The Element of Surprise–Inspired by Annette Deaton

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Once again, we have a story idea from Annette Deaton. Annette also came up with the ideas for The Farewell (which has inspired a few characters for my current novel in progress) and Silence. Here’s her latest idea…

Kate is in her late 30’s and extremely witty.

Setting: The docks

Conflict: Kate and her husband, Sam, are both in the CIA. They seem to be walking into a trap by the ones they are about to arrest. She is completely confident, though the new recruit is completely overwhelmed.

“Sam, can you hear us?” Kate asked into the microphone hidden in her button hole. “Check.”

“I gotcha,” Sam said, his voice coming through the small pod in Kate’s ear.

“You hear him, Brian?” she asked the young man next to her.

“Yes, ma’am,” Brian answered.

“Don’t call me ‘ma’am’. That’ll blow our cover for sure. Just call me Kate.”

“Yes, ma…Kate.”

“Sam, what’s the intel on these thugs?” Kate asked.

“They should be considered extremely dangerous,” Sam said. “They’re arms dealers who are transitioning into drugs. They won’t be all to happy to see the two of you in there. They’re expecting to get millions for the load that’s coming into their warehouse tonight.”

“They think we’re buyers,” Kate said. “We have to look the part, Brian. Or they will kill us.”

“How are we supposed to look the part?” Brian asked, his nerves were making his voice shaky.

“Just be calm,” Sam said. “They’ll know your a fake if you’re sweating and stuttering.”

“Oh, geez.” Brian wiped his forehead. “Seriously. I don’t think I can do this.”

Brian sat on a bench. He was glad to be on a dock by a lake. He lost his lunch over the side of the dock.

“Did the kid just barf?” Sam asked.

“Yup,” Kate said.

“I’m just nervous,” Brian said, slipping a stick of gum into his mouth. “It’s my first CIA job.”

“Job?” Sam asked. “Ha. You’ve got a lot to learn, Buddy. We usually call them missions.”

“Brian, you better wipe the up-chuck off your shirt.” Kate stood and walked to the edge of the dock. She looked at the black van parked 100 feet away. “Sam, you got eyes on us?”

“Sure do. And you are the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen on a dock,” Sam said. “I’d rather have you in this van, though. I should be the one doing to hard missions.”

“Nah. I can handle it.” Kate blew a kiss toward the van. “Before you know it, we’ll be at home, ordering take-out.”

“Wait, you two live together?” Brian asked.

“Most married people do, Kid,” Kate said, turning. “Here’s our contact. Be cool.”

A shadowy figure emerged from inside the warehouse.

“The arrow flies straight into the bull’s eye,” Kate said. “And the contest is won by the rookie.”

“And the rookie gets a big pile of cake,” the shadowy figure said in return.

“It’s a woman,” Brian whispered.

“Very well done, Brian. Your academy training is certainly paying off,” Kate whispered back. “Now shut up and let me do the talking.”

“Hey, Kid,” Sam said. “You gonna ask her out?”

“Well, no,” Brian answered with a very serious tone. “That would cause a conflict of interest. I’d get fired, right?”

“I wouldn’t tell on ya,” Sam said.

“So, you showed up,” the shadowy woman said. “We weren’t sure you were in earnest.”

“Of course we are,” Kate said. “Now, let’s talk money.”

“Not out here,” the woman said. She approached Brian and Kate. “Who’s that?”

“Oh, this guy?” Kate asked, indicating Brian. “This is my associate. His name’s Thomas.”

“He doesn’t go in.”

“If he doesn’t go in, neither do I.” Kate lifted up her chin. “You ready to compromise your biggest buyer? We’d be more than happy to go over to Studio Fire for our…uh…necessities.”

“You’d risk going to Studio Fire?” The woman looked at Kate sideways. “You are aware of what they do if you are unable to pay.”

“Payment will not be an issue for us. Will it, Thomas?”

Brian didn’t respond.

“Idiot,” Sam yelled into the rookie’s ear. “That’s you.”

Brian remained mute.

“He doesn’t speak English.” Kate looked at Brian. “He doesn’t even understand a word of it.”

“Alright. Here’s the deal.” The woman moved even closer to Kate and spoke in hushed tones. “We’ve got millions of dollars worth of product. But we can’t move it all without being detected. You get as much as you like. But we require payment. Upfront. No less than $500,000.”

“Done,” Kate said. “I want to see it.”

“Not so fast.” The woman pushed Kate’s shoulder. “First, you need to assure me that you aren’t wired. You aren’t cops, right?”

“Of course we aren’t cops.”

“Good. Because if we find a wire on you, we will kill you. Slowly. And brutally. Have you ever heard of Simon the Psycho?”

“Yes, I have.”

“He works with us now.”

“Oh, man, guys,” Sam said in their ears. “You better turn back. Simon the Psycho is brutal. We don’t need to mess with him.”

Brian swallowed loudly, making himself cough.

“We’re fine. All set,” Kate said. “Take us inside.”

The woman turned around, started walking toward the warehouse. “My name’s Tilda. I’ll be negotiating on your behalf.”

“Uh oh,” Sam said. “You both better get outta there. Tilda’s no good. We have a file on her. She’s a viper.”

“We’re more than happy to be working with you, Tilda,” Kate said.

