Authors: Elle Hansen
Cover Art by Humblenations.com
2013 by Elle Hansen
All rights reserved worldwide under the Berne Convention.
May not be copied or distributed without prior written permission.
Ava London’s slim body swung precariously in the night, suspended in midair between two high rise buildings in the racing downtown district of Tokyo, Japan. A single wire stood between her safety and the long fall to the black pavement below. Fingers clamped around the wire, she moved hand over hand, advancing towards a twelve-inch windowsill with panther like precision. Her mind was absolutely focused, completely concentrated on her goal. The swirl of neon lights, the honking of cars, the rush of breeze in the cold night evaporated for Ava. There was only the sill, her body and one hell of a chance.
Working steadily, Ava drew her breath evenly with a calm that displayed years of training and will power
. Her hips swung along with each progressive clasp, her legs held together firmly to keep her balanced. Slowly the sill came within her sight. She began to notice cracks in the cement, fingerprints on the window, the white smear of too many pigeons in the bustling city. Her gray eyes reduced to slits, she narrowed her line of vision and pushed every cell in her body as she swung once, twice and landed her feet firmly on the ledge, swinging her arms over her head to grasp the edge of the pane. Taking a long, thin piece of metal from the black vest fitted against her chest she began to pry the metal of the window delicately, finding the lock with precision that betrayed a regularity with the world of locked doors and forbidden entrances.
Sweat beaded on her smooth forehead and her strong hands shook slightly with the effort of her chore
. Finally she heard the familiar click of the lock, felt the rush of her relief as she slid the window up, without resistance. Her feet hit the floor without a sound, and she kept her tiny body pressed to the wall, scanning for the camera that guarded the desks.
Under her breath she counted, “Ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyuu….” The red light blinked off
. “Juu,” she whispered quietly.
The furrows on her brow smoothed out
. Ten seconds, exactly on time. Ava knew better than to indulge in any relief. In her world, in this dangerous place, she had to take each victory as a tiny step on the path to her ultimate goal. Not until she was safe at home could she relax her senses to any degree. For now she was like a predator on the hunt, and her safest bet was to stay that way.
She flipped her wrist up and checked her slim black watch
. Fifteen minutes was all she had and she had to economize every single second. Making her way around the modern maze of steely gray desks, she headed to the gleaming glass doors that her boss had sat behind for the past three months. Ava London had been Kumiko Sachi for three long months, getting mugs of coffee, smiling flirtatiously and typing like a fiend on her cute little Mac for her boss Taro Hiroshi. He was lean, handsome and completely condescending. Exactly the kind of man stupid enough to share all kinds of information with Kumiko, his unsuspecting, sexy, shy secretary. Little did he know there was much more behind the giggling, attractive woman. Like an advanced brain and a job with Division Lynx, a top secret branch of Secret Service spies. Ava was one of the best because she could meld in, fit any role, force anyone to confide in her with little more than a batting of her thick eyelashes.
Kneeling beside the door, Ava took out a flat black piece of metal the size of a credit card
. Placed over the lock, the device could disable the code and open the door soundlessly in seconds. Ava could have done the opening herself but it would have taken a good deal longer and wound up with glass shavings all over the chic navy blue carpet.
Ava smoothed a strand of hair back from her high cheekbone, tucking the stray piece behind her ear as she surveyed the room
. She had twelve minutes left to find what she needed and leave. Wasting no time she went to the black leather chair and opened the silver laptop that Hiroshi left on his desk every Friday. It was his excuse to escape his high-pitched wife on Saturday mornings. He was the good husband coming back to work to pick up his laptop and get some things done over the weekend. Ava had watched every week in disgust, wondering how the woman could be so dense. She had cringed every time she entered the office and felt Hiroshi’s invading gaze eating at her, oblivious to her prickly disdain. He was so obvious and self-absorbed, she was positive he did little to conceal his interest in other woman around his whining wife.
Ava gritted her teeth and kept her mind on her task
. Her hands rested lightly on the silvery case, the leather sliding over it appreciatively. Hiroshi had fine tastes. His laptop was clean, sparsely filed. The file Ava needed was inside a separate email account located under a Brazilian email site that hid his most intimate correspondences. Ava had discovered this after a long night of Cosmopolitans and Karaoke, including her best attempt at “Like a Virgin” by Madonna. It had been an evening of absolute hell, but it had earned Ava Hiroshi’s confidence and his desire to brag to her all evening. As the vodka was poured and Ava pouted along to eighties relics in a too tight mini, Hiroshi had spilled the beans about all sorts of details concerning his underhand dealings. Including his ingenious hiding place for his files.
Ava’s fine red lips curved in a smile
. No doubt his idea was ingenious. The stupid part had been blabbing. And underestimating her ability. She hacked into the account quickly, saving the file on a small black disc that she concealed with record speed in a zipped pocket inside her jacket. All she had to do was close out the computer and leave without a trace.
Unfortunately this was easier said than done.
Ava looked down at her watch and saw she had only four minutes left. She cursed to herself. Once she began hacking she often lost track of time. In four minutes the disabled cameras would blink back to life and the lenses would capture her escape. Hiroshi would know what had happened and Division Lynx would lose its precious window of time.
Ava made her way back to the open window and settled her body against the frame
. She reached for the wire and her hand grabbed air. Immediate panic set in and Ava had to settle it in an instant to avoid losing her only chance at escape. Carefully she pulled out a tiny cell phone and dialed, waiting impatiently for the pick up.
