Episode Forty-Six: The How to Sleep Well Affair
Guy settled into his temporary hotel room, though he spent the majority of the time at Quint Ryland’s office reading and avoiding Fleur. Red dropped off Guy’s belongings, and she came back and forth throughout the month, staying with Guy for the major holidays. Guy looked forward to her visits, if only to keep time progressing.
The assassin wasn’t too proud to admit he missed Nikolai. As difficult as the Russian could be, he at least kept things interesting. And since he was waiting for Cain to finish the brothel as well as his spy work with Cox to kick in, he had little to fill his days. So he read with Quint when Red wasn’t around to entertain him.
The pair stretched out on separate hotel beds watching the television. Red rested on her stomach while Guy rested on his back and watched the television upside down. “How sad would it be to go to a strip club on New Year’s Eve?” Guy asked.
“I am not going to a strip club,” Red said.
Guy sighed. “You’re really no fun.”
Red rolled her eyes. “You don’t really want to go to a strip club,” she replied.
The assassin folded his arms across his chest. “I’m tired of sitting here. This is a terrible way of bringing in the New Year.”
Red smirked at Guy. She asked, “If I told you I had an invitation to a party, would you want to join me?”
“Depends on the party,” Guy said. “Besides, it’s almost eleven. By the time we get ready, it might be after midnight.”
He watched the features on his friend’s face shift to something pensive. “Can I ask you something?” she asked.
“Uh huh,” he replied.
“Are you waiting until after you’ve completed your work with Cox to swoop Nikolai off of his feet?” she asked.
Guy exhaled. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to work things out if he’s working for Cox. There are a lot of things we don’t see eye-to-eye with when it comes to work.”
“So, you wouldn’t be interested in going to this party if you knew Nikolai would be there.”
Guy sat up. “No, let’s go to the party.”
He smiled at Red and received on in return. As the two began to get dressed for the party, Guy asked, “So how did you get an invite to a prestigious A.B.E.L. party?”
“It’s not specifically a party for the company,” Red replied. “And while I’m not positive your Russian will be there, he has RSVP’d.” She held a dress up to herself and continued, “Remember how I was trying online dating? Well, I ended up meeting the man behind surveillance at A.B.E.L. – a Jason Hoffman. He was a real sweetie, but we both realized who the other was quite quickly since we both watched the other’s activities after the first date.”
“So the first date went well?”
“It went really well,” she said, with a laugh. “But, nonetheless, when he caught me spying on him, we talked about who we really were and whether or not we could make it work. And we decided we couldn’t, but we ended on good enough terms. I assume that’s why he sent me an invitation. Maybe he thought I’d find it fun to hobnob with the spies.”
“Wouldn’t he consider it a bit dangerous?” Guy asked.
Red shrugged. “This division of A.B.E.L. was never affected by me, so I don’t think they’ve ever concerned themselves with Red the assassin, let alone realized my real identity. And Hoffman isn’t the type to ambush someone. At least, I don’t think so.”
“So really, I better come just in case it is an ambush.”
“Clearly,” Red said, tousling Guy’s hair.
The two finished getting dressed. Red wore a teal A Line dress, and Guy was clad in a simple charcoal suit with a deep green tie. Guy fingered his tie and said, “I wish I had one that matched you. We’d be quite the pair.”
Flashing a smile, Red replied, “I didn’t think I was the one you wanted to be paired with.”
“Good point,” Guy said. “We’ll get a cab?”
“I’m not walking in these heels,” Red said. “And I don’t think you can carry me.”
“I have before.”
“You’ve dropped me before,” Red said. “Cab.”
Guy called a cab and the pair walked down to meet it after waiting several minutes with absent conversation that grew tenser as the clock neared midnight. They arrived at the apartment with ten minutes to spare, and when they arrived they found the apartment packed to the brim with strangers. No one seemed to give either assassin a second glance, and both let out an exhale of relief. “I guess this guy does a lot of online dating,” Guy said, looking around at the people.
“Maybe he just meets a lot of people online,” Red said. “Do you see your Russian?”
“No,” Guy said, squinting through the crowd.
The pair stopped at the bar, Guy drank a shot and Red gripped a beer, and the two weaved through the crowd again. Guy felt eyes on him, but he spotted Grier dancing with someone. “There’s his partner,” Guy said.
