Old, Lonely and Full of Regrets
© 2019 CR Britting
It was really a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, a mom-and-pop sandwich shop in a rundown section of the city. But I really needed privacy for the meeting and this place was just what I had in mind. So I had one of my guys pay the owner $1000 for him and his employees to take the rest of the day off.
Through an intermediary, I'd been contacted by a senior member of the American spy agency, asking for a meeting to discuss several topics of 'mutual interest' as he put it. Senior indeed. Quentin Andrews had been around for a long time. He had been a regular James Bond-type field officer early in his career, but since then he had held a number of increasingly important roles in management. So, yeah, the opportunity to meet with him was too good an opportunity to pass up.
I brought three security guys with me, just in case. Frankly, I didn't care much for them. They were all true believers and they tended to get a bit hot-headed from time to time. But they'd been assigned to protect me and I didn't have much choice. We arrived early. I left one guy waiting in the car and took the other two inside with me.
Andrews arrived right on time, accompanied by two security officers of his own. One was an older guy, say, mid-forties and he looked quite competent. The other was a woman in her late twenties. A strange choice, if you ask me. She looked more like a graduate student in the preppy outfit she wore and I wondered why Andrews had brought her.
I got to my feet and offered my hand. "Mr. Andrews, thanks for coming."
He smiled and took it. "Ms. Ramani, a pleasure to finally meet you in person. Shall we sit down?"
Looking back on it, I'm not sure exactly where things went south, but we had barely started talking when all at once there was an exchange of gunfire and my unprotected ears rang from the noise. Give the old guy his due, he took down both of my men and was only slightly wounded himself. The woman just stood there, apparently surprised by the suddenness of it.
"Is this your doing?" Andrews demanded in an angry voice.
"Not at all," I replied. "I just came to talk."
"Sorry, boss," the old guy said to Andrews. "Those two guys were giving me the evil eye the whole time. I saw 'em talking and when they reached for their guns, I had to act."
He turned to pick up the weapons scattered on the floor and didn't see my third security officer come through the front door until it was too late. A short burst from the man's submachine gun killed him.
A split second later, more gunfire rang out and my guy stumbled backward, shot in the chest. I glanced around in surprise and saw the young woman, a Glock extended in front of her. She fired two more times and the security guy went down.
“Are you all right, sir?" she asked, a concerned look on her face. "It all happened so fast…"
"You did fine, Julie. Better check that last guy."
After a quick glance at me, the woman cautiously approached the man on the floor, her gun on him. "He's dead, sir," she reported, getting to her feet. She turned towards us and that's when I shot her.
Shoved backward by the impact of the bullet, she hit the wall and slid to the floor, leaving a smear on the wallpaper, the front of her preppy outfit turning red.
I glanced at Andrews and saw the stunned look on his face. After ten seconds or so he turned to face me. "You gonna shoot me, too, Aideen?"
"No. I had nothing to do with this. Besides, shooting you would be foolish. You are full of information I need and we are going to have a long conversation about it."
I gestured with my gun for him to stand up. "Let's get going. The car is out front."
We headed to the door and then Andrews knelt by the young woman. I could see she was dying.
"I'm sorry, Daddy. I did the best I could…" He touched her face.
"You did real good, sweetheart. I love you." Her eyes closed and, after a moment, Andrews rose to his feet, tears in his eyes.
"Your daughter?" I asked, hardly able to believe it. "Quentin, are you out of your mind? What the hell were you thinking, letting her get into this line of work?"
He took a deep breath. "I know. I tried as hard as I could to talk her out of it, but she was so determined to be like her father. I didn't expect any trouble this trip or I wouldn't have brought her."
I glanced down at her young face. What a waste. Sorry, young lady. You should have picked a safer occupation.
We headed outside and we had almost reached the car when he stopped and turned to face me.
“I’d like to make a bargain with you.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Quentin. From where I sit, it seems I have all the cards in this game. But just for the sake of discussion, what do you want?”
“My daughter’s life. Please save her if you can and let her go home. Do whatever you wish with me, but save Julie’s life.”
“And what do you have that I might be willing to bargain for?”
“Information. I’ve been in the intelligence business for a very long time, as I’m sure you are aware.”
“I am. So?”
“If you can save her, I’ll answer your questions willingly, or most of them, anyway.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
He shrugged. “There are bound to be some questions I cannot answer under any circumstances, even if you torture me, but I will cooperate to the extent I can.”
I thought about that. Saving the girl’s life would cost us relatively little compared to what we might gain from his willingness to answer my questions. Why not?
“Deal,” I told him. “Have a seat in the car and wait while I make some calls.” I did, and just in time as it turned out. The girl’s heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital, but they were able to revive her.
As he promised, he gave me some very useful information and in return, I let him visit his daughter every afternoon. Finally, after about a month, I called Quentin into my office.
"How's she doing?" I asked.
"Much better. The doctors have just released her from the hospital." He sighed. "I've fulfilled my part of the bargain. How about letting Julie go home?"
Indeed he had. He talked freely, if carefully, and while he wouldn't disclose some things I really wanted to know about, overall his information was quite helpful.
"I'm going to let both of you go. Your flight leaves tomorrow. There is one condition, however. When you and your daughter get home, you must both resign from the agency within thirty days. Furthermore, neither of you will take a similar job, ever. Understand?"
"Yes. Thank you. Aideen. This means a lot."
He left the office and I walked over to the window and looked outside. After a short while, he and his daughter walked out to the car, his arm around her. She moved slowly and the doctor had told me she would need more time to fully recover.
"Good luck, Quentin," I murmured. "You take care of that girl of yours."
I turned back to my desk with a sigh. I'm ready to get out of this business. Like Quentin, I've been a spy for a very long time. But unlike him, I don't have anyone to go home to. Two failed marriages are mute testimony to long hours and long periods away from home. I might as well just keep working.
Friend, if you've ever thought about getting into spy business, don't. You can't walk away, not really, and even if you don't get killed, you'll likely end up old, lonely and full of regrets.