How Much Is Gold Worth?
by Cat Connor
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
“All private, difficult to verify?”
“I still can’t believe that people actually want this guy dead. What’s with that? Surely not everyone can be dumb enough to believe in leprechauns?”
Dana rocked her chair back till her shoulders contacted the wall behind. “What can I say? I haven’t verified the existence of the little person, I don’t care to either. All I know is Kennedy pays well and on time and seems to have no problem coming up with advances as required.”
“You’re not curious?”
Dana’s eyes rolled with great exaggeration. "Not at all. I think there is a high possibility of serious mental illness, and I don’t wanna get that close.”
“We should get going.” Raven said. "I’m not sure about Dana coming to the airport. Tomorrow morning will be fine, but let’s not give the bad guys too long to plan something.”
Dana smiled. "You two go, I have to see a man about a... um...” She paused trying to find the right words. “A dog?”
Mark kicked the leg of her chair which righted itself suddenly, dropping her back into an upright position. He leaned forward and growled, “I know what you are doing.”
She batted her long black eyelashes innocently. "Do you indeed?”
She mustered more innocence. “And that would be?”
He returned a cold stare. “Stay under the radar.”
“You’re forgetting who I am.” She returned the cold stare. "I’m not going to compromise this job. But I need to discuss evacuation procedure and response times with the local police, I also need to establish the quickest route to the nearest hospital with an emergency department.”
Dana’s cell phone beeped with an incoming text message, less than a second later Mark’s phone did the same. They both checked their messages.
Mark’s face twitched into a fleeting smile. "Bryce is picking you up.”
Dana shot him a look that implied he was an idiot to think otherwise. "Yeah.”
Raven and Mark left for the airport, Dana suspected it would involve some kind of male macho bonding and was quite glad to not be party to it. Minutes after they left, Bryce arrived.
The front door swung open. Dana picked her jacket up as she walked toward the open door. He slid his sunglasses up onto his head and lounged against the doorframe, casual and yet not. His eyes missed nothing. “Looking good, Dana.”
She thrust her arms into her jacket. “You too.”
A small smile crossed his eyes. "You serious about the leprechaun?”
Dana licked her lips then smiled. “I have no clue if the leprechaun is real or imagined. It’s not our concern.”
Bryce reached passed her and pulled the door shut tightly. “You do have a key, right?”
She chuckled. "Nope, I have you.”
Bryce draped an arm around her shoulders steering her toward a waiting car. "Some things never change, and you will always be a smartass.”
He and Dana met with the local police area commander, then the local hospital and asked a multitude of questions regarding their ability to cope with mass injury, including poisonous gases. They returned satisfied that the response time in the event of a major catastrophe was within acceptable limits.
Dana refused to contemplate what that actually meant to real people. She had always had difficulty with the military/political notion of acceptable loss and wasn’t about to change her mind now, so it was safer and less worrisome to not think about it. Everything that could be done would be done end of story.
The four met back at the motel an hour before midnight, errands run and preparation complete.
It didn’t seem long before morning; Dana lay in a tangled mess exhausted from fighting imaginary demons all night. Her bedroom door squeaked the smell of coffee permeated the room.
“Up and at em.” Raven stepped into her line of vision carrying a cup of coffee.
She groaned, struggled into a semi-sitting position to accept the coffee, and said nothing as Raven disappeared back out the door.
An hour later, everyone assembled around the table, clean, awake, and ready to move. Patrick Kennedy alighted from the aircraft and walked sedately down the gangway, he adjusted his grip on the leather briefcase clasped under his right arm then pushed his heavy rimmed glasses closer to his face. His tweed jacket and rumpled clothing matched his wayward wiry hair and the three-day-old graying beard on his chin.
Nearing the glass doors leading to the main terminal building he saw Dana leaning against a pillar. He acknowledged her with a discreet nod and stepped through the doorway his eyes on Dana. She turned and walked away. He found himself surrounded immediately by three large men. As they moved, he moved, following Dana.
She stopped by the baggage claim area. “Luggage?” she asked him briskly.
He nodded. "One brown suitcase.”
Dana glanced at Raven, who demanded Kennedy’s baggage receipts.
They waited, not speaking until the one brown suitcase was located and safely retrieved. Dana felt a sense of relief once the airport was behind them but she had a sneaking suspicion it would be short-lived. It was all too easy. Every other time she had escorted Kennedy anywhere it was full-on war. No matter what the public occasion it ended in arrests and bloodshed.
An uneasy feeling spread through her as their car turned the motel driveway. Kennedy sat in silence in the back, which wasn’t unusual: he never did say much. The man was enigmatic but not to the point that Dana felt compelled to delve into his mysterious behavior. Quite the opposite: unless it had something to do with recent threats and possible attacks, she could care less about him and his life.
Once inside Dana showed Kennedy around, pointing out the bathroom and kitchen, and suggested strongly that he keep away from the windows. She remembered how far shards of plate glass had flown in a London hotel six weeks earlier. Her right arm twinged. Involuntarily she wrapped her left hand around the obvious scar.
She settled Kennedy in the living room, leaving the heavy drapes closed, even though much vegetation and a high fence surrounded the area.
“Someone will bring you tea shortly,” she told him, pulling the doors shut as she entered the dining room.
The men were waiting. “Who stays with him?” Raven asked.
She surveyed their less than impressed expressions. “Me.”
“I’m staying too.” Bryce replied quietly. “You two get the venue checked over.” He looked to Raven. "What equipment are you taking?”
