Forum adverts like this one are shown to any user who is not logged in. Join us by filling out a tiny 3 field form and you will get your own, free, dakka user account which gives a good range of benefits to you:
No adverts like this in the forums anymore.
Times and dates in your local timezone.
Full tracking of what you have read so you can skip to your first unread post, easily see what has changed since you last logged in, and easily see what is new at a glance.
Email notifications for threads you want to watch closely.
Being a part of the oldest wargaming community on the net.
If you are already a member then feel free to login now.
“I’m so sorry to have made you wait, dear Maryellen. Now we can go out and have some fun. Where shall we go? Shall we drink cocktails and dance?”
Maryellen commented positively as the other woman made her appearance known, and clapped softly. "You look absolutely darling! That would be delightful."
On the way out, Pia put her new sneakers on the floor, toes towards the door. She took a pair of nude court shoes from her crammed cupboard. The two girls stepped out in search of fun.
“I’m sorry I left you for so long with no pictures and everything, but you see the problem is I am utter rubbish at decorating. A couple of weeks ago I bought a lot of stuff from a fancy design place. As soon as it was installed I hated it and had to send it back. I must find someone who can help me with interior design.”
Pia cruised very smoothly on her 3-inch heels. She swung her handbag and smiled, smug with her athleticism.
“There are several places we can go, Maryellen. The Milton Arcadian hotel bar -- I had a Screaming Orgasm there once. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped, actually. The bar snacks are… *interesting*. There’re restaurants as well. I hate eating alone but it would be fun with you!”
She turned a bright smile to her companion, earrings swinging and sparking in the sun.
“There’s the Upscale Bar. They do very good cocktails, but the ambience was flat when I went. I felt rather sad for the staff. They were glum and bored. It might be worth a try. It’s supposed to be a place where you go to be seen, and we deserve to be seen.”
*I’m so stupid! Maryellen may get a blister in her new shoes.* Pia slowed down to a relaxed stroll.
“The Outpost does cocktails and has live music but I’ve heard it can be a bit, well, tequila slammers, cash only… You get the idea.”
She stopped to look at the signs at a cross-roads.
"That way is a pole-dancing club. I had to go there once on business. It's rather louche. If we met someone we knew it would be an absolute scream!"
Her brows arched over eyes sparkling with anticipated amusement.
“Or there’s another place, it’s a bit farther away but it’s very interesting. It’s called The Server.”
Pia flagged down a cab. 15 minutes later the girls were standing at the entrance to a somewhat dingey edge of town industrial estate. There was no-one around, no activity, no noise except for the distant cars on the ring road. Dusk was gloaming. It was the twilight hour, when parallel worlds and different timelines intersect. Things were a bit *spooky…* She felt horripilation on her neck.
“There’s a place I can take you, Maryellen. It’s hard to find if you don’t know the path. You’ll have to trust me, hold my hand and walk with eyes closed. I know it sounds a bit dodgy. I was kind of worried the first time, but once I got there I found a friend and then everything was alright. If you let me take you, I promise you will be fine, because I’ll be your friend.”
Pia stared into Maryellen’s eyes with a peculiar intensity.
“I would die to defend you. That’s a promise. I keep my promises. Here, to show you how serious I am, take this. ”
She held out her hand. Lying in the palm was one of those novelty cigarette lighters, the type which looks like a pistol. You pull the trigger and the flame comes out of the muzzle. But this was real, an actual tiny semi-automatic pistol which only looked like a toy. Pia racked the slide, aimed at a nearby concrete road block. It looked like a giant Lego block. She squeezed off a shot. The gun popped. The tiny bullet drew a puff of dust and chips from the grey cement and whined off into the evening light.
“There. You see it’s real. You can carry it and if anything happens you can shoot me and get away.”
Maryellen was getting scared. She couldn’t understand what this girl was, who ran a 5k before rescuing a stranger from a shoe crisis, bought LED sneakers for Shuffle dancing, swanked around her flat nude, then invited her on some weird mystery tour at the edge of town. But the pistol gave her confidence. She thought no-one would hand a gun to their kidnap victim. Besides, whatever her oddities, Olympe had been gentle and kind all along. She seemed genuinely to care for Maryellen.
“Okay. I’ll go with you.”
Olympe took her hand and she closed her eyes. They began to walk slowly. The ground was smooth. Even with eyes closed Maryellen had no fear of tripping. She followed Pia’s lead, hearing the clicking heels, felt a series of turns, left, right, left, up!? Pia gasped and squeezed her friend’s hand. If Maryellen peeked, she would see that Pia was walking with eyes tight shut through a strange space, with an infinite vista and gravity that seemed to wobble at times, and diverge from the normal plane.
“Don’t worry, Maryellen! This bit always scares me, but we’re nearly through.”
The dark, mysterious walk continued for another few minutes, then…
“You can open your eyes now!” Pia said brightly, and let Maryellen’s hand go. They were standing in what looked like an ordinary modern city street, but as she looked around differences began to reveal themselves. There weren’t many cars. People were walking around in all kinds of fashions, some of them contemporary, others like cosplayers from the past, from fantasy, and from SF. The signs were in various languages; mostly English but, it could be Japanese, and something from India? The sky was filled with stars, and a fat moon -- the familiar one of Earth -- hung on the eastern horizon. There were several smaller moons near it! Maryellen felt the hair stand up on her neck and scalp.
“This isn’t Kansas, Maryellen, but it’s perfectly safe. Well, mostly harmless.” Pia drew close to the girl and hugged her slightly hesitantly. “A lot of new members are scared the first time they see what it’s like. The channels are so like home and so weirdly different in little ways. It creates a cognitive dissonance. But you’ll be fine as long as you stick with me.”
The tall blonde stared at Olympe wide-eyed.
NOT TO BE CONTINUED
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/02/06 03:40:08
Pia’s sleep was disturbed by erotic dreams, and she got up relaxed but somewhat tired.
*Is there time for a run?* she wondered. *Maybe not. We’ll probably have to get to the Interpol office by 10 or 11 at the latest.*
She washed quickly and did a simple make-up, then dressed in her houndstooth jacket, black turtleneck sweater, denim jeans and zip up heel boots. It was 8:30, easily time for breakfast. She thought she should get Jason up if he wasn’t moving already of his own accord, but he was already knocking on her door.
Pia opened the door at Jason’s knock. Her female intuition wasn’t operating at full power this morning, but she got the impression that he was possibly suppressing an urge to get rather close to her. No sheep eyes, though.
*I hope I didn’t overdo things last night. We’re both lonely and horny and it’s common for partners to get involved, nothing wrong with that. But there’s a job of work to be done. I must avoid flirting too much.*
“You’re looking well, Jason, how did you sleep? I had some interesting dreams, I might tell you later. Your outfit is very American! In a good way, of course. Nice cologne. Let’s go to breakfast. I got a ping on my phone from Berenice. We need to be at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by 10. That’s alright, it’s on Quai d’Orsay which is only 10 minutes drive from here. We’ve got loads of time.
*Actually the skirt of this jacket covers my bum,* she realised. *There was no point wearing jeans!*
“Sorry Jason, this jacket is a bit warm for inside the hotel, I think I’ll leave it in my room.”
She came back out with a handbag and walked ahead of him to the lifts. Her jeans were tailored for a stylish close fit but not completely skintight.
They were soon availing themselves of the excellent breakfast buffet. Pia had fresh fruit and yoghurt and a cup of hot chocolate, to satisfy her French nature, then a single egg benedict and a pot of black coffee. There was no need to eat a lot, or sneak pastries into her handbag, because she was sure they would be well catered for at the Ministry.
“What do you think Berenice will say to us, Jason? She’s had enough time to start setting things up in Beirut. Maybe we will fly out tomorrow.”
“Yes, I got the same message from Berenice. It sounds like they have something for us,” Jason said. His eyes wandered a little over her frame. He was full of smiles. He chose traditional scrambled eggs on toast with a side of bacon, juice and a coffee, white with one sugar.
”I think you’re right, Pia. The meeting has to be about setting us both up for Beirut. Sounds like another horror red eyed flight for us, unfortunately,” he sighed, finishing off his breakfast.
Jason slipped on his jacket again. It was times like these he wished she had her jacket handy, so he could help her into it. But anyhow he made do with helping her out of her chair. Not that she needed any help. But it was the gentlemanly thing to do. He led her by the hand up to her room.
”Hmm, I love your perfume today. But I better not hold you up,” he said, mere inches away from another kiss. He thought better of it this time.
Pia took note of Jason’s gallant attentions to her, his helping her from her chair, and the compliment for her perfume. She preened herself mentally. She was wearing Creed Erolfa, her regular daytime fragrance, the one she liked so much she had bought a half-litre bottle of it the day before, an astonishing extravagance it would seem to many people but in her mind it was easily worth the price, like her other luxuries, because it gave her elegance and increased her confidence in her female powers.
“Thank you, Jason,” she smiled. “I just want to brush my teeth and check my make-up is perfect.” She went into her own room.
*Shall I put my anime contacts in?* she pondered. *No, it’ll be too obvious to him right now. I’ll do it this evening, perhaps.*
Pia had various contact lenses she used for disguises. Most were natural looking, just altering her eye colour. The anime ones, though, had a dark outer ring which made her natural irises subtly larger. Coupled with a wide-eyed look they gave her face a subtle boost of cuteness, which often appealed to men.
She came back out with her big handbag, the one with a stab hole through it. She had loaded it with her usual girl and detective necessities. The two detectives went down and caught a taxi to the Quai d’Orsay, pausing briefly en route for Pia to buy an English language newspaper for Jason.
The cab dropped them outside the massively impressive building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 10 to 10. They checked in through security, and their pistols were taken away, to be returned on exit. The guards showed them to a waiting room, where a guide collected them, and walked them through ornately decorated corridors. Eventually they reached a conference room where Berenice and Nassir were waiting with two men who were introduced as an interpreter and a secretary.
There were refreshments of water, coffee and pastries on a side table. The main conference table had a big screen at one end, and there was a view of the Eiffel Tower through the tall windows.
Berenice briefed them in her confident, French-accented English.
“You are booked to fly out on Middle East Airlines departing Paris Charles de Gaulle at 07:50 tomorrow. It arrives in Beirut at 11:35. The yellow folders in front of you contain new passports and flight vouchers, plus some operational information such as your local contacts. Please read it carefully and memorise it. We shall destroy the briefings before you leave this office. There is also some special equipment for you.” She gestured to her partner Nassir, and he slid a small box over to Olympe.
"I see we’re getting straight to the point." Jason opened up the manila folder containing his new passport and credit card, in the name of Mr Jack Tremblay. Checking the passport, he found he was now married to Olympe, but her name was Viola. His cover was an accountant for a respected international firm, which had been hired by Ahmad IV Pharmaceuticals to reconcile certain cash flow discrepancies. Ahmad at present employed around 150 people and had a capacity to produce over 65,000 IV bags daily, plus 35,000 liters of dialysis solution, 40,000 ampoules and 50,000 sets of IV lines.
Olympe, or rather Viola, was his new French wife, bilingual in English and French. She worked as an interpreter. They had met when she accompanied him on some working trips around western Europe. He flicked through a couple of photos noting who was in charge at Ahmad.
Berenice went on; “The cover story is that you are newly married and are combining a short honeymoon with a business trip. Your local contact is a gentleman called Dalil. He has contracted you to do this accountancy work. We are sure the export of the new drug Cake is being organised using the facilities at Ahmad for cover. Once you’re inside, you can use the credit cards, which are disguised cameras and audio recorders, to capture evidence. The staff may talk Arabic in front of you, so record that too. You can upload the data with the reader, even if they take your smartphones away for security purposes.”
Pia picked up the small box containing the reader. There was also a USB stick. She held it up and raised an enquiring eyebrow at Nassir. He spoke in French.
“That is loaded with computer intrusion software. It will run automatically when you plug it in, to install backdoors and keystroke loggers which will allow our cybersecurity team to access the company network. The accounts they will show you will have been well doctored and will prove nothing, so we’ll try to get at the real accounts and consignment details once our hackers are in their system. With enough data it should be possible to find statistically significant correlations between the company’s exports and arrivals of Cake in western Europe and Chicago.”
Pia was surprised suddenly to be married! *I have a ring at least…* she reminded herself, and took the plain gold wedding band from the depths of her handbag. She carried it as a kind of totem. That simple 18K ring was the very first disguise item she had bought for detective work, based on the idea that married women are not so often hit on in bars. Also she enjoyed wearing jewellery. She soon found out that there’s a particular type of man who likes to seduce other men’s wives, and the ring had made her a more attractive target in some ways. *That has its uses too, though…*
She slipped the ring onto her finger to help her get into the role. *This will not be so difficult, since I am already rather hot for Jason…* She dalekked her chair closer to his, touched his arm and smiled at him. Studying the dossier she rewrote the most essential facts onto scrap paper as a way of training her memory.
“I will be the interpreter, then? My husband must handle all the accountancy. I am not very good at accounts.”
This was true. Pia’s talents were more for spending than investing. She left her money in the capable hands of a wealth management firm. Fortunately, her monthly income usually exceeded her outgoings by a good margin, except those times when she splashed out hard, such as on the new car, when she had to dig into savings. Pia went to the side table and brought Jason a coffee and a pastry, the kind attentions of a loving wife.
She extended her left hand to admire her wedding ring. Gold never tarnishes, but if you wear a ring constantly, like you do a wedding ring, it gradually accumulates micro scratches and after years it no longer looks brand new. You can see the difference between the outside and inside. Her ring was still very fresh, as she only wore it occasionally. It was shiny bright in the sun streaming through the tall windows. She had never gone undercover as someone’s wife before.
She checked her passport. It identified her as Viola Ysabelle Tremblay, a French citizen newly married to an American. The document was practically new, as befitted a newlywed wife who had recently changed her family name. The biodata and the photo had been copied from her real French passport. The appropriate marriage visa for the USA was already installed.
