Interviewer: Miss Banks -
Interviewer: Miss Landau-Banks, I would like to discuss the events in Instanbul with you.
When Frankie-Landau banks was eighteen, she was accepted into every university to which she had applied, with the notable exceptions of Yale and the University of Colorado, Denver (the latter of which was, upon later investigation by third parties who will become known later, a clerical error meant for Frank Bankes of Omaha, Nebraska, whose math grades were nothing short of abysmal, but who later when on to found a very successful home repair business nonetheless).
Frankie, after a long period of intense deliberation, decided to attend Harvard University, to which she had been accepted, along with a surprisingly low number of fellow Alabaster graduates (the sudden decline in Harvard students in the Alabaster graduating classes was quickly and thoroughly investigated by a firm hired by the school. While the official report claimed the advent of iPads was causing a difficulty with memory retention among a certain set of students, the head of the firm went on the record years later as saying that "When kids learn to think for themselves, sometimes they're gonna do what seems right to them, even if it doesn't seem right to us old folks.")
Frankie had also been accepted to her big sister Zada's college, UC Berkeley, and up until winter break (Frankie had led a debate with the team in which she argued that the phrase "Christmas Break" was religiously oppressive) it had been her first choice. The school made Frankie excited in a bigger, vaguer way than she was used to, like the first time she had ever been in an airport by herself and looked at the lists of arrivals and departures, realizing that if she really, really wanted to she could go anywhere, forget about her plans and destination and just disappear into another life.
But during that same break, Senior took Frankie and Zada out to the same fancy steakhouse he always did, inviting the same former Bassets he always did, and mentioned offhand that someone or other's son was "not the brightest bulb on the tree" but "still a Harvard man" and Frankie realized that Harvard was a club that same way the Bassets were a club, that it was a password, a talisman that let people into places they might not normally be allowed, or welcome. She realized at the next moment that Harvard was not like the Bassets, in that Harvard was not something she could take over or circumvent. She couldn't not go to Harvard and still reap the benefits, and if she was going to be a part of this club, she had to well and truly join it, even if it wasn't what she wanted. Frankie realized that there was a fundamental difference between doing what you want and getting what you want, and she sent Berkley her politely worded deferral letter the next morning.
Frankie was also self-aware enough to admit that the fact that Alpha had gone to Harvard two years previously did factor into her decision.
The first time Frankie was approached by the man in the dark suit, she was nineteen, and she had just lost the Harvard student body elections. She had run because it seemed like a simpler way of getting the student body to do what she wanted than clandestinely taking over the Phoenix, and because she could. She lost because no one knew who she was, and even at the most renowned university in America, student government is still considered kind of boring and not that many people actually vote.
He asked her if she had ever considered serving her country as a member of the Central Intelligence Agency. Frankie had not, but she certainly was now. Frankie did not say this, however. Frankie said that she was still a sophomore and was keeping her options opens. A few moments after the man in the suit left a voice behind her said, "You're still not a nice person, Frankie. You should try being nice sometime, the CIA loves that."
Thus far, Frankie and Alpha had managed to avoid each other, mainly because Frankie had worked out his class schedule so that she could avoid him until such a time as she could control the precise circumstances. Someday. When she was ready. When she needed to.
"I can be nice," she said without turning around. "I once gave half a frozen custard to stranger just because he asked." She was immensely proud of the fact that her voice did not shake when she said this.
A dark shape stepped out in front of her and she had to squint into the sun so that Alpha's shape established itself in bits and pieces - a cowlick or blonde hair glinting gold in the light, a frayed rugby shirt striped white and red, a bit of a lantern jaw he'd finally grown into, hands the size of trashcan lids.
"They talked to you, too?" she asked, feeling suddenly proud, that she could still run with the alpha dog, and irritated, that yet again he'd gotten somewhere before her.
"Last year." As her eyes adjusted, she could make out his strong nose, the late-summer freckles, the one crooked canine tooth, these things she hadn't realized she had memorized and was searching for in this new face. Her was just a little taller now. Skinnier, too, although no less slumped and disheveled. It gave him a hungry sort of look that suited him.
"So you're a senior now?"
"You know I'm not." She did know. A little research and some gossip from the Alabaster grapevine had informed Frankie that Alpha had to leave Harvard for two years until he could afford to come back and finish his degree, something about his mother again, a new business, a new boyfriend, same old, same old. He was a sophomore just like her.
Well, he was a sophomore, anyway. No one, it has been almost universally agreed upon by informed sources, is like Frankie.
While it is unconfirmed, it has been strongly postulated by informed parties that six months later, at a party thrown by the Harvard Investors Club, that Frankie Landau-Banks and Alessandro Tesorieri made out (or possibly did something else) in the break room of the Harvard Crimson.
