Maybe you need to get out more often...
by Lainie Lee and Erin Halfelven
On a dirt road in northwestern Louisiana, Nora DiLuchia, an operative for a secretive government agency, plodded back to the rental Chevy Malibu. Even dressed in loose, faded khaki coveralls with a wide-brimmed slouch hat hiding much of her features, nothing really concealed her lush shape and the perfection of her face.
She’d traced the “excursion,” as it was being called, to the dilapidated two-story farmhouse at the end of the country lane behind her and needed to report to her superiors. She had approached to within a quarter mile and her body practically hummed with the sense that this was a place where others of her sort could be found. If she got any closer, someone inside might detect her presence.
She’d gotten close enough to the building to confirm her suspicions and now there would be more work to do. Work that shouldn’t have been necessary if other people had done their jobs correctly. She sighed to think of the waste of effort and time, her cherry red lips making a moue.
Her partner, Piers Truscott, stood beside the car on the driver side, waiting for her. “From your expression, I assume this must be the place.” Piers stood over six-feet tall with a receding ginger-blond hairline making him look even taller. He squinted at her, his pale blue eyes mostly concealed behind tinted glasses against the sky-glare of an overcast but still brilliant Louisiana day. It was warm and humid and Piers forehead was beaded with sweat.
Nora shook her head, long black tresses brushing her shoulders. She turned her large, liquid brown eyes at Piers’s silhouette outlined against the bright western sky. She didn’t need to squint, even looking into the late afternoon sun. “Yep,” she said. “But we’ve got real problems. It’s a whorehouse.” She turned to look back at the building. “And a popular one, I think.”
Piers looked at her ass where the khaki cloth shaped itself around an upside down heart. “Probably,” he agreed. He didn’t ask her how she had made the determination that the farmhouse hosted a bordello.
He let out a breath he hadn’t know he was holding, then got into the car behind the wheel. He watched as Nora climbed into the passenger seat and reached for the communications equipment sitting on the console between the seats.
Nora glanced at him. He didn’t let a lot show but she knew he liked looking at her. Well, maybe liked was the wrong word. He was always watching her; sometimes as part of the job, sometimes it seemed, against his will. Despite her time in the decontamination ward, no one at the agency quite trusted her. Her body attracted the attention of most men and Piers was no exception. And it really was part of his job to watch her.
She tossed the slouch hat into the back seat and shook out her long hair; her damned hair, as she thought of it. Nearly waist-length, curly-wavy, and black as night, it drew looks even from as far away as a city block. She should learn how to braid it, she thought, not for the first time. Better yet would be to cut it but she already knew how useless that would be. It would simply grow back in a few days.
She took the handset out of the pocket in the commo rig and keyed the mike. “November Delta requesting Sierra Uniform,” she said quietly. She smiled, Piers’s coded ID on the comm was “Papa Tango” which always sounded funny to her.
“Sierra Uniform,” said a voice. “Acknowledged.”
“Possible contaminated site. Correction: likely contaminated site. Unknown number of affected individuals. Request Delta Tango Mike Foxtrot. Repeat, request Delta Tango Mike Foxtrot.” Decontamination Team Maximum Force. Nora keyed the mike off and waited.
“Acknowledged,” said the voice after a long wait. “Delta Tango Echo Romeo Sixty-One Thousand Etta Kay.”
Nora interpreted the message: decontamination team en route, estimated time of arrival 9 p.m. She keyed the mike twice, counted to three and keyed it twice more for a non-verbal confirmation of message received. She looked at Piers; he didn’t need a translation either.
“We’ve got four hours to wait. Want to go into town and see if we can find some beignets?” he asked.
She smacked her lips reflexively. Something sugary would be good; her screwy metabolism would turn it into sudden energy and lightning reflexes if it turned out she needed them. She nodded. “Let’s be quick; they might get here early.”
Piers started the engine and turned the car around, heading back down the dirt road.
* * *
MSG Lawrence Polk caught the earliest flight out he could, pulling a few strings he found lying around in Transit Battalion 5th Army Oakland HQ that only a master sergeant could reach. The seven hash marks on his sleeve did not represent the score in a backgammon tournament.
Settling into his seat in the forward area of the DC-8, Polk could not stop grinning. Soon he would be back in-country and back in the bed of his unofficial wife. And with his stateside divorce scheduled to be final in a little more than five weeks, he could start the paperwork to marry Hoa, the mother of his daughter, Kim. He could hardly contain himself; he’d been working toward this for three years.
The man in the seat beside him grinned back. Where Polk was almost licorice black, the CPO had cinnamon skin and the name tag on his Navy dress uniform said Sanchez. “Hombre going to a warzone with a grin like yours is thinking about one of two things waiting for him in-country,” said Sanchez.
“Yeah?” said Polk.
“Hm-mm. Either he has himself a con, a racket, something really grande – or he’s got a wife and child he can’t wait to see.” Sanchez chortled. “You should see your face, hermano.”
“Yeah, well,” agreed Polk. “You shouldn’t see yours. You might keel over dead, you ugly s.o.b.” But he smiled when he said it, and he meant the smile.
