Chapter 1: The Office
Damien stood outside Mari's office door, hand hovering over the silver handle. It wasn’t often that people were called to her office unless they were being fired, but he was sure that wasn’t the case now. He had recently just closed a case involving a massive drug ring in the city that he had been working on for years, and he was proud of that fact. Maybe this would be a new assignment, something even bigger than a drug ring. His heart fluttered at the thought. As difficult as his work was, he enjoyed it. He wouldn’t call himself an adrenaline junkie by any means, but the thrill of running through an alleyway chasing a criminal or sneaking past the security of an elite establishment was a large factor into what kept him coming back to work everyday.
The knob turned with ease, and Damien stepped into the office. The room was sparsely decorated, a wall of bookcases the most densely furnished area of the decently sized room. The far wall consisted of floor to ceiling windows overlooking Manhattan, a view Damien envied. Directly in front of the windows was Mari, behind a massive desk, scribbling in a notebook as she held a black telephone against her ear with her shoulder.
“Yes, I understand - No, Doctor King, I’m not suggesting - I assure you we’re - If you insist. I wish you the best of luck. Have a great day.” Mari placed the phone back on the receiver and pushed a few papers around on her desk. She looked up at Damien, her flustered expression shifting to her normal impassiveness.
“Haas. Take a seat.” She gestured to the charcoal leather chairs in front of her.
“Would you like coffee?” She asked. Her eyes bore into him like the question held the weight of the world. She had a tendency to do that.
“Yes, please. Thank you.”
Mari picked the receiver up and held a button down on the phone. “Joven, can we get some coffee in here? Thanks.”
She turned to Damien and folded her hands over the desk, looking at him expectantly. He wondered if he should ask why he had been called in, but Mari usually didn’t take well to cluelessness.
“You just finished your big case, correct? The drug ring in the city?” He knew she knew all the details of the case, perhaps even exceeding his own knowledge, but he nodded a confirmation anyways.
“You did well on that one. I’m glad you were assigned to it.”
Damien smirked. “You were the one who assigned me.”
Mari didn’t miss a beat. “You’re right. I’m glad that I made that decision. I know where to put my good agents.”
Damien chuckled quietly. He heard Mari’s office door opened suddenly and he whipped around to see Joven carrying a tray of sugar and a small carton of cream in one hand and a full coffee pot in the other. He stumbled over himself to the desk and started to prepare the cups for the two of them.
Damien didn’t know much about Joven despite having worked in the agency for almost five years. He was Mari’s assistant first and foremost, as well as her closest friend and confidant. It had taken a full two months for him to realize that the two weren’t married. Joven was a quiet man, deeply loyal to the agency, according to Mari. The few conversations he had with him had been pleasant, but there was an air of mystery that followed him around like a storm cloud.
Mari took a sip of her coffee, which must have been scalding, with no reaction. Damien took his cup and began to spoon sugar into it as Mari watched.
“You going to have some coffee with your sugar?”
Damien laughed softly and set his spoon down, blowing on the coffee before taking a small sip. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Joven slip out of the door again, quiet as ever.
“I have a new assignment for you.” She said after a moment. Damien tilted his head up in interest. He noticed his foot tapping on the floor steadily, a sign of his anxiety he hardly noticed he did anymore.
“This is something very important, and I trust you with it immensely.” A playful smile twitched across her face. “So I hope you don’t fuck it up.”
Damien’s heart skipped a beat. He knew Mari cursed, but it was still startling to hear, especially from his boss. His thoughts raced with possibilities of the case he would be assigned. Maybe it would be something overseas. He had always wanted to travel to Europe, he would love to be there.
“I won’t. I promise.” He assured her. She smiled before sliding a folder from her pile in front of her.
“Good. I’ll hold you to that.” She opened the folder and quickly skimmed the text. Damien caught a few works from across the desk. Gang. Mafia. President. Oh hell yes.
“This is something I think you’ll be excited for. This gang has been threatening some sort of ‘revolution’ for a while now, but they’ve started to get more public with their threats. Too much for some beat cops to handle, so we’ve been given full control.”
Damien felt his leg bouncing against the seat. This was what he had imagined he would be doing when he joined the CIA, and now he was being given the opportunity to live out that dream. He could hardly contain his smile.
“There’s one caveat to this,” Mari raised an eyebrow at him. She clearly noticed his grin. “You’ll be working with a partner.”
“Partner?” He whined. A rush of endorphins ran through his veins, clouding his better judgment to stay quiet and let Mari explain. She noticed this and let out a short exhale from her nose.
“Yes, a partner. Specifically, Shayne Topp.” Damien scoured his memory for any recollection of the name but came back with nothing. He noticed how Mari’s cheek twitched as she said the man’s name. She was hiding something; Damien has been trained to notice ticks like that.
“What’s he like?” Mari sucked in a breath at the question, which did not serve as a good omen.
“He’s… a good agent.” She sighed. There was an exhaustion to her voice like she had practiced saying it to sound convincing. It wasn’t.
“That sounded forced.” He quipped. She glowered at him.
“Don’t interrupt me or you won’t have a tongue to interrupt with.” She spat. Damien bit his lip and felt a wave of anxiety run down his spine. Mari raised her eyebrows at him, gaze steely as ever.
“That’s what I thought. So as I said, Topp is a good agent. He always gets his job done, and in record time too, it’s just his methods are…” She considered her words, eyes flickering to the file in front of her. “Worrying.”
Damien furrowed his brows at the statement. He had heard of some agent’s strange rituals that helped them complete their missions, but he had never heard Mari describe them as ‘worrying’.
