Today, it's Shakespeare's birthday, and I needed to celebrate somehow since, uh, if you google the famous Shakespeare quote about Fates and being imposing, my story is kind of the first hit. I kind of feel bad about that since I kind of picked the story title on a whim over two years ago (for the first couple of weeks of its life, Fates was called "The Bunker Story" as all of my stories aren't ever called by their real names ("The Audrey Story," "Smoke," "Isotope")). But since I named Fates after an awesome Shakespeare quote, I've gone on to give at least five other stories either Shakespearean titles or Shakespearean pun titles (including, by the way, the unwritten story of Fates Casey, which would've been called That Men Must Needs Abide).
So...here's the first part of Chapter 63, for your reading pleasure. This will probably hit the stands on Thursday, maybe. If I'm feeling particularly magnanimous on Thursday, that is. Who knows? I never do.
Have a great Monday, and Happy Birthday, Willy Shakes. You inspired an entire language in so many ways. You've certainly inspired me, and for that, I'll be forever grateful. Now, if anybody needs me, I'll be rereading Puck's amazing monologue from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
11 JULY 2008
WASHINGTON D.C. (IN FRONT OF A YOGURT SHOP)
His first thought—that he was being paranoid, that he was hallucinating—was a complete wash. The minute he slowed, the three men behind him did the same. One man halfway down the block ahead of him looked up and quickly away. A fifth man across the street pretended to be far too interested in a copy of the Post. Casey would have scowled at that.
Casey would have also scowled at the fact that all five men wore lightweight jackets. Even though it was cooler than the previous day, Chuck was walking around in shorts and a T-shirt, like most of the tourists around him. Five men in jackets stood out like a sore thumb, which told him two things: his pursuers were packing, and they didn’t care about being discreet.
Panic rose, but only for a split second. The day went cold, crystal clear focus sliding over his vision. It was a gift to be aware of his Lincoln training, for he could sum up every egress point and escape route in a matter of seconds.
The problem was that there were five of them and only one of him. He could sum up the odds of getting away cleanly, and they were only twelve percent in his favor. The longer he kept the guys following him on his own terms, the better his chances of getting away were. Even better than that, he needed to get to some place crowded and public. That was the first thing Sarah had taught him in her lessons about how to lose a tail.
He changed route and headed for the Federal Triangle area. He switched his duffel to his left hand, leaving his right hand free to defend or attack, depending. As he did so, he pushed the button on his watch.
His next act was to reach for his cell phone and hit speed dial for Sarah’s number.
The call didn’t connect.
Chuck checked a window display as he was going by, using the mirroring properties in the shop’s glass to check out his followers. One of them must have a cell phone jammer. “Dammit.” Casey and Sarah wouldn’t be picking up on his watch beacon, either. If they knew to block his cell, they’d know to block his watch. Which meant Graham had sent them. They likely had training. But if they’d come from Graham, they needed Chuck whole, mostly in one piece, and ready to be taken to the DNI to upload the Intersect.
Without, hopefully, letting them know he was onto them, he headed into an open-aired shop that sold cheap, touristy knickknacks and odds and ends. It was crawling with tourists and had multiple exits, and he could hear Sarah’s patient instructor voice telling him that this was ideal. If he could just get out the other side, he’d have a little more leeway.
He nearly tripped over a mother and her two toddlers, one of whom was covered in what looked like some kind of red syrup. “Sorry—sorry—”
The mother gave him a dirty look. Chuck, about to apologize again, spotted one of the men following him coming in the entrance and cursed under his breath. He sidled away through the racks of postcards.
The man followed him. Desperate and trying to hide it, Chuck looked for a weapon, any weapon, among the curios and I Love D.C. coffee mugs. His eyes fell on the rack in the corner, toward the door on the opposite side of the shop. He gave one wincing apology to his masculinity and headed over, taking time to make it look like he was actively, if insistently, shopping. When he reached the rack, he spun it around, pretending interest. It only took about five seconds—five long, interminable seconds—of keeping his head before the man approached, one hand inside his jacket.
Chuck counted under his breath, dropped the duffel, and turned. The man cursed as he received a face full of Strawberry Sparkle Body Spray.
“Sorry,” Chuck said to the world, and shoved the man into a table full of folded up T-shirts. He sprinted for the exit. He couldn’t tell if the crashing noises behind him were the man recovering or surprised tourists, but he wasn’t going to waste time looking over his shoulder to find out. He exploded out into the sunlight again, already in mid-turn. He tripped, went down to a knee, and scrambled to his feet.