The Russian girl retracted her head from the camera lens, her hair tucked neatly under her baseball cap. She slouched back into her fold away chair, and commenced, frantically tapping at the keyboard buttons of her laptop. Then continued to promptly plug in the video cable that was connected to the camera she had been gazing out of before; almost simultaneously, video links popped up on her laptop screen, the same that were seen through the camera. The camera was pointed at a man on an obscenely expensive yacht in the marina below; he was staring into the rippling current of the bay, the water reflecting the unrest he felt inside.
He constantly ran his hand through his hair, it was shining, was the grease caused by the lack of sleep he had had over the past couple of days or the sweat from his anxious palms? He grabbed the bottle of scotch he had perched on the side of the boat, poured it into a weighted crystal tumbler and knocked it back; he felt a sudden surge of heat, perhaps from the scotch hitting the back of his throat or maybe the strong blistering wind making its way over the harbour. Whatever it was caused him to yet again run his fingers through his hair.
Although the Russian girl’s equipment was amateur, she carried out her surveillance with the utmost care and professionalism. To pass the time, she reached for her iPod, plugged in her headphones and sat back, almost waiting for something to happen. There was rubbish littered all over her table, bottles, crisp packets; you could tell she wasn’t planning on staying for long. Apart from her table, chair and bed; which were all pack and carry, the apartment was completely unfurnished, confirming her temporary residency and that her surveillance was mobile.
The man on the yacht moved around. She reached across the table, moving the outdated papers and magazines, she picked up the last cigarette she had left, grabbed her lighter, looked at it and sighed, as if she was reminiscing about something. She started frustratingly trying to get it to work; it had a worn and scratched engraving on the side of it, RC. Unbeknown to her, there was a man making his way up to her floor, stealthily he crept, one cold marble step at a time.
He was light on his feet but he walked with purpose, like a lion stalking its prey, just waiting for the chance to pounce; he had a pallid complexion, with an un-brushed curly brown mane, wearing nothing smart, just casual jeans and a t-shirt, as if he was trying to fit in with the crowd. He attempted to divert his mind away from current events but every thought related back to his boss on the yacht. Was he careless or did he simply not care as he made no attempt to cover his face on either entrance or exit, the security cameras had picked him up but cleverly he had put on designer sunglasses, to emphasise his ‘look’?
No, to cover his face, maybe he was a professional after all. Eventually after making his way up the six floors worth of steps, he arrived outside her door; he grabbed the knob and gently eased it to the left, trying to avoid the click as the lock released, he had been successful so far; the Russian girl hadn’t noticed the door open, he crept forward through the roughly painted, peeling doorframe and as subtly as he could, began shuffling up to her; slowly, silently. The man had removed the shoes from his feet; in his left hand he carried a mobile, in his right, a silenced pistol.
He edged ever closer, until he was right behind her, not a drop of sweat down his face, but his eyes wide open, he didn’t want to do this, but he knew he had to, the woman noticed the man on the yacht glance up, he looked straight into the camera, she knew he knew she was there, she hurriedly tried to get up, but just as she stood, the intruding man raised the pistol and drilled the bullet right through her unsuspecting body; killing her instantly and causing her to fall to the floor, the blood splattered all over the window.
The man walked around the apartment nervously, surveying the marina below, so as to insure he had not been seen by any passers by. Using the phone in his left hand, he made one call; through the camera he could see the man on the yacht answering, he uttered two words in a tone which sounded like the man wanted some recognition, “It’s done” he said, the man on the yacht replied with a lack of effort to continue the conversation; which disappointed the man on the other end of the line, he continued in a nervous tone to mutter the word, “Good”, that was all he said, he then grabbed his briefcase and immediately left his yacht.
Calmly, but quickly the man in the apartment began deleting all the files on the Russian girl’s laptop, including all of the surveillance photos. He grabbed everything that she had been using: her laptop, her iPod and the tripod with the attached camera; leaving only the cables and the girls solemn corpse, he carelessly flung it all into a holdall and slung it over his shoulder, and upon his departure slipped the shoes he had left outside back on his feet, left the apartment and climbed back down the stairs, avoiding the camera again upon his exit.
Back at HQ; Sam, Rob and Hannah were enjoying a relaxing day at the office, lounging on the worn leather couch discussing their boss, Betty’s, obsession with chrysanthemum tea. Sam jumped up from his horizontal position as Betty approached him from behind. She had come to inform them that they were needed for a video call link with Stephen, the government’s security advisor.
Although Betty’s name had connotations of a sweet and humble lady she was far from meek or indeed frail, she was a small woman, barely above 5 foot, but she never lacked the confidence to have a heated debate, at 62 and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of almost everything and a extensive vocabulary, she also had the mind to overpower anything anyone said. The team, although thinking of her as a strange woman, looked up to her and respected her greatly.
Sam, to make up for his ‘inane and ignorant comments’ offered to make Betty some of her favourite brew; and in a cowardly manner, giving in to her unbearable stare, also offered to try some. While Sam was busy making Betty her floral infused tea, Rob went to attend the video conference; Stephen looked calm and confident as normal; he spoke with great diction and an authoritative tone. He was wearing, as always, a freshly ironed, crease free Armani suit. He began bluntly but cautiously, “We got a call from the feds; a woman was killed in an apartment over looking the marina two days ago”.
He paused, “They found a USB micro drive hidden away in her baseball cap; it had a file, filled with what look likes surveillance photos; different locations, different people”. Rob interrupted, “Anyone we know”. Stephen replied with a nervous breath in and then said, “Yes”, and after a long pause continued, “You. They ran the photos through facial recognition, you were the only person that got a hit, when they identified your classified status, they contacted me”, Rob paused for thought and then proposed the question, “Who was the victim? easing forward as he said it, “They haven’t been able to identify her yet. ” Stephen took a long pause and began to lose his composure, “Someone’s been watching you, I need to know who and I need to know why, and if you find anything that links this to you being shot six months ago, I need to know”, Rob watched nervously, “Do I need to write that down for you Rob” he continued. “No, I think I get it” his reply endorsed by an unspoken understanding sealed by their locked eye contact.
Stephen ended the call leaving Rob gawping at the screen deep in thought, questioning his past and trying to find a link. Up in the technical department, Eric had already hacked into the low level encrypted USB drive and brought up a whole host of files. Just as he had opened the surveillance photos that Stephen was talking about, Sam walked in; he instantly started complaining that that was the worst tea he had ever tasted. Ignoring the sympathy seeking, the team continued.
When Sam had finally stopped moaning about the ‘horrendous taste’ of the leaves stuck in the back of his throat, he noticed that the photos were taken near Rob’s old apartment in Venice. “Just before I got shot”, Rob said with a reflective look in his face, he sounded concerned, worried. The crime scene photos were next on his list; he brought them up on the screen. “She clearly brought the furniture in herself”, Hannah interpreted, she continued to propose; “Maybe the apartment was vacant? ” Rob paused for a moment, looking puzzled and perplexed; suddenly a calm but urgent outburst erupted from his mouth.
Eric, enlarge the bottom right photo” he paused for what seemed like an eternity, he stopped suddenly, gazed into the eyes of the photo of a lifeless body on the screen, he stuttered. “That’s the Russian girl”. “Who’s the Russian girl? ” Hannah replied. The whole room stared at Rob waiting eagerly for an answer, Rob collapsed back into his chair, the flashback of the three shots crossing his body, the pain he felt, the moment replaying over and over again. He stood up, barely opened his mouth and muttered with a blank expression.