“The last person she ‘negotiated’ for ended up half eaten by a crocodile in the Florida Keys.”

Brian held back another wave of nausea.

“Unless you’re unsure,” Tilda said, suddenly stopping and turning toward them. “Or if you’re hiding something. We will find out, you know. And then, Simon will introduce you to our reptile friends.”

Brian dabbed his forehead again.

“Abort, abort!” Sam yelled.

“I have nothing to hide,” Kate said, straight faced. “Let’s get in there.”

“No, Kate,” Sam said into their ears. “This isn’t a suicide mission. Turn back.”

Brian grabbed Kate’s hand. She looked at him. Shook her head.

They walked into the warehouse. Inside were several black cars, a few boats on trailers and many large men holding guns. On a pallet was a stack of packages. All full of white powder.

“All of that is ready for you to purchase,” Tilda said, pointing at the packages. “We just have a few formalities to get through first.”

“Of course,” Kate said.

“Brutus,” Tilda called to a man across the room. “Check them for wires.”

Brian looked around for an escape. There was no open door. No window to jump through. They were stuck.

“Radio silence commencing,” Sam said quietly into their ears.

Brutus was less than gentle when he frisked them both. He pulled wires out of Kate’s jacket first. Then Brian’s.

“That was too easy,” Tilda said. “Pity, it seems you would have been a little smarter than that. Brutus, take them to Simon the Psycho.”

Brian and Kate sat in straight back chairs, tied together around their waists. Brian struggled against the ropes.

“You’re just going to give yourself rope burn,” Kate said calmly. “Just relax.”

“What does it matter? We’re dead. Nobody cares if I have a little rope burn too.” Brian kept struggling.

“That’s true. In the casket they’ll just put us in long sleeves anyway.”

“What were you thinking?” Brian asked. “You went against all of the CIA training. It’s like you knew what you were doing. Like you were setting us up.”

“Listen, Kid, this is your first mission. How about you shut up and watch me get us out of this.”

The two of them sat in silence for several minutes before a man walked into the room. He wore an executioner’s mask and pushed a cart. On the cart were horrors of tools. Chainsaw. Pliers. Nail gun. Torch.

“Hi, there,” the man said, his voice a bit higher than Brian had expected. “Listen, I’m so glad to meet both of you. I’m Simon. You may have heard me referred to as the ‘Psycho’. But that isn’t really accurate. I’m really just neurotic. That’s what my psychologist says, at least.”

“I’m Kate. This here’s Brian. How about you take it easy on him. This is all my fault, you know.”

“Oh, sorry, dear. I can’t take it easy on either of you today. If you’d come in here a week ago I could have been harder on one of you over the other. But,  you know how it is, every job has its politics. The big boss lady, Tilda, she said we have to be an equal opportunity torturing group.”

“I understand.” Kate looked at him. “So, what are you going to do to us.”

“Oh, you know, I’ve been hoping to do a little work on your fingernails. You know, pulling them out one by one with my pliers. And I just got this new torch for Christmas from my mother. She’s been asking if it works. You know how it is, she just wants to make sure her gift is being used.”

Simon put all of his tools on a table. He cracked his knuckles. He cleared his throat.

“You know,” he said. “I’d just love to sit and chat it up with you two all day. You both seem very nice. But I’m meeting the missus at a restaurant in a couple hours and I’ll probably need a shower after this.”

“Of course.”

“I’m going to get started on Brian first. Usually my policy is ladies first. But I think this guy might get too scared if he watched me take you out first. Is that okay with you, Kate?”

“Of course. Do it however you need to.”

“No, please,” Brian cried. “Please don’t do this. I had nothing to do with anything. It’s not my fault. I never wanted to come here in the first place. I’m supposed to just be an office guy. You know. I’m the guy who fixes the computers for the CIA. I’m not meant to be on missions. Please, let me call my mother.”

“Oh, little guy,” Simon said. “You’re a good kid.”

Something in Simon’s voice was familiar.

“Wait,” Brian said. “Do I know you?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Simon said, grabbing his hand. “Let’s see what we can do about those fingernails.”

Suddenly Kate laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” Brian asked. “What is wrong with you?”

He looked at the man holding his hand. The mask was gone. Sam stood, smiling at him.

“Hey, Kiddo,” Sam said. “We gotcha!”

Tilda and all the big, gun toting men came in wearing CIA tshirts.

“Welcome to the CIA, Buddy,” Sam said. “This is just a little initiation for ya.”

“You guys are sick,” Brian said. “Untie me.”

Later that night, after they got home, Sam and Kate were on their couch, eating bowls of cereal.

“So, how do you think the new kid’s gonna do?” Sam asked.

“Awful,” Kate answered. “He’s going to be a great decoy, though.”

“Oh, come on. You wouldn’t do that to him.”

“Wouldn’t I?”

“He might be a great van driver.”

“Well, I was thinking he might do best working in the computer department.”

“Yeah. That might be best.”

“Can you believe he actually thought the CIA would let a husband and wife work together?”

“That’s what watching movies will do to ya.”

They flipped on the television.

“Hey, look, ‘CSI’,” Sam said. “Man, I sure do wish they’d let you wear low cut shirts like that to work.”

Kate smacked him.

“You know you love me,” he said.

“I sure do,” she answered.

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