Just Enough Power - 13
The Koreans made their coffee strong and drank it black. It was pretty good roast, too. Lonnigan wondered how much of that was a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from the old country. One evening, just out of curiosity, she'd asked the kitchen staff for a pot of tea. They all scowled at her and said there wasn't any. She hadn't pressed it, but if a pantry that well-stocked had a gaping hole in its inventory, it was for a reason.
Everything has a reason, Simon used to say. What people did or said, how they did it or said it, or if they didn't do or say what they should have... all of these things have meaning. If you will only pay attention and think about what you've seen, they can let you read a man's mind, know him better than he knows himself. Not too long ago, Simon had enjoyed such a reputation as a mind reader that some of the old negotiating partners would refuse to do business with him in the room.
Lonnigan sipped her strong, black coffee and thought how far she was from Simon and his standards. She still didn't know what Kim was planning. He was as hard to read as anyone she'd ever met. There was so much she needed to know, and yet -
The door opened and she stood, setting her cup and saucer down on the side table as she did so. Wig and another man stepped out of Kim's office into the hallway. After a confused moment, she recognized the second man as Adams. His appearance had improved so much, he looked almost normal. He was tanned, bald-headed and clean shaven. Moreover, he looked merely thin rather than gaunt, and he moved without the twitchiness that she'd come to associate with high-powered Talents.
But it was him, all the same.
Lonnigan quashed the impulse to put a hand on her piece. She'd turned in the Glock when the job was finished; even if she'd been wearing a holster, it would have been empty. She had a pocket knife, but it was of the multi-tool variety, not the slit-that-fucker's-throat variety.
"Stand down, Lonnigan." said Wig. He'd taken a step forward, not exactly putting himself between her and Adams, but close. "Just don't say anything, OK? Don't say anything at all."
"What happened to you, Adams?" she said, ignoring him, "Finally decide to pop for the total makeover, you skeleton-faced fuck?"
To her astonishment, Adams' expression didn't change much. One eyebrow went up and a corner of his mouth curved into what was almost a smile. She felt as though he were trying to sort out how to respond, with his face put on autopilot in the meantime. He had the sanguine, dreamy quality of... of...
"Wig." Lonnigan's eyes never left Adams. "Is he drugged?"
A short, sharp sigh made Wig's entire frame shake. "Of course he's drugged. The boss needs him in good shape for the big job, but after what he did to you - or tried to do - there was no alternative. It was clear he was on the verge of collapse."
"So, he was sedated for a week, put on an intravenous drip that pumped fifteen thousand calories a day into him and given some sessions on a tanning bed. The drugs he's on now keep him calm and his Talent suppressed. He sleeps about twenty hours a day, doing nothing but absorbing calories and letting the electrostim build up his muscle mass." Wig turned to look at him, no small sense of disgust in the gesture. "He's like a grenade launcher or a plasma gun. A specialty weapon that you take special care of in-between uses."
"I resent that, Wig." Adams said, softly.
Lonnigan stared at him. He sounded so different from the mocking, arrogant tone she'd heard so often, both as a voice and as thoughts implanted directly in her mind. It was hard to believe this was the same man.
"Ah, Lonnigan. How... nice to see you again." Adams' eyes traveled down her body and up again, settling on her breasts.
Or perhaps not so hard to believe after all. Lonnigan ignored him and turned to Wig.
"So, was Mr. Kim pleased with my report?"
Wig smiled. "Of course he was. The stuff you brought back is like gold. Meng-Shiu Tong has already put out a reward for whoever knocked over his facility. This is precisely the kind of thing Mr. Kim hoped would happen."
"That's great, Wig! With that in mind, can I go in to see him? I want to ask him something."
"Ah." Wig's face fell. "Well, actually... no. You can't go in to see him. Look, Lonnigan, he knows you want the inhibitor collar off. Frankly, if it was up to me, I'd say go ahead, but..."
Lonnigan crossed her arms. "But what?"
Before Wig could respond, Adams said, "He doesn't trust you, Lonnigan. Despite how well you've behaved yourself, you don't trust him, and he can sense it. You still act like an employee, not part of the team. No loyalty. It's all about mutual trust, my dear." His voice was dreamy, his smile angelic. "No, he doesn't trust you, and neither do I. Right from the start, Lonnigan, there's been an angle you've been working. You can't fool me, I can tell. I don't know what it is, but -"
"Alright, that's enough!" Wig grabbed Adams' arm and made to shove him along the hallway. Adams allowed himself to be directed, then pulled his arm away in a flash of the old attitude. He turned back to Lonnigan.
"But even though your collar stays on, don't think your efforts are unrecognized." From his pocket, he pulled a small, brown object and lobbed it to Lonnigan. She caught it easily and looked at it.
It was a doggie biscuit.
"You're a good girl, Lonnigan," said Adams, using the high-pitched cooing one would use with a puppy being housebroken. "Who's a good girl? You are! Good girl!" He ignored Wig's attempts to silence him; his voice and laughter trailed off as he was frog-marched away.
In the silence of the hallway, Lonnigan's fingers slowly closed over the biscuit. Gently, deliberately, she put the biscuit into her pocket.
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Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010