Temptress, Tailor, Doctor, Spies - Part 2 - ( Day 2 Late Morning)

The shop girl looked up from her cortex. He waved an apology.

“I’m serious, Dorian,” Annika took his arm. “You can’t tell her what you do ‘til you’re out…and in the meantime, a woman like Riley is gonna get very sick of all the lies…you know, like Mistress Lucretia on Valentine?”

“Saw through that, didja?”

“So did Riley.” She folded her arms. “Listen…what we do for our respective sides is not compatible with relationships. And us?” She gestured. “We’re walking a fine line between double agency and treason. You muddy that up, or try to get out? You’re gonna get killed,” she said flatly. “And I hope to Buddha it’s not by me, but if what you do threatens to burn me? I’ll dust you in a hot minute.”

“Your candor is sobering,” he replied.

She shrugged. “I don’t mean to be, but you’re headed down a bad road with this. Have fun with her. Laugh a lot. [i[Cao [/i] yourselves silly. But get your heart out of the equation and put your yinjing back front and center. Normal Dorian is safe Dorian,” Annika whispered urgently.

“Ah’ll take it undah advisement,” he nodded reluctantly. “But since we’re talkin’ shop, evah heard of an organization called tha Roost?”

“Sure,” she answered carefully, “and there’s been some recent chatter. Is this about that mess on New Kasmir?”

“So tah speak.”

“Nasty piece of wet work,” she observed. “Granted, by the time the bodies were found, the local wolf population had eaten their fill…but Forensics has some evidence. How’s my Sugarbear?” That hint of her understanding couldn’t have been dropped more broadly.

“Can’t honestly say,” Adler replied. “He’s stopped talkin’ tah me. Only meaningful thing Ah’ve heard is his opinion of tha Roost an’ his concerns ovah one of mah assists. He says they’re pretty low end..nothin’ tah worry about. Does that wash with what yah know?”

Annika smiled. “He’s sort of right…about the Roost. They’re like “Oliver Twist” pickpockets and thieves in the ‘verse. But they’re not the real concern. Tell me, Dorian, do you ever drink Captain Bob’s Cola?”

“Everybody in tha ‘verse does, once in awhile,” he nodded. “Why?”

“Do you think Captain Bob still mixes it up in his root cellar?”

“Course not,” Adler chuckled. “He sold that franchise off years ago…wait….yah tellin’ me tha Roost is owned by…”

“…A parent corporation,” she smiled sweetly as she tapped a finger to the tip of his nose. “Boop!”

“That explains tha network,” he folded his arms.

“And the muscle. The four you killed on New Kasmir worked on behalf of the Roost, but they were employed by a much bigger crime syndicate…and if I had to guess, that syndicate is now looking for payback.”

“Aren’t yah just a ray of sunshine?”

“Knowledge is power, sweetie. Is there evidence to tie you to the crime?”

Dorian nodded. “Ah consigned tha horses. Tha stablemaster knew we were lookin’ fah lost children. Couple of tha shotguns they provided were fired. Those people had Gill and Haddie. Don’t suppose we’ll skate by on extenuatin’ circumstances?”

Annika listened carefully. “With the law, maybe. The local sheriff called for an SCU team. I have an asset on the ground,” she offered. “I’ll see if I can cover your tracks with the cops and the feds. But the bad guys?” she emphasized. “They already know you reclaimed your own.. Lunar Veil needs to watch its’ collective back….everywhere it flies.”

“Helpful,” Adler nodded his thanks. “Not happy news, but we can work with that.”

“Now it’s my turn,” she replied quietly. “Why is Marisol palling around with a Browncoat general?”

“She hasn’t told me.”

“Find out,” the Alliance operative whispered. “He met her at that sly bar she was singing in. They got together behind closed doors for an hour the next morning. We don’t know why, yet, but our researchers are digging into her…hard. They uncovered a discrepancy between her service record and the unit surrender rosters from Serenity Valley,” she continued. “I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to know what it is, but this is a hair’s breadth away from slipping out of my control.”

He shook his head. “Her service record? What’s that got tah do with tha present day?”

“On New Kasmir,” she said, “when I asked, you played dumb about whatever you pulled out of that body. We know that General Kau’li has it in his hands..and that’s got our hierarchy more than a little bit twitchy. Look, I can only protect Marisol and her family so far, Dorian…and now my handlers conjure she’s mixed up in all of this. She’s about to go under a lot of microscopes. Get me something,” Annika urged him, “before my own department cuts an ops order on her.”

“Sounds serious,” he half quipped.

“You know my tells, so you know I’m not playing around with this,” the agent he now called Annika was earnest. “Take this,” she said, passing a card into his hands. “That’s how you contact me. But not through your encrypted hospital network…we’re trying to crack that.”

He glanced at the card before tucking it safely into a pocket. “Yah’ve done us a real kindness, Miss…Annika,” he replied. “Thank yah so much fah all yah help.”

She smiled for a moment, drinking in the pleasure of the compliment. “Don’t let the grass grow beneath your feet on this one, Dorian Adler,” Annika cautioned as she pointed a finger his way. “There’s a lot of quid pro quo due me now. I’ll expect an equal measure soon…in one way,” she smiled as her lips brushed his neck, “or another. Ciao.”

Dorian watched as Annika strode purposefully from the little boutique. His mind awhirl at her tutelage, the Doc stared at nothing in particular for a moment. When his sight did come into focus, he found himself regarding the sheer underwear. I wonder what Riley would think of these? he mused as he made for the cash register.

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