“Another potential subject.” While Major Globe waited for a response on the other end of the line, he drank the sludge they claimed was coffee.
Globe winced at the taste of the coffee. “Three-two-zero. Some kind of math nerd. Too bad three-one-four is already used, right?”
“Yes, sir, very good sir.” A brief pause, followed by, “System shows L-K-S as the park on twenty-seventh. Type of operation?”
“Retrieval if the subject displays a hint of powers. He never leaves the park, so the last known sighting should be accurate.”
Globe could hear key presses and shuffling papers. “Critical chain?”
“Immediate acquisition, but, as I said, location isn’t expected to change.”
“We’ve got an acquisition that takes precedence today, is tomorrow acceptable?”
“Affirmative, happy hunting.”
“Confirmed, Operations, out.”
* * *
Kristof showed up to the address written on the food bag and climbed the stairs to the brownstone. The girl’s name was Naomi. Say it backwards, she winked and purred before drinking another tumbler of a clear liquid. Naomi was excited to see him and dragged him around to all her friends, telling the story of the robbery he foiled. Each telling of the tale now more than a month old, required more drinks. Each telling got more extravagant and Naomi was soon slurring her speech. At first the attention was welcome, but it didn’t take long for him to feel out of place with kids half his age. His days of partying were long gone. Krystal preferred a glass of wine by the fireplace.
Krystal would make fun of me for this, he thought. “It’s none of her business now.” He said aloud. Naomi ignored his statement and danced in front of Kristof. More than one male attending the party watched her. Naomi drank more and more through the evening until she could barely stand. She kept trying to kiss Kristof, but he resisted her advances.
“I don’t feel so good,” slurred Naomi. “Can you take me to my room?”
Kristof helped her to her room and she dragged him inside. She tried to look and act sexy, but only ended up staggering and tripping over her things. She lie on the bed and started to unbutton her shirt. Kristof sat next to her and she picked up his hand and placed it on her thigh.
Kristof withdrew his hand. “I’m sorry, Naomi, but I can’t do this right now.”
“But…” She stared at him. “You’re my hero, I want to thank you properly for rescuing me.” She tried to hug Kristof from behind, but only succeeded in throwing her small frame against his back.
“I’m no hero. I just happened to be eating at the restaurant at the right time.”
“But you acted when no one else would.”
Kristof shook his head. “I didn’t even want to save anyone that day. I hate people. My wife made me do it.” When Naomi didn’t respond, he continued. “She left me today at your restaurant. I think…” Kristof paused as Naomi flopped back onto her bed. “I think she’s better for it though. I know you want me, but…” Kristof heard a light snore from behind.
He turned and Naomi was fast asleep. Standing, he shook his head and started for the door. The door burst open and a young couple were kissing and pawing at each other. Their eyes went wide and they scampered out of the room. Kristof wasn’t sure if he heard it correctly, but one of them made a comment about him being Naomi’s father. At least she has a father, he thought as he walked to the landing to survey the partygoers. The couples were thinning out and only stags were left. More than one tried looking past him to the sleeping form of Naomi. Kristof sighed and walked back into Naomi’s room, closing the door. Once again, he couldn’t be sure, but he thought he heard cheering from the party. He clicked the lock on the door and looked at Naomi.
Kristof scooped her up in his arms and pulled back the sheets. He lay her down, but before he could get up, she rolled over and hugged his arm. There wasn’t anything sexual about it. In fact, Kristof felt more like a cherished stuffed animal than a sexual partner. He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment.
* * *
Kristof woke to a strange rumbling sound and a numb arm. He looked over to see Naomi laying on his arm, head back, tongue hanging out and snoring louder than Krystal ever did. He considered how he kept comparing Naomi to Krystal. The room smelled slightly of vomit and alcohol.
He slid his arm from under the sleeping eighteen year-old. Her bare knee peeked out from under the sheet. Kristof arranged the sheet to cover it. He flexed his fingers and made a fist, trying to get a normal feeling back into his arm.
Normal, thought Kristof, what’s normal mean anymore? I’m just glad I didn’t have sex with her. The thought of him being a dirty old man in the midst of a mid-life crisis appalled him. “Mid-life?” Naomi stirred at his vocalized thought, but didn’t wake. One more sunset. Hardly ‘mid’ life. He opened the door to Naomi’s room, looked at her again, locked the door and pulled it closed behind him.
