Wednesday: I will be interviewing JESSICA BELL. Interesting interview from an interesting woman. Be sure to stop by what she has to say about growing up as a daughter of Rock musicians, her furry baby, Holly, and what she's working on next.
TODAY: I have another holiday story for you to enjoy. Crime doesn't take a holiday and neither does tragedy but the moments of joy still prevails in this world and that's a good thing.
Carol Kilgore contributed this Christmas suspense story. Carol hails from San Antonio, Texas and writes a fun blog, Under The Tiki Hut. She writes mysteries and suspense novels with a nice dollop of romance.
Enjoy the story, I sure did!
The occupants of the dark house had gone out for an evening of fun at Syntagma Square--the place to be in Athens the week before Christmas. Greek Christmases were nothing like what Katia Marengo had grown up with on the South Texas coast, and she loved the excitement. The air frosted her breath. Her coat and cloche hat offered a little disguise, and the chill allowed her to wear close-fitting leather gloves. All were perfect for breaking and entering.
The small house was home to a minor Turkish diplomat and his family. Kat had become friends with the diplomat's wife, the chatty and careless Yagmur. The test came now. Kat inserted the key she'd made from an impression. She'd aced that class during training, but each time she used an impressioned key in the field, she experienced a moment of panic. The key turned. Yes!
The aroma of mint greeted her. She pressed on the tiny LED lights fitted into the brim of her hat. As long as no one had changed the alarm code she was home free--7, 6--crap. The edge of her glove hit the 3. Clear. Once again, this time more controlled--7,6,9,1. Green light. Thank you, Yagmur.
Yagmur had said Ediz had two safes. He thought the first was too obvious. She didn't say where they were located. Kat would search first in the master and second in the kitchen, the two most likely locations.
She found one safe set into the master bedroom wall behind a painting. Obvious. Where would she install a second? She'd want easy access without a hint of anything different from the surroundings. The tiled floor. On her hands and knees she explored each exposed tile and all the grout, then the ones under the bed, chest, and chair. Nothing.
"Oh!" In the chair or chest. By having the safe in his personal belongings, Ediz would need to install it only once as it would travel with him from posting to posting. She found the second safe, with a keycard lock, in the bottom drawer of the chest. The CIA prepared its officers well--she came ready for any type of device and withdrew a plain black card from her messenger bag.
She inserted the card into the slot. "Do your magic, Houdini. Spring that lock."
While the software on the card worked to unlock the newer safe, she exposed the older safe behind the painting. That one looked as ancient as the house. For grins she tried the old lever handle. It didn't budge.
Kat studied the single old-fashioned combination dial, memorizing the setting. No smudges, threads, or other alerts. She pulled a stethoscope from her bag. It trailed a USB plug that she plugged into a handheld computer.
She spun the dial a few times to the left and twice to the right. Then she placed the stethoscope monitor to the metal near the lock and turned the knob one number at a time. Her fingers felt the first tumbler fall. The computer beeped and recorded the number. She turned the knob to the left and concentrated. The computer beeped again and recorded the second number.
Her shoulders ached. She stretched and relaxed her fingers before going for the third number. Houdini emitted a soft trill. She checked the safe in the drawer. Empty.
"Ediz, you are a clever fox. But I'm going to find your secrets."
Kat returned Houdini to her bag and went back to the old safe. "Okay, baby, Mama's back. Show me your stuff." She turned the dial and hoped the old safe wasn't booby-trapped. Maybe Ediz had a third safe.
An eternity passed. Inside her gloves, sweat formed on her palms. Her mouth grew dry, and she tried to swallow. Beep. No boom. Kat breathed again.
"Ediz, you better not have booby-trapped the handle."
She pushed down. The door opened to Ediz's secret stash. Papers typed in Turkish. Four Greek passports with photos of Ediz, Yagmur, their children--his safety net. Yagmur's jewelry. A man's Rolex. She removed the watch with her left hand and pulled its twin from her bag with her right. She studied them under the light.
