This one came about from a mental picture I had of China dressed
as Morticia Addams and chasing Jason around the office threatening him with a
pair of scissors. From that one scene the story more or less took off and mixed
with an idea I had about Control's favorite lady getting herself into mischief
Equalizer and Airwolf are both property of Universal and they
own all things from their shows. Kung Fu the legend continues lent me Paul, Kermit,
and Blake. Universal Studios owns the copyright on that show as well and those
China Berry couldn't help but think that her taxi ride to work
that morning said something about life in New York City. In any other city, except
maybe Los Angeles or San Francisco, a woman going to work dressed like Morticia
Addams would at least have gotten a second look. Here, you would have thought
she was wearing the same stylishly conservative clothes she usually wore to the
The looks sent her way as she scuttled down the hall to her office
as fast as the form fitting dress would let her, however, were certainly not given
merely because she was late, an unheard of event for her, since most days she
rode in with her boss, who lived across the hall from her. She had called in to
let people know she would not be in until noon. Luckily, things had wrapped up
sooner than she expected and she was only an hour late. Although, after an hour
with the police, she felt like she had been out the entire morning.
you are! I've been here an hour and that is as much of him as I care for, I don't
know how you deal with him all day every day," the fortyish woman almost leaped
up as China entered. From the harried look on her face, it had not been an easy
time for the woman from the secretarial pool. Funny how the women from the pool
tended to throw their arms around her in appreciation and gratitude when she returned,
as they ran out of the office. She really would need to talk to the old tyrant
about that, she chuckled to herself.
"Quite easily, actually," China smiled.
Her boss could be a bear and she knew it, but as his growls and snarls were rarely,
if ever, directed at her; she didn't take them personally. And she admitted he
was a stickler for perfection, as far as his correspondence went and things being
filed correctly and quickly, but then so, was she, since it was vital to the office
that either one of them be able to find things easily. Not to mention that there
was no mercy if a message was miss-communicated or not given him to him as soon
as possible; but again, since lives depended on his communications being fast
and accurate, it was understandable. All in all they suited one another admirably.
her fill-in and sending the poor harassed woman on her way, the tall slender mulatto
woman began the morning routines. First things first, she poured herself a cup
of coffee. "Well, this explains part of the difficulty," she muttered; almost
spitting out the lukewarm, putridly weak, colored water.
Shaking her head,
she got the strong, high-octane coffee she and her supervisor thrived on, going.
Hearing the pastry cart passing, she stepped into the hall and snagged an apple
and the last cherry one. Luckily Robert McCall was not here or they would have
had to fight it out since it was his favorite as well as her boss's.
now, to sweeten the beast as well as satisfy his caffeine craving, she grabbed
the folders she knew were pending problems and quietly stepped into her superior's
office and laid them on the desk with the Danish and coffee. He took the folder
and absentmindedly sipped his coffee, then he opened the folder while nibbling
on his Danish. Smiling to see him settled, China slipped out of the inner office
and back to her own desk.
"Where is the Anderson report?" Jason Masur
yelled as he stormed into the room fifteen minutes later. "You were told yesterday
that Mr. Lewis needed it first thing this morning!"
"I made a copy of it
for him and left it on his secretary's desk before I left last night," China answered
calmly. Jason in a rant was not what she needed first thing in the morning. He
liked her about as much as his boss, Marc Lewis did, which was to say, not at
all. They had gotten off on the wrong foot with her in the beginning and the relations
had not improved with time. Mr. Lewis had yet to forgive her for a certain incident
with a coffee urn. Jason's start with her was no better. He had come to ask something
of her, and rested his hand on her knee in the process. Coming into the office
from his meeting, Control, seeing the offending appendage, had grabbed it and
marched Jason through the office to his supervisor where the three had a meeting
about proper conduct towards secretaries in general, and his in particular. Sadly,
Mr. Masur seemed to think that since her boss handled it that time China was incapable
of dealing with him herself. She had, in the six months since that incident, more
than proven herself capable of dealing with him. Since their last...discussion...
he was still trying to figure out what a ulupong was.
Smiling to herself,
she got a pair of pinking shears from her purse, and with Jason still screaming
at her about the lost report, headed to the flowers she had brought in a couple
of days earlier. Taking wilting heads in hand, she began cutting them off.
Mr. Lewis or I ask for something I expect...." Jason stopped, suddenly noticing
the unique apparel of the woman in front of him and the collection of flowers
on the floor at her feet, and who, still holding the sharp implement, was heading
"Of, course, Jason, darling, I'll always be happy to do anything
you ask of me," she said slinking towards him, scissors ready.
something about how he was certain he had merely overlooked it and he would go
look again, he began backing out the door. Robert McCall, a senior agent reporting
to Control, grunted as Jason backed into him.
Snarling at the spy to watch
where he was going, the dark haired man stalked past him into the hall and bolted.
Robert, now that the trash has removed itself, what can I do for you, dahling?"
She asked, in her best imitation of an old movie vamp.
The Brit goggled
at the sight before him. China always dressed nicely for her job, usually in a
skirt and blouse or dress. The creature before him was in a black floor-length
gown, had on high heels, and nails that any cat would have envied. Not to mention
her hair was straight and down to her mid-back instead of up in a bun or a twist
or whatever the fashion was for putting up long hair.
"I'll let him know
you're here, Robert," China chuckled at his shock. She always enjoyed teasing
Robert, who generally gave as good as he got. She had tried using languages he
didn't know in their battles of the wit but he had merely thanked her for the
compliment a few days later. Obviously he was either smarter than Jason, or on
better terms with the translation department; probably both.
McCall de Robert est ici pour vous voir," China spoke into the intercom box connecting
her to the inner office where Control presided.
The box told her to send
him in and she smiled at the senior agent as he went through the door into the
A moment later the door was reopened and a tall man with
a rugged face and light blue eyes stood leaning against the doorway. He raised
a bushy eyebrow at her apparel.
"Bonjour patron," she greeted him.
raised the other eyebrow.
"I was at a costume party last night; I went
as a vampire. I had my usual work clothes in the car to change into this morning.
Unfortunately, while I was at the party someone stole my car. I spent the night
at my friend's so didn't realize it was gone until this morning when I went out
to get my clothes. Then I got to start the day by calling the police to report
my car and answer all kinds of questions when they got there. That is also why
I was late today, sorry about that," she apologized. "As soon as I get things
going here, I can go home and change."
"You needn't change on my account,"
he smiled at her. Every day was new and exciting with China in it, as there was
no telling what she would do or say next. He thoroughly enjoyed it. She had only
been here about a year, and life without her was unimaginable, now. He had laughed
and lived more in the last year than he had since he could not remember when.
it weren't for these blasted nails I might try to get through the day, since we're
buried alive," she grumbled, muttering under her breath as the long nails caused
her to mistype yet again. "Maybe Janice has some nail polish remover in her office?"
China thought aloud.
Having assured himself that his secretary was neither
deranged nor mentally ill, Control returned to his office and the waiting agent.
Robert could be enough of a problem without being asked to wait to the point of
being seriously annoyed.
Calling the other secretary, she was informed
that yes, Janice did have polish remover, and she could borrow it if she wanted
to. China told her she would be right over.
Getting up to leave, the tall
woman stopped and thought for a moment. On an off chance, she looked in her bottom
desk drawer. Yes there was the bottle right on top with a little bit left, just
enough to do the job. Smiling, she set about removing the cursed nails so she
could get back to work.
Talon-like nails gone and folder open on her desk,
she got to work typing the document for the third time.
"Excuse me!" She
growled as three men in dark suits came storming into the room and began rummaging
"Internal Security, we were told you wouldn't be in the room," one
of the men barked.
"Well, obviously, I'm here, now what is going on?" She
snapped, glaring at the trio.
"Are you China Berry?" Another of the men
asked, ignoring her question.
"One moment," she answered, eyeing them suspiciously
as she got up.
"You'll have to leave the room ma'am," the first one informed
"Absolutely not! The only way I will leave this room is if my boss
is present," she glared right back. There was no way she was going anywhere with
"China Berry you are under investigation for drug possession
and are to leave this room with one of us while your office and personal effects
are searched," the second, and evidently senior, of the men growled.
just let me tell my boss so he can come and supervise," she agreed.
no need to involve him in this," the original man replied, though he did have
the grace to go a bit pale at the idea of Control being brought in. It would seem
that Control's reputation extended beyond the field agents' office.
job clearly states that I am to let my boss know when I am leaving the front desk
of his office unattended," China informed them. That was a rule that these three
as security agents knew well, since it was for security reasons that it was in
The senior man nodded towards the intercom box on her desk, motioning
her to use it.
She smiled her thanks and moved towards the box.
bentige Sie, hier herauszukommen sofort, es bin dringend!" She said evenly in
to the machine in a calm voice.
One of the men grabbed her as another turned
off the intercom.
Control burst into the room with Robert behind him,
two pairs of blue eyes piercing the intruders.
"Mr. Masur, let her go,"
Control snarled, advancing on the goon that had hold of China. Evidently the younger
man was still upset about the earlier run-in that Robert had mentioned to him.
Nor did it seem that the first lesson was enough for him to have learned the consequences
of grabbing secretaries.
Instead of obeying, the dark, curly haired man
gripped her tighter and brought her around to between him and her boss. He always
had been a coward.
China became a rag doll as she dropped all of her weight.
Shocked at suddenly supporting his shield, Jason dropped her. Hitting the floor,
she scrambled up as modestly as she could in the form-fitting outfit and stood
between the two spies.
Seeing the leering look her captor had given the
fine set of long legs that she had been forced to show in getting herself up off
the floor, Control advanced on him, glaring.
"We're internal security.
We were told your secretary was in possession of drugs. We were also told to hold
her and search the office," the leader of the three men in their dark suits explained,
glaring at Jason Masur, himself.
"That does not explain your manhandling
Miss Berry!" Control roared. "There was no reason for that, period!"
not our fault she was resisting," Jason sneered.
The need to protect China
was all that prevented Robert and Control from lunging at the man.
resisting; I merely asked what they were doing in here, and then called you to
let you know when they insisted that I leave with one of them," she stated evenly
between clenched teeth,
"Please excuse Mr. Masur, he has a lot to learn.
Control, we need to take your secretary into holding and search your outer office,"
the senior security man explained, still glaring at Jason. This situation was
already getting nasty and would go beyond that unless something was done to defuse
it, and fast.
"Robert, go with Miss Berry and her escort. I'll stay here
while you search this office," Control instructed, glowering at the unwelcome
"We were told to isolate her," Jason informed the group, condescendingly.
whose orders?" Control snapped.
"Marc Lewis's." Jason smiled; knowing that
even Control could not disregard the head of internal security.
not leaving this office alone with you people," China stated, crossing her arms
"Robert stays with her or she does not leave this office,"
Control told them firmly.
"You're hardly in a position to be telling us
what to do, we'll return your toy soon enough," Jason replied insinuatingly.
Hall, please escort Miss Berry and Mr. McCall to one of the holding rooms. Don't
allow him to enter the room, but have him stay at the door so that he can see
to her safety," the senior security man ordered.
At Control's nod, China
and Robert left, following the man who had been standing in the corner.
you'll leave the room, we can begin searching," the head of the trio commented,
motioning Control to return to his office.
"This is my office and it is
my secretary who is being investigated! If you are going to search this office
you will do it with me here," the master spy informed them menacingly.
we have clearance to search here, there is nothing you can do," The weasel, as
Control was mentally calling the young security agent, smiled.
in the doorway, you won't technically be in the room, but you can watch everything
we do from there," the steel haired senior security man suggested respectfully,
ignoring his subordinate.
Glaring at them, Control stood in his doorway
as they went through the outer office. He was relieved that it was the older one
who took China's desk and personal items. He went about his search quickly and
carefully, but thoroughly. When he could, he returned items to their original
place, if he could not remember, he at least put them neatly in an out of the
way place. Jason, on the other hand, while thorough, was not neat and it would
take some time to clean up the mess he was making.
The man at the desk
looked up with an expression that was almost sad. "I've found this bag of what
appears to be narcotics, sir."
Control nodded as the man placed it in
a bag and labeled it. There would be no escaping trouble for China now, and that
would almost certainly mean her career. There was no way, however, that those
drugs were hers. She would sit and suffer through a headache for half a day before
taking a simple aspirin. That left the question of who had put the drugs there,
"I'm sorry sir, but since she had access to your office we have
to search in there as well," the senior security man said contritely. Everything
he had heard about the master spy had led him to believe that he was an honorable
man of high morals and integrity.
Jason smiled, almost salivating at the
chance to get into Control's inner sanctum.
"Mr. Masur, please return to
our office and start the paperwork on this incident. I'll be with you as soon
as I've finished here," the gray haired security man growled, almost shoving the
younger man out the door.
Control stood aside as the security man passed
him to enter the inner office. As with China's area, the man did a quick, neat,
and through job. Having found nothing, the man was passing Control again on the
way out "You might want to get an exterminator in there, seems people are accusing
you of improper behavior with Miss Berry." The man whispered just loudly enough
for Control to hear as he passed by and left the office.
With an expression
that would have frozen mercury, the man slammed the door to his office and, picking
up his coffee cup, threw it against a wall. The dark liquid made an interesting
design on the wall while the ceramic pieces crashed to the floor.
was supposed to be intimidated by the bugs in his office, then Marc Lewis was
even more incompetent than Control thought he was. Things like this hardly intimidated
him, they only annoyed him. And he was not a nice person when he was angry.
he began doing the only thing he could do right now for the woman who normally
sat out front; he began working. When she could be helped, he was going to be
ready, which meant clearing as much as possible off his desk.
"Got a minute?"
Came the prep school voice that always sounded just a bit bored by everyone and
If thinking of this kukac, to use one of China's terms, is
enough to bring him into my office, I will definitely have to stop thinking of
him. Control thought to himself as he glared up at Marc Lewis standing in the
doorway. Of all the people he dealt with, this was one man he did not want to
be dealing with today. Throttling him for his part in the mess China was in was
just too tempting.
"Not really, Marc, I'm wrapping up something and then
have some personal business I need to tend to," Control answered curtly, hoping
the man would get the idea.
"I won't take much of your time, then; I know
how valuable it is," the man answered, voice dripping with sarcasm.
you have something to say, say it. If those papers involve me give them to me,
otherwise, get out of my office!" Control snarled.
"Always so impatient,
Control. You really should work on that, you know." The immaculate, arrogant,
model handsome man gave an oily smile.
"You're right, Marc, I should work
on that, but as I said, I don't have time today. Not for correcting bad habits
and not for playing games with you, so state your business and get out."
this is a list of charges you are facing. There will be a full tribunal; you and
your lawyer have one week in which to gather your defense. Have a nice day," the
Ken doll smirked as he left.
The dark haired man quietly got up and walked
to the outer office, then locked the door. As much as he would have liked to,
he couldn't sock, shoot, stab, kill, or maim Marc Lewis for life. Screaming and
yelling at an empty office would not help. He had already tried throwing something
once that day and it had only made a mess against the wall. Returning to his chair,
Control turned to face the window and did what he did best. He plotted, he schemed,
he devised, and he planned. He made mental lists of who owed him what and who
could or would do what for him. In short, he began to regain control.
noon, China had been arrested and taken to jail; Robert had gone with her and
Control was heading out the door to start calling out the cavalry. China was not
going down until he had called in every favor owed him. From what he had been
told, however, it would not be safe to call anyone from the office or home. There
was no reason for someone to want to take China out, so the odds were that the
person behind this was either after him or Michael. Michael was not known to be
tied to her, so that left only the possibility of enemies of his who might have
wanted to hurt her in order to get to him. His enemies though, were numbered in
the legions. Involving China, however, was a declaration of war, and Control was
more than equal to the task.
Control sighed as he sat on the couch. If the
three men following him had been Marcus's best then the man needed to get some
kindergarten schooling for his people on how to tail someone. Now that he was
at the safe house, or rather boat - his personal safe house of choice was a houseboat
he owned, it was time to start making some calls and getting some fur flying,
and he knew just where to start.
He began dialing a California area code,
but changed his mind, there was one call he had to make before he got California
involved. There were times when it paid to have a twin cousin.
came a voice that was almost a prefect match of his own.
"Hi Paul, It's
John. Listen, I know that this is not a good time to be asking, but could you
come to New York for a few days with some of your kids?" Control asked, hoping
his cousin could make it. They had switched places a few times when growing up
and had pulled it off, and they had also done it some as adults. Paul being here
was necessary if he was going to disappear for a few days. The best way to assure
that they would not be looking for him was if he was in plain view.
right that with the new baby this isn't the easiest time for me to be gone, at
least not for long. How long and which kids did you want me to bring?" Paul asked,
fairly certain that the man whom he been raised with was not referring to his
preschool or infant daughters.
"Probably not longer than a few days. Someone
has bugged my office and home, as well as my secretary's. Any of the kids that
you would trust to handle that would be welcome," Control growled, still upset
about the situation.
"I've got a couple who would do well for that. Blake
and Kermit can handle anything electronic out there," Paul answered after a moment,
thinking of two of his oldest friends and most trusted men. They were both between
mercenary jobs at the moment and running a very lucrative security-consulting
firm. One phone call would bring them running.
"Sounds fine. I really appreciate
this," Control said after the two had agreed that Paul would collect the other
two and they would be there early the next morning.
that, he placed a call to California.
"Mr. Briggs please, and tell him
its John Smith calling," Control requested of the secretary on the other end of
the line, as his next call was connected.
"What trouble is China in now?"
Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III was never one for small talk and the only reason
this man would call him was if it involved his niece. He had been uneasy when
she took a position as his secretary a little over a year earlier, but he knew
John would keep her as safe as anyone could. Control also made her happy, resulting
in his uneasy nod of approval when the senior spy wanted to court her. Michael
knew for a certainly that if Control ever hurt China he would not need to hunt
the man down because he would have taken himself out for hurting her.
been arrested for drug possession," Control explained, holding the phone back
in anticipation of the explosion he knew was coming.
He was not at all
"And how exactly did this happen since she doesn't take anything
stronger than aspirin?" Came a quiet voice that threatened to start a new ice
age. It was far more menacing than the initial shouting had been.
no idea," Control growled in frustration.
"Does this have anything to
do with the summons I received today to appear for a tribunal in New York?" Michael
asked coldly. He had been wondering what the devil was going on, eventually he
knew China or her boss would be calling him to fill in the blanks; and there were
a lot of blanks.
The New Yorker groaned; this was not good. Michael had
been uneasy about China joining the firm and only reluctantly had he assented
to her friendship with Control outside of the office. "At the very least someone
is trying to make China look bad with the planted drugs. And while the tribunal
charges might be against me, the only reason to bring you in would be if they
were planning a smear campaign against China."
There was silence on the
other side of the connection.
"Do you have any idea who might be behind
this?" Michael asked in a slow deliberate voice. His worst nightmare had been
that his niece, who was almost a daughter to him, might be endangered by his enemies.
If one of them was responsible for this, they would pay. If one of the other man's
enemies were responsible, he would assist all he could in helping him make the
people responsible regret having hurt the young woman.
"China doesn't have
any enemies, so my guess is that whoever did this is either one of your enemies
or one of mine. Probably one of mine," Control explained, sighing. One of his
fears in getting emotionally involved with a woman was that someone would use
her against him. He had allowed himself the luxury of caring about China, in fact,
he suspected he was in love with her, and here she was being used against him.
possibly one of my adversaries is behind it, I'll start making some inquires.
I appreciate your informing me of this," Michael answered.
"Thank you for
your help. It's very possible that her apartment is being bugged as well as her
phone so if you could not call her until we get this cleared up I would really
"You won't be able to do anything if the phones are being
tapped, especially if it's company sanctioned. Are you having a company man check
the apartment for bugs?" Came the response from California.
"No. I'm using
an outside source that comes highly recommended," Control answered, pleased that
Michael wasn't even asking if he had done it. Nothing like the trust of the trustworthy
to bolster the spirits, he thought.
"Tell her I'll call her or have her
call me when it's safe," Michael answered.
"Considering that I'm being
charged with conduct unbecoming in my relationship with her, I may not be seeing
her for a few days, but when I do I'll let her know. Until I know it won't be
a danger to her I'm staying away from her. Luckily we have yet to get our schedules
coordinated to get out on a date," Control growled. He and China had been trying
to get an evening free together for months, but some disaster or another had always
come up. He could not believe that he was now as thankful as he had previously
been upset by that little fact. She could honestly, under oath, say they had never
been romantically involved and she would be telling the truth.
listen, call Darren Randall to represent you in this. He's a good man and you
can trust him," Michael suggested.
"Thanks, I was still debating who to
call. I don`t make a habit of trusting lawyers."
"Understood, and good
luck," Michael responded before breaking off the call, freeing both men to start
calling in favors.
Looking at his watch, Control sighed. He only had about
an hour before the people who where supposed to be watching him would start to
panic, and that would not be a good thing.
"Nice car," China commented, getting
into the Jaguar that Robert had pulled up in.
"Thank you. It's one of my
indulgences," he answered, pulling into the late afternoon traffic.
the one that should be thanking you, Robert. I was beginning to think it was going
to take the Jaws of Life to extricate me from that place," she growled.
was hardly that difficult, I merely talked to some friends who sped it along,
is all," Robert assured her.
The car was silent as it worked its way through
"Control believes that your apartment is under surveillance
as well as being bugged. He wants you to stay inside and incommunicado as much
as possible until you are told otherwise. Stay there and wait until you hear from
him, and don't say or do anything that you don't want everyone knowing about,"
Robert relayed the instructions he had been asked to pass on.
and I live in the same building and across the hall from one another! How am I
supposed to avoid him?" China snapped.
"Because you have to, he was served
with a summons to the tribunal for conduct unbecoming. It would seem that he is
accused of having an inappropriate relationship with you, so he can't be seen
with you right now," Robert answered, relaying what he had been told in an earlier
meeting with his superior. He still couldn't believe that Control was going to
be facing a tribunal. Of all the supervisors in the agency, at least Control had
his heart in the right place, he honestly cared not only about the people he was
sending out but about the people they were helping. All the spy could figure was
that Control had bent the rules to help someone once too often and had been caught
at it this time; and was now being set up.
"Someone sets me up for charges
of drug possession and then has me arrested; and he expects me to sit and wait
for someone to come and rescue me from this mess?" She yelled.
the best possible hands," Robert assured her, knowing that China was not one for
sitting by quietly waiting for a knight in shining armor.
it is, I just don't happen to play the damsel in distress well or easily."
I'm sure Control is quite aware of that fact," Robert agreed readily. He had heard
tales of what China could be like when riled, and was not wanting a demonstration
in his car.
"I know you don't like waiting and doing nothing, but right
now that is the best thing," Robert continued after a few moments of silence.
"Besides, you know what he does to people who do not follow orders."
snorted. She had indeed seen what Control did to those who disobeyed him. Men
who faced bombs, terrorists, assassins, and bloody uprisings without blinking
would leave his office with their tails tucked between their legs almost having
"I appreciate the warnings and I'll be careful," she responded
as they pulled up in front of the old brownstone where she lived.
up, she saw her boss standing by one of his windows. If he wanted her to go in
her hole and wait for him to contact her, she would do just that. She was still
not happy about it, but the day was catching up with her suddenly, and right now
she was too tired and confused to do anything but obey. Maybe in the morning all
of this would make sense or she would wake up and discover it was a bad dream.
met her at the door whimpering, and the birds were screaming from their cages.
The elderly blue Australian Cattle dog settled down once he smelled food in his
bowl and water in his dish. The parrots quieted as well, once they had been fed
and allowed out of their cages. Evidently the pet walker had failed to come; at
least that was a problem easily solved.
As she left the building to relieve
her dog, she saw that her boss was still at his window. Passing him once more
as she and the elderly dog returned from their walk around the block, she saw
that he was still standing watch, but moved off as soon as she approached the
steps. He may not have been able to contact her but he was still watching over
and guarding her. "Good night, Oyabun," she whispered.
Feeling safer knowing
he was standing watch, she could not help giving a wave to the other people she
knew to be out there watching her as she closed the drapes for the night.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," China yelled at the pounding door. Well, actually she
was yelling at the people pounding on the door but it was way too early for her
to think of such distinctions.
Throwing on a robe, she shuffled to the
door followed by her brave old canine. "What can I do for you fine people?" She
"You are being served with a summons to appear as a witness
in the tribunal of Control for misconduct," one of them said, thrusting papers
Nodding her head in forced acceptance, she slammed the door. What
was going on? First she gets set up on drug possession charges and now Control
up on charges as well? Robert had told her Control had been served but it had
not really hit her until now that it was real. There was no way that the two incidents
hitting at once was coincidence. Someone was out for Control and using her to
get him; and she was not happy about it
Jojo whined. "Okay, I'll get dressed
and take you out," she told the dog while absent-mindedly filling his food bowl.
second knocking sounded on the door. Glaring, she returned to the door she had
slammed shut moments earlier. Flinging it open, she applied her best and sharpest
weapon; her tongue.
The man standing in front of the door could best be
described as a geeky mouse. He was about six foot and thin, with glasses and a
timid kind of look to him. The man behind him, however, was nearly perfect. His
eyes were wrong, but past that, he was Control's twin. The one in front looked
very confused, but the other was highly amused.
"I'm Dexter Blake. I'm
here to do some pest control for you," a first man said nervously, a few moments
later when China stopped her tirade long enough for him to get a word in.
sent us. You must be China Berry since we didn't recognize the language you were
using." The man behind the mouse said in a quiet voice, while gesturing her to
talk to him in the hall.
