The puppet-master

The puppet-master:

Anders Inkling watched the two women meet at the newsstand forty-eight floors below. His range-finding binoculars showed him two things: First, the woman in the tweed suit had the code, second, neither of them had the valise. They were 1120 meters away and beginning to move, still just in range. He brusquely waved an Argentine account executive to the glasses. She dipped her head in front of him and her black hair smelled of Coco. That was coy. She drew her head back from the binoculars and looked at him. She frowned and shook her head. Inkling frowned. She shrugged. There was no point arguing. If they were out of ‘Suelita’s range, they were simply out of range. Anders Inkling cocked his head towards the door and she slipped out of it, striking in the Prada silk suit and shooting gloves with a Feinwerkbau target rifle over her shoulder. Possibly she could find a better vantage point.

Only four account executives remained in his office, lounging around, bored: a well-muscled Viennese, broad of breast and shoulder, two long, lanky Hong Kong emigrees and a Kalmyk who was neither broad nor long but was the deadliest of the four. Renate, the Viennese, was reading the Financial Times and absent-mindedly playing with the pearl necklace that lay across her curved bosom, One Chinese, Wendy, was massaging Gen Tze’s feet. The Kalmyk, whom everyone but her family (long buried in the cold ground of the steppe) called Anna, was filing her nails. Before he turned back to the glasses, Inkling noticed that Gen Tze’s skirt was a little higher than necessary for the foot massage. She gave him a sidelong glance. This weekend would be difficult to schedule.

Now Inkling watched the pair of women head down the London street towards the Underground station. Inkling stretched his arm behind him and snapped his fingers. The four women got up and began to undress hurriedly, except the Kalmyk who did things slowly until speed was necessary. Bra clasps in hand, they now waited, almost frozen. Anders inkling snapped his fingers twice and the Kalmyk hit a button under the lampshade. The four women were in the dressing room behind the fish tank in seconds, trailing business attire and fancy underthings behind them and emerged less than a minute later dressed as bicycles messengers, a little sexy perhaps, but still convincing. The Kalmyk was last, helmet in hand and still smoothing her jersey over a physique that seemed at once too thin and too loose for this kind of work, but held more pleasure than it showed. The four women arrayed themselves by the office door as Inkling looked through the binoculars a last time and spoke Czech softly into a microphone at his sleeve. He turned to see a young Dutchman with messenger bags over his shoulder peek his head into the slightly-opened office door and nod. A young Korean woman in a bright suit entered through a door that was nearly invisible in the far wall to bring Inkling a cup of green tea and then exit. She did not look at the four women, nor they at her, pointedly. When she had left all eyes were on Inkling. He finished a sip of tea, returned the cup to the saucer in his artificial left hand (The one a Mr. K. K. B. Bang had taken, the one he would take revenge for), looked at the women and sighed. Then he made a quick slashing motion across his throat with his index finger. The four “bicycle messengers”, each as well-honed, effective and dangerous as a razor, made to leave. The Kalmyk gave him a brazen wink as she snapped her helmet strap. In his organization that should have cost her two month’s pay and a demotion but when Stalin’s armies had driven her people from their homeland in the Caucuses, her father (she was the youngest of eleven) had personally killed fourteen Colonels in the Russian army, a record. That, and the fact that her love-making made him weep like a child.

The bicycle messengers blended well into the London street. Their outfits were varied and, except for the Kalmyk’s, unflattering to their figures (The Kalmyk never dressed down, self-conscious of even her excellent physique alongside her hard and marble-smooth comrades) . Their legs couldn’t be hidden but bicycle messengers generally have good legs. What one might have noticed, had he been watching carefully, was the way they seemed, almost unconsciously, to fall in and out of formations that were varied but definite. The expert observer would have seen that they were hunting as a pack, the Viennese in the lead and the Kalmyk watching their flank and looking for an angle to surprise their prey.

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