Friday, November 19, 2010

Past Half

Dell looked at his watch. 7:31. This was not good. The time itself wasn't good or bad. The fact that his phone had not rung - that was not good. His colleague was nothing if not punctual. In the dozen or so times they had been in contact in at least as many years, the German was nothing if not stereotypical in their precision. Now, tonight, the seconds ticked by on his watch and his phone remained silent. Dell would be generous. The man had another 30 seconds.

He looked up and down the block, but all was quiet. At this time of year, it got dark early and most were in their homes for the night. Small ovals of yellow light pooled under the ancient street lights along the avenue, but there was no motion in either direction, save for a solitary sheet of discarded newspaper wafting on the biting breeze. A sudden gust lifted it skyward and Dell pulled together the collars of his coat. 10 seconds.

He felt an almost imperceptible buzz in his pocket and a subtle clicking in his earpiece. He reached for his neck, reaching for the microphone. Squeezing it gently through his jacket, he heard the click signalling the call had connected. Dell quietly growled "Ja." The voice on the other end identified themselves and they went through their usual greetings, both understanding that neither was who they purported to be. The voice on the other end did not sound as Dell remembered it, slightly higher pitched, faster than usual, possibly gasping for air. They went on to explain that there had been complications but they were nothing Dell should concern himself with.

Dell didn't like complications. But it was too late to change his plans now, he could hear the motor of a vehicle coming at high speed. He couldn't see it yet, but he could see a bright spot forming on the steps of a building down the block. Within seconds, a motorcycle appeared at the T-intersection, cornering hard and fast, its headlight sweeping the buildings. The rider was obviously skilled, their knee barely inches from the ground as they made the tight turn, accelerating again on the sleek bike before even completing the turn. Complete control, complete power. Dell continued to stand by building's stairs, protected from the wind and largely invisible to the street.

As the motorcycle raced by, the driver's helmet turned ever so slightly toward Dell and Dell disconnected to the call. Seconds later, three blocks away, he heard the tires lock as the bike came to quick halt, its red tail light burning bright. Just as quickly, he could hear the sound of the bike accelerating again.

Dell leaned back against the building and waited, hearing the faint sound of sirens. Three small black VW Boras with "POLICIA RRUGORE" painted on the side raced around the corner and down the avenue. Dell watched with amusement. They'd give chase longer - they'd be in the chase for traffic violations, not for the package the German had carried. And then in the morning, they'd have some explaining to do for why they were driving so fast through the little villa, so far from their assigned territory. However, this was still a first for the German, as far as Dell knew. Never before had he any indication that anyone else was even aware of their transactions. Unfortunate, that might mean the German's usefulness had come to end.

Dell waited 10 minutes and then began to stroll toward the planter in front of the cafe three blocks away.
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