Chapter 1: Top Story
“Our top story...Another body has been discovered this evening, this time in a disused area of a train yard. Police are investigating the homicide, along with several other homicides that have occurred within the past month. Details have not been released as of yet, as Police are still trying to identify the victim. They will not release any names until the victim's family had been notified. What is known is that the victim is believed to be a local woman in her early twenties. Her body was found by a railway worker who says he first mistook the body as a pile of trash left on the train tracks. He realized what it was when he got closer to it. He immediately contacted police.
Because of the murders, police are encouraging citizens to be extra careful when going out at night, to travel in pairs, and not leave with anyone unfamiliar. We will have more on this story later tonight in our six o’clock news.”
Nikita stepped out of her shower and dried her hair rapidly with a towel. She had only half heard the news broadcast while she showered. It had been nearly a week since the last report of a body being found near the train yard making this latest victim number four. Police were stomped as to who could be committing the murders. There we no leads or even the occasional prank to give a hint as to a potential suspect. The most that could be offered to the public was an admonishment to practice group safety and enforce the stranger danger rule of conduct.
Nikita quickly toweled off and checked her phone. There were no messages or missed calls while she was in the bathroom. She noted the time and decided to speed up getting ready to go into work. She had spent much of the morning cleaning her apartment as she had not been in it long enough to bother with cleaning anything. There were still old dishes in her sink from three days ago. Since her dishwasher seemed less interested in doing the dishes than she did, she made a mental note to get in touch with maintenance. She had not had time to address the problem for nearly a month, and only now did it seem like it was becoming a much larger issue than she cared to be concerned with.
After dressing, Nikita checked the time again before grabbing her keys and heading out of her apartment. Across from her, Carla’s door hung slightly ajar. Nikita took a moment, considering the open door. It was unlike her neighbor to leave her door open. Like her, Carla was very cautious and rarely did anything without first checking or securing her surroundings. The only thing that Carla was not always careful about was choosing her dates. Nikita wondered if the lapse in security was because of a new suitor. Nikita looked at the door again. A strange uneasiness began to creep under her skin. The open door remained suspicious no matter how many alternate scenarios she played in her head explaining it. She wondered as she walked down the hall, if something might be wrong.
"Off to work?" said Carla appearing from around the corner carrying a gigantic elephant leaf plant.
Nikita smiled, somewhat relieved.
"Yeah. Got a late… um...a late meeting to go to." Nikita was not getting any better at lying to Carla no matter how often she had to do it.
"Well alright then," said Carla within her strain. "Be careful out there tonight. Make sure you have someone walk you to your car."
"I'm sure I'll be fine," Nikita answered absently.
She checked her purse to be sure she had her old comm unit there to return it to Walter. On her last mission she had forgotten it in her bag after taking it out her ear.
"Are you serious right now?" Carla's tone was very parental. She set down her plant just inside her door. "Nikita, you had to have seen the reports."
"What reports?" Nikita continued to root around inside her purse searching for the unit.
"It's been all over the news!"
"What's been?--Damnit, I must've left it in my other bag. I'll be right back, Carla. I left something real important in my apartment."
"I hope it's pepper spray!" called Carla from the hall.
Nikita raced back inside her apartment and searched about for the purse she carried with her on the Lampoon Mission. She remembered it was a plain leather bag, but since she had several bags fitting that description, she found herself flinging through the collection. Finally, after tossing a dozen empty bags on the floor of her bedroom, she found the bag she was looking for. Buried deep within the folds of the lining was the unit. Nikita palmed the device and headed out the door. Carla finally closed her door allowing Nikita to rest assured of her safety. She was not certain what it was that Carla was trying to warn her about, but she was sure that whatever the danger, she could handle it. If there was one thing that Section taught her was how to handle all types of danger.
Nikita went out to the parking area and pressed the keypad to unlock her car door. Outside, the cold of late September was creeping through the clouds sifting through the brightly colored trees and pulling away the last vestiges of summer. Pumpkins were beginning to adorn various balconies and doorsteps along with paper lanterns and black cat stencils. Halloween was well on its way and with it a ton more missions in various parts unknown.
Nikita put on her sunglasses and started the engine to her black two seater BMW 328i. She felt like she was missing out on the world and all of its small pleasures being so distracted with missions. Fall was her second most favorite season next to Spring, mostly because of all the festivities that came along with the harvest season. Before Section, she used to enjoy Labor Day cookouts and swimming parties at various local hotels. She looked forward to Halloween so that she and her friends could dress up as “normal people” and walk about the city pulling pranks. She even missed Thanksgiving, even though the last Thanksgiving she remembered enjoying was when she was twelve and her grandmother was still alive. Her mother had dropped her off there with the promise of returning before they cut the turkey. Five days later, she finally came back looking like she had been beaten up. Her grandmother assured Nikita then that her mother was busy doing something very important and that she would still be there to cut the turkey. They both knew that she was lying and that her mother would not be back soon. After they ate their fill of turkey and cranberry sauce, they both nestled on her grandmother’s large patchwork colored couch and fell asleep under her handcrafted crochet blanket.
Nikita arrived at Section and made her way through Clearance before descending down into the lower levels of the building. She was dressed in a sullen combination of black and leather, a departure from her normal attire which was always a mix of playful color and defiance. With the mood of the day, she did not feel very playful. She felt dark inside, like someone had turned off a light and left her standing in the stark cold of night. As a result, she wore a black sweater, black leather jacket, black leather skirt, and black ankle boots. Even her hair was devoid of imagination as she left it straight, combed back from her face, and down around her shoulders like a blank sheet. She saw Walter standing at his workstation. He looked up and nearly dropped the contraption he was working on. His mouth hung open a little, seeing her walk past like a shadow across the wall.
“Afternoon, Walter,” Nikita said, hoping that her greeting would assure him that she was still the same old Nikita.
He cocked a grin in return and waved slightly.
“How you doing there, sugar?” he said, his tone hinging on worry.
“It’s a Wednesday,” was all Nikita could give. “Everyone already in Conference?”
“Yup. Just assembled.”
“Kay. See you after then.” Nikita pranced towards the large conference table where Michael and several operatives including, Birkoff, were already seated.
Chapter 2: Mission Meeting
Operations circled around the conference table and began his usual dissertation outlining the mission being set and their targets. Nikita sat, her arms hugging herself, and eyes not really focused on the holographic images being shown at the table. Even with her overcoat on, she could not block out the sudden chill that hung in the air. Next to her, Michael remained calm and rigid as always, looking with intense concentration at the images on the holograph. His light eyes reflected the many different colors on the blue-green transparent screen. The only thing that told her that he was even remotely alive was the tiny chill bumps that erected on the back on his neck where his chestnut brown locks ended. Beside him, Birkoff sat looking very modern in his black and grey striped shirt and silver chain necklace. It was the first time that Nikita had seen him in anything other than a graphic t-shirt and cargo pants. She wanted to congratulate him on updating his look to something a bit more age appropriate, but the seriousness in his expression told her he likely would not hear her. The others at the table seemed to all have the same grave look about them, like they had just seen the most gruesome torture and were not looking forward to what was coming next. Only Operations seemed unaffected by both the cold and the mood at the table. He stood with his controller in hand, waiting for the team to arrive and look as alert as they all could manage. It had been a very long night for many of them only to be called in early the very next day and required to work well into the evening again. By the way that Michael looked, Nikita assumed he probably did not even bother going home. He just ordered a pod and slept at Section so that he could be there whenever he was needed again...And he was always most certainly needed there first before anyone else.
“Halir’s group is called Bright Star,” Operations began as he circled.
Nikita did not watch Operations so much as she listened. His cold and austere demeanor did little to help her combat the chill that she still felt. He continued to walk about the table, dressed in all black like the others, and looking more than serious about the details of the mission.
“Last night, we sacrificed a mole in order to protect a more important contact. Gregory Formitz.”
The image of the young man in which they were targeting appeared on the hologram screen. He was an unassuming figure with auburn hair cut short, window like glasses, and small lips. He had a bookish air to him, even with the oversized designer coat and what looked to be an expensive suit. The footage captured by the Surveillance team followed Gregory Formitz through an open market area as he looked through magazines and other trinkets being sold in the bazaar. Nikita watched him as Operations continued his speech, noticing how the man seemed to be physically looking at merchandise, but mentally focused on something else entirely.
“A dealer in forged documents. Passports. Visas. Press credentials. He supplies Bright Star with fake IDs. If we control Formitz, we have a chance to stop Bright Star.” Operations cut the footage from the table and leveled his steel grey eyes with everyone. “We’ve been brought into this one a little late, so we have to play catch up. We need any intel we can get. Michael...It’s all yours.”
Without wasting any further time or bothering to wait for any questions, Operations turned on his heels and walked back towards Command. The rest of the team filtered away to head to their stations. Nikita started to move, but found Michael’s hand on the arm of her chair, stopping her. She looked at him with question. As usual, he began speaking first without looking at her.
“You’ll be our liaison with Formitz. Madeline has prepared a profile. You may find it useful.” Michael turned to face Nikita then, his expression serious, but nothing more.
Nikita nodded placidly, and then stood to head to Madeline’s office.
Chapter 3: Strange Profile
Nikita walked to her station with the profile file that Madeline gave her in her office during their very brief meeting. Nikita had not questioned Madeline’s thoughts about Formitz, nor had she pressed her on how best to approach the petulant would-be doctor. Madeline merely discussed with her Formitz’s psychological profile categorizing him as the type of kid that liked danger. The more, the better, and it gave him all the more pleasure to put himself in as much calamity as he could. To Nikita, he sounded more like a pestering toddler who needed way too much attention, and was going about getting it in the most asinine way possible.
“He is not an only child,” Madeline voiced over the audio briefing file playing alongside the profile. “Gregory is the younger of two siblings. His older brother is a neurosurgeon working out of Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. He has been accredited with many surgical accolades and awards making him a very successful doctor. You can imagine the pride his family feels when speaking of his accomplishments. Conversely, Gregory’s parents have not had the same sentiments in regards to their younger son. As mentioned, he has not had contact with them in several years. They have since disowned him, cutting him off from any assistance as well as communication. All monetary gains he has acquired since then have all come from his trading with different terrorist and illegal factions. Because of his success in forging, he has carved out his own kind of reputation which he has geniusly parlayed into a pretty admirable salary.”
Nikita could not believe the words that she heard come from Madeline’s audio profile. She actually thought Formitz was genius and even admirable. Just because the kid could put together a few laminate photos and type out a convincing document hardly placed him in league with the likes of Isaac Newton or Paul Allen. At best, he would be the kid that fixed all the grades for failing highschool students, transforming Ds into oddly crafted Bs and Fs into crudely formed As. The fact that he would drop out of medical school a week before graduating spoke more towards his pattern of continuous destruction than his need to hurt his own family. Considering that his motive was only to cause them grief by making them witness his self-imposed failure, Nikita wondered if now that he no longer had his parents to fight against, who else was he targeting to cause further pain? Aligning with a group like Bright Star went against everything he apparently enjoyed. If Bright Star thought to fight a war against modernism, Gregory Formitz was not the kind of guy that would stand by it. From the look of him, he looked like he very much enjoyed the modern amenities that the times provided, and would do less to destroy them. Nikita wondered if there was another angle that Formitz was working to continue his relationship with the terrorist organization.
The next day, after another meeting, this time with Walter and Birkoff detailing her new Comm unit, Nikita flipped through the file once more. She was scheduled to make first contact with Formitz later that evening at a hang out he frequented down by the dock area of the city. It was an area she was familiar with from a lifetime ago before she was picked up for murder. The pool hall was notorious for being a hot spot for prostitutes and pimps, drug dealers, addicts, and pool sharks. The lighting was low on purpose so that patrons there did not see clearly what was really going on, or correctly identify the sticky mess they were trudging through on the floor. The mere idea that this was the place that Formitz agreed to meet her made her tilt her head a little. She paused on the image of the man she was due to meet studying him.
“Don’t fall in love there, Princess,” said Erwin, a Level 2 operative passing by her desk.
Erwin was tall, slender in build, with dark hair and deep blue eyes to match. Most of the women at Section considered him just as wonderful to look at as he was to talk to being both charming and personable. He had an ease about him that was disarming, which Nikita guessed was why he was one of Madeline’s favorites. Even though he did a few Valentine missions, he was not called upon to do them exclusively. He was much more of a tech guy if nothing else, being much more at home behind a computer screen than a rifle. He took his seat across from her and logged in to his monitor.
“Doubt it,” said Nikita. “He’s a bit too...I don’t know...abnormal for my tastes.”
“Abnormal?” Erwin chuckled. “It is that time of year. All the freaks come out.”
“This one is definitely an odd one for sure,” said Nikita.
There was something not quite right about him, but she could not put a finger on it. There was a way about him that seemed off, and she knew it had everything to do with how he was moving around the market. She could see that he was shopping, but it was not for anything being placed on display. His eyes wandered too much into the crowd for him to be shopping aimlessly. There was something quite purposeful in the way that he studied each passing face walking through the market.
“When are you meeting him?”
Nikita huffed. She looked down at her watch.
“In less than an hour actually.”
“Better get moving then. Traffic downtown is--”
“I know, I know. Murder. You don’t have to tell me.” Nikita stood up and pulled on her short leather jacket.
“Hey! Be safe down there. I hear there is some funny stuff going on there. Women keep turning up dead. It’s been all over the news.”
Nikita nodded, considering the warning before grabbing her purse. She waved goodbye and started out towards transport. Downtown was not too far away from where she was in Section. With any luck, she could grab a bite to eat and something to drink on the way before she was due to meet with the mousy little trust-fund brat. As she walked towards Transport, she saw Walter and his new lady friend, Belinda, speaking with Birkoff. Walter beamed with joyous pride while Belinda gave her usual soft, adoring one. Only Birkoff looked like he was about to scream. Instead, he gave them a nervous smile. Nikita wanted to know what was going on at Communications, but decided she did not have time to find out. She quickly made her way towards the elevators all the while thinking about her new objective. She figured Formitz was the type that probably did not spend a whole lot of time around women he was not paying for their company. The sheer fact that she was being sent to make contact with him told Nikita that Section expected her to use whatever she had in her arsenal to get Formitz to talk and name names. Madeline had not said so explicitly, but what was included in the profile was a few notes about Formitz’s social life. The fact that he barely had one spoke more to him being socially awkward and likely would not know how to approach someone like Nikita. This meant that she would have to be the one to make all the first moves as Formitz would prove to be too skittish to do anything on his own.
Just my luck, Nikita thought as she waited for the elevators. It wasn’t the first time she had been giving a profile of someone whose last date happened while they were in diapers. She was never fond of having to make friendly with geeky type men who knew more about the inner workings of a toaster than they did how to speak to a woman. At times she could coax out a bit of quirky personality from them, but most of them always landed on being brash, moronic, and immature. None of them held the delicate nature or charm of some of her other, more affluent targets. None of them could compare to someone like...
Nikita turned to see Michael standing above her on the catwalk criss-crossing the hall. He stood at parade-rest looking down on her like a pallbearer. His expression was severe, unemotional, and frighteningly stoic.
“Formitz is a contact that we don’t want to lose,” he said. His voice reverberated over the walls giving it an eerie note. “He will try and test you. He is very smart. Just get the intel. Nothing more.”
Nikita nodded. “Okay, Michael.”
Michael did not stay for Nikita to respond. He turned and disappeared into the darkness of the halls above. Nikita looked long after him, wondering why it was that he felt the need to impress on her that information. She had no intentions of doing anything further than getting the information needed from Formitz. The elevator doors opened and Nikita stepped on. She pressed the button to go up to the main lobby with one gloved finger. From the conversation that she had with Madeline, to the profile she read through, and now Michael’s admonishment for her to stay on task, Nikita was beginning to wonder more about Formitz. As the elevators rose through the floors, she concluded in herself that she would not try any kind of ploy or misdirection on her part to get the information from the forger. She would play the entire meeting straight. She put on her sunglasses and headed out of Section to go and meet with Formitz.
Chapter 4: Meet Me by the Pool
The first woman that passed by him smiled, but did not linger for long. He figured she was already spoken for that night and would not be interested in going with him for a date. Her eyes are too large anyway, Formitz thought as he looked at the young woman one last time before dismissing her completely. He searched through the crowd of patrons in the pool hall, looking for his target. She was going to be there tonight. He was certain of it. From the many dark haired hookers lounging about the room, he was certain that a tall blonde haired woman would not be hard to miss.
The night had been uneventful, which was perfect for him. He never liked it when the hall was full of people. The music always played far louder than what was necessary making it nearly impossible to carry on any kind of conversation. The most he could ever do in those situations was flash a wad of money and see who would take the bait. Most of the time, he could get lucky, but it was always with someone he had little interest in. The ones he truly wanted, the ones that he desired more than breath, always took a bit more coaxing than a quick flash of money. They needed to be lured, drawn in with sweet words, and seduced into comfort with him. It took time, like a dance, with hands moving slowly over the body, breath falling lightly over the shoulder, and feet moving in shuffles until finally…
Formitz straightened his back and cleared his throat. He fixed his glasses on the ridge of his nose and looked about the pool hall again. There was a loud ruckus on the other side of the hall. A black man, one of many pimps in the hall, began slapping around a woman complaining about being sick. Formitz watched as the woman was slapped more than a few times with the pimp yelling at her. Her eyes were wide with pleading fear as she attempted to explain why she was not working. He cocked his head to the side, watching the drama unfold with growing interest. Almost out of nowhere, another tall blonde woman approached the pimp and the woman. She wore a deep red top and black leather skirt. She put a hand on the pimp’s shoulder, gaining his attention. The moment he turned to her, she gave him a strong right cross knocking him to the floor. The two women standing with the pimp jumped backward, shooting disbelieving looks at the tall blonde. The pimp picked himself up from the floor.
“Bitch!” He grumbled under his breath. He pulled out a switchblade from an ankle holster.
He lunged at the blonde, trying to slash her, but instead, got his arm twisted back and slammed down on the pool table. The tall blonde then landed a quick elbow strike to his side, no doubt cracking a few ribs. The pimp howled in response. The blonde wrestled the pimp up to his feet and threw him towards the exit. All three women watched as the pimp stumbled off holding his ribs.
Formitz smirked, realizing quickly who the tall blonde was and not really wanting to go and meet with her. She was a bruiser type. He did not like that. He liked his women a bit more fragile, delicate, and peaceful. This woman obviously was none of those things. The way she handled the pimp, she might as well have been a man in a skirt. Formitz shook his head. He had expected better from Section. Certainly he had expected something much more feminine than what he got. As the other two women walked away, the tall blonde put back on her black jacket and started towards a booth. Her eyes zeroed in on him as he pulled himself through the hall to meet her. He was only momentarily distracted by another beautiful face before he focused in on the blonde amazon woman coming towards him.
“Formitz?” she asked in a husky voice.
“You’re my contact.” Formitz looked the woman up and down, scrutinizing her heavily.
