Updated: Sep 30, 2021
It was 4:37 in the afternoon and Reginald was settling into his favorite arm chair, feet propped up on his ottoman while a strong cup of tea steeped next to his latest novel. He had joined a book club recently, a suggestion from one of his wives – ex-wife, but on good relations none-the less – some attempt to get him to interact with people. Bah. He preferred the books.
People were complicated. He’d had more than his fair share of dealing with people and he was very much done with the intricacies and nuances. Reginald was enjoying retirement. Not many in his line of work could say the same.
Picking up his book, Reginald adjusted his spectacles on his nose and dropped two sugar cubes into the silver rimmed tea cup. He’d have enough time to finish the next chapter before the tea was ready.
Opening the book, Reginald relished the smell of the pages as he leafed to where the heroine was about to bring down the villainous necromancer, thereby destroying his undead army. At least, he presumed that would happen. She hadn’t let him down thus far, unlike several real-life women he could call to mind.
A melodious chime rang through the house and Reginald startled, losing his place just as the necromancer flung a particularly nasty curse at the daring heroine. Setting the book down with a furrowed brow, Reginald slid his feet into plush forest green slippers and straightened the sharp black and gold bathrobe he had donned in preparation for a relaxing evening.
“I’m not expecting anyone.” Grumbling to himself, Reginald left his study, slippers muffling his footsteps as he crossed the dark mahogany hard wood floor of the foyer and unlatched the front door. Swinging the heavy door open with little effort, the scathing words of dismissal tripped over themselves as sunshine bounced merrily off his unwanted guest.
“I’m so terribly sorry to bother you, sir.” The girl standing on his door step was almost six feet tall, towering over him by a good six inches. She was wearing a knee length white dress decorated with vibrant cherries that screamed of summer picnics with fresh squeezed lemonade on warm grass. “My car seems to be having trouble,” she continued, tucking large red sunglasses on top of her head and managing not to upset the cascade of rich brown curls.
Reginald caught a glimpse of a white car gleaming in the afternoon sun. It was parked neatly with just enough room for other vehicles to pass by, while not crushing the flower beds that adorned either side of the driveway.
“What’s wrong with it?” he asked far more gruffly than he had intended. Reginald cleared his throat but the girl only gave him a sheepish smile with a half shrug.
“I wish I knew. It’s not even a month old. Silly I know.” The girl heaved a sigh as if to say ‘Just my luck huh?’ and looked back at the car before turning her attention back to him. “I was on my way to the festival and honestly didn’t realize it would be so far away from…” she trailed off and waved a hand apologetically. “Well everything.”
Reginald blinked at her. Seeing that he didn’t understand the girl lifted her eyebrows. “There’s no cell service.” He noticed belatedly that she was holding a cell phone in her hand. Reginal vaguely recalled that there was a festival this time of year. He used to go but quickly tired of all the stalls packed with vegetables, fruit, flowers, and odd assortments of people pawing through the merchandise.
“I suppose you expect I have a phone you can use?” he asked suspiciously and again with a touch more irritation than he had wanted but his tea was at this very minute cooling and would soon be past the point of enjoyment.
The girl took in his expression and her shoulders sagged visibly but she quickly straightened and gave him a bright, if someone forced smile. “I’m sorry. I know it’s such a bother to have strangers knock on your door unexpectedly. I’m sure I’ll pick up cell service if I just walk a ways back up the road.” She backed up on the porch and pulled her sunglasses off her head, adjusting them on her nose with one long finger. Giving him a completely unnecessary wave, she turned and held up her phone as if the gesture would help give her better service.
Reginald took in her sensible but not at all practical for the countryside heels and he tried to throttle the voice in his head that immediately started to chastise him for not helping the damsel in distress. Lamenting his judgement when it came to women he pulled the door open farther and called after her.
“Oh all right, all right. You can use my phone.”
The girl paused, one toe on the step of the porch, turning precariously and arching one eyebrow in confusion. “Are you sure?”
“No,” Reginald growled. “So come in before I change my mind.” He watched her teeter on the step and bite her lip before slipping the cell phone into an equally well matched brown and red purse. She ducked her head in acceptance and climbed the steps again, her skirts barely brushing his robe as he stood to the side to let her in.
“I really do appreciate this,” she continued, taking her sunglasses off again and blinking in the subdued light of his home. She took in her surroundings as Reginald closed the door and when he turned he found her taking off her heels and placing them next to the shoe rack, crouching down to tuck them beside a pair of his dress shoes so they weren’t sticking out where someone could trip on them.
