Fiction Drama Suspense

"Y aura-t-il autre chose aujourd’hui?" asked the portly waitress as she stood at the register, counting the money just handed to her. She tabulated the owed amount versus what was paid, then closed the register drawer mostly with her plump, round belly. She smiled warmly at the gentleman on the opposite side of the counter. Despite his wild and engrossing beard, a small but appreciative grin returned from the gentleman.

"Non, merci," he replied in a barely audible tone, nodding politely. The waitress blushed, attempting to busy herself with other coffee orders from invisible patrons. The gentleman pulled out a few more bills, pushed them into a glass jar labeled tips, and turned to leave the diner.

"You take care now, Mr. Bonnaire," said the waitress in French, turning towards him. "You should bring your boy around sometime. I have some fresh apple tarts for him. I’m sure he'll love them."

Mr. Bonnaire pulled his oversized heavy wool coat about himself, starting for the exit. He waved in quiet acknowledgment, not truly committing to the offer but not dismissing it either. He took a swift look around the diner, noting its near emptiness save one other table hosting an older gentleman and a young woman with black hair. They had only newly entered the diner not long after he finished his usual lunch of thinly sliced turkey with cheese on toasted wheat bread, a tall glass of water slightly bittered with a wedge of lemon, and a ripe Red Delicious apple. He had declined a slice of the tart when it was offered to cap off his meal.

Mr. Bonnaire pushed open the door and walked outside to the icy chill of midday. Checking his watch, he noted that he was running late to pick up his son from hockey practice. Most times, he could get to the arena a little early to watch the team play before they were released to the showers. He enjoyed watching his son zip about the ice as if he were born with blades on his feet.

Adam hardly ever slowed down, always running, always racing, always in a state of chaotic motion. As he grew older, his need to move broadened to include more sports to satiate his constant need to remain in motion. Winters were often spent moving from one field to the next in various sports lessons. Once spring came about, the two of them balanced planting and general repairs about the farmhouse with additional activities including soccer, tennis, and rugby. By summer, swimming was added to his long list of activities with an occasional trip to the cliffs for rock climbing or rafting. Adam seemed endless in his energy, making things interesting and often exhausting. At the end of the night, the two of them were always grateful to fall beneath the covers and sail away into dreamless infinity, only to awaken bright and early to start the race anew.

This wasn't always so.

There was a time when a packed schedule like that would require approved time off from the Agency to fashion a more solid alibi and relationship with the family to help support efforts to draw out the target the Agency was after. The target was a known arms dealer and financer of more than a few terrorist factions dotted throughout South America and North Africa. He was also connected to a few names that were high priority for the U.K's M-16 and America's CIA agencies. His mission was to infiltrate the target's family and get close enough to draw him out of hiding. The best way to do this was to marry his only daughter whom, at the time, was studying at the Sorbonne.

He was a company man then. Whatever the Agency ordered, it was what he accomplished with little to no objection. Even if he did object, the Agency cared little for his personal feelings and moral compass. One way or another, he was going to do the mission, marry the daughter, and do whatever it took for the Agency to get their man.

That included having a child or several children if it came to that.

Adam happened out of necessity to make an even stronger incentive for the target to come out of hiding. Just marrying his daughter was not enough. They needed something more... influential. However, over time, even as the date of Adam's delivery drew closer, it seemed not even his daughter's tear-filled pleas would be enough to convince the man from leaving whatever hole he was hiding in. At Adam's birth, the only person that seemed elated about his arrival was the nurse. Adam's mother, although very happy to have her son finally in her arms, could not seem to lift her smile up higher than an exhausted acceptance that her father was not going to be there for the momentous event. He, in turn, could not move past the fact that the only reason for the child's existence had failed and he may be called upon to add another child to the equation.

If one kid didn't work, possibly two would finally peak the target's attention.

It wasn't until he met her that he began to change his thoughts about Adam, his mother, and the monstrosity that was the mission. After all, Adam was the most innocent. He did not ask, nor did he have any part or connection to what was going on to create the circumstance for his birth. It was why he was given everything, why all whims were quickly and elaborately met, and why there was never an apology for being overly protective and gregarious with his money.

Adam could have the world, so long as his grandfather stayed away. The second he showed up, it would all be over.

In the beginning, he was happy to let the family he was ordered to create go, but as the years went by and the love he pretended to feel for his wife and his son became his truth, the end to the mission came with both graciousness and grief, mostly for his son. Inevitably, the time did arrive, and he knew it was the beginning of the end when his front door opened and saw her standing there... waiting.

They both knew what it was, even though his wife had no clue. Even though she didn't come to signal the end to the mission, it was the end nonetheless. She came because of a different matter altogether. She learned the Agency was looking to retire her and she needed help, so she came to him. The only person she could and would trust. He imagined the sight of his wife and child came as a bit of an unexpected blow, but she managed it as well as she did most awkward situations. With little more than a blink in protest. She would have words with him later, when they were in private and could speak candidly with one another. Her questions about the wife and child were justified, and he could not blame her for feeling both betrayed and confused about what his marriage meant for their relationship. It was a twisted life he lived, and if felt just as torturous as the day the Agency finally caught up to their target. He had never felt such pain in his entire life. Even the gunshot wound to the stomach to fake his death did not hurt as terribly as the dissolution of his family and the loss of his son. His handler told him to get over it, but how could he? For seven years, he spent fashioning a fantasy with a woman he first met as a folder on his desk filled with information to help him seduce her. He grew to love her just by frequency of interactions with her. When Adam came, he was even more entangled in a confusion of love and duty to the Agency. She was the one that made him realize there was another option for life. It didn't have to always be about death and codes and targets.

