It’s taken me a little while, but here is the first installment of December Story Time! If you remember, we had a tie between Lingering and The Exchange. Hopefully I’ll have the second story to you soon, but until then, enjoy this extended version of Lingering.
Verity surveyed the empty diner as she sipped her scalding coffee. It was completely clean, no sign of the violent struggle from the night before. If she left now, it would be like she’d never been there. A bitter taste rose up in her mouth that had nothing to do with her black coffee.
“You’re lingering,” said a smooth voice behind her. “Thought that was one of your rules?”
“Never linger,” she said, beating him to the punch. “What brings you here, Agent Mirran?”
“Gulliver was a good agent.”
“He was more than an agent, Mirran. He was a friend.”
A cruel smile spread across Mirran’s mouth. “More than a friend, I’d say.”
“What would you know about it?” snapped Verity.
“Judging by the way you just snapped at me, quite a bit.” He ran a finger down the side of her cheek and under her chin. “You and I worked together too, once upon a time.”
She smacked his hand away. “Don’t touch me again.” She glared at him as he took the seat across from her.
“Now is that any way to talk to your new partner?” Mirran said smoothly.
Verity gaped at him for a few seconds before pulling herself together and pushing back from the table. “You’re out of your mind. I will never be your partner.”
Mirran chuckled. “You don’t have a choice, sweetheart. The Director assigned you to me himself.”
“No.” Verity stood and stormed away from the table, her hands shaking as she clenched them into fists at her sides. She spun around on her heel. “You’re out of your mind, Mirran, if you think anything would possess me to work with you, even for a minute. You are slime. I want nothing to do with you.” With that she stormed away, straining to keep her breathing under control.
Mirran waited until she was almost to the door to speak. “Even if we’re going after Gulliver’s murderer?” Verity froze. Behind her, Mirran smiled, certain he had her at last.
Slowly Verity turned around, carefully schooling her emotions as she did so. “Listen here, Mirran. I had a partner, and we had a mission. Gulliver might be gone, but our mission isn’t over. And I’m going to finish it, without your help. So get lost.”
Mirran lost his smile. “You don’t have a choice, Agent Peach. I’m your new partner, whether you like it or not. I suggest you learn to like it. Shouldn’t be too hard for you.”
“Go to hell,” Verity spat.
“As you wish,” Mirran responded coolly. He reached inside his jacket for something and Verity again turned to leave, but this time she found her way blocked by an impossibly tall man whose black suit against his dark skin made him appear like a shadow in the room. A large, impenetrable shadow.
“Back up, Mirran? This is hardly necessary.” Verity attempted unsuccessfully to push past the large man, but he reach out and held her by the arms to keep her still. “Take you hands off me!” She fought against him, but he held her fast.
Mirran watched her struggle with a smirk on his face. “Of course it isn’t, Verity. And do call me Derrick. Partners ought to be more familiar with each other.”
“I keep telling you, we aren’t partners, Mirran.”
His smirk deepened. “That delusion isn’t going to change matters, dear. Mr. Larson, please release Agent Peach. She isn’t going anywhere.”
Mr. Larson let go of Verity, who immediately jerked her arm out of his grasp and threw Mirran a hateful glare. “Alright. What’s this about?”
“You need to be debriefed,” Mirran said shortly. Irritation flickered across Verity’s face, but she said nothing. Mirran continued. “The weapons deal you and Agent Ridley, ah…interrupted, was a set up. A trap.” Verity stared, stunned. “Harrison was on to you. He set up the deal to lure the pair of you in and eliminate you.”
Verity shook her head, hardly believing what she was hearing. “That can’t be true. We were tailing his man Marcus for three weeks before last night. His information was solid. Harrison couldn’t possibly have been setting us up for that long…” she trailed off, her mind working furiously.
“Perhaps not,” conceded Mirran. “But he certainly found out about it sometime before last night.”
“How could Gulliver and I have missed that? Our sources were too good to miss something like that.” Verity was pacing now, one hand on her holster.
A knowing look appeared on Mirran’s face. “But you didn’t miss it, Agent Peach.” Verity stopped pacing.
“What do you mean?”
“Information regarding last night’s set up was relayed to your team from Headquarters yesterday.”
Verity shook her head. “We never received any new information.”
Mirran shrugged. “Maybe you didn’t, but Agent Ridley did.”
“Gully would never keep something like this from me,” Verity said at once. “Headquarters has it wrong.”
“Or maybe you didn’t know Gully as well as you’d like to think.”
“Shut up!” snapped Verity, pointing a finger at him. “How dare you accuse Gulliver of withholding information and knowingly putting me in danger?”
Mirran spread his hands out on the table in surrender, but the smug look remained on his face. “I’m only debriefing you on the facts, dear.”
“No!” Verity walked up and slammed her fist on the table. “What you have, maybe, are some of the facts. The main fact is, Gulliver would never withhold this kind of information from me, and he would never lead me knowingly into a trap. Headquarters may say they told Gulliver about the trap, but he obviously didn’t get it. So there is either a severe communication error in the agency that cost a good man his life, or someone was paid to give us or not give us the information.”
Mirran listened impassively, not even flinching when she again slammed her fist down on the table. “So what do you suggest we do, Agent Peach? Surely you don’t mean to go up against the agency?”
Verity scoffed and pushed away from the table. Mr. Larson watched her carefully from the doorway. She ran a hand through her frazzled dark hair and gnawed her lower lip. She straightened when she came to a decision and faced Mirran with a small smile on her face. “I don’t suggest we do anything, Agent Mirran.” She batted her eyelashes. Mirran’s eyes narrowed. “What I’m going to do is get to the bottom of this so-called trap. I’m going to find Gulliver’s murderer, and I’m going to bring down Harrison Monroe.” She sauntered up to Mirran and ran a finger down his cheek, just as he had done to her minutes before.
She bent down. “And I’m going to do it without your help.”
As she stood up, Mirran snorted. “You’re deluding yourself if you think…” He was cut off my Verity suddenly slamming his head down against the table. Instantly Mr. Larson moved forward but Verity had already pulled out her pistol and had it aimed at Larson’s head.
“I wouldn’t,” she warned. Quickly she made her way to the door, keeping her eye and gun on Larson. When she reached the doorway, she flashed the groaning Mirran a smile. “Sorry Derrick. But this concludes our partnership. Thanks for the debriefing.” Then she was gone.
Larson started after her, but Mirran waved a hand. “Don’t bother. Let her go. I’ll have Gibson keep an eye on her, and we’ll have her back soon enough.” He rubbed his forehead, where a bruise was already starting to show. “Damn impulsive woman.”