|Primary Characters:||Adam Carter|
|Warning:||m/m sex, bdsm, dominance|
|Description:||Fiona is beaten by a man and loses the baby she’s carrying. Adam wants revenge. His only way to get to the guy is unorthodox to say the least. When he’s got what he was after, he realizes that he didn’t have all the facts and has to ask himself, if it was worth it.|
They hadn’t seen each other much in the past two months. Or maybe it was more like three months. In any case, suddenly one morning, Adam noticed that Fiona was looking a little off. He didn’t mention it at the time, but when her condition didn’t seem to improve in the next couple of days, he began to wonder. Again, he was too busy to feel up to the hassle of discussing her health. It was just like talking about her safety. She wouldn’t hear of slowing down or asking for a desk job.
But in the following week, Adam had begun to keep a close watch on her and he realized she was actually looking a little green around the gills. There had been no improvement in the nearly ten days since he’d first noticed her condition.
Wes was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, getting ready for school, so Adam decided this was as good a time as any, to bring up the awkward topic.
“Darling – are you feeling alright?”
Fiona shot him a sharp glance. He had the impression that she was going to brush him off, feed him a convenient lie and leave the matter, but she appeared to change her mind again.
“Adam – I’m pregnant.”
He opened and closed his mouth. This was unexpected. He’d wanted another child for ages. After all, it was hardly fair on Wes, letting him grow up without any siblings. But Fiona was fiercely protective of her career and her status as a fellow agent. Or rather as a colleague. The two branches of intelligence often cooperated but were in no way under the same management. She’d have seen his suggestion as a grave injustice. After all, she’d already sacrificed a few years of her career, taking care of Wes.
“That’s wonderful news, darling.”
He got up and planted a rather tame kiss on her cheek. She didn’t like him to get too possessive on a work day. Somehow, judging by the look on her face, he had the impression that she wasn’t quite as thrilled as he was.
“Yes. Listen, I’d better get going now. You know the situation right now. See you tonight.”
Again, he kissed her lightly, then watched her disappear. It was his turn to drop Wes off at school. In fact, it was almost always his turn. Not that he minded. Normally, his work hours matched Wes’ schedule rather well. He had a more senior position than Fiona, but there was no denying that MI6 had even more pressing duties, these days, the situation in the Middle East being what it was.
Wes showed up, with a spot of toothpaste on his cheek.
“Aw. Did mum leave already?”
“Afraid so. You know how it is in the advertising business. They’re always busy.”
“And you’re not?”
“Well, you know. My dull desk job isn’t as glamourous as your mum’s work.”
Adam scraped off the toothpaste, showed Wes the spot before wiping his finger on a piece of tissue.
“Time to go. Did you finish your homework last night?”
“Of course. It was easy-peasy. Just maths and English and French.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
He dropped his son off outside the expensive, secure, but outwardly unimpressive school. The teaching staff were first rate though and they were all very discreet. No unnecessary questions were asked about the parents and their work, as long as they passed the security clearance. Adam never felt 100 percent sure about Wes’ safety, but this school was as good as it got.
Once he’d waved goodbye to his son, Adam forced his mind back to his current assignment.
To Adam’s relief, Fiona accepted her superior’s suggestion that she slow down a little. No more high risk field work until after the baby was born. She still accepted assignments outside headquarters, but only if the risk was deemed low.
That was why Adam was totally unprepared for the news he received when he came in from one of his more tricky assignments. He was in an excellent mood. It had all gone tremendously well, and he was feeling more than a little proud of himself.
Harry met him in the doorway. The look on his face was so dark, Adam realized this was no social call. Harry wasn’t in the habit of meeting his agents and cheering for them. Calling them to his room for praise or scolding was more his style.
“Adam – I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but – Fiona’s in the hospital. I’ve sent Sam to pick up your boy at school and she’ll bring him here, for the time being. Finances, right? That’s what you told your son you do?”
Adam’s mind raced ahead while he tried to answer his boss’ question.
“I said I’m a daytrader. It’s vague enough. I told him it’s to do with money, so yes. That will do.”
“The computer screens will probably convince him. Sam will watch him while you go and see Fiona.”
“What about -”
“The doctors will tell you everything.”
Harry told him the name of the hospital, and the doctor he was supposed to ask for, then turned and entered his office again, without another word.
As the news sank in, a sharp pain hit Adam at the pit of his stomach. His throat went dry. He realized Harry hadn’t said anything about Fiona’s condition or what had happened. He glanced around the room, as if seeking help from his colleagues. Sam was, not surprisingly, nowhere to be seen. Colin was bent so low over his computer screen, Adam knew he was doing it on purpose so he wouldn’t have to talk to him.
Ruth caught his eye. She hurried over, a look of sympathy on her plain face.
“Adam – before you go. She’s been badly beaten, but I – judging by what little I heard Harry say, on the phone, she’s going to make it. It was the worst luck. Apparently a man she’d encountered on an assignment had been allowed to enter the country again and he happened to catch sight of her. He recognized her and – I’m terribly sorry.”
“Thanks. I have to go.”
Adam turned on his heel and ran outside. After a moment’s consideration, he hailed a taxi. This wasn’t a time to be driving his own car.
Breathlessly, he ran into the hospital reception area and stopped short in front of the reception desk.
“Excuse me. My wife has been admitted today. She’d been attacked and -”
He gave the names on their fake ID and held his breath while the nurse calmly scanned the computer screen before her.
“Ah, yes. Your wife is on the fourth floor. Room 46 B.”
He rode up in the lift and followed the nurse’s directions until he found the right room. Outside, he stopped and braced himself. He still didn’t know how badly injured Fiona was, and he suddenly realized that no one had told him anything about the baby.
Someone was moving about inside and Adam remembered the man who had attacked Fiona. Shouldn’t they arrange for a guard outside her room? He decided to ask Harry about that when he got back Harry could put in a formal request for protection, from MI6. If they didn’t have the manpower, they could ask the police or Harry might lend them a few men for the time being.
Adam broke off his train of thought, when he saw that the person moving about inside the room was a nurse.
He introduced himself and asked about Fiona’s condition. The nurse’s gaze shied away from his, and she evaded his question.
“If you’ll just wait until the doctor comes in, she’ll fill you in on all the details.”
“I just want to know how bad it is. Will she make it? What about the baby? Surely you can tell me something?”
He felt close to tears. A life without Fiona didn’t bear thinking about.
“There, there. No need to work yourself into a state, sir. Your wife will be fine. It looks worse than it is. I’m just not at liberty to go into any details. The doctor will be in shortly.”
“Thank you, miss. Nurse.”
The woman nodded and left the room.
Adam sat down on the chair provided and forced himself not to flinch as he took in all the horrific injuries that could be seen. He had no doubt there would be more, under the covers. It was bad enough as it was. Her lovely face was covered with nasty bruises, and she was breathing through a tube, in one nostril. On her hands were what he recognized as defence wounds. What a sick bastard to physically attack a woman.
