Delilah left in the middle of the night. I’m surprised she didn’t wake me. She must have had Dima pick her up downstairs. I guess that’s what makes her a professional.
I put on a pot of coffee – a large one because I expect company – and then sit down at my desk to check my email. There’s a note on my laptop. “You’re a sweet man,” it reads. “Don’t let guys like Vlad change that.” I look at it a moment and regret everything. I regret getting into this. I regret meeting her. I regret taking her back here. I regret that she wasn’t who I wished she was.
The back door opens. Agent Harris walks in with his partner. His partner’s cheekbone is bruised where the pistol grip broke skin. “We need to talk,” Harris says.
“Oh yes we do,” I assure him.
“You shouldn’t leave your door unlocked in a neighborhood like this,” he says.
“Something tells me you’re not here to discuss home security.”
“You never know who might let themselves in,” he says. He’s trying to sound menacing, but I can tell it’s more for his partner’s benefit than mine.
“Don’t worry, I know how to handle myself,” I say tossing his partner’s clip over to him. Harris catches it and passes it along.
“This isn’t a game, Carl,” he says.
“Maybe you should tell your partner that,” I suggest, pointing at the envelope on the counter. “He almost got me killed yesterday.” Harris takes out the stack of surveillance of photos and leafs through them. He frowns and hands them to his partner. “I guess not enough of my tax dollars re going into training,” I say. “How do you not notice when the guy you’re following is following you?” They’re exchanging looks and I cross the room to the coffee maker and pour three cups. “I hope you don’t mind black,” I say. “I’m all out of milk.” They both accept their mugs and his partner looks sheepish.
“Agent Morris is a federal agent—” Harris tries reasserting himself.
“Agent Morris almost blew all our covers,” I cut him off. “You should be thankful that I saved your investigation. If the Russians off me, you’re one mole short of a sting operation. And you should be grateful it wasn’t you in the car,” I remind him. “Someone had to take a beating for this, and it kind of worked out that it was the guy who fucked up in the first place.” I light a cigarette. “Now, if we’re done trying to deflect blame, we have something else to talk about. My inbox is full of client emails expressing disappointment that I’ve been neglecting them.”
“You no longer work for yourself, Carl,” he says. “You work for the federal government.”
“Good, then you won’t mind compensating me for my time,” I say.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Morris growls.
“You should try putting a raw steak on that,” I suggest, pointing at his face. “I heard it helps with the bruising.”
“You are being compensated,” Harris interrupts.
“I’m gonna lose a lot of my clients before this is done,” I explain. “I’m not about to martyr my livelihood for the sake of national security.”
“Well then I suggest you put aside some of that extra cash you’re making off of the Russians because of us.” It’s the answer I expected.
“Because of you?” I sneer. “This was in the works before you guys dragged me into this cluster fuck.”
“Perhaps, but that business loan you got form us sure helped you to scale and reduce your overhead. You shouldn’t be so greedy,” he cautions me.
“Your partner’s quick on his feet,” I say to agent Morris. “You can learn a lot from him,” I smirk. Morris stares back at me in silence. “So, if we’re done with our intervention, I have work to do,” I say, turning back to Harris.
“We’re not done,” Harris says. “We have to move things along more quickly.”
“Jesus,” I opine. “I’ve been at this only a couple days. You can’t expect miracles.”
“We’re running out of time,” Harris insists. “Snakedoctor may already be in town and you still have no leads.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I assure him. “I’m on it.”
“And how’s that?” he asks.
“Dorothy’s boyfriend, Alex, wants to involve me something they’re working on. That’s going to be my in,” I explain.
“Publicity for a protest,” Harris sneers. “We know about that: not exactly what we call high level penetration.”
“If you have a better plan,” I say, “I’d like to hear it.” Agent Harris is about to reply when my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number. “Hold on, I have to take this,” I say. “Hello?” I answer. “Oh, hey Alex. What’s up?” I ask, looking over to Harris. “11am? Yeah, sure, I can do that. Where? Okay, see you then,” I say and hang up.
“Well guess who that was,” I say. “That was Alex and he wants a meeting with me later this morning. Not bad for two day’s work, eh?”
“You better make the most of it,” Harris cautions me. “You’re running out of time,” and the two of them turn and leave out the way they came.
I’m a little worried about how Nelson just said it was me who was running out of time, but I’m amused enough by how I just handled the situation that I shrug it off and start thinking about how I’m going to fast-track my way into the trust and confidence of a network of anarchist dissidents.