Operation Armastus – Drinking The Dread.

She was free.

Kim ran her lower lip across the edge of a glass cup, drawing in the scent of Veleta grapefruit, and took a sip. Staring still at the liquid whirling in the glass, a comparison came to her: the inviting color of the wine shielding the stinging aftertaste it left on her tongue.

Just like her.

She returned the glass, checked to see if the man was approaching. Negative. She lifted her fingers, trying to trace the exact nerve or neuron that was provoking the headache.

It couldn’t have been aftereffects of the drive. Neglecting the headache, Kim picked the glass, but rather than channel it towards her mouth, she held it.

A vague image of her appeared on the glass. The white top she’d donned in the wee hours of the day were now a blend of white and brown with a touch of red. Her blood. The hair was frazzled.

Her gaze swept to her lips. The lower was becoming succulent, and she wasn’t pleased. What would the agent think of her lips, her face, and her unhygienic nature given that …

“They are perfect.”

Kim jumped, almost dropping the glass. A drop spilled onto the table. She raised her head as the man rounded the table and sat opposite her.

images

“You could be dead by now,” the agent said.

Kim sat up and placed one leg over the other, not forgetting she was donned in jeans and not a dress. “Hmm.” The notion of death didn’t appeal to her.

The agent looked at her glass, smiled, and raised his head. “Are you hungry?”

“Finally,” Kim said before she could stop herself. She made an impression of sniffing her nose, and the agent smiled again.

“I’ve been wondering when the subject would be raised.”

“As soon as we aren’t in danger zone.”

She pushed forward. “Are you, we, being pursued?”

For a moment, the agent didn’t reply. He was considering her ignominy. “What do you think?”

“I think I want to eat. MI6,”

“It’s Colt.”

“Mr. Colt, I’m not particularly interested in the game being played here. It’s a pity I’m the last human with the password, but I’ve lived the last eight years unconcerned about safety, and putting on that cloth isn’t my next choice.”

The agent leaned into his seat. Checked his watch. Then the other wrist. The door. The bald waiter taking orders from a lady. The kid seated by the window. Everything but her face. Colt signaled for the waiter.

Kim watched the exchange between the two, the waiter nodding in excitement like Colt was suggesting a solution to a quandary.

“Food is coming,” Colt said a minute later.

Her stomach gave a loud rumble. “Thank you. Thank you.”

Colt chuckled. “I hope you aren’t this flippant with food.”

Kim shook her head. “Not at all, Mr. Colt.”

“It’s Freeman. Colt Freeman.”

Kim remembered Arab had addressed him as such. The ghostly image of the dead Arab – bullet lodged in his forehead – flashed. She had thought it unnecessary then, and she still did.

Didn’t bloodshed spout more bloodshed?

“Okay, Mr. Freeman –”

“I’d prefer you use Colt.”

A thread of annoyance weaved through Kim’s reasoning. “Colt. Colt. Colt. Can you inform me of my present situation?”

Colt flattened his lips.

“I take it that’s a no.”

“Yes,” Colt said, “it’s a no.” Then he smiled.

Kim smiled too. “Seriously, Colt. Am I in crosshairs?”

Again, Colt smiled. Not as deep as the last. “It seems so. We could ask the Arab.”

Was he playing with her? She swept her gaze to the glass. The wine was inanimate. Just as she wished she could be.

“You see, Mr. Free… Colt. I’m a twenty-one old girl who loves painting and reading, and enjoys the solitude she’s been offered since she turned sixteen. I’ve lived a year with the password, and it hasn’t affected my routine for a day.”

“What does your routine dictate now?”

Kim pushed forward and drew his arm. “Dinner with Blink.”

Colt seemed confused with the reference. “Blink is a book?”

“A thriller with a love story.”

Colt glanced at the door. “What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”

“Too generic.”

Kim paused for a swallow. “You. I want to know you.” Fueled by Colt’s rolling of eyes, she explained. “Not you, as in you, but everything about you. And the mission, or whatever this is.”

Colt looked over her to the slab where the waiter had vanished. “The password is essential to the country. That’s all I’m permitted to say.”

Kim didn’t bother with asking who he reported to. “How did it lead to me?”

“You did a portrait for the man who had the password. Now, you are dispensable.”

Kim blinked. What did he mean by dispensable? The answer came to her in a confusing clarity. “Was that why we drove for two hours?”

“Yes. They wanted you dead.”

“They? Who are they?”

“The letters.”

“FBI, CIA, MI6. Say I’m wrong.”

Colt brought one leg over the other. He checked his wrist, eyes lingering at the skin before the hem of white shirt. “The less you know, the better.”

“Are you in trouble too?”

“Double trouble,” Colt said. “Trouble understates the picture.”

Kim retrieved the glass and downed the contents in a shot. Colt swept a look round the apartment, his face depicting dissatisfaction. Was he studying every intricate feature of the steakhouse? The kid by the window now fumbling with his smartphone? The crooked leg of a roundtable to their left? Did he note the track of sweat now trickling down her left ear? Was he observant of the fly buzzing in a corner of the eatery? The door swinging by? The square clock angling towards 1900 hrs…

“Hey.”

Kim jolted. Colt was fixated on her, and she had an impression he’d been watching for a minute. Kim found it odd that she was the one playing detective, not the agent.

“You get distracted easily,” Colt said.

“Hm. What else have you noticed?”

“You aren’t hungry again.”

Kim bubbled into laughter.

Colt smiled.

Beneath those smiles, Kim wondered what transpired in the mind. What message did his neuron communicate to his brain? The man Colt was also the agent Colt, wasn’t he?

“What?”

Kim parted her lips to talk, but laughter rolled out. “Are you an impostor?”

“There’s no conduct of an agent?”

“Yes.”

“You aren’t the first to note.”

Kim tipped her head down to conceal another laugh. “That says something, don’t you think?” The question hung in disturbing silence. Kim raised her head. Colt’s head was thrown back such that his chair was off the ground. His face was fixated on something outside the steakhouse.

Colt jumped off the seat, hands reaching for his pocket.

“We have to go.”

Kim found her legs unmoving. They had been found? The Arabs? Or those who sent Colt?

Colt swept past two tables before turning. He hauled up, walked backwards towards her and pulled her off the seat, his hands a firm grasp on hers. “What are you doing?”

Her head drew a blank response.

“They are here,” Colt said, dragging her gently across the seat, producing his gun. A coordinated gasp satiated the house.

Kim ducked her head to avoid the stares of onlookers.

“The Arabs?”

“No,” Colt said, bringing them to a halt by the door. Kim watched as the agent inspected the situation outside. She counted four black sedans, the type engaged by agents. BMW. Urgency and a need for safety filled her.

“Kim, you need to follow my count.”

Her name on his lips provoked a stir that was quieted by his drag of her torso. She met his glaring eyes.

“You can’t get carried away here. They won’t kill you so long they see me.” Colt directed his thumb to his left, the spot they’d packed their escape vehicle. “Run for it at the count of three.”

“Okay.”

“We’d be safe,” Colt said, intending to assure her.

She wanted to tell him not to, but she didn’t. “Are they Arabs?”

For a moment, Colt seemed unwilling to talk. When he answered, she understood his resistance.

“MI6.”

Afterword: I missed a post on Monday. Was on a five-day trip. Sincere apologies to those who noticed the absence.

This post continues from last week. I intend to make each feature a stand-alone and a link, such that it can be understood even if the reader didn’t see the last edition. Thank you for reading. And please, do share with others.

Thank you.

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