Fiction Series: Chuckle - Part 5
"What hotel are you checked into?" I ask, swerving through pockets of traffic.
"I haven't checked into one yet," Charlie says, pulling her seatbelt tight.
"Hmm. They take that out of your per diem?"
"Um, kinda. You have an idea, don't you."
"I'm feeling a little wired right now. Nick's staying at my place. You should too."
"Just like the old days, huh."
"Yup. Use that per diem to eat and party on Her Majesty's dime."
"I am supposed to use that money for basic expenses only," Charlie says with a straight face.
"Not even a little bit."
"Those audits are a bitch, though."
"I could imagine. How did you justify the spending from last time?"
"Said I was tracking a dangerous individual relevant to British national security."
"And that individual required you to order two three-course meals at a Brazillian steakhouse, followed by $1,437.22 on bottle service at a nightclub?"
"Hey. I'm committed to establishing and maintaining my cover. What can I say?"
"Also, it helps that I spend less compared to other operatives. I'm like, bottom five." Charlie relocated less than a few years ago, but she began to show signs of a subtle British accent growing. I pull into the designated meeting space. "Who are we going to meet?"
"Director," I say, shutting the car off and getting out. We walk for a bit before making our way into a room that's out of the way.
"You're early," The director says.
"He drives like a madman," Charlie says. "God in heaven." I silently look around the room.
"Has Devin briefed you?" The director asks Charlie.
"No," she says. "He's been mum."
"Well, he's running a counterintel op at my request," the director says. I rest my left hand on my holster. I left the other gun in the car. Shit.
"Three severely botched operations in the last four months," I say, gearing up a bit. "Countless compromised in the last six, several of our people wounded and two killed in the last six. It's kinda like a problem now."
"Countless compromised?" The director asks.
"It's a feeling," I say.
"So what's your background in counterintel?" The director asks Charlie.
"It ain't shit," I interrupt. "But she's someone I can trust."
"I do have some formal training," Charlie says. "But I haven't gotten to put it to work live yet. Ass."
"Well, anyway, our best-case scenario here is just sheer incompetence," the director says. "Worst is a mole."
"I almost feel like incompetence is worse," I say. "Like, this isn't the type of field where you want to work with idiots. I mean, is incompetence even really possible at this level?"
"I would suppose that's for you guys to find out," the director says. "I am not sure we should keep meeting like this going forward."
"We shouldn't meet again," Charlie says. "I would find it very suspicious if I'm someone up to no good and the same three people are missing at the same time every now and then."
"Possibly," I say. "But the director has appointments and meetings all the time, and I'm rarely in the office anyhow." The director laughs.
"True," he says. "I do love my golf- um, appointments. I mean I have my appointments."
"Speaking of appointments, I need lunch," I say. "We about done here?"
"Yeah," the director says. "We'll figure something out when it's time to meet again." We nod then break. Charlie and I head to the car.
"I'll drive this time," Charlie says, taking the keys from my hand.
"Uh," I say. I shrug and open the passenger side door. "You better remember how to drive right in this country."
"It's like riding a bike," Charlie says, getting in. "How could I forget?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I say. I tug on the seatbelt. "Just don't be trying any of that British shit in my car."
"In your Bavarian car. Got it." She starts the car and pulls out smoothly.
"As long as you know what I said. You know where to go for lunch, right?
"I want ribs. I remember a place..."
"Yeah, it's still there." The radio plays at a hushed tone.
"So. The elephant in the car."
"I'm thinking about it."
"Are we really gonna make this more tense than it has to be? It's not necessary."
"The point here is, we love you and we would prefer you not kill yourself or do something reckless to get yourself killed."
"We don't exactly work in a field that's conducive to living a long and healthy life."
"I mean, yeah, but. Still. See the therapist, Devin. It's all off-book."
"I don't think you guys understand how sensitive-"
"Not really. I think you overestimat-"
"Charlie, if I happen to like, see a CIA therapist on a bad day, it's effectively a career-ender. They'd 5150 my ass and I'd never be able to do field work again."
"Just see the therapist. He takes no notes. No recordings. No documentation whatsoever. We're kind of going through a lot here to maintain your discretion."
"Fine, fine, I guess. Fine." We ride in silence. "I want a steak. And some red wine. And fries."
"Consider it done."
"So. Steal any girlfriends lately?"
"I meant to apologize for that earlier." Charlie sighs.
"It got awkward." We stay silent for a moment.
"Nigga, please. Awkward? That, is that bullshit."
"It was! What was I supposed to say, 'sorry your girlfriend likes to live in my lap?'" I sit and think for a moment as the tension quickly dissipates.
"Yeah, that would've worked, actually," I said as Charlie effortlessly wedged my car into a parking space.