“Did you hear about Rachelle the other night? One of the bar girls said the whole place saw her having it away with William by the pool. I was downstairs... I miss everything.”
Nodding briefly, Lilian lifted a hand to shade her eyes.
“Don’t take it personally... Lamb and that crackhead stalker. That shit’s not anything.” Susan felt a warm, discomforting conclusion burning in her cheeks while she hauled out and sat on the stone, kicking her calves through the water. “He’s into this whole other piece.” Her companion looked over at her with an obscurely mocking expression. "I’m not saying it’s not weird.... he doesn’t usually stop to like, emote on his way up a skirt.”
“He's... it's nothing." Susan sighed, rolling up the bag of chips and smoothing the plastic across her leg. "He does it to everyone. We get on alright, but there’s... I don't know... so much...”
“Irregularity?” Lilian suggested. “Once you go freak, you don't go back, but then you’re stuck with all the fucking freaks in freakytown. Lucky the sex is great, because there's no fucking utilities." she added, dropping her chin as she frowned at the house. “But fuck it... I'm not gonna sell you someone who cage-fights for drug money.” Susan’s mouth fell open. “Google El Resto del Mundo... that’s his cage name." Lilian smirked. She settled back into the lounge. “Regularity is fine... don’t sweat it. I'll get him to quit humping your leg.”
The notion that Lilian had taken her dismay somehow to heart crept up on Susan and she qualified it cautiously, chipping at the blue polish on her thumbnail.
“It’s not... I do like him. He's... strangely lovely, actually. But I don't think I should, for some reason. I just... I don't know."
"Who the hell does?"
“Oh yeah... there she is, it’s the blonde...” Trent related, peering into the rear portion of the Lamb estate with field glasses as Lilian lay back on the lounge. A stridulating cicada swung low over Josephine’s head, weaving through the air that weltered above them in a desperate attempt to elude a squad of sparrows. She scratched at her neck where the heat worked on the crisp new fibres of her shirt collar. “What she don’t know aint hurting her." he snorted to her silent disapproval. "The tech guys got a wire on the beamer... they say the dark one puts her over the hood and gives it to her eight ways to fuckin Sunday.” He waved the flies away from his face. "Wouldn't mind a piece of that myself."
Josephine looked up from the intercepts she had been studying as Nathaniel Shaw climbed the hill and came to a halt in the shade of the Range Rover, taking a moment to adjust his watch.
"Shaw... Trent." she murmured, by way of introduction. The two men looked one another over with a similar degree of distaste.
"What y' might call a consultant." Trent assured him. "Fuckin Admin, and fuckin O'Connor." He leant out to spit onto the ground beside Shaw's calfskin derbies. "Shiny-assed bastard. He's the dipshit who fired off that unit that got chunked in France... unsupported, no intel... guess I called that one right. Fuckin orangutan could've called it." he sneered to himself.
“We need an ID on the women." Josephine informed them.
"I'll take a run at both females as soon as there's a solid window. Has there been a decision about letting the local PD in on the two plantation Does?” Shaw inquired.
“O’Connor don’t want to risk it. They were a few weeks dead anyway, one had his head just about popped right off, the other might’ve been female but they couldn’t say from lookin at it...” Trent related from behind the binoculars. "These assholes don't get pinched anyways.”
Josephine lifted a bottle of water to her lips, its contents heated to an unpleasant degree and tainted by the taste of plastic, closing her eyes against the glare.
"Anything more I should know?" the newcomer asked.
“Sub One comes and goes, jumps the country on twelve different IDs, goes through the hubs then we lose him. He's back, three to eight days later. That's what he did in town, that's what he's doing now. Sub Two's interactions look like buckshot at thirty metres... too many unknowns, far more than we could ever watch, so whatever he's doing is still his own business."
Shaw raised his own binoculars to his face, completing a sweep of the park with its great spread of tranquil deciduous shade and glittering pool. Another woman appeared from behind the corner of the building, taking a seat on the grass beside the sun lounge with a bag of convenience food. She wore a short dress in a faded cotton print over the dark, damp underwear that she had swum in and her posture devolved into careless repose. Trent trained his scope on her.
“Who we got here? Nice titties.”
“Resident maid.” Josephine stated, looking back to Shaw, who had finally removed his sunglasses. She saw that his eyes were a lucky shade of dappled olive, and that he used them strategically.
"Related chatter." she admitted.
"Encrypted?" Her hand rose to the edge of the laptop screen in an instinctive desire to close it against his inspection.
"They don't get into much on the wire and it's Sanskrit when they do."
"You can read that?" Shaw chuckled as he walked out into the sunlight, shaking his head to himself. “I’ll be dropping updates three times a day.” He offered his hand and she shook it without looking back at him.
“Better get your ass up and go check in. ” Trent reminded him. “You don’t get to un-fuck shit like this.”
Shaw replaced his glasses and began checking his phone messages, condemning Trent's injunction to oblivion before heading off down the access trail toward his own concealed vehicle. They followed him with their binoculars to his park on the verge east of the gates, the blameless ease of his admission steeped in unreality. Almost with Shaw’s removal around the far side of the house, the red Jaguar convertible departed the drive with two of its habitués.
"The dark one’s come casual." Trent grunted. "Redhead always looks like some crazy shitbird, but he don’t. Something’s up.” Josephine lifted her glasses once more from the hood, but the Jaguar slid out of sight around a bend.
