5 Jan 2018

The Devil You Know - Chapter 23

The final arrangements before the meet.
The trip to the yacht took half an hour, with Ione keeping the speedboat's throttle set at a low speed.  Ione took advantage of the time to get a look at the Monaco coast line and at the expanse of the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  One last moment of relaxation before leaping into the fires.  At about a kilometre away from the yacht, she saw another boat, much larger than hers, meet up with her destination.  Crates got hauled out on the new boat's deck, the weapons, Ione figured.

As her boat approached the yacht, Ione cut back on the speed, letting the momentum carry her closer.  Two men appeared above her, both armed with submachine guns.  Ione held her arms away from her body.  "Jack sent me."

Marco appeared at the railing.  "She's cool.  Let her on board."

Ione tossed a rope to one of the men to tie off the boat.  She picked up the briefcase, holding it up to let everyone else see it.  "Jack's kept his end of the bargain."

"Where is Jack?" Marco asked.

"He had other business come up."  Ione reached into her jacket pocket to retrieve the radio.  "He's still listening."

"What?  He doesn't trust us?"

Ione laughed.  "He doesn't trust me, the bastard."  She climbed on board the yacht.

Emil emerged from his boat.  "Ted couldn't make it, either."

Marco shook his head.  "Alessandro won't like that, once he hears of it.  Which may be a day or two."

"None of the bosses are here." Ione smiled.  "Means we don't have to hurry."

"Means we have to make sure of the goods ourselves before we do anything."  Emil pointed to his crates.  "Got a way to get these on to your boat, Marco?"

"Hold on."  Marco barked out a few orders in Italian.  "My boys will handle it."

Ione heard a double click on her radio.  She shoved the receiver back in her pocket, thumbing it over to channel five.  "Good.  Lovely night for this."

Emil stared at her.  "Lovely night?  What is this?"

"Jack normally has me take his place when the weather's awful.  Rain, snow, hurricane, he sends me out in it."

"Ever have to show up in Afghanistan in the winter?" Marco asked.  "Now that's a pain."

Over the ear piece, Ione heard Gemma say, "I'll need descriptions of the bosses, Mac."

"Yeah, I get you.  Three years ago, Northern Ontario, Canada.  Jack made a deal and that was the only place he could get the merchandise into without tipping off anyone."  Ione switched her radio back to channel three, hoping Gemma caught her hint.  "Cold as hell there.  So, want to verify the cash?  I prefer inside.  I don't want the money to get blown out to sea until after I've passed it off."

Jack's voice purred in her ear.  "You're doing well, my dear.  Keep it up."

"Sure," Marco said.  "Maybe dip into the boss' bar for to celebrate a successful deal."

"I also want to see the drugs," Ione said.

"Of course, of course."  Marco led Ione and Emil inside the yacht to its lounge.

Ione took in the decor, the paintings trying hard to be respectable on the walls competing with not quite  pornographic nude statuettes on the tables.  She figured that even one of the smaller busty figures would be worth more than she made in a month.  Finding a free spot on the bar, Ione set down her briefcase.  "Classy."

Marco stepped behind the bar.  "Alessadro has his tastes.  Speaking of, the bar's fully stocked.  Drink anyone?"  He brought out three glasses.

"Vodka," Emil said.  "I'd like to see the money first."

"Happy to show you."  Ione unlocked the briefcase.  "Whiskey, neat."  She opened the case to reveal many bundles of Euros.  "Satisfied?"

Emil grabbed one of the bundles and riffled through it.  "Used, non-sequential, your Jack knows what he's doing."

"Would we even be talking if he didn't?"  Ione accepted her whiskey.

On the radio, Jack said, "Watch the sarcasm, dear."

One of Marco's associates came inside.  He spoke a few words in Italian.  Ione caught the words "fusile" and "buono" before the conversation went too fast for her to pick out anything more.  After the associate left, Marco said, "He's bringing samples for you."

"Party favours?" Emil asked.  He tossed the bundle of money in his hands back into the briefcase.

"Depends on the purity."  Ione looked over to Marco.

"Alessandro gave his personal guarentee," Marco said.

"I hope so.  Jack hates it when he's crossed."

Jack's laughter broke up the radio transmission.  "My dear, you're making me sound better than I could have ever hoped."

Karen's voice broke in on the radio.  "Ione, head's up.  You have--  Is he walking on the water?"

"Alessandro never goes back on a deal," Marco said.

Ione downed her whiskey in one long swallow.  She slammed the glass down on the bar.  "That's good."  She heard a double click on the radio.  "Where's the little girl's room?  I need to powder my nose."

Marco pointed deeper into the yacht.  "Just on the left.  Port.  Whatever it is."

"Thanks."  Ione flashed the gangster a smile then sauntered down the hallway.  Once inside the head, she switched her radio to channel five.  "What is it, G?"

"I think I have a concussion," Gemma said.  "I'm seeing a man walking on the water."

"That sounds about right.  Get a better look at him."

There was a pause before Gemma returned with a string of colourful curses.  "That's not possible."

Ione locked the door.  "And the guy you shot three times in the chest yesterday still beat you up.  So 'not possible' isn't a factor here, G."