“You just took out that pimp.” Formitz pressed his lips together into a tight smirk. He looked at the woman intensely through his thin framed glasses. “Well, idiot, the idea is to maintain a low profile. This is not gonna work. I’m outta here.”
Formitz turned to leave, pulling his suit jacket closed a little. He had thought to put on something a bit more dominant and powerful making him stand out from the other patrons in the pool hall. He even pulled out the only ascot he owned and tied it about his neck to give him an even more grand and dapper appearance to the women in the hall. He also wanted to appear formidable to the Section operative he was directed to meet. Of course, standing in front of her, he was beginning to feel less powerful before her. Even though she was a woman, the intensity in her eyes and the brutal way in which she dispatched the pimp told him clearly that he needed to be careful.
The Section operative grabbed his arm somewhat roughly and pulled him towards the booth.
“Sit down,” she commanded through clenched teeth.
Formitz tensed his jaw, staring directly into the operatives crystal blue eyes. For a small moment, he became lost in them, seeing his own reflection staring back at him. He wanted to smile, but he did not allow himself to. She was staring at him as if she wanted to snap his neck right then and there. He drew in a breath to steady himself.
“Let go of me,” he said, not really demanding she do it, but more pleading that she would.
She held onto him for a moment more before finally letting him go. She moved in closer to him, baring her teeth as she spoke.
“If you’d like to sit, sit down. If not, I’m going to give you the highest profile in the neighborhood. Sit. Down.”
Formitz shuddered a little, knowing what she meant by scene. His fate would not be unlike the one the pimp just had, only a bit worse. There was promise in her eyes that fully stated she was more than capable of following through with her veiled threat, and there would not be a soul in the hall that would be able to stop her. He watched her as she slid easily into the booth and waited for him to comply.
“Fine, but from now on, we tend to our business, and we let other people tend to their own. Alright?” Formitz could not allow her to think that she had gotten complete obedience from him.
He took the seat opposite the operative and folded his hands in his lap. The operative sat back in her seat and stared at him from across the table. The dark liner around her eyes made the blue hue in them even more intense. From the dark and dismal lights of the hall, she emerged from the shadows like a banshee ghost. Her blonde hair framed her face softly creating a mix of hard and sweet angles to her sharp features. He could see she was still studying him as he was studying her as well.
“You do business with Bright Star,” she said as nearly an accusation rather than a statement.
“Yeah,” said Formitz, not truly interested in recapping his history with them. He hoped she would not ask.
“We want copies of all the IDs and credentials you provide for them.”
Formitz shook his head.
“Not the way it works,” said Formitz matter-of-factly. “Their main man calls me. Tells me where to meet and when. I bring the blanks. He brings the pictures. He watches me make the ID's then he takes them when they're done. There are no copies, except up here.”
Fomritz gestured to his head and smiled ruefully. The look on the operative’s face was something to treasure. Although she was doing a pretty good job at maintaining a stonewall facade, he could see behind her crystal gaze her utter disappointment at not being able to bring anything of real concrete evidence back to her agency. All that they would have is his word and whatever he felt like telling her. At the moment, he was not sure he wanted to tell her anything. However, as he sat with her, he was quickly beginning to build interest. Certainly behind all that hard and diamond like face she showed him was a softer, more squeamish side to her that would surely come forth under the right circumstances.
“I need names and descriptions,” she continued.
Formitz looked up fully and stared at the operative in front of him, ready to say something crass, but instead, his attention was thrown by the giddy laughter of a man standing on the other side of the hall. Two women, the same two that the operative had rescued from the pimp minutes before, were chatting up a tall, lanky fellow obviously much too old for the two of them. The man seemed more than ecstatic that the two women appeared interested in him. They laughed and held on to each of his long arms, pretending to be interested. He could tell they were only speaking with him because he looked like he had money, more money than the other men in the hall. His baggy suit barely fit his stringy form. His too broad smile lingered longer on the tall short haired blonde girl than the shorter brunette standing next to him. The blonde was dressed in a red cocktail dress complete with strappy black sandals and a furry red boa. Her friend wore a tea length grey and black shift and black pumps. There was nothing overtly sexual about them except for the fact that they were laughing a bit too much at the man’s jokes and thrusting themselves against him. Formitz bit his bottom lip.
“You know what I need?” he asked, not really talking to the amazon operative. The words had come out before he realized he was saying anything.
“Give me your bank account information, you’ll have the money within the hour.”
Formitz returned to the operative at the table. The smoothness in which she offered him compensation for his trouble both amazed and intrigued him. He knew that she was speaking on Section’s behalf by telling him that he would be paid off, but he could not help but to wonder if she agreed with any of it at all. By the sound and look of her, she was only there as a Section mouthpiece. It was clear that she had no desire to linger any longer than she needed to in the pool hall. Nor did she find his company all that pleasurable. He deduced she likely had already formed her opinion of him long before sitting down with him in the booth. She didn’t want to be there. She was a tool, just like all the other tools walking around the pool.
“Just like that, huh?”
The two women continued to woo the tall man until finally, their negotiations were done. The man began to walk away leading the two women away from where they stood at the pool table, and away from where Formitz could easily see them. He felt himself jerk upward, straining to see where the trio was headed. He returned back to the table and regarded the operative with muted annoyance and obvious sarcasm.
“Oh, of course, if I'm lying, I never get the chance to spend it, do I?”
The Section operative was unmoved.
“Names,” she demanded.
“"I only have one so far. Ahmed Muhani, posing as a journalist."
The two women disappeared from sight. Formitz felt his heart slowly pull tight, realizing he had lost his opportunity with either of them that night. It had been several days and several false attempts at gaining enough courage to approach them, and when he finally had put everything in place to do so, the Section amazon operative was taking up all of his time.
“Going where?” she asked.
“First stop, Beirut. After that, I don’t know,” Formitz answered hurriedly. He could not hide his growing impatience. It was leaking from every syllable.
The amazon operative did not seem to care. She maintained a deadpan stare as she internalized the information being given to her.
“Ahmed didn’t say,” said Formitz, returning his full attention back to the operative. “But I got the impression very soon.”
The blonde operative slid out from the booth and left, drawing more than a few stares her way.
“See you again,” said Formitz.
He was sure she did not hear him as he spoke. With her objective complete, she had no more to say to him. He knew it was very unlikely she would want to stick around and chit chat with him. He did not really want to be with her either, but he could not deny himself either. One mind wanted to run screaming away from the cold and stoney faced female operative, while the other desired to know more. The man on the phone had told him that the person he would meet that night would be a woman, tall, blonde, and wearing black. He had not expected much, but was more than caught off guard seeing her from across the bar. She had not even known he was there and that he was watching her. She had become so entangled with defending the prostitute that she did not notice him there at all.
Formitz smiled to himself as he toyed with a napkin on the table. He would get another chance at the two prostitutes. He knew he needed only to wait a while and he would run back into them again. The amazon operative, however, was someone he was most interested in. She had tried to appear tough and menacing, and for the most part, she played the part well. The only problem that he saw with her charade was the look in her baby blue eyes. They were so soft and fragile, like an infant gazing back at its mother. He knew he could not touch her. She belonged to Section and they did not react well when one of their own wound up dead before they were supposed to. There would come a time when Section would leave their blue eyed Barbie alone and unprotected. There would be a time when he would get to see her naked and trembling before him, begging him for relief.
Formitz licked his lips slowly.
The tall blonde girl returned from the back of the hall looking like she was searching for something. She kept grabbing at her ear and looking about on the floor. Formitz saw it then, a small glint of silver on the dirty well worn tile. He stood and walked over towards the girl. She barely noticed him as he bent down to retrieve the lost earring. He handed it to her.
“I think you dropped this,” he said in a somewhat hushed voice.
“Thanks,” she said with a half smile.
Their eyes met. For a quick moment, Formitz felt his heart flutter with excitement. She was staring back at him with kind eyes. Such lovely, light brown eyes like amber jewels set against white rock. He could see her moving in towards him, cherry lips parting, her breasts pushing up with every breath she took. He could even smell her scent, a quiet bouquet of gardenia, sage, and apple. She smiled a little more as she pulled him closer to her into a soul-eating kiss.
“I said thank you,” said the girl, snapping Formitz out of his dream.
He swallowed hard and made an attempt to straighten out his coat, but only managed to tug uselessly at the bottom part of the jacket. The girl stared at him with question before starting to walk back towards the back.
“Hey, um...I’m-I’m Greg...er um, Gregory.” Formitz offered a small, bashful smile.
“Erika,” the girl answered back warily.
Chapter 5: Think Like a Killer
Men. Women...Children...All innocent victims. All lives cut short because of someone’s idiotic belief that modernism was destroying lives. The entire rhetoric was ridiculous to Nikita and could not help sucking her teeth each time the cause was brought up as a reason for the latest attack. Operations had glossed over the event as if the bomber had gone into a fast food restaurant and blew up the fryER.
Coleson was dead.
The whole thing happened so fast, Nikita could barely stop her mind from reeling after the explosion. The faces of the doomed glared back at her, pleading for help. Their mouths hung open in cries as their hands beat against the glass. A woman held her five year old baby girl and tried to shield her as best she could from the inevitable inferno. All that both Nikita and Michael could do was watch as the bomb detonated and leveled the bus terminal into a pile of rubble and smoke.
Nikita slammed her fist on Madeline’s desk. She stood up quickly and began pacing with her hands on her hips.
“Son of a bitch! They must’ve known we were in play. They had to have known. Why would they do that? Why those people?” Nikita’s voice broke a little.
Madeline sat watching Nikita calmly, not moving or offering any consoling words. Instead, she moved her eyes over to her computer monitor and reviewed the last moments before the bomb went off.
“Did Formitz tell you what the target was?”
“No,” said Nikita. She ran her fingers through her hair.
“Do you suspect Formitz of hotlining the whole operation to Halir?” Madeline continued to watch Nikita as she paced.
“No. It didn’t seem his way.”
“You don’t think he would tell you something to expect only to have it turn out a completely different way than what you were prepared for?”
Nikita turned to Madeline and leveled her gaze with her. Madeline’s serene face responded back. Nikita moved in slowly towards the desk and sat down in the seat she had only moments before bolted from. She folded her hands slowly keeping Madeline in view.
“What are you saying? He helped plan the bombing?”
“No. He didn’t plan the bombing,” said Madeline. She sat up in her seat and leaned forward keeping her hands clasped in front of her. “All that I’m saying is that Formitz should not be underestimated. He’s much smarter than you think that he is.”
“Of course,” said Nikita with a smirk. “You admire him.”
“No. Not admire,” Madeline corrected. “He is only useful to us so long as he believes himself in control. His control right now is the information that he gives us. He knows that and will most certainly use it to his advantage. The fact that the mission failed is not something that was within his care. He gave you what you asked for.”
“And in return, we paid him for front row seats to a slaughter.”
“Call it what you will. He has cooperated with us. He will again. You are scheduled to meet with him this evening. We will need names and descriptions of the next target. The same as before. Hopefully this time, we will do a better job at securing all points of interest.”
Nikita’s eyes burned with fury.
“We covered all the areas that Ahmed was said to be targeting.”
“You covered what you thought the target was. You weren’t thinking like a terrorist bomber.” Madeline fired back. Her expression was no longer serene. “Stop thinking like a normal person and think like a killer.”
Chapter 6: Look for Erica
Nikita looked down at her watch and let out an exasperated sigh. She was sitting in the same dirty pool hall as she was the other day and was not liking the ambience in the room. There were more men than women this time in the hall leaving Nikita to stick out a little among them. She had to dissuade more than a few men from her attention, sometimes using blunt force to get them to register the point that she did not want to be bothered. On the other end of her Comm unit, Birkoff giggled as he listened in.
“Whew! Wouldn’t want to cross you on a bad night in a dark alley,” said Birkoff after hearing Nikita tell one suitor where he might find his jock stuck if he continued to press her.
“Birkoff, it’s getting late. Are you sure he was sent the message to come?” Nikita looked around the hall trying to see if the ginger-haired man was watching her from a dark corner.
“He’s coming. Madeline set it up herself. I heard her talking to him.”
Nikita sighed. She settled back down at her table. She looked again at her watch. Her leg jumped impatiently. On the other end of the hall, the pimp she had beat up the other day walked in with two women on his arm. He was smiling and greeting some friends when his eyes met Nikita. Upon seeing her, the smile drained from his face. Nikita stared back at him, following him with her eyes, her expression hard and serious. The pimp hurried his lady friends further back into the hall clearly trying to establish as much distance from where Nikita sat as possible. Nikita huffed in response. She checked her watch again.
"Birkoff, he's not here."
"He'll show. He was late the last time too."
Nikita grit her teeth. The bottom of her boots were sticking almost permanently to the floor. She did not want to find out how long it would take for her to wind up glued to where she sat.
"Okay, that's over and out." Nikita stood to her feet. “This guy needs to learn some manners. Give me his address."
"I thought we agreed to stay clear of his home,” said Birkoff.
Nikita began walking out of the pool hall.
"Birkoff, give me his address."
There was a moment of hesitation before Birkoff, reluctantly, answered her. "330 Van der Veel.”
Nikita cut her Comm Unit before Birkoff could say anything more to her. She started towards the door when she saw the dark haired girl from the other night walking about the pool hall looking lost and very worried. Nikita walked up to her, nearly bumping into her as she searched nervously for something.
“Hey!” Nikita greeted.
The dark haired girl barely acknowledged Nikita standing in front of her. “Hey.”
"Nothing....” said the dark haired girl absently at first. Then her eyes focused on Nikita. “Uh, Erica, the girl I was with before, I can't find her.”
Nikita watched as the young girl looked about the pool hall uselessly for her friend. It was obvious that she was not going to find her there, suddenly emerging from the walls. She continued to look anyway, her eyes wide and red-rimmed from worrying tears.
“She never stays with a trick,” she said, her voice shaking a little. “That's one of her rules. And she wouldn't break it....especially with what's been happening."
Nikita put her hands on the girl’s shoulders, steadying her. She looked like she was about to run about screaming for her friend, Erica. Once it appeared the girl would not run, Nikita folded her arms to herself.
“What's been happening?" Nikita asked.
The young girl looked at Nikita as if she were insane for not knowing. She looked around the hall again, this time, a new expression of fear beginning to color her ears deep pink.
"Girls have been disappearing and they find them, um…”
Nikita searched the young girl’s face, trying to figure the answer to what she wouldn’t say.
Nikita pulled back, surprised.
“I mean she should have been home hours ago! She's my friend!" The young girl’s shoulders began to shake as sobs sputtered from her pressed lips.
Nikita could tell it was the last thought that made her break. The idea that something horrible could have happened to her friend was more than what she wanted to admit. It was clear that she believed something awful had happened to her friend. She was just hoping to be proven wrong. Nikita pulled herself in, gathering as much courage and hope as she could muster for the both of them.
“What’s your name?”
“Look, Danielle,” Nikita began softly. “I'm sure that Erica's going to turn up." She replaced her hand on her shoulder once more, this time reassuring her. “It's going to be alright."
She patted Danielle on the arm and gave her a small smile. Danielle nodded, folding her arms around herself as if hanging on to the encouraging pat that Nikita just gave her. She looked about herself warily before turning to head over to a booth to sit down. Nikita watched the girl a moment more before leaving to find Formitz’s home.
Chapter 7: The Artist and His Muse
Formitz cut on the lamp and looked at the form hanging from the steel beams of his industrial style ceiling. His eyes tracked over the soft curves and lines, admiring the definition pronounced from the way the form was positioned. He circled around it, delaying partially at the gentle indention where a tuft of blonde and brown curls gathered like moss on a tree. The cream colored thighs hung heavily towards the concrete floor, allowing the sinewy legs attached to them to dangle. The feet turned inward with the ankles nearly bent in on themselves. He had spent almost an hour on each foot, washing the pale skin clean with bleach before painting the toenails a crimson red. The lacquer glistened against the unnatural white of her skin. He could barely contain himself from holding the foot so near to his face.
He moved in closer, focusing on the blue-grey hue of the girl’s lips. They were slightly parted, having expelled out the last breath of life before death finally overtook her. He remembered that moment, sitting atop her with the leather belt pulled tight around her throat. He had wrapped the strap around his own wrist and pulled it until the leather began to cut into her skin. She gasped pitifully, her eyes rolling to the top of her skull as tiny red veins began to pulse in her eyeballs. Her fingers clawed uselessly at the strap then at him, slapping weakly at his arms. Her hips bucked upward into him sending a delicious ripple of pleasure through his core. He smiled, seeing her body giving up. Her screams were rasps. Her complexion turned from bright pink, to red, then to an odd purplish hue. She did not struggle long. It was over much too quickly, but as much as he enjoyed getting her there, he knew the real pleasure was yet to come. Her transformation from mere mortal into masterpiece was at hand and he was more than eager to get to work.
He could not help but allow his mind to wander as he washed the body with a solution of bleach, vinegar, and water. When he got to her hair, he ran his fingers through the silken strands and thought of the Section operative whom he now knew was named Nikita. He rolled the name about in his jaws and over his tongue as he clipped the nails neatly on the body. Once he had the fingernails painted the same crimson red as the toes, he lay the body down on his work table and donned on his work clothes. He set up the sink and the drain, ready to catch any fluid that ran off the table to be washed down into the sewers below. He pulled on his cover smock and shielded his face with a plastic face guard. He covered his hair with a bonnet and pulled on gloves. He looked lovingly down at the body lying still and naked on the table and caressed its cheek. She was lovely for certain. Probably one of the more prettier pieces he had ever collected. She was certainly a jewel, but she was only half of the set. The dark haired friend was the other half and he would have to have her too in order to complete his masterpiece.
He bent and kissed the pale blue lips of the body, lingering a moment to enjoy the chill he felt rolling over his spine. With his thumb and index finger, he pushed open the eyes so that the sepia colored irises stared vacantly back at him. He smiled as he made his first incision. A deep burgundy red tracked after the blade.
Once he was done with his creation, he hung the body up with the wrists tied above the head. He went into a drawer and selected a lipstick from a collection of colors. The first one he found was too orange. The next appeared more apple than what he would have liked. The third lipstick held a hint of bronze in it giving the red a shimmering effect. He grinned to himself as he walked back to the body and pushed up the color stick to apply it to the lips. He had to hold the face upright so that the head did not loll to the side while he applied the lipstick. Once it was finally on, he stood back and admired his work.
Even though the body was not yet posed, and wouldn’t be until he acquired the other piece, the vision of the form now transformed, nearly brought tears to his eyes. He held himself, feeling shivers cascading over him. A lovely feeling tugged at his groin, urging him to take care of another need he had been ignoring ever since he began working. After being so intimately close to the body, he now needed to release some of the tension that had been building. He grabbed his jacket and keys and headed out in search of food and company.
