TMA: Agent Moon Ch. 03byslyc_willie©
As with the second chapter, this third installment into the missions of the Temporal Management Agency's most unusual agent is more story than sex. But I hope you will still enjoy.
This is the night, Dylan thought as he moved through the crowd in the ballroom. Every step he made was deliberate, calculated to keep him within range of his charge. The weight of the pistols seated rather comfortably beneath his belt at the small of his back reminded him constantly of the deadly and serious nature of his mission. He could not fail, he knew. There was no option for it.
Louis Armstrong grinned on the stage as he swayed on his feet, powerful lungs belting out a guttural rendition of "Heebie Jeebies," replete with the requisite and rowdy scat. Women danced in 'flapper' style; the young and spoiled guest of honor, 'Kitty' Hutton, was getting quite a bit of attention from her antics. Dylan might have let himself enjoy the moment, had he not been so devoted to his mission.
All day long, he had been tracking Mr. Michael Craig, virtually watching the man as a tiny blue dot on the screen inside his cigarette case, watching the red Walkers as they remained close, but never too close; it was akin to being a passive voyeur in a slow-moving video game. Waiting for the moment to jump in and turn the tide.
That moment was nigh, Dylan felt. His nerves were on edge. Adrenaline was pumping steadily, but not to excess, keeping him alert and ready to act. It was that sense of 'delicious anticipation' that he always relished. The fierce, yet quiet, calm before the maelstrom.
He spied Betty, making her rounds as expected, small round tray topped with flutes of bubbly balanced upon a fine-boned hand. She remained close, yet not obviously so; she had learned quickly, Dylan felt, or perhaps she simply had an instinct for subterfuge. Her eyes caught his, briefly, and she smiled slyly. He gave her a quick, almost imperceptible nod, her silent cue. Betty's smile remained, albeit with some anxiety, and she set down her tray.
She enjoys this, Dylan thought, watching Betty slipping from the room. Stepping into the fantasy of a dangerous life, living out the melodrama that had only been shown to her on a shimmering, black-and-white screen. For her, the truth of the matter is of no consequence. It is only the fantasy.
"Dear friends!" shouted a middle-aged man, stepping up onto the stage after Satchmo had finished his song. He waited out the applause heaped upon Armstrong with an amiable grin, shaking the stocky black man's hand. "Dear friends!" he cried again, and the hubbub faded. The eyes of the man – Mr. Hutton – glittered with mirth. "And not so dear friends . . . ."
Scattered laughter drifted through the crowd as everyone faced the stage. The debutante herself gave her father an annoyed look, coupled with a forced, expected smile as she clapped lazily. Dylan, however, was not watching the deb's father; he kept his eye on Michael Craig, who beamed with false effulgence. The foppish man's bodyguards lingered several steps away, preoccupied with plates of food from the buffet. Dylan doubted they had been hired in their capacity for any other reason than for their size.
Mr. Hutton continued: "In all seriousness, folks, I am very touched that you all turned out for my little girl's debut. Kitty, come up here! Come on!"
More applause sounded, but it fell like an inconsequential shower around Dylan. His eyes darted from Craig for a moment, to the cigarette case he slipped from within his jacket. His eyes narrowed, jaw set in stone as he read the numerous red blips of the Walkers moving closer. Dylan snapped the case closed, returned it to his pocket. He was able to guess where the Walkers were in the crowd, and spotted a few of them rather easily. Their expressionless faces and blank stares gave them away.
Dylan did not think about what he was doing. He reacted on instinct combined with the intricacies of his training and experience, already visualizing what was about to happen even before it occurred. Pushing his way through the crowd, he felt for one of the pistols, fingers curling around the butt of the weapon.
Tactically, Dylan marked the positions of the Walkers, even though he could not see them all. If Craig was at his twelve o'clock position, then the Walkers approached from two, five, and ten. And they were approaching fast.
"Mr. Craig," Dylan said, stepping before the slender, effeminate man, blocking his view of the stage.
Michael Craig frowned, looking almost disgusted. "Excuse me, sir, but—"
Dylan grinned crookedly, slipping the pistol free. "Get down," he said in a calm voice, quickly settling a hand on Craig's narrow shoulder. The weapon he produced made Craig's eyes widen in fear and shock, making it easier for him to fall to his knees as Dylan pushed down. Around the two men, women shrieked in fear and startlement, men gasped and stepped back, pushing their wives, mistresses and lovers behind them.