Of course, most of their adversaries never made that distinction. Adam himself had had to put his upbringing aside and occasionally use force against a woman, even killing one once. He tried not to think about that. The memory still bothered him, but he knew he hadn’t had any choice. That particular woman had been about to kill him and his fellow agent on the case.
Fiona’s eyes were closed and her breaths came slowly and too regularly to be natural. He had no hopes that she would hear him, but he couldn’t stop himself from whispering her name. After making sure the door was closed and no one else was in the room, he moved closer.
“Fiona. Darling. Can you hear me? Wes is fine. He’s at our headquarters. Just think about yourself. All that matters is that you get better.”
He was about to take her hand, when once again he became aware of how badly hurt she was. There didn’t seem to be one single spot he could touch without causing her even more pain. Except she was unconscious. She wouldn’t feel a thing. Still, touching or kissing her horribly disfigured face or her hands, felt wrong somehow.
There was even a bandage covering most of her head. All her lovely hair must have been shaved or cut off. But it would grow back. The nurse had said she’d be ok. That was all he needed to know at the moment.
He remained at her side for hours, until finally the doctor showed up.
“Doctor – what can you tell me about her injuries?”
“They look terrible, I know, but there’s no internal hemorrhaging. Not anymore. No major organs have been damaged and – the main reason she’s unconscious is the concussion. As far as we can tell from the scans she’s suffered no brain damage. She’ll make a full recovery.”
Then why did the doctor look as if she still had some bad news to deliver? Adam sensed it had something to do with the baby and decided to ask. Knowing would be better than wondering and imagining.
“What about the baby?”
“I’m afraid – your wife lost the baby.”
He had suspected that, but the sadness that enveloped him still caught him by surprise.
The doctor waited while the young man absorbed the news. Unfortunately, there was more bad news to come. Or perhaps she could let it wait? Surely, he had enough on his plate, dealing with the loss of this baby. On the other hand, it might be best to let him now the worst, so he could begin to focus on his wife’s recovery.
“Sir – I’m afraid – there’s more.”
Adam looked up, unable to imagine what else there might be.
“It seems – it’s not certain yet and we’ll do what we can – but – I’m afraid it looks as if your wife will never be able to have any more children. At least not through normal conception.”
He stared at the doctor, trying to make sense of what she’d told him last. After a while, he thought he’d got it. No more children ever. Or – not through normal conception anyway. Fine. As long as she got better, he’d deal with that later. Now he just wanted to sit with his wife and wait for her to regain consciousness.
“Thank you, doctor. When will she -”
“Oh, she won’t regain consciousness tonight. You might as well return home. I understand you have a child already?”
“Yes, a son.”
“Don’t you think you ought to be with him at a time like this? Your wife will begin to come to late tomorrow afternoon or eary tomorrow evening, at the earliest. In fact, for now, it’s better that she’s kept unconscious, for the pain. I’m sure you understand. Go home. Take care of your little boy.”
“There’s nothing you can do here. Go home. Get some rest. When you return tomorrow, you’ll see that your wife is feeling better.”
In the end, Adam left, but he had no intention of going home to an empty house. He’d need to see Wes and try to explain to him. Then he had some questions he needed to ask.
To his surprise, Sam had handled Wes beyond his expectations. Wes was lying curled up on a sofa in a waiting room, covered with a blanket. He was surrounded by comic books, magazines and a few books. Harry Potter. Judging by the empty cartons from a Chinese restaurant, he had also been fed. There was an empty bottle that had contained Coca Cola. Of course. Wes always tried to get away with drinking that awful stuff.
There would be no talking to the child tonight. Adam just bent over the boy’s head and planted a feather light kiss on his temple. The little boy didn’t stir. He was too deeply asleep. It was a relief. Adam wasn’t quite sure yet what he’d tell him.
In any case, he had to see Harry now and find out more about the attack.
He’d never expected not to find Harry still in his office, despite the late hour and he wasn’t disappointed. Harry was still there, even though most of the members of the day shift were gone. It looked as if Harry was expecting him.
“Did you get him? Or did 6 get them?”
“Did they get him?”
“No. He has diplomatic immunity. Besides, we only have Fiona’s word for it. That it was him and why. Of course it was him, but we’ll need more than that to have a foreign diplomat deported.”
“So we’re just going to let him get away with it?”
“No, of course not. We’ll just have to wait and see if we can pin something else on him. Something watertight.”
“In other words, he could get away scot-free?”
“Get a grip, Adam. You know the score. I’m terribly sorry for your loss and for Fiona’s condition, but – she’s a professional, just like you. It’s the rules of the game, I’m afraid.”
Adam glared at Harry. He couldn’t be serious. Surely, this was something –
“Get some rest now. I assume you’ll want to go back to the hospital in the morning. You know where to find everything.”
Harry nodded towards the corridor with the small rooms, where agents working on a deadline could snatch a few hours of sleep.
Realizing that at the moment, he didn’t have much choice, Adam got up and left Harry’s office. Somehow, one way or another, he’d get the bastard who had attacked his wife. He didn’t care what Harry thought about it.
In the morning, after dozing for perhaps fifteen minutes, Adam was back at the hospital, staring at Fiona’s unmoving form. If he hadn’t seen her chest rising and falling, he wouldn’t have been able to tell that she was still alive. She looked small, pale and fragile. Sitting like this, passively, while the man who had done this to his wife was still out there somewhere, made Adam edgy. He wanted to be out and about, tracking the bastard down, finding a way to get him.
The doctor who had told him Fiona would be waking up that day, had probably been overly optimistic, or she’d merely wanted to get rid of him. There was no sign of improvement, and Adam almost welcomed a confrontation with anyone, even if he couldn’t lay a finger on the actual culprit, for the moment. For the time being though, the doctor, perhaps wisely, kept out of his way.
Finally, towards evening, Fiona did come to, barely. She was in pain and not quite lucid, due to the painkillers. Adam wasn’t even sure she was aware of his presence.
By now, when he was reasonably sure she’d make a full recovery – with one important exception – Adam couldn’t take the hospital smell anymore. The atmosphere in there was suffocating him. He needed to be doing something, not just sitting helplessly watching Fiona in this state.
His colleagues mumbled sympathetic words that washed over him like background noise, then left him alone. Harry didn’t make an appearance, but Ruth and Sam kept coming over to his desk, offering him coffee, asking him if there was anything they could do, until it was all he could do, keeping himself from shouting at them to leave him alone.
The two women took turns keeping Wes company. Adam had tried to explain to the boy why his mother wasn’t coming to see him for a while, but he felt he had failed. It was as if the child didn’t fully understand. In the end, Adam had given up. As he was leaving the room, Wes floored him with a question.