“Worrying?” He wondered aloud. Mari opened her mouth to respond but said nothing. Instead, she glanced around the room before turning to him with a look of determination.
“I’m going to be completely honest with you, because I trust you, Haas. This does not leave this room, understand?” Her voice was low, devoid of any playfulness that may have been there. Damien nodded.
“Topp is reckless. He’s arrogant, impulsive, and an asshole to almost everybody he meets. We need him on this case because he really is good at what he does, but he needs to be reeled in. You’re one of our best agents, Damien. If anybody can keep him in line, it’s you.”
A flurry of emotions crossed through his mind. It wasn’t often that Mari used his first name. He was flattered by the praise, but learning he would essentially be working with a rebellious teenager as his partner definitely brought a damper on his ideal case.
“So,” He tried to phrase his next words delicately. “You’re making me a babysitter?”
Mari rolled her eyes. “You’re a secret goddamned agent, not a babysitter. And don’t talk back to me. Who’s the boss in this room?”
Damien gestured to her with his hand. She smiled smugly.
“That’s right. I’m being serious when I say I think you can straighten him out. You can make anybody a friend; that’s why I hired you.” Damien smiled fondly.
“And if you have any problems with him, you know where your gun is.” He suddenly became keenly aware of the weapon at his hip. He couldn’t be certain if Mari was joking, because she had been known for her ruthlessness when she was in the field. Damien hoped it wouldn’t come to violence, but from how Mari had described the man he would be working with, he wasn’t sure.
Mari seemed to notice his discomfort. “I’m kidding.” She chuckled. Damien let a peal of nervous laughter escape his lungs. Mari’s expression suddenly hardened again.
“Or am I?” His laughter stopped quickly, but this time Mari didn’t acknowledge his silence.
“You should get moving, there’s no time to waste. Grossman is waiting for you in the briefing room with the rest of the information you need.” She gestured for him to get up, to which he quickly obliged. He made his way to the door, flustered from the conversation. Just as he reached out for the handle, he heard Mari call out to him.
“Haas?” He turned to look at her, standing behind her desk, posture stiff as ever, commanding every ounce of respect he had. “Don’t let Topp walk all over you. You’re the primary on this mission. Good luck.”
He gave a curt nod and exited the room, leaving him standing in the hallway alone. He let out a sigh and brushed a hand through his hair. He was still excited about the case, but the addition of a problematic partner was something he would have to face head-on if he wanted to get anything done during the mission.
He started off down the hallway to the briefing room, but he found himself taking a detour to the only place where he may be able to pull himself together before meeting the nightmarish caricature that Mari had described as Shayne Topp. Boze always had a way of helping him get his head back on straight, and the tech department wasn’t that far from the briefing room.
As far as Damien knew, he was the only agent who frequented the tech department as often as he did. Most of the other agents only went briefly to pick up their weapons or any other supplies they needed, choosing to stick to their side of the compound indefinitely. The two halves of the agency were surprisingly separated, especially considering how closely they worked together. In Damien’s mind, it resembled a high school in its cliquey-ness. It wasn’t uncommon to hear his fellow agents make a snide remark about the ‘lab coats’ while gossiping around the water cooler. Frankly, it was childish, this silly “feud” that the two divisions had started. Damien tried to ignore it at all costs.
The tech department was a quick trip down the staircase from Mari’s office. The doors constantly had scientists in pristine white lab coats rushing in and out, clearly focused on whatever project they were working on at the time. Glass panels beside the doors allowed any passerby to see dozens of benches covered in a variety of chemicals and experiments that would have taken any average chemist years to execute properly, but only took the tech department’s people less than a few hours.
Damien pushed through the doors, nearly being run over by a man in a lab coat he didn’t recognize. He walked by the lab benches and nodded to the few scientists who looked up at him; the others were too focused on their work.
The department seemed to go on for miles, a fact that shocked Damien every time he ventured down here. He made his way towards the back of the department, where he could hear his friend long before he could see her.
“I can’t believe you let that get past you! You don’t get paid enough to make mistakes like that! You- You… Just go home for the rest of the day, I don’t want to do something I’ll regret.” Damien felt pity for whatever poor soul was facing the wrath of Ericka Bozeman. He saw a dejected young man in a grey button-up shirt walking towards the exit, and then he saw Boze.
She sat at what he assumed to be the employee she just criticized’s desk, rifling furiously through the mass of papers strewn across the surface. She was mumbling to herself something about idiots, her glasses beginning to slide down her nose.
Damien walked up to the desk as calmly as possible, watching Boze frantically search for whatever she was looking for before he said anything.
“Bad time?” He asked. Boze’s head shot up, her eyes wide. Damien instinctively took a step back. She inhaled slowly as she straightened up, slowly closing her eyes before she looked at Damien.
“Everything is perfectly fine.” She said sweetly. Her tone then harshened suddenly. “It’s just the people who work for me are morons.” Damien tried to smile as a way to break the tension that radiated from Boze. He had to admit, he appreciated her brutal honesty with her emotions; she was very easy to read.
“But clearly you would like to talk, seeing as you just had a pretty intense meeting with Mari, so I’m all ears.” Damien raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t told her about the meeting, even he had only found out about it ten minutes before he went into Mari’s office.
“How did you know about that?” He asked. Boze rolled her eyes indiscreetly before she started her explanation.
