The large and lavish ballroom seemed impossibly crowded, every square inch taken up by the chiffon of skirts or the silk of tablecloths. It was also incredibly loud too, the chatter of guests and the music coming from the chamber orchestra clashed against the buzzing of Clark and Claire discussing the security in the perimeter coming from the small earpiece in her left ear. They were stationed outside the palace in a truck nearby for fear of being recognised. They’ve been here before. They’ve played this game before. It was Jemilla’s turn now.
She swayed around guests, trying to scan the room without looking suspicious. She blended in with the crowd, her curly hair in a topknot and a pearly white dress to match. It would be horrendously impractical if she had to get out of there in a hurry but the gun and knife hidden in a holster strapped to her thigh was comforting.
Jemilla almost missed spotting the target, barely realising that the woman leaning against the column was Rodriguez until she did a double take. If you weren’t looking for her you would have never had noticed her, her grey chiffon skirt and tailored jacket matched the hundreds of women in the room, the only thing different being the absence of a partner on her arm. She looked slightly different than the pictures she was shown, shorter and prettier than the blurry photos other agents were able to capture from long and intensive stake outs. Rodriguez’s eyes were trained on the back of the hall, where the German diplomat and his wife were seated, with an almost bored expression, though Jemilla knew she was here for a reason.
“I found Rodriguez, she’s on the ballroom floor.” Jemilla ducked around the back of a floral bouquet to speak into her watch. Everyone else was too preoccupied with dancing or chatter to even hear or notice her but she had no clue if Rodriguez had partners with her dotted around the room. That was the thing about her, she was incredibly unpredictable, cropping up all over America and Europe with no sense of pattern or organisation, sometimes with almost 10 partners though most frequently alone. It was this unpredictableness of Rodriguez’s that made her so damn difficult for the CIA to find, with an anonymous tip from a presumably retired agent being the clue to her presence in Berlin.
“So talk to her you dipshit.” Cynthia’s voice blared through the speaker, clearly annoyed. “I’m your boss not your fucking babysitter. Get the fuck in there.” Jemilla bought the watch down from her face so that Cynthia couldn’t hear her sound of exasperation. Jemilla was used to desk jobs, scoping out intel for field agents, of course, she’s going to be unsure of what to do.
“There seems to be no sign of other spies we have encountered before with her, so if you end up talking to her in private, the West Wing should be ideal,” Claire added over the line, and Jemilla whispered her affirmation.
Jemilla straightened and started moving around the edge of the room, smiling at tipsy guests but keeping her eyes trained on where Rodriguez was standing. She was now hovering around the lavish buffet, almost carefreely. Jemilla circled around the column and moved to the table just in time to grab the treat that Rodriguez was reaching for.
“Oh I’m so sorry, did you want this one?” Jemilla acted flustered as she offered the treat back to the other woman.
“Oh, no it’s perfectly fine, there’s plenty more.” Rodriguez smiled at Jemilla, the type of smile that TV presenters wear for the camera.
Up close, Rodriguez’s eyes were more noticeable than from afar, big and brown, and her slightly frizzy hair was coming apart from the low bun and forming a halo of small curls around her face.
“I’m so sorry about that.” Jemilla continued on, slowly munching through a macaron from the table, trying to act tipsy. “I haven’t been to many events as big as this one and this is a bit overwhelming.”
“You sound American.” Rodriguez kept up that prize winning smile, though she frowned a little.
Shit. Jemilla had forgotten about the accent.
“Yes, I am.” She lied through her teeth. “My husband is German though, he’s here on important business, I’m just here to have fun.” She giggled and playfully nudged Rodriguez in the side.
“Where is he now?”
Jemilla scanned the ballroom and pointed. “He’s the one in uniform, standing next to that paper sculpture there. Kind man. Always knows how to make me laugh.”
When she turned back to Rodriguez, something about her gaze looked different than from before, her eyes lidded slightly and her TV presenter smile faltered and looked softer.
“I never caught your name, Mrs...?”
“Nancy Fischer.” Clark’s voice came over the earpiece and Jemilla almost flinched in surprise, barely managing to keep a neutral expression.
“Nancy Fischer,” Jemilla repeated, extending a hand, which Rodriguez shook firmly. She silently thanked Claire for lending Jemilla her wedding ring to fit the persona she was putting on that night. She already seemed slightly suspicious, having no wedding ring would be a dead giveaway.
“Mary Brown,” Rodriguez replied, and there it was again, that unexplainable expression. “It is rather loud in here, do you think we can get out to somewhere more,” her gaze dropped, “quiet?”
Holy shit. It suddenly clicked in Jemilla’s mind. Rodriguez was flirting with her?
Jemilla was suddenly acutely aware of everything around her, the heat of the ballroom, the laughter of people around them and Rodriguez’s soft smile. She remembered Claire’s remark about the West Wing and realised that it could work. Her mission was to get close with Rodriguez, to persuade her to join the CIA, and here she was, getting close with her. It was by no means the way that Cynthia had planned it but it was something.
“Alright.” Jemilla slurred her speech a little, trying to act drunker than she was and threw in a wink for good measure. It seemed to work as Rodriquez took her by the arm and lead her to the doors.
The corridors of the palace were much quieter, something about the extravagantly adorned walls blocked most of the sounds of the party, leaving only the dull murmur of conversation and the sound of their shoes echoing through the passage. Rodriguez was humming to herself, a vaguely familiar tune but Jemilla didn’t question it. They rounded a corner and Rodriguez pushed open a door to reveal what looked to be an informal dining room, which seemed pale in comparison to the rest of the palace due to its lack of gold adornments.
