroma and forgot where I was while Ferdinand ordered food for both.
“I was talking to Romulus,” he brought me back as soon as the waiter was out of sight, “we’re giving you another chance.”
“That’s very kind of you.”
“I’m being serious, Scarlett. We’ve decided to give you the Sayer mission.”
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
I had to set the cup back on the table gently. “You’re not kidding?”
“I’m not kidding. He was attacked, a single gunman surprised him as he was leaving a restaurant with his wife. Two shots to his left leg, another one to his right arm. He’s house-bound, recovering, and his sister is looking for a caregiver. It’s not just because you actually went to nursing school. She’s looking for someone that can act as a bodyguard in case anything unusual happens.”
“Aaaaand?” Something in the way he drawled on the last sentence made me think there was more to it.
“She wants someone that wouldn’t cause too much of a stir, if you know what I mean.”
Ha ha! Being the Plain Jane does pay.
“When do I start?”
“You’ll meet with his sister, Helga, tomorrow at Cisneros’s place. He’s recommending you. They’re friends.”
I picked up the coffee cup again even though I didn’t think I needed it anymore. I was going to the field again, and with no one else but Armand Sayer, London’s number-one drug lord.
“Oh,” I breathed, trying to suppress the giddy smile from my face.
“Now, Scarlett, I must warn you–”
“Here we go.” I rolled my eyes. Fer was always lecturing me. “That I better not fuck it up this time?”
“I haven’t fucked anything up. The Gibraltar mission was a fail because Cisneros couldn’t stand his ground. That deal went sour the moment we stepped out of that plane.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Neither do I.” I sipped the hot liquid, wishing now it was whiskey or something set aflame.
“What about the wife?”
“Rumor is she left. He’s alone.” He was looking at me from under his eyebrows.
“Who do you take me for?”
“You keep yourself safe, you hear me?”
His bare hand reached out for mine over the table. I set mine in his and let him squeeze it.
“I will.” I grinned, letting some of my excitement out.
Then the waiter brought our food and I tried to indulge on the flood of emotions going through my system. It had been too long since my last mission and, truth be told, there was no other place I felt more like myself than out there with my gun or my rifle aiming at a nice head, and then watching it blow up.
We wrestled for the bill and I let him win, or he’d never let it go.
“I’ll send you the details later.” He waited for me to put on my gloves, “please, be careful.”
“I always am.” His sly smile told how little he believed that. Really, who did he take me for? “Love turns people so bloody soft.”
He hugged me tight. I wrapped my arms around him, not too tight, and held still until he released me.
“Don’t fuck it.” He pointed a finger at me and gave me a peck on the lips before turning to cross the street.
How could I fuck what could be the most important mission in my entire career?, I thought as I threaded my way in opposite direction, towards Spring Gardens.
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