There are times when making love would definitely be the better part of valor.
My partner, Jeffrey, often jokes that ‘screwing for my country’ is in my job description. Why couldn’t this have been like my other assignments? You know; action-packed, but ultimately predictable and boring after fifteen years of service?
Setting the question aside, I took a goon down with a spin kick, then buried a handy crowbar in his skull to make sure he stayed down. Such messy contractors… I’ll have to remember to send them a card for leaving so many handy tools around this unfinished parking garage. Another underling took his place almost immediately; this was getting tedious. Their boss, Linsman, was getting away and so was the leak, Silva!
I ducked under a metal bar swung at my head, giving myself over to the fight. Grabbing the arm wielding it, I used the attacker’s momentum to swing him into the wall, batting someone else’s gun away before he could discharge the weapon in my face. Ears ringing from the gunshot, I bent my current opponent’s arm backward until it snapped, using the man’s weight to stop two others in their tracks. One fell out of the ‘window’, losing to gravity as he held his broken and bleeding nose. He might have even survived if we weren’t currently seven stories up. The other dropped to his knees almost comically, family jewels defiled. Putting my foot in his face, I let the first man’s broken arm go, pushing him out of another one of the spaces for natural light to shine before grabbing someone else to attack. I’d lost my gun somewhere in the chaos of those first few seconds of fighting, so finishing them off wasn’t easy. Still, I was doing pretty well.
Before I could get cocky about that, a knife slid into my belly, lancing white-hot pain through me. I gasped in shock, somehow remembering to slam a knee into my assailant as I backed away. Unfortunately, the force of my desperate spin, combined with the thug’s refusal to let go of the handle, left me with a deep gash in my stomach. Grimacing as I desperately tried to ignore the pain, I looked down and uttered a sigh of relief that my intestines weren’t peeking up at me. Of course, the bleeding was still pretty bad; I’d need treatment once this was all over. The last guy standing decided to rush me, pushing us both down an unforgiving flight of stairs. I used his body to cushion my fall. As I stood, I absently noted that his neck was twisted at an impossible angle; he wouldn’t be a problem anymore. One step past the stairwell, though, and my right leg crumpled under me. Damn it! Wincing at the pain, I pulled the jacket off my impromptu surfboard and used it to staunch the bleeding from my gut. I frowned at the look; it wasn’t exactly the next cover of GQ magazine, but it would do in a pinch. Wound taken care of temporarily, I limped my way into another section of the parking structure, wondering how the hell I was going to get out of here now. I called on years of agent training to push the pain away as I moved. I could deal with it later; if I lived through this clusterfuck of a mission. The leak was still out there.
My mind was whirring as I limped my way through the empty building. It occurred to me that I should be grateful I was on the outskirts of the city instead of the city center. I very much doubt Seattle has the same ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ policy as my home base of New York City, after all. The mission was simple; find out how the Linsman drug syndicate was getting their hands on Omega Agency secrets and plug the leak. I expected this to be an easy fix. In fact, I’d been attending an opera when my contact approached me; I hadn’t even changed out of my formal tuxedo before accepting this assignment. Looking down at the long, ugly tears and powder burn singes in the bulletproof fabric, I knew it was money well spent.
What the hell am I doing, standing in the middle of a parking structure turned warzone deciding whether to buy another tux? It seemed like more than my mind was spinning. I could really use a partner right now. Why didn’t I insist Jeffrey join me like normal? I’m usually so thorough and cautious; the opposite of accepting a solo mission without even telling him. Ah well, pride cometh before a fall if I remember correctly. Although the top secret covert organization Jeff and I both worked for - the Omega Agency - usually sent its agents out in pairs, there were exceptions, like this mission, that deemed only the use of one agent. Silva told me she’d already identified the leak that had led to the deaths of eighteen CIA agents and three Omega agents over the course of six years. When the woman approached me, she told me that she had the leak cornered and that she only needed some backup to finish the job. Closing a case like this could lead to serious clout in both of our agencies. Not willing to share the glory, I’d left the opera with her. I didn't even bother to give Jeffrey a heads up. A decision I was deeply regretting now.
Ducking bullets brought my attention back to the present. I found cover, scanning the room I’d stumbled into for the source and saw two thugs closing in on me. Gathering myself, I pushed his arms up and out of the way before he could shoot again. He seemed to anticipate this, bringing up a knee into my unhurt side while slamming his fist across my face. We dropped and rolled, his gun falling out the ‘window’ - damn it, can’t I just get my hands on one gun today!? - And I used the confusion to lurch to cover.
