Hermosa Beach Heartache
Margo sat alone on the pier at dusk.
The oranges and reds in the western sky burned down to embers, and then to deep purple.
She watched couples strolling along the beach, hands linked, heads inclined toward each other. Occasional laughter filtered up: kids making out or getting high under the pier.
The salt air kept her alert despite her lack of sleep. Since Abrams had called yesterday, she’d been unable to keep her mind from spinning out the possible scenarios.
She fought back another wave of nausea.
Either Dan was still alive, and she had room to negotiate with Abrams, or they’d already turned him into an artificial reef somewhere off Santa Barbara. Either way, she’d be next if she didn’t stay focused and nimble.
And she had to stay alive.
At least until the baby was born.
She was wearing the wig Abrams – or one of his boys – left in her mailbox. A fiery red mop. I guess they don’t want me flying under the radar for this job, she thought.
Margo crossed her legs and hugged herself. Cold tonight, she thought.
At the entrance to the pier, she saw a man in a dark blue suit get out of a car and start walking toward her.
OK, she thought, here it comes. If it looks in any way like this is going south, what’s your plan B? C’mon Margo, think! Abrams hadn’t called back until two hours ago to tell her where to go. She’d had no time to plan an escape or a counterattack. Again, Abrams being his usual thorough self.
The red pumps were killing her feet. She’d always hated assignments where she needed to dress like this. Abrams knew that, the asshole. He knew he could neutralize much of her physical training with the shoes, the tight gold dress, and a wig that could obstruct her vision. Margo knew only too well that it was just in the movies a woman kicked any serious ass in a pair of high heels. God, she needed to puke.
The man continued slowly up the pier. He stopped directly in front of her.
She knew the voice. “So that’s what you look like, Abrams. Not bad. I’ve always envisioned you as more bureaucratic. Pear-shaped, male pattern baldness and everything. So, what brings you out from under your rock?”
“I’m happy to disappoint you on my looks. Given the years we’ve worked together, I wish this could be all kumbaya and handholding, but we’ve got a problem you and I.”
Margo raised an eyebrow. “Do tell.” She was trying her best to appear nonchalant.
Abrams sat down next to her. “Oh, I will tell. Dan told us you were planning to run. He told us all about the connubial bliss after getting hitched in Rome. And now you want out? You look hurt your hubby sold you out.”
“Under torture, I’m sure. C’mon Abrams. Someone with your years in the field appreciates the unreliability of that information. What did you do? Pound a nail into his balls?”
“My methods are none of your concern. Not at this point, anyway.”
Margo shivered as adrenaline spilled into her bloodstream.
“No,” Abrams continued, “I think you still have a useful role to play in this little drama.”
“Why am I dressed like this?” Margo was getting cold now.
“I need you to go across the street to the Del Ray Hotel. Get a little information from someone. The guy’s got a thing for redheads. Don’t worry, we’ll put a transponder in your cell phone; we’ll hear everything.”
“Gee, thanks. That makes me feel so much better. By the way, where is Dan, anyway?”
“Alive and well, I assure you. And he still has his balls.” Abrams handed her a manila folder. “Finish this, and you two can go frolic in suburbia with impunity. We’ll put you in the program and you’ll be baking cookies for the PTA before you know it. You two are pathetic.”
It was full dark now. Margo was outwardly calm, but inside she was scrambling to understand the game and what her next move should be. At this point, she had no choice but to go to the Del Ray. After that, she’d have to improvise. As usual. And she had to find Dan.
“Who’s the mark?”
“He’ll be at the bar. Omar Sharif – looking motherfucker. From what Dan tells me, you’re quite the little monkey between the sheets. Ought to be no problem for you to chat this guy up, get him up to his room and, well, you know what to do.”
“I’m not killing him. Fuck off.” Margo stood up to leave.
“Sit. The.Fuck. Down,” Abrams said. “You will kill him or you and Dan are both dead. Not to mention your little bundle of joy.”
Margo felt her stomach tighten and lurch.
Abrams laughed. “Don’t look so shocked. Dan told me. Good thing you still got your figure or you’d be useless to me on this one. You don’t kill this guy and get me my information from his hard drive? No kiddies, no cookies, no little league. Got it?”
Margo stood up and looked down at him. Another wave of nausea caught her and she puked all over him.
“Ah, that feels better,” she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Fuck you, Margo. Brush your teeth before you kiss that guy. After a few months of smelling baby puke, you’ll be begging me to reinstate you in the field. Look at this fucking mess.”
Margo straightened her wig and started across the street. She turned and said, “Hey, what about the transponder?”
“Just do your job.”
In the lobby bathroom of the Del Ray Hotel, Margo stared at herself in the mirror, her hands pressed low on her stomach.
I’ll protect you.
I’ll find your father.
I will make this happen.
Just sleep, little one.
This is not going to hurt at all, baby.
I wrote this story today in response to another Chuck Wendig’s terrible minds flash challenge . The challenge was to write a story (1,000 word limit) off of five random words chosen by an online prompt generator. The five words were: wig-dusk-figure-cell phone-flirt. Hope you enjoy the story. I like Margo – she’s a can do gal.