What happens, when the people you thought you could trust betray you? That’s bad enough in any relationship…but when you’re a spy, it can be deadly.
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“The role of women has always been undervalued in the spy world, always undermined in terms of recognition. Unfairly so. It’s a world that needs women.” –Helen Mirren
I felt myself flying through the air, and I was strangely calm for a moment as the reality of the situation faded away. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening. I’d wake up any moment and realize it was all a bad dream.
Then, I hit the water.
Washington DC, September13, 2018
I looked up at the lights, then closed my eyes. Still in the hospital bed, not in the water. I let out a breath and opened my eyes, then slowly sat up. A nurse hurried over, but she looked more annoyed than concerned.
“You know you’re supposed to lie down,” she said, shaking her head. “You won’t get better if you don’t get some sleep.” She paused for a moment, then asked, “Were you having a dream?”
I shook my head, not sure why I didn’t trust her. “I just forgot where I was.”
That was ironic, since I didn’t have much memory of anything. At least, not the past few weeks. All I remembered was being sent on a mission in August, then waking up in this hospital bed two days ago.
“Try to rest,” she said, turning and walking back over to the desk. I was in a ward, not a private room, which seemed rather odd. Or maybe not. The other beds were mainly empty, and no one was close enough to talk to…even if I felt like it, which I did not.
I lied back on the pillows and closed my eyes. Maybe, if I really concentrated, I would remember something. Anything. Because if I didn’t, they’d never send me on another mission. Not only would I have wasted months of training, but deep down, I had the feeling that it was important for me to go back. I just wasn’t sure why.
As much as I wanted to remember, a small part of me didn’t. I could sense it just before I fell asleep. There was something dangerous about remembering and that’s what bothered me the most. I’d never turned away from danger and now, my mind was doing it for me.
I exhaled in frustration and waited for sleep. Maybe, my dreams would give me some clue I couldn’t remember, when I was awake.
His voice was what I noticed first. It was deep and rather sexy with a slight accent I couldn’t place. He was talking to a shop owner I’d gone to meet in Old Town. I was early, and the shop owner was trying to convince the man to buy something.
“I don’t think it’s quite my style,” the man said in that deep voice. “Maybe you have something more…urbane?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the shop owner replied. “This is the most sophisticated jacket I carry.”
The man looked over and saw me as I pretended to browse through the racks of dresses. “What do you think?” he asked. “Is it my style?”
I smiled and raised an eyebrow. “It’s very nice,” I replied.
The man laughed. “Very well, I will take it,” he told the man. “Can you have it delivered to my hotel? I’m staying at the Grande Plaza.”
The shop owner nodded. “I’ll send it right over,” he replied, running the man’s card. “Can I get you anything else?” he added, hopefully.
The man glanced back over at me and smiled. “I think that’s enough for today.”
I watched him take his card, turn and walk out of the shop. He was handsome in that dark, sultry way that I usually avoided. Too much trouble, I’d realized after one particularly bad breakup.
As I walked over to the shop owner, I picked up some emerald earrings lying on the counter. They stones were small, and I had my doubts if they were even authentic. “How much for these lovely sapphires?” I asked
“Those are emeralds,” the man replied. “I must need more light over my counter.”
“Not at all,” I said. “I’m not wearing my glasses today. Unfortunately, I lost them by the pool yesterday.”
The man nodded. “Come with me,” he said quietly, leading me to the back of the store.
I woke up with a start. It had seemed so real. The man, the shop owner, the earrings…even the message. I’d done that before at a covert meeting with an asset, but not with those particular words. At least, not that I remembered. I tried to concentrate on the image of the man, which was already fading, but the voice remained. I lied back down. Maybe if I concentrated on that voice, I’d remember more.
After a long night of strange dreams only half remembered, all I could recall the next morning was a cabin in the mountains and a snowstorm. That was definitely a dream. It didn’t snow on the Black Sea coast, which is where I’d been sent on my mission.
A little later, I was helped out of bed for another walk down the halls. This seemed like a very old hospital, which made me wonder if it was some government facility that we kept off the books.
“If you keep doing this well, you might be leaving soon,” a new nurse told me. She was younger than the last and seemed friendlier, but I still didn’t know if I could trust her.
