A Lesson on How to Rob the Dead
"What took you so long?" Marta cried out as Aaron entered the warehouse. Seeing that it was just him, I relaxed, setting down the Glock that Aaron had given me before he had left on the table beside my laptop.
"Sorry, there was some sort of gang fight and police were everywhere. I had to take a detour." he explained, taking one last look around before he closed the door softly.
It was now early in the morning, and we were camped out in an empty warehouse directly opposite of the morgue that held the body and personal effects of the agent that had attacked Aaron and Marta. Now that Aaron was back, it was time to claim our evidence.
"They've been open for two hours now." I called over to Aaron, who walked over to me and set down the backpack he had been carrying on the table. "Did you get everything?"
"Yeah," he said, and began taking out objects from the backpack: Three small Bluetooth's, a dusty brown Service Man's outfit, a brown paper package, a clipboard, and an onion. "These are for you." And he passed a Bluetooth set to each of us, which we put on. Marta got the call going, so that all three of us could hear the other through the Bluetooth's as if connected through a com system, while I fired up my laptop, and Aaron changed into the Service Man's outfit. I noticed Marta's furious blush and averting of the eyes, as Aaron stripped down to his boxers before pulling on the uniform.
When he was dressed, Aaron went over to Marta, and I watched them out of the corner of my eye, a little curious exactly what their relationship was.
They had saved each other's life, been together 24/7 for a week now, and were now working together as a team. That each trusted the other completely was apparent, but beyond that, I wasn't sure.
Aaron had always told me that the worst mistake he could ever make would be to fall in love. That it would compromise him in ways he could never hope to repair, and would literally be the death of him. In between the lines of that statement was the unspoken confession that he was already compromised a little for loving me as a sister. We both realized that, and his only assurance was that no one could ever know, that no one should ever have the power to use that against him and against me.
But now, as I watched him, I saw a new side to him. There was, in his actions towards Marta, a softness and a tenderness that was quite different from any he had ever shown me. Also, of one thing, he was fiercely protective of her. I could see it in the way he stood beside her, watched her back, even in the way he held her hand almost possessively when guiding her. Yet despite all of this, the only thing that seemed to exist between them, for the moment, was a deep bond of friendship.
I wondered how long that could last. I wondered, if Aaron was already compromised.
"Are you nervous?" Aaron asked Marta quietly, as he produced a boot knife and knelt down to slice the onion in half on the floor.
Marta gave a incredulous little chuckle, as she pulled out her braid so that her short blonde hair concealed the Bluetooth headset on her ear. "I'm terrified." she confessed. "I don't know how you stay so calm in situations like this."
Aaron glanced up at her, wiping the knife on his pant leg. "You want to know a secret?"
Marta looked down at him expectantly.
"I'm never calm."
She arched an eyebrow.
"Seriously," Aaron laughed. "I get terrified too. But I have a trick."
"Whenever I am about to go on an op, I think of something that makes me happy, something I love, and I focus on that—instead of the knot of fear in my gut."
Marta laughed, and I saw Aaron smile at the sound. He pressed one half of the onion into Marta's hand.
"Hold this up to your eyes. It will make things seem a little more real."
Marta did so, a little hesitantly, and soon she began to feel the burn and tears sprang to her eyes. "Ah, that stings!" she exclaimed, but dutifully kept the onion close to her face.
When her smarting eyes were red and puffy, the occasional tear rolling down her cheek, Aaron quickly took the onion from her hand as if to spare her any unnecessary second of pain.
"Thats good." he muttered, while Marta, unable to resist any longer, rubbed her eyes a little. He watched her, his face a mask, and then reached down and once more pulled out his sheathed boot knife.
"Take this," he said, handing it to her. She glanced at the knife in his hand, and then at Aaron, before taking it and slipping it in the back of her waistband, concealing it under her shirt.
"Aaron, we need to get a move on." I called, loathe to interrupt them but painfully aware of the seconds ticking by.
He shifted, hesitated.
Marta took a deep breath, and absentmindedly tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before she remembered about the Bluetooth and freed it again.
"Are you thinking about what makes you happy?" Aaron whispered quietly.
Marta looked up at him, closed her eyes, took a breath, and smiled.
"Ready?" he asked.
She opened her eyes, bright with the memory of something. "Ready." she said, and turned and walked out the door he held for her.
