(read this first, then this.)
I could almost hear his teeth grind as his eyes traced their way down the burnished black barrel of my pistol. He hadn't ever planned to lose me, I could tell. He only needed to gamble against my sense of paranoia. Unlucky for him, I was feeling especially paranoid these days.
He glared at me directly, then, his gaze flat under heavy eyebrows. I stared right back, my aim steady and my grip on the Waki plastic-hard.
"Start talking," I said.
His breath caught. The aborted start of a half thought-out phrase.
"Now!" I barked.
"On November fourth, you went to the City Aquarium," he said.
I squinted at him. I could admit that it didn't seem like a very strong starting point for a spy.
He continued. "You didn't particularly want to go but you went. You got a blended instead of espresso that day because you wanted it to seem more like a holiday."
I stared at him, frozen solid. He didn't sound like a normal spy.
"Once you were there, you found the electric eel the most interesting, spent a good twenty minutes looking at it and reading about it. It fascinated you that a creature could use the same tool to kill as well as to search for its prey."
"Stop," I cut him off. "You a telepath?"
"If I were a telepath, you'd have noticed," he said. "You didn't live this long by letting people into your mind."
"Or maybe you're just that good, eh?" I demanded, tapping his forehead with the barrel of the pistol.
"Monique," he asked, his eyes boring holes into my head, "Why did you go to the Aquarium?"
I shook my head, incredulous. "You ask funny questions for a man with a gun in his grill."
He didn't reply. He just stared.
and twitched. "I went to the fucken' Aquarium. Everybody goes sometime."
"Right, why?" He asked.
"I felt like going," I said, fighting down an impatience that I tried to pretend was rational.
He raised his eyebrows at me, his eyes not moving.
I worked my jaw for a few moments. The man stared back at me, still as a statue.
"What are you trying to tell me?" I asked.
"There are things that people want you to forget," he said. "Things like me."
"You saying somebody changed my memories?" I demanded.
"What I'm saying," he said, "Is that when you wake up tomorrow, you will forget that this conversation ever happened. You won't remember that you chased a stranger down a bunch of alleys and you won't remember why you did it."
My eyes widened.
"Your past will haunt you quietly, until that rare case where it bumps into you and says a name you thought you'd killed. Now get that gun out of my face if you want me to talk any more."
Several tense seconds passed in the alley. I slowly reached my thumb upward and eased the pistol's hammer down.
"Fine," I said. "You've got my attention."
"I didn't want
your attention," he snapped. "I want to be left alone."
"Too bad," I said. "Way you say it, I can't afford to leave you alone now, and ain't too long until morning. Let's talk."
He leaned his head back and let out a harsh sigh. "Can we at least go somewhere that doesn't smell like piss?"
"All right," I said. After considering him for a moment, I decided to take a small gamble. "Room five."
He smirked. "Room five," he responded, shaking his head. "Sure. Why not. Have you even been there since you started calling yourself Alicia?"
"Not even once," I said. "That reminds me. What am I supposed to call you?"
He opened his mouth, then closed it. "Ubi," he said, after a moment of thought.
"Ubi," I said. "What am I gonna have to do to pry your real name outta you?"
"You can't," he replied flatly. He was quiet for several seconds, then turned his head to look at me. His eyes, unfocused, were less sharp, and I could see further into them. There was a hollowness beneath. "They took it."
I let the pistol drop to my side and took a step back. "Are you tellin' me ..."
"Yeah," he said with an ugly, empty chuckle. "All this time we joked about it like an old myth. Years of experience, research, resources, and it was just an old wives' tale. No, 'nique, it's the real shit. I'm Forgotten."