Exit Strategy

by London Lampy

Chapter 7

I'm a little disappointed with the sailor's uniform, it's just a pair of thick navy blue trousers, a short sleeved white shirt and a dark blue ribbed sweater.

"Well, what the fuck did you think it was going to be?" Asks Vio.

I try to explain to her that I thought it would be some sort of smart jacket, white trousers and maybe a hat, she snorts at me.

"That's the fighting navy you idiot, not the merchant navy, and anyway you're describing dress uniform, you wouldn't wear that to actually work on the ship."

"Does it fit all right?" Vin cuts in, we both tell him it does.

"And Violet, are you sure your happy to strap down your chest? It's best the pirates don't know you're a woman."

"If he can keep his tail tied up all the time I'm sure my tits can cope with a few days." With her chest flattened down and in the sailors uniform I doubt anyone will realise Vio's not male. In fact if you put us both in dresses, stood us side by side and asked passers by which one of us was a girl, I have a feeling more people might pick me than her.

"Violet, you can go and get changed, Exit you stay in my office, I want a word." Vio leaves, shooting a glare at Vin for using her full name, while I take a seat in one of the chairs, resisting the temptation to swing my legs.

"Exit, are you happy with doing this? I know you haven't worked here very long, and you don't really have the training or background the others do, I could send someone else instead." I'm torn between losing myself in Vin's green eyes and being offended that he doesn't think I'm up to the job.

"No one else can do what I can Sir." I say stiffly.

He sighs. "I didn't mean to imply that you couldn't do it, I'm just not sure we should be sending someone as inexperienced as you, if you were to be injured it would be my fault."

"I'm not going to get injured." Does he think I'm a child?

"I just wanted to make sure we weren't pushing you too fast." He looks like he wants to say something else but he changes the subject instead. "This is for you, it's got a small set of lock picks inside." Vin passes me a cigar shaped metal container about the size of my ring finger, it unscrews in the middle and does indeed contain lock picks.

"You'll need to stash it about your person just before the pirates board the ship, I'm sure I don't need to tell you where."

It takes me a few moments for me to realise what he's getting at, and when I do I can feel myself turning red, it doesn't help that Vin's smiling at me knowingly.

"Yes Sir, I understand." I manage to to get out. Unfortunately I now have a mental image of Vin helping me hide it, and I'm glad that the uniform trousers are cut loose in the crotch.

"Is that all Sir?" I ask before this get any more embarrassing.

"Yes, you can go." I stand up, tucking the lock pick container into my pocket, I'm almost at the door when Vin speaks again."It's a shame it's not a dress uniform, you'd look good in one."

I leave the Vin's slightly baffled, I have no idea what to make of that.

I find Vio, changed back into her usual dark coloured trousers and shirt, smoking and chatting to Caddy at reception, she spends a lot of time there, or at least she does when Caddy is working.

Caddy is in her mid twenties, with peroxide blond curls piled up on top of her head, eyebrows darkly pencilled in, wide blue eyes made wider with mascara and a slick of red lipstick across her mouth. She's always happy to see us and is the best source of gossip in the department, and in a drunken moment Vio once confessed to me that she thinks Caddy is a "saucy minx". I'm sort of still trying to forget that.

"Hello sailor." Caddy says when she sees me, jokingly winking and fluffing up her hair, bet Vio wishes she hadn't changed back now.

"What did Vin want?" My partner asks. I don't really want to tell her all of it so I pull out the metal container from my pocket to show her. "It's got lock picks in it."

"Did he tell you where to stick it?" She smirks.

In reply I nod and grin at her.

"I just don't want to know what's going on in that fucking dirty little mind of yours." Vio rolls her eyes.

"Oo, is that something rude?" Caddy asks, pointing at it.

Vio explains and Caddy's wide eyes grow wider. "See, me dad keeps saying to me, Cads, why don't you try and get yourself promoted, become an investigator, and I tell him I don't wanna, cos they have to do all kinds of weird shit. I ain't shoving something like that up me ass for nobody."

We are both laughing at this when Zale appears. He doesn't say anything, just fixes us with his black stare until we retreat back toward our office, although I look behind myself and see him talking to Caddy, and I can't resist poking my tongue out at his back. When Vio sees what I'm doing she grabs me by the arm and drags me through the door.

"Do you want to get yourself fucking fired?" She growls at me, I shrug."Get out of that uniform, you'll be wearing it enough for the next couple of weeks.

I start to change my clothes. "Vio, do you think I'm going to be able to do it? Escape from the cell, get the evidence and not be caught I mean?"

She gives me a long, thoughtful look then finally speaks. "Yes monkey boy, I do. If any fucker can do all that it's you."

This actually makes me feel a lot better.

Vin sends Vio and me home early, I go and pick up my suit from the cleaners then get the tram back to my flat. I need to talk to the Costa's so I let myself into the shop and find Mr Costa and Effie doing the accounts in the back room.

"Hello Mr Exit." She says looking up from the books, her father just glances at me and writes something down. You can tell he's Effie's father, he has ruddy cheeks and wiry brown curls, like hers, but is also bald on top and sports a large bristly moustache.

"Hello Effie, I'm going away for two weeks..." Mr Costa suddenly looks up at me.

