February 21, 1967
The bright neon light cut through the mist like a knife. The street was cast in shadow but the wet pavement seemed to glow from the reflection. The fluorescent streetlight made Philip’s eyes water causing him to look away from the window he was supposed to observe. The freezing wind failed to keep him awake and as he rubbed his eyes he realized how tired he was.
He was lying flat on a roof, his hands cold and clenched around a pair of binoculars aimed at the opposite building’s third floor. There was nothing to see except for the dim light behind a curtain that had not been moved for the last hour. Philip knew what it hid, who it hid.
The FBI agent would go downstairs in a few moments to leave together with his college, who was waiting in the car by the entrance. The next shift would arrive about four minutes later. Philip knew their routine.
He could hear quiet footsteps behind him but there was no need to turn around. He knew it was her.
She stood behind him, her breathing uneven from running up the stairs. Philip creeped closer to the edge of the roof to check the street below but it was still empty except for the fog. The air was so damp he could feel it on his skin.
Elizabeth shifted behind him and he turned to look at her. He could barely make out her shape in the dark, her clothes merging with the night just like his.
Crouching down she shook her head. “You?”
“Nothing. He must be sleeping. The shift should change any moment now.”
She turned to watch the window and her eyes seemed to glow in the light. He could not look away. Philip knew her well enough to know she could feel his gaze but simply choose to ignore him.
After months of living and working together she was still a stranger. Even more so since the centre had decided that it was time for the Jennings family to grow and complete the cover. As if living and working together wasn’t enough.
The sex was awkward to say the least. Her muscles tense in all the wrong ways, the bedframe quietly creaking to his steady rhythm and the room so dark he could not make out her face. Her determination to deny any kind of physical reaction did not make it easier for Philip. It became a routine like everything else or at least he tried to treat it as such. He tried to be gentle, tried to stay methodical but most of all he tried not to enjoy it. It was obvious she was not either.
Afterwards Elizabeth would always disappear for a few hours. No matter the time or weather, she would grab her jacked and just leave the apartment. For a long walk he figured.
Philip would lie awake and think of something to say to her. Something comforting perhaps. But when she would return, chilled trough and sometimes soaked to the bone, he would listen tongue-tied to her breathing and shivering a few inches away from him.
The silence between them was painful in those moments.
He knew that it was not his fault but sometimes she made him feel like it was.
Philip was still staring at her, looking for the right words to break the silence. Elizabeth was ignoring him, her eyes fixed on the window. The way she set her jaw seemed familiar and he knew that she could not be a stranger forever.
Nothing moved behind window. A traitor was sleeping there, Elizabeth knew. Frank Boyd had been a good source until he decided to betray her and the cause for a few thousand dollars and a new life in Australia.
What an American thing to do! Perfidious, egoistic, cash-hungy and too lazy to learn a new language.
As a Navy Officer Boyd had been the perfect agent. He had been hiding in plain sight and betraying the trust of his superiors, soldiers and friends. It turned out betraying was the only thing he was good at.
He had panicked as the FBI had begun to close in on him and had started talking to them instead. Tonight he was supposed to be interrogated by them, give a testimony and see a sketch artist before he left for Australia. But that was not going to happen. Tonight he was going to regret his decision and end up on a ship to Moscow.
The mission was easy: wait for the shift change, get in, get Boyd and get out.
Elizabeth checked her watch. She could feel Philip’s eyes still lingering on her and knew immediately that he was about to say something stupid.
“Elizabeth… I think we-"
She cut him off with a slight blow against his arm and a nod towards her watch. “It’s time. We should go down.”
She finally looked at Philip and he rolled away from the edge of the roof. A few seconds later they had packed away their equipment and wiped off their fingerprints.
“Do you have the anaesthetic?” Elizabeth asked.
He tapped on his pocket to check. “Got it.”
They locked the roof hatch behind them, descended the stairwell leaving the lights out and stepped onto street. The heavy air seamed to muffle all sound this close to the ground. The city was eerily quiet.
They hid in the shadow close to the building and Elizabeth checked the time again. 3:30. A door slammed shut on the other side of the street as the FBI agent joined his college in the car. Rattling the engine came to life and the car’s taillights disappeared into the foggy night.
Philip and Elizabeth crossed the street with quick footsteps. There was not much time to extract Boyd before the next shift would arrive. Four minutes if they were lucky.
Philip turned around to watch the street as she picked the lock of the entrance. She was quick as always and seconds later they were in the stairwell. They left behind the smell of urine that clung to the first floor and their steps echoed through dark corridors as they made their way up.
Elizabeth had walked these steps many times but for Philip it had to be the first. She could feel him glancing at her from the side and it made her clench her teeth and walk even faster. She hated this, his stupid concern. She hated that he thought this was difficult for her.
