Just for fun, I posted the first chapter of that story. The first draft of the first chapter. It got a pretty good response and continues to get a lot of pageviews, if not comments. So since I am short on blog topics, I thought I'd go ahead and post the next chapter in that story. If you're into it, great. If not, come back another day when I hope to have a more interesting topic to you! :)
Before I get to that, I just want to apologize to my fellow bloggers for shirking my blog-reading/commenting duties lately. I'm swamped both personally and professionally and it's been hard to keep up but I fully intend to catch up on everyone's blogs!
So here goes.
In the last installment you met Steven. Today, you'll meet Lucy. (Keep in mind, this too is a first draft although I did check for spelling and really egregious errors).
Lucy's phone rang at 1:13 p.m. It was her day off. She picked up the receiver and put it to her ear without speaking. It was Gallo.
"We have a situation that requires your immediate attention. Meet me at Scarvo's in ten." He hung up.
Lucy put the receiver down and threw her legs over the side of the bed. She was already fully dressed, boots and everything. She checked her watch. She'd take a cab to Scarvo's. It was the fastest means of getting there this time of day. Scarvo's was code for a private airstrip used only by her, Gallo and Kane. Lucy had only flown in and out of it en route to or from training exercises.
She pulled her brown leather bomber jacket out of the hall closet and put it on. Concealed inside the lining of the jacket, secured by a holster she'd designed and sewn in herself, Lucy's Sig Sauer banged against her rib cage. She checked herself in the mirror, turning to gaze over one shoulder. The bomber jacket concealed the hunting knife clipped to her left hip. Gallo hated the knife. He said it was too big. It drew attention. If she had to carry it, she should have it strapped to her calf or holstered in one of her boots where it would be more easily concealed by her pant legs.
The knife definitely wasn't regulation if one could argue that their operation HAD regulations. But Lucy kept her Sig Sauer inside her jacket with an extra magazine strapped to her calf. And the knife, no matter how large Gallo complained it was and no matter what lengths she had to go to in order to conceal it held special meaning for Lucy. Over the years it had become like an appendage, an old friend—Kane would say a crutch—and she felt vulnerable and off-center without it.
Lucy left a single lamp burning in her small apartment and took the stairs the seven floors down to the street. The air was cool and crisp, a cold sun beating against the pavement. The noises of the outside world came at her with the loudness of a sonic boom as they always did in the first few minutes of her emergence from a silent, almost meditative state. By now she no longer had to concentrate on the muscles of her face to keep them from flinching at the auditory explosion. She had trained herself to maintain a flat expression which showed nothing but a woman on her way somewhere, neither rushing nor dawdling.
Lucy walked two blocks east of her apartment building and hailed a cab. As she gave clipped instructions to the driver she fished her sunglasses out of her jacket pocket and put them on. She didn't particularly need them but they were equipped with a rearview feature on the inner lenses which allowed her to monitor all activity behind her. After that she discreetly tucked a small wireless receiver into her left ear and waited.
The cab dropped her at the corner of two residential blocks. She watched it move back into traffic before crossing the street and cutting through a backyard to a strip of dense forest. She hopped the chain link fence in a single movement and continued walking purposefully to her destination.
She rounded the plane from the back, spotting Gallo's legs on the other side before he knew she was there. She snuck up on him, felt the split second of tension in his upper body before he realized it was her but he said nothing. Lately, Lucy had been besting him in these small ways. It both thrilled and disturbed her. Gallo had never struck her as the kind of man who could lose his edge. Except for the gray she'd noticed edging his beard the last few months he appeared ageless.
He was tall and thin with deeply set dark eyes, a nose that had been broken more than once and a strong jaw hidden beneath his beard. His hair was chestnut brown, just a little long and perpetually unruly. His hands were large and calloused, the skin over his knuckles always dry and cracked with dirt caked in his cuticles, almost like an auto mechanic.
He could pass for twenty-eight or forty-five with a little grooming or lack thereof. Lucy didn't know Gallo's true age. She didn't even know her own. She had been born whole at the age of eighteen. At least that's what Kane had told her when she woke up in windowless underground room vaguely resembling a hospital room—or a morgue—over ten years ago. Lucy had had no memories. She knew how to eat, shit, walk, read, speak and add. She even knew a little
history. She knew things people knew without ever thinking about them. It was as if Kane and Gallo had uploaded a standard operating system into her brain. She just didn't know who she was until they told her. She had worked for them—for K&G Industries—ever since. U.S.
There was a beep in Lucy's left ear and then Kane's voice: "Get on the plane, kids."
Gallo waited for Lucy to board first. Because she had no idea what the afternoon's summons was about, she took a seat in the common area which abutted the cockpit. It was no more than four chairs surrounding a tabletop. A television and computer screen were wired into the far wall but both lay dormant.
Gallo didn't speak. He powered up the aircraft and turned the computer on. Lucy watched him move around, hunching slightly to accommodate his height. His fingers worked quickly across the keyboard stowed beneath the tabletop. She wondered if something was on his mind but realized that if it were, Gallo would never show it.
Kane joined them moments later, the older man moving more slowly as he pulled the steps up and sealed the aircraft's door behind him. The three of them sat at the table. A remote control appeared in Kane's hand and he flipped on the television.
