Exit Strategy

by London Lampy

Chapter 6

The company doctor, Dr Morrison plays a series of notes on a small xylophone to test my hearing. By the time I woke up this morning it was a lot better, and he tells me that there is no permanent damage, and the ringing should go over the next few days.

When he's finished I go to my office and find Kezlo at his desk surrounded by pieces of paper, chewing on the end of his pencil and occasionally shouting out a random number or letter and scribbling something down.

"He's decoding some of the shit you took from the safe last night." Vio says through a mouthful of shortbread, nodding her head in the visk's direction.

I go and look at the sheets on his desk over his shoulder, but it means absolutely nothing to me.

Sonja enters the room, stares at me and signs "good morning monkey boy", I don't respond, "I heard you had gone deaf" her fingers spell out.

"You were misinformed." Vio snaps.

"Calm down Violet, I was just showing concern for your partner's welfare." With that Sonja flicks her long black hair and slips behind her desk. One day Vio is going to crack and deck her, I hope I'm around to see it.

I sit down at my desk too, and Vio slides a tin full of home made shortbread toward me. "The chocolate chip ones are for you, apparently."

Oh gods, Toni. "Is she still here?" I ask.

"Mmm." Vio starts chomping on another piece. "In with Vin, sorry Go-fucking-vinder, I think."

Toni is Vin's wife, I want to dislike her but I just can't. She's sweet, friendly and even I can see that she's very beautiful, but then Vin wouldn't be married to anyone who wasn't. She's only four years older than me, which means she's a lot younger than Vin, and she comes from what I think is called "a very good family" or as Vio would put it "fucking posh twats". She likes to bake things and bring them in for us, and although I like her I dread her coming in because every time I see her it reminds me that I'm crazy about a man I can't have.

And now she's in my office.

"Hello everyone, Caddy gave you the shortbread I see, it's for all of you but I made some chocolate chip specially for Exit because I know it's his favourite."

Sonja rolls her eyes at this and Kezlo jerks his head up, looking round as if he's forgotten where he is, then sees Toni, nods at her and goes back to his papers.

"Thank you." I say.

"Yeah, thanks." Vio adds, her mouth full.

Toni comes and perches on the edge of my desk, she's wearing a short bright blue dress that complements her caramel skin. She has the sort of tight, curvy body that makes men who like women drool, I can't compete with that.

She looks at me with concern in her huge brown eyes. "Govinder said you were very brave last night, not that he could tell me any details, but he said you were hurt, are you all right?"

Vin thinks I was brave?

"He wasn't hurt, the silly bugger just got too near some exploding dynamite and went temporarily deaf." Vio answers for me.

"Oh." Toni looks at me. "Can. You. Hear. Me?" She says loudly, and Sonja snickers behind me while Kezlo shouts out "Six."

"I'm fine, the doctor gave me the all clear."

Toni grins. "Good, I've got to get going, but lets go out for a drink again soon and have a proper gossip, it feels like ages since we've done that."

It is, I try and avoid it if I can, she always wants to talk about my love life and try and set me up with some "gorgeous boy" she knows.

She leaves the office to the sound of Kezlo exclaiming "Aha, it's B!".

"Thank fuck for that, there is only so much I can take of little Miss Sunshine." Vio grumbles.

"I'd have thought you would like her around, especially when she's wearing tiny skirts like that." Sonja is really pushing her luck today, and anyway Toni is not really Vio's type, too posh and polished.

Vio is about to reply but she's cut off by by Kezlo shouting. "X, y, z, yess! Done it!" He punches the air in his victory over the code.

It's hard to read visk's emotions as their faces don't move much, but he seems embarrassed when we all stare at him. Sonja sighs as if it's all too much trouble. "Do you have to make so much noise? I'll go and tell Vin you're done."

Kezlo's a typical arrogant green visk most of the time, but I still feel sorry for him being partnered up with Sonja, she's a complete bitch to all of us and a complete suck up to Vin and Zale.

"It was quite easy for me once I got going, just a basic numerical cypher, you see what they had done was..."

"Kezlo, I don't really fucking care." Vio cuts him off. It seems a bit harsh, but once he gets going on subjects like that he can bore for the city.

"All right." He rearranges his robes in discomfort, and to make up for it Vio offers him the tin of shortbread. He's nibbling on a square of it with his sharp saw like teeth when Sonja comes back with Vin.

"Good work Kezlo." Vin smiles at him, and I feel a little stab of envy that it's not me this time. Vin then turns to me.

"Exit, where did you find that address book and accounts ledger?"

"In a locked desk draw in the big top floor office, is it what we were looking for?"

"Not exactly, do you know who Casper Hesslelink is?"

"No, should I ?"

"Yes, you should." That's from Sonja, Vin ignores her.

"He's the cartels most senior representative in the city, and you took his private address book, which it turns out contains nothing but the contact details of over a hundred prostitutes, along with their specialities, shall we say. He's even given them ratings. The ledger has all the financial transactions associated with his sexual adventures, it adds up to a staggering amount of money."

That explains the bedroom then.

"Sir, can we make use of that information?" Vio asks.

"I'm sure we can for something, but I can't see how it would help with our current problem. However I have high hopes for the encrypted documents, I'm taking them and Kezlo's key to Zale now."

"So Hesslelink's a massive perv? Figures." Vio says. "Exit?"

"Yes." I look at her and she makes the "tea" sign with her hands.

