V. Let’s Make a Deal
The sub-basement of Fourth Branch Safe House, Newark, NJ November 15, 03:13
“I told you, I’m supposed to be on vacation. That’s the only reason why. I’m not saying anything else until I hear from my boss.”
Agent 99 shook his head for the twenty-second time in the 15 minutes he’d been interrogating Vincent Harris.
“I’m going to ask one more time and if you still want to be a wise ass, I’ll have to, uh, switch my interview style, if you see where I’m going.”
“Sure, buddy. Whatever you have to do. You don’t want to believe me, that’s your ass- not mine. I already gave you the same answers to the same questions about six times now. Is my face that dishonest looking? I’m not sure why we’re having all these problems establishing rapport.”
“You expect me to believe you rendered 35 highly trained security personnel unconscious by yourself, unarmed?”
“Then you carried a wounded person for over five miles until you found a motorcycle with a sidecar and stole it.”
“Yes, that’s not so hard to believe. Motorcycle sidecars are all the rage these days.”
“Jesus. You’re looking at Treason easy, that’s if you even get out of here. You don’t want to mess with us. Just cooperate and maybe it won’t be so bad for you. I’m not the bad guy here, I just want to help.”
“Yes you are, and no you don’t. I’m chained to a table and you keep asking me the same questions over and over and telling me my answers are wrong. You threatened to start beating me if I don’t give you answers you can deal with. I don’t think that’s help. You won’t even call the number I gave you. If you did, THAT would be helping me.”
“That’s enough.” Agent 99 un-holstered his service pistol and struck Vincent Harris across the face with it. When Agent 99 pistol whipped people in the past they would yell in pain, howl even. There’d be blood, usually trickling from the side of the mouth or nose. Sometimes they would spit a tooth out.
Vincent Harris didn’t do any of that. In fact, he did nothing. There was no difference between his pre- & post- pistol whipped faces.
“Try it again, please.” Agent 99 was more than happy to comply. He swung his pistol at his prisoner’s face and missed. He tried again, same result. Again and again he attempted to hit Vincent Harris in the face and again and again he failed.
Vincent’s hands shot forward, breaking the chains holding him to the table in the process. He plucked the gun from 99’s hand and took it apart with one hand while he used the other to slam 99’s head into the table. Then he pulled 99’s head up by his hair and slammed it again. This process repeated itself a few times before the person watching the security camera feed noticed and told the guards.
The door to the interrogation room crashed open and five guards in full combat gear entered the room and found Vincent Harris sitting calmly in his chair. Agent 99 was unconscious, blood pouring out of his nose. A few teeth lay next to his head. “Hey guys. How’s tricks?”
A voice from behind the guards bellowed “Out! All of you! Out!”
Commander Kole pushed his way through the guards, again yelling “Get out! Now!” The puzzled guards backed out of the room, keeping their weapons aimed at Harris. Vincent Harris looked at Kole and said “I guess you know my boss, huh?”
“I know everybody’s boss. Do you know who I am?”
“I’m guessing you’re agent 34’s boss. Have you talked to Terbim?”
“Not yet. Look, it’s clear that this is all a misunderstanding, so why don’t you…”
“That’s an understatement. Colossal fuck up is better, but still falls a little short. I’m supposed to be on vacation, you know.”
“Come with me to my office.”
While Vincent Harris was being unsuccessfully questioned, Agent 34 was two floors up getting stitches in the medical office. Her injury was pretty minor. A shard of glass flew into her thigh during the attack in her apartment. It made for a bloody mess and didn’t help her walk, but she was fine. As an agent of the Fourth Branch she was spared the treatment Harris was getting in the basement. After she was sewn up, Commander Kole came to see her.
“How are you, 34?”
“I’m fine sir.”
“Mind telling me what happened?”
She explained what happened and when she finished Commander Kole was pale and a little pasty looking.
“You’ve meet The Runier.”
“Vincent, yeah. It might be a stretch to say we’re friends, but we’ve met. Why the hell was he trying to kill me?”
“Didn’t he tell you?”
“No, he just said he never cares why he has to kill, just who.”
“I need to go downstairs. Can you walk?”
“Great, head to my office. I’ll be there in a jiffy.”
Outside Commander Kole’s Office November 15, 04:44
Kole opened his office door and motioned for Vincent Harris to enter.
Inside Commander Kole’s Office November 15, 04:45
Agent 34 was sitting in a chair in front of Kole’s desk fidgeting with her hands. Harris sat down next to her and relaxed himself into the chair. Kole took his place at his desk and started drumming his fingers against his coffee mug.
This went on for a while. All three of them ended up squirming in their seats. Harris tapped his foot in time with Kole’s finger drumming.