Chapter 8: At the Gallery
Nikita knocked on the door of the address Birkoff had given her. The place labeled 330 Van der Vee was located in a semi-affluent part of town close to the River District. It was full of warehouses turned into modern loft condominiums. Nikita had to check twice on the address, noting how incredibly pedestrian and utilitarian the area looked as opposed to how Formitz tended to present himself. She figured he could not form a relationship with someone like Halir if he lived in an upscale penthouse suite. The warehouse also gave him plenty of room to maneuver with his craft offering whatever kind of living area space he desired to have with its blank canvas of design. She was certain a place like the warehouse did not come cheap. Formitz certainly had the money to make whatever kind of home he wanted.
Nikita knocked on the door again, this time a bit more forcefully. She was certain he was home. All indications showed he was there after not showing up at the pool hall like he was supposed to. She was trying to put the sounds of the people out of her head as she knocked, but even the pounding of her fist sent shockwaves through her body. She knew what Madeline said about Formitz not being directly involved with the bombing, but that didn’t mean that he was clean from it. She knew she couldn’t get her hands on Halir at the moment, but Formitz was just beyond the door.
Nikita knocked again with the hilt of her pistol. There was still no answer. Nikita wrinkled her nose. Birkoff had said they were supposed to steer clear of his home, but Nikita was not about to allow yet another bombing to kill more innocent people just because Formitiz didn’t want to be disturbed. She had already been disturbed by the sight of the mother holding her child just before being blown apart. She could never forget that.
Nikita sucked her teeth and aimed the pistol at the door. She squeezed the trigger twice sending two slugs into the lock. She pushed open the door and held out her gun ready and aimed as she walked through the threshold. The condo inside was dimly lit with only a kitchen light on in the far corner. Nikita tracked the foyer, turning quickly hearing a slight shuffling noise to her immediate left. She turned, aiming the black barrel directly at Formitz who was standing looking both shocked and dumbfounded. She relaxed the gun, happy at least that it was only him and no one else in the room with them.
"What the hell is this!" Formitz exclaimed, sounding more annoyed than shocked.
“Where have you been?” Nikita asked.
"Occupied!” Formitz yelled. “You're not supposed to come to my house."
Nikita ignored his sudden outburst and his reminder of Section’s agreement with him. She no longer cared about any agreement Section had with the insolent forger.
“Yesterday, I saw forty people die--some of them children.” Before she knew what she was even going to do, she rushed at Formitz, grabbing his collar and pressing him forcefully against the wall of his living room. “I don't want to see that again, understand?"
Formitz swallowed back a yelp feeling Nikita’s powerful forearm pushing into his chest. He blinked a few times, trying hard to focus after his head slammed against the wall. Nikita bared her teeth and glared at him with rage boiling in her ocean colored eyes.
“Um, I lost track of time," he stammered.
“Well, don't be late next time."
"Who pays for my lock?"
Nikita relaxed back, releasing him from the wall. She continued to keep him well within her view. Formitz watched Nikita warily as well, pulling nervously at his clothes trying to straighten them out.
“You had a meeting with Halir last night?" she asked.
Formitz crossed behind Nikita, making certain she remained where she stood at one of his many desks inside the living room. He had not expected anyone to come to his home leaving him wondering if she would truly begin looking at all the things around her. He wondered if she would even know what she was looking at if she happened to begin staring too long at the many drawings and photographs affixed to the walls.
Nikita picked up a picture of a pair of eyes seemingly staring at one another. She only half considered it before tossing it back down on the desk with the other photographs.
"Three. I wrote them down yesterday."
Formitz produced from the table behind him a paper with the information that Nikita was requesting written on it. He quickly handed the paper to her and stepped back towards his desk, using his body to cover up as much of the photographs displayed on the wall as he could. Nikita looked over the piece of paper at the names scribbled there.
"When's your next meeting?"
“He’ll call,” said Formitz quietly watching.
"You'll let me know."
Nikita turned to leave out, satisfied that she had something more to bring back for the team to research. Formitz continued to stand at his desk near the back wall watching Nikita carefully. He had tried to stand with his hands on his hips, but found the effort not entirely comforting to himself. Even though he knew he could likely overpower the operative while she was distracted, he was not completely confident that she would not fight him back and lay him out just as quickly as she had done the pimp. The tall operative was something potently different than any woman he had ever encountered. She was brusque and dangerous in that way that made him think of her as an Olympian goddess. It wasn’t until that moment that it occurred to him that she was very much an Olympian goddess, one that he would give anything to possess. His mind quickly raced over the different ways in which he could pose her, manipulating her body and transforming it into the most horridly beautiful sculpture. At the moment, she stood in the living room, eyeballing a red boa left hanging on the arm of his desk lamp.
"Where did you find this?" Nikita’s tone was both aware and inquiring. She pulled the fabric from the lamp.
“It's my sister's," Formitz tried feebly to answer, but he knew just by the way Nikita asked him about the cloth that she already knew.
"You're lying." Nikita’s eyes flared again, knowing. "It belongs to a girl called Erica. She was at the bar last night."
Nikita walked slowly towards Formitz with the cloth in hand. The dark liner around her eyes and the blackness of her clothing made Formitz picture her as the very embodiment of death.
"So what?" he shrugged.
“So, she's missing." Nikita’s tone dripped with suspicion.
"Missing? What does that mean?" Formitz tried earnestly to maintain his innocence, but he knew the writing was on the wall,and in some photos quite literally staring her in the face.
Nikita drew very close to him, so close he could smell what kind of deodorant she was wearing.
"Why don't you tell me? Where is she?"
"I'm the only contact you have with Bright Star. Without me, you can't stop them.”
Formitz attempted to remind Nikita of his value to her. He had hoped she would stop in her advance after remembering the rules she was supposed to be following, but since she was already in his house, he knew she was not thinking about Section at all. Nikita grabbed him by his collar again and drew him close to her face so that he was standing eye to eye with her.
“Where’s Erica?” she snarled.
Formitz looked at Nikita half frightened and half intrigued by the emotion he could see flaming within her. He desired those eyes so greatly he nearly felt himself rise in answer to his growing need. She continued to glare at him as he let slip a smirking grin.
“You want to see her?"
“Yes,” Nikita growled.
Formitz twitched. “Sure, why not?"
He brushed her hands off his collar. "C'mon, you can say hi.”
He smiled and began walking back through the maze of photo development equipment and negatives and down a short hall leading to a door. Behind him, Nikita followed, carelessly and angrily tearing away hanging negative strips that were in her path. Formitz quelled the urge to yell at the disrespectful operative. Instead, he opened the locked door and walked into his dark room. Nikita followed, pausing a moment with instinctual caution before entering the room. Formitz cut on the lamp illuminating a development screen with three photo negatives on it. The photos were of the torso in various states of transformation. Nikita looked down at the pictures, unsure as to what she was actually looking at. Formitz then cut on a desk lamp and focused the light on the body hanging up.
"It's not cheap or casual,” Formitz said as he looked at the body that used to be Erica.
Behind him, Nikita stood in abject horror and shock. The bombing at the bus station was horrific, but it paled in comparison to the monstrosity she witnessed in the dark room. Formitz began to walk a semi-circle around the body, becoming transfixed by its grotesque beauty.
“I spend a long time selecting them,” he was saying as he viewed the body in almost adoring reverence. “It's like I know them. It-It means something, you know?"
Nikita could not find words to express both her disgust and her hurt. The bright and sunny young blonde in the pool hall just a day ago had been reduced to a surgical mess hanging up on hooks fixed to the steel beams of the warehouse condo. She had been made up with what looked like a theme of red. Her nails and toes were painted the same color as her lips which seemed to shimmer in the lamp light. A jagged incision had been cut at her sternum and the flesh cut away revealing pink colored ribs. Beyond the cage should have been a heart, but instead, a paper valentine heart rested in the empty cavity. Lower, a second incision had been made exposing the abdominal cavity and the intestines. The cut had been made like a crescent with much of the flesh gone. His expert knife managed to leave the membrane keeping all the inner organs in place. The body, aside from the red staining from where the incisions were made, was cleaned to an unnatural white. Nikita looked at Formitz who was still standing and looking at his pitiful creation. Visions of the night they met came back to her. She realized then what it was that had distracted Formitz so much while they spoke. He had been looking at Danielle and her friend Erica as they worked a John. She had recognized it then that something was not quite right about him, and by the way he seemed to react when he saw the women, she knew then that he only meant trouble. She had figured him as a rough trick, or even possibly a rapist, but never had she thought for a moment he was what she was seeing. He stood, admiring his work and even giggling a little.
Nikita screamed in anguish as she rushed towards Formitz. For the next fifteen minutes, she did not see Formitz at all. He had turned into the punching bag at Section and she meant to get every emotion out. She was screaming still as she punched and kicked him melding her cries with his. When she was done, she pulled her gun from her holster and aimed it at his head. He lay on the floor, bleeding and whimpering. Nikita cocked the gun, chambering the bullet. Her hand shakily held the gun at Formitz as her mind raced over the different scenarios that might play out if she went through with her plan. He was right in saying that he was Section’s only way in to get to Halir, but she no longer cared. Section would have to find another way to beat Halir. She wanted to kill the quivering murderer more than anything, but she knew if she did, Madeline, Operations, or both would order her own cancellation.
Nikita could not stop her hand from shaking. She pulled the gun away and rushed out of the condo. She threw her gun onto the passenger seat of her car, started the engine, and tore out of the parking area with the wheels of her BMW leaving black marks on the pavement.
Chapter 9: Adding and Subtracting
"He's a very frightened man. Power gives him the feeling of being in control."
Madeline maintained a calm demeanor as she watched a very unhinged and out of control Nikita pace angrily back and forth in her office. The young blonde operative was visibly shaking, her eyes red-rimmed from screaming the entire way back to Section, and her voice husky with grief.
"I know the Section makes compromises but he's Jack the Ripper." Nikita continued to pace, unable to rest herself. Movement was the only way that she could quiet the noise of her thoughts.
“We need him,” said Madeline, almost imploringly.
NIkita stopped. Madeline’s words sent an arrow of heat straight through her belly. A vision of Erika’s corpse hanging from Formitz’s ceiling flashed in her mind’s eye followed by the look of the mother holding her child. She turned her gaze to Madeline and leaned in towards her not pulling back any menace reading in her tone or her expression.
“Shall I tell you what he does?" Nikita’s lips pulled back over her teeth nearly baring them like fangs.
"That won't be necessary,” said Madeline, unmoved by Nikita’s venomous rage. “It's simple arithmetic. We sacrifice a few lives to save hundreds. Stay focused on the mission. Try remembering the faces of the people at the bus depot just before the explosion."
Nikita pulled back, taking Madeline’s unaffected expression in. She was still fuming, but it obviously meant nothing to the older strategist. The steadiness in Madeline’s deep brown eyes was nearly as unnerving as the look in Formitz’s eyes as he stared back at her. She had forgotten that Section was not a living, breathing, feeling thing. It was a computer. A robot that added and subtracted lives, computed variables, and expelled percentages of success based on statistical equations that somehow solved the problem of who should live and who should die. In this equation, Erica’s death was handled like an unimportant leftover decimal point easily rounded up to the next tenth of numbers. The only thing that mattered was the numbers after the decimal.
Nikita left Madeline’s office and headed back towards the main floor. She took the back stairwell, mostly because she wanted to give herself time to gather herself together before interacting with anyone else. Madeline’s words continued to ring through her mind like a bell singing in a hollow tunnel. She breathed deeply in slow, controlled breaths hoping to calm herself. Above her, footsteps drummed quickly down the metal staircase. Nikita looked up, spying Michael. She called to him, gaining his attention. He stopped just at the bottom of the steps and waited for Nikita to come to him.
“Did you know about Formitz?" Nikita did not hide her pain.
Michael took a step closer to Nikita. His expression was not pleasant. Instead of looking sympathetic, or even mildly understanding, he only looked perturbed.
"He just contacted us. You beat the hell out of him." Michael turned his steel gaze on Nikita, ignoring her look of disdain.
“I can't go back there.” Nikita put her fists on her hips. She tried to shrug off her fury, but it sat persistently on her shoulders.
“If I do...I'll kill him." Nikita gave Michael her most dead serious look.
Michael drew closer to Nikita, very close so that she not only smelled him, but saw definitively the meaning in his words.
"You will go back. You will not kill him."
The order came at her like a command typed into a program of a computer. The direction was blunt and spoken as if laced with some sort of magical spell that would somehow erase everything that she had just seen. He gave her one last look before moving past her down the corridor, heading back towards Madeline’s office. Nikita stared after him, trembling with both anger and hopelessness. She sniffed loudly and wiped the lingering tears tingling the corners of her eyes. She blew out a line of tension and climbed the steps back to the main level.
When Nikita reached home, she could barely stand upright being weak from exhaustion. A stress headache had descended on her temples adding more pain to the heartache she already felt. She reached into her refrigerator and grabbed a bottled beer. She flipped off the top and guzzled the sudsy brew, ignoring the line of cold ale sliding down the corner of her mouth and over her chin. She knew the beating she had given Formitz had stalled him for the evening. She could at least be assured that he would not be doing any hunting that night, but he would soon heal. He would be back out on the streets soon, no doubt ready to put another young woman to his knife. She tried closing her eyes, but only saw the photographs of eyes and lips staring back at her. She had mistaken them as just random abstract art pieces like what would be seen in a gallery. In a way, Formitz had transformed his living space into a gallery of horrors, documenting every kill. She had not been in the condo for very long, but she remembered one wall being completely covered with photographs. Then there was his desk, covered in hundreds of pictures both drawn and snapped. Granted, many of the photos looked like copies of each other, like the photo had been snapped from different angles of the same subject. It did not take away the fact that they were still images of a living girl turned into an art project by a sadistic med school drop out.
Nikita finished her beer and went for another. She paced about her apartment, trying not to think about Formitz and the way he was staring at the girls from across the bar. He had looked hungry, licking his lips and watching them intently. He had tried to hurry the conversation with her so that he could get to them. When they walked away, he looked deflated. He must have gotten to Erica after she left. Somehow, he separated the two and got to Erica before Danielle could know anything about it, or who her friend had disappeared with.
Nikita ran her fingers through her hair and took another swig.
Images of the people at the bus depot flashed in her face once more, ending with the ear shattering boom of the bomb. The heat from the explosion made her face red. There was a lingering scent of rock and burning oil in the air mixed with the acrid sting of electricity. Michael had only stopped and turned around, walking quickly away from the destruction. She followed behind him, shoulders bent forward, and trudging along with heavy, obedient feet. Nothing was said on the way back to Section. No one even mentioned Coleson. He was shot in the face for just asking a question. It was likely he believed the bomber was just some old bag lady walking across the courtyard. Had she been closer, it would have been her with a bullet in her brain and not Coleson. If any of them had been closer…
Nikita finished the beer. She wanted to throw it at something, but found she did not have the strength even to do that. Instead, tears welled up in her eyes and began rolling down her cheeks. The image of the little girl stuck in her thoughts, blurring and then transforming into Erica’s smiling face.
She did not know her, only her name, but it was enough. She was certain she was not the only person that only knew Erica by name, if that. There had been a time when she could have been Erica, roaming about the streets looking for any way to earn a buck. Where she had been saved was through the kindness of those whom she managed to befriend. She had a few pitfalls along the way, experimenting with drugs and sometimes drinking more than what was safe. She had fallen asleep in strange places, taken rooms where she knew enough to carry a weapon of some kind with her, and accepted more than a few questionable favors from people who could have really hurt her. She had been on the streets since the age of sixteen and had learned how to survive it, but that still did not mean that she was immune. She could have been Erica at any point while she was out there. Like Erica, she could have accepted kindness from the wrong person and wound up strung up like a rag doll in a psychopath's dark room, disgraced and torn apart.
NIkita took her shower, staying a while in the warm spray, allowing the water to soothe her aching soul. It was clear that Madeline, Operations, even Michael, did not care much about what was happening so long as they got their man. It did not matter how many bodies piled up at their doorstep. They would step over all of them to get to Halir. Whether it was the life of a young prostitute or of a five year old girl, it all amounted to necessary loss of the few to justify the salvation of the many. She was not very surprised at Madeline's assessment of Formitz. The two of them seemed like they might be cut from the same fabric. His appreciation for art cannibaled from the human form was too much like Madeline's love of mind games using real minds as chess pieces. She had told her once before that she had murdered her sister over a doll that she wanted. In her mind, the doll was something of value and she was entitled to have it. She would do anything necessary to gain it, even pushing her sister down a flight of stairs. Nikita imagined Madeline ruefully grinning and holding the doll as her sister lay twisted at the bottom of the steps. As a little girl, the dark haired child probably went about the rest of the day as normal as she did any other day. She probably combed the dolls hair lovingly, dressed the doll, and carried it about with her everywhere she went, all while ignoring the anguish her mother was going through having lost her daughter. Perhaps she felt bad now for doing it, or perhaps it was as she had said of the people in the bus depot.
Simple arithmetic. Girl plus doll equals a whole one percent better than the girl without the doll.
NIkita pulled on her robe and went back into her living room. She reached inside her fridge and grabbed the last beer in the six pack she had bought earlier that week before her nightmare began. Her lips twitched as she twisted off the cap and added it to the pile in the sink. She knew after she was finished with it, she would want more. She scolded herself for drinking them in such quick succession, but she no longer really cared. She didn't want to think or feel anymore. She wanted to feel what Madeline must have felt standing at the top of the steps holding her doll. She wanted to feel numb. She wanted to feel as though she were suspended over everything, over the world even, where nothing and no one could touch her. She wanted to feel as though she could look down over the earth and watch its inhabitants scurry about like ants while she held the magnifying glass to them, ready to burn them if they should ever have the misfurtune of coming into her focus.
She went to her balcony and opened the door allowing in the cold night air and the crisp breeze. The wind stung the exposed skin where the robe did not quite cover. She welcomed the chill knowing it was the only real thing that she could be certain of. Everything else, the mission, Formitz, Section, even Michael, was all a question. Operations had sacrificed a mole just for information. Madeline had sacrificed a group of innocent people to learn more about Halir's movements and motives. They were all giving a pound of flesh during this endeavor, but it wasn't their flesh that any of them were giving up.
Nikita stared a bit longer out into the night, draining the last of the beer from the bottle. Somewhere out there was a girl, walking down a lonely path, suspecting nothing. Somewhere, someone was watching, waiting in the darkness for a single moment. A moment to find the girl unaware, unprotected, and unprepared. Somewhere in the shadows a simple mind focused on its prey and readied itself to pounce.
Something flashed quickly from the street below. Nikita caught only a fraction of the light before darkness crowded back around obscurring whatever made the light. Nikita shrugged and turned back inside her apartment. She closed the door and pulled the curtains closed. She cut the lights off in her living area, tossed the empty bottle into the trash and went to secure her door. After checking to make certain the locks were in place and that the security camera was running, she shuffled to her bed and landed in a heap on her mattress. The neon bars around her bed hummed in the quiet as her fingers toyed with the edges of her pillow. She wanted more than anything to sleep without nightmares, but she knew this was not going to happen. As soon as she closed her eyes, Erica's dead face stared back at her.