Raven grinned. "Mainly electronics, sniffers, etc. to detect explosives.” He saw the appalled expressions on Mark and Bryce’s faces and tried to maintain his composure. "We got a bomb dog coming in, on loan from the Army bomb disposal unit.”
Both men’s frowns lifted and they nodded in approval. Raven eyed Dana, who smiled calmly. “Get out of here, watch your backs.” Dana ushered them to the door. "Don’t be all morning.”
Mark and Raven slid on their sunglasses and left in a wave of coolness.
Dana busied herself making coffee and a pot of tea. She was washing the cups from breakfast when a loud shriek broke the air; she jumped, smashing the cup in her hand as it dropped into the sink.
Bryce threw the dining room door open. "Kennedy?”
The disheveled man peered up at him, beads of sweat gathered on his brow. His glasses clutched in his hand, knuckles white.
Dana and Bryce checked the room, and then quickly checked outside. There was no one around.
“What’s wrong?” Dana crouched down beside the panicked man.
His eyes widened. "It’s broken.”
“What is broken?” she asked with patience.
He snapped, “My glasses, you stupid girl!”
Dana stood slowly until she was standing over her crumpled employer; there was no disguising the coldness in her words. "I’ll be in the other room.” She stopped herself saying anything she may regret later.
“Don’t you understand? They broke!” Kennedy’s voice pitched through several octaves.
Dana replied, “So?”
“They broke!” he shrieked.
She calmed her rising temper. "So you said, I really don’t think broken glasses are an excuse for rudeness.”
Kennedy flung his hand outward, sending the broken spectacles flying.
With a flick of his wrist, Bryce snatched them from mid-air. “What’s so special about these glasses?” he asked, inspecting them. He paused and showed Dana what he found.
“Oh,” she replied, turning back to the now quite distraught man on the sofa.
Bryce pointed out the small screen in the corner of one lens. Kennedy had some sort of remote camera sending images to his glasses. “Guess they weren’t for reading.”
He glared at her. "Can you fix them?”
“Wouldn’t it be too late? Don’t they vanish the second you take your eyes off them?” She dropped the broken glasses back into Bryce’s hand. “How long has it been since you have slept?”
“How stupid are you?” he hissed. "You think I have kept him this long by sleeping?”
His bloodshot eyes lifted to meet her stare. "It’s over.”
Dana laughed. "Over?”
Disbelief crept into her voice. "It doesn’t just end like that! Those that believed you had a leprechaun will not let this just end.”
Bryce tapped Dana on the shoulder, holding his finger to his lips. She listened. They heard a strange noise coming from Kennedy’s suitcase in the corner of the room.
“What the hell is that?” Dana demanded her eyes narrowed as she turned her attention back to Kennedy. He leaped from the sofa, scurried to the suitcase and fumbled with a combination lock.
“What is it?” Dana demanded again, watching him fumbling. Sweat dripped from his brow. “Kennedy?”
He wiped his sleeve across his face but didn’t answer. Bryce knelt next to him. "What’s the combination?”
“4-8-6-5-3. But it’s not working.”
“Move.” He nudged the man out of the way while palming a Swiss army knife; with a quick flick of his wrist he opened the lock and then the suitcase. Dana watched Bryce reach in and scoop something into his large hands. Slowly he withdrew his hands from inside the case. Dana saw green through his fingers.
“What the hell is that?”
Without speaking, he opened his hands. There, lying limply was a small doll-like thing, dressed in deep green and brown. Dana peered at it in disbelief. Her mind was struggling to accept what she saw.
“Is it alive?”
“I can feel it breathing, but only just.”
“What do we do with it?”
“I have no idea.”
They both turned to Kennedy. “What do we do?”
“Set him free,” he choked. “And quickly.”
“Just put him under the nearest hedge and pray he survives.”
“Christ, I’m glad Mark isn’t here,” Bryce muttered under his breath. "Open the sliding door, Dana, let’s get this little fellow out to the garden.”
“They’re not going to believe us,” she said, opening the door.
She followed Bryce as he hurried into the yard, talking as he went. “I’d sooner they didn’t believe us than found a little dead body. God knows what kinda extreme bad luck that’d bring!”
“It doesn’t seem right to leave him out here alone.” Dana said, as Bryce placed the little man on soft grass under the hedge as close to the house as possible.
“We’ll take turns watching to make sure no cats think he’s dinner.”
Dana shuddered. “I’ll go get a dry face cloth, that’d be about the right size for a blanket huh?”
“Good idea.” Bryce sat down.
“Maybe a drink of water, and something for the little guy to eat?”
“Yeah, do that too.”
Dana hurried back inside. Kennedy was waiting; rivers of sweat ran down his balding head onto his pasty face.
“Is he all right?”
“We don’t know yet.” Dana replied curtly. She side stepped him and carried on with her tasks. His clammy hand grabbed at her shirt as she passed him. She shrugged it off. "Leave us be. You caused this, and now it’s our problem.”
Instead of taking turns watching the little man, Bryce and Dana sat together. They helped the leprechaun drink tiny sips of water from a teaspoon until he was strong enough to eat small bites of leftover pizza.
When Mark and Raven returned they found Dana and Bryce asleep under the hedge. After a quick search, they discovered Kennedy’s lifeless body in the bathroom, an empty pill bottle beside him. They couldn’t get any sense from Dana or Bryce; they kept talking about a little man. With the absence of any evidence, Mark and Raven came to the only conclusion possible; Kennedy had somehow drugged them before he killed himself. A highly unlikely scenario, but the only one they could bring together in their own minds.
Copyright © 2008 by Cat Connor