China blushed a bit. It would seem Control knew
these men and had been talking. "I see. Could you give me a few moments to get
cleaned up and the dog walked?" She asked a little hesitantly.
it'll give Blake a chance to pull himself together. I think maybe you were scaring
him a bit," Control's doppelganger chuckled.
"She wasn't scaring me; I
just couldn't understand her," Blake explained, slightly embarrassed at his discombobulation.
won't be long," she assured them before closing the door and hustling through
her morning routine. If living with Michael and then working for Control had taught
her anything, it was how to move fast in the morning.
Fifteen minutes later,
the tall mulatto woman was out in the hallway with her dog and Control's look-alike
while Blake went in her apartment to start playing electronic Orkin man.
not him, so who are you?" She asked, leaning against the wall. Jojo sitting at
her feet cautiously stretching his neck forward to sniff at the stranger.
Paul Blaisdell, his brother. I'm impressed you can tell us apart, only mom and
dad usually can," he smiled at her. John had warned him that fooling her would
not be possible, but that as long as she was told up front what was going on she
would go along with it.
"Your eyes are wrong," she shrugged.
raised an eyebrow in perfect mimicry of the senior spy.
"It would probably
be more accurate to say you don't look at me in the right way, the way that he
does," she explained.
"I save those looks for my wife, Annie," Paul told
her, beaming. So, his cousin looked at her like Paul looked at Annie? That was
definitely something that would need to be looked into. It would be nice if John
found someone who made him as happy as Annie made Paul.
"I didn't know
he had a twin brother," she offered, changing the subject.
have a twin. Our mothers were twin sisters and when my parents died Mom and Dad
adopted me. We're cousins who are by chance, also brothers."
where the second boy in the family photos at the farm came from," China answered,
nodding her understanding of this unusual situation.
"I didn't realize
he had taken you home to meet mom and dad," he answered in shock. John must be
serious about her if he took her to meet their parents.
"He took me out
there once about a year ago. What are you doing here, anyway?"
him for the next few days while he's staying in a safe house. You're to go about
your normal everyday activities and he'll contact you at some point. After today
your phone will still be tapped, but your apartment should be clean. You'll still
be under surveillance though; so don't go to him, when it's safe he will either
come for you or get a message to you. Have you got all that?" He asked, certain
that if she was Control's secretary, that she would have gotten it. The man hated
China nodded and collected the dog's leash, prepared
to go about her normal activities.
"Why don't I take this fellow out? It'll
help establish my cover." Paul asked, reaching a hand out to the dog who greeted
him as a new friend now that his mistress had relaxed.
"And you can see
how good those guys are at untamed Anatidae pursuits?" China asked, raising an
Paul smiled. No wonder his cousin had spoken so highly
of this young lady. Not only was she beautiful, but she was smart and witty as
"What were you going to do after walking Jojo here?" Paul asked,
absently scratching at the dog's ears after remembering what John had called the
"I was going to go and work off some of this ill temper at the
stable," China answered.
"Then go and do that. By the time you get back,
Blake will be done in there and I'll have the company people hunting up an Anatidae
dinner," he assured her.
"Just make certain the goose they catch and cook
isn't yours. I have a feeling I could get to liking you a lot." She smiled at
him as she left.
Control would kill him if anything happened to China.
Between John's being concerned enough to ask him for help and the fact that, his
brother evidently did look at her in the right way, Paul suspected that China
might very possibly be the right lady for his lonely cousin.
responded, picking up his phone.
"Ah, yeah, is this Mr. John Smith?" a
nasal voice asked.
"Mr. Randall, Good to hear from you. Can we be ready
in one week?" He asked the lawyer.
"Well, one week isn't a lot of time,
but I never could pass up a challenge," the man answered with a snorting laugh.
to hear, how soon can we meet and get started on this?" Control asked, relieved
to finally be able to do something. Few things frustrated him more than inactivity.
soon as you're ready. You can come to the office or I can go to where you are,"
the lawyer offered.
"Say, in an hour?"
"That would work, where
do you want to meet?" Darren Randall asked.
"I have a boat in the Hudson
Marina," Control offered.
"I know where that is. I'll see you in an hour
then and be ready for a long day, Mr. Smith, because we have a lot of work to
"Agreed, in one hour then," Control responded, and gave the slip number
before hanging up.
Stretching as he arose, he looked at his watch. Time
to check in. he had planned on meeting with China, but that wasn't going to be
possible, now. He had at least called Robert and found out that she was out on
bail. China was evidently safe, but mad as a wet hen about the whole thing.
sighed as he looked out over the marina at the harbor. It was bad enough that
China was having to deal with being set up on drug charges, but he couldn't even
be there for her. Ironically, that was bothering him almost more than the charges
against him. His friend was hurting and he couldn't go and comfort her; of even
just be there with her. He didn't like this one little bit, and someone would
pay dearly for doing this to him.
He picked up the receiver next to him
as the phone came to life.
"John, why haven't you done something sensible,
like marrying that lovely girl?" Paul asked.
"Believe it or not, the thought
has crossed my mind, lately; how's she doing?" Control asked. He wasn't surprised
that his cousin liked China. He was fairly certain everyone in his family would
"She's getting by, but not taking very good care of herself.
She and Kermit went to play with her horse," Paul informed him. "Are we still
setting up the meeting for later this morning?"
"I can't now, I've got
my lawyer coming. As soon as I know a time I can meet with her I'll let you know."
enough, take care," Paul responded, signing off.
"Take care, and take
care of her for me," came the answer, the last part whispered.
haired man in the trench coat saw a tall, beautiful woman get into a taxi. She
was exactly as Paul described her. Kermit Griffin had certainly had worse jobs
than tailing a lovely young lady. Curiouser and curiouser, he thought, peering
over his green lenses as another car pulled out to follow her. Shaking his head
at the amateurs, Kermit pulled into the traffic a few cars behind. These guys
really did need to be excused back to the little kids table if this was the best
they could do.
Kermit kept going after he saw the mini parade head down
a private driveway that went to a stable. It would seem that China liked equines.
As he suspected, there was a second road a bit farther down. After parking in
the employee's lot, he reached in back and deposited his suit coat and tie. Looking
over, he grabbed a bag of oatmeal cookies from the passenger seat. "Mom always
did say breakfast was the most important meal of the day," he said aloud with
After hiking up to the back entrance to the stable, he caught sight
of her again. She had what looked like a black horse on a long leash of some kind
and was having the animal go around and around on it in a corral.
the other men were evidently content to sit out in their car and wait until she
called another taxi to leave, Kermit decided to go over and talk to her. Hopefully
he could get her to leave with him before the company men discovered that he was
"Excuse me," he called out, walking up to the fenced ring.
She looked up as she stopped the animal. "Yes?" She responded, moving
towards the fence, but not near enough to be in any danger if he had wanted to
"You have a pretty horse, there," he commented, trying to make
conversation. The horse, which now was looking dark blue instead of black, had
wandered over, sniffed at his oatmeal cookies and suddenly took a taste of the
one in his hand. Actually it was the one that had been in his hand before he dropped
it in surprise.
Startled, the mercenary swore and jumped back, crushing
the other cookies as he death gripped on the bag, not wanting to drop it. The
horse had evidently liked the first one, since it was making whickering sounds
at him and reaching it's head out.
"I'm sorry about that. Cricket loves
treats and is very friendly. I'll replace the cookies," she offered, bringing
the slightly protesting horse in before she could start begging really badly.
a problem, as long as she doesn't eat me she's welcome to have those," Kermit
assured her hastily while moving slowly out of the horse's range.
won't, I've put her on a meatless diet," China grinned, as her horse decided to
take advantage of the break and munch the nice green grass by the fence.
name's Griffin, Oyabun sent me," Kermit said giving her the name Paul had been
told would gain her trust; or at least her obedience.
China looked at him
in surprise. Control was the only one she used that name for. Evidently her boss
needed to see her. Paul had told her Control would get a message to her, so this
man must work for one of the two men.
"I don't know if you were aware of
this, but two men followed you here. We can't meet him until he says it's clear
and that's a least another few hours, but I would like to get out of here before
those two come back here looking for you, okay?" Kermit asked the woman silently
staring at him.
"Sam!" She called out to a stable hand who was passing
the arena. "Could you please go and put Cricket back in her stall? There are some
men hanging about the barn that were bothering me and I would rather not deal
with them again," China explained as the large man trotted over and took the horse.
want me to do anything about them?" He asked gruffly. He didn't like anyone bothering
China. She wasn't one of the spoiled and arrogant owners. She knew all of the
hands by name and was polite to them, as well as being perfectly capable of handling
her own horse and rarely required the staffs assistance.
"No, just put
Cricket away for me so I don't have to be troubled with them again."
the groom took the animal and headed towards the barn.
China turned to
her visitor and saw a flash of something white at the forest edge just past him.
It looked like a white dog that was hurt and trying to hide. Kermit had said there
was time, and she would be quick, she promised herself as she moved past him,
towards the distressed creature. She heard her new friend following her, muttering
Glancing into the undergrowth by the trail, she saw a young
puppy bearing a resemblance to Petey of the little Rascals. He had evidently been
in a fight of some kind recently, from the looks of him. Gently reaching under
him, she picked the creature up. It wouldn't take long to take the poor thing
to the vet and get him looked at and patched up if he was savable.
want to take the dog, fine, but we have got to get going," Kermit hissed from
behind her, watching the barn door where the two men watching her were walking
out with bright green stains where they had evidently been sprayed by one or another
of the horses.
China followed Kermit's gaze and snickered. "I see Cricket's
aim is as good as ever."
Gently scooping up the whimpering puppy, she
followed the dark haired man as they briskly jogged to his parked rental. As the
car sped off, China was almost wishing she could have been able to hear them try
and explain her disappearance.
"Where do we take Rocky to?' Kermit asked,
looking over at his passengers.
"My vet's on Grant and 138th," she answered,
stroking the dog.
Glancing at the pup, he tried to decide if it was worth
speeding. The poor thing didn't look like he was going to survive long enough
to even be seen by the vet.
Luckily, the vet was close and since there
was no one there, China and the puppy were escorted right back.
a phone in the waiting room, Kermit took advantage of his privacy.
it's me," he said on hearing a voice he knew.
"Hi, yourself. How is everything
going?" Paul asked.
"Going well. We went to visit Black Beauty and are
now at the vet's trying to save a puppy that looks like you did after Cambodia.
Any word from your friend?" Kermit asked.
"Ouch, poor thing. I'm afraid
there's been a change in plans, so bring her back here," Paul instructed.
China leaving the back offices a few moments later, Kermit motioned her over.
She was not going to like hearing this. "All right, we're on our way back, now."
stared out the window while Kermit finished up his call. She had heard the news;
she just didn't like it.
"So what was the verdict on wonder dog?' Kermit
asked as they began merging into traffic after having left the vet's.
thinks he was probably used as bait in training a fighting dog and got away. He
was so badly hurt they probably didn't think he would live so didn't go after
him," China snarled, and then began muttering some words under her breath. Some
of them Kermit thought he might know but he wasn't certain.
One of them
he definitely understood, it was Vietnamese. He had heard some of his captors
using it when he had spent a few weeks as a POW. It was usually following one
of his escape attempts. He was getting the impression that she didn't like those
people very much, but then he didn't like people who tortured animals, either.
And having grown up in inner city Chicago, he had seen the results of dog fighting
rings more than once. It sickened him then and it still did.
he looked bad. Does that mean he's not going to make it?" Kermit asked.
going to try her best," China sighed. "She says the fact that he's still alive
is a good sign since he evidently hasn't given up on life yet."
Kermit agreed before they both fell silent. He knew how often sheer stubbornness
and not being willing to die had pulled him, Paul, and Blake all through what
should have been fatal injuries.
"Um, ahoy, I guess," a little man in a bad
fitting wrinkled suit called out in a reedy voice as he neared the sailboat.
Smith did a double take. This was the lawyer Michael had suggested to him? Control
knew the man had a good record from having looked it up. Well, he thought, getting
up, one should never judge by appearances.
"Mr. Randall, please come aboard,"
Control invited the lawyer, offering him a hand.
"Thanks, nice place you
have here," the man replied, setting down an overflowing briefcase.
enjoy it. We'll head out to where we can have some privacy," the host explained.
uh, we're not going to go very far out, are we?" the man squeaked, following his
client in to the stern of the boat.
Control turned and raised an eyebrow.
"Only when I can't see anything to tell me where I am,"
the stranger admitted.
"We'll be in sight of land at all times," Control
assured him, continuing to the stern and the tiller.
"Oh, that`s a relief,"
the man sighed.
Control just smiled. He had a thing about heights, himself;
so understood where his guest was coming from.
"How bad is it?" the taller
man asked as the boat headed out of the harbor.
"The conduct unbecoming
charges shouldn't be too hard to disprove since it is mostly circumstantial and
hearsay. The sexual harassment will be harder to disprove," the lawyer answered,
settling down, now that he was back in his element.
"I can't imagine what
I have done to Miss Wilson that she would have seen as harassing," Control commented.
to her you have spoken and touched her inappropriately," the lawyer stated.
goggled at him. " I have never done anything of the sort!"
assures me, he sends greetings, by the way," the visitor replied, searching through
his open briefcase for something or other.
Control looked at him.
make a habit of checking on the clients I take," the lawyer explained. "Since
Michael sent you to me and asked to be remembered to you I assumed you two were
"Yes, we`re friends," Control chuckled. "He's the one that suggested
you to me."
"That's probably why he was laughing when I called him to ask
about you," the lawyer smiled. He appreciated the irony as well. It was a good
thing his client was amused, since he had a feeling that this was not a man to
have as an enemy.
"Pretty spot, here," the lawyer commented as they entered
a cove and dropped anchor.
"Someone I know owns it," Control answered.
"Nice; okay, let's start with the harassment charges," the lawyer began
as the spy came over to join him and look at the documents.
I didn't do or say any of this," Control growled.
"The best defense would
be if you could show that you were someplace else at those times and not around
her," the lawyer advised.
"I can't, I wasn't with witnesses," he retorted,
savage with frustration.
"That's bad," came the nasal response.
"It would be easier if she didn't have these witnesses,
then it would be her word against yours and that would be very difficult to prove,"
the smaller man observed.
"A lot easier," Control replied thoughtfully.
It would seem that there were some people that he needed to go talk to.
she does have the witnesses, so let's start with the first incident she cites
and go from there," the little man suggested.
Nodding his agreement, Control
took his copy of the first file and the two men settled in for a long day of sorting
through lies and half-truths.
Control's twin was in his cousin's doorway as
she came up. Closing the door he joined her in the hall.
"I'm sorry it
didn't work out to take you there, today," he offered sympathetically.
This isn't the first time he's had to cancel on me, though," China answered with
a slight smile
"I can imagine. Blake's done in your apartment and the bugs
are gone. Control left instructions that you were to be given an upgraded security
system as well," Paul informed her.
"Okay, is Blake doing that as well?"
She asked, curious.
"Blake's taking care of Control's bugs now, so Griffin
will be up to handle your security upgrade as soon as he's back from picking up
some parts," he told her.
"Should I leave again, or can I be home while
he does that?" She asked, sounding weary.
Paul looked at the young woman
and could tell the last two days had caught up with her. She didn't look tired
so much as she was looking stressed and as if she hadn't been taking care of herself.
Of course with the drug charges and then everything with Control, she had probably
not been sleeping or eating well at all. He felt badly, but there was not a lot
he could do for her.
"You can stay home while he does it, just try and
eat something and get some sleep," He suggested.
China nodded, "Salamat."
hope that means you're agreeing with me," Paul smiled. John had warned him that
China spoke a lot of languages.
"I'll try. Tell Mr. Griffin he can come
over whenever he's ready," China responded, giving Paul a last smile of thanks
before entering her own apartment.
"Oh, I hope all of you like chicken,"
she smiled before closing her door.
Paul groaned, something told him she
was not planning on resting. If she was going to be making all of them chicken,
though, maybe he could at least get her to eat some of it. John would really not
like seeing her as pale as she was now and with bags under her eyes.
and clanging echoed as China pulled out pots and pans and various ingredients.
Jojo watched from his blanket in the corner. He knew better than to beg or get
underfoot but he could catch all the interesting smells from here and if he was
patient, she would usually put a little something in his bowl.
the second she had a pot on and heating, someone was at the door. Turning off
the heat she went to answer it.
"Tr vo," a perfect copy of her voice called
out from the other room.
"Kermit, shut up" she growled at the back room
as she opened the door.
"I wasn't aware I was saying anything," the dark
haired man at the door stated with a confused look.
"I'm sorry, I was talking
to one of my macaws, not you," she apologized, ushering him in.
a macaw named Kermit?" He asked, amused.
"Yes, a Military Macaw. I also
have a Scarlet Macaw named Rhett, and an African Gray called Dusty."
Military Macaw named Kermit?" Her guest asked, raising an eyebrow
mostly green, hence, his name," she clarified.
"A green Military Macaw
named after me, I like it!" The man beamed as he began setting up to install her
new security system.
Her voice called out in greeting again.
the second time he's spoken Vietnamese. Did he learn it from you?" Kermit asked
in disbelief. He still had nightmares about that place, and an apartment in New
York was certainly the last place he expected to be hearing that language.
already spoke it when I got him, although I speak it, as well. Since I've had
him, he's decided that he likes my voice and mimics it. Sorry about that," she
"Not a problem," he assured her. "Where did you learn to speak
"Same place I learned a lot of oriental languages, from my mother.
She was from a business family on the Solomon Islands. Vietnamese was one of many
languages they spoke in their shipping business. Since the war I don't speak Vietnamese
really, too many people might take exception to it."
"Oh, yeah," he agreed.
you at least know Vietnamese when you hear it, I take it you were over there?"
She asked hesitantly.
"Drafted," Kermit answered, not coldly but in a tone
that did not invite further questions or comments on that subject.
me know if you need anything," she told him, getting a wave in answer as they
headed to their tasks.
Her guest settled, China returned to her kitchen
and the waiting ingredients. Her mother, when stressed, had tended to holler,
scream, and pitch a fit. Having seen the result of that in the disintegration
of her parent's marriage, China had found other outlets for her energy when she
was upset, namely cleaning, cooking and sewing. Since her machine was not set
up and her apartment was sparkling, today it was going to be cooking. She had
not, however, learned how to eat when agitated, so Control's friends would be
eating well tonight, or the mission would be getting another donation to help
feed the needy.
"Smells good, what is it?" Kermit asked, hours later as
he was finishing up his installation.
"Chicken adobo, Hawaiian ginger banana
bread, and veggie manapua. It's also known as dinner, so I hope you guys are hungry."
his shades a fraction, dark brown eyes peered over the top at her. "You're feeding
"It seems the least I can do; besides I don't have much of an appetite
at the moment," she admitted, stirring a sauce of some kind.
planning on eating any of this?" Kermit goggled. She had been cooking for hours.
like I said, I'm not hungry. I'll get it loaded up and you can take it over, since
I assume you and Blake are going to be over there with Paul?" She asked, smiling.
know, starving yourself is not going to get this thing over any faster."
know, but I really can't eat right now. I would just end up getting sick and that
would not be good for any of us," China responded, putting all of the food in
containers that were easy to carry and that the food could be served out of.
you," Kermit said politely as she saw him and the food to the door.
welcome, and thank you to all of you for your help, enjoy the dinner," she answered
before closing the door.
Setting the pots and pans to soak, she took the
whining Jojo out for his evening constitutional. She could hear the men chattering
away as she passed the door; it sounded like they were trying to pick a wine.
Good, they evidently were enjoying the meal, or about to.
Wanting to get
home and eat, the old dog was quick about his business, so China was home soon.
Paul met her in the hallway again, smiling.
"I'm glad you got home so quickly,
I was getting hungry over here," Paul informed her by way of greeting.
food is there, eat up," she encouraged.
"China, I hate eating alone and
you need to eat so why don't you join me? I'll be a perfect gentleman, I promise.
The curtains are drawn for the night so the watchers will never know you're over
"I thought Kermit and Blake were with you," she answered uncertainly.
already had plans for tonight. I really would appreciate the company."
I couldn't, really," China begged off for what felt like the millionth time.
you what, since you provided the food, I'll provide the entertainment," he smiled,
fairly certain he was seeing a glint of curiosity in her eye.
stories, all the ones he would never tell and that our parents don't know," the
man offered, fairly certain he had her now.
"A very temping offer that
I should refuse, but I have got to hear these!" She laughed.
He had never heard her laugh before and she had a nice one. Hopefully things would
work out for her and his cousin and he would hear more of her laughter in the
Settling Jojo in her flat with his dinner, she headed over, accompanied
by the waiting Paul.
"I see you opted for one of the better bottles," she
commented as her host poured her some white wine after seating her. Paul was certainly
as well mannered as the senior spook he resembled.
"John won't mind in
the least," Paul chuckled like a kid brother who was taking liberties his older
brother would take great exception to.
China smirked, wishing once more
she had a sibling she could have teased like that. Trevor had never liked her
and certainly would not have tolerated teasing. "You mentioned something about
"Yes I did. There's one story that I only heard
about, since my own parents were still alive at that point. It seems that the
church had a brand new minister and mom invited the church ladies over for tea
with the new minister's wife. So she had dressed John up in his cutest outfit
and put him down for a nap, telling him he could play quietly for a bit first
but he was not to get dirty and when he woke up to come down. He took his nap
and upon waking up left his room, but I guess instead of going into the living
room where mom was, he headed out into the yard. So he's out playing in the yard
and sees a baby bird on the ground where it had fallen out of its nest. Knowing
he was not allowed to go out of the fenced yard, he ran in to get mom as fast
as he could so none of the barn cats would get it." Paul began relating his first
China grinned, imagining her boss as a toddler and thinking what
a handful he had probably been. If she was ever out on the farm again, she would
certainly have to get some more baby Control stories.
"John left on his
own can lead to just about anything," China giggled. She didn't know her boss
well, but she did know him well enough to know that it was best not to let him
get bored. Luckily his job generally ensured that he never was.
it though! Anyway, he decided to run inside and get mom. So he comes racing into
the living room where all of these prim and proper ladies are, stark naked and
covered with mud. The women luckily all had children of their own so a three-year-old
in mud and skin was nothing new to them. Mom took one look at him in his birthday
suit and demanded to know where his clothes were. He told her very matter-of-factly
that since she had said for him to not get his nice clothes dirty he had taken
them off and carefully placed them to the side of the mud he was making pies in.
Mom was furious, but the other women all thought he was the cutest little guy
they had ever seen; of course they were not the ones that had a trail of mud through
their house." Paul grinned, as his audience chuckled.
"I guess his lack
of personal modesty began early," China snickered, remembering some of the tales
Robert had told her over working lunches.
Paul snorted. "You're assuming
at some point he had some."
Laughing, she conceded the point to her host.
confused, Paul, your mother was taking care of John when this happened?" She asked,
still not totally clear on John and Paul's relationship.
"No that was Aunt
Becca, I've called her mom for as long as I can remember, since I was only four
when my parents died and she and Uncle Thomas adopted me. I probably should have
called her aunt Becca when telling that story," Paul explained.
her understanding before taking a bite of dinner.
"Well, it's only fair
that you get a story for a story," she said, the tone offering to tell a tale.
I rarely get to hear stories about John as an adult," Paul encouraged her.
like you, I only heard about this one, I wasn't actually there. It would seem
John was in some corner of the globe where he was probably not supposed to be
and undoubtedly doing something he was not allowed to do. I think it was Angola,
but don't hold me to that."
"Sounds about right for him," he commented,
his lean face smiling.
"Anyway, he was at this mercenary or rebel type
camp I guess you would call it and he's hot, tired, dirty and desperate for a
shower. There was a major raid planned for that afternoon so John, I guess, decided
if he died he was going to at least die clean."
"I can relate to that,"
Paul offered softly, remembering a few times he was certain he was going to die
tired, dirty and far from home.
"Evidently, there was a woman there who
was a nurse or a doctor or something, Robert didn't tell me exactly what. It seems
that John overheard her saying that she was sick to death of the carbolic soap
they had there. Wanting to impress this woman, he somehow, I do not want to know
how or from whom, he got a bar of lilac scented soap for her. The poor man is
headed to take his shower and realizes he has no soap. None of his friends are
around for him to ask if they have any, leaving him only one option." China smiled.
didn't!" Her host snorted.
It was exactly the sound Control made if she
did or said something that struck him funny. She sighed, hoping she would have
a chance to amuse her boss again someday.
"Please, go on, my dear brother
never tells me these things."
"Well, the raid didn't go as planned since
the base got attacked before they could head out on their raid. John had, in fact,
just gotten dressed after his shower when they were hit. They were finally able
to fend off the attack. Word has it that the wonderful, lilac scented sharpshooter
scared them away.
"Oh yeah, I just bet he did scare them," Paul answered,
wiping tears from his eyes.
"So, do you have any other stories to tell?"
"Let me think... there is one, but it's pretty embarrassing,"
Paul said, turning a slight rose.
"Yes, please, by all means continue."
and I bought a car together one summer when we were sixteen. It was old, but we
fixed it up and it was nice enough for running around with our friends. It was
a very hot day in late summer and we were heading home hot and sweaty from stacking
hay at a neighboring farm where we had gotten some work. Passing the pond, we
decided since you couldn't really see it from the road unless you were looking,
to go for a quick swim and cool off," Paul related, smiling a bit.
the two of you at about sixteen were skinny-dipping, please go on, this does sound
interesting," China responded.