“Betcha didn't see this coming, Agent Tyr Lattimore,” one of the up-and-comers in the drug ring shouted after me, flaunting the fact that he knew who I was. If I were any newer to the espionage game, I might have frozen up completely, giving the man the perfect shot at my back. Damn you Silva! The funny thing was, I've always known not to cultivate friendships in my line of work. You never knew who would give you up for pride, for promotion, or simply to save their own ass.
“Silva set you up but good, Tyr,” the man laughed, sounding closer as he tried to goad me into a response. “You Omega agents never cease to amaze me! She may seem warm as a summer day, but inside, that bitch is stone cold. Old ‘Great Aunt Silva’ was just so eager to get you the information you needed, wasn't she?” I could hear the man moving as he taunted me. “I love how you morons never made the connection that she was the one turning you guys in! After the first fifteen agents or so, you would think someone would be suspicious. But no, let's move that shit right up the chain! Even better; let's get the elite Omega Agency involved to clean up the CIA’s mess! Not only that, let's send our best agent; after all, with Silva involved, it's practically a done deal. Gotta hand it to her, that's some Oscar level acting shit right there. That bitch-”
Seeing the gun muzzle of the silent partner come into line of sight, I yanked it forward and down, using my elbow to fracture his jaw. The gun went off in an explosion of sound - haven’t these idiots ever heard of silencers? - killing the gloater across the room, but I had it in my hand and to the silent man's head before the next round chambered. Two bullets to the skull and I was back on the trail of my target.
Surprisingly it didn't take much time to catch up to her, even with my injuries. I tripped over her prone body as I rounded a corner of a parking lot stall. Violet Silva was a stellar agent - persuasive, athletic, and intelligent. But it seemed she was as easily betrayed as anyone else.
“Never trust a ‘Bob’,” the older woman griped, picking at the remains of her cocktail dress. The powder-blue silk of Silva’s gown - a match to the silk bowtie I was somehow still wearing even after all this - was marred by the crimson pouring from her form. I surveyed the damage dispassionately. Her gut wound was a match to mine, only much deeper; I had no doubt she was in agony and would only last a few more minutes. But then no one would know she was a traitor. I knew what I had to do, and for the first time in a lifetime, I found myself hesitating to do it. In Great Aunt Silva - as she insisted on being called - I’d found something resembling family.
I felt more than saw the attacker stalk out of the shadows. What I didn't expect was the broken-off parking meter in the giant’s hand. Only a decade and a half of instincts saved me from having my ribs caved in. Instead of standing against the swing, I let myself be batted into the far wall of the room. My teeth nearly cracked from the strain of not crying out as my body lost its battle with solid concrete.
The pain was familiar; too many beatings as a child in the foster care system. One of my ribs was either cracked or broken. Wonderful. Doubling over to catch a breath, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t lost my gun in the midst of my flight. I groaned as I forced myself upright, spitting out a mouthful of blood that made me wonder if my lung was about to come up for air.
“So you’re the Lattimore character everyone’s been talking about,” the giant snorted, throwing his makeshift club away as he chortled. His body was almost cartoonishly massive. Here was a man who either did too many steroids or spent too much time at the gym. Maybe both. “You don’t seem like much to me!” He was approaching fast, yellowed teeth prominent in a wide smile. Oh great, another gloater. Too bad he didn’t notice I was still armed. My vision was cutting in and out as I fought for consciousness. I won’t die here; not without completing my mission.
“What, nothing to say?” he asked with mock concern. “Silva said you were a man of few words, but I figured you’d at least-” whatever else the bastard had to say was lost in a squeal of anguish as I shot out his kneecap. Without giving the man time to react, I put two in his skull and stumbled my way back to my target. I had to get out of here before more reinforcements arrived. But twenty-one agents demanded justice before I could go about surviving this night.
“Not a drop of joy in you,” the woman coughed, the line of bloody saliva dripping from her chin becoming more pronounced. “You've solved a six-year-old case, caught the traitor, will likely get a promotion once everything is sorted… yet you can't even crack a smile. I often worry about you, Tyr; I worry about what this life is doing to you.”
“So much so that you had your pet syndicate try to kill me?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” she quipped, groaning even as she laughed. “You are such a perfect weapon. You remind me of myself - did you know I was an orphan too? My story isn’t as… traumatic as yours. But I was still abandoned just like you. Most people would have given up and swallowed a bullet after just some of the shit you and I have been through. But, Tyr, haven't you ever wanted to be free?”
