I’ve been standing there for an hour, waiting for a contact to arrive. Legs sore, feet numb. Good thing I wasn’t wet. The rain was gushing few feet away from the window of a large hotel lobby. Asphalt slick, black, wet and shiny. Cars were passing by with a wet swoosh.
They were there for the same hour I was. Across the street, under another hotel’s overhanging awning. The man had one huge umbrella, covering them both. Black hair, like asphalt - slick, black and shiny. Black raincoat, black slacks, black shoes, white shirt, black tie - as if he walked out of an old spy movie.
She had a light colored coat, about knee long. Her figure, small, was also classic hourglass with a thin waistline. They were just talking.
Age has many perks, understanding body language is one of them. Two were deeply, madly in love with each other. Their attraction was almost magical. I thought they’d hail a cab or walk inside of a hotel in a minute. But they just stood there for the whole hour. This was strange. Didn’t fit the pattern. Experience be damned, now I had to see how it ends.
Rain didn’t subside. This time of the year city rain doesn’t last more than twenty minutes. Half hour most. It goes from drizzle to pouring to gushing then back to pouring and to drizzle again. Never stays the same, unless there’s a storm. And a storm wasn’t on the weather report.
My contact wasn’t here. The strange couple seemed like they would be there until morning. The rain seemed like it was settling in for good. The night seemed to lock on that hour and wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve seen this before. Longest evenings with shortest nights. Wet windows, wet sheets or wet tears. Smudged lipstick and mascara, alcohol or sometimes blood on the floor. Things that happen on nights like this...
Something changed. The distance between him and her was an inch wider. They were parting ways. Distance increased, again, by another inch. They were pulling away - dancers in a well-rehearsed number. They’ve done it before, many times. Another minute - another inch.
Something else changed. The swoosh of passing cars got dryer. The rain was going from pour to drizzle too fast. Didn’t fit the pattern.
She stepped from under an umbrella. Rain stopped like someone flipped a switch. She kept walking, turned around and disappeared. He was still holding his umbrella up like it was raining. I thought of how much it would weight - with rain on top and all - and holding it for over an hour. Must be really strong. Like he was from an old spy movie.
Light colored coat made tracking easy. She went around the corner. He was still there, standing, holding his umbrella. Two minutes. Three. He folded his umbrella in one swift motion.
Rain drizzled. Then poured. He was standing there, folded umbrella, wet looking slick hair, a black raincoat, black shoes, black slacks, black tie and white shirt. It was impossible to see if he was getting wet.
Porter approached me politely, making just enough noise, in his opinion, not to startle me. I obliged and turned around when he quietly coughed two steps behind my back.
“I was asked to give you this,” - he was holding out an envelope
“Asked… by whom?”
“The gentleman across the street,” - he bowed and left as I took the envelope.
In the envelope a short note on expensive stationery. Sweeping handwriting, a lot of long inclined lines. No salutation, no name.
“My sincere apologies for your meeting delay. Your party will arrive shortly.
I went back to the porter.
“When did he give you this?”
“Right when he arrived.”
“Which was when?”
“About 20 minutes, maybe a half hour before you.”
“Does he come here often?”
“Sometimes? How often?”
“Sometimes…” - he let that one hang in the air.
My contact barged into the lobby, upset and lost. I thanked the porter and went to meet the man.
He was short, stocky, dangerous looking man with an out of place briefcase. Probably working security and not for long.
“My apologies,” - he said, - “this rain… My ride got bogged down.”
“Anything unusual on your way here?”
“No, haven’t noticed anything.”
“Good. Shall we?”
He shook his head towards the elevator. We went in and he pressed 7th floor.
We went into his room and he locked the door. Stepped up to the table, opened his briefcase and laid out several folders. They looked used. Someone was working with documents inside those folders, adding information to pages, then adding pages, photographs, plans. They were the real deal. I opened one. A photograph looked at me, a familiar face. I’ve seen this face many years ago, mostly in the mirror, and it should have been erased from the history many years ago. Someone thought otherwise. Someone collected these, adding and updating now and then.
“Have you looked?” - I asked.
“Yes. These are originals, no copies left. I wanted to know what it is.”
“So, what do you think?”
“These people - this doesn’t make any sense. They should have died a long time ago, memories of them should have died a long time ago and any interest about them should have died same long time ago. And our price doesn’t make sense too.”
“Memories are a lot harder to kill than people.”
He looked at me, puzzled, then I saw him putting things together in his head.
I shot him in the throat and just above the heart. Small, .22 caliber bullets from a suppressed gun don’t do much damage, and I couldn’t risk using a larger gun because of the noise and thin hotel walls. He was right - those memories should have died a long time ago. I was just making sure they did.
As I collected all folders, I briefly scanned them. I didn’t know any of the people in those folders. Except… there he was, the man across the street. Changed, of course, but I recognized him. So, he was one of them. One of us.