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PART 31 * JULY 2022 * ESPIONAGE and LACE
eborah braced herself against the wall, her heart thumping hard.
Not wanting to risk a sound escaping her now dry lips, she covered her mouth with a trembling hand. She listened in on the impromtu meeting she’d just been invited out of feeling as if she was suspended in slow motion, a film noir actress in a stylish Hollywood crime drama.
Only it’s not a movie, Deb thought. It’s our lives. Our very lives are being taken over by this insatiable killer. And here I am one of the real-life leading ladies, with an international cast of characters surrounding me.
She scanned the suite that was to be their temporary new home. It pulled at her interior decorating heart strings. It’s beautiful here, alright, she thought. Just the right lighting coming from that lamp. It was enhanced by the lights outside. Mark must have reopened the drapes. The skyline, defined by the city’s lights, was creating a dazzling come hither ambiance which completed the scene’s aesthetic effect.
This is what I had wanted to do back home. Something somewhere between Town and Country and a modern, romantically elegant effect too. I wish I could…, she stopped herself. Mark’s voice.
“Yeah, right.” The words had just boomed out. Alex said something low which was unintelligible. She strained to hear them but they were speaking so low now that she couldn’t understand. She glanced back toward the window. It melted her heart. This time over on the right side she spotted the full moon. So lovely. And yet?
She scowled as the words ‘backdoor channel’ interrupted her train of thought. And, ‘Big Red’. He’s crept in here too. A hint of smoldering anger ran through her. “Russian spy”, are you? You won’t like what you see when I begin my work mister.
Wait. What?! Where had that thought come from?
Abruptly she jumped and held her hand even tighter over her mouth. One of their phones was ringing. It brought her wandering thoughts back to the present situation quickly enough. While trailing off into her own thoughts she’d lost track of what Mark and Alex’s last words were. But now Alex was saying ‘Right. I’ll get on it right away!’
Hurriedly Deb tiptoed her way back to the bathroom. What she had overheard was enough for right now. Her mind, however, wouldn’t be silenced. It fired a barrage of labels daring her to consider them all. ‘He’s more than a murderer. He’s more than a rapist. He’s more than any run-of-the-mill disturbed male on a mission to get even with a brother that he hates.’
She released the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding into a long sigh reflecting her stress and quietly eased the bathroom door closed. Turning away she found herself facing a full-length mirror, besides the vanity mirror over the sink. Sliding out of her clothes for the bath she’d told Mark she was taking, Deb wondered how much more she could take? Her mind went silent at that question. Undressed now, she gazed back at the woman in the full-length mirror, amazed. She glided her hand down the curvature of her side. Then she turned to get a better look at the backside, at least as much as she could see.
She had lost a little more weight and in all the right places.
Little-Miss-Seduction-Tessa? You’re about to get some competition. You’ve been getting a little too much attention. According to Dave, you’re going to mess around and get yourself killed. The man in the red truck is a spy, is he? Still gazing into the mirror, a plan that had begun to form in her mind when she had taken Mark’s cigarette began to take more concrete form. The sultry mousey-wife turned film noir star absentmindedly began to hum the last tune her archenemy had left. Then, keeping it low, she began to sing the lyrics:
“You came ~ I was alone~ I should have known ~ You were temp-ta-tion.”
She looked down at the nightwear laid on a counter protected with a satiny throw. She planned to put it on after her luxury bath. A pretty little slinky black thing, trimmed in black lace. She picked it up and held it in front of her body still viewed in the full-length mirror. A smile curled her lip. “Espionage and lace?” she said out loud. “I wonder. Maybe with some green contact lenses and deep red lipstick. Bet you’d like that wouldn’t you, Mr. Spy? You are a man, after all, one already with a taste for femme fatale.” She could almost see herself now transformed into a more seductive woman that could entrap– Deb’s mouth fell open. In a lightning-quick flash the image she had been imagining changed. In its place, the mirror had shown her, if only for that brief second, Tessa. She was certain. It had been Tessa standing by that Exit door just as she had been shown once before in a dream!
She rubbed her eyes and moaned, “Oh dear God, forgive me. Help Tessa! I had forgotten. I’ve been so consumed with my own feelings and everything that’s been happening. YOU are still here with me. There’s no way I would have remembered that again. Especially right now.”
Her eyes filled with tears as she thought about those words me and my feelings. I’ve been so mixed up lately I’m not sure I even know what I feel anymore.
Her one-on-one with herself was interrupted again. She heard other voices. Now what? But it only took a second to realize that Mark had turned on the television. That jarred her back to what she was supposed to be doing. Alex has gone. I’ve got to hurry. She slid down into the soothing hot water.
As she was bathing she ventured a question.
“How big is he, Lord? Is he a lone wolf? Or one of Putin’s homing pigeon’s sent to wreak havoc here in America? One that will return back to Putin when he’s accomplished what he was sent here for. Or is he just a money-grubbing sick mind–?” she stopped herself again. You’re getting all worked up. Calm down, she instructed herself. Deep breath-Hold it-Breathe. A couple of times more she did that. I don’t know after all I’ve found myself struggling with and with so many disastrous things happening to Mark and I, Dave and my feelings for him . . .
A tap at the door and Mark’s voice interrupted. “Deb? Alex has left. All’s clear when you’re ready.”
“Alright”, she answered. “Give me just a few more minutes.” Bluffing, she added, “This feels better than I thought it would.”
“Okay”, he answered simply. She could hear the tiredness in his voice.
Wonder what that last call was about, she mused. Took the wind out of your sails it sounds like.
As she stepped out of the tub she noted that he turned the volume on the tv down. Having washed her hair, she now decided to just wrap towels around it and around herself. Maybe I’d better see how his mood is and what I can fix for us before I blow dry and get into my nighty.
But as she walked by the bedroom there lay Mark sound asleep. His shirt and shoes were off. And he had begun to unfasten his belt but he’d passed on out before getting it and his jeans off.
Quietly again she tiptoed over to him and grasped the tongue of the belt. Tugging at it gently she was able to get it removed from around him. It had helped when he turned over on his side. He seemed to be sleeping deeply. At least the buckle can’t hurt you now, she thought. She smiled down at him She’d had to do that a time or two in years past when he’d come home dead tired from the fire department.
Venturing into the kitchenette she felt happily relieved that he’d fallen into sleep. She yawned, feeling both sleepy and hungry herself. She made a ham sandwich and a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup. Quick and easy enough. Later, I can make him–“. What was that? A quick click. Looking over at the door, she instinctively picked up the knife that she’d used to cut her sandwich.
It was complete silence now. No knock. No other sliding or clicking noise. She moved slowly and quietly to the door and peeked through the Judas hole. No one was there.
Tempted to open the door and look to see if anyone was in the hall she restrained herself. That’d be rather stupid if someone is standing on either side of the door, hoping you’ll open it. She stood patiently just waiting and listening for the next few minutes. Still nothing.
She comforted herself. Well, Mark’s here. If it happens again I’ll wake him.
She jumped as the phone laying on the counter rang. Running to it, she grabbed it up and answered, “Hello”, before she had time to think. The ring had seemed so loud and shrill.
No one said anything. She thought, Maybe this is him; be careful how you handle it. She repeated, “Hello?”
That beautiful, sensuous, southern voice that she knew to be Tessa’s replied, “Hello. Who is this?”
Deb looked horrified at the phone in her hand. In her hurry, she hadn’t realized it was Mark’s phone that she was answering.
To be continued.