“Thank you,” I replied with a small smile. “I want to be a good patient.”
“I’m sure you do,” the nurse said. “Why don’t we try going to the dining room for breakfast today?”
I followed her down another hall and into a large room with several tables scattered around. Most of them had three or four chairs pulled up to them, I noticed as she led me over to one by the windows.
“Why don’t you sit down here,” she suggested. “Someone will be over to take your order in a minute.”
I nodded absent-mindedly, while looking out the window. We seemed to be on the second floor, but all I could see outside were trees and what looked like the edge of a cement patio. Beyond that was another wing of what looked like a hospital after all, but definitely an older one.
“How are you feeling today?” I heard a man say. Expecting to see another nurse, or maybe a doctor, I was surprised to see the suit. He’d come sooner than I expected.
“I’m feeling quite well,” I replied, forcing a smile. I wanted to ask if I was being released, but it was always better to wait for the suit to speak first.
“They sent me over to ask if you’re ready to answer a few more questions,” he said with a smile that didn’t carry to his eyes.
“Of course,” I replied. As the orderly walked up, I added, “Would you like some coffee?”
The suit nodded, and we sat and drank coffee for a moment. “Are you hungry?” he asked.
“Not really,” I lied. “What would you like to know?”
I hated this cat and mouse game. It was so unnecessary, but it seemed to be something the brass loved to do in our agency. We sat there, sipping coffee, each of us was trying to get a read on the other.
“Why don’t you tell me about Romania,” he said.
“I remember being sent on the mission,” I began for the third time in as many days. “When I got to my hotel, there was a message from a contact to meet in the bar. I remember going down in the elevator, ordering a drink and waiting.”
“Did you meet the contact?” the man asked.
“I don’t remember,” I replied.
“Do you know if it was a man or woman?” he continued.
I shook my head. “The message said to meet in the bar to find out more about my assignment. It wasn’t signed.” I paused. “That’s pretty standard on these types of missions.”
The man’s eyes narrowed. “I know what’s standard. Please, just answer the questions.”
I forced myself to relax as I waited for him to continue. After a moment, he asked, “Do you really expect us to believe this ridiculous story?”
I didn’t say anything. After a moment, he repeated the question more loudly. “Do you really expect us to believe this ridiculous story?”
As a few nurses glanced over, I looked into the suit’s eyes and said, “I don’t know what happened. I wish I did. I’ve spent the past few days thinking of nothing else, but I don’t remember anything after ordering the drink except sitting there. That’s it. Then, I woke up in this…hospital?”
“Facility,” the man replied, shrugging. “It’s not one of our nicest, but it is discreet.”
“Do you think I can see Him?” I asked. He knew what I meant. “Him was what we called the man, who ran our department.
“Mr. Smith is away at the moment,” the suit replied. “I think you can do the most good by staying here and trying to remember something else. If we had more information, we might be able to put together what happened.”
I didn’t want to tell him any more details, but I also didn’t want to spend another day in this place.
“There’s one thing that might be important,” I said, hesitantly. “It seems more like a dream than a memory, but did you find me in the water?”
The man looked interested, for the first time. “We didn’t find you,” he replied. “You were brought in by some local fisherman, who pulled you out of the water off the coast of Constanta. Apparently, you were saying something about a yacht, and they assumed you’d fallen off one.” He smiled for a moment. “Yet another drunken tourist is the phrase I believed they used. Of course, I wasn’t there. Just what it said in your file.”
I nodded. “At least, that explains the dream.”
“Did you dream anything else?” he asked. “Any detail might be helpful.”
I looked down at my hands and pretended to think about it. Finally, I shook my head. “I’m sorry. Nothing but falling in the water…then I wake up.”
He nodded. “If you think of anything else, let us know right away.” He waved the nurse over. “Bring Miss Storm something to eat. She’ll be leaving this afternoon.”
The nurse smiled and left to get the food. “Thank you,” I said, meaning it.
He glanced around. “I wouldn’t want to stay here either,” he admitted. Standing up, he turned and walked out of the room. I waited to see if he glanced back, but he didn’t. Either he was very well trained, or he believed me.
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