Copyright: The characters are mine though they may resemble other fictional characters physically. The story is mine and I hold the copyright to it.
Editing Credits:The editing and proof reading credits go to my good Xenite pal Deniquin.
Violence Disclaimer: This Uber story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath.
Adult Language: This Uber story contains some foul language to assist in the story telling and its plausibility. If you are offended please do not continue.
Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under the age of 18 or this is a prohibited form of literature in your life please do not continue.
Adult Uber Alternative Story
Comments, Feedback: Please feed the bard: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyrighted 2002 by A. Tietz (Birdee)
Summary: A CIA assassin is having reoccurring dreams of a beautiful golden haired woman. She gets a big surprise when one of her marked victims resembles her dreams and she finds it hard to kill the person. The story follows what this assassin does when faced with her dreams possibly becoming a reality and challenging her past, present and future. This story is unfinished. Chapter One is 14 pages.
THE REALITY IN DREAMS
By A. Tietz
DREAMS OF MYSTERY
Her eyes flew open, her heart was racing, her mouth was dry, and her breath came in a gasp. The dream had ended, again. And still she did not know the face of the unknown woman. NOOO! No, shit! Why now!!? She punched her pillow so hard it almost burst. That was the closest she had ever gotten. She had never been that near before. She could smell her hair, the salt air carried on the wind coming up the cliff from the sea below. She was walking up behind her, that golden haired woman of a thousand dreams. The woman was standing on the seaside bluff looking out upon a calm sea at dusk. She could sense that the woman knew she was there. Trace could feel the womanís excitement. She knew that this woman was about to turn around and throw welcoming arms around her, and then the dream was gone.
So many times she had dreamed of this person. Such a mystery were these dreams. What did they mean? When had they started? Sometimes Trace believed she had always dreamed of this woman/girl. At first, when she was young, she didnít remember any vision of the dreams, it was just a feeling, a longing, a yearning, and yet a comfort when she awoke. But she always knew she had dreamed, it was at the edge of her mind. Still try as she might, the images would not come.
The night from hell had begun with the first remembered dream of the girl. Too far away to see her clearly, the girl was young, but not a child. Older than Trace, yet not, because here in this dream, Trace was older. The girl sat on a log, in the middle of some forest or jungle. She seemed to be bent to a task, perhaps holding something in her lap. The feeling had been there, a warmth.
Then suddenly Trace had awakened. Awakened to her horror, awakened with fright. She didnít know why she was frightened. She had only just dreamed of a girl. But something was wrong. Something in the house was wrong, she could feel it. She always had a sixth sense; she could feel something was wrong before seeing the cause. It had been the worst night of her young life. In fact, life was never the same after that horror filled cruel night of reality. She had rolled up into a ball and cried until there were no tears left, no feeling but cold burning rage and determination for justice for the crimes that had ruined life. It was then the image of the girl had come to her. She could not see the face, but she was comforted by the warmth of a memory unknown. It was the only comfort that could penetrate the devastation in her soul. She was twelve then, twelve years old and suddenly alone, alone because of a crime. That was so long ago.
And tonight, sleeping in some hotel in Paris, after the routine of lessening the world of a few more worthless excuses for human beings, she had dreamed of the golden haired girl, now appearing vaguely but as a woman. She had needed to dream of the woman tonight. Trace reluctantly admitted that. Maybe because of the little children her task had left behind. The little girl and her brother who had no parents now thanks to Trace. Why did men and women make families when they were so busy being scum?
Crab, that bastard. Harry Fucking Crabtree, she had worked for him long and hard enough to earn the right to refuse a kill. He knew she seldom did families. He knew she would not kill children anymore AT ALL! But he had sent her the profile of this hit anyway. Pleading his case, carefully omitting the part about their having kids. And they were on holiday. The man and his wife were too guarded in the states for a clean kill. The biological warfare terrorist, masquerading as a harmless, nerd faced biochemist. Trace had not had time to do much research. She almost refused, but Crab had convinced her the man and his wife were alone in the rented villa. Yeah, she thought with rage, sure Crab, alone. Now it was the children that were alone, with no parents. She wouldnít make this mistake again. Crab was too much of an S.O.B. Know more quick kills. No more trusting research handed too her. The bastard, she was so angry.
Fuck him. He knew better than to fuck with her. Maybe he had forgotten how scared he was of Trace. Maybe he needed reminding that she loathed filth like him. Legalized murder coordinators like him were the reason she had become what she was. A little graphic imagery might help, perhaps a bloody souvenir from this last kill. Letís let him dispose of the manís severed hand and the womanís ear with earring in tact, which he or his wife would discover when reaching for the milk from the fridge while reading the morning paper. No more hurried jobs, NO MORE FAMILIES! Now, maybe if she really tried she could get back to her dream. She desperately wanted to see that face and feel something other than loathing.