Sleeping with Boyd was part of the job. Emotions would not compromise her since they were non-existent. It was a job just like Philip. There were no emotions, no feelings. None at all. This was not difficult.
Her jaw started to hurt.
They reached the third floor and Elizabeth breathed through her nose to slow her heart rate. Officer Boyd’s apartment door was in front of her. Adrenalin washed away her distracting thoughts, weariness and doubts. Time for work.
As Elizabeth opened the lock she listened for footsteps or a car outside. Something was there, very distant, but it could be anything.
They entered the apartment, closed the door and paused in the entry to listen. It was quiet, gloomy, smelled like old curtains. The apartment was small, the kitchen and living room one space and lit by a lamp next to the window. There was a used plate on the couch table.
Distant engine sound came up from the street.
Elizabeth heard the rustling of Philips cloths, the flowing of her own blood. Something was not right. Her eyes found a pack of cigarettes on the couch.
Boyd did not smoke. She would have known if he did. She would have smelled it, tasted it. Something was wrong.
The floorboard creaked in the bedroom on the opposite end of the room. Boyd was getting out of bed.
“Agent Moore? Is that you?" His voice was muffled though the door. "Did you forget something again?”
The hissing sound of rushing blood loudened in her head until it was all Elizabeth could hear. The agent. That damn FBI agent had forgotten his cigarettes. Outside a car waited with the engine running and rattling. Agent Moore was already comming up the stairwell.
Like a lethal chain reaction one thing was going to lead to the next.
Philip looked at Elizabeth wide-eyed like he knew what she was thinking but she had no choice. There was only one thing to do now: Damage control. She needed to act now. Kill Boyd and get out before the agent made it to the third floor.
“Frank?” Elizabeth ignored Philip’s warning look and stepped forward.
He opened the bedroom door with a gun loosely in hand. He was pale. There was sweat shining on his brow as if he woke up from a nightmare. Elizabeth hoped it had been a long one and stepped out of the entry.
“Silvia”, the gun was raised now, “you shouldn’t have come here.”
She smiled and moved yet another step closer into the dim light of the room. Elizabeth used to put on red lipstick and pin her blond wig up to see him as Silvia. He had liked her like that. Boyd lowered the gun in confusion as he saw her without disguise.
She closed the distance between them and went for Boyd’s weapon. He reacted too slowly and they wrestled for the gun.
Elizabeth could hear the apartment door open as she tried to loosen Boyd’s grip. From the corner of her eye she saw agent Moore freeze in the apartment door and knew that Philip had a gun to his head.
Boyd was strong and his grip unyielding. All she could do was aim the gun away from her and let him fire into the wall.
This whole night was a mess. The gunshot would wake neighbours and alarm the second agent waiting in the car. The next shift of agents was two minutes away.
Elizabeth finally managed to knock away Boyd’s gun and kicked it under the couch. The apartment was to cramped to fight properly. There was not much space between the couch, the table and the kitchen counter to sidestep. They were mostly stumbling and striking out blindly in the dark.
All air was knocked from her lungs as Boyd threw her against the wall. He grabbed for her neck but only found air as she ducked down and used her low position to slam her elbow up. It hit his jaw so hard she heard his teeth clink together.
She jumped back into fighting stance and looked over her shoulder to see if Philip had the agent under control. He looked up and for a second their eyes meet.
Then the world tilted on its axis as her head was jerked to the side and white spots exploded before her eyes.
The sound of breaking glass rang in her ears long after she went down. Boyd was on her again, grabbing for her. Elizabeth kicked at him and moved backwards towards the couch to get herself up. Her temple was wet and hot with blood and there were pieces of broken glass everywhere. Boyd had just broken a picture frame with her head.
This mission was getting worse with every second.
Blood ran into her right eye. She blinked against her darkening vision but it kept getting worse. She tried to get up. Everything was getting dark.
There were hands on her throat, pressing hard. She tried to throw him off, tried to reach for the gun beneath the couch.
Elizabeth remembered her training. She knew how to loosen a choking grip but there was something else, something much more recent, she remembered. Only two days ago, Boyd had held her the same way as he had fucked her into his bed.
Suddenly she tasted bile. Philip had been waiting at home and there had been leftover food for her when she returned at dawn.
She stopped fighting. It made no difference anyways.
The pounding of her own heart was deafening. Maybe this was her chance to see how far she could go. Maybe she would return home as the hero her mother always wanted her to be.
This mission was getting worse with every second. The FBI agent lowered his in yielding raised hands just an inch but Philip noticed anyways.
“Stop that!” He hissed and pressed his gun harder into the side of the man’s head.
Glass shattered on the other side of the apartment. Elizabeth had collapsed on the floor.
Philip tried to control his breathing and concentrate on the agent. Maybe he should knock him out and kill Boyd before the second agent could arrive.
