Day 211 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a spy’s perspective.
Erin: When I found out that my assignment was to spy on my clients spouse I could feel my eyes wanting to roll all the way to the back of my head. When I got to school pickups though I felt her concern being solidified. One of the other child’s mothers got into her husband’s car. For a split second my heart thought she looked like or was my wife. I knew my kid didn’t go there and it was illogical, so within a minute I was assured. The second of rage stayed though and I was set on making things right for this guy’s wife.
Shannon: Whenever I’m sent out on one of these assignments I always try to detach. I pretend like I’m watching a movie, and not a real person, but sometimes it’s hard to look past the truth. When you spy on someone they’re not putting on some fake face they show the rest of the world. They don’t see your eyes, so they let their guard down, and you don’t just see what they’re doing wrong. You see every piece of their life from their pain to their kindest moments. After watching people for as long as I have, you’d think I’d be discouraged by all the bad things people do. Instead I’ve learned that it’s not that simple. No one is all good, or all bad. They’re complicated. They have their own motivations for everything they do, and you realize everyone is really just a person trying to get by.
What is your spy figuring out?
It was little more than a whim, apparently, that sent me so far north that the summer breeze was tinged with icicles and the snow drifts were so deep I feared I’d sunk right through. But, here I was, freezing my ass off in a cab with no heater and smelled so strongly of cigarettes and cheap whisky that I was feeling light-headed by the time I got to the address I’d been given. Usually I’d just sit in the car and just do a bit of light surveillance on guy for a bit, but when I arrived at the hulking hotel I decided against my normal course of action; this was an odd case anyway. Instead, I pulled into the nearly-empty parking lot, finding a small row of three stalls had been cleared of snow with what could have been a teaspoon, and took up the one furthest from the building itself.
I turned off the engine and it heaved a great sigh of relief, steam spilling out of the chipped hood, and everything powered by the battery died out. Mocking its final sigh, I turned and gripped my faded leather case, yanked it through the gap in the seats and sat it down on the passenger’s seat, where it stared at me with shut locks. In a fluid motion, I used the tiny, grooved key on my keychain to open the stiff locks and lifted the lid with great care; I had gone on more cases than I could count with this bag, and I saw it as a kind of companion. Carefully scrounging around in the numerous thick files and personal documents, I pulled a credit card with an alias out, along with a medium-sized wad of twenties, just in case. Stuffing the payments into the pocket of my dress pants, I popped the door open and almost rolled out of the car.
For a moment the world spun as I breathed in a few lungs of ice, sputtering against the sudden pain, before I got a grip on the world and straightened up. Now that I was on solid ground I could feel the knot in my spine that had tightened painfully shift, forcing me to crane my neck. Stretching out my back, the pain ebbed as the frosty north wind blew a small drift of snow onto the front seat of the cab.
With the ache in my back dealt with to the best of my ability, I picked up the case and shut the door with finality, quickly searching my pockets for my glasses. I plucked the fake spectacles from my inside pocket and placed them gently on the bridge of my nose, the cold rubber adhering to my warm skin. As I started to walk toward the hotel, I nearly dropped the bag as I actually took in the magnificence of the building. With a façade at least two football fields wide and with four large-windowed floors, it could likely have housed everyone in my town at once, though it was far too grand a place for any of them. I admired the exquisite detail put into the rotting mouldings around the window and the spectacular staircase that lead to the entryway. If I could have chosen any place to be forced into for the night, I would be hard pressed to find somewhere I’d rather be.
Up the chiselled-stone steps I sprinted, racing the next stiff breeze to the frosted-glass doors and pulled on the ornate handle. It gave way with a light sucking sound as I stepped onto the ruby red carpeting and leaned against the wind threatening to blow a mountain of snow into the foyer. Breathing hard, I stayed there until my heartrate returned to normal, feeling a fool as I was usually stealthy in my every movement.
When my brain was functioning with sufficient oxygen again, I bolted up the next set of steps and found myself in a terribly-formal entrance with a ghostly ballroom on the right and a large sitting room with numerous clusters of fancy chairs. In front of me was a large highly-shined mahogany front desk with brass edging with a single, solitary bell sleeping in the center. As I stepped on the hardwood floors, my obnoxious shoes echoing in the spacious hall, I realized that it was deathly silent in the entire place. Giving the bell a gentle tap, I turned to glance out the full-length mirrors to count the cars; twenty-seven had to mean there were at least a few guests staying here, which made my nerves dance a little quieter.
“Sir?” asked a stiff, condescending voice that made me jump right out of my skin. When I looked round, eyeing the finely-dressed, moustached attendant, I almost laughed out loud at the formality of his outfit, but thought better of it.
Clearing my oddly-stuffy throat, I squeaked, “I need a room please. Preferably room four-oh-two.” I huffed as though I had been expecting faster service and leaned against the counter nonchalantly as the man typed on an ancient computer.
“Yes, sir, I can give you that room. We do, however,” he began darkly, staring, unblinkingly, at me over his monitor, “require payment upfront for our rooms; it’s a rather large building and we have had trouble with people skipping on bills. This has been of particular issue,” he continued, typing away studiously, “with drop-in guests.” Realizing he meant that I, having just shown up with a snowstorm hot on my heels, was the perfect candidate for this practise, I shuffled my feet about and wouldn’t hold his gaze to appear as suspicious as possible. With an irritated sniff, he asked in a nasal tone, “And how long will we be staying with us, sir?”
If I wasn’t on a case, I would have said some snide remark, but as it was, I needed to stay here and under my target’s radar as much as possible, so I just spoke in a monotone, “I am not certain yet. I’d like to pay for two days, and I’ll come back if I need more time. See,” I whispered, glancing around anxiously, “I had a partly-finished manuscript in here,” I motioned to the case in my hand, “and I just needed a quiet, distraction-free place to finish it up. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take me.”
At my little explanation, a look of relief crossed his heavily-creased features and I could have sworn he sighed. “Oh, of course sir, of course. It’ll be two-hundred and twenty-two dollars for the two nights in room four-hundred and two.” He looked up expectantly and I hastily pulled out the wad of money, thanking my lucky stars it wasn’t tourist season here, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford this place. Counting the cash, he rang it through and passed a bit of change back, along with a rusted brass key on a thin string. With a fake smile, he gave a curt bow and growled, “Have a pleasant visit, sir,” before he disappeared through a back door and I was alone again.
Putting the change in my pocket, I headed around the corner, where peeling metallic arrows were pointing to the elevator, and whistled some nervous, off-tune song. There weren’t any cameras anywhere, so I pulled the crumpled, handwritten note from my pocket and smoothed it against my suitcase lovingly. “Please find my son. He doesn’t know me, and I don’t want him to. I just need to know he’s alright. I’ll pay twice your usual. I’ll call with the name tonight.” I read from the letter, remembering with a pang, the woman on the other end of the phone who’d broken down when I answered. She hadn’t expected me to agree to her case, or to waive half the fees; I knew what it was like to not know if someone was okay in the world.
When the doors slid open with an ominous click, I stepped into the questionable box and punched the button for the fourth floor, running through the conversation in my head over and over as though I thought it would change one of these days. But, even as I stood before my room, I felt just as badly for this mother as I had the day I found the letter under my mat, but now I was so close to her son I could smell his musky aftershave. In my rudimentary research I had found the address and room number he’d been staying at for the past four months, and that was room four-hundred and three. Her son was right there, in the next room, and I could just tell him she was worried and this would be over.
Instead, I shoved the key into my lock and entered the dingy room with ruffles on the bed and a seat cozy on the toilet. I dropped my suitcase on the bed and opened it deftly, bringing out the thin file pertaining to the man next door; he had been an accountant until he suddenly quit his job and moved to a hotel in the middle of nowhere, hadn’t been in touch with anyone since then, and hadn’t paid any of his bills since he left. This was a man very much in pain who’d taken the only option he thought was available. According to his mother, his girlfriend had dumped him shortly before he skipped town, and he was waiting on the results from a medical test that were likely to be negative. If I’d been him, I would have run too.
After reading the file a few more times and changing into my casual dress pants and sweater, I locked my suitcase in the safe and slid my keys into my pocket. Slipping out of the room, I paused at the next door before rapping lightly on the simple wood panelling.
A young, scraggly man came to the door with confused eyes and I asked hoarsely, “Hey, you wanna go have a drink?”
(She’s a spy. It counts. …Right?)
Natasha arrives back at the Ranch, and looks for anyone as she walks inside the house. “Hello Ms. Romanoff,” Jarvis says from the ceiling, “Captain Rogers is at the track, Mr. Stark is in the lab, and Ms. Morse is in the barn.”
“Thank you, Jarvis.” Natasha leaves the house and finds the barn across the gravel. She looks into the room, finding Heather dancing in the middle of the room. Now that she’s closer, she can hear the music playing in the room, probably low enough to not bother Stark below. Natasha pictures other girls, all dressed up in tutus and leotards, dancing in sync with each other.
But Heather’s dancing is vastly different from ballet. She is graceful, but she doesn’t plan her movements. She flows and makes it up as she goes. Natasha wasn’t taught emotions and passion in the Red Room, and Heather is dancing with her emotion filling her every move, from her fingertips to her toes. Natasha finds herself tapping her foot.
Heather stops and looks at Natasha. She smiles, waving Natasha over. Natasha moves, but doesn’t seem to join Heather. “Do you like to dance?” Heather asks.
“I was taught ballet when I was little,” Natasha states.
“But that doesn’t mean you like it,” Heather explains.
Natasha doesn’t answer Heather’s question.
“…Why did you learn ballet?”
“Because it helped with my training. It is a very brutal training to learn ballet,” Natasha answers, “the skills learned helped with my profession.”
Heather fiddles with the edge of her tank top, then asks, “Could you teach me a little?”
“Or… ummm… Gymnastics?” Heather asks.
“Why? Other than the obvious.”
“Well… My sister loves gymnastics, and I’d like to do something with her when I visit. And…” Heather shrugs, “Wouldn’t you want to do something together that doesn’t involve fighting?”
Natasha smiles, “Yeah. That’d be nice.” Heather beams. ‘Maybe a little ballet later.’