Trace returned to her stark house that had little warmth. She carefully put the keys on the soft pouch on the kitchen counter. She had been gone for a week. She hadnít turn on the lights yet. The answering machine light wasnít blinking, there were no messages. There hardly ever were. Except the gardener every so often. She liked the man, despite herself. But she was careful, no real emotion, she could kill him if necessary, even though he brought her flowers from the garden he carefully tended with the rest of her property. No flowers today, it was a house void of character, no friendly photos on the walls, no nick-knacks, it was sparse of decoration but not empty. A picture of the Northern California Rocky Coast was one of only three large framed photograph/paintings hanging in the house. One photo was a huge picture of a painting by a Hawaiian artist who had captured two humpback whales breeching over the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. It hung in her bedroom. The size of the piece was necessary to conceal false wall panels where her gun arsenal was kept. Instead of hanging from the wall itself it was suspended from the ceiling close to the wall. It was rigged to be sensitive to movement. If it had been move Trace would know.
She was always especially cautious when returning home from an extended absence. She checked, the alarm had not been tripped, but any real pro could get by that. She knew she was fine, no one was there; she could feel the vacancy of the place so she continued without gun drawn. But she slowly checked each room. Walking from the stainless steel cold kitchen into the mostly white living room where she frequently sat at her computer carefully concealed in the wall. The empty decoy, loaded with home and garden software data, was near the sliding glass door. She passed by the comfortable yet seldom used sofa and kept moving silently from room to room, with purpose, noticing every thing. It was all as she had left it. She would check the video feed of house surveillance and the motion sensors later. Satisfied, she opened the cold fridge and got a Pepsi, her only addiction. Time to get the travel washed off. Trace began disrobing. After discarding her royal blue blazer, she un-strapped her 44 Mark VII Magnum ebony non-glossy handgun from around her shoulder. She laid it under the comfortable double bed that was draped with a blue down feather comforter. She was more than ready for her shower as she tossed her cream colored blouse into the white wicker hamper. The last item removed was the small back up semi-automatic lightweight piece from her ankle. It too was black without any gloss. Someone in her profession couldnít afford anything shiny or flashy. She walked into the bathroom and laid the piece on the silver metal shelf stand that held her favorite soft green towel blanket. It just felt more comfortable with a piece at arms length. Traceís house was simple but with a few comforts. She had always liked blue and green. She stepped onto the soft green bath rug, leaned into the shower stall and started some warm water. Time to get the soot of travel off her body; she would workout tomorrow morning.
As soon as she landed she had gotten a request on her cell phone to come into the office for a meeting. She wouldnít go, Crab knew it. But she would show at an arranged meeting place, and he could come or not, his decision. Heíd come, he needed her particular talent.
She hadnít had Vietnamese food for a while. Andy Nguyenís had good food and lots of atmosphere. Trace could spot some of the Asian gang members and their thugs, even in this dark, smoke filled setting. She had let Crab sit alone for quite some time. She could see he was pissed and about to leave when she said, "I wouldnít make any sudden moves if I were you." He froze. He couldnít see her, and she knew he was still getting the message, she wasnít one of his brown nosed dogs and she did bite back. Good she was making him sweat a little.
She came into view as a waiter. Her raven dark hair, cropped rather short, went well toward helping her appear as a male waiter. She had masked her penetrating blue eyes with brown contacts. Her 5í 11íí frame was a little tall for an Asian man perhaps but she slouched well. The rest of the disguise was perfect; Trace was good at that, part of the job, part of survival. She bowed.
He awkwardly cleared his throat, " Thanks for the um GREAT service. Next time Iíll try not to be as demanding a customer."
Trace silently wondered if it was his wife who found those little presents this morning. Nothing like finding bloody body parts in the fridge instead of milk and eggs to get the message across. She was in control enough to know his patterns. She got in and out without his watchdog making a peep. He knew those could have been his wifeís body parts instead of the parents of those now orphaned children.
With a tight smile she said in a clearly acid voice, "Well you know, consideration and respect is usually the best way to keep everyone friendly. Itís also a good example for the kids. Ah but then you probably donít have any kids, do you SIR?"
Trace wanted to be sure her message was "NO MORE FAMILIES" instead of an overt threat to Crab himself. She was pissed but not stupid. He could order her hit as well, so she was walking a thin line a lot of agents dare not walk. But she was here, and she ready for another assignment. She knew Crab, killing his dog would have been too far. Playing it this way gained a little of his respect. He knew she wasnít just some ass kissing want-a-be, and she was a hell of an assassin, just a little picky.