"What about your rent, son?"

I walk over and place a small pile of coins in front of him. "It's all there, count it if you want."

He does, and "harrumphs" at me once he's done.

"Are you going on vacation?" Effie asks.

"No, it's work."

"Municipal Works sending their clerks off on jollies? They must have money to burn." Mr Costa grumbles.

I just smile and change the subject. "If Jinks goes missing again please let yourself in to look for him." I don't want to come home to an apartment full of cat shit, or worse still a cat corpse.

"Thank you, but I've put a bell on his collar so I can hear where he is now." Effie says.

"Damn stupid idea, how he's suppose to creep up on mice jingling away I don't know." Mr Costa mutters.

"Yes father, I'm well aware you think that." Effie replies, giving me a sly smile.

I say goodbye to them and go upstairs, I need to pack a bag for tomorrow, then I need to get ready for my date with Ry.

I decide to take a cab to the restaurant, my suit is clean and I want to keep it that way. I had it made when I got my first pay packet from Municipal Works, it's very dark blue with a fine pinstripe and has a gold silk lining that matches my eyes. I'm wearing it with a white shirt underneath, no tie and a few buttons undone. I look good.

Ry is waiting for me outside, he smiles and steps toward me as if to kiss me, then stops and thinks better of it in public, he rests his arm on my shoulder instead.

"Hello, you came. I've booked us a private room, I hope you don't mind."

I don't mind at all.

Inside the room a table is set for two with a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket. A waiter seats us and fills our glasses, then leaves.

"You look good." Ry says.

"It's the same suit I was wearing when I first met you, I only own one."

"Yes, but you look good in it." I'm not about to argue with him.

He stands up, walks around the table and gives me the kiss I didn't get outside. It starts off as a "hello" kiss but soon deepens into something more as his tongue finds it's way into my mouth, after a few moments pulls back and looks at me intensely.

"Would you like to stay the night with me tonight?" He asks.

"I can't, sorry, I have to be up very early for work tomorrow."

He looks disappointed and returns to his seat. "Early morning accounts clerking now?"

"Yeah. Actually I'm going to be going away for a while."

"How long?"

"About two weeks I think."

He smiles. "That's not too long, I thought you were about to say that they were sending you to Kipp for a year or something."

There's a knock at the door, the waiter renters and asks us if we are ready to order. Ry looks at me and asks. "Do you like chateaubriand?" I think he realises I don't know what he means because he adds. "It's a cut of steak for two people."

That sounds good to me and I tell him so. The waiter leaves with our order and Ry turns back to speak to me. "Can you tell me where you are going or is that not allowed?"

"I think it's not allowed, but it's going to be the first time I've been outside Parnell, I don't suppose that's giving anything away."

"You've lived your whole life in this city?" He sound surprised. "Then it is time you saw other places, I've got a beach house on the west coast, when you come back maybe you'd like to join me there for the weekend?"

I nod, I like the idea but I have to tell him something. I feel awkward about saying this but I need to.

"Ry..." I start, but he breaks in.

"That's the "I need to tell you something" tone of voice, is it bad? Let me guess, you're pregnant?" He jokes.

"Yes, I'm pregnant and it's yours, you've ruined me." He laughs at this. "No, look, I'm not a good boyfriend. I like you a lot but I'm not very good at..." I stop, trying to think of how to finish the sentence.

"I think the words you are looking for are "being faithful"" Ry supply's.

"Yeah, that." It's not quite what I was going to say, but it's pretty much what I meant.

He gives me a long, searching look. "Neither am I." He finally says.

By the time the food arrives things are back to normal and we're chatting about his business. The steak is really good and better still it comes with chips. I order chocolate mousse for dessert while Ry has some fruit, and we finish off the bottle of champagne. As he pours me the last drops I come to a decision.

"Maybe I could come to your house for a little while then get a cab home after?" I suggest.

He looks pleased. "That sounds like an interesting idea, I'll send Dawkins out to find you one when you want to go home."

"Wouldn't he be asleep?"

"I don't think he does sleep, I swear if I rang for him to bring me tea at three o'clock in the morning he'd be there in minutes with it, fully dressed."

Ry settles the bill and gives the waiter a large tip. As we are leaving through the main restaurant I suddenly hear my name being called, I look round to see Toni waving me over, worst luck she's having dinner with her husband. I can't ignore her or pretend I haven't seen her so I go over to their table with Ry following behind.

"Exit! Hello sweetheart, what are you doing here?" She asks.

"I just finished having dinner." I reply, stating the obvious and trying to avoid looking at Vin.

"With me." Ry adds, placing an arm around my shoulder. "Hello Toni, Govinder." He nods at them. Out of the corner of my eye I see Vin look up sharply, but he doesn't speak.

"Ahh..." Toni says with interest "I didn't know you two knew each other, we'll have to have you both over for dinner one night."

"That would be lovely, but we really have to be going now." Ry says, he starts to leave as Vin opens his mouth.

"See you tomorrow Exit, don't forget, you have to be up early." His voice sounds tight.

"Yes Sir." I look at him and realise he's looking straight at Ry with an expression of irritation across his face, I suppose he doesn't think I should be going out on the night before my first big mission and I can feel his gaze on us all the way to the door.

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