“You’ve been sweating, which means you were either just in a very hot room or had a stressful meeting with a superior, and the latter is far more probable than the first since every room in this building is air-conditioned. You just finished up a big case you’ve been working on and now have nothing to do, so you were probably called into her office for a new assignment. It stressed you out for some reason, so you came to me to talk about it before going to the briefing room. Do I get an A, professor?” She spoke quickly, almost too fast for Damien to follow. But he was used to that from her.
Damien stared at Boze, gobsmacked. She had a smug smile on her face and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Jesus,” He said after a minute of silence. “You’re like the asshole version of Sherlock Holmes.”
Boze laughed loudly, shaking her head. “Sherlock Holmes snorted cocaine and had no friends. I’d say I’m the nicest version of him there is.”
“He did cocaine?”
“Jesus Christ, Damien! Do your research before you try to equate me to a literary figure.” She exclaimed. “Now what the hell are you so stressed out about?”
Damien pushed aside the mental image of Mr. Holmes coked-out and proceeded to get to the point of coming to see Boze.
“You were right, I just got a new assignment. It looks incredibly interesting from what Mari let me know. And what I saw in the file.” Boze shook her head and rolled her eyes again.
“You need to stop reading things upside-down. It could get you in trouble.”
“I’m a spy, Boze. Trouble is part of the job description.” Boze didn’t try to hide her laugh at that.
“God, you sound like a corny film character. Just tell me what the hell about the assignment has got your panties in a twist.” Damien narrowed his eyes jokingly.
“Fine, you just don’t appreciate me at all.” Boze laughed again, but Damien continued. “I think it’s a pretty high-profile case. Like, commander-in-chief high profile.” Boze’s eyes widened, suddenly deeply concentrated.
“It’s the case of my dreams, Boze. Everything I imagined when I joined the agency. But there’s a catch: a partner.”
“Do you know who it is?” Boze asked. Damien shook his head.
“I have the name, but no idea who he is. Have you heard of Shayne Topp?” Boze pursed her lips and for only the second time ever, looked completely clueless.
“I have nothing. He must be new.”
“But apparently he’s not,” Damien insisted. “Mari knows him. She said he’s a good agent, but he’s ‘reckless’ and ‘worrying.’ She said that I need to keep an eye on him. I have no idea what that could mean. He might be totally insane, Boze. I don’t know if I can actually work this case while micro-managing an asylum patient.”
‘You’re dramatic.” Boze said sharply. But her expression softened and she bit her lip, thinking deeply.
“I can’t imagine the agency would hire somebody who was off their rocker. It’s probably just a really important case, and she wants you doing your best. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
Damien shifted his weight between his feet. He still wasn’t sure about the whole partner thing. He was used to working alone, it was what he was good at. He wasn’t particularly excited to have his first partner-to-be somebody who had been described as “worrying.”
Boze noticed his apprehension quickly. “If you want, you can tell Mari you can’t work the case with him. That is if he is indeed a complete bozo. She likes you, she might be able to pull a few strings.”
Damien wasn’t completely convinced, but he couldn’t know if he didn’t try. Shayne couldn’t be that awful, could he?
“Thanks, Boze.” He paused, checking his watch. He pointed behind him towards the door. “I should…”
“Go. You don’t want to lose the case before you even get to decide to take it.”
I’m not sure I have a choice . Damien thought. But he gave a quick smile to Boze before heading back to the entrance of the department.
At least he could count on the briefing to be somewhat tolerable. Grossman’s explanations were always entertaining. And besides, maybe Mari was exaggerating. As much as he trusted the woman with his life, she couldn’t be completely right all the time.
He contemplated the possibilities as he approached the briefing room. He nodded to a fellow agent who walked past him, then stood outside the door for a moment. He took a breath and pulled the doorknob open. Here we go.
sorry this took a bit to get out, i started up school and i got caught up in everything. hope you enjoy! (im trying to work out an actual schedule for my fics so the next chapter shouldn't be that far away!)
Chapter 3: The Briefing Room
The dreariness of the concrete box the agency had determined as the briefing room gave a strange comfort to Damien. He didn’t visit often, mostly due to his cases being incredibly long-term, but he had memorized every inch of cement on the floor, the knicks in the table at the center, and each individualized speck of dust that sat on the few pieces of furniture in the room. It was like coming home.
The two puke-green plastic chairs that were tucked under the table triggered a swarm of memories; Damien’s first assignment, his first time actually getting to practice what he had aced in training. A light, warm feeling spread across his chest at the thought.
“Are you going to stand there staring at the chairs like a psychopath or are you actually going to say hi to your friend?” A sarcastic voice pierced Damien’s memory. He looked up and met a man’s eyes, big and blue. They were hidden behind thick-rimmed glasses Damien didn’t recognize. In fact, there were a lot of things about his friend he didn’t recognize. His hair was a strange auburn-blond that could only suit him, and he had started to grow out facial hair that was so patchy and uneven it was nearly impossible to look good on anyone, and yet he was pulling it off somehow. His shirt was an eccentric pattern that lit up the room better than the singular bulb hanging from the ceiling, which was the only thing that hadn’t changed.
“Noah!” Damien wrapped his friend into a hug he was clearly uncomfortable in, judging by the tenseness in his shoulders and arms. He pulled away to look at Noah, smiling out of the corner of his mouth.
“I haven’t seen you in forever, where’ve you been?”
Noah shook himself out of Damien’s grasp, a pained smile worn only for politeness.
“I’m doing alright, I was-” His voice sounded different as his words took on a vaguely European accent that Damien couldn’t exactly pinpoint. Frustration grew in Noah’s face and he inhaled deeply through his nose before speaking again, sans accent.