*It’s going to be interesting,* she thought. *I hope they’ll put us in a nice flat. Shall I have lots of sex with him? It might help the deception, by giving us that tired but relaxed newlywed glow.*
She giggled, but then she thought seriously: *We must be very careful. It could be dangerous. These drug people are really nasty.*
She looked at the data upload device and the USB stick and saw they was small enough for her to hide somewhere very private,*Which won’t be particularly comfortable, but it’ll be safer, besides if they ever find it there, I really will be fethed.*
Jason brought her coffee and cake. She smiled gratefully, and went on reading the instructions for the intrusion device and the card reader. They seemed simple enough to operate.
“Thanks for the coffee, Jack. I think I’ve got all this info memorised now. Let me just read things back to make sure I understand everything. We’re going undercover as a married couple and I’m your secretary and interpreter as well as your new wife. We’ll have a couple of days of honeymoon in Beirut before visiting the laboratory, then you’re going to audit their accounts and I’ll mess around a bit, probably getting bored. Maybe I’ll flirt with some of the guys, just so I can nose around and insert the intrusion software anywhere I can. Anything suspicious we find, we have to try and record with these credit card cameras, and upload the data. So we should practice using them. I think we should get advice from Takayuki too. He knows a lot about computer crime. Shall I email him to ask?”
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/02/08 04:38:28
Pia got out her mil-spec smartphone and looked at it a bit sideways. She loved its power and strength, but it didn’t seem right for her new role.
“I need a new phone if I’m going to play the ditzy blonde. This mil-spec one looks wrong. I need something girly for taking lots of selfies and tourist pictures. And we must practice being married, so please take me somewhere romantic for lunch and we’ll go shopping afterwards and then you can buy me a new dress. I must call you Jack and you must call me Viola all the time, or you could say Via which is kind of a short version and sounds like Pia if you made a mistake. How do you like my ring?”
She stood up and took her ring off and handed it to Jason.
“There, now you can put it on me like during a marriage service. Be gentle, it’s a tight fit.”
Jason suppressed the urge to chuckle about her finding a new phone, taking lots of selfies, shopping and then taking her somewhere romantic for lunch. He knew they weren't far from it, right here in the centre of Paris, the city of lights. In fact the romance was happening in Jason's head already.
"With you I'm always gentle, Viola," he said with a smile and a wink, then took her hand softly. He placed the ring on her ring finger. There was slight friction and a resistance, so that a little force would be required to bring it back over the knuckle. This prevented accidental loss.
"With this ring I thee wed. You know what comes next, don't you, darling,"? he said with a beaming smile.
Jason knew he wanted to have another kiss from her and now seemed like the chance to get one. After all, from now on it would be no holiday or honeymoon. It would be extremely dangerous where they were going. Probably the fate of the free world depended on them both. That's what he was imagining anyhow, in a kind of James Bond fantasy. He held up Pia’s hand and kissed the back of it. Leaning in towards her he got a whiff of her perfume again. She knew how to make herself so attractive. He kissed her on the lips. Her mouth was warm and moist, with a faint hint of coffee that made him smile. Then he gently pulled away.
"Mrs Viola Tremblay, it appears as though the fate of the entire world is dependent on us. Are you ready to face it together with me?” he asked sheepishly.
Viola accepted his ring on her finger, carefully placed. He was good with his hands, which promised well for later. A girl, like a horse or a boat, handles better if you’re gentle with her. They embraced, Jack so romantic, passionate and so serious, caught up in more than the undercover role… He released her.
Swept away in the moment, she snaked her arms around him, feeling his male strength, pulling him back close to her, inhaling his manly fragrance, Bois du Portugal, the one she had bought for him from Creed. She opened her mouth, thrust her tongue at him, probing his lips, and of course he allowed access. She tasted the coffee he had drunk, which she had brought him, a loving attention from his new wife. She felt renewed, her passions were high, and she wanted to make love. It was going well beyond the undercover role, but she had begun to feel like this before Berenice cast them into the position of husband and wife. However… shopping called!
The French officials raised their eyebrows, exchanged glances, and smiled at the display of passion.
“I see you are already adopting your cover stories,” Berenice said. “If you are ready, I will destroy the dossiers and you can go to your next appointment.”
Viola broke away from her new husband, and held him at arms length to speak seriously.
“Jack, however much you try to distract me with kisses, I want that new dress you promised me. I'll need it for Beirut, and I need a new handbag too, and it’s lunchtime. You must be hungry. Take me to Le Bon Marché, it’s the best department store in Paris. We can eat there and do all our shopping afterwards. It will be an experience to remember.”
She wiped his mouth free of her lipstick, which had been smeared by their passionate kiss -- Viola felt there was no point wearing lipstick which wasn’t smeared by a strong kiss, it was important to leave her mark on a man, or a girl for that matter -- and went to repair her face with the aid of her little mirror. Her look was restored in a few minutes, and she waited for Jack to lead her to the next venue.
"I have the perfect place in mind, Viola. Relax, I will take care of everything. We will first get a taxi over to a restaurant called Dupin. Have a nice lunch, then it's a three minute walk to Le Bon Marché, okay?” he told her, without waiting for a discussion.
The meeting was over. Jack and Viola left by way of Security and retrieved their weapons. Outside the main gates, he hailed a taxi and opened the door for his wife.
*Thank goodness for smartphones!* Viola thought. Jack had quickly searched up a wonderful place for lunch. Dupin was a beautiful collision between ancient wood beams and clean modern design, serving what looked like Michelin starred sandwich boxes. They had the vegetarian selection, a partly deconstructed falafel wrap with salad leaves.
“This is very nice, Jack, you chose well. We’ll have plenty of time for shopping and then can eat a good dinner this evening. We must be early to bed tonight, since the flight tomorrow is ghastly, we have to be at the airport by 6 in the morning. It’ll be such an early start. You should make sure to pack tonight or we will be late. Would you like me to pack your things for you? I am very good at packing.”
Pia didn’t eat too fast. She wanted to savour the elegant French food and make another memory of Paris. When she was finished the young couple hooked arms and walked to Le Bon Marché, certainly the finest department store in Paris, and therefore one of the best in the world. It reminded her of other great shopping venues, Selfridges and Peter Jones in London, Isetan and Takashimaya Times Square in Tokyo, places where a girl could wander all day, and lose herself in the dangerous vice of fashion.
*But Jack will get bored if I do that, so let’s focus. I need a dress and a handbag and some nightwear.* Having decided she was going to sleep with her partner in full interpretation of her undercover role as his wife, she wanted both of them to enjoy it to the full. That required a sexier nightgown than she had bothered to pack.
But somehow Viola ended up with three new dresses, a rather slinky bodycon number, green with a yellow pattern, a more conservative, loose fitting dark blue minidress with bishop sleeves and a bow detail, and a fitted sheath dress with exotic patterns. This also demanded new shoes and a second new handbag to match, so in the end the bill was larger than planned. Everything had sleeves to hide her still bandaged shoulder.
“I will pay for these but there is something else you can give me as a present, Jack. Please would you carry some of the bags?”
She led him to the lingerie department. The floor spread out ahead of them, filled with racks of intimate apparel, and partly clothed mannequins; bras, briefs, camisoles, slips, basques, suspender belts, hosiery, chemises… everything a woman might need to delight herself and a lover.
“Here, Jack, I want you to choose me a new nightgown. Whatever you pick, I will wear it for you. Don’t feel embarrassed to be here. Look at everything as much as you want. It’s fine because I am with you.”
Jack couldn’t help but blush when asked to give input. His bachelor frame of mind coming to the fore. He actually couldn’t make up his mind so in the end he offered her a choice between three night-gowns to try on.
”I think you would look beautiful in all three. But the Grecian night-gown looks elegant, as well as being sexy. You pick the one you like best and I will pay for it,” he said, feeling his body temperature rise a little at the prospect of her wearing it for him.
Viola looked at the three gowns, holding them up against her body to try and judge the effect. She had thought Jack would go for something hot and sexy, like the short red one with hip high side slits, for example. He did pick that type, in fact, but only as one of three. Actually the long floaty Grecian one seemed to be his first choice. It was hers too. The frilly minidress was cute but perhaps a bit fussy for her taste. The red one was very sexy. *Really it’s a little bit tarty! Sometimes that kind of nightwear is good to have in your wardrobe, I suppose, but it’s for bustier girls than me.*
The Grecian style was elegant and very sheer. Its flowing folds of nearly transparent fabric would conceal and reveal at the same time, and she could team it with different coloured underwear to change up the look. *Like he’ll see a hint of my nipples though it but I can put on plain white panties for a more innocent look, or another time they can be lacey, or red maybe, and he will get excited again. Also it’s good that it’s shoulderless because he needs to remember my wound. And it’s practical because it’ll dry very quickly after washing. Actually it might look rather good with a push-up bandeau bra underneath.*
“I choose the Grecian one. It’ll be very comfortable in hot weather, and in cooler weather I can wear a chemise too. I’ll try it on now because it’s important to get the right length. You can’t come into the fitting room, but I’ll only be a few minutes.”
It was never really true to say that all of Viola’s clothes shopping was done, because she could always find a reason to buy something else. However, her immediate urges had been satisfied. *There’ll be great shops in Beirut too,* she remembered, *But Jack may need something now.*
“Jack, cheri, thank you very much for my new nightdress. I am all done now except for my phone which will be easy to buy because they sell them in the consumer electronics department here. Is there anything you need from menswear? Remember the climate in Beirut will be warmer than Chicago or Paris. At this time of year it’s usually between 50 and 65 degrees.”
"Viola honey, I think what I might need for Beirut is good denim jeans and decent leather dress shoes. So from here let’s have a look at the Google map. There is a Levi's at Rue de Rennes. I could get jeans over there. Unless you know of a better place? The leather shoes I can get from here perhaps?”
Jack carried Viola's bags and they went to the men’s footwear department, where he got the shoes he needed. Next they went to consumer electronics, where Viola simply asked for the best camera phone. The assistant was more than happy to sell her the brand new, top of the line Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, bulging with technical specifications, and a chic case. Viola had a bit of a thing for phones. Like a man she would obsess over the technical details. But they were very important for her work.
*I’m so glad I have plenty of money!* she thought. *My Blackview is still best for a detective because it’s tougher and has a bigger battery, and the thermal camera is really good at night. But the Samsung is better for playing an airhead tourist and it has a huge screen and a telephoto lens and loads of memory. I hope no fether tries to steal it off me in Beirut.*
In Japan, female workers customarily celebrate Valentine's Day by giving chocolates to their male colleagues. Usually a guy will get several small packets of so-called 'giri choko', obligation chocolate. Sometimes he'll receive something rather special, possibly handmade, and know he has an admirer. If not, at least the giri choko tastes good. The gifts are reciprocated a month later on White Day.
This Valentine's, Takayuki Komai is disappointed not to receive even one small present from the women in the Chicago Bureau of Detectives. As the morning wears on he notices that none of the men get anything. He begins to understand that the custom is not followed in America as it is in Japan, and he feels better.
Returning from lunch, Takayuki finds a small gift bag on his desk. It’s a neatly wrapped atomiser bottle of Creed Himalaya, a luxuriously expensive French eau du parfum. The maker's pamphlet describes it as "fresh, woody and adventurous, inspired by the rugged landscapes of the Himalayan Mountains. Citrus top notes of bergamot, grapefruit, lemon and mandarin, are complemented by warm notes of sandalwood, nutmeg and cedarwood. At the heart of this masculine fragrance, you will discover notes of gunpowder, giving Himalaya its innovative edge. The pure seductive dry down of tonka bean and ambergris make this an irresistible signature scent." There is also a note written in kana.
チョコレト より こんな おとこらしい かおり が いい でしょ ね~?
`A manly scent like this is better than chocolate, don't you think?`
There is no signature, only a heart drawn in lipstick the colour Olympe-chan is wearing. Clearly this is another of her little manipulations but, as always, it's such a pleasant one that he's unable to resent it.
Taka-kun hides everything before Sergeant Henderson can notice and get jealous.
"You can light up any room with your beauty, strength of character, and confidence. Thank you for lighting up my life! Happy Valentine’s Day!"
The arrival of a romantic Valentine message from a lover should fill a girl's heart with joy but now Olympe erupted in a geyser of panic. She hadn't got any present or card for Jason. Worse, she had left a very expensive Valentine gift on Taka-kun's desk. Following British tradition she hadn't signed it, but the lipstick kiss mark on the card was clearly hers by the colour.
*Oh gak! What if he opens it in front of Jason? gak, gak, gak! I’m so stupid!!! Why did I do it?*
She knew why. She wanted to provoke the two guys into rivalry over her, and experience their passions.
*I'm so shallow. I've got to stop this before I hurt another boy.*
As they walked to Levis, she felt Jack’s arm slide around her, his big hand warm on her hip. She responded by leaning into him a little and snapping a selfie of them together with her new phone. She giggled. It was fun and flirty to pretend to be married and enjoy these little physical attentions.
*He’s smitten. It’s rather cute. I’ve been flirting too much and spoiling him. Will he fall in love with me for real? Will I fall in love? I haven’t been properly in love for such a long time. But look how it ended… Maybe it’s a bad thing for us to fall in love.*
She wanted to turn away from dark thoughts, so she concentrated on shopping. They both bought jeans, Viola choosing a tight fitting white pair. *White jeans make a woman of any age look sexy, if she’s got the right butt and legs.*
After Jack bought some shoes they headed back to the hotel by taxi. It was too far to walk carrying all their bags. They went to their rooms to begin packing.
Viola had expanded her travelling wardrobe to the extent of three new dresses, two new handbags, another pair of shoes, the jeans, the Grecian nightdress and a camisole to go with it. Her Moncler coat was far too hot for Beirut, but it stuffed down very well. She was an efficient packer while travelling because there was no option but to pack everything. Having chosen her clothes for the next morning she went to knock on Jack’s door.
“Jack, how are you getting on? Do you need some help packing? Shall I check us in online? We should do it before we drink anything or we might make a mistake. I’ll need your passport and the flight vouchers. Then we should have dinner.”
"Yes honey, that might be a good idea. I'll give you my passport and vouchers and for dinner we can try out the L'Abreuvoir. How does that sound,"? He said while he let Viola into the room. He typically was trying to put too much stuff in, when some of it could go into his carry on luggage instead. Viola tutted and began to repack everything neatly and efficiently.