She could see the perspiration on his lip. Some of it she knew she was the cause of, yet most of it was likely fear. She hadnít been sure, but his nervousness confirmed it, he had a connection here or some history that was not too steady. Thatís why she chose it. She needed to know more of his history. He had been in the Viet Nam War. She was willing to bet he had used the war to make a name for himself. She was still doing research on this CIA murder coordinator. He rose and said with a sarcastic tone in his voice, "Friendly," then he bowed and made sure she saw the tip, then he left. His message was clear; as long as it was convenient he would be friendly. She grimaced but was satisfied that he at least would be less pushy to avoid surprise presents or worse. She took the paper under the tip and left as well. All it said was, Mexico 2 weeks. Good she could use the sun.
Mexico, it had been in Mexico, Trace was remembering her first dream of the womanís face. She was sketching that face now. Sitting in her favorite place, at her drawing table in her den, the only room in the house with much color or character. The drawing table was in front of a large window looking out through the covered patio into the garden where the gardener kept the flowers alive and bright. Unlike the starkness of the rest of the house, this room had soft pastel yellow walls. There were a few watercolors on the walls, bright colored paints of the garden flowers washed out nicely with watercolor technique. A few paintings were scattered about, still drying. Oil took so long and yet never truly dried.
In Mexico it had been a routine Drug Lord slaying. That task done, she had roamed the countryside a little. She liked taking pictures, playing the tourist. Those children, in that school, all dressed in white, with dusty faces. They each got a bowl of beans and a tortilla for lunch. They were not well nourished by any means, but there were no bloated-starving bellies. There was a toe-headed blonde little girl among the dark haired children. She had hazel eyes and such a sweet face. Out there in the field she was playing kick ball for all she was worth, so free, so innocent, so pure. Had Trace ever been like that?
That night the dream had come. She had had a glass of wine and sat on the balcony of the touristy hotel. Much later sleep had claimed her. Trace was back at the school, surrounded by dusty faced kids, grinning and yelling at her to "Tire la pelota senorita"(throw the ball miss). The joy of play on their faces was plain to see. She chuckled, Trace seldom really laughed, but in the dream she threw her head back with joy and laughed, then she threw the ball. They scattered. The woman came up beside her, she could feel her. Trace knew it was the golden haired illusive woman. She was afraid to turn; afraid the woman would vanish, so she stood still, watching the children run.
The blonde headed little girl came running up to the woman beside her yelling, "Maestra, Maestra," then leaped into the womanís arms. The woman laughed with joy, and it so warmed Traceís heart she lost her fear and turn to see the face of the woman. Green, no, hazel eyes met hers, the color of murky sea foam, but with a sparkling gleam. The smile on her face lit up her countenance with such sweet, pure warmth, Trace could not breathe. Her golden hair fell upon her shoulders and slightly on the girl in her arms. The woman held her gaze for moments as if in slow motion, and the message in those lovely eyes was clear, "Hello, it is so good to see you again."
Trace awoke suddenly, drunks out on the balcony below her room. Trace had sat up in bed. This woman had not been the teacher at the school. She had not seen this woman at the school that day, had she? Traceís mind raced. Had she seen her elsewhere? Had she been on the bus, in a shop, on the road, another hotel guest? Trace knew the answer was no. She had said "Again, Good to see you again." Yet Trace was sure she had never seen her. How could she forget that face? It was true; there was a welcoming feeling to this, a sense of coming home, a peace. Still she hadnít yet met this face in her life, or had she?
She had gotten out of bed, rummaged the room for pencil and paper and made a sketch of that face, that beautiful, warm, glowing face. She made two sketches then returned to bed hoping continued sleep would bring more dreams of the woman. Trace spoke Spanish well enough so she had gone back to the school the next day. She showed the sketch around, just to make sure. As she suspected, no one knew who she was, no one had seen the woman in the sketch. But now Trace had a face, a beautiful face she would never forget. And here she was back home; drawing the sketch of what would eventually become a painting of a beautiful faced woman that both haunted her dreams yet brought a measure of warmth and peace.
It had only been a week since her return from Mexico. She had no more dreams of the woman. Despite herself, she was excited. She chastised herself for being excited about a dream, told herself to get a grip, but that face kept coming to her mind. It compelled her to draw. Trace had always been good at drawing. And even now, in this odd, detached life that was hers, she could almost, if not completely, transport herself into the world of what she was drawing. She needed the escape, incomplete as it was. This face though, Trace knew it was real. She felt it. She knew that this woman had to be more than a figment of her imagination.
After a few days of continued sketching, she needed a break. It was time to get out a bit. Trace was hungry, hungry for some nachos and Joanie, beautiful shapely Joanie. It had been a long time, and even Trace had to admit she was occasionally human with human needs. She dressed to go out to eat at the restaurant where she and Joanie had met. Joanie knew that Trace was a mystery. She knew not to ask questions. Joanie could expect the tall, dark and mysterious woman to come quickly, treat her divinely, and leave quietly without a Trace.
