I picked my gun up on the way out. The hall was empty, and so was the elevator, so I lit up another cigarette despite the prominent no smoking sign above the panel. I’ll admit it. I was shaken. Here I was, the best PI in New York, and I’d been handed my ass by an elderly gentleman with a Tommy gun. Now I was off on some godforsaken mission to kidnap a dame so that he could torture her. At least I was getting paid. The problem was, I wasn’t sure if that made me some kind of low-life bounty hunter or not. I reckoned it didn’t, seeing as he was threatening my family. Any sane man would have made the choice I did. But telling myself that didn’t do a whole lot of good.
“Damn it, Naissance, you’re doing his dirty work for him.” I said to myself, chomping down on the cigarette. I bashed the door open button impatiently as I reached the bottom floor. When the stupid thing finally decided to open itself, I blitzed past the secretary and the desk guard. The latter said something to me about the smoking, but I didn’t hear him properly or ask him to repeat it. I just left.
Out in the street, it was raining. Why is it always raining just when you’re in the worst possible sort of mood to tolerate the damn sky pissing on you? Of all the things! Is it some sort of smart-ass joke by the creator? I don’t know about God much, but no one ever told me he had such a sense of humor. I scowled, bowling over a fellow traveler as I collided with him.
“Watch your step!” I growled, irritated. My brim was dripping with the deluge, and the crack of lightning far above gave echo to the storm that I felt broiling deep inside my chest. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t turn a pretty dame over to be tortured.
That maniacal monster would probably snap her like a twig and then decide to do me in for the heck of it. I couldn’t trust him, but I didn’t have a choice. As long as Constanzia was in danger, I’d do whatever I could to keep her safe. I’d promised her father as much.
And so, I would have to find the girl.
“Get over it, Naissance. You don’t even know her,” I told myself, but it didn’t seem to help. I felt sick.
Stopping at Jerry’s, I ordered a couple of shots and sat down to think about how I would catch this girl. Turning over the photograph I’d been given by the doctor, I found a name. Sophia Blanchez. I set to memorizing her appearance. She looked to be about twenty-two or twenty-three, with dark brown eyes framed by a pale and almost flawless face, matching hair falling in loose curls to the middle of her back, and if I was any good at guessing almost a perfect 34C-24-34, give or take about an inch in any regard. I could see why MI6 would have recruited her. A dame that pretty would have no trouble getting close to any person of interest who happened to be male. I memorized the smooth curves of her face, the length of her hair, and the way she held herself: alluring, confidant, with a mischievous smile. I tried to convince myself that she was cold and calculating, but I couldn’t do it. Even if she was, was I any better, trading one dame for another? I tried to put the thought out of my mind. I put the photo away, confidant that I had memorized enough to know her if I saw her. If years as a private eye had taught me anything, it was how to remember a face and a figure with almost perfect accuracy. I could have sketched her accurately if I’d wanted, but I didn’t. I just wanted to forget the whole thing for a while, maybe grab another beer. But I didn’t do that either. I would need my wits about me in the morning if I was to find the dame and grab her. I put a hand on the gun the Doc had given me.
“It fires tranquilizers,” he’d said, demonstrating how to load and arm it. “You get six shots. I figure that ought to be enough, but I’ve included a pair of extra magazines anyway. I want this done right, and she’s no good to me dead.”
“And after I bring her here? What then?”
“I extract the information that I need and then you take her home. Plain and simple. Nothing to it.”
“I somehow doubt it will be either.”
“I’ve got my methods, my boy. Which ones of them I use will be up to our little friend.”
Recalling the conversation now, I suppressed a shudder. The thought of what I was doing sickened me beyond belief, and I found myself hurling in the men’s room before I left, in part from the alcohol and in part from the gut-churning thought of what the doctor might do to her. Nothing holy, I found myself thinking for the third time that day. Nothing holy.
I stumbled out into the rain and walked back to my flat, desiring solitude with my thoughts rather than a prolonged ride in a cab. I used the time to think about my situation. I knew I would have to capture the girl. That much was certain. What I was going to do with her, though, was another matter. I considered whether I could make her talk. Unlikely. Intelligence operatives were trained to be able to resist torture, and I didn’t see myself as being capable of doing anything that would make one talk, even to save her from the Doctor’s methods of persuasion. I doubted the fear of those methods would be enough to make her spill either, and the doctor would almost certainly want to do it himself to ensure he got the information he was looking for. He didn’t seem the trusting type. I feared for the girl. She would almost certainly resist him until the pain became too much, and when that happened she had a good chance of snapping. Perhaps I could convince the doctor to let me play good cop, give her a shot at getting out before she left in a straitjacket. Even so, I wasn’t sure I trusted him to keep his word.
The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t like it. I fingered my Model 29, wondering if I could somehow get the drop on the doc and finish him before he finished me. Perhaps the agent I was hunting would have information about him I could use as leverage. That seemed a decent bet. I’d still have to get her to talk to me first, though, and that could be tricky. Deciding that I’d make a decision after I had the girl in hand, I unlocked the door and stepped into my apartment. I hung my coat and hat up and changed into a dry pair of boots. Wouldn’t do to be caught bootless in the middle of the night.
Just as I finished pulling my boots on, a small noise came from the kitchen. Drawing the tranquilizer gun the Doctor had given me, I told myself that no one could have known about my present activities so soon. Nonetheless, I moved towards the kitchen with weapon at the ready, prepared to fire at the first hint of a presence. I held my breath and stood stock still. A floorboard creaked.
Then, with a flash, I was around the corner, firing in the direction of the sound. I took in the features I had memorized, clad in a long black dress, even as she dodged my first two rounds. She swept my legs from under me and moved behind me as I fell, seizing a frying pan from the range to strike me with. I twisted desperately and managed to land painfully on my rear with the gun up. I fired once, twice, hit the frying pan, the ceiling as I reeled off balance. She swung at me, lunging forward, and I threw my left hand up to stop the frying pan, dodging to the right and putting a round in her left side. She staggered, and I put another one in her back for good measure as she fell. My hand was ringing with the pain of the frying pan, and I sat down for a few minutes, somehow having the presence of mind to change the clip in the tranq gun.
When I had recovered, I hauled myself up and cuffed her hands behind her back. Seeing as she was a special agent, I figured I had better cuff her legs together too, or I’d be finding myself the victim of a flying kick of some kind. When that was done I grabbed myself a beer. It wasn’t really in celebration like it should have been, seeing as I was still in pain, but I was glad at least that one part of my job was taken care of. Now I would just have to figure out what to do with her. That, I reasoned, could wait until tomorrow, when I was wholly sober. I dragged her up the stairs and into my room, putting a piece of duct tape over her mouth and locking her in the closet. Then I went back downstairs and cleaned up. I even did the dishes. I needed something to clear my head, and if I was going to die tomorrow, I was at least going to leave the flat in good condition. No need to inconvenience the landlord.
I half-expected to be up tossing and turning, but when I finally did climb into bed I was so exhausted that I slept before my head even touched the pillow. The last thing I saw was the time: 3:08 am. When I woke the next morning, I remembered nothing of my dreams.