Their late dinner was a rather quiet affair for Jack. He was thinking about the flight and the mission. Some things he didn't want to end and this place was one of them. He knew he would miss it.
"Viola, you ever have that feeling that you wish things wouldn't end, but you know deep down that they will. We could be putting ourselves in harm's way soon. Paris has been like a dream coming true," he said, just peering into her eyes. *It didn't matter,* he thought, holding her hand and rubbing the back of it. He sipped his red wine. The Chicken Normandy was long since devoured. Now just the tantalizing aroma of French pastry bombarded his senses, as the waiter brought their puddings. It felt strange, almost like this was the last supper though he knew such thinking was silly.
"I'm going to miss this place but I can count myself lucky to be taking something of Paris with me." He leaned over and kissed her on the lips. Neither of them noticed a blond-haired gentleman reading a paper, watching them from the corner of the room. In fact he was the same guy who had followed them onto the flight from Chicago.
"Oh Jack, mon cheri! We can be very happy! We've had the best time for a couple of days. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the wax museum and everything, lots of good food and wine, lots of shopping, it's been amazing! Paris is the City of Lights and Love, we'll come back here and have another special time, I promise. And Beirut will be great. I know it's work but we'll have time to ourselves too. We won't eat out every night. I'll cook you something special, and we'll relax together at home."
She returned his kiss with genuine feeling, caressed his cheek. She wanted to bring him to the hotel and make love all night. She decided there and then she was going to do it.
"Eat your crème brûlée and pay the bill, Jack. We need to go back as soon as possible."
They cabbed back to the Pullman Hotel. The magnificence of Paris surrounded them, the river shining in the moonlight, the grand palaces and gardens. The Eiffel Tower glowed with its copyright lights, a symbol of the City of Love known all around the world. But by the time they got to their rooms, Viola had come to realise they could not afford to make love tonight. They were tired, there was a very early start in the morning and a stressful flight to endure. They had to arrive in Beirut with their wits sharp. It was enemy ground. She buried her sexual instincts under a pile of intellectual resolve. She snaked her arms around Jack, held him close and joyfully ruined her lipstick before she broke off their close embrace.
"Good night, Jack."
The next morning was a hellish early start. Viola wasn't feeling her normal self. She needed more exercise to sharpen up. This ideally could come as running or swimming or weights, but athletic sex also counted and would satisfy other urges too. She dragged herself from bed shortly before 4 a.m. and got ready to face the day. A shower, hair styling with a blonde wig which she put up, intending to wear her beret. Full make-up and a good spritz of Creed Erolfa, then dressing in lacy black bra and short style panties with a slip, white blouse and black men's necktie. Her sharp yet comfortable houndstooth check skirt suit on top, short stockings and her favourite zip-up heel boots. The new box style handbag. She admired herself in the mirror.
*One must always be elegant.*
At 5 sharp she knocked on Jack's door, hoping he was ready to start their mission in earnest.
*What the hell! Who would wake me up at this time? Oh feth maybe we are getting too close to the drug cartel after all!?* he thought. A little bleary eyed, quietly reached for his handgun in the top dresser. Then gingerly crept up towards the door. He racked his pistol to load it in anticipation of violence. Sweat beaded from his brow.
He opened the door. His jaw dropped and eyes blinked a few times in shock and surprise. He put down his gun straight away and looked back nervously at Viola.
"V-v-v-Viola is th-th-that you hmmm?" his eyes almost bulging out of their sockets taking in her gorgeous petite frame.
Stuttering, he let her in then closed and locked the door behind her. A quick glance back at the digital clock told him it was 5am. He smiled at her suddenly realising what she wanted. pulling her towards him.
"It’s 5am I t-t-take it you’re not exercising in your room early t-t-today. I mean this morning?” He noticed he was breathing a bit more rapidly now. His eyes seemed fixated on her. He pulled her in close towards himself, and gave her a quick kiss on her lips. He could smell that delicious aroma of her Creed perfume. He felt intoxicated by it. He peeled away hesitantly from her.
Jack opened the door wearing nothing but his boxer shorts. He eyed Viola up and down and pulled her into the bedroom, kissing her and inhaling a deep breath of her perfume. He held her at arms’ length to admire her.
*Oh God, he’s forgotten we’re supposed to get up early to go to the airport. What shall I do?* Viola wasn’t angry at her husband; she had got used to his somewhat cavalier attitude to paperwork that didn’t involve actual money. That's why she handled so much of the general bureaucracy of their caseload.
*I should have got up earlier and made sure of things. Ooh! That’s not a gun in his pocket, he really is pleased to see me!* The compliment did not go unappreciated. She took a quick glance at her wristwatch.
*We can spare 10 minutes, then he’s really got to get moving.* She slowly, theatrically knelt down in front of him. Her eyes locked on his from that submissive position that men love to see girls in. But Viola was controlling the action now.
*I can easily redo my lipstick while he’s getting dressed.* She reached out with both hands.
Thanks to a delayed flight and the time difference, it was early evening when they got to Beirut. The taxi ride from the airport could be described as interesting. Traffic was dense and the rule of the road apparently was more of a guideline than a law. Still, wrapped up in the back of the big Mercedes cab with her new husband, Viola felt safe enough. Her memory of the early morning encounter piqued her sensuality. She wanted only to get to their room, unpack, wash, relax, and fold herself together with Jack so he could bring her body the pleasure it ached for.
The taxi driver rattled on about places to go, and the best shops, all belonging to various cousins it seemed. Viola had studied this kind of social behaviour in her psychology degree. It was a cultural difference between the European and the Arabic world. It didn't mean that things were more corrupt out here, just that loyalties worked in a different way. Japan had its own different loyalty system too.
*I'm not here to judge,* she thought, *It's just interesting to see things at first hand. We'll need to form a good relationship with our local contacts, so I must work to fit it with them.* She had bought a French language guide to Beirut at the airport, and studied it on the flight, while Jack alternated between watching action films and holding her hand. She had already learned some basic phrases in Arabic.
Beirut was surprisingly modern in architecture and people. It was that kind of Middle Eastern place which only got into major international news when something bad happened, like the huge explosion at the port a couple of years before. She had a vague mental image of some kind of ancient Arabic architecture, souks and sand coloured walls, gleaned more from Star Wars films and TV shows than from serious research.
When they arrived at the hotel, it was a 21st century skyscraper with at least 25 floors. It would have looked at home in Chicago or Tokyo. *I must do more reading before we go out.* They were quickly installed in a spacious suite, a ‘deluxe room’ of 51 square metres, with a small terrace overlooking the city. *I’m not going out there!* Viola decided immediately, and drew the curtains even though the presence of the terrace prevented her acrophobia from being triggered by the tall windows.
She went to tip the bell boy, remembered it was her husband’s job now, and simply thanked him in basic Arabic, then coughed to remind Jack of his duty. The young man smiled, accepted a few dollars gracefully and withdrew. Once they were alone, Viola had a good look around the whole suite. It was beautifully decorated and furnished.
“This is luxury, Jack! My brother’s entire flat in Tokyo is smaller than this room. The Japanese are really clever at using space, though, so it’s got everything. Alright, what shall we do? I want to unpack and have a shower and change into something more comfortable, and have something to eat and drink, and then… Why don’t I unpack for both of us while you order room service.”
Viola had a large suitcase, and a slightly smaller one which fitted inside the big one, but she had paid excess baggage to be able to use it for the extra things she had bought in Paris. She also had a carry on spinner case, plus her largest handbag. She still had spare capacity and hoped to do some shopping in Beirut.
She knew little of Jack’s personal habits and wanted to make sure his clothes were properly taken care of. *Now he’s my husband, I will make sure he is properly turned out for every occasion. He must become elegant like me, although I’ll allow him to be casual if it’s stylish!* She knew he wore boxer shorts but not if he wore a vest or tee-shirt as underwear, or long or short socks. Now she discovered these interesting facts by carefully storing all his apparel in the suite’s drawers and wardrobes.
“Haven’t you got a suit, Jack? Every man should have at least one good suit. We can go to that tailor the cabbie mentioned and you could have something made for you. It wouldn’t hurt just to visit, anyway."
This was just girlish chatter so she could hear the sound of her voice as she went on putting everything away neatly. Meanwhile Jack ordered room service. The menu was splendid. The rolling trolley arrived in half an hour. Viola noted a bottle of red wine from the famous Bekaa valley, and a bottle of champagne resting in a silver bucket of ice.
“Oooh, champagne! I know something fun we can do with that…”
Viola was committed to enjoying the erotic aspect of her sham marriage. That morning she had favoured her husband with her best vanilla BJ, which he liked very much. The minx looked forward to further exploration of his sexual geography.
“Before we eat I want to shower and change, Jack, so you must undress me, slowly and carefully. Think of me as a gift from Japan, so beautifully wrapped that it would be a crime to just rip off the paper. We’ll both enjoy it.”
She stood in the middle of the room and awaited his service.
Jack’s slow undressing of her, mixed with kisses and caresses, heated Viola’s blood. She thought he would start by kneeling but he surprised her with something even better, the careful removal of her stockings by mouth, followed by kisses of her sensitive feet. His attentions continued. By the time he got her skirt off, she was in need of a change of underwear. She stared at his excited, still slightly nervous face, wanting to strip him quickly and take full advantage of his ardour.
*Shall I let him take them off me? What will he do when he sees how I am? He’ll go mad, of course.*
She stepped away and flopped backwards onto the bed with her lower legs dangling off the edge. Her thighs rolled apart slightly. Her state of arousal was disguised by her black panties. *No! We must both shower first.* She closed her thighs and rolled onto her front, giggling and slow kicking her legs in the air to keep Jack off if he tried to jump on her.
Viola had no objection to sex when she had a clean fresh sweat from exercise or heat, but there was a limit. The dirt of a long day of travel needed to be washed away before she could enjoy love making. *Besides, I must change my wound dressing.* It was over 8 hours since she had last been able to examine the partly healed scar of the bullet she had taken during the case of the body in the orchard. She rolled over again and stood up.
“Please open the wine, Jack, and have a glass if you like but be careful not to drink too much. It’s bad for men to drink too much on their first night with a girl.”.
She smiled and skipped to the bathroom, stripped, and began to cleanse herself, first removing all her make-up, then the wound dressing. The stitches were probably no longer needed and ought to come out soon. The site was a healthy colour, showing good knitting of the skin during the healing process. It still hurt somewhat to use that arm vigorously.
Viola showered and made her face again. She didn’t bother with all the layers on her skin, however she paid close attention to her eyes and lips, the most sensual elements, and inserted her anime contacts. She put a light dressing on her shoulder, and took a painkiller. Finally she applied Creed Sublime Vanille to her pulse points, her wrists, the inside of her elbows, behind her ears, and between her thighs.
She came out of the bathroom fresh, naked and fragrant, and turned the lights down a little, to let Jack see her partly clothed in shadow as she chose her nightclothes. He already knew she didn’t shave her armpits or legs. Now he saw that she trimmed her bush neatly. She slipped into a fresh pair of white, lacey shorties, and her new, white silk camisole, with the Grecian style nightgown, the present from him, on top.
She sat at the little table which had been laid for their intimate dinner. The floaty dress draped her legs elegantly. Her arms, shoulders and upper chest were bare, the camisole concealed her from bust to hips. Depending how she sat, moved and arranged her legs, her companion would be afforded discreet sexy glimpses of her knickers. Viola gave Jack a wide-eyed look. She knew her pupils would be enlarged due to the reduced light and also her desire, which has this physiological effect -- it’s a tell in poker. The special contacts subtly widened her irises. She hoped her anime eyes would stimulate his loving thoughts.
“Would you like to eat first or have a shower, Jack?”
*What a wonderful seduction scene!* she exulted in her whirling mind. *We are like binary stars which have fallen into a spiral orbit. We’re circling and circling and in the end we will come together with such an explosion.*
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/02/20 05:42:53
"I think I had better go and have a shower first," he said with a nervous smile, getting up from his chair. Quickly making an exit to his dressing gown and a pair of silk boxers. Nothing special and he felt so underdressed in front of her, like a peasant with a goddess. The thought gave him a quiet chuckle as he went to the bathroom.
The shower wasn't a long affair but it felt good and refreshing. Finishing by giving his face a close shave for good measure, followed by a liberal splash of that French men's perfume on his neck and cheeks. The butterflies fluttering away in his stomach gave him a feeling he was attending an important meeting or a job interview. But this was something more intimate than that.
"You look beautiful Viola. I would say I could easily fall in love with you. But then I think that already happened back in France. You look absolutely divine and this is quite magical," he said loosening off his dressing gown. Affording her a brief look at his masculine frame and abdominals as he only wore silky boxers underneath. Nowhere near the same quality as her own luxurious nightgown and accessories.
“Be careful of loving me, Jack, I’m dangerous to love. The last man who…” She broke off the sentence with a slight frown.
Viola watched Jack as he primped and preened himself to the best of his male ability. *Men have such limited options in their wardrobe,* she thought, not for the first time, and was again glad to be a girl and have the power of flexing her look with different styles, makeup, and jewellery. She understood the attraction of the female body, its smooth lines and curves, its outward softness and inner strength. *It’s the muscles in men, their raw bones, jaw and hands. When they combine that strength with inner gentleness, that’s what makes them really attractive.*
He arranged himself at the dinner table, clearly displaying his physicality. He seemed a bit nervous as well as excited. *Boys get nervous because it can go wrong. The penis, such a silly soft thing until it blooms and stands proud with the heat of passion, and then it’s wonderful. A man has to be confident or it won’t work, that’s his vulnerability. I can always just lie there and pretend to enjoy it.*
Jack was attractive, he kept himself in shape, not obsessively like Viola, *Maybe I try too hard, for my silly pride.* It was easier with male hormones. Anyway, he had nothing to be ashamed of. She eyed him with a smouldering smile, to set his mind at rest. *I’ll show him how sexy he is, but we’ll have dinner first.*
They drank a toast, linking arms and sipping from each other’s glasses. Viola served the food, a mezze selection of Lebanese dishes, all good to be eaten cold: flatbread with labneh yoghurt and garlicky hummus for spreading; meatballs; baba ganoush made of mashed aubergine; two different cheeses; falafels of course; and tabbouleh salad with bulgar wheat in it. It was beautifully presented, looked delicious, and she had to restrain herself from eating too much.
