“So let me get this straight,” Constance remarked, still toying with the slick sheets. “The Agency suspects my loyalty and now they want me to rat out other possible double agents in the organization.”
Carter nodded, leaned up against the door frame of the house. Everything was all very last century, that’s what Constance liked about this place. All four walls were up to the sun, and it was like baking in a slow, warm heat. Almost nothing was linked. Now that Carter had explained everything, she realized why it was all her links back to the Bunker were so dead. It wasn’t them playing nice while she was on vacation.
“That’s about the whole of it, girl,” Carter remarked. He folded his arms tersely across his chest. Constance tried to remember a time when she had seen him so grim.
“And a Code Black.”
Constance let herself down onto the bed, looking at the sheets. The data that swum on it made sense in passing, all reports of missing agents. Both internal and external reports. She had taken a brief read of something that was titled the Echelon Report, something that appeared to have triggered all of this in the first place. Constance knotted her sarong a bit tighter about herself. She didn’t feel like Carter might have been checking her out, the opposite in fact, given his sexuality. She just wasn’t sure of things since the last operation.
Constance still wasn’t sure whether she’d terminated him or not.
“This is all pretty high level stuff,” Constance said. She thought how she would need a whole lot of caff to get through this one. The smell of it was already starting to waft from the service near the door.
“Well, it’s all pretty serious shit, girl.” Carter finally pushed away from the doorframe, idly wandering across the hard wood floor. “Code Black means just that. Cuttin’ links to all Agents. All of em. Until they can sort out who the leaks are.”
Constance shot him a slightly incredulous look, “Yeah, and that’s where I come in, right? Sift through the data. Try and work out who the most likelys would be.”
“What? You don’t think you’re up to this sort of work?” Carter almost smiled, Constance noticed. Almost. “Too used to hands on?”
“Well, no, it’s not that. It’s just it’s the principle … of the thing.” Constance frowned, and wondered why she had faltered on that. The tight look that Carter suddenly gave wasn’t lost on her. Constance got up and headed over to the service, taking up the cup of caff that had been freshly brewed there. “Guess there’s no sense not to look across the figures.”
“Yeah. Not like we have anything else to do right now, right?”
Constance nodded, taking a sip of her caff as she looked over the slick sheet again. Where to even start? She had heard about some of this stuff, just rumors though. It had been a while since she had been back at that Bunker. It was almost another world. One that didn’t really affect her on the job.
“Sort of strange to think that right now there’s a whole lot of people just wondering where to go from here,” Constance said, leaning up against one of the heavy, timber supports of the hut. She sipped her caff. Carter shrugged.
“They’re trained. They know the protocols, girl. We all do.”
“Well, it’s sort of different for me,” Constance remarked. She let her thumb slide down the side of the sheet, panning down a map. Last known locations. “I’ve got my handler on a face to face. How many agents don’t have that right now?”
“They’ll be fine,” muttered Carter. Constance quirked an eyebrow, watching him. He certainly wasn’t his usual self since the last operation.
“You’re not still thinking about it, are you?” she asked, pointly. No dancing around it. She knew Toa well enough to know he would be straight with her. “After what you’ve just been through. I know you were just playing the part, but now that things are going to hell, you’re not thinking about it are you?”
“Going double?” Carter asked, frowning. His arms were still folded tight, his forearms hard and corded.
“Yes. Double. These truths show some pretty systematic targeting. A range of agents, younger and more experienced ones.” Constance looked at him, asked firmly, “Have you been targeted?”
“Would have shown in the truths,” he muttered in reply. “Right?”
“I guess so. Then what’s got you so spooked right now? Because I know it’s not the Code Black. You deal better than most I know with deep cover. You’re used to being cut off.”
Carter shrugged again, staring out at the mid afternoon. There had been a few people drifting up and down the beach. Nothing that Constance didn’t think she couldn’t handle. She’d put a few of her toys up about the hut, and none of them showed a compromise yet. Carter looked distant.
“Just thinkin’ about the wedding,” he replied, finally. “What do you remember about that?”
Constance thought back. She sure remembered what it felt like being stood up. Again. The fourth time. He’d been ordered, of course. A seemingly convenient compromise of feelings and operation. Even beyond all that, it came down to the operation though. It had been a way to flush out whether Carter was a double. And beyond that, it was a way of proving her own loyalty in a complex series of layers.
“Rather not think about it, frankly,” Constance remarked. She took another deep drink of her caff, tasting the hard, bitter taste of it. She set it aside on the service.
“What do you remember about the other times?”
“You’re not asking if I still have feelings for you, Toa?” she asked, annoyed a little. “I thought we sorted all that after the last operation? I mean, sure, it seems like a decent idea. Probably the closest we could ever get to a decent, normal life … but it does seem a little absurd, don’t you think? Agent and handler.”
“Who gave you away?” asked Carter, pressing the issue. Constance studied his expression. His squarish jaw held a few days lack of shaving.
“My father. Why?”
“Well, no. It was Manly. He’s not my father, but that was the cover.”
“What is he?”
Constance frowned, starting to get peeved at the constant questions. “A handler. Burrell’s handler, isn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Carter remarked, seeming to pull further in to himself. “That’s about right.” Constance put the slick sheets aside, and wandered over towards Carter. She stood in front of him, close enough to smell the sweat on him. Same old Toa, never one to bother with niceties. A real man’s man, if you were into men.
“What is this about?” Constance asked, quietly. “I mean, really? Because if I didn’t know better, I’d think you had feelings for me.”
“Sure. We’ve been friends long enough. Even with you as my handler.” She let out a light smile. “And I mean, how cliched is that? Falling for your handler? It’s just all convenience though, Toa. It’s just a connection, right? Nothing physical.”
“I worry about you, Constance. I’d be stupid not to, baby girl.”
Constance gave him a playful shove. He barely moved. “Thanks for that. But I doubt I have much to worry about even with the Code Black, given you’re here. At least I won’t get bored. If you were here, it would have been just me and an endless vacation, and I’m not sure I could have handled that, as much as I needed some down time.”
Toa was still looking at her, his face uncharacteristically hard. Constance gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek, a gesture that seemed to surprise him. “I doubt there will be a time we aren’t tied up in each others lives somehow, Toa. How much have we already been through together?”
“Too much.” Constance backed off from him, and for some reason she thought of his small, cramped apartment. She wondered about her bag of stuff, and wondered if it was still sitting there, gun and all. She took the slick sheets back up, and motioned to them. “Have you read these?”
“Eyes only,” he replied, finally unfolding his arms. “I couldn’t see them even if I wanted. They’re not encoded for me.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry,” Constance said, going back to the bed. She sat down on it, and looked over the sheet, like she was about to settle in for some good holiday reading. “You’re names not in it. If that’s what you’re worried about it. I hardly think I’m going to have to implicate you as a leak, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Oh, yeah,” he remarked. Constance could tell the relief was acted. Badly. “Well, that’s good. Look, it’s probably just the uncertainty at the moment.” Constance knew it wasn’t that, but let it lie. “I’m going to go catch me a lil sun for a bit. Leave you to do some work.”
“Link me if you need any help though.”
Constance nodded, watching Carter was he wandered out of the hut. She looked down over the slick sheets again. It was still standing on the same page she had left it open on. Simon Adler. One of a number of handlers shot dead. Adler. Handler to Agent Carter. No mention of reassignment, given how current the loss was. Certainly not to the role of handler to anyone.
Constance let the little fact lie for the moment. It still wasn’t as troubling as the one she had seen after only a few minutes of looking at the reports. The list of agents dead, or disappeared.
Her name was among the list of those dead.