* * *
The noises of a busy city wafted in through the barred window of the jail cell. The noise wasn’t what woke Joaquin, the smell was. It smelled like a taco cart was parked under his window. Joaquin got up and stood on his toes and tried looking out the window.
“Don’t try anything.”
Joaquin spun and saw a uniformed officer sitting just outside his cell. Before Joaquin could respond, a door at the end of the hall opened and the cop that found him after Anne proved her point walked through.
“This isn’t our guy, Wilkins.”
The uniformed cop stood. “You sure, Detective? We’ve been keeping watch on this guy all night.”
“You complainin’ ‘bout the O-T?”
Wilkins grinned. “Not at all.” He looked at his watch. “In fact, differential ends in fifteen minutes.” Wilkins stood. “Anything else?”
“No, Wilkins. I’ll process this guy, you get outta here.”
“Thanks, detective.” Wilkins made a beeline for the door and Massey waited until the door closed and latched. He turned to Joaquin. “You’ve got to be the dumbest person I’ve ever had to track down.”
“Fuck you, yo.”
“Every scene you came across you left incriminating evidence everywhere.”
Joaquin crossed his arms defiantly.
“Everywhere.” Massey produced a set of keys to the cell door. “I’m gonna walk your punk ass outta here.” Massey stuck the key in the lock. “If I even see you doing something stupid on the street, I’ll bring you in and the evidence I’ve lost will miraculously find its way back.”
“Why you doin’ this, yo?”
“You’re in the way. I’ve got better things to do with my time than follow some moron gangbanger around collecting evidence.”
“See? You’re a dumbass. Insulting the cop who’s letting you go isn’t the smartest thing to do.”
Massey leaned closer to the bars. “I can’t officially tell you this, but you should get out of town. Out of the country might be better.”
“Out of the country, huh?” Joaquin pictured his stash of money. “Mexico, Canada or Oregon?”
“Oregon’s another state, you retard. I’ll save you a week of trying to figure it out. The gangs in Mexico will chew you up. Try Canada, they’re nicer up there.”
Massey swung the door open and Joaquin walked out.
“I’m serious. Get out of town.”
Joaquin nodded and Massey escorted him down the hall to outtake processing.
* * *
Anne woke to the smell of coffee. “Mmmm, qahwa.” She reached for the mug a gloved hand offered.
“Qahwa?” asked Justin.
Anne cradled the steaming mug with both hands. She inhaled the aroma and smiled. “It’s Arabic: qahhwat al-bun. It means ‘bean wine.’”
“How old is coffee, for real?”
“History pretty much has that one right.” She sipped the strong, dark liquid. “The usage isn’t quite right, though.”
Anne patted the bed beside her and Justin sipped from his own cup before sitting beside his boss and sometimes lover.
“It was after I abandoned my quest to destroy Ögedei.”
“Genghis Khan’s son?”
Anne nodded. “He was still Temüjin then. The title of Khan was more an insult than an actual title.” Anne sat up, drew her knees to her chest and drank more coffee. “Melville certainly did a number on that story.“ She shook her head at the memory. “Anyway, I wandered Asia and Europe for about a hundred years. The Jade Palace was in ruin, my forces abandoned me.”
Justin tried to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but a look from Anne stopped his attempt at comforting her.
“I eventually found myself in Africa. The Sufis used it as a medicine to revive exhausted warriors fallen in battle. The Egyptians used mead to knock out their slaves and coffee to wake them up.”
“Their slaves?” Justin interrupted.
Anne scowled. “Get out of my room, boy.”
Justin stiffened his back, but he complied. “I’ll be outside,” he declared before stepping through the door. Anne drank more coffee before flopping back onto her ornate bed.
The day had so much potential, she thought. She sipped her coffee again and looked to Justin’s shadow on the other side of her door. She threw off the covers and shivered, her naked body responding to the cool air.
“Justin!” she called out, “Come back in here.”
I think it was Miss Alister who commented that having the right people make some stories truly great. I riffed with B.J. today about 16Sunsets. I complained about how bad Rubicon was. He’s been my constant sounding board and we hashed out a better version. The word count jumped from 642 to 1318. It’s way better and sets up this installment. He and I chatted about the story for about five hours and came up with solid ideas for the next few chapters.
The 16Sunsets running total after the Rubicon rewrite and Exodus’s 1613 words is 25,874.