I came downstairs to the kitchen at around 6:30 the next morning. I felt better than I had in a while. John had given me some comfortable women’s clothing when we got to the farmhouse, which I had on as I came down. He also didn’t knock on the door, but let me get up when I was ready.
“Good morning,” he said as I came in. “I hope you’re well rested. Hopefully this will be a short day and will be over by noon.”
“Good morning,” I said. “Yeah, I feel good. Did you sleep well?”
He nodded and served me his famous breakfast. If anything, it was better than back in Rochester.
After helping him clean after breakfast, I started to take off my shirt.
“Whoa, slow down,” he said. “What’s up?”
I pulled my shirt all of the way off and tossed it to the side.
“I’m ready for you to wrap me.” I put my arms out.
His face was red slightly red. He turned away.
“I thought I told you. Billy is gone, he returned home to Rochester. There’s no reason to be incognito today.”
“Oh.” He had said a few things about Billy being gone, but I guess I didn’t understand.
“Put your shirt back on and let’s get ready to go. Me as John, you as Margret.” He didn’t turn back to me, but continued to look straight ahead, away from me.
I grabbed my shirt and put it on. I really didn’t understand him. He could man handle me one minute and then be embarrassed about my naked breasts, which he’d seen before, the next.
A thought struck me. Was it possible he was beginning to like me? That is, “like me” in the way a high school student would use the term. I felt a little flustered, but also warm all over. After Ben had left for good, there was a lot to like about John.
It felt odd going out dressed as me again. The clothes I wore were comfortable, but also gave me a lot of flexibility, just in case I needed it.
John let me keep the Glock 22 and plenty of ammo. He also gave me a couple of knives. There were several rifles in the truck. He had smiled and said it was almost over. Were we going to war?
We hadn’t gone far when we saw car catching up to us at a high rate of speed.
“Roll down your window,” Jon said. “I’m going to take a fast, hard right. Take ‘em out.”
I could see them plain as day as we whipped around the corner. Two shots, one hitting the driver, the second hitting the front seat passenger, and they were out of range. Looking back I could see them flip over into a ditch on the side of the road.
I rolled up the window and John continued as if nothing had happened.
It didn’t take us much longer to reach the park.
Eagle Point Park was small, but pretty. It was on a bluff over the Mississippi River and had some great views. There were was a large lodge and some pavilions. Just like when I had visited it just a short time previously, it was empty at 8:30 on a late winter morning.
We parked in the empty lot and walked over to the storage shed. Even though I had done it just a little over a week before, it took me a minute to extract the key from its hiding spot. I opened the door and led the way around the equipment to the back. I moved some stuff off of the large wooden box and lifted the lid. I lifted out net and then a large canvas tarp. The attaché was under the tarp. John reached in and pulled it out. He studied the case as I put everything back in the box, closed it, and then put the stuff back on top.
I was about to leave when he put a hand gently, but firmly on my shoulder.
“You did obey the letter of the law, if not the intent,” he said. His look was inscrutable. I felt that John had left and Ben was back. “But then,” he continued, “I guess it might be for the best. Ng is waiting for us. We’ll discuss it later.”
We exited the shed and I locked it up, putting the key back into its hidey-hole. I turned and let out a gasp.
“Good morning, Ms. Fields,” Mr. Ng said. There were several people around him, but spread out, surrounding us. “You brought us to the case, as requested. Are you going to finish the job?”
“Where’s Rose? You said if I finished the job you’d release her,” I said. I slowly slipped my hand down so it was close to the Glock.
“I said no such thing. What I said was that if you didn’t finish the job, I would have her killed. I never said what I’d do to her if you did finish the job.” He chuckled.
I looked around at the men surrounding us. I had the serene expression I wore before taking out the three knife-men.
“There’s only ten of you,” I said. “I bet I can take out at least eight, if not all of you. Guess where my first shot will hit?” I made sure my serene smile was directly on Ng.
He chuckled again. “You did do amazing well in your little jaunt, I will give you that,” he said. “And I know that Ben is one of the best in the business. But then, you said ten. That means you don’t see any of the snipers. You’d never get that first shot off.” He chuckled again. “But, as a reward for doing so well… I am a generous man, and I do keep my word, even if I never really gave it.” He turned and said something in what I assumed must have been Chinese.
