In The Caregiver Series 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.
This vignette takes place before Book 1, after Vignette #3 & #5
Detective Inspector Romulus Moretti awaited Rafael Cisneros’ and my arrival at Heathrow. Our flight was delayed by a couple of hours and even when I called him to tell him we could hail a taxi when we got there, he insisted on picking us up himself, no matter how late it got.
It had been two weeks since our meeting in Miami and we’d kept in touch both by phone and email. He was more than okay with me asking questions and wanting more information, and he answered every one of them with enough detail to make me feel better about this.
Only thing was, I preferred his written answers. Our phone calls were lengthy. Too lengthy. And strayed towards more personal subjects every now and then.
I must confess there was something about him. Something I still couldn’t pinpoint and that made me feel a little queasy.
It’s probably that he’s a cop. I kept telling myself. Even if you’ve always dreamt of becoming one you have to accept the fact that you were raised not to trust them.
Baggage claimed, Cisneros lead the way to where Romulus was waiting with his police officer stance and a smug smile on his face.
“Cisneros.” They shook hands before Romulus turned to me, his smile softening to an almost tender one. “Miss Lang. Welcome to London.”
The moment we stepped out into the cold my stomach started doing somersaults. This was it. The one opportunity I’d been waiting for my whole fucking life. The chance to put my past behind and start anew. Bonus points for it to be in a different city also.
“Are you hungry?” Romulus asked as he held the passenger door of his car for me.
I stared at him for a bit longer than normal. “A bit.”
That was, apparently, the answer he was waiting for because he grinned and said, “There’s a pub near the hotel you’ll be staying. We could go there.”
Did I fail to mention he booked a hotel room for me? I always stayed at Cisneros’ while in London, yet he wouldn’t have any of that. I wasn’t in a position to protest, nor did I want to start an argument with the one that was only a John Hancock away from becoming my boss, so I said yes to that.
And yes to leaving Cisneros at his house before heading for said hotel.
And thanks but no thanks when Cisneros reminded me he and Bobby were only a call away if I needed anything.
What could happen, really? It wasn’t as if I hadn’t killed men double Romulus’s size.
We were off and the first thing Romulus did was sigh.
“What?” I asked.
“Rafael is always so stressed. Pissing himself all the time.”
“Only when there are cops around. Ever been to one of his parties?”
“No.” He drawled. “He’s never invited me to one. Are they any good?”
“Good? They’re the best. Nothing but champagne and cigars.”
“Depends on the occasion.”
A sideglance, a cocked eyebrow. I was getting some signals from this guy I didn’t really know how to interpret.
Or was it that I didn’t want to interpret them at all?
I wasn’t a naïve little girl. I knew where this could go if I let it.
Getting a good look at his hands I noticed he didn’t have a ring, nor did his ring finger show a lack of sun exposure over the last knuckle.
“Do you have any children?”
My inquiry took him by surprise, to the point of making him scoff. “Yes. Three.” I nodded, letting him be consumed by his thoughts about why I brought that question up, when he asked back. “Do you?”
Didn’t he know everything about me already?
Now he nodded and said nothing more.
It takes two to play this game.
“Here we are.” He announced once we arrived at the hotel.
He took my luggage, checked me in, and escorted me to my room. “Everything’s paid for and if you incur in any other charges during your stay the agency will cover it.” He stood by the closed door while I inspected my surroundings.
“I haven’t signed anything yet.”
“It’s a risk we’re willing to take.”
I swung my bag over the bed to cover what my eyes were doing, which was studying him. He looked more relaxed than at the airport, although his arms were crossed over his chest.
His looks were more than agreeable, I must confess. A strong build, sweet dark eyes, and the grays in his hair really suited him.
“Do you need anything? Should I come by later?”
“Nah, it’s okay.” I glanced at my watch and it was late, but not too much. “Is that invitation to the pub still on?”
“I can give you some time to deal with the jet lag.”
“Nothing a couple of pints can’t take care of.”
He sent me a half-grin, uncrossing his arms and turning for the door. “I’ll wait in the lobby.”
I stared at the door as it shut behind him and didn’t notice I hadn’t moved until my mobile vibrated inside my jacket’s pocket. Bobby. I wasn’t picking that call up so I texted him I was okay before checking my makeup and heading down to where Romulus was waiting for me.
We walked over to the pub, sat at a table away from the windows and were quick to start on our beers, and plates of chips.
“Tomorrow we’ll visit Spring Gardens so you can meet your coworkers, get acquainted, see the premises.”
“And what is this about? Getting acquainted with the boss?”
He leaned back in his seat, giving a look around before staring straight into my eyes. “I know you’re not used to having someone supervise your work. I promise not to be the obtrusive kind.”
“What do you know about my work anyway?”
He pushed himself forward, elbows on the table, and drew his face as close to my side as he could. “I know all I need to know: that you’re the best. And, between you and me, I believe that, very soon, you’ll be surpassing your grandfather. A great feat for a 24-year-old.”
“You said my contract would start and end with you.”
“It will. You’ll work under me since the moment you sign to the moment you call it quits. In the rare case that I may have to be the one who ceases to work with the project, you’ll be free to decide if you want to stay working with us or not.”
“Us. That’s something you still haven’t explained.”
“You sure ask a lot of questions.” He was resting on his arms over the table now. “I wonder if you’d be so eager if it were you on the other side.”
Some guttural cat-like sound threatened to come out of my lips.
He ordered another round and waited until we were served.
Ready. Steady. Go.
“Two weeks ago.”
Raised eyebrow. “A friend.”
“Any other jobs in your agenda?”
“Do you have a concealed weapon with you right now?”
“Is it the one you used for that job?”
“I use rifles for my jobs.”
“Who was the unlucky bastard?”
Pause. “A shop owner.”
“Shop? What kind?”
“Pawn shop. Arms trafficker.”
“How did you kill him?”
“Waited until he got into his car and shot him in the head from a building across the street.”
“How did it feel to pull that trigger?”
“And how is that?”
I leaned over the table to join him midway. “Better than sex.”
“I beg to differ.”
“Then you’ve never had a rifle in your hands and a target in sight.”
“Then you know it is.”
“I find many differences between both acts.”
“I’m the one asking the questions.”
I sat back, my eyes not leaving his, and raised my hands to my sides.
“Shoot me then.”
“Oh. Forgot you London police can’t walk around with guns.”
He pushed back the side of his jacket, reaching for something in one of his trouser’s pockets.
A pair of handcuffs.
And set them on the table between us.
“I don’t think I’ll need a gun when it comes to you.”
I sipped from my beer.
He tapped a finger on the metal contraptions, a half-grin etched on his face.
“I don’t think so either.”
When I went for the handcuffs he snatched them. “Not so fast. You sign the contract first.”
“So they sent you to dine me and wine me while sweet talking me into signing?”
“None of that. I’m just trying to make the process smoother. Everybody’s scared you’ll refuse our offer.”
“I should. Not only am I not used to being supervised, I’m not used to people denying me of what I want.”
He pushed the handcuffs to me as he gulped the last of his beer. I hastened to do the same, taking the cuffs in my fist and following him out of the pub and back to the hotel.
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