"Yes, well as you said we were all of sixteen
at the time. Our parents happened to come along while we were cooling off, though,
and saw where we had pulled the car over. Checking the car, Dad saw that our clothes
were in it, including our jeans with the car keys. At that point he decided that
we needed a lesson in auto security."
"Sounds like John came by his deviousness
honestly," she offered mischievously.
"Yes, he does. So, John and I are
splashing around in the pond and hear our car driving off. The first thing to
hit us is that we can't go chasing after it in our skin. After that realization,
we were extremely thankful that our own property was right across the pond so
a short swim and a dash through one of the pastures and we would be home. No one
would need to see us as God created us. The cows gave us a few looks as we passed,
but they were the only witnesses to our streaking the field, thank goodness.
had to wait at this point for his audience to get her breath back from laughing
"So, there we were, slinking around the side of the barn. This
is after we had moved through two pastures, keeping trees and cows in front of
us whenever possible. Unfortunately, once we left the side of the barn, there
would be no cover." He continued his remembrance.
"Your dad didn't have
any blankets or feed bags or anything like that in the barn?" China asked, confused.
She had spent her whole life around barns as a rider and even worked in one for
a summer and knew what kind of things were in any barn that housed animals.
he did have what we needed in the barn. At sixteen, whether it's worse to enter
the house and your mother's presence naked or strategically holding a gunnysack,
is very debatable," he informed her with mock solemnity.
"Which did you
two decide was the lesser of the two evils?" China inquired.
"We were looking
quite fashionable as we came in and mom, while laughing hysterically, informed
us that while she didn't insist on formality at her table we did have to wear
more than a couple of old feed sacks. Dad told us that the car was on the other
side of the house and he hoped we had learned something about leaving our keys
and our clothes in the car if we were not opting to wear them. I don't think we
ever got up those stairs and into our rooms faster," the dark haired man chuckled
at the memory from a time long past.
"I can well imagine that, and I bet
you never went skinny-dipping again, either," she guessed.
never tells," he answered with a rumbling chuckle that reminded the young woman
of her boss.
"True, and I am well aware of what a gentleman John is, after
the way we met," China answered.
"Oh? How did you meet?"
working for a company that provided temporary serving help for parties. The woman
giving this party had a bit of a reputation with the company as being difficult,
at best. I was told to arrive at her house in traditional serving uniform and
stiletto heels. That was my first clue that this was not going to be a good assignment.
When I arrived with my friend and discovered that all of the women on this assignment
were colored, that was a second hint," China told, shaking her head at her innocence
back then, that it had not dawned her what a miserable job she was in for.
must have been humiliating," Paul sympathized.
"I don't know, I never really
thought about it," China responded, looking thoughtful.
"I didn't mean
to distract you, go on, please. John was there as a guest I take it?" Paul asked,
"Yes he was. I was serving drinks while the guests milled about
and chatted before eating. I noticed John standing over in a corner watching the
other guests. The hostess also noticed him, and decided that he shouldn't be alone.
She already had a reputation for being quite, ah, friendly shall we say."
bet John loved having her attention on him," he smirked.
"He was the only
man in the room she had not succeeded with, so she was determined to have him,"
China giggled at the memory.
"I do hope he got away without having to compromise
himself," Paul smiled, having every faith in his cousin's ingenuity.
got out at the cost of one tux and both of our dignity."
Paul raised an
"I had been walking about in those cursed heels for about two
hours while the guests had their drinks and chatted. They had sat down to dinner
and I was serving that, as well. I wasn't used to wearing four-inch heels and
at this point my ankles were killing me, not to mention my toes. I was walking
over with the soup course and I caught my heel on a snag in the carpet," she continued
telling her story.
"I have never understood how women wear those things,"
Paul admitted, shaking his head.
"I don't wear them if I can avoid it at
all," China confessed.
Paul smiled. China was smart, witty, charming,
and beautiful: perfect for John. He smiled again, thinking about how much his
own wife, Annie, would enjoy the other woman.
"Anyway, my heel got snagged
and I catapulted forward, pitching the soup I was about to bring to John all over
him. Poor guy jumped like a scalded frog. I felt so bad and the only thing I could
think of was to get it mopped up as quickly as possible. I grabbed for a napkin
and was reaching to mop the soup off him before it burned him and I knocked over
his wineglass and soaked his shirt. It was mortifying," she gave a mock groan.
after covering his pants in soup you covered his shirt in wine? That was how you
two met?" Paul was aghast. No wonder his brother remembered her, someone who did
that would not be forgotten easily.
"He really was very nice about it.
John had needed an excuse to get out of there early and I gave him one. He excused
himself to get cleaned up and about slammed the bathroom door in the face of the
harpy, as John called her, before she could help him clean up. She was so mad
about having lost her chance with him and at me for making a mess like that that
she fired me on the spot and started in on how much replacing the carpet was going
to cost. John overheard her yelling and came to rescue me."
you for what was an honest accident?" Paul growled. Yes, hearing her being bawled
out and fired for an accident, John would have gone and saved her. Both he and
John had learned from the moment they could breathe, to treat women respectfully
and in a gentlemanly fashion. One of the few times he could remember Thomas Smith
laying a hand on either of them was when in frustration at a project that was
not going well, John had muttered a swear word under his breath in his mother's
presence. Their dad had heard and, coming over, had smacked his son and informed
him that his mother was a lady and a man did not talk that way in her presence.
Both boys had been so shocked at their father hitting either of them that they
took great pains to watch their language not only in her presence but in the presence
of any woman. Actually, neither of them tended to swear often, only with extreme
provocation and never around a lady.
"Of course the whole thing was my
fault, after all, I was the one that made the mess. It couldn't possibly be her
fault for having me in four-inch heels for hours on end. I ended up wrenching
my ankle so badly I couldn't walk and she was ordering me off the place. When
I had asked if I could stay out of the way somewhere until my ride finished for
the night she started in on me again. John came in and seeing the predicament
I was in, he told me he would see me home and when I couldn't walk, he scooped
me up and carried me out of the house," China continued.
"Your knight in
shining armor," Paul replied
"Yes, and he even remembered to feed the
damsel in distress; since neither one of us had eaten, he took me to the best
restaurant in town."
"John always has had good taste. How long ago was
this?" He asked curiously
"That was in seventy, I started working for him
in seventy-five." China answered.
"Still a rookie then," Paul commented.
looked at him, trying to decide if he meant that insultingly or not. Anyone else,
there would have been no question in her mind, but Paul really didn't seem to
mean it nastily; more a simple statement of fact.
"Yes, I suppose I am
a bit of a rookie. Considering that last year I had to kill a man who had taken
me hostage in a bank and witnessed another one being killed in a rescue attempt,
I would say that I've grown up a lot since I started."
"I'm sorry, I didn't
know," Paul offered quietly.
"Apology accepted, and I admit that I am a
relative newcomer to his world," she answered, politely remaining vague since
she didn't know how much Paul might know about his relative's lifestyle. He seemed
to know a lot, but she couldn't be certain.
"You're looking a bit tired,
why don't I wash up, since you cooked, and I'll bring the dishes back tomorrow?"
know, for the first time since this thing began I feel like I could sleep," China
answered, surprised to find that she was sleepy. Looking down she was equally
amazed to see an empty plate; it would seem she had eaten that night.
probably just feeling a little less stress," Paul offered.
again for the company," she said as Paul saw her to the door.
Miss Berry, this will all work out," he assured her.
"I know, Mr. Blaisdell,"
she smiled and left.
From a window, he watched as she passed with Jojo
on a final walk and then listened until he heard the locks on her door falling
into place. "Don't let this one slip away from you, John," he muttered.
Control entered the dark alley; this was not his normal habitat. In fact, he didn't
like dark alleys; especially at night, since they tended to be bad for one's health.
However, sometimes you went dangerous places to meet informants, and he had certainly
been in stranger places than this to get information.
He stopped just short
of the alley. He heard something.
"Give me your wallet," a cracking, reedy
He sighed; the criminal element was getting younger and
younger. "I'm not giving you my wallet, son."
"I have a gun, now give me
your wallet, man," the voice trembled.
Control turned slowly around to
face his adversary. If the kid did have a gun he didn't want to startle him into
accidentally firing it.
"I ... I ... I said give the wallet over," the
kid sputtered, waving a gun in the man's general direction.
a word, Control pulled his wallet out and looked straight at the kid; cold, hard
blue eyes meeting frightened, uncertain hazel ones.
Shaking, the adolescent
stepped forward to take the offering. With lightening speed, Control dropped his
wallet on the ground and grabbed the boy. One hand clamped on his shoulder and
the other had a viselike grip on the would be shooter's gun wrist.
pressure finally forced the youngster to drop the weapon. With quick, deft movements
the child was felt down for more weapons. Pocketing a switchblade he found, the
older man grabbed the boy by the shoulders and glared at him.
lucky day, son. I have neither the time nor the inclination right now to run you
in. Think of this as your get out of jail free chance. Now, I suggest that you
go home and forget about a life of crime," he instructed, giving the boy an extra
shake for good measure before letting go.
Released, the youngster turned
and ran. Maybe flipping burgers or stocking shelves wasn't such a bad way to get
money after all. At least he would live to spend it.
Control looked after
him and shook his head as he retrieved his wallet from the ground, hopefully the
boy had been scared straight.
"You made it!" A thin young man said, grabbing
the spy by the arm in his excitement.
"Yes I did," the spy responded, very
pointedly removing the other man's hands as they stepped further into the alley.
I didn't mean to offend you," the smaller man gushed.
"Willus, just give
me the information," Control instructed. Will was a good kid, but very, very excitable.
I was going on my morning mail run, like I do every morning, see," the younger
man began practically vibrating in his excitement.
Control sighed and leaned
against the only clean spot on the building. Obviously it was going to take a
while here, but you couldn't really rush Willus or he only got more wound up.
was outside his office and heard him and his secretary talkin'. They had given
someone some pictures and stuff with you and Miss Berry. They were talking like
you two were doing something wrong. I figure that as long as you can still work
together if you're friends outside work, that's between the two of you," the office
boy stated, shaking his head at the big deal being made of two co-workers being
friends. And if they were something more than friends, then that was a personal
Control sighed again, so Marc was the one behind this whole mess.
They had actually come in at about the same time. Control, however, had gotten
the commendations, and the promotions, and eventually the position that Marc had
wanted. They had both started as field agents, but while Control had proven inventive,
intelligent and resourceful, and if necessary devious and ruthless, Marc tended
to get lost if he didn't have specific instructions on how to deal with something.
Needless to say, Marc had been out of field operations fairly quickly.
you hear anything about the difficulties Miss Berry is in?" the spy asked.
Wilson was saying that the only way China would get to the trial was in handcuffs
and if she did make it she would only look like the slut she was," the informant
said. "Those were her words, sir, I would never think of Miss Berry like that."
"I know you wouldn't Will," Control assured the younger man. China liked
the young office worker and he worshiped her.
"She's not going to end up
in jail is she?" Willus asked uncertainly.
"No, she isn't and I'll do everything
possible to see to it that her reputation doesn't get smeared as well," Control
responded, glad that his secretary was so popular.
"Let Robert know if
you have anything more for me," Control instructed, paying the man his bonus.
you, sir," the man blinked at the amount, the man was generous as always, but
this was over the top even for him; evidently he really wanted that information.
how's you grandmother doing?" Control asked as he was leaving.
thank you," the youngster gawked at his superior. He had only mentioned his grandmother
being sick once and that was weeks ago.
Control nodded that he was glad
"Jojo, would you please be quiet," China mumbled, rolling over.
the dog did not quiet as told, she glance blearily at the alarm clock that she
had not set since she was on suspension until both her own difficulties and Control's
were dealt with. Hopefully, in her case that would not require a jail term. Seeing
the time, she bolted upright and looked again. No wonder the dog was barking and
whining it was almost ten in the morning!
"Hang on there, Tuta, I'll have
you out in a jiffy," she said ruffling the old dog's ears as she got up.
through her morning rituals, the woman tried to remember when the last time was
that she had overslept. Actually she wasn't even certain what her alarm sounded
like since she usually got up before it went off. It had felt good to sleep soundly,
something she had not been able to do since the mess began.
she recollected that yesterday Kermit had been given the task of watching her.
Going over to her window and looking out she saw the company men but no one else.
That did not, however, mean that they were not there. If yesterday was any indication.
Kermit was a pro and would not be seen by the person he was watching unless, like
yesterday, he chose to be. Blake struck her as being equally competent.
warm tongue in her hand and a high-pitched whine brought her back to reality.
"Okay, a quick check in with Paul and we're on our way," she assured the
animal as they left the apartment.
Crossing the hall she knocked on the
"Hello China, and no I'm afraid he's not back," Paul sympathized
as he opened the door and saw a slight deflation in her expression.
was kind of hoping he was," she admitted. "I just wanted to thank you for a nice
evening yesterday and ask if I could go out on my own now or if I was supposed
to wait for Kermit or Blake to go with me?"
"Well, it would be better
if you stay in, but I do understand the need to be out and about," he told her,
hoping she wouldn't mind. There was nothing as difficult as protecting someone
who did not want to be guarded.
"No, I don't mind, but Jojo is desperate
to get out so if I could go out for a bit this morning?" China requested.
you two have any particular route or were you just going to see where you ended
up?" Paul asked
"Well, believe it or not I'm actually hungry this morning
so I was going to go by Sweet Treat Bakery on 103 and Arrow, and get a bagel and
then wander central park for a bit while Jojo and I had our treat."
just be careful, Blake will be following you as well, once you get to the bakery,"
he agreed. "Listen, would it be okay if Kermit adjusted something on the security
system while you're out? If you would prefer he wait until you're home, he certainly
"That's fine, does he need a key?" China offered.
some years since any lock has slowed Kermit down," Paul chuckled, thinking about
his friend's talent for being everywhere he was not supposed to be and hearing
things he was not supposed to know.
"Um, one last thing. Do you think
it would be all right if I were to go to early mass tomorrow?" China asked, not
wanting to be troublesome.
"Certainly, I'll have Kermit go with you,"
Paul smiled thinking of the mercenary sitting in a church.
I'm kind of surprised Blake isn't the one coming. He looks more the type," she
"Blake is more of a churchgoer than Kermit, but Blake's very
angry with God at the moment over his wife, Mary, being killed," the man explained.
understand, I remember going through that when my mother died," China answered
"It's never easy losing loved ones," Paul agreed quietly, remembering
his own first wife's death. Theirs had not been a strong marriage, but he had
still grieved over her loss.
Finally, having lost patience and really needing
to go, the old dog pulled his mistress towards the elevator.
and waving goodbyes, the two humans parted ways.
An hour and a half later,
the walk and treat over, the dog and his mistress returned with her carrying the
new puppy. Blake had been kind enough to give her a ride to the vet's to pick
the poor thing up. China had nursed sick animals before, so the vet had released
the pup to her early.
She paused outside her apartment door, hearing...singing?
Unlocking and opening the door, she walked in and stood dumbfounded. Kermit, both
Griffin and her parrot were singing. Together. In two-part harmony. And it sounded
surprisingly good. She had never heard `It's Not Easy Being Green' done better.
"Bravo!" She applauded when they were done.
Smiling, Kermit got
up from the chair where he was fussing with her kitchen radio and bowed. "I got
the security system adjusted and noticed that your radio wasn't working very well,
so I was just tweaking it a bit."
"Thanks, it'll be nice having it work
right for a change."
Kermit didn't blush, but he did smile a bit shyly.
He liked China, though she was obviously taken and he had a lady friend at home
wearing an engagement ring. Tina didn't often tell him thank you for fixing her
things; it was nice to hear. Whoever her man was he was lucky to have her.
see Rocky's still with us," he commented seeing that while the Pit Bull type puppy
was still alive; he was not looking in the best of health.
it seems he is a she, so now I need a girl name for Petey," China explained while
getting the injured animal settled in on a warm blanket in the corner with newspapers
about in case she had an accident.
"Amazon?" Kermit suggested, gathering
up the tools he had been using on the now fixed radio.
She chuckled at
the playful suggestion, and made a swat at her companion as he passed into the
bedroom where his toolbox was.
Responding to a knock, China went to answer
"Ni hao," China said brightly opening the door.
clean-cut young man facing her, looked a bit lost. " Ma'am? Uh, do you speak,
I mean they didn't mention.... This is not going well," he finally groaned.
I speak English quite well, thank you. Who are they?" China inquired, not letting
"Sorry, Police ma'am," the man said pulling out a wallet and holing
a badge up for her to see.
"Please come in," She smiled, feeling bad that
she had flustered the detective.
"Oh, um, thanks," the visitor answered
uncertainly as he entered.
"What can I do for you, detective...?" She asked,
trying to put him at ease.
"Cool, ma'am, detective Joe Cool. I was looking
for Miss China Berry."
She goggled at him; Joe Cool certainly did not fit
this nervous and uncertain man. "I'm China Berry, detective; can I assume this
is about either my stolen car or the drug charges against me?"
I mean...well," he began, flushing.
"Is this about the car or the drug
charges?" Kermit asked, joining them from the other room.
"Oh, sir, uh
mister, I didn't know you were married ma'am," the kid sputtered.
is Kermit Griffin, a friend of mine, I would like to know the answer to his question,"
China asked, gently.
"His question? Oh, yeah, it's about the both actually,"
he smiled, relived to have finally said something nearly intelligent.
let start with my stolen car. Have you found it?" China asked, taking a deep breath,
this guy was almost in Will's category.
"Sort of...." the detective hesitated.
like being a little bit pregnant either you have found it or you haven't," China
"We found part of it," the officer told her apologetically.
She sighed, she had liked that car. Michael had given it to her as a graduation
present when she had completed her Masters program. Her old but mostly functioning
Chevy had needed to be replaced, and on graduation day she had gone out to start
her car and instead of a blue sedan there was a white Mercedes convertible like
her uncle's. She had driven his a few times and commented on liking the ride,
so he had gotten her one of her own, and now someone had not only stolen the vehicle
but had chopped it up for parts!
"I'm very sorry, ma'am," Joe said when
there was no response from the woman.
"It's all right," she said.
about the drug charges?" Kermit asked as amiably as he could. Evidently this kid
was a bit bewildered, so scaring him would not get the answers any faster.
basically, ma'am, we got some fingerprints off the bag. Now there are these patterns
called whorls on your fingertips..." The newcomer eagerly began his lecture on
"Detective..."China interrupted after ten minutes of hearing
more about fingerprints than she ever really wanted to know.
"Can we assume
that you found some unique prints on the bag then, and that they don't match China`s?"
"Oh, sorry, right. We found some prints on the inside of
the bag, we don't know whose they are, but they are not yours," he assured her.
I'm not a suspect any more?" She asked, relieved.
"No, the charges have
been dropped and you're free to go now, although, if you have a moment, I would
like to ask you a few questions?"
"Okay, I already answered a lot of questions
but if this is going to help, I'll answer some more," she responded, indicating
Seeing the intense dark haired man sit next to her, the detective
pointedly sat across from them.
"The drugs were found in the bottom drawer
of your desk, correct?" He began.
"Yes, they were, and no, I do not know
who put them there," China snapped, having answered that a million times by now,
"Right, would you have any idea who might have had access to
that office?" He asked, ignoring her irritation.
"Security and maintenance
both have keys to every office. My boss and I both have keys to the inner and
outer office. Other than that, the office is locked at all times. No one could
have snuck in there unobserved."
"All right, when was the last time you
were in that drawer?" The detective asked, relaxing as he went along.
few weeks probably, I don't go in there a lot. It's kind of a stashing place for
things I don't have any other place for," she explained.
"So the package
might have been in there for a few weeks?" He asked, jotting this down. This was
at least something.
"Yes, I suppose it might have been," she answered slowly;
to be honest she had never thought of that angle.
"Okay, one last question
here, do you know of anyone at all that might try and frame you?" He asked, watching
Kermit and China on the couch.
Even though she had answered this question
before, as well, China stopped and gave it some thought.
"No, I can't think
of anyone who would want to set me up," China sighed at last.
point it's our belief that you are being framed," Detective Cool informed her.
du nicht!" China muttered.
Kermit, seeing that China was at the end of
her patience, wisely ushered the nice detective towards the door.
remember or think of anything that might help, please call us," Joe instructed
her, handling her a card as Kermit almost shoved him out the door.
you," China whispered, as she tickled the whining Jojo's ears.
have been of service," Kermit answered with a flourishing bow.
least the charges being dropped solves one problem," she sighed. "I just wish
I could figure out who was behind it and why."
"Maybe looking at what,
when and how can help you figure out the who and why," he suggested.
what is easy enough, whoever it was put drugs in my bottom desk drawer. When is
an unknown and how is as well since I work in a secure office in a secure building,"
China grumbled in response.
"Can you remember the last time you were in
that drawer after something?" Kermit asked, helpfully.
"I haven't a clue,"
she snarled in frustration. Shaking her head, she sighed and said, "I'm sorry
Kermit, I didn't mean to take my bad temper out on you, it's just very frustrating
to not be able to remember things that could help."
"Not a problem, I
know what it is to need answers and not have any," Kermit answered, understanding
in his voice. Nothing was more infuriating than possibly having an answer, but
not being able to remember what it was that you wanted to remember.
was a rap on the door that had just been closed. The secretary and the mercenary
groaned in two-part harmony.
"Apa" she called out loudly.
that was an invitation to enter," an older woman in a nun's habit said, entering.
Maggie, looks like you have something for me there," China smiled, seeing the
load in the woman's arms.
"These clothes were donated to the shelter and
will be wonderful with a little repair work done. Who's your friend?" The nun
asked, intrigued at seeing a strange man in her friend's apartment.
Griffin, Sister Margaret Elizabeth, Maggie this is Kermit Griffin, a friend of
mine," China made the introduction as the two shook hands.
"I should be
able to get to those in the next few days, is there anything else I can do to
help?" China asked, taking the bag and setting it in the half-done spare room
where her sewing machine resided. Someday it would get done; she and Control had
been working on it almost as long as she had lived here.
"We could use
four more stuffed animals I'm afraid," the sister sighed. "And if you can, I don't
know enough about sewing to know how difficult this might be, but one of the older
girls in the orphanage has been asked to the prom and doesn't have a gown," the
sister asked uncertainly. China was her friend and always willing to lend a hand
but she was hesitant to ask too much of her.
"Have her come by and we can
see about getting her measurements and seeing what kind of dress she would like.
Once I know that I'll know how difficult it would be to do from here," the younger
"Bless you," Maggie beamed at her former student. "Oh,
we found some old things of yours and were wondering if you would mind if we put
them in the art fair?"
China snorted derisively. "Nothing I did would be
good enough to sell, but if you want to hurt people's eyes by putting them out,
then by all means."
"Your stained glass projects were very nice and won't
hurt anyone's eyes," Maggie assured her while getting a quick hug and hurrying
on her way.
"Animals? Stained glass?" Kermit asked in a confused tone.
use to stay in the school late and work on stained glass projects when things
were bad at home. Sister Maggie was one of the teachers, so knew about my art
"And the animals?" Kermit asked cautiously.
an abuse shelter as well as an orphanage. Each new child in either situation gets
a stuffed animal. They evidently have four new ones, so are needing animals for
them. The clothes are donations that are missing a button or have some small flaw
that I can easily fix and are then used for the needy at the shelter," China explained.
you help with all of this?" Kermit asked, amazed. He had a feeling her job did
not leave her a lot of free time.
"I help out with things that can be done
from home and are not immediate needs," she shrugged. It had never seemed odd
to her that she had gotten involved in charity activities that her church operated.
She had far more than she needed and she remembered what it was like when she
had spent the night cold, hungry and in the rain camped out on her uncle's doorstep
waiting for him to get home. Luckily for her the wait had only been a few hours,
but it had given her a small taste of what it would be like to be hungry and homeless.
If I am ever going to be needy I know where to go to do it," Kermit smiled as
he prepared to leave.
"Just give me a call and I'll make certain you get
help," China chuckled.
"Oh, yeah," Kermit agreed as he headed towards the
door. "Listen, this is my answering service number, give me a call if you ever
"Mahalo," China smiled, while seeing him out.
China, glad I caught you! I was wondering if you had any suggestions on where
I might be able to go today? The watchers are in need of a little exercise," Paul
grinned at her from Control's apartment door.
"Well, there's an art fair
one of the local churches is putting on," she suggested and then mentioned a few
other things. There was always something going on in New York.
streak dashed from behind the mercenary and into the secretary's apartment.
Paul shouted at the cat as he followed her into China's home, looking very embarrassed
China stood aside to let him pass, she hadn't even known
Control had a cat. If he was going to have a pet though, an independent one like
a cat with attitude was certainly fitting for the man.
The cat had dashed
over to the hurt puppy that was just starting to wake, and mewing quietly. Curling
up next to the baby, she began tongue bathing him and purring. The youngster instantly
stopped her whimpering and curled herself as tightly around the cat as she could.
Still purring, Isis rearranged the blankets into her idea of a good nest. She
then proceeded to continue licking the puppy that was now attempting to nurse
from the cat, who was evidently agreeable, as she was not moving away and was
in fact rearranging herself to make things easier for her new baby.
Paul reached down to get the feline, he was met with a snarling hissing cat and
a crying puppy. Evidently they were not willing to be separated.
keep her here for a few days if she is that determined to stay with Kissa," China
offered, seeing Paul trying to figure out how to resolve this without getting
"You're certain you wouldn't mind?" He asked, knowing how
many animals already resided over here.
"Considering I already have three
parrots and two dogs, one cat will not be a great difficulty," she assured him.
get her things, then," Paul smiled, and suited action to words.
exercising your watchers," China chuckled as Paul prepared to leave, having gotten
the last of Isis few things over.
