The previous episode is here.
John made another pot of coffee and offered Kelly co-codamol. she looked at the small bottle with care, saw it was a few years old, the ink where his name was printed had faded to grey.
‘ They don’t mix well with my chemistry.’ he said.
She ran her tongue over her lips before she picked them up. He frowned and shook his head.
‘Take them or not. It’s not something I need, but you might. You’re pretty banged up from the crash.’ he said.
She looked at the empty plate, caught the smell of brewing coffee and how good it had been to sleep without fear for a night.
‘Thank you.; she said.
He leaned back against the counter.
‘I am going to have to go out and clean up. There’s the matter of the plane as well. I could smell two, maybe three more bodies. It was difficult to tell with the fuel and the fire.’ he said.
Kelly took another sip of coffee and smiled at him.
‘Can I have one of those?’ she said.
He reached into the breast pocket of his shirt, took out a pouch of rolling tobacco and rolled a smoke. Kelly had not smoked in years but right now, watching his fingers put together an even cylinder of paper and tobacco, she wanted to feel the burn of it in her lungs again.
‘We stole something. For a lot of money. We were flying back to hand it over then get out of the country.’ I said.
John handed the cigarette over. She raised her eyebrows.
‘I thought it was something.’ he said.
‘How did you do that?’ she said.
His eyes narrowed.
‘I pay attention. What you did doesn’t interest me so long as it doesn’t bring anyone to my door. I value my privacy.’ he said
She leaned forward and he produced a chrome petrol lighter and held the flame to the end of the cigarette. She put both her hands over his, and looked into his eyes as she inhaled. It was a smooth smoke, hot but not tickling as she sat back and exhaled. The nicotine made her head swim but she focused and nodded. She liked touching his hands. It worried her a little.
‘No, it was a private jet. But there were people waiting, I mean, people are waiting for what we took.’
He rolled himself a second cigarette with the same care as the first and lit it. He took a deep drag and exhaled through his nostrils as looked at me with a quiet concern.
‘I’m going to need to deal with those bodies. This is my land, but if someone were to come looking for what you took, I need to know about it.’ he said.
Kelly nodded, took a drag on the cigarette and wondered what she was going to use for an ashtray.
‘I’ll come with you. I should help, I mean I want to help bury them, at least.’ she said.
John took a glass ashtray from a cupboard and set it on the table between them before sitting down.
‘The ground’s frozen solid, but we’ll move and cover them. Kelly, do you want to get the suitcase?’ he said.
Kelly jolted at the accusation, shaking her head.
‘It’s eighteen million dollars. They’re missile guidance chips. I don’t know who the buyer is, but they were going to meet us tomorrow. All I have is a phone number if anything went wrong.’ she said.
He sat back and gave a melancholic, gentle smile.
‘I guess this counts.’ he said.
Kelly looked down, thinking about Tony, how his family would deal with it. They had been good to her and it hurt to think of them not knowing what had happened.
‘Yeah. It does.’ she said.
Kelly dragged on the cigarette and looked up at him.
‘Do you want to expand on that?’ he said.
She stared into his eyes and leaned forwards.
‘I don’t know. I’m alive right now, and they’re not. I’m still processing you killed two of them, and that you turn into a big fucking wolf, so yes I guess it count. Better?’ she said.
He grinned and nodded.
‘Can you control it?’ she said.
He looked at her, his jaw tightening as he got up to pour the coffee.
‘Yes, I can. I’ve got a process. Sometimes I change because it feels good to do it. I don’t hunt people as a rule, but I defend myself as an instinct.’ he said.
Kelly shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing the chill from her arms as she leaned forward.
‘ I would have shot you if you’d come close.’ she said.
‘I didn’t smell it on you, like I did with the others.’ he said.
Kelly dated a nerd once, was trying to get his podcast off the ground, but ran drugs for one of Tony’s buddies and he would expound on these weird little detours in pop culture. He told her once about something called the uncanny valley. A hypothetical relationship between resemblance and response when you looked at something. The greater the distance, the more disturbing the response. She was not disturbed by the casual way he demonstrated the difference in him and that disturbed her. Her intuition was like a traffic light, showing green and she decided there and then, to trust him.