"Harry, it's Ava
. I'm Brazilian and the flights....not coming in." She tried to keep her voice calm, but Harry picked up on the strain.
"How long do I have?"
"I land at 4 o'clock."
"Damn it! Wait there," he said and Ava tried not to think too long about how desperate he had seemed as they neared the end of their conversation
. The seconds ticked by as Ava scanned the street below and the windows of the building directly across the street. Harry had saved her many times before but this time she had been the one most intimate with the intended site of entry. It had been her orders, her plan. Harry was only the emergency backup and pulling him in now meant that she was demanding he think on his feet under enormous pressure.
Something moved near her face
. Ava grabbed her .45 immediately and felt every muscle tense as she faced a rope. She could feel the burn rise to her cheeks as she tugged once and felt the tension. Looking at her watch she saw that she had one minute and twenty five seconds to escape the building before she was detected, and she still had to shut the window and lock it. Wasting no time she grabbed the rope and hurled herself up, pulling herself just above the window frame.
Ava closed her eyes for a split second before wrapping one ankle around the cord tightly and leaning back, hands sweating
. She hung upside down, fighting the reeling pitch of her stomach and the deadening rush of blood to her head. Pulling the metal piece out of her pocket she worked with quick intensity to set the lock and shut the window to her satisfaction. The metal shook slightly throwing her off target. She steadied her shaky fingers and aimed again, pulling the latch with careful ease.
A strong gust sent her swinging over just a few inches, just enough to scare her heart into pumping loudly
. The window was locked and down. Ava tensed her body and prepared to move up to grab the rope.
As her stomach muscles strained and her hands caught the rope above her head she felt herself being drawn upward
. A sense of absolute relief flooded through her body making her muscles feel warm and relaxed. She saw Harry's face, his small eyes wild with worry at the top of the building. They boarded a helicopter wordlessly, not speaking until he had an opportunity to take a long look at her.
"Ava, are you all right?" he asked, pulling her to him protectively.
"Geez, Harry, I'm fine," she murmured, her eyes filling with tears even as she patted his back reassuringly. This mission had landed her too close for comfort and she and Harry were going to have to face that fact.
"You had me worried kiddo," Harry said, holding her by her shoulders as he surveyed
her for any injury.
"Really, I'm fine
. I lost track of time hacking the file and then I didn't know if I could close the window accurately," she said. "Remember when I'm not a secret agent I have to be a pretty good secretary, so I get kind of tired."
They laughed, but there was something tense in the whole conversation
. Ava had become a liability and she didn't know how that might effect her station.
"So you're gonna have to squeeze into that dress tonight and head over to the big I-Con party?" Harry teased, enjoying the look of disgust he saw in her eyes
. Ava London was a top agent with a bright future, and she was one of the bravest people he had ever seen. Until it was time for her to get dressed up and flirt. For Ava that was the hardest part of the whole business; just being a girl among piggish men. Fine to look good when you liked the guy; but for an idiot like Hiroshi, she felt like a fool.
"They're wasting good Versace on me," she moaned
. "That dress is gorgeous and someone worked hard to find it for me. Do you know how many women would kill for that? And I don't even appreciate it!" Maybe someday she would find a guy worth looking good for, but until then, she felt like she was putting up with undue amounts of torture.
Holding her head in her hands, Ava tried to keep the moment light, but she knew that despite the joking, Harry would report her and she would have to meet with Tess McQueen, the commander of Division Lynx
. Faced with the choice of having to meet with Tess or diving into shark-infested waters, Ava would have her wetsuit on in ten seconds flat.
"Did the helicopter attract any unnecessary attention, Harry?" she asked.
"No, helicopter flights are some sort of date craze here. Don't sweat it kid. Your safety is the thing we're all worried about." Harry squeezed her hand and smiled at her, the lines around his eyes deepening with his concern.
The I-Con party was Hiroshi's company party
. She would arrive a little late and look stunning. She would talk to Hiroshi and dazzle him with her dull giggling and her pushed up breasts. She would leave the party giving him no reason to suspect that sweet Kumiko Sachi could be anything but a great secretary and fine looking woman. Sighing, Ava decided that she had better nail this assignment. No use messing everything up tonight.
Harry let her off on the roof of her hotel and she climbed her way in using the employee entrance
. Being an agent did have the benefit of being able to maneuver many situations that most people would feel were beyond the realm of normal living. She could find an escape hatch anywhere, she was trained to fight, climb, hide, survive. Ava London could make it on her own. Even in three-inch heels.
Taking one last look at her reflection in the mirror, Ava sucked her breath into her lungs, trying to offer herself more breathing room
. The long red silk dress was slit up to her thigh on both legs and cut low to show off her substantial cleavage. Ava's mother was a Chinese scholar who had trained in philosophy and languages and had a passion for Chinese opera. Her father was from Ecuador and had owned a Latin Dance School. She had had a varied childhood and her looks attested to her mixed ethnicity. Her body was curvaceous and her skin was a warm caramel no matter how much time she spent locked in her office. Her long dark hair was bone straight but filled with honeyed highlights. High cheekbones were offset by her mother's almond shaped eyes, the same stormy gray that her father had passed to her. Her full, pert lips were a gift from her Ecuadorian grandmother, rumored to be the best kisser in her village. She had been approached as a young teen to model, but had rejected the offer. Fate had slated her for adventure and she wasn't about to let it slip by.