“And there’s Hoffman dancing with her,” Red said. “They might be able to point out your Russian to you.”
Guy pushed through the people and wrapped his arms around Jackie from behind. “Hello Grier,” he murmured.
Jackie cringed and pushed Guy off of her while making a noise of disgust. “Who invited you?” she asked.
“Oh,” Hoffman said, looking at Red. “That may be my fault.”
Grier gave Red a smile and the pair warmly shook hands. Grier asked Hoffman, “Now how would it be your fault?”
“Before you explain,” Guy said, “is Nikolai around?”
“I think he’s on the balcony,” Grier said, pointing the way.
But as her finger moved, it was as if it parted the crowd. Between the people Guy could see Nikolai talking closely with Westermark on the balcony. Hoffman shut off the music to begin the countdown, and Guy began to walk towards the window.
He saw the two agents talking, gradually moving closer to each other, and he found his own pace slowing to watch them. He barely heard the countdown beginning behind him when Georg put his fingers on Nikolai’s chin. They propped their foreheads together, and Guy saw Nikolai’s steel blue eyes lingering on Westermark’s green ones. Guy stopped walking as their agent’s noses touched in a sign of intimacy he knew Nikolai loved. He could see the heat in Nikolai’s cheeks that could be excitement or just the cold.
But he knew the smile was from the excitement. And he thought Nikolai’s smile was only his.
The kiss that came next drained any energy from Guy’s body. He felt weak. He felt tired. And he turned his back on Nikolai and pushed his way through the celebrating crowd. Red grabbed his arm, but he pushed her away. Another one of her terrible ideas ruined everything for him.
He left Hoffman’s apartment without hope. His mind whirled as he stormed down the apartment’s stairs.
He was losing Nikolai. The Russian was probably his last chance at finding an established relationship in his hectic life and – more importantly – it was a man he wanted to be with. He missed Nikolai’s massive, furnace of a body next to him in bed. He missed the eager way Nikolai looked at him when he spoke of something the Russian didn’t know before. And he simply missed his quiet presence, and the way it could quickly turn into a puddle of insecurity or a steam of rage.
And now he was losing him.
He stepped out into the empty streets and his sorrow quickly twisted into frustration as the cold hit him. Red would tell him to chase after Nikolai again, but that would risk getting slugged by Nikolai or Westermark or both. And even then, he couldn’t really explain Cox’s threat. Even if Jackie believed him, Westermark was just as blind as Nikolai when it came to his work. He, too, saw A.B.E.L. as nothing but a positive presence in society.
He was stuck in a corner. He had to wait and hope Nikolai didn’t find someone else, but he had practically pushed Nikolai into Westermark’s arms.
Guy wanted to go to bed, but he knew his brain wouldn’t shut off. He walked to one of the few payphones left in the city and dropped some change into it. He dialed Cain’s direct line.
“Hello?” Cain’s voice answered.
“It’s me,” Guy said.
“Calling to wish me a Happy New Year, are you?” Cain asked.
“I want to kill someone. Do you have anyone in mind?”
“Come on over,” Cain said.
Guy hung up the line and, with his hands in his coat pockets, jogged to Cain’s tower. He began to feel numb as he took the elevator up, which is exactly how he wanted to feel. He was let into Cain’s office immediately and sat down across from the older man.
Cain smiled and said, “I suppose I shouldn’t consider this on the house.”
Guy shrugged. “Listen, I just want something really simple and dirty. I want to be able to go out and do it right now.”
Cain slid a file folder across his desk, and Guy picked it up. His green eyes locked onto Guy, he said, “There’s a pimp in the area that’s giving me trouble. I may have offered a few of his women a better position, and he is trying to keep his operation going despite the generous retirement package I offered him. It would be nice if you administered him with a less generous retirement package.”
Guy nodded. He ran his eyes along the photograph of the pimp. It was a tall, thin pale man in a white suit and pink shirt. “I’m not going to have to fight off his whores or something, am I?”
“I doubt it,” Cain said. “Most of them came with me, and I get the impression the others just didn’t hear my message. If you see any, send them my way.”
“All right,” Guy said. “Do you care if there’s a body?”
“No one is going to care about a dead pimp.”
