It was late. Scarecrow was just packing away the torture equipment down in the basement as I cooked up some dinner in the safehouse kitchen. We hadn't gotten all the information we wanted out of our man yet but he would keep overnight. Besides, often letting someone wait and think about their options is enough to get them to crack anyway. Scarecrow practically bounded into the room. He looked pretty excited to be perfectly honest.
"Well, that was something you don't get to do everyday," he piped cheerfully as he sat down at the table. "His screaming got pretty intense after a while though. I just wanted him to give us the information or shut up by the end of it."
"Crow, you bloody psychopath," I laughed. "Sure he's a bad guy but there's no need to take quite so much pleasure from his pain."
"You're right Sherlock. Your approach to it is probably more effective. No sh*t. Just hurt 'em and ask questions. Cold and ruthless. I tend to scare the crap outta them then they can't answer anything."
"Well together we make a pretty brutal torture machine don't we?" I cut the omelette I'd made in half and put it on two plates. I poured myself some tea and sat down with him. "Tea?"
"No thanks. I don't get what's with you Brits and your tea. Good eggs though," he said through a mouthful of my cooking.
"Though on a more serious note," he continued. "How do you think the others will do?"
"They oughta be just fine by my reckoning. I asked Cover to take charge and lead the group. If Beth is anything like you she'll do just fine in any situation once she's gotten over initial nerves. And Dani. Boy oh boy she's something else."
"Deserves to be in charge more than Cover that's for sure..."
"Easy Steve, he's got a good head on him even if he is a bit slow on the uptake. Give him some credit. Though I do have to agree with you, Dani is a better agent. She reminds me a lot of her mother."
He paused for thought. "You worked with her didn't you? She was part of your unit before I joined. You and her and Harry."
"There was one more member of our team, a girl called Maria. Dani's mother was called Felicity. Both those girls were ace agents. Felicity was brilliant at negotiations. She could talk out just about any situation." Just about being the operative words. "Maria was a real fighter. Always rash and fiery. She was marvellous to work with. Never a dull moment. Always had a joke for the most inappropriate occasion."
"If I didn't know better I'd say you had a thing for her."
I just stared at him. If I had laser vision or something I'd be burning the word D-U-M-B-A-S-S on Crow's forehead.
"Oh," was his rather meek and pathetic response.
"We were seeing each other," I informed him. "I told you about that last assignment of mine didn't I?"
"Yeah but, not in great detail."
"It was ten years ago. I was 27. Our team had been on the track of a foreign secret service operative who'd murdered three men and stolen government secrets to be sold to the highest bidder. We had tracked him to a location where he was hoping to meet a client to make a deal. Harry had taken eagle's nest position. He had overwatch over the whole area. Anyone coming or going he'd see and could eliminate any threats with his sniper rifle. Me and Maria would interrupt the meeting at close quarters and capture all suspects. Felicity would perform any language interpretation needed and negotiate terms of surrender. That was the plan. The targets met in the middle of a bridge at night. It's harder to run away like that if either of them get cold feet. We were crashed the party pretty decisively. Two of the enemy's bodyguards were down and me and Maria had both targets in custody. Then something went wrong. I couldn't understand it. We lost radio contact with Harry. A squad of hostiles appeared out of nowhere and captured Felicity and Maria. I was alone trying to point a gun at four guys at once. They told me to surrender myself and get my commander to pay up whatever that meant. I assumed it was an on the spot ransom request. Harry's radio still wasn't responding and I didn't know what to do. They had a knife to Maria's throat and a gun in Felicity's mouth. I had time for maybe one shot before they'd react. That meant I could only save one of them. If Harry had been in contact with his rifle we could've saved both. I didn't know what to do. Felicity had a child and a family. But Maria... In the end I was frozen. They gave me ten seconds. They killed both Maria and Felicity at eight. I shot two of them dead straight away and the other two ran. That's when Harry's radio came back online. He took out the other two from long distance. A window in the tower block across the bridge. I never found out what happened to him. Why his radio stopped working, I just assumed it was interference. I never forgave myself either. I remember both of their eyes. Two of my best friends who I'd shared life and death with for years. The fear. The despair. The cold unseeing deadness afterwards. I've never forgotten that." I paused and sighed long and hard, The memories etching their mark in my tired face once again.
"Y'know after that mission, I'd been planning to take Maria out for the night, have a nice meal, maybe look at the stars, maybe propose to her..." I said the last bit of the story with desolate nonchalance. The affect of my voice trying so hard not to care anymore. I took the ring I had out of my top pocket. It had never left that pocket for ten long years. It still shone a brilliant silver, the tiny diamond sparkling like a star, like her eyes used to sparkle. I put it away. Steve just stared at me with his mouth hanging open.
"Shut yer mouth you look like a goldfish," I told him. He grinned at me, and I cracked a half smile back.
"Life goes on doesn't it."
"Yeah. Life goes on," He answered.
"So," I was curious and thought after hearing my story I was owed a little reciprocation. "Can I ask what precisely happened between you and Beth? I remember that this is one of those things that, oh what was the phrase? Wasn't told in detail."
He squirmed momentarily then looked me in the eye. If we were gonna talk about this we might as well get it over with...