From the corner of his eye, Will saw Angie run at him with her body low. The world was fading to black. Angie slipped in between Will and his attacker and rammed her forehead into his attackers’ face. Her head rebounded against Will’s nose and pain shot through his skull. The man released his grip on Will’s throat and Will staggered backward and fell. Blessed air rushed into his lungs and he scrambled on all fours to the table and grabbed a pair of scissors. He turned, ready to fight.
Will breathed deeply. “Thank you, Angie.” He’d had no idea that Angie was capable of such agility and aggression. She fiddled with something under her sweater and seemed unruffled by the encounter.
“You okay, Will?”
“Yeah.” He hoped his voice didn’t sound as shaky as he felt. “Who was that?”
“An assassin. Why would someone want to kill you?”
Will worked his mouth open and closed a few times before any words would come out. “Kill me?”
“I managed to get a blade into his leg, but it’ll only slow him down.” Angie removed the scissors from his hand and replaced them with a six inch dagger. With one swift motion she pulled her baggy sweater off over her head. Underneath she wore a tight fitting black leather shirt that matched her tight black pants. Various blades, buttons, and bobbles hung from a utility belt around her waist.
“Who are you?”
Angie took Will’s free hand and pulled him to his feet. “I’m Agent Twelve, but I prefer Angie.”
“Technically Agent Oh Twelve, but if your number doesn’t start with ‘Double Oh’, there’s no glamour in it, right?”
She pulled Will along behind her before he could respond. She stopped at the open door frame leading from the craft room to the exhibit hall and put her back against the wall, pistol raised and ready. Will raised his knife. When she began to whisper, he could hardly hear her over the beating of his own heart.
“I figure we have fifteen minutes, twenty tops, before Stephen and the school kids enter the gallery downstairs. We have until then to find the assassin and neutralize him.”
Will nodded. Neutralize him. Kill him; that’s what she meant. He looked at the knife in his hand and briefly imagined plunging it into someone. He didn’t think he could do it. Then he remembered the feel of the man’s hands around his neck and the panic he felt when his body was desperate for air. Maybe he could.
Angie slipped around the door frame and stepped quickly along the wall, keeping her legs bent and her pistol ready. Will followed, trying hard to keep up with her while checking behind him for signs of the blond assassin. They entered a long narrow room with a painting of a canal along one wall and a narrow boat taking up one half of the floor space. One end of the boat had a sort of rough wooden seat on it and it was to this seat that Angie pointed when she hissed, “Hide there and wait for me.”
Will stepped into the boat and crouched on the floor in front of the seat. Angie slipped out of the room and he heard no sound for several minutes. The light in the room was dim, but he wished he could turn the lights out completely.
Will’s head was sticking out above the bench, so he sat down on the bottom of the boat and stretched out his legs. Better. He tried leaning back; he could see anyone coming through the door, but their immediate impression of the boat would be the shape of the bench, not his head. The boat was equipped with a long thick wooden shovel hanging balanced from a metal crane bolted into the boat’s middle. The kids loved to jump into the boat and work the shovel up and down and it was part of Will’s job to tell them to get out of the exhibit.
Will leaned his head back. When the bodies of Viking warriors were set sail in boats, they had the stars to look at, not a plaster ceiling. Will wondered if the blow he’d taken to the nose was affecting his mind: dead warriors didn’t see anything and just because Will was lying in a boat and potentially facing death, didn’t make him a warrior.
The boat was only three and a half feet across; more like a large coffin than a Viking ship. In his mind, Will could clearly see his mother laid out in her coffin; so thin after the cancer she’d fought so hard. She’d chosen the cheapest coffin available. “No need to make a song and dance about my box,” she’d said. “Once I’m in it, I won’t care.” Will squeezed his eyes to keep the tears in.
His father came to the funeral. After ten years without a single visit from Frank, out of the blue there he was. One parent absent and one present, but it was all wrong and backwards. After expressing his condolences, Frank had commented on the cheapness of her coffin. “A pub’s no place to work for a lifetime. She had nothing to show for it in the end.”
Nothing but me. Will opened his eyes. And what do I have to show?
A large dark form filled the doorway to the room and Will tensed but didn’t move. The form took a few steps into the room. He looked under a small display table and moved to the bow of the boat. When the assassin’s eyes found Will in the dark, Will was ready.
Even as the man rushed towards him, Will sat up and grabbed the handles of the giant shovel. He pushed the handle hard and the shovel’s other end connected with the assassin’s groin. The man groaned and fell on his side. He glared at Will and ran one hand along the sleeve of his jacket. His fingers found something under the fabric; he squeezed his fingers together and smiled.
Angie ran in through the doorway and knocked the assassin unconscious with the butt of her pistol. She pulled up the assassin’s sleeve and Will saw a silver canister strapped to his forearm. A counter with red numbers was counting backwards from four. It was a bomb.