“No clean up then,” the assassin replied with a grin. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, I’ll probably just sleep after this.”
Cain just offered Guy a wave, and Guy left the file folder as he headed out of the building and towards the city’s casino. The streets grew busier as he walked closer to the building, and he glanced down alleyways to try to spot the man while still walking on the main drag. His mind narrowed in on the job at hand and pushed everything else aside.
He took a deep breath before going into the casino. He weaved through people with his brown eyes quick to check their faces and attire. He doubted the pimp would stand out in this New Year’s crowd, but he thought there was no harm in taking a second look. As he neared the bar, a woman with a black bob and icy blue eyes caught his attention, though he couldn’t pinpoint why.
She wore long black gloves with a cigarette holder between her long fingers. With her sleek black dress, she looked like something out of the 60s. His mind whirled as he neared her. He knew her, and he mentally flipped through past clients and hits to try to place her.
He sat down next to her, and as she gave him a smile he quickly realized she was a prostitute – the one he had been with just before A.B.E.L. dragged him in for interrogation. “Hey,” he said. “Do you remember me?”
“Sure,” she said, “salt and pepper hair.”
She tousled his hair with her fingernails, but Guy doubted she remembered him. He said, “I’m hoping to catch your boss tonight.”
“Oh yeah?” she asked. She took a drag from her cigarette and blew out smoke before replying, “What for?”
“To kill him.”
She snorted before asking, “Then how am I going to work, sweetie?”
Guy quickly explained the brothel operation to her and tried to make it sound fairly enticing. He emphasized that sleeping with him was optional and, if she chose to, he would still pay her. He explained the security measures both for abuse and disease, and he laid out the financial details for her. The whole time she just sat smoking her cigarette, like she already heard the story a million times before.
She gave him her business card and said, “He’s out playing the slots. If you know what he looks like, he’ll be easy to spot. I’m not going to risk pointing him out to you.”
“Thanks,” Guy said. He began to stand up.
Touching his arm, she said, “Did you ever stay with that sweetie you had? The one that you said wanted more than you’re willing to give.”
Guy blinked. He replied, “I’m working on it.”
She gave him a weak smile as she released his arm. He moved into the long, narrow room filled with slot machines and people. The assassin spotted the man sitting at one of the machines, his eyes slightly glazed over and his hand mechanically pulled at the arm.
Guy approached him and said, “Can we step outside for a minute?”
The man’s eyes rose to look at Guy. He said, “I know better than to go outside with someone like you.”
“What do you mean, someone like me?” Guy asked.
“Muscle,” the man replied and turned back to his machine.
Guy poked at his gut. “Come on, I’m putting on a few pounds. I just want to talk to you about getting a lady, that’s all.”
“Well I’m sure you can spot them,” the man said. “If not, they’ll spot you.”
Guy stood for a minute, trying to decide how to get the man off his ass and into the street. Guy said, “Maybe I wanted to sell you something that you’d like the taste of, but maybe I can’t talk about it here.”
The man’s eyes lit up as he glanced back at Guy. Guy put his hand in his coat pocket and shook it as if something was there. “All right,” the man replied. “Let’s go.”
The two weaved through the crowd and Guy led the man into a back alley away from the crowds. The man said, “What’ve you got?”
Guy pulled his hand out of his pocket and punched the man in the stomach. Hunched over, the man drew a knife and buried it into Guy’s side. Wincing, the assassin pushed the man off of him and pressed him against the alley’s brick wall. The man tried to stab Guy again, but his knife was still lodged into the assassin and not in the pimp’s hand. Guy wrapped his hands around the man’s neck. He knit his fingers behind the man’s neck as his thumbs pressed against his windpipe. He watched the man squirm and flail, his mouth soundlessly opening and closing like a dying fish. He clawed at Guy’s face, but the assassin just kept his grip firm and tight despite the new pain spreading in his face.
He waited when the man stopped moving, making sure the job was completed. When Guy released the pimp, he dropped to the ground with the same gasping expression on his face. Guy’s body relaxed, and a sense of calm washed over the assassin. Guy looked at the knife in his side and tried to judge how noticeable it would be to anyone walking by. He stepped out of the alleyway with it still in his side and began to walk. He knew better than to hail a cab.
He’d go back to his hotel room. And he’d sleep well.