MSNBC flickered on. A thin, dark-haired woman with too much makeup on stood in front of a cluster of police vehicles. Beneath her, on the screen, were the words: BREAKING NEWS PHILADELPHIA. Lucy only caught part of what she said. " . . . appears they've taken control of the entire school. Most students managed to escape when gunfire erupted but there are people still inside."
A male voice spoke. "Simone, any word on how many people remain in the building and if this is a hostage situation?"
"No, Ed. We have no word yet. As you can see police have responded in force, shutting down almost an entire city block, evacuating the neighboring buildings and cutting power to the school but at this time police are revealing no further details."
"Thank you, Simone. Once again for those viewers just tuning in at approximately 11:45 a.m. Eastern time today, armed gunmen stormed this small charter school in the heart of
, seizing control of the building and holding hostage those students and faculty members who did not escape in time. Police say six students were wounded in the initial gunfire. Two of those students were critically injured. The others are in stable condition at this hour. Police cannot confirm any fatalities at this point and there is no apparent motive for this senseless act of violence. Stay with us as we bring you continuing coverage of breaking news out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ." Philadelphia
The newscast cut to commercial and Lucy looked across the table at the two men who had brought her here. "We don't handle this type of work," Lucy said.
Gallo did not meet her eyes. One side of Kane's mouth dimpled as he muted the sound on the television. He looked at Lucy, his steel-wool eyes clear and hard like polished stones. "We handle the type of work that involves our rats," he said.
Lucy looked at Gallo but his gaze was on the table. She turned back to Kane. "Sir, all of our rats are carefully monitored and accounted for."
Even after ten years, Lucy had trouble referring to them as rats. That was what Kane had always called the children that K&G Industries took in and “trained”—rats, as in lab rats. Of course that was essentially what they were but Lucy had seen what some of those "rats" could do and thus found the term both insulting and wholly inaccurate.
Finally, Gallo spoke, lifting his chocolate brown eyes to Lucy's. "Not all of them," he said.
Lucy's scalp tingled as if someone were massaging it with ice cold fingertips. Lucy stared at Gallo, waiting for an explanation but it was Kane who spoke.
"Lucy, in the early years—when this project was first getting off the ground, there were some glitches."
"Glitches?" Lucy responded more loudly than she'd intended.
Gallo cleared his throat and said, "We didn't have all the security measures in place that we do now."
"There were incidents. Three to be exact," Kane added.
"Three?" This time Lucy did not bother to curb her tone. She tried to imagine three of Kane's "rats" out in the world unsupervised, uncontrolled, untrained.
"We resolved two of them," Gallo said. "But the third . . . " he trailed off, his gaze drifting to the muted television where MSNBC had resumed coverage of the school shooting in
Lucy glanced at the screen without seeing it and said, "You fucked up."
In spite of the situation, she noticed Kane fighting to keep the smile from his lips.
Gallo continued, "There were mitigating circumstances."
Lucy gripped the edge of the tabletop, wanting to push away from it and exit the plane. She shot Gallo an acerbic look. "Mitigating circumstances like you fucking up? I want the file."
She stared expectantly at the two men but no file was forthcoming. The look they exchanged, which would have gone unnoticed by the untrained eye, started a deep burn in the pit of Lucy's stomach.
"We can't give you the file," Kane said. "It's classified."
Not for the first time in her tenure with the project, Lucy fought the impulse to backhand the older man. Instead, she gestured to the television. "You want me to walk into that shitstorm with what? A gun and a fucking apology for Christ knows what?"
Gallo leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "We'll tell you exactly what you need to know to complete your task. You'll be back in forty-eight hours and we'll take over from there. All you have to do is retrieve the rat. It’s a simple task. It should be easy to get him to come with you."
Lucy was silent, taking her time in evaluating the two men before her. Men she had known her entire life which had only spanned twelve years. There was an unspoken tension that lay on the table between them. She wondered if the thing they weren't telling her would get her killed.
She said, "Why me?"
"For obvious reasons," Kane said, his term for her being a woman. Gallo and Kane had told her from the beginning that a woman could go places that men could not. For the purposes of their operation, Lucy had found the two men to be right time and again.
Lucy knew there was more to it and she waited until Gallo broke and said, "Because in this particular instance we've been compromised."
The admission was hard. Lucy sensed Kane flinch though he showed nothing.
Compromised was not a word Lucy heard often especially in connection with Gallo and Kane. They were ghosts. Their work was seamless. She'd never known either of them to make a mistake, especially one with such serious ramifications. No one was supposed to recognize them or associate them with the divisions or K&G Industries that technically did not exist.
She swallowed. Kane motioned for Gallo to begin the pre-flight checks. He disappeared into the cockpit. Lucy met Kane's granite eyes.
The burning in her stomach increased but she nodded at the man anyway.
He pulled a photograph from his jacket pocket and slid it across the table to her. It was a candid shot of a teenaged boy with sandy brown hair and a wide smile standing beside some kind of science project. “This is him. Dane Young. He’s seventeen years old. All you have to do is get him out of the building. We have a team in place on the ground already. You’ll pose as EMTs. We’re working on getting you into the building before the police take it back but either way, you’re to go in, retrieve the rat and turn him over to the team.”
Lucy felt distinctly uncomfortable with the lack of information going into this mission. She shifted in her seat and met Kane’s eyes once more. “Is there anything else I need to know?”
Kane held her gaze for a long moment. For a fleeting second she thought he might tell her more but the plane lurched forward and the moment was gone. Kane swallowed and looked away from her. “No,” he said. “There’s nothing else.”