“He worked for a branch of government security so secret sometimes even he wasn’t sure where it fit into the chain, and he’d been an agent for thirteen years. Internally, they were known as Wolf Pack, though an agent usually worked in the field as a Lone Wolf, making contact with local enforcement agencies as directed. On each mission, an agent was tagged with a name from the NATO alphabet combined with the mission location.
This time, he was Hotel Cairo. It sounded exotic, but he was actually stuck in Cairo, Illinois, a once-thriving town that now was underpopulated, undereducated, and underserviced. Worse, he had a partner, November Cairo, and he preferred working alone. At least she wasn’t inclined to chatter, but she had a way of leveling a stare at him that made him feel almost like he didn’t have more than a decade of experience or that he wasn’t a few years older than she was.
For three days, they’d had to stretch the bounds of credibility by pretending to be tourists in a place where he felt sure few vacationers came. It had been her idea to bring a couple of digital cameras along and give one to him.
‘Photographers are usually ecstatic over places most people wouldn’t spit on,’ she said drily on their first day out. ‘A camera gives you a good reason to size up things, stare at them.’
‘Yeah, right, I know that,’ he’d answered. ‘Sometimes a camera also catches something the human eye doesn’t register.’
‘Maybe not yours,’ she said.
That had pretty much set the tone from the outset, and it hadn’t gotten better. Now they were stuck at midnight watching a road that no one traveled, waiting for anything that looked suspicious. They’d seen nothing, not even an appearance by a deer or raccoon.
‘You know,’ November said, breaking a near two-hour silence, ‘there’s almost zero possibility of the motorcade coming through here anytime in the next three days.’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ he said, staring through the windshield at nothing. ‘It’s the assignment.’
‘How long has it been since you’ve done anything…’ she trailed off. When he remained silent, she finally continued, ‘…that you considered really relevant? Do you ever think we’re just some lawmaker’s pet project with no real mission or bearing on national security? Or even an experiment in how long someone who thinks they’re relevant will continue to do a job with no real purpose or function?’
‘Nope,’ he said. He’d liked her better when she was quiet.
‘What’s your name? Where do you come from? Who are you?’
‘Maybe this is an experiment, and they want to see how long I can resist your questions. Hotel Cairo, Wolf Pack, United States of America.’
He heard the sound that meant she was blowing her bangs out of her eyes, then she said, ‘I’m easy.’
He was sure she couldn’t see his perplexed expression as he turned his head toward her. Was this some kind of seduction?
‘That’s my name. EZ, the letters. Not easy, the word. And before you ask, the initials don’t stand for anything. My parents named me EZ because my mother was in labor about ten minutes before I made a graceful and nearly pain-free entrance into the world.’
‘I guess they didn’t consider the ramifications the name might have on a teenage girl?’
‘I survived,’ she said. ‘I grew up in South Carolina, graduated from a military academy then Boston College. Did some time in the Bureau and was moved to Wolf Pack.’
He was quiet a few minutes and finally said, ‘Code.’
‘No, it’s all true–’
‘It’s my name. Code. Old family surname that my parents made my first name.’
‘I guess they didn’t consider the ramifications the name might have on a future special agent of the United States of America?’
‘I’ve survived so far,’ he said.
Even in the dark, he was sure her smile mirrored his.”
I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.
Patrick named his characters in honor of donors to my Saving Pets fundraiser. Thank you!