“I was stationed in Budapest for three months working a case. I just came back last week.”
Damien nodded in understanding. Noah was easy to put undercover, he was a quick accent learner and was easily disguised. While he admired the work his friend did, Damien did not envy the long periods of time away from home.
“Damn,” He said. “Three months is a long time to be undercover. Did you finish the case?”
Noah’s eyes suddenly darkened, clear resentment on his face.
“No… the fucker died before I could get the information I needed from him.” Damien’s eyes widened. The Noah he knew was happy-go-lucky and always willing to crack jokes. They weren’t the closest of friends, but Damien knew him well enough to know that something awful must have happened for Noah to be acting like this.
“I’m…” Damien struggled to find the words to say. Noah looked like he wasn’t even listening, but he couldn’t just leave him to stir in his anger. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Noah nodded curtly, his eyes somewhere far away. Damien winced to himself and took a seat in the chair on the right as Noah began to take out a few file folders from the box that waws stored underneath the table.
“Maybe you should’ve let your partner know that the briefing was supposed to start five minutes ago.” Noah was staring at the clock above the door. Although the tone of his voice sounded like he was annoyed, the small smile on his face said otherwise.
“He’s not my responsibility, Grossman.” Damien quipped, to which Noah gave a single mocking laugh. “I haven’t even met he guy yet.”
Noah’s eyes suddenly widened and he dropped the folder he had in his hands haphazardly onto the table.
“You’ve never met Topp?” He laughed. Damien didn’t like the way Noah was almost cackling at the mention of the man. “God, you’re in for a fucking treat.”
Damien narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean? Clearly, you know him.”
“Hell yeah I know him, we were in training together.” Noah shook his head, chuckling quietly. He met Damien’s eyes again and said, “There is nothing I can say to you that will prepare you for him. You’ll just have to take my word for it.”
Almost as if on cue, the door was thrown open to reveal a blond man holding a styrofoam coffee cup in his left hand. Damien felt overwhelmed with the information he was able to pick up just from looking at the guy.
His hair was tousled messily, no styling agent aiding in controlling the stray hairs that hung in his face like mop strings. He was clean-shaven, with just the hint of a five-o-clock shadow, and judging from the small scratches along his jaw he was either not used to shaving or had done it in a hurry. A pressed white button-up clung to his torso, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. There was a coffee stain that he had clearly tried to clean up in haste that was still visible towards the hem. He had no tie, and the first few buttons hung open to reveal defined collarbones and a small patch of chest hair. The collar of his shirt did nothing to hide the dark red and purple hickeys trailing up his neck, which was incredibly shocking to see in the workplace, to say the least. His expression was panicked as he practically threw himself into the seat beside Damien, smoothing his shirt and flashing Noah a bright smile that was clearly obsessed over.
Damien already didn’t like him.
“Sorry for the delay, coffee machine was slow and then Whittle needed me to help her with some files, so I-”
“Got it. “Noah said shortly. “Just try not to be late when it’s actually important.”
“Yessiree, commander.” Topp soluted him and turned to Damien with his hand outstretched.
“Shayne Topp. Don’t know if you want my agent number because you seem like the kind of guy that gets off on numbers, but Agent 14959, pleased to meetcha.”
Damien couldn’t hide his mouth hanging open in shock. There was no way this was actually the person Mari had made his partner, right? This had to have been a sick joke. He looked to Noah in hopes of an explanation, something to signal this was a prank, but he just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head slightly.
Damien turned back to Shayne, eyes wide. He shook his hand gingerly, even though Shayne held his hand in a tight grip.
“Damien Haas. I’m not giving you my agent number.” The words came out of his mouth but they didn’t sound like he was saying them. He was completely flabbergasted by the situation.
“Well, now that you two are best friends, let’s get on with the actual reason you’re here,” Noah said. Damien turned to him, trying to ignore the complete mess of a human being to his left.
“This is a case of international urgency. You two have been placed on it because you’re considered the best for the job. I’m legally required to tell you that there will be no hesitation in finding an immediate replacement for you if you mess this up.” His confident tone allowed Damien to listen to him alone, and to dissociate from the man next to him.
“Yes sir.” Shayne said. Damien didn’t look at him, but from the way he said it, Shayne was wearing a smug grin that would’ve guaranteed him a crack in the jaw.
“If you call me sir again I will report that mess on your neck to Mari. For once, can you listen without speaking?” Noah asked. Damien stifled a chuckle as he heard the creak of Shayne leaning back in his chair.
Damien braved asking a question. “So what do we need to do first?”
“Research,” Noah replied. “We’ve tracked down a few people who can help you get some useful information on the whereabouts of the gang and their constituents.”
He opened one of the folders on the table to reveal a picture of a beautiful young Asian woman decorated in expensive jewelry and a sleek dark dress. Even though the black and white image Damien could see the fire in her eyes, and the intelligence hidden beneath them. Noah tapped the picture with his index finger. “This is your primary connection to them.”
Damien heard Shayne lean forward in his seat to get a better view of the photo. “She looks harmless,” He said. “What is she, a model?”
“She’s probably a lot more dangerous than she looks.” The edge to Damien’s voice surprised him, but it seemed like everything Shayne said was an invitation to turn to him and throw him out the door.
“That she is.” Noah nodded. “Olivia Sui is an heiress to a very important trading company that contributes to almost half of the US’s imports. She knows everything about everyone, and her daddy is buddy-buddy with the leader of this gang.” Damien raised his eyebrows. This girl had an impressive resume, and she barely looked older than Noah.
