“Lovely. Of course it would be raining,” Banner muttered. At least it’ll be hard for anyone to sneak up on me.
The line of patrons waiting for the bouncer’s approval stretched clear down the block and around the corner despite the downpour, crowded together in mutual misery but unwilling to miss the chance to be on the other side of the famous Vault door. Rumor ran rampant that the door was actually one from a bank Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had robbed back in the cowboy heyday. It seemed that everyone wanted to claim they’d been through it. It was sad.
Banner lived close to the bar so the current weather was only a minor annoyance. He liked the convenience. It was close to the bar so he could easily walk to and from work. If there was trouble he could be there in minutes as backup.There was a disadvantage to being security—he was always looking over his shoulder. He’d learned the hard way when he was starting out under his mentor.
When Banner reached the apartment building he noticed something was amiss.
“That’s not where I left you.”
He double-checked the flower pots, welcome mats, and light fixtures. One flower pot was shifted – not a lot, but enough. He went over, lifted it, and found a note written on the underside.
Good job, boy. The skills I gave you haven’t died. I need to speak with you. It concerns both of us. Usual place and time. – Raio
“Well, I’m not going to get much sleep tonight.” Banner grumbled. It’s been a long time since he’s tried to get in touch with me. I wonder what he wants. He always wants something.
Banner erased the note, replaced the pot, and headed back to the Vault.
He had to get a taxi because he didn’t have a car. Finding a taxi willing to stop in the rain was like trying to break into the Vault.
There was an advantage to living down the street from Vault. It was the best place to get a cab this time of night.
Five or six yellow taxis were parked in front of the Vault waiting for fares. Banner got into one.
, domestic entrance please.” Spokane International Airport
“No problem,” replied the cab driver.
As the cab pulled away from the curb, Banner thought more about the note; something about it felt wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Then it hit him.
That wasn’t his handwriting. He realized, the words were written too neatly. Raio writes coded messages. He didn’t do it this time. I wonder why.
His hackles stood on end. The feeling had saved his life before. He looked out the cab’s window. He noticed a nondescript car about five vehicles back. He’d picked up a tail from the bar.
It was something Raio had taught him, and did himself. I wonder if he’s trained anyone else. It seemed like something Raio would do to strengthen his organization.
Banner started to discreetly flex his muscles in anticipation of trouble. He’d learned many multi-situational fighting styles under Raio. He’d also been taught never to have cold muscles.
The cab pulled off the interstate at the airport exit. A quick glance behind him said the car was still there.
“Where would you like me to drop you off, again?” the driver asked.
“Domestic flight arrivals please.”
The driver pulled the vehicle up to the curb and stopped.
“Here we are. That’ll be $53.46.”
Banner handed the man three twenty dollar bills.
“Keep the change.”
“Thank you. Have a nice night.”
Banner scanned the crowd, saw a man standing in the loading zone. He had dark hair with gray beginning to show through. He was also wearing an expensive, well-tailored dark blue pinstripe suit. It sat well on his broad frame. Banner knew for a fact his appearance was misleading; the suit was deliberately padded to make him look big.
Raio always radiated presence. His look commanded respect and authority without seeming arrogant. He was only twelve years Banner’s senior, but in security that was a lifetime.
“Were you followed?”
“Yes. I was tailed from the bar.” Banner answered.
“Was the tail obvious?”
“To the trained eye, yes.”
Why is Raio asking these questions? If there was a tail he’d be more on edge.
“Was the tail a new recruit?” He hoped that was the reason for the interrogation.
Raio waved him off. “Not here.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have given you that compliment, boy.” Raio spat the insult. “That should be obvious.”
“Fine. I know a place with tight security, and you can get a drink.”
“Good. Take me there,” ordered Raio.
They hailed another cab and headed to a bar secluded in the back alleys of
. It was very close to the airport, but not one of Banner’s usual hang-outs. Spokane
The cab made the final right turn to reach the bar and Banner checked behind them, wary of another tail. Yep. It was the same vehicle.
“The tail’s still there.”
“Good?! Why is that good?”
“Not here,” Raio hissed.They reached the seedy looking bar, paid the driver, and went inside. Raio chose a booth with a view of the room. Before conversation got started, another person entered. She looked younger than Banner by the same margin he was younger than Raio. Given his profession, Banner knew not to judge age by the exterior.