Aaron stood motionless for a second after she had passed out and he had closed the door, his hand still on the handle, and his face a storm of conflicting emotions of which, over all, reigned a deep furrow on his brow.
Then he began to pace.
"Com check." he said into his Bluetooth.
"Loud and clear." was Marta's whispered response, heard by both of us.
Aaron exhaled and continued to pace, stopping near me.
"What's the status on the camera's?" he asked, leaning over my shoulder to peer at my laptop screen.
That was my job: to hack the morgue's mainframe and loop the camera's at the right time so that Marta could get what she needed without interference. It wouldn't be that hard for me, the Philippines being a third-world country and all, and its not like a morgue in Manila needs state of the art security.
As I expected, all it took was a few short keystrokes and then I was in, commanding the camera's and offering a full view of what was transpiring inside.
"I'm in." I reported to both Aaron and Marta, and he was by my side in an instant, peering into the camera's and tracking Marta's progress.
We both watched on the screen as she entered the mortuary, hair disheveled, eyes puffy and red, and obviously racked with grief. Staggering over to the front desk, she opened her mouth to speak, and then was suddenly overcome with sobs. The man sitting behind the counter stared at her, obviously used to this sort of thing but still upset at the image of Marta crying.
"I—I'm looking for—for a man—my boyfriend." she managed between sobs.
"I'm sorry miss, but I am going to need your name first and some identification." The clerk said, watching her.
"My name is J—June Monroe." Marta whispered, making a show of digging through her purse with shaky hands till she pulled out her passport which she handed to the clerk. The man took it, glanced from the picture to Marta's face and began typing something on the computer.
"And what is your boyfriends name miss?" The clerk asked, frowning at his computer screen, fingers poised over the keyboard.
A moment of silence filled with the tapping of the keyboard and Marta's sniffles ensued, before the man looked up.
"I'm sorry miss, we have no one here under that name."
Marta's sobs turned to a sort of choking, as if she were trying to swallow them.
"He's been missing for a while. I saw his body on the news—they said they had him here."
Once more the man frowned at his computer screen. "Well we do have a John Doe just recently registered. He is of Taiwanese and or Japanese decent?"
Marta nodded, burying her face in her hands. "Can I see him?"
The man hesitated. Marta's sobs renewed themselves.
"Right this way, miss."
Over my shoulder Aaron smiled. "She's good." I couldn't help but agree.
Leading Marta through a door, the clerk and Marta disappeared from view on one camera screen, but appeared into the frame of another. Walking down a whitewashed hall, they entered another room and another camera lens, this time of a sterile morgue, the walls lined with numbered body freezers. The clerk referred to a clipboard he held, before walking to one of the freezers and opening it, sliding out the body tray till the head and chest of the man inside was revealed.
This time, Marta's exhalation was real, after all, the mangled corpse of the man on the tray was the same one she had killed. She seem overpowered with grief when she saw the body, and began sobbing with renewed effort, frantically crying out: "Its him! Its him!"
The clerk looked extremely uncomfortable, unsure whether to try to console her, and settled for scribbling something in his clipboard.
"Can I—Can you give me a moment?" Marta asked, in between sobs, turning tearful eyes upon him.
He hesitated, but then melted under her gaze.
"Of course." he said, and hurried out of the room leaving Marta alone.
Aaron stood and grabbed the Glock on the table, tucking it into his waistband and concealing it under his shirt.
"I'm up." he said, snagging the brown paper package and clipboard, and walking out the door.
"Alright Marta," I reported into my Bluetooth, "Aaron is on his way. Now I need you to remain in character until I say you can stop."
Marta continued crying.
My fingers flying over the keyboard, I recorded about a minute of Marta's "grief" before I looped the scene back, having it play continually on whatever monitor anyone might be watching the cameras on, giving Marta the freedom to do what she needed without being seen or recorded from that end. As far as anyone else knew, she was still sobbing over the body.
"Looping the camera's in 3, 2, 1."
After my countdown, Marta abruptly stopped sobbing, and rubbed her eyes.
"Lord, my abs are getting a workout from all this crying." she whispered jokingly. I heard a sound on Aaron's end, and couldn't resist a smile myself.