Nikita flipped over to her back and stared up at her ceiling. Even though her head felt a little fuzzy from the beer, she could not sleep. She could not quiet the noise in her brain. She reached for her phone and before she could stop her fingers from dialing, found herself listening to the buzzing tone of Michael's phone ringing. She waited a moment, hearing the monotone buzz of his phone ring once, twice, three times, then four. After the fifth ring, the line cut off.
Nikita closed her eyes.
Of course he won't answer, Nikita thought as she rolled over onto her stomach. She put the phone back on the base and blew out another sigh. Erica's face continued to stare at her, sullen and full of disappointment. The girl Danielle was probably still looking for her, unaware that she would never find her friend ever again. Tonight, she would be fine, but tomorrow night...
Nikita sat up.
She looked at her clock on her side table and considered the time. It was nearly one in the morning. The bars and clubs were still open. Nikita quickly rolled out of bed and dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater. She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and strapped her pistol to her ankle, pulling her pants leg down to cover both the holster and the boot. She grabbed her leather jacket and keys. Despite the fact that she still felt a little heady from the beer she drank, she knew she had to go out and try and find Danielle. If she wasn't going to be able to sleep, she was at least going to do something to help someone else. As she closed the door to her apartment, her phone inside began to buzz.
Chapter 10: Peace Offering
Despite scouring the streets searching in every dive and hole she could find in the seedy river dock district, she came up with nothing. Danielle was not out that night, probably waiting in whatever home the two women shared together. Nikita pulled her jacket tight around her body as she looked about the streets, pausing only a moment when she came to a girl fitting Danielle's description. After several hours, Nikita got back in her car and drove home. Her fingers and toes were numb from walking in the cold. Her body ached a little as well. She was tired beyond sanity, but despite this, once she returned to her apartment, she still found rest elusive. She fell asleep mostly because her body dictated it, but her mind continued to search through streets and buildings that bled into one another like a maze. When she woke, she bolted upright with a start, her own screams belting out ahead of her. Beside her, the telephone screamed for her attention. She answered.
Nikita arrived at Section weary but alert more or less. Her feet still hurt from running about the city all night, but she maintained herself despite the pain. Above her, Operations regarded her sluggish demeanor with a tilt of the head. Nikita only leered back at him, not bothering to hide her smug expression. She went to her workstation and sat down heavily in her seat.
"Long night?" asked Erwin, already at his desk typing a report.
"Long everything," said Nikita. She yawned and stretched.
"They are sending out Jones's team today. They are heading to Rio."
"Hmmm, Rio. That would be nice right about now," Nikita mused as she logged into her computer.
"Not where they are going," said Erwin. "Trust me, I don't think anyone wants to go where Jones and his team are going."
"Why? What's so bad about going to Rio?" Nikita was only mildly interested. "Can't be no worse than it is here. At least there it's warm."
Erwin made a short laughing noise. "With the group Jones has going with him, they might find it way hotter than they want."
Nikita rolled her eyes then her neck, already feeling tension building within her muscles.
"What? It's an abeyance mission?"
Erwin nodded, still typing. Nikita nodded, understanding. She returned her attention back to her monitor screen and began reviewing surveillance files to scrub for any missed intelligence. Her desk phone rang. Nikita pressed the button on the intercom.
"Nikita. Could you come by my office, please?" came Madeline's voice.
Nikita sucked her teeth. "Sure."
Nikita cut the phone and pulled herself slowly from her seat.
The meeting with Madeline was short, but not without a measure of strained conversation. Madeline handed Nikita a white envelope.
"Since you already know where he lives, I'm sure you will have no trouble delivering this to him," said Madeline with a cheshire grin.
Nikita looked at the envelope, studying it.
"What is it?"
"A peace offering," said Madeline. "We will need you to bring this to him today."
Nikita could not help sneering. She tucked the envelope in the breast pocket of her jacket and turned on her heels.
"And Nikita," Madeline called the blonde operative back. "Do be nicer to him this time. He is our only link to Halir right now, and we don't want to scare him away."
Nikita did not speak. She twitched her nose in response and left the office.
On the way over to Formitz's condo, she tried to remain calm and pull herself in. She did not like the idea of having to give the pseudo Jack the Ripper a gift for having been beaten down into the floor. She wanted to rip the envelope up and shove the pieces of paper down his throat, but she knew what Madeline said about Formitz being their only lead to Halir was right. She couldn't touch him, no matter how much she wanted to. No matter how much she desired to reach into his cold, manipulative heart and rip it out of him like he did to Erica, she couldn't so much as spit a rude word to him now. Section was watching her even without a surveillance team. Formitz, in his curt and callus way, would tell on her if she even so much as shoot him a dirty look.
She arrived at Formitz's warehouse unit and stared at the door a while. Everything in her screamed to not go, to just turn around and leave the area as quickly as her tires would allow. Instead, she reached and opened the door with one black gloved hand and pulled herself inside the stairwell. She climbed laboriously up the flight of stairs leading to Formitz's door. With every step, her feet grew heavier and heavier until they nearly felt like two lead weights were tied to them. She reached the door and knocked three times before leaning back against the wall. She felt sick inside. Her entire body was rejecting the meeting, yet she knew she had to smooth things over with Formitz so that he would continue to agree to work with Section. She was grateful for keeping on her shades so that Formitz would not see the building fury in her eyes. She could hear him beginning to undo the locks he had replaced on his door and open it. In the dim light of the hall, she came face to face with him again. This time, instead of drawing close to her, Formitz remained just past the threshold of his condo. He stared at Nikita with wary and bruised eyes. A small scratch was still visible on his nose. There was a cut on his upper lip. He was wearing a sweater over top a pair of comfortable trousers. He did not look very happy to see her standing on the other side of his door.
"I want to apologize for what I did." Nikita swallowed down the sudden build of vomit in her throat. "I'm sorry--the body was just a little bit of a shock."
Formitz continued to stare at Nikita, silently cautious.
"I believe you collect stamps?" Nikita quickly handed over the white envelope.
Formitz reached to take the envelope but did not draw any closer to Nikita. He continued to watch her as she stood against the wall, staring out purposefully not looking in his direction. He opened the envelope and looked down at the first sheet.
"Rosen? Jubilee. Very nice." He regarded Nikita again, considering the offering.
He knew that the stamps were very rare to come by, not to mention quite expensive as well. The stamps looked to be fresh from the press as well. He hid his eagerness to add them to his extensive collection. Instead, he stepped back from the door.
Nikita peeled herself from the wall and followed Formitz into his condo. She closed the door behind her as he walked over to his desk, no longer caring if she saw the photographs still left strewn about the surface. He looked through the remainder of the stack seeing more books of rare stamps. Nikita remained at the door. She took off her sunglasses mainly to see better within the dimly lit condo. Behind her shades she could barely see five inches in front of her for the tint in them.
"I was right, wasn't I?” Formitz said as he perused the stamps. “It doesn't matter what I do. You need me."
Nikita stared coldly at Formitz, hating every cell in his body. Formitz continued to look through the stamps, pausing long on some, flipping careless through others. He sniffed loudly, wrinkling his nose in response to the sharp pain that followed after.
"I can't believe how great it feels having someone to tell.” He smiled. “It makes it even better."
“I don’t want to hear,” said Nikita, her tone weighted.
“I've already picked the next girl.” Formitz stopped a moment and mused a little. “It's that friend of Erica's--the young one."
Nikita twisted her head and scowled, fighting hard not to attack Formitz again. Already, she was beginning to feel tremors of rage rippling through her body.
“You leave her alone."
Formitz turned to Nikita, grinning with malicious intent.
“No. I've already decided.” He picked through the stamp books again, thinking. “ See, I dreamt about it from the first time I saw them together.” He nodded. “Now I'm doing it."
"Don't you touch her."
“Or what?” Formitz leveled his gaze with Nikita, challenging her.
She stood, trapped in her spot at the door, unable to move or speak anything of what she wanted to do. Formitz scoffed and put the stamps back in the envelope. He left the envelope on the table and walked casually back towards his dark room. He stopped momentarily just before disappearing behind the wall of film hanging in the hall.
“I’d see you out, but I really don’t give a damn what you do. So...thanks for the stamps. Now get the fuck out my house.”
He waited to hear the door close before he peeked back out into the living room. It was empty, to his relief. He turned back to the new images he had photographed of Erica’s body, now altered just a bit more. After the beating, he stayed on the floor long after he knew the blonde operative was gone. He could hear himself crying, but he did not want to believe that the quiet pitiful sobs belonged to him. He pulled himself from the floor and hobbled back out into the living room. His ribs ached from where she kicked him repeatedly in his side. His left eye felt like it was about to pop out of its socket. He went into the bathroom and assessed his damages. She had swollen the left side of his face leaving it a blotchy red. He ran some water and tried to dab away the blood spilling from his nose and mouth. His tongue rooted about his lower jaw and pushed aside a loosened tooth. He spat out the blood pooling in his mouth and quickly dislodged the loosened tooth. It was a small molar. He picked it up and set the tooth on his soap dish. He rinsed his mouth again and went to his kitchen to make an ice pack. He had expected the amazon woman to react, but not like how she did. He had wanted her to scream, but she did not scream in the way he hoped she would. The energy he had expected to be directed towards fear turned into crazed anger. She had come at him with all the mania of a deranged lunatic, and had pummeled him so viciously that he became fearful for his life. The feeling of fear and shock ate deeply at him, making him feel even more weak than he already felt around the blonde operative. In a millisecond, he was reduced to his childhood self, cowering in the boy’s bathroom stall, hoping he would not be found by the school bully again. The way the operative attacked him was not unlike the beatings he received daily from the bully, only this time, instead of it being a red-headed muscular freak, it was a tall, blonde bimbo dressed in all black and staring at him with the most alluring blue eyes.
No matter how much he hated her, he could not hate the dual jewels resting within the hard angles of her face. They were perfect. He would create such wonderful pictures, sculptures, paintings with those eyes. He would construct ballads and write odes to those eyes. There were many other things he could fall in love with on her form, but her eyes were by far the most treasured.
He went back to his desk and picked the envelope up, moving it from where it rested on the desk. He was sure she had not seen what he was really doing while he stood at the desk. She was too far away to see. If she had, she likely would have come after him again. He picked up the photo he had taken of her the night before, standing in her doorway looking out into the night. She was wearing a white bathrobe and very little else. He used his telephoto lens to draw her image in closer. She was drinking a beer and looked to be buried in her mind. He wondered what it was that she was thinking, being so far into her thoughts. He wondered if she was thinking about Erica hanging up like raw meat in his dark room.
Could she be thinking of their meeting? Could she be thinking of him at all?
She was certainly very beautiful. Gorgeous actually, despite her flaring temper. If she were not working for an agency that would just as soon kill him in his sleep than work any further with him, he would already have her added to his collection. However, the kind of woman that she was, he almost always avoided. She was the type to have too many loose ends to tie up. Too many people would come looking for her if she went missing. She was not like the prostitutes he propositioned. No one was looking for them. No one cared what happened to them. The less there were of them, the better.
“Soon, my goddess,” Formitz whispered as he selected a photo of Nakita from the pile of other pictures. “When this is over...You and I will have a chat.”
He kissed the photo.
“For now, it will have to wait. But don’t worry, my dear. I will be coming for you soon.”
He traced a finger over the image of Nakita’s face as she stared blankly into the night.
Chapter 11: Not Tonight
“How did it go?”
Nikita settled down in the chair in front of Madeline’s desk. She stretched herself to length and folded her hands on her stomach.
“He took them,” she responded within a weary breath.
“And...I...apologized.” Nikita forced out the last word through clenched teeth. She adjusted her position again, already feeling more than uncomfortable and restless.
“Good.” Madeline straightened in her chair and gave a half smile. “Now that things are back on track with our friend, we can continue, hopefully, without any further interruptions.”
Madeline kept her gaze steady with Nikita who presently looked like she was sitting on a chair of spikes. Her eyes searched aimlessly for somewhere or something to focus on, but found nothing.
“Is there anything more I should know about him?” Nikita turned her attention back to Madeline. “Does he beat dogs and pull the wings off birds too? Refuses to recycle?”
Madeline ignored Nikita’s flippant remark. She kept her smile and shook her head.
“No. Formitz is a man of particular tastes. He likes to think of himself as unique when in actuality, he is more your garden variety serial killer. He fixates on someone, studies them. Follows them about learning their movements and habits. He gets to know them. It helps him to build up his fantasy until he sees an opportunity to make that fantasy become a reality.”
“Why does he have to do it?” Nikita was not really asking the question, just rolling the thought about in her mind.
“Control. Power. He wants to dominate them. My guess is, he targets women that remind him of someone close to him. Possibly a parent or a lover. In Formitz’s case, his motivations could be complex. The women could be representative of the image of love that he wants but knows he will never get, while the act of murder is of itself its own pleasure. It’s not really the murder that drives him, but rather the ultimate end result of it. The creation process.”
“He thinks of it as art,” said Nikita.
“Yes. As a surgeon, he may have felt trapped within all of its rules and regulations. As an artist, he is free to create whatever kind of rules he wants to follow. The bodies become his canvas and his knife his paint brush. With everyone he chooses, he considers them part of his collection. A body of work.”
Nikita lowered her gaze, choosing to stare at the floor instead of into Madeline’s deep amber eyes. She sucked at her teeth unconsciously feeling her mouth grow dry.
“Although Formitz may not ever trust you again, he is still willing to work with us, which is a good thing. Continue to be in contact with him and play towards your advantage. You are, by far, probably the loveliest woman he has ever encountered which may peak his interest in you, but only if you learn to play nice.”
Nikita, once more, adjusted herself in the chair. She hid a shudder behind her movement. She did not want to spark any type of interest in someone like Formitz. If he so much as gave her a wanton glance, she feared she might break his arm.
“Are we done?” Nikita did not look at Madeline.
“Yes. You may go.”
Nikita nearly lept from the chair and walked out of the office without a look back. Deep within she hummed with renewed fury. Once more, Madeline was suggesting she do something that went completely against her sentiments. It was hard enough to pretend to be nice to the scoundrel, but to suggest she play into his interest in her was more than what she could handle. Madeline had suggested without really stating she should flirt a little with Formitz to keep him compliant. From their last interaction, she knew that was out of the question. Not only did she find Formitz utterly revolting, he knew she also found him nauseating. To suddenly warm up to him and start acting like she wanted to deepen their relationship would come off unrealistic and incredibly disrespectful towards his intellect.
Nikita grabbed her overcoat and purse. She waved goodnight to Erwin still seated at his station typing. She made her way to the main level and started towards transport. In Communications, Birkoff and Michael stared intensely at a monitor, both looking like they were straining to hear something over their earpieces. Birkoff looked up, catching Nikita’s eye, but could not respond with Michael standing directly over him. Behind Michael stood Operations, also listening in and watching. Nikita wondered what it was that they were all listening for and why so concentrated. Only Walter waved spiritedly from his station, a smile on his face broader than the Port Mann Bridge. She had heard that he had finally popped the question to Belinda, a woman he had been seeing for quite some time. Their relationship, much like many others in Section, was kept a secret until one day it wasn’t. Since Walter worked in Munitions and Belinda as a field agent, their union was not targeted as strongly as most others. Belinda, like Walter, was an anomaly in Section being much older than almost every operative she worked with. She was still very agile and quite versatile in her well of knowledge with explosives and baited traps. To look at her, no one would ever suspect she was a skilled chemist and an expert in plastique. Lately, however, her dependency was slipping as she repeatedly had to drop out of missions due to illness, and that drew unwanted attention her way. Nikita hoped that, for Walter’s sake, Belinda was able to pull herself out of the hole she had dug after missing so many missions. She would hate to know what Walter would do if he ever learned of Belinda being put in abeyance over something she could not truly control.
She drove towards her apartment, but began thinking again about Danielle. She had gone out the previous night to see if she could find her, but came up empty. On this night, she wanted to try and find her again. The evening was not yet late which meant many of the girls would be out on the street looking for Johns. Danielle could likely afford to hide away for one night, but very unlikely for two. Nikita turned her car down a side street and set a course towards the docks. She had purposefully not watched the news any that day for fear she would see a report of another body, Erica’s body, being found tossed aside like used chewing gum. She could not bear to see that. She was barely able to stomach being in the apartment where Formitz had her hung up. She had to fight hard to push back the waves of nausea that built up almost immediately after stepping foot inside the apartment. She wondered why she had not noticed the smell before when she first got there.
She found a parking space in a paid parking area and got out her car. She checked to make sure she had her pistol and that it had a slug chambered in it already. The evening was just beginning to catch its rhythm as she walked purposefully from the lot over towards the first dive just down the road from where she parked. She hoped she might find Danielle long before Formitz caught her scent, but she knew she might already be too late. Formitz had said he had been watching the two women for some time, learning them together. He had Erica already, and knowing that Danielle was always at her hip, probably already knew where she would be on a night like this. Nikita knew she was at a major disadvantage in finding her, but she could only hope that she retained enough street knowledge to figure out where the young stroller might be camping out.
She went through a few bars without finding anything before returning to the pool hall where she had seen Danielle before twice. She stepped inside the sticky, smoke heavy hall and looked around the room. As usual, the same men stood against the red textured walls holding pool sticks and scanning the room with practiced gazes. Their eyes fell on Nikita like a spotter on a target. One man started towards her, his eyes hinting at his criminal intent, when another man stopped him short. He whispered something to the other gentleman who relaxed back against the wall, immediately giving up his pursuit. Nikita walked further into the hall, searching each table.
“Liar. Let’s go.”
Nikita heard a male voice say as he spoke with a young dark haired girl seated at a booth. She turned and saw Formitz roughly pulling Danielle to her feet. Nikita rushed forward, grabbing Formitz by the arm and twisting it behind his back. He whimpered pathetically in pain as she forced his arm upward at an unnatural angle and pressed down on a nerve in his neck.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!" said Formitz, alarmed. “C-Can you just think about what you are doing? You need me!”
"Put your hands on her again and I'll kill you." Nikita breathed hotly at Formitz’s throat.
Beside them, Danielle stared wide eyed and frightened. Formitz nodded in agreement.
“Okay, okay, okay!”
Nikita loosened her grip allowing Formitz to twist himself free from her. He barely shot a glance back at the two women as he scuttled quickly away leaving the pool hall. Nikita breathed out a huff of air before turning her attention back to Danielle. The young girl glared at Nikita, her pink lips set into a pout.
“What do you think you were doing? He was going to pay 200 bucks!”
“Erica’s dead,” Nikita said in response. She had not meant to break the news to the young girl like that, but the words were already leaving her lips before she had time to stop them.
"No!” Danielle’s fury quickly left and was replaced with horrified realization. “Was she.....?"
“Yes. She was murdered by that man you were just talking to." Nikita gestured in the general direction Formitz disappeared.
Danielle sank down into her seat, staring into nothing, replaying the last moments before Nikita showed up and realizing how close she had come to her own demise.
