1 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 7

Previously:
Ione's mind returned to pondering over the failed mission after a news broadcast.  A trip to a coffee shop led to running into Jack again, this time almost literally.

Ione dismounted from her motorcycle.  "What the hell are you doing?"  She approached the open door and bent down to see Jack.  "You could have killed me!"

"We need to talk.  There's a Starbuck's not far from here."

"Not on your life, not after that stunt you pulled."

Jack gave Ione a seductive smirk.  "I had plenty of space."

"Answer's still no."  Ione straightened up.  "Ask again and it'll be more colourful."  She turned on her heel back to the Vulcan.

"It's about your mystery man."

Ione stopped mid-stride.  She clenched her fists.  After a slow count to three, she turned back to face the Ferrari.  "Starbuck's.  I'll follow you."

"Suit yourself."  The Ferrari's door closed.  Jack waited for Ione to get back on her motorcycle before peeling into traffic.  Cars swerved to avoid the red sports car.  Ione sighed, then followed at a safer pace.

When she reached the coffee shop, Ione was surprised to see Jack's sports car in the ideal parking spot and a space behind him where she could wedge her Kawasaki safely.  She parked behing the Ferrari and dismounted.  Jack waited for her, his suit impeccable.  "What kept you?"

Ione glowered as she removed her helmet.  "Some of us obey the speed limit and can't afford an increase in insurance."

Jack led the way to the Starbuck's, opening the door for Ione.  The young woman entered and joined the line up.  Jack got in behind her.  "Anything you want.  My treat."

Ione's arched her eyebrow.  "If this is a way to get me in bed, it won't work."

"You wound me, Sarah.  Besides, I really don't want anyone who is impressed by overpriced coffee.  I have access to items far more rare that would be much more impressive."

"Like the car?"

Jack smiled.  "You noticed!"

Ione sighed.  "What do you want?"

"Order first.  Anything you want, like I said."

When she reached the front of the line, Ione ordered a medium hot chocolate.  Jack asked for an espresso, then paid for the drinks.  The two moved to the end of the counter to wait for their order.  Ione kept an eye on the man, trying to figure out what he was doing just from his body language.  Jack, though, did nothing unusual in her eyes beyond being charming to a fault.

Jack picked up both drinks and took them to a table in a corner.  Ione followed, sitting down across from him.  "Okay, I've held up my end."

"I didn't think we had a deal."  Jack pushed the hot chocolate to Ione.

"You knew I'd follow."

"Well, yes."  He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope.  "I have some photos you might find interesting."  Jack slid the envelope across the table.

Ione picked up the envelope and opened it.  She pulled out a few pages of papers.  "Photos.  Photoshopped, you mean."  She began flipping through the pages.  The blood ran out of her face.  "Who--  What--"  Ione turned one around, a photo of a man wreathed in flames.  "Where was this taken?"

Jack pulled the paper out of Ione's fingers.  "I see you do recognize him."

"Who is he?"

Jack scanned the room, then leaned over the table.  "That, I can't say.  Too dangerous.  I believe we're both looking for him."

"Where was that photo taken?"  Ione held up the other pictures, all similar to the one Jack took away from her.  "Where were these taken?"

"Various locations in France.  This one," he held up the photo he took back from Ione, "was in Marseilles last night.  You wouldn't happen to have anything there, would you?"

"In Marseilles?"  Ione chuckled.  "No."

"Pity.  In many ways, it's nicer than Paris.  Can't beat the Riviera, though.  Much warmer than here."

"Haven't been to the Riviera, either."

Jack sat straight again.  "This man, the man you saw in Paris, the man who was in Marseille, he's a dangerous fellow.  He's causing all sorts of havoc.  He has to be stopped."

Ione picked up her hot chocolate and blew on it to cool it off.  "You're talking to the wrong woman, Jack.  It's not my job.  I might not have one after the weekend."

Jack cocked his head.  "No?  Pity.  But, this man, he must be stopped.  I don't have the resources in the area.  You made arrangements for the sale before he arrived.  Surely, you must know people."

"He was in the warehouse.  And don't call me Shirley."  Ione took a sip of her drink.

Jack paused, processing the joke.  He laughed.  "Sarah, this goes beyond job security.  I need your help."

"Why?"  Ione pointed at the photo in Jack's hand.  "Where was that taken, beyond just Marseille?  Another weapons deal?  Or maybe drugs this time?  If he's doing the work of the angels, then why do I want him stopped."

"Interesting choice of words, there.  However, right now, it's just criminals.  What if there's an innocent person around the next time?"

"I don't know."  Ione fought to keep her voice level.  "It's not even up to me right now.  I don't know if I'll have a job next week."

Jack leaned over the table.  "This goes beyond your job.  This man you saw, he is trying to start something that can't be stopped once it gets going.  You're in the best position now to prevent him from succeeding."

Ione took a long draught of her hot chocolate to give herself time to think of what to say next.  "You want me to give up my contacts."

Jack laughed.  "Not at all, my dear.  I don't care about what you do with them."

"What is it I'm supposed to be stopping?  Gang wars all through Europe?"

"Worse.  Let's just say that the man you saw is looking to wipe out all life on Earth."

"Sounds like a bad James Bond ripoff."  Ione shook her head.

"Maybe."  Jack smirked.  "But, riddle me this – how did the man you saw survive the explosion he was in the middle of?"

Ione set down her hot chocolate.  "I don't know.  You tell me."

"Only if you agree to help."  Jack sat back up.  "This man you saw, he is involved in something far beyond your wildest imagination.  I could do the work myself, but you already have the people where I need them."

"I don't know, Jack.  I could lose my job or worse.  I really don't like the implications in the 'worse'."

"Work with me and I'll make sure you don't have to worry about losing your job."

"I need to think about it."

"I'm leaving tomorrow morning from the Carp Airport.  Nine o'clock, with or without you."

Ione drained the rest of her hot chocolate, then stood up.  "Nine."  She turned to leave and started walking away.

Jack waited until she had taken several steps before saying, "Don't forget your corset."  Ione stopped midstride and turned slowly on her heel, a shocked expression on her face.  "That is, if you have one."  Jack smiled.

Next Week:
"We are Assassin Kittens!"
"Really, Ben, are you following me?"
"I need to borrow Karen for a moment."
"Sometimes, we have to trust our instincts."

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