"I will. You're staying in today, right?"
He asked, wanting to double check she was not going to be out and about without
one of the guys following.
"Yep, I have some thinking to do and the church
has some sewing it needs done," she answered, feeling the niggle of something
in the back of her mind.
"Okay, If you decide to go out, knock on Control's
door and one of the guys will be there," Paul instructed her.
she gave him a sharp salute. "Sir, yes, sir."
Giving a rumbling chuckle,
he saluted her back and left.
China got up slowly, stretching her long limbs
as she arose. Sitting next to her on the couch were three bears and two dogs.
A trio of cats would be joining them soon. There was something sitting in her
brain just out of reach, but for all her thinking as she had made these stuffed
friends for the children, it had not come to her. Something told her that it was
important that she catch whatever that fluttering bug in the brain was.
so should I go to the store for more fiber filling, or leave that for a better
time and do the mending on the clothes donated?" China asked the apartment.
only answer was the purring cat that was once more licking the hurt puppy, a contented
sigh from Kissa, and a snore from sleeping Jojo. Rhett and Kermit were too busy
preening one another to answer, and Dusty was sleeping at the moment.
since you guys obviously have such strong feelings about this I'll stay in and
do the mending," she chuckled to the small zoo that resided with her.
her sewing kit was already out, she merely retrieved the bag of mending from the
spare room. Settling herself on the couch once more, she reached for the first
item, a man's dress shirt missing a button. Swearing long and imaginatively under
her breath, she dropped the shirt, and remembered what it was that she had been
almost getting all afternoon.
Two months earlier
"Oyabun, you lost a
button on your collar, if you have a moment I would be happy to fix it," China
offered, seeing him returning from an errand he had chosen not to tell her about.
senior spy felt his collar and, sure enough, the button was gone. He groaned.
He had a meeting to get to with a committee member who was a stickler for appearance
and if he looked less than immaculate he would not get what he was after.
would be saving my life once more my dear, as Mr. Jansen is not forgiving of sloppy
appearances," he smiled.
"No, the head of the committee is not known for
that, from what I hear," she chuckled, reaching into her bottom drawer and pulling
out a small sewing kit.
"Good thing I was wearing an undershirt today,"
Control grinned a few moments later as she handed him back his mended shirt.
I'll have better luck next time," China responded wagging her eyebrows at him
as she turned to leave.
Robert McCall did a double take as he passed the
closed office door. He could have sworn he heard Control laughing. To his knowledge
Control didn't know how to laugh, at least not unless you meant the harsh, humorless
A yelp and scuffling sounds followed.
"Oh, really, tell me
he is not carrying on with that child here!" Robert growled as he reached for
"Did you need something?" Control asked, buttoning his shirt
as he entered the outer portion of his office.
Just past the taller man
Robert could see the young woman lying on the couch in her boss's inner office.
your secretary Control? Isn't that just a bit trite?" Robert growled angrily.
The very idea that his supervisor would be taking advantage of that nice sweet
young lady was infuriating!
"Robert, if you think for one moment..." Control
snarled menacingly while advancing slowly towards his top agent.
came a soft voice at the door to the inner office. "You need to get going to that
meeting. I'll clear things up with Robert."
"What on earth happened to
you?" Robert asked, staring at her after Control had reluctantly left them for
"Control lost a button on his shirt and I replaced it. I was
returning to my own desk when I slipped and smacked my head on his desk. He had
me lie down on his couch until the momentary dizziness passed and my stomach was
back where it belonged," China explained, holding the ice bag on her head.
am sorry, I saw..." he began
"You saw him leaving his office buttoning
his shirt while I was lying on the couch and jumped to the worst possible conclusion.
Did it not occur to you to ask what was going on?" She inquired; sounding half-disappointed
and half annoyed with him.
"Quite right, I should have asked; though you
must admit things did appear somewhat suspicious," Robert answered, properly chastised.
however, you are an intelligent man who knows both Control and me well enough
to see beyond appearances, if you'd think for half a moment."
at her, clearly ashamed. "You have my sincerest apologies, China."
while I thank you for your apology to me, I'm not the one you insulted," China
Robert was a nice man, and she really did like him,
but there were times when the way he talked to Control made her want to scream
in frustration. Sometimes she wondered if Robert didn't yell at Control when he
in fact wanted to yell at the company and all the things it stood for.
nodded his understanding and left.
"Okay I've got my starting
place, now to figure out what direction to go in from there," she mumbled to herself,
as dinner bowls were filled and the parrots were returned to their cages.
China shouted, returning to the main room to see that the puppy had claimed one
of the stuffed animals from the couch as her own and was happily chewing on it
from the safety of her blanket bed.
"All right, fine, you can keep that
one since I admit that I don't have puppy toys here. But don't make a habit of
snatching things off the couch like that, I'll get some chewy toys directly,"
China promised the quivering puppy who was cringing in the corner at her mistress's
Crisis averted, both dogs were leashed for an outing. It
was a quick trip, since the Pit Bull was still not up to much walking.
had so often happened the last few days, when she got home there was a tall dark
haired, blue eyed man leaning in the doorway across the hall from her own door.
This one, however, looked at her differently than the one of the last few days
"Exspectata domus," she smiled.
For once in his life, a man
who was surprised by almost nothing and able to handle any situation, didn't have
a clue what he should say or do. Of all his concerns while he was gone, the one
that had been on his mind constantly was if China was all right.
over to her, he tilted her head up with his hand and looked in her deep chocolate
eyes. Those eyes had been haunting him ever since he had left. He had missed her
more than he would have thought possible, considering it had only been four days
since they last saw one another.
He understood just enough Latin from
his high school days to know she had welcomed him home. Smiling at her, he lowered
his head just a bit, and pulling her against him, he kissed her. He buried his
face in her hair, tasting her on his lips and drinking in the scent that was unique
to her. His hands gliding up and down her back assured him that he really was
back and she really was in his arms. A distant part of his brain registered the
plopping of two leashes hitting the floor just as his embrace and searing kiss
was returned with equal fervor.
"Mahal kita," China whispered, leaning
breathlessly against the wall. She was, to the best of her knowledge, a puddle
of goo on the floor and it was all her boss's fault. The kiss had heated her face
and gone to her toes, melting everything its path and leaving her in a puddle.
He certainly did have a wonderful way of returning her welcome wishes.
I get a translation on that?" He asked with a rumbling chuckle.
like that again and you can," She offered, giggling in what sounded to her like
a fair imitation of a giddy schoolgirl. It was sooo embarrassing!
Control very happily complied, much to her delight.
"China?" He asked,
as she turned from him after their second and longer, if not as intense, kiss.
she turned back, the fire in her eyes this time had nothing whatsoever to do with
love. He braced himself for a storm.
"Don't leave like that again without
warning, I was worried sick!" She growled, smacking him lightly on the arm.
sorry you were worried," he apologized, pointedly not promising that he would
never do it again.
"I think I might have figured something out, so why
don't you come over for dinner after you get settled," she offered, satisfied,
evidently, with his apology.
"That sound's wonderful," he agreed, eagerly
anticipating her news.
"I think I may have a starting point on finding out
who set me up!" China blurted to him the second he was in her apartment. The drapes
had been drawn against the watchers, so it was safe for them to meet.
me," Control instructed, taking a seat in the kitchen as China began pulling things
out of the refrigerator. While he didn't mind cooking at all and would have been
happy to help, he had found out the hard way once that when China was cooking
to burn off excess emotion, it was best not to try and help.
time I was in that bottom drawer was the time I fixed that button for you. So,
whoever set me up has been in my office since then," she reported.
so who would have had access since then?" He asked, loving to see the wheels in
her mind turning. He had missed her intelligence and unique way of seeing things
while he had been gone.
"As far as I know, no one, but then I remembered
that I had been gone for that week visiting Michael."
"Janice filled in
for you that week," he informed her. If she was already suspecting Janice, he
would not tell what he knew.
"She's my friend; she wouldn't do that!" China
snapped, glaring at him. "Who else had access while I was gone?"
one other person had access while you were gone," he answered reasonably.
that must be who it is!" She sighed with relief.
"I promise it was not
me, China; I would never do that to you."
"Of course it wasn't you! I never...."
She stopped mid-sentence.
Silence reigned as she banged pots and pan about.
Control knew better than to interrupt, betrayal by a friend was hard to accept
and that was what it looked like had happened. When it hit, it was going to hurt
and he would be there for her.
"Where did you get the puppy?" He asked
after a few moments.
"At the stable, Kissa was used as a bait dog and abandoned
or ran away near there," China answered absently.
"Kissa? The way she's
being mothered by Isis she's more of a Kitty," he chuckled.
close, Kissa is Finnish for cat," China answered, chopping up something with more
energy than was required for the task.
"What are you making?" He asked,
looking over at the counter.
"Satay, and Nasi Lemak," she replied.
tasty and certainly looks good."
"Thanks, could you set the table and pick
a wine?" She asked.
"Happy to, where might I find wine?"
to a cabinet behind her.
"You have some very nice bottles here," Control
"Thank you. Living with Michael, I developed a rather discriminating
palate, I'm afraid."
"Now I know what to get you for Christmas," he said
"Pick a bottle, don't stand there drooling over the selection.
Now, what are you going to get me?" China asked only half her mind on the beverage.
wine rack and a proper cooler for these," he responded easily.
as it doesn't cost me counter space," she growled.
really think that Janice was the one who set me up?" China asked a few minutes
after they sat down to eat.
"As Arthur Conan Doyle said `When the impossible
is eliminated, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,'"
you be as quick to believe this about one of your own trusted friends?" She asked,
"Quicker," Control answered without hesitation.
her utensils down, she stared at him.
"You honestly believe that, say,
Robert, would set you up?" She asked, amazed.
"Depending on the circumstances,
yes he would."
"Robert is one of your oldest and closest friends, he would
never hurt you," she countered, amazed that she was having to defend the Brit.
dear, let me assure you, if Robert felt he needed to set me up for some reason,
he would do so," Control snorted.
"And Paul?" If Control trusted anyone
it would be his brother and cousin.
"I suppose, again, if the situation
was dire enough, he might, but it would have to be pretty extreme for him to do
that," Control answered, chewing thoughtfully. He had never thought about Paul
in those terms.
"There's no one you trust not to ever betray you?" China
asked sadly after a few moments silence.
"That depends on what you mean
by betray. If Paul or McCall set me up, I would trust that they had a plan to
get me out of the situation and that the reason behind it was a very good one.
If you set me up I would be looking to see who had used you and why. In none of
those cases would I think of it as betrayal."
"I would never set you up!"
"No, you would never intentionally set me up, but you might
be tricked into doing something that would be part of a plan by someone else to
set me up," he responded quickly.
"I'm not that stupid or gullible," she
"You are neither of those things," he agreed. "But you are trusting
and innocent, and in some ways rather naive."
China thought about that
for a moment while she ate.
"Yes, I suppose I can be that way, but I couldn't
live, mistrusting everyone and convinced that any or all of my friends might stab
me in the back," she responded finally.
"For that, I am very thankful,"
Control answered quickly, taking her hand.
"Why, though, why would Janice
want to hurt me? She has no reason to do that," China asked, returning to the
original question in her mind.
"I don't know, and maybe she isn't behind
it, what I'm saying is that she almost certainly knows something about it," Control
"So one way or another, she's involved," China conceded, having
accepted the reality.
"It might not be intentional on her part, I certainly
hope it's a case of her being a pawn," Control sympathized. "But you also need
to be open to the idea that for some reason or another she might have done this."
be open about it, but I really think she must not have known what was going on,
"That's all I'm asking," he said.
"So, did you get
any answers on your problem?" China asked, as they set the now empty dishes in
the sink and moved over to the couch.
"I'll only say that after a lot of
calls, I now believe that there is someone out there that people are more afraid
of then they are of me," Control answered after a moment's thought.
people," China smirked.
"Well, I do believe that they may be remembering
now why they were afraid of me in the first place," Control chuckled.
I would imagine you left more than a few of them dithering," China agreed, knowing
all too well the reputation Control had in the intelligence community.
would appear the possibility of my promises seems to outweigh the other persons
...threats," he smiled menacingly.
"I wish I could
call Janice and ask her about who had access to my desk," she sighed.
can't contact anyone from the office while on suspension," Control reminded her.
know; I just can't stop thinking about it."
"Maybe I can take your mind
off of it?" Control offered, reaching the hand that had been resting on the back
of the couch behind her around to massage her neck and shoulder.
she turned slightly while leaning into his hand.
"Do you have any idea
how much I missed you?" He whispered in her ear as she leaned back against the
hands working her muscles.
"Probably about as much as I missed you, but
why don't you show me?"
"My pleasure, and about your earlier comment in
the hall," he rumbled, pulling her against him for a hug.
turned her head to look at him, batting her eyes flirtatiously.
you too," he laughed at her laughing and snuggling against him.
have been set up and he might be facing sexual misconduct charges, but for right
now, the world could not be better. Tomorrow he would face when it came.
and yawning once more, China pushed the large birdcage towards the bedroom window.
It was going to be a nice sunny day so she might as well let the birds enjoy it.
Looking down on the street she saw her employer entering a company limo.
Luck, John," she wished him quietly. The tribunal was starting today and she would
be leaving for it herself, soon.
A black limo pulled up and caught her
eye as she prepared to turn away. Henry, the driver assigned to Control, had arrived
and was waiting on her. Smoothing her dress one more time, she dashed out.
Miss China, the man smiled, holding open the door and offering his hand to help
her in. Ever since that first morning they had met, he had insisted on treating
her like the 'real fine lady' he swore that she was. He was also about the only
security man Control trusted with China's safety if she was out and about on company
business, and China always relaxed a bit more if she knew Control had Henry with
him on his errands.
"Morning, Henry, I'm glad they have you driving me
today," she smiled, taking the offered hand.
"I wouldn't hear of anyone
else taking you, ma'am, and he sure wouldn't be wanting just anyone seeing to
you," Henry answered, getting into the car and pulling into traffic.
You drive other people besides just Control and me around, right?" China asked
hesitantly. She had remembered something Control had once said about the best
information sometimes coming from people that no one thought about.
the two I like driving, but I drive whoever needs me that day," he told her.
you ever driven Janice Wilson?"
"Yes, I've driven her, and Miss, I don't
like that woman one bit," he growled.
"Why don't you like her? If I may
ask?" China had not known anyone to not like Janice. Of course the times Janice
had been over to the apartment, Jojo had disliked her from the start and would
lay protectively between the two women, guarding his mistress from the other woman.
of reasons; she's really rude to people she considers beneath her. I've been driving
her off and on for five years and have yet to have her say one thing to me outside
of orders on where we're going and those are given like I'm some brain damaged
child. If we get caught in traffic or end up at the wrong place because of her
misdirecting, she yells at me something fierce. But for all the times I get her
where she wants and get her there on time I have never heard a word of thanks."
you don't like her because she's rude?" China clarified.
The driver got
"Henry? Was there something more?"
"Well, that one,
she's said some real mean things about you on occasion. I don't mean to cause
trouble for anyone, so I haven't said anything," Henry blushed. He never had been
easy with that choice, but if it was only office gossip there was no need to spread
"It's all right, Henry, no damage done; I was just wondering what you
thought of her," China assured him.
"She's sly and kind of oily, if you
ask me. Come to think of it, she's been asking some about you two lately," the
China sighed. Point to Control, Janice did seem to be behind
the drugs in her desk. "Thanks, Henry."
"Is she the cause of all this trouble
you two have been having?" He asked looking back at her as he parked.
might be involved, we aren't certain," China answered absentmindedly as she saw
Michael and Marella head into the office building.
"What are they doing
here?" She asked.
"That's Mr. Coldsmith-Briggs the third and his assistant
Miss Marella Fortier," Henry informed her.
"I know them; I just wonder
what they're doing here?" She asked, getting a sinking feeling in her stomach.
were brought in as witnesses against Mr. Control."
"No, Henry, they're
here as witness against me," she replied coldly and offered her thoughts on the
situation as colorfully as she could.
"Ma'am?" Henry asked worriedly. Her
last few words had been a language he didn't know but he was certain he did not
want them translated.
Before she could answer, China's escort arrived to
lead her into the building.
"Pahintulutan ang laro simulan," she mumbled
following her guard.
"Repeat that in English!" The guard snapped at her.
was merely thanking you for your assistance," the mulatto secretary answered.
guard glared and shoved her forward, causing her to fall.
"Get up, we haven't
got all day," he snapped as she got back on her feet.
"Hey! There's no
reason to go manhandling her like that!" Henry barked, stepping away from the
car and towards his passenger and her escort.
"You stay out of this, you
brought her here and that's all you're paid to do," the guard snapped turning
China tried not to laugh at the guard. Unless Henry stepped
away from the car, you had not idea just how massive the man was. Her escort had
stupidly discounted the soft spoken man because of his polite manners and lack
of height. He was now seeing that the southern driver, while a few inches shorter
than the potbellied security man, was about fifty pounds heavier and none of it
was fat. As the driver came forward, the guard backed slowly away. There was no
way he wanted to tangle with this human Mastiff.
"Miss China, are you
all right?" Henry asked, once more all southern gentility.
"I'm fine Henry,
just a little scraped up," she assured him.
"Don't you be giving her any
more trouble," the man known to his family as bear growled to the guard before
returning to the car.
Limping slightly, China followed the glaring escort.
Once in her seclusion room she could get cleaned up while waiting for them to
Control sat at the defense table waiting for the circus to start.
Too bad he was only going to be able to see one ring at a time. At least from
his seat as the accused he would be able to hear all the testimonies. Marc Lewis
was sitting by the door, so Catherine must have come through and gotten him in
as a spectator. The man had probably come here to see him fall. Too bad Control
was not the obliging type.
"All rise," A bailiff called out as three judges
entered the room. All the people in the room rose.
"Prosecution and defense,
are you prepared to start these proceedings?" Christine Straham, the middle and
senior judge called out, taking a seat between the two men who were also presiding
over the case.
Both attorneys replied in the affirmative.
Control, how do you plead to the charges of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct,
and conduct unbecoming?" the speaking judge asked.
"Innocent you honor,"
Control answered confidently.
"In that case, be seated and we'll begin
the case," she instructed the room.
"Please call Janice Wilson to the stand,"
Ellen Maylonas, the frosted blond woman who was prosecuting, requested.
Control thought, evil Ellen, just the prosecutor this case needs.
haired woman about China's age entered and was led to the stand.
name and position?" The bailiff asked.
"Janice Wilson, and I'm secretary
to Marc Lewis," she answered.
Watching her sworn in, Control wondered what
the reasoning behind these charges was.
"Miss Wilson, what has the defendant
done that has led to you making these charges against him?" Ellen asked.
words and looks, touching me... inappropriately," she answered quietly, chewing
on her lower lip.
Control raised a bushy eyebrow at the secretary. As far
as he knew he had done none of those things. He had treated her with the same
courtesy and respect that he treated all women with.
"Can you give me
a specific example?" The prosecutor asked.
"He grabbed me once .... and
touched me where he had no business touching me," Janice sniffed.
would rather I had let her fall?" Control mumbled under his breath.
grabbed her to stop her from falling?" his lawyer asked, leaning closer.
Control confirmed quietly.
"Are there any other examples of his behavior?"
Ellen asked, sweetly.
"He's followed me out to my car a couple of times,"
Janice answered hesitantly.
The judges whispered conference with one another.
me guess, you were walking her to her car after hours?" Darren Randall, asked
The wiry little lawyer jotted that down
with his other notes.
"So he grabbed you and follows you; does he do anything
"He made a lewd comment about my dress once," she answered, glaring
at the spy.
"I see, at any other time did he treat you in any way that
was demeaning or disrespectful?"
"He yelled at me repeatedly when I have
worked for him, using the most foul language," the secretary answered.
were the times you had already mentioned to me?" Darren asked the spook quietly.
Control hissed under his breath.
"No more questions, your honors," Ellen
stated, sitting down.
"Your witness, Mr. Randall," the middle judge announced.
small man smiled at his client and arose.
"Miss Wilson, was there a reason
that my client grabbed you when he did? I remind you that you are under oath,"
he asked, in his nasal voice.
"Well, I, suppose that he probably had a
reason of some kind," she stammered.
"Do you have any idea what that reason
might have been?" He asked.
"He never mentioned any reason for it to me."
Control gave a snort of disgust. She knew very well why he had grabbed
"Weren't you in front of a staircase and about to fall?" he asked.
Leading the witness!" Ellen snapped.
"Overruled, please answer the question
Miss Wilson," the middle judge responded.
"Yes," Janice replied quietly.
more the judges whispered in consultation among themselves. The senior judge scowled
at the secretary.
"So by grabbing you he prevented you from taking a bad
fall," the lawyer stated.
"He grabbed my chest and I didn't like it!" Janice
"That would be understandable. Is it possible that he was not
intentionally groping you, but rather was merely grabbing at whatever part he
could reach the easiest?" the defense council asked.
"Yes, I suppose he
could have been doing that," she agreed after a moment.
"Were there any
incidents other than that of him touching you inappropriately?" Darren asked.
"Um, can you tell about the times he followed you?" the defending
"It was always after dark and he would follow me out to my
car. It scared me a little," she responded timidly.
"How far behind you
"Not very," she admitted.
Control rolled his eyes. If
he had been any closer they would have been wearing the same skin.
I see, does that mean that he was close enough to keep you in sight, or that he
was close enough to open doors?"
The plaintiff sat silent.
was not a rhetorical question," the judge reminded her.
"He opened the
doors for me," Janice admitted.
"Did he at any time in those trips to your
car make any move to threaten or intimidate you?" the defense council inquired.
"Did he speak to you at all?"
"No, he didn't do anything that could be
thought of as threatening or intimidating," she answered.
"And did he speak
to you at all?" the lawyer repeated.
"He asked if he could walk me to my
car since it was after hours," Janice confessed.
"We should all get that
kind of harassment from the men around here," Christine, the senior judge, muttered
under her breath.
Control smirked, having caught the judge's comment. Evidently,
even a woman who was thought of as a feminist, liked having a door opened for
"You mentioned that he made a lewd comment about your
attire once?" Mr. Randall asked.
"Yes he did, it was very embarrassing
"I would imagine that it was," he answered in his squeaky
voice. "What exactly did he say?"
"He said that it looked like I had lost
a button," she replied, a bit red.
"Had you lost a button?"
I had, but he didn't need to say anything about it! I can't imagine that he would
have if one of the men working for him had lost a button," she answered indignantly.
harrumphed form his seat at the defense table. If someone lost a button and he
found it he would return it to them, it didn't really matter if it was a man or
a women, did it?
"I see, was he looking at you in an inappropriate way
when he said that?" the lawyer asked.
"No, he wasn't," she replied, biting
her lower lip.
"I'm just curious, how was he looking at you?" Darren asked.
looked me in the eye like he always does when he's speaking to me," she muttered
in a tone that was almost resentful.
Control goggled at her. She was upset
because he had follow what he had been taught as a boy was good manners in keeping
his eyes diverted from her, ah, assets.
"This guy sounds like a real terror,"
one of the judges muttered under his breath, while rolling his eyes.
believe you also mentioned that he yelled at you and used foul language when you
were temporarily assigned to him?" Darren asked.
"Yes, It was very upsetting,
and I know he doesn't talk to his own secretary that way at all," Janice sniffed
"Does your own boss ever yell at you or use less than polite
language?" the Defense lawyer asked.
"Occasionally, but not like Control
does when he's angry."
"Was Control angry with you the times he was yelling
at you?" Mr. Randall asked.
"Yes, he was," Janice admitted.
was he angry?" the lawyer asked.
"I ... um.... well....I didn't give him
a message when he came in. I forgot about it and brought it to him as soon as
I remembered it."
"So you failed to give him a message. Considering my
client's position, is it not possible, even probable, that lives and maybe even
entire countries' futures relied upon his having that information as quickly as
"Yes, it is very possible that a great deal was hanging on that
message," she agreed quietly.
"And are you certain that you are the only
person that he yells at? Is it not in fact possible that he would yell at anyone
in that situation?" The lawyer asked
"Yes, that's possible," she answered
"In fact, Control is known to be, at times, very difficult
to work for," Darren commented.
"Yes," Janice once more had to agree; the
head of field operations for the Northern Hemisphere did have a bit of a reputation.
The judges were once more whispering among themselves, and glaring at
the dark haired secretary.
"No further questions," Darren stated, taking
his seat next to Control at the defense table.
"Does either side have any
last statement or questions pertaining to these charges?" Christine, the senior
Both attorneys answered in the negative. Darren smiled reassuringly
at his client, while Ellen glared at hers.
"In that case, Prosecution you
may call the rest of your witnesses and I hope they have more to stand on then
Miss Wilson," Christine commented, giving the lawyer a penetrating stare.
smiled haughtily at the defendant. "The next witness I call is Marella Fortier."
accused worked hard to live up to his name. There was only one reason for her
to be here, and that meant that he was not really the one they were after. Marella
had no connection with him, but did with his secretary.
A slender woman
with similar coloring to China's came to the stand, dressed in pristine white.
"Your name and position please?"
"Marella Fortier, I am Assistant
Deputy Director Briggs' personal assistant," she answered.
"Tell me when
you first met Deputy Director Briggs?"
"You were one
of a number of girls that he has helped, isn't that so?" The questioning woman
"Yes," Marella responded.
"Do you know a woman named
China Berry?" The prosecutor asked.
"Yes, I do," came the hesitant answer.
and when did you meet her?"
