Answers /S2


Outside, the blizzard continued to rage, the steady tapping of the ice storm touching at the window, threatening to break the uneasy silence that had fallen in the room. She looked at him, her lips thin, and as she folded her hands on the table, a long strand of hair fell out of the spot behind her ears, falling beside her face, the very tip of it lingering on the corner of her lip as she tried to figure out how to respond.

“You said you wanted answers, what did she say next?” The shadow prodded.

He reached across the table, and he touched the edge of her hand, looking into her eyes. His ribs ached, his eye swollen, his back feeling like it was a porcelain plate, cracked and fractured and waiting for the slightest bit of pressure before it would collapse completely. She looked at his hand for a long second, and she loosened her own, her fingertip touching his index finger, almost playing with it. For a long moment, he looked at her and she just looked back at him, two people who had been such different things not so long ago, two different people who had been dead to the world and alive in each others arms.

“The codes Smith…”

He didn’t know what he wanted anymore. Did he love Linny? Did he love Lacey? Was Lacey even the same anymore? Even as the questions formed in his head, he knew the answers. Yes, No, No. Even as he blinked, with one hand in Lacey’s fingers, sitting at a table in the frigid cold, he knew that he would always dwell in the sunshine of the Hotel DeReece, his hand on Linny’s neck, feeling nothing as the sun warmed his broken body.

It was then that Lacey opened her mouth, and her voice began to break. And life would never be the same again.

“What did she say Smith? What did Lacey say that day at the CCH?” The shadow grabbed his shoulders, shaking him.

“I did it.” Lacey said, her lips immediately folding in, caving into her mouth as if she was trying to hold the words in, the words that she had already said. Words that fell like bombs on his mind, shattering him into a million pieces. Before he even knew what he was doing, he was on his feet, and he lifted the desk clear of the ground, throwing it against the wall. Her reflexes kicked in, pushing against the ground, and the desk chair swiveled across the floor, and as she got clear of the desk, she pulled her revolver out of her holster and aimed down the sight at him. Before she could even get a bead on his chest, he was already in her face, lifting her out of the chair and slamming her against the wall, the gun going limp in her hand and falling to the floor with a loud clatter. And for a long second, she looked into his eyes, and felt his hand on her jaw and the rage in his eyes, and remembered a night long ago. A night where the blizzard shook the curtains, a night where the candles flickered and the…

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN YOU DID IT?” He screamed at her, the hand around her jaw tightening with every word.

She squirmed for a second, feeling the stinging slap of her back hitting the wall subsiding, and she said haltingly, “We had information…”

“INFORMATION? WHAT FUCKING INFORMATION LACEY? WHAT FUCKING INFORMATION DID YOU HAVE?” His voice went even higher, and for the first time, she was legitimately afraid of him.

“We had information that Hamas -”

“HAMAS? FUCKING HAMAS? ARE YOU FUCKING BULLSHITTING ME?” He tightened her grip on her jaw more, this time starting to pain her with the force of his grip.

She felt the rage pouring out of him, and the grip on her jaw, and she started to feel the familiar passion growing in her as well. “We thought Hamas had one of it’s leaders -”

“ARGH, AT HOTEL DE-FUCKING-REECE?”

“-AND SO WE ATTACKED.” Lacey said, overpowering his own rage with her own. He looked at her for a second, as if he was confused by her anger as well, and this emboldened her to say something. Something that she would regret for a long, long time. “If you hadn’t been there with that BITCH, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE FUCKING BEEN DANGER CLOSE.”

He stared at her, and in that long pause after her words, it sounded like a flash grenade had gone off in the office. A loud high pitched whine, and then the sudden boom of the detonation. He reared back, picking her clean off the floor by her shirt, and for a split second, she wondered what he would do. She didn’t intend to find out. With a quick movement, she raised her heeled boots, kicking him in the face and watching as he fell back onto the floor, his head hitting the wall as he fell into the corner, and letting her body drop onto the floor beside the cabinet. He struggled for a second, astonished by her quick movements and feeling the injuries from the Hotel DeReece bothering him for a quick instant, and then overpowering them to grab his crutches from the spot beside him, where they had fallen. The wood formed an instant grip with his hands, and he swung it at her, watching as it spiraled through the air only to land with a solid bang against the metal cabinet as she ducked her head, pulling a knife out of her boots. Before he even knew what was happening, she was on him, the knife gleaming wickedly in the dimly lit room. She grabbed him by his leg, pulling him away from the wall, and then setting on him with the knife, her knees on either side of him and her hand grasping his throat firmly, the dagger in the air above her. The papers from the fallen desk were all around his head now, lay in a circle around their bodies, the occasional paper still flitting to the ground from the desks.

He swallowed, and the lights began to flicker ominously, heralding the ever worse condition of the weather outside. Her hair was tousled now, the unstraightened strands framing her face, and his hands instinctively moved. But what surprised him the most, wasn’t the fact that his hands had moved instinctively – it was where they had moved to. One hand had moved to either side of her legs, grasping the outside of her thighs and his fingertips traced the seam of her jeans up to the side of her hip, where her pocket was. She froze, feeling his fingertips at her hip, and as her hand repositioned on the hilt of the dagger, she felt one of his fingers – his ring finger, she was sure – slowly slip under her jacket, under her shirt, to touch the bare skin that ran alongside the top of her jeans. Her breath caught in her chest, and her eyes closed for a second, and all she could remember was the feel of his lips on her bare neck, trickling down to her chest, and she could have sworn that the memories were happening even as she thought…

He didn’t know what he was doing, but he just knew that he had to. Even as a part of him still lay there in the hotel, he needed her. He didn’t know why, but he yearned for her in a way that he had never yearned for anybody, not even for Linny. She wrapped her arms around him, and he paused for a second, trying to understand how he had gone from laying on the ground to sitting upright, his lips on her neck. The knife lay on the ground, forgotten in their sudden passion, and she moved her hands up to his head, her hands playing with his hair as his lips trickled downwards, much like they did that night, so many years ago.

Somewhere in Severnyy, the shadows held their silence, terrified of disturbing his memory and losing him again.

As she shifted into a more comfortable position on his lap, he moved to sit against the wall, and he suddenly picked up the dagger from the ground, and he watched as her face flashed sudden alarm in the flickering light above their heads. He slowly slipped it under her jacket, smiling as he watched her shiver at the feel of the cold blade on her skin, her eyes widening, pleading him, praying that he didn’t have bad intentions with it, trusting that he didn’t. He slowly bent forward, kissing her, feeling her smile beneath the force of his lips and then pausing to look her dead in the eyes. She looked back at him quizzically, and he said, “That was for the night in California.” She cocked her head to the smile and giggled, kissing him again and feeling his muscles rippling beneath her hand, feeling his lips move down to the spot behind her jaw where she loved so much.

He slipped his hand into the back of her jacket, feeling the curve of her back and the small dimples that were so characteristic of the women that he loved, and for just a second, his concentration slipped, and he saw that red light waving lazily in the concrete room, and the shadows pacing anxiously, waiting for him to arrive at the conclusion that they wanted him to. But her lips found his chest, and he was gone before a second thought.

His hands found hers, and their fingers entwined with her own, and he closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of her body pressing against him. A familiar warmth. The warmth of the sun, the warmth of the Hotel DeReece.

Linny kissed his abdomen, working her way downwards to his hips, pulling off the last remaining bits of clothing that he had on, then moving back upwards to his neck. Her legs positioned on either side of him, he pushed himself backwards until his back was flat against the headboard. At the same time, another memory pushed, breaking into his subconsciousness at the same time, and suddenly he was there too, the candles wavering, blowing with every sudden bang that the blizzard caused against the window, her restless body pushing against him and clawing at his skin as her eyes looked at him with a frenzied mixture of passion and craving. He growled, and Linny’s smile flashed in front of his eyes. He growled louder, feeling Linny’s lips on his shoulder, and he felt Lacey’s familiar touch, her hands in his hair.

