Pt. VI Let’s Go Down to the Lobby
“Bullshit! That’s not the sound a breaking skull makes,” Harris yelled at the screen, spilling the popcorn he was holding but not eating. He turned to Agent 34, who was sitting next to him and continued, “Can you believe this shit? Doesn’t anyone in Hollywood do any research? Goddamn morons.”
Agent 34 was speechless. She didn’t want to go to the movies in the first place even though Harris offered to pay for the tickets and buy her snacks. She didn’t think it was the right move considering both of their bosses just tried to kill them and presumably still wanted them dead. She protested the suggestion but when he pressed for a better alternative as to the proper course of action, she came up with goose eggs.
So they went to the movies.
About an hour and a half ago they were standing on the roof of the government safe house they just escaped from wondering why their recovery suite was filling with poison gas.
“Why did that happen?” Harris asked, half to himself and half to 34.
“What? The poison gas? I don’t know.”
“He’s your boss.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” 34 shot back with more than a little bit of exasperation.
“Why aren’t there any security things up here? No cameras, no snipers, no machine guns that shoot by themselves- have you ever seen those go off? Oh man…” his voice had a dreamy look in its eye as he thought about robot machine guns.
“You’re right, Harris, it doesn’t make sense that they’d fill the room with gas and then not have any backup plan up here on the roof. They should have known we’d get out through the window.”
“Let’s go see a movie and figure this out later.”
“I’ll pay and let you pick out what we see.”
“No. Wait…Are snacks included in this deal?”
“I’ll buy you snacks but it’s going to cost you movie picking privileges.”
Now they were here watching a movie she didn’t bother to remember the name of while god knows what was going on with work.
An older man, sitting a few rows behind them bellowed “Shut the fuck up! I paid $12 to see this piece of shit,” after Harris yelled at the screen again. The previews hadn’t even ended and Harris had already yelled half a dozen rude comments.
Agent 34 slunk in her seat and stuffed her face with popcorn. She thought about elbowing Harris and giving him a stern look but thought better of it and returned her focus to the popcorn.
Lives aren’t the only thing Vincent Harris ruined. He also ruined movies, non-animated television programs, and sometimes the radio. He couldn’t help himself most of the time, and when he could, he didn’t. This time it wasn’t even because he didn’t get his vacation; he always yelled at movies and sometimes the television, and on occasion the radio. He’d been doing it since he was a child. Oddly, he never became angry when old people in front of him at the super market asked for price checks on frozen hams and paid with checks when all he wanted to do was buy his rice and leave. He believed in picking his battles.
His yelling almost cost him his job as the Ruiner. The headshrinkers and behavioral specialists who were overseeing his early training thought it was a sign of mental instability and recommended several times he be removed as a potential candidate for the position of super assassin. Their professional opinion was ignored on account the government had already spent over three million dollars fixing him up and was eager to send him into the field. Also, there were no other suitable candidates. Those at the top of the Ruiner project didn’t give two cents about the mental health and stability of Vincent Harris. The military had never had a super powered assassin at their disposal before and couldn’t wait to see how their new toy worked in the field. So what he yelled at movies? As long as he killed who he was told to and came home, that was all they wanted.
“Gah! Again with the bullshit. A .45 caliber pistol doesn’t sound like that. C’mon!”
The man behind them threw an empty candy box at the back of Harris’s head. Harris reached behind his head, caught the projectile, and crumbled it into a ball, all without turning around. It wasn’t as impressive as smashing up a gun, but a point was made and taken nonetheless.
“Let’s go,” he said to Agent 34 less than 45 minutes into the movie, “I can’t stand this anymore.The main character is phoning it in, the whole thing is pathetic. Did you catch those continuity errors? Janice was wearing a different sweater 5 minutes ago and the blood stains were in different spots two scenes ago.”
She complied, but only because making more of a scene wasn’t in her best interest at the moment.
As they walked up the aisle towards the exit a helicopter exploded on screen, the audience cheered- but not because of the explosion.