There was more.

Mr. Bonnaire settled into his old diesel pickup truck and took in a steadying breath. Even though the day had gone much like any other day, there was something slightly off about this day, something about the couple that came into the diner. No matter how much he tried to pull his mind away from it and consider it trivial, the sight of the man and young woman together would not dislodge from his thoughts.

There was something wrong about the two of them together.

He had an odd feeling that they were staged, like actors portraying people they truly weren’t. It was the way the man seemed to try and appear loving and doting but kept his hands mostly to himself. The girl, too. She seemed less interested in cuddling up to him as much as she did in checking out their surroundings. They ordered food normally enough, practicing general courtesy toward the waitress before turning to one another and speaking in whispers. They spoke intimately, yet there wasn't a hair of intimacy between them.

He looked back at the diner, half expecting the couple to emerge from its frost-covered doors. The hard feeling inside grew with his suspicion as he watched the doors. The hair on the back of his neck rose, and he could feel blood begin to concentrate in his legs and arms. There was a six-shooter pistol in the glove box already loaded. He never thought he would ever use it, but he kept it loaded anyway, just in case. It had been five years since he last heard from his former organization, and even though they kept their promise to leave him in peace, he never fully trusted their word. He had seen them retract their statements, renege on their promises, and outright dismiss their previous agreements.

His eyes went from the diner to the glove box and back, trying to decide if it was necessary. It could have been just a coincidence that the couple came into the diner looking like two people who didn’t belong there. They could have been travelers passing through town. The small city was indeed not exactly a tourist attraction. For a history connoisseur, Trois-Rivieres was practically a living archaeological time capsule showcasing buildings from the 18th Century to its modern ancestry in tall office buildings and manufacturing plants. He had come to the area a few years before leaving France to relocate to Canada. He had considered it a safe place to disappear should he ever get the chance. At that time, his plans did not include anyone but himself. However, over time, he made many augmentations to his escape plan, including abandoning certain people he had grown close to. He had never considered coming to Trois-Rivieres with only his son. He had imagined he would be with her, and the three of them could live a new life in just the way they had spoken about it so many other times before.


He had never once spoken the name after the day he separated from her at the train station in France. She had revealed herself truly to him, unguarded and exposed despite her head-to-toe black ensemble. She appeared to him like a dark angel with her short platinum blonde hair and wide, crystal blue eyes, slightly red-rimmed with sorrowful tears. In true fashion, she pulled herself together long enough to give him what he most needed from her at that moment.


No longer was she holding on to him for comfort, protection, or even love. She was letting him go, as promised. She was giving him what he most desired above all else: to be free to live the kind of life he wanted, not one that had been programmed for him. He was free to love and care for his son without the threat of him being taken away if he did anything off-profile. He could pursue any passion, smile and laugh at any joke, tell honest truths, and be himself unapologetically and without bias. He was free to do whatever he wanted without any strings attached. For that, he would forever be grateful to her because, without her, none of it would have been possible.

He looked at the doors to the diner again, realizing the couple likely had long since finished their meal and were now sitting in their booth. His watch told him that he was more than half an hour late at this point. His son would likely start calling, wondering where he was. Or worse, he would not call, considering the lapse in time an open invitation for mischief. Or...

His heart quickened at the thought that raced up to his awareness before retreating.

It had been five years.

Only five years.

He covered his tracks skillfully and completely, or so he thought. After all, Adam was in protective custody the first time he was taken. It did not take but a split millisecond for someone to snatch him from his bed in the middle of the night. The foster family that had him was murdered. Of course, Adam was only six years old. Although he was a strong boy, he was not able to fight off his abductors. At age eleven, he could put up a hard tussle, but he could still be overtaken. If Adam was taken again, it would be highly unlikely that he would get him back alive this time around. He had very little influence now. Taking Adam would only result in two dead bodies discarded in the Canadian wilderness. The couple in the diner looked more suspicious now, paired with the fact that they had yet to leave. Even though the apple tarts were good and the coffee decent, they weren’t the “world’s best,” at least not great enough to spend hours savoring them.

Finally, the doors to the diner opened, and the young girl stepped out, crushing a black knit skully over her dark hair and wrapping a heavy black crochet scarf about her neck. Her stylish black bomber jacket and tightly fit jeans shouted of her age being no older than mid-twenties. Her clunky black and white skunk-inspired snow boots made her appear almost toddler-like compared to the very adult-style dress of her companion. He wore a knee-length black wool trench coat, black second-skin leather gloves, heavy tweed slacks, polished boots, and a charcoal gray flat-top hat. There was a flash of gray, burgundy, and black from his Burberry scarf. His style juxtaposed with his partner’s clashed as if they were purposefully trying to stick out while appearing to blend in with their surroundings. It was evident that they were not from anywhere near Trois-Rivieres, or possibly not even natural-born Canadians. They could have been tourists passing through, but there was something about them that plainly said they weren’t.

They meant to come to the diner.

They meant to be seen by him.

As they readied to enter their nondescript black late-model Tahoe, Mr. Bonnaire was certain they were aware he had spotted them. In a matter of moments, the truth about the couple's identity would be unveiled. Were they merely a traveling May-December pair, pausing at the diner for lunch before continuing their journey? Or, as Mr. Bonnaire suspected from the moment they occupied a booth, were they just like the pie?

January 01, 2024 20:58

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