In the concrete room, with the shadows, Smith sat. And he remembered everything.

He leaned Linny back, and Lacey’s hair fell, to scratch at the back of his hand, her tousled hair shining in the light of the Hotel DeReece. Her back arched in the sunlight, and when she came forward, Linny’s mouth met him, nipping and biting at his lips as the blizzard raged outside. The memories began to pour together, feeling them all converge into one. As he slowly slipped down the headboard at the Hotel DeReece, he felt the papers of the CCH under his legs, and heard the blizzard at the…where were they, the night of the candles?

“The cottage Smith. You were at the cottage with Lacey. The night when you both were presumed dead, the night where they left you two to die. The night you saw the codes.” The shadow whispered in his ear, and he heard Lacey’s voice, her breath warming and her lips soft against his face. His heartbeat boomed like a loud drum, vibrating against his chest and pressing against Linny’s lips.

The cottage. He slid down from the headboard, and suddenly turned over, flipping her on her back and watching her surprised face beneath his arms. He bent down to kiss her, and both Linny and Lacey’s fingers grasped at his back, their fingers clawing at his skin, and he acquiesced, feeling the sudden intake of breath as they melded together. Lacey moaned, and Linny sighed, and as he kissed her lips, she moved against him, settling into a steady rhythm as the blizzard poured more and more snow in on them, and shook the windows and blew out the candles, as the sun from the Hotel DeReece warmed them in it’s bathing glow, and the sound of the beach, the waves crashing against the shore filled their ears. He reached for Linny’s hands, and Lacey’s fingers met his, and in that second, that momentary lapse, he looked up and away from her, to her right.

They were in the CCH, and there was a paper there, detailing Lacey’s death. Explosion…

He pushed against her, feeling her moan against his lips and feeling her body start to shudder underneath him, her hands wrapping tighter as his concentration began to lapse even more. Lacey’s death…?

They were in the Hotel DeReece, and there was a paper there, detailing the local landmarks, with Linny’s bra underneath it.

He pushed against her, feeling her moan against his lips and feeling her body start to shudder underneath him, her hands wrapping tighter as his concentration began to lapse even more. Where was his gun…?

They were in the cottage, and there was a paper there…

His voice ragged, he felt tears coming down his face as he remembered Lacey pressed against him, the red light bathing him in it’s feverish glow. “The numbers…”

“Yes Smith. The numbers, what do they say? Smith? SMITH, talk to me, what do the numbers say? Remember Smith, what are the numbers?” The shadows swirled around him, whispering in his ears.

Her eyes opened, finding his concentration lapsing, her heartbeat racing against his own. He looked back at her, feeling her begin to spasm around him, as the candles began to blow out one by one. She closed her eyes again, and he saw the bedsheets bunch up in her hands, as she balled her fists and cried out. He looked back over at the paper again, the numbers there drawing his attention.

13.

One of the candles blew out, five candles left, wavering in the invisible breeze that shook the red light above his head in the concrete room, where the shadows smiled and began to write.

“Lacey…” He whispered, and this time, it wasn’t even him. He didn’t know how, but he wasn’t talking anymore. The number 13 wavered in front of his vision, red against black, on the headboard, on her skin, on the walls of the concrete room, on the shadows.

23.

“I love you, Lacey…” He whispered, his voice echoing in his own head. His voice sounded distorted, like someone was playing it back to him on a warped disc.

13.

She clutched at him, and two more candles were gone. Three left. Why couldn’t he…why couldn’t he remember? What was he forgetting? His brain kept jumping back, back to the Hotel DeReece, back to the CCH. Why did…didn’t understand…Iraq…why did…what happened in Iraq? He looked at Lacey, writhing underneath him, and he knew that in the memory, he was right there with her, and he knew that…oh god, what…

25.