“Have anything on the members?” Shayne asked. The hunger in his voice was so clear Damien could feel it in his own mouth. Damien had that same hunger when he was getting his first case.
Noah shook his head. “Zip. They’re good at covering their tracks. From what we do know, most of the people they meet don’t make it out to tell the story.”
“High stakes. love it.” Shayne said.
You don’t have to comment on every little thing he says, Damien thought bitterly. He ignored Shayne and asked his own question.
“So where is she?”
“She moves around a lot. Likes to hang out at casinos, it’s how she meets her connections. She goes to this one every Friday.” He moved aside the picture of the girl to show a photo of a lavish building with a sign reading The Myriad. Damien noticed an address underneath the image in Brooklyn.
“They’re infamous for secret gang activity, so you’ll need to stake it out beforehand. And go in with disguises. This is a high-class establishment, you need to look like you’ve never worked a day in your life.” Damien smiled. He liked dressing up nicely for disguises, it was one of his favorite parts of the job. His sile quickly fell when Shayne opened his mouth.
“Grossman, you never work if you love what you do.” Noah did hide the fact that he rolled his eyes at Shayne, which Damien appreciated.
“That’s what they all say. You’re getting nice clothes and false identities. You need to go in, get your info, and get out. Understand?”
Shayne started to say something, but one look from Noah quickly cut him off. Damien nodded affirmatively and caught Noah’s look of complete exasperation out of the corner of his eye.
“Okay, now take these and see what you can do before Friday.” Noah handed each of them a stack of folders two inches thick. “That’s when you have to go there. Good luck, agents.”
Damien quickly stood from his seat and nodded a goodbye, leaving Shayne and Noah alone in the room as he practically sprinted down the hallway until he felt he was a good distance away.
He leaned up against the wall, clutching the folders close to his chest. “Jesus Christ.” He sighed, shaking his head. He definitely needed to talk to Boze again.
Chapter 4: The Phone Call
“So this idiot tried to input three different codes to get one output which is the first thing they teach you isn’t possible in any computer class. I don’t understand how somebody could make a mistake like that, especially since this is national security we’re talking about.”
Damien was hardly listening to Boze, absent-mindedly staring out the window of his kitchen at the busy street below. The street lamps that lined the sidewalk glowed a faint orange, worn out from years and years of not having their bulbs replaced. He leaned his back against the counter, eyeing the familiar pedestrians who walked by his apartment around this time of night.
“Uh-huh.” He mumbled a response after a beat of silence. Boze huffed into the receiver.
“Are you even listening? You’re the one who called me , remember?”
Damien blinked, his vision coming back into focus. “Sorry.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
The events from earlier in the day came flooding back to him, and he couldn’t help but let out a heavy sigh. He shook his head, even though Boze couldn’t see him.
“ Oh ,” Boze said, understanding.”Yeah. I found some info on him if you’d like?”
“Sure,” Damien brushed off the question. “But now it’s time for my idiot story.”
Damien adjusted his posture, his voice growing in volume as he spoke. “I didn’t think a person could be so arrogant and obnoxious without saying anything at all. He looked like such a tool, and he was late for the briefing too.”
“No!” Boze gasped sarcastically. Damien rolled his eyes.
“Shut up! You know how annoying it is when somebody’s not on time.”
Boze only hummed in response, allowing Damien to continue.
“And he looked completely ridiculous when he did show up, he was covered in hickeys and apparently had no shame in showing them to the entire world.”
“That’s par for the course, I think,” Boze replied. “Apparently he comes in like that almost every day. He normally tries to cover it better, though.”
The muscles in Damien’s shoulders grew tight with frustration. “Jesus, what an asshole. How did he even get hired? How could he possibly be a good agent?”
Damien knew Mari well enough to know she could see through any facade easily. Even if Topp had acted perfectly normal and respectable during his interview and various screenings, she could have pointed out his flaws after only five minutes with him. He couldn’t imagine that Mari would consciously hire somebody who was such an arrogant piece of shit like Topp had proven himself to be. If he did have some redeeming qualities about him, they must be hidden deep down, because Damien couldn’t even name one off the top of his head.
“That’s where I come in,” Boze said. He could hear the smile in her voice, and her tone suggested she was preparing to read off notes she had taken on his new partner. Typical; she had notes on everybody. “First thing, though. Is he hot?”
Damien felt his entire brain shut off and turn back on again in a matter of milliseconds, completely taken aback by Boze’s question. The more he began to process it, the more confused he became.
“What? No! Why would- what?” He could hear Boze chuckle on the other line.
“I’m asking because every person I talked to said he was. And looking at his profile, he’s not too bad looking. Not my type, but not too bad.”
Damien blinked a few times in an attempt to focus his thoughts.
“Maybe he’d be more your type if you put him in a wig and a skirt.” He quipped. His agitation didn’t come across exactly as he planned it to, but Boze understood.
“Touché.” She said. “But I ask because you kind of have a thing for morons, and this dude really wouldn’t work for you.”
“I do not have a thing for morons!” Damien protested. This was a completely different subject than he had intended to talk about with Boze, especially since he hated talking about his love life at all. But Boze was always persistent.
“The guy from the bar? And the guy from the coffee shop? Or the guy from the club that you didn’t tell me about?”
“Okay, you made your- wait, how did you find out about that?” Damien had made it a point not to talk about his most recent with anybody, not even his best friend.
“I work for the CIA. You can’t hide anything from me.”
He rolled his eyes at that but didn’t say anything.