When the edge was off her appetite, Viola became flirty again. She leant forwards to pour Jack’s wine, and serve him more food. She got tactile, briefly touching his hand or knee. Leaning back she sipped her wine, raised an elegant leg and gently rubbed Jack’s leg with her foot, gazing hotly at him with those huge hazel eyes. She was wearing the long earrings again, they swung with the movements of her head, throwing glints of light. She slowly arched herself from her seat and got her new phone. Sitting again she tapped out a message. Jack’s phone pinged for attention. The screen showed the subject line: My Kink List.
“You’ve already guessed I’m quite adventurous, Jack. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do with you, if you want to try it. I didn’t learn it in some expensive Japanese sex academy. It’s all on Cosmopolitan.com these days but most boys don’t read girls’ websites. You’d be surprised what filthy minds we have.”
She got up again and went to switch on the music system, leaving Jack to read her message. She put on the album Big Calm by Morcheeba, an old-time trip-hop epic mixed with elements of electronica and alternative rock, and began to dance slowly. Her limbs rose and fell, her skirt flowed and swirled as she spun like a ballerina on valium, revealing some of her panties and peach-like buttocks. Her trimmed hair was visible through the lace.
||My Kink List
Yes: Vanilla sex, lube, Handwork and Oral (giving and receiving,) Cum in mouth/on face/body -- But ask first! Partially clothed, Soft food play, Soft BDSM (switch,) Places with a small chance of being discovered, especially outdoors.
No: Anything disrespectful, dirty or dangerous including Asphyxiation, Hard biting or scratching, Rough sex, Hard bondage, Watersports and Scatting, Snowballing, Spitting, Splodging, Toe sucking, A to M. Also, no photos and no bareback.
Maybe: Everything else. Let’s have fun finding out what works for both of us!||
“Why don’t you open the champagne, Jack, and we’ll dance?”
Viola spun and spun to the music. She became a whirling dervish, her skirt fanning out while she held her balance by spotting on Jack, her gaze directed constantly at him except for the flicks when she must turn her head to make the next circle. He read her message and blushed, sent a response… *What has he written? Is he shocked?*
Jack deftly opened the champagne and poured two glasses. He approached her, his excitement only partly shielded by the loose folds of his dressing gown. Viola stopped spinning to accept the glass but she was still dancing, swaying to the beat. She downed her wine in one gulp, wanting to become intoxicated. She liked to be fairly drunk when having sex. It made things easier, released her inhibitions and got her blood and juices flowing.
They danced together in close hold, the kind of slow dance teenagers do at high school proms, who haven’t learnt the proper ballroom steps. It was naive and sexy at the same time, their warm bodies fronted close to each other. Viola’s breasts pressed softly on Jack’s chest, her nipples perky, channelling the sensual excitement generated by the swing and pull of her earrings. His excitement prodded at her. He pulled away and spun her, twirling her in a move which allowed him to see her body from all sides.
“I need more champagne!”
She broke away from Jack and refilled her glass, then came close to him again, let him hold her while she was reading the reply to her message.
“Pineapple rings? Ooh, that’s a good idea! We’ll try that some time. That reminds me, do you like oysters, Jack? I know something fun to do with them. For now though, I want to show you a trick with champagne. I’m sure you’ll like it.”
She knelt, her sheer skirt flouncing around her, and pulled him close. She filled her mouth with the cold, sparkling wine but she did not swallow it; she looked up at Jack’s eyes and leant forwards…
`Fade to Black`
Viola used only a few of her erotic tricks during their love-making, such as the champagne surprise and some Japanese style nipple play. She wanted to deploy her sexual arsenal gradually over a number of sessions, to see how far she and Jack could go together. She had so many ideas to try out that they couldn’t all be done in one night anyway, quite apart from the need for certain pieces of equipment still at home in Chicago.
*Nothing very kinky, well, the butt plugs, I guess, and the bondage tape. I bet he hasn’t tried nipple suction cups before either. And I’ve never had a chance to peg a guy. It’s going to be so much fun!*
These delightful thoughts sharpened her appetite. It was months since she had enjoyed sexy time with a male body and her satisfaction was complete. She slept well, and woke up slightly tired but very relaxed. She put on a dressing gown to eat breakfast.
“If you enjoyed last night half as much as me you’re a lucky guy, Jack. Also, congratulations on remembering my name. You must be deep in the role, to have called me Viola right at that moment. But I’m looking forwards to a time when we can use our real names again."
"Honey, there's a message from Berenice."
"What does she want? I suppose we’ve got to get to work.”
But it was just a calendar appointment for a video call at 10.
“An hour and a half. That’s fine. I can put my face on by then, a basic do at least and tailor it afterwards according to whatever instructions she may give us. I won’t bother to dress, though. The stuff I’ll wear to the Ahmad facility will be different to my tourist outfits. When we go I’ve got to prepare to hide the electronic bits and bobs. ‘Keep them safe, keep them secret,’ as Gandalf said to Frodo, kind of.”
Viola’s plan was to pad the equipment with some tissue paper, tie it up in a condom and insert it inside herself like a tampon. She’d done this before with small things like that and knew it would work, but it wouldn’t be particularly comfortable so she didn’t want to do it until it was essential.
At 9:55 she was sitting in her dressing gown with a cup of coffee, setting up the VPN on her mil-spec phone to avoid using the hotel’s insecure network for the video call.
The video call with Berenice and her sidekick Nassir began on time. The French Interpol agents explained the target, Ahmad IC, a medical supplies and equipment manufacturer with a significant manufacturing and shipping capacity, based in Beirut. They were suspected of being the channel by which consigments of Cake were exported to Europe.
"But we do not think the drug is manufactured there. We think it comes from a lab somewhere else in the city, Ahmad package it, perhaps as dry saline solution powder, perhaps as bags of finished saline, then send it under cover of their significant legitimate exports. Jack, you are an accountant hired by the head office in Paris to check some discrepancies in the cash accounts. Viola, you are Jack's newly married wife, working as translator and interpreter. There is a Japanese visitor today, a Mr Komatsu, so your Japanese skill may come in useful. Do your work, use the intrusion devices if you can, and find out what is going on."
The mission’s flightplan wasn’t clear, but that was to be expected with this kind of undercover job, which was as much about exploration as anything. It looked like Jack needed to get his feet under a desk, capture any useful accounts information he could, and install the intrusion software. Viola would help by delivering the card reader and USB device.
“Okay, so we have to try and find out several things: Where is the drug made? How is it packaged and shipped out with the legitimate medical goods? Plus any information we can get about unusual payments and delivery schedules.”
“Exactly right, Viola,” confirmed Berenice.
“Well, Jack and I will go to the plant together. I’ll dress up very girly and once Jack’s busy at work I’ll ask for a tour, just to nose around a bit. We need a clue about where the drug lab might be. Beirut is a big city. Hopefully Jack can find out something during his computer work. If the drugs are made elsewhere they will be delivered to the Ahmad plant in a van or something. Maybe we can spot a cargo coming in, then I’ll follow it back. I’ll hire a scooter and dress up very different. I’ll be careful wherever I go. What do you think, Jack? Berenice?”
"Smart and modest is the best way to go in Beirut Viola. Nothing overly branded particularly if it has an American flavour," Berenice advised.
Viola decided to wear her new navy blue minidress with the bishop sleeves over a black tee-shirt bra, and her kick to kill zip-up heel boots. It seemed like a good compromise between glamorous and businesslike, considering she was to work as an interpreter, not an accountant. She made up her face with full lip liner and eyeliner, enhancing the green of her eyes. Gold stud earrings and a couple of light chain necklaces for jewellery, and for disguise, a fairly long blonde wig, which she put up and tied up with her new blue patterned scarf from Charvet. Then a spritz of Creed Erolfa. Her various necessities including her pistol and a spare magazine went into a handbag with a light sling to it.
Finally she did the important job of concealing the espionage electronics in what some erotic authors would coyly describe as her ‘woman’s place’, but she preferred to think of it more earthily as her
She put a panty liner inside her modest black shorties, in case of seepage of the lube.
Viola would have liked to paint her nails but it was nearly time to go, so instead she practised walking and posing, to check that she looked good and her ‘payload’ wasn’t going to be too uncomfortable.
Jack and she cabbed over to the medical supplies factory, where they were immediately plunged into the tedious process of being inducted by human resources.
*Ho hum, here we go, of course I’ll never collect the pay for this interpreting job. I hope my Japanese is up to scratch.* Viola didn’t have any real experience with medical terms. She assumed a lot of them were just Japanese versions of the English work. *And I can use my smartphone to look things up.*
Posing as a newlywed she hung on her husband’s arm when they were asked to tour the place. Once they had obtained their all important magnetic swipe access card and identification badge with employee number, they were given a treat of Lebanese morning tea. But it wasn’t a hot drink this was iced tea made with rose water and pine nuts, served with sugary syrup laden baklava.
*So yummy but packed with calories!* She took one to be polite. It was fresh and delicious.
Then it was time for them both to go their separate ways for the remainder of the morning. Viola was taken to a conference room where the Japanese visitor waited for a video conference call. Jack went by lift to the accounting offices on the top floor, and was seated at a desk with a computer and big pile of paperwork. He sighed and reached for the first file.
Jack worked all morning, and uncovered some suspicious examples of discrepancies in payments and shipments. He made two separate sets of notes, one to be presented to the auditors, the other for his private use in tracking possible drug transfers. By lunchtime he was longing to see Viola. He went to the staff canteen, where the food on offer was Lebanese; tabbouleh and fattoush salads, fried balls of kebbeh, kafta and falafel, and of course flatbreads with dips like hummus, baba ghanoush and moutabal. It was good and fresh. Viola came in and spotted him.
"Hello Honey, how was your morning? Accounting can be a bit boring at times. Preoccupation with numbers, the guy had a mound of reconciliations for me to sift through. But I think there are sums of petty cash flowing towards an obscure address in South Beirut. It's in a local market place. They sell things like gold, jewelry, herbal cosmetics, clothes, trinkets and Lebanese sweets. Anyhow that's enough from me, how did you go?"? he said, smiling. He took a look around him to make sure no one was within earshot of them.
"Can I tell you how sexy you look right now?" he whispered.
Viola was pretty tired from a couple of hours interpreting between French, English and Japanese. She hadn’t eaten much baklava at elevenses, knowing their devastating calorie content, though the tea was welcome. *I’ve got to get out for a run or something, maybe swim in the hotel pool.*
Lunch looked good, though. The Lebanese diet seemed to include a lot of vegetables, pulses and grains, all contributing to a healthy intake of fibre and non-animal protein. Jack obviously had started to get hangry but he was cheering up now, perked up by seeing her again.
“Hello Darling, how’s it going?” she asked, sitting opposite. She dug into the tabbouleh and falafels, munching and talking rudely at the same time, a deliberate ploy to foil eavesdroppers. Non-native English speakers were much less adept at interpreting the kind of half-stifled murmurs she now used to convey her news.
“The Japanese bloke, Komatsu, I met him in Tokyo, Jack. When I worked in a hostess bar. I don’t remember if I ever told you the story but I helped the Tokyo Police to nail a sex trafficking gang. Takayuki was my controller. This guy wasn’t part of that but I’m sure he’s something to do with the yakuza. It can’t be a co-incidence he’s over here arranging to buy medical equipment. Surely it’s got to be a cover for shipping some of the drug to Japan. I don’t think he remembered me. It was dark in the bar and I was dressed up to the nines with a big hairdo and elaborate make-up.”
She went on browsing from her plate and reached out to take Jack’s hand, the natural gesture of a wife to a husband. She used it to transfer the USB stick into his palm.
“I managed to load the stick into the computer in the conference room, when the rest of them went for a break. Can you try and load it into another computer in your office? I think we should bin it after that. Get it out and destroy it.”
The sleazy diner's door swung open to admit a white woman, mid 20s, hair concealed under an Arab style headscarf, her eyes hidden by heavy sunglasses. She wore a blue business suit jacket which buttoned left over right, a white shirt, and tight white jeans blotched with crimson stains, black and white plimsolls on her feet. There were two gold-mounted pearl brooches dangling from her left lapel. She took a good look around the diner before she seated herself at the counter, removed her sunglasses and headscarf to reveal fresh makeup, hazel-green eyes and long, honey-blonde hair done up with pins.
"Un Croque Madame and coffee, please," the newcomer requested, in French accented English.
The blonde dug into her large sling handbag, bringing out a small holstered pistol, a spare magazine and a box of ammunition. While waiting for service she began to fiddle with the weapon and spare bullets, unloading cartridges, setting them out neatly on the counter, counting them and reloading them in a different combination.
The staff and customers alike were aghast at the open display of weaponry. A chorus of protest arose, involving much swearing and demands to take herself elsewhere.
The blonde's eyes popped at the sudden admonitions coming from four different directions. Taken aback, she hung her head in shame.
"I am verry sorree, Mesdames et Monsieur, I did not know eet ees a rrule. My 'usband, 'ee is Americain. 'Ee made me buy eet when we 'ad to go to Beirut, because 'ee was afraid for me, but I 'ave found out zat Beirut is less of crime zan most cities in ze USA. Eet is true, you can look on Google! So now I am nerveuse 'ere and I carry eet always. Zere is no need to zrow me out, I will put eet away and go."
She put the gun and bullets neatly back into her handbag, laid 5 dollars on the counter and got off her stool, ready to leave. She slung the bag cross body.
"Please may I 'ave some coffee to drink in ze parking while I wait for a taxi? I am very thirst."
The boss lady jerked her head to signal the waitress to hand out a paper cupful.
The blonde took the coffee with a grateful smile.
"Sank you, Madame, I will drink eet in ze parking as I promised."