Ediz's timepiece was more worn than the replacement, but not by much. Nothing her little hammer and pick couldn't replicate with a few minutes work. The same number of links filled each band. The back of Ediz's watch bore no engraving for her to match. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Kat placed Ediz's watch in her bag and its replacement in the safe, closed the door, reset the dial. Her return visit on New Year's Eve would take less than five minutes.
Outside, she walked to the nearest thoroughfare with a confident stride, her head held high. She hailed a taxi. "Syntagma Square."
The driver nodded, and started the meter. She would arrive early for her meeting with Dave Krizak in front of the carousel. Amid the noise and bustle, she would pass Dave the Rolex.
Dave would be the case officer to take the watch into the Embassy for the installation of the stealth transmitter. Ediz was to be part of a delegation to Tehran in January. The transmitter would give the U.S. ears without outside embellishment.
The taxi screeched to a stop. Kat paid the fare and stepped out. Ahead she saw Dave paying his driver.
The world exploded in a fireball.
Kat hit the sidewalk.
When she came to and sat up, chaos reigned. People shouted and screamed. Sirens wailed. Her bag still hung around her neck. Houdini, the tiny computer, and the Rolex still rested inside. Dave. Where was Dave?
The stench of burnt rubber and flesh hung in the air. Several bodies lay motionless on the blackened street and sidewalk, curled in the fetal position, charred. Kat threw up in the gutter.
Worst case, she was a target. But the explosion had made it her responsibility to get the watch to the Embassy. The Hard Rock Café was a few blocks away, and she would find taxis there.
- - -
The next day, Kat arrived at Langley. In the two years since the bombing, she'd been back to the Agency once--on this date last year--to touch Dave's star on the Memorial Wall. To tell him goodbye.
Technically she was on long-term leave, still paid but not yet working. As she'd fought her way back to the living, she'd leaned on Remy Sonnier, the instructor who had taught her--as he said--stealing for fun and profit.
He'd called her one day, said he was moving to Corpus Christi, and would like her to help him find a place. Not for one minute did she think his presence was coincidence. The Agency was keeping an eye on her. She'd gone from Remy's star student to his current assignment.
She pulled into his driveway and got out. Along the South Texas coast, the balmy mid-December weather was nothing like Athens. It matched her happy mood. She was getting better. It felt good to smile, to laugh. Kat pushed the front door open and stuck her head in. "Remy! Are you home?"
"In the kitchen, cher."
She passed a Christmas tree decorated with Mardi Gras beads and ornaments shaped like shrimp, crab, and alligator and giggled. Her Cajun friend brought the bayou to Texas with everything he did.
"What smells fabulous?" She entered the large square room centered with a wooden table and benches.
"Gumbo. It's not ready." Remy returned the lid to the pot and wiped his hands on his apron. "How you holding up?"
"I'm good. Really good."
"I knew you would be, cher. I have something for you. I'll be right back."
Kat walked to the window. Sun diamonds danced on the green water. Kat's stomach growled at the pungent aroma of the gumbo. "Remy, you want me to stir the pot?"
"Don't touch it."
A minute passed, and she heard footsteps behind her.
"Merry Christmas, Kat."
She spun around. "Dave?"
He nodded. "It's me."
She touched his face, the scar that traveled from his hairline, in front of his left ear, and down his neck beneath his collar. "I can't believe you're alive. I was there, I--"
"Sshh." His finger touched her lips. "I read the debriefing. I know."
"But your star--" Burn scars mottled Dave's hands.
"Belongs to another officer."
Another family, other friends saddened by death. Life wasn't fair, but in the last two years, Kat had learned to accept and-- "Remy?"
"He didn't know until last week. He said he's going fishing for a little bit so we can catch up and I can tell you what's new."
The old excitement returned. "We're working again?"
Dave smiled. "You and me, babe. Remy also said for you to keep your hands off his gumbo."
Kat laughed. "Merry Christmas, Dave."
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