I pick up the kettle and head out of the door while she lights up a cheroot. Maybe one day she'll make tea for me. Yeah, and maybe one day Sonja will stop being a bitch.

Later that afternoon Vio and I are summoned into Zales office, it's larger than Vin's and has a table and chairs at one end so he can hold meetings in there which we are all currently seated around. Zale is keeping us all waiting, reading through a pile of papers in front of him. I look around and accidentally catch Vins eye, and to my surprise he glances at the visk and pulls a face at me as if to say "just get on with it". I hide my smirk behind my hand as our department's number one looks up and fixes me with his black gaze, the bright green scales around his eyes are almost glowing in the light from the window, I swallow and Zale holds my gaze for a few seconds before he looks away and speaks.

"The encrypted documents contained a number of interesting things, some of which I am planning to have a few of the other investigators follow up, however there was only one that seemed as if it could be related to the problem of the stolen coal. It's just a list of dates, each one corresponding with the day a shipment was taken, and three future dates as well, which we must assume relate to more planned crimes. The earliest one is next week, if the pirates follow the patten of the previous three thefts that will be the shipment due to go out day after tomorrow." He looks at us all as if expecting a response, and Vio gives him one.

"So what can we do with this? I don't see the dates alone are enough to confront the fuckers, specially as we'll have to admit to breaking into their offices if we did."

"Maybe we should just send the ship out earlier or later, then it wouldn't be where they expect it to be on that date" I add.

"Nice idea Exit, but that would only solve the problem temporarily." Vin says.

Yeah, I suppose it would.

"We need more evidence to tie this to the cartel." Vin continues. "That's why the two of you are going to be on that ship."

Vio frowns. "Sir, how will that help? The sailors just get locked up on some out of the way island, then sent back home on an empty ship, can't see what we can do with that."

Zale answers this one. "We expect you to be able to escape from their prison and see what you can find. According to the seamen who have been there they are not really guarded as the pirates assume that they wouldn't try to break free, after all they are on a small island hundreds of miles from home, where would they go? The best course of action would be if Exit could get out overnight and look for any more documentation, the building that the men have been held in seems to be their headquarters, you should be able to get in and back to your cell without detection."

Easy for him to say, although Vio is grinning to herself. "Fucking good plan Sir, I like it." She says.

I have no idea what Zale is thinking, but Vin raises his eyebrows in amusement at her.

"Exit, do you have any opinions on this?" Zale asks.

"What happens if I get caught?"

"You will not get caught." He replies. The way he says this makes it sound like an order, and it's not very reassuring.

"All right, what if I don't find any thing?"

"Then you and your partner will have had two weeks vacation at the company's expense."

Vacation? I notice Vio's expression changing at the mention of how long we will be away, and so does Vin.

"Is that going to be a problem with your father?" He asks her.

Like Vin, Vio's dad was a solider who fought in the war against Surosa. Unlike Vin, who came back a hero, he came home with a piece of his brain blown away. Sometimes he's all right, or at least calm. Sometimes he's angry, or has screaming flashbacks or smashes every piece of furniture in the house to matchsticks. His wife died a year after he returned leaving Vio and her younger sisters Rose and Jasmine, along with their brother Rowan to look after him. Rose recently had her second child, while Rowan himself is now in the army, so caring for their father is falling more and more to just Vio and Jasmine.

"It should be fine sir, I'll hire a private nurse, I've done it before, the agency know what to expect."

Vin nods. "The company will help to cover the cost."

At this Zale whips his head around and stares at Vin, he's about to speak when Vio cuts him off.

"Thank you sir, but that won't be necessary."

Vin looks like he wants to say more, but he keeps his mouth shut, if Vio has made up her mind he's not going to change it.

Zale picks up again. "We will liaise with the shipping department to get the two of you on board, and organise some uniforms for you, will we need to get something specially made for you Exit?"

"Trousers, yes."

"Is their anything else you want to ask?" Vin adds.

I can't think of anything, nothing sensible anyway, and he dismisses us back to our office.

The rest of the day passes slowly, I have to write up my account of last nights events so it can go on file and that takes me an age. It doesn't help that Sonja and Kezlo are also in the office all day long and the bickering between them and Vio reaches boiling point by the afternoon, when Vio throws Sonja's favourite tea cup out of the window. By the time I leave I'm almost starting to look forward to being imprisoned by pirates.

When I arrive home with a warm newspaper wrapped portion of fish and chips tucked under my arm I find Effie locking up the shop. She waves me over. "Mr Exit, you had another package delivered today, it's just inside, hold on a mo." And before I can stop her she's let herself back in, and comes out a moment later with a large oblong box wrapped in brown paper and addressed to me. She looks at me expectantly, but I'm not unwrapping it out here so I say good evening to her, and make my way upstairs.

I eat my food first, cold fish and chips are not good, then I tackle the parcel. Beneath the brown paper is a cardboard box which at first seems filled with crumpled tissue paper, I pull some of this out and find underneath an expensive looking cut crystal vase which carefully remove, and notice that inside there is a folded piece of paper. Tipping it out of the vase I open it, it reads.

"Please join me at the below address for dinner tomorrow night at 7.30pm. R.J. Xxx."

The address is for an upmarket restaurant, I suppose it would be a good idea to see Ry so I can tell him I'm going to be out of town for a while. It's a strange thought because since I was brought to the orphanage I've never been outside the city, I've never even seen the ocean and pretty soon I'm going to be out in the middle of it hundreds of miles from home.

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