“Nooo….” Danielle shook her head, not wanting to believe any of what she had just heard. She returned to Nikita who looked back at her with gentle empathy. “You’re a cop!”
“No, I’m not,” said Nikita firmly.
“But, you’ll go to the cops?” Danielle tried to make sense of Nikita and how she knew so much about the man that just propositioned her and Erica.
“I can’t,” said Nikita.
“Why not?” Danielle fired back, more than a little suspicious.
“I just can't.” Nikita had no patience to explain herself. “Get your things and we'll go. "
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” Danielle pulled away from Nikita. “Not until you tell me what you are, then, if you’re not a cop.”
“Look, Danielle. I can’t tell you what I am. All that I can say is that I’m a friend, okay.”
“Some friend you are,” said Danielle. “You just let my payday walk out of here. I would have to work the entire night for what he was going to pay me for one hour. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay right here and wait until he comes back.”
“He’s a killer, Danielle.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Danielle. “For all I know, you could be the killer. I’m not leaving. I have to work.”
“No you don’t. Not tonight.”
“I’ll just avoid him. I won’t go near him. I can go with someone else and--”
Nikita grabbed Danielle by the shoulders and pulled her close so that she was face to face with her.
“He'll track you and he'll torture you then he'll kill you." Nikita looked at Danielle with heavy meaning.
"You're scaring me.” Danielle’s voice was small now, no longer holding the same bravery it once possessed moments before.
“Good, now let's get your things and go."
Nikita started for the door, pausing a moment to wait on Danielle to collect her purse.
“I don't even know your name," said Danielle as she scrambled out of the booth.
Nikita scanned the hall, watching the patrons as they clustered together, whispering. An uneasiness began to set in, one that she remembered all too well from her days working the same kind of dives. With so little women roaming the pool hall that night, Nikita and Danielle were drawing more attention than she cared for. It would not be long before they were approached and eventually separated as one of the men would demand their attention whether they wanted to give it or not.
“Nikita, now let's go."
Nikita grabbed Danielle’s hand and pushed her forward quickly out of the pool hall. She shuffled her to her car and dropped her in the passenger seat, ignoring her rough handling in favor of hurrying them both out of danger from the area. Danielle cast a few wary looks towards Nikita as they drove from the docks into midtown. She thought it better not to take her all the way to the other side of the city as the hotels and rentals there were much too upscale and would expose Danielle easily. She only needed to stash her away for a few nights until she could figure something else out with Formitz. At the moment, the only thing that she could come up with was to kill him. That, she knew, would put her own neck on the chopping block.
“Where are we going?” Danielle asked in a very small voice as she clutched her purse to her chest.
“To a safe place I know,” Nikita answered.
She turned into the lot next to a weekly rent motel and parked. She told Danielle to stay in the car while she went to speak with the concierge. Danielle nodded, her deep brown eyes looking large and trusting in the moonlight. Nikita gave a small grin before going to rent a room. Once the room was secured for a week, she returned to the car and guided Danielle out of the car. They walked silently down the pathway until they reached Room 118. Nikita used the key to unlock the door and stepped inside first. The hotel room was nice enough, although somewhat grungy from too many nights being used as someone’s permanent residence. The bed was sturdy and set with fresh sheets and the bathroom had been recently bleached clean at least. For someone like Danielle, she imagined, it was likely far better conditions than what she normally found herself staying in. Nikita waved for the girl to come into the room. Danielle walked in and sat down on the bed, sighing in her exhaustion. Nikita went to the door and locked it before going to the window to look out into the lot. There were barely any cars in the parking spaces assuring Nikita that they were at least mostly alone in the motel room.
"You'll be okay here,” said Nikita, pulling the curtains closed.
“How long am I supposed to stay here?” Danielle asked, kicking her feet and looking defiant again.
“ I don't know. Until I say you can go out again. If you need money, I'll get you some." Nikita stood in front of Danielle and crossed her arms.
Danielle pushed her hands out behind her and leaned back slightly.
“Who are you?” she asked, studying Nikita.
Nikita went to check the bathroom. “Do you have someplace to go?”
“No, I don’t,” said Danielle with a slight edge in her voice.
“Parents?” Nikita ignored Danielle as she returned into the room.
“I'd rather die than go back to them, okay? I mean that!"
Nikita looked at Danielle still sitting on the bed looking even more petulant than before.
"Alright,” Nikita sighed. “I'll let you choose--but Danielle, you leave this room...you will die. You understand that?” Nikita drew a little closer to Danielle. “Promise you won't leave until I get back. I'll get back as soon as I can."
Danielle nodded feebly. Nikita pressed in further, making Danielle look her in the eye.
“Yeah, I promise,” Danielle assented, drawing back from Nikita.
Nikita cast one last look down at Danielle before heading for the door. She took the keys to the room and placed them on the large cherry wood dresser next to the door.
“Lock the door after I’m gone.”
Nikita walked into Section at ten o’clock in the morning. She had expected to have the next day off having made plans to run a few errands and finally get her dishwasher fixed. Instead, she was roused awake by the phone screaming from under a throw pillow on the floor. She picked it up, already knowing what to expect on the other end. The phone only screamed when he called.
Nikita didn’t even bother with an answer back. She breathed out a yeah then hung up. She dressed in a black and white dotted shirt and black skirt, wrapping a scarf about her neck and shrugging on her leather jacket. When she arrived at Section, it was business as usual. She expected to see Walter preparing the equipment to be taken out. Instead, he was not at his workstation, but could be heard rummaging about in the armory. Birkoff sat tossing a ball in the air while speaking with a team member about how to properly perform a redundancy backup for a running mission. Operations was not at the Perch which meant he was somewhere roaming around on the floor. Nikita went to Michael’s office seeing the door open. She found him standing at the window peering through the blinds out at Section’s main floor as if gazing out of a high rise office building. She used to think it odd that he would often look out from his window into Section, seeing it but not seeing it. After time getting to know him, she came to learn that he did just as much daydreaming about being away from Section as she did. This time, however, she could tell he was not away in his thoughts on a pleasure trip, but was firmly in his skin right there in his office.
“No Mission?” Nikita asked, almost apologetic for having disturbed him in his trance of thought.
“What did you call me in for?” Nikita pulled herself the rest of the way inside the office.
Michael did not face her. Instead he habitually buttoned his suit and relaxed his arms to his side. He was dapper as usual, wearing his customary black single breasted suit and a black v-neck shirt underneath. She could tell he had not been out in the field, but rather confined to his desk functioning more in his role as tactician and profiler. He had taken to wearing a deep and woodsy scented cologne that married well with his own personal scent. She was happy he had gotten away from the airy and oceanic colognes and had returned to something a bit more suitable for him. Even though the cologne he was wearing made him smell somewhat somber, for whatever reason, much like his tailored suits, it fit him.
“Where were you?”
The question threw Nikita a little. She had not known anyone was even looking for her. He had called her at her apartment, so she knew he was not talking about where she had been that morning. He already knew. He was asking about last night after she left Madeline’s office. She had not gone straight home when she left. The only way he would have reason to ask such a question was if he tried to call her once enough time had passed between the time she left Section and when she was due to arrive home. It wasn’t the first time Michael had called almost immediately after her keys turned the lock on her door. If he wasn’t calling directly after leaving Section, he was showing up somewhere planted in her apartment waiting for her. She was surprised he was not waiting for her last night, watching from the darkness silently until she finally noticed him. Had he been in her apartment, he might have known she was out far later than usual. He might have suspected she was doing something that Section would not have wanted her to do. It was crystal to her what Section thought of unimportant people.
“Nowhere in particular,” Nikita answered nonchalantly.
Michael turned to her then, leveling his gaze with her and beginning to advance towards her slowly. Nikita pulled herself in tighter, challenging herself to remain steadfast in front of him.
“Formitz' last Intel was accurate. One of our teams in Prague was able to prevent a bombing."
“Good.” Nikita only lifted an eyebrow in approval.
"We took the bomber alive. It's a woman."
Nikita nodded in slow realization. "She might lead us to Halir. We wouldn't need Formitz anymore."
Michael continued to look at her with a stoney expression. She responded back with one of her own.
“I thought you'd like to know."
“Thanks,” said Nikita.
Michael did not bother with telling her that she was dismissed. He walked back to his desk and sat down, more than indicating she was free to leave. Nikita turned and walked back out of the office, heading towards Madeline’s office. When she reached there, she found her gone. A passing operative told her that Madeline was down on Level 5 in Containment. Nikita quickly moved down to the level to wait for Madeline.
Chapter 12: Short Changed
Danielle fell back against the bed, expressing a sigh of frustration.
She stared at the ceiling, aimlessly counting the brown and tan water stains dotting the textured white paint. She had only made enough to get a decent meal that night. Not near enough to pay her dividend to Ronnie or take care of rent for the month. She was sure by now her things along with Erica’s were being tossed out in black garbage bags on the curb. They were more than a few weeks late in payment and from the last unanswered message on her machine, her landlord was becoming irritated with being ignored. Her landlord she could handle. It was Ronnie she was most concerned about offending. He had threatened other girls before and did much worse for coming up short on his cut. They were already on his hit list for not working the night Nikita found them. Erica had complained all night about not feeling well. She had only gone on one date before she went running to the bathroom puking out her guts. Erica wanted to go back home that night, but she made her stay out mainly because she knew they would run into Ronnie and he would want his money.
“I can’t do it tonight, Danni. I feel so sick,” Erica had said, holding her stomach as she pulled herself out of the bathroom stall.
She knew that Erica was sick. She could see it even in the pallor of her skin. Part of the morning, she had listened to her roommate retching in the bathroom sounding as if she were throwing up her life. She worried over her, hoping that it was just a simple bug, but she knew something else was wrong with her. She seemed to improve a little after eating a sandwich later that afternoon, but she was soon back to hovering over the toilet after she serviced the first client.
“You gotta try and get it together, Erica. Ronnie isn’t going to take any excuses this time. You know how he gets.”
Erica had nodded and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. They went back out into the street, walking arm in arm along the avenue. Danielle gave her best come hither stares to passing men, but one look at Erica turned them away. By the time they made it to the pool hall, Erica seemed to look a little better after drinking a ton of water. After Nikita tossed Ronnie out of the hall, Erica did not exactly express much gratitude. She only said what the both of them knew. Ronnie would be back. He always came back, and he was going to target them specifically for getting his ass kicked by a woman. Nearly everyone in the hall saw it and he knew it. He wasn’t going to just return to beat them for not having his money. He was going to come back and make an example of them so that others would know not to ever embarrass him again. The only thing that kept him from slicing into them that night was the fact that they did eventually make their quota that night and the fact that Nikita had cracked a rib. He vowed raspily that he would not forget what happened and said they would pay for it dearly.
Danielle sat up on the bed and began peeling off her shoes. She checked back through her purse and pulled out the few bills crumpled inside. She counted the money and concluded that she had a little more than what she thought she had, but not much more. She picked up the phone and dialed for a pizza delivery. After confirming the order, she breathed out another long sigh. It felt odd being in a hotel room without someone with her. She half expected for a person to come out the bathroom, but she knew no one would. The news of Erica’s death was still stuck in disbelief. She shook her head.
“It can’t be. She can’t be dead. It must be a mistake. She must have meant someone else,” Danielle told herself.
She felt tears beginning in her eyes and a choking feeling starting at the base of her throat. She did not want to cry. She fought herself not to let out one sound, but she was losing the fight with every breath she took. She tried holding her breath to keep back the wail building there just under her collar bone.
She was murdered by that man you were just talking to.
Danielle wondered if what Nikita said was actually true. Did the guy that had offered to pay her for a date just kill her best friend? He didn’t seem like he would do anything near so heinous. He looked like he would probably bore Erica to death than kill her. Yet, there was no reason that she could see for Nikita to lie. All that she had ever done was help her even when she did not know her.
How could Erica be dead? She was just with her nearly a day ago!
Danielle stood up and began pacing, running her hands through her hair. She shook her fingers, then held herself close as she paced in front of the bed.
The pizza was taking too long to get there.
What if the guy learned where she was and tried to come for her again?
What if he got to Nikita first and murdered her?
As soon as the thought came, Danielle nearly laughed it off instantly. Nikita did not seem like the type of person that could be smooth talked into going with anyone she didn’t want to go with. The way she handled the guy, she knew she would not be so easily dispatched either. Nikita could take care of herself. Nikita was strong. Nikita was powerful.
She was not like Nikita at all.
Had she not shown up when she did, she might have been the man’s next victim. Even though she still thought that he couldn’t harm a butterfly, she did not discredit Nikita’s assessment of him. If he had killed Erica, he was after her too, which meant that she would have to be extra careful whenever she managed to get out on the streets again. There was still the money owed to both her landlord and to Ronnie. She couldn’t ask Nikita to pay both. She doubted that she would. Especially since she suggested she return to her parents. She had not said so explicitly, but she knew what she meant by telling her she would leave it up to her choice. If it was truly going to be her choice, she was going to choose to remain right where she was. Despite being used as a play thing for money and being hounded by a pimp all evening, it was still better than living with two people that seemed to think that she was not allowed to think for herself. She couldn’t stand how controlling her parents had become the moment she became a teenager. Growing up, they seemed not to care much about what she did. They were too occupied with controlling her older brothers. Then, when they finally left the house, their attention turned to her and they began the vicious cycle of rules and punishments with her. She didn’t even make it out of highschool before they began dictating everything she did, everywhere she went, and who she spent time with. It was as though they made it their mission to stop her from living in order to keep her safe. She couldn’t endure that. She couldn’t continue going along with the rules and the restrictions. There were things and feelings, emotions and experiences she wanted to have. Her parents were stopping her from all of it and they were not going to end their tyranny over her life so long as she remained with them. So, in the dead of night, not long after Christmas, she snuck out of her bedroom and ran away. She had a few dollars saved from the one part time job her parents would allow her to have, along with a few dollars she stole from her mother’s purse. She took a bus to the next city and began life anew.
She wasn’t certain how she was going to build a new life from nothing, but she was happy to at least have one to build. She stayed in hotels, some not as nice as the one that she was currently staying at, but it was a roof over her head at night when she needed it. After a few nights struggling to find more money, she met Erica who told her how she could make quick money with very little effort. Erica stayed with her a few days before teaching her the basics of her job. At first, she was not very interested in doing what Erica did for cash. She had always been told that selling sex was illegal and morally wrong. She would go to jail and then hell if she ever got caught. Erica told her it was inevitable for her to get caught at some point, but, seeing as how she was young and the jails were so full, she would be let out on the streets again after a few days. The jail was just another place to lay her head at night, after all. Sometimes, it was a whole lot better place to lay low for the night than the places their Johns would take them.
She didn’t meet Ronnie until she had been with Erica for over a month. Ronnie came over to them while they stood on the corner together and asked who she was. Erica told him she was a new girl and that she was nice. Danielle remembered Ronnie looking her over as if she were a brand new car. She felt his eyes moving all over her body and it made her feel slimy. Finally, he nodded and patted Erica on the butt. He walked away leaving Erica looking worried and Danielle very puzzled.
“You’re in,” Erica had said, turning to Danielle. “He gets forty percent of everything you make out here. He’ll come back around in a few hours to check in. We’ll go to him at the end of the night to cash out.”
“Wait? I’m giving him my money? I’m not giving him my money!”
“You have to,” said Erica. “If you don’t, he’ll really mess you up bad. You’re one of his girls now. Oh, and one more thing.”
“What is it?” Danielle was still upset about having to give someone she had just met part of her profits for the night.
“You’re gonna sleep with him tonight.”
Erica had said it as if she were telling her about the end credits to a movie. She did not even bother looking at her when she said it. Instead, she stared into the street, looking for any car that might slow down long enough for her to approach it.
“He’s gotta make sure you’re legit.”
From then, Erica and Danielle were only separated when they had a date, and even that sometimes did not keep them apart. At times, they found they could earn more money if they tag teamed together on a John. Erica was a favorite being tall and blonde. She was hard to miss. Danielle had to work a little harder to be seen next to her friend, but she did not mind the competition. Erica had even made it like a game on some nights, keeping them entertained despite the slow cycle of men roaming the midnight streets. Now Erica was gone and the game was at an end. What was she going to do now?
There was a knock at the door.
Danielle froze. She stared hard at the door, fearful of who was behind it. The knock came again.
“Hey! Anybody in there? Did you order a pizza?” came a male voice nearly cracking in pitch.
Danielle relaxed a little. She went to her purse and pulled a twenty dollar bill from the wad on the bed. She unlocked the door and peered through a small crack. The delivery man, a teenage boy with black hair combed back from his face and wearing a bulky letterman jacket, peered back at her through the crack in the door.
“Hey, you order a pizza?” he asked.
“Well?” He looked a little impatient.
Danielle opened the door a little wider and handed him the bill. He shoved the pizza at her and took the money. Danielle pulled the pizza into the room, then stuck her hand out for her change. The young delivery boy faltered a moment, having shoved the bill in his pocket and turned to leave. Danielle wiggled her fingers impatiently, demanding her change.
“What is it?” asked the delivery boy.
“My change. I want my change,” Danielle demanded.
“What about my tip?”
“What about your tip?”
“It’s only two dollars and thirty-five cents.” The delivery boy looked both confused and insulted.
“Yeah and I need that back.” Danielle did not care anything about being blunt, nor did she care about his tip.
“You’re not going to tip me?”
“Don’t forget to wash your hands before and after you waggle your winnie. Now give me my change.”
The boy sneered as he rooted about in his pockets for Danielle’s change. He pulled out a crush of bills and coins before counting out the two dollars and thirty-five cents he owed her back. He did not hide his disdain as he smashed the money into her waiting hand.
“Here. Have a nice night.”
“You too,” said Danielle, closing her door.
“Cheap bitch,” the boy muttered as he walked off from the motel room door.
I’m worth way more than you can afford, Danielle thought as she looked over her pizza. She selected a piece of cheese and pepperoni pizza and bit into the hot and steamy slice.
He had her.
He had seen her come into the pool hall looking both lost and nervous as she searched around the hall. He could tell she was looking for her friend as she stared at the different faces passing by her. She did not know that he was watching her, waiting for her. The night before he had dreamed about her, or rather she had come to him in his dreams. She was beautiful, sailing on invisible wings up to his waiting arms. She told him in a whisper how much she wanted to be with him. She said she wanted him to create her into what she really wanted to become. She wanted to become immortal.
He had her. He was close enough to dare to touch her hair. He nearly did as he stood behind her. She was seated at a booth, fiddling with a napkin. Beside her, a small black purse rested on the seat. She wore a slinky little maroon dress. He wore a dark grey suit and a wine colored shirt underneath. They were perfectly matched already. He waited a moment more, building his courage to speak to her. He could not believe how incredibly easy it was to find her. The other night when he had gone out to search for her, she was nowhere on the streets. He knew then that she was laying low, hiding out somewhere. No doubt, she was hiding from her pimp. He had overheard him talking to Erica about the money they both owed him. He would be searching for her to collect.
