Before the woman had finished laying out her tube racks the light beside the sliding door summoned her to a cosseted exchange behind it, and O’Connor returned to Josephine in her stead, turning back the white cuffs from the end of his shirt sleeves. She looked from him toward the instruments on the trolley between them, skeptical at first that he intended anything more than to disturb her. For a moment he appeared to consider the box of latex gloves, but passed them over, tearing a white swab from its wrapper. Taking up her arm, he inflated the cuff about her bicep and awaited the streaks of venous blue that rose in answer to constriction, his grip warmer than her own skin, his narrow thumb raising her vein and holding it proud. The cold swab struck like a snake bite against the inside of her elbow.
He chose a syringe and slid its point into her skin. It blurred against the wall of the vessel and rolled off to one side.
“Let’s just go with the butterfly." O'Connor suggested, holding her arm against any instinctive contraction. "It’s a nice gauge.”
“I want to know where we’re going.”
"Where're any of us going? Where’s Trent going, now that he’s at one with all that aluminum siding?” No flicker afflicted her gaze, even when he stubbed the lip of a tube against the buried needle. His smile loosened up as her blood raced through the canula and flooded the glossy vacuum, hot between his fingers. “Honestly, I opposed your transfer... I didn’t want another token floater reaming me with her gender card... but you held your fire, and I told myself you were too fragged to come at me that way.” He shook his head. “But you were just wearing that skin to get by me.” She lifted her shoulders, caught between objection and restraint, one barely constraining the other. A third recourse presented slowly as though with the colour that streamed from her arm into the glass, standing in the rack before her eyes like strikes against her. Josephine lay back in the chair in perfunctory invitation. “And there it is. Relax. I don't put my dick in my mistakes. But while we're being candid, can I just ask... was carbonizing Mr Trent business or recreation?” When she declined to respond O'Connor chuckled, capping the canula. “Guess I just volunteered for a mystery vehicle fire.”
Boxes full of vaccine ampules tinkled against each other as he eased open the refrigerator door, making his selection with a smile, perusing labels and collecting dilutant. The oily suspension in the first vial shimmered, shaken quickly in his fist then drawn up by the hypodermic.
“Terminal cams in Frankfurt picked up the British girl on her own, heading east, then we were blessed by a local snitch, diming foreign nationals around US interests. Let’s see... what else can I tell you in good conscience? You’ll head out in two teams... attached to a four-man hub… small arms, unsupported...”
"Interlaken knows you're sending us on deuce gear?"
O'Connor frowned at her, closing his hand around the syringe.
“What kind of obsessive, homicidal narcissist needs to ask if she’s on a doomed bag run with every other walking liability I could muster?” He stabbed the vaccine down into her thigh. “Happy trails.” he added, leaving it standing in her flesh.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce