Heathrow was crowded for a Tuesday in the waning days of June. Roscoe sucked moodily on a cigarette outside the main entrance, waiting on the car that was promised to him. The sky above was remarkably clear, and so blue he felt as though he could lose himself in it. Smoke curled around his head and he scowled down at his watch. The car was late and he was lost in a haze of insecurity and memory, trapped between wanting to know the best possible outcome to this visit and knowing he was a fool for even coming here.
He’d been summoned. He knew where his employer was right now, in Geneva pretending to be a fine upstanding citizen, as was the plan. The problem was that the plan was falling apart and his employer had no idea. Or maybe, by now, that would have become obvious.
Roscoe was running. He’d taken the summons when it had been offered in Paris and he’d come without question. He wasn’t a fool, after all, he knew that it was only a matter of time before the wrath that had so mimed Gaspar rained down upon him as well. He should have known better than to test the waters of this game. It wasn't smart to go toe to toe with is employer. They'd all seen what had happened to Gaspar.
Mathieu was dead and with his demise left the one chance Roscoe had had of getting out of this without being implicated in the double-cross. He'd seen too much in that file, he'd dared to ask questions.
M was terrifying, a force of nature to be reckoned with at such a juncture in their business relationship. Roscoe cursed himself again and again for playing the fool, for tripping his way into a plot far older than time innumerous. Even now, at the very precipice of his doom, Roscoe could feel the weight of his employer's wrath bearing down on him. It was a sharp ache between his shoulder blades, a terrifying hitch in his breath that he could not control, the racing of his blood, pulsing through his veins.
Roscoe lit another cigarette.
He sucked in smoke, exhaling a hazy cloud up at the clear blue sky and cursed his luck. He'd been hard up, caught on another job, and sitting in lock-up when the email instructions had come to his phone. His phone that, at the time, had been sitting on the desk of the very man he was now set to visit.
"This is a clever code," he'd been told. "Pity it is so easy to decipher once you have the key." It had been said with the manic sort of smile that Roscoe remembered from his one meeting with Gaspar. He'd smiled like that, on the phone pretending to be their shared employer. He'd toyed with the man on the other line, feeding him lines, leading him in, drawing him towards his unmaking.
And yet, somehow, Gaspar was the one who'd ended up unmade.
The man at Interpol had been perfectly put together, clad all in black with not a hair out of place. There was an uneasy feeling about him, seeping into Roscoe's bones. It was in the way he spoke: every word measured and concise, weighed for intent and carefully stripped of all hidden meanings. It was unnerving, looking into the man's eyes and taking him at his word. He was hiding something, and Roscoe wasn't sure he wanted to know he wanted to know what it was.
A black sedan pulled up before him, and Roscoe flicked his cigarette away and hitched his duffle up his back. He was armed, a well-placed package from an associate underneath the toilet in the men's loo at baggage claim, but it did not make him feel any safer as a tall, dark-skinned man emerged from the car and raised a hand in greeting.
"Are you Mr. Roscoe?"
"Good." The driver circled to the passenger side of the car and opened the door for him. "Get in, he's waiting."
The he was a man of many names and as many faces. A master investigator, a brilliant force and the gem of Interpol. He could destroy Roscoe in a second, he had enough connections to Scotland Yard and other law enforcement across the countries that Roscoe had made his career in law breaking.
Roscoe swallowed nervously and got into the car.
He knew that the family had money, or had come into it. Those details were shaky and Roscoe's few probes had come back with very little information on the family beyond the accounts at Laramie Straus and the property they held in the country. He knew nothing of the house that the driver pulled up in front of, one in a row and perfectly preserved: a relic of Victorian architecture.
Roscoe got out of the car and followed the driver up the front steps, where he was delivered into the care of a grim-faced footman clad, like the man himself had been on their first meeting, all in black.
The house itself was dark. There were cobwebs in the corners and large white sheets covered much of the furniture in the rooms whose doors stood open and drapes were pulled tightly closed. Dust filtered in through the few windows where the drapes stood open, filing the hallway Roscoe was being led down with an eerie sort of light that set his jaw tightly clenched. His gun dug into the small of his back, and he hoped to god that he was not going to have to shoot his way out of this place.
The footman paused beside a door and knocked once. Roscoe could smell the cheap cologne on him and winced, nose wrinkling. This man, with his slicked-back hair and hardened expression, was not Interpol. No he was private security, playing a role in such a societal location that he must have stood out like a sore thumb.
"Enter," came a voice from beyond the door. It rang out crisp and clear in the silence of the house and Roscoe's ears resonated with the sound as the silence swallowed the words once more. The footman pushed the door open and Roscoe stepped inside, to face the man who'd paid him to betray the one individual who scared him more than this man.
"Mr. Roscoe." From behind an imposing mahogany desk, completely swathed in shadows, the voice boomed. Roscoe stood with his hands relaxed at his sides, trying to keep his breathing even. The last time he'd been in this man's presence he'd been offered his life in exchange for information and the laying of a trap. He'd laid it, now he wanted out.
He coughed, shifted forward, back straight like they'd like when he was in school. "Sir."
The man leaned forward, one silvery slip of graying blonde hair falling into his piercing eye. He reached up, fingers shaking slightly, and pushed it back into the perfectly gelled mess on top of his head. His lips curled into a half smirk and he bridged his fingers, resting them almost against his small nose. "I understand that we are at something of an impasse. You would like your fee for collecting the information, but I would like you to complete the task assigned."
"She knows that her records have gone missing." The man's lip curled and the light hit his eyes in such a way that they shone almost black. Roscoe had to fight every urge he had to take a step back. "And seems to think that Mathieu was behind it."
"Is that so...?" Getting to his feet, the man stepped into the light from the open window, and Roscoe finally was able to get a good look at him. He had never seen the man standing. He was tall with the same aristocratic features that Roscoe had come to admire about his employer. His hair was graying, slicked back and every strand was carefully placed.
There was something about him, an affected quality of normalcy. The smile that he flashed in Roscoe's direction as he crossed to the window was just that. Empty, expressionless, a movement of facial muscles to convey an ideal that was not felt in the slightest. Roscoe wondered if it was meant to be intimidating, but as the man stood, carefully positioning himself so that the light filtered off of one side of his face and cast the other into shadow, Roscoe knew that there was no meaning behind it at all. It was simply what was expected. "Why have you told her it was Mathieu?"
"Because I don't want to end up like any of the others who've dared cross her." He shook his head and took a step away from the man, into the darkness so as better to see the man. "You saw what she did to her lieutenant."
"Mr. Gaspar, yes. I heard all about him from my source. Clever fellow, too bad his goals were entirely too lofty." The man tapped his chin. "Though I must say he had the right idea. Take the child away from the mother and see how she reacts."
"She gutted Gaspar, damn near cut his head off."
"I'd hate to have the same thing happen to you, Mr. Roscoe. Do take care that she does not catch you in a lie."
Roscoe rubbed at the back of his head. "Look," he began. "I know that you want this for your own reasons, but doesn't Interpol already have her, by rights?"
The man's gaze hardened. "There is no evidence, but that is not the goal of this pursuit."
Realization dawned on Roscoe and he felt sick to his stomach. "You want the girl gone."
The smile that blossomed across his companion's face was like a smear of malice and cruelty. He'd seen that look before, as the woman who could only be his daughter took to the task of creating a man's downfall in the look of a single, perfect woman.
He had to get out of there. And fast. Before he was made to do something he could not do. "With all due respect, I don't do children. Or women." He threw out the last bit in case the man wanted him to go after his employer. He would sooner put a bullet in his own brain than engage her in her own game.
"Then we have a problem, Mr. Roscoe. Both of them must be eliminated." The sneer was gone, replaced by a gaze of such intensity that Roscoe knew he would be vomiting as soon as he got out of here. "They can undo this. All of this. With just the blood in their veins they can achieve such ruin as the world has never seen."
Twenty minutes later, when Roscoe had finished heaving his lunch into the shrubs outside the row house, a clock started ticking in his head. A countdown until his own death. He was caught, trapped between two forces that could not be stopped on their collision course.
Soon, Roscoe knew, all that would be left of him were particles and dust in the sunlit air.