Outside, she curled her lip at the grimy concrete pavement which bounded the diner's walls, but she sat anyway. Her jeans were already heavily soiled. The blood probably wouldn't come out even with a boil wash. She sipped coffee and dialled for a cab. Her phone was a brand new Samsung, glossily expensive. Streetwise, she hid it in her bag as soon as she was done. She got up to pace to and fro, though the taxi must be at least 10 minutes away.
Suddenly, a rough looking white man stepped round the corner and menaced the girl with a knife.
"Gimme the bag!"
She reacted instantly, aggressively, threw her hot coffee in his face, grabbed his wrist with both hands and turned the knife away from her. She rammed her sharp knee at his groin. Startled he jumped away, pulling his knife hand from her grip. He took a stance with legs apart and arm cocked to attack.
The girl whipped her right foot up in a punt to his crotch. The mugger hooted and dropped his knife. He grabbed his balls, sagging to the ground. The enraged girl swept up the blade and put it in her bag, then began to deliver kicks to the man's shrinking body and head, punctuated with French insults.
"Salaud! Espece de merde! Cochon! Ta guele!"
It was lucky for him she was wearing plimsolls rather than the Jimmy Choo combat boots she had put on at the start of her day. As it was, the last kick hit his teeth. She stubbed her toe and began to hop up and down in pain.
"Aie! Aie! Ceci c'est ta faute, fils de putain!"
The man got up to stagger away, but the blonde limped after him and kicked him in the back of the knee. His wobbly legs collapsed. He knelt on the grimy asphalt, tears rolling down his cheeks, blood dripping from his split lip.
"Whaddaya want, lady? You already beat the gak outta me and took my knife. Can't you just let me go home and die in peace?"
"You owe me un café. Give me five dollars or I'll call ze police!"
"Thas blackmail, y'know."
The sorry looking man held out a 5 spot. Her hand snapped it up as quick as a snake.
"Sank you. You can go."
He slouched off like a dilapidated zombie.
Viola strutted up and down, limping. Took out the knife and put it back. Slotted the pistol holster under her jacket skirt. The adrenaline reaction to the fight made her jumpy, dried her mouth. Now she had nothing to drink.
*Puis-je demander encore de café?* she wondered. *Non. Pas amicaux là-bas. La dame plus âgée était gentille mais elle n'est pas la patronne. Bof! Au moins j'ai cinq dollars.*
Eventually the taxi arrived. She asked the driver to take her home via a drive-thru fast food place. When he saw the state of her jeans he wanted an extra $20 for cleaning the rear seat. She was in no mood to argue, simply shoved the notes into his hand and climbed in.
*Alors, je vais prendre un très long bain chaud chez mois. Et du vin.* Despite fresh coffee from the drive-thru she was asleep when the cab reached her little flat. The driver, a middle-aged family man, looked at the girl, young enough to be his daughter.
"Miss, miss, we're here, it's time to wake up." He nudged her shoulder.
"Oh Daddy, you ate the last chocolate biscuit!" She blinked owlishly. A dream had spanned the Atlantic to grant precious minutes with her English father. She paid the fare with a good tip, thanked the kind man, and finally gained sanctuary.
Jason thought about the Japanese man who Pia had met months ago in the bar in Tokyo. Of course it couldn't be a coincidence that he was over here. But for what? They were soon going to find out.
"I'll see you in the foyer after work today, honey. I know what you're thinking about these tasty Lebanese sweets. But you're missing your exercise routine. Well, fortunately there is a swimming pool and gym in our hotel. We can both avail it later on," he smiled.
He knew he needed a quiet and relatively isolated cubicle to view the contents of the archive. It was part data, part Word file. Some of it was written in Japanese. But the part he did read in English was the name of the distributors: Amir Al Shahba Pharma & Cosmetics in Syria, Rawafi Pharma & Cosmetics in Jordan, The suppliers Roche in Lebanon, Ahmad drug laboratories in Lebanon and Mitsubishi Tsunabi in Japan. Then, circled in red, the street name Yarmouk Chatila. Then highlighted a shop, Az Zusra: Lebanese cosmetics importer and exporter in Southern Beirut. The correspondence between Mitsubishi Tsunabi in Japan and a relatively obscure shop in Southern Beirut did not reconcile but it appeared goods were traded between Az Zusra and Ahmad drug laboratories in Lebanon.
Just then he heard a knock on his door. Jack immediately clicked the screen into boss mode. He would need to remove and destroy the USB stick before the end of the day. He had seen enough. There was an address, a business name also.
*Numbers that don't add up and what really does Ahmad want me to do here? Because it indicated that they are losing money to a Japanese business with little to show for it? Meanwhile business is doing great with Ahmed's trade of dialysis products to both France and the USA. But also why is part of the profit being funnelled into countries like Syria and Jordan? Something is very fishy here and I need to tell Viola, is this company financing weapons and drugs through the blackmarket?!*
After work he met up with Viola again in the foyer. There was so much to tell. Plus he wanted to have a good dinner, work out in the pool. He made sure he crushed the usb stick under his heel, and had it flushed before leaving.
Viola greeted Jack with a relatively chaste hug and kiss after work, because she didn’t think a scorching tongue wrestle was appropriate for the foyer of a major Beirut medical supplies company. They went out and walked in the street for a bit, to get some fresh air and take in the atmosphere of the city. But the air wasn’t fresh. At the end of a long day of traffic, it had got to about twice the EU limit of noxious gasses and particulates. The view of the distant sea was shrouded with piss yellow haze.
“Let’s get a cab, Jack. I wanted to go running but it’ll make me ill to run in this bad air. I’ll run on a treadmill at the hotel.”
They easily caught a taxi, then sat in stop-start traffic for 30 minutes before they got to the Four Seasons. The cool, filtered air of the reception was a relief. The couple came to their suite, and Viola switched on the sound system, searching for a talk radio station. If the room was bugged, semi-random human voices were a better cover than music for their conversation.
“I went to Japan partly to see my brother. He works there and he’d got a Japanese girlfriend. I mean, she wasn’t quite his girlfriend back then, the first time I went, which was just for a holiday. Everyone wanted them to get together because, well, all sorts of things but they were really right for each other and he’s such a slowcoach, because of... Stuff… things which happened before. Anyway, they became a couple in the end, and now they’re married and they’re so happy! I’m glad I helped.”
She was getting lost in nostalgia.
“Sorry, Jack. The thing is I went to live in Tokyo for a while because I wanted to learn Japanese. That was when I worked at the hostess club. There’s this thing in Japan, a whole world of night-time adult entertainment called the Mizu Shobai. That means the Water Trade. It covers everything from snack bars where you just eat and drink and talk, to pink salons, which is somewhere a man can go and get a beer and a blowjob. Actually it goes farther than that. There are full-on sex clubs. Hostess clubs are in that spectrum, towards the more innocent end. I mean they are about flirting and talking rather than sex. Hostesses do hook up with clients sometimes, it’s true, but it happens outside the club. You go to a Love Hotel. I never did that. Even so I heard plenty of drunk chitter-chatter in the bar, and that’s how I got into the thing with Takayuki, the sex trafficking case. I couldn’t sit still and leave it alone. Innocent young girls were getting traded like pieces of meat!”
She walked around the room in agitation, and finally floofed onto the bed.
“The point is, Komatsu is dodgy. He wasn’t part of that sex case but he was in with the yakuza somehow. If it’s not sex it must be drugs. And money. Money is always involved somehow. That’s why your work on accounting is so important. Follow the money!”
Jack came and sat down near her. He recognised the ruse that she was playing right now. The ambient noise from the radio would be enough to mask their subdued conversation. *Good work,* he thought.
"It's good to know we can't trust that Japanese guy Komatsu, honey," he said softly.
He went to the minibar and pulled out a couple of beers. He cracked open the bottles and offered one of them to her, then sat beside her leaving the talk radio blaring in the background.
"Well, I am super glad that you got out of that sex trade, I never liked that sort of thing. I know this Komatsu has frequented a shop called Az Zusra. It's a Lebanese cosmetics importer and exporter in Southern Beirut. Goods are definitely traded between Az Zusra and Ahmad drug laboratories in Lebanon. But there is no record of the actual items only transfer of cash. It’s like Ahmad drug laboratories are trading more than just mere dialysis products to Europe and America. The figures don't match or reconcile, although there is no denying that they make a profit with exporting dialysis products. I’m thinking the extra cash is being used to buy something else, maybe from Al Shahba Pharma & Cosmetics in Syria, also Rawafi Pharma & Cosmetics in Jordan. With both of those two companies there is no record of pharmaceuticals being traded at all although there are cash transfers. The places where the money is withdrawn are in fact Hezbollah known areas. It could be used to purchase arms perhaps?"
He took another sip of his beer then held her hand as he spoke.
"I don't think we have a choice now, honey. One of us has to go and check out this shop called Az Zusa in Southern Beirut. We need to track Mr Komatsu's movements now. I know they are expecting me to work out where that money has gone. They keep piling mounds of paperwork on the desk. But this sounds dangerous. I need to be in touch with you constantly. We aren't in a position to blow his cover or whoever is running this business either. But we need more proof before we can get the green light to shut this whole drug operation down. Then again we need an extraction point, a safe house if necessary. That information will come from Berenice I hope," he continued.
Viola took the offered beer and sipped it. She was hungry and thought she might get fuzzy headed if she drank a lot on an empty stomach.
“Well, that’s interesting, because Komatsu has finished most of what he came here for. He’s got to wait for the legal people here and in Japan to swap documents and go through them for corrections, then sign them off. They expect it to take a couple of days.”
She sipped again, squeezing Jack’s hand.
“The point is, he’s not going to the office tomorrow and he asked if he could borrow me to accompany him around Beirut. I said I don’t speak Arabic beyond a few simple phrases, but French and English are widely spoken and he’s happy with that. His English isn’t very good. Maybe he fancies me, too. Some men like the challenge of seducing someone else’s wife. Anyway, I’ll go with him and see what clues I can find out. Maybe he’ll go down to this Az Zusa place, and I’ll see something there. In case he did recognise me from Tokyo, I’ll take precautions. I’ll bring my pistol and rape spray, and I’ll leave the location app running on my phone, so you can track it all the time from yours. Okay, just a minute.”
She got up and went to the bathroom, coming back in a couple of minutes with the card reader, giving it to Jack so he could upload the data he’d captured.
“Once Berenice has a chance to look at that, she may come back with some more plans for us. I don’t think there’s enough evidence yet. Even if we can get it tomorrow, it’ll take her two or three days to set up raids on the drug lab and the Ahmad plant. Maybe we’ll work with the raiders but from the inside. I don’t know. It depends on how things go tomorrow, probably. Look, if I’m out with Komatsu tomorrow, you had better leave the card reader here. You can’t risk taking it in. You can't hide it like I can.”
"I had better upload the data right away for Berenice," he said, took the card reader and inserted the fake credit card. It would upload in a couple of minutes. "Tomorrow I will continue the tedious reconciliation of the accounts, while you accompany Mr Komatsu hopefully towards that Az Zusa shop. I will also need to be prepared at a minute's notice to leave the department. To possibly come and help you out if the situation gets dangerous."
Jack wasn't sure when Viola wanted to get in her exercise up in the hotel's gym or swimming pool. But he figured she may want to eat first and get room service. Then worry about that later. He smiled as he picked up the phone and asked for room service. He was thinking of the wonderful time with her in Paris.
“Let's try all the Lebanese foods until we get tired of them and want something familiar," Viola agreed. "Everything’s been good so far and it's a very healthy diet. Get that for dinner, then we can go to the gym. I want to do some running. I’ll do some weight machines, because I can control the range of movement of my shoulder. I need to see a doctor about it before I go swimming. I think the stitches are ready to come out.”
She changed into her sports outfit while they waited for the room service trolley to arrive. Patterned blue, high waist leggings and a sports bralette with a Studio Ghibli flower print tee-shirt on top, and her essential kit in a waist pack to be slung cross body. Viola had quite a streak of paranoia. She never went anywhere without a minimum emergency kit containing a credit card and some cash, a weapon, and girl necessities, even if she was just going from her bedroom to the hotel gym.
The food arrived, and created a space in which to discuss possible future operations.
“This is very good," she smiled. "I like the different spreads, the labneh and hummus and so on. The meatballs are rather nice too. If we find concrete evidence tomorrow that Az Zusa is the drab manufacturing lab, and the drugs are being moved to the Ahmad plant for shipping onwards, then my guess is Berenice will work with the local police to set up simultaneous raids on both locations to shut them down, capture all the evidence and as many of the smugglers as possible. Who knows, we may find clues such as emails or documents that point onwards to Paris and Chicago, as well as which, the gang members will be questioned. Shall we wait 30 minutes for our food to digest before we go to the gym?”
But Jack had other ideas. The sight of the athletic blonde in her tight leggings, digging lustily into the good food, had aroused another appetite in him. He took her in his arms and lowered his mouth to hers, tasting the garlic in the hummus they had eaten, and the juicy lamb in the meatballs.
As Jack began to smooch her, Viola realised she was very horny. She responded eagerly, relishing the flavour of their shared meal and the rich wine in their mingled saliva. *It's the time of the month,* she thought, *Nearly my best chance to get pregnant according to my apps, so I better be extra careful. Ooh! What shall I do?* She moaned into his mouth and tightened her arms around him, reclining onto the sofa and drawing him down on top of her. But then she turned her head away to speak into his ear.
"Jack! If we carry on like this now, I won't be able to go running, because my leggings will need a wash. I really want to go running. Let's go running and we'll get all sweaty then we'll rush back here and have some fun. How many condoms are left? I can't risk getting pregnant now."
But although Viola's mind told her to stop making out and go running, her body had other ideas. She was grinding her hips against her husband without realising it. She kissed him again, then broke off.
"Damn it! We can get up early and go running. Put some nice music on and let me drink my wine."
She began to try and wriggle out from under him.
Jack was pleasantly surprised to find Viola already horny towards him. He could definitely get used to this idea of being married. He had almost forgotten that she was really Pia or Olympe. Still a brilliant linguist, a police detective from Chicago. It was all too easy now for him. He knew going back to Chicago their lives wouldn't be the same. The stakes were much higher now; espionage, drugs, disguises, aliases and the like. Life would no longer be normal and mundane. Then he heard her speak as he found himself on top of her.
