The Errant Rose
Derek Hazard arrived on the island of Mykonos aboard the tourist boat that came daily from the mainland of Greece. He looked like a tourist. In his early forties*, Hazard was a well-built, good-looking man with black, short-cropped hair. He wore a black cotton shirt and lightweight white denim trousers, white canvas shoes. He carried a patchwork leather overnighter -- and himself -- very well.
He wasn't a tourist, though -- he wasn't here to see the sights. He'd been to Mykonos before, but even if he hadn't, years of extensive travel had made him so "cosmopolitan" that he felt at home anywhere in the world -- more "at home" than he felt, these days, in the old neighborhood back in North Glasgow.
The blue-gray eyes might have given him away to someone observant enough to notice that they focused on faces and not scenery. The gaily-hued panorama of the paralia held no interest for him, but everything that occurred along the length of the bustling waterfront did. Hazard's eyes, however, were concealed by dark Carrera shades. They were also disconcertingly keen. They were the eyes of a hunter. The eyes of a man for whom the world held few surprises. Most remarkably, considering the brutality, evil and deceit they had witnessed for so long, his eyes were still capable of reflecting humanity and humor.
Quitting the gangplank of the brightly-adorned charter boat, Hazard broke ranks with the rest of the new arrivals and strolled towards the row of picturesque houses fronting the paralia. Pausing there, he hailed a passing horse-drawn carriage and directed the grizzled Greek who held the reins to deliver him at the hotel.
His room was complete with a balcony view of the indigo harbor. On the slope below the hotel was arrayed a cluttered press of houses and shops, whitewashed cubes with pastel highlights dissected by labyrinthine streets of ancient stone. Mykonos was truly a beautiful Aegean jewel. But, as with so many of the Greek Isles in recent years, it had been overwhelmed by the tourist horde.
He made a mental note to compliment Special Project's facilitator, Mrs. Smith, for acquiring him such sterling accommodations on short notice -- and this at the height of the tourist season. Then he remembered that in ancient Rome gladiators had been feted and spoiled before going off to the coliseums to die for the amusement of the crowd.
Wrapping chains of iron discipline around his impatience, Hazard descended to the hotel eatery for a lunch of souvlaka washed down with fresh milk. He took his time -- for him eating had always been an experience to savor. This had something to do with the fact that during his childhood he had often gone hungry. Besides, he wanted time to watch. So he lingered over the meal, trying to decide if his appearance on the scene was going to trigger an immediate response. If Cybil was right -- and when wasn't she? -- then the cell he was up against was well-organized and run by one of the SVR's most brilliant controls. The question was whether they would know him from his past associations with the woman he had come to find.
Sitting in a corner, his back to a wall, Hazard kept tabs on all comings and goings without really seeming to, on the alert for any untoward attention directed his way. A pair of vivacious young Irish women were flirting with him -- but that wasn't untoward. He rewarded them with a smile that was appreciative but made no promises. Mixing business with pleasure was a bad habit that he at least sometimes managed to avoid. Besides, his thoughts dwelt on another young woman -- a young woman he could scarcely wait to see again. Such had been the case since they had first met....
*Hazard being in his early 40's places this story in the mid- to late 1990s, hence the reference to the SVR, the Russian intelligence service that replaced the First Chief Directorate of the KGB after the dissolution of the USSR.
"The Greek Isles are full of scenery," Cybil had said when she had briefed him in her office in the brownstone on Brussel's Boulevard de l'Abattoir that served as Special Project's headquarters, "including hundreds of beautiful women." She had paused and fastened her gaze -- eyes so deep violet in hue that in a certain light they appeared black -- on Derek Hazard. "I am confident you won't let yourself be distracted. You'll keep your mind on the task at hand. Wish I could say the same for Emmy."
"Now, Cybil, don't be such a stick in the mud. Emmy is a young woman, and young women believe in romance. I'm sure you yourself have taken advantage of that trait. So what's it going to be? Asset, or liability?"
"That depends," replied Cybil, her voice raspy from fifty years of chain-smoking, a habit she had picked up as a lethal waif fighting the Nazis as part of the French Resistance. "When it's all part of the job at hand, fine. But when she goes AWOL just because one of her lovers dies..."
"Just because." Hazard shook his head. "Cybil, you're all heart."
