Curtain Fall Chapter 09

Curtain Fall - Chapter 09

The next day after meeting with Adam, Jill called him again as she drove home from work.

“Good afternoon Adam! I hope I’m not calling you at a bad time?”

She heard him coughing up some beverage he was drinking through the phone and he gasped, “NO! Uh, no! I can talk. I can talk anytime you need to speak with me Lady Adrasteia!”

Restraining a giggle at the image of Adam sputtering and hurriedly wiping spilled (coffee?) beverage off his shirt and desk that popped up in her imagination she responded, “I’m so glad Adam! How goes your research and writing?”

Getting himself back in control he answered, “It’s going well my Lady! I’ve assembled good background on the agency and, based on showing him a few photos, my editor has given me a small group of investigators to assist. I will shortly be contacting the agency to request initial interviews.”

“Have you located Mr. Feber? I assume he is one you’ll want to speak to.”

“Yes mam, I’ve uncovered he is staying at the Andaluz.” He snorted, “Nice digs on government money.”

Jill chuckled at that, “Now, now Mr. Bosarge. You can’t expect a man of director Feber’s stature to stay at a Holliday Inn can you? I’m sure he needs the conference spaces and such to do his work with his staff. I do hope he hasn’t played too much havoc with the Swanky Library the Analuz has, though. That area was always one of my favorites!”, she finished with a twinge of pain. She didn’t mention that she’d only stayed there once when Gil and his girlfriend Janice celebrated their 6’th month anniversary of being a couple.

Adam nodded as he took note of Lady Adrasteia’s familiarity with the hotel. “I hope you’re right.”

Jill murmured sounds of agreement and then continued, “So how would you like to take part in my meeting with Mr. Feber? I suspect you’d be party to something few reporters would ever get a chance to experience! It would give you a true exclusive that you’d have free reign to publish.”

“Good lord are you serious?!? I’d give my left nut - Pardon me your Ladyship! Yes! Yes, I’d uh, like that very much.”, Adam stuttered with excitement.

“Oh I’m soooo glad! I have concerns though,” she confided, “With the untrustworthy behavior of his team last time, I’m afraid If they think they can tell away with it there will be violence. So I’d like to control the situation if I could. I think I’ll need to go all “James Bond” on this.”

Adam chuckled, “While I don’t doubt you have the looks to seduce him, I doubt his protection detail, or army platoon, would let you get that close in a casino.”

Cringing and flushing at the thought of being an ‘Octopussy’, Jill coughed a bit and responded, “No, I was thinking, if I knew his room number I could arrange to meet him in his room; much like I did you in your office!” As Adam considered that, Jill pushed forward with, “The hotel probably won’t have the soldiers running around to muddy things and If he reacts poorly to seeing me I can quickly escape.”

“Well, how am I involved then? I’m not to keen on being Lois Lane to your Clark Kent, you know...”

“My thought, was to have a cellphone with me. I will use it to make a video call with you, so that you can monitor the meeting. That way he won’t know you are directly involved, which means you’d be even safer!”

A little surprised at her concern for his safety he said it might work. He gave her the room number. She then asked a favor. Could he have one of his assistants arrange a room the floor above or below as close to Feber’s suite as possible? If she could then get a copy of the key she might be able to use the room as a staging area to prepare to meet him. The next day he could use it as part of his efforts to interview Feber! This request was a little more “cloak and dagger” than he was entirely comfortable with but he agreed.

———————————————

David sat in the conference room looking at the monitor on the wall at several of the White House Cabinet members. They included the SecDef, Secretary of the Interior, Attorney General and even the Vice President. David fought to keep from clenching his fists as he looked at the morning’s Albuquerque Journals’ personal section. “Gentlemen. I tried to alert you about the ill-advised decision to include soldiers and drones in our attempt to meet with Lady Adrasteia but you insisted. Here is the result..

He proceeded to read Lady Adrasteia personal to them. When finished, he looked at George Spears, the SecDef pointedly. “Were you trying to create an international incident? Perhaps actually provoke a war? I warned you that she has some sort of sophisticated intelligence at her disposal. I can only say we are very lucky that this noblewoman did not come to the conclusion that the US isn’t worth establishing relations with!”