Harris leaned into Agent 34’s personal space a bit too much and whispered, “You have to trust me, this is going to be a little uncomfortable for both of us. Just don’t make a fuss and try not to look like we’re up to something.
She turned her head, so he couldn’t see her rolling her eyes. She made her living not looking like she was up to something while being up to all kinds of things. Before she could prepare and deliver a clever retort, her thoughts were interrupted by what felt like a finger gently poking around the base of her spine. She was about to say something but her lower back started to feel like it was glowing. A soft, warm heat spread from her back to her injured leg. Her wound tingled like a mild electric shock was passing through on its way to somewhere else. It lasted only a second or two and when it subsided, the pain her injury had been causing had all but vanished.
“Feel better?” Harris asked, sincerely, for once.
“Yeah, that was pretty cool. Thanks.”
They made their way out of the theater into the parking lot. Agent 34 shielded her eyes and did that fluttery eyelid thing people do when they’ve been hanging out in a dark room for a while and walked out into full sunlight.
Harris didn’t do that. He never did that. Not anymore. Before opening the door he constricted his pupils so that when he entered the daylight, he could see just fine.
While Agent 34 was adjusting to being outside again, Harris noticed a few suspicious vans in the parking lot. All white, no logos. Windows blacked and ladders on the roof rack.
He didn’t feel they had noticed them yet and wanted to keep it that way. He stopped walking and turned to 34.
“You see them, right? Co-workers of yours?”
Agent 34 knew an unmarked 4th Branch covert assault van when she saw one.
“Yup. Stupid tracking chips. I assume you have one as well?”
“I did, but it messed with my balance too much so they took it out. I guess I have a trustworthy face.”
“No, not really. Anyway- what now?”
“Let’s turn around and walk towards the theater. Just let it happen.”
She turned and did as he asked and hoped for the best. Harris put his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him.
“What the hell?!” she muttered.
“Just let it happen. Or we’re, well, you’re screwed.”
She scrunched her face up and shot darts out of her eyes. Harris blinked as though his eyelids were instinctively blocking an actual outside irritant and not just focused and projected frustration.
“Take a deep breath, keep walking towards the theater and try to think of what purple smells like.”
A feeling similar to the one she had just experienced when he touched the small of her back came over her. This time it encompassed her entire body, she felt like she was melting into Harris’ personal space.
They entered the lobby. Harris removed his arm from 34’s waist and held her hand.
“Why are you touching me?”
“Did you feel weird?”
“A little yeah.”
“Do you still feel weird?”
“You mean physically or emotionally?”
“Ehh, six, on one hand, half dozen,” Harris interrupted himself, “long story short, I can push some of my ‘energy’, or whatever you want to call it, into you and clog up your tracking chip. As long as you feel like you’re melting into me or licking a battery, your chip won’t report your location.”
“Yeah, but it won’t last long. After about five, ten minutes, the chip heats up and starts to hurt.”
“How do you know this?”
“My teacher, Mu, did it to me a few times before my chip was removed.”
“Why do I have to think about what purple smells like?”
“You don’t. I was just fucking with you.”
“Thanks, I’ll remember that. There’s a coffee shop two stores to the right of the movies. Let’s go there. We need to figure a way out of here and I need a fucking cup of coffee. I don’t think they’ll make a move on us in the daytime, but we can’t just stay here blinking my chip on and off until nightfall either,” 34 suggested. “There has to be a way to sneak past them and get to the road, at least.”
“Then what?” Harris asked.
“Anyone we can call for help?” Asked Agent 34.
“Yeah, I know a guy. But he’s not local. Think we can get to D.C.?” He inquired.
“I think we should get some coffee,” She stated.
They arrived at the coffee shop without incident. Agent 34 ordered an offensively large concoction topped with a softball sized lump of whipped cream. It came with a straw. Harris contented himself with a bottle of water. They sat in back to avoid being seen.
“It’s pointless to hide, even if you can jam my chip, you can’t do it long enough for us to get away. Even if we did manage to get out of here, they would know where we were soon enough anyway, so what’s the point?”
“Agreed. It’s a neat trick though, you have to admit that much. How do you want to play this?”