‘I think we were walking into an ambush. I’ve said about going home, but I think we’d have been shot the moment we handed the case over.’ she said.
She wiped away tears and the sobs made her chest hurt. She put the cigarette in the ashtray and reached for the bottle of pills. She struggled with the lid and heard the scrape of his chair before he got up and took the bottle from her and turned the lid with an easy twist before he put it back down and put a hand on her shoulder.
‘Kelly. You’re safe here. I won’t hurt you.’ he said.
She looked up at him, blinking away tears as she stared into his eyes.
He brought his hands up and she smelled the coffee and cigarettes on them. He brushed the balls of his thumbs against her cheekbones, his face still as he wiped them away.
‘Thank you.’ she said.
He looked at her with an intensity which pinned her to the chair. She realised she had been holding her breath since he touched her.
‘My pleasure.’ he said. ‘We all have our baggage, Kelly, I should know more than anyone.’
She bowed her head and sobbed as he knelt in front of her and pulled her into his embrace so she could rest her cheek against his shoulder. He was warm through the shirt, and broad enough so she felt small in his arms. His skin smelled of sandalwood and warm leather and she gave in to the fear and the relief of being alive.
John held her until the crying smoothed out until she was laid against his shoulder, looking out at nothing.
‘I’ll help you clean this up. After that, I don’t know what to do.’ she said.
John turned his mouth to her ear.
‘How do you know they’d try and kill you? If the chips are worth that much, paying you off seems easier than the alternative.’ she said.
‘Because if I were planning a job on this scale, that’s what I would do.’ she said.
John said nothing.
‘Does that make me a monster, John?’ she said.
She felt his mouth curve into a smile.
‘No, us monsters know our own.’ he said. ‘You know these kinds of people, I don’t.’
Kelly pulled back and wiped her face as she saw where her tears had left a rorschach blot on his shoulder.
‘I’ve made a mess of your shirt, John, i’m sorry.’ she said.
He looked at it then raised an eyebrow as he stood up.
‘You can help me move them. We’ll decide what to do with the chips, if anyone is throwing that much money around, they’ll want to know what happened.’ he said.
They agreed they would go out the next day. He didn’t have anything close to her size, but they would pad it out so she was warm out there.
They sat and smoked in a companionable silence before Kelly excused herself to go to sleep. She chased the co-codamol down with the last good sip of coffee and he offered to help, which she agreed to as her chest sung with discomfort.
He escorted her with care and helped to the bed as he sat her down and stepped back.
John wished her a goodnight, stood in the doorway before he closed the door. She heard him turn down the couch as she laid there in the darkness, her mind awash with feeling.
She wished for peace, but all the evidence so far was she might make a better investment of her time preparing for war. Kelly wanted to talk to John again, but knowing he was on the other side of the wall helped a little.
Kelly fell asleep, feeling something close to peace.
Jasper sat on the balcony, sipping an espresso when his phone rang with a notification. He communicated with his peers through an app which transmitted images and text via messages which were deleted after being viewed.
NO SIGN OF THE PLANE.
Jasper replied with a message to call him. He stood up and went inside, adjusted himself through his pyjama bottoms as he looked for a cigarette.
He answered on the first ring.
‘Don’t say anything. Get the flight plan, follow it back along and find it. We’ve got the dosh to throw at it, but keep it tight. We’ve got drones, remember, but if you do, let me talk to Skenny, he’s a touch delicate.’ he said.
He put the phone down and found his cigarettes.His hands shook as he lit one and he looked at the woman on the bed, her hair stuck up in tufts with lipstick smeared across her face.
‘You need to go, love. Got a work situation to deal with.’ he said.
He had arranged her through an agency but he gave her three hundred dollars as a tip to hasten her departure. She e had the long term survivor’s sense of what constituted a predator and left out without speaking.
Jasper smirked to himself that he actually might have a plane to catch.
He had two teams of guys waiting to scoop them up when they landed, grab the chips and dispose of the crew. Paying them off would have been easier but his employer had insisted on it. Jasper had a reputation which allowed him to ask if he could expect the same treatment.
His employer had told him to make it happen and ended the call.
Time to go to work, he thought as he walked to the shower, already worrying about how to make it happen.