As Craig dropped, Dylan sighted along the slide of the .45, aiming for the closest Walker. The man stumbled a moment, then reached inside his jacket. Dylan did not wait to see what the man would withdraw; he squeezed the trigger once, resulting in a thunderclap that made those around him wince, cry, and shout in alarm.
The target of Dylan's deadly aim shuddered once, his blank face grimacing a moment before it fell. He expelled a single breath, wavered on suddenly weak legs, then glanced down to his chest. Hands ripped open the vest beneath his jacket, revealing a dark hole in the middle of his crisp white shirt, around which was rapidly growing dark red stain.
The man looked back to Dylan, eyes suddenly wide and wondering. He emitted a single grunt, then collapsed to the ground, already dead.
Chaos erupted, then, as Dylan had hoped. The uproarious cacophony that filled the ball room made for better cover than a bodysuit of kevlar as Dylan scooped up Michael Craig and casually hoisted him upon his left shoulder. As men and women ran in all directions, confounding the other Walkers' attempts to reach their target, Dylan stepped over the corpse of his foe, heading swiftly to one of the service exits. He kicked open the swinging doors, startling a young man on the other side, whose eyes flew open wide.
"Get out," growled Dylan. The kid – maybe seventeen or eighteen – almost tripped on his own feet before darting past and into the ballroom. The doors swayed and flapped behind him as Dylan increased his speed, almost breaking into a jog. Craig, he figured, was either monumentally submissive, or – more likely, judging by the way the man's arms flapped against his butt and legs – had passed out.
As he rounded a corner within the service hallway, Dylan nearly trampled a rotund man in a chef's uniform. "What the Devil-oh!" the man exclaimed, stumbling back.
Hard eyes stared into the chef's. "The door to the loading dock," he said with a hard edge in his voice. It was a command, one the chef – of appropriate age to have served in the Great War – quickly responded to. A quivering hand pointed the way, through stainless-steel swinging doors.
Dylan's mouth twitched for a moment in what could have been a smile. "Thanks," he said, then headed toward the doors.
"Stop right there!"
Dylan reacted with quick, almost inhumanly fast movements, whirling around and extending his arm, sighting down the slide of the .45 toward the two hulking, burly men that bumbled on their feet in the corridor. They stopped about thirty feet away, fear and wonder on their faces, holding pistols that seemed too tiny in their beefy hands. Michael Craig's ineffectual bodyguards. Dylan gave them a look of disdain. Amateurs.
"Put the irons on the floor, gentlemen," Dylan growled. "I won't ask twice. Take a shot at me, and you'll not only kill your boss, but get your next paycheck delivered to a pine box."
The two brutes hesitated, sharing anxious looks.
Dylan cocked the hammer on his pistol. "Three . . . two . . ."
The two men fidgeted under Dylan's intimidating stare, and quickly set their firearms on the floor.
"Kick them to me," Dylan ordered.
Dutifully, like mindless soldiers, the men did so, making the pistols scrape loudly across the floor toward him. One banked off the wall and spun about in place in the hallway. Dylan glanced to the chef, still immobile with shock and wonder.
"Pick them up, bring them to me," Dylan directed. He never let his eyes leave the two men, never lowered his weapon. Peripherally, he watched the chef move, then stumble into his field of view. Quickly, the man retrieved the pistols and brought them to Dylan, who took them quickly. "Thanks," he said snidely, then turned and headed through the swinging steel doors.
The two bodyguards regarded each other in confusion. "Whatta we do now?" one asked. The other simply shrugged.
The rear door of the loading dock, beside the large, closed, scrolling portal through which deliveries were taken, flew open harshly, slamming against the wall amid a shower of pulverized concrete. Dylan took the steel steps to the ground, approaching a dark-painted sedan as it idled. He jerked open the rear door and deposited the stunned body of Michael Craig within.
"You should go," he said to the young woman behind the wheel.
She looked over her shoulder, eyes wide and anxious. "But . . . I thought you wanted me to help!" Betty declared.
He glanced to her beneath a hard brow. "And you have. But you're not trained for this. I won't have your death on my conscience."
Betty gritted her teeth, thinking for a moment. "I wanna help you, Dylan."
He shot her a look. "You don't know what—" he began.
"And I don't care!" she shouted vehemently. She took a breath, steeled her eyes. "I'm not gettin' outta this car."