“Is mummy having the baby already?”
Adam felt an unfamiliar sting under his eyelids, and clenched his fists, until his fingernails broke the skin inside his hands. His first impulse was simply to walk away, pretending he hadn’t heard Wes’ question, but he immediately regretted it. He turned back and kneeled in front of his son.
“Wes – the baby – there won’t be a baby.”
“Is the baby dead?”
Adam closed his eyes and tried counting to ten in Arabic, but failed to remember the numbers, beyond three.
“Is mummy going to die too?”
Adam felt very close to losing his temper with his child for the first time, but he managed to restrain himself. The terrible tragedy that had hit them wasn’t Wes’ fault.
“No, darling. She’s going to be just fine.”
“Shall I draw a picture for her, daddy?”
“Yes, you do that. I’m sure mummy will be really pleased about that.”
“When can I see her?”
“Soon. Don’t you like Sam and Ruth?”
“Yes, but -”
“I know. I’ll tell mummy you said hello.”
Adam hugged the little boy hard, but let go, when he felt the child begin to squirm. He’d never been a very clingy child.
“Are you going to die?”
Adam felt as if he was choking. He loved his son so much it almost literally hurt. The thought of Fiona kept intruding, but he forced himself to focus on the present.
“No. We’re going to be just fine. You and mummy and I. I promise. Be nice to Ruth and Sam now, alright?”
That was it. He wasn’t going to stand by while his wife was in that condition, and his little boy was forced to wonder if his parents were going to be there the next day and the next. The bastard who had done this to them would pay. Adam didn’t care if Harry objected. In fact, he didn’t give two hoots whether he lost his job or not. From now on, his job was to make that sick bastard pay.
He returned to his desk and called for Ruth.
“Ruth, do you have a minute?”
“Yes, is it something to do with Wes?”
“No. The man who did it. The one who put Fiona in the hospital – get me all the info you can about him. Anything might be of interest. His weak points. Any possible openings.”
Ruth looked doubtful, and Adam knew she was wondering about the possible consequences if Harry found out, but in the end, when Adam felt he wanted to yell at her, she nodded. He was hoping she wouldn’t go straight to Harry and tell him all about it, but instantly his conscience hit him. Ruth was usually very good about these things. Besides, within reason, all agents had a free rein. And Harry hadn’t expressly forbidden him access to the files about the man.
In the meantime, Adam decided to call in a favour. He knew people at 6, and at least one of them would give him the information he wanted.
Unfortunately, MI6 seemed to have anticipated his move, and he found that the people he wanted were suddenly unavailable. As he sat waiting on the phone for about the tenth time, Ruth slid up to him, looking as awkward as ever.
“Adam – I have the file you requested. That’s all I could get on such short notice. I let one of the others keep digging. If we find anything else, we’ll let you know.”
He meant it too. Ruth was busy with her own assignments. If Harry were to demand a progress report, she could easily end up in trouble. But he didn’t have time to worry about Ruth now. He watched the file appear on the screen. It was impressive. When Ruth had said that was all, he’d assumed the information she’d sent him would be sketchy. Here was more than enough to find a way in.
Rapidly, he scanned the first few pages, then when he found something that caught his attention, he began to read more intently. The masses of irrelevant information slowed him down, but eventually, he got through the file and sat back, deep in thought.
They really protected their people. It seemed the sick bastard was covered in almost every way. Almost. There was the membership in that exclusive club. That would have to do. He briefly considered the other possibility, but discarded it. There were limits to what he could achieve with what he had. At his age, it would be impossible to fit in where he would need to go to catch the man’s eye.
No, it would have to be the club. A couple of days ago, he would have refused to even consider that way in. Even if he was known to be the sort of agent who stopped at nothing, this was where he would have drawn the line. Until he saw Fiona lying like that, in the hospital bed. From now on, new rules applied. He could give no thoughts to his own personal comfort. As long as that man was walking around free, comfort would be elusive, if not nonexistent.
“Ruth. Could you come here a minute again?”
“We haven’t found anything -”
“No, forget about that. I already have what I wanted. Now I would like you to do some background research. Can you do that for me? Do you have time?”
Ruth hesitated. She didn’t, strictly speaking, but after what had happened, she wasn’t going to let Adam down. Somehow, she’d find the time.
“Yes, don’t worry about it. What do you need?”
“I want you to research anything to do with that club he’s a member of. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“Yes, that S&M club? Alright, but why?”
“Never mind why. Just get me the info.”
“Are you talking about the members and their background? Or the staff and -”
“No, no. I want to know how it all works. What it is they do in there. How they do it. What kind of equipment they use.”
Ruth looked baffled and embarrassed. She found it hard to meet his gaze, but he didn’t give a damn about her sensibilities. If this was the only way in, he’d take it and be grateful it existed.
After checking on Wesley again and unenthusiastically nibbling a sandwich, Adam was back at his desk. He wasn’t going to visit Fiona again until he knew how to get to the bastard who had put her there.
Again Ruth materialized behind his chair, almost making him jump out of his skin. For a second, he’d imagined it was Harry.
“This is what I could find on the internet. In communities and chat rooms. Text transcripts of chats.”
“Yes, thank you. I appreciate it. You can go back to work now. I’ll try not to bother you again.”
She stood there, watching him anxiously, looking as if she was about to say something, then seemed to change her mind and left.
Adam was hardly paying attention anyway. He was already focused on the pile of printouts Ruth had left on his desk.
By the time Wes had gone to sleep, Adam felt he had enough to approach Harry. He’d need to get his permission for this type of operation. Even if he didn’t like to think about it, he’d also need backup. Someone who could get him out if necessary. This wasn’t intended to be a suicide mission.
Harry made no comment as he scanned the material Adam had placed before him. Not until he’d managed to get a good overview, did he sit back and fix his agent with a cool stare.
“What? You want do what exactly?”
“Go under cover at that club.”
“As what? An employee?”
“No, as a member.”
Harry flashed him a glance which seemed to say ‘are you insane’?, but he stopped short of actually saying it.
“Go on. I assume you have a plan.”
“I go in, try to – get him interested, then if he bites plant something incriminating on him. Drugs, would probably be best. Simplest.”
“Wait a minute. Back up again. I got that part about planting evidence. Why not do it somewhere a little less – preposterous?”
“I went through all the material. There is no other way in. They watch their employees like hawks. He wouldn’t even be allowed to be a member of that club if he hadn’t been one of their senior diplomats.”
Harry fell silent. He placed the tips of his fingers against each other, then seemed to ruminate on Adam’s suggestion at length.
“Well. I wouldn’t have ordered anyone under my command into one of those places – except possibly as an employee – but – I have to admit this would be useful. If you can pull it off. You do realize he might not – eh – fancy you.”
“I’m aware of that, sir, but – you’ll see for yourself that he’s almost exclusively interested in men.”