Outside the room, I could see the clerk on the camera watching what he thought was a live feed of Marta. After about three minutes, he made a move to get up and go join her but at that moment Aaron entered, swaggering up confidently to the front desk.
"Hi, how are you?" he asked with a winning smile, as he reached for the package under his arm.
The clerk spouted off a "good" on autopilot, not even the least curious of Aaron in his inconspicuous uniform.
Aaron smiled. "Delivery! Think you could sign off on it, for me?" he continued with a casual air, setting the package on the counter and holding the clipboard out to the man.
The clerk peered at the package. "What is this?" he asked.
"Hey, my job's just to deliver the things not know what's in them." Aaron replied with a laugh, not missing a beat.
The clerk shrugged, and grabbing a pen, wrote his signature on the line that Aaron pointed out for him.
"Thank you," Aaron mumbled, as he too began to write something on the clipboard. He glanced up at his surroundings and shook his head. "I don't know how you work here." he said conversationally. "All the dead bodies......."
The clerk looked around him too, and sighed. "I don't know myself. They really don't pay me enough."
"I know right!" Aaron cried, and easily struck up a conversation with the man.
Meanwhile, Marta had been busy.
Snagging up the clipboard the clerk had left on the tray, she referred to it and found the right drawer in a cabinet, pulling out the dead agent's personal effects.
"I found the necklace," she reported, as she removed the dog tag-like thing from the bag, sliding open its cover and peering inside. "There are still Chems inside." she said with a sigh of relief. In a flash, the necklace was in her pocket, and the bag replaced in the cabinet.
I set about deleting any log of its existence.
Marta referred to the clipboard again, and this time moved to a large stand-up freezer on the far side of the room. The inside of this was lined with small vials of samples of all sorts of bodily fluids from each of the bodies stored in the morgue. It took her a few moments to find the right vial, running her fingers over the labels till she found what she wanted.
"I have the blood sample," she at last cried out excitedly, carefully slipping the vial into her pocket as well.
In a few moments her tracks were covered and everything was in its exact place as before. Marta went to stand over the corpse of the agent once more, resuming almost her exact position as before.
"Shift your left hand about two degrees to the right." I instructed her, comparing the live footage with that of the looped camera.
She did so. "I'm ready," she whispered, resuming her sobbing.
I poised my finger over the keyboard. "Switching to live feed in 3, 2, 1." I pressed a key, and the camera frame flickered almost imperceptibly, before reverting to normal.
In the other room, Aaron, hearing that Marta had gotten what she wanted, began to end his conversation with the clerk.
"Ah man," he said, peering at his watch. "I have another delivery to make. I'm sorry. It was nice talking to you!" he called, before walking out with the clipboard under his arm, leaving the satisfied clerk at the counter.
"Good job, Marta." He said into the Bluetooth once outside. "The guy will be coming back for you soon."
True to his word, after glancing into the monitor and seeing that Marta was still grieving in the back room, he started up and walked towards her, evidently having forgotten about her.
"I'm sorry miss," he said when he entered, "but you need to leave now."
Marta sniffed, placed a "loving" hand on the dead agent's chest, before turning and walking out of the room.
"You are going to have to clear things up with the police first, before you can claim the body." he said, once more taking a seat at the front desk. "But come back when we are open tomorrow and we can go over the details."
Marta nodded, mumbled her thanks, and walked out.
A few seconds later, she was joining Aaron and I in the warehouse.
Her face was glowing as she presented the necklace and the blood sample to Aaron.
"You," he cried, gripping her by the shoulders, "were amazing! Ever considered joining the CIA? You would make one hell of an agent!"
She blushed with pride, reaching up to remove her Bluetooth from her ear. "In light of recent events, I think I'm good."
Aaron laughed and released her, walking over to congratulate me.
In two minutes we were exiting the warehouse that now held no evidence that we were even there. It was now almost lunch time, and the streets were once more bustling with activity as we made our way back to my apartment, reaching it in relative safety.
"I don't like being here any longer than necessary." Aaron said in a low voice.
In response I walked to the closet and pulled out a black backpack, literally dumping all the contents of my small suitcase into it, before zipping it up and slinging it across my shoulders. "Then let's leave."
He nodded, taking one last glance out the window.
Suddenly his whole body tensed, like a coiled spring. Both Marta and I followed his gaze.There, across the street, was a SWAT team.