Dan Antion, the Thursday Doors fearless leader, is running a Thursday Doors writing challenge again this May. So, OF COURSE I folded that into Story A Day May. Dan is a fan of Steffie the spy, so my Thursday stories will also feature her. The door I used for today’s prompt is one of Dan’s.
Hair of the Dog
By Marian Allen
Not many people had Steffie’s private cell phone number, and those who did were very, very special. Annabelle Lee was one of those people.
Steffie accepted the call with, “Howland’s Owl Sanctuary. How may I direct your call?”
“I’m sorry,” the woman on the other end said. “I meant to call Hooters.”
Spy stuff out of the way, Steffie said, “What’s up, Annabelle? You sound tense.”
That was alarming: Annabelle had nerves almost as steely as Steffie’s.
“It’s Jesper. He’s been on guard the past couple of days.”
Jesper, the pup Steffie had rescued the year before and had given to Annabelle, was being trained as a guard dog, but “on guard” meant his training was actively engaged.
“Understood.” Steffie ended the call and then the interrogation of the triple agent drugged and penitent before her. Pete, Steffie’s handler, could take it from here, and Annabelle’s operation was a priority.
Annabelle’s operation wasn’t a front; it really was an award-winning winery in upstate New York, one the Lees had owned and operated for over two hundred years. The New York branch of the Virginia Lees, they had always been patriots, and had defended the United States of America in any way they could since before there was a United States of America.
Fainting Goat Winery now distributed information by way of encrypted QR codes printed on certain bottle labels. The labels were kept in a wooden pie safe that looked as if it didn’t lock, but had a lock system so sophisticated only the best of the best of the best in the business could crack it.
Steffie suspected that was who had Jesper’s hackles up.
She parked in town so small it was little more than a grocery store, two churches, and three beauty/barber/tanning shops, and walked cross-country to the winery.
There were three excellent vantage points from which to surveille the home/office, so Steffie settled into a poor one. The fact was, there were no poor vantage points to Steffie, and four hours of silent watching finally yielded a dark gleam from one of the points an ever-so-slightly lesser agent would use. Binoculars, or long-range gun? Watching for Annabelle to disarm the lock so the agent could do the same thing without being detected, or killing her – and her dog – and using expertise to disarm the lock system?
With a silent speed impossible to another, Steffie crept up behind the other agent’s location.
It was a gun.
It was a very nice gun. Steffie liked the feel of it. Sadly, she had never seen another like it so, although she’d have liked to keep it, she’d have to turn it over to Pete for the R&D people to study.
She called the clean-up crew to pick up the agent’s body and walked openly up the gravel drive to the turn-around in front of the office.
Through the door to the back room, she saw Annabelle at the sink and Jesper lying in front of the safe. His tail thumped on the floor as she approached him.
“Just in time for lunch,” Annabelle said. “Catch him?”
“Killed him. He had a gun.”
Annabelle cut a hamburger in half and frowned. “You’ve taken guns away from people before.”
Steffie took the half-hamburger Annabelle offered her. “He was going to kill Jesper.”
“Ah,” said Annabelle. “That’s different.”
They bumped hamburger halves in a toast, each tossed a bite to Jesper, and tucked in.
Thursday doors is under the direction of Dan Antion, photographer extraordinaire and critter daddy. Visit his site, enjoy his wonderful photographs, follow his directions, and enter a world of doors.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Dan’s picture.