Two candles left.

“LACEY!” He screamed, his voice reverberating in the damp room, the red light flickering on and off, and the his brain began to feel as if it was on fire. She called his own name back at him – not Smith.

His real name.

And he remembered.

As she shuddered, as she shook, as the blizzard raged outside and he looked into her eyes, as she collapsed under him and as he fell to the side, as he fell, the candle blew out. Right before he dropped, right before she wrapped her legs around him and sighed contentedly, right before she whispered “I love you…”

“I REMEMBER. ARGH, LACEY.”

He closed his eyes, and suddenly, his brain went quiet, except for the intense pain that felt like exploding his head. He looked up, and he saw Linny’s body. Linny’s body, in the Hotel DeReece, the destruction, the carnage. And he saw the last number, on her skin, like a tattoo. 72.

72.

72.

Part II: Nuketown. 

His head was still on fire, but at least his hands were free now. The shadows in the room had sent the codes onto the military – the president had stopped the standoff and sent spec ops in, and they were expecting the nuke threat to end at any minute now. The shadows spoke, one with a clipped British accent, the other with a southern American drawl – Allied agents. “I’m sorry Smith, we had to do what we had to do,” one of the agents said. “If you were in our place, you would have done the same.” The Brit looked over at him, waiting for him to speak.

Smith rubbed his hands where the buckles had rubbed them raw, and looked at them.

“Answers.”

They looked at each other and nodded, the American taking a seat in the same spot where Smith had been sitting the whole time, looking leisurely and relaxed, even as the shock mechanisms bumped against his own head.

“Lacey was a double agent, working for us and the Koreans. At first, she was feeding information about us to them – but when she realized what they were planning, she switched sides permanently. Unknownst to them, she retrieved vital passcodes to the main system defense on the North Korean nuclear program – they knew she had something of value though, so they sent a hit squad after her. The hit squad men found her, and they were about to kill her, when one of the squad captains decided that he was a little too horny for that. Stupid fuck decided to rape her. You barged in in the nick of time, putting a knife inbetween his eyes – at least, that’s what the report says.”

Smith looked at him, taking this all in. “What the report says?”

“Well, the report says that all the men in the camp had a shotgun blast to the body and a single 9 mm bullet to the side of the head, or a double shotgun wound. Your own signature double tap. But the poor sap that was going to rape Lacey…well, he was found hanging from a roof not far from your position. With two knives sticking out of his crotch. Because, you know, apparently one wasn’t enough.”

Smith cocked his head to the side, still rubbing his arms. His fucking head…”So what? That’s not uncalled for.”

The Brit spoke up, with a bit of amusement to the accent as his voice echoed in the small room. “Well…found hanging by his own intestine.”

Smith looked at the American, who wiggled his eyebrows. “Nothing like brutal and graphic murder to put the rose in a girl’s cheeks, huh Smith?”

Smith just stared back at him, unimpressed by the man’s lack of restraint. The American rolled his eyes and looked at the Brit, who continued the story.

“You spent the night with Lacey. That was the night that you saw the codes, and then after that, you and Lacey had a relationship for a long while. However, you met Linny not too long afterwards, and that’s when things started to get fucked up for you.

You see, Lacey might have been a double officer, but Linny wasn’t. She was a North Korean agent, through and through, and you fell hard for her.”

Smith shook his head, backing away, his mind reeling. Why did his head hurt so much? 13…23…72…

“You’re probably seeing those numbers right now, aren’t you Smith?” The American said softly.

Smith looked at him, uncomprehending. “How did you…”

The Brit cleared his throat. “They brainwashed you. Linny was an agent for them, she seduced you and brought you back to the Hotel DeReece. Which is located…”

Smith closed his eyes, seeing her broken body, laying in the sunlight, her neck at a snapped angle and the sunlight illuminating her curves. Cuba.