But he got there first. He was going to collect what was due him.
“Two hundred bucks for one hour. You ever made that much before?”
He knew she hadn’t. He had been watching both Erica and Danielle for days now, learning their habits and their hangouts. Listening to their conversations all while they remained unaware of him lurking in the corners. Danielle was new, so he knew she had not ever made much more than fifty bucks on a date. He knew she would take the bait. She had to. She was desperate. Even more so now that her friend was no longer around.
“Sure,” she said confidently, but he could still detect a slight waver in her voice.
He could not help but laugh a little at her feeble attempt at being confident.
He grabbed her arm and began lifting her up from the booth. Then, suddenly, he felt hands grab hold of him and twist him about so that he lost his grip on Danielle. The amazon operative was back and with renewed fury. She threatened to kill him, but he knew she would not be able to follow through with her threat. Section needed him too much to allow anyone to kill him. He surmised the operative had gotten into trouble for having beaten him up the other night. The woman he reported the beating to, although not sounding too empathetic, did promise to have the problem rectified and he be compensated for his injuries. The stamps were great, but he wanted something much more profound. He was going to complete his project, his masterpiece, but he was also entertaining his next piece of work. He was going to call it Venus de Milo and have her staged near the docks. Instead of coming out of a clam like the famous painting depicted, he would impale her body on a spire jutting up from the water. He would have her completely naked like the painting, and detach both of her arms so that she looked like the statue standing in the Louvre.
He had been dreaming about what he would do with a project like Nikita. She was much too perfect to be posed in any other fashion except as a goddess. She would become an immortal for him, just like all the others he had taken and transformed. As he hurried away from the booth, leaving his prey in the hands of the goddess, he thought about the ways in which he would begin to transform her. He wanted her pain to be exquisite and so close to unbearable that she would beg him to release her. He wanted to listen to her cries of mercy and deliver to her more agony until she pleaded for death. He would then give it to her as she wished, but not before plucking out those dual jewels in her eye sockets. He would keep those in a jar. He could replace her eyes with paper ones. The thought of sex with her crossed his mind, but he could not bring himself to think of her in that way. She was much too hard to view as soft enough to take. Erica had been soft, although a little sickly. She had given him the pleasure of taking her in much the same way as he imagined. With Nikita, he could only imagine how wonderful it would feel to have her completely obedient to him and begging his forgiveness for how she treated him. It was obvious to him that she thought of him as weak and unimportant, an unwanted interruption in her, otherwise, dull life. He had seen her in her apartment, walking slowly past the window at her balcony sipping on a cup and thinking. She seemed to do a lot of thinking.
He saw her take her away in her car. The two women moved down the street as if trying to get away. He did not have the opportunity to tail them like he had hoped he would. The urge to satisfy his growing need for release tugged him back to the hall and made him select another girl much less inviting. The girl he chose jumped at the offer of $75 for an hour. She followed him to the back halls of the dive and lifted her leg there. The moment was quick and she was quiet enough not to draw any attention their way. However, with some many others having used the hall for the very purpose that he was using it, he doubted that if anyone did see them there, that they would care much. The evening was so very disappointing that he left directly after paying the girl only fifty dollars.
“Hey!” she exclaimed after counting the money given to her. “You owe me $25!”
“I should’ve had you pay me to have sex with you. Your breath stinks.”
Formitz zipped himself up and walked away from the prostitute ignoring her litany of curses and threats. He left the pool hall and drove about the streets again, aimless and thinking. He had to find the girl again. He had to find Danielle or else he might go mad. The two roommates would not be complete until he had them both and posed them both together. The art piece would not make much sense if he did not have them together. After all, what was the sun without its counterpart?
The streets peeled the night back as he drove, finding no one of any particular interest to him. The only thing that was left for him to do was to return home and study the stamps he got from Section closely under a magnifying glass. He vowed if he found one imperfection on them, he would be forced to throw the whole lot of them away. He could not have a pristine collection like the one that he had and tarnish it with a blemished stamp.
Formitz arrived at his condo and threw his keys in the bowl next to the door. He sighed, releasing his tension before walking over to his work desk. He picked up the pictures that he snapped of Nikita and took them over to his document viewer. He placed each photo onto the viewer one after the other until he completed a neat row. He looked down at his collection and felt himself pull tightly against his trousers. There was one picture of her that he especially loved. It was taken while she was on the phone standing at her window again. There was a look on her face that told him so much more than her words could ever share. Whomever she was on the phone with brought emotion to her eyes. She was staring out at nothing, but he could see she was overtaken by desire and worry. He could almost feel her apprehension while she was on the phone talking. There was another photo of her on the phone looking more upset than in enjoyment. The photo taken of her after she hung up her phone told him that she was exhausted. She moved back into her apartment and out of view. He did not follow her when she left. The person at Section that had contacted him initially warned him about going anywhere near where Section was located. He was to stay in his area of work and not try and discover things that would certainly get him killed. He understood and did not follow Nikita to where she worked. Section said nothing about following her to where she lived. He wondered if this was done on purpose knowing what they knew about him and his habits.
“As long as you play by our rules, you will remain protected,” said the woman on the other end of the line.
He was skeptical at first upon meeting Nikita. He was even more unsure when she beat him into the floor of his condo after he showed to her what had happened to the woman that owned the red scarf. He screamed at the woman on the other end of the line after Nikita left his home. The woman on the other end apologized unemotionally and promised him that the next time he met with the amazon operative, she would be much kinder and less aggressive with him. He remembered the way in which she said the word kind, as if it implied something more. Nikita was indeed a little less aggressive when she approached him with the stamps, but she still did not strike him as being very kind. She was tolerant at best.
Formitz moved to a few other photographs he had taken of her and her neighbor. The neighbor, he wondered over a little, but did not allow himself to break off and start over with her. The neighbor was just a teaser to the real prize next door. He knew he could increase her torment if he took her neighbor. It would let her know even more that she was next.
Formitz licked his lips. The bar woman was of very little satisfaction. She barely scratched the surface to his need. He would never be satisfied with just sex. He had learned early on in his sexual discovery that just normal sex was not going to ever be enough. He needed to feel his conquest give themselves completely over to him. He needed to know that they were giving their all for his pleasure even until death. It had to be the final end to the act or else he would forever reside in a world of unrequited passions. He could not live a second with that misery. As much as he wanted to stay inside his home, he knew he would be heading right back out to find someone to satisfy his hunger. He steadied himself and walked to his bathroom to get cleaned up. The night was still fairly young and there were plenty of people walking about enjoying the crisp air. Fall was here and the city was humming with preparations for the upcoming holidays. Usually, the holidays gave him opportunity for easy pickings as everyone seemed too enthralled with the act of being someone or something else entirely different from themselves. It often clouded their better judgement. He could do two or maybe three in one night if he wanted, or he could zero in on one particular prey and terrorize her until she gave in to him. This was how he imagined Danielle would be, pleading for mercy on her knees but not getting any. It was how he imagined Nikita would be if she managed to find herself trapped. The two of them both would scream in terror as he began their transformations.
Formitz showered and selected another suit to wear. He was grateful to have found a stylist that would work and get paid under the table. He tried in earnest not to leave a traceable paper trail. His clandestine ways caught the attention of Halir who contracted him to forge a few government documents. He knew that he was being watched by someone. He could sense their presence and knew exactly where to find them if he needed to. The men that were tailing him did not watch for very long. After finding out where he lived and a few of his daily routines, one approached him. They took him to a meeting spot and began details of their next bomb target. He did not care what sort of cause Halir and his men were working towards. He only cared about the money they agreed to pay him for his work.
It’s only IDs, he had thought as he created the first credential. I’m not the one killing people. They are.
Formitz caught his image staring back at him from the bathroom. He looked very nice and pulled together, like a prince. He ran his hand back through his hair and adjusted his glasses. He could find Danielle later. She would have to come out of hiding sooner or later. In the meantime, he had to go hunting for a less fulfilling prey.
“In other news...Another body has been discovered. The victim is identified as Chelsea Rappaport, a runaway who has been missing for six months. Her parents, Gail and William Rappaport reported their daughter missing when she failed to return home from Spring Break. Chelsea, age nineteen, was last seen at a nightclub downtown. Authorities believe that Chelsea was out with friends when she came across the infamous murderer who lured her with cash to go with him to a secluded place. When they were alone, that is when the killer struck, causing blunt force trauma. Investigators say that Chelsea was likely killed someplace else from where her body would eventually be found. Citizens are encouraged to maintain awareness of their surroundings, to never leave a place alone, and to always know exactly who it is that you are going with before leaving with them.”
Chapter 13: Conversation with the Devil
Nikita boarded the transport elevator followed by Michael. She stood staring straight forward, not saying a word as Michael pressed the button to rise. He remained silent as well, certainly thinking of the meeting he had just come from with Operations and Madeline, which prompted him to join Nikita on her meeting. Nikita felt herself already in a mood. Just an hour ago, she had watched a middle aged woman tell her a story about how her husband and three year old son were killed, then proceed to break nearly every bone in her left hand. The sound alone was abrasive enough, but that was not what bothered Nikita. It was the way in which the woman regarded her broken bones as if she were not even there. If anything, Nikita felt more of the pain inflicted on the woman’s fingers than the woman did. It was an awful and graphic way to paint a picture, but it was one that Nikita immediately understood. Section could do their very worst to her and she would not crack open a morsel of information for them to take down Halir. She had been through more than enough pain to completely desensitize her from any physical pain they could administer. Nikita was beginning to think that maybe Madeline was right in her first assessment.
The woman was not likely to break. At least, anytime soon.
Michael walked off the elevator first and through the lobby, heading for the parking deck. Nikita knew he would likely opt for her to drive since she knew exactly where they were going. As usual, he walked out before her, taking the lead to her car and waited for her to catch up so she could unlock the doors. Once in the car, Michael settled back, staring out the front window. Nikita wished that he would not behave as if on autopilot at that moment. She was already feeling chaotic from the past few days dealing with Formitz, learning of his exploits, and then racing against time to possibly save a young girl from becoming an art project. She knew that saving Danielle only meant that some other unfortunate girl would end up taking her place. She wished that she could do more to help Danielle, and all the other women working the streets, but it would be impossible. Especially since the only way to stop Formitz was to kill him.
Nikita drove, thinking about how she might get rid of Formitz without getting into major trouble with Section. At the moment, there was little that she could do. The prisoner in the interrogation was not cooperating and vowed to not tell them anything. She was unsure of how she would be able to extract the necessary information from the woman if all of Section’s methods were not going to work, and she was too despondent to react to any psychological massaging. She had hoped that she would not have to see Formitz ever again, except maybe to put a bullet in his head. Instead, she was sent back out to meet with him in hopes of learning more information or coerce him into setting up a meeting with Halir himself. Michael was sent to tag along by Operations to make sure that Section protocol was being followed and no other deviations were made.
Nikita sneered a little as she made a right hand turn onto the boulevard where the pool hall and many other dives were located. There was some comfort to be gained with having Michael there with her when she met with Formitz. She figured he had very little respect for women which was why he targeted them, but maybe he might respond better if a man were present. Who better to send in than the Man in Black himself? They could speak man to man. Deviant to deviant. Killer to killer.
Nikita parked and got out of the car. Michael looked about himself warily, noting where they were and who was around them.
“Where do you usually meet him?” Michael’s tone was soft and eerily calm. She could tell he was merely doing the job, but the way in which he spoke brought her back to the female bomber in the White Room.
“At a local pool hall about a block from here,” said Nikita.
The two started down the sidewalk heading towards the hall. They fell into an automatic synchronized stride as they approached the hall dressed in all black and looking quite serious. Nikita noticed that the two of them were already gaining questioning stares as they walked inside. Nikita scanned the room and saw Formitz seated at a round table. She nodded to Michael and they began making their way over to where Formitz was waiting. He seemed unaware of them at first as he sat. Nikita stood directly behind him, allowing her shadow to fall menacingly over his table announcing her. Michael pulled over a chair and sat down. His long overcoat blanketed either side of the chair as he crossed his legs. The image of Michael seated next to Formitz put to mind how the devil would look taking court with an imp. Michael’s presence alone overpowered any menace that Formitz could ever hope to project. She could see it in the way Formitz began to shift in his seat that he knew a much more formidable adversary had joined them in their meeting. Nikita pulled a chair from a nearby table and sat down, straddling it backwards. Formitz looked at Nikita and Michael.
“Your boyfriend?” he asked, somewhat caustically.
“Colleague,” Nikita answered back.
“Three’s a crowd.”
“Deal with it,” Nikita fired back with a challenge in her eyes.
Formitz started to speak back, but after looking wistfully over at Michael, opted to hold his tongue. Michael remained quiet, watching both Nikita and Formitz quarrel with one another before speaking.
“When is your next contact with Halir?”
Formitz stared straight out, not making any eye contact with either operative. Nikita, he knew he could toy with for as long as she would stand it, but her colleague painted a different picture. There was a coldness to him that almost felt as chill as Erica's dead skin. He was a good looking man, average height, with long dark brown hair. He would have like to look like him if he could. Where he had to purchase designer suits and flash large wads of cash to gain attention, the male operative only had to sit down and the world would come rushing to him. Formitz could see just within the few moments of the man being in the pool hall, all female eyes were instantly drawn to him. He instantly hated him more for how easy it was for him to attract without any effort whatsoever on his part. The ease in which he positioned himself told Formitz that he was quite comfortable with being there and was not at all bothered by the ambience or the company. Nikita, conversely, looked as though she might pop an eyeball out on the table she was so tense.
“Like I told her,” Formitz began, rather curtly. “He calls and tells me where to meet and what to bring.”
“Next time will be different,” said Michael.
“Never happen.” Formitz scoffed, but continued to not look at Michael directly.
“You tell him you know the name of a traitor inside his organization.”
Nikita perked up at hearing this. She knew she had been shoved into the role of spectator the moment Michael sat down. His disarming demeanor was purposeful and being used expertly to keep the situation from boiling over if tempers began to flare, namely on her part.
“Do I?” Formitz was unconvinced of this strategy.
“One will be provided,” Michael answered coolly.
Nikita knew exactly what Michael meant by his words. It was also what she did not want. She did not want any more lives given to the monster to devour. She bristled at the thought, but held her tongue. Already, she could feel her leg jumping with anxiousness.
“It will be risky,” Formitz was saying. “He’ll be heavily guarded.”
“We can deal with that. You set up the meeting. We’ll triple your fee.”
Nikita mentally applauded Michael’s performance. Always the salesman for Section to get what they want and Formitz gain what he wanted. Michael had laid out the entire sequence from start to finish with all holes plugged in all before the minute hand made it around the clock.
“You’ll provide sanctuary after this?” Formitz pushed for more assurance.
“Of course,” Michael said smoothly.
Nikita twitched in response. With Formitz given sanctuary, he could go on killing without any kind of repercussion or punishment for Section or local authority. He would be put on a list of protected people that basically could do anything in the world if they wanted and Section would not touch a hair on their protected little heads.
“Now I will need certain things,” said Formitz.
“Such as?” asked Michael.
Formitz turned to Nikita, allowing a knowing smile to creep up on his lips. Nikita almost snarled back, but instead pushed her lips down into a narrow line.
Nikita bristled, knowing exactly what it was that Formitz was hinting at. She knew what certain thing he was referring to.
“Forget it,” she said, her voice deep and hardened.
Formitz pulled on a full smile. Nikita glared back at him. Michael waited for the two of them to settle down once more and end their silent squabbling.
“I’ll give you an hour to think it over,” said Formitz getting up from the table. He looked quickly at Michael, noticing he was staring at Nikita.
Nikita was chewing on a wad of anger so large in her throat that she was barely able to breathe. He laughed within himself and headed out of the pool hall. Nikita sat a moment more before getting up from the chair. Michael rose along with her and pushed his seat up to the table. Nikita left her chair where it was at and walked quickly out of the pool hall. This time, Michael did not rush ahead of her, but lagged a step behind her. She could feel him watching her every mood, but she no longer cared. Formitz had asked for Danielle and knew in order for Section to get what they wanted, they had to give him what he wanted. The money was fine, he could always use more, but Danielle…
They drove back to Section in silence with Michael looking out the window and Nikita driving like she was chasing down Formitz. When they arrived inside of Section, Michael lingered back from Nikita, allowing her to move forward ahead of him. Nikita remained in her thoughts as she walked. They made their way to the elevators and descended.
“Who was the girl?” Michael finally broke the silence asking the question he held onto since leaving the pool hall. “He won’t cooperate unless he gets her. Where is she?”
The two of them walked down the corridor moving towards the Commons. Nikita looked at Michael, somewhat heartbroken he would ask her. She was unsure if she really heard what Michael was implying.
“I don’t know, Michael,” she lied within a groan. “Find another way. Pay him more money. Threaten him.”
Nikita was desperately grasping at straws. She could see Michael’s mind working through his plan, all the way down to capturing Halir with the sacrifice on one more soul. She could not believe that he would allow Formitz to freely kill all for the sake of capturing a terrorist. They stopped in the corridor just outside of the doors leading to the transport elevator.
“He’s unstable as it is. Threats might spin him out of control.”
Him out of control, Nikita thought with growing disgust. It wasn’t Formitz any of them should worry about becoming undone. They all should have been worrying about her losing it.
“Even if I knew where Danielle is,” Nikita began, stepping closer to Michael, “I wouldn’t give her to that monster.”
“I never said you should,” Michael responded back just as finely as a well sharpened sword, cutting Nikita’s defiance in half.
“That’s what you’re thinking. You’re going to tell me to remember the people in the bus depot.” Nikita lifted her chin.
Knockout punch, Nikita thought feeling herself reel backward. Michael had dealt her a blow that was a little more than she could absorb. Paired with his stone cold expression and the dark tone in his voice, she could do little more than gawk at him.
“Nikita. Good news,” said Madeline smiling as she and Operations rounded the corner to meet them.
Nikita and Michael turned, pausing their small spat. Operations looked steady, appearing not to care either way about what was going on prior to him arriving. Madeline kept her smile, even though Nikita could tell it was painted on.
“The prisoner cooperated after all. Gave us a way to Halir.”
Nikita tilted her head and folded her arms across her chest.
“When I last saw her, she was breaking her own bones.”
Madeline was unmoved. Michael and Operations stood by and watched as another battle ensued in the hall between the two women. At the moment, they were only sizing each other up.
“Should have had more faith in your suggestion,” said Madeline. “She had a rest. We brought her back in and it worked.”
Michael cut a glance over to Nikita. Madeline maintained her practiced smile. Nikita gnawed on words she wanted to say, but didn’t. Instead, she drew in a breath.
“So there’s no need for Formitz?” Nikita tested.
“Apparently not,” said Madeline.
The two women stared at each other more, both challenging the other in a wordless battle. Operations looked at both women and took a step in between them, ending their fight.
“You will meet a courier at 1600 in an Arab market in Berlin,” said Operations to Michael. “We’ll tag the courier and follow him to Halir.” He then turned to Nikita. “You will remain in Section to help Birkoff with tactical overview. Any other questions?”
