Have you read part 2 yet?
I nodded and looked closer at Jay. His hair was still wet. Wetter than it should have been this long after coming in from the rain. And he was wearing different clothes. He had on a pair of casual slacks and a white tee. And he smelled good. I could smell sandalwood and pine.
“I took a quick shower too.” He pointed to the television. Basic Instinct was frozen on the opening scene. “Movie’s ready.”
Only the kitchen light was on over the stove. It left the room moody and dark, alive with the illumination of lightning and rumble of thunder. I pulled the robe tighter and spun around on my tiptoes to return to the bathroom with my wet clothes. “I think I’ll just put these back on.”
“Still wet, aren’t they? I can throw them in the dryer for you.”
I stopped and wiped the little smile from my face as I turned back to him. “A little. Are you okay with–” I let my hand flutter at the robe.
“If you’re okay with it. Or I can get you a tee shirt and…”
“These won’t take long to dry.” I surrendered the wet clothing and he walked to a pair of doors that opened to a small pantry with a washer and dryer. “Handy.”
Outside the storm was really kicking up. Lightning was flashing with more frequency and even some hail was pinging off the windows. Rolling thunder shook the floor under my feet. I sat down on the couch. The open floor plan meant I could watch him if he went behind the counter into the kitchen where I could see he had already put out ingredients and utensils for cooking. Two steaks sat on a plate, marbled red and white and ready to throw on the grill.
“Have a seat. They’ll only take a sec. Music?”
“Tablet on the table there. Just click on the input button until XM comes up on-screen, then arrow down to what you like.”
I picked up the tablet and found an easy-listening station with popular songs I recognized. When I set it back down on the table, the pistol in my pocket bumped the table. I caught the robe into my hand and sat down on the middle of the couch relaxing against the back of the couch and taking a couple of long, slow breaths. My heart should have been pounding but I had been trained for this moment. Trained extensively. I was probably too relaxed considering.
“I would have thought celebrities ordered in all the time,” I said. I twisted around on the couch to face him. He was flipping a steak and had his back to me. A nice back. A broad, muscular back. I could see the muscles ripple under his shirt each time he moved.
“Not if I can help it. I need to stay in shape. Never know when I’ll get a call. That means eating right, not just working out. Would you like a glass of wine with your steak?”
“Is wine part of the health regimen?”
“A glass doesn’t hurt.”
“Actually, water is fine. Can I help?”
“No. Just sit, I’ve got it.” He reached into the cupboard a grabbed a couple of glasses and popped the lids off a large bottle of Perrier. “Ice?”
He dropped ice in and poured the water then quickly flipped the steaks once more and laid them on two plates. From the oven he took two baked potatoes. He’d been a busy boy while I was speeding through my shower. How can you even bake two potatoes in less than twenty minutes?
He juggled the plates, silverware and glasses and joined me at the couch. I shifted around so the gun was easier to access but not exposed.
We was a man of little words and we ate in silence glancing at each other every once in a while and following the cautious looks with reassuring smiles, mine to hopefully convey that, mmm, this is good. His? Who knew. I imagine he was happy to have someone to spend the evening with, even if he did consider me one of the parasites. As I took my last bite, he took my plate and set it on the end table. No offer for seconds, but I was full anyway.
Thunder crashed another bolt of lightning lit up the room. I jumped and leaned into Jay like I was startled. He put his arm around me and leaned forward at the same time to touch the tablet and put the movie back on. As he leaned back it sounded like something snagged behind me. Too late.
I felt the prick of a needle in the back of my neck and before I could blink my whole body felt numb.
“Shhh…” He leaned into me, his face turning to water and growing dimmer before me. The last thing I remember was his lips gently pressed to mine.
When I came to, Levi was standing over me. He gently pulled back one of the lids of my eyes and flashed a light all the way into the back of my brain. It hurt. A lot.
“Who was he?” I asked. I already knew, but I wanted him to say it. I wanted to not feel stupid, though that wasn’t likely.
“So you two did know each other.”
He shrugged and folded his arms across his chest. He was mad. I could see it in his eyes. They stared hard at me, unwavering and unblinking, until I looked away. “What went wrong?”
I didn’t want to answer. I knew what went wrong. I knew it the minute I committed to it. “The shower.”
“The shower? No, the research. You need to do research. An internet search would have confirmed he wasn’t a celebrity.”
“Do we really need to do this?”
“No.” He took my hand and pulled me up. “You have another job.”
“A real job? Or another lesson?”
“Don’t be sore. You got a free meal. Steak dinner. I hear his steak dinners are to die for.”
“You get my point.”
“Yes, I get your point. Where’s the next job?”
“As in D.C.?”
“No. The state of.”
“Who’s the target?”
“Alamine San Lethuise.” He handed me my clothes. They had been washed and dried. Nothing like a courteous trainer. I stood up and slipped my pants on under the robe. Nothing Levi hadn’t seen before. No, I’m not sleeping with him. He took a bullet out of my ass once though. Story for another day. Or maybe not at all since that was another dumb mistake I made.
“Quite a name. Who is he?”
“She. She is a terrorist. She came over the border from Canada. She deals in small arms. Sends them out through Vancouver.”
“How does she get them over the border?”
Levi rubbed his fingers together. “Grift.”
“Am I going to see him again?”
“Jay? Not likely. We were lucky to get him. He’s not normally in the states. Can you walk yet?”
I nodded. I was disappointed. I’d like the opportunity of paying him back. His steak dinner for my chicken cacciatore. And maybe a chance to put him to sleep. Though I wouldn’t use a needle full of ketamine.
I would have asked Levi about his real name, but none of us have real names anymore. We each have a nom de guerre. Or several actually. For every job we get a new name, a new identity. On cue, Levi handed me a wallet. I flipped it open as we stepped onto the porch.
“Ruby? My name is Ruby?”
“Yes. Ruby Red Rose.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I stopped to stare out at the dark water. A boat was sitting in the void, a single light giving away its location. It was cooler out after the rain, but the same clean smell filled the air.
“You need to color your hair.”
“Let me guess. Red?”
“Purple purple or like burgundy?”
“Any other surprises?”
“You need to walk with a limp.”
“A limp. Like this?” I dragged my foot down the sidewalk.
“That is not a limp.”
I tried again.
“Better. We’ll work on it.”