“Well, I don’t think they’re going to kill us in public. I’m not sure they want to kill us at all.”
Harris looked slightly confused for a fraction of a second before asking, “Then why the poison gas back at the safe house?”
“Why would they fix up my leg if they were just going to kill us? And why weren’t there any guards on the roof when we escaped?” She shook her head before adding, “It doesn’t make sense.”
Harris was an assassin, not a spy or a detective. He wasn’t that great at solving riddles either. He really didn’t care why someone tried to kill him and saw no benefit in exploring why it happened. It was easier for him to just kill them first and move on.
Agent 34, on the other hand, was a spy and as such cared a great deal about people’s motivations. Knowing how someone worked and using that to take advantage of them is the bread and butter of the spy game.
“I agree it doesn’t make sense, but given all that’s happened today, why should it? We’re dealing with some bureaucratic meltdown perpetuated by egotistical pricks who want to save their jobs. We’re not exactly dealing with a well-tuned machine here. This whole shitty thing is happening because our bosses never talk to each other or bother to make sure their emails get sent.”
“Right. I still don’t see how that helps us right now.” Harris wanted a solution, not a reason. He was getting tired of their situation and just wanted an ending. If he were in this alone, there wouldn’t be an issue. He’d be miles away by now taking a nap and a hot shower at the same time. He was starting to reconsider his refusal to not kill her when he had the chance. It wasn’t personal in the least, just a matter of convenience.
He was fidgeting now and not really paying attention to Agent 34. He took her straw wrapper and scrunched it up. Then he placed a drop of his water on it, making it expand. It sorta looked like a snake trying to crawl around the table.
Agent 34 shook her head. “It doesn’t yet, but hang on and let me finish. Jesus, you’re like a 5-year-old.” Her voice was beginning to take on the tone of a frustrated mother. She took a deep breath that sidetracked into a sigh and continued, “Our bosses don’t communicate effectively, this led to us working the same case from opposite angles, which led to me finding out about you. Those things resulted in you being ordered to kill me, which led to a pretty cool motorcycle chase by the way.” She had no true hard opinions on what makes a motorcycle chase cool but she did feel Vincent needed some positive reinforcement in order for her to keep his waning attention. “All that resulted in Kole attempting to poison us and now to this. Do you know how many people know about Project Ruiner?”
Harris was still a little confused about why this was important, but he knew he couldn’t kill his way out of this one and decided to let 34 have her little parlor room moment or whatever it was that she was doing.
“There’s Terbim, the president, the former president, MU, and you. There was a group of doctors and headshrinkers who were involved in my early training but they all had uh, accidents.” Harris made air quotes around the word “accidents” and rolled his eyes. He hoped that gesture would be enough to convey the fact that he killed them all.
“Jesus Christ, you had to kill all the people who made sure you didn’t die during training?”
“They had ‘accidents’,” the finger quotes were audible this time.
“What does Kole know about you?”
“Only what he found out today, I suppose.”
“Get it yet?” She took a long pull on her straw, completely satisfied with her theory.
“I’d bet my life on the fact that Kole wants to know what you’re capable of. He’s had to have heard the whisper down the lane version of your abilities and saw this as an opportunity to learn more.”
“You are betting your life on it. Why would he do that?”
“Uh, he’s nutso?” She stated as though she felt like she shouldn’t have had to.
“I’m not arguing with you on that. Can we get to D.C.? I think I can end this if we can.”
“What do you have planned?” She cautiously asked.
“Better if you don’t know for now.” Harris didn’t want to explain that he was going to sneak into the White House and have a little talk with the president, nothing treasonous, just a little chat between sensible men.
“If I’m right, which I’m pretty sure I am…” 34 paused to finish her coffee. The straw made a squeaking sound which indicated to herself and those around her that her drink was now empty. “I don’t think we’re in any real danger, at least not right yet. So we can just, I don’t know, take the train? If we stay out in the open we should be safe.”
Harris perked up like he had just been given an unexpected gift. “The train? Finally, we’re doing something the easy way.”