“It was a lovely funeral,” Victoria said pouring the perfectly brewed Assam into her favourite china teacups. “Very simple and to the point. Extremely tasteful.” She paused. “It’s also the only funeral I’ve ever attended in which the entire front row knew that the deceased wasn’t actually dead.”
M gave Victoria a look over her teacup. “They didn’t play God Save the Queen, did they?”
“Oh, no,” Victoria said shaking her head, her diamond earrings flashing in the Vermont winter sun. “They played a Bach cello suite, actually.” She eyed M. “Your request?”
M sipped her tea, appreciating the familiar taste. “I despise hymns.” She pinned Victoria with a look. “Ivan didn’t go, did he?”
“Oh, no,” Victoria said chuckling. “He wanted to, naturally. He always liked you, you know. He likes people who aren’t afraid to pull a gun on him.”
“And then pull the trigger?” M asked. “Dare I ask what he’s up to today?”
Victoria waved a hand. “Something nefarious and brilliant that will require me to come in and sort out once he’s done.”
M barely managed to refrain from rolling her eyes, but couldn’t stop the smile from appearing. “Are you truly happy here? Being retired?”
“Retired isn’t dead, dear,” Victoria said after taking a sip of tea. “Which, I’d like to point out, is the other alternative you managed to dodge.”
“Barely,” M said under her breath and feeling every single stitch in her side and knowing she’d be sore when she stood up. “I’m…” She looked down into her teacup.
“Not sure what to do?” Victoria offered. “Afraid that your days are going to be boring and dull and that you’re destined to be one of those cranky old women inside a bingo parlour?”
“I wasn’t going to go that far,” M said, “but yes. I can’t stand idleness, V. You know that.”
“Oh, I know,” Victoria said laughing. “I always believed the reason we disobeyed orders on that job in Monaco was because you couldn’t stand waiting around any longer.”
“Well, what good was waiting going to do?” M said. “We had the fellow dead to rights. It only made sense for us to make the call.”
“Not to mention that it showed all those men that we weren’t to be ignored?” Victoria asked offering M a homemade Madeleine.
“That was simple a perk,” M said not hiding her smirk. She took a bite of the Madeleine and had to take a moment to savour the buttery almond flavour. “Anyway, I honestly don’t know what to do with myself.”
Victoria studied her friend of far too many years to count and then set down her tea. “Dear, I have a feeling that you won’t be idle for long. You know too much. People will come calling. It will soon be a matter of to whom you open the door.”
M sat up straight, ignoring the flare of discomfort from her side and placed her teacup in her saucer with a decided clink. “What are you getting at, V?”
“How much do you trust me?” Victoria asked.
“As far as I can throw you,” M said. “Which at the moment, isn’t far at all.”
Victoria smiled and M fought the urge to smile back at her old partner. “What do you know about Minsk?”
“It’s bloody cold this time of year, why?” M asked doing her level best to ignore the flutter of anticipation in her mid-section.
“What do you remember about the 1968 job?” Victoria asked.
“How much would you like me to remember?” M replied, the flutter becoming more excited.
“As much as you can,” Victoria said with a smile. “As much as you can.”
M’s lips twitched and she almost smiled. “V, is this an employment opportunity?”
“Yes, dear, it is,” Victoria said lifting the teapot. “More tea?”