Vanishing Point (Circle of Spies Novella)

BOOK: Vanishing Point (Circle of Spies Novella)
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Circle of Spies - Book 2.5

Savvy’s Mom, Maris, follows an assassin into the heart of trouble to protect her family and learn the secrets of her past, but one wrong move and she could lose everything.

Laura Pauling

Also by Laura
 

A Spy Like Me

Heart of an Assassin

Vanishing Point

Twist of Fate

Prom Impossible
(Free!)

Prompossible Plans

Covert Kissing

Heist

A Royal Heist
(2015)

One

The rides creaked and moaned as if with one puff of wind they’d collapse to the ground in a heap of twisted metal. Marisa wanted to pull her daughter to safety every time she climbed aboard one of the death traps.

But she held herself back. She would not be that kind of mom. She was just out for a bit of fresh air at the county fair while Savvy spent quality time with her friends. It was a complete coincidence that she walked in the same direction as Savvy.

With a toss of her hair, Marisa sauntered along keeping a close eye on the bobbing heads up ahead in the crowd. At fifteen, her daughter could not appreciate firm skin, a flat stomach and high metabolism. Or maybe she did considering she was on her second piece of fried dough. Marisa would gain ten pounds just from looking at the pastry delight.

Stephen, her husband, waved from across the fair, and then pointed toward the sausage stand. He meant, come join him while he waited in line. She waved back. She’d be right along. In another minute or two. Just one more lap around.
 

While trying her hardest not to be sidetracked by the sweet smell and the pink swirls of the cotton candy, a prickle ran down her neck. Marisa stiffened.
 

Was she really that bored that she had to create a sense of danger? Sad. Very sad. She’d been a housewife for far too long. With one last look at her daughter, laughing with her friends, Marisa turned away.
 

Enough of this nonsense. She’d go find Stephen, they’d eat their sausages smothered with onions and green peppers, and later that night in front of the mirror with her stomach rolls showing through her pajamas, she’d promise to go on a diet starting the next day. And she’d mean it this time.

But there was that damn prickle again. The hairs rose on her arm.

Marisa glanced around. The clown with the big red nose did look a bit creepy and that old man standing in line by the Ferris wheel seemed oddly out of place. Did that tall man in the cowboy hat just look her way?

No. It was the young man with a baseball hat pulled low, his face hidden by shadows as if he didn’t want anyone to get a close look at him. Every few seconds, he moved in her direction.
 

The sounds of the fair faded: the laughter, the chatter, the mooing of nearby cattle, the creaking of the rides. Marisa stepped back, but he kept coming.
 

She stumbled through the crowds. Every time she whipped around, he was still there, sauntering in her direction. With her heart racing, she finally slowed down after circling the fairway twice. Hopefully, she lost him.

This was ridiculous. This sense of danger was all in her head. Had to be. She shrugged it off and stood near the carousel. In moments she’d meet Stephen but for now she watched Savvy and her friends climb onto the Ferris wheel. A contented sigh escaped her lips. She had nothing to worry about. Her daughter was healthy and happy, with a nice group of friends.

As she turned, a voice spoke to her right. “Nice night for a ride on the Ferris wheel.”

She nodded quickly, not even looking. “Hmm. Yes. Well, I’m off.”

The man wouldn’t give up. “Carnival rides are rather dangerous. Don’t you think?”
 

Her stomach clenched. She’d always thought that. All carnival rides should just be done away with. Most were probably close to one hundred years old. The creaks and moans always got to her. She wanted to walk away from the man but she knew that was rude. “Yes, you’d think they’d just do away with them altogether.”
 

There. Now she could walk away.
 

“Marisa.” His voice held a threat. He knew her name?

She whipped around and studied him closer. The man with the baseball cap. He leaned against the fence post casually as if their talking to each other was quite coincidence. She didn’t believe in that kind of happenstance, and he’d been following her earlier.

 
Shadows hid his face but she could tell he was a looker. A strong jaw line and smooth skin. Oh my God, he was young. Why was he talking to her? How did he know her name? Her imagination raced. She’d watched too many television dramas and swore off watching any more Law & Order reruns.

“Why are you talking to me?” She placed her hands on her hips. She couldn’t wait to be done with this creep.

“How rude of me. Where are my manners?” He brushed his hands off on his jeans and stuck out his hand. “I’m Will.”

Marisa didn’t take his hand and narrowed her gaze.

He obviously didn’t pick up on her body language and kept talking. “You can stop acting like this day would never come. Surely you knew one day we’d find you and you’d have to answer to us.”
 

Us
?
We’d find you
? She glanced around but no one else seemed suspicious. “What the hell do you want and what are you talking about?”
 

A knowing smirk crossed his face. “Tsk. Tsk. Your mother should’ve told you about this.”
 

Her purse dropped to the ground, leaving her completely defenseless except for her newly painted nails. Her mother?
 

She flashed back to the kitchen, years ago, before her mother died. She didn’t have too many memories left, but the ones she had were good. Afternoon talks with freshly baked snickerdoodles. Oooh, they were delicious. Long walks by the creek. Taking a dip in the hot afternoon of summers. At times, her mom would ramble on about their family line, but she had never gotten to the point, and Marisa had never understood. And then her mother died and it was too late. Now, with this good-looking maniac creeping her out, she couldn’t quite recall any of her mother’s words.

“Ah, so you do remember?”

Her whole body jerked at his words. “No. I don’t.”

A look of disbelief crossed his face. “Maybe you need help remembering.” He paused as if thinking of the lost clue that would jar her memory. “I’m part of a family of assassins.”

Her heart just about stopped.
 

“Oh, we’re not the kind you see in the movies. We take our time to study our targets and make sure of their guilt. But you should know that.”

She laughed shrilly. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.” Seriously? This guy was a complete whacko. She should wave for a policeman and send this guy away.
 

“You are part of a line of female spies. The women in your family have been a bother for hundreds of years. Their mission is to rescue our targets and shut us down completely.” He sighed. “You can stop the game of charades. No matter of pretense will stop us. You hid behind your husband’s name, but we’ve finally found you.”

“Right. And why should I believe you?”

“Let’s see.” He tapped his chin. “Do you know the details of the assassination of Thomas Jefferson?”

Marisa huffed. “Excuse me, but Thomas Jefferson never was assassinated.”

“Exactly.”

Okay, now he’d gone far enough. This was getting completely ridiculous and her stomach was rumbling for a sausage. No more games. No more playing nice and being polite. She turned and looked directly at him. “Listen here, young man. You need to stop bothering people with your ramblings. You need to walk away.”
 

For the first time, he took off his hat, his dark eyes studying her. His hair was slicked back and his eyes pierced through her. “I hate for it to come to this. I do apologize. Your husband, Stephen, just ordered two sausages smothered in greasy peppers and onions. He’s looking for you, getting a little impatient.”

Marisa searched the crowd and found Stephen. He was indeed searching for her. How could he know this? How long had he been following her to know everything about her?

“In about five seconds, a complete stranger will bump him from behind and the sausages will go flying.”

She snorted. “Right.” But she didn’t take her eyes off Stephen. After a couple seconds, and nothing happened, she said, “You need to leave…” She started to wave to her husband.

Just like Will said, a stranger bumped Stephen from behind. More like a slam than a bump. Stephen flew forward and lost his grip on the food. It landed on the ground several feet away, a splattered mess.

Marisa trembled with the rush of adrenaline. She straightened her shirt and spoke with conviction, her voice trembling. “This has gone on quite long enough—”
 

“I understand,” Will said. “It’s difficult to lose your cover. Maybe you need a little more convincing. Your daughter, Savvy, has been on the Ferris wheel with her friends. She’s quite beautiful.”

“Don’t you dare bring my daughter into this.”
 

With a shrug, he ignored her. “She’s about to get off the ride. As soon as she does, a man is going to grab her from behind and hold her at gunpoint.”

Marisa watched Savvy laughing with her friends. She couldn’t take her eyes off her. She didn’t want to believe what Will said, but the sinking feeling of terror in her stomach told her otherwise.

Two seconds later, Savvy stiffened. A man stood behind her, with a strong grip on her arm. He leaned forward, whispering in her ear.

“You have a choice, Marisa.” Will’s voice was cold and mean. “No more games. Admit your past, admit who you are and your daughter will walk. If not, you can say goodbye.”
 

Marisa bristled, ready to tell him off and then rush to her daughter.

“Or,” he said, hesitating just a moment for full effect, “I can always bring Savvy in on this. See what she knows instead.”

Any anger drained from her body. In its place fear rushed and swirled, gripping her body. The strains of carousel music, repeating over and over, turned eerie and foreboding, like she was in the middle of a horror movie. It only took a second for Marisa to make up her mind.

“Fine. I admit it.” Her words were rushed and breathless. Couldn’t he see that she was just lying to save her daughter?
 

“So you know what I’m referring to?”

Marisa humpfed. “Of course, I do.” Another lie.
 

“Then you’ll meet me tomorrow at the McDonalds in town. Seven in the morning.” He stepped closer and reached into his coat pocket. Was that bulge his hand or a gun?
 

Marisa swallowed hard. Her words came out a bit choked and not sounding at all like she intended. “Why the hell would I go along with something like that?”

“If not I’ll have to pay your daughter a little visit.”
 

“You’re bluffing.” Even as she accused him, the gut feeling in the pit of her stomach, the possible gun in his hand, and the blackness of his eyes told her he was telling the truth.
 

“Do you want to take that chance?” he asked.
 

“I’ll be there.”
 

“I highly suggest not mentioning this little encounter to your husband or anyone else.” The man nodded and then left after one last menacing glare, which took its full effect on her.
 

Marisa slumped to the ground, her bravado evaporating as she let out a sob and her body shook. What in the world had she just agreed to? She didn’t know but she’d do anything to keep her family safe.
 

***

Early the next morning, close to four, which truly felt like the middle of the night, Marisa sat in her kitchen. She hugged her old flowered bathrobe closer, its worn but soft feel a comfort. The darkness settled and she felt protected, from the previous day at the fair, from the upcoming day, and from the unknown future.
 

BOOK: Vanishing Point (Circle of Spies Novella)
11.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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