At a minute past four on Monday morning, the black Jaguar eased into the Mount Vernon Plaza car park with dimmed headlights. Avery Ames killed the engine; stepped out and surveyed his surroundings.
His left pocket beeped, as though on cue. He slipped in a hand and pulled out the Smartphone. A text message, Creed had gotten notification of his arrival. A shadowy door, leading to the apartment complex, loomed before him.
He didn’t expect to see anyone; the sun remained firmly below the horizon and the abandoned street was still cloaked in darkness, most apartment windows remained pitch black. Nonetheless he moved quickly; unloading two compact sized suitcases from the car trunk.
Satisfied his arrival went unnoticed he lugged them over to the apartment’s entrance. Within seconds he was inside; his near silent footsteps his only companion as he made his way down the dimly lit corridor. There was no need to see the building manager just yet. A set of keys had been delivered to him a day prior, followed by a cryptic text.
Washington DC, Mount Vernon Plaza, Room C12.
He took the lift to the second floor. He was little more than a ghost, his seasoned eyes observing the dark stretch of corridor before him, taking in the door numbers, glancing at the door gaps for any source of light.
One door stood out, pale light spilling out on to the corridor. Most would mistake it for a night light but Avery knew better. He walked up to the door and glanced the stainless steel room number.
It seemed the mission had been compromised. Calling Creed was out of the question. Whoever was in there could be eavesdropping.
He would take care of this himself.
He dropped the two suitcases and retrieved the keys from his pocket; he opened the door and reached beneath his jacket as he stepped into the apartment.
His left hand freed his desert eagle from its holster as he turned on the light with his right.
A man sat at the coffee table; lost in thought as he stared out the window. He turned slowly towards Avery. His tall, lean body rested against the chair as he nonchalantly turned his gaze to the barrel of the gun. His mouth broke into a grin and mocking grey eyes looked up at Avery. It was a face he knew well; Bulgarian features diluted by blood inherited from the alleyways of Sicily. He had an air of the streets about him, like some modern day artful dodger.
‘You too huh?’ he said
Avery grunted, then nodded.
‘Coffee’s in the cupboard if you’re interested. Got bagels too.’
‘When did you get in?’ asked Avery.
‘Half an hour ago. Was on the field in Penn when I got a call from Creed, said the Boss wanted me here pronto.’
‘I wish he’d stop doing that.’
Sciratio shrugged. ‘It’s our job, Creed says he wants us in La Paz and we haul our asses over there. In exchange we get little perks like these’, he gestured to the flat then chucked a set of keys of the table. ‘Bike’s out back. From Uncle Sam, with love.’
Avery raised an eyebrow. ‘You rode all the way from Penn?’ he inquired.
‘Nah, Mouse was kind enough to give me a lift.’
‘She’s not coming?’
‘Nope, she’s- oops, that’ll be Creed’ said Sciratio.
He pulled a buzzing Smartphone out from his inner pocket and set it on the table. Two swift screen touches activated the Smartphone’s loudspeaker.
‘Bang on time, Creed’ he said.
‘Avery. I trust you arrived safely’ said the voice on the other end. It was mature, polite, in control.
‘I did’ said Avery.
‘You’ll be based in DC until you complete your assignment. I’m sorry about the flat, it’s the best we could do on such short notice.’
‘We appreciate it. What is our objective?’
‘For now, set up base and stand by for further instructions. The Director’s briefing will follow shortly.’
At that, the line went dead.
Avery and Sciratio stared at each other.
‘Well that clears that up’ said Sciratio. ‘What do you think it is?’
Avery shrugged. ‘We get called in a day after the Garret girl was found dead. A possible connection, but I could be wrong.’
Sciratio moved over to the window and looked out.
‘Kidnapping gone wrong you reckon?’ he said
Avery paused for a moment. ‘If it was then it was done very sloppily. It’s possible the Emiratis pissed off some business partners and they’re showing their displeasure.’
He retrieved the suitcases from the corridor and began to unlock one of them. Sciratio watched with interest as he pulled out two laptops from the padded interior. Next, Avery brought out some wires and a transmitter.
‘Set them up over there’ said Avery.
In less than 10 minutes the workstation was set up. The flat didn’t have broadband but it wasn’t needed. Avery plugged his Smartphone into a laptop and a few button clicks later was linked up to a satellite overhead via a top secret code. The system worked perfectly.
Creed called again as they had breakfast. Sciratio wiped bagel crumbs from his lips as he answered it; eyes glittering in expectation. Avery had to confess he too felt a building sense of anticipation and curiosity. This had to be very important.
‘Avery, Sciratio’ said Creed in greeting. ‘I have received the Director’s orders.’
Avery noticed Creed’s voice had lost its directness, he seemed confused.
‘Your primary objective is to monitor a target, with possible engagement.’
‘Just surveillance? This isn’t about the Garrett case?’
‘No…we’ll need you to get into the target’s flat and plant some bugs. We listen in and report our findings to the Director. The target is a suspect in the murder of four CIA agents. Exercise extreme caution, Code Viper.’
The two men stared at each other. Code Viper was reserved for the most sensitive of targets. Usually a professional target skilled in detecting bugs and plants; it required the utmost level of secrecy in installation an absolutely no visual contact. Under no circumstances must they be seen.
‘We have no jurisdiction on the Garrett case, DC is crawling with Journalists now. Don’t do anything stupid, Sciratio.’
‘I’m sending you a bio via an uplink’ said Creed, the punch returning to his voice; with what might have been a little smugness.
Avery turned to his screen as he received a notification, asking him to authorize a download. He typed in the clearance code and watched the status bar fill in seconds. Sciratio leaned to look at the file, and Avery felt him stiffen as his own eyes narrowed. Surely there was some mistake.
‘What the-?’ said Sciratio.
There, on the electronic dossier, was a snapshot of a doe-eyed; brown skinned woman. Mixed African American. Young, too young, no older than 24.
Name: Jean Wellings