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Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
This was big. I could feel my heart rate just barely over normal. I tried to calm it, keeping my face blank. What did she want?
The chair was comfortable enough, padded on the seat but not the arms. Windows lined one wall of the hallway, directly across form me. To my left was the elevator and the single silent security guard who kept his eyes straight ahead. Other than him, I was alone. On the right was the door to her office.
I knew there would be a camera somewhere, maybe two. There were always cameras- in this building and elsewhere. My face was straight.
The door opened and the stern-looking receptionist poked her head out. “You may come in.”
I stood up, took a breath, and entered.
The office was luxurious. Isabel Lyra was sitting behind a big maple desk, typing something. Two adjacent walls were gorgeous wood paneling. The other two were windows, floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall. My feet sank slightly into the thick carpet.
She looked up at the receptionist and me. “Oh, hello. Have a seat. Jean, go and get us some drinks, please. Would you like anything?”
This was directed at me. “I- ice water will be fine,” I said.
“Ice water for Christansen and mint tea for me,” Lyra said firmly. Jean left the room.
She stood and leaned over the desk, extending her hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Christansen. Please, sit down.”
This was the second time she’d asked me. I shook her hand and sat quickly.
Lyra was just under an average height, thin and blonde and pretty and young- definitely under thirty. Her makeup was flawless and she spoke nicely. Her suit was conservative black, but she was wearing a bright blue sparkly necklace with it that matched her eyes. She looked out of place- like she should be on a beach somewhere or in a movie set or some lively party. Not in an office, and definitely not this office.
I glanced at the name plate on her desk, which was silver and polished to a mirror. Isabel Lyra, President.
My inside quivered slightly, but I kept a straight face.
Lyra turned back to her computer. “Just a moment, please.” She was typing something.
Out the windows, I could see the skyline of Ridor around us. It seemed to stretch on endlessly, as far as the eye could see. The sun was beginning to set, and the buildings were all streaked with gold. The windows of several skybridges and penthouses were shining almost blindingly. I saw a hovercraft or two.
Jean came back in with the drinks. I took a sip of my water, realizing how dry my mouth was.
Lyra was drinking too. She set down her cup and looked directly at me. I met her eyes, hoping nothing would show through. There was an uncomfortable pause.
“Are you afraid of me, Christansen?” she asked suddenly.
Of course I was. If some whim should have entered her head, I could’ve been dead within twenty seconds. Her empire stretched over nearly half the continent; the power she held was stunning- and she wanted to talk to me, an insignificant first-year leader. I had reason to be nervous.
I knew she expected the truth. “A little, ma’am.”
She smiled and asked politely, “I would assume you’re curious about the reason for this visit?”
“I have here,” she began, opening a manila folder, “your entire file. Let’s take a look, okay?”
I nodded again, knowing there couldn’t be any other answer.
“First of all,” she said, pulling out a stack of stapled sheets, “let’s look at the Rippers rescue.” I remembered this, of course- but she laid it all out anyway. “One of our operatives had been taken hostage by the Rippers,” (a rival, less organized, less powerful, and less secretive gang) “and you were assigned to lead the team that got him out. The mission was a success.”
I took another sip as Lyra took out a second stack of paper. “A little farther back, and we see the Delano weapons agreement. You convinced Samuel Johnson,” (owner of the Delano pawnshop) “to allow our Snyder street workers first pick of all weapons that should happen to some into his possession. That was a tough negotiation, I’m aware.”
Where was she going with this? “Yes, ma’am.”
She paused to take a drink. “You also lead the cover up of the April sixteenth robbery. That lead to a profit of ninety thousand. Then there was the Gyer job, the theft of the Wray documents, and an impressive debt collection record. You, Mr. Christansen, have almost never failed in your assignments. Good work.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Was I really not in trouble?
“Judging from your file, it can be assumed that you are intelligent, quite brave, and a good planner. You can negotiate well. You also obviously have extensive experience. These are all qualities we look for in a captain.”
She wanted to promote me? I felt a little excitement. I hadn’t been discovered. And a captain…wow.
She smiled at me. “I can tell you like the idea.’
“You should,” she said nicely. “you’re a hard worker.”
And then the conversation rapidly switched directions. “Mr. Christansen, you really do have an intriguing file. It includes all your missions, aptitude testing, physical description. And this.” She pulled out yet another piece of paper.
“A file detailing undercover work done for the Ridor Civic Police Force. Hmm.”
This statement socked me in the gut. No. Maybe I could pretend it was planted…my acting was flawless, the shocked surprise. “Excuse me, ma’am?”
Lyra proceeded to blow my idea out of the water. “And then a CEN agent description… ‘Alexander Blackart, AKA David Christansen. ID number 4237645234. Specialist on organized crime, currently infiltrating the Lyra illegal empire.’ How interesting.”
She dropped the paper in front of me. I couldn’t breathe. It was, indeed, my CEN profile. With my great big photo across the top half of the page.
There was no way to deny it. Lyra was watching me, and her eyes were cold. “Anything to say, Mr. Blackart?”
I jumped up, leaped over her desk and hurled myself at the window. We were seventy stories up, but I couldn’t let myself be taken- couldn’t let them know- couldn’t-
I smashed into the glass hard and bounced off like it was a brick wall. I stumbled, my head pounding and swirling, and my side hurt. Suddenly about four pairs of very strong arms grabbed onto me, and I tried to fight but I was too disoriented, and before I knew it my hands were cuffed behind me and I was completely surrounded. The security had appeared out of nowhere. I counted at least six guns, all primed and ready to fire. Lyra faced me, her eyes like blue steel.
“The glass is reinforced,” she informed me disdainfully, then addressed the guards. “Take him to the detention area, block C, and notify the interrogation team. I want him squeezed for whatever information we can get. Jean-”
The receptionist had appeared out of nowhere. They started dragging me away. Lyra was still giving instructions.
“Please make sure this mess is cleaned up.” She wrinkled her nose. “Ugh, he spilled my tea. Can you get me a new one?”
The last thing I saw before I was torn completely out of the room was her adjusting her suit slightly. “Oh, and let my next appointment know I’ll be ready for him soon.”