George started to stand in outrage, “Now wait just a minute, here, are we supposed to allow a dangerous operative move ar-“

“Oh shut up George!”, the Vice President, Michael Summers, snapped, cutting him off. “Shut up and sit down. What were you planning? When she met with David, were you going to go in guns blazing?!?” The SecDef quieted but looked at Ferber and David knew he’d made an enemy. The VP took a deep breath and continued more calmly.

“All right, I’m assuming you’ll remain there in New Mexico for now.” He then focused on some papers in front of him.

“Now what new information do you have on Brazil itself?”

David, referred to his tablet. “As I mentioned to you a couple of days ago we’d begun getting reports that a few Brazilian soldiers seemed to have gone AWOL. The number was relatively small, but more that was expected normally. We recently discovered what happened to two of them.

It would appear that the “barrier” is not completely impermeable. Two of the soldiers who were declared AWOL have been photographed inside of one of the cities. They were being led across a square by chains linked to collars.”

Outraged exclamations broke out amongst those in the meeting. “More significantly, they were being led by one of the women with no difficulty. The was absolutely no evidence of force or resistance by the men. It could be that the woman was also accompanied by native soldiers, and their threat was sufficient but regardless, the captives were thoroughly cowed.” An edge of fear entered the murmured comments.

“What are the implications of this?”, V.P. Summers asked exerting iron control.

“We aren’t certain, sir, but we suspect either they somehow brutalized the Brazilian soldiers physically, chemically, or technologically enough to break their spirits, or their intelligence machinery was enough to enforce compliance through threats to their loved ones.”

—————————————

The late evening was clear but still crisp as Jill stood near the entrance to the hotel. She paused and made certain that the hijab was properly on and the associated veil covered the bulk of her face. Completing the look with a higher-end dress and coat she’d rented, she took a deep breath pulled her wheeled suitcase close and moved confidently into the building.

“Look like you belong! Just look like you belong!”, Jill told herself as she strode across the lobby, past the aqua glass fountain and towards the elevators. To her relief, no one intercepted her and she was able to enter the elevator.

Jill pressed the button for her floor and worked to avoid eye contact with the others in the elevator. When the elevator stopped at her door she walked out. Seeing the hall happily empty she went to the room and let herself in.

Once in the room with the door closed, Jill sagged against the wall and let out a huge sigh of relief. She’d been terrified she would be seen and stopped. Intellectually she knew the risk had been minimal, but she was still shaking! “Oh I don’t think I’m cut out for this ‘Mission Impossible crap!’” She thought as she slowly calmed down. And this wasn’t even the Main Event! Realizing she needed to relax even more she decided she needed a long steaming shower.

Jill quickly undressed and carefully laid the clothes out on the spare bed so as not to wrinkle and moved into the bathroom and shortly the shower. She washed slowly, paying attention to the way the almost scalding water eased her tense shoulders. Then she used the entire hotel bottle of shampoo/conditioner to clean her long tresses. All the while she reached out to feel the calming everyday field of emotions of the travelers around her; relaxing into the illusion that this was just a unexciting day.

Finally at an even keel, Jill stepped out of the shower and carried out the still surprisingly time consuming task of drying herself and her hair. Then after pulling on the provided bathrobe she walked back into the bedroom and proceeded to finish combing out and preparing her waist length hair. Finally she applied somewhat dramatic makeup. Logically the last “shouldn’t” have been necessary but she realized she’d needed it. It made her feel sexy and confidently strong. She also needed to send the right message. “I really took Carol’s lessons to heart, didn’t I!”, she realized.
Now she was ready for the debut of the costume. Did she really need it? Probably not; but if anything would put Feber a bit off balance, a “Warrior Queen” might!

Careful to make certain it all went on properly she took her time and slipped on the dress. Then the boots over soft socks. Then the jewelry and finally the bracers. She saved the cuirass for for just before she was ready to go.

She then tried to relax on the sofa after she’d spent a bit of time to confirm that these hotel windows opened and then focused on the room above. She spent a boring 3 hours waiting for Feber to return to his room for the night. Once she felt him return she quickly put on the last of her armor, and picked up a simple buckler she made just today. She felt him and listened as carefully as she could until she heard Feber’s shower start. It was time.

Jill Turned off the lights, opened her window and after looking to confirm that she could sense no attention directed in her direction, floated up to the suite containing the deputy director. Once at the window she carefully looked and noted it was the window to the suite bedroom. Jill focused on the lock mechanism and loosened it, then gently lifted the window to allow entry.

