The sun is about thirty minutes from rising. The early morning light is a murky, dull grey.
I take a step backwards, concealing myself deeper in the inky black shadows behind the bus shelter, as a double-decker approaches the stop, glowing like the Christmas lights that have infected the city.
A lone figure waits for the doors to slide open, his eyes probing the blackness, a manilla file tucked under his arm. My fingers close around the handle of the knife in my pocket, the gun in my waistband digging into my spine as I flatten against a brick wall and hold my breath.
He steps down from the safety of the bus, his erratic breath rising in frozen clouds around him as his head whips from side to side. The buttons of his heavy winter coat are straining with every laboured breath.
Years of experience tells me that the only thing this guy is carrying is the file. My fingers relax and I step forward, my heavy boots crunching on the ice. His eyes meet mine, the dim glow of the streetlights highlight the fear in his eyes. He’s done his research. Good. Saves time.
I hold out my hand and he slowly places the file in my palm, his eyes on mine, his breathing getting faster. Shorter. I flip through the images, scan the notes, and stop at recommendations. “Who is that?”
“He’s your best chance of getting to her.”
“He’s . . . well known in the field. If he can’t get to her, no one can.”
“What are you telling me, exactly?”
He takes half a step backwards, slipping on the ice. “I tried all of the male honeytraps I use. All got turned down, one way or another.”
“It didn’t work?”
“No,” he says quietly, shaking his head.
“So, they’re still together?”
“All I can tell you for certain is that she didn’t respond to our attempts to engage her.” He stands straighter, looking like a man trying not to be afraid. “Can I ask you something?” I nod. “Why do you want to do this?”
Tapping on one of the images, a freezeframe, I tell him, “She’s my wife.”