She's feeling like a fish out of water in the small green tiled room. CCTV's spy overtly from two corners, and what she knows to be a two-way mirror dominates the wall in front of her, although she's never seen one before in her life.
He comes in. Friendly, warm, shakes her hand. "Evening Ms Stanhope, been an exciting day I hear?"
She figures this is the ‘good cop’ angle, "Is this a friendly interview or are we going to fall out at some point?" She asks, "…and my name's Damjanov, not Stanhope."
She’s still amazed at this false bravado. It’s her speaking, but where does this confidence come from?
“We know who you are Ms Stanhope. What we don't know is why you're still active.”
She has no idea either - not what 'active' means, nor why they think she's this Stanhope woman. Did she sell her soul? Submerge some memory? Look like someone else? She tries to convince them that they’ve made some mistake, until they identify things unseen. A birthmark, a scar, in places only someone intimate with her would ever know; this is beyond perplexing.
Special Agent Alan Jones comes in burning hot. The complete counter to his friendly partner and slams a fist on the table.
“We want to know why you're active!” he screams. Little veins on the side of his temple elevate from his red complexion. He’s genuinely furious. “We can't have our ex-operatives out there playing gunslinger and bringing fucking unwanted attention to themselves. You're supposed to be deep cover and staying there!”
She's getting pissed at the assumptions now, it's all out of control.
"Look, I didn't come down with the last shower but I haven't a clue who you think I am or where I've been. I'm just a secretary for a legal firm. I work, I eat, I fuck and I sleep . . I'm no missionary, no angel, no demon no bloody 'operative' whatever that means. And the only activity I've been engaged in lately is stalking a man I fancy, and nailing a couple of thieves in a bookstore that just happened to be blown to hell.
She does however, surprise herself with what comes out of her mouth and the confidence colouring its delivery.
"You've forgotten? Everything? Are you sure? I mean that was the intention but you were supposed to disappear, get the hell out of Dodge and here you are, in a very public fracas with men shot? Talk about being conspicuous; we can't afford conspicuous."
She's back in the water this time, the white horses crashing over her head, breath evading her and looking for a helping hand. Amid the maelstrom, someone, something offers a lifeline.
As if a merman plucked her from the confusion of the waves, she has a distant memory of this man bullying her. She remembers him, speaking softly, injecting something, playing hypnotic music, massaging her mind. Still without full recall, something happened at that facility, something that helped her forget who she was and all that she had done.
The big issue is that she doesn't want to be resurrected. She doesn't want the truth. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and now it's opened up a can of worms. She's tuning out to the interrogation. It's like the incessant mewing of a stray cat, whiny, whingey and incomprehensible. She just wants them to shut up. She wants to go home, be with him. She wants her life back and for it all to be over.
She zones out and just wants to drown in something mindless. A bad movie, bad sex, drunk talk before sleep. She doesn't care, she just needs to escape. She doesn't want a reminder of the beginning, how it started, how a fall from grace might have brought her here, how a single incident has branded her a killer and given bud to investigations beyond her understanding.
"She's got bail," a voice pipes through the intercom.
"Does that mean I can go?"
"Yeh for now but don't travel."
He's there, the guy in the brown suit and the blue eyes. Her bookstore hero and sexual fantasy. Looking calm and cool and suave. All of a sudden she's anxious that he's bailed her out. But he is attractive, she’d chased him. This could be interesting. Becoming involved was the primary aim, but after their little 'encounter' at the book shop, could be a double-edged sword. Still, he's bailed her out and she’s more than grateful.
She feels like she's been run through the mill. Her eyes are tired, her brain addled and so she lies,
"Yeh, I'm good."
"Dinner?" He’s not hopeful until she replies.
“And a bath?" she asks.
He coils a reassuring arm around her waist, curls a devilish smile around his lips, and walks her through the revolving front door and into the warm evening.
"My place or yours?"
He's pleased with the emphatic response. She’s surprised once again at her forwardness but she needs respite somewhere away from familiar surroundings.
His apartment is neat, bookish and smells of leather and wood polish. A cat greets them and rubs affectionately against her slender ankles. She smiles, or smirks at the Charger's jacket hung nonchalantly on an old fashioned coat rack near the front door. Not the best choice of football teams but it's a pretty grey and blue, fleece-lined and she rather admires it. It feels good to be somewhere different, where nobody knows her, where she doesn't live. After today, she just wants to be invisible for a while.
He pulls a bottle from the fridge, "You like white or red?"
"That's fine," she says, nodding at his upheld bottle of merlot although she can't recognise the label. It's a stylistic lightening flash, kind of cool. He pours two in fine Reidel and they clink -"Cheers"
"Well done you," he congratulates, " you taught those bastards a lesson."
"Well done you too . . you kept me sane when I was confused."
They congratulate each other on what was a Herculean effort bringing down three perps on their own as they sink into the Chesterfield, his arm around her. Her head nuzzled against his neck, his hair smells of raspberries and is soft and touchable. This is what she needs. This was her strategy all along but it took an event out of her control, personeal beyond her choosing to find her way not only into his apartment but also into his arms. The bath forgotten they exchange a kiss. Slow, sweet and she feels the heat between her thighs.
"C'mon," he rises and takes her hand. " She smiles a tired smile and follows him into the bedroom.
She is shy and asks him to draw the curtains. It's been a long time and she's a little alarmed by the artistic, but very dramatic photograph of two women in a passionate embrace above his bed.
"Friends of mine," is all he offers as he begins to undo his belt.
She sheds her Catholic guilt as quickly as she sheds her clothes. He smells sweet. His skin's smooth. Hands move as his lips connect with her decolletage and mouth the tiny gold crucifix around her neck. They sink easily onto the bed and allow carnal pleasure to take over the events of the day before rolling into fitful sleep for him, disturbed nightmares for her.
She dreams of funerals. Black horses with plumed bridles. Black roses thrown on the coffin of someone she knows but cannot name. And a woman, strangely familiar and menacing. Someone who looks like her but different as she stands firmly planted, unable to move her feet within an invisible ring as if waiting for her receiver after taking the three legal steps required when playing a game of netball. Throughout it all, she's vulnerable and unable to move until someone rescues the play. Rescue comes in the form of another explosion. More red, yellow and orange and she jumps to a sitting position in the dark.
"Charles?" he's sleeping deeply, "Charlie?" she shakes him and he rolls over groggy, reluctantly wiping the dream of her gyrating on top of him, from his eyes. It was a good dream interrupted.
"I think I had a different life. One before this. Everyone today seemed to think they knew me, that I was back in the game. I don't get it, I don't like it. Some guy even said he knew me and called me Kerry Stanhope!"
"Do you want me to find out? I have contacts, I know people?" She's curious as to how he can but doesn’t pursue it.
"Dunno, could be a double-edged sword, I'm not sure I want to know."
"Can't cut it? Are you afraid of the truth?"
She nuzzles into his shoulder and dozes. They'll discuss it tomorrow.
Her dream of tea and cigarettes becomes reality as he reaches for the Twinings English Breakfast.
"I think I may have been a spy or something."
He laughs, "Hope you were on our side after seeing you with that SKS." He likes her in one of his business shirts, the blue suits her and it’s oversized tails reveal just enough of well-muscled, tanned and shapely legs.
She wonders, was she angel or demon? On the side of good or playing both? Guardian of the worthy or the serpent in the garden?
Continued in Part 3