We may never truth the of the matter.
The second time Frankie was approached by the man in the dark suit, she was twenty-one, and she had just rigged the Harvard student body elections.
"How did you even find out about that?" said Student Body President Frances Landau-Banks ("Landau-Bank on it!").
"We're the CIA, ma'am. Give us some credit."
"Are you going to turn me in?"
"The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States does not, as a rule, place high priority on involving itself with governing bodies that do not belong to actual countries."
"Well, it's good to have goal to work towards, I guess."
"Would you like to tell me why you rigged -"
"Allegedly rigged the election?"
"Because the election is rigged in and of itself. It's a popularity contest - not even that, it's a recognizability contest. There are six thousand students here, there's no possible way to be 'popular' or even to be known. The person with the most friends who can be bothered to vote are the ones who win. It has nothing to do with whether or not the student body actually agrees with any policies or ideals any of the candidates have."
"So you deserve to be president because you're smarter than everyone else?"
"No, I deserve to be president because I'm the only one willing to take it."
"Miss Banks - "
"Miss Landau-Banks, while I admire your tenacity, and your creativity, you don't profile like a potential agent. Frankly, you profile like a potential target. And while I personally might believe that that same quality would make you an extraordinary asset to our company, my superiors view it as a potential future liability. I'm afraid this is the last time we'll speak."
"So that's it?"
"I see. Thank you for the consideration, anyway."
She sat on the quad for a long time after her conversation with Special Agent Zwicky, long enough the light was starting to fade by the time Alpha sat down next to her on her bench and put a tiny origami dog into her slack hand.
"See what I told you? They like nice people at the Pentagon."
"He didn't say no to you, did he?" Frankie asked, her fingers closing around the paper dog hard enough to crutch its delicate ears.
"No," said Alpha after a long pause. "He didn't. Although I'm probably not legally supposed to tell you that."
"Congratulations, dog," she replied flatly. He sat next to her, silently, a few minutes longer, the corduroy of his knee just brush the skin of her bare one. Then he walked off into the growing darkness. Frankie did not go after him.
And maybe that would have been that, and Frankie Landau-Banks would have gone on to be, if not student body president, then perhaps an actual president, or a lobbyist, or a defense attorney, or movie producer, jobs for which all of her professors thought her thoroughly and singularly qualified.
Perhaps. Perhaps in another universe Frankie did one of these things, or all of them, or tried one for a few years before settling on another, or after being impeached. But we live in this universe, and in this universe, Alpha did not see the second man in an even darker suit approach Frankie, and it was, Alpha would admit later, his own fault for ever turning his back on her, even for a moment, even when she seemed so thoroughly beaten.
("Especially," Alpha would go on to add, "Especially when she seemed so thoroughly beaten." For in the words of Alexandre Dumas, about whom Frankie had written a paper in her freshman Literature class regarding the the artistic imperative of plagiarism, women are never so strong as after their defeat.)
Frankie and Alpha graduated together that spring, and did not speak to each other again within that time. It's probable they never planned to speak to each other ever again. Officially, they have never spoken to each other since.
Unofficially, any and all records of their conversations since have been redacted from all documentation and can only be accessed by those who posses the correct security clearance.
The next time they saw each other was three years later in Prague, when Frankie shot him.
Explanations may be necessary:
By this point in time, Alpha was known to his contemporaries as Agent Tesorieri, and he was following a target through Old Town. It was raining. There was chill in the air. He did not make noise when he walked.
The target had just ducked around a corner behind an abandoned convent when he heard a soft pop! and came into the alley just in time to see a brunette in a trench coat tucking something into her coat, a body prostrate at her feet.
The brunette looked up.
"Fancy meeting you here."
Alpha's coat was dark. Frankie's was darker.
"Aren't you taking this femme fatale thing a bit too literally?"
This was where Alpha expected her say something like "Says the man chasing defectors through the back streets of Eastern Europe in dress shoes." Instead she shot him in the leg.
"Apply some pressure to that," she said, delicately stepping over the target's limp arm so she could pull off its neck tie and hand it to Alpha, who tied it around his thigh. "And don't follow me."
"You're still not nice, Frankie," he managed to get out.
"I found someone who likes that about me," she called over her shoulder.
"If you can't join 'em, huh?"
"Something like that," her voice echoed back to him, her heels clicking on the cobblestones.
The next time was in St. Petersburg. No one was shot, except the people who were supposed to be.
Alpha spotted Frankie across Red Square as he was ducking behind tourists, trying to make himself look shorter than he was, and as inconspicuous and non-threatening as possible. Several men in uniform were following him from a distance. Other men in uniform were following Frankie. They locked eyes over the heads of a family of Korean tourists and negotiated an instant and silent truce. He let her take the lead.
