Zero Hour: Four – The Masochism Tango

Troubleshooter
Zero Hour
by Andrea Speed

Four – The Masochism Tango

She should have known that Frost’s wicked sense of humor would come back to bite her on the ass.

As soon as Shan felt ready to venture out, they went back to her place to intercept the messenger who’d be returning with their new i.d.‘s, and she sent him to talk to Ms. Gordon down the hall, as the old lady had an obvious crush on Shan (older women loved him – she enjoyed teasing him about that), and she figured she’d take good care of Satan while she was gone. Of course, Shan would probably tell her the cat was named Satin, but that was okay; Satan couldn’t correct her.

41.jpgThe courier arrived while he was still gone, and she got the first look at their new identities. Shan was Chris Flood, a good, bland name that could belong to anyone, But the name he gave her was Kaya Echols.

Oh, that Pommy bastard. What had she ever done to him to deserve that? It wasn’t her fault he decided to have principles to stand on, was it? She threw the packet on her coffee table and went into her kitchenette to have a drink of too sweet tea. Revenge was a petty thing, but she was considering it all the same.

She heard the door open, and Shan said, “Well, Vera – Misses Gordon – will be happy to look after Satan for me … er, you. We also got a dinner invite when we come back.”

“We, Don Juan?” she replied sarcastically, returning to the living room.

He gave her an evil look, but on him it looked funny enough that she wanted to laugh. It wasn’t that he was harmless, it was that he looked so bloody innocent, like no matter how big he was, he couldn’t hurt a fly. “Eww, not like that. Jeeze. She‘s old enough to be my grandmother.” He saw the large cardboard envelope on the coffee table, and picked it up. “Ooh, this is who we are now?”

“Sadly yes.” She sat on the couch as he picked it up, and continued swigging her bottled tea. If she was lucky, he wouldn’t notice, or just wouldn’t ask. He took out the sheaf of identification and sat down on the arm of the couch as he flipped through it. “Chris Flood? Well, my middle name’s Chris, so that shouldn’t be too hard to remember. But Flood? Why am I named after a weather condition?”

“Would you have preferred Chris Hippo?”

“Well … not Hippo.” As he looked through the documents, he put them back on the table: his new driver’s license (which was funny, since he couldn’t legally drive, but Frost didn’t know that), their airplane tickets, the hotel reservation print out, and finally he got to her “new” name. Damn it, his eyes widened, and she knew what he found. “Whoa, did you check out the name they gave you? Man. Kaya – isn’t that Hawaiian?”

“Japanese.”

He studied her face for a long moment, as she deliberately didn’t look at him. “Hey … are you? I mean at least part? ‘Cause your eyes -”

“I’m like one eighth on my mother’s side, okay? Hardly counts.”

“See, that’s cool. I always knew there was something exotic about you.” He wisely turned his attention back to the documents.

“Exotic? Is that code for weird?”

“Yes’m.”

She shrugged. At least he was honest about it; she had to give him that.

****

They packed up and hit the airport a couple of hours later. She had two bags in total, one of which was a backpack, and Shan seemed both impressed and suspicious. “I’ve never known a woman to pack as light as you,” he said. “Does this mean you think we’re going to die?”

After punching his arm for having a sexist pig moment, he himself struggled with what to take. She told him just to bring changes of clothes, medication he deemed important, and perhaps something to kill the long stretches of boredom (stakeouts were nothing but long stretches of boredom), but he got a bit hung up on the latter. He regretted never buying a Game Boy, and wondered if he had time to pick one up – she told him he could do that in Toronto. She imagined this was what it was like trying to get a kid going.

Frost was at least kind enough to get them “business class” tickets, so they didn’t have to ride in coach, which was somehow less comfortable than going Greyhound. How the airlines had achieved that dubious feat was a puzzler. Business class was much better, with nicer seats and more leg room, and slightly more polite service. Somehow she ended up with the window seat, but that was okay; at least she could see for herself if the number three engine exploded while in flight.

She had taken one of her paperbacks out of her back – Metal Sky – and started reading as Shan got comfortable in his seat and pulled out his CD player. He’d phased out once in the security line, but none of those sharp wand wavers seemed to notice. She’d been hoping he wouldn’t do what he usually did when they hit a dead spot on a case, which was ask her a personal question. “So why don’t you ever talk about your family? I mean, I know you got a sister, and now I know you’re part Japanese, kinda, but that’s it. What about your parents?”

She sighed loudly, and held her book closer to her face. Damn it. “What about them?”