He was pleased in spite of himself and waited for her to straighten before donning his earlier disapproving frown. This didn’t seem to faze her, or perhaps she was just being polite. Her expression when she stood matched the cheery disposition of her dress.
“This way,” Reginald held out his hand indicating she should walk in front of him towards the room across from his study. As she walked before him she continued to chatter, her head swiveling this way and that examining everything with interest that he was convinced might actually be genuine.
“I suppose this will teach me for procrastinating. I will absolutely be switching cell companies after this. Can you imagine? In this day and age not having coverage just seems crazy.” Reginald gave a non-committal grunt. She seemed content to keep sharing information he cared nothing about.
“I do hope AAA will be able to come out quickly. I’ll go wait at the car so I’m not imposing, of course. With any luck I’ll still be able to make my presentation at the festival.” She tucked a curl behind her ear and checked her phone then made an irritated noise chastising herself.
“Presentation?” Reginald asked curiosity getting the better of him.
“Oh yes!” She said brightening. “I’m supposed to be presenting on the ecological impacts of chicken farming and how to address the arsenic concentrations they’re finding in soils.”
“Chicken farming…” Reginal had picked up the phone but was now staring at her dubiously. Her attire was at odds with some sort of environmental nut ball but he had overheard something on the news last night similar to what she was spouting now.
“Roxarsone.” The girl said with a nod as if that should explain everything. It didn’t. “It’s a feed additive that basically makes plumper chickens. We’re actually pretty awful humans when it comes to how we treat the chickens, but I digress. I promise I’m not one of those nutty activists,” she laughed easily and her words echoing his own thoughts eased his discomfort marginally.
“In any case, I’m likely the only one in this room about to geek out over FDA regulations on organoarsenic compounds so I’ll just go ahead and call AAA and get out of your hair.” Reginald handed her the phone. He really didn’t want to hear anything about fat chickens and what that had to do with arsenic or soil. He did; however, reclassify the column he had automatically dropped the girl into, nudging her over into the ‘maybe has a brain and can use it’ area but was interrupted yet again by the sound of the doorbell.
“I’ll be right back,” Reginald turned without waiting for a reply, intending to unleash his ire on whomever had the ill fortune to be on his doorstep this time.
“What do you want?” He flung the door open with a growl, bathrobe fluttering around his pajama pants.
“Well hello to you too Reg,” The tall man on Reginald’s doorstep was wearing jeans and a blazer, pausing only briefly from typing something on his phone to tuck his keys in his pocket. Making a satisfied noise he tapped the screen and turned his attention to Reginald.
“Can I come in? It’s important.” He had an apologetic smile and Reginald heaved a sigh.
“If you must. I’m warning you though, Patrick, my answer is still no.” Reginald stepped back to let his former colleague enter.
“What makes you think I’m here to ask you about that? I know you’re retired.” Patrick pulled out his phone again at the sound of a chime and swiped several strokes before pocketing the gadget. “Besides,” he said taking the time to look around. “I probably respect that more than most.” His words trailed off as a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Am I interrupting something?” He asked eying Reginald. The older man frowned, his mustache bristling.
“Yes. My tea. Now what do you want?” Reginald glanced to his study where his tea was, then towards the room where the girl was using his phone. He couldn’t see her from his current position and wondered just how long it was going to take for the tow truck to arrive.
“Tea,” repeated Patrick. When no further response was forth coming, he shrugged and started walking towards the study. “Ok then. Listen Reg, someone’s put a hit out on you. Not sure why now, of all times, but it’s a hell of a lot of money. Enough for someone to wipe their slate clean and disappear.”
Reginald scoffed. “No one would dare. Besides, I’m retired.” He followed the younger man, wondering if this was all just some ploy to get him back in the game.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Patrick said walking over to the modest bar and helping himself to a glass of bourbon. He held it up inquisitively and Reginald shook his head. He was still hoping to have his tea. “Your retirement has specific clauses and restrictions that were supposed to make you safe.”
“I am safe.” Reginald insisted. The doorbell rang again. “Oh for Pete’s sake!” Reginald threw up his hands and Patrick lifted an eyebrow.
