Vacation Interrupted

Posted: August 2, 2016 in chuck wendig challenge, Fiction
Tags: , , ,

This week’s challenge (after having been on hiatus for a bit) is to work a vacation theme into the story. I went for a nearish future kind of piece that ended up a lot less action-y and a lot more talk-y than I perhaps intended. As always, comments are welcome.

“Ms. Carlotta?”

Nadia looks up from her book, her eyes shielded by her oversized sunglasses, her feet buried in the black sand.

The man stands, uncomfortable and obtrusive. Ill-fitting black suit. Attaché case gripped in his left hand. Unsightly bulge under the jacket on the right side. Not exactly this season’s beach attire. Beady eyes squint from behind horn-rimmed glasses.

She looks back down at her book. “I’m on vacation, Sands.”

The man nods, pushes his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “I understand. We, uh, tried to call you but-”

Nadia doesn’t look up. “I pulled the battery out of the phone. I get two weeks every year, Sands.” She holds up two of her fingers. The nails are cut close, the fingers callused. “It’s in my contract. You can look it up. Now, please go away. You are blocking my view.”

“Ah, well, that’s just it. The Agency is invoking the emergency provision in your contract.”

Nadia looks up, her mouth turned down in a tight frown. She lowers her glasses, peers over the edge of them at Sands. “That costs double. Not including expenses.”

Sands nods. “We’re well aware of the cost, Ms. Carlotta. We wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important.”

“Asking or telling?”

He shrugs. “No harm in being polite is there?”

Nadia’s frown gives way to a half-smile. She closes her book and fixes her sunglasses. “No one can ever accuse you of being anything other than diplomatic, can they?”

Sands sniffs. “My ex-wife did.”

Nadia shakes her head. “I still don’t understand how you ever could have gotten married, line of work we’re in.”

He shakes his head. “I thought I was in love. Probably was. Anyway, I have the file here-”

She raises an eyebrow. “You want to do this here, now?” She points further up the beach. “I’m renting the house there. Come on, I’ll pour you a drink and we can talk shop.”

Sands shuffles his feet, but nods his assent. “Alright, but I can’t stay long. Neither can you, really.”

Nadia rolls her eyes. “Always a deadline, saving the world, isn’t it?”

***

Nadia stares down at the folio, spread out on her kitchen table. Her frown is back, deeper than before. “You realize this guy’s address is literally two doors down from here.”

Sands keeps his eyes averted, his shuffling feet scuffing on the hardwood floor.

“You did realize, you and the other little fucks. That’s why you brought this to me. Jesus Christ, Sands, this is supposed to be where I get away from the evil of the world. Do you get that? Huh? I know this guy.” She stabs her finger down on one of the photographs in the folder. Older male, tanned, hair going to grey. Wiry looking. “I see him walking his dog. Every. Single. Day. He waves at me. I smile at him. He doesn’t even hit on me. Sure, he usually has one of those Bluetooth earphones in his ear and he likes cargo shorts way too much, but so he’s a douche, doesn’t mean I have to kill him. Why couldn’t you bring someone else in? Why couldn’t you kill him someplace other than here?”

Sands looks up, makes himself look Nadia in the eye. “And if we had brought someone else in, into your backyard? And you found out about it? What would you say then?” He shakes his head, pinches the bridge of his nose. “You’d throw a shit fit then too, wouldn’t you? And look at the rest of the portfolio. You might be here on vacation, but this guy is mixing work and pleasure.”

Nadia looks down at the attached sheets. The string of phone numbers. The names associated with them. She blinks, then sighs. “Illegal cybernetics. Military grade hardware. I recognize some of the names on this list. Paramilitary mostly. At least one doomsday cult. Anti-government types. This guy is what, a supplier?”

“No, a broker. Bit of a banker as well. Multi-million dollar deals. Well-financed. Well-connected. He’s putting together a deal that’s supposed to go down in three days with some right wing militia types. He can’t attend that meeting.”