His eyes shot back and forth between the agent and Elizabeth. Agent Moore was glancing down at his holstered revolver and had lowered his hands by another inch. Boyd was at Elizabeth’s throat now and she struggled beneath him.
As Philip heard footsteps outside the apartment he realized that the second FBI agent was only seconds away.
This was too much, too much at once.
He could see Elizabeth had stopped fighting, her hands no longer reaching for the weapon under the couch. She always had to see how far she could push herself. It was going to destroying her.
There were heavy, fast footsteps outside and a strangled gasp from Elizabeth. This might be a mission but she was not. She was more, more of everything he never knew he wanted. He would not lose her or the fake little future they were going to live. Elizabeth was not a job to him. She was the woman who was most likely already carrying his child.
As fear burned through Philip he realize that he had forgotten what it felt like to be truly petrified.
He hated this night. He hated their mission and he did not care that Elizabeth would despise him if she knew how much he hated the centre at that moment, how much he hated being a solider in a war that did not exist.
Breathing hard through his nose he grabbed the gun so hard the metal dug into his palm. When the second FBI agent was just outside the door Philip made a decision.
He braced himself for the setback and pulled the trigger.
Time slowed into a steady trickle.
He had done this a hundred times.
The bang left his ears ringing and the wall sprayed with blood, bone and brains where agent Moore’s head had been.
The second agent ripped the door open, ready to fire, but he was a slow shooter. When he stumbled back, reaching for the two holes in his chest, his mouth moved voicelessly before he collapsed in the stairwell.
There was only one left now. Philip turned around just as Boyd looked up from where he leaned over Elizabeth. He was bleeding from his nose and his face was twisted in a grimace.
His teeth were bloody when he spoke: “You will re– “
Boyd’s head flew back and for a second his body was up in the air in perfect balance before he slumped forward over Elizabeth. She drew in a long breath, coughing and gasping.
Philip just stood there, in the middle of the gloomy apartment, his heart racing, the gun in his hand trembling.
When he finally remembered how to move, he put the gun away and walked over to Elizabeth. He rolled Boyd away from her. She was shaking and curled up on her side trying to catch her breath. There was a bleeding cut just above her hairline and her upper body was covered in gore.
Wordlessly he reached for her arm and pulled her up. He knew that she was angry. This was a mess. He was angry too.
She swayed as she tried to walk so he pulled her arm over his shoulder to hold her upright. “I got you,” he whispered.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“They will know it was us.” Her breath was still unsteady when he dragged her out of the apartment and down the stairs.
“I don’t fucking care,” he was not whispering anymore, “What was I supposed to do? Let you die?”
Elizabeth just looked at him blankly and somehow that was worse than any answer.
They had seconds until the next shift of FBI agents would arrive. Somebody had probably called the police by now.
When they arrived at the entrance door, Elizabeth was able to walk on her own again. She flinched when the chilling wind hit the cut on her head and started walking down the sidewalk towards their getaway car. They had parked it there, close to the entrance, during the last shift change. The fact that it had a large trunk would not make a difference now. The anaesthetic Philip had in his pocket had not either.
Their car was just a few feet away when a pair of headlights came around the corner behind them and drove up the street through the mist. They walked slowly, Elizabeth kept her head low and Philip unlocked the car. The other vehicle pulled up to them and slowed down.
Elizabeth held her breath as she got in and closed the door of the passenger seat.
As the other car waited closely behind them Philip shared a look with Elizabeth and she realized that the FBI agents were waiting for them to clear the parking place.
Philip let the engine preheat and backed out between the parking cars before he changed gears and slowly drove away. Elizabeth watched the black car in the rear mirror, the silence only broken by her harsh breathing. As soon as Philip drove around the next corner onto a main street he put the pedal to the metal.
Elizabeth could see his hands shaking on the steering wheel. It had been close call. She turned in her seat to make sure they were not being followed.
“We have to get rid of the car tonight.” It hurt to speak. She touched her throat. Her neck would be bruised tomorrow.
Philip looked at her sideways. “You’ll have to wear a scarf.”
She rested her head against the window and closed her eyes. She could not believe he was thinking about scarfs right now.
“It doesn’t matter.” This was not the first time she had to cover up bruises and it would not be the last.
There was a weight behind his words and she could tell that he was not angry anymore. The passing street lights danced across his face. He looked terribly exhausted.
When he tore his eyes off the road to look at her, his expression was open and vulnerable. Somehow he had the ability to make eye contact more intimate and private than anything Elizabeth had ever done with anybody else.
It was intimidating. She wanted to close her eyes and turn away.
During her training she had learned that most things were just happening in one’s head. She had learned that by disconnecting mind and body one was able to experience something physically without having to experience it mentally.
Now though, she felt as if it worked just as well the other way around.