They laughed, and Polk admitted he had a girl and a child in-country.
“In a few more months, I’ll have all the paperwork done to marry her and take her and the kid home with me when this tour is up in six months.”
Sanchez nodded. “Good luck, compadre, eh?”
Polk smiled and looked out the window, anticipating.
* * *
Terrence watched the beautiful woman eat both peanut butter sandwiches, the first one ravenously and the second with an erotic languor that almost drove him wild.
“Mm, good,” she said, licking jelly off of her lips.
He offered her the sodas, and she drank both of them, too, though she stopped before finishing off the Coke to offer him a drink. “Want some?” she asked, her voice a melody rising with the question.
Oh, yes, he thought, he wanted some. He nodded, taking the bottle from her hand and drinking a tiny sip before handing it back. Her fingers touched his, cool skin felt almost icy hot. He couldn’t tell if he were fevered or she was.
She giggled, burped, looked surprised then turned up the Coke and drained it. “Mm,” she said again.
He nodded, smiling.
She sat there on the bed in her blue-patterned dress; her long thighs spread a bit in an unladylike way, her heavy breasts pressing the cloth out in full mounds that moved a little every time she breathed. Her chestnut hair fell past her shoulders, her almost familiar face smiled at him, and he smiled back.
She opened her mouth and used her pink tongue to scrub at her lower lip, pursuing still some morsel of sweetness. Her eyes crossed slightly while she did this.
Terrence sat on the straight back chair at the vanity, watching her, wondering that he had enough restraint to not throw her onto the bed with her long legs in the air while he had fierce sex with her. Part of what held him back he supposed was that she was a white girl. He presumed that she must be a prostitute but that wouldn’t save him if she complained about any advances he made.
So he sat, smiling, waiting for her to make some more overt invitation… but he didn’t know how much longer he could wait.
Cheryl Jones, the name she had been registered under last night, looked back at him with open curiosity, then her eyes focussed past him. “Who’s that girl?” she asked.
“Who?” he asked in return.
Cheryl pointed over his shoulder. “The pretty woman on the bed….”
Terrence glanced at the mirror behind him and smiled. “That’s you,” he said, assuming she must be teasing. “You’re beautiful.” In his experience, women who called attention to their appearance were asking for compliments.
She nodded. “But who is she? Do you know her?”
Confused, Terrence glanced at the mirror again. “You’re Cheryl Jones?”
“I am?” She frowned the tiniest bit. “I guess I must be, huh?” She looked down at herself then at her reflection. “That must be me, same dress, same tits.” She laughed. “Cheryl, huh? Okay.”
He laughed with her, still unsure of what game she might be playing.
“What’s your name?” she asked him.
“Terry,” he said. “Terrence Cook.”
She laughed again. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Cook. You make a good sandwich.” She leaned toward him.
He leaned toward her in response.
“You want to fuck me, don’t you?” she asked.
“Oh, Jesus,” he said, not without reverence.
* * *
Nora nibbled on a beignet appreciatively. No one in the rest of the country seemed able to master the right puffy sweetness. You could get better beignets in New Orleans but even in the farmland north of Shreveport, you could find a place where someone had the know-how. It was terrible how she craved sweets now. And she could eat and eat and never gain an ounce.
She ate her beignet and tried not to think of bugs. Tiny bugs, microscopic creatures — no, one of the big brains had told her that they were nanoscopic animalcules. Nanimals. She sighed, trying not to think of them as bugs, swarming inside her.
* * *
Piers watched Nora eat. It was hot in Louisiana in the last week of June, but the air conditioning in the doughnut place had been set to stun. Not that he had ever seen Nora sweat. Did she? Could she?
Perfect teeth in Nora’s sensuously wide mouth snatched little bites of another of her sugary snacks. She didn’t sweat, but he had seen her eat five packages of Hostess Devil’s Food Cupcakes, one right after the other. She didn’t hurry; she savored every morsel.
Her pink tongue flicked out and retrieved an errant flake of sugar, and he almost lost it. Good thing he didn’t have to stand up to go anywhere right then. Maybe he could control his erection if he didn’t watch her eat. He turned away to watch out the window at the cars running down the narrow two-lane state highway.
If it weren't her mouth or her eyes, it would have been her hair. She’d taken off the slouch hat and let that black torrent fall to her waist, shaking it out so it rippled and shone in the light while she ordered her doughnuts. Not doughnuts, beignets. He had one on a paper plate himself. He didn’t look at its crispness, at its golden crust, at the sweet glaze they put on them here.
The woman had skin like honey, and he could smell her sitting there, a musky, spicy odor like flowers having sex. She wore baggy clothes, but his mind had no problem picturing her shape, small waist, lush hips, full, heavy breasts.
He tried to get his mind off thinking about his partner. One look at her and he had volunteered for the field assignment of being her driver and security. They’d stayed in the same motel last night, only a thin wall between them. He’d heard her taking a shower, and then he’d needed one himself.
How could he sit beside her in a public place? He needed something to distract him.
Maybe something disgusting, frightening, unbelievable but true. He tried to think of bugs. Tiny bugs so small you couldn’t see them with a microscope.
* * *
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