“You never talk about them. Who are they? Are you not talking to them too?”

“It’s hard to talk to the dead.”

That caught him up a bit short. “Ah. When did they … can I ask how they died?”

She shrugged. “I killed them.”

There was a long pause, where he just stared at the side of her face, and then he chuckled and shook his head, looking away. “When you really don’t want to talk about something, you really don’t.”

“Yep.” There was no point in telling him it wasn’t a complete lie. There were just some things he was better off not knowing.

****

The flight to Toronto was uneventful, and after wending their way out of the maze that was the airport, they caught a cab to the hotel, one she’d never heard of, the Wyndham. It was a huge tower in the heart of Toronto, on a block that seemed exclusively compromised of hotels and expensive boutique shops. The Wyndham even had a doorman in a red outfit who opened the rear door of the cab when they pulled up, which made her feel a bit weird, almost as weird as wearing pale blue sunglasses.

But surely there was a reason Frost chose this hotel, and it probably had to do with the Wolf’s expensive tastes. There was another fancy hotel right across the street, and she was sure that a search of their guest roster would turn up one of the Wolf’s aliases.

The lobby was all polished wood and burgundy and gold hues, promoting an aura of wealth and taste bound to scare away the rabble. They checked in at a huge, polished cherry desk shaped like a horseshoe, and they’d hardly been there four minutes when she heard behind her, “Excuse me, miss?”

Behind her was a casually dressed man she’d never seen before in her life, with a leather suitcase in each hand, and one wedged beneath his arm. “You left these in my cab.”

He was not their cab driver, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Shan looking very puzzled, and ready to say something. She said something before he could. “Oh, yes, thank you. I’d forget my head if it wasn’t stapled on.” How coy Frost was playing this? A fake cabbie with luggage. She bet she knew what was in the bags too.

He put the bags down at her feet, said, “My pleasure, ma’am,” and left the lobby. Shan kept staring at her like she’d just lost her mind, but after a moment, he seemed to adjust. “I knew you had more luggage,” he said sarcastically.

They got checked in, and the desk clerk told them they got the rooms they “requested”, which were adjoining suites on the fourteenth floor. She bet she knew what the view out their windows would be.

Shan grabbed her “forgotten” bags, but struggled under the weight of at least one. She picked up the third, which wasn’t too heavy at all, and they schlepped it all to the elevator, politely waving off any help with their bags. Once inside, Shan asked her quietly, “What the fuck is in here? A weight set?”

“I’ll tell you upstairs.”

The rooms were large and tastefully appointed in shades of blue and ecru and white, which could have looked like a hospital room color scheme, but just managed to avoid it. She had a big bed and a big window, the sky blue drapes pulled back to reveal her view, which was just what she expected – the hotel across the street. The windows of the Wyndham were mirrored on the outside, so no one from the outside could see in, but the hotel across the street was older, more stately, and didn’t have such a tacky modern addition. You’d think a former assassin would be more aware of the minor details.

Shan came in her room with her, lugging the bags, and he gratefully tossed them on her bed. “Okay, so you gonna tell me what that was about?”

“Our employer agreed to supply the equipment we’d need. That was their way of handing it off.”

“Equipment? What kind of equipment?”

“Various things.” She zipped open the heaviest piece of luggage, and took out the black foam insert used as a cushion before letting the lid fall back, revealing that her suspicion about what it contained was correct.

Guns. There were five of them, Browning and Sig Sauer handguns, with extra clips and accessories such as silencers, holsters, and scopes, and a disassembled Barrett M99 sniper rifle with a laser scope, all in a hard foam backing so they couldn‘t come loose and rattle, or worse yet discharge while the suitcase was being handled. They didn’t supply too many rounds for the rifle, but that was okay – if she had to use it, she wouldn’t be using it often.

She picked up a Browning and started checking it, taking off the safety and checking the clip to see if it was full (it was), and noticed Shan gaping down at the weapons like a slack jawed yokel. When he looked at her, it was with the glazed eyes of someone who just realized they’d made a horrible mistake. “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?” he asked.

She felt obscurely bad for him. She really should have left him out of this one, but there’s no way he would have believed she was going off on a vacation. “Would you believe an international incident?”

He gave her a thousand yard stare, still shocked beyond all reasonable means. She was probably lucky he hadn‘t fainted. “Yeah. I’d believe a violent coup at this point.”

“That’s next week,” she assured him, moving on to the other suitcases, looking for the telescope or binoculars that were sure to be here.

Time to get work.

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