"The woman was an agent. It's a dangerous line of work. And she wasn't even one of ours." Cybil sounded as though it was beyond her comprehension why anyone would give a care about someone who did not work for Special Projects.
"So what difference does that make? She was Mossad. At least she wasn't an enemy agent."
Cybil fired up one of her Gauloise cigarettes. At 70 she reminded Hazard of an aged Marlene Dietrich, a small gray hawkish woman who sat in a leather chair much too large for her. He wondered why she didn't get a smaller chair for her office, one that didn't make her look like a gnome. But then, appearances mattered not to Cybil. Only results.
"No matter who she was," she rasped, "there is no place for those kinds of feelings when you're in the field."
"Yes, well, despite the best efforts of your people at The Abbey, your operatives are not robots. And I am here because you know Emmy and I have a ... connection."
Cybil smirked. "I know you two love to roll in the hay together."
"Roll in the hay." Hazard smirked. "How quaint."
"The thing is, I know she trusts you, Derek. You may be the only person in the world she does trust right now. That's why I want you to go, rather than sending one of my people."
"This happened once before. Emmy disappearing. You should have brought me in sooner. I found her then, I could have found her this time."
"Ah, yes, you mean that time In Thailand. In that case she was drugged and being held captive. This time she was free, mobile, could have gone anywhere in the world. In fact at first we thought she would go far afield. Southeast Asia, perhaps -- she has a lot of connections in that part of the world. We were surprised to find her so close. She is on Mykonos."
Hazard cocked a querulous eyebrow. "I'm curious, how long have you been keeping tabs on her?"
Cybil made a casual, dismissive gesture. "Oh, a few weeks."
"A few weeks -- and only now do you call on me to bring her back into the fold?"
"Might have taken us longer -- had we not broken an SVR code."
"What?" Hazard was relieved to hear that Emmy was found. Not recovered, just found, but at least still alive. Now, though, he was starting to get a bad feeling. "What code?"
"The code Borodov used to inform his superiors that he had located her."
"Ilya Borodov," murmured Hazard. "Don't tell me . . . ."
Cybil nodded. "Apparently he's running the cell that made the attempt on Triakis. The one that got Yasmin Liraz killed."
Hazard pondered this news. Borodov, one of Emmy's old lovers -- and that was quite a story in and of itself -- had mounted the operation that had resulted in the death of one of her more recent lovers. He shook his head ruefully. Not yet 25 and already Emmy Rose had a past that came back to haunt her all too frequently.
Cybil allowed him time to sort his thoughts, watching him unblinkingly.
"So, Triakis went to ground and never came back up and the Russians can't find him," mused Hazard. "But they found Emmy instead. And they've got her on a long lead. Just like you do."
"Correct. Thinking she might give them a clue to the whereabouts of their missing scientist. A long shot, admittedly, but at this stage they'd be desperate enough to play those."
"That's why they haven't grabbed her already. Must be hard for Borodov to exercise restraint in that regard." The Russian spymaster would be wanting Emmy Rose tied to his bed apart from everything else. "And you wanted to know if the Russians had the defector, this Triakis fellow. If they were watching her it would indicate they didn't have him. But Emmy doesn't know where Triakis is. Right?"
"Not yet she doesn't. But you're going to tell her."
Hazard sighed. Spooks made life so complicated at times. "I'm not following you."
Cybil serenely blew a perfect smoke ring, then leaned forward in her oversized chair to explain...
Sitting in the Mykonos restaurant, his meal concluded, Derek Hazard tested his willpower, fighting the urge to hurry and find Emmy Rose, ordering another glass of Boutari ouzo. He forced himself to relax. Soon enough he would take to the streets in search of her. Everything had been in limbo for two months. Another hour wouldn't make any difference.
From what he had been told, it had started when Special Projects agreed to participate in Israel's plan to entice Triakis out of Russia. The beautiful Yasmin Liraz had been the bait. But the Mossad didn't have the network needed to bring him out. The European Union did -- and in exchange for their help, Special Projects would have an opportunity to debrief Triakis. It was an opportunity to find out exactly where the Russians were with regard to biochemical weapons.