"In 1968, I think, at the Deputy Director's
house," Marella answered carefully.
"Were you normally at his house?"
but I was in college and it was vacation week and since I didn't have anywhere
else to go he invited me to stay with him. Miss Berry was also there, so we got
to know one another," the caramel skinned woman answered with crisp professionalism.
whenever there was a vacation you were at the house?" Ellen insinuated.
I wasn't staying with friends, yes I had the option of going to stay with him."
Keep the questions on subject. I really don't see what Deputy Director Briggs
and Miss Fortier's history has to do with the charges against Control. I also
suggest that you prove the relevancy of Miss Berry's history being brought in
as well," the senior judge warned, icily.
"Thank you for saving me the
effort, your honor," Darren mumbled from his seat; relieved to see that they had
a judge who would keep the questioning halfway civil.
"Was China Berry
another street girl that he helped?" The prosecutor asked, heeding the warning
about the previous line of questioning.
"I suppose she was," the dark skinned
"You suppose? She was treated differently than the rest
Marella took a deep breath; she did not like where this was going.
"She was not like the rest of us. We were sent to boarding schools and lived there.
China lived with him at his home," Marella explained.
"So, unlike the rest
of you, China had her permanent home there with him," the lawyer asked.
the rest of us might be there for a couple of days or a week here or there but
she was the only one who lived there."
"Thank you Miss Fortier," the frosty
blond smiled. "No more questions."
"Miss Fortier," Darren said getting
up to start his cross-examination. "Did China ever give a reason that she was
living with Deputy Director Briggs?"
"She had mentioned that she had lived
with him since her parents died, so I assumed that he was a relative or friend
of her family," Marella answered after a moment of thinking back through things
China had said over the years.
"And that would be different than the other
girls he helped?" the lawyer prodded gently.
"Yes, the rest of use were
girls that he found on the street and helped out; he didn't have any connections
to our families like he did in her case," she confirmed.
"So the family
connection alone might explain why she was treated differently," Darren offered.
very well might, she always called him Uncle Michael so I assumed that he was
a close friend of her parents," the witness responded.
"What kind of relationship
did they seem to have when you were there?" the lawyer inquired.
She had to let him know where she was at all times and ask permission if she wanted
to be out for the evening. She had chores to do and in fact I remember her getting
extra chores once when I was there because she had not gotten her regular ones
"Thank you Miss Fortier, no more questions," the lawyer dismissed
Marella left the stand and the next witness was presented.
almost lost control when he saw his lady limping the few steps to the witness
stand and saw that her clothes looked less than perfect. It also looked as if
her arm was damaged in some way. He half arose from his chair as he glared hard
at her guard.
"Control! Take your seat! Miss Berry, you appear to be in
need of medical assistance, would you like to be excused until a later time?"
The middle judge addressed the witness.
"No, thank you," China answered.
she's obviously in pain!" Control said almost at the same time, knowing from the
way his secretary was avoiding bumping her arm and walking carefully, as well
as her biting on her lip, that the woman was in a world of hurt.
not asking you, Control! Her tongue is not injured and she answered just fine
for herself. Are you certain you don't wish medical assistance?" The judge asked
again, glaring at the defendant.
"I'll be fine, your Honor, I would just
like to get this over with," China answered, smiling her thanks to the judge for
"May I inquire as to what happened to you?" the judge asked,
while both of the other judges turned to give their full attention to the answer.
China blushed a bit in embarrassment. "The guard and I had a bit of a
failure to communicate, I`m afraid."
"How so?" Christine asked.
seems that he doesn't speak Tagalog, and I guess he didn't appreciate my language
lesson as we came in," China confessed.
Control sighed quietly. Of all
the times for China to get mouthy, why did she have to pick now?
Straham, as the senior judge, roared for the bailiff to retrieve the guard that
had left after delivering the witness. The other judges were growling and muttering
under their breath.
"Mr. Blatt! I would like to hear the reason that a
woman who was under your care arrived looking like she had gotten into a fight
with a revolving door!"
"I'm sorry your honor, she fell on her way in.
I offered her medical assistance but she declined." the pot-bellied guard answered,
glaring at the witness.
"Gee, I must have gone temporarily deaf," China
"I see, did she trip before or after the language lesson?" the
The guard looked at the judge in confusion.
tauhan ay a henyo!" China muttered under her breath with venom.
raised an eyebrow.
"Just expressing my amazement at his intelligence,"
China smiled innocently.
One of the other judges smirked.
Berry evidently made a comment you didn't understand, I was wondering if she had
done that before or after she, ah, tripped," the senior judge asked, bringing
the room back to order.
"Before, your honor," the man answered quietly.
He was in deep kimchee and he knew it.
"If I understood Miss Berry's earlier
comment correctly I would have to say that she was not offered medical treatment.
Is that correct Miss Berry?" the judge inquired.
"Yes, your honor, it is,"
China answered, almost seeing steam coming out of Control's ears, he was so angry.
Blatt, this is not the first time that you have used excessive force on a witness
but so help me it will be the last! I will not have witnesses slammed, shoved,
tripped, mauled or terrorized by you! There is no excuse what-so-ever for your
treatment of Miss Berry. If you didn't understand her comment, then you should
have either ignored it or asked for a translation, not sent her face first into
the sidewalk! Now get out of this courtroom!" the judge almost screamed.
your honor," he said evenly, almost making that title a curse as he turned and
"If at any point you are in need of assistance, please let
us know," the judge instructed China before signaling for the case to continue.
prosecutor began once more by confirming the name and position of the mulatto
Having calmed himself a little, Control winked at the younger woman
when no one was watching.
"When did you meet Control?" The blond woman
"In 1970, I was serving at a party he was attending."
did he single you out in any way?" The older woman asked.
"Not until after
I dumped his soup in his lap and spilled his wine on his shirt. I believe I got
his attention at that point," China answered with a straight face.
next question had to wait for the judges and defense lawyer to quit laughing.
Even Northern Control was hiding what some called a smile, behind his hand.
see, and in what way did he single you out?" the lawyer asked when peace reigned
"I injured my ankle and he saw to it that I got home," China
answered, feeling that it was best not to mention that he had also taken her out
"You were living in LA at that time with Deputy Director Michael
Coldsmith-Briggs III, isn't that correct?"
"Yes, although I don't see what
my living arrangements five years ago has to do with my relationship with my supervisor
now," China told them, all innocence.
"When did you move in with Mr. Coldmith-Briggs?"
The blond woman repeated.
"Objection!" Darren snapped standing up.
resent the implication of that question!" China snarled.
seated only because of the warning look the judge gave him and the fact that Darren
had already objected. No sense getting on her bad side, since she was no happier
than he was about that question.
"Resent it all you want, just answer it,"
the prosecutor snapped.
"I am letting the question stand. Miss Berry, answer
the question, Miss Maylonas behave yourself," the judge instructed both women.
summer of 1966," China replied.
"You lived with Mr. Coldsmith-Briggs for
a number of years," the prosecutor continued.
"Yes, he's a family member,
and I was living with him while finishing high school and attending UCLA," China
answered after a moment.
"A very good school," the lawyer commented absently.
had the option of attending Berkley, but Uncle Michael wouldn't hear of me being
loose on that campus," China grinned.
"Big surprise there," Control chuckled,
imagining the immaculate intelligence officer hovering protectively over his teenage
Christine Straham looked at the witness. China Berry was not the
proud, arrogant, haughty woman she had heard of. She was young, but poised and
confident, and intelligent. It would seem that her tribunal room was being used
to play politics. Happily, that was not a game she played.
please stay focused on the issues, I don't believe Miss Berry's education is in
question here," Judge Straham commented to the lawyer.
"Yes, your honor.
The point I wished to being up, China, is that you have a degree from a notable
school and were making a good living at an international company. In fact when
you joined the agency, you took a considerable cut in pay. I would like to know
why you would do that."
"I did it because I was bored to death sitting
in an office and translating business documents. A representative of the agency
approached me and I agreed to the interviews, and afterwards to the job," the
younger woman answered easily.
"I would imagine having Control would be
very exciting," Ellen responded, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
goggled at her, Ellen hated him and always had, but this was over the top even
"Objection!" Darren yelled, standing up once more.
I did not even know Control worked there when I joined the agency. I signed on
as a translator and was told I was not needed there so was offered a position
in the secretarial pool. On my first day I was told to report to Marc Lewis. Working
for Control was a complete surprise, and he was certainly not the reason that
I changed jobs!" China snarled.
"Enough!" The gavel banged. "Councilor
I suggest that you remember your manners," the judge snapped, losing all patience.
would like to enter these photos as evidence of the relationship between Control
and China Berry," Ellen almost glowed with pleasure as she handed the pictures
to the bailiff to be given to the judges.
"As you can see the first three
show them dinning out together socially. The next two show them together in a
social situation. The other three are random photos of them together, but all
of these pictures show them in intimate poses," Ellen continued.
looked sick, but since it was not a question, she could not comment.
may have resembled a pot about to boil over, but Control winked at her reassuringly
as he and Darren looked at the images and began conferring.
"Did you kiss
your supervisor at a dinner party last year?" The lawyer asked, turning her attention
once more to the witness.
"Yes, we did kiss at a dinner party back then,"
she answered with a sinking feeling in her stomach from the looks she was getting.
you usually kiss you boss?"
"No, not usually, but I saw someone at the
party that I didn't want to have see me and I kissed Control to avoid being seen.
It was childish and immature and I apologized to him the second I had done it,"
she answered, sighing. She really hadn't wanted that little incident to come out.
he return the kiss?" Ellen asked, sweetly.
"Yes, he did."
give you a reason that he kissed you?"
"No, but then he often doesn't
explain his actions to me. I figured that he was merely being polite and was saving
me further embarrassment by not making a scene," China shrugged indifferently.
you kissing him to avoid being seen by your ex fiance who was also there?" The
"Yes, however, it failed miserably since they were not only
at our table but seated next to us," China chuckled amusedly.
year after an incident in a bank you left town for a long weekend with Control.
Do you make a habit of going on vacations with him?" Ellen asked.
that China had not even blinked, the senior judge didn't bother complaining about
"I wasn't on vacation with him, I was visiting the parents of my friend
Paul. Control was merely nice enough to take me there and bring me home, since
I wasn't in any condition to drive," China answered easily.
of him," Ellen said dismissively.
"Earlier this year you were seen embracing
him tightly, do you have an explanation for that?" The blond continued.
I had just received an upsetting phone call and he was comforting me," China answered
Control gave her as reassuring a smile as he could and didn't care
who saw, that mess still upset her.
"A death in your family or something?"
my dog walker had sent a substitute that day and she ignored instructions that
my larger dog Oso was to be left alone and only to walk the other one. Oso was
scared of everything and everybody; she cornered him to get his leash on and he
bit her. The walker had to go to the doctor and the doctor called the authorities
about my vicious dog. The police then called me and informed me that either he
had to pass a temperament test, get a new home or he had to be put down. He could
not pass any kind of test, and I didn't know of any place that could take him,
so that only left putting him to sleep. I was upset about it and Control hugged
me and asked if it would help if he took the dog to the vet's."
in tears over a dog?" The prosecutor sneered.
"Anyone would be over the
loss of a pet like that," Darren muttered under his breath.
have slapped that woman. Oso was an open wound for his friend, who totally blamed
herself for the whole incident.
"Only a few months ago you were seen lying
on his couch while he was leaving his office putting his shirt back on. Any acceptable
reason for that I would love to hear!"
Control and his secretary groaned
"He had lost the button off his shirt and I offered to sew
on back on for him. He accepted and left the shirt on my desk where I repaired
it and then I went into his office to return the shirt and tripped, taking a header
into the corner of his desk. He had me lie down on his couch while he went to
his meeting, telling me to stay there until the dizziness passed," China answered,
grinning about it now.
"I'm certain that was all there was to it," the
China sputtered, and Darren objected loudly as the gravel
once more cracked like a whip.
"Miss Maylonas! I have lost count of the
number of times I have warned you to watch your insinuations and accusations.
You make one more comment like that and I will dismiss this entire case without
hearing the rest of it!" The judge hissed menacingly at the lawyer.
your honor," Ellen complied.
"I am finished with this witness," Ellen
"About time," one of the other judges muttered.
say a picture is worth a thousand words, let's start with the photos. I'm going
to show them to you and I want you to tell me the story behind them," Mr. Randall
instructed, handing her the photos.
China looked at them, some were actually
fairly good pictures. If they had been taken in any other situation, she would
have been asking for copies.
The first showed her and Control sitting
together in a restaurant. They were leaning in towards one another and she was
laughing about something while he was smiling at her. "That was a time that he
was needing a cover date, and asked me to go along so that he wouldn't stick out.
He had asked me what great international disaster would occur if a waiter drooped
a platter on Thanksgiving. The answer was the downfall of Turkey, the overthrow
of Greece, and the destruction of China. The answer struck me funny and I was
Every face turned to stare at the senior spy, was it possible
that the inhumane iceman had told a joke?
The next was one of them sitting
together at an outdoor table. Once more they were leaning towards one another.
While neither was laughing, they did both seem amused by something. "We were working
late and took a dinner break. We were talking about some, ah, personnel issues,"
"Gossiping?" Darren asked in his nasal voice.
might be another word for it, yes," China chuckled.
Control snorted, he
always appreciated China keeping him updated on items in the secretarial grapevine,
but he supposed one might call her updates gossiping.
The third was one
of them at her desk both grinning from ear to ear, and glowing with excitement.
"We ordered in because it was late and we were going to be there all night. If
we look unusually happy it's because we had just gotten word that two operatives
thought dead were alive and needing a way home." That was the first time she had
realized just how human and compassionate her boss was. She knew he worried about
her and Robert and other agents that he had come up through the ranks with, but
that was the first time she remembered him worried sick about agents he barely
knew, simply because they were his.
"A cause for celebration I'm certain,"
the lawyer smiled.
"As for these other of us together, in the one where
we are walking close together and he has an arm around me, we were sharing an
umbrella. It went up thirty seconds after this was taken. This one of him scowling
and my arm around him was a time when he had found out that three agents were
incommunicado with bad intelligence and he was waiting to find out if they were
alive or not. I was not being romantic, I was trying to offer him some support,"
China explained. No need to tell them that it was Robert and two rookies on their
first assignment that were caught there. Two of the three agents came out alive
and the man who provided the bad report was now a window washer somewhere, she
vaguely remembered hearing.
"I'm certain the other three have equally acceptable
explanations," Darren encouraged.
"Yes in the one with my reaching up to
dab at his face, we had gone across the street to the park for a hot dog as a
fast lunch, he had some mustard on his face and I was getting it off for him.
His hand was on my back during the second one because there was an ice patch and
he didn't want me to fall. The last one where I've got an arm around him, he had
the flu and I was helping him to the car and home," China said handing the photos
"All those photos of this great romance are really nothing more than
evidence of two people being friends," the lawyer summed up.
prosecution was kind enough to bring it up, what is your relationship with Deputy
Director Briggs?" Darren asked, even though he knew the answer.
family member, I was with him when my mother died and he was made my guardian,"
"So he took over the role of your parent?" Darren inquired.
that was why I was living with him," China answered, opting not to go into all
of the details about her parents.
"Other than the time mentioned, have
you ever kissed your boss?" the lawyer asked.
Control bit the inside of
"Once, he had been gone with no warning and I was so happy to
see him alive and well that I kissed him," she explained nonchalantly.
than the time that you were grieving the eminent death of a beloved pet, have
you ever embraced Control?" Darren asked.
"The time I just told about I
hugged him as well," she admitted.
"So all displays of affection were done
in times of high emotion, but never with love or lust as the prominent emotion,"
the lawyer said in understanding.
"How was it that you and Control were
both gone over a long weekend at the same time after you were used as a bank hostage?"
"I was in shock and he knew about Paul's so he took me
out there to recover and visited his own family or friends that lived in the same
general area," she responded.
"So basically he saw to your care like he
would to any of his other agents?"
"Yes," she answered.
you," he smiled at her.
The next witness was a tall man in an impeccably
cut, pristine white suit. If looks could have killed, the entire room would have
been dead. He didn't look too happy with Control, either.
"Your name and..."
the woman began.
"Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, and I am Assistant Deputy
Director of Research and Development. I am also wondering why I got dragged here
from California for this travesty of justice."
"I would like to know that
as well, counselor," the middle judge smiled.
Ellen gave slight nod that
she had heard. "Can you confirm that this picture is of you and China Berry and
was taken while she was living with you?"
She had the bailiff deliver a
picture of Michael in full polo gear, embracing an ecstatic China.
it is, but I fail to see what that photograph has to do with Northern Control?"
is proof of China's personality, her having gone from a relationship with you
to the one with Northern Control," the blond explained.
"She's my niece!"
"I think, councilor, that you finally have bitten off
more than you can chew," the judge chuckled.
"Your niece?" The lawyer stuttered.
my niece. As you would know if you had done five minutes of research into her
background!" The man answered, smiling like Jaws.
"You also would have
known if you had listened to your wittiness's answer, since Miss Berry did refer
to him as Uncle Michael," the judge on the left smirked.
"And that explains
the photo of you both," the woman stumbled.
"I was in a polo match and
won, I was hugging her and her friend Toni got it on film," Michael shrugged.
see," the lawyer stammered
"This farce of a trial is ending now! I want
everybody involved to be brought in here so this case can be settled once and
for all," the head judge snapped, sending the bailiff jumping.
was dismissed and joined his aide and niece in front of the judge with Control
and his lawyer. The prosecutor stood a little apart but also in front of the bench.
Straham looked down from the judge's bench to her captive audience. "Counselor,
you have pressed charges against Control, yet all of your so-called evidence and
questioning has been geared to putting Miss Berry on trial. That is not acceptable.
Deputy Director Briggs and Miss Fortier, I don't even know what connection you
have with this case but I thank you for your willingness to come. You are free
to go at your convenience. Northern Control and Miss Berry, to paraphrase a favorite
movie, it might not take much imagination to understand this but it takes a little
bit of just the right kind. Be grateful that I posses the right kind. All of the
evidence against you was circumstantial and rumors. I suggest, however, that in
the future you be more careful about displays of affection."
you have a reason for breaking into chambers?" The judge asked, breaking off her
lecture to address the sharply dressed man and the two patrolmen following him.
grinned, Robert was right on time. Good help was indispensable and his senior
agent was the best help a man could get.
"I am merely assisting the local
constabulary in their duties by leading these fine officers to the correct room,"
Robert responded, moving aside to allow the cops to come forward.
we need Janice Wilson to come with us," the older officer explained.
what reason?" the judge asked them, looking at the first witness in the case.
a suspect in a drug case," the younger cop blurted.
China looked at the
woman who had been her first friend in the agency. "So you did set me up, Janice.
Why? Why did you try and hurt me?"
"He made me do it!" Janice screamed
pointing at Marc Lewis, who was standing by the door that Robert McCall was pointedly
Taking in the looks on the other people standing around, the
cops quickly read their suspect her rights and led her out of the room in cuffs.
She might have gotten ripped to shreds or beaten to death otherwise, the way the
people in that trial were looking at her.
"Security, place Mr. Lewis in
one of the holding rooms until I call for him. The rest of you, I thank you for
your time and you may now leave as this case is dismissed," the judge instructed,
barely getting the words out as a second person was hauled out of the room in
"Michael, could you see that China gets home safely? I have
some business I have to finish here," Control asked the man in the pristine suit.
see you later," China smiled to her boss as she left. She would like to have hugged
him, but as the judge had said, displays of affection would need to be watched
now, even innocent ones between friends.
"Come in," Christine responded to
the knock on her door.
"Thank you for your help out there," a low and familiar
voice rumbled to her.
"You promised me a floorshow to remember if I agreed
to let Marc Lewis in to watch you get hung, and you certainly kept your promise,
"Chris, I always try to keep my promises," Control retorted,
sitting in the visitor's chair she motioned him towards.
"I know you always
tried, but I don't remember a lot of them being kept, at least not the ones to
me," she smiled and leaned back. "But that was a long time ago."
that we never worked out, and I really do appreciate the help you gave me. I had
a feeling they would go after China and I didn't want to see her smeared or hurt,"
"She seems like a nice girl, still has some innocence and
decency left. Take good care of her or that won't last long in this world," she
"I'm doing my best to shield her. If possible I would like to
see Marc," Control asked.
"Control, I can't do that! When you asked me
to invite him to sit in on that case and asked me to keep an open mind, that was
one thing. The first is in my authority and the other is my job, but there is
no way I can justify letting you see him," she complained.
"I'm not going
to hurt him; I just want to know who was backing him up on this. Marc never flies
without a net under him, so somewhere there is someone who is at the very least
allowing him to do this and at the most encouraging him. I want to know who!"
let's go," she offered getting up.
"Excuse me?" He asked.
not seeing him alone. Since my office is going to be investigating, I can, of
course, see him, and if I bring you along, no one will question it. There isn't
any other way I can get away with letting you see him that will not raise red
flags all over the place."
Glaring at her, he held the door open as they
left the office.
"Still Mr. Sunshine himself, I see," she smirked
thunderstorms possible, "he retorted.
"I'll let you go in alone but be
aware that I will be observing and listening to everything. You say or do even
one thing that would hint of him being in danger and I will have you in an adjoining
room so fast you won't know what hit you," she smiled.
"Have I ever told
you that you're beautiful when you're threatening?" He chuckled.
time you stood me up for a date and I threatened you. But I'm not threatening
you, I am merely informing you of the rules that this game is played by."
smiled at her and entered the locked room as she headed to the observation window.
day for you, Mr. Lewis," Control remarked amiably, sitting across from the prisoner.
really, this is temporary, I assure you," Marc smiled.
"Take it from someone
who invented the game, old son, no one is going to get you out of here," Control
informed the younger man.
The prisoner snorted in disbelief.
try, Control, but I really don't think this anencephalic is capable of being taught
the game, now," a cultured voice came from the door.
"I've been called
worse, I think," Marc answered with a bored yawn.
"I know he's a bit slow,
but I think we can teach him to speak," Control grinned evilly, wondering how
Michael had gotten in here.
"You don't start giving him answers and I'll
be doing a lot worse that calling you names, pretty boy." The Californian snapped,
walking slowly towards the man.
"Michael, we did promise not to touch this
guy," Control reminded his companion.
"Maybe you did, I didn't make any
deal like that," the man in white answered with a malevolent smile.
just tell me who's shielding you on this and we'll leave," Control said in his
most reasonable voice.
"I don't need to be shielded by anyone," the ken
doll look-alike sneered.
"You never do anything without a net to catch
you if you fall, now tell me who your net is!" Control roared.
we do not need a repeat of Zagreb," Michael said, suddenly trying to sooth his
Marc looked at the senior spook for a moment. Everyone had
heard about that incident. It was one of the bloodiest messes in the company's
history. No one was exactly certain what had happened there, but as near as they
could tell, one of the agents had either completely flipped out, killing the rest
of the team as well as the group of scientists they were helping, or one of the
guys was a double agent. What was known was that it ended with twelve people dead.
"You always said you had nothing to do with that," Marc stammered, looking
into four penetrating blue eyes.
"You don't really thing I would admit
to having played a role do you?" Control grinned, leaning towards the head of
"Going after Miss Berry like that, you already have him angry,
just give him what he wants and cut your losses," Michael suggested.
you guys can't lay a hand on me," Marc crowed, though not quite so confidently
as he had been.
A pocketknife whistled past his head, narrowly missing
his ear, and stuck in the wall.
"I want," Control began walking around
behind the man and retrieving the knife, "To know who put the steel in your backbone."
is going to have me out of here before the dust has even had a chance to settle,"
Marc retorted, more to assure himself, it seemed, than to tell them.
just keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better," the man in the white
suit smiled coldly.
"Thank you, now that we have what we wanted to know,
I wish you luck, because she will not be happy." Control whispered in Marc's ear
as he nodded for Michael to precede him out the door.
"Not yet, I'm certain
if we put some effort into this he could tell us even more about who is behind
this and what is going on," Michael argued.
"Maybe you have a point, and
he did smear China in there, so we owe him for that," Control agreed, approaching
their victim from the opposite side as Michael.
Seeing two agents of death
after him, one on each side, Marc Lewis could not help what followed. But then,
in the presence of two dominant males, a lower ranking one will often wet himself
to show subservience.
Exchanging a shocked look, the two men left, shaking
their heads. It was really uncalled for to continue working on the man after he
had already caved in, and they could get the information they needed with what
he had given them.
All expression left Marc as he watched the two men leaving
the room. She was never going to forgive him if they traced him to her. He reviewed
everything he had said but could not see where he had mentioned her. Somehow they
must have figured it out, though, so he began going over the interview once more
in his mind.
"Henry, home is the other way," China pointed out to the driver.
ma'am it is, but Miss Marella asked me to take you to the doctor."
I do not need a doctor!" China glared at her companion.
never forgive me if I didn't take you to one, considering that you're still limping,"
the other mulatto woman responded.
"Not to mention what Control would
do if he found out that I hadn't seen to your getting taken care of, Miss Berry,"
Henry pitched in.
"The men in my life are entirely too protective," China
growled, sitting back.
The other two smirked as the overly protected woman
sank into the seat.
"I can't believe you're taking me to the emergency
room over a limp," China growled.
"It's not just for the limp, girlfriend.
I think you hurt your arm, it's at an odd angle."
"I did not break my arm!
