Josh straightened his tie, then loosened it. Goddam monkey suit, he thought, not functional – with the exception of hiding a piece, maybe a vest.
“Agent Grant,” Brenneman acknowledged his arrival in the control room with the aplomb of a corporate CEO, and was answered with only the slightest nod. “As you know, we’re here to discuss the latest intel, we --”
“It’s a set up,” Josh leaned back in the plush chair, one leg casually stretched out.
“Initially, that appears to be the case,” Brenneman said stiffly.
“Doesn’t ‘appear to be’, it is,” Josh tempered his aggravation. “His Holiness is not the target, the intelligentsia usurped his power over three years ago. Until they can guarantee the outcome of the next election, he’s safe and warm in a pile of zucchettos.”
“Alright,” Brenneman was starting to squirm, just the way Josh liked him, “then why would they mark him?”
“They want me,” Josh said without emotion.
Alvarez spoke up, “I don’t doubt it, appeals to your ego are never lost.”
“Then use it.” Josh didn’t bother to look in his direction.
“As you know,” Brenneman was in for the duration, “protocol clearly states that an agent cannot be dispatched until a period of thirty-six hours has passed since his return from the previous mission.”
Josh slowly, almost imperceptively, tapped the left arm of the chair. Little finger, ring finger, middle finger, trigger finger. One. Two. Three. Four was the one that itched.
Brenneman continued, securely in his element, “During that thirty-six hour period, the agent must have two periods of sleep of not less than eight hours each. In addition --”
“How much sleep have you had, agent Grant?” it was Alvarez again, eliciting a silent promise that someday that smirk would be wiped right off his face.
“Seven. Solid,” he thought of Gwen curled softly in his arms.
“Which is precisely why we can’t send you,” Brenneman was smug now. “In fact, there’s not one reason to justify it.”
“Damascus,” Josh looked directly at Smithson now, who tried not to let a smile cross his face. It had been his last mission before he retired to the desk. He’d seen Josh in action, seven dead in as many minutes, not one of them their own, and a lightning quick, clean getaway. Not one shot had been fired that day. Yes, he knew Josh.
Icy silence hung in the room.
“I can pull the file if you want,” aw screw it, Josh thought as he sat up straight and let his in-your-face attitude out of its cage. “Look, you can send someone else right now, or you can wait eighteen hours and send me. Either way you’ll end up with a cluster fuck that you’ll never be able to explain, let alone justify. Or you can send me. Now.”
Brenneman looked dangerously close to making an even bigger error of authority, so Josh got up, picked up the desk phone and pushed a button, “Cheryl, I need a blown up map of vector nine, Rome, eight block radius. Street names, buildings, photographs, aerial and ground level, please.” He paused for few seconds, and half turned away, intent, “of course,” he said quietly.
He looked straight at Brenneman, “Send Cheryl home after she gets the maps, I want her back here, rested, and in my ear for the mission. Think seriously about bumping her sweet ass up at least one pay grade before we lose her.” There wasn’t a man in the room that didn’t think he’d promised her more than an in on the mission and a bigger paycheck. There was no reason for Josh to draw lines when it came to rule breaking.
“I want five men, Jax, Turner, Osoro…”
“Heigl and Leeman,” Smithson was fully invested in the plan.
“Good. Have them get my gear together, just lay it out, I’ll check and pack it. We leave in two hours. I’ll brief them soon as we board, then we sleep on the plane.”
“We’ll have the team and equipment in place in ninety minutes,” Smithson was no longer pretending to suppress his glee.
“Two hours. I’m going to see my son.”
Brenneman knew when he was beaten. He needed Josh, his particular brand of mayhem was irreplaceable, like his father’s. He remembered with trepidation the day he’d been casually monitoring a rookie water cooler debate when Josh had passed by. One of the youngest, newest trainees with just enough background knowledge to be stupid had piped up, “Hey, Grant, we’re thinking of using your picture on a poster for gun control. Any ideas for the caption?”
“Sure,” Josh had answered far too pleasantly. As he strolled away, he added:
“Guns don’t kill people, I kill people.”