“Yes, but did you also see a profile of his – eh – type?”
“No. Except for one thing – almost all his – eh – partners have been my age. That does seem to indicate -”
“Hm. Yes. Well, since you’re volunteering – work with this for a while and see how far you get. Study for your role as usual, and if you think you can pull it off – we might give it a try. I’ll let you know later, when I know more about how much progress you’ve made.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Oh, don’t give me that, Adam. You know my name. This isn’t the army. Just don’t forget who’s in charge.”
“Get some sleep now. Begin to get into character tomorrow. Is that clear?”
“Yes, s – Harry.”
So far so good. Harry hadn’t actually said no. He would be given a chance to try.
Harry had a look of distaste on his face. That material was so unsavoury, it was difficult to see through the surface and into the main issue. The man Adam wished to target was not only responsible for the attack on the MI6 agent, a woman who had been on loan to them on occasion in the past, he was also a serious threat to national security. If they could get him sent home, they’d have set the enemy back considerably. It was worth the risk, now that Adam was volunteering for the assignment.
Even so, Harry didn’t like it. Too messy. Too many things that could go wrong. And the special nature of the assignment aside, the club itself was hard to put under surveillance. Once Adam was in there, he’d be virtually on his own. He would be wearing a wire, but if he needed backup, there was only so much they could do. That was something he would need to take into account.
And there was more.
“Are you sure you won’t – lose your temper and – go too far?”
“You know me better than that. Besides – I won’t be in a position to – cause him any physical harm. If you’d read the materlal you’d have found that he’s – eh – a top. Dominant.”
Harry felt his face heat up. This was probably the worst case they’d been involved in. Ever. Even the brothel with young men that they’d had to infiltrate – through their administrative staff – had been less mortifying.
“So you will be – what do they call it? A slave?”
“Something like that, yes.”
“Hm. Unbelievable. Simply beyond comprehension. These people must be – two bricks short of a load.”
“Whatever. Did we get the drugs?”
“Yes. Twenty grammes of pure heroin. Just put it in his pocket and get out as soon as you can.”
“You don’t have to tell me that.”
“This is against my better judgment, but – you can go ahead. Colin, Ruth and I will be in a van outside monitoring the situation. Just be aware that if you do need help, there isn’t much we can do.”
“I know. Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me now. Thank me when you’re out of there again, in one piece. Do you have the – whatever you call it – equipment?”
“It’s all included in the membership fee. They provide everything needed. Including – attire and well, whatever else we might need.”
“Ah – I see. Well, let’s go then. Better get it over with. MI6 will never let us hear the end of this.”
That wasn’t Adam’s primary concern. He was more worried about what Fiona might think, once she knew.
“Oh, just one thing – you do realize that even if he takes an interest – it might be several nights until he actually makes a move.”
“Yes, yes. I’m aware of that, Adam. Just do your – routine and -”
Harry felt aghast at what one of the men under his command was about to do. He couldn’t even recall having had to – charm a woman. Not in this direct and – crude way. Certainly never a man. If they had to attract a homosexual adversary, they usually used someone who was already incriminated. Someone who would be forced to choose between a prison sentence and cooperation. None of his agents had ever had to pull off this sort of Mata Hari stuff.
This would be one for the history books. And to think it would happen while he was in command. When Jools learned of this, they would never hear the end of it.
Adam had been right. Even though he managed to establish himself as a legitimate member of the club – Ruth’s research had been vital – it was almost a week before he happened to even see his target from a distance. At one point – well into the second week – Adam was beginning to despair of ever catching the man’s interest. In the meantime, he became the target of attention of no less than four other members, mainly women.
He had to dodge grim-faced women reminiscient of P.E instructors from school, female prison guards and an instructor Adam had had to face during his basic training. One exquisitely beautiful young woman with a deceptively sweet smile, and chilling eyes, seemed to have made up her mind that she’d have him.
He found himself grateful to be here as a gay submissive. Unfortunately, no true BDSM enthusiast ever seemed entirely oriented towards one sex. For most of them, it was the dominance, not the sex that beckoned. The fourth person to take an interest was, like two of the women, older than he was, and had a military bearing. When he stared at Adam, he felt a chill go down his spine.
Yet his target was known to be more or less out of control. A man who despised safe words and often had to be watched by the staff, or he’d go too far. What exactly going too far meant, Adam never found out, but it was hinted that his target had nearly killed a man three years ago.
He was half-British, half-Colombian. Though he held diplomatic immunity, it was said that his family, who allegedly owned half the countryside surrounding the capital Botot¯†. were connected to the drug cartels. Access to his record was restricted, not because of his diplomatic status, but because of his family’s connections. There was the business with the drug cartels, but more worryingly, from the point of view of British Intelligence, there were reports that hinted that they also did business with muslim extremists.
That was why Harry had risked letting Adam go ahead with his high-risk operation. At the moment, Adam wasn’t interested. All he wanted was to make sure the man didn’t escape his punishment.
The target had passports in a number of different names, but in the United Kingdom, he went by his English grandfather’s first name, Henry and his Colombian father’s last name – Santiago.
At the end of the second week, Santiago visited the club, and during the course of the evening, he seemed to finally take notice of the new member. On Saturday night, he asked Adam if he wanted a drink.
Adam took his time replying, making sure Henry – the name seemed oddly wrong, for the dark-haired, dark-eyed man with the Mediterranean features – saw him studying him closely. In the end, Adam smiled and accepted.
“I see you’re a new member – ”
“Pleased to meet you, Charlie.”
“Pleased to meet you too -”
“Henry Santiago. You were saying – ”
“Henry. Oh, yes, I am a new member. When I returned from the United States, I ran across this place and was delighted. I didn’t think there would be anything like this here. In L.A -”
“So you were in Los Angeles?”
“For a few years, yes. One tends to take the benefits of civilization for granted. In certain ways, England can be such a provincial place.”
Henry nodded. There was a hint of steel in his eyes, which Adam had expected, but also something – wilder – more difficult to define. Adam wasn’t an expert, but he had an uneasy feeling that what he’d seen might be the signs of insanity.
He forced himself to smile again, looking as if he was entranced by what he saw.
They sat talking for a while longer, until Henry excused himself and vanished into one of the back rooms. Adam had a feeling he had an appointment in there. They had bugs in every room of the club, but Adam wasn’t particularly interested to learn what was going on in the back rooms. Not yet. Time enough when – if – he’d be going there himself.
Since for obvious reasons he had no experience of sex with men, he’d been concerned about that aspect of the plan. There was only so much Ruth’s research could dig up. He wasn’t quite up to doing a bit more practical research in one of the high class gay clubs. Ruth had suggested that he claim to be a submissive with no interest in sex, but if he did, he could hardly refuse to submit to one of the women.