See, I can raise them both...." China bit her lip in agony. "You win."
sighed and sped up, Marella looked out the window after seeing to China's comfort
as much as was possible. There wasn't much she could do in the back seat of a
"Ako gumawa hindi maniwala ito!" The injured woman grumbled.
dropped the two ladies off at the emergency entrance and went to retrieve the
men who would be waiting. They would not be happy to hear that China was hurt.
He didn't even have time to get out and open the door before both
men had climbed in back.
"Before you say anything, sir, we aren't heading
home just yet," Henry informed his passengers. Control was not a man who liked
surprises and the one in white didn't look like he would like them, either.
right, then, where are we going?" Control asked.
"To the hospital; it seems
Miss China broke her arm when that man pushed her," Henry answered heatedly.
her arm?" "What man pushed her?" Both men fired their questions at once.
was leaving the car with her escort and I heard her say something in some language
that wasn't English. The guard got angry and shoved her, causing her to fall down
on the steps. I would guess that was when she broke her arm," Henry explained.
she know the arm was broken?" Control had heard of people who would break an arm
and not know it until they bent their arm wrong. If she had known her arm was
injured and had still refused the offer of immediate medical help he was going
to discipline her severely. He didn't know what he would do but she would not
"No sir, she found out when she was telling Miss Marella that
she was fine. She raised both arms to show her she could and found she couldn't,"
the driver responded.
The men groaned in two-part harmony. That was their
China, all right.
Three and a half hours later, all four were climbing
out of the car as Henry held the door. Control had told him they could get a taxi,
but he wouldn't hear of it and insisted on waiting. Marella trotted ahead, doing
door duty as the two men tried to get the tired and disoriented China inside.
let me lay down somewhere and die," China complained.
"You're not going
to die, little China Doll," Control assured her.
Michael frowned at him
as they got her up the staircase and into the elevator. Control was calling HIS
niece China Doll? He knew that the man was fond of her and wanting to court her,
as they said in the old days, but he didn't know it was this serious.
what's the code for your security system?" Her uncle asked.
She replied as though the word was in a language that was unknown to her.
can all stay in my apartment, she can sleep in the spare room," her employer informed
the group as he invited them into his home.
Control guided the woman, now
sporting a cast, into the spare room with Marella behind him. He turned down the
bed and headed for the door.
A hand reached out and grabbed him. "Stay."
"China?" He asked. Admittedly they tended to flirt and tease one another,
and had gone out any number of times on business dates and thoroughly enjoyed
themselves. She had never, however, asked him to stay.
"Don't go away,"
"Certainly I'll stay if you want me to, sweetheart, is there
anything I can do?"
"Read to me, like you did at the farm?" She asked.
will get you settled while I retrieve some books," he smiled, as the California
woman nodded that she would help get China put to bed for the night
do you have Alice in Wonderland, because I think I just saw the white rabbit run
by," the patient mumbled as she was divested of her shoes.
"Sir, how far
down do you want me to go in getting her settled?" Marella asked, uncertainly.
She didn't know this man. Michael appeared to trust him, but still....
around, he went to his dresser and pulled out an old t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
"Will these work?"
Marella took them and nodded that they would. She just
couldn't see this man in a tie-dyed shirt with what looked like oil or grease
stains it. It seemed that he only wore it as a work shirt. She blushed slightly
as she wondered what Michael wore working around his house.
groaned from the bed.
"Do you need help?" He asked her solicitously.
rabbit passed by again," She told him.
A rumbling chuckle answered her,
"I'll go get the book and the rabbit right now."
Control left, as China
was changed into the shirt and shorts and tucked under the covers.
is she?" Michael asked from the kitchen when his host left the spare room.
she just wants me to read to her for a bit, Rabbit."
"Rabbit?" The Californian
"You walked past, and China swore that the white rabbit from
Alice in Wonderland was around," Control grinned.
Michael goggled at him.
"No wonder China doesn't let people give her painkillers. I knew it was bad, but
not this bad."
"Could you heat some of the chicken broth? It's in the freezer,"
Control asked, emerging from his room with a handful of books.
you want your steak?" Michael, who was taking kitchen duty, asked as he pulled
the broth out of the freezer.
"Cooked is fine," Control answered absentmindedly
as he hurried back to his lady.
"Poor man's smitten for life," Michael
snorted, going back to preparing the food.
Half an hour, later he took
the tray with the soup and a steak in to the convalescent and her attendant.
almost dropped the food.
Propped up on the bed was Control, reading some
nonsense poem about a Jabberwock. China was curled up, snuggling against his side,
totally content and at peace. There was nothing improper about the scene, but
there was a certain intimacy to it.
Michael sighed, whether she knew it
or not, his niece appeared to have made her choice. Well, he supposed that she
could do worse. He just hadn't wanted her pulled into this world that he and John
lived in. She was so much better than that.
"So, should I be saying `welcome
to the family', John?" Michel asked, more churlishly than he intended.
spook looked at him, Michael was one of the few in the intelligence world who
knew his real name, and for him to be using it, the man was serious.
been thinking about it, I'll let you know when we decide anything," Control answered.
to me like you already have," Michael offered.
His host raised one eyebrow
thoughtfully, but said nothing.
"Do you really know who was behind this?
Marc didn't really tell you much of anything," Archangel asked, changing the subject
as he put the tray down.
"He told me that it's a woman who is on the committee
and there aren't many who fit that description," Control explained.
does narrow the field considerably," Michael agreed.
"Minerva, Hera, and
Valkyrie," Control responded, naming the women who sat on the committee.
tried to ignore China snuggling a little closer and Control absentmindedly stroking
her hair. It was soothing her and keeping her quiet, but it was also distracting.
use to be on the committee but I can't see her doing something like this," Michael
commented, turning his head slightly.
Frowning, Control thought, and then
moved his hand from China's hair. "Marella?"
"Yes?" She stuck her head
in the room.
"Michael and I need to talk for a bit, could you stay with
China and try and get her to maybe eat some of the broth?" Control asked.
to," she agreed, moving over to where her host was sliding away from his lady.
whimpered a bit but after being assured he was only going into the next room and
that Marella was there, she quieted down and even began eating the soup slowly.
you, " China's uncle muttered, As Control collected the tray with his meal and
the men left the spare room, settling to eat at the kitchen table.
do have a father's interest in her," Control acknowledged.
"Yes, I do,"
the man in white admitted.
The senior spy nodded. "Valkyrie wouldn't do
The Californian raised an eyebrow. "You seem very certain
"She and I understand one another. I take care of my people and
leave no messes for her to clean up; as a result we get along," Control explained.
don't know her, but was always told that she was arrogant and demanding," Michael
"With someone that leaves dead agents or messy fallout
that she has to clean up, yes she would be that way."
"Apollo is guilty
of both, as is Zeus," Michael growled.
"Leaving Minerva and Hera," Control
sighed. He knew both women and didn't want to deal with either.
know either woman well, since they operate on the East Coast, but my money would
be on Hera," Michael offered.
"Mine, too. Minerva is too smart and devious
for something this poorly planned. Not to mention that she and I have formed a
kind of mutual non-aggression pact. She doesn't get in my way and I don't make
her life difficult," Control answered.
"Hera does nothing that won't gain
her something, though, and I don't see what she would gain from this," Michael
"She needs support on the committee, which she can get by changing
the current alliances. She can do that and get more power and influence for herself
by removing me and putting one of her lackeys in my place."
"I never thought
the day would come when I would be glad I was dealing with Zeus, but if this is
an example of what she's like without him to keep her in hand..." Michael responded,
"Agreed. Listen, you and Marella had best be going if you're
going to catch your plane to Los Angeles. I'll let you know what happens here
and if we need Zeus brought in on Hera," the spook assured his guest.
agreed and, nodding his thanks, he collected his assistant and went.
into his guestroom, Control saw that China was sleeping peacefully. Looking at
the remains of his impromptu dinner party he decided to clean it up in the morning.
perfectly still, Control opened his eyes. Someone was moving around in his apartment.
the gun from his bedside table drawer, he padded softly towards the door. He eased
the bedroom door open a crack and peered through, he returned the gun to the drawer,
sighed, and stepped through.
"China, is there a reason you are doing dishes
at," he glanced at the kitchen clock, "two-thirty in the morning?"
were dirty and needed washing, I'm sorry I woke you, I was trying to be quiet,"
"I tend to be a light sleeper: it keeps me alive," he replied,
"Yes, I guess you would be," China answered brightly as she awkwardly
grabbed the pots and pans off the stove.
"You still haven't told me why
it is that you are doing KP in my kitchen at this hour," he reminded her.
two, it should wear off in a few hours and then I'll be back to normal," she sighed.
raised both eyebrows at her.
"At first, pain medications make me really
tired and kind of loopy, as well as physically ill; then, after I've gotten through
that part, I wake up in hyper speed mode and can't settle down for four or five
Closing his eyes and sighing, he landed heavily in a chair. China
loose in his apartment on hyper speed was not something he needed at this hour
of the morning. Ah, well, he could always sleep tomorrow night.
I'll finish up here and then I'll head over to my apartment if you disengage your
security system so I can go," she offered shamefacedly.
"China, you don't
have to leave, but you should put your cast back in that sling," he told her,
emphasizing the last point.
Blushing, she put her broken arm back in the
"Here, since you're cleaning my kitchen in a cast, I'll wash and
you dry," he suggested, coming over to her and handing her a towel.
fair enough," she smiled.
"I'm really sorry that you got put on trial like
that," he offered after a few moment's silence.
"It's not your fault, you
didn't ask for them to do that to me, and technically you were the one on trial,"
China reassured him, wiping the pot he had washed.
"No, but I should have
known about this before it got this far, and it couldn't have happened if I hadn't
been so careless," he growled, rinsing a pan.
"You're absolutely right.
You are hereby declared guilty of being human," she replied a bit harshly.
fairly certain if we took a vote there would not be unanimous agreement about
my being human," he snorted.
"And they would be wrong, I've seen how human
you can be," she smiled at him. "In fact, there were some days when you seemed
to be the only really human person in the agency. You have a job that is heartless
and thankless, and yet you do it with as much honor, integrity, and compassion
He goggled at her.
"I didn't know you thought so highly
of me," he smiled.
"I meant it the other day when I said I loved you, and
I don't love men that I don't first admire and respect," she informed him.
see painkillers are also truth serums in your case," he chuckled, while pulling
her against him for a hug.
"The situation just never seemed right to say
anything. I figured when the time was right we would talk," she shrugged.
your Uncle Michael was right, we learned to love one another without ever actually
going out on a single date," Control snorted.
"But we've gone on lots of
dates together. How often have we eaten dinner together? Or gone to some social
function as a couple? You've been to my apartment, and not always in the function
as my landlord. You've introduced me to your brother and your parents. You've
met Michael, who's almost all of my immediate family. I would say we are at the
very least courting friendship with one another, and after the hall incident I
would say that we are maybe even courting a romantic relationship."
held her breath. She had not really meant to say all of that. He would probably
either agree with her, which she would very much like, or run away screaming.
"China Doll, I'm years older than you, so tell me why you are so much
wiser than I am?" He chuckled.
"Because I'm a woman?" She asked, smiling
He stared at her, and then they both found themselves erupting
"So, oh wise one, any ideas on where we go from here?" He
"According to my, in most ways, very wise mother, we should go slowly
and build our friendship, letting the rest come if and when it does. However,
I can safely say, I think, that it is a case of when, not if," she smiled.
good plan," he agreed. Any plan that included both of them and was long term was
a good one in his opinion.
"The dogs!" she jumped up, remembering that
her pets had not gotten out.
"I let them out before I went to bed," he
"How did you get the code for my security system?" she asked.
called Paul and told him that as your landlord I needed to have access to your
apartment at times," he explained.
China nodded, that made sense. "Thanks
for taking care of them for me."
"After everything you do for me, it was
the least I could do," he smiled.
"I don't do any more for you than you
do for me, so we're even, there," she responded as they gave the kitchen a final
"I'll get out of your hair now if you'll let me out," she offered
once more, blushing slightly that he had seen her like this.
against the counter, admiring his guest. The slight color looked very pretty on
"You're hardly safe to let loose on the world in this condition. Do
you need physical outlets or will mental do?" He asked
"Either one will
do, just as long as it burns off lots of energy," China sighed. She really did
hate it when she got like this.
"Okay, do you know how to play poker?"
"Uncle Michael taught Marella and me one weekend when we were both at
the house and it was raining," she smiled. It was a pleasant memory.
The host asked.
"Not really. Any game that involves bidding is really not
my area. Math was not my strong suit," she winced, remembering some of the evenings
she and her uncle had spent plowing through her homework. Math was one of his
areas, but patience had never been his best virtue. "Maybe I just need a different
teacher?" She suggested.
Smiling, he got out a deck of cards and sat opposite
her at the kitchen table. Something told him that his lady love could become quite
good at cards once she got past believing she wasn't good at them.
Control called from the living room, where he was having his morning coffee.
secretary and temporary houseguest mumbled what sounded to him like a return of
"You seem to be feeling better," he offered.
only thing that hurts now is the arm, and I can handle that," she answered with
a yawn, landing on the couch across from the easy chair he was sitting in.
do you do if the pain gets bad enough that you can't handle it by will power alone?"
he asked, setting the paper down and watching her.
"I take some aspirin.
If it's really bad I can take codeine but that tends to leave me tired and open
to nightmares," she answered in a tone that, while not curt, did inform him that
she had no desire to continue that line of discussion.
"Did you have any
plans for the day?" he asked, complying with her wishes.
"Not really, maybe
playing with Cricket a bit, but that might get hard with one arm if the fireworks
get started early. She is almost bomb proof but I would rather not try and control
her one handed if someone tosses a firecracker our way," China explained.
nodded; this was the fourth of July and a big deal was planned in honor of the
country being two hundred years old. Undoubtedly there would be some kids who
would think it funny to scare a horse, and at least China was smart enough to
realize that and know she would be at a disadvantage.
"I've been thinking
that this might be a good day to try and get your spare room finished," he offered.
right, if you want to. I take it then that you aren't celebrating the bicentennial
natal day of our country?" she asked.
"I loved fireworks and things that
went bang right up until I went to Korea. I haven't cared for them since; I can
handle them, I just don't like them."
"I don't think I would either, if
I had served in a war," she answered.
"Okay, breakfast, the dogs, and then
the room?" he offered, changing the subject.
"Dogs, I'll make you breakfast
and we can work on the room," she countered.
"Agreed," he smiled as he
rose and they headed out.
In the end, he took the dogs while she showered
and got dressed.
Kissa was almost up to around the block now, as long as
you didn't ask her to go fast. Like Oso had been, she was scared by almost everything,
but true to her Pit Bull ancestors, she didn't try and run away. She went to investigate.
This took time since she did not believe in moving on until the threat had been
found and identified.
When he returned, China was wearing her own shorts
and a t-shirt. They weren't the short shorts and midriff baring t-shirts that
were so popular, but still very becoming on the modest young woman. She and the
birds were doing a duet of some island song while she was beating eggs. Seeing
her baby was back, Isis ran over and began sniffing and tongue bathing every inch
of the puppy. Sighing happily, Kissa accepted it.
A Carpenters' tape was
playing in the background, while he fed the animals and helped himself to some
of the coffee she had made.
China poured the egg goop in a pan and set
it in the oven.
It would be a half an hour before the dish was done, so
they sat in the living room drinking coffee and reading the paper. There was a
hostage situation in the Middle East that looked bad, but as far as he could tell,
for once the company had nothing at stake. It was merely another case of the Arabs
and Israelis failing to agree with one another.
This was the first time
he had thought of reading the morning paper as a social function. He was immensely
enjoying himself. They would sit quietly and read and if one of them hit on something
interesting or funny, they would read it aloud. It ended up continuing through
breakfast since they had not finished their discussions.
China felt bad
that because of her arm she was not able to help move the furniture out, but there
was very little in there so it didn't take him long.
They fell into an
easy partnership. Control didn't want her on the ladder, so he took the top half
while she did the bottom. It also saved him from having to get on knees that no
long liked the bending and unbending as much as they once had.
the animals decided to help.
The current topic was the hostage situation;
they both agreed that it was probably not going to have a good end. This was also
the first time a nation's leader had publicly supported acts of terrorism. Neither
one of them had a good feeling about that.
Kissa had evidently tired of
being babied by her mother cat and had enticed the older dog, Jojo into a game
The puppy dashed into the room and under the ladder. Jojo was right
behind her, but being almost totally blind, didn't see the ladder before crashing
into it, upsetting the paint, the ladder and the human on the ladder.
was no time to react except to throw himself clear of the ladder as it toppled.
He automatically tried going in a direction away from the living beings. Unfortunately,
that meant he crashed into the wall he had been painting. His shoulder broke through
the wall far too easily as he crashed to the floor, somehow landing on his feet.
While China caught the shaking Jojo, the terrified Kissa, convinced she would
be beaten if caught, dashed out the door, as Control looked at China in shock.
stared through the hole he had made and gasped. China looked at him worriedly
and stood up to approach him. Both dogs were instantly forgotten.
was old, but not nearly as old as the rest of the building. It appeared that part
of the room had been sealed off for some unknown reason. The old gypsum board
broke easily as he widened the hole. He shook his head in amazement.
is it? What's in there?" He could hear China bouncing with excitement.
me a flashlight, would you?" He asked.
He could hear her dashing off to
get one. Reaching his hand out, he ran it over the leather bindings. His nose
tickled at the dust his breaking in caused, and he sneezed.
came a response, along with a flashlight being handed through the hole.
you, too, he answered while running the flashlight beam around the room. It was
Using the light, he scanned the titles. Since he owned the
building, technically the treasure was his. These were in China's apartment, though,
so he would let her have them. Maybe if he begged her, she would let him borrow
some of these someday.
"John?" she called out uncertainly.
it was the first time she had ever used his name in private. He liked how it sounded
coming from her.
Finding a volume that would do, he answered her:
walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all
that's best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes:"
she called again, less hesitantly this time.
He worked his way out of
the hole and back to the spare room.
"You have a treasure chest," he informed
his hostess, holding out the copy of Lord Byron open to the poem he had been reading,
while taking the damp cloth she offered and wiping the dust off.
was in there?" she gasped. It was a first edition with leather binding. She could
see a little wear on the book; enough to know that the volume had not sat prettily
on a shelf, but rather had been read and reread and loved.
and lots of books. There's also a Cherry wood roll top desk in there. Not to mention
toys and knick-knacks."
She goggled at him "Why would anyone seal that
stuff up?" She exclaimed.
"I have no idea, maybe looking at the papers
in the desk will tell us," he suggested.
"Okay I'll clean up the paint
supplies for another day, and you work on getting the wall down?"
No sense painting now, but they would want to later, so best not to ruin the paint.
China came up and, wrapping her one good arm around him, whispered in his ear,
"Thank you for the poem, John."
He pulled her tighter and held her against
He had always made certain that no relationship lasted so long that
he could not walk away, at least not since Susan. He never committed himself to
any woman since her, either. How had she done it? How had this barely grown woman
gotten past his defenses and stolen his heart?
With her smile when the
world was cold, and her laughter when all was despair. Her humor that brightened
his dark world. Her unquestioning acceptance of who and what he was. Her ability
to hear the silence and simply be in it. And mostly, her unshakable, unending,
He had no idea what he had ever done to deserve having
this woman in his arms, but he would do his best to be worthy of the trust that
was being placed in him to care for her.
China put the paint in the closet
where it was being stored, while Control returned the ladder to the utility room
in the basement and came back with a pry bar.
With the animals safely confined
in the bedroom and China waiting eagerly on the side, he began work on the wall.
After an hour, only the frame of the wall was left upright. Standing on
the side and watching , China could not help but laugh. He was totally covered
in fine white dust and looked like a ghost.
Smiling menacingly at the laughing
hyena in front of him, Control slowly came towards her. Yelping, China began backing
out of the room and away from the predator. He merely followed her, still smiling
like a shark. Laughing, she kept staying just out of his reach. When she tried
to bolt, he would merely step there first. Too late, China realized that he had
been very efficiently herding her into a corner.
Reaching a hand out, he
began tickling her. Squealing and laughing uncontrollably, China tried to defend
herself from the onslaught. She had no idea her boss could be like this, though
there was a sparkle in his eye that always made her wonder.
her arm up to fend him off, and the game ended. Instantly.
"I'm so sorry
I totally forgot about the cast!" she almost wailed.
She crouched down
next to where he was sitting on the floor against the cabinet in the kitchen.
Taking his chin gently in her hand she turned his un-protesting face towards her.
His eye was coloring already.
"I'm sorry," she repeated apologetically.
She really didn't want the day to end on this note.
He started chuckling,
and then laughing. "Robert is never going to believe me about this!"
that he was not angry, China joined him, imagining the Brit's expression when
Control revealed how the eye had been blackened.
"Other than the eye, are
you all right?" she asked, looking him over.
"Fine, just a bit sore," he
assured her. "Since I'm a mess already, how about I get all this cleaned up? I'll
haul the chunks of wall down to the garbage and then vacuum up the dust," he offered.
offered her good arm and helped him up. "I can do the vacuuming."
with your cast," he insisted.
"I will not die from getting a little dust
in my cast," she snorted.
"China, that stuff is like fine glass. If you
get it in your cast, it will itch like mad and you will never get it out," he
informed her stubbornly.
Grumbling, she acquiesced.
of the larger pieces of the wall, he hauled it to the elevator. Once there, he
dropped it with a thud. He had forgotten how heavy this stuff was. With a lot
of effort, he finally got it out to the dumpster. Taking a deep breath, he picked
it up and began working to toss it over the side into the container. He was trying
not to think about how many more trips like this he was going to be making.
let me help," a voice came as a second set of hands took the other side of the
slab and they easily tossed it in.
"Thanks," the spy responded, looking
at a large, brutish man with dark, gentle eyes. Just beyond him, Control saw an
old car with a woman and two small children. The back seat was crammed with what
looked to be about everything these people owned.
"It looks like maybe
you have some work ahead of you," the younger man said softly.
"A lot of
it, I took a wall down and forgot how heavy that stuff is," Control admitted.
Sam Weston; I'd be glad to give you a hand if you'd like some help," the man offered.
smiled at the younger man. He liked that the man who was obviously in need, since
his family was living out of their car, had offered to help, instead of asking
him for handouts.
"I'm John Smith, and you have a deal as long as you
let me pay you for the help; collect your family and come on in," Control instructed.
man looked at him uncomprehendingly.
"Your wife and kids will be more comfortable
inside, and they can have a meal while we work," he explained.
the man answered, not meeting Control's eyes.
At Sam's gesture the woman
and kids ran over to him.
"Trudy, This is Mr. Smith; I'm going to help
him haul the remains of a wall down and you and the kids are going to go inside
where it's cooler and have something to eat," he explained.
the woman smiled at him.
The children were too scared to say anything,
but they shyly smiled at him as well.
The family trooped in after their
In front of China's door, Control could hear the vacuum running.
He got hold of his urge to throttle her, after all, he was bringing in guests.
"Ma'am, I was wondering if you might be interested in a cleaning job?"
Control asked Trudy.
"Sure, I would be glad to clean, I take it your wife
is needing some help?" she asked, a little uncertain.
"She's a tenant,
actually, and she's got a broken arm and I don't want the dust getting in the
cast," he explained.
"I'd be glad to do the cleaning," she smiled. With
both of them making a little, they could maybe get to Portland in reasonably good
shape. Since it would mean having gas and food, and if they were very, very careful,
perhaps a little left over.
Control knocked on her door and the machine
died as his secretary answered the door.
"China, this is Sam and Trudy
Weston. Sam is going to help me haul the rubble down and Trudy is going to do
the cleaning. I thought their family might be more comfortable up here while we
work." He turned to the family, "Sam, Trudy, girls, this is my friend China Berry,
she's the one with the wall down."
"Come on in, I'm glad John was able
to get some help. We just finished eating, ourselves, so why don't I get you something
while you wait?" she offered, sending Control a slight glare.
and her children gratefully followed their hostess to the kitchen. The egg, cheese,
and ham bake was popped back into the oven to reheat. The two girls sat silently
at the table drinking their juice.
"Could you girls do me a favor?" China
They hesitated, and then nodded.
"I was making some stuffed
animals and I made too many, do you think you could take two of them for me?"
The little faces beamed at her, after their mother nodded approval.
went in the hall closet and picked up the basket she was planning to return to
the nuns. She would replace the two animals later.
Shyly they each picked
a doggy when presented with the basket.
"Thank you so much. I haven't seen
the girls smile since this nightmare began," Trudy gushed, looking at the floor.
glad to give them a smile," China answered.
After being assured that the
children were gentle, Kissa was allowed out of the bedroom. China watched as the
girls and puppy were laughing and yipping playfully while their mother joined
the men in cleaning the mess.
By early afternoon the remains of the wall
were in the dumpster and the dust had been cleaned. The children and the puppy
were happily worn out.
The adults had stopped for a meal break while the
children were reading in the bedroom.
"I appreciate the help; I was not
looking forward to getting that pile down on my own," Control admitted ruefully.
"I'm glad for the work. In fact if you want the frame down as well, I
can do that. I'm a licensed contractor so I know how to do it right," he offered.
would be great," China smiled. She doubted Control knew how to do that, or had
"Do you have any particular plans?" Control asked.
family is in Portland, so we're going to go and see if the job situation is any
better there," Trudy explained.
Control didn't need to be a super secret
agent to see that the idea did not appeal to Sam.
"So you don't want to
stay in the area?" he asked.
"We would like to but there isn't any work
to be found," Trudy explained.