Two men walked up with Rose between them. Her hands were bound behind her back and her mouth was taped shut.
“Yes, Ms. Fields, a Rose between two thorns. She’ll be freed as soon as you fulfil your side of the bargain.” He shrugged. “What choice do you have? All three of you die and I get the case and destroy the keys, or you destroy them and all three of you live.”
I glanced over at John, or Ben, and he handed me the case. I looked at it. Everything seemed to be normal. I flicked a switch and turned a knob in the way I had been instructed. I heard a click. It should work. I tossed the case to the side, away from any person. It popped open, exposing the USB drives.
“I thought I said…” Mr. Ng started, but then stopped.
The interior of the case began to glow. After a second or two, a flame shot out. It was hot, very hot. It burned for forty five seconds before the fire died down. When it was out, all that was left was the twisted melted form of the outer case. All of the USB drives had been destroyed.
Mr. Ng made a motion and a man came over to him.
“Did you get a good look?” The man nodded. “Where those the right drives, the ones with the keys?”
“Yes,” the man said.
“Are you 100% sure?” The man nodded. “And there is no way she could have reproduced them, is there?”
“No sir, those were the only copies, barring the ones we intercepted as they were sent to the six vaults.”
“Very well done, Ms. Fields,” Ng said. “You and your hitman, Ben, just stay were you are until we are gone. Don’t make any moves whatsoever.”
He turned and walked away. There were three large Hummer limos, but he walked past them, out of my sight. There was a noise, or I should say, the constant noise I had ignored grew loader. A helicopter lifted off and quickly vanished over the horizon. Ng’s men got into the limos and pulled away.
I ran over and took the gag off of Rose’s mouth while John started working on the binds on her wrists.
“I’m sorry I got you involved in this,” both me and Rose said together. My mouth dropped, but she laughed.
“Yeah, I’ve in on it for years,” she said. “Thanks John, that feels better.” She grabbed me with her newly released hands and hugged me tight.
“Let’s go,” John said. He wasn’t smiling.
We got into the pickup, me squeezed between Rose and John.
“Where to?” John asked.
“Home, I guess,” I said. “Though I don’t know what I have to return to. Obviously I’m out of work.”
“Oh, never worry, they’ll find you a job,” Rose said.
“No, not home. Where are we going?” John was still frowning.
“Johnathan Smith, what is wrong with you?” Rose asked.
“John Smith?” I asked.
Rose looked confused. “Yeah, you’ve been working with him for years, haven’t you? John Smith, super genius, one of the world’s greatest computer programmers and one of the world’s greatest secret agents.”
“You’re John Smith? The John Smith?” I asked, looking at John.
“Yes. Where are they?”
“You know,” he said. “Think. I’m the same John Smith that created the case. I’m the same John Smith that put all of the keys in the case. I am the same John Smith that booby trapped it and let you know how to trigger the booby trap. So I am the same John Smith that can look at the case and realize that you had tampered with it and had replaced the keys. Where are they?”
“Grand Central Station,” I said.
“You’re joking,” he said. I shook my head. “Really? Grand Central Station?”
“Yeah. I hid them before I left the city. I put them in a locker and gave the key to my cousin, Jane.”
He laughed. “Damn, you and your cousin have beat every spy in the world.”
“I told you she was resourceful, didn’t I?” Rose asked. “You should have believed me.”
“Yeah, I should have. So, back to New York. Margret, call your cousin and arrange to pick up the key and I’ll have some specialists meet us. Nobody will ever know it was you.”
“So, I need to go get the key to unlock this so you can get the key to unlock the case and, perhaps, lock up Ng.”
“Couldn’t have put it better myself,” John said. “Now, back to New York.”
‘Yeah, as I said, home.” I winked at John and he smiled and put the pickup in gear.
We pulled out of the park and Rose took my hand. I could feel our connection, tight as it had always been, grow even closer.
I figured there’d be an adventure before we reached home and knew that there was no one on Earth that I’d rather share it with than two who now surrounded me.
Thinking of those two, I also knew that it did matter where we were, as long as I was close to either of them, I was home.
The photo at the top was taken at Eagle Point Park back in the dark ages ;) That’s the Mississippi River in the background. I’m the one with the keyboard and awful beer.