“Now, back to your idiot.” Boze continued. “He went through training in ‘59 with Grossman - I think you knew that already - mostly did undercover work until a year ago when they put him on a case in D.C. He just came back from it a few weeks ago. Everything you said about him checks out, all of his evaluations say the same thing: ‘reckless, but gets the job done.’ I can only imagine what that means. Apparently, he only works alone and had refused to work with a partner unless explicitly asked to, which sounds like you to be honest. Maybe you two would work out.”
“Okay, no, stop right there.” Damien shuddered at the thought. He understood that Boze was joking, but the reality of his romantic pursuits ate at the back of his thoughts like a hungry dog. He couldn’t think about a steady relationship now, as much as he wanted one. His work meant too much and took up all of his time. He couldn’t manage that before, and he certainly couldn’t do it now.
“Okay whatever, I’ll stop. But you honestly have nothing to worry about with Topp, I think. You’re the main in this case, what you say goes. If he’s bein’ a little bitch, kick ‘em to the curb.” Boze spoke confidently, Damien could almost see her smirk. “Mari would understand completely if you did.”
“I don’t want to have to do that, though. I want to have a normal partner that I can rely on to do their job without being a total knucklehead.” He pushed his hand into his pocket and leaned his head against the phone.
Boze sighed. “It’s going to be fine. Just don’t take any of his shit and everything will go smoothly.”
“You say that like it’s easy.” Damien smiled out of the side of his mouth.
“It is if you’re not a coward.” Damien rolled his eyes at the comment but hummed in approval. Boze was tough, but she knew what was best for him. He trusted her, and she trusted him. That was part of their agreement since meeting: trust each other unless there’s a reason not to. After nearly five years, they had yet to ruin that trust.
“To return to the clearly more pressing matter, why didn’t you tell me about this guy? Y’know the one who’s about six foot, black hair, about 190 pounds, lives in the East Side, works part-time as a bookstore manager-”
“Jesus Christ! I get it! You don’t have to stalk somebody to prove your point.” Damien couldn’t help but be unnerved at some of the details Boze was able to find. She had a tendency to do that, even without the research. Her mind worked in ways Damien couldn’t comprehend most of the time, but he was still surprised at the accuracy of her observational skills. When they went out together, she could look at somebody and point out most of their basic personality traits and background from just their body language. He briefly thought about what more she could tell him about Shayne if she met him face to face, which was her most accurate way of dissecting somebody’s persona.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about that.” Damien sighed. “I just… didn’t think anything was going to come of it and didn’t think it was worth mentioning.”
That was a bald-faced lie. Damien had hoped he would somehow get the courage to call the number that was taped to the side of his fridge, but weeks had gone by with him just staring at it, putting it off. The guy had been nice. He was funny, intelligent, he connected with Damien so easily. But something was holding him back from pursuing it, he just didn’t know what. He hated that part of himself because it seemed like it was always trying to stop him from being happy.
“Okay,” Boze said. Her voice was sweeter now, gentle, even. “You know if you need to talk to me you can. I’m always here to listen.”
“Thanks.” Damien smiled. There was a brief silence, not uncomfortable, but pleasant. Damien watched as a man ran across the street up the steps of a building with a bag of groceries pressed against his chest. He heard the faint sound of writing on the line, Boze was probably writing something down in her notebook.
“Why do we never talk about your love affairs?” Damien wondered aloud. The sound of writing stopped suddenly, but Boze didn’t speak.
“I’m sure you’ve been up to a few things lately, do I get to hear about that? Or do I have to follow somebody around for three days straight to find out if you’ve hooked up with them?” Damien smiled to himself, knowing Boze was flustered on the other side of the phone.
“As a matter of fact, I haven’t been ‘hooking up’ as you so eloquently put it. I’m focusing on work right now, I’m too busy for a relationship. And besides, I’ll know who the right person is when I meet them. I don’t need to go galavanting around the gay bars like you in hopes of finding somebody who won’t leave me the next morning.”
“Okay, low blow,” Damien said. “I don’t even do that often.”
“Well…” Boze’s voice grew higher as she drew out the word. “It’s not like we could date anybody openly anyways. You know about the memo.”
Damien closed his eyes and breathed heavily through his nose. He’d known about the memo since before he’d joined the agency, and it had definitely made him question his plan to join the CIA. But he knew he would be a good agent, and if they wanted to fire him just because he liked men, that was their loss.
“That thing is so goddamn stupid. I don’t understand why they think we’re not just people like them. And really, how often would me being gay effect my casework?” Boze didn’t respond immediately, and the silence hung in the air like smoke.
“I don’t know.” She finally said. “I don’t really want to talk about it, I just thought it might get you to leave the subject alone.” There was a tinge of sadness to her voice that tugged at Damien’s heart. She didn’t like getting sappy, but he knew that the prospect of losing her job was the only thing guaranteed to make Boze weep.
“Sorry, I’ll leave it alone.” Damien thought for a moment. “How about after I check out the heiress with Shayne, we go out for some drinks. I think I’ll need it after spending a prolonged amount of time with that moron.”
Boze was silent for a moment, and Damien worried that he had completely ruined the conversation, but then her voice came through the speaker. “Sounds perfect.”
“Great. I’ll see you tomorrow, might need some help sorting through the files.” He smiled.
“You definitely will.” She said. “Goodnight, Damien.”
Retroactively, Damien knew he should’ve taken up the agency's offer to use one of the spare cars. He had thought that the familiarity of his own car, the first thing he had ever bought with his money from working at the agency, would make for a smoother few hours of staring at the entrance of a seedy casino in Brooklyn. But the second he imagined Topp sitting in the passenger seat, he had to swallow the bile that rose into his throat.
Having a car in the city was more for show than anything else, but it was helpful in cases when he needed to go past the city lights into suburbia. It was a selfish buy, meant for him and only him, and sometimes the dates that ended up in the backseat. But the car was more than that to him. It kept him grounded, gave him something to picture when imaging his home.
But that was now ruined, as Topp had made himself far too comfortable in the passenger seat beside him.
He had complimented the car when he walked through the doors of the building to where Damien was parked, fifteen minutes late.
“A Skylark? Didn’t picture you as a car man, but that’s a gorgeous wagon.”Damien smiled politely in an attempt to hide his growing disgust with the man and hid his wince as Topp ungracefully threw his bag to the floor and fell into the seat next to him. The sudden scent of cigarette smoke filled his nostrils and he stifled a gag. This was going to be a long night.
“So, what did you find on this whole thing?” He asked as Damien shifted into gear and began to drive down the street, quickly stopped behind a wall of traffic.
“The whole file is riddled with information,” Damien spoke as calmly as he could, his eyes glued to the road. “The basics of what I found were that it’s an Eastern European gang based in the city, but they have a lot of higher contacts across the pond. They hate the U.S. for some reason and want to do something awful to it. No idea what that means, but I don’t think it’s far fetched to assume the worst.”
“Hmm.” Topp hummed. The traffic ahead of him began to rush forward as the light turned green, and Damien turned left down a road that was much less crowded than the main stretch they had been on previously. The directions taped to his dashboard were exact, Whittle had made sure of that.
“Find anything interesting in yours?” Damien dared to ask. A quick glance out of the corner of his eye showed Topp looking out the window at the passing buildings nonchalantly. He barely acknowledged Damien’s question but began talking at a quicker pace than anticipated.
“The Myriad is a high-class casino with almost nothing to its name. It’s attended infrequently by anyone significant, but the regulars become significant after they make a few visits. The connections there are insane. They have reach to anybody from Wall Street to Hollywood, and ninety percent of the city hasn’t heard of it before.” Topp’s tone was surprisingly intelligent, smooth and calm. “Sui has been seen there three times a week for almost two months now, and that leads us to believe that she’s got somebody on the inside working for her or that’s connected to the gang.”
“Her connections start with the rapid amount of imports from her dad’s business into the casino. There’s no specificity to what’s in the shipments, but they can’t be anything good. Customs has been paid off more than a few times to turn a blind eye to what’s in the boxes.”
“Damn.” Was the only response Damien could muster. Topp had clearly found a lot more about the actual case than he had, and he would be lying if there wasn’t a small part of him that was bitter about that. He turned onto the exit for the highway towards the Brooklyn Bridge.
Topp didn’t say anything in response, just continued to stare out the window without a second thought to Damien. He didn’t mind the silence one bit, but he was surprised considering how talkative Topp had been during the briefing a few days ago.
Now, Damien would’ve given anything for that silence again. They had arrived at the Myriad within the half-hour, after Damien took a few wrong turns that he desperately tried not to let Topp take notice of. They were parked in an alleyway across the street from the casino, a notebook sitting in Damien’s lap with sparse notes about the people they had seen walk in.
After talking with Whittle, Damien agreed to spend less than half of their allotted stakeout time to examine the front of the building, and the remaining parked out back so they could see more of the behind-the-scenes. Whittle had tapped into a camera positioned in a nearby building, so she could keep an eye on anything happening on either entrance.
Damien didn’t find stakeouts particularly thrilling, but he normally did his best to focus on his work for the amount of time necessary. That was difficult now, with Topp’s constant blabbering pulling him away from observing the building every few seconds.
“How long you been doing this?” He asked. He sat low in the seat, looking like he wanted to put his feet up on the dashboard. Damien made a silent promise to himself to take Mari up on her suggestion of shooting him if he made that mistake.
“Five years.” Damien replied bluntly. He hated the coldness of his voice, but when it came to Topp, he wasn’t surprised by how easily the ice coated his words.
“What made you get into it?” Topp sounded bored, like he was forcing the conversation. Damien would’ve preferred if he just sat there in silence staring out into space..
Damien considered his words, laying the pen in his hand on top of the notebook. “Liked the idea of being a cop, seemed like it wouldn’t be that entertaining. I like politics, so this seemed perfect to eighteen-year-old me.” His tone was flat, every word an attempt to get Topp off his back. He had no idea why he was asking these questions now when they had the entire half an hour car ride full of silence. So much about Topp didn’t make sense to Damien, but he couldn’t begin to unpack that now.
“You seem like the type to be a cop,” Topp said. Damien turned to him quizzically, and his partner continued. “You would fit right in giving people tickets for overstaying their parking meter or jaywalking. You’d wear that badge like a medal of honor when you walked down the street.” Topp paused. “But that’s not the life for you.”
Damien’s eyebrows furrowed. “And what does that mean?”
Shayne let the corner of his mouth draw back into a smirk. Damien wanted to punch it off his face.
“You like the unpredictability of this job. You would get too bored of menial tasks that a beat cop does, you need some more danger in your life. You get a thrill when your life is on the line or when a gun’s at your head. You like the adrenaline that runs through your body when you find a drug cartel’s safe house. You’re a sucker for it all, that’s why you do this. That’s why anybody does it.”
Damien couldn’t help his mouth falling open in shock. He couldn’t muster the words, but all he could think was what the fuck? Who did this guy think he was?
He blinked rapidly, feeling a growing feeling of anger boil in his stomach. “Look, I get that you’re a spy, but you don’t need to analyze me like I’m a criminal. You can find stuff out without making it into a huge deal.”
Topp shrugged, his smirk growing wider. “Guess that means I got something right.”
Damien didn’t hide his eye roll, checking his watch and turning on his car to pull it towards the back of the casino. He hated to admit that Topp was partially right, he would’ve lost his mind as an ordinary cop. He hated the paperwork that came along with his job as it was, and that paperwork was somewhat interesting. If he had to write a report for every parking ticket he wrote as a cop, he would’ve thrown the typewriter through a window.
Damien parked the car in the back lot of the casino near a set of cars that looked too nice to be employees’ in an attempt to blend into the lot inconspicuously. The back entrance had a lot more traffic than the front at this time of day, with people dressed in waiter’s uniforms pushing through the doors to prepare for the opening. He took note on a few of the things he noticed: a group of tall men in nicer uniforms talking as they walked in, one punching in a code on a panel next to the door; the signs warning of penalties for trespassing or loitering; the dumpster sitting on the corner of the building covered in seagulls pecking at morsels of trash.
Damien noticed Topp moving in his seat, sitting up to get a better view of the back.
“So…” Topp said. “Got any hobbies?”
Damien closed his eyes and breathed in deeply through his nose before turning to face Topp, his jaw set tightly.
“Is it really necessary to ask all these questions?” His voice was tight, his shoulders tense from holding in the urge to scream at the man.
Topp raised his eyebrows slightly and pursed his lips. “We’re partners on this case whether you want it or not. We should at least try to get along.”
Damien took a second to make sure he’d heard him right, and when he was sure, he got even more agitated.
“We don’t have to get along.” Shayne’s eyes widened, shocked. “We’re working together, that’s all this is. I understand you want to make conversation, but personal questions will not be the way you get me to be your friend.” The harshness of his words almost made Damien wince, but he held steady as he stared at Topp. “They’re also distracting. So unless your questions are about the case, don’t ask them.”
Shayne’s eyes narrowed, his mouth quickly turning to a frown. He scoffed quietly and broke eye contact with Damien, staring ahead at the brick building in front of them.
“Jesus, I thought you’d be nicer, from everything Whittle said. Guess she was wrong.”
The coldness in his voice was enough to make Damien’s stomach drop. He almost could’ve apologized, but he instead continued to take notes in the increasingly bitter silence between them.
The next hour and a half had no significant activity, the only difference being that as the light began to fade from the sky, more employees began to fill up the parking lot with their cars. Whittle had told them to return to the agency before seven, and that time was fast approaching.
Topp started to fidget in his seat, which Damien tried his best to ignore, but when Topp reached into his bag and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, Damien nearly got whiplash from how fast he turned to face him.
He casually removed a cigarette from the package, putting it in his mouth. He reached into his pocket, presumably for his lighter, but Damien’s words stopped him.
“Do not smoke in my car.”
Topp rolled his eyes and met Damien’s stare, unphased. “I have an addiction, Haas. I need to address it somehow.” He spoke out of the corner of his mouth, the cigarette held between his teeth.
Damien narrowed his eyes. “Then you can address it on the street corner, because you’re not doing it in my goddamn car.”
Topp huffed and shook his head, opening the car door and stepping out into the cool evening air. He leaned against the door, his back to Damien, taking his time smoking the cigarette. Damien minded the fact that he was leaning on his car, but at least he had some peace and quiet now.
A person walking up to the back entrance caught Damien’s eye. He was sloppily dressed in a waiter’s uniform, a wrinkled green shirt that didn’t fit him well tucked into a pair of black pants that looked far too big on him. His hair was dark and cut close to his head, a scraggly beard along his jaw. He looked around anxiously, and Damien caught sight of his eyes: wide and light, but surprisingly sinister. His eyes landed on Damien’s car and he stopped dead in his tracks. Damien could see the hint of a smile flash across his face before he quickly turned around and pressed in the code for the door, pushing his way into the building without another glance back.
Damien scrambled to take note of his appearance in the notebook, underlining the word suspicious underneath the man’s description. The passenger door opened, and the stench of cigarettes quickly filled the car. Jesus, he needed to get an air freshener.
“Did you see that guy?” Topp asked, his voice returned to its usual energy.
“Yup,” Damien said. “Just got his description down. It wasn’t just me who thought he was sketchy, right?”
Topp shook his head. “No, looks totally sketchy. Gotta keep an eye out for him while we’re in there.”
Damien nodded in agreement, noticing the time on his watch as he put the notebook down. 6:38.
“Shit.” He said. “We’re late.” He quickly turned the car on and shifted into gear, pulling out of the parking lot as fast as he could without drawing too much attention to them. As he pulled onto the street headed towards the bridge, he quickly noticed the miles of traffic ahead of them.
“Fuck.” He whispered to himself. “Whittle’s gonna kill us.” Topp let out a quiet chuckle.
“Something funny?” He asked him, looking at Topp. He shook his head, a wide smile plastered on his face.
“You worry so much about what the higher-ups think. It’s kind of funny. As long as we get to the casino and get the information we need, there’s no harm in being a little fashionably late.”
Damien hated that he was sort of comforted by Topp’s words. The sounds of honking car horns grew louder as he drove into the pile of traffic, sighing to himself. This was going to be a long ride back.
this chapter came pretty quick but that's bc im sick lol. hopefully the next one will be out soon, but in the meantime i hope you enjoyed!