"I need an on-site maintenance and handyman
for the building. The job is yours if you're interested. I have a unit free so
you could do the work in exchange for rent. I'm also looking for someone to come
in once a week and clean, if you might be interested in that, Trudy," Control
offered. Normally, he would have run a check on someone renting one of his units,
but he was trusting his instincts on this one.
"I could use that, myself,"
"That would be great," the guests replied almost in unison.
They could not believe their luck. Sam's pension after his back injury on a work
site had always been enough for food and other basics but not for rent; and the
cost of childcare was more than she could make. With this arrangement, Sam would
be working full time from home and able to get odd jobs in the area, probably,
so no childcare would be needed and Trudy could work as well. They would be able
to make ends meet again.
"Miss Berry?" a small voice interrupted the adults.
She responded, kneeling down to get on the child's level.
"How did you
hurt your arm?"
"I fell down and landed on it," China answered.
that when Mr. Smith hurt his eye?"
"No, honey, that happened this morning
when I forgot I had the cast on," the mulatto woman admitted.
"Oh, it was
an accident," the other girl piped in.
"Yes, it was, I don't hit people,
but I was horsing around with Mr. Smith and whacked him by accident," she chuckled.
all got a laugh over that.
The men quickly finished the task, and the Weston's
got the key to their new apartment in a much nicer neighborhood than their old
one. A few calls and their friends who were storing their furniture were on the
way to bring it over.
"Thank you both," Trudy gushed.
to help," China assured her as the family headed downstairs.
"Can you see out
of that eye at all?" China inquired when Control rejoined her after seeing his
new renters to their home.
"Not really, you big brute."
right back," she said going into the bedroom and returning, carrying a tube of
ointment and scolding the puppy for unrolling all of the toilet paper. Again.
moment while I get this on," she told him, applying some cream to his bruise.
"There, now just put this ice pack over it and you'll be set."
he muttered, applying the pack.
"Not a problem, since I was the one that
gave you the black eye," she snorted, leading him over to the couch.
down at the tube she had used, she bit her lip to not laugh out loud. This was
not the tube she had meant to grab; at the very least it would ensure that he
didn't get hemorrhoids on his face. Well, nothing to do now but wait and see.
Nothing bad should happen, but it probably wouldn't do any good either.
would rather be in the new room," he informed her eagerly. He really wanted a
good look at the things on those shelves.
She chuckled; of course he would
rather be there. If her boss had one weakness, it was curiosity. He simply could
not stand to not know. It was, however, a weakness that had served him well.
I had Sam move an easy chair into the den. I'll grab some wine," she offered,
bypassing the couch and leading him to a reclining chair in the newly enlarged
room. Once he was in it, she got an extra pillow and fluffed it up for him.
wonderful," he responded, almost purring like a cat. It was something new to be
fussed over like this; he could definitely get used to it. The wine would be worth
the short wait; he knew from having seen her selection that there was not a bad
bottle to be found.
China returned momentarily with some cheese and wine.
It would seem they were going to be having a picnic.
He was comfortably
reclining in the chair with the ice over his eye, and his wine and cheese at his
elbow a few moments later.
"Hummel figurines and the real porcelain Storybook
Dolls, and lots of books, almost all of them first editions," she told him.
What books are they?" he asked after several minutes of silence.
Temporary overload. There's a complete set of Charles Dickens and the OZ books.
A complete set of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and all of the Anne of Green Gables books.
Also complete Washington Irving, Sir Walter Scott, and James Fennimore Cooper."
who loved classical literature, then," Control smiled. His own tastes tended to
run that way as well.
"Oh, yeah, and Shakespeare folios," she sighed happily.
more modern that might tell us when the room was sealed off?" he asked.
of the early hard-boiled detectives are here, but none of the sets is complete,
so I would guess that maybe the early to mid-thirties," she answered. "There's
also complete Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Mark Twain,
Jules Vern, H. G. Wells, and Jack London. I think I'm in heaven," China continued.
do hope that you plan on making this a lending library," Control hinted, sipping
"I suppose it isn't really mine. It belongs to whoever had this
apartment back when this was sealed," she told him, wistfully.
the records and see who owned it in the thirties," he promised her.
like some great poets as well. Edgar Allen Poe, Robert W. Service, Robert Frost,
Emily Dickinson; Lord Byron, as you discovered." She read off the names of the
"Here's one called Water Babies, and the Complete Grimm's
fairy tales," she continued. "Funny that the Grimm's one was not with the other
"Maybe it's the original versions of the stories. They
had to edit the stories for children," he reminded her.
She leafed through
it. "Nice stories still, but definitely not the versions we tell children."
other children's tales?"
"Little Black Sambo, Uncle Remus stories, complete
Hans Christian Anderson, Louisa May Alcott. Most of the classics again," she commented.
the desk have anything that might tell us what happened?" he asked.
was in the middle of a letter dated March 18th 1935 and stopped. He was evidently
signing off as his wife would be home soon. He stopped before signing off though,
so I would guess maybe he was writing this and got news she was not going to be
home again," China guessed.
"And was so overcome with grief that he sealed
the room and its memories off," he said in agreement with his secretary's assumption.
the only thing that would seem to make sense," she agreed. "I would imagine it
would be nice to love someone that much."
"Yes, I think it would," he agreed,
smiling at her. He had found someone that he did love that much, but did she love
him that much? Or, like Susan, whom he had loved as well, would she eventually
get sick of his world and leave him alone?
"Any more hints from the desk?"
"No, the desk is clear, other than that," she sighed. It would
have been interesting to know what had happened.
"When I find out who the
owners were, maybe that will help clear up some of the mystery," he offered, hearing
China came over and perched on the arm of the chair
he was in. " That was really nice what you did for the Weston's."
needs a hand sometimes, I was just glad I could help out," he smiled up at her,
pulling her towards him.
She slid over and got situated in his lap.
your eye any better?" she asked, running a finger lightly down his face.
lot, whatever that was you used is really good."
"Yes, it did! I had no
idea it would work!" She responded in amazement, checking his eye and noticing
the swelling and discoloring were both down.
"What did you use?"
accidentally grabbed the Preparation H but it seems that it worked," she chuckled.
laughed. "I never thought of using that for bruises."
"I didn't either
until I had already put it on," she confessed, joining him in the merriment.
suggestions on what to read?" she asked, still laughing with him about the mistake.
about that Water Babies book you mentioned, I haven't read that one," he suggested.
choice, I haven't read it, either."
Taking it from the shelf, she settled
into his lap once more, the curse of a room only having one chair, she grinned
"Once upon a time there was a little chimney-sweep, and his
name was Tom. That is a short name, and you have heard it before, so you will
not have much trouble in remembering it. He lived in a great town in the North
country, where there were plenty of chimneys to sweep..." she began, taking a
sip of her wine.
"You're back!" A tall blond Amazon greeted the master spy
in the hall as he came to his office. She saw a faint bruise on one of his eyes,
but knew better than to ask.
"Valkyrie, what a pleasant surprise," he smiled
slightly. He and the Norse woman might not always have agreed but they did understand
and respect one another.
"Not really, I'm here on business," she sighed.
him, she viewed her job as a necessary evil. As long as there were spies playing
games, there would be a need for someone to clean up their messes.
finally decided that I needed to be cleaned up?" he asked, arching an eyebrow
at her as he went to open his office.
"Don't even joke about that," she
He smiled as he tried to insert his key in the door to his office.
It wasn't working.
He raised an eyebrow at his companion, as he began picking
the lock. It had been a long time since a lock had slowed him down much.
has taken over your job and your office," she informed him.
something he had never done at work before. He laughed.
"How bad is it?"
He sighed, as the lock gave and he ushered the woman into his reclaimed office.
why I got called in," she admitted.
"One of Hera's pets isn't he?" Control
asked after a moment.
"Yes he is, why?" The blond asked.
reason to believe Hera set me up, but I couldn't imagine why," he informed her.
order to put her puppet in your place and get more power."
carelessness," the senior intelligence man uttered as they entered the unlocked
"Her or him?" she asked, following him in and seating herself
in one of the guest chairs.
"Yes," he smiled predatorily, as he began looking
at the files in the desk drawers he had opened.
She smiled back. Now that
the master was back at the helm, maybe her services would not be needed after
"Talk to me," he requested as he leaned back in his chair and steepled
his fingers under his chin.
"Four of the hostages in Uganda are our agents,"
she answered succinctly. Like the man in front of her, she did not like to waste
time with small talk.
"Sir?" came a timid mousy, voice.
he called out
A plain woman of medium height and dishwater-blond hair
entered. He remembered her as a very junior recruit. She was what was called a
chameleon since she was almost impossible to describe and very few people really
remembered what she looked like after she was gone. He knew China had been helping
her with her language studies a bit, but she had always been afraid of the senior
"Let me help you with that, Lucy," he offered, seeing that she was
carrying two coffees and two pastries.
"I...I... I didn't know that you
knew my name," the girl stammered.
"You would be amazed at the things he
remembers," the older woman snorted.
"China speaks highly of you and I
go out of my way to remember the people who catch her attention," he explained.
ones on the right are yours and the ones on the left for Miss Valkyrie," the youngster
mentioned as she blushed from the praise.
"Thank you," he smiled. It was
hard to believe that this child was only a few years younger than China.
was happy to do it, China always says that you can't really get working until
you've had your coffee, and since she wasn't here I just thought that I would....
Not that I would presume to ...," she began babbling in panic.
a laugh, the blond women accepted her share of the younger woman's load.
done nothing presumptuous at all, I was merely surprised is all," he assured Lucy.
Lucy smiled again at each and, mumbling something about paperwork, dashed out.
girl," the Norse woman commented.
"Yes, she is, and usually a lot more
confidant than that," Control smiled, taking a sip of the coffee. It was just
the way he liked it, dark and strong enough to get up and walk on its own. He
also noted that the pastry was his favorite kind that China got for him most mornings.
It would seem that he had actually been missed by a few people, at least.
OUT OF MY OFFICE!" a blond haired, blue-eyed man who looked like Adolph Hitler's
ideal Aryan soldier bellowed as he came in.
Control gave a half smile and
raised one bushy eyebrow. If Loki wanted to make an impression on him, he would
need to do better than that. Rebecca Smith bellowed louder than that calling her
husband and boys in from the barn. His uncle, the general, would have had this
guy positively dithering.
"Your office?" the woman asked. She couldn't
wait to see this pup put in his place.
"Yes, my office. I'm the head of
field operations," the newcomer snarled. "What happened to your eye?"
any more. You were temporarily filling in for me, but I wasn't fired or removed
so the job and the responsibility are still mine," Control answered with a low
growl, ignoring the question. "In fact," he continued, "We were about to discuss
the hostage fiasco in Uganda."
"What about it?" the younger man asked.
of those men are my agents!" Control roared. "And I want to know what have we
done to gain their release?"
"Nothing," Loki snapped back.
that to me. Explain why four innocent men are about to be killed and we are doing
nothing to assist them?" Control bellowed.
"It has been decided that this
is an Israeli and Palestinian issue and we should not get involved," the woman
"We have people in danger; that makes us already involved!"
he snarled though gritted teeth.
"And whose fault is that? You were the
one who decided that Nazi we found should be returned to Israel to stand trial!
If you hadn't sent those four to escort that guy to Israel then they wouldn't
have been on that plane heading home," the blond man shot back, smiling sadistically.
not the one who's leaving them out to dry, though, I believe you are the one that's
putting politics before lives!" The woman pointed out coldly.
afford to take sides in what is basically a family squabble," the younger man
"Sir?" came a male voice at the door.
Control called out.
"I came to inform you that we have the results back
on the Entebbe Raid sir," the messenger said.
"And?" Control asked.
Mathews and Sam Gray are dead, sir. David Miller and John Calbot are awaiting
instructions," the man said quietly.
"Tell them to come home and bring
the bodies of the other two," Control answered almost too quietly to be heard.
blonde woman sat silently. Control was believed by many to be heartless, but she
knew him to be a big-hearted, caring man. He would regret to inform those men's
families himself, and it would not be in a cold call or telegram. Before she had
known better, she had once accused him of not seeing agents as people but only
as pawns. He had proceeded to rattle off the names of every agent he had ever
lost. She had never forgotten that.
"Can I assume this meeting is over?"
Loki asked, yawning.
Saying nothing, Control merely walked around his desk,
grabbed the former golden boy by the scruff of his neck whirled him around and
propelled him out the door.
"Go home, friend, mourn your losses, and slay
the dragons tomorrow. Even the white knight needs a day to grieve the righteous
dead," Valkyrie instructed him.
Control looked at her, she had never referred
to him as a friend before. At best he had thought of them as allies against a
"You know each of your agents by name, the living and the
dead. I have seen you angry at the senseless wasting of lives and mourning for
the passing of those that work for you. Anyone who cares that much for his people
is a friend of mine," she told him as she stood up to leave.
"Oh, did you
know that agents ask to be assigned to you? Word is that if you can't get them
out alive then it wasn't possible to get out," she continued, looking back at
him from the door before going through it.
Sighing, Control perused the
papers on his desk. Seeing nothing urgent, he left. There were some families he
needed to see today.
"Could I see Janice Wilson, please?" China asked the guard.
"Sign on the form," the bored guard instructed.
She complied and
was led back.
"Come to gloat?" Janice sneered, entering the room.
would I do that?" China asked, confused. Did Janice really think she would gloat
over someone in trouble?
Ignoring the question, Janice snorted and sat
"I really only came to ask one question," China explained, hesitantly.
Maybe this had not been a good idea; but she really wanted to know.
"Why? Why would you do something like that to me? I never
did anything to you," China asked.
"Because you are," Janice snapped.
am what?" China asked, honestly wanting to understand.
"You're you; privileged,
wealthy, beautiful, the best of everything. You don't even know what you have
you have so much," the dark chestnut haired woman growled.
"You set me
up on drug charges and put me through that tribunal because you think I'm some
spoiled little rich girl?" China goggled. This made no sense.
wasn't my idea, that was Marc's idea," Janice clarified.
China looked up
at Janice's reference to her boss by his first name. She used her boss's first
name at home as well, or had begun to as a slip and he seemed to like it so she
had continued. But that was completely different, unless Mr. Lewis and Janice...
China groaned to herself.
"It may have been his idea, but you're the only
one in the company that knows about that picture in my bedroom of Michael and
me," China announced. "So at the very least, you helped."
"Messed up your
perfect life, did I?" Janice mocked.
"Perfect life?" She repeated. Her
life was anything but perfect; it wasn't bad but it was not perfection, either.
you have and you still aren't satisfied," Janice shook her head.
that other than being confused by a friend's betrayal, I'm fairly happy with my
life," China answered. "But I still don't understand what you're talking about."
talking about your horses and UCLA education. I'm talking about your being able
to take a job at lower pay simply because you like it more and never having to
think about the money you lost. And your walking in barely qualified as a secretary
and getting the best position with the best boss..."
"Hold on there, you
wanted to work for Control?" China interrupted. Very few of the secretaries wanted
to work for him full time. He had a reputation as a fair boss, but a very demanding
"I'm talking about how life shines on you and everything you do. You
never have to face consequences for the things you do!" Janice shouted, as if
the mulatto woman had not said a thing.
China was quiet for a moment,
thinking about what the other woman had said. It had been rare that her actions
had had bad consequences for her to face, but when they did, her parents and then
her uncle had taught her to take it in stride as the natural result of her decisions
and learn from them. Life, however, had not been golden!
"I assure you
life has not shined on me!" China snapped.
"Really? You've never had to
decide between living in a safe neighborhood or living in one you can afford.
You drove a Mercedes that your uncle bought for you, and I bet he`ll replace it
since it was stolen. And you certainly won't turn it down because you can't afford
the insurance on it. Car repairs are no trouble because you merely have Henry
and your boss pick you up at the garage and return when the car is done. No loaners
or having to figure out an alternate way to get to work for you."
listened in silence. So far, everything Janice was saying was true. She did come
from a wealthy family; she was able to work where she liked, even when it meant
a pay cut. Michael had left her a message saying he wanted to replace her stolen
Mercedes with another one, and she could certainly afford the insurance on it.
Safe housing was always affordable to her and car repairs were easy to arrange.
have never gone to the store and bought only what you absolutely had to have because
you didn't have money for anything extra. You've never had student loans come
due and no way to make payments. You haven't wanted a pet and couldn't have one
because of the cost. You've never had a boss use you and leave you..."
Mr. Lewis did to you?" China inquired, softly. If that was what was behind this,
at least she could understand that. Love could lead to just about anything. "It
won't make this any easier, but at least understand that you are not the first
woman he has done that to."
"Shut Up! You don't know the first thing about
it," Janice screamed.
"You're wrong, I do understand what it is to love
someone and have them abandon you and betray you," China sympathized.
looks could have killed, Janice would have at the very least made China a darned
"I wasn't even sixteen when my mother died and my father disappeared;
probably after killing her. My fiance decided to spend the night before our wedding
with the maid of honor. We won't go into my grandparents who hated my mother and
resent that I even exist. I think those qualify me as knowing something about
being left alone. There's a couple of cops that I can still can't convince that
I did NOT kill my mother myself!" China yelled, finally losing her temper.
for having the golden life, think again! I had two parents who could not be in
the same room together without a fight breaking out. I was the only black kid
in my school, and definitely the only one in my neighborhood. And Control is the
first time a man that I loved has loved me back. Unless, of course, you care to
count the men that said they loved me and pretended to, in order to get a little
closer to my money and my family's," the dark haired women continued.
made no answer.
The bi-racial woman sat looked at her one time friend.
The friend that had for fun decided to have a costume party in the middle of summer.
The friend who house she had been stay at when her car was stolen. The friend
who knew she would be late to work because she was talking to the police that
morning. The friend who knew about the only picture that she had of her and her
uncle together. The friend who had betrayed her.
Slowly, China got up.
jumpa," she whispered, and left.
Control felt old. He always felt old and depressed
when he visited the homes of people he had never met to inform them that their
child or sibling or spouse was not coming home. A few times it had even been children
he was informing. This time it was a young wife with two small kids and a middle
aged set of parents. They had been remarkably kind about it, considering that
he could not really tell them anything except that their loved one had died in
the service of his country and they could be proud of him. He was not going to
reveal that had the upper powers not been playing politics, perhaps the men could
have been saved.
As he began unlocking his door, he looked over at China's.
Maybe she would lend him one of the books? A good book and a stiff drink sounded
wonderful. Or at least sounded like a recipe that might result in him feeling
He knocked on her door, and heard a voice telling him to come
"China Doll?" He called, petting the animals that greeted him.
She responded from the newly enlarged spare-room-turned-den.
have the door locked and know who it is before you tell someone to come in," he
chided her gently.
"All right," she agreed listlessly.
not like her. Entering the room, he got a look at her. She was in shorts and a
tank top, curled up in the overstuffed chair, staring out the window. He could
only see her profile, but it looked as if she had been crying.
wrong, sweetheart?" he asked, going over to her.
"Just thinking," she answered,
in a voice that was too dead for his liking.
things Janice said," she sniffed. Crying always made her nose run.
you go and see her today?" He asked uncertainly. He hadn't thought it a good idea,
but knew that she really wanted to go.
"Did you find
out what you wanted to know?"
"Kind of. I found out that someone that I
thought was my friend resents the fact of my existence. I just wanted to know
why she would do something like that," she explained.
"Something like that
very rarely has a why," he told her, sitting in the easy chair that had been brought
in since yesterday.
"So I discovered," she agreed with a derisive chuckle.
let it go," he advised.
"But she was right, I have had it fairly easy,"
she admitted. "My life certainly has not been perfect, but I have had every advantage
and opportunity imaginable."
"Have you ever wasted those advantages?" He
asked her, knowing the answer.
"Not that I know of," She replied after
a thoughtful moment.
"Have you ever had an opportunity to help someone
less fortunate than yourself, or to do a good deed and not taken it?"
" she answered, somewhat heatedly. He knew her well enough to know that answer.
you ever looked down on someone or thought them beneath you because they came
from a poor or middle-class family?" He continued asking.
"Of course not!
If I worked that way I would not have started dating a farm boy," she retorted.
might be a farm boy, but thanks to some very wise investing I am fairly well off,
so that doesn't count," he teased her; knowing that she had not meant the comment
"The farm certainly does count! I loved it out there!" She
said in mock shock.
"Good, then you would be willing to spend Thanksgiving
out there?" He asked. He had been wanting to invite her.
"I think I can
probably clear my social calendar," she answered, smiling. It would seem she was
going to be meeting the rest of the family.
"I also get your point with
the questions. I may have had all the advantages, but I don't need to be ashamed
of them because I don't waste them or think myself better than people who have
not had them," she continued, moving over to the chair where he was.
he answered, reaching over and pulling her in for a hug from her perch on the
Having gotten pulled into the best seat in the house, her boss's
lap, the young woman decided to stay there for a bit. He certainly didn't seem
"I still can't believe that I never saw the way she really feels
about me," China admitted, moving to what her companion had a hunch was the real
reason for the tears.
"I can. You treat people honestly and sincerely
and tend to assume others are the same way. It would never occur to you to mistrust
"Unlike you," she answered, resting against her friend.
trusting people, China; it's a lot less lonely than the alternative," he advised.
bet it hurts less," she retorted.
"You would lose that bet," he told her
morosely. He could count one hand and have a few digits left over the number of
true friends he had. And even those he could never trust as China trusted her
friends. He had lost that ability shortly after being approached by an intelligence
officer while in the military about what kind of plans he might have for the rest
of his life.
"I don't think I could distrust everyone even I wanted to,
it's not exactly in my nature," she responded, nestling against him. Control had
often seemed lonely to her, but this was the first time he had admitted to it.
God," he responded, meaning it.
"Have you eaten yet?" He asked her, noting
"No, I had just gotten the dogs in from their walk when you came
by. I'm not really hungry, though," she answered.
He looked critically
at the woman in his lap. Skipping meals was not something China could do easily,
since her high metabolism ensured that she never put on weight, but lost it very
easily. She was still looking haggard from the meals she had missed while he was
"You're too thin to skip meals. Where's you favorite Chinese place
and I'll order in," he instructed.
"I happen to like real Chinese food
and Chinatown doesn't deliver out here," she explained, with mostly feigned indignation.
"Okay, then tell me the name and number of your favorite place to order
in and I'll call in dinner for us," he instructed.
"John, I am not hungry!"
"China, please, you don't have to eat a lot, but just have
something," he implored her.
"You mean you don't like my Twiggy look?"
she playfully pouted.
"No, I prefer women who look healthy," he replied
"Dixie's Soul Food," she answered.
He raised an eyebrow.
"Thank you, I'll call dinner in."
Getting up, he gently moved his hostess
from his lap to the chair and went to use the phone.
Shaking his head,
he returned a few moments later. He picked her up and slid beneath her, pulling
her back down into his lap. "I called and gave them your name and address, but
then the phone was handed to someone else. I repeated your name and someone named
Mama said she was going to be right over. Since I didn't get a chance to say what
we wanted, this should be interesting,"
China groaned. "She would have
to be working tonight. Hope you're hungry, because Mama doesn't believe in small
meals and fattening me up is her special hobby."
"You're a regular client?"
he asked, surprised. China loved to cook, so ordering out a lot seemed unusual,
but then she did work long hours, so maybe that was why.
"Truth is that
I technically own part of the restaurant. Mama wanted to start a restaurant but
had no capital, so my mother gave it to her as a business investment. So mom owned
it and Mama ran it on the understanding that once Mama had paid back the loan,
the place was hers. When mom died, I inherited her share in it," China explained.
Mama and your mother were friends as well as business partners?" he asked.
and Mama has two goals in life..."
A loud banging on the door interrupted
"I'll get it," he offered.
"This should be interesting," China
snorted, getting up and following.
As she entered the living room/kitchen
area, Control opened the door and was blown aside as a short, heavy woman bustled
"Land sakes, girl, don't you ever feed this man?" The woman exclaimed,
looking at Control as she settled packages and bags down.
"She is in no
way responsible for my care and feeding," Control growled. "You're Mama, I presume?"
Smith, Mary Dubois, Mama this is my friend John Smith," China jumped in, making
"Folks call me Mama, young man, and you can, too," the
older woman instructed. Looking at him critically, there was no way any man was
going to put China through what her mother had gone through. And since China's
own mother was not around to see to that, Mama would do it.
a few meals for him and he is not that skinny!" China defended herself.
you need to cook more; I can practically count his ribs!" the older woman scolded.
"And what on this earth have you been doing to yourself?"
"I've been under
some stress and you know I can't eat when I'm upset," China explained.
tonight you're eatin'," the woman harrumphed.
"Mama, we can't possibly
eat all of that," China complained as fried chicken and barbecued ribs came out
to be placed on a table already overflowing from the plump woman's offerings.
catfish, black-eyed peas, and collards with meat were already on the table. And
not all of the bags were empty.
"You can't?" Mama asked, eyeing Control
dubiously. "Who says?"
"Mama! John has nothing to do with my being this
thin. I've just had a hard couple of weeks," the younger woman explained.
I called you hoping to entice her to eat. I agree that she's far too thin," he
When the candied yams and gumbo came out, he began looking a bit
dubious himself at eating all of this.
"Nice to see you have some sense
and appreciate that a woman needs to have some substance to her," Mama nodded
approval at the man. Maybe, just maybe, he was good enough for her China; at least
the man wasn't expecting the girl to starve herself to fit society's idea of the
"I've never cared for the ultra thin fashion model type and
China seemed a bit lean, so feeding her did seem in order."
man who knows how to treat you, girl," Mama told China while smiling back at him.
start, Mama. I have no intentions of marrying any time soon," China growled at
the other woman.