Reginald marched his fuzzy slippers back to the front door, Patrick following more slowly behind, savoring a sip of the bourbon. When Reginald threw the door open this time, he seriously considered installing a holster next to the door so he could just brandish a fire arm and dispatch further unwanted guests.
“Reggie!” The squirrely man on the front porch burst forth and clasped Reginald into a tight hug, patting the older man on the back enthusiastically. “Am I glad to see you. I rushed over as soon as I found out.” Reginald didn’t have a chance to do more than sputter as the other man pushed past with all the decorum of a Tasmanian devil. He paused long enough to take stock of his surroundings, stopped in mid-sentence and whirled around eyes wide.
“Reggie you old dog. You should have told me you had company. I’d have been more discreet!”
“What?” Reginald was caught off guard by this sudden shift in the conversation.
“Don’t act all coy. Oh hello Patrick. Is this a party that I completely missed the invite for?” The new arrival looked from Reginald to Patrick who had walked out of the study at the tirade and was now leaning against the doorframe, bourbon in hand.
“Clarence,” Patrick inclined his head politely. “I just got here myself. Reginald said he was just about to have…tea.” The two men exchanged a knowing look and Reginald huffed.
“I was about to have tea! What’s so odd about that?” Clarence snickered and Patrick conveniently busied himself with swirling the bourbon.
“Well it’s just that ‘tea’ doesn’t usually get delivered in a white Beemer or wear red heels. Not the tea I get anyway…you’ll have to give me the number for the delivery service.” Clarence was leering in that way that made Reginald roll his eyes.
“It’s not what you think,” Reginald waved a hand dismissively and swept past Clarence and Patrick, beelining for his study. “Her car broke down and she’s just using my phone for a tow.”
“Brand new BMW’s rarely break down so neatly on someone’s driveway,” Patrick interjected taking up a post just past the door where he was in close proximity to the bar. Incidentally, he also had a good view of the exits.
Reginald grunted and folded his arms, glaring out the window. The car was parked conspicuously neatly along the driveway. He noticed the larger black SUV, presumably Patrick since it was standard issue, and the considerably more banged up Toyota Camry that was Clarence’s personal vehicle. There was a headlight missing that had been working last time he had been over.
Reginald grudgingly admitted that it was more than odd. She had seemed like such a nice girl too. But then that was probably the point. He took quick mental stock of where his firearms were stashed, along with any other potentially useful weapons. The easiest was the pistol beneath his end table, currently occupied by his cooling tea.
“You really did have tea planned huh?” Turning, Reginald found Clarence warming his hands on his tea cup. Patrick was still leaning against the wall, head cocked to the side while frowning furiously at his phone. Clarence held the cup out in one hand, swirling the spoon dramatically and brandishing it in triumph as if it were a sword. “I admit I was wrong about the tea. Better drink it before it gets cold Reggie.”
“I hate it when you call me that you know?” Reginald accepted the proffered tea cup and was raising it to his lips, the waning tendrils of steam misting his glasses, when a cheery voice drifted through the door.
“Hello? Oh hi!” The girl came into the study, pausing to blink before giving a bright wave to Clarence and Patrick. The two men looked from her to Reginald then each other. “Sorry to interrupt, again,” she said with a slight bob. She rubbed her bare foot on the back of her calf and Reginald had to wonder how she had planned on taking him out. What could possibly have driven her to such a task and what could be so important that she’d risk everything. Perhaps there was more to the story and there was some way to convince her this was the wrong path. She was still young. There was so much more out there than a life of death and heart ache.
Reginald was projecting. For all he knew she could be a cold sadistic murderer trained for this task. He wasn’t going to save everyone. Hell, he hadn’t been able to save the last one. That’s why he’d gotten out. Reginald wanted to believe he was wrong but the other two men in the room had come to warn him and he couldn’t ignore that.
“The tow truck will be here soon,” she explained, seemingly unaffected by the thick silence that fell on the room. “I just wanted to thank you again for letting me use your phone. That was very kind of you.” She had walked within arm’s reach, for the most part ignoring the other two men despite their scrutinizing her every move.
She looked around Reginald out the window and her face lit up. “There they are!” As she pointed Reginald couldn’t help but turn, realizing belatedly the mistake he had made. He felt her arm brush against his and instinctively dropped the tea cup, grabbing her wrist before the tea had fully saturated the carpet.
“Son of a bitch.” Reginald halted his movement before he did any sort of damage, content with the puzzled expression on the girl’s face. He had expected some sort of reaction but her quizzical look and the complete lack of reciprocating defense stopped him from causing real harm. He spared a look at Clarence, who appeared to be lamenting the spilled tea.