“Cuba. A small part of Cuba, remote area, closed off to all but a few.” Smith shuddered to think. How had he not known?

The Brit came over to him, and showed him the blueprints of the hotel, with red circles on it. Where the charges had been set. He spoke again, his voice sad. “I know that Lacey told you that she did it Smith.”

But that was forgiven wasn’t it? Linny was the one who wanted him dead, he knew that now. He knew it…Lacey was the one he wanted, Lacey was the one that he really loved…Now that Linny was out of the picture, now that she was gone…

“Lacey didn’t do this Smith. You did.”

He looked at the Brit, not understanding. The Brit looked over at the American, who lost some of his facetious nature and looked somewhat ashamed. “Smith, they were brainwashing you at the Hotel DeReece. They were trying to program you to be an assassin for them, a person that could get behind our lines at any time, to anyone of national importance, and murder without ever being caught. You were our best killer, and having you brainwashed would be possibly one of the worst things to ever happen to America. We kidnapped you, and we realized that your brainwashing wasn’t fixed yet – that you were still moldable. So we programmed you to go back and destroy the hotel – sending a squad in would have attracted too much attention. The Hotel DeReece wasn’t just being used to brainwash you – it was for a number of agents, from all across the world. Interpol, RCMP, FBI, CIA, Mossad, you were the opportunity to crush the goddamned place without setting off an international incident. You were supposed to kill Linny, and then blow the place – but for some reason, you misfired. You set the charges to blow too early.”

Smith’s back hit the wall of concrete, and his legs slowly started to give out from underneath him, and he slowly sat on the floor, feeling the room spin around him. “But, Lacey…”

“Lacey thought that she had done it – she had given the order, in order to save your life. She saw the report saying that you were alive, and in the Hotel DeReece, she ordered a squad in for extraction and destruction – she was overridden without her knowledge by her superiors. She never knew that it was you who blew the place and nearly fucking killed yourself. She loved you, she would have taken a bullet between the eyes for you. I’ve never seen such a sacrifice…”

Smith looked at the agents, as they watched him somberly. The elated mood at having achieved their goal was gone now, replaced by a bitter sense of sadness. “What…what do you mean sacrifice?” Smith said, unsure if he wanted to know what they were about to say to him.

“She left, Smith. She turned and walked away from it all – she was so distraught at having nearly killed you, that she completely went off the radar. We recently sent a team to bring her in by force – they were found with single shotgun blasts and a 9mm in the head, or -”

“or a double shotgun blast. Double tap. My signature.” Smith closed his eyes, his head moving backwards, touching the cold wall.

“Yeah.” The American said, and for a second they all sat quietly there, lost in their own thoughts. Smith spoke up again, his voice cracking midway through, tears threatening to break. He just wanted this to be over, he wanted Lacey again. “I want out too. I just…i want to find her, make things right.”

The Brit shot a sideways glance at the American, who smiled for a fraction of an instant. “We had a feeling you’d want that. I have Lacey’s contact number, i’ve been saving it for you. She’ll come back to meet you, but i’m only giving it to you on one condition,” he said, standing up and walking over to where Smith sat on the floor, looking up at him. “You need to call her, and tell her to come back for one more mission.”

Smith looked at him, confused.

The Brit spoke up from behind him, his voice low and slightly menacing. “They rebuilt the hotel. We need you to go back there, tomorrow is the opening day. Blow the fucking place sky high, and this time, we’ll give you the explosives. You know where they go, just follow your instinct. The explosives we give you, they’ll make sure that the job is done perfectly, and they’ll make sure that you never have to see us again.”

Smith looked up at them, and slowly rose to his feet, an odd expression on his face. They waited for him to blow up, to tell them to go fuck themselves, they waited for his anger to rear it’s head. He opened his mouth, and the American visibly flinched. “When do we leave?”

