See DISCLAIMERS. I’m skipping all over the place, and adding random context that won’t make sense until later. Posted with warts and all. Haven’t even proofed this one.
(Also, be advised: there’s some NSFW content coming in future posts, and those posts will be handled differently, most likely with a couple of jumps and a content warning. You’ve been warned.)
JUDGE AND JURY
[FIX: again with the narrative distance issues. Pick one approach and stick with it.]
Alone in her flat once more, Denna ignored the call of the warm summer air outdoors and confined herself to her work. For what must have been the hundredth time, Denna opened the soft copy files on the Falcon murders, but this time she looked at them through a new lens.
This time, she knew who the Falcon was.
Previously, she’d pored over the evidence of each murder, trying to figure out what evidence might have been missed while several agencies attempted to prove Roux was the murderer. Now free from the fruitless pursuit of connecting Roux’s lack of intelligence with the immaculate condition of each crime scene, Denna dug deeper.
Each murder was assumed to be an execution ordered by Renault in retaliation for whatever affront the terrorist believed had been committed. Denna decided, once again, to throw every one of her assumptions out the door, save one.
Now, she would assume that Mannis was smarter than she herself was.
She scrapped her carefully constructed map containing all of her previous connection points except for two data points and their associated biographies.
On second glance, Denna restored the associate with the “Augusta King” alias. She didn’t have a real name yet, but she had an image. It was a flimsy start, but those two had traveled together so many times, Denna had to keep that connection in mind.
Over the next few days, a new pattern emerged.
In each case, the victim was rumored to have attempted to cut himself a larger piece of Renault’s pie. Whatever their part of the business, they’d all either attempted to secure a side deal, or to skim a percentage of the profits or the goods. Obviously, Renault couldn’t let that stand, and had his pet assassin remove each person from existence.
Denna wondered why people kept trying when it was so clear what the consequences were.
She forced herself not to leap to any conclusions just yet, and continued with her analysis of each of the victims. She wanted a complete picture with as much information as possible. Such meticulous detail had already paid off, and she decided it was worth the lack of sleep.
Then Denna discovered another connection.
Every last one of the murdered men had a side business that didn’t fall into Renault’s crime syndicate. It wasn’t that Renault was a good man. He just didn’t deal in women or children. [FIX: considerably more detail]
Perhaps Mannis was able to pick and choose which jobs to take on Renault’s behalf. Her choice of victim didn’t change the fact that she was a cold-blooded killer, but it did shed some light on what kind of woman she was.
Katja skipped the stair adorned with two used injectable vials as she continued her climb, a small bag of groceries securely clutched in one arm. Their new accommodations were a couple of dingy rooms in a third floor walkup in [crappy Paris neighborhood]. It wasn’t the first or even the tenth time Katja had lived someplace like this, but that didn’t make it any easier. She’d grown up in neighborhoods like this one, and whether it was Paris, France or Chicago, Illinois back in the states, human desolation was pretty much the same everywhere.
It stank, and it soaked into the skin.
She knocked a familiar pattern before using her key to open the door, and quickly shut it behind her once she was inside.
“Took you longer than you said it would,” Penelope said. “Thought you might have run into trouble.”
“No. Just taking a roundabout route.” She stashed the few perishables in the tiny portable refrigerator they’d brought with them. This building didn’t have appliances – probably because it wasn’t supposed to be a boarding house at all. “Please tell me you’ve got something, because I really want to get the fuck out of here.”
Katja pushed the hood of her jacket off her head. Laying low meant not drawing attention to herself, and she was the kind of woman people remembered.
“I’ve got a lot,” Penelope said. “First, we’ve got a way out of the country at the end of the week, so we can meet up with Renault in Munich.”
Katja exhaled. Three days wasn’t soon enough for her, but it was better than nothing. They’d been stuck here for a month. “What else?”
“Get this. Renault’s thinks that he’s found the mole in his crew. He accused Jaffe of being the one who’s been feeding intel to Foster ever since his team got to France.”
Katja slammed a cabinet door in surprise. “You’re kidding.”
“No. He’ll probably call you in to deal with the guy.”
Katja wasn’t sure she’d take the gig, all things considered.
“Are we clean?” Katja asked. “Does he have any idea who the real mole is?”
Penelope scoffed. “Of course not.” She leaned back in her rickety chair with a Cheshire cat grin. “And that’s not all. I also found out how Foster’s crew have been getting into Renault’s transfers. The new grunt, Lopez, has some serious chops.”
