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 met with his sister, Helga Sayer, days before the story on the book starts. Enjoy!
If you haven’t read Vignette #1, what are you waiting for?
I was rushing around my flat, pulling my jeans on while searching for my nurse uniform. It had been ages since I wore it and, quite frankly, I didn’t even think it would fit me anymore. Cisneros told me to bring it to the meeting in case Helga, Armand Sayer’s sister, wanted to see it. He said she was hard to please. I promised I would do my best.
Take the sniper rifle with you. I reminded myself as I slid inside the shoulder holster and secured my Sig Sauer in it.
Some makeup ― not too much, not too little, ― a jacket and a scarf wrapped around my neck… I shoved the uniform into a messenger bag and slung it over my left shoulder.
I hailed a taxi, gave the address to the driver, sat back and tried to relax. I’d been to Cisneros’s place multiple times, but this was something new altogether. The butterflies in my stomach said it was so.
Yeah, yeah, Ferdinand, I better not fuck this one. Blah, blah, blah.
The cabbie dropped me off in front of the gates, giving the rifle case a long hard look while I produced the notes to pay the toll.
“You don’t want to know what’s in it.” I winked at him.
His answer was to drive away as quickly as he could.
I walked up to the gate and smiled into the security camera, waving my hand sheepishly. The gate opened and I made my way through the driveway to find Ferdinand walking towards me, followed by another one of Cisneros’s henchmen, one by the name of Marco.
“Come with us, Miss Lang.” Fer grinned, welcoming me with an extended arm, ready to take my rifle case. “Mr. Cisneros is waiting for you in his study.”
Sure, sure, protocol and shit. I could walk into that house through the backdoor in the middle of the night and no one would give me any trouble. We climbed the stairs in silence and he held the door to the study open for me.
“Scarlett!” Cisneros rose from his comfy leather armchair, a scotch in one hand, a cigar in the other. “Always a pleasure to see you.”
He pulled me into one of his hugs. His, because they were the really awkward kind, the kind some men give to feel you up instead of greeting you. Ferdinand hated them. I just plain ignored it. I’ve known the man since I was a child. He was there for me when I needed him and I had always been grateful for that.
When had I needed a sly git like him? Back when I was eighteen years old and I had gotten on my grandfather’s bad side, with nowhere else to go. He gave me my first job, treated me like a real pro and kept an eye out for anyone who gave me any shit. He was like a father to me, in a dysfunctional kind of way.
“Meet Helga Sayer.” A woman with thin lips and defiant eyes stepped forward.
I tried to smile as I met her outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” Her eyes traveled from my face all the way down to my feet and back. I was tempted to ask her how much I ranked after she tallied me, when Ferdinand interrupted.
Fer took my rifle and led us downstairs, to the backyard. They had set a shooting range for me. This was going to be fun!
They stood inside a bulletproof cabin and not a word was spoken as I laid my weapons on a table and took my time to set my rifle. Helga’s eyes were trained on me and I made a point out of showing her how much of a professional I was.
That’s when I saw someone jumping over the concrete wall to my far right and make a run for it behind some bushes. I didn’t think twice before I pulled the Sig and aimed it at the bush where the figure had apparently halted.
Then there was a shuffling to my right, and a masked man was running towards me, gun in hand. Two bullets whizzed past my ears as I ducked, shooting him right in the heart. The one behind the bush moved again, running towards the left side of the garden. I couldn’t see him but I could easily hear his steps on the grass, the light brushing of his boots as he shifted.
Straining my ear a bit more, I could hear his low panting.
A quick mental calculation, knowledge embedded into my subconscious, alerted me when he raised his gun to aim at me through the green thickness.
One shot. His body fell on the ground with a thud.
I trod cautiously on the grass, approaching my victim with my gun still aiming at him, even though I already knew he was dead.
He was on his back, legs bent under him, a blood-gushing hole right between the eyes.
I lowered my gun when a slow clapping rang from behind me.
“She always delivers.” Cisneros and Helga appeared at my side. “Always.”
The woman’s eyes inspected the dead man on the ground, then turned to me. I held her stare and she seemed content to find my breathing was as steady as hers.
“Come with me. We shall rehearse your interview.”
Rehearse? What the fuck?
I wrinkled my nose at Cisneros but he wasn’t looking at me.
His eyes were on Helga’s backside as she made her way back into the house. “You’re in,” he turned to me, “just go with it,” patting my shoulder before following her steps.
I walked over to the table, where Ferdinand was waiting for me.
“What the fuck was that?”
“I’ll take that for you.” He took the gun from my hand. “You better go before she changes her mind.”
“Cisneros was the one who told me to bring my rifle.”
“You were brilliant.” He was unloading my gun without looking at it, his sight on me.
“Don’t do that.”
“The smile on your face.”
He wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“Oh, grow up!” I did an about face and stepped into the house to face whatever crazy thing was in store for me.
He is trying to talk to me but that darn kid of his is playing with his new helicopter too near us. The thing flies close to us and away, then back, almost hitting Jim on the head before disappearing.
“You see, Kathy, the problem is that we need a better mailing system.” Jim dodges the helicopter by an inch. “Dan! How many times must I tell you what you are doing is rude?”
“Can’t we have this conversation somewhere else? I mean, this is your kid’s birthday party. Nothing to do with work.” I am really annoyed by him talking about work on top of having to endure the little kids playing around us.
“I’ll just say this and nothing else, because it really bothers me when clients call saying their packages haven’t arrived and learning that our messenger is sitting on his ass… DAN!”
I catch the helicopter mid-flight, hold it with both hands and break it in two with my knee. Jim takes a perplexed look at it before handing it to the boy. The kid runs to his mother, carrying the broken helicopter and crying.