Without consulting Ruth, he’d come up with a plausible explanation. He’d been drawn to other boys in school, but never dared to go all the way. Now, as an adult, after seeing the attractions of Los Angeles, he was going to explore his sexuality further. With a man. He’d always known he was a submissive, but never felt fully satisfied by S & M with women. That should explain any lack of skill on his part.
A few days into the third week, he had a feeling Henry was about to make his move. As a submissive, Ruth had assured him, he wasn’t required to initiate any contacts. Passivity would, hopefully, be considered attractive.
Henry hadn’t been in on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and Adam had felt constrained not to appear on Monday or Tuesday either. Only a few members were eager enough to frequent the club Sunday-Tuesday.
On Thursday night, Henry didn’t seem to be around either, but Adam paitently waited in the bar, having a few drinks, chatting with the other members. The young woman he’d rejected, still watched him from out of the corner of her eye. He had a feeling she might try something, but he wasn’t going to let himself be diverted from his purpose. If he had to, he’d tell her to her face that he wasn’t interested.
It was getting late and Adam glanced at his watch, wondering if Henry wasn’t going to show up. That would be regrettable, but he could always hope to run into him on Friday or Saturday.
As he was considering giving up for the evening, he saw Henry walking in. He caught his eye and smiled, and Henry joined him.
“Can I get you anything?”
“A G&T, thanks.”
“Bartender. Two gin and tonics, please.”
Henry kept studying him, unnervingly intimately, then seemed to come to a decision.
“Well, Charlie, what are you you looking for here? More specifically.”
Adam felt the adrenline kick in. This was it. He took another sip of his drink, while he recalled his studies. If he didn’t screw this up, he’d most likely be seeing the inside of one of the back rooms tonight. At the moment, all he was concerned with was getting it right. Time enough to worry about the rest later.
“What are we all hoping to find here? Distractions.”
“Yes, but what exactly are you after? Are you sub or dom?”
“Do you have any specific – preferences?”
“I’ll be honest with you, Henry. This is rather new to me. Not the submission, but – the fact that I’m looking for a guy. I’ve never explored this part of my sexuality before.”
“I see. What makes you think that’s what you’re after?”
“Because somehow, women never did it for me. Even in school – it was always the other boys that interested me more. Not the sexually provocative girls most of my friends coveted.”
“I see. What form does your submission take? Anything exotic?”
“Pain. Being restrained.”
“Have you ever had sex with another man? Or boy, when you were in school?”
“School boy stuff. Nothing – really serious.”
“And now you want to go all the way?”
Adam was grateful he’d learned to assume all kinds of different personalities. This was probably – paradoxically enough – the hardest to affect. He made eye contact, shifted about slightly on his chair, so he could get a little closer to Henry, then nodded. The effect he was going for was one he’d seen in a girl who had been desperate to catch his interest, his last year of school. All the talk about having been more interested in the boys while still in school, was especially ironic. In reality, he’d been quite popular with the girls. Never had any trouble getting a date.
Henry kept watching him for so long, Adam began to think he’d overdone it, rather like Millie, or was it Ginnie? As far as he could recall, she’d been pretty enough, but insecure and desperate to have a boyfriend – any boyfriend – and Adam hadn’t felt particularly flattered, or desperate enough himself to really take an interest.
“So, Charlie, would you like to go somewhere more private to continue this discussion?”
“I’d love to.”
They finished their drinks and walked leisurely across the room, towards the corridor where the private rooms were located.
Colin looked up and nodded to Harry to come over. The boss had been sitting in the back of the van, talking to Ruth while Colin had been monitoring the listening devices.
“Is he in?”
“They’re moving towards one of the back rooms now.”
Harry nodded briefly, then returned to his seat. Nothing in the world would induce him to sit and listen to what was going on inside. If they hadn’t been desperate to put that Santiago character out of commission, he’d never have authorized Adam’s ill-adviced plan. He considered letting Colin off the hook as well. Ruth could handle listening, surely? Harry had an idea that women might not be as offended by homosexuality as most men were.
“Ruth? Do you feel up to listening in for a while?”
“Go on over and let Colin take a break.”
Ruth looked surprised, but didn’t object. She thought Colin looked rather relieved, but perhaps he merely wanted to stretch his legs a bit.
For a while, they didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. Small talk. The stock market. Horse racing. The weather. From time to time, they heard the clinking of glasses.
If it continued like this, Ruth thought neither Harry or Colin would find anything to be embarrassed about, in the recording transcripts. She had hardly finished the thought, when she heard the target change his tone. This was it, apparently.
“Charlie. If you’re sure you want to do this, I suggest you keep quiet from now on. You’ll find what you need in that locker, over there. Take off your clothes. Put on what you find in there, then lie down on the bed, face down. Any questions?”
“Yes. What about a safe word?”
“Right. You want to use a safe word. Very well. You pick one.”
“Oh. I suppose we could use hospital. Would that be alright?”
“Hospital? Yes, that might be appropriate. If you fear that you might end up in one, then by all means, say so.”
Henry’s voice held a note of contempt, as if in his opinion, safe words were for weaklings. Adam preferred to use that particular word, to remind him of why he was here. He knew the next half hour or so would be extremely uncomfortable to say the least. What he was hoping for, was that Henry would leave him alone long enough so he could plant the drugs in Henry’s pants. He had an idea about that, but was by no means sure he’d be able to pull it off. If not, he’d need to repeat the experience.
Adam followed Henry’s instructions, then lay down on the bed, struggling to display the correct level of enthusiasm. Lying like this, his back turned towards the enemy went against all his natural instincts, as well as his training.
Now, when it was too late, he regretted describing his preferences as he had. Pain – wasn’t that a little too vague? Shouldn’t he have said spanking or whipping or something more specific? If he used the safe word too soon, he doubted Henry would stick around long enough. In fact, Adam wasn’t sure he could risk using it at all, judging by Henry’s reaction.
He heard Henry approach the bed, and experienced a moment of panic. What if pain might involve electric shocks? On one particularly miserable occasion, when he’d ended up in captivity, he’d been tortured. It had only lasted a couple of minutes and his team had launched a counter attack and managed to get him back, before too much damage was done, but he still recalled the seemingly endless interval between first seeing the electric wire, and feeling the shock make its way through his flesh.
He felt his wrists and ankles being strapped into shackles. Afterwards, there was an ominous pause, during which he heard Henry move about, but couldn’t guess what he was doing. Finally, he felt Henry’s weight make the bed springs quiver. He had the impression Henry was on his knees, not stretched out. Then he realized what was going to happen.
A belt, sturdy, made of leather with a metal buckle ate into his skin. He bit his lip not to cry out, but the real difficulty was smothering the hysterical laughter which threatened to bubble up through his throat and shatter the relative silence in the room. It occurred to him that the room had to be soundproof. He sensed that the hysteria was caused by the fear he couldn’t quite master, even with all his experience. Even so, he found the idea of being belted, like in school, hilarious. It wasn’t that it didn’t hurt, it was just that if felt like such a mundane thing to do, in such an exotic club.