Emmy and a Special Projects interrogator had checked into the game at the Greek border, taking over from the men who had smuggled Triakis and Yasmin out of Kiev. At a Salonika safehouse, the interrogator spent three days debriefing Triakis, while arrangements were made to move the scientist from Greece to Israel. And during that time Emmy and Yasmin had indulged in a torrid little affair. Meanwhile, Yasmin had to maintain the fiction that she was in love with Triakis. It was a difficult and dangerous subterfuge, and Hazard understood Cybil's point that Emmy ought to have known better. Not always a very forgiving man, he found himself extremely tolerant where Emmy Rose was concerned.
The SVR apparatus in Greece had proved more efficient than expected, and the Salonika safehouse, as it turned out, wasn't safe at all. On the night that they'd come for Triakis, Yasmin was supposed to have been on watch. Instead, she'd been in Emmy's bed. And when the assault began she'd made a risky bid to reach Triakis -- and lost. Triakis had vanished in the confusion; Emmy had managed to get away, too. The interrogator hadn't been so lucky. Then, quite unexpectedly, Emmy had just disappeared.
When Hazard did eventually begin his search it took less than two hours. A particularly large search pattern wasn't required for Mykonos, and he was familiar with the habits and thought processes of the woman he sought.
He found her at the island's most famous nude beach, Paradise, traveling there by a taxi that made its way over mountains and through residential areas for the better part of a half hour. Removing his shirt, socks and shoes, he walked slowly along the water's edge, looking for a gathering of males. Solo males would naturally gravitate to Emmy, while those who came to the beach with female companions would not be allowed anywhere near her. He found just such a cluster, and in its center the object of his search.
For a moment Hazard stood off at a distance. He knew he wasn't the only person keeping an eye on her. Emmy Rose lay on her belly on an over-sized aquamarine towel, long exquisite legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. She was nude. The Aegean sun had bronzed her skin. Her long golden hair was done up in a ponytail. She seemed to be diligently perusing an Athens Daily News and working on emptying a bottle of ouzo. She looked like a grad student on vacation ... and every man's dream. His pulse quickened the moment he laid eyes on her (which happened every time he saw this woman). And then there was the obvious fact of his physical arousal as he couldn't help but admire her slender curves, the soft round globes of her ass cheeks. Her body was an exquisite work of art. Taking a deep breath, he started towards her. Whether those who watched her did so from near or far he could not say, but he knew that once he approached her he became a player in a dangerous game.
"What took you so long?" she asked, as his shadow fell over her. "You never were any good at finding me." The faintest of smiles accentuated the sensuous curve of her full lips as she turned her head and looked up at him, eyes narrowed against the sun's glare.
"I found you that time in Bangkok."
"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then."
Hazard didn't take offense. He knew this was just her way; Emmy's sense of humor had an edge. It was, he thought, her way of hiding her own emotions.
Emmy rolled over on her side, and offered up a half-full bottle of Boutari. "You should try some of this ouzo. It'll cure what ails you."
Hazard brazenly admired her pert young breasts. "Nothing ails me. So, how's life been treating you, Emmy?"
"With complete and utter disdain," She sounded cheerful and carefree, yet he could detect that false note. "But I'm making it, one day at a time."
"That's the only way in your line of work, isn't it."
Emmy neatly folded the newspaper and used it for a pillow as she rolled over on her back, stretching out again, one leg bent at the knee. Peripherally, Hazard saw every male head in the vicinity swivel.
"It's not my line of work anymore," she said, flatly.
"Oh, so you took an early retirement. I see. I didn't know spooks could do that."
"Well, I did it. So tell me, did you just happen to be in the neighborhood, or what?"
Shaking his head, Hazard watch her slowly flexing her toes. This woman exuded raw sexuality, he thought, with the resignation of a person caught in quicksand and knowing he is about to go under. Even her toes were irresistible. "I didn't have anything better to do, and Cybil asked so nicely."
"She sent you because she knew I wouldn't trust anyone else. I'm officially a rogue, I'm sure. To tell the truth, I was half-expecting a suspiciously ordinary-looking visitor with a 9 millimeter calling card."
"Come on now. Special Projects spent a lot of money to turn you into what you are today."
"They did, huh? And what did they turn me into, Derek?"
"One of Cybil's best agents." His gaze swept her from head to toe. "And certainly the sexiest."
"Really. Then Special Projects must be in a pretty bad way. One of their best agents who lost a top scientist trying to defect -- oh, and I almost forgot, is responsible for the death of a woman she cared a great deal about."
Hazard shook his head again. "No way are you responsible. But anyway, Triakis is still on the loose. He went to ground after the Salonika shootout, you know. Now it seems he's ready to come out of his hole."
Emmy propped herself up on her elbows, pulled her sunglasses down on her nose and peered at him with those striking cerulean-blue eyes, the light blue of a pristine Mediterranean sky. "Where?" she asked, curtly.
"He won't tell anyone but you. Somewhere on the mainland, we think."
"He doesn't like me, you know," she murmured, dryly. "He was in love with Yasmin, too."
"So I've been told."
Emmy gazed out to sea for a few minutes. She didn't speak, and Hazard gave her time to wade through the emotional tidal wave that the mere mention of the Israeli agent's name was bound to have triggered. The irony of it all was that, had Yasmin survived, Emmy's relationship with her probably would have amounted to little more than a brief romance. But Emmy blamed herself for Yasmin's death. In a way, mused Hazard, she meant more to Emmy dead than she had when alive.
"The SVR must be stewing in its own juices, then," murmured Emmy..
"They've still got Borodov on the job. That tells you something about how important they think this is. So, what do you say? The way I see it, Yasmin died to get Triakis to Israel. I say you go get him and finish the job, and she doesn't die for nothing."
Emmy reached for the bottle of Boutari, uncorked it, and took a drink. Then she rose, suddenly, in one fluid motion, captivating all who watched as she walked over to three young Greek men ten meters away. She handed the bottle of ouzo to one, spoke to them fluently in their own tongue, her voice pitched low, so that Hazard could not make out the words. But he didn't need to. He could read the expressions on the men's faces. They were looking up admiringly -- but only now and then at her movie starlet's face She stood there hipshot, hands on her flaring hips, and it wasn't that she was shameless, but rather than she didn't have a self-conscious bone in her body. Emmy Rose was the perfect female physical specimen and oozed raw sexuality out of every pore and she knew it and used it unabashedly to get what she wanted. She laughed softly, and the men laughed with her, and then she turned and sashayed back to Hazard.
He asked, somewhat caustically, while chiding himself for feeling a bit jealous, "Making a date for later?"
Emmy shrugged, bending over to collect the towel and shake the sand out of it, the rolled upAthens Daily News under one arm. "Maybe," she said with a coy smile, putting paper and towel in a rainbow-hued tote.
"Which one? Just curious."
"One? All of them."
She took his shirt and put it on. Hazard didn't bother asking her if she had brought any clothes. It would not have surprised him if she hadn't. And he wasn't overly bothered by her ostentatious pickup of the three Greek men, telling himself she probably wouldn't go through with it. That she had detected something in him that worried her and it was just her way of telling him not to care for her too much, not to be jealous. But then again, knowing her the way he did, maybe shewould go through with it....
"What about Triakis?" he asked brusquely, trying to dispel unwelcome images from his mind's eye.
"Well," she said softly, "I'll have to check my social calendar, but I think I might have a few days free."
Hazard nodded. He'd played the right cards, and Emmy Rose was back in the traces. There was just one more little matter to discuss.
"There's something else," he said, in a deceptively off-handed way. "Cyril didn't find you. Borodov did. Special Projects was tapping into his communications with Moscow."
"The plot thickens." She sounded ... indifferent. And that concerned him just a bit. "I'll go fetch Triakis if you come with me, Derek. But that doesn't mean I'm back in the game. It's just a piece of unfinished business."
"Fine. I can help you disappear so that not even Special Projects can find you."
"Thank you, but I have my own resources." She contemplated him a moment, then reached out, and her hand, with its slender fingers, the nails clipped short, closed on his with a surprisingly strong grip for a willowy girl of 5' 7" who didn't weigh 120 pounds soaking wet. "But ... there is something you can do for me," she said, her voice pitched low and slightly husky.
She was gazing into his eyes with a smoldering intensity, her lips slightly parted, the tip of her tongue touching the corner of her mouth, and Hazard knew that expression, that little quirk, and didn't have to ask what something was.
Copyright 2008, 2015 by Jason Manning. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized reproduction for any purpose whatsoever is allowed without permission of copyright holder. This copyright notice to cover all text found in this post except that attributed to others. Copyright is not claimed on any images included in this post.