Patrick was watching the entire scene with a mixture of amusement and wariness. “Interesting.” Was all he said before downing the rest of the bourbon and setting the glass down.
Reginald felt as if he were part of some large experiment and he didn’t like it. For lack of a better outlet, he turned his anger towards the girl. “Who are you?” he finally asked. Her brow furrowed in confusion and he released her wrist.
“Samantha,” she said brushing her curls away from her face. “Sam actually. If you don’t mind my saying you gentlemen are a bit odd.” Patrick snorted and Clarence remained silent. Sam looked between the three men and when none of them spoke she smoothed her dress and sniffed. “Well then. I thank you again for the use of your phone. Good day.” She held out her hand and Reginald shook it gruffly.
Sam turned on her heel to leave and regarded the other two men. It looked like she would simply walk out but at the last moment reconsidered, shifted direction and held out her hand to Clarence. He stared at it in bewilderment before taking it. “So very charmed to meet you,” there was a distinct sarcastic tone, which wouldn’t have been curious in and of itself except for the fact that Clarence paled visibly and cleared his throat.
Releasing his hand Sam walked over to Patrick who looked her up and down. “The pleasure’s all mine, I’m sure,” he pre-empted holding out his hand. Taking it she gave his hand a single shake with a nod. “Have a nice day.” She responded simply. With a final wave to Reginald and a smile that left him bewildered she disappeared out the door. The three men could hear the sound of her bare feet as she ran across the hardwood floor, paused, presumably to pick up her heels, and then the front door was heard opening and closing.
Reginald hazarded a glance out the window and saw that there was, in fact, a tow truck in his drive way, hazards flashing, and the girl was running barefoot, heels and purse in one hand. She was waving at the tow truck driver who was circling her vehicle and scratching his head, clipboard in hand.
“What an odd duck,” Reginald muttered. Behind him, the other two men were excusing themselves and taking their leave. No doubt they felt the threat was over. Somehow Reginald wasn’t so sure of that.
It wasn’t until several days later that the phone rang, disturbing Reginal from an otherwise pleasant cup of tea and his book. The necromancer had long since been vanquished and now the heroine was off on yet another adventure, this time off to remove a curse which remained from the necromancer’s antics. Clicking his tongue in irritation he answered the phone.
“Hello Reg, glad to hear you’re in a chipper mood.” Patrick’s voice echoed on the other end. He must be in the office.
“I am,” Reginald replied using his hand as a book mark, not willing to concede he may have to pay attention to the call. “What do you want? I’m busy.”
“Clarence is in custody.” The words jolted Reginald. He closed the book carefully and leaned back in his chair.
“Come on Reg. You know why.” Patrick paused but when there was no response he heaved a sigh and continued. “He was the one trying to take you out. We’re still working on the specifics but he was definitely the one.”
Reginald remained quiet for so long that Patrick had to clear his throat twice. Clarence had been his friend. They had been on so many missions together. Why would he suddenly turn on him? It didn’t make sense.
“Listen Reginald,” Patrick started gently. “I think you should come back. There are a lot of things going on that we could really use you for, not the least of which is this Clarence business.” It sounded an awful lot like exactly what Reginald had figured Patrick was up to and he wasn’t going to bite.
“How?” he finally said.
“Well the paperwork would be complicated but it’s nothing that can’t be done-“
“No.” Reginald cut him off. “I mean how did you figure out it was him?”
“I didn’t.” Patrick paused as if he were gauging his next words carefully. “There’s a new agent Reg. That’s who cracked the case even before some of our more senior members. I really think you could provide some fantastic help with her development and growth within the agency though. No one even comes close to being as good as you.”
“What’s funny?” Patrick sounded perturbed. Reginald had thought this had all been some elaborate plan to get him back into the agency but Patrick’s demeanor made it clear that had never been the original goal.
“You can’t handle her and need me there for that don’t you.” It wasn’t a question so much as a statement and Reginald’s smile broadened when he heard Patrick sputter a denial.
“I’ll be in on Monday. My desk better have my favorite mug on it or I’m walking right back out.” He said the last bit into a stunned silence and hung up the receiver without saying good bye. Maybe he couldn’t save everyone. And maybe he didn’t have to. Maybe…just maybe…someone would be able to save him for a change.