"I'm calling in the helicopters.  They'll be there in fifteen minutes."

"That's not a good idea, G."

"The man I'm hunting is walking on water.  What do you want me to do."

Ione leaned against the sink.  "Go back to channel three.  I'll make introductions.  Then we'll figure out what to do."  She returned to the channel where the rest of her team was chattering.  "Hey, hey!  Not all at once, eh?"

"It helps if you respond, my dear," Jack said.

"I was dealing with other issues.  Speaking of, everyone, meet G, my ace in the hole.  G is very, very sorry she shot you, Jack, and will make amends for your suit once this is all over.  G also has choppers coming out this way."

"ETA is fifteen minutes," Gemma said.

"The rogue's is maybe two minutes," Ben said.  "He's flying."

Pounding came from the door.  "What the hell are you trying to pull, Ada?" Marco shouted.

Ione flushed the toilet, waited a beat, then opened the door.  "What are you talking about?"

Marco pulled her out of the head and back to the lounge.  He pointed at a winged man flying towards the yacht.  "Him!"

Ione stared at the rogue angel.  "What did you put in those drinks?"

Gunfire erupted from the deck, bursts of staccato punctuated with loud booms and sharp cracks.  Out of pure instinct, Ione ducked down.  Marco drew a large pistol from his waistband.  "I'll deal with you later."  He ran out on to the deck.

Ione raised her head.  The briefcase full of Euros was still on the bar.  Ione crawled there on hands and knees.  Risking standing up, she slammed the case shut.  She dropped back to the floor, pulling the briefcase down with her.

"Ione?  Ione?"  Karen's voice was laced with worry.  "Are you still there?  What's going on?"

"I'm busy ducking!"

"It sounds like a war there!"

"Let's not exaggerate," Jack said.  "That's nothing like a war.  Not enough screaming, for one."

A window shattered.  Glass rained down on the floor.  "I can give you screaming, Jack.  G, how much longer for the helicopter?"

"You can't leave yet, my dear.  You still have the rogue to deal with."

More glass shattered.  Ione stifled her urge to shriek.  "If I survive this part."

"Put as much of the boat between you and the rogue," Ben said.

"There's not enough boat!"

"My dear, get out of the lounge," Jack said.  "And whatever you do, don't look at the rogue until he lands."

Ione craned her head around, looking for an exit that didn't lead to the gunfire.  She got up to a crouch, then hurried deeper into the yacht, keeping an eye out for something that would get her out on deck.  An open hatchway let her get outside.  Behind her, screams erupted, loud and short, cut off before the yell could be finished.  A feeling of dread and awe washed over her.  Ione clutched the briefcase close to her chest and closed her eyes.

The gunfire ceased, leaving a deafening silence in its wake.  The boat shifted.  A deep, accent-less voice said, "Prepare to meet your Maker."

"I'm sorry, my dear," Jack said, "but it's now all up to you."

"I'm sorry, too," Ione whispered.  She took a deep breath, trying to steel herself.  "G?  Have the helicopters hold at five minutes out."

"Are you crazy, Mac?"  The radio didn't hide Gemma's anger.  "I'm not letting this guy get away!"

"Do you want to take on an angel, G?  Maybe lose even more people?  Don't let the choppers come in until I saw so."

"I can hear you," the rogue angel said.  "Come out."

Ione fumbled in her jacket pocket before being able to turn the volume down on her radio.  She stood up, ignoring the shaking in her knees.  "I'm coming!  Don't shoot!"  She held her hands away from her body as she walked aft.  "I'm not going to do anything rash."  When she rounded the corner, she saw the rogue angel - terribly beautiful, tall, muscular, white wings spanning almost the full width of the yacht.  The angel held his oversized sword in one hand, pointing the blade at her.  "Do we really need that out?"

The angel sniffed the air.  "You smell of demonic taint."

"No kidding.  Do you know what you just did here?"  Ione furrowed her brows in anger.  "Do you know how many years of work you just destroyed?"

"Tell me who you work for and your death will be swift."

"I'm with the Communication Security Establishment.  Canadian intelligence.  You just blew the operation here."  Ione lowered her hands.  "I almost had senior leaders of two cartels when you showed up."

The sword tip wavered a few millimetres, enough for Ione to notice.  "You reek of demons," the rogue angel said.

Ione rolled her eyes.  "And who am I supposed to deal with?  Angels?  Running drugs?"  Despite the bravado, she felt her heart beating hard in her chest.  "Please."

"I found you."

A wave of power slammed through Ione.  Her breath caught.  "You found the minions, not the bosses."

The rogue angel took a step towards Ione.  "Tell me where the bosses are."

Ione willed herself to remain standing.  "I can't.  You interrupted the meet before I could find out."

"The you are of no use to me."  The angel raised his sword.  "Prepare to meet your Maker."

"Hey, whoa!"  Ione retreated several steps.  "You're going to kill me?"

"You have fraternized with demons.  You are tainted."

"Who appointed you judge, jury, and executioner?"

The angel approached Ione, each step sending a shudder through the yacht.  "It is time.  I will see the demon you work for."

