8/27/2010

We'll always have Paris

Chapter 1

"Wake up, honey. Annie, you have to wake up. Come on, girl, we have to get out of here now and I'm so not going to carry you."

These and similar words were being repeated over and over, as I slowly became aware of my surroundings. Although I think the brisk shaking of my shoulders was having a more immediate effect than the words.

"Stop it, I'm awake," I said, or tried to say, as at first the words seemed to be all slurred together.

Before I even had a chance to open my eyes, I felt myself being pulled roughly up into a sitting position.

"Annie, we have to move now. More guards are on their way."

The voice, a female voice with a hint of a Parisian accent, sounded vaguely familiar. As I forced my eyes open, my brain seemed to start firing on most of its cylinders, as my Dad used to say.

I was in Paris on a mission. And then before the woman's face came completely into focus, her words began to register. Guards were on their way. If I was caught, the mission would be jeopardized.

Then the woman's face did come into focus. She had extremely short hair that had been bleached such a light shade of blonde as to look white. She had dark eyes that hinted at danger and her small, thin lips, which looked potentially stern and mischievous at the same time, were coated with dark red lipstick. It finally all came together and her name came back or at least partially back – Amanda something. I had only met her once before. It had been the previous evening at the gala reception at the Swiss Embassy. My team had been there because of a tip an illegal arms meeting was going down under the cover of the party.

For some reason Amanda had walked up to me and started a conversation. Since I could still observe my assigned target, Abdul bin Sarondi, I had used the conversation to maintain my cover. Amanda had opened the conversation in French and started talking fashions. I thought my French was accent-free, but obviously not, as in less than thirty seconds she switched to English. The conversation had meandered for a few minutes until I abruptly realized I was talking about my personal life. Oh, not that I was a spy, but about my cover story of working at the Smithsonian and then about living in my sister's guesthouse.

Damn, she had been good and I had wondered who she was working for. It had to be some other spy agency, although whether it was a friendly one or not, I had had no way of knowing. Of course, as Joan always said, 'There are no friendly spy agencies only temporary alliances'. And remembering my recent encounter with Lavine from the Mossad, I knew Joan was correct.

Then I had looked Amanda over with a more critical eye. She had a look any supermodel would envy. Tall and statuesque, in every sense of the word, she appeared trim and slender by being ultrafit rather than perpetually half-starved. She had been wearing a floor-length shimmering ruby-red gown with a plunging neckline. And dipping into the deep cleavage had been a large ruby, the exact shade of the gown, suspended from a diamond encrusted necklace. All-in-all, her outfit and jewelry had looked custom-designed to accentuate her body in the best possible light, unlike the cheap knockoff gown I had been wearing.

Suddenly, my still fuzzy brain took in the urgent expression on the woman's face and jumped from our previous meeting to the present.

I was in Sarondi's large penthouse apartment in one of the refurbished Louis the 14th era residences on the East Bank. I had been sent in to retrieve documents from his desk which should tell us where the arms deal was going down.

And then more of my memories came rushing back. Two guards had come upon me while I had been rifling the desk. Before I could react and without any request to surrender, they had opened fire. I had been hit at least twice before everything went blank.

All these thoughts flashed through my mind in about two seconds flat. Quickly my right hand went to my black garbed abs. The lighting was too dim to get a good look, but my hand came away all sticky and wet. When I held it up I could see the coating of blood.

"I was shot," I said numbly. Surprisingly, there didn't seem to be any pain. Perhaps I was going into shock from the blood loss. "Am I dying?"

"Honey, you've already been dead."

End of Chapter 1