Somewhere outside London
Ben wondered how he had gone from meeting a stranger in a coffee shop to trailing back and forth across the city to drop a tail, and ended up in a damp and cramped little terraced council house in a tiny suburb all in one day. The entire situation was absurd. They had left the coffee shop, intending to return to his flat to pick things up, until Dragon had grabbed his arm and pulled him down a different street. Someone had been waiting at his door. It was the unmarked car trailing them through another street that really convinced him they were being followed, and so when they broke in to a run and a glance behind showed two determined, grim looking men in pursuit he was no longer even surprised.
What did surprise him however was the fact that he was enjoying himself. He’d become so bored with his job in recent months, and the monotony and simplicity of the tasks he was required to carry out that this excitement was making his heart race and he just wanted more. Running from bad guys beat taking pictures of cheating spouses any day.
He sat down at the tiny kitchen table, Dragon was sat opposite him. She broke the silence first.
“So, I guess you understand now. My associate will be here soon, she’ll give us the latest news,” she said, rubbing her eyes and stifling a yawn. She looked incredibly tired.
“When did you last sleep? You look done in. I can keep watch. Assuming that’s a thing of course. Bit new to this, obviously,” Ben suggested tentatively. Might as well enter in to the spirit of things. She looked at him for a moment, head to one side, and nodded, getting up and making for the stairs.
“How will I know them when they get here?” He added.
“You’ll know,” She gave a quick smile, and headed for bed.
Ben was left sat at the kitchen table alone. Blowing out a sigh, he looked around him. The small kitchen was badly furnished and poorly cared for, the newest appliance must have been from the 70s and the vinyl floor was cracked and dirty. He pulled his bag towards him, dragging out the file on the missing woman. While her name was absent, scratched hurriedly out from all the pages, there was plenty there to look at.
As he pondered the information, there was a sound from the other side of the room. Looking around for the source of the sound, he got up to take a look when all of a sudden he felt a pressure on the back of his neck and a knife appeared at his throat. He gulped (carefully) and spoke up nervously.
“I don’t suppose you’re Dragon’s friend, are you?”
His assailant shoved him in the small of the back and pushed him down into a chair, then hit him round the head with the handle of the knife. Hard. Ben’s vision went black for a moment, and he felt the pain, sharp and throbbing in his head, then his sight slowly returned, spots swimming in his vision.
“Guess not then,” he managed, before a hand was clapped over his mouth. He could taste the sweat on the man’s palm.
“Where is she? Where has she hidden the documents?” A voice came from above him. He still couldn’t see the man’s face, but his voice was deep, gruff and hurried. He wondered who the man meant, struggling to focus. The hand was moved slightly away from his mouth.
“Who?” He ventured.
Another blow. The same question again. Could he mean Dragon? But surely he must know she was upstairs? Suddenly, he spotted a flash of shadow behind the figure holding him to the chair. A chance, perhaps.
“I said, where is she?” The voice sounded angry now. The hand moved. The shadow rippled past again.
“Behind you,” He gasped. Another thudding blow fell, but this time not on his head. His attacker crashed heavily to the floor, knocking over another of the chairs and lying still, the knife clattering to the floor. His rescuer picked it up.
It was another woman, head covered in a balaclava and dressed all in a murky dark grey. She picked up the knife and faced him, appraisingly. He held his breath, frozen. Then she shoved the knife into her waistband, and held a hand out to him. He took it with relief, pulling himself shakily to his feet. This was quite a day.
“You’re the PI?” Her voice was low and confident.
“I am. I suppose you’re Dragon’s friend then. She said I’d know you. What can I call you?”
“Yeah, that’s me. And you don’t need a name.”
“Oh for goodness sake, that’s what she said too. Look, pick something will you, this is ridiculous!” The absurdity of the day caught up with him all of a sudden, and he sat back down quickly. What had he been thinking? These people were insane, he just wanted his grubby flat back. The newcomer seemed to relax a little in the face of his outburst.
“I suppose we could go with Delta. It means difference, a change, and that’s what we do,” she gave a slight laugh, “Happy?”
“They’re going to make a move tomorrow. You don’t have long to find her, you need to get her before they begin,” She flipped one of the other chairs back upright, pushing the unconscious man’s arms unceremoniously out of the way as she sat down, “Reckon you can help?”
She sounded suddenly more open, and genuinely concerned. He could see her eyes inside the balaclava, pleading and desperate.
“I’m going to bloody well try. I’ve been thrown head first into this, and I’ll damn well try to make sure it’s worth it,” Ben said, determined now. As he said it an image entered his head. It was a page in the file, a police profile about how the missing woman had evaded police attempts to subdue her in the past. The assailant had said ‘where is she.’ He put his head to one side and asked:
“Where you following this man?”
“Yes, I’ve been on his tail since this afternoon, and he’s been on yours. Couldn’t report it though, I pickpocketed his phone,” she answered.
“So he knew Dragon was here?”
“Then I know where she is. Your friend. Well, I don’t, but I now know where she isn’t, which is a start,” excited now, he rattled out his words, “The man was asking me where ‘she’ was, and if he hadn’t seen you, and knew Dragon was here, well, she told me there were only three of you now. And he wanted to know where the documents were, whatever they are.”
She stared at him intently, then broke into a smile.
“I wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but perhaps a fresh pair of eyes on this was what we needed. Tell Dragon to go to Deep Storage Severn, she’ll understand,” She jumped up, dashing to the front door and opening it, then running back and dragging the man through it. He heard a thud and the closing of a car door. Delta reappeared, slightly out of breath, “And thank you good luck. Oh, and you might want to close the window at the back. Bit breezy.”
With that, she was gone, the door slamming shut behind her. Ben heard footsteps behind him, and Dragon trudged down the stairs, blinking and bleary eyed.
“Were you talking to yourself just now?” She asked, then paused, looking at the knocked over chairs and scattered papers, and then at the large bruise forming on his face and his confused grin.
“What did I miss?”