Part III: The debt that all men pay.

The steady beat of the helicopter blades had driven him into a sweet slumber, dreaming of Lacey’s lips, her hair and her voice whispering in his ears. The Brit had called her, and told her that he had been brainwashed – but that his brainwashing was broken, and that he needed to see her. He told Smith right before they got on the helicopter, that she hadn’t wanted to come, but that she would do it for him – she would meet him at the hotel in room 72, at 11 o clock. He would set the charges before she got there, and then the helicopter would be waiting for extraction at a point three clicks north of the hotel – they’d be in the air before the detonation went off. After that, Smith and Lacey were free to do what they wanted to.

As he woke up, he looked out the window, and saw rows of lights. It was nighttime, and as he looked in front of him, the American sat with a laptop on his lap, and his legs crossed. Upon seeing that he had awoken, he peered at him with amused eyes, the laugh lines crinkling on his face as he said “morning, sunshine.” The Brit, sitting beside him, lightly smacked him on the arm, and then reached over and took the laptop, turning it around so that the screen was pointed at Smith. The display read “8:23”, so Smith reclined in his seat as the helicopter slowly started to touch down, and he looked down, seeing the car waiting to take him to the hotel. Finally…Lacey.

As they got out of the helicopter, the American handed him a bag. “These are the charges. Good luck, and god speed Smith.”

The Brit sat on the hood of the car, and as Smith got behind the wheel, he moved, stopping Smith from closing the car door. He looked somber, and he looked seriously perturbed about something. He opened his mouth, and then looked over at the American, pausing for a second. Smith followed his eyes over to the American, who looked at them both and then turned away, shaking his head and looking out at the ocean spray in the dark night, at a boat that was bobbing in the sea, the lights dancing up and down as the boat was rocked from side to side. Somewhere in the near distance, a spanish song played, and he heard a woman’s laughter, and the loud voice of a man speaking and laughing. The Brit stared at the American for a second longer, and then just shook his head as well. He simply tapped the hood of the car, and closed the car door, and said “Godspeed Smith.”

As Smith sped off into the darkening night towards the Hotel DeReece, the Brit came to stand by the American, right beside the helicopter. The pilot had already gotten out, told to be back by sunrise, and the Brit leaned against the chopper, and watched as the American smoked his cigarette. Without any prompting, the Brit looked out into the ocean and said “We’re going to go to hell for this.”

The American just shook his head. “No,” he said in his southern drawl, “I’m going to hell for everything else that i’ve done. This is just frosting on the cake for me.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. A life of murder, a life of lies. A life that they would have to answer for someday. But that day wasn’t today. The American took his cigarette and threw it on the ground, stepping on it, grinding his foot into it for a fraction longer than was necessary. And in that moment, as the American’s hair swayed in the wind and his eyes settled into an uncaring fashion that made him seem dead to the world, the Brit got a sudden image of Pilate washing his hands of Jesus’s blood, sealing his fate.

Sometimes, he looked in the mirror and saw the same image.

In the helicopter, the laptop flashed, and the window that had the time emblazoned on it closed, some technical glitch. And underneath, lay the military files on Lacey. Her real name, her date of birth, her weight, her military history, everything. Including her date of death. And beside the laptop, on the seat beside where the Brit had been sitting, lay a newspaper clipping, one that Smith had ignored completely. The headline said, “HOTEL DEREECE, GRAND OPENING.”

********************

As Smith rolled towards the Hotel, he sang a song that he thought he had forgotten long ago, the words low in the dark and warm summer night.

Made damn sure that Pilate, washed his hands, and sealed his fate…pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…but what’s puzzling you, is the nature of my game.