“You killed twenty-one agents and betrayed your country, all in the name of freedom?” I asked blandly, determined to stay focused. Getting lost in the past right now was guaranteed to get me killed.
“Yes, you would only see that,” she said angrily. “I could bore you with all the reasons, but it all boils down to this: I was in love. Haven’t you ever been in love? To the point where you would do anything for them?”
“Yes I did,” she shouted at me. I waited patiently for her gagging coughs and gasps to stop, bored with her attempts to ‘reach’ me. “I just wanted a way out. He said he loved me, he showed me what life could be like. I know it was stupid, but he asked so little in return… I know it was wrong, child, but for the first time in my life, I was free.”
“And now you’re dead.”
“At least I lived first,” she snapped back at me. “You have never lived, Tyr. You’ve never loved. All you do is hunt. And how the hell can you judge me now?” she cried angrily. “I’m dying for Christ’s sake!”
Two in the head, two in the heart; the mark of a traitor. Just like they taught me in training: the Omega Agency Special. I’d never had to use it before; lots of firsts for me tonight. Mind carefully blank, I dropped the empty Glock on her chest and caught myself before I aggravated my wounds by letting out a full belly laugh. I really must be gone; such outbursts are usually beneath me. But something about the fact that she would be curled up in pain if she were still alive was truly amusing me right now.
No matter. My mission was complete, but I was in bad shape. My head was spinning - likely a concussion. I had to find cover before my body shut down for repairs. Looking myself over as clinically as possible, I started down a set of stairs. My mind was already on escape tactics. I turned a corner and attacked the man I found there, only to realize it was me. Looking in the now cracked mirror, I shuddered at my reflection, marveling that I still didn’t recognize myself.
My six-foot-four frame was bent over like a hunchback from my stomach wound and guarding to the left to take pressure off my lungs so that I could breathe. My usually smooth, honey brown skin was mottled with the beginnings of nasty bruises. I looked like a common street brawler that had just been through a turf war rather than the Bond-style secret agent I was. It also didn’t help that my right leg was dead weight, making staggering in a straight line a serious challenge if I wanted to breathe. Damn it! There’s no way a hulking stranger like me wasn’t going to raise eyebrows once I was out in the open. Still… Better out in the open with civilians than in this death trap with trained killers. I made it to the ground floor before hearing Linsman on one of the upper floors of the parking lot.
“Where is that bastard? Damn it, that whore said this would be easy!” the crime lord shouted, unconcerned with how loud he was being. Apparently, being a master of the underworld meant losing your inside voice. Interesting. I heard a dull thud as someone kicked something I strongly suspected was Silva’s body. “Find him! Spread out; we can't let him get away!!”
Damn it! I had to move. As conspicuous as I was at the moment, it was the empty five-in-the-morning streets that were going to kill me if I couldn't find a place to hide from prying eyes soon. Looking around as I quickly limped my way to safety, I spotted an old U-Haul truck down a side street a few blocks from Linsman’s parking lot. Assuming it wasn’t empty, it would make a good hiding place. Again, my training was saving my ass despite my injuries. I had already started laying false trails leading my pursuers away from the trailer while my mind was still asking ‘what should I be doing now?’. Hooray for muscle memory - my brain felt like it was treading molasses trying to catch up to the situation.
By the time I lost the thugs, the sun was peeking over the horizon and I could hear the civilian population stirring to go about their regular day. Damn it! All it would take was one of those well-meaning citizens glancing out their window to blow my cover. I was no longer in any position to fight; I’d just pulled my gaze from a three-minute staring contest with a dandelion according to my broken watch. Luckily, the street I was taking refuge on was still empty. I moved around to the trailer latch, doing my best to look as if I belonged.
Once the back rolled up, I knew I'd hit the jackpot. Whoever this trailer belonged to had packed it floor to ceiling, and tightly to boot. If I could just squeeze my way into it, Linsman’s men would never suspect a thing. Grabbing the blankets sitting in the entrance, I cleaned the blood off of the handle and my hands, wrapping it around myself to further staunch the blood now that the jacket was soaked through. Another GQ cover to be sure. Instead of dwelling on my vanity, I closed the door before I could be seen. Working off my mental image of the space, I somehow managed to maneuver my way through the clutter, blankets in hand, and land on the loveseat I'd spotted in the back. Covering myself with more of the neatly folded blankets, I finally surrendered to oblivion.