Hearing the shower behind a door in the room, Jill silently floated through and then closed the window. Then, still not touching the floor, floated through the second door and into the living room.

It was about then that Jill heard the shower stop. She quickly put a wireless earphone in and then made the video call to Adam.

He answered immediately, and she whispered, “Start recording!” She then moved the camera up closer to the ceiling and positioned it to capture as much of the room as possible under Adam’s directions She also posed herself a bit appear almost lounging in the chair by a work desk.

Adam and she could hear Feber moving about the bedroom and he, attired in the hotel robe (they were very soft!) and wiping his hair with a towel, moved into the living room. He turned, as if to make for the desk Jill was reclining next to and froze.

“Good evening Mr. Feber.”, Jill said in her husky voice. “Since my last invitation with you coming to me was not well received, I thought I’d come to you this time.”

Jill could feel icy currents of fear flowing from David and while he didn’t move, his eyes cast about frantically looking for help or a weapon. Seeing none he girded himself to yell for help and warn others. She quickly raised a finger in caution, “Before you cry for help, David, and spoil any chance for a constructive discussion, perhaps you’d like to talk?”

David continued staring at his intruder. “Good Lord! How did she get past security? She seems to be able to get anywhere she wants!”, he thought shakily, “If ‘they’ ALL have her abilities we’re likely screwed!” Swallowing he responded, “Lady Adrasteia, you have me at a decided disadvantage. You’ve broken into the suite; I’m alone and at your mercy. Do you honestly expect us to sit and talk like friends?”

Jill looked at him with a palpable sense of irony on her face and she made a small sound of disappointment, “Really Dave. And my being attacked and taken by force would have made us soul mates?”

“Well that was totally differe...”, his voice trailed off. He sighed, “No, you’re right. We broke trust first.”

Surprised and pleased at his honesty, Jill offered a small smile and, placing her buckler on the desk slowly rose to stand. With him watching her tensely, she moved to the room refrigerator. She opened it and while staring in, called back, “Exciting and frightening nights like this make my throat dry. I need a coke! How about you? Would you like something as well?” She chuckled, “One of the little bourbon bottles perhaps?”

Totally off balance now he answered, “and a ginger ale.” Seemingly unconcerned that she faced away from a man who likely outweighed her by over a hundred pounds, he watched as she filled two cups with ice and proceeded to build a mixed drink of the ginger ale and bourbon. She first poured the soda and then slowly filled it with the bourbon; right till the time he would have stopped. She then quickly poured the coke and taking a cup in each hand approached him. Once within arm’s reach, she smiled again, her eyes twinkling with mirth, and handed him his drink.

She retreated slowly and as she sat back at the desk she began to giggle. “Oh my goodness! I half expect to see you sporting a numbered necklace around you neck with its front blinking and you muttering ‘Norman Coordinate!’”

Feeling sudden puzzlement, she snorted and calmed herself, “Sorry for the obscure reference.”, she leaned forward while gesturing to herself, “Nerd from childhood!”

Jill felt David’s confusion only increase as he stared at her. “Pardon my lady, that show is a television show that is over 60 years old. How long have your people been here?!?”

Now it was Jill’s turn to be confused! She began to suspect that they were both operating under some false assumptions, “My people?”

“Yes! Your people in what we call the Amazon!”

“What you call the Amazon... Uh, I don’t think I’m who you think I am.”

“What!? Of course you are. I have photos of your people in that folder right next to you!”

With a sense that she was in an episode of the Twilight Zone she looked at the folder and with uncertain fingers opened it. She looked at an aerial photograph showing groups of people who looked to be her cousins! She flipped more shots and with each she saw more people who looked just like her! In a faint voice she blurted, “Oh boy!”

Watching Lady Adrasteia staring at the photos almost like they were snakes, it became apparent that she was utterly stunned. Unless she was a world class actress he was coming to the opinion that they had seriously mistaken what what she was. “If you aren’t from that area, why do you call yourself a ‘Lady’?”

Jill tore her gaze from the photos, “Uh, it was a joke. My friends saw me acting like a superhero to save those people at the Acme. As a part of a joke, they gave me the name Lady Adrasteia as a hero nom de Guerre! Likewise this...”, she gestured at her costume.

