Babe and Jonas look for information on the missing Agent Brook behind the Fat Lady’s back. In their search, have they found a new ally in the Butler?
Outside the window, a car drove past. Its headlights shined through the panes of glass, causing a glowing four-square silhouette to crawl across the opposite wall. It reminded me of the new improved Windows logo, just four rectangles arranged in the most boring and benign of possible configurations. Otherwise, the room remained enshrouded in the shadows of night. It was dark. It was quiet.
“Too quiet.” Yeah, I’d always wanted to say that.
They gave me a pistol before sending me on this mission, some little black plastic number with a foreign name and a bullet size measured in the metric system. Put it right in my hand as if I knew how to use it. I mean, sure, my Call of Duty kill/death ratio is pretty freaking amazing, but I’ve never fired a real gun. Well, a paintball gun, yeah. Not one with the kind of bullets designed to cause real, lasting harm or death. Closest I’d ever gotten to that was pointing my finger at a former boss and bringing my thumb down like a revolver’s hammer.
He fired me, ostensibly for making a death threat. Really, he knew I was gunning for his job. No pun intended. Okay, well, maybe a little. It was only fast food, working for a local Burger Czar, and who isn’t qualified to run one of those grease pits?
But this new job… sheesh. I glanced down at the pistol weighing heavy in my hand, and for a moment I considered tossing it away.
You’re just supposed to sneak in, open the safe, and get some file, I told myself. You can do this.
“You can do this,” said a voice in my ear. I jumped with a start, bumping an end table and sending a lamp toppling toward the edge. Scrambling, arms outstretched, I caught it before it shattered into a thousand pieces, alerting someone of my presence. Probably wouldn’t have shattered, what with the floor being covered in thick, springy carpet. Still, better safe than sorry. Better safe than shot in the head. Better anything than shot in the head.
“Don’t do that, Babe,” I hissed.
“I told you not to call me that,” she said.
Her name was Helen Willis; her code name was Hell On Wheels, a driver for Quirk & Dagger. Driver, as in get-away driver, and a whole lot more, too. White hat hacker. Rigger. Logistics. Pretty much everything but sneaking into places to steal files. And apparently one of her jobs was to keep me on my toes. I’d never met anyone like her. That might have been a good thing. A deadly thing, but a good, deadly thing. As much as I wanted to get to know her better, she was in love with someone else, the agent I was impersonating right that moment, Jonas Brook. True love, I’d bet. The look in her eye when she talked about him said as much.
“Fine. Hel. Is that okay? Norse goddess of the dead.”
“Whatever. Could be worse. You get it yet?”
“I’m working on it,” I said.
“Work on it harder,” she growled. “As far as the Fat Lady knows, this is a legitimate op. Get the file and get out of that house!”
The house had been re-purposed as a small professional building. Some law practice. Double doors on the opposite side of the room led into an office, and in that office was a safe, and in that safe, a file. And in the file? Maybe some information leading us to the real Agent Jonas Brook. If we could find where Brook had gone, maybe I could get my life back. I was starting to miss my couch. It probably missed me, too. After all, it got to touch my butt every day. I’d miss me, too, if I was used to that level of intimacy.
“Are you sure about this little doohickey of yours, Ba-” Caught myself. “er.. Hel?”
“In this job, we’re never sure about anything,” she said, her voice buzzing with static in my ear. “But it’s never fa-”
One step into the office, my comm squelched, screaming with resounding, whiny feedback into my ear. I swore out loud and smacked at the side of my head as if stung by a wasp. I managed to pluck the earbud out and throw it to the floor before it burst with a CRACK! and miniature fireworks display hot enough to burn a hole in the shag carpet. It left a little ring of fire and embers, which I stomped out.
“Guess I’m doing this one solo,” I said.
“I suppose you are.”
I peered into the dark room. “Who’s there?”
Stupid, I chided myself. That’s what people in movies ask right before getting their throats slit.
“An interested third party, Agent Brook. Or should I say ‘Jonas Book’?” the voice replied. I stammered, trying to form a response, but he continued. “Don’t act so surprised. I know all about you, Mr. Book. I know how many ironic t-shirts are in your dirty laundry, your high score on Doodle Jump, and about your secret adoration for My Little Pony‘s Fluttershy.”
The voice came from a large, leather chair facing away from me on the opposite side of a thick oak desk. I could not see the person sitting in the chair, save for his arms and hands, which draped across the armrests. Black tux coat with pressed white cuffs underneath, complete with silver cuff links. Black gloves. Like a butler; I decided that’s what I’d call him.
“Okay,” I said slowly. “What do you want?”
“You misunderstand me, Mr. Book,” the Butler said. “It isn’t what I want, but what you want. You want information. I have that information in a folder on the desk before you. Take it.”
“O… kay,” I said even more slowly. “What do you want for it? Nothing comes for free.”
He laughed, a deep, thundering rumble. “Take it, Mr. Book. Take it and leave. We will be in touch.”