The Improbability Volumes – Day 19

See DISCLAIMERS. Not sure this scene will make into the final mix, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.


PAWN PROMOTION

The street was mostly deserted, and if it weren’t for the small red sign blinking “LE REFUGE”, Denna wouldn’t even have known there were other people here, much less a place for them to congregate. Though after she stepped inside, closing the door behind her against the cold wind, she decided that perhaps congregate was generous.

This place was a shithole.

Le Refuge was a small beer and wine joint, but Denna was sure the wine quality was poor. Her boots stuck to the floor with every step, and she winced against the combined smell of cheap beer, bleach-scented piss, and human hopelessness.

A scarred ancient wooden bar ran down one side of the dark room with half a dozen old stools tucked under its length. Only one of the stools was occupied. The other side of the room had half a dozen broken down booths, all covered in torn and weathered black vinyl, and bracketing rickety tables.

The bartender, an older woman more interested in whatever was on the mounted television than the customers, didn’t give Denna a second look after pouring her a pint. The pint was at least a quarter foam. And other than the person Denna was here to meet, the only other patron was a hunched over man at the end of the bar who seemed be interested only in the beer in front of him.

Nobody in here appeared to give a damn about anything. She supposed that’s why her contact had chosen it.

At the end of the room were three doors – two marked for restrooms, and another as an exit. Near that exit, in the last booth at the end of the wall, sat a woman bundled in dark clothes and a black skullcap, who Denna knew only as Augusta King.

And King was staring at her in muted shock, her eyes dancing to the exits.

Denna approached in slow, measured steps, hoping her [slow] approach would convince King to stay just a little longer.  She held her beer in one hand, but kept her dominant hand wide and open, making it clear that she wasn’t going to draw her weapon.

King’s gloved hands rested on the table in plain sight. The beer in front of her looked full and untouched.

Denna sat down, wincing at a spring in the bench seat that poked her in the ass. She wondered how to even begin this conversation, particularly since she knew she was an unknown quantity to King, and what the result of this meeting needed to be.

They stared at each other. King’s eyes were angry, and Denna tried not to wilt under the animosity.

“How did you find me?” King looked like she was about to make a run for it.

“I didn’t,” Denna said. “Katja told me how to find the Falcon.”

That seemed to make King stop cold. She stared at Denna.

“I need your help to save her,” Denna said.

King’s mouth fell open. “What the fuck did you do with Kat?” King practically hissed at her.

Denna immediately felt defensive.

“I didn’t do anything with her. I had nothing to do with her getting apprehended.”

King rolled her eyes. “Apprehended. Fuck you. Your guys fucking snatched her, and I’m guessing you’re the one who set her up.”

“That’s not what happened.”

“Oh, bullshit. Your whole team has had a hard-on for the Falcon and you got your wish, but now the great Denna Lopez has gotten all soft-hearted and changed her mind?”

“That’s not true.” Except that it was, to a point. She had worked with Foster’s team to capture Katja, but now that they had her in unofficial custody, Marsh was going too far to get more information. Katja wasn’t going to give it to him, and would end up dead. Soon.

“You wanted a meet.” King was all business. “I’m here. Does anyone on your team know where you are?”

King was looking at her for signs that this was a set-up. She’d sent Denna a list of precautions, though she hadn’t known it was Denna she was meeting. Denna had followed every one of them, which meant she was on her own.

If King decided to kill her in the alley behind this place and leave her for the rats, Denna would be on her own. Hell, it might be days before anyone found her body.

“I did everything you asked,” Denna said. “No one knows I’m here, but I’m expected back in six hours.”

King didn’t look satisfied, even though it must have been the right answer.

“So what do you want?”

Denna took a deep breath. “Can you get her out?”

King made a rude noise. “Why can’t you get her out? You snatched her in the first place.”

“I didn’t,” Denna said, a little too loud if the sudden interest by the bartender was any indication.

King glared at the bartender until the woman turned back toward the television.

“I didn’t snatch her,” Denna said. “Foster did, after she killed Roux.”

“How the fuck did he know she was going to be there if you didn’t tell him?”

I didn’t even know she was going to be there.”

Denna watched the realization wash over King’s face.

“Foster and Roux must have been in some sort of communication.”