"Wh-what was that? Oh protection? You want to go running now, is that it?” he asked, as she squirmed to move out from under him. When she changed her mind he was reminded it was always a woman's prerogative to do so. He eagerly complied, fumbled around in his baggage for the spare condoms, pocketing them before going over to put on the radio. There was a news flash, something about an explosion in South Beirut, but Jack changed the channel to a music station. He came back over to her, placed his hands around her waist so he ended up cupping her behind. Then planted a kiss on her lips. Before gently swaying to the music with her. Twirling her around on his hand then moving and swaying almost in a slow rumba style of dance. The music had a slight reggae feel to it but it was modern music.
For a moment Viola thought they should listen to the radio news. Maybe there was some incident linked to the case they were working on. Her sexual arousal overruled the idea, though. The news would be available later, with more facts and analysis, better quality information. Now was the time for sexy dancing.
She quickly stripped off her leggings, leaving her legs bare below the hem of her tee-shirt, and returned to Jack’s warm arms. They danced together, close at first, then he spun her and began more of a rumba style. She began to dance the proper steps, being confident in more than the basics. She laughed at her mental image of the young couple dancing partly clothed in sports kit, and her long pale legs flashing in the lights. They danced three dances to different tracks, then Viola slowed down, put her arms around her husband’s neck and drew him close for warm body contact. She nuzzled her face into his neck.
“Let’s go to bed now, Jack, and make love at least twice, only no missionary position tonight, I’ve got some other ideas, nothing too acrobatic, I promise, then we’ll shower and sleep, and early in the morning I’ll take you to the gym for some running. Also, I hate to mention work but Berenice will probably want to speak to us at some point.”
Their passions were already high, from the dancing and anticipation. The lovers were infatuated. It was the first flush of their affair. Viola unwound herself and gently pulled Jack towards the huge cool bed.
Viola was woken early by her alarm. She got ready for the gym, a one hour session consisting of a 5K run and some light weights, including warm up and cool down. She enjoyed her workout, the first decent bit of exercise she had managed to get since leaving Chicago. Her 5K time wasn’t far off her personal best and her shoulder didn’t twinge too much on the weights machines. *I should get the stitches taken out,* she thought, then saw her husband was also in the gym. *Good! He needs to keep fit too, lots of sex isn’t really proper exercise and he spends all day sitting at a desk, which is bad for your posture. I won’t let him take me dancing if his posture gets bad. He must always be elegant.*
She went back to the room, showered, rearranged her wig, made her face, and changed into the outfit she had decided on for the day; red sports bralette and boyshort style panties, the new white Levis with a black leather belt and a white collar shirt, short black socks, Jimmy Choo combat boots with a cute white panel on the ankle cuff.
She put her powder blue suit jacket -- the one which buttoned up man style, left over right -- on top of everything, and added a black beret to be worn outside. She surveyed herself in the mirror, satisfied she looked smart and sexy, but not very clever. *White jeans really do go best with a restricted colour palette. I bet Komatsu will be wearing a boring suit and tie. Someone’s got to brighten up the scene.*
Jack arrived and after he showered and changed they went together to breakfast. Viola left her jacket in the room, but took her shoulder slung handbag. A small packet was waiting for her at Reception, probably the wire unit from Berenice so she bagged it to look at later, thinking she should leave her hair down to give the electronics maximum coverage.
After breakfast they went back up and checked the wire. It was a neat unit with two pickups disguised as large, gold mounted pearl earrings, the clip-on type for people who didn’t have pierced ears. They connected to a smartphone app through Bluetooth, which was used to control them, record audio and upload it into the cloud automatically. *It’s going to use a lot of battery,* Viola thought. *I’ll take both my phones in case the Samsung runs out. Anyway I'll put my hair up, because nice earrings shouldn't be wasted.*
Jack looked at Viola with a gleam in his eyes.
“You know for a super secret agent you look absolutely stunning, love,” he said, and gave her a kiss on the lips.
Viola preened at Jack's praise of her appearance. It was one of her weaknesses, the insecurity which led to her to strive so hard for the validation of other people’s eyes.
"I know you're worried for me, Jack, so I'll keep Glympse running all the time. That will let you track my location. Also, you'll be able to eavesdrop on what's going on by listening to the audio from my earrings. But don't get too distracted from your accounting work. If someone catches you doing that, both our covers will be blown. And look, I'm not defenceless, I've got my rape spray and my pistol."
After a slow cab ride they were at the Ahmad offices, where Jack was to spend the day with his head buried in accounts. *While I cavort with Komatsu,* she grinned, *Except it might be dangerous. I must keep my wits about me.*
Komatsu was waiting for them, somewhat annoyed because they were late due to the bad traffic, but he concealed it and bowed politely. The Japanese businessman was wearing a cream linen suit with no tie, and carried a large leather manbag. He had dressed more casual for a day’s touristy shopping, so Viola’s outfit matched very well. She flipped into translation mode.
“Ima sugu ikimashou ka, Komatsu-san?” Shall we go straight away?
“Hai. Sono takushii ni noru na.” Yes. We’ll take your taxi.
Jack was still paying off the fare. When he had finished, he gave Viola a caress on the hand, and headed off to his desk. Komatsu was waiting for the car door to open by itself, like a Japanese cab, but of course it didn’t. Viola opened it for him and he got in. She took off her jacket, not wanting to crease it more, and slung her bag again.
“I want to go to South Beirut, Mrs Tremblay. There is a good market to explore and a particular shop I want to visit.”
“Yes, Mr Komatsu. I only have a few phrases of Arabic but French and English are widely spoken here, so I think it will be alright. Besides, when money wants to change hands there is always a way to communicate.”
As the car inched through the bad traffic, they exchanged smalltalk about Viola’s life in Tokyo. She concealed the fact of her work as a hostess and emphasised involvement with her brother, his Japanese wife, and the language schools she had attended as a student of Japanese and as a teacher of English. It was easy to convince Komatsu that she had taught English conversation part-time, rather than hostessing. Plenty of young westerners with minimal qualifications did it, because for many Japanese it was just a way to enjoy an hour's chatting with an attractive foreigner.
Eventually the taxi reached the entrance to a souk and they got out, to continue their exploration on foot. The traditional market place was a large, complicated network of alleys, wider streets and open squares, crowded with shops and stalls of different sizes, selling all manner of goods. It was moderately busy, and noisy, the air filled with sales calls by vendors, the chatter of their customers, and a variety of exotic scents. Komatsu led the way, navigating with his smartphone. They soon reached the front of Az Zusa, with signage in Latin, Greek and Arabic scripts.
The store had narrow aisles. Posters featuring gorgeous middle-eastern models, showcasing mascara, lipstick and eye-shadow, adorned the walls. There were lots of items in haircare, skincare, and health treatments. A section devoted to Lebanese herbal extracts and tinctures featured Sage, Zatar, Marjoram, Fennel, Thyme to name a few. Viola was enthused by the prospect.
"Ooh, will you buy a gift for Mrs Komatsu? How lovely! I hope I may have a chance to buy something for myself."
A young woman wearing a pastel coloured shawl over her long brunette hair, a dark blue conservative dress and a white long sleeve shirt spoke to the foreigners. "Pouvez-vous parler Francais?" she asked.
"Euh, bien sur je parle Francais, parce que je suis Francaise!" Viola replied, but the shop girl continued in English.
"How may I help today?"
Mr Komatsu looked at his interpreter, then back at the woman behind the counter. "I have an appointment to see Mr Faisal."
The Lebanese woman went out the back and returned a minute later with a middle-aged of Arabic appearance, sporting a beard and short black hair, greying at the temples. But judging by the look of indifference on Mr Komatsu's features he wasn't the right man. There seemed to be a bit of argument going on between two shop staff. They were talking in Arabic. The young woman then spoke in French explaining that both Viola and Komatsu had to be blindfolded before they would be taken to see Mr Faisal, who wasn't inside this shop, but one block away in an undisclosed area. They were to trust this protocol as it was necessary to conduct the business.
Viola felt this was not too risky a proposition. If the Arabs were in the drug trade it was natural that they would take such precautions as blindfolding people and searching them. She explained the conditions to Komatsu in Japanese, adding that she was scared but trusted him to look after her. Obviously her pistol was going to be discovered. But it could be explained away as something insisted on by her paranoid American husband. Even violent gangs need to have more ways of dealing with each other than just killing everyone. In the end, she trusted that the Glympse trace and the earring mic uploads would identify her location to Jack if the gak hit the fan. She assented to the search and blindfold without serious objection, hoping Jack was keeping an eye on things.
Jack was eavesdropping on the conversation thanks to Berenice’s state of the art surveillance gear. His heart was thumping. But the Lebanese fortunately had no suspicion of her innocent looking earrings.
"Look what we have here! This lady has a nice looking weapon." It was Viola's SIG Sauer P365 SAS, a slick little gun with the kind of laser sight you use if you're not a good shot. The man confiscated it. "If you don’t mind. At the meeting these are not allowed."
“My husband is American, monsieur. He is so worried and made me carry a gun because he thinks Beirut is dangerous but really Chicago is worse. I am sure you are polite and will give it back to me. He will be very angry with me if I lose it. Please be kind.”
*Oh feth, careful Viola. That was damn close!*
”Mr Tremblay, what are you doing?" It was the lady accountant Amira. "The company isn’t paying you to surf the internet. Start reconciling these accounts. We have lots of ledgers when you're done with that."
”Yes, I’m right on it, Mrs Amira. I’m up to the Jordanian accounts now,” he replied. Fortunately he managed to minimise his screen of the Glympse trace before she could see the details.
Viola had been in some sticky situations before, like the time she posed as a bunny girl to get the evidence to nail a gang of oligarch money launderers at a classy casino in London. The key was to keep cool. *There’s nothing surprising about a pistol in criminal circles…* she reminded herself.
She and Komatsu were blindfolded and guided to a new location. The careful walk took about five minutes, which was farther than she expected but she could tell by the various turns they took, that they were not going in a straight line. They arrived at a new place and their blindfolds were removed. Two men were sat at a table. Komatsu and Viola sat the other side. The Japanese put his case on the surface and pushed it over. It was opened and the contents removed and examined, very clearly bundles of high value US dollar notes wrapped in bands like you get them from the bank. The Lebanese nodded approval and placed a well-wrapped bag of some kind of powder in the case, then slid it back over to Komatsu. He took it out to check.
Viola had been hoping not to see Komatsu doing the drug deal but it was pretty blatant. She played up her ditzy blonde persona to try and convince everyone that they needn’t worry about her witnessing the transaction.
“Sono tokubetsuna komukigo wa oiishi go-men ni narusou wa ne, Komatsu-san.” That special flour looks like it will become some delicious noodles, Mr Komatsu.
The Japanese man looked at the Arabs and rolled his eyes.
“She is… useful, very pretty, but… not, uh…. Yes, Mrs Tremblay, it is a very good new type of flour from organic chickpeas, to be made into noodles. I want to make these special noodles a new thing in Japan. We Japanese like new varieties of foods. It will become a boom and make me a fortune.”
The exchange of cash for the neat package of powder was accomplished quickly. The visitors were again blindfolded and ushered to another building where the Arab men restored Viola's weapon and left them. It seemed they were free to go. Viola waited for Komatsu to give a lead. He started to walk along the corridor and down the stairs. There was a spring in his step. Clearly Komatsu was pleased with the success of the deal. Viola walked a step or two behind him, the traditional place for a Japanese woman accompanying a man.
As they descended, a man wearing a patterned red Shemagh head scarf began walking up. He had a cream linen jacket over a white shirt, and dark blue trousers. There was a newspaper draped over his right forearm. The Arab man blocked the stairway and spoke, "Bonjour, monsieur..."
Komatsu replied in English. "Do I know you? Speak to my interpreter, please," motioning over his shoulder to Viola. But the man raised his arm, there was a click and a hiss of gas. Komatsu took it in the face, he swayed and began to collapse.
The attack happened in a rush. Viola smelt the characteristic bitter almond scent of cyanide and held her breath. Komatsu didn’t stand a chance. After collapsing from the poison he fell down the stairs, ending a limp, misshapen bundle at the bottom. His head was bleeding from a cut, and cocked at an angle that argued for a broken neck. The assassin grabbed the drugs bag and ran off.
Thinking quickly Viola checked for a pulse. There was nothing. Komatsu was dead from a combination of poison and the fall. She shoved her mil-spec phone into the dead man’s inside pocket to mark the location of the body, then gave a scream of horror -- "Oh my God! my God!" -- and ran after the disappearing assassin. She hoped the drug dealers upstairs would assume she had run away in panicked fear.
The man’s bright red head scarf bobbed and weaved as he moved through the crowded market. As she ran Viola began to change her appearance. She ripped off her black beret and dropped it in the gutter, unbuttoned her jacket to let it flap open and expose more white shirt front, swapped her slung bag to the other shoulder, and put on her big sunglasses, which hid most of the top half of her face. It wasn’t much but the murderer had only got a quick glance at her, so even a few small changes would make it harder for him to spot her following.
The man wasn’t running fast. It was hard to get through the crowd without bumping into people. After a couple of minor collisions he slowed his pace to a jog and Viola found she could keep him in sight fairly easily. She began to whisper a commentary to Jack, hoping her Samsung phone was relaying the audio and her changing position.
“Jack, Komatsu did the deal but he’s been killed. I’m following the killer through a market. He’s got the bag with the drugs. I left my other phone on Komatsu’s body, so we can track it. Get in touch with Berenice and ask for help.”
Fortunately Jack was hearing all of this take place, her running commentary in his earpiece. His heart almost skipped a beat hearing that Komatsu being killed by what must have been an assassin. But was understandably worried that Viola was now chasing him on foot. He needed to act now and contact Berenice on another secure line.
He mentioned to one of the accountants that he needed to go to the rest room. As Jack walked away briskly without much fuss, one of the accountants told him not to take too long. He found an empty Janitor's cubby to make a secure phone call to Berenice. She picked up instantly, and heard his succinct report.
