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.
[Art by Arocho, visit her blog, she’s awesome!]
Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!
Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!
Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel
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.
“I think that’s my cue to leave.”
“I think you should be our new nanny.”
“Does your child know how to swim?”
“I don’t know.”
“How can you not know? That is a matter of life and death. What if he falls into a river? He could drown.”
“There are no rivers nearby.”
“Or a pool.”
“We have no pool.”
“There are pools everywhere. He could be invited by one of his schoolmates, say, to a pool birthday party. You know how long it takes for your lungs to get filled by water? Seconds. And you are still conscious for a couple of minutes, so you are aware you are dying.”
“He is only six months old, Frank. He can worry about drowning later on. Though, not if it involves drowning by vomit, of course.”
I wrote this story for MoJo’s Group Creativity Experiment by fellow tweep writer @MoriahJovan. I can’t remember the exact date it was, but remember how much I enjoyed that experiment and wish it happened again. 😉
For more on Moriah Jovan please visit her blog.
For that week Moriah picked the song ‘Asking us to Dance’ by Kathy Mattea. Watch the video here.
And this was my entry:
Moonlight illuminated the darkened sky, accompanied only by a few shy stars. A soft, cold wind caressed your face and then mine. I inhaled your scent and felt alive again.
I watched you from a distance, silently waiting for you to complete your duty. As you held the rifle between your hands, I walked on the edge of the building. You concentrated on your target, I concentrated on your big brown eyes.
You moved slightly, crawling closer to the edge. I ran to kneel by your side and get a glimpse of whom you were about to shoot, but my hands strayed to your back and the tips of my fingers touched you slightly, sending a shiver down your spine.
Oh how I wished we could…
Your body stiffening stopped my thoughts. Your target was in sight and it was no moment for romancing as your finger pulled the trigger. A perfect shot.
You turned your eyes to the black sky above and whispered: “That one was for you, Vivienne. Wherever you are, I swear I won’t sleep until I kill them all.”
Oh how I wished you knew I was there, watching you, listening to you whisper to the air. I wished you could see me like I could see you and not just feel my ghostly presence by your side.
You picked up your bags, dried the tears in your eyes and headed for the stairs.
I stared down at the street to watch you go, while the cold wind caught me in its arms and swept me off.
This one’s for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge at Terribleminds. There were six different settings to choose from and I really liked them all, but had to pick one, so I chose ‘The Tower of Babel’.
I was aroused from my sleep in the middle of the night by Enzo’s grave voice shouting “Che cosa?!”, followed by his hand shaking me to attention.
“Non capisco!” He handed me his mobile.
I tried to shake the sleep off me before speaking, “Hello?”
“Cynthia? Es Alfonso.” His voice quivered. “Hay un problema. Uno muy grave.”
What? A problem? A grave one? My mind was still half asleep, my thoughts mixed with the leftovers of the dream I was awoken from.
“Che cosa sta succedendo?” Enzo turned on the light, making me wince, and started pacing around the room.
I covered my eyes with my hand, trying to concentrate on all the channels that were suddenly open in my head. Enzo was waiting for an answer, so I switched to Spanish and asked Alfonso –in the softest way I could– what was the problem.
“Tenemos una rata en el barco. Creemos que es Fabien.”
Oh fuck, someone had filtered information and they were blaming the French dude. Alfonso proceeded to tell me how the police had arrived at the dock when they were about to unload the shipload of cocaine we were waiting for.
WE. That was a funny thing to say. I’d been with Enzo for what? Six months. And this was suddenly a ‘we’ enterprise.
Who am I, you may ask? I’m a translator. I wanted to work with the United Nations and had applied there some weeks before a friend hooked me up with a gig. Sure, some freelancing never hurt anyone. Then I learned the venue was a nightclub and that I had to sign a confidentiality agreement before even meeting with my client. I signed, I needed the money. That’s how I ended up translating a whole drug deal between members of a Spanish mafia and Enzo, the leader of an Italian cartel.
How I ended up in bed with Enzo that same night is another story that, right now, doesn’t even matter. What mattered then was that I had Alfonso in the line and I could tell he was trembling with fear at how Enzo would react.
“Problemi con la spedizione, Enzo.” A problem, yeah, that was a pretty general concept.
“Che tipo di problema?”
I took a deep breath before saying, “Un informatore.”
Enzo paused, his eyes bulging like I had never seen them before. Someone had coughed. There was a traitor among us.
“Alfonso, ¿sigues ahí?” I needed to know if Alfonso was still with me.
“Sí.” He was. Trembling, but he was there. So I pushed him on telling me the details of what happened.
Apparently, the police were waiting nearby until they could get them with their hands literally on the merchandise. Sneaky fuckers appeared out of nowhere and surrounded them. Alfonso sprinted towards the darkness of the trees around the beach and managed to escape, unlike the rest.
“Chi?” Enzo pressed for a name.
Oooooh, he was mad now. Throwing stuff around the room and cussing loudly.
I whispered into the phone to ask Alfonso if he knew any other name.
“No.” He breathed.
I said I’ll call him back, that he get himself somewhere safe and call back if anything else came up.
That was when he said the thing that made my blood run cold: that Fabien, the supposed snitch, was on his way to Enzo’s flat with a whole entourage of police officers.
I hung up the call and turned to the frenzied Enzo.
“Siate tranquilo, Enzo.” He listened to me, his heavy breathing subsiding as his hands held on to the curtains.
“What else did he tell you?” He changed to English as the anger slowly made its way out of his system.
It is human nature that our brains switch to our native tongues when we are in stress situations. I understood this, since I had seen it many times before. Enzo and his men were from different nationalities and, at times, it felt like I was living inside the Tower of Babel. That was the nickname I used for his place, since it was where they would all come together and fret over deals and such.
A knock on the door startled us both.
“Police! Open the door.”
“Fuck.” I breathed, running around the bed to collect some clothes to dress myself.
Enzo stood in place, as if frozen.
“Enzo!” I shouted at him. “Come on!”
More knocking, more telling it was the police. I needed to get dressed, quick.
Enzo just ran his fingers through his hair.
The front door exploded into a million wooden splinters as I jumped into a pair of jeans and threw a T-shirt over my head.
They wouldn’t get me. No, sir. Not me. I was innocent, I was clean.
I gave Enzo one last glance, he nodded towards the window. I opened it, climbed out of the flat and landed on the cool metal surface of the fire escape in time to hear an officer shout “Enzo Macini! You’re under arrest!”
I ran down the ladder as fast as I could without looking back.
Chaos broke loose inside the flat and I could hear the gunshots getting farther as I took off towards the main street.
“Maybe the UN still has an opening for a translator,” I thought as I hailed a cab.
And that was the day I made it out of the Tower of Babel.
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.
Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!
Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!
Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel