22 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 21

The deal is made.
Ione followed Mara as they retraced their route back to the Adagio Monaco Monte Cristo, the redhead's words still echoing in her head.  A demon's friend, Ione never expected to have mixed feelings over the concept.  On one hand, Mara was a succubus and, as such, tempted people.  On the other hand, other than dessert the previous night, the red haired woman hadn't even tried to lure Ione, and, once past her ditzy façade, could be someone to confide in.  Ione amended, as long as Mara could remain fully clothed.

At the hotel, Ione dismounted her motorcycle.  She took off her helmet and ran her fingers through her short hair to try to fix it.  Noticing Mara was still on her ride, Ione asked, "Not coming in?"

"Jack needs me."  Mara shrugged.  "I'll bring over your clothes, though.  You're going to need to change for tonight."

Ione hung the helmet on her bike's handlebars.  "Alright.  And Mara?  Thanks."

"Don't thank me yet," Mara said.  "Maybe if we survive tonight."

"Be positive, Mara.  It's not a sure thing that we're going to die."  Ione tried to smile.

"Say hi to Ben for me?"

"I will."

Ione watched as Mara rode away.  When the succubus disappeared behind a building, Ione entered the hotel, making her way to Karen's room.  She knocked on the door.  Karen answered, holding the door wide open to let her friend inside.  Once the door was closed, Karen pulled Ione to the couch.  "Okay, spill.  You have a plan, right?"

Ione looked around.  "Where's Ben?"

"He's taking a walk.  I said I needed some time alone.  And don't change the subject.  What's the plan?"

"I got nothing.  And I don't think Jack does, either."

"Don't give me that.  I've seen you LARP.  You always come up with something.  What about three weeks ago, when you took down the Prince of Ottawa?  You had to have planned that."

"That was pure improv, Karen.  I knew something had to be done, but . . ." Ione's voice trailed off.  She snapped her fingers.  "That's it!

"What's it?  You're going to take out a rogue angel the same way?"

Ione smiled.  "That's the beauty of the idea."

"The pressure's getting to you."

"No, really, Karen.  I took out the Prince by playing to everyone's desires and personalities.  Why not do the same here?"

Karen got up from the couch.  "I think I need a drink.  Want anything?"

"I'll have a beer, thanks.  Anyway, I know what everyone wants, right?  The criminals want to make money with their wares, Jack wants to throw a wrench into the angel's plans, and the angel wants to start Armageddon."

"Yeah, that last one's not easy to find at a store."  Karen retrieved two bottles from the room's small fridge.  "And if you do give it to him, that kinda screws everyone else in the world over."

"I don't need to give it to him.  He wants it, that's all."

Karen returned to the couch.  "You're losing me, here."  She handed Ione one of the bottles.

"Everyone I manipulated in the LARP wanted something.  The Prince wanted to consolidate power.  Owen wanted his character to head up his faction.  Donna was looking to embarrass Owen."  Ione opened her beer.  "I just have two problems.  The first is getting someone to create a bit of chaos to shake things up."

"You've got me here, Ione."  Karen took a swig from her bottle.

"No.  Too dangerous.  I mean it, Karen."

"I am not sitting on the sidelines, Ione.  If something happens to you, Amy is going to kill me.  Twice, if she can.  Besides, if not me, who?  I don't think Ben wants to deal with one of his own kind."

Ione leaned back on the couch.  "I haven't thought that far ahead.  It's not like I can hope to win Rock Paper Scissors and send the angel packing."

"It's not like you know anyone else here.  What are you going to do, call Prince Albert and ask him?"


Karen rolled her eyes.  "Prince Albert the Second of Monaco.  The guy in charge of the country."

"How do you know this?"

"You came all the way here without checking who's in charge?  Who works at the spy agency again?"

Ione set down her bottle.  "Karen, you're brilliant!"

"Yes, I am."  Karen sat down on the couch.  "How am I brilliant?"

"I need a bar or a bistro or something popular enough to have a crowd this time of day."

"Getting drunk.  Good idea.  I am totally brilliant."

"We're not getting drunk.  Not right now."

"You're losing me, Ione."

Ione stood up.  "Gemma."

"The blonde bitch who tried to bash my head in?  Are you out of your mind?"

"I know what she wants, and I know she's not going to listen to a word I say.  That's why I want a busy place.  She's not going to kill me in front of witnesses."

"You hope."

"I never said this was a good plan.  Do you have your laptop?"

"I was kinda in a hurry when I left Ottawa."  Karen chugged the rest of her beer.  "We do have WiFi here.  At least I can use my phone without costing me an arm and a leg."

Ione retrieved her phone from her jacket.  With a few taps, she connected it to the hotel's wireless network.  "I just need a bar."

"I still say we'd be better off drinking the day away."

"That's not why I need it, as much as getting wasted sounds great right now."  Ione did a quick search.  "Ah, that works.  And it's not far from here."

"If you're trying to fill me in, it helps to use your words more, Ione."

Ione held up her phone to let Karen see her choice, the Brasserie de Monaco.  "It has what I need.  It's touristy and it's open now."  She fired up her Skype app.  "I just have to make a call."  Ione copied a number from her email, pasting it into Skype.  After two rings, the other end picked up.  "Gemma, how's your head?"

"Mackenzie, I will--"

"You will listen to me and do what I tell you.  You have fifteen minutes to get to the Brasserie de Monaco, headache or no.  If you're not there by then, I'll leave and you'll never find who killed your agents."

"If this is a joke--"

Ione never let Gemma finish her sentence.  "Fifteen minutes, Gemma."  She stabbed the disconnect button.

"You're insane," Karen said.  She grabbed her jacket.  "I'm going with you."

"No way, Karen.  It's too dangerous."

Karen glared at her friend.  "That's my line, Ione."  She slipped her shoes on.  "Gemma is violent.  She shot Jack!"

"He got better."

"You need someone there to watch your back.  Besides, I'm dressed and ready to go.  And you need me there."

Ione put on her jacket.  "I don't have time to argue, Karen."

Karen grinned.  "Good.  Means I coming."  She ran to the counter and picked up a pen and a pad of paper.  As she scribbled a note, she explained, "I'm letting Ben know where we've gone in case he gets back."

"A quick note."  Ione opened the door.  "Let's go."  She took one last look at her phone before shoving in her jacket pocket.

"I'm coming!"  Karen dropped the pen and ran out the door.  "How far is it?"

"Fifteen minutes if we walk.  Faster if we ride."  Ione broke into a run, Karen at her heels.

"A taxi?"

"Faster than that."  The two women ran outside.  Ione pointed at her red and white motorcycle.  "That should get us there in five."

Karen stared at the Yamaha.  "You?  On that?  Look how narrow the road is here!"

"You wanted to join me."  Ione mounted the motorcycle.  She held out the helmet for Karen.  "You can wear this."

"Damn straight I want to wear it."  Karen snatched the helmet from her friend's hands.  As she put it on, Ione started the bike.  The engine roared to life before settling into a purr.  Karen climbed on behind Ione, wrapping her arms around her friend's waist.  "Don't get us killed."

Ione released the clutch.  The motorcycle shot down the road, earning a few angry honks as the women shot past.  Weaving through the streets, Ione arrived at the Brasserie with time to spare.  She found a place to park the bike, then killed the engine.  "You can let go now, Karen."

"No, I can't."

"Try putting your feet on the ground."

Karen extended one leg, centimetre by centimetre, until she felt the pavement beneath her shoe.  "Did you have to break the sound barrier?"

"This bike wants to go fast."

"Great.  A possessed motorcycle."

"I'm exaggerating.  Can you please get off so I can park?"

Karen slid off the bike.  She took a few unsteady steps before taking off her helmet.  "I miss my car."

Ione took the helmet from her friend and hung it on the handlebars.  "Fix your hair.  I need to get a good table."

The two women entered the bar.  The crowd was beginning to grow between locals ending their work day and tourists wandering in.  Ione found a white easy chair at a low, small table for two.  She looked over at Karen at the bar, making sure her friend wasn't obvious.  When a server stopped by, Ione ordered a beer, n Ambrée de Monaco brewed onsite.

Gemma arrived with five minutes to spare before Ione's deadline.  Her pantsuit still showed traces of dirt.  The British agent scanned the room.  Finding Ione seated, she stormed across bar's floor to the table.  "Mackenzie."

Ione raised her beer in a mock cheer.  "You made it.  Please, have a seat.  Want something to drink?"

"I'm not thirsty."  Gemma sat across from Ione.  "What is your game, Mackenzie?"

"Right now?  A Bourne LARP."  Ione sipped her beer.

"I'm not in the mood, Mackenzie."

"Neither am I."  Ione set her beer mug on the table.  She leaned forward.  "I have something you want.  You have something I want.  You pull another stunt like you did earlier today and you will never find out what happened at the warehouse."

Gemma narrowed her eyes.  "Why should I trust you?"

"Why should I trust you?  You almost blew the operation once.  It's a good thing my operative here is so resilient.  By the way, how's your head?"

On reflex, Gemma rubbed the side of her head.  "How many 'operatives' do you have here?"

"Enough.  I just needed one do handle you."

"One?  I shot him."

Ione nodded.  "And he's not too happy about that.  I'd think about apologizing to him if I were you."

"You are insane, Mackenzie."

"Quite possibly."  Ione picked up her Ambrée de Monaco.  "Are you sure you don't want anything to drink?  It might help."

"Get to the point."

Ione took a long draught of her beer.  "I can give you not just the being responsible for the destruction of the warehouse and the deaths of everyone on your team but a bonus of two high level men in criminal syndicates plus two dozen crates of weapons and half a tonne of drugs.  That sort of haul would make your bosses sit up and notice."

"And what do you get out of this."

"I need you to be you."

"In the Queen's bloody English."

Ione finished her beer.  "I need you to observe the proceedings.  I also need you to get radio gear, the subtle stuff, so you can follow along."

Gemma looked around.  She signalled the server.  "Just observe?"

"Just observe.  I'll be doing the heavy lifting through all this.  You just get to sit on shore with the rest of my team."


"You'll know what to do and when to do it."

"I think I need that drink now."

Ione set down her beer mug.  "I recommend the Ambrée."  She got up, leaving a twenty euro note on the table.  "It's on me.  I'll be in touch."

Next Week:
"You get to be you in all your lovely suspicious secret agent-ness."
"So, oh great master spy, what now?"
"I think it's the corset."
"And I'm going alone."

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