“So why not arrest him? Throw him into some black site prison where he’ll never see the light of day.”

It is Sands’ turn to frown. “You know that’s not an option, Nadia.”

“Yeah.” Nadia walks to the counter, pours herself a measure of whisky. “Anything not in the official documentation I should know about?”

Sands shakes his head. “No, it’s all there. Remember, three days. Two before he flies out. We’d like to keep it as low key as possible. Think you can manage that?”

She throws back the whisky, her hard, dark eyes locking with Sands’ pale grey ones. “If you didn’t think I could handle it, would you have recruited me in the first place?”

Sands tries to smile, but it only makes him look tired. “It wasn’t my idea, if that makes any difference.”

“It doesn’t.” Nadia looks back down at the information, sighs, and goes to pour herself another drink. “It’s going to be a long night. You can see yourself out.”

***

She walks into the beachside bar at half past seven. Gregor, the target, her neighbor, is sitting at the bar. A glass of beer is sitting in front of him, along with his smartphone.

“Hi, do you mind if I join you?”

He looks up, brow furrowed, hand covering the surface of the phone. He smiles when he sees who it is. She keeps from rolling her eyes as he checks out her décolletage.

“Of course not, neighbor.”

“Please, call me Sylvia.” She extends her hand. He accepts and raises it to his lips.

She arches an eyebrow. “How very traditional,” she murmurs.

Gregor shrugs. “Sometimes the old ways are best.”

Nadia lets her eyes track to the Bluetooth sitting behind his ear. Gregor has the good grace to drop his eyes. “But even tradition has to bow to the modern world,” he amends.

“What brings you here Mr…”

“Lundy. Albert Lundy. And nothing all that dramatic. A holiday is all. Respite from the world.”

Nadia smiles. “Seems that we have that in common, though I would have thought business.” She taps a nail against the cell phone.

Gregor frowns. “Yes, well, business doesn’t cease simply because I’m not around.”

Nadia nods. “I know that feeling all too well. I have to admit, I normally prefer my solitude, but when I saw you sitting here all alone-”

Gregor pockets the phone, but only after making a show of turning it off. “Forgive me. I must say I’m grateful to you.”

“Oh?”

“It’s not every day a man is approached by such an elegant woman. If I were possessed of greater courage, I would have introduced myself to you first.”

She smiles. The bartender takes her drink order.

“I wouldn’t think a woman such as yourself would drink whiskey,” Gregor comments, his hand light on her wrist.

“Oh, I’m just full of surprises,” she replies.

Later, after dinner, after drinks, they walk along on the beach under the stars. He gave her his jacket to ward off the ocean chill.

“It is a shame I have to fly out tomorrow night,” he says, staring out at the surf, his back to her. “But then I was never going to make that flight, was I Nadia?”

She blinks, her fingers feeling number around the trigger guard of the pistol she pulled from her clutch. “You knew?”

Gregor shrugs. “I do my homework. Would you believe we work for the same organization? I suppose this saves them on gold watches.” He turns and faces her. “Who do you think will come for you, when they decide your time is up?”

Nadia raises the pistol, aims it between Gregor’s eyes. “Why should I believe you?”

Gregor sniffs. “Who gave you the assignment? That work Sands? Why do you think they want to take out a broker, and not follow the money and guns further up the chain? I’m a loose end, and you are the scissors.”

“What do you propose?” she asks. The gun doesn’t waver.

He shrugs. “I never thought that far ahead, really. Though that might go a long way to explain my current predicament. I have a boat. Well stocked. Could disappear into the Pacific. Two people of our skills…” He lets his offer hang in the air.

She lowers the gun. “Do you have any idea how much I’m going to miss this island?”

Gregor nods. “Guess we’ll have to find another one.”

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Comments
  1. Sweet! This is just what a short story should be, wrapped up neat and tidy.

  2. It is chatty, like you said, but there’s enough intrigue to it to keep it interesting. Well done, Matthew.

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