She blushed and continued, “I thought wearing this and giving you the name would misdirect and keep you off balance... Sorry?”

Dave shook his head and started chuckling. The laughter grew until he was almost howling. “Oh! Mis- Missio- Mission accomplished my lady!”

Jill watched him fight his hysterics and felt immense humor and relief. Wait. Relief? “Director Feber?”

“Oh call me David! Considering what we put you through, you deserve to use my fist name at least.”

Jill smiled shyly, “Very well... David. Now could you confirm something for me? I’m gathering that your fixation to get me revolves around the fact I look like these “Brazilian people. I take it they are powerful or hostile; am I right?”

Before he could answer there was a forceful knock on the door. From the hallway a voice called out, “Are you alright sir? Do you need assistance?”

Jill immediately tensed and grabbed up her buckler as she looked with frightened eyes towards the door. Before she could do more, however, David spoke up and assured the voice he was perfectly fine. He’d just read a particularly amusing editorial in the paper. “I’m just fine. Go back to your room. We’ll have a busy day tomorrow, Karl.”

Jill could feel that the man in the hall was still suspicious but he retreated back to the adjoining suite.

After waiting a few seconds after hearing his man return to his room David turned back to Jill and nodded. “Yes Adrasteia, those in Brazil are showing impressive technologies. The most amazing is that the have put up some sort of impenetrable barrier that encompasses all three of their cities. Add to this, they clearly show signs of militarism.”

He shrugged. “When you appeared at the Acme it was natural to assume you were an agent or representative of the Brazilians. Hence our extreme interest.”

“But now you understand I’m not one of them right? You can stop hunting me.”

David grimaced, “It’s not quite that simple. I believe you, but others may not. Your physical appearance alone will make it difficult for some to believe you are truly independent. Another point is your seeming knowledge of the military and my presence at the meeting you arranged. You knew about them, even not being there. How did you pull that off anyway?”

Jill looked puzzled for a second focusing on the previous day’s events then her eyes lit up and she giggled. “Oh that!? Battery powered home security cameras.”

David blinked, “Home security cameras?” He thought for a second and started chuckling, “Out smarted by Best Buy!” He gave Jill a very respectful gaze. “You my dear lady are so much more than a stunningly beautiful face! You are a scarily resourceful woman as well!”

Jill could feel the honest admiration David was evincing and she smiled back in turn, “I feel I can say much the same David. You have turned out so much more and better than I expected!”

David broke out laughing again, “What did you expect? A hack? A power hungry bureaucrat who just wanted to get a hold of the latest powerful tool?” Seeing Jill start blushing furiously in guilt, he let out another guffaw and assured her that while there were some who might fit that bill, most really just wanted to serve and do their best. Then, hearing the door to the next room open again, he warned her that his guards must be worried again and he urged Jill to do her magic and leave.

As he slowly walked towards the door to again reassure his body guard he thought about the extraordinary woman he’d just met. She seemed engagingly honest and ethical; certainly not a violent threat eager to attack as others might suggest. She was also perhaps the most beautiful and compelling woman he’d ever met. He forced himself to admit to himself that he was extremely drawn to her and if he weren’t married already and old enough to be her father he’d be in danger of trying to cultivate more. It was good, then he was happily married!

For her part, Jill made for the bedroom again and pulled the phone back into her hand. She gently closed the bedroom door and quickly went to the silently opening window. Without pausing she slipped out. As she quickly lowered herself, she re-closed David’s window and finally entered her own.

She hung up the burner phone that connected her to Adam and crushed it. Hopefully what Adam had seen and heard would help protect her, but she wondered if things were already beyond her... Needless to say, she did not have a restful sleep that night; even in a 5 star bed...

Adam sat reeling as he stared at the computer. What he’d heard in the video call was so much more than just the government being overzealous. Did she actually look like these Brazilians?

What if those “aliens” down in South America really were dangerous? Adam couldn’t bring himself to envision Adrasteia as a threat. He’d have to think about how to bring this new revelation to light. He understood the risk to Lady Adrasteia though. What ever choices he came to he’d need to tell her. It was only fair to her. Adam had never met a woman like her before. Her seeming strength and ethereal beauty combined with her manner drew him in and had caused feelings of protectiveness to rise in him. Yes he’d have find a way to protect her...



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