“So,” Rodriquez sank down onto a wooden chair, pulled out another and beckoned Jemilla to sit. “Tell me about yourself. I’m interested.”
Almost immediately Clark started feeding information into Jemilla’s earpiece from the cover they created earlier and Jemilla started repeating his words, creating a narrative of a bored housewife, finally getting a break at the many functions she has been attending in Berlin. Rodriguez listened and nodded along, gradually moving her chair closer until she was only an arm’s length from Jemilla.
“What about you? Why are you here?” Jemilla asked, scootching forward on her seat.
“I prefer to remain a little more mysterious.” Rodriguez’s hands brushed over Jemilla’s forearms, making her slightly jolt. “It’s more interesting.”
Jemilla was on the verge of saying “More interesting to who?” before she noticed Rodriguez leaning in, and decided not to. She was impossibly close now, inches apart from Jemilla’s face, their height difference showing even though they were sitting down. Jemilla played along, leaning in as well, fluttering her eyelids closed-
Jemilla yelped as she was suddenly wrenched from her seat onto the ground by Rodriguez and felt her wrists being bound quickly by a rope of sorts.
“The fucking CIA again?” Rodriguez growled. “How many times do I need to threaten your agents to leave me the fuck alone?”
“How in the-”
“Your ‘husband’ that you pointed out isn’t fucking married and has been rumoured to be gay you absolute dipshit.” Rodriguez had completely tied Jemilla’s wrists together now, the rope wrapping around the heavy wood of the dining table. “So this is the type of quality agent you fucks are sending me now? Is your organisation seriously low on people who can actually do their job so they sent you instead?”
Jemilla made a series of robot-like sounds of frustration and glared up at Rodriguez who was now pacing to the door. “No more meddling around in my shit or I won’t be so nice next time.” She warned, and with that, left.
“Agent Anderson? Do you read me? Are you safe?” Claire’s worried voice blared out as Jemilla sighed and slumped against the table leg.
“I’m unharmed,” Jemilla reassured Claire, trying to twist around to get a better look at the curtain tassel bound around her wrists.
“Do you need evacuation or backup?”
“No, it’s too risky if Rodriguez saw either of you here. Besides, the idiot forgot to check for weapons and de-arm me. I have my knife, I should be fine.”
“Take caution, Anderson.”
Jemilla twisted her torso around and hiked up her skirt in efforts to reach the holster on her thigh. It was difficult and slightly hurt from the strain but she managed to pull the knife out, nicking herself in the progress. She made quick work of the rope and hauled herself up, rubbing at her sore wrists.
Rodriguez was clearly here for a reason, and it can’t be good judging from her determination to remove Jemilla from the picture. She was known to be wildly unpredictable with her missions, never working towards eliminating one single organisation and never trying again where she failed.
Jemilla replaced the knife back and slipped out into the corridor, keeping her movements light. She rounded the corner and entered the ballroom cautiously, the sounds of laughter and music overpowering her once again. She now knew what she was looking for and found Rodriguez quickly, a flash of grey chiffon disappearing through the front entrance gave her away. Jemilla weaved through the crowd mumbling apologies in German before she was blinded by a flash of a camera coming from one of the balconies on top seating the press. Shit. She kept moving regardless and stumbled over a table leg, only managing to get out of the room with her dignity still intact.
Rodriguez wasn’t going to leave without getting the job done, so surely she must have gone upstairs or down the east wing. Jemilla took her chances going upstairs and tread lightly, trying to stop the echo of her foot steps. There was a series of doors that led to balconies and bedrooms and Jemilla found Rodriguez on her fifth try, opening the door to reveal her reloading her gun and speaking frantically into her watch, only stopping when she heard the click of the safety turning off on Jemilla’s gun.
“Drop the gun, Rodriguez,” Jemilla ordered, then started speaking into her watch. “I found her alone on the fifth balcony, I may need back up soon.”
Rodriguez complied and glared at Jemilla. “For the last goddamn time, stop messing with my shit!” She spoke through clenched teeth.
“What are you even hoping to achieve here?”
“I’m going to shoot the diplomat.”
That almost threw Jemilla off guard her hold on the gun wavering a little. “At a ballroom? In front of hundreds of people? What are you, fucking nuts?”
“It needs to be fucking done, and since you guys don’t seem to be capable of doing it, that leaves me. We’ve countless intel about his relations with the Nazi party but you guys have done nothing to get rid of him.” Rodriguez took a step towards her but backed off when Jemilla tightened her grip on the gun again.
“We are going to do it, quietly in a remote location, not at a fucking ball celebrating a German-Russian marriage. Do you even realise how difficult the relationship between Germany and Russia is right now? The murder of the diplomat would leave people pointing the blame at Russia and would blow this union to shit. Do you even think before you act?”
“I’m not playing peacemaker here, I’m getting the job done!” Rodriguez half-shouted and Jemilla threw her hand to the other woman’s mouth and frantically shushed her. Rodriguez’s stare was practically murderous now.
“Look, we’re going to take you back to America and issue a penalty to you. If you agree to join the CIA, we’ll drop all charges. If you refuse, you’ll likely end up in prison. Do you understand?”
Rodriguez didn’t reply, only flicked her gaze to something or someone behind Jemilla. This was the only warning Jemilla received before a dull blow met the base of her skull and her world faded to black.