By the time the skin on his back, buttocks and thighs was numb and tingling, Henry stopped. There was another pause, during which Adam felt his nerves stretching to breaking point. He had a feeling there was worse to come. The memory of the electric wire still hadn’t left his mind entirely. But what happened next was in a way even more terrifying.
If there had been any other way of appoaching Santiago, there wasn’t the slightest doubt that Adam would have chosen that. He was aware of that, but it did nothing to help reconcile him with what was to come.
As if the actual penetration wasn’t bad enough, Henry placed his arm around Adam’s neck and squeezed hard, effectively reducing blood flow and air. Adam lost control and began to thrash about on the bed, but at the moment, he couldn’t have produced any coherent sound, let alone the word hospital. All he could do was gasp for breath, while trying to ignore the pain shooting through him.
Eventually, this came to a stop as well, and he could feel Henry move off him, then – Adam had a feeling there had been a longer time interval, during which he’d partially blacked out – unbuckling the shackles. He knew he had to get up and find Henry’s clothes before it was too late. It might already be too late, but if he didn’t get a grip on himself, all this humiliation and pain had been for nothing. He licked his lips, swallowed and coughed, trying to clear his throat.
“Water. Could I -”
There was a washroom connected to the room. If he could get Henry to go in there and bring back a cup of water, then perhaps – if Henry wasn’t dressed already. Adam didn’t have any sense of how long he’d been out.
Henry sounded grudging and rather ungracious, but for all Adam knew, that was how a top sounded when addressing a bottom.
As he heard Henry’s footsteps retreating, Adam forced his aching body to move. He shied away from sitting on the side of the bed, but managed to get to his feet and found that Henry had left, not his pants, but his jacket, lying neatly folded on the chair beside the bed. Adam hurriedy rifled his own pants pockets for the little packet, then slipped it into the inside pocket of Henry’s jacket, then stretched out on his side on the bed. The sound of the water running had stopped, so he knew Henry was returning.
He accepted the cup of water, gratefully and took a sip, then put the cup down on the bedside table. As soon as he felt steady enough on his legs, he wanted nothing more than to get out, and never see this sick bastard again. When Santiago was safely out of the country, perhaps he could find peace of mind. It wasn’t satisfying enough, but it would have to do.
To his surprise, Henry didn’t seem to be finished with him. His gaze slid across Adam’s body, then the man’s hands followed. No. He hadn’t expected anything like this. Pain, yes. After all, pain could be endured, but – if Henry noticed his lack of enthusiasm – wouldn’t that be enough to blow the entire operation?
However, Henry didn’t seem to find the lack of reaction at all displeasing. In fact, it ocurred to Adam that it might be part of the ‘innocent beginner wanting instructions’ act. Modesty. Passivity. If so, perhaps he could still pull it off.
But when Henry kneeled beside the bed, Adam had to force his eyes away from what was going on. No. Out of all the things that might have happened, with the exception of the electric shocks – this was what he’d most dreaded. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine himself anywhere but in this tawdry little room.
But that wasn’t what Henry would expect and Adam found himself forced to imagine something else. That he was with someone else. Not Fiona. Someone from earlier in his life. He searched his mind and seized on a memory. Eloise. The French girl he’d dated the summer after his graduation. He forced himself to recall her red lips and blood red finger nails and how she’d handled him. Quite unlike any of his English girlfriends. If he remembered correctly, her considerable expertise had rendered him impotent the first time. For the first, and last time, until now.
He was hoping that a man in his situation might be nervous enough not to climax. In any case, there were some things that couldn’t be commanded at will.
Surely now, even Henry would be satisfied? But even after the last indignity, Henry seemed fully intent on prolonging their encounter.
“Tell me, Charlie, have you ever experimented with oxygen deprivation?”
All Adam’s instincts told him to get out, never mind what Henry might think. He was beginning to think that maybe the man had exposed him and was merely indulging some sick fantasy of his before finishing him off. But that was impossible. He’d never crossed paths with the man before.
“You should try it sometimes. It can be – rewarding.”
“Right. How do you -”
“It’s very easy. You merely apply something to your neck. A cord of some kind, a scarf or a belt. You restrict air flow and – the sexual gratification is remarkable.”
“It sounds – risky.”
“Everything can be risky. What about electrocution?”
Adam wanted to scream no. It was as if this bastard was reading his mind and suggesting exactly the things that would intimidate him the most. He was searching his mind for some sort of excuse that wouldn’t blow his cover, that would get him out, instantly. After the last experience, he’d had more than enough. All he wanted was to leave and never return. He’d planted the drugs. Now the police could do the rest.
“Get him out of there.”
Harry was staring pointedly at Ruth. He didn’t like her tone at all. Had the confoundedly awkward woman he’d been saddled with forgotten who was in charge?
“He must have had the chance to plant the packet by now. That was what the business with the water was about. It’s enough. You heard that sick bastard in there. If he goes on for much longer -”
“Aren’t you forgetting something? In fact more than one thing.”
“The rules of the game. Once you’re involved in an operation, you’re on your own. That’s one. Secondly, he volunteered. He wanted this assignment, now he has to take the consequences. Besides, what are you suggesting? That we charge in there brandishing our guns? Be sensible.”
“But he might get killed in there.”
“Shouldn’t he have thought about that before?”
Colin moved about nervously on his chair, trying to pretend he hadn’t heard a word they’d been saying for at least five minutes.
“We will do nothing. That’s an order.”
Ruth glared angrily at him.
She opened the door and stalked outside. Harry felt it was for the best. After she’d had a bit of fresh air, she might be more inclined to agree with him. In any case, he wouldn’t tolerate anyone under his command questioning his authority.
Ruth had no intention of leaving a colleague in a situation like this. She fully recognized the need to obey orders and following the chain of command. Under normal circumstances. On the other hand, Harry was right. They couldn’t very well march in there and get Adam and march out again. That, if nothing else, would alert Santiago to what was going on. It couldn’t fail to arouse his suspicions.
Fortunately, Ruth’s studies had given her an idea. If she didn’t falter, this could just work. She knew she had to try.
Marching ahead, looking as if she had every reason to be there, Ruth passed the entrance, baffling the attendant, then barging past members and staff, making her way to the main lounge.
She called out the name in a plaintive voice. As she had known there was no reply.
She repeated the word in a louder voice. By now, she had everyone’s attention.
A man, looking harassed, wearing some sort of club jacket approached. The manager? In any case, he seemed intent on calming her down and probably ushering her outside again. She was going to make that very difficult for him.
“Ma’am, what can I do for you?”