Lopez again. Katja was getting tired of hearing that name. Agent Lopez had managed to shut down two more of Katja’s accounts. She still had plenty of money to live on, but this woman was seriously screwing up Katja’s retirement plan. It pissed her off.
Who was this woman? Katja had looked over the dossier Penelope put together and still couldn’t get a feel for the woman she felt was her true adversary. Foster couldn’t find his ass in broad daylight with a map. Lopez, though…
“Where is Foster’s crew now?”
Penelope frowned in thought. “They meet every few days over in [FIX: neighborhood], but then they all fall back to their own locations.” She pulled up Foster’s info on her screen, and Katja walked closer to take a look.
Katja didn’t like getting her details from the files. She wanted to see her opponents face to face, to see them up close, look them in the eyes to find out who they really were. She wanted to know if Lopez was just another grunt trying to climb the government ladder on her way to an director’s post or a presidential cabinet seat.
It was time to find out. And she was bored out of her mind sitting here waiting to do something.
“Set me up with a spot where I can see Foster’s team, then leak a nearby location to the mole.” Katja crossed her arms and stood upright. “I want to get a look at Lopez up close.”
[FIX: clean up inconsistencies in previous section]
VIGNETTE 4 – META TEASER
[CROSSCHECK ALL THE DIALOGUE]
Denna sipped from her cup of coffee at the small table outside of a bistro and observed the pedestrians on the street. All of the action was supposed to be several blocks from here, but as much as she wanted to be in the thick of things, she’d been relegated to this position on the outskirts of the playing field in case Mannis tried to escape in this direction.
She was going to have to figure out how to maneuver this new assignment. They couldn’t keep pushing her to the sidelines when no one else on the team had her experience with the subject.
The coffee had gotten cold when she felt the weight of someone’s gaze on her. Without moving her head, she looked around to see who was watching her, and felt her her heart thump harder in her chest when she saw a familiar face a dozen paces from where she sat.
Katja Mannis leaned casually against a nearby building, Her signature weapons were holstered at her hips, blatantly illegal, though it was clear she didn’t give a damn.
Denna swallowed against a lump in her throat.
She hadn’t seen Mannis this close since Munich the year before, when Mannis had appeared outside her hospital room after the whole Renault and Roux affair. Even then, they hadn’t been close enough to speak.
Mannis looked good – tan, fit, as if she didn’t have a care in the world or the attention of several government agencies within a quarter mile radius all intent on capturing her and putting her away for life.
“Katja Mannis,” Denna said as she slowly stood. She didn’t dare look to see if any of the other agents were nearby. She’d already blown the operation if Mannis had found her. “Not sure if it’s daring or stupid for you to be out in the open like this.”
Denna saw the sparkle in Katja’s eyes, and wondered what it meant.
The mystery was answered when a slow smile warmed Mannis’ face. “Agent Lopez. It’s worth the risk just to see you in that uniform.” Brazenly, she looked over Denna’s body – without the respect or fear that an agent might expect from a suspect like Mannis.
Denna realized that it was the first time she’d heard Mannis say her name. She bit the inside of her cheek, angry that she liked the sound of it.
She place one hand on the service weapon at her waist. “Let’s cut the small talk and go for a ride to Central.” Denna tried not to reveal how nervous she was about getting the most notorious assassin in recent history into custody all by herself. Still, Mannis didn’t look like she wanted to hurt her.
Why was that?
Mannis tilted her head and the smile became sly. “Oh, I’d go anywhere with you, but I’m not interested in lockup. Not for something I didn’t do.”
The flirting pissed Denna off. She expected more from Mannis, but didn’t want to look too closely at why that was.
“I’ve seen the vids, Mannis. You were standing over Renault’s body. Don’t waste your lies on me.”
“Believe me,” Mannis said. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Mannis drew both of her weapons and fired, and for a moment as she drew her own weapon, Denna was certain that she had seriously – and fatally – miscalculated. Yet Mannis’ shots were wild, aimed at a nearby post and a newsstand – nowhere near where Denna herself stood.
Bystanders screamed and ran for cover while Mannis made her escape, running into the single lane of oncoming traffic, then crossing the street and disappearing down a side alley. Denna pursued her, holding her weapon serviceable but clear as she identified herself as law enforcement to the frightened people on the street.
She ran for Mannis’ last visible position, but by the time she got to the mouth of the alleyway, Mannis was gone.
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