Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, September 27, 2010

Heaven and Hell: Banter

A passage from Chapter Four, so it preceeds the last passage I posted, bringing Stryker and Devon face to face for the first time in the book. Enjoy!

The following morning, Stryker walked through an elevated walkway into the terminal at Heathrow, among a group of passengers off a flight from Paris. Holding one carry-on bag, he was part of the mixture of tourists and businesspeople coming into one of the world’s great cities. Up ahead, he spotted Devon, standing beside a customs officer. They had met a year ago, in Egypt. He had been working at a dig near Lake Nasser, when a terrorist group called the Sword of the Faith had abducted him and his crew, holding them hostage prior to a devastating terrorist attack. Stryker had escaped, and while the attack had resulted in many deaths, thousands more had survived, including world leaders, thanks to his actions. Afterwards, he had gone into training in the Agency, turning his back on archaeology and confusing or angering his former classmates, teachers, and colleagues. Since then, he had worked with Devon on a handful of occasions, most recently in Afghanistan, where they had hunted down a high ranked terrorist, who was locked in a cell, awaiting trial on war crimes in The Hague.
She saw him, nodded, and spoke to the officer. He made his way towards the pair through the crowd of people, smirking. Devon rolled her eyes. “You’re looking disgustingly pleased with yourself,” Devon remarked, her tone disapproving.
“Climbing will do that for you. You ought to try it,” Stryker suggested.
“No thank you.” She nodded to the officer, who headed off. “Your luggage is being retrieved. Come on. She’s waiting.” She turned, heading for the exit, and he followed, past the customs lines and into the arrivals space. They weaved in and out of the crowd in silence, until they reached the exit. There was a light rain falling outside.
“What a surprise,” he remarked with a straight face. “Rain in London.”
“Go to hell, Stryker,” she told him, her lips curling into a smile.
Stryker and Devon stepped into the outer office at Vauxhall Cross, seeing Claire’s executive assistant at her desk. She nodded to them in hello, and picked up the receiver, pressing a number. “Stryker and Devon have arrived, ma’am.” She set down the receiver, and told them, “She’ll see you now.” 
He opened the door. “Ladies first.”
“Bastard,” she replied with a smirk.
Claire was sitting at her desk, looking as serious as ever. She looked up at the pair, and clicked her tongue as they walked in. “Stryker, have you ever heard of wearing a suit?” she asked, regarding the jeans, T-shirt, and leather jacket he was wearing.
“I’ve heard of it, yes,” Stryker answered.
“He’s a heathen, ma’am,” Devon stated.
“Sit down, both of you,” Claire told them.
 The two agents sat across from her. “I’ve been briefed on the trip,” Stryker remarked. “So, he’s actually coming, is he?” Claire nodded. “And we’re to be there at the reception too?” She nodded again. “This place he’ll be staying at... it’s not secure.”
“I know that,” Claire agreed. “So does Five, and so does the DPG. Hastings just does not like government agencies like ours intruding on his personal life. We’ve all been insisting he reconsider and allow a proper security detail on the grounds, but no luck there. It was all the PM could do to get the old bastard to let as much as we’ve got there.” She paused. “So, we’ll be using a decoy at the hotel overnight to make people think he’s there, motorcade in the morning and all, while Touqan actually spends the night with old schoolmates. It’s all a whole lot of fuss and bother just to accommodate a stuffy, irritable Oxford don, if you ask me.” Her annoyance shone through in her voice.
“Not very diplomatic of you, saying that about Oxford, ma’am,” he remarked.
“As a Cambridge graduate, I’m allowed to insult Oxford dons. I’m expected to, in fact,” Claire remarked. “Well, settle in for a few days again, Stryker. Your boss extended your stay with us. I want you two to confer with Caldwell’s people over the next few days. You’ll be attending that party, and I’m expecting you to be wearing a suit.”
“Wouldn’t you look strange in a suit?” Stryker asked Devon.
She sighed in dismay. “How Carmody puts up with you...”
“I wonder that myself,” Claire remarked, smiling.

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