His partner’s whisper hissed through his earpiece. Ian jerked his eyes to the monitor on his right. The red dot was stationary.
“He’s still in there, Jack.”
Jack’s sigh was heavy enough to crackle on the frequency. “Alright, then I’m off to circulate the salmon puffs.”
“Bring back enough tips to get us a decent dinner, okay?”
The connection closed with a click. Ian kept his gaze on the screen for a few seconds more. This could be the break they had been waiting for – if the target would make a move. Jack had a bit more than napkins under his official embassy waiter’s garb. Ian just had to monitor the tracking device and be sure the target didn’t slip out during the ball.
His gut was tight. He tried to convince himself that it was all about this case, but he couldn’t.
He turned back to his laptop. The email from his parents was still open. He ground his teeth. They were asking about the holidays, like they did every year.
We know you can’t commit for sure, but we’d love to have you at Christmas. Your brother is bringing his girlfriend and hinted there might be a proposal in the works. It would mean a lot to him if you were there for it.
It had been six years since he’d been home for the holidays. He’d not regretted the first five. One of the fringe benefits of this job – other than the fact his father deeply disapproved of anything that involved secrecy, technology and the government – was that he had a built-in excuse to avoid being home longer than 24 hours at a given time. It also meant that he was spared long arguments with his father since communication in the field was strictly limited to emails.
But Tom was getting engaged.
Ian had to chuckle at that. His baby brother was finally going to pop the question. It didn’t seem possible that he was old enough for such things.
Ian nearly jolted out of his chair at the sound. “Not yet.”
Jack closed the connection without even a comeback. Ian could empathize. Embassy cases were always drawn-out and boring until the last. He’d done his time with the waiter’s trays on this one.
His eyes went back to the email. Even if this case wasn’t completely wrapped up by December, he’d accumulated enough holiday favors to have half the agency working it in his absence.
His right fingers drummed the beat to O Come, All Ye Faithful on the desk. He could probably get his request on the server while he waited. It could be just for a couple of days – not the traditional two-week festival of family he’d endured for years.
And faith, he reminded himself. Yes, that saccharine belief that if you’re good enough, God will make the world all better. He’d given up on that in 10th grade – and the fighting began.
The carol was interrupted as Ian’s fingers curled into a fist. That last Christmas, as his father attempted to shout him into Christianity, he’d reminded the family that he’d been brought up to believe that faith couldn’t be forced. He’d thought his father was having a stroke from the reaction that comeback received.
Still, he’d almost begun to miss it. His mother commented that his emails were actually exceeding four sentences these days and coming more than three times a year. He’d checked his sent mail – eight emails since summer. It was a record for him.
“I’m about to just ‘stumble’ and drop a trayload of champagne flutes on his lap,” Jack complained in his ear.
A chime from the tracking monitor interrupted his planned comeback. “You may not have to. He’s moving toward the left exit.”
The knot in his gut loosened. The case would be wrapped up within the week if all went as planned. Perhaps he could…
Before he could talk himself out of it, he hit the reply button.
I’ll be there.
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