Washington, D.C., United States
January 8, 2010
Agent Mary Cohen had never quite gotten used to having blonde hair. She would never admit it to anyone, of course, because all of her current acquaintances knew her to have always been blonde – Mary had done a wonderful job with the dye, if she did say so herself – and all of her old acquaintances were the reason she had dyed her hair in the first place.
Mary had learned over the years to avoid mirrors, but, driving in the small rental car up the ramp to the parking lot of the Washington D.C. Hampton Inn, she couldn’t help but glance at the rearview mirror.
Her eyes were still the same deep brown, her lashes still inexplicably black and unbelievably long. Her skin was still the same caramel, dark in contrast to her white dress shirt, lips still a vibrant red even without lipstick. Mary could almost believe she was her old self until a curly strand of hair was blown from her orderly ponytail and into her line of vision, shockingly fair.
Mary parked her tiny silver Toyota and slid out of it, slamming the driver’s side door shut behind her.
It was a cool morning, slightly overcast and drizzling lightly. The Hampton loomed dismally above her, a hideous combination of slightly modern architecture and classic-style painting, its sign only half lit, penetrating the thin fog dimly. At the bottom of the ramp that Mary had driven up was a thin road, laden with rush-hour traffic full of early-morning commuters, all of them yelling and honking indignantly at the car in front of them.
Mary thought the sounds a bit like a forgotten melody, welcome after years of living and working in Israel.
She walked a few steps around the car and pulled open the rear door, stepping sideways easily in her five-inch heels to avoid it. She grabbed a bland-looking stainless steel briefcase from the faux-leather seat, checked the locks on it just to be sure they were still secure, and locked the car behind her.
She was blasted by warm air upon walking through the automatic doors to the hotel lobby, more of her hair coming free of the tie that held it. Mary forced herself to ignore it and keep walking, sashaying her hips subtly in the way that she was prone to doing. She came up to the counter and leant against it, a polite smile tugging at her lips.
“Hi,” she said, startling the concierge out of his texting-induced stupor. The boy put down his phone and looked up as if taxed by the very fact that he had something to do.
“Hello, miss,” he droned. “Welcome to the Hampton.”
“I have a reservation,” she said, simply for the sake of testing her practiced American accent one last time before having to use it seriously. “Mandy Smith. Two nights, I think.”
The concierge dropped his finger on his keyboard a few times until he found her reservation. “Yeah, right here,” he pushed his chair back so he could pull out a drawer right in front of him and rummaged around for a key. “Room 318,” he handed the keycard to her and then pulled his phone out and flipped it open.
Mary quirked an eyebrow. “Thanks,” she said flatly.
The bleary elevator music matched the general mood of the rainy day, and by the time Mary reached the third floor she was feeling thoroughly melancholy. She jammed the key into the slot on the door where it was indicated that the key should be inserted and eased the door open.
Once inside she calmly closed the door behind her and set the briefcase down by her feet, then grabbed her sleek black Smartphone from her inside suit pocket. She slid the rear panel cover off and thumbed a tiny red switch, watched the screen as it came to life with a quiet chime.
When she held up the phone in front of her the room was displayed in infrared imaging on the phone’s tiny screen, all lifeless blues and greens. She examined the room like that for a moment and then flipped the infrared switch off and depressed a larger button. Mary moved slowly about the small hotel room with the lights left off, probing her phone into every inch of the place, sure to make sure that the provided hotel phone posed no problems.
She flicked the light switch, confident that the room wasn’t bugged, casting the room in a harsh yellow light. She retrieved her briefcase and turned to enter the room again.
Mary stopped dead in her tracks.
“Maldita,”she swore, an Eastern European accent suddenly apparent in her voice. “Se ve lo mismo…”
She moved out into the room as if in a trance, her grip on the briefcase going so slack that the package fell to the ground with a hollow clunk. The Smartphone slipped form her hand onto the dull tan rug, and she vaguely registered the fact that she barely missed crushing it with her heel.
She stopped walking only when her knees were pressed against the bed, the hanging bedclothes brushing the exposed skin of her feet. Mary ran her hands over the pristine white blankets, her gaze unfocused and transfixed, tracing indiscernible, nonsensical patterns into the smooth surface. “Se ve lo mismo,”she repeated quietly to herself, her voice almost a whisper.
A single tear trickled from the corner of her eye, trailing a translucent streak of dark mascara along with it, and hung for a moment on her chin before wetting the collar of her shirt.
Mary made no move to wipe the tear away.
In that moment she was no longer Mary Cohen, blonde-haired flirty agent for the Israeli Mossad. In that moment she was no longer who she had chosen to be, no longer who she needed to be, but rather who she had never wanted to cease to be, who she had to struggle sometimes to remember she was.