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 a BONUS! In this one we meet a very important character from Scarlett’s past that will appear in Book 2: Roberto Cisneros.
Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , Vignette #3, Vignette #4
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The red leather booth in the diner couldn’t contain both me and the colony of invisible ants that was crawling up and down my flesh. The memory of the meeting with that English dude and the other two agents seemed more and more surreal every time I replayed it in my head.
Cisneros hadn’t been very talkative afterwards. Not that we talked much anyway, only the necessary, which was mostly professional stuff: who to kill, where to do it, how much was in it for me… Except, of course, for the times where we’d all sit around his study talking through a cloud of cigar smoke, having a laugh over a bottle scotch or wine.
It was a whole other story with his half-brother, though. Roberto and Rafael had no blood ties, since Roberto was adopted by Rafael’s father after he married his mother. I often thought: had they been blood brothers, they wouldn’t be as close. They were as different as night and day, from their nationalities (Rafael was of Colombian ascent; Roberto, of Cuban), to their lines of work (one was a drug dealer; the other, a police detective).
Sitting with a clear view of the door is a must for everyone in a position like mine. And when the man with the brown suit, gun holstered under his jacket, badge pinned to his belt, pushed the door open, I was the first to see him. His olive eyes locked on me, and he smiled as he approached me.
“So,” he gave me a kiss on the cheek before sliding into his seat, “what’s this mysterious thing you can call me about but can’t tell me over the phone?”
“Well, hello. I don’t remember sleeping with you last night.”
His eyes shone over his sly smile. “Say the word and I can change that.”
“How’s the new wife doing?”
Jane, the old woman that waitressed there, cut in before he could reply. “You two having the usual?”
“Yes, Jane, the usual.” Roberto flashed her one of his smiles and made sure she was out of earshot before combing his dark brown hair back with his fingers and taking a deep breath. “She’s pregnant.”
What. The. Fuck.
Jane brought us our coffees, giving me some time to process the news. No, I wasn’t emotionally involved with Roberto. We had something. Past tense. Not anymore.
Get a fucking grip.
“Thank you. If it’s a girl I’m naming her Scarlett.”
“The world doesn’t need another fucked up version of me.” I swirled the sugar in my drink while he poured a considerable amount into his.
“I wouldn’t say that. But we’re not here to discuss that. Are you going to tell me what you called me for?”
“I’ve been offered a job at Interpol.”
He choked on his coffee. I was quick to hand him a napkin, and pushed his arm away before he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Oh, come on! You’ll ruin your suit.”
“Interpol?” He dabbed the corners of his mouth with the napkin, his eyes wide. “Seriously?”
“Did you know your brother is an informant?” He frowned, casting his eyes down without a word. “Of course you did. I bet it was you who cracked him.”
“I did know. But it wasn’t me.”
“And neither of you told me.”
“No need to, you’re perfectly safe as you are.”
“You two treat me like a child sometimes.”
“Never.” He took another sip of his coffee before gently setting the cup down. “Now, about that job offer of yours…”
“This English dude came all the way from London to offer me ‘a deal.’ To work for some program they’ve come up with, go on missions for them, and, after all is done, whatever record I have will be erased, and I’ll be free.”
Jane arrived with Roberto’s pastrami sandwich, the red basket overflowing with french fries, my philly cheese steak with their signature onion rings, and two tall glasses of coke to wash it all down.
“That’s bullshit, Scarlett.”
“I’m not kidding.”
“Give me your wrist.”
I rolled my eyes before extending my arm over the table. “Sure thing, human lie detector. The dude’s also a detective, you know? Detective Inspector. They’ve got funny names for policemen there.”
He set his fore and middle finger on the underside of my wrist, taking a glance at his watch for a moment before proceeding. “When did this happen?”
“This morning.” I answered without hesitation. He’d always do this when he thought I was lying.
“And you say he was English?”
“Yes. Very. His name’s Romulus, said he works for the Metropolitan police and the Interpol. A bit of a douchebag, if you ask me.”
“And what kind of deal was it?”
“I already told you.”
“Scarlett…,” he chided me.
“Work with an interagency program that is seeking recruits with… how did he say it? Contacts. Yeah, that. They give agent status to people who are in the business but want out. A new life, a clean slate. The chance to put everything bad behind me. At last.”
His face dropped, and he let my wrist go from his grip. If anyone knew how much I’d been through in my still-short life, it was him.
“Never heard of such a program.” He scooped a half of his sandwich, “Why bring someone all the way from England?” and bit into it.
“Your brother deals with some London people.” I took off the top of my sandwich and put a couple of onion rings inside. “And the dude said they wanted me to work away from where I’m known. I’d be travelling around, not necessarily to England, maybe some other countries. Also, he said I’d be Interpol because he’s Interpol, but that there are others with different agency credentials.”
“I don’t know, Scarlett. Doesn’t sound right to me. Interpol doesn’t recruit people that aren’t already working in some agency or police department, much less send people on missions around the world.”
“I told him, and his answer was that the credentials were mostly for travel and payroll purposes.”
“Still doesn’t make sense.” He was attacking his food with a passion, as if channeling his emotions by biting and chewing on it.
“What did Rafael say?”
“That he’d been working with them for the past year.”
“See?” He picked a french fry and pointed it at me, “I didn’t know that,” then shoved it into his mouth. “I’ll have to talk to him about it. Did he know the guy that talked to you?”
“Apparently, yes. The dude knows Adrian and had even talked to him prior to our meeting.”
Roberto rose in height at my statement, taken aback. “What?! He spoke to Adrian about recruiting you?”
“Told me Adrian tried to talk him out of it, that I was no good. Oh, and he still hasn’t let go of the Scarlett the Scumbag thing.”
I finished the first half of my sandwich, took a large gulp of soda, and set my hands flat on the table. “I want out, Bobby. I- I don’t know if I can go on with this for much longer. There’s no life in this business. There may still be time for me. I’m twenty-four, you know?”
“You saying that makes me feel like a pervert.”
“Why? You’re only forty-six.”
“Only?” He chuckled. “Thank you. That’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me in a while.”
“I think I’ll be taking the offer.” I went on eating the second half of my sandwich; it was too good to let it go cold. “What’s the worst that could happen? That it’s some bogus program and I end up having to kill them?”
The last bit of his sandwich hovered in front of him, midway to his mouth. “Probably.”
“I’ll always have you to cover my ass for me.”
“You’re in luck, then. I’ve also got a job offer.” He finished his food and wiped his hands clean. “CIA.”
“Whoa. You’ve been wanting that for some time now.”
“Yes, I have.” He leaned over the table. “I’ll always be there for you, Scarlett. I appreciate you calling me to talk this over.” His eyes trained on me, I could hear the truth in his words. With Bobby, emotions were always only skin deep. “I’d advise you to think it through, even though I know you’ve already made your mind. If this is, indeed, a way out, then I’m all for it.”
I cleared my plate before pushing it aside.
“You know I’m always a phone call away.” He continued. “If there’s anything I wish is for you to leave all this behind.”
“Step into the light?” I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned back.
He pushed himself forward. “But never let it blind you.”
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