Nikita nodded. Michael responded with a dip of his chin before moving back towards his office to prepare. Madeline gave one last look at Nikita, then Operations before turning to leave. Nikita looked down at her shoes. She wanted to believe that what Madeline said was true. That the prisoner did finally break after they followed her suggestion of allowing her time to remember what feeling good felt like before being sharply reminded of what sort of pain her body could endure. However, from her own experience, she knew it was not likely that the woman broke like Madeline suggested she did, or that she was willing to give up Halir after more things were broken on her. She was not very fond of having to remain at Section while Michael went into the field to get Halir. As angry as she was with Formitz, she was double the amount angered with Halir for making it necessary for Section to have to make deals with a sadistic serial killer. All that she could do was hope that Michael could bring Halir in and they all could end the never ending nightmare they were all a part of for all week. Once Halir was captured, there would be no need to meet with Formitz or have any further dealings with him. If he turned up dead for some reason, it was only par for the course. He would become just as unimportant as the people in the bus depot and all the prostitutes he killed and left scattered all over an abandoned train yard. If he died, Nikita could be assured that there would be one less monster in the wilderness.
Chapter 14: Unfair
Belinda was dead.
Nikita could barely breathe when Birkoff gave her the news. There was real fear in his eyes when he told her, and when he said that Walter just found out about it. They both raced to Munitions to find Walter, eyes ablaze with inconsolable fury, loading a Glock 57 pistol. The rage that was in him found a voice and a strength that went beyond anything Nikita or Birkoff had ever seen. Birkoff looked like he was about to cry while Nikita attacked the old man, trying to wrestle the gun away from him. He fought back, screaming out his pain. He wanted to kill the man that sent his beloved fiance to her death. He wanted to kill so badly that he did not care who or what was in his way. He didn’t even care about his own life. What was it to him now that Belinda was gone? What was life now that she had been taken from him?
Nikita stared into Walter’s wide eyes.
“We need you! Walter, I need you!” Nikita was nearly in tears herself as she spoke.
The old man stopped for only a moment as her words sank into him. He still held on to the gun, but his strength and his intent was slowly leaving him.
“What did Belinda tell you today? Did she tell you to throw your life away? Stay here for the people that need you.”
“It’s not fair!” Walter cried, finally crumbling into Nikita’s arms. “It’s not fair!”
No it wasn’t fair. None of it was fair. It was never going to be fair. Nikita knew that. Walter certainly knew that having been in Section probably since its inception. Still, it did little to take away the sting of Section’s unfairness, its cruelty. No one was exempt from the massive expanse of Section’s diabolical actions. It could and often would hurt anyone at any time. They all were very well aware. Today would not be the only day that Section would show its hands and the blood that stained them.
“What’s happening here?” Operations appeared at the doorway of Munitions, hands on hips and looking somewhat offended by the noise he had been drawn to.
Nikita quickly grabbed the gun from Walter and slipped it down the front of her shirt.
“Nothing. We’re just talking,” said Nikita, giving Walter a look that told him to pull together fast.
“You and Birkoff should be at your terminals,” said Operations. He gave Birkoff a beady glare causing the poor boy to cower.
Nikita eased away from Walter and took Birkoff by the elbow, leading him out of Munitions. She cast a look backwards to see Operations moving in a little closer to speak with Walter directly. She hoped that Walter would not flip out on Operations. She hoped to not find out Operations said something to cause him to get shot in the head. Their exchange was brief. She could tell by the way Operations walked away, still looking like he had better things to do, and the way Walter looked glowering after him, that the exchange was not pleasant. Walter returned to his workstation, sitting and staring into nothing for a long while. She could imagine what thoughts were running through his mind. She wished that she could go and comfort him, but they were all being watched now. As always, showing any type of care for another operative was strictly prohibited and could only be done in the most secretive way possible.
Nikita sat down at her terminal and logged on. Erwin was gone from his desk, likely out on a mission. Birkoff continued to look warily towards Munitions as he managed his department. Nikita thought about Danielle, still sitting in the motel room. She had gone by early that morning and left some cash and a few items of clothing for her to change into from her closet. She was grateful, but still very defiant and even a little rude about having to remain in the room. Nikita reminded her of the penalty she faced if she left the room, driving her back down on the bed pouting. Nikita told her she could order anything she wanted, it would be taken care of.
“What if I want to watch a movie?” Danielle asked, testing Nikita.
“Whatever will keep you here,” Nikita answered before closing the door behind her.
She had not wanted to go in that morning, but the sound in Michael’s voice implied his insistence. The briefing meeting with Madeline went about as well as any other talk, settling on further exposure to Formitz with a meeting scheduled with him later that afternoon. Madeline seemed less interested in Nikita’s thoughts about the mission. Her mind was on other matters on her plate. Nikita was only to be given orders and expected to complete them without having any say or complaint. It was the way Section always wanted their operatives to work. It was why Michael was sent with her, to make sure she did the job and nothing more. She both was grateful for Michael being there and resentful of the fact that Madeline thought it necessary for him to babysit her during the mission. Certainly she would not have offered any of the things that Michael did at the table. The conversation likely would have gone south shortly after sitting down. However, she still could not stomach the idea that Formitz wanted Danielle and Michael was thinking of giving her to him.
Nikita gnawed on her pen cap until it was a mangled misshapen piece of plastic in her mouth. She made certain not to give any indication of where she had stashed the young street walker, but she knew Michael never needed much information to go on to find anything he was looking for. She had slipped in giving him her name, but she hoped that bit of information would not matter. Madeline said that the female bomber had cracked. Even though she did not truly believe this, she could only hope that it was. Maybe, under some different circumstances not plain to Nikita before, the woman decided to give Halir up. She would not know what made her change her mind and she would not find out as the woman was likely already dead. It would take Section a few more days before they figured out where she stashed Danielle, and by then, she would have moved her again. She would play cat and mouse all day long with Section and Formitz if she had to. Anything to keep from seeing the girl’s face on the news as another unfortunate victim.
Nikita looked at her watch.
Michael’s flight was due to leave soon. She imagined he was already in transport with his team heading towards the air strip. She figured they would be in the air for nearly two hours before landing in Berlin. There, they would meet their courier and start the sequence. Nikita wondered if she would have enough time to grab something to eat and contact Danielle to check on her before the sequence began. The timing was going to be tight, a little too tight to do what she truly wanted to do, which was go see Danielle for herself to make sure she was okay. Instead, Nikita opted to remain close to Section not only for the sake of time, but also to keep Daneille’s whereabouts secret.
The news that morning was blessedly bland with only a few updates about the ongoing police investigation of the multiple murders. It was not often that she paid much attention to the news, but over the past few days, she found it inescapable with everyone watching and reporting back about the murders. She wondered if anyone knew that the killer the police was searching for was the informant Section was protecting. She could not go to the police with what she already knew for fear of exposing herself. With Michael going to meet with Halir via the courier, Nikita hoped they could end their dealings with the serial murderer and dispose of him quietly.
Nikita went into the lounge and grabbed a soda to drink. She leaned against the counter where a selection of teas and individual coffee packs were neatly stacked on a carousel. A moment later, Birkoff entered, heading for the energy drink vending machine to grab his usual high octane grape flavored stimulant and a candy bar before returning to his station. He looked up, seeing Nikita watching him. After retrieving his snacks, he began walking towards her. She lifted from the counter and met him halfway.
“How’s he doing?” Nikita asked.
“Quiet,” said Birkoff.
They started walking back towards Communications.
“It’s probably best.” Nikita drank her soda. “When is the Rio team due back in?”
“Probably late this evening. They still have some work to do down there before returning. Walter will be gone by then I hope.”
“Good. He shouldn’t see the team when they come back without Belinda. Could set him off again, especially if he sees Jones.”
The two walked across the open floor. Birkoff took his seat at his desk while Nikita came behind him and grabbed a Comm unit. Birkoff quickly logged on to his terminal and began preparing the Comm unit frequencies to keep in touch with the team while they were in play. There was still some time before the team reported in. Nikita took a seat and propped her feet up on the desk. Birkoff gave her a disapproving glance but did not say anything.
Erwin descended the steps to the back stairwell seeing Madeline waiting on the level just below. He kept his face void of expression even though inside he felt worried and self conscious. It was not often that the expert strategist called him to her attention, and from what was going on around Section, he had good reason to worry about it. He had heard that the Rio team had been sent in on a suicide mission with nearly every operative dying. There would be only three returning, and even they were subject to elimination if the mission did not go exactly as planned. Nikita was sent out to make deals with a man rumored to be a serial killer. If she slipped in any way, Section would not move a muscle to save her life. Erwin knew, just from the way Madeline was staring at him, that he was about to become involved in some devious scheme cooked up by the twin tyrants.
Once Erwin reached Madeline, she held a slip of paper out to him. In the dim lights of the hall, her mane of dark hair appeared almost black and draping over her shoulders like a hood.
“We’ll need you to find this person for us,” she said.
“Okay. I’ll go see Walter to get suited up.”
“No need. The person is unarmed. You shouldn’t have any problems picking this one up.” Madeline kept her gaze steady with Erwin as she spoke.
Erwin looked down at the slip of paper and read what was written on it.
“A woman?” Erwin looked at Madeline with some questioning.
“Yes. Is that a problem for you?”
The way that she said it made Erwin understand that he should not have a problem with what was being asked of him. He shook his head and folded the paper into the breast pocket of his suit.
“Good. You have three hours.”
“Where do I take her once I get her?” Erwin asked.
“Once you confirm you have the package, we will tell you where to deliver it.”
Again, Erwin nodded once more before turning on his heels. Madeline watched him ascend the steps and disappear along the catwalk. She turned just as Operations appeared from the shadows of the adjoining corridor with his hands in his pockets.
“Michael is en route to the checkpoint,” said Operations.
“Erwin will have the girl within the next few hours.”
“All that will be left is for our little friend to do his part. We should have this whole thing buttoned up before dinner.”
“Seems that way,” said Madeline.
Operations held out his arm to allow Madeline to slip her arm around his. The two walked arm in arm down the corridor, heading through a doorway.
“If she finds out what has been done, she may become more difficult to manage,” said Madeline.
“If she is smart, she won’t ruffle feathers. She knows what is at stake.”
“I’ll have Michael keep a close eye on her to make sure she remains under thumb.”
“I think that would be best….Hungry?”
“Care to join me in The Tower?”
“I still have a few more things to take care of in my office, but once I’m finished…”
The two arrived at Madeline’s office door. She opened it and began to step through when Operations held on to her hand. She looked at his hand closed over hers then back up into his steel grey eyes.
“Take your time,” said Operations warmly. He offered a hint of a grin.
Madeline blushed slightly. “I’ll let you know when I’m done.”
“I look forward to your call.”
Operations kissed her hand sweetly before releasing her to go into her office.
It was a solid hour before Michael made first contact. Birkoff gestured for Nikita to put on her unit while he quickly and expertly readied recorders, adjusted frequencies, pulled up sequences on his screen, and tapped on monitors. The team in Berlin could be heard getting themselves ready as well with Michael relaying in his usual monotone voice their mission objective and who they were aiming to pick up.
“The courier will be at the marketplace in about twenty minutes. I’m tracking the car right now,” said Birkoff.
“We should be there in less than ten,” said Michael.
“You’ll probably run right into him then,” said Birkoff. “Wait for the tag before proceeding.”
Nikita crossed her arms over her chest and paced back and forth, waiting for the sequence to begin. She wanted to be there with Michael during the pickup, but there really was no reason for to be there except to see Halir go down herself. Michael contacted back after a little while to tell Birkoff that the team was now in place having arrived at the market.
“He should be pulling up beside you any minute now,” said Birkoff.
Nikita could hear the sounds of the market through Michael’s Comm unit. She could also see what he was seeing through the glasses he wore equipped with a small camera on the sides of both lens.
“There he is,” said Michael. “He is on foot entering the square.”
“Team One, tag him,” Birkoff instructed.
Nikita could see from Michael’s camera a man brush past another man wearing a long coat and hoodie effectively shielding his face. Nikita wondered why it was that the courier felt the need to conceal themselves.
“Courier’s been tagged,” said Nikita.
Michael began to move forward, walking several feet back from the courier as he maneuvered through the crowd. People floated past Michael, looking at him then averting their eyes quickly. Nikita guessed Michael looked so serious, they did not bother to smile at him.
“He’s headed towards the north-east corner,” Michael reported.
Nikita nodded. Birkoff confirmed, watching the courier walk from his own monitor running the event in infrared. After a few turns and dodging people in the crowd, the courier came to a courtyard area where Halir sat at a table. He was flanked by two bodyguards standing very imposing looking with uzzies at their side.
“Hello, friend,” Halir greeted the courier. “What do you have for me today?”
Halir’s smile faded as he saw Michael standing a few feet behind the courier with his pistols drawn. Nikita could see through Michael’s eyes the very surprised look on Halir’s face. Michael did not say a word as he opened fire, narrowly missing the courier standing in front of him. The two bodyguards flew backward having taken slugs directly center mass. Halir stood with his hands up looking very defiant and angry. He shot the courier a look before being carried off by two Section agents.
“We’ve got Halir. Perimeter status?” Michael said evenly.
“Perimeter’s clear,” said Nikita, monitoring the bazaar area.
Michael waited as the team pulled Halir out of his chair and lead him away. The courier stood a moment, head down looking very remorseful. He turned to Michael, his dark brown eyes asking a question. Michael holstered his guns. Nikita was tense but controlled at the start of the mission, until she saw Formitz staring back at Michael.
"You can go," said Michael.
He turned to leave with his shoulders hunched over. Michael watched after him as they left.
Nikita fumed. She tore off her Comm Unit and threw it across the desk. Birkoff watched with renewed anxiousness as Nikita stormed from Communications. She went to her station to grab her overcoat and purse, then walked to transport, her face fixed in determination. She did not wait for permission to leave. She did not care if she got it. She knew that the only reason why Formitz cooperated with Section was because he either had gotten what he wanted, or was going to get it. As she drove down the boulevard, she hoped that she was not too late.
The motel glowed like a beacon ahead of her. Nikita quickly parked and got out of the car. She took the steps up to the second floor room two at a time, her red coat flowing out behind her. She could feel her heat pumping hard, beating like a drum in her ears. She unlocked the door and stepped inside the room.
There was an eerie quiet in the room, telling her immediately that she was alone there. She saw no signs of any person having been there save a spot on the bedspread rumpled up from someone sitting on it. Nikita went into the bathroom and searched around the small room, even pulling back the curtains to the tub. There was no Danielle anywhere in the room.
She was gone.
Nikita went back into the bedroom and put her hands on her hips. The television was dark, but the light to the cable box was on. Whenever she had left, she had been watching television. Nikita cut on the television and watched as a premium movie channel blinked on. Nikita cut the television off. She looked around again, hoping to find some kind of clue as to where Danielle had gone, but found nothing out of its place. Nikita sat down in a heap on the bed, putting her face into her hands. She was already beginning to tremble before the tears came. She struggled to keep in her emotions. She looked about again then stood to her feet. She left out the room and got back in her car. She held the steering wheel tight as she thought about her last meeting with Formitz. He had smiled at her, knowing exactly how he was going to get under Nikita’s skin. He knew that asking for Danielle would throw her off kilter. If Michael were not there, she likely would have ended him right then. Madeline would be forced to break the prisoner to get her to talk. Farbeit for Section to have to do any real work when they could just hand over a lamb to slaughter and appease the devils they claimed to safeguard the rest of the world from.
Nikita left the motel and drove back to Section. Tears stung her eyes as she parked and made her way back down. She did not bother to stop and talk with Birkoff or check on Walter. She was dealing with her own tornado to be worried about anyone else’s. She sat down in her seat at her terminal still in her coat. She stared at her monitor, seeing ciphered communications scrolling down her screen, but not really seeing the meaning at all. Instead, all that she could see were the nameless faces of the women and children in the bus depot. The unidentified bodies of the women found in the abandoned train yard. Erica’s disfigured face hanging in Formitz’s dark room.
Now he had Danielle.
Nikita’s bottom lip trembled.
Nikita looked up and saw Erwin looking back at her. He was dressed in a charcoal grey suit, much like something Michael would wear, only he could not carry it off in the same fashion. Dressed up, Erwin looked more like a funds manager than a field operative with his short dark hair and deep blue eyes.
“No,” Nikita answered honestly. She looked down at her trembling hands and held them. “No I’m not okay. Don’t think I ever will be.”
Erwin’s eyebrows furrowed as he considered Nikita’s words.
“Anything I can do to help?”
Nikita grimaced. She knew Erwin was only trying to help, but she felt like her heart had gone cold after finding Danielle’s room empty. So cold, she could not even feel the warm gesture Erwin tried to give her by offering some form of consolace. All that she could do was toy with the buttons on her coat and stare down at her feet.
“I’ll get you some tea from the lounge,” said Erwin getting up from his seat.
Nikita mouthed a thank you as he passed by her. She sighed, feeling like the world was on her shoulders and purposefully bearing down on her. Killing Belinda was one thing. They were all operatives standing in line to be the next to be bumped off for convenience. Any wrong move whether by mistake or on purpose could get them killed. They understood that. They were told that from the very beginning. Their very success at making it through the first year was a testament to their will to survive. Each of them fought daily to earn the right to live. The people at the bus depot, Erica, and now Danielle, did not take such vow, nor did they sign their name for the risks. They were simply going about their daily lives as normal and expected to be home before dinner when death came for them. What hurt the most out of all of it was the sacrifice made to Formitz with Danielle. She had nothing to do with what Section or any of them were doing, and yet, her life was snatched away because a sadistic killer wanted it.
Nikita looked out into Section and watched as operatives walked back and forth going about their work with autonomous precision. There was no life in their eyes as they worked. They were mindless worker bees moving from petal to petal, gathering and retrieving to bring back to the hive for processing.
In, out, in, out, right, left, up, down, and repeat.
We need him, Madeline had said.
Nikita looked up towards Command and saw Operations and Madeline peering down from the Perch. She sneered. They might have needed him, but she didn’t. They had offered him sanctuary and protection. He could be free to go about his daily habits unimpeded. He was untouchable now, and he knew it.
Michael walked across the Commons heading for Command to debrief. Erwin passed him holding a cup of hot tea. The two men met eyes, but did not say anything as they passed. Erwin brought Nikita her tea, setting it down carefully.
“Brought you chamomile and vanilla. I wasn’t sure if you would like cream so I just brought you a pack, just in case,” said Erwin.
“Thanks,” said Nikita. She did not need the cream as she never took cream in her tea. She picked up the near scalding hot mug and sipped the tea lightly.
Erwin watched for a moment before settling back down in his seat. He began typing his report.
“Wanna tell me what’s bothering you?” he asked, not looking up from his monitor.
Nikita took another sip, savoring the smooth taste. “It’s nothing really, just Section stuff.”