Sitting in the back of Catchesí Bar and Grille, Trace watched the beautiful strawberry-blonde move lithely, waiting tables with grace and charm. Joanie had not seen her. Trace made sure to remain as concealed as possible. She ordered nachos from a waitress she had never seen before and watched the fair and lovely Joanie. Tight jeans and a half top revealing a soft flat and smooth abdomen, also a fair amount of cleavage. Joanie was a tall vision of soft and sweet, yet sultry. The restaurant had been full. It was a popular place, good food, a fun nautical atmosphere, and a TV sports bar that drew regulars. But now it was clearing out slowly, the hour was late. The crowd that had helped Trace to remain hidden was slowly dwindling. It was a few moments before she saw the gleam in the womanís eyes. Joanie had spotted Trace.
Joanie gradually made her way to Traceís table. Looking at the half empty plate Joanie smiled, "I see you had nachos but you didnít finish, are you all full or can I offer you dessert?"
Trace took a sip of her beer, "What can you offer me?"
Joanie looked into smoldering blue eyes, leaned closer to Trace and grinned mischievously, "That depends on the tastes of your pallet."
Trace locked gazes with the beauty and whispered, "I would enjoy something tall and sweet, with a flavor that can be savored slowly."
Careful not to breathe too deeply, Joanie replied, "Well, you see, since the bar is about to close, I am afraid we canít offer you something so savory. But if you care to wait until my shift ends, I may be able to offer you a tasty treat sure to satisfy your particular craving."
Trace arched an eyebrow, smirked and said, "It sounds so tantalizing, I am sure its worth the wait."
"I am positive youíll enjoy every bite," Joanie smiled brightly and promised with her best sultry tone, "Be back soon." Joanie was definitely a good flirt. Trace swallowed the last of her beer and left the bar.
She waited outside unseen. Repetition, and routine were not habits that promoted survival in Traceís world. She had only met Joanie at the bar once. Their other meetings had been at Traceís discretion. When she had popped into the bar that first day she had driven her dark blue two-seated Jeep. She had been out and about that time, on a casual day in a sweatshirt and jeans. This time she had taken the bus. Her long shape was a dark figure in the shadow of the building. She didnít wear jewelry, her blouse was a dark purple silk covered by a flattering deep blue blazer, finished with deep blue slacks that accentuated her long legs. While she waited she watched, always careful, always aware, thatís why she was still breathing.
Joanie was searching, unsure when she came out of the building; she hesitantly walked to her car. The blue eyed beauty was so illusive, but so thrilling. She had her keys in her hand; she was almost to the car. For a moment her attention was distracted by bar customers hailing a cab, and then she appeared. In the moment it took for Joanie to glance at the taxi and turn her eyes back toward her car, the mystifying woman was standing by the driverís side door of her pearl-white Beamer. Joanie jumped a little. How did the woman do it? No sound, no shadow of movement, seemingly out of thin air she just appeared.
As she approached, the door was held open for her. Joanie was sure she had locked it. In Miami, it was a fool that did not keep a car locked up tight. She even had an alarm. Both of which were paid for with a lot of tips and overtime. Yet gallantly her sometimes-lover was holding the door open for her. No alarm sounded, and she had done it without a key. So mysterious, so exciting and dangerous. Joanie knew it was dangerous to know the lady who called herself Stacy. Somehow she doubted that Stacy was her real name. Her instincts said stay away. But Gods what a looker and YEOW, what a sensuous lover. Those blue eyes seemed to hold her gaze as though there was nothing and no one else in the world. And yet she knew that Stacy was aware of every sound, every movement, and every potential happening around them. Joanie flashed her a quick smile and slid into the driverís seat. In a moment Stacy was seated on the passenger side and before she knew it, Stacy had cupped her face in a beautifully shaped hand and was covering her lips with a slow, sensitive and deep kiss of longing.
"Youíre right, very sweet and well worth the wait," Trace smiled as she broke the kiss and looked into light brown colored eyes.
"Oh but you said yourself, you enjoy savoring the flavor of dessert. That was just the topping, youíll have to wait a bit longer for the rest."
"Waiting will give me the time to savor the sweetness that is already on my lips," those blue eyes flashed in the darkness with a seductive glint.
Joanie giggled and started the car. "Stacy, I sometimes wonder if you are real or just a daydream." "As long as I am never a nightmare Joanie," Trace replied.
"I get the feeling that you take particular pains to keep nightmares away from me Stacy." With a slight grin and a smug look Trace said, "I have always been attracted to wise women."
