You never know who you might meet. You've been warned.

He rolled over and felt the soft satin on his back. His head sank deep into the pillow and in that moment, he felt completely relaxed. His eyes closed and opened as he wallowed in the comfort.

He heard a familiar sound beside him, the crack of a match followed by the smell, first of sulphur, then of something more poignant.

“You want one?” she asked.

There was a time that he would have said yes. He had to reach into the depths of his memory to recall his brand. Gitanes. Everyone in Paris had smoked Gitanes back then. And right now, he missed it.

“Hey Finn, you want one?” she said again.

“I quit,” he said.

“Braaaa-vo. How long?”

“How long what?”

“How long ago did you quit, dumb ass.”

It was strange to hear someone with that accent use such an American slur. But with all the US TV and movies over here now, who knew what language they were speaking.

“Eighteen years,” he said.

“Eighteen years? When you haven’t smoked for eighteen years, you don’t get to say ‘I quit’ anymore.“

"I like people to know I achieved something.”

They lay there in silence, watching the smoke rising.

“I gotta pee,” she announced through the silence and threw the thin covering away from her.

“Thanks for the bulletin,” he replied.

He watched her naked back as she walked towards the bathroom. It was as perfect as the rest of her. It occurred to him that this was the first time he had seen this part of her. But then again, this was only their second meeting and she had never had reason to turn her back to him before now.
This was their second meeting. The first had been at Jenna’s two days previous. Unlike most men his age, he did not like to turn up fashionably late. He knew he could justify his arrival. ‘I came early to help you make the punch’ or, more believably with Jenna, ‘I came early to help you drink the good wine’.

It wasn’t his fault, of course. Only The Middle-Aged Man would arrange a contact at a house-party in Dublin – at eight-thirty.

Jenna was there, busily arranging shop-bought Sushi and trying to get her stereo to play. And there, also, was Alex. Small, blonde, size six, Alex. Not quite what he was expecting.

The Middle-Aged Man had told him that the contact name was Alex, but still, not what he was expecting.

Over the night, he watched her. During their conversations he watched her eyes, her expressions, her mannerisms. The rest of the time, he just watched her watching him. Jenna played her part too, of course, deciding over the night that these were two people who desired a more intimate rendezvous. By the end of the party, she was drunkenly whispering her new best friend’s number into his ear.

And now, here they were.

She had kept him waiting of course, but he had read the paper, an article about a man found dead in the Liffey. Their time in the hotel bar had been brief, just long enough to finish his beer. Even then, the chemistry was tangible.

“So,” she asked with a smirk as he closed the room door behind them. “Do we take care of business, or should we check each other for bugs first?”

“You can never be too careful. God knows who’s listening.”

The next two hours were spent away from what had brought them together, away from notes passed in train stations, bombs that look like cigars, remembering another identity.

And now, as he lay enjoying the silk under him, he wondered what direction their relationship would take. He doubted that they’d be spending their Sundays wandering hand-in-hand around antique shops. But maybe there would be happy medium.

The lights went out and he sighed in disappointment.

He quickly rolled off the bed as he heard three muffled cracks. The pillow where his head had just been exploded in a cloud of duck-down and silk. As his shoulder hit the floor, his hand was already reaching under the mattress.

He pulled out the Glock and fired two shots under the bed in the direction of the bathroom. He heard both rounds enter the timber skirting. No scream of pain.

“Come on Finn,” she said in an amused tone. “You know better than to rely on dumb luck at a time like this.”

“Yeah, but I was kinda hoping your shins didn’t know,” he replied. “Couldn’t we having a few more minutes of pillow talk before we get down to business?”

“No time, baby,” she replied.

”C’mon, where’s your sense of romance?”

He opened his leather satchel under the bed and pulled out a white plastic device, similar in size and shape to an electrical plug.

“Well if you knew me at all, Loverboy, you would know nothing comes before business. Now let’s get this over with so I can go home and feed my cat.”

Feeling the wall with his free hand, Finn found what he was looking for. He slammed the plastic device into the empty electric socket and flicked the switch. With a loud fizz, a sharp power spike ran through every wire of the room. Every light and lamp came on around them and he jumped up to see Alex, still naked except for a pair of night-vision goggles. She yelled out as the intense light through the night-vision stung her eyes and she tried to pull off the goggles. She fired her gun but her aim was off.

He shot two bullets into her chest.

“I hate cats,” he said.

He approached her carefully with his gun aimed at her forehead, but she was in no condition to retaliate.

“I’m disappointed in you, Alex,” he said. “I was really hoping we could be friends.”

“You of all people should know better, Finn,” she whispered through short sharp breaths. “This is business, not pleasure.”

“You of all people should know better, Alex. I’m not Finn.”


The End

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