A few painfully awkward moments followed. Kole didn’t know what to say. He had no authority over Project Ruiner; Harris wasn’t even in his chain of command. Besides, how do you discipline someone who knocked out 40 of your people instead of killing them and wasn’t even tired?
Kole knew about the bare bones of Project Ruiner, but not much else. Between what he saw himself and what Agent 34 told him, there was every reason to believe that the only reason he was still alive is because Harris was too pissed off about not getting his way to kill him.
He was in an unfortunate position and he didn’t know where or how to start, but he was in charge and it was up to him to get his head out of his ass and say something.
Kole finished his drum solo and said “Thanks, Harris. I know you could have killed my people instead of just incapacitating them. This mess is already big enough without having to explain another 40 bodies. I’m going to have to transfer half the staff as it is.”
In ten years of killing people for the Government, no one had bothered to say “Thank you”, or any other phrase that indicated appreciation.
“Don’t mention it.”
“Wait- transferred? What will happen to me?”, said Agent 34.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. I think it’s best if you went on paid leave for at least a few months. This is the first time someone found out about The Ruiner who shouldn’t have.” Kole answered while he gestured with his thumb towards Harris, to indicate who he meant.
“I’ll get to come back to work eventually?”
“I can’t make any promises. This is uncharted territory.”
“Look,” interrupted Harris. “We damn well know how this shit works. You fucked up because the Fourth Branch is too secret for its own good. Now 34 and I know a bunch of stuff we shouldn’t. No offense, but I’d be surprised if I’m not ordered to kill the three of us and blow this joint up before the day’s over. Stop pretending you’re trying to help when all you’re trying to do is cover your ass.”
“What do you want, Harris?”
“My vacation. What do you want?”
“I’d like to keep my job and avoid having Congress or the FBI come sniffing around asking a bunch of questions.”
Harris turned to 34. “Same question, 34.”
“I’d like to keep my job and not have to worry about being collateral damage,” She said.
“Who else knows about this aside from the three of us and Terbim?”
“Just the security personnel.”
“They can be lied to. Shouldn’t be a problem. Terbim is in the same boat as you, Kole. Why haven’t you spoken to him already?”
“He hasn’t replied to my email yet.”
“You sent an email? No wonder shit like this keeps happening.” Harris almost spat on the floor in disgust, but decided there wasn’t a need for more drama.
“Let’s stay on topic, can we?” Suggested 34.
“Calm down, the both of you. I need time to think. You should get some rest. You two must be exhausted after all this.”
“Do you have a shower? I love hot showers and one right now would make me feel less uncooperative,” suggested Harris.
“Of course, what do you think this is? Some Micky Mouse spy ring? There’s a suite on the third floor. You’ll have to share the bathroom and kitchen facilities, but there’s two beds.”
“Kitchen?” Agent 34 perked up a bit when she heard then repeated the word kitchen. She just realized how hungry she was. She only had that little bit of ice cream since getting back to her apartment.
“I’ll show you up now.” said Kole as he stood up.
3rd Floor Recovery Suite 05:30
Harris finished his shower and found Agent 34 frying some eggs without her shoes on.
Vincent Harris muttered the word “Shit.” and sniffed the air.
“Do you smell something weird?” he asked agent 34.
“Nope. Just eggs. Want some?”
Harris went to the stove and removed the frying pan from the heat and turned off the stove. He sniffed the air again, and his ears perked up.
“Do you hear that?” Harris asked.
“It’s like a hissing sound, like air coming out of a tire. There’s a smell I can’t place too.”
“I don’t hear or smell anything.”
“Put your shoes on. We have to go.”
Harris wasn’t a serious person, but when things got serious he didn’t mess around. He did what he needed to do without too much of a fuss. His serious demeanor was a stark contrast to much of what Agent 34 had experienced. She put her shoes on.
“How’s the leg?” he asked.
“I’m not running any marathons for a while, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Harris ignored her attempt at humor. He was busy thinking.
“We have about a minute before the hissing sound you can’t hear gets louder and that smell I can’t place turns out to be some sort of poison gas.”
He continued. “So I need to know if you know if there’s a sniper on the roof? There’s no guards visible outside. No way there’s nobody looking after this joint.”
“I don’t know. I’ve never been here.”
Harris went over to the only window in the room. He looked down into a fairly normal suburban street.
“How about a piggy back ride? It’s either that or poison gas.”
Agent 34 had her shoes on and was shoving a fried egg in her mouth. “Rebby when youb are,” she said through a wad of half chewed, half-cooked eggs.
Harris opened the window and, with Agent 34 clinging to his back, they made their way to the roof.
There was no sniper. So they had that going for them.
“We gotta get out of here. Any ideas?” Asked Vincent after 34 dismounted him.