Trace stared at the brightly colored angelfish in the clean, clear tank in Joanieís living room. Joanie was uncorking some wine in the kitchen. This was a warm yet airy apartment. Trace looked at the picture of Chris and the softball gang on the entertainment center. The group was laughing it up and Joanie was in the middle of them all, enjoying the fun. She recognized Joanieís ex-lover from her own research and Joanieís description. Trace had to be careful, so she had been sure to research Joanieís past, as much for Joanieís own protection as for Trace. This was the first time she had seen the picture displayed in the house though. Joanie still wasnít over Chris, the softball crazed teacher. But she wouldnít admit it. Trace suspected that Joanie thought Chris was a little too sedate for her tastes. Still Chris was a hell of a lot more healthy for her than Trace. Trace looked a bit like Chris. Only Chris was short, had long flowing dark brown hair and gray-blue eyes. Trace moved to the window and looked out carefully. And in the dark of the night, she remembered a face of warmth and beauty with hazel eyes and a welcoming gaze.
Startled, she jumped aside, immediately ready to respond to danger. Joanie had come up behind her, and Trace had been so taken with that face she had lost herself a moment. Joanie flinched and spilled some wine out of the glasses in her hand.
"Joanie, IĎm sorry, I, uh, well you startled me," Trace said obviously shaken.
Joanie looked up a little bewildered, "Um okay, let me get a towel to get this out of the rug." Placing the glasses on the table she retreated into the kitchen to get a towel. Wow, she had never, ever surprised this woman before. Stacy was always in control.
"Here, let me get this," Trace took the towel and began working on soaking up the wine from the rug. What was wrong with her, she had lost concentration, awareness; she had lost focus, control. She couldnít afford lapses like that. "Do you have some Resolve, or some kind of cleaner Joanie?" In a moment the woman reappeared with the cleaner. Trace scrubbed the carpet.
"Donít worry Stacy, it was just white wine. Iím sure you got it." Trace finished the task and Joanie disposed of the rag.
There was wine still left in both glasses, "Here, I think you need this wine Stacy," Joanie giggled, trying to put Stacy at ease.
Trace accepted the wine and chuckled, "Well letís hope I am not all thumbs tonight."
Joanie had a wicked grin on her face and said, "I donít know, thumbs have their uses."
Trace returned the grin, "Well, they are useful in helping make desserts, am I right?"
"They can also be helpful in partaking of desserts I am sure," Joanie looked rather longingly at the tall mystery woman.
Trace had put down her wineglass next to Chrisí picture. "May I guess who this is Joanie?"
"Well it may or may not have been wise of me, but I did love her," came a sad and bitter reply.
"Oh, I hope I didnítÖÖ.."
"No," Joanie interrupted, "Iím sorry, she is a good person. Sometimes things just donít work out."
In other words, Trace thought, subject closed.
She moved closer and kissed the melancholy face. But it felt a little awkward. She broke the kiss, and Joanie smiled up at her expectantly. What was up with her, she wasnít herself. This is a beautiful woman whom I have taken in passion before, what is my problem, Trace mentally chastised herself.
Catching sight of the fish tank out of the corner of her eye Trace move toward it asking, "Have you added some new fish Joanie," She peered at the swimming fish, feeling the calm it inspired, and that beautiful face returned to her minds eye. Damn, here she was with a very desirable woman and all she could think about was a dream. She had lost her concentration and now she was about to insult the delicious Joanie.
"No, same fish Stacy. Whatís wrong Stacy, you seem tense? Sorry I got all mushy about Chris. Itís over really."
"I am tense Joanie, but its not you, really. Thereís something I left unfinished and I thought I could put it away for one evening, but apparently I canít." There was an awkward silence.
"Well let me try to take your mind off the unfinished and focused on dessert," Joanie said with a wicked grin.
But Trace was still surprised at her earlier lack of attention. She was angry with herself for getting lost in the imaginings of anything that was other than reality. What else had she missed? What details had she been too preoccupied to pay attention to? She was a threat to herself and maybe Joanie. This was way out of hand. She was concerned about Joanie now. This had to stop. This wasnít her.
"Look Joanie, you are a lovely woman. I know we enjoy one anotherís company. But youíre wiser than you know. You are right; I do spend time making sure I donít become your worst nightmare. The less you know of me the better. And although I canít explain, I donít think I can trust myself to insure that you remain safe. As I said, something is unfinished. Something is always unfinished for me, but still. I have to face it, if I canít trust my own skills at something I do very well, then its best if we say goodbye."
A look of rejection appeared on that lovely face. Trace hated this. She didnít get involved for this reason. It was too dangerous for them. She was a fucking nightmare. And though they had kept it light, Joanie was now feeling dumped. She hurried over to the woman and held her, stroking her hair.
"Joanie, I have never been free to offer you more than physical love. I never meant to mislead you. We have purposely kept this light, not overly personal. Still, I can tell you are a sweet person. Much too sweet for the likes of me."
"But Stacy" Joanie began.
"No Joanie believe me this is too, uh, well I canít explain but it has to end. Before something irreversible happens I need to leave."
Joanie was clearly upset, "Stacy I havenít asked for commitment or even information about you. I hardly know a damn thing about you. I am not asking you to love me the way I believe you are not free to do. I just feel less alone knowing you are around occasionally and you would want me. I am not asking for anymore than what we have had."
