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  • Writer's picturethejsingraham

Gatekeeper | "Espresso"

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

Diam Rousseau's latest contract takes him to Europe to track down a pharmaceutical scientist who'd cracked the code on a new drug that could turn the world upside down--reshaping the landscape of global power in the process.


Slowly sipping my second einspänner, a Viennese coffee consisting of espresso and heavy whipped cream, I continued to pantomime as a tourist perusing a periodical in Salzburg, Austria.

The café I was seated in was quaint, dark, and held a very old Europe motif. You could smell each cup of caffeine that had ever been brewed in this space, going back to the early 1900s. The walls and tables made of deliberate wood and marble pairings held on to those piquant memories proudly.

The Chesnutt colored SPGBK on my wrist, let me know that Lachlan Winden was twenty-seven minutes behind schedule for his normal Saturday morning routine. In any other instance, this may not be of grave concern, however for a man of Lachlan's meticulousness this was odd.

I had tracked the pharmaceutical scientist responsible for isolating the terpenes found in cannabis and splicing it with the metabolites found in heroin, for the past week. This new screwed version of heroin would add a dangerously relaxing element to the euphoric opiate, creating an unstable hit-or-miss fatalistic experience. This explained why the dossier I was provided had been compiled over a three-month period.

The reality of his most recent finding tore through eastern Europe and Asia like wildfire. The number of suitors lining up to purchase the information that only existed in his head, grew by the hour.

The kubotan keychain that hung alongside my keys, found a new home in my hand. I was not growing anxious, but something just did not sit right at the moment.

When the sound of a tray of saucers fell somewhere behind where I was seated, I flinched and turned in the direction of the sound but allowed my eyes to scan the space a few beats slower. It was one of the more intermediate skills drilled into us at La Tana many moons ago.

When on the hunt, never be so laser-focused that you assume other hunters aren't present.

In so doing I noticed a woman sitting at a small table in the corner across from the door. She was about thirty feet from where I was seated-- slowly stirring a small cup of tea. The tea bag lay unopen on the saucer.

Her eyes scanned the space quickly, observing each patron seated or standing to place a to-go order. The aim was to identify the person or persons that failed to respond to the created mishap, process the perceived threat they may pose and then...well that was the problem.

Are you hunter or shield signora? I thought to myself.

No more than a few minutes later, I received all of the information I was looking for. A large wall of a man pulled the door to the café open and in stepped two thin, long-legged women. The first was a blonde with sharp angular features, wearing an obnoxiously bright red lip. The second was a tad too tanned for this locale this time of year. Her green eyes were intoxicating, the black wig she wore was not.

Lachlan who at six-foot-five was as tall as the guard, but nowhere near as massive, followed. He was on the heels of the second woman, standing close enough to where his hand easily disappeared under the hem of the fur coat that stopped mid-thigh. The grin on his face explained his barely put-together appearance and derivation from schedule. The walking wall brought up the rear as the foursome headed to the pickup window in the middle of the café.

It looks like he may have decided on a suitor. And wanted to show off his spoils.

I could do nothing but shake my head at this while beginning to craft some idea of a plan to execute this transaction. The muscle was no problem, but the woman playing the role of the advance team gave me cause for concern. I don't make messes unless they are specifically paid for, so that killed the possibility of removing her, the wall, and Lachlan in broad daylight. And how many more are there outside?

Leaving enough euros on the table to cover a third einspänner, I stood to my feet and adjusted the distressed denim jeans I was wearing overtop a pair of all-white Stan Smith Adidas. Smoothing the front of my gray hoodie, I brought the edges of the hood forward but did not put it on-- bringing it closer to my neck and ears. When I put my keys in my pocket, I tugged on the edges of the cranberry-colored suede trucker jacket, folded the periodical, and stuck it under my hand.

I walked out of the café with a slow and steady stride, raising my cup in the air to get the barista's attention, and headed outside. The woman in the corner still had not opened the tea bag, but most importantly the only attention she paid me was to my ass as I exited. Shout out to European cuts in fashion.

Outside I pretended to look at my watch and quickly looked left and right for a large black sedan or SUV. Seeing nothing I headed to the nearest corner and peered around, finding a black Suburban with tinted windows parked in a gravel lot by itself. The engine was off, which let me know there was no one inside because the temperature in Salzburg right now would have demanded the use of heat.

At this point, I figured I had maybe five to ten minutes tops before my window of opportunity disappeared, so I walked over to the truck and kicked the side view mirror off triggering the alarm. I sprinted across the street to the backside of the café and waited to see which of the pair came out.

The minute tea bag came around the corner, I jimmied the lock on the back door and slid inside. Once through the kitchen and in the back of the shop I lingered in the shadows, as an older man in front of Lachlan and the women, completed his order and headed to the front of the store. When the target stepped towards the counter, the wall of a guard moved closer to the front of the store looking towards the large windows at the front of the shop, growing increasingly anxious.

One of the women peered around the guard curiously, while the other looked at her cellphone.

The barista placed Lachlan's coffee in front of him and then turned to get the man's usual pastry order.

Seizing the moment I pulled a small serrated disc the size of a silver dollar and threw it at the oldest espresso machine I saw on the wall, severing one of its hoses. When the machine released a high-pitched whining noise the entire shop turned towards the sound covering their ears.

My next movements were swift. I pulled the six-inch kubotan keychain and its twin from the opposite pocket. Two pointed and swift body shots to each of the scientist's kidneys, made him lean back awkwardly to the left then to the right. The cry of pain that tried to escape his lips died on the back of his tongue when I snapped the man's neck and stepped back into the shadows.

I did not wait for the screams and yells of confusion to reach my ears.

I walked out of the back door, hopped over the fence on the other side of the alley, and walked through an abandoned lot. Coming out on a residential street a block away, I slipped my air pods in my ears and ran my hands across my head.

Ryan Paul Smith's rendition of Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön, better known as Tamino's aria from Mozart's "The Magic Flute," filled my headspace as I walked and began my usual unwind process.

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