Following the instructions left in her voicemail, Charlotte Kolle stood at the newsagent's stand near Waterloo Station, east entrance, pretending to flip through Paris Match. It would not have been her actual choice (The Atlantic, or maybe The Economist), but the message had stressed the importance of "low profile." It wasn't a young woman's contrarian urge, though maybe it was in her younger days - the idea of fuschia hair, moon boots and editorial commentary was both fitting and rebellion at once. Time and the need for employment had muted the hair to a pleasant crimson-amber, and convinced her to trade in the thift-store-and-Doc-Martens aesthetic for one of High-Street-and-Balenciaga. Her Williamsburg address had conveniently transformed with similar progression. Still, the ideals remained.
As daughter of a CIA field operative, cryptic phone calls were not as uncommon as she would have preferred. Calls home on birthdays were short, and therefore untraceable, voices modulated through endless arrays of scrambling and counter-scrambling processors. Charlotte didn’t mind, and had never misunderstood her father’s brevity for lack of care or thoughtfulness. She had been warned against saying names of places or people if possible, and though scared of the need for secrecy when she was young, one of her many adult coping mechanisms allowed the ignorance to be comforting. If she didn’t know his whereabouts, he might as well be in a Hoilday Inn one state over making sales pitches for insurance.
He had been out of touch for months. Charlotte was used to his going deep cover, and it matched well with her usually extended consulting assignments. But he always made an effort since it was just the two of them. Worry had not begun until earlier this week, an indistinct but unshakeable notion that pulled on her base instincts of protection and fight. The call had finally come to her office – Dad never bothered her at work, and knew she was rarely there – with no more instruction than who to meet, when and where.
Who – the man on the message, middle-age with a Georgian accent. Learned his English at Oxbridge, given the phrasing. Dad taught her how to know people this way. Knowing people was important to learning how to trust them, as was knowing that there were many ways to trust someone. The When was today, which happened to be a Thursday morning, and was the earliest flight from La Guardia. Where was right here. No more than that.
Morning commuters were streaming in and out of the station, more than a few making elbow or shoulder contact as they bumped their way past the news stand. Charlotte suddenly smiled and replaced the magazine on the rack, reaching into her coat pocket. A folded note, that someone had managed to pass to her -
“Meet me in the Wellesley.”