Trace ran her hands through her short black hair. She had planned an evening of mutual sensual pleasure and it was turning into a soap opera. What was wrong with her, what had changed? Joanie was right, she had not asked for anything. But something was different. She felt more out of control than she had since childhood. She had to refocus, she had to take time and figure out what the fuck was wrong with her. She couldnít afford sentiment. And here she was having feelings, being sensitive, caring about what this woman deserved. It was unnerving. She was so enamored with a dream she had lost focus, been startled by a simple touch. She couldnít afford the luxury of letting down, letting go; it could only lead to the grave.
"I know Joanie. Its not you. You arenít demanding, you havenít asked for anything different, I know. Remember I said I left something undone. Itís true. And that element of the unknown just canít exist in my world. I canít explain why. Itís been nice, but we canít continue. Itís unfair that I canít explain why, but please know its not you. Maybe seeing that picture of Chris has made me realize, you are much too sweet a person to take chances. You are a lovely and desirable woman." Thatís it Trace you are oh sooooo sensitive. You have so fucked up. Now look at her. Damn, the more you talk the more hurt she looks. Shit what have I gotten myself into. Where did I go wrong? When was it that if need be, I could not kill this woman. You broke your own rule Trace, you know you canít care damn it. And here she was wrapping this woman in her arms to offer comfort.
Joanie sighed deeply, stiffened slightly and with a tremor in her voice said, "Okay Stacy. I knew this would come someday. Itís just thatÖ. well it just, it comes at a vulnerable time for me, Iíve been thinking a lot about my past. I just wish it could have lasted a bit longer. But youíre right; we never promised anything to each other. I, uh well, I mean I wonít Ö um, ever see you againÖ will I?" The woman looked sadly at Trace.
"No, Joanie, it would not be wise."
Awkwardly the woman struggled to laugh, "Dessert will never be the same." Trace was mentally kicking herself. She would never do this again; she could never get this close. Looking at the sweet-faced woman she wanted to say the right thing, "Youíve spoiled me, you know. I doubt I will ever know a taste as delicious as you," she took Joanieís face in her hands, and placed a deep kiss on those lips. Damn, I am gonna miss those lips. Ah Shit, sheís crying, I hate crying. You did this Trace youÖ..bitcÖ. "Come here Joanie."
Trace led her to the couch and sat her down. She stroked the womanís face and looked into her eyes. Trace wanted to say the right thing. Somehow this reminded her of her only TV interest, old classic films. What would Cary Grant have said? She gave it her best try, "Close your eyes Joanie. Now put this in your mind. You are standing in a wide-open field of green. The sun is bright and warm. There is a refreshing summer breeze on the air carrying the flowery scent of spring. You can hear the birds chirping in the nearby trees with newly sprouted leaves of green. And if you listen closely, you can hear sounds of laughter in the distance, the laughter of friends, of loved ones. Be quiet now, be still, and listen with your whole body, with your heart and you will know who the laughter belongs to. Be still and wait for the memory of the laughter you love, let yourself get lost in the music of its promise. The laughter is getting louder now, they are coming closer, those loving laughing friends that belong in the picture frames of your life. They are coming to join you, because you are missed among them." Joanie wasnít crying anymore, there was a knowing smile on her face. And before the woman could know she was gone, Trace vanished.
There was a punching bag in her house. She had jogged home fueled by the heat of rage with herself. She was in a mood, threatened by the reaffirmation of the weakness that emotions were to her life. After carefully entering the house, assuring it was safe, she threw down her keys, yanked off her clothes and attacked that bag. She needed the rhythm. She needed to make her body obey her commands. She needed to focus. Sweat was pouring off her naked body. This was her, this is what she knew, this was safe. She went through her Thi Chi forms. Slowly, in rhythm, one after the other. Clearing her mind, no emotion. No feelings with memories, just focus. She placed that brown eyed beauty in that green field and backed away. Things were safe now, but just barely. It was done. It was over. It should never have been. And it could never be again. The only memory she could afford was that unnerving feeling of being out of control. She swallowed hard and resolved to never know that fear again.
The weeks passed. First it was Shanghai, then Brazil, Colorado, New York, and The Alps. She had made herself keep busy. Business as usual, focus. And every one of those jobs had been a woman. A few of them sheíd slept with before killing. Distance, resolve, iron, ice, cold, calculating, she was almost back to normal. She fired the damn gardener. The new one was skinny and hairy, with bad breath, missing teeth and sagging jeans, whose only thought was getting the work done so he could have some cold suds with the boys. Plus he never brought her a fresh pick of flowers. If he did, sheíd shoot him, just for the hell of it.
She had gotten a little soft and that was deadly. She had started to care. People like her couldnít care. It was a joke. No one could care for her, what she had become. She was a monster to most. Sure she did the bad guys. She didnít kill the innocents if she could help it. But she was just as much an assassin as those that did the families, the kids, the grandmas along with the bystanders. Revenge and her thirst for justice had come with a price and the price was her soul. She had made the choice, now she had to live with it and die by it.
She was too distracted, she needed to rid herself of the norm, challenge herself. When had murder become so routine? She needed to revisit the survival skills of being in the wilderness. She had told Crab she would take a break. He didnít argue, she had done more jobs in the last two months than she had in the last year. He didnít question, just used her. Good assassins had the benefit of not having to visit Langley too often. Its not like she would be missed. She had the basics, a knife, one set of warm clothes, a bow and arrow, some easy to carry trail food and she allowed herself a canteen. The Rockies were never warm. But since she was out of practice she started in late summer, early fall. Before she could leave, she had to survive a snow. Before it had snowed, she caught some fish, killed and cooked some venison, storing it in the cold spring she had found, smoked some of the meat, had built a shelter not far from the river, made some traps, cut enough wood to last, and covered it to protect it from the snow as much as possible. She could tell by her clothes she had lost about 10 to 15 pounds. She wasnít as good as when she was in her twenties. But she was surviving.
It was a cold night before the snow fell; she had made a fire and wrapped herself in the skins she had tanned from the deer and the beavers. Not all her time had been spent at the drawing table. For survival training she would pour over books about the wilderness comb tidbits from survival guides, study the Native American way of life building shelters from the land. She had also participated in a few wilderness survival camps. The CIA did have its uses as well, she had picked up some tricks of survival in the Crab, "learn as you go" school of assassins. But she loved the outdoors. It was pure, untamed and largely untouched by the vileness for human corruption. She had made the shelter to be temporary. Still, some of it would survive the winter even without care. She would likely return for a visit at some future date. Hopefully the return will be pleasure not necessity, she thought to herself.
It was a moonless night. The forest was still, awaiting the snow. She fell asleep in the late evening. At first, it was a dreamless slumber, then that feeling had come. No images, just a feeling, a longing, and then she was running through the forest. She was being pursued. The feeling was all around her, it wasnít natural, it wasnít from the forest, it was fear. Fear was the hound at her heels. Something was wrong. That sixth sense again. It had kept her alive many times. She felt compelled to keep running forward, fast, before it was too late. Then she was at a lake, the cliffs above the lake where high. It was a shear drop from the top of the cliffs to the rocks and water below.
At first she didnít see her, then the image was clear. Joanie, it was Joanie! Shit. It looked like the woman was asleep and walking toward the edge of the cliff. No, she scolded herself. She had to snap out of it, she was just dreaming again. In reality the woman was fine. This wasnít real. But the fear stabbed her in the gut, she looked up. She could never scale that cliff in time. NO, she wasnít responsible for Joanie anymore. She had left her alone, she was safe.
It was all around her, FEAR. She dove into the water. She was shivering, she had no clothes on, but she felt this terrible weight. She looked around her. The lake was blood red. Joanie was getting closer to the cliff. Trace started forward, but she felt something tug at her waist. It was some vine thing attached to her waist. As she tried to move forward the vine resisted and became taught. Trace looked at the vine, it seemed to be secured to the shore. She looked up to the top of the cliff. Joanie was right on the edge. Trace surged forward and as she did she heard a tremendous rattling sound. She frantically looked back. The vine was pulling things out of the ground. What was it, bones? It was bones. It was skeletons, hundreds of skeletal frames, of humans. She tried to sever the vine, but it was firmly secure. Trace lunged forward, she swam with all her might, but the weight was so heavy. She heard voices in the rattling of the bones; they were screams that filled her with pain. She had made those skeletons. And now they were keeping her from helping someone. Joanie would just be one more skeleton. She didnít care she couldnít afford to care. BUT NO, NO, her whole being cried out NOOOO!
She reached the rocks just as the woman was falling. Trace leaped forward to reach for Joanie. She caught her, but instead of falling on the rocks they plunged into the water. She held her tight and swam to the surface. Gasping for air, Trace had swallowed some water; she was coughing when they broke the surface. But it was daylight now, it was warm. There was a waterfall and wild flowers around the lake. Joanie was in her arms, but no it wasnít Joanie, it was the golden haired woman whose eyes seemed emerald green this time, peaceful and calm. Her smile was warm and her eyes proud. She lovingly brushed long raven hair out of Traceís eyes and said with admiration and love, "Thank you." And then Trace was awake.
It was still night. She got up, her face was wet. But it wasnít snowing yet. She had been crying. Shit, crying, Crying? NO, no Crying damn it! When the hell had she cried last, she was twelve right? Shit, it was only a fucking dream. "NOOOOOOOO, DAMN IT! What the HELL is wrong with me," she screamed into the night. Why was she caring, why did she care if Joanie was happy. She was a cold-blooded killer, she DIDNíT do CARING!