“I know my husband is here, so don’t bother denying it. Charles Newton. He’s a member of your club, right?”
“I’m not at liberty -”
“Bollocks. He’s here and I want him out of here. Now. Where is he? I’ll find him even if I have to tear each room apart.”
“Ma’am, please. If you’ll just -”
“I will not calm down. The coward is cheating on me. I hadn’t given him permission to go chasing after other mistresses and -”
“Please. Charles Newton, you said? If you’ll come this way, I’m sure we can settle this matter.”
“I certainly hope so, because I’m not leaving without my husband. The rat.”
Two minutes later, the manager was walking ahead of Ruth, towards one of the private rooms. Looking as if he was forcing something vile-tasting down his throat, he unlocked the door and stepped aside.
Ruth didn’t know what she’d find in there, but she tried not to falter. It was their only chance, so she had to get it right.
“Charlie? How dare you? With a man? Get over here this second.”
To her relief, Santiago hadn’t had time to put into effect any of the suggestions he’d made, but he was holding a sort of noose in his hands. Ruth suppressed a shudder. Had he intended to strangle Adam? Surely not.
“Yes. And who are you?”
“That weasel over there is mine. My slave. He didn’t have permission to offer himself to anyone else.”
Santiago bowed stiffly, then turned his back on the other three. As far as he was concerned, the matter was closed.
Ruth hurried over to the bed, grabbed Adam by the arm and began to drag him with her. He fished his clothes off the locker door and tried frantically to get at least his pants back on. Ruth slowed down enough to let him get pants and shoes on, then dragged him as fast as she dared through the lounge and outside. She knew that if she didn’t get this over with, she’d drop out of character and that would be enough to arouse Santiago’s suspicions, if her performance hadn’t already ruined everything.
Still, she wasn’t sorry she’d interfered. If she hadn’t, she had a feeling Adam might not have been alive for much longer. In any case, she’d felt sorry for him. She couldn’t imagine having to go through what he had. But then she didn’t love anyone the way he loved Fiona.
Outside, she stopped to consider where they would go. The van wouldn’t look likely for someone like her. All she could do was continue walking, though she could tell that Adam was tiring fast and though he seemed to be trying the best he could to walk normally, he was limping. Once they were around the corner, at least they could stop and rest. Just a few more yards and then –
“I hope I didn’t blow your cover – I just -”
“No, it’s alright. I was looking for a way out. Thanks. Ruth -”
“Can we stop here? I’m not feeling -”
She turned and watched him, worriedly. His face had a greenish tinge and she had a feeling that he’d either faint or throw up or perhaps both, one after the other. The street they were on didn’t have any benches. There was nothing else for it, they’d had to use the pavement. She steered Adam towards the nearest wall, then made him sit down, his head between his knees.
Where was the van? Surely Harry and the others would have heard them by now and would be coming to pick them up? Would she have to go back and get them and risk being seen from inside that club? For a moment she even imagined that Harry was so furious with her, he was going to let them make their own way back, as best they could.
To her relief, the van did show up, from the opposite direction. Apparently, Harry had had them circle the block.
He opened the door and let them inside, without a word. Judging by his expression, he was seething. His face was white and pinched and the eyes were dark with rage. Well, he could scold her all he liked. At least Adam was safe.
Ruth fussed over Adam, who didn’t give much response, one way or another. It seemed he was too exhausted or in too much pain to react. In the end, it was Harry who forced his attention back.
“Listen to me. I’m going to have one of our doctors have a look at you. That’s an order.”
Adam’s eyes were unfocused and his head kept nodding in a way that suggested exhaustion and shock. Harry wasn’t in a mood to coddle anyone under his command, so he raised his voice and repeated his statement sharply.
“When we get back, you’ll go and see our doctor.”
“No. I’m alright.”
“I said, that’s an order.”
Harry thought he saw a glint of understanding in Adam’s eyes. That was as far as Harry was prepared to go. Now all he wanted was to bring this infernal business to a close.
The rest of that night was just a vague blur in Adam’s mind. Apparently, their doctors had seen to him in some way, but he had no recollection of any of it. He woke up, on the bed in one of the overnight rooms, feeling dizzy and weak, but, he concluded, not much the worse for wear.
His first thoughts were for Wes. Once he’d dug up his watch, out of the small plastic bag that seemed to contain his belongings, he realized it was well past ten in the morning, so presumably Wes had already left for school. In a way, that was a relief. He didn’t quite feel up to facing his son, after what had happened last night.
Next his thoughts turned to Fiona. She had to be conscious by now. In any case, he had to see her, with his own eyes. He sat gingerly on the side of the bed, looking down on himself. Someone had lent him a tracksuit. His own clothes would still be somewhere in the building, presumably.
At first, he considered going back home to find a change of clothes, but somehow, he didn’t feel up to that either. For a while, he sat on the bed, trying to find the energy to begin his day. This was ridiculous. He’d been tortured. Faced enemy fire. Time and time and again, he’d taken worse beatings than this, but there was no denying that the memories of the night before made him slightly sick.
In the end, he got up determinedly, recalling that he had a change of clothes in his locker. Not a suit, but jeans, a t-shirt and a casual jacket. Those would have to do. Presumably, Harry would have an assignment for him, but first he had to see Fiona and make sure she was alright, or at least improving.
It occurred to him that Harry might wish to debrief him. On second thought, he changed his mind again. Not Harry. Not this particular assignment. Perhaps, if there was anything Harry would wish to know, that he hadn’t already learned from listening to the surveillance tapes, he would send someone else. Sam, Colin or Ruth.
Adam put the thought out of his mind. He’d face that if he had to. Now he had to see his wife. The thought of Fiona, made him consider what he’d tell her. Until now, it hadn’t even occurred to him that if he told Fiona about getting Santiago for possession of drugs, he’d also have to tell her how he’d managed that. Or would he? At the moment at least, Fiona wouldn’t be in any condition to wonder and later on – again, he’d face that hurdle when he had to.
Once at the hospital, he found that Fiona had regained consciousness and was doing better. She would be able to see him and talk to him for a while. That was enough for Adam.
Her face was so covered in bruises, for a second, Adam was afraid he was in the wrong room. Earlier, she’d been covered by bandages and tubes and so little of her face had been visible he’d merely taken it for granted that the unconcious figure on the bed was his wife.
She opened her eyes and there was recognition in them.
“Hello. Welcome back.”
Her lips moved, but in the end, she didn’t say anything.
He sat down and took her hand. She didn’t squeeze his back. In fact, he had the impression that she was reluctant to touch him. Momentarily, he had a vision of someone – perhaps from 6 – telling her what he’d done. But that was absurd. They might know by now, but surely no one would be cruel enough to tell her, before she’d made a full recovery.
“How are you doing?”
