There it was again. That ever piercing beep of the number one piece of junk alarm clock. I could barely bring myself to roll over in my empty bed to smack the dang thing. Yet I manage to every morning and like every morning there’s a struggle to get myself out of this bed. The pillows are just so dang cozy. How could I possibly leave this wonderful mattress that embraced me. Sinking deeper and deeper, emptying my mind of all those burdens. It sure was nicer than admitting years of depression taking a toll. My therapist likes to tell me I’m not depressed. She’s an idiot.
More importantly here comes the ache of hunger already letting me know what time it is. The walk to the kitchen isn’t a sightful one. One can just look across this dreary bland apartment of mine, and see I have no taste or time to add a personal touch. So cheap in this town and somehow I don’t even have a proper bedroom. Dad would be laughing his teeth out if he saw me now. No proper decorations, a single fake plant was a terrible excuse, dirtied walls from the last occupants, I still haven’t figured out if that stain is blood or something more unmentionable. One thing for sure is that I want bacon, no, not that pre cooked ready to munch thing. Fresh fatty meaty juicy greasy salty bacon. An egg too. As I sat down to enjoy my steamy pile of breakfast the phone rang, and rang. Really didn’t wanna get up, I knew who it was. I grabbed that clunky salmon colored phone and right away it was there. Short, disdainful breaths shriveling their way into my ears. The unease still crawled up my spine and tugged at my red hair every time. I had to swallow my pride before attempting to sound pleasant. Before I could even utter the words to sustain the beast, it bellowed through the line.
‘Hello?! Hello? I can hear you fiddling with the goddamn phone girly.’
“H-” I tried replying but was quickly interrupted.
“Listen here. We is gonna have a talk about your communication insubordination in the nearest of future.”
The man’s dumpy weight problems could be heard through those annoyingly wet blabbering lips. Calls like these are what had my guts at the bottom of the ocean and my teeth grinding themselves into my lip. Still like the good agency trained me, I answered as sweetly as a flower blooming in spring.
‘Yes well, Good morning, Sir. I take it there’s something going on?’
Before the words even had time to fester, he was at it again.
“Something? Something?! This ain’t no casual buddy girly friendly phone call.”
“Right. I didn’t assume it was sir so–”
“Quit your assumin and let me finish! There’s been a serious developing situation overnight. So get your rear in gear. Stop back talking me and I better see you here in ten minutes. Meetin’ ain’t gonna wait for the likes of you.”
“Ten minutes? The drive alone is longer than that.” I’m sure he could hear the frustration coming out of my voice by now. Likely didn’t care, in fact. He probably liked it.
“Ten minutes! Important people are waiting and we don’t want none of them excuses!”
The line clicked loudly a few times, clearly he had it in for his phone. With a ringing ear I finished that sullied breakfast and threw on the usual clothes; Suit pants, button up, tie, shoulder holster, which meant the ol’ handgun wasn’t far behind. Blazer to cover it all up, and my favorite pumps. Black and white were my typical go to. It was pretty much agency required. Makes us easier to yell at, I'm told.
My boss would wait longer than those ten minutes. I am after all kind of a big deal around the agency. Have a plaque to show for it too. Outstanding performance and a blue ribbon. Granted it was for a dog training class, but hey girl’s gotta showboat where she can. Especially in this city. Where the buildings kiss the sky and the streets are riddled with holes. Where the working class couldn’t even realize how suffocated they were in this mess. Seeing all the closed shops and abandoned old war factories just made for more shelters for the homeless or the misdeeds of the city’s underbelly.
Traffic was always terrible in this city. Always an accident, always someone laying in the road, always a stray dog that I resist so hard to take in. Too bad it won’t last once I get downtown. Sometimes I swear there are more skyscrapers than houses. I keep telling myself that’s how depression happens. The crushing feeling of being an ant crawling about another bigger ant’s castle. The agency’s castle was no different than the rest. Just different words on a different building with different work ants. The parking lot was packed full this morning, not another sardine would fit. Expensive cars, though anything is expensive compared to my standard black rectangle company car. Smooth ride at least, and wow, what a sound when you slam the door shut. This situation must not be that terrible. The building isn’t even on fire this time.
Going through the tinted swiveling doors of the agency tower led me to a world of constant idle humming chatter. Floors so clean I could see my good looks looking back. The leather couches of the lobby were full of strange faces, poor language and dense tobacco smoke. An almost normal day here at the hard working base of the FBI. Even the same usual receptionist checked my badge and waved me on through. He always looks so tired of that job. I keep telling my boss to keep a lookout for him going berserk soon. Well, can’t prevent all of the nasty crimes on intuition alone.
On the way to the elevator; there was something in the air that caused a pang of excitement or terror trembling my innards, but the satisfying ding of the elevator brought a certain bliss to my clouded mind. Only to be suddenly interrupted by the heavy metal doors opening to a box full of what had to be Russians. Really should have paid more attention in those linguistic classes. The tall one with the shaved head was just staring at me. As if I was supposed to move for him. Me, heck I work here is what I was thinking. Of course the fella opens his mouth and lets rip that deep heavy belly voice. I had no clue what he said and he knew it. Like some higher than me being. The jerk didn’t even give me a chance to retort in my mother’s tongue. Cramming his huge frame into me. Brushing that disgusting odor of what I could only describe as sink rot. The stench alone was far more than enough to deter me aside for the trio of bulky goons. Not to mention I didn’t need another strike on my record. Of course I kept my eye on them, their entire strong man runway waltz to the door. Taking up as much room as Russianly possible.