Dylan softened a bit, imploring her with his eyes. "I can't let you get hurt," he said with more meaning than she would know.
She smiled then, an inscrutable expression that momentarily made Dylan wonder if this girl understood more than he had assumed. "You won't," she said, her accent suddenly sweet and endearing once more. "You promised me, remember?"
Just like that, and the matter was settled. Dylan could have argued with her, he knew, could even have threatened her. But he did not. There was a part of him that wanted this sweet, voluptuous young woman at his side. The same part that had felt that strange, powerful, and undeniable attraction upon their first meeting.
"Fine," he snapped as he slid into the passenger seat, slamming the door closed. He did not look to Betty. "Get us away from here. The more secluded, the better." Dylan was following Corinna's basic plan, to get away from a public place, to create a battlefield in which he had the upper hand.
"There's a place, about half an hour away," Betty said as she turned the wheel, bringing the sedan around. "Just a broken-down old house. We'll be safe there."
Dylan watched the girl as she drove, admiring the fierceness on her face, the obvious concentration. They were traits he had seen amongst the best officers and agents in his day. "Are you sure?"
She winked briefly, with a tug at the corner of her mouth. "It's getting to be off-season . . . no one goes there now." She chuckled at Dylan's wondering look. "It's a place we go to, to . . . well, you know. Mess around."
Dylan pursed his lips, then looked to the back seat as Betty drove the sedan. "You all right back there, Mr. Craig?"
The effeminate man sat up, giving Dylan a look of abject fear. "A-are you going to kill me?" he asked.
"Believe it or not, I'm saving your life. There's a man named Foster Reece after you. He—"
"Foster Reece? I know him!" exclaimed Craig, his face a mask of consternation. "He just made a contribution to my company! Why would he invest in me if he was going to kill me?"
"Because he wanted to gain your confidence," Dylan answered. "It's a classic tactic. I'll bet he offered to have lunch, too."
"Eh, well . . . he suggested drinks tonight, after the party. You know . . . private."
Craig's skittishness made Dylan chuckle. "I don't care that you're homosexual, Craig," he said. "Believe me, I won't tell anyone."
The millionaire shifted uncomfortably and touched his chin, glancing out the window. "I-I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
"Right," said Dylan, turning back around. He caught Betty giving him a little smile before she returned her attention to the road.
The house was not much to look at; it had obviously lain abandoned for a number of years, judging by the overgrowth surrounding the unlit windows. It was a tiny building, little more than a shack, with cracked boards on the porch and glass missing from one of the front windows.
"How many rooms?" asked Dylan as he pulled Craig from the car.
"Just three," Betty responded, having changed into simple flat shoes. She still looked – Dylan had to admit – delectable in the bust-revealing dress she wore. "Only one bedroom. They ain't much to look at, but they're mostly clean. Water works, but the lighting don't."
"Probably a good thing," muttered Dylan. "I don't suppose you have a key for the place?"
Betty chuckled and bounded onto the rickety porch, avoiding the weak boards. She twisted the handle and pushed the door open. "Don't need one," she said. "Only people who ever come here are those of us from the resort."
"You don't think any of them will be coming tonight?"
Betty shook her head. "Nope. We always talk about it first, since only Max has a car."
Dylan nodded, not really caring who 'Max' was. It was enough to be more or less assuaged in his anxiety that other innocents might become involved. With Michael Craig before him, Dylan headed into the house. Betty lead the way, taking them through the spartan house. There was little furniture, all of which showed signs of disrepair and blatant vandalism. The main room sported a couple of well-worn mattresses and numerous blankets, scattered sheaves of newspaper, and more than a few empty rum and bourbon bottles. Melted candles and candle stumps were set upon the rickety coffee table, or upon pieces of wood or cinder block.
"This place is disgusting!" exclaimed Craig, gingerly stepping through the rubbish. "I can't believe you brought me here."
Dylan fixed the effeminate man a look. "I could always take you back," he said in an ominous tone. "That would make it easier for Reece."
Craig stared back. "At least I would have more protection," he said. "My bodyguards are—"
"They're clumsy bruisers with no training and no nerve," Dylan said quickly. "You want to live through tonight, you'll do as I say."
Craig scoffed. "I don't think I like your tone."
"Tough. Get used to it," Dylan snapped, then pushed the man – albeit gently – ahead of him. Over Craig's head, he saw Betty's bemused face, which she tried to hide. The girl opened a door to what Dylan presumed was the bedroom, as evidenced by the large, four-poster bed and relatively intact dresser and vanity.