William leant back against the slim trunk of the fir he had ascended, his bare feet gripping the branch he had entrusted with his weight, and peered down from the crown of the hill where the sombre plantation trees met the scrubby wilding growth clothing its margins. They had settled some hundred yards uphill from the party clustered about the Range Rover, having climbed to the position on foot. In a neighbouring tree his brother found his own vantage while William surveyed their surveyors with a number of abstracted frowns and head-turns, attempting to catch what they were saying on the breeze.
“She’s right about not being able to evaluate us against a simple deviant human model.” Edward remarked.
“Tweedle Dum thinks we’re undead beatnik homersexual dope fiends.”
“Sounds like they're tapping your car.”
William smiled across at him.
“Where'd you put Orb? You're fucking lucky Frost can keep her mouth shut.”
“Her intellect defies the cognitive paucity generally attributed to individuals of her particular tonsorial orientation.”
"Lo siento, no hablo pendejo." The furniture-polish scent of the foliage beneath them was broadcast by the afternoon, lending its colour to the cicadas' song. “Christabel found blood in the kitchen again, but she’s cool about it... I told her it was a hipster fight.”
“You're lucky too.” said Edward.
“If she continues to mind her own business you won't have to drive her out to the plantation.”
“How can you be so evil on a day like this? And fuck you about Susan... if you’ve dragged Frost back to the swamp, I get to have a girlfriend too.” The lack of audible response annoyed him. “A whole few weeks with you and she’s into federal heat... what’s it going to be for your six month anniversary? Home invasion bloodbath? Three day SWAT siege?” he complained, extricating the sleeve of his T-shirt from a snagging twig. “You should have parted out that shitty pimp before he swung at her.”
“You should have cleared putting Opal out with me.”
“She was about to suplex Christabel in the coolstore. I made an executive decision.” William muttered, knowing his brother would not defend such a fundamental breach of his own hospitality. “And you can tell that hoary trout if she darkens the fucking door again it’s chick chick boom o’clock.”
“That doesn’t get you off the hook for inviting nightcrawlers to her show.”
“I didn’t... they were Siobhan’s peeps. It's vampiro en vampiro, chico... they're all spitting on La Rue's grave and angry dancing over her sucking up to the Prague gestapo. Didn't you get the why no other bloodsack can ever cockblock me or tell me what the fuck to do speech down at the Moth? I’ve been getting it for six months.”
They fell silent, watching the pair below. Edward was puzzled by the man’s concerted interest in the rear of the house, unable to see past its gable. William had a better angle.
“You’re not going to like this. Frost’s gone commando by the pool.” He looked back at Edward with a smile until the latter reached out and attempted to dislodge him, tugging the crown of the tree toward himself and threatening William with violence. He laughed as he clung to the listing fir with both hands. "I've seen it all before anyway."
“Avert your eyes.”
“Like I’m going to do that.” William scooted around the tree and stood out of reach, putting his hands together and making a winding motion that hoisted a middle finger; Edward let go of the branch and it whipped back hard into his brother's face.
Trent lingered over the enticing panorama until he set down his glasses and reached for a camera case, shouldering the kit and setting off down the hill. Josephine was forced to jog to catch him up.
“I can’t leave my post.” she complained.
“I’m gonna get myself some shots.” he chuckled. “Some of the intel guys got a OFP website and this shit here’s gold.” He jumped down onto the tarmac across the road from the estate.
Brushing off his jeans as he emerged from the saplings, William still chuckled to himself, staggering sideways when Edward pushed past toward the back of the unmanned vehicle. Its twin doors proved not only unsecured but ajar; William made for the front seat, where he yanked open the glove box. They passed a short while in their respective inquiries.
“They’ve got a trace on my car.” Edward muttered.
“I don't know how long someone can monitor your activities before needing to throw themselves off a fucking bridge, but they must be getting close. ” William smiled. "I thought the hot guy was sweeping our rides."
"Hand-held units won't pick up this system." His brother appeared beside him and reached under the seat, pulling out the laptop and resting it on the floor of the foot well, where he brought up the recent files.
“Anything in the house?”
“Nothing monitored from here.” They sat in critical silence while Edward made progress through the data. “They’ve got audio.” he said slowly.
“You’re shitting me. Where?” His companion's expression gave him a clue. “Oh. Ohhh...” William smirked. "Awkward. If you’re going to abuse the beamer, maybe turn the radio up first.”
“Music kills the mood.” Edward murmured, taking the computer to the rear of the vehicle. William emitted a small shriek of horror.
"If I never hear those words again it'll be too soon. But what the fuck about Opal? I know she’s been jumping on your neck about those euroturds and their ghetto masterplan... what are you going to do when they roll in? Let her negotiate a package?”
“What do you suggest? A single-idiot defensive initiative?”
“How about not playing for the evil empire just because it's paying out?" William launched into an impassioned denunciation, condemning everyone involved with such vehemence that he did not perceive Edward shaking his head slowly at his vituperation. “You sneaky shaitan." he declared, interrupting himself. "You fucking had me going.”
“Talk to Auberjonois about them. How is Papa Gâteau?"
“I don’t want to call him. We’re sort of... not cool.”
“Who do I have to thank for shutting the other up?”
"Elif air ab tizak. Hey woah... code brown.” Pausing upon opening a binder full of photographs, William discovered it contained a reference image of every visitor to the estate since their occupation, some taken during the current round of surveillance, others gleaned from police and immigration files. "Putain... they’ve got everyone." They looked at each other through the seating. “What do we do?”
Edward returned the rear doors of the car to their former position, setting them carefully against each other.
“When in doubt, he is a wise man who does nothing.”
“And verily he is often an incarcerated man, or a fucking dead one.”
“They’re on their way back, so feel free to stay and test the theory. I’ll wait in the car.”
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce