We pulled up to the door of the quilt shop. My wife opened her door and grabbed her purse. She paused with one foot out the door.
“I’m going to be a while. Will you be alright?”
“Sure. Take your time. I see a shady spot over there. I’ve got something to read.”
She got out and headed for the store. I headed for that shady parking place. I was in luck. Most parking lots didn’t have trees. And it was too early in the day for the lot to be crowded. I pulled into the slot, ran the windows down, and opened my book to where I had left off.
I wasn’t three pages into it when I heard a sound. It was somewhere between a ‘pock’ and a ‘snick’. It reminded me of a gun with a silencer like you hear on TV. I looked around. A man in a black SUV in the next aisle had his head back like he was sleeping. A couple of aisles over a young woman was winding her way through the cars, in a hurry.
I sat there for a minute. What should I do? I decided to check on the man and risk looking dumb. I got out of the car and walked over to him. He wasn’t asleep. He had a grimace on his face.
“I’ve been shot. Call 911.”
I started to fish my phone out of my pocket.
“Use this.” He held up a cell phone. “Untraceable. You don’t want to be identified.”
I took the phone and called 911. The operator came on the line. “Someone’s been shot. Parking lot at Gerrard and Macon.”
He reached for the phone. “Hang up quick. Don’t answer any questions.” He leaned back and groaned.
“What should I do?”
“Nothing. I’m okay. Not life threatening.”
I stood there, not sure what to do next. He gave me an examining look, looked away, looked back.
“I hate to drag you into this but I need your help. Did you see the girl?”
“The one in the short black dress?”
“She took something from me. I need it back. An USB drive.” He paused, his eyes narrowing to slits as he sized me up. “It has plans on it, plans that could be used to destroy our very way of life.” He reached into the console beside him and pulled out a small manila envelope. He handed it to me. It was one of those padded mailers everybody uses. It had an address label on it, Central Intelligence Agency, with a Washington, D. C. address.
“I need you to get the drive back, put it in that envelope, and drop it in a mailbox.”
I looked at the envelope then at him. “I don’t think I can…”
“Sure you can. It’s simple. See that flap? Just pull that tape off and fold the flap over. It’s already got adhesive on it.”
“No I mean… I don’t know where she went.”
“She’s at a coffee shop just around the corner at an outside table. One of her henchmen will be by shortly to pick up the drive. You need to hurry.”
“I wouldn’t know how to get it from her.”
“She’ll probably have it hidden on her person. You might have to get intimate with her.”
“I can’t do that.”
“You have to. The free world depends on it.”
I looked away, thinking. I looked back, resolved to make him understand. “I’ve been married to the same woman for over thirty years. In all those years I’ve never touched another woman. I’m not getting intimate with that girl.”
“I don’t think you understand how important this is.”
“Maybe it’s in her purse.”
“It’s not in her purse.”
“It could be.”
“I doubt it.”
“I’ll try the purse.”
“Okay, but just do it quick.”
I headed for the corner, winding through the cars as she had. Around the corner and there was the coffee shop. She sat at a table near the sidewalk. Short black dress with spaghetti straps, dark hair worn short, shorter than my taste. She had a cold coffee, plastic cup with a lid and a straw. I had thought about tripping and dumping her drink on her but that was not going to work. Besides I didn’t want to hurt her.
I went to the outside counter and looked over the choices. Bottled orange juice. Not the best but it would have to do. I bought it and headed for the sidewalk. I turned back as if I had forgotten something. I was pretending to drink when I walked headlong into her table. Orange juice went everywhere but mostly on her. She stood up pushing the chair back to escape what had already happened. I spouted multiple apologies as I grabbed a handful of napkins. I kept moving toward her as I attempted to dab at the orange juice on her shoulders and upper chest, the part exposed above the dress, not the intimate parts. She fought my hands off as she continued to back away.
“Just leave me alone.” I backed away. Her purse lay on the ground under her table, the drive beside it. I swooped down with the same handful of napkins, grabbed the purse and handed it to her. The drive was hidden in the napkins. She took the purse and turned toward the door of the coffee shop.
“Where are you going.”
“To the restroom to clean up.”
“Do you want me to come with you? Can I help?” I thought that was very clever.
She pointed a finger at me. “No. Don’t. Just stay away from me.”
I waited till she was gone. Then I drifted away, around the corner, out of sight. I put the drive into the envelope and sealed it and dropped it into a nearby mailbox.
An ambulance was just pulling out of the parking lot followed by the man’s SUV with two men in dark suits and dark sunglasses in it. I went back to my car.
As soon as I closed the door my cell phone began to ring. “I’m done. Come pick me up.”
“On my way.”
“Were you asleep?”
“No. I was awake. Just reading.”
“Sounded like I woke you up.”
She got in the car and tossed a big colorful bag in the back seat.
“Where to next?”
She opened the thick magazine size book she kept on the floor. “Let me consult my Quilter’s Companion.”
“I thought I was your quilter’s companion.”
She gently patted my arm. “You are, honey. You are.”