"Well . . . it's not too bad," said Craig. "At least the bed looks somewhat . . . clean."
"Good. This is your room, then," declared the agent. He glanced to his pocket watch – four hours, he thought – then addressed Betty. "I'm going to need supplies to cover the windows. Wooden boards, planks, anything."
Betty shrugged. "There's wooden boards all over the place," she said. "I think there's even some tools in the attic."
"What? You're going to board up the windows?" gasped Craig. "Trying to keep me from getting out? You don't trust me?"
Dylan faced the smallish man. "I don't want to risk anyone shooting you through a window, much less crawling in to slip a knife in your neck while you sleep," he said firmly. "And no, I don't trust you."
Craig sputtered, but said nothing. Dylan addressed he and Betty. "Come on, you two. We don't have much time to get this place secure."
The tools Betty had mentioned consisted merely of a couple of rusty hammers, a screwdriver, and thankfully, a handful of stout iron nails. Pulling boards from the floor in the kitchen, and cannibalizing the front porch, the three of them had the bedroom windows covered in little time. Finding a ball of twine in a kitchen drawer, Dylan lay tripwires around the house, just inches above the ground, hidden by leaves and underbrush and attached to bottles balanced upon wooden stumps.
Craig complained throughout the entire hour it took them to more or less secure the house, mewling like a child when he caught a splinter in his finger. Betty consoled the man somewhat, but she was quickly growing tired of his whining. More than once, she rolled her eyes at the man.
After helping their charge pick out the splinter and wash his hands in the master bath, Betty returned to the main room, finding Dylan seated upon one of the mattresses, an array of weapons before him. Aside from the four firearms, Dylan had found rusty knives in the kitchen. Not the most formidable of weapons, but they would do in a pinch.
"I, uh, think Mr. Craig's gonna lick his wounds for a while," she said, leaning against the doorway. She watched as Dylan field stripped the four pistols. "You, um, seem pretty calm."
Dylan shrugged indifferently. "I've been in many situations like this before," he said. "It almost becomes a formula."
She took a hesitant step closer. "But, um . . . you look really young. I mean, I guess you were using makeup or something earlier, you know, to play the part, but . . . you ain't much older than me."
Dylan lifted his head with a wan smile. "Clean living," he joked. "I'm a lot older than you think I am."
Betty shuffled a bit on her feet, toying with the hem of her skirt. "Well, I don't care if you're twenty-five or thirty-five, or even forty. You're, uh . . . well . . . ." she trailed off, blushing, her eyes glittering in the near lack of light. "Um, I think I'll light some candles."
Dylan watched her a moment as the girl moved about awkwardly, kneeling beside candles and producing a box of matches to light them. Dylan had no doubt whatsoever that what he felt radiating from her was arousal, desire. Seven decades of life had shown him a few things about reading women, after all.
"You know, when I first started in law enforcement," Dylan said as he cleaned the slide of one of the pistols. "I had this romantic idea about it. Save the innocent, protect the weak. Help people."
Betty sat upon an adjacent mattress, her features turned a soft, amber hue by the flickering glow of the candle beside her. "Isn't that what you do?"
Dylan shrugged. "I guess if you boiled it down to simplicities, sure," he said. He smiled ruefully. "But there are always politics involved. Now more than ever. There are things I can do, and things I can't, even though I want to." Such as warning you that you're going to die on Valentine's Day in just over a year . . . .
Her brow furrowed, strangely making her face seem even more young and innocent. "I don't understand."
Dylan chuckled. "No, I guess not," he said. He assembled the pistol he had been cleaning, loaded it with a smooth rack of the slide. He smiled upon her. "It's not important."
Betty curled her legs up, wrapping her arms around her knees. She did not seem to mind that, the way she was sitting, her nearly-naked thighs framed the slim strip of fabric that covered her sex. "Dylan."
He took up another pistol, detaching the slide and taking out the barrel. "Yes."
"How close were you? I mean, with your . . . your partner."
He regarded her with narrowed eyes. "Didn't we talk about this?"
Betty's eyes flickered in the candlelight. "Did you love her?"
Dylan thought a moment, working his jaw. "Cory was special. She was . . . different," he said. His eyes dipped. "She saved my life, and that opened a whole different realm of emotions for me. But love is . . . that's a complicated thing."