As he pulled up to the curb, the song continued to play in his head, a backdrop of the night to come. He couldn’t wait to see Lacey. He remembered too much now though, he remembered pushing her against the wall, he remembered his hand on her jaw…the things he had done for a woman that didn’t even want him alive. A woman that was just using him, a woman that tried to get him to kill his own countrymen…his blood burned with the thought. Unbidden, the image of her body laying in the sunlight of the old Hotel DeReece sprang to his mind, and he pushed it away with anger, refusing to let it bother him. She was a mistake. A mistake that he would never get the opportunity to make again. The bitch was dead.

A couple hundred clicks north of his position, a F-22 Raptor soared over Florida, on it’s way to his position. Captain Jamie DeSouza was instructed to drop his payload on a new hotel in Cuba, where an alleged leader of Hamas was supposed to be meeting with the heads of a terrorist cell to make plans for an attack on a yet unspecified place. The Allied forces weren’t about to find out the hard way. DeSouza clicked on the communicator, speaking to two men in Cuba heading towards the Hotel DeReece themselves. “ETA 10 minutes to target.”

The Brit picked up the communicator, and said “Acknowledged, be aware we are danger close.”

“Danger close confirmed.”

***********************

Smith sat in the basement, hunched over the explosives. The timer read 12:00, so he’d have at least an hour to get back to the helicopter where the agents waited for him after he met Lacey. The support columns of the building lay in front of him, and he slowly walked around, getting his feel for the area. Truth be told, he could not remember this place at all – but the agents had told him that he WOULD know exactly where the put the C4…just to rely on his instincts. He sat there for a long minute, trying to remember, and then he thought of the blueprint that the Brit had shown him, with the red circles of where he had placed the explosives before. He looked around, trying to place the blueprint on where he was. He saw a series of pillars, and it clicked.

He spent the next hour, placing the explosives carefully in the spots that he knew that he would need to bring down the godforsaken hotel once and for good. His mind was racing and his fingers were trembling – he couldn’t wait to see her. To feel her skin against his again, to feel her lips against his…oh, how could he have missed this? How much he LOVED her? He thought of her smile, her teeth flashing as she giggled, her eyes so deep that he could stare at them for hours, just wondering what she was thinking and knowing that she was thinking about him. Her eyebrows thin, her forehead begging for his lips, her head resting on his chest and knowing that she felt the steady heartbeat from underneath. The feel of her breast in his hand, the feel of his palm on her stomach, the feel of her wrapped around him…he dropped the detonator and cursed as it clattered across the floor, chiding himself on losing his concentration. He zipped up the bag, and he walked away, heading to room 72, excited for what seemed like the first time in his entire life.

**********************

“DeSouza, what’s your time, over?”

“ETA 2 minutes, over.”

“Please be advised, you are not clear for active weapons, pending ground operation failure, over.”

“Uh, those are not the orders I was given, over.”

“Oscar Charlie 213245900 Cap’n. Over.”

“…Orders understood, awaiting further orders, out.”

**********************

This was the moment that he had been waiting so long for. He looked down at his arms, still bearing the redness and raw look where the buckles had held him to the chair. He covered them with his shirt sleeve, and checked himself in the mirror in the hallway, smoothing out his collar and calming his nerves. He tapped on the door with his knuckle, awaiting the response inside. He didn’t hear one, so he tried the door handle, which opened smoothly for him. The room was quiet, just like the rest of the hotel – as he stepped into the room and shut the door behind him, he walked towards the middle of the room and heard the soft noise of a woman singing and a shower going. He smiled widely, taking a spot across from the shower, waiting for her to step out.