"Well, you best be starting sometime child, or you ain't
never gonna get around to it," the plump little woman declared.
just fine on my own," China insisted
"Don't look like you're on your own
to me, girl."
"I'm only visiting, I assure you," Control hastily added.
He did not want this formidable woman getting the wrong idea.
ever gets herself going maybe you wouldn't be," the woman snorted, pulling out
a sweet potato pie.
"Mama, I'll get married when I'm good and ready to
get married," the younger woman growled.
"Lets hope there's still some
men around when you get ready," Mama snorted.
"I really am dong fine,"
China assured the restaurateur with a warm smile. Mama might be pushy and bossy
at times, but it was only out of a desire for the happiness of the people she
"You say so, child. I'll send Billy by for these dishes later,"
Mama smiled, hugging her unofficial adopted daughter.
"Hurt her and I'll
show you what black power really means," the woman informed her host as she headed
for the door.
He merely raised an eyebrow. "I'll keep that in mind; assuming
that I survived what Michael and China herself would do to me after I got done
"I knew you were a smart boy," Mama smiled, waddling out
"Thank you, this is exactly what I was needing, actually," China
chuckled as Control closed and relocked the door.
"A kitchen full of food?"
"No, a reminder that I am really and truly loved," she smiled
and, moving close to him, pecked him on the cheek.
"I would have been happy
to remind you," he responded with a look that shows how much he cherished the
woman at his side.
"I'm certain," she chuckled, getting out plates and
silverware while Control poured them some wine.
"Tell you what, why don't
we eat and then I'll spend the rest of the night telling you just how loved you
are?" he offered.
"I suppose I can handle that if you insist," she giggled.
She really hated it when she did that, and it always seemed to happen around him.
China mumbled contentedly a few hours later as they cuddled on the couch, reading
and sipping wine. Having finished Water Babies, they were starting on the first
of the Tarzan books. They both had a love for the adventure movies, it seemed.
"Humm?" he inquired, looking up from his reading aloud, since it was his
chapter to read.
"Stay here?" China asked, cuddling even closer.
if you are inviting me to spend the night with you, I'm flattered and touched,
but the answer is no," he replied after a moment's regret. It was the right thing
to do, but that didn't make it any easier. And if it were anyone but China asking,
he had to admit he would probably be saying yes. But one or two nights of pleasure
would not be worth the destruction it would cause in what they were building.
really don't want to be alone, tonight," she told him, her head resting against
"I know, China Doll, and that's why I have to say no. You've
had a hard day that was preceded by a hard two weeks. It wouldn't be right for
me to accept an offer made in a moment of weakness. I'll stay here with you until
you fall asleep, but I am not going to spend the night," he explained firmly.
really would like you to stay," she repeated.
"I love you too much to risk
what we have by spending the night with you when all you really want is someone
to hold you, not use you."
The tribunal, and the week leading up to it
as well as the discovery that her friend had betrayed her, had finally caught
up to the woman. She sat shaking in his arms, and then sobbing. He held her against
him, stroking her back and her hair, rocking back and forth while she cried.
eventually came and claimed the young woman. Seeing that she was asleep, he carried
her into the bedroom and laid her gently down on the bed. Then, turning to give
her one last look, he locked up her apartment and returned to his own. Tonight
at least, he thought, chivalry isn't dead.
"What are you doing here?" the already
middle-aged and getting older fast red-head asked, standing in her office door.
thought we could talk for a minute before the work day began, Hera," the dark
haired man in her chair responded in a voice that could have come directly from
the ice age.
"What would we possibly have to talk about, Control?" the
"You set me up and used someone that I care about to do it,"
"Really?" She sneered, "I don't remember doing anything to
"You really should have picked someone with more backbone than Marc
Lewis," he said, shaking his head in dismay.
"I heard about his little
stunt. What makes you think I had anything to do with it?" She asked.
we had a little chat after the tribunal, during which he told me about your involvement,"
Control smiled like a cat with a cornered mouse to play with.
you're right, what do you want from me?" she asked, trying, and failing miserably,
to school her expression.
"Before we get into that, I suggest you remember
what the committee does to failed grabs for power."
Hera paled. The committee
would not really see anything wrong in making a grab for power and influence,
most of them considered that part of the game. They would rip apart, however,
anyone that grabbed for it and failed. The only chance she had was if no one ever
knew of this.
"I see I have your attention. I want Marc Lewis exiled somewhere
where no more lives will be destroyed by his using security personnel as his private
Gestapo," Control began.
"Done," the woman agreed readily. If all this
cost her was the dismissal and exile of a man she was finished with anyway, then
it was a cheap failure. But, somehow, she suspected that Northern Control was
going to demand more than that of her.
"Loki is to be out of my office
and out of my sight," he snarled.
"I heard about yesterday's incident.
He really was out of line," she conceded as though he was referring to her dog
having made a mess in his yard.
"I also want it understood that you owe
me several favors," he continued.
"Which you will call in, of course,"
"When I need something badly enough, yes, I will," he smiled
Speechless, she merely nodded her acquiesce. She really had no other
"I'm glad we understand one another," he said, getting out of the
chair and making way for her as he left the office.
Passing Jason Masur
in a hallway, he smiled at the man. "Congratulation on your promotion to head
of security; make certain and greet Minerva for me when next you two chat."
paled momentarily and slightly stammered a reply but kept on going. Whatever the
reason Minerva had in falsifying the golden boy's file so he got the position,
Control was certain it would be far better planned and executed than Hera's.
are your messages, sir, " China smiled at him as he entered his office.
on medical leave through the end of the week," he chided.
"I was getting
bored sitting at home," she admitted.
"Welcome back," he smiled. He really
did miss her when she wasn't there.
"About last night," she bit her lip.
happened last night," he reminded her.
"I know, thank you for that," she
"Anything that would have ended with you not respecting yourself
or me was unacceptable," he assured her.
"I heard about yesterday. I'm
sorry," she said softly. "You didn't need to come home to my petty carrying on
"It wasn't petty to you, so it wasn't to me," he smiled softly,
brushing her face with his hand.
"Ako ibigin ka," she whispered, leaning
into his hand.
"Ready, China Doll?" Control asked as he
turned the car off.
"Ready," she smiled, getting a quick kiss. They might
not get to do much of this when the festivities started.
As they got out
of the car, a loud, and very familiar bark sounded from the barn. Turning, she
saw a huge tawny mutt standing at the barn door and wagging his tail at her before
responding to a whistle and heading back inside with the other animals.
was that Oso?" She asked in disbelief.
"They said that it was acceptable
for him to get a new home, and I thought of my parents. I didn't want to tell
you anything in case it didn't work out and he had to be put down," he explained.
You," she whispered, filled with emotion. She had never forgiven herself what
had happened to the poor abused dog she taken in three years earlier. Now, thanks
to this wonderful man, the large dog was safe and sound on a farm and evidently
She turned and kissed him, and had it returned. His arm still
around her, they started for the house.
"Uncle John!" a small blonde girl
ran at her uncle, squealing as her grandmother opened the door for the new arrivals.
he called, scooping her up for a hug.
"Welcome home, John," Rebecca Smith
greeted her oldest son, claiming a hug from the arm that wasn't holding up a squirming
"Thanks, mom," he smiled.
"Hello, China," Rebecca greeted
the younger woman and hugged her.
"Hello, Becca," she smiled, hugging the
"Nice to see you again, China," Paul greeted her as he reclaimed
his daughter from his brother.
"Nice to see you too, Paul," she smiled.
didn't know you two had meet," Mrs. Smith said, surprised.
"I was in New
York for a few days on business and staying with John. I didn't say anything because
there wasn't time for me to drop by and visit," Paul explained.
where did you get the stained glass picture hanging on your window?" China asked,
hesitantly, staring at the image of a soaring eagle.
"I got it from Paul
for my birthday. Isn't it lovely?"
"Yes it's very nice," China agreed,
glaring at Paul.
"He got me one as well, but it's a knight in shining armor,"
China groaned. Maggie must have told Paul somehow that
she had made those two pictures.
"Honey, are you okay?" the graying woman
"I'm fine, just surprised," she choked.
Paul winked at her,
and China burst out laughing.
Control raised an eyebrow.
joke," China chuckled.
"Should I be jealous?" a petite blond wearing dark
glasses with a baby on her hip asked from the kitchen doorway.
for a moment; it had never occurred to her that Paul's wife might be blind; unless
there was another reason for the glasses. But then, there were people like her
grandparents who would not be able to imagine a man like John with a black woman.
at all. You must be Paul`s wife."
With practiced ease, Paul maneuvered
his bride until she was facing the new guest. "This is my wife, Annie, and that's
Kelly she's holding, and Carolyn is the one that assaulted her uncle as he came
in," He introduced his family to the woman whom he suspected more than ever would
be joining the family. Her easy acceptance of Annie's lack of sight was a blessing;
he hadn't thought it would be a problem.
"When's Uncle Frank going to be
here?" Carolyn asked
"Right now, honey," came a rumbling voice from behind
them as a man who looked to be John and Frank many years in the future came in.
Uncle Frank," the two men and Annie, almost in three part harmony, greeted the
"Sir, I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, China Berry, China,
this is my uncle, General Frank Savage," Control introduced the older version
"Nice to meet you, Miss Berry," he smiled.
and it's nice to meet you as well, General," she smiled, offering a hand that
"Make it Frank," he told her, happy that his oldest nephew
had found a woman that he was bringing home to meet the family.
you get here, Uncle Frank? I didn't see a car drive up." Carolyn asked, running
over to get a hug from her great uncle.
"I didn't drive in, I flew in,
in the Cessna," he told her, scooping her up for a hug.
"Can I go for a
ride in it?" she asked brightly.
"Maybe we can sometime this weekend, if
your parents say it's okay," he told her.
"Dinner is getting cold, I suggest
we all eat it while it's still hot," Rebecca hinted, happy to have her family
all home for the holiday.
"China, do you think you could teach me how to
make Chicken Adobo? Paul is still talking about that meal you made," Annie asked,
grinning, while her husband blushed.
"Sure Annie, I would love to," China
offered as the trio headed in, each parent carrying a child.
do you still have the ring grandma gave me?" Control asked softly as they followed
the general and Thomas Smith in for the meal.
"I had a feeling you might
be wanting it," she smiled, slipping a ring into his hand.
"There's a bull
here named Ferdinand, he's really nice. It's a good thing he doesn't live in Spain
though or they might make him fight. Did you know that there are bull fights in
Spain?" Carolyn asked the nice lady that she didn't know.
"Yes I knew,
In fact I went to the bull fights when I was visiting Spain, once," China smiled.
wouldn't be surprised to find out that you had fought the bulls," Control smirked,
cutting up some of the meat for his niece who was next to him.
"No, I didn't fight them."
"Please tell me that you didn't run with them,"
Control goggled; then wondered why it should surprise him that she had participated
in the running of the bulls.
"No I didn't run with them. I'm happy to say
that I was just fast enough to be in front of them at all times."
think women were allowed to participate in the running of the bulls," the General
commented after a moment of table-wide silence.
"I can't see a simple thing
like that stopping you, China," Paul chortled.
"I'm amazed your uncle let
you do something that dangerous," Control snickered, imagining the look on her
uncle's face when he found out. "Or does he even know that you did that?"
knows. I was there with some friends from college and we decided to watch the
running of the bulls. Then a few of us decided that participation would be even
better. Since, as Paul said, women are not allowed to join in, I borrowed some
clothes from one of the guys. The bulls chased us all the way to the stadium where
we watched the fights with me cheering the bulls on the entire time," China answered,
taking some of the potatoes and passing the bowl.
"How did Michael find
out?" Control asked pointedly.
"I didn't know it, but he was in Pamplona
at the same time I was. And knowing my love for excitement he figured I would
try and run with the bulls. I didn't know he was even there until I was about
to have a run-in with a very unhappy bovine and he yanked me out of the way. Thankfully,
I was just grazed. I have an interesting scar to remember it by and my ears have
still not stopped ringing from the talking to I got about endangering myself like
that," China admitted.
"Was Michael all right as well?" John asked.
he had a pulled muscle and, like me, got clipped, but neither of us was hurt badly,"
China confessed, still wincing a bit at the memory of her uncle getting hurt protecting
her from herself.
"I hope you picked some safer hobbies after that," Thomas
"I promised Uncle Michael I wouldn't run with the bulls any more
and would be more careful after that," she smiled.
"Do I dare ask what
hobby you picked up to replace that one?" Control asked with a chuckle.
diving," she answered.
Annie about choked on the bite she had taken as
she started laughing. She liked this spirited and adventurous young woman, no
wonder Paul and John were so taken with her.
"I never saw a reason to jump
out of a perfectly good airplane, "the General informed her, shaking his head.
that's exactly what John said when he found out about that hobby of mine," China
"That's because he's a sensible man who doesn't have a death wish,"
the general answered with a smile.
"Actually, I've settled down considerably
since those days," China assured them.
"A fact for which I'm immensely
grateful," Control hastily added.
"Working for you is all the excitement
I need," China responded with an exaggerated sigh.
"Oh, I can imagine that
is very true," Paul chortled.
"There was something that I wanted to ask
you about, Becca," China smiled.
Control, having a hunch where this was
going, was not smiling.
"Yes, dear?" The matriarch asked.
always imagined that John must have been a handful as a child," China began.
adults rolled their eyes as one.
"Don't laugh too
hard Paul, you were at least as much of a challenge as your brother was," Thomas
said with the barest hint of a smile.
"Well, I know one military base that
probably still remembers those two," Frank smiled.
His nephews groaned.
don't think I heard about this one, Uncle Frank," Annie said excitedly. She and
Paul had only been married a couple of years and she loved hearing tales about
"Well, Becca said the boys were due for a vacation of some
kind and getting a bit squirrelly, they were about twelve, then. I hadn't seen
them in a long time so I said they should come and visit me, how much trouble
could it be to entertain two boys, and I had leave coming and there was lots to
do in California." Frank relayed, shaking his head at such foolish thinking.
mothers and Thomas snorted their opinion on that reasoning. Paul and John were
both wisely remaining silent. China was trying to hold in her laughter; she might
not know a lot about kids, but she did know that two pre-adolescent boys could
get into plenty of trouble together. Especially when one of them was her boss.
I was checking on some last minute things and told the boys to wait in my office
for me. Well, about half an hour later I'm talking things over with one of my
men and I got a phone call. Seems there were two boys sitting on the floor in
a classified area facing the business end of a rifle and asking for me," Frank
almost smiled at the memory.
Paul and John were very engrossed in their
plates, while their parents and ladies laughed hysterically at the image of the
boys sitting on the floor asking for their uncle.
"We weren't really given
much choice about calling you," Paul admitted, "Otherwise we might not have, since
the gun at least would have been quick and painless and anything you thought up
to punish us wouldn't have been either of those."
"Actually he took it
a lot better than we figured he would," John commented. "We thought we would not
be seeing the outside of the house for the entire week we were with him. As it
was, he came and hauled us out by our ears, then, as he didn't have a paddle,
he had us go out and find and cut some switches for him."
"You mean the
great switch hunter of Ohio didn't get them himself?" Rebecca smirked.
figured it was time to let another generation have the pleasure," Frank chuckled.
Leave it to a sister to remember how many times their father had had him going
"Anyway, I had both of them in my office standing at attention
while I finished up a few phone calls and some paperwork. I looked up from one
call just in time to see them both going down in a faint," the general chuckled.
to warn them about locking their knees?" Thomas asked, having gotten the warning
about that himself, when he first joined the Army.
"Yes," came the answer
"I let you both sit down for the rest of the time after that,
and I did inform you then that locking you knees can cause a person to faint,"
the general added.
"Yeah, you seemed a little less angry after we fainted,
but at least once the switching was administered, the entire thing was forgotten
about," John chuckled a bit at the memory
"Speak for yourself, I wasn't
sitting for three days after that," Paul admitted with a mock scowl.
general protested that he had hardly given them that hard of a switching, while
the others laughed over a second cup of coffee.
"Why don't I see to the
chores tonight, dad?" Control offered, getting up from the meal.
certain, son," Thomas agreed.
"I am, you don't get nights off too often,
so let me give you this one, okay?" the younger man asked.
"Since you insist,
I'll accept it gratefully," the patriarch acquiesced.
"Why don't I give
you a hand," Paul offered, rising and following his twin who was not a twin.
all right?" Paul asked, entering the barn behind John.
"Yeah, I've just
been thinking about Susan a lot lately."
"She was a beautiful woman, and
one well worth thinking about," Paul acknowledged. He had not known her well,
but had liked what he knew of her.
"Yes, she was, she certainly deserved
better than dying because some idiot got behind the wheel of a car after drinking
too much," Control snarled, tossing some hay with more energy than it really required.
one deserves to die like that," Paul agreed.
"I can't stop thinking about
that last week we had together. Watching the bulls run, seeing the bullfights,
attending the Jai Alai matches, nights spent watching the fireworks and dancing
and listing to the music. We spent the entire week in Pamplona."
like you had a nice week," Paul commented.
"It was the most incredible
week of my life," the other man sighed.
"Since it was your last week together,
I assume something happened?"
"I was ready to walk away from it all and
then got a call to help deal with some situations in Germany. For the first time
I was going to say no; I was going to stay with her and maybe even go to matador
school. She found out about the call, though, and left before I had a chance to
stop her," Control explained.
"You never had a chance to see or talk to
her again?" Paul asked, sitting on a bale.
"We talked on the phone the
next day, she said that she couldn't take living with the uncertainty any more.
I tried to tell her that I was leaving it all behind, but she wouldn't believe
me. She said that I couldn't walk away from it, and she couldn't live with it,"
"John, is it just possible that she was right?" Paul asked hesitantly.
me?" Control growled.
"Maybe you weren't really ready to walk away from
it all. You said you were thinking of leaving it all behind, and yet here you
are deeper in it than ever," Paul observed.
"There wasn't a reason to leave
it after she left," Control answered.
"Do you remember the first day of
school?" Paul asked after a moment of thought, watching his brother.
year?" the spook answered, not certain where Paul was going.
first day of school ever," Paul clarified.
"That was a long time ago,"
"Ricky Tomlinson," the mercenary prompted.
snorted. "That piece of excrement? Yeah, I remember him."
into a fight with him the first day of school?" Paul asked.
us both getting sent home early because we had gotten into a fight," Control answered,
"I got involved backing you up. Do you remember why you
got involved?" Paul asked.
"He was picking on the girls and made one of
them cry," John responded.
"Even back then you could not ignore someone
in need," Paul gave a rumbling chuckle.
"You weren't any better!" Control
shot back, grinning.
"That's probably why we do what we do for a living,"
"So you think Susan was right and there is no way I can
leave this life?" Control raised an eyebrow.
"I think you can leave it
when you're ready to, I just question if you are really ready to," Paul shrugged.
Susan was right to leave?" Control asked.
"I didn't say that, only that
she might have been right about your not being ready to leave," Paul corrected
"She might have at that," Control agreed.
"Guys?" came a decidedly
feminine voice from the barn door.
"Sorry, honey, didn't mean to abandon
you for so long," John smiled over at his lady.
"I was fine, it was just
that you two had been out here so long, I was getting a bit worried," she explained.
smiled, "John was just telling me about Susan."
"Susan?" China asked, not
jealous, but definitely interested in this competitor. She had never imagined
that she was the first woman in his life; she only wanted to be the last.
get you for this, Paul," John whispered under his breath. "Yes, Susan, my late
"I'm so sorry; I didn't know," China said sympathetically,
moving over to join the men.
"Susan Roberts, I meet her in a hospital after
I had gotten hurt, she was a nurse," the spy explained.
"The same incident
that resulted in the scars on your back?" she asked hesitantly.
was one of the nurses taking care of me during recovery," he confirmed.
smiled slightly, leaving the other two and seeing to the chores his brother had
"You must have loved her very much," China offered, knowing
that contrary to what people thought, Control was a man of great emotion.
I did, even after she ran away from me," he answered quietly, not certain how
China would react to that part of the story.
She merely came closer and
reaching up, embraced her friend. She didn't know what to say so she skipped words
and let her actions speak.
"Spies are hard men to be involved with, Saiai,"
she whispered to him as he held her tightly, drinking in her love and acceptance
of who and what he was.
"I would have at least liked to have had the chance
to tell her I was sorry for everything my job had put us and her through; and
to tell her goodbye....maybe one last chance to tell her I loved her," he said,
still holding his love. She was so very, very different from Susan and yet in
some ways how very like the green eyed, dark haired southern beauty he had loved.
how about you tell us about Susan while we finish up in here before dad comes
looking to see what kind of damage we've done this time?" Paul offered.
actually heard her before I saw her. I woke up in a hospital bed after I figured
that I was never going to wake up again. The first thing I heard was this wonderfully
soothing, melodic voice singing to me. I figured it was the angelic choir welcoming
me, or hell trying to fool me," Control began.
Paul snorted, having been
in that position, himself.
"It would have been heaven, trust me," China
"Then this sweet as molasses southern drawl asked me if I would
like some water," he sighed, remembering it like it was yesterday. "When I opened
my eyes, there was an angel with raven hair and big, emerald eyes. She had the
gentlest hands in the world and if her patient wasn't obeying, the sharpest tongue
"Why do I have a hunch you were not her most compliant patient?"
China asked, her eyes sparkling.
"I can almost promise he was not," Paul
"I wasn't, but a few lashings from her tongue taught
me to behave myself," Control chuckled, remembering the only woman who came close
to China in using words as weapons.
"She had just moved to the big city
and was totally alone, there. She was lonely, so instead of going home evenings,
she would come in and talk to me. We became friends and stayed together after
I got out of the hospital. Life seemed so perfect, I was doing a job that made
a difference and that I was good at, and I had a wonderful, intelligent, loving
woman at home," he continued.
"But she had a harder and harder time with
each mission that took you away and each time you left unexpectedly without warning
and every time you came home in pieces," China offered.
"Yeah, I just didn't
see it until it was too late," Control answered, " And by the time I got home
to do anything about it, she was dead in a drunk driving accident."
you able to go to her funeral at least?" China asked.
"No, I wasn't able
to go. I was stuck in Germany and by the time I got home she had been dead for
several months," he answered quietly.
"Did you do anything to give yourself
some peace about her?" Paul asked.
"I took another assignment almost immediately;
there didn't seem to be much to stay here for," Control admitted.
never let yourself grieve?" China asked.
"Over a woman who left me?" he
asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Over the death of a woman you loved," Paul
"The passing of someone you cared about," China added.
never thought about it that way," Control admitted.
"You boys planning
on being out there all night?" came a bellow from the house.
sounded back in three part harmony.
WHACK. A snowball hit Paul in the chest.
SPLAT. Its mate whitewashed Control. A low rumbling laugh and a high pitched giggle
sounded from the side of the house.
"I do hope they realize this means
war," Paul chuckled, scooping up his own ammunition.
The senior spy just
smiled predatorily as he made some snow into a ball. He had no intention of being
unarmed in the coming battle.
China quietly dropped behind the two men
and began arming herself.
"Daddy!" a squeal came as the first battle was
Her partner in crime remained silent due to a face full of snow.
had been missed entirely while his partner got a hit in the leg. China was un-hit,
having hidden behind her defenders.
"John!" came a call came from behind.
Turning to respond, he got nailed in the face as a laughing woman dashed off into
"She's going down!" John smirked as he dashed after her.
second volley found Paul nailed in the arm. Sounds of an outraged woman landing
in a snow bank were heard to the right. The general escaped that round unscathed.
came a rumbling chuckle. "Miss Berry!" came a shrill laugh.
rumbling laughs were heard in response to the first sounds.
"All of you
come in and get dry, now!" A female voice called from the farmhouse. Annie was
the one person guaranteed to be safe in snowball fight.
A truce was called
as all of the warriors came inside. With Paul damper than the others due to his
daughter's last shot of a snowball down his back. Luckily, her uncle John had
the reflexes to catch the dropped giggler.
Leaving his wet outer things
in the hall with the rest of the dripping coats and boots, John stepped into the
kitchen as signaled by his mother. Collecting mugs and pot, the man headed to
the den where he could hear voices and the crackling of a fire. In the doorway,
he looked at the familial group and smiled. Carolyn was sitting on the General's
lap and hearing about the little engine that could with all the right sound effects.
Paul and Thomas were setting up a hot game of chess. Annie was nursing Kelly while
the ladies talked and giggled about what sounded like the men in their lives.
It was good to be home, and even better that China was part of it. Susan hurt,
but he was ready to take a chance again, and the slim tri-racial woman was the
perfect start to that.
Smiling, he handed out the mugs of hot cocoa. Ending
next to China, where he sat down, putting an arm easily around her. Smiling at
her paramour she snuggled a little closer against him. Glancing over, he caught
his parents' knowing smiles, as well as his brother's wink. John Smith merely
smiled back, and hugged his lady a little tighter.
Bonjour, McCall de Robert est ici pour vous voir = Hello Robert
McCall is here to see you
Bonjour patron = Hello boss
Sie, hier herauszukommen sofort, es bin dringend! = I need you to come out here
immediately, It is urgent!
Kukac = Maggot
Oyabun = boss
= Thank you
Tr vo = come in
tuta = puppy
Ni hao = hello
Sagst du nicht! = You don't say!
Apa = come in
= Thank you
Exspectata domus = Welcome home
Mahal kita = I love
Pahintulutan ang laro simulan = Let the games begin
ay a henyo! = The man is a genius!
Ako gumawa hindi maniwala ito! = I
do not believe this!
Sampai jumpa = Goodbye
ka = I love you
Saiai = Beloved
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