There was no escape.
Not in the next minute, not in the next five minutes, not in the next score minutes, not in the next half hour. Maybe not ever, Kim thought.
She stood behind the agent she now thought of as Colt, watched as he faced the steakhouse to address the diners.
“I request you all to calm,” Colt said.
For a passing moment, no one said a word. Then, the bald waiter spoke. “What’s going on?”
“Everything is under control,” Colt replied, taking a backward step.
A boy seated aloof by the window lit up. His gaze was fixed on something behind Colt. Kim knew then that ‘they’ were at the steakhouse. The boy’s declaration of “suits” only affirmed her fears.
Colt looked over his shoulders, then faced her. “We have to move.”
Pounding footsteps in the house distracted Kim. A tank of a man, with heavy brogues, was making his way past the slab that separated the dining space from the work section, nose flared. Kim’s initial response was Arab. She inspected the man’s face. He didn’t have the appearance – nor charisma – of a Middle East citizen.
Colt turned to face him. “Sir, everything is under control.”
“Tell that to the customers,” Tank retorted.
Three sedans formed a demi semicircle in front of the steakhouse.
“I want to speak with the owner.”
“He’s standing right in your front.”
Colt leaned into Tank. Kim read his lips. “The men outside are dangerously responsible. They need a device I have. There’s no harm coming against you or your enterprise.” Colt looked in her direction. “We are making an exit, and we need your help.”
“What do you want me to do?”
Tank backed up, face drawn. “I don’t want any problem with the co…”
“Just do as I said.”
Kim started to ask what was going on when someone spoke from outside.
Colt did not turn.
The man was dressed in black slacks. His tie was in a knot over tight white shirt, all concealed under a fitted black suit. Behind him, some just making their exit from the car, six other agents made a barricade between the leader and the sedans.
The steakhouse seemed to have received an outpouring of quiet upon the man’s call. Kim guessed some were content with a “suits” movie playing, others overcome with unknown fear.
Colt looked outwards.
The man, Mason, smiled, a wide grin. “It shouldn’t have come to this, Colt.”
“What do you want?”
“You disobeyed orders.”
“I do not need be reminded of my transgressions.”
Mason strut an inch. He was searching for Kim. His face took a pause when he fell on her. “Come out with arms forward, and we might rethink this.”
Colt faced her. “Not a step.”
“Kim.” She lifted her eyes from Mason. “He’s gone rogue. His life, as well as yours, is in danger.”
A joke, Kim reasoned. “What’s he saying?”
“How long do we have to be caged?”
Colt, ignoring her, turned at the irate customer. The woman, who had her lips pouted before the turn, recoiled like she’d stumbled into the path of dead-man-walking.
Mason took a pace forward. The six prototypes did the same.
“Kim, be informed that you are now a federal asset. Any attempt on your part to refuse capture would be deemed a crime, granting us permission to take necessary action. Do not listen to Colt. He’s rogue. I repeat, do not listen to Colt.”
Colt was holding Mason’s gaze, the laugh lines around his brow shrinking with each heartbeat. His mind, Kim figured, flitted between the customers, the hostage, and the agents.
“Order your men to retreat, Mason, and maybe we’d talk.”
“Like we did two years ago?”
Colt flinched. Twin nerves popped up in his neck region. His fingers clenched the butt of his pistol, a Beretta U22, eyes darting left to right, from agent one to six, and resting on Mason. She reasoned his beat had multiplied in the seconds it took for Mason’s accusation to register.
The owner manufactured, his reflection on the glass door panicky.
A drip of sweat fell on Colt’s suit. Colt acknowledged Tank with a nod.
“We move now.”
“Stay on my watch.”
He held the glass door wide enough for two to pass, but made the first move. Colt stopped three paces beyond the door. Kim did the same, one foot behind the agent.
Her mind raced a mile. What was her business here? True, she was the last human with the password, but that was before Colt found, and ultimately, rescued her. She didn’t know Colt more than four hours. Mason was no acquaintance. The look on the prototypes’ faces stated they wanted her dead.
Yet, she was here, the only female being whipped by cold California wind. She was committing the hour into Colt’s hand.
He saved you.
That held no guarantee that he wouldn’t turn the gun on her were it required.
“Let the girl come forward,” Mason said.
The girl. How thoughtful of you, Mason.
One of the prototypes spoke into his earpiece. He listened for a minute, interrupted once, and spoke to Mason.
Mason showed no reaction to the message.
“Colt, this is America. We don’t want to make a fuss. Let’s resolve this at home.”
What did Mason mean by home? It came to her. MI6 was British. Federal trespassing. A smile played across her lips, shortened by a hand suddenly reaching for her neck.
The realization bit into her like salve to wound. Just when had she considered Colt’s betrayal?
The prototypes cocked their guns, filling an automated stance.
Mason did as well. “You don’t want to do that.”
Kim searched out Colt’s face with a free hand. He held her tight, taking a step forward.
“Play along,” Colt said.
Two scenarios played in her mind. He was using her as shield, or he had an alternate plan.
Colt took two sideward steps, dragging her, closing up space.
“Colt, don’t make me do what I’d regret.”
“You can’t kill her, Mason. She’s the one you want.”
They moved another step. His grip on her neck tightened. Kim didn’t play along, hitting him with her elbow.
If the hit had been a success, Colt didn’t show it.
A prototype spoke furiously, in low tones, breath rasp following each sentence, accent slightly tipped towards American.
Eyes not leaving them, Mason barked, “Lower the guns.”
The guns retreated in a galvanic fashion. Mason’s didn’t.
“Colt, don’t make the mistake you did then.”
“Shut up, Mason. Not a word from you again.”
He dragged her sideward, then forward, alternating the routine that for a moment, Kim was disoriented. Their shadows faded, and she realized they’d left the steakhouse and were now in a vacant land just beside it, the only illumination being from headlamps of idle cars and the streetlight.
“Quiet,” Colt ordered.
Kim picked Mason feet away, gun forward, each step the leader made tentative, like he feared Colt would spark if he treaded faster.
Sirens, like screeching crickets, wafted into the tense silence.
“Finally,” Colt said.
“Touché, Colt,” Mason said, pulling to a stop.
Kim choked and Colt released his grip long enough for her to take a lungful.
“We are here,” he said.
She knew by here, he meant the BMW they’d ridden in when making their way to the steakhouse. How did MI6 find them out?
Colt stopped. Kim stopped watching Mason. They’d left the safety of city lights. Colt fumbled with the BMW’s lock, then shoved her in.
He walked backwards past the car’s nose, gun not unset for a nanosecond.
The prototypes were now in the cars, with Mason alone still watching.
Colt arrived at the driver’s seat, placed the pistol on the dashboard and started the car.
“What were you doing out there?”
He drew the cuffs of his shirt up, removed a band with blue lights glistening, and placed it beside the pistol.
Without watching, Colt made a swift turn, the car nosed forward. Kim slammed against the door.
She started to make a protest when lights from three BMW’s blinded her. A chase.
“I advise you use the belt,” Colt said. “The ride’s about to get rough.”
Afterword: This is the third instalment of ‘Operation Armastus’. This journey is as strange to you as it is to me. You can find the previous two instalments on this blog. Thank you for reading Colt and Kim’s story.