"And if you're wrong?"  Ione felt her back press against the outer wall of the lounge.  "There's no demon coming for me."

"You are tainted."

"So no chance at redemption?  No chance at salvation?  No chance to atone?  What about you?  Won't killing me taint you?  I'm trying to keep these weapons and drugs off the streets so no one comes to harm from them.  Doesn't that count for anything?"

The rogue angel took another step towards Ione.  "No."

Ione wished she could move further away.  She tried to flatten herself against the wall at her back.  "Must be easy, not having to choose between the lesser and greater evils.  Everything so nicely black and white.  He stabs a someone to stop them from killing, so off with his head.  She shoplifts a can of spaghetti so her kids can eat for one night, so gut her like a fish.  He jaywalked, the verdict is death!"  Ione mustered a defiant glare.  "Do motives even cross your mind?"

"That is irrelevant.  The ends are the ends and must remain pure."  The rogue angel hefted his sword.

"And no amount of rules lawyering will ever change that."  Ione closed her eyes as the angel swung his sword.  She hoped that she wouldn't feel any pain.

After a lifetime, the angel asked, "'Rules lawyering'?"

Realizing that she was still breathing and that her head was still attached to the rest of her body, Ione opened her eyes.  "Rules lawyering."  Relief surged through her.  Her knees threatened to collapse.  "When one manipulates the letter of the rules to get a good result while still violating the spirit of the rules."  Ione peeked at the sword; the point was several millimetres away from her neck.  "No one is really fooled by a rules lawyer, especially one manipulating the rules to start a war.  If you want an all-out war, then start one yourself and leave me and the rest of humanity out of it.  We don't need your help starting conflict.  We're quite good at warring on our own.  But I refuse to stand by and let some busybody destroy my home!"

The angel backed away a pace.  "How do you know?"  The sword remained raised.

"Does it matter?  Let me ask you this – is the Almighty omnipotent and omniscient?"

"Of course.  How is that relevant?"

"Have you wondered why there are demons and devils?  I mean, all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, should be able to prevent them from existing at all, right?  And if your side was guaranteed to win the Final War, why hasn't it been fought by now?  You don't see the Canadian women's hockey team delaying a game against Japan when everyone knows it's going to be a blow out in their favour."

The rogue angel blinked.  "Are you saying that your Maker is not all powerful?"

"Everything is part of His plan, right?

"It is beyond your capability and mine to understand the Plan."

"Everything, including you, including me, including even the demons and devils.  Maybe you're being tested.  And maybe you are failing that test right now."

The sword lowered, the tip pointing towards the deck.  "You cannot know the mind of your Maker."

"Neither can you.  Right now, we could both be being tested and what we do in the next few minutes will determine whether we pass or fail.  This time, there are no retakes.  Do you want to risk yourself, your fellow angels, and every life on Earth that your guess is right?  God may not play dice with the universe, but He does play a mean game of high stakes five card draw."

Ione stared at the angel, never blinking, never breaking eye contact, for several long minutes.  The angel sheathed his sword.  "If we're done here, I'm going to go find someplace quiet so I can have a total breakdown."  Ione held the briefcase close to her chest.  "Go ahead and destroy the boat.  It'll save me the effort of figuring out how to destroy the guns and drugs later."  She walked stiff-legged to the speedboat.  After casting off and pushing away from the yacht, Ione pointed the speedboat at the shoreline and opened the throttle.  When she was five hundred metres away, the yacht exploded.

The adrenaline drained from her.  Ione fell back in her seat.  Mustering all the energy she could, she reached into her pocket and turned up the volume on her radio.  A cacophony of yells greeted her.  "Guys, hey, guys?  Can you yell later when you're not in my ear?"

"Ione!"  Karen's shout made Ione wince.  "You're alive!"

"I'm alive, but I don't know if I can get this boat back."

"Mac, all that evidence," Gemma said.  "Gone."

"Hey, G, good to see you care."

"One of the choppers sees you.  Want a ride?"

"That's the best offer I've had today."  Ione risked a look back.  The yacht burned, adding its own reds and yellows to the sunset's.  "Anyone see where the rogue went?"

"Home," Ben said.  "He went home."

"My dear, that was not what I was expecting."  Jack laughed.  "However, you got the job done.  I will keep my end of our bargain.  You and your friend will fly home tomorrow and you both will still be employed.  Ione, if you ever want a career change, look me up."

"Thanks, Jack."  Hearing a helicopter approaching, Ione brought the speedboat to a stop.  "Mara, are you still there?"

"I'm here."

"I owe you a proper hug."

"I'm not following, Ione."

"I used you, Mara.  I needed the rogue to think I was hanging around demons."

Mara chuckled.  "Hey, it worked, right?  I'll be waiting for you when you get back."

A grey helicopter came into Ione's view.  "I better go.  I'll talk to everyone later.  And Jack?  Not everything went up with the yacht."

"My dear, I knew I liked you."

Next Week:
"Ben would be jealous, if he wasn't an angel."
"Jack's joking, right?"
"Diesel, is someone at the door?"
"The owner doesn't seem to like me."

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