It only took a few minutes – the singing continued, but the shower stopped, and she opened the door, her eyes downcast, still singing. She looked up, and he moved quickly, his hand covering her mouth and stopping her reflex scream that she was sure that she was going to make, letting her see who he was. Her eyes froze in surprise, then relaxed into recognition. His lips went to her forehead, and her fingers found the front of his shirt, pulling it off, the buttons flying onto the ceramic tile below, clinking gently before coming to a rest. He pushed her back into the shower, and turned it back on, and she found his jeans, pulling them off and throwing them out of the shower before returning their attention to putting skin on skin again. Her hair cascaded down her back, and the water dripped off his, falling onto her forehead as they kissed, her hands roaming around his body, hungry like she hadn’t been for the first time in years. Her stomach fluttered, and he could feel her hands at his back, pushing him, pleading with him. He obliged, and her hand balled into a fist and struck the wall, the first time that they had been together in years. His mind raced, lost in her scent, lost in her love, and her fingers ran along his jaw, feeling the stubble there and smiling at the way that she looked at him, even as she began to tremble. The last time was so long ago, since..since…

Since the cottage?

His lips pressed against hers, he could feel her biting on his lips, her tongue, her breath, sweet and just for him, and he realized…

She had never stopped singing.

As the water poured around him, as the steam rose in the bathroom, he heard the singing stop. The CD player on the wall of the bathroom, clicked over to the next track on the CD – and he heard the American. Even as her lips found his own once again, even as her hands clutched at him, even as she moaned his name, he heard the American’s voice.

“I’m sorry.”

The world tilted sideways, and he fell out of the bathtub. The hotel shook, and the detonation of C4 sounded throughout the hotel, the familiar pulse beneath his feet and the subsequent caving of the floor. Debris and concrete began to pile on him, as he couldn’t breathe. Suddenly, the floor opened up, and he fell, his body turning over in the air, seemingly in slow motion. As he fell, all he could think was one thing. It was a hit.

It was a hit.

It was a hit.

And then, unbidden, another thought struck him.

Who the fuck was Linny?

There was no desk at the bottom to break his fall. Right before he hit the floor, he turned onto his back and all he could see were the stars above.

***********************

“DeSouza, pull off the current target, the ground operation is a success, over.”

“Confirmed, over.”

The American looked at the Brit, the car idling not too far from the Hotel DeReece. They looked at each other sadly, and then looked away again, each lost in their own thoughts. They both saw the hotel go down, and he heard the American make a little cough when they both thought of Smith. A mission was a mission, they said to each other. But they knew each other well enough to know that later on that night, they would both be sitting alone, with a bottle of whiskey and thinking about how life had turned out for them, and they both knew that they would be thinking about tonight and what they had done. The Brit opened up his cellphone and called their boss.

“Operation MKULTRA Omega was a fucking success.” He said bitterly.

The voice on the other side simply responded, “Can you confirm the kill?”

The American looked over at him, hearing the conversation, and mumbled something. The boss heard him, and she said loudly, “what did he say?”

The American cleared his throat and said “Which ONE?”

There was silence from the other line for a second, and then she said, “all of them. Confirm the subject death especially.” She didn’t stay on the line long enough for them to reply.

As they sat there, mulling over their options, the rescue teams arrived. They got out of their cars and stood there as well, alongside the ambulances, using their badges to get to the scene outside the Hotel. As they moved the bodies, they noticed that two of the EMTs were bringing out a body on a stretcher over to their right – a naked man in his 40s. The EMT was shivering, despite the heat of the night, and the burning hotel in front of them. The two agents walked over to him, and the American patted him on the back and said “It’s okay.”

The EMT looked at him as if he was insane, and the American immediately removed his hand. The Brit stepped in. “Where was he found?” He asked, addressing the other EMT that brought out the body.

“Found him in the main atrium,” the EMT said, heavily accented. “Laying there, dust all around him. Like some kind of halo, you know? Like that song, I can see your halo, you know?” He nudged the other EMT, winking. The first EMT just stared at the bodies in shock, and the jolly one just gestured to him, saying to the two agents, “He’s new on the job…he’s never seen this kind of stuff before. He will learn…”

They walked away, and the American and the Brit just looked at Smith’s body, laying there, the neck snapped.

The Brit opened his mouth, and for a second, the American thought that he was going to recite something, some religious bit that would make this all seem easier, make what they had done a little better.

The Brit shook his head.

“Fucking hell.”

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