Denna frowned. “That doesn’t compute. Foster wanted both of them.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t put it past that shady fucker to double-cross someone if it suited his purposes. He might have made a deal with the devil to get them both in one place – told Roux that he only wanted Kat, but then planned to snag them both.”

Two weeks ago, Denna never would have believed Foster capable of such duplicity. Now? Now, she considered the possibility.

“So can you?” Denna was insistent. Katja needed help.

“Why can’t you do it?”

Denna looked away. “I’m not in a position to…” She couldn’t find the words.

King leaned back in disgust, and the booth rocked with her movement. “You don’t want anyone to know.”

Denna lifted her glass and took a sip of her beer. It was cold, but tasted flat. Drinking it was only a cover since she didn’t know what to say.

“What the fuck does she see in you?” King asked.

Temper flared, Denna looked up.

King tipped her head to hiss at Denna. “You’re afraid that if you spring her, they’ll know you did it, and your precious career will be hosed. Or worse, that you’ll end up in the same position she’s in.” King spoke through clenched teeth. “You’re afraid they’ll find out you fucked the enemy.”

Denna felt her breath coming faster, and squeezed the hand in her lap into a fist. King wasn’t right in her assessment, but parts of it were dangerously close to a truth she didn’t want to admit.

She was still trying to hold on to the possibility of getting out of this whole deal intact, and that chance was fading quickly.

“I don’t understand why she trusts you,” King said.

“Look, if she were in regular custody, I might have some pull, but we’re not on US soil. Even if we were, none of my connections would go up against Foster, so I’d be pushing it.  I’ve got shit for connections here in France. Foster is giving Marsh the reins on the interrogation, and Marsh has some vendetta I know nothing about.”

King scoffed. “Oh, it’s one hell of a vendetta all right. His whole unit was taken out by [insert name of terrorist group] down in [African country], and even though the op wasn’t on the books, he won’t let it go.”

Denna frowned. “How do you know this?”

King crooked an eyebrow, though without humor, and Denna remembered just how talented a broker of information this woman was, but then Denna shook her head, impatient to stick to the crux of the matter.

“Whatever his deal is, Marsh won’t quit until he has intel on the terrorists Renault was working with. If Katja won’t give him any…” She raised her arms in a plea of helplessness.

King sighed, and Denna saw something that looked like fear in her eyes. “She doesn’t know anything. I’m the only one who knew what kind of scum Renault was dealing with, and I only shared details with Katja that were pertinent to her work.”

Denna leaned forward. “Look, I can tell you where she is, and I can tell you where she’s going to be. Can you get her out?”

King looked down, and shook her head as she thought. Denna was afraid that meant that Katja was doomed. She tried to think of anything that might swing the odds in Katja’s favor.

“What about someone named Pen?” Denna was grasping at straws, bordering on desperation.

King looked up in shock, and Denna suddenly understood.

“That’s you.” Her words came out in a whisper.

King’s lack of response was a clear acknowledgement.

Denna leaned back, defeated. If this woman couldn’t help Katja…

“How long do I have?” King – Pen – said. She looked like she was considering options that were unpleasant.

“Not long. She’s barely conscious, and if she loses the ability to answer questions…” The threat was implied. If Katja was of no use to Marsh, he’d kill her immediately.

“And you can’t help at all?” Pen asked.

Denna took a deep breath and exhaled in a burst. “I’ll do what I can, but I have to be careful. If my involvement is revealed, if I’m exposed in any way as having any connection to you both, Katja and I are both dead.”

Pen tilted her head, still obviously angry, but she looked confused. “I don’t get it. You don’t want to risk your career, and you’ve made a point of exposing the Falcon. Now you have her. You can walk away right now and nobody’s the wiser. What do you care what happens to her?”

Denna was incredulous. She’d risked everything to meet someone who wouldn’t even save Katja?

“Don’t you care that she might die?” Denna asked.

“Of course, I care,” Pen said. I wouldn’t be sitting here listening to your bullshit if I didn’t. *I* care, but why the hell do you?”

Denna looked away as the things she’d realized about Katja rose up within her. She fought down the urge to give in to the fear and the longing and the ache that she now associated with Katja Mannis.

She hoped that none of it showed on her face.

“I – “

Denna couldn’t finish.

She couldn’t say it out loud. Not to this woman, who clearly hated her. No, when she finally said those words, she needed to say them to Katja herself. She prayed that Katja lived long enough to hear them.


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