The Sweat of the Brow (55)

We land back by the orange-grove and walk into the trees. I cort the ‘plane up and we watch it drift overhead. For a moment it blocks the sun. I can hardly hear it over the rustling of the leaves.

I stare at the ground in front of me and see the world above, treetops and tractors and Katie and I among them, piped right down from the ‘plane’s cameras. There’s no movement or body heat for a mile in any direction. We’re alone.

Then I send the ‘plane away, so nobody else can sneak onto its video stream.

And I give her the box.

She doesn’t open it, just slips it into her handbag.

And a job is done.

“The assignment was worth ten,” she says. “Ten thousand dollars for a few days vacation.”

“This was a few weeks.”

“And expenses,” she says. “And danger. And a lot of thinking on your feet. I’ll be having words with the client. If they’re going to endanger my operative they’re going to have to pay for the privilege.”

I nod stiffly at her callousness. But it’s what I asked for, and I know the stiffness will go away.

She hands me a little box wrapped in turquoise paper.

“More sculpture?” I ask.

“Gold.”

“Moving up in the world.”

She shrugs. “This week it’s gold, next week it’s a prize heifer and three magic beans. It’s jewelry. Old rings, a bangle or two. Some jeweler will pay thirty for the lot.”

“My expenses were more than that.”

“Your expenses were extravagant. I can’t fund at that level.”

“My expenses were necessary,” I say, “to stay within the constrains of the assignment. Namely, not getting caught.”

“A seasoned operative would have been able to accomplish that for a fifth the price.”

“I’m not-” I say, and stop myself. “I’ll-” and stop again.

“Martin-” she says, but I hold up my hand. And think.

She’s the boss. She’s the authority. What am I arguing about? What am I trying to get?

“For future assignments,” I say, “I need to know that I will not be punished for exigent circumstances.”

“You won’t be,” she said. “You will, however-”

“In fact,” I say, “I expect to be rewarded for them.”

“The nature of the assignment-”

“I am content with the payment you offered for this assignment. Unless you make me eat the associated costs. In which case-”

“Martin, it’s-”

“In which case, I am not content.”

We trade stares like broadsides and neither of us sink.

“Katie,” I say, “you’re wasting both our times. My time isn’t worth anything. Yours is. So I’ve already won. So give me my god damned money.”

She rolls her eyes, reaches into her bag and takes out another box, this one in pale pink.

“Another thirty?”

“Twenty-five. Don’t ever spend that much again.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Don’t ever spend-”

“Yes, Boss.”

“I’m going back home now.”

“Yes, Boss.”

“Wait for my call.”

“Yes, Boss.”

“And Martin?”

“Yes?”

“Good work.” And she walks away.

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~ by davekov on 7 October 2012.

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