“Jack, don't worry about the dead body. I have agents in Beirut who will carefully recover it. It is clear that Mr Komatsu was involved in this drug trade, and there is a connection between the Az Zusa shop and the Ahmad plant. Thank you for reporting this. You must help Viola and track down the assassin. If at all possible we need more hard evidence in this case. Do I make myself clear?” she said.
“Very clear, I’m leaving the office now,” Jack replied.
Soon Jack left the office walking at a brisk pace, which raised some eyebrows among the staff. He exited and got in a taxi, relying on Viola's Glympse signal to track her last known position. He told the driver to head for the souk, and unobtrusively screwed a silencer into the end of his Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
Meanwhile, the Arab man wearing the red checked shemagh head neck scarf was still escaping the crime scene on foot. Ducking and weaving through the crowd, past handcarts and motor scooters. Pushing past trolleys with fruit and dates. Knocking over crates and fruit. Heading down an alleyway. He occasionally looked back to see if Viola was still hot on his tail.
Viola decided she needed to change her appearance further. She paused for a few seconds to buy a woman's cotton head scarf in white with a blue stripe, and set off after the killer again, putting her sunglasses away and hiding her blonde hair with the new shawl.
They left the main open square of the market and went into the tangled net of roads and alleys which surrounded it. The wider streets were lined with shops selling all kinds of goods, colourful spices, dried beans and nuts, household items like cooking pots and crockery. *I must come back some time* she thought while trying not to be too obvious pursuing the runner but it was getting more difficult as the number of people in the streets thinned out.
Suddenly the man dodged left into a narrow alley. Viola got to the corner, paused, and poked her eye round to check for an ambush. The runner was still going. She cocked her pistol, let him get around the next bend, then took off again, gun in hand. He wasn’t tiring, but they hadn’t gone very far yet. The alley was deserted. The cushioned strides of her Jimmy Choo boots echoed softly from the tall walls of the enclosing buildings.
*Can my phone get a signal here?* she worried, *GPS gets cut off by masonry.*
She ran faster to get back into sight of her quarry, careless if he heard her. There were no civilians around to act as stalking horses anyway. The runner reached a T junction and went right. When Viola reached the corner she again paused to check for an ambush. The alley ahead was straight and clear as far as the eye could see. The man had gone into one of the buildings ahead of her. But which one? She ran her gaze up the higher stories, hoping for some clue. She rang her partner.
“Jack, I’ve lost him but I’ve got a rough location. There are three different doors he could have gone into. What should I do? I’ll stay here as long as I can. It doesn’t feel safe to go on alone.”
It took Jason’s taxi 20 minutes to reach the souk, then he had to make his way on foot to Viola’s position. He had a rough lock on her from her Glympse trace but the signal was flickering. He told the taxi driver to drop him off as close as possible to her last known position, then explored on foot. He looked around before taking off, to check that no-one noticed. The buildings interrupted the phone and GPS signal, making their relative positions strobe in and out of view. His adrenaline kicked in and fuelled his legs. Moving down a deserted alley, he turned a corner and slowed as he spotted the T-junction. There was a woman wearing a cotton scarf, like a shawl, covering her head. *Is that Viola?* He couldn't recognise her. Then his eyes drifted to her long legs in tight white Levi jeans, those unmistakable Jimmy Choo combat boots with the white stripe on the ankle. *That’s my Viola!* he thought.
He wanted to come up and kiss her but that would be so out of place. Not to mention out of touch with middle eastern customs. As she was wearing a shawl now covering her head. He came up close to her before whispering, without touching or embracing her. It was extremely frustrating but he would be an idiot to blow her cover.
“I got your message, Viola. I have my weapon ready. Shall we both try the middle doorway? Berenice is sorting out Komatsu's body. But let's get this son of a bitch.”
Viole was practically sweating bullets by the time Jack found her.
“Thank God you’re here, Jack. It’s the one on the left. I saw a woman come out onto the roof terrace and hang up a red headscarf which looks like the killer’s on a drying rack. He’s probably changing his clothes, maybe having a shower. He was wearing a white suit and dark trousers. I think I’d recognise his face anyway, if I get close. Hopefully the physical evidence is in there."
"I'll go first and kick the door in, then you go ahead to the first piece of cover. Then we leapfrog each other according to training."
"No, let me go and knock on the door. Perhaps the woman will answer. I’ll say I’m lost and ask for a glass of water. She might let me in, then I’ll hold the door open and you can rush in. She’ll probably scream at that so be very careful because he might be armed. He has a kind of poison gas gun anyway and he might have a pistol or something. If she doesn’t answer maybe we can smash the door down but that will give him more warning. Let’s try my way first.”
He nodded. The idea was sound.
She took off her dark glasses to look more friendly, buttoned up her jacket and knocked on the door. After a minute it was opened by a middle-aged Arabic looking woman wearing a headscarf. The lady of the house looked puzzled at the newcomer.
“Bonjour, Madame, je m’appele Viola. Est-ce que vous parler Francais?”
“Oui, un peu. La mademoiselle a-t-elle besoin de l’aide?”
“Je suis un touriste perdue et j’ai gros soif. S’il vous plait, donnez moi du l’eau?”
“Ah, oui, oui, entrez, entrez, mademoiselle.”
Viola stepped into the entrance and began to unlace her boots, since she had read this was the strict custom in Arab homes as well as Japanese. The lady smiled approvingly and went down the corridor, presumably to fetch some water. *It’ll be fine to run around inside in just my socks,* Viola thought, and turned to beckon Jack.
He waited for Viola to step aside from the doorway. Once that happened he entered the house like a bull in a china shop. Storming inside, gun in hand, he had no time for pleasantries. The lady screamed in terror as he rushed past. He knew the killer was nearby.
“No one has to get hurt here. I’m here for someone else,” Jack told the Lebanese housewife, but she only screamed again. Suddenly a shot was fired from an upstairs room. It narrowly missed him. As his gun was already loaded he fired a volley of shots, working up the stairs. The silenced gun coughed and hissed. Hot brass tinkled back down the stairway, and the smell of burnt propellant filled the air. Bullet holes were making a mess of a half-open door.
He ran towards the room then barrel-rolled into a nearby room which turned out to be the bathroom. As he rolled the suspect fired another shot at him from behind the bullet riddled door. He felt pain in his thigh. A quick check showed a bloodstain but he could still move his leg. *It must have grazed me?* he thought, breathing heavily.
The lone gunman was holed up inside the main bedroom.
Viola saw Jack run past, gun in hand, and the woman screamed at the intrusion.
“Je suis désolé, Madame. Nous sommes la police.”
She didn’t have a badge to show, because it was back at the hotel to prevent discovery in a search by the drug gangsters, but her pistol granted authority of a sterner kind. She jogged cautiously and quietly after Jack, wary in case there were other criminals in the house. There was a gunshot from upstairs, then the quieter sound made by Jack’s silenced pistol as he returned fire. She ascended the stairway, gun held in both hands and laser sight activated. The green dot swept across the doors on the upper floor as she got near the head of the stairway. One of them was filled with bullet holes.
Jack dodged across her field of view and rolled into a room Viola couldn’t see. The door on the right opened slightly wider, and the muzzle of a pistol was pushed out, but she could not see the man behind the door holding it. He fired at Jack. Viola shot three rounds through the door, hoping to hit the gunman at random but they all missed. She was shaking with adrenaline and wasn’t shooting well, plus he was a hidden target so she needed some luck to get a good hit.
“Police. Lâchez votre pistolet. Drop your gun!” She shouted.
The criminal opened the door a bit wider to take a shot at Viola but he couldn’t see her well because she was ducking down in the stairwell. His bullet hit the tiled floor, kicking up a cloud of dust and ceramic chips.
She returned fire, shooting four rounds through the door at where she thought his chest must be.
Sweat beaded on Jack’s brow. He couldn’t see anything but heard Viola swap some lead with the killer.
Seven shots left, he reckoned, before he had to load a new magazine. He heard some broken glass crunch inside the gunman’s room. Then rolled out of the bathroom. Towards the doorway he went. Then spun around in the midst of a spray of bullets. He felt a hit on the side of his chest, but did not stop moving. He kicked the door open and aimed. His mouth dry, Jack saw the Arab perched on a chair, blood on his shirt, on the floor. Viola must have hit him?
”Give up, you’re surrounded!” Jack yelled.
“No fething way,” was the reply and the man raised his pistol in a shaky hand. Jack fired two quick shots, both finding their mark in the killer’s chest. The man folded and slid off the chair.
”Viola, finish him, my leg hurts,” Jack yelled, and collapsed on the floor outside.
Viola checked her compact pistol. There were two rounds left in the magazine and one in the chamber. She loaded her spare magazine, then quickly ran up and shoved the door open to check the gunman. It was the young man from earlier, the one who had killed Komatsu with cyanide. He was barely breathing, frothy blood seeping from his mouth and several wounds in his chest, one of them fairly central. Most likely the bullet had hit his heart or aorta and he would die by blood loss in half a minute. His gun lay on the floor. She kicked it away from him and surveyed the room.
Komatsu’s case sat on a console with the lid open. The bag of Cake was inside, and some typical Japanese man’s stuff, a bottle of energy drink, a copy of the sleazy magazine Friday -- full of celebrity gossip and soft porn photo sets -- a mint flavour breath spray. Detritus of another sad life. Also an odd metal tube, which she guessed might be the cyanide gun. She snapped on vinyl gloves from her first aid kit, put the killer's pistol in the briefcase, opened the drawers and found some manila files, which she added to the haul, then went to see to Jack. He was lying on the floor in the corridor. There were patches of blood on his right trouser leg and right chest.
"Jack, you’ve been hit! Is it bad? Can you stand up?”
She ran down a mental checklist:
1. Stop the bleeding.
2. Drop a pin and send it to Berenice with a message.
3. Get the feth out.
“Get your shirt off and trousers down so I can check the wounds. I’ll put dressings on. Then if you can, put them back on and shove a small towel or a flannel in to create compression. That’s all we can do for now. We need to get out of here.”
Thankfully the wounds didn’t look very bad. The blood was oozing rather than spurting. Jason’s thigh was grazed and bruised. The bullet to the chest looked like it had glanced off a rib, probably breaking it. She sent Berenice a quick message with a location pin attached, then spent a few minutes to patch Jack up as well as possible.
While her husband put his clothes back on, Viola thought to take some pics of the now dead gangster and the house in general. She found a box of spare 9mm rounds and took it, recovered Jack’s empty magazine, then they set off down the stairs, with Viola helping support Jack, but a shot came in through the open front door as soon as their legs appeared in sight of the street. The woman of the house screamed from the back room where she was hiding.
“gak! We’d better go up and get out onto the roof,” she exclaimed.
They went back up and found the way out onto the roof terrace. Moving in a crouch so they could not be seen, the couple went along a row of adjoining terraced houses until they got to the parapet at the end.
“Jack, look and see if there’s a way down. I’ll keep guard.”
She lay down behind a big pot containing a small tree. She pointed her gun back the way they had come, in case some gunmen were going to follow them. They were on the roof several houses down from where the woman screamed.
Jack could see a couple of men come up on the roof. They spotted him trying to find a way down, and raised pistols. Over the edge hung an awning above what looked like a marketplace. It wouldn’t take the gunmen long to reach them. A spray of bullets ricocheted off pots and the roof.
As the two gunmen advanced, Viola began to shoot slowly and carefully, in the hope of slowing them down by scaring them. Her compact pistol wasn't designed for accurate long range fire. On the plus side, she had good cover and a very stable firing position. She began squeeze off shots slowly, one every couple of seconds, to recover fully from the recoil and aim carefully again, shooting when the attackers moved towards her. The first three rounds went wild, but the fourth hit a low wall right next to one of the men, narrowly missing him. He ducked into cover, then poked his head up and her fifth bullet hit his forehead, killing him instantly in a ghastly spray of blood and brains. She ought to have felt sick and guilty but a cold satisfaction filled her heart.
*I'm only fething defending myself and Jack!* she thought, *They started it.* The other man hid. Viola grabbed the chance to crawl over to where Jack wanted her to jump from.
“Viola, we need to get down fast. There's an awning from a shop front. Must be the market area,” he shouted. Then not waiting for more shots to be fired. Grabbed her hand and led her to a place where they could jump. “Don’t look down, honey, I’ve got you this time. An awning will break our fall. We will slide down onto the street below,” he said, beckoning for her to come with him. He winced a bit as his wounds were fresh.
She holstered her pistol to take his hand and closed her eyes, nearly panicked at the terrifying prospect of the void below. She managed to allow him to pull her over the edge. Together they fell to the shop awning below. Its supports creaked alarmingly and it began to collapse from the force of their impact. It turned out to be an advantage not to be wearing shoes. Viola slid easily down the fabric and ended up in not too bad a pile in the street, Jack beside her. He seemed to be dealing okay with his wounds so far. The pain would get worse as the adrenaline wore off.
The shopkeeper was too shocked to get angry yet. Viola took 15 or 20 seconds to pick herself up and grab some cash and her emergency shoes from her handbag. She offered the cash to the shopman and slipped the black and white plimsolls on, not wanting to run around a busy market in only socks.
"Come on, Jack, we need to get out of here. It hardly matters which way we go to start with. Let's try and find a main road where we could catch a cab maybe. How fast do you think you can go?"
They jogged limping through the market until they found an area filled with clothes kiosks. Viola shopped quickly for new headscarves for herself and Jack, and a butcher's apron to give some camouflage to his bloodied clothes. Newly disguised, they slowed to a walk, partly to save Jack's legs.
"Jack, can you ring Berenice for help while I try to find the best way out using Maps?"
He got on his phone and contacted their controller. The French detective answered immediately.
“Ok Jack, you and Viola have two places you need to get to. The French embassy is the closest to your position. However I need to call ahead and secure your entry, so don't go there yet. In the meantime I need you to head towards a safe house. It's opposite the Safsouf sweet shop. You have to speak to the owner there. Her name is Jabira El Din. Say Berenice sent you and I will take care of the rest. You can have temporary lodging there, until your emergency papers are sorted,” she instructed him.
