Catching Smoke: The First Chapter

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Chapter One: Catching Smoke

Colin

If there was one thing Colin Brice hated more than receiving a phone call from his boss during his time off, it would be receiving a phone call from his boss while in the middle of a rather expensive dinner date with a woman he hoped to take to bed with him. He thought about not answering the call. It was, after all, his time off, and Harlem knew how much Colin deserved the break. However, Colin knew that Harlem wouldn’t be calling if it weren’t an emergency...and that if Colin ignored his calls, Harlem would have the restaurant staff in a complete frenzy due to an “anonymous tip” of some horrendous ordeal expected to take place there. The restaurant would be evacuated, Colin’s date mysteriously being separated from him in the process, and Colin would return home to Harlem shaking his head and reminding Colin that it was very dangerous for him to ignore phone calls. 
“Excuse me,” Colin said, giving his date what he hoped was an apologetic expression as he picked up his phone and stood from the table, “I have to take this.”
His date nodded her head, but he could tell his plans for the two of them had been ruined. Even if she managed to forgive him for answering his phone in the middle of her description of her shopping trip that day, there’s no way he’d ever see her again. Colin sighed as he pressed the phone to his ear.
“You better have a damn good reason for calling me, Harlem. I was going to get laid tonight.” Colin greeted.
Harlem let out a hearty chuckle. Colin wanted to punch him in the face. This wasn’t a laughing matter! Instead, Colin settled for pushing the back door of the restaurant open with the kind of gust that sent the door flying into the brick wall beside it as Colin stepped out into the dank alleyway.
“Have some faith in me, son. You know by now I don’t call for the chitchat.” Harlem said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s the MO this time? Tall, dark, handsome, and lethal? Conning away in some Suckerville city? Just waiting to be recruited?”
“Watch it, boy. You’re starting to sound bored.” Colin could hear the smile in Harlem’s voice. “Which I suppose just makes this job I have for you even more interesting.”
“You find the schmo, I show up and convince him to join the agency. How much more interesting can it get?”
“Not the job, smartass. The recruit.”
“Right. So he likes to paint his toenails and talk about shoe shopping? They’re everywhere where I’ve been staying. They’ve lost their interesting factor, even if they do happen to be involved in whatever hugely criminal activity that’s got you thinking they’d make it big in the agency.”
“New York City, huh? That’s a new one for you, Colin.” There was a pause. “However, you’re thinking of the wrong gender.”
Colin nearly choked on the shock that hit him. A female recruit? No way. That never happened. At least not to Colin. Male recruiters hunted the male recruits. Female recruiters hunted the female recruits. It was a standard that was built to keep emotions out of the process. 
“What’s the catch? She missing her lady parts?” Colin questioned, and Harlem laughed loudly.
“Hardly.” 
“Then what’s the catch? There’s gotta be one if she’s my recruit.”
“Let’s just say it’s your lucky day. You’re the only recruiter available at the moment, and this particular recruit has a way of vanishing without a trace whenever she sees fit. We can’t afford to waste any time.”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“We’ve been informed that she’ll be attending a gala tonight over on the Upper East Side. I’ll send you the exact coordinates in a moment.” Harlem sighed. “Colin, try to remember we want her for more than her pretty face, alright? We’ve had our sights on this girl for nearly a decade. She’s good. Real good.”
“Yeah alright. I get it. Get in her head, not her pants.” Colin rolled his eyes. “What’s her speciality? Bedroom Aerobics? You know me better than that, Harl. When have I ever fallen into a vixen trap?”
“That’s exactly my point, son. If her speciality didn’t have a use outside of the bedroom, we would have given up recruiting her a long time ago.”
“So what is it then? What makes her so special?”
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘beauty and brains is a dangerous thing’?”
“Never.”
“Well, that’s because this girl is the definition of it. You’ll see for yourself soon enough. She can create stories you’ll have no problem believing. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up in some dangerous territory, you hear me? Don’t believe a word she says. She knows how to get you, Colin, and she will if you give her the chance.”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“Keep your eye on the finish line and pay no mind to the prize. Nearly a decade, and we’ve got nothing to help you out. Get close, but stay out, you hear?”
“So, what you’re saying is that I’m supposed to beat her at her own game?”
“Unfortunately, yes. She doesn’t trust easily. Everyone we’ve sent before has only been burned. We’re thinking she’s got issues with the female population. So we’re trying something new. We have reason to believe she isn’t so hot with the male population either, but we’re hoping you can change her mind.”
“Whoa. Hold on a second, boss. I don’t think I’m interpreting this clearly. Are you saying you want me to make her...fall in love with me?”
“If that’s what it takes to earn her trust. Earning her trust is vital. I’m not saying that’s the only way to earn her trust, but love does have a way of getting things done.”
“And what am I supposed to do once I earn her trust? Doesn’t it seem kind of drastic to earn her trust just to offer her a job?”
“Trust me, son: this girl’s a tough cookie. She’s not the type to accept a job offer from just anyone. She prefers to work alone, and she does a damn good job too, but we need her working for us. You’re our last hope to make that happen. Do you think you can beat the challenge?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“That’s my boy!” Harlem chuckled. “I’m sending the coordinates to you now. Be there no later than nine. And dress sharp.”
With that, the conversation clicked to an end. Seconds later, Colin’s phone buzzed with the information Harlem promised. Colin didn’t even think to say goodbye to his date. There would always be another one, and the job would always come first. No need to bother with pleasantries. Besides, he was already halfway to his apartment with a little over an hour to spare before his most challenging recruitment yet.

And Colin had yet to find a challenge he couldn’t overcome.

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