Her eyes wandered over to the bedside table and Adam caught her gaze, falling on the pitcher of water, standing there. He poured her half a glass and helped her take a sip. Even that minor exertion made her fall back onto the pillow totally exhausted. He automatically let his fingers move across her chin to wipe away the drops of water. This time it was unmistakable, she was reluctant to let him touch her.
To his alarm, her eyes filled with tears and she began to sob. Adam felt totally helpless. He’d never seen Fiona cry before. She just wasn’t the type. Even when she’d been giving birth to Wes, she’d been angry, more than terrified.
“Shut up. Don’t be so nice to me. You don’t know. You have no idea.”
“What? You’ve had a bad shock and I realize you’re in quite a bit of pain, but -”
“Didn’t you hear me? I have something to tell you. Just listen, and when you’ve heard me out, please go. You’ll want to go anyway.”
“Fiona – easy now. Don’t -”
“No, just listen to me. I don’t want to tell you this, but I have to.”
“Alright. Just try to calm down.”
She silenced him with a look.
“The baby – wasn’t yours. I had an affair. It doesn’t matter who with, but – don’t you get it – I – betrayed you.”
The seconds ticked away, while Adam tried to make sense of her words. He wanted to believe that it was the shock talking. Even if she’d come close to dying before, this sort of beating must have left her feeling traumatized and perhaps that had led to – but why would she make something like that up, if it wasn’t true?
“Are you serious?”
“Of course I’m serious. I – was going to tell you. Then this happened -”
“Does it matter?”
“Ralph St Vincent.”
“You were always telling everyone how I could handle any sort of assignment. Fiona is the most coolheaded agent in the service. My wife can take on any assignment. You need someone to seduce a foreign operative? Fiona’s your girl. Sound familiar? Did it never occur to you that for once I might have liked my husband so say no. Let Fiona be. Someone else can charm the suspect.”
“But – I was proud of you. I’ve never known a better agent and -”
“You don’t get it, do you? You made me feel as if you liked me to vamp any man in sight. As if you got off on it.”
Adam still couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. It simply wasn’t possible that Fiona had – If she was upset with him for singing her praises, wasn’t it possible that she’d made up the whole story? About the affair and the baby. Surely, she wouldn’t have –
“Did you hear me?”
“Are you serious? You actually -”
“Yes. I slept with Ralph.”
“For how long did this go on?”
“I don’t know. Five, six months.”
Slowly, it began to sink in. In the past six months, had he noticd something out of the ordinary? They’d both been unusually busy with work, but they always were. In the past they’d always managed to find the time for each other.
Tonelessly, he asked the question that kept popping up in his mind, foolishly.
“Did you ever love me?”
“I want my son.”
“Alright. After what I did, it’s only fair.”
“You’ll be happy to know that this time, I was the one who had to do the Mata Hari stuff.”
“I got him. We have enough on him to send him back to Colombia.”
“How did you manage that? They’re watching over them wherever they go.”
“Not quite everywhere they go.”
Fiona’s breathing came in shallow gasps and if Adam hadn’t been too wrapped up in his emotions, his conscience would have struck him even now, but as it was, he barely noticed.
“The club. That S & M club. You didn’t -”
“Why not? He’d nearly killed the woman I loved. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know what I know now.”
“Adam – I’m sorry.”
“Well, it’s a little late for that, isn’t it?”
He got up and left the room, almost running into the nurse, come to tell him his visit had to end. She stared at him in consternation, as he brushed past her without even seeing her.
Sam walked into Harry’s office, to report what the police had told her.
“He’ll be deported before the end of the week. Of course, Bogot¯† will deport one of our diplomats, but – well – at least we got what we wanted. Where’s Adam? I thought he might want to know.”
“He’s at the hospital, poor sod. For all the good it will do him.”
“Oh. I just got off the phone with one of my friends at 6. Apparently, the lady had been having an affair with a fellow agent.”
“Fiona? Oh, no. Poor Adam.”
“Well, if that would be all -”
“What about that other assignment?”
“I’ll report back to you as soon as I get any results.”
Sam returned outside and told Ruth what she’d just learned. Malcolm, who happened to walk by, asked what they were talking about and when Ruth went in to ask Colin about another assignment, she told him too.
Ruth returned to her desk, only to find Harry standing over her, face rigid and eyes narrowed.
“That can wait. You’re coming with me. This way.”
He took her into the lift and pressed the button for the basement. Ruth stared inquiringly at her boss, but he evaded her gaze. The lift door opened and Harry stepped outside, clearly expecting Ruth to follow. He unlocked a door at the end of the corridor, using his passkey and turned on the light in there. It smelled stale and fusty. The only light came from a bare light bulb in the middle of the ceiling.
All the walls were covered by shelves, filled with untidy old-fashioned files. Some were too full and papers spilled over onto the shelf, or even to the floor. Here and there boxes were stacked on top of each other.
“These are the old files from the 1980’s until the computerization in the early to mid-nineties. Your job for the next week or so will be to categorize them so that they too can be entered into the system. Do you understand?”
Ruth understood only too well. This was her punishment for disobeying Harry’s direct order. In a way, it was only fair. He could have made an example out of her. Still, she felt wretched. This would take months.
She nodded, which seemed to satisfy Harry. He vanished in the direction of the lift.
In the meantime, Adam returned. He avoided the main room and headed for the men’s room, then returned to the room he’d spent the night in. There were no locks on those doors, but he closed it and sat down with his back to it, as if he could shut the world out that way.
He hugged himself and buried his face in the fabric of the jacket arm. Its rough surface scratched his skin, but it helped shut out the world and anyway, he hardly noticed the sensation. The worst part was that he still loved Fiona as much as ever. For a brief second, his temper had flared, but that had died almost as soon as it had begun. All he wanted was to have Fiona back, the way she’d been before all this happened. She was still the most important person in his life. She and Wes. He even welcomed the pain, because it meant he still had that feeling.
Fiona was lying in her hospital bed, crying. Her eyelids were swollen but she couldn’t stop. She’d seen the way Adam had looked as she told him the truth. It was as if she’d struck him across the face. He loved her so much and she’d betrayed him. She was hoping what he’d told her had been a desperate lie, made up in the heat of the moment to make her share some of the pain, but she knew it wasn’t. Adam never lied to her. Even if he had, she would have been able to see right through him.
She had wanted to hurt him, but not like this. All she’d wanted was to shake him up. To wake him up and make him see what he was doing. And now he’d gone out and endured – what? – at that club. For her. To get the man who’d done this to her. And she wasn’t worth it.
What had she done? She still loved him, even if his attitude towards her had hurt. But that pain had been like nothing compared to what he must be enduring right now. Why hadn’t she talked to him, instead of doing the one thing that would hurt him this badly? The answer was that she had wanted to hurt him.
And so the spiral of guilt and self-recrimination went on and on, until she was given a sedative. Eventually, she dozed off, her eyes red and swollen.