The elevator ride up those twenty floors was awful. It stunk of terrible cologne and rancid booze. The moment those doors creaked apart I could immediately smell the stale office air whoosh in. A welcome relief as I stepped out. A relief that only swelled bigger when I saw the familiar Gwen flash that lovely smile my way. The majestic crisp bob of her dark hair framed her face in such a welcoming warm manner; and dark brown eyes that seemed to draw me in closer every morning. The fact that she made some of the best dessert sure helped my infatuation. She was one of the only secretaries on this floor that had a sweet southern accent that rivaled my own.
‘Well, good morning there, hon’. Been missing all the buzz this morning.’ Gwen chirped
‘Yeah? I got the usual wakeup call from the boss. Was in a bigger hissy fit so it’s gotta be something big.’ I flicked a finger towards the empty cubicles and offices.
‘I’m guessing everyone’s in the briefing?’
‘Been in for a while now. Some big shot Russians dropped a lady off and zipped on outta here. You shoulda seen the look on their faces. Awful.’ she huffed.
‘Aww c’mon Gweny didn’t have you sweatin’ did they?’ We both shared a wide smile at each other for a brief quiet moment. Getting interrupted by her clearing her throat and tilting her head towards the office.
‘You really oughta quit while you’re ahead hon’. Don’t wanna get you into a bind again.’
‘Hey heey I’m going don’t worry. I’ll swing by later, but what’s the jam with this lady the Rushies dropped off?’ I pressed, I wanted to know what I was walking into afterall.
‘Heck if I know sugar. I’m stuck here minding the front and you of course. Ain’t nobody told me a thing yet.’ She said with that usual bright seemingly innocent smile. It’s that smile that wound me up in hot water with my boss in the first place. Focus Jenny, work stuff time.
‘Right, alright. Hey Gwen sugar I’m gonna. You know. Get to–’ the phone started ringing and thank the cheese on my bread. I am the worst at saying bye to that woman. I gave Gwen a smile and a finger wagging wave.
Already I could hear the muffled grumbles of my boss. Even through the closed door of the conference room. I could only see through a crack of the window blinds. Caught a glimpse or two of some fellow agents. I felt like a dumb school kid late for class again. Even contemplated going back to Gwen, she’d smooth things over for me. No, no, no. That’s juvenile. I’m a big girl, an agency girl. I can open this dumb door and sit in a dumb chair. No problem. I thought for sure the door was going to open before I grabbed the knob and twisted. Pushing it open to a room full of staring faces. There he was at the head of the table. Too big for his wimpy chair, and enough jiggle on his neck to beat out my mom’s jello salad. He just stared at me over his small oval glasses. Shockingly he did not scream at me. A soft gesture towards an empty chair and that was it. I wasn’t about to question the invitation. I nestled into one of the comfortable all leather chairs. It squeaked under me and a sigh of relief flowed right outta me. The boss continued in on his briefing.
‘As I was most excitedly stating before our late comer arrived. We will do everything in our power to aid in this manhunt to ensure the safety of this man on our streets. Of course we are most gracious in our accepting of our fine and welcome guest.’ He spoke with a strange sense of joy. Something I don’t think I’d ever really seen on the blob.
I had my mouth open ready to ask the obvious question; but I was instantly interrupted by a tender well spoken feminine voice with a heavy russian accent.
‘I yam dat guest. Madam. Masha Filippovna. On behalf of my union I thank yoo for de pleasantries.But perhap we get to work.’
Ugh, I was really feeling like a dolt for being late now. I didn’t even notice her when I walked in. When I did though I made sure to give her a thorough look. She didn’t really stand out at first. Short sleeve white dress shirt, black tie, black waist high skirt. The Messy blonde bun with hairs dangling in front of her face. A large hooked nose had a pair of thick dark framed glasses. She had a lot darker makeup on than I was used to seeing around the office. It really made those dull blue eyes pop. Wide full lips with plenty of red lipstick perfectly applied. Made me feel a little self conscious about my own. That alone should have been a dead giveaway that this was the girl Gwen mentioned. Hell I feel like Gwen should have given me a little more of a head's up or something. Throwing me to the dang hounds. Other than being an attractive woman. There really wasn’t anything special or seemingly prominent about her. I was expecting the type that wears the big uniform with all their “I do great” medals plastered on it.
‘Yes you’re right, thank you miss Filippovna. In fact this is the agent I mentioned you’d be paired with. A very fine agent indeed. One of our best. Agent Jennifer Russel.”
The pit in my gut grew endless. Why was my boss praising me now? Do we really need to try that hard to please the Russians? There’s no way in a cow’s udder that he would even remotely consider me one of his best. Heck I still don’t even know what happened; and here he is pairing me up with this strange girl. Still, my momma taught me to wear a smile even when things are kicking us in the teeth. So that’s what I did. I smiled at the Russian girl and gave an assuring nod. With my best sweet tone.
‘Just call me Jenny, prefer it that way.’