Not even the CIA can keep secrets forever.
Mary of the Mossad
Echoes of the Past
Washington, D.C., United States
January 8, 2010
A distressed cry tore through the night.
The apartment was large, airy and light. Few fixtures of furniture marred the open floor plan, and those that did were either white or blue, in fierce loyalty to the overall color scheme. Half-eaten TV dinners, manila folders in various states of disrepair and dog-eared books were strewn about, and in the corner a sleek white desktop computer hummed quietly in its dormancy. The low glass coffee table was bare save for a single picture frame, which had been turned face down and knocked so that it was dangerously close to tumbling off the edge onto the cool, deep cerulean rug.
The whole place smelled strongly of leftover pepperoni pizza and excessive Febreeze air freshener, a sickening combination. Saturated light leaked into the apartment through the large front window from the lit street lamps that perched along the street outside, casting the sitting room and adjoined kitchen in an eerie sort of orange glow.
Another cry disturbed the tranquil atmosphere, rougher and more guttural than before.
Murmuring incoherently into his pillow, Agent Neil Zimmerman rolled over in sleep, stretching an arm out over the edge of his bed as if reaching for something, and tensed his hand into a painfully tight fist. His knuckles popped and tendons jumped to stark white relief on the underside of his wrist, and a quiet shout tore itself from his chest with such force that it tore his throat raw.
Neil threw himself onto his back, shaking as if in unbearable cold, and clutched great handfuls of the brown bedclothes to his sides. He sobbed quietly, dryly, a single tear trickling from the corner of his eye into his unkempt mop of blonde hair.
“No,” abruptly his unintelligible words cleared, and he jerked back onto his side, dragging his knees up to his chest. “Valerie!” his voice ached with anguish. “Val!” with a final cry he started upright in bed, scrambling to get his elbows underneath him.
The night air was cool against Neil’s feverishly hot skin, staunching the thin sheen of perspiration as he let out a long, heavy sigh. His breathing was labored, eyes wide in the suddenly unfamiliar darkness. He swallowed hard after a long minute in which the silence was punctuated only by the constant sounds of nocturnal traffic, and shook himself, blinking his eyes hard as if to clear them.
Neil swung his legs out from under the sheets and over the side of the bed, and staggered to his feet. He swayed in place for a moment and put a hand out to steady himself, groping for the steadying corner of his bedside table. His hand came in contact with cold metal, and he fingered the barrel of his Glock for a moment before shuffling away from it.
With practiced accuracy he navigated the pitch black room towards the bathroom door, and shouldered it open. He tumbled out onto the tile floor, barely managing to keep his feet underneath him, and collapsed against the counter, groping over the sink for the dial that would turn on the faucet.
The tap water ran alarmingly cold, spilling out onto Neil’s hands and shocking him into full awareness. He spluttered a last sob and started scrubbing furiously at his hands with a bar of Dove hand soap, rubbing suds up and down his forearms. Only when his arms were an irritated red did he set the soap down and rinse his hands, taking a small solace in the sting of water on his raw skin.
He cupped his hands, splashing his face. His reflection looked pasty in the dim light, the water dripping from his nose and chin almost like melting wax. Dark circles underlined his eyes, his skin seeming too heavy for his young face, and worry lines creased his forehead, trailing almost all the way up to his pale blonde hairline.
Neil eased the faucet down until it turned to a low trickle, then turned off altogether, the sound of its final spittle echoing through the large bathroom. He grabbed a starched white towel from the countertop and dried his face and arms vigorously, sure to erase all traces of any tears the might have stained his cheeks, then tossed it aside, barely missing the corner hamper. He didn’t bother to set the towel in its intended spot as he rummaged in the hamper for a shirt, and when he finally found one – not so much a shirt as a mesh jersey – just tugged it on over his head, let it slide haphazardly down his toned stomach.
He squinted in the harsh artificial light that flickered through his living room when he thumbed the light switch and wove his way across the open, cluttered apartment to the stainless steel kitchen. There the light glinted off every surface, casting shadows in odd places and suggesting shapes and objects that Neil knew weren’t real. He crossed to the thin refrigerator, shivers running up his body every time his feet came in contact with the cold floor.
Two cans of Coors and one Spanish soap opera later, he was feeling considerably better. He was still having trouble keeping his mind from straying to some undesirable, half-remembered dreams, but the intoxication from the alcohol was certainly helping.
His cat Daniel-san had joined him on the couch, and was purring amiably, curled up against his side and shedding excessively all over his shirt. Neil ran his fingers through Daniel-san’s too-long, raggedy grey fur and took another draw from his beer. The end titles for the Spanish soap opera were playing down the screen of the living room’s flat screen television when he stood.
“Row,” protested Daniel-san, flopping from Neil’s lap onto the white couch.
Neil padded around the coffee table to the panoramic window and trailed his finger over it, tapped it soundly. The tap was muffled, barely audible on account of the thick, quadruple-paned bulletproof glass, and Neil’s hand was steadier than it’d been since he’d awoken as he drew it back to his side.
He turned back to face the couch, which was cast strangely in the alternating light from the television. The cat stared up at him with wide green eyes, pupils reduced to tiny slits beneath his shaggy brow.
“Hey, Daniel-san,” said Neil, offering the irate cat a lopsided smile.
Neil deposited his beer on the table and folded himself back into the depression he’d left on the couch, tucking his legs underneath him. He wrestled Daniel-san back into his lap and reclined back, reaching for the remote so that he could play his favourite Japanese cartoon.