“Looked like more than just Section stuff,” said Erwin. “Did you hear about Walter? He found out about what happened with the Rio team. Wasn’t his girlfriend a part of that team?”
“Wife,” Nikita corrected. “They were planning to get married the day she left for the mission. Would have been married too if…”
“Yeah, well, kinda figured that wasn’t going to happen. Section doesn’t like marriage...that is, unless they marry you off to a target. Then they don’t call it marriage, they call it covering. It’s like they are allergic to the word--”
“Erwin!” Nikita had enough.
Erwin blinked wide eyed at Nikita. “Yeah?”
“Oh, sorry. Guess I was just...I don’t know. This week has just been…”
“Yeah,” said Nikita. “This week has been hell.”
The two sat silent for a moment with only the sound of Erwin’s tapping being heard between them. He finished his report and downloaded it to a disc.
“Did you have to go out today?” Nikita asked, noticing Erwin again and how he was dressed.
“Just for a little while,” said Erwin. He stood up and button his suit jacket closed.
“S and S. Didn’t really have to do much.”
“Who was the target?” Nikita asked, continuing to sip and allow the tea to calm her slowly.
Erwin shrugged. He put the disc in a folder and logged off his terminal.
“Some chick Madeline wanted me to go pick up. She didn’t tell me much or why. Course, why even bother asking? For all I know, she was probably moving one of Operations’ fetishes to another hotel room so they could gang bang her.”
Erwin walked away from Nikita, heading for Madeline’s office.
Nikita stood in Michael’s office with her back turned to him. Michael sat at his desk, watching Nikita as she flipped the blinds back and forth. He could tell she was agitated, and he already knew why. He understood, but did not dare say a word. He could already feel the flames licking off of Nikita’s very rigid posture. He secured the room, allowing Nikita room to speak her mind. Nikita turned to him, hands clasped in front of her, but not looking directly at him.
“Why was Formitz at the meet?” she asked.
“The original courier was detained,” Michael answered evenly. “We substituted Formitz. A face Halir would trust.”
Nikita nodded. “Why did he agree to help?”
“More money.” Michael maintained his composure.
Nikita flipped her eyes to Michael. He did not look at her directly, but continued to stare into nothing.
“No. Section found Danielle and gave her to him.”
“He knows his way around,” said Michael, still very calm. Nearly too calm. “Perhaps he found her himself.”
Nikita could barely hold herself together. She wanted to scream at him, but instead, she held her hands together and looked away as she pieced together the real story, the truth.
“You called me in and told me about the prisoner and let me interrogate her,” Nikita said. She moved in a little closer towards Michael, her eyes steady with him and watching his every move. “Meanwhile, Section was looking for Danielle, isn’t that right?”
Michael still remained calm and disconnected.
Nikita turned from Michael, unable to look at him, but not quite done with her interrogation either. Instead, she returned to the window, staring out between the blinds.
“Madeline lied when she told me the prisoner broke.”
“Madeline wouldn’t bother to lie,” said Michael.
Nikita’s jaw tensed. “She might...Keep that mission running smoothly…”
Michael’s eyes shifted down, considering Nikita’s version.
“I want the truth, Michael.” Nikita could feel herself losing her grip. She was afraid of the answer Michael might give, but she had to ask. “Did the Section give Danielle to Formitz?”
Nikita drew herself in, preparing for the answer she knew was the truth. She just had to hear it out loud. For a moment, Michael watched her standing at the window. Nikita turned to see that he was looking right at her with the same eyes that always lied to her, always easily deceived. With the same lips she had once kissed and heard tell her things she later found untrue, he spoke.
Nikita’s face fought against the rage and heartbreak she felt deep within. He was staring at her, waiting for her to say something, but she did not have any words, at least none that he would want to hear. She could feel herself screaming inside. In her imagination, she had tore across the office, grabbed Michael by the collar, and yelled at him that he was lying and she knew it. She wanted to jump on top of his desk, rip up his beloved computer, and throw the damn thing right out the window. Instead, she nodded, turned, and left from the office closing the door softly behind her. She could feel him still watching her as she went back to her desk. At the end of her shift, she gathered her things and left for home, not speaking to anyone.
On the drive back, she did not turn on the radio like she usually did. Instead, she drove in silence, listening only to the durge playing in her head. After so many years with Section, she was used to death, even the death of colleagues. She could not count how many friends she had known and lost just as quickly as she learned their names. Walter had told her that getting close to people in Section could be dangerous, not to the body, but the brain. She was only one year in at Section and was very friendly with the other operatives in her training class. Walter took a moment during a break to entertain her at his workstation while she waited for the next session to begin.
“No sooner do you get to know Joe Blow here, he’s dead the next day. Shot to death, tortured, or blown to pieces,” Walter had said in his usual fatalistic kind of charm. “Make acquaintances, kiddo. It’ll hurt less when they are suddenly gone.”
“Are you just an acquaintance, Walter?” Nikita had asked.
“Aw sugar, we’re more than just acquaintances,” Walter drew in a little closer with a very devilish smile. “I could be your daddy if you wanted.”
Nikita did not mean to laugh, but it fell out of her before she could stop it. She patted the old man on the shoulder. He continued to look at her with very suggestive eyes.
“I’d much rather have you as my friend.”
“Nikita,” Michael called from outside of Munitions. “We’re waiting for you.”
“Better go,” said Nikita, pulling herself off of Walter’s workstation and winking at him.
“Go get’em kitten,” Walter called after her.
Nikita pulled into her parking spot and got out of her car. Nightfall had transformed the normally bright and vibrant outside courtyard into a dark and shadowy realm full of places where evil things could hide. Nikita looked carefully about her as she walked to her building. She was feeling even more ill at ease knowing that Formitz was still out there somewhere, lurking. He would, no doubt, be back to his old habits, stalking women and brutally murdering them. His area of practice was, at least, relegated to the other end of town. Still, it did not bring her any solace to know that he likely was not out, but busily turning Danielle’s corpse into his next art project.
Nikita walked into the hall of her building, holding her keys. She opened her door and walked into her apartment, looking around first, checking for anything out of the ordinary before fully walking in. She cut on the lights and threw her keys on the counter. She went into her fridge and grabbed a bottle of chardonnay she had been saving for a dinner she now figured she would never have. It was supposed to be for an evening she was planning to spend with Michael, but after tonight, she doubted she even wanted to speak with him ever again. He lied to her again and she knew it. He lied and he did it staring right at her.
Nikita twisted the cork off the bottle and turned it up to her lips, guzzling it. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand before kicking off her shoes. She took another swig from the bottle before getting down a glass for a proper pour. Just then, a knock, rhythmic and soft, sounded at her door. Nikita knew exactly who the knock belonged to. She set down the bottle and opened the door. Carla smiled back at her looking as bright as a summer day. After the day she had, she almost hated to bring down such a chipper smile with her own apparent gloom. Carla read Nikita’s expression immediately and turned her bright smile into concern.
“Oh, babe, what happened?” Carla held her arms out for Nikita to come to them.
Nikita embraced Carla, grateful for the warm arms of an understanding soul. The two went inside the apartment. Nikita returned to her drink and took another long draw. Carla leaned over the counter, watching her with growing worry. Nikita leaned back against the cabinets behind her and held her drink within her folded arms.
“Another bad day in the trenches?” Carla asked.
Nikita nodded. “Yeah.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
Nikita shook her head. “No,” she said within a sigh.
“Need another hug? I got plenty of them.”
Nikita smiled, enjoying Carla’s clever attempt at getting a grin out of her. It always worked.
“I’m good on hugs, but thank you anyway.”
“Not a problem. I’m sure your day was much worse than mine. By the look of it, I should probably be sitting down so that you can tell me all about it.”
Nikita shook her head slowly, still in her thoughts. “Not really. There isn’t much to tell.”
“Well, whatever it is, it must’ve been heavy enough to get you drinking directly after coming home. I do that when I’ve been stood up on a date, WHICH is exactly what happened to me today.”
Nikita drew in a breath, preparing herself to listen to another tale of love lost with her neighbor. She seemed always so very unlucky in love. She was so successful in everything else, but keeping a boyfriend for longer than a week seemed impossible for her. Of course, Nikita thought, she was not doing much better in the dating realm. She couldn’t remember the last time she had actually gone out on a date with someone that wasn’t a target and wasn’t being directed by a comm unit in her ear on what to say. Even her evenings with Michael, as few and far between they were, seemed like they were following some script and always ended with her feeling awkward and unsure as to what just happened between them...if anything happened at all. Lately, in between missions, their get-togethers were strained and overshadowed by awkward interactions. She was never certain she could laugh around him, and he seemed too deep in his thoughts to try. Now, it no longer mattered since she did not want to see his face outside of Section. She felt renewed anger beginning again. She drank another long swallow.
“I had met this guy while out the other day,” Carla was saying while Nikita gnawed on another knot of anger. “He was nice, I guess. Seemed a little odd, like nerdy odd, but not quite nerdy enough.”
Nikita nodded, only half listening.
“He was shopping around for something new to add to his apartment. Said he was into abstract art,” said Carla.
“That’s cool,” said Nikita offhandedly. She moved to sit down on the couch, taking the wine bottle with her.
Carla turned and pushed herself up on top of the counter, barely missing the hanging pendant lights. Nikita finished her glass and quickly poured another.
“He is a medical student at the university,” Carla looked off into the distance, remembering her date. “Said he was studying to be a neurosurgeon like his older brother.”
“Uh huh,” said Nikita over her glass. She started to muse on her own when Carla’s words caught her. She set down her glass. “Where’d you meet this guy again?”
“At the market a few days ago. We were both shopping when he literally ran into me. Knocked all my packages on the ground. Guy looked so nervous I thought he was going to puke,” Carla laughed.
Nikita listened warily. She poured another glass, but did not begin drinking it immediately. Instead, she held it in her hands.
“What did he look like?”
“Kinda geeky,” said Carla, still enjoying herself. “Dark hair, dark eyes. Wore glasses. He smelled nice though. Had on a nice suit. I think it was Gaultier or something like that. Drove a ferrari. It was obvious he was overcompensating.”
“How do you know what kind of car he drives?” Nikita did not mean to sound accusatory, but she was beginning to fear who it was that Carla had met.
Carla shrugged. “He showed me his keys. Like THAT was going to impress me. I mean, so he drives a ferrari, so what! I drive a Jag.”
Carla was attempting to keep things light, but Nikita was becoming much more serious. She took another drink, thinking hard about what Carla was saying as she told her story.
“What’s so wrong about that?” Now Carla was becoming suspicious.
“Nothing’s wrong,” Nikita said, trying to dial back her intensity. “I just think I might know who this guy is.”
Carla crossed her arms, looking interested. “Really?”
“Yeah. And if he’s the guy I think you’re talking about, he isn’t the kind of guy I think you’ll want to be around. Count yourself lucky he stood you up.”
Nikita got up from the couch and went into the kitchen. She set the glass in the sink and the bottle on the counter. Carla twisted herself around to look at Nikita as she went for an apple.
“So you know the guy I’m talking about?” she asked.
“Maybe. What’s his name?” Nikita tried to quiet herself and sound nonchalant. She did not want to alarm Carla.
“Greg something. Says he comes from a well-to-do family. I’ve never heard of them. It’s funny you should say that you know him. I wouldn’t think you and him would fall in the same circles. I mean, he doesn’t look like anyone you’ve had around. Like that Michael guy. He’s nice,” Carla smiled suggestively.
Nikita bit hard into her apple pulling away a fairly large chunk. She chewed it and went back to the couch. She sat down heavily, willing herself to remain calm and steady. Carla jumped down from the counter and joined her on the couch.
“So...What’s so bad about Greg? What is he, a horrible kisser or something?” Carla joked.
“He’s just bad news,” said Nikita. “It’s good he stood you up. You didn’t give him your address or anything did you?”
“No,” said Carla, waving the idea away. “Hell no. You know how I roll. I don’t give out my address to anybody when I first meet them. No. We were going to meet up at a restaurant uptown. An italian cuisine place.”
“Good.” Nikita could only relax a little as Michael’s words came back to her.
He knows his way around…
“I guess it’s for the best. I mean, what would I do with a guy like that anyway?” Carla laughed. “What would we do all night? Play chess? Tic-tac-toe? Checkers? Course, knowing my luck, he could probably turn out to be a Norman Bates and keep his dead mother in the basement.”
“Maybe not Norman Bates,” Nikita said indifferently.
“Who then? Jason? Freddy Krueger?”
“More like Jack the Ripper,” said Nikita, turning to look at Carla with a deadpan stare.
Carla’s smile faded slightly as Nikita looked long at her. She faltered a little, regaining herself in the face of Nikita’s too serious eyes.
“Well, whatever he is, he isn’t getting another chance with me. I don’t do stand ups. No call, no show, no ho.” Carla got up from the couch and started for the door. “You sure you’re going to be okay tonight? Need me to stay and keep you company?”
Nikita shook her head and waved Carla goodnight. “I’ll be fine. Just gonna take a shower and chill the rest of the night. Gotta another long day tomorrow.”
“Well, you take care of yourself, baby girl. If you get too lonely, maybe give that Michael guy a ring. I’m sure he’ll be glad to cuddle up to you tonight!”
“Get outta here!” Nikita yelled as Carla left laughing out the door.
A moment later, she heard Carla’s door close. Nikita got up from the couch and threw her half eaten apple into the trash. She pressed her hands against the counter and leaned in, breathing out her tension. Formitz had targeted Carla, her next door neighbor. Carla was who he was looking at in the market when she first viewed the surveillance footage of him.
It’s not cheap or casual...I spend a long time selecting them...
Formitz was stalking Carla, watching her much like he had Erica and Danielle. However, unlike the two prostitutes, he had to be a little more clever to get to her. She could not figure what it was that Carla saw in Formitz for her to accept a date from him. Formitz was not very charming, nor was he even remotely pleasant. His expensive suits and designer car helped to hide the fact that he was uninteresting and bland. She knew the clothes and the car were what attracted the women in the pool hall, but Carla…
Danielle was a hard realization to swallow, but despite its bitterness, her death helped save countless others. Taking Halir down made the world a little less chaotic and dangerous. There would be no more bombs ordered to explode in public places. She had hoped to save Danielle, but that hope was dashed when Madeline first told her that the prisoner bomber would not break. When Michael told her that Madeline did not bother to lie, Nikita could have spit on the floor. Madeline would bother to lie if it meant maintaining the harmony that appeared in place with Nikita and Section. She would definitely lie in order to maintain her success rate.
It’s simple arithmetic…
One dead body compared to thousands. One lost soul for every soul in the world.
Walter had expressed it best. It wasn’t fair, nor would it ever be. Yet, as awful as she felt about Danielle, she knew she would feel like Walter did when he found out about Belinda. She would go mad with fury if Section decided that Carla’s life was forgettable just like Danielle’s life became. If it meant that Formitz would continue working with them, they would gladly turn Carla over to him as well if he wished. They could even make the choice to send her to him to be slaughtered if it meant another mission would go to plan. Nikita could not accept that.
She never would.
Chapter 15: The Filthy Truth
Nikita sat at her terminal reviewing files when she felt a presence coming purposefully towards her. She could see in her monitor screen that the person was Michael, walking a bit fast to her desk. She had kicked up her feet onto the desk and sat with her hands folded on her lap in a very relaxed position. She waited until he came to a stop directly in front of her and looked down with his light colored eyes. The expression on his face teetered on being angry, but did not quite commit to the emotion.
“Formitz is dead,” said Michael, his tone low and somewhat imposing.
“Can’t say I’m too sorry about that,” said Nikita wistfully. She tapped a few keys on her keyboard, changing the file to a different file to review.
“You don’t seem to be too surprised,” said Michael, studying Nikita’s demeanor carefully.
“Dangerous line of work he’s in,” was Nikita’s more flippant answer.
She could tell that Michael was not enjoying the conversation. His eyes continued to bare down hard on Nikita. His jaw tensed only slightly.
“His death compromises our ability to deal with the remnants of Halir’s organization.”
Nikita shrugged, tapping another key to switch to a different file.
“You’ll just have to find some other way.”
Michael watched her a moment before speaking. “This is important Nikita. I want the truth. Did you give him up?”
Nikita held back a laugh, but allowed a slight smile to remain on her otherwise placid face. She twisted in her chair a little and laced her fingers together. It was funny to her that Michael would demand she tell him the truth when he found it oddly exhilarating to lie to her face. He had said his lies so well, so very thoughtfully and supported by fact that Nikita wondered if he even knew that he wasn’t telling the truth. Maybe he spent so much time in a world of lies that he forgot what it was to be honest even with himself.
Nikita slowly shook her head, keeping her eyes steady with Michael.
“No,” she said, staring back at him just as coldly as he had done to her when she asked him to tell the truth.
Nikita knew truth was just a matter of faith. Whatever anyone wanted to believe became instant truth. At the moment, Nikita wanted to believe she had nothing to do with Formitz’s murder. In a way, she truly did not. She simply disclosed to the appropriate channels Formitz’s involvement with the Agency. Whatever they did to him was left up to their decision. She merely passed the information that she had along to someone else.
Michael did not stay long at her desk. He shifted his eyes, telling Nikita that he did not believe her, but had no intentions of confronting her about it. He walked out of the work area and back towards his office. Nikita watched him as he walked, remembering what Carla said the other night in her apartment. She had finished the rest of the bottle that night, going as far as sleeping with it. There had been an idea to invite Michael over for dinner with the chardonnay, but now she could barely stand to be near him. She would never be sure if Michael knew what Section was going to do while she was preoccupied. She guessed that he may have known a little of the plan, but not told the full action. After all, Danielle was neither his concern, nor his target. He could care less what happened to the girl so long as he was able to complete his assignment.
Nikita looked at her screen again and bit her thumbnail. She hated to think that she was slowly becoming like the other operatives in Section. She did not want to think that she would soon not care about the lives of the unfortunate and destitute. Formitz was a killer and a monster which made her decision to betray him all the more satisfying. He could not be allowed to roam freely. He had to be stopped.
Nikita wrung her hands a moment, considering her own lie. There truly was no need for Formitz. It was best that he not be around. Nikita rubbed her hands together then flipped her wrist, effectively throwing away the idea of Formitz and his deadly art. He was an important being, a despicable cancer to the Earth. There was no need to mourn him. He would die with blood on his hands showing his guilt. Nikita could not deny her responsibility for Formitz’s death. It had been her plan all along from the moment she first saw Erica’s body. He had wanted to do the same thing to Danielle what he did to Erica. There was no telling what he was planning for Carla. She did not want to know.
Nikita flexed the muscles in her jaw and stood to her feet. It was going to be a very long day, and an even longer night. However, she took comfort in the fact that another young woman would not be lured into the jaws of Satan himself. She may have gone about things in a way that Section would not have preferred, but there was really no escaping it. Formitz was going to die either by his own dealings, or by her. As far as being concerned about how his death would affect any future missions involving Bright Star, she no longer cared.
She wiped her hands of it.