"How could you?!" Frankie screamed at him, doing an eerily accurate imitation of every she-wolf Alpha had ever broken up with.
"Don't 'baby' me, you asshole," she shrieked, stomping over to him to shove at his chest with hands that were so tiny in his.
"It's not what you thought, baby, if you would just let me explain - "
"Oh, I would love to hear you explain how her ass just fell into her hands -"
He grabbed her by the lapels of her coat and kissed her, and her lips were cold from the falling snow. Frankie shoved him away from her, her voice rising another octave.
"Did you actually think that was going to work?"
"You're an idiot -"
He kissed her again. She let him. The uniforms drifted off, disinterested. Just another pair of fighting tourists, more sloppy American drunks. This was when he should have stopped kissing her. Frankie, as you might have gathered, was a criminal. Alpha was a spy. This sort of thing was frowned upon, in a business where being frowned up generally involved cyanide pills, or piano wire.
"Watch the leg," he mumbled into her neck, pressing her up against a wall in the shadow of the Kremlin.
"I do feel bad about that."
"No, you don't."
"Well," Frankie grinned against his ear. "We've established I'm not a nice person."
The next time was in Greece. Alpha got a sunburn. Frankie wore a white dress. He met her at table outside a cafe in Capri, after ditching his tail.
"Can I have your gelato?" He asked, pulling out a chair.
"No," she drawled, licking her spoon before adding, "Your tail's still there, by the way."
"Tilt your head up and to the right a little," he murmured against the edge of her cup of espresso. Frankie did this while pretending to preen her hair a bit, giving his a reflection of their audience in her sunglasses.
"Can you see now?" She asked with a smile that was for their benefit rather than his.
"No, but you look very picturesque from this angle." (One of these statements was a lie, and one of them was not.) Frankie pressed her ankle against his leg under the table. This was informative in that it let him know that she had a gun strapped to her leg, and that he was in very deep trouble he wasn't about to get out of.
"Is it your side or mine?"
"Yep. Meet you at the place in an hour?"
"I don't like to be kept waiting," she breathed as Alpha slid his hand up her leg to the Beretta.
He didn't reply except to steal a lick of gelato before dashing down a side street, a pack of tall, quiet men following quickly after. Alone at her table, Frankie began thinking very, very hard.
Just a little less than an hour later Alpha found Frankie on the beach where she was dangling her feet in the water off the edge of a dock.
"What if your side was my side?"
"Are you saying you want me to come in from the cold?" she asked, watching his face closely.
"No. I'm not saying that."
"Well, not saying that would be another conversation."
"I'd like to have that conversation."
There was a beat of silence where Alpha watched Frankie thinking and Frankie watched Alpha place one baseball-mitt hand flat against exposed her back. Her skin was still warm from the sun.
"Would they ever stop chasing us?"
"Me? Probably. But you, on the other hand…"
"Me, on the other hand?"
"I told them I didn't think it was possible to overestimate you. It's the last true thing I told them about you since St. Petersburg."
"...Then I'll find a way to stop them."
"I know you will. That's who you are. You're the girl who finds a way. Always have been."
Unofficially: She was. She is. She did.
Interviewer: Miss Landau-Banks -
Subject: You can call me Zada.
Interviewer: Miss Landau-Banks, when was the last time you saw your sister?
Subject: Frankie? Probably last winter for Hannukah. Can I call you Norman?
Officially, that is the end of the CIA's file on Frankie Landau-Banks. Officially, she vanished off the face of the earth and has not been seen since. Officially, she is no longer of any importance or danger. Officially, Agent Tesorieri disappeared in Instanbul, missing in action, presumed dead.
Unofficially, in certain reports that remain locked in certain highly classified locations for certain highly classified reasons, the day that Zada Landau-Banks was interviewed by Special Agent Norman Zwicky, she had a postcard in her purse which had a picture of the Hagia Sophia on one side, and a few lines of apparent gibberish on the other. Unofficially, Special Agent Zwicky and Zada were married two years later (Zada, for certain reasons which may or may not be related to a vague desire for anonymity or perhaps a heretofore undiscovered romantic streak, did not keep her own hyphenated last name as she had always planned, but instead changed her name to Zada Banks-Zwicky, which seemed to be an acceptable compromise). Unofficially, Special Agent Zwicky is now Chief Zwicky, a position he attained after his main competitor for the position was found to be compromised after certain photos of him with a certain woman who was definitely not his wife were posted to a twitter account via an anonymous proxy, whose identity was never found.
Unofficially, his sister-in-law found a way.