Itís that dream. She had started to care after she had finally dreamed of the face of the mysterious woman. But it was just a dream. Reality was hard, cold and cruel. Damn it, killers didnít feel, didnít have emotions. It was a stupid dream. You donít live in dreams. Snap out of it. The woman isnít real. You shit. You worthless piece of shit, you kill for a living. Thatís what you learned to do on purpose. Thatís what you do, its what you are, you BITCH! Face it, live with it! And forget this FUCKING ASS DREAM DAMN IT! She was screaming. Using her walking stick to wail against a tree. The hefty stick was splintering with the force of the blows. It began to snow. She felt exhausted and disgusted. But she wasnít stupid enough to get wet and cold and freeze. She wrapped herself in her blankets under the shelter and waited for sleep. No more fancy dreams about pretty golden haired women that werenít real. NO MORE caring, emptiness was her life, she had made it, and she would deal with it DAMN IT!!
She hadnít stayed long after the snow. When she came home, she was 25 pounds lighter, she had lost too much weight and she was exhausted, mostly from fear. She hadnít gained any more focus. Instead she had even more dreams. It was time to get back to work. Work was demanding. No cutting corners, no missing details. She was an assassin and she was good at it.
But work would have to wait. Even Trace could get the flu. She had only been home a few days when she had gotten ill. She didnít have time to take an assignment before her stomach had rebelled and her body was on fire. Somehow she had made it to the store. Got all she needed. It was her fourth day, and no sign of getting better. She still refused to go to the doctor. She hated relying on anybody but herself. And in her weakened, less-vigilant condition, every night brought a dream of the golden haired beauty. It was the same dream; it had no motion, like a still photograph. The woman was looking into Traceís eyes as she had in the lake. She was wearing a warm, loving smile and a proud expression in her eyes as she stood in the middle of a forest. Trace felt this woman pulling at something inside her. Those eyes were beckoning, hoping, as if encouraging Trace to join her, meet her, come with her or something. Trace was too tired and too sick to try and explain it away or will herself not to dream. And it was oddly comforting after a few days; she just didnít have the strength to fight it. So she felt comforted and slept.
It had been a week and a half, and Trace was finally getting better. She was taking it slow. She looked at her drafting table. She was too weak to do much physical activity. But she was bored. She had watched some classic TV. A little Cary Grant, that gallant man who could never be real, at least not after twelve. But Trace wasnít one to watch hours upon end.
She could not forget those eyes, that face. She looked at her drawing table. She picked up a sketch. There it was, that look, the beckoning look. So that look had been in her dreams before. That beautiful face seemed so familiar, and yet she knew she had never met her. Who and what was this woman, why must she dream about her? Why wouldnít this weird woman of dreams go away? What the hell was she going to do? Was she losing her sanity finally? She fell asleep at the drawing table.
This time the woman was clothed in army fatigues. She had camouflage paint on her face. Her blonde locks were short this time, protruding slightly from and army cap. She seemed older than she had appeared thus far. She was sitting on a log with some parchment in her hand. Trace approached her cautiously. She had a sad yet hopeful expression on her face when she looked up at Trace. She handed Trace the parchment and walked toward the forest. The words written on the parchment were in a foreign language yet Trace knew every word. "If you fight me you shall never know me. If you never know me you shall never know yourself."
Trace felt like a lance had just pierced her heart. Her gut told her the words were true. In these dreams it was so hard not to feel. Like when she leaped to save Joanie, she had felt what was the right thing to do, to feel, and she had acted before she thought. And now here was the truth, she felt it, she knew it was true. She looked up to find the woman standing at the beginning of a path. She now had a determined look on her face mixed with kindness. Her hand was outstretched to Trace urging her to follow. Suddenly the path behind the woman broadened and Trace could see what lie in the path. It was covered with skeletal bones. Trace froze, fear and dread seized her. The woman looked at the parchment. Trace looked down to find more words written, "This path is a hard one to follow. But to know yourself you must find your soul. The journey to find your soul can not be made alone." Trace woke up filled with turmoil. Drawing often soothed her and helped her think. So she drew, she drew for days.
She sketched and she painted, every dream, every image, every feeling. She wanted to get it out of her. If she could get this out of her system perhaps she would be free of it. She could not afford the luxury or mystery of this dream. There was fear here in reality too. But she knew what she was. Her soul had been lost long ago. She wasnít forced to kill. She had chosen it. Being misguided was no excuse. The cold reality was that she lived in a world of kill and donít let yourself be killed. To keep breathing she had to get rid of this stupid dream. Her subconscious appealing to her or not? She could not even afford to try figuring it out. She needed to work. Her health was returning and she had begun to put on some of the weight she had lost.
End of Chapter One.
Chapter Two is on the editing floor currently.
PLEASE STAY TUNEDÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ..
ę Return to The Bard's Corner