“Ok honey, we have a safe house about three blocks north west from our position. It's in the Mala'ab Al Baladi zone. There is a mosque on the opposite corner. I think I can make it there if I don't have to run,” he said quietly to Viola.
*Maybe I should have bought a walking stick. But he looks too young! It’s too late anyway.* Viola dismissed the issue.
The couple walked on slowly. She gave Jack Komatsu’s briefcase to carry, which looked like a man’s luggage, and took his right arm with her left, the way a wife often will, to lean on her husband, but in fact she was helping support his weight. She wanted her right hand free to draw her pistol. Her left shoulder began to ache a bit from the strain. It took over half an hour to reach the Safsouf sweet shop. Viola led Jack in and asked the assistant for Madame El Din.
“C'est moi,” the lady behind the counter said. She was wearing a dress conservative by European standards, and a thin headscarf.
“Mademoiselle Berenice nous a envoyé. Je m'appelle Viola Tremblay. Ceci c'est mon marie.”
"Je vous attendais. Je vous emmènerai tout de suite.”
The middle-aged Lebanese woman let them into the safe house, telling them to make themselves at home, then went back to her shop. They looked around, not knowing what to expect. It seemed like a typical small terraced house with two floors and a rooftop area. *Not going up there* Viola told herself. She found some towels in the bathroom and put them on the bed to stop blood getting on it, then made Jack lie down.
“You need to rest. I’ll organise something to eat and drink, and we’ll check your wounds.”
Viola found the kitchen. She put her phone and one earring on to charge, and started to boil water for tea. then checked her pistol. There were six rounds left in the gun, and two more in the spare mag. They were police issue, designed to penetrate an obstacle such as a car door and still deliver a deadly impact.
The box of ammunition she had picked up was 9mm NATO calibre, a make she didn’t know. Although Viola wasn’t an expert on guns and ammunition, she knew that the quality of the round might affect performance. *I’ve got no choice,* she told herself, and reorganised her two magazines with 10 rounds in each, all her police issue cartridges at the top of the one she put back into her gun.
Viola made tea, and brought it with some flatbread, cheese and hummus for Jack to have something to sustain himself. She gave him two of her Codeine tablets. She sat on a chair and began to eat. She wasn’t very hungry, but she knew she had to have something.
“I wonder how long we’ll have to wait?”
Jack gladly took the codeine from Viola. He didn't object to her ministrations and found it a welcome relief. As usual she was right again about his needs. The pain was stinging and he needed to rest. Resting his own gun, a 9mm SIG Sauer pistol with silencer on the side table, he reclined on the bed.
"Thanks for the tea and snacks. I guess that's the end of my Accounting career here in Beirut," he said with a slight chuckle, and winced a little. He started to drink his tea. It brought instant warmth and comfort. He nibbled the flatbread and cheese also.
They settled into the little house to wait. Jack, eased by the Codeine, fell asleep after eating. Viola checked his wounds as best she could. There was no evidence of serious blood flow, so she left the dressings and packed towels in place. *He ought to be cleaned and stitched up at a proper hospital. Antibiotics, maybe, and painkillers, but basically it’s alright. He’ll survive.*
She ate bread and drank tea. Her spirits, maintained so far by adrenaline and a sense of purpose, began to ebb. To distract herself she took Jack’s pistol to check. It was a SIG like hers, a larger model with a longer barrel, full size grip for a man’s hands, and a high capacity magazine. She took out the mag, unloaded it and refilled it to the maximum of 15 rounds with the captured ammunition at the bottom. She refilled the spare magazine too.
*We’re as well armed as we can be now,* she thought, and began to play with her phone. She zoomed in on their current location and studied the local road layout. The French Embassy was only a few hundred metres away, the other side of an area full of narrow streets and cul-de-sacs, which looked like a bad place to get chased. There were too many blind alleys you might duck into by accident. Her nervousness began to spike as she imagined being cut off by pursuers.
*We should go the other way, get to a main road and take a taxi. Or maybe I could get a scooter, they’re faster in traffic. Imagine being stuck in the back seat of a cab, surrounded by gunmen!* She shivered. *I could just steal a scooter. They’re easy to hotwire.* There was a public parking lot nearby. It would be crammed with scooters.
She went for a wee, noticed blood on her white jeans. It was Jack’s, picked up when she was helping him. *feth it! Maybe it will come out with bleach. This detective life is tough on my wardrobe…* She made a mental note of her sartorial losses: *My blue suit jacket and a blouse ruined, an expensive handbag stabbed through but maybe I can get it repaired, and I left my Jimmy Choos at the drug house.* Her mood slumped. She indulged her melancholy with a good cry for a few minutes, then pulled herself together with the thought *It’s a great excuse to go shopping!*
Viola began to brighten up again. She went to the bathroom and remade her face to the best level she could with her emergency kit. She slotted small gold studs into her ears, and clipped the pearl mic devices to her lapel instead, like a jaunty double brooch. She found some more beautiful looking pastries and made fresh tea to enjoy them with.
It was late afternoon. Komatsu’s copy of Friday beckoned. Her reading level in Japanese was pretty poor, in truth, but the photo sets of scantily-clad Japanese girlies would be a fun distraction. *No! Find some gloves and look at the files you took.* She got a set of Marigolds from the kitchen and began to examine the folders of papers from the drug house, taking pictures of each page with her smartphone, uploading them to the cloud.
*When will we hear from Berenice?*
She used her phone to track her other phone, the mil-spec one she had left in Komatsu’s jacket pocket. *Hopefully Berenice got that back, because it cost about $600. Maybe she got my Jimmy Choo boots as well.* It was on the map, now in a different area of the city. It wasn't possible to know who had possession of the device.
Viola began to feel rather impatient for the next step in the case.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/06/18 08:18:49
If you're a Brit abroad, there are certain local holidays which create a cognitive dissonance in your mind.
Christmas in Japan is one of them. Like in the UK there's a build-up over weeks. Trees are put up and festooned with decorations. Piles of prettily wrapped parcels appear in department store windows. Festive lighting with Father Christmas, snowflakes, reindeer, and other seasonal symbols goes up all over town.
It's traditional for a guy to treat his best girl to a luxury dinner on Christmas Eve, give her an expensive present, preferably involving diamonds, and take her to a love hotel, or overnight at a real hotel if she's independent from her parents so you don't have to make sure she catches the last train home.
Olympe enjoyed that part of the holiday. The earrings Hisashi gave her were surely more than he could afford, and she helped out his finances by taking him back to her little flat, where they became suitably tired and relaxed.
The next morning she got up and went to work as usual. By the evening of the 25th the bunting and decorations had vanished, replaced with Japanese New Year symbols, pine branch garlands, fresh cut bamboo, and so on. Boxing Day was even more of a non-event.
Olympe's first 4th of July in the USA creates an equal but opposite impression. People are going about normal life and then suddenly at the beginning of July everyone's buying fireworks, and you can't find barbecue charcoal anywhere. The Stars and Stripes everwhere. What is it with Americans and flags? she wonders. At home in Britain the 4th is nothing, just another day. The last holiday weekend in the UK was the end of May and the next is the end of August. If you want a break, you go to the seaside to eat fish and chips in the rain.
She braves the horror of her little balcony to watch the people of Ravenswood Terrace Apartments celebrating around the commununal grills in the grounds, and wonders if she can join in. Someone notices the blonde hovering nervously, waves, and calls her down. Olympe smiles, glad for once that Americans are so open and friendly. She grabs a couple of bottles of wine and a box of left-over charcuterie and cheeses, and goes to make some new friends.
The guy's name was Michael. He was kind of cute, a late 20s white boy, tall, thin, jeans and a Hawaian shirt. He had that slight stubble so many guys wear nowadays at the end of the weekend because they didn't bother to shave. It's not a fashion choice, it's convenience.
Shaving's a nuisance, Olympe thought, remembering when she had been a man and needed to razor her chin every day or sprout the kind of hair called 'jorijori' rough in Japan. Real hard bristle to start with, almost like sandpaper, it actually tore up some of his clothes, the collars and so on, through long contact. But now as a woman, men not shaving was a nuisance because sometimes she got a fierce rash when they gave her head. And none of Olympe's lovers lasted more than one night if they didn't give her enthusiastic head, it was a basic life rule.
But I won't make him my lover, I'm with Jason now and it would be wrong. There's always the reliable Hitachi Magic Wand. Jason was away on some family get-together.
"You're English!" Michael said, surprised, as her voice announced her nationality.
"Well, I can be French eef you like eet bettaire..." Olympe joshed, using her party trick of speaking with an accent. She got it from her bilingual upbringing. Her French mother and English father had imparted both their native and foreign accents to her.
He laughed. He was already half drunk, feeling loose and just wanted a good time, to get on with everyone and have fun. "Here, what can I get you, French English girl? We've got all the classics, hot dogs, burgers, er... burgers, and dogs." The smell of the grills wafted all over the gardens, hot meat, burnt gas, appetizing or sickening depending on your hungers.
"A hot dog, please. I brought wine if you would like a glass?"
"Thanks Olympe, but I'll stick with beer. It's better in hot weather so I believe."
She nodded agreement. White wine spritzers were the way forward on hot days, or watered red. She accepted a glass of weak American lager, Coors or something, they all taste the same anyway, and he brought her a fresh hot dog in bun wrapped in a paper serviette. The bread was the usual American crappy muck, no bite, no flavour, but she did not complain. It was all part of the experience.
"Thanks, Michael. How long have you lived here in Chicago?"
"Moved here last year from California. How about you?"
"Nine months. I was in Tokyo before."
"Tokyo? Wow! What did you do there? Do you speak Japanese?"
"I was a language teacher, English and French conversation. I can speak Japanese pretty well, but I can't read it properly." This was mostly true. She had worked in language tuition but the way Olympe had made her real money was by hostessing, a somewhat louche occupation which pretty blondes can do very well at if they've got the right kind of flirty skills. Her long evenings in Kabukicho, the neon drenched nightlife hub of Shinjuku, had been several kinds of education.
"It was very interesting," she smiled. It had been scary at the end, when the Yakuza enforcers circled round and Taka-kun had to extract her cleverly. Everything that happened with Hisashi. She wanted to get off the subject. Feelings were still raw. She sipped her beer.
"Why did you move from California, Michael? The weather is much better on the west coast, isn't it? Winter is brutal here, the wind off the lake. I had to buy a car."
"Hah, yeah I guess that's true. I was in San Francisco, doing software development at a fintech startup and got an offer I couldn't refuse to move up here."
"Chicago's a pretty nice place. Small, but it's got all the facilities anyone could need."
"Chicago small!?" He was astonished at the idea. The Chicago metro area has over 2.5 million people.
"Well, compared to London or Tokyo it's small. Anyway, what are the plans for later? I've never been to a 4th of July party before. Will there be dancing?"
"Hah, maybe if we get drunk enough. Also someone will set off fireworks. There they go!"
Rockets began to ascend the darkening vault of heaven, trailing sparks and exploding with a joyful bang and shriek. They were the new Japanese type. Smiley faces looked down at the crowd.
A Lazy Afternoon in the MPY Kuudere Detective Agency Office
"Don't look at me like that."
"Pia, I'm wearing mirrorshades."
"I just know you're doing it."
"Right. I am taking off my mirrorshades and giving you a hard stare."
"Oooh that's harsh! Why Chanmi, what did I do?"
"You know exactly what you did. You ate the last lemon curd donut. I had my eye on it."
"I ate it to save you from yourself, a noble act of self-sacrifice. They're full of calories and you've had too many already."
"Are you calling me fat?"
"Nnnnng... Cuddly. Ow! Ow! Get off me!"
Chanmi chased so hard that Pia had to run all the way to the Scarlet Cathedral before the cuddly cyberpunk began to slow down. The long blonde minx danced inside, where violence was forbidden by universal custom.
"That was a good run. Now we're here I'll prove my point."
Pia lit incense and consulted the Oracle.
"Hah! I win! You owe me a donut."
"Okay, let's go get it."
They linked arms and strolled back past the corner diner, where Pia gave her friend a lemon curd bun and a warm hug.
"Thanks for the donut."
"Thanks for chasing me. You must have burned off some calories, anyway, so... Don't look at me like that!"
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/07/12 08:16:36
To Olympe's great surprise, her wonderful Frog Café was a huge failure. She lost her entire investment, and had to rehome all her cute froggies on the banks of the East River. Olympe had loads of resilience, though. She was sure she could make another fortune because she'd won and lost several of them before. She went back to detecting again to work up some seed money to gamble with.
The blonde minx got lucky, a case involving undercover work in a hostess club, which was easy because she'd done it in Kabukicho, the neon soaked nightlife hub of west Tokyo. It wasn't as sleazy as it sounds. Olympe was good at chatting and flirting, she knew how to read a boi. She quickly became popular and received a lot of presents, mostly clothes her admirers liked on her, but some of it was accessories such as jewellery.
When the case was over she had the reward money and a wardrobe bulging with gifts, not all in the best possible taste. Olympe sold the ones she didn't want through Vinted; she always was good on a smartphone. To save postage she zipped around Server City on her electric Vespa, making deliveries and collecting cold hard Coins.
She saved the Coins in a frog shaped piggy bank which she kept hidden in the weapon safe at the MPY office, where The Gun was kept. Yancey had never liked The Gun. It was hard-boiled as fucc and triggered his dark history of violence. The Gun liked Yancey because it wanted to be fired; that was its nature. Once he threw it off the Edge of the World to get rid of it, but it came back by itself. After that he just never went into the safe if he could avoid it. When the change happened and Olympe replaced Yancey, of course she inherited The Gun. She didn't care about it though. It wasn't elegant.
Her last item sold, Olympe cracked open the savings and poured them onto her desk. It was quite a sight, a ragged pyramid of gold. She chortled, and began to sort and tally the Coins. There were plenty of 5s, 11s and 23s, some 47s and 83s, several 167s, even a rare 331! She carefully noted the total in an account book. The prospect of another scolding from Ms Moon Potato was intolerable.
Now I can splurge on candles and incense for The Oracle and find out how to redeem my wealth, she exulted. Money's so useful!