There she stands as always, leaning against her door frame, watching the alley. His hooded figure stalking up though untold amounts of muck, the steely determination in his eyes betrays who he is looking for.
“Natan.” Irina coldly acknowledges. Looking over the mud spattered clothing cloaking his emaciated figure.
“I need help.” He confides. His eyes locking with her’s as she looks up from his threadbare attire.
“For food?” She haggles. An evil grin tugging her lips out of the customary scowl she wears.
“I am just as hungry as you are yourself.” He petitions back. Fear crossing his eyes for the first time. A cart storms down the narrow alley they stand in, sending Natan into the cold stone wall. “Irina, from the goodness of you heart, will you help me?” He resumes speaking in a pleading tone as soon as the cart was past.
Irina takes her time, but when she does speak it is to acquiesce. “Oh, Nat. I’ll help you, but you must not keep anything from me if I am to be of any use.” Her tough facade is crumbling.
He chewed his lip in concentration. Or so it looks, one must not trust a spys face to tell his mind. “I will tell you everything.” He finaling consents.
With that she turns, sweeping her long skirt across the threshold. His broad shoulders soon block the light coming through the tunnel like doorway.
Shoving a scalding cup of tea into Natan’s hesitantly extended hands Irina fixed a look that dared him to go back upon his word.
“Where to start…” Natan sighs, “I suppose the beginning is best. You remember Jokin? Well we were hired to track down a man suspected of being a assian.” his face clouds with a wistful expression, “I didn’t want to take it, but Jokin was set. He was going to find out what this man was up to. We didn’t even have a name to start with.” Irina’s elbows now rest firmly on the table. “When we reached Melken we had to split up, its hard to track a man in a city that big, let alone gather what his plans are.” Here his narrative abruptly stops. His eyes glaze as he stares into the tea, plucking it off the table to take a large gulp, “I haven’t seen Jokin since then.”
“Such is the life of a spy.” Irina adds sharply, however she quickly takes it back remembering the time she spent training the two young men, “Jokin was a good man, and a better spy. He’d want you to finish your mission.”
“Thats why I need your help.” laughter fills the dunk kitchen. “I mean it Irina.” Abruptly the joyful noise stops.
“Nat, I’m retired. What could I possibly do to help you? Your one of the best, young, but not without experience.”
“Irina.” Natan takes a moment, seemingly rethinking his plan. “Irina, you are the best.” The thin old woman scoffs. “Look at yourself! You have never ever failed to bring back the information needed, and no one has ever caught you, even though you trained the most people over the thirty some years you were a spy!” She looks on almost sadly at his fervent rant.
“Nat, we all lose our touch.”
“But you didn’t! Its just that no one wants an old woman working their case!” He is standing now, wildly gesturing about, as she chews her lip. “For Jokin?”
“Alright.” She lets out a sigh, grabbing her cloak, “Lets get a move on.” glancing over they smile at one another.
The journey takes a few days, due in part to Irina’s age and part to the amount of time that they have to devote to begging if they were to be alive upon reaching Melkin. Once the unlikely duo is there they lose no time in tracking down the man they suspect of kidnapping Jokin. Who Irina soon weasels the name out of a portly innkeeper. As it turns out they are looking for a young man named Ryker.
“Ryker, Ryker…” Irina softly chants, a scowl indented on her face.
“Your doing it again.” Nat says interrupting her in between bites of the stale bread they have spread out between them.
“Natan, how many times did I tell you not to distract me!” Irina angry waves her hand about before grabbing a chunk of bread. “I feel like I know what to do, but darn it, I’m too old to remember.” he guffaws, choking on the bread.
“Irina, age has nothing to do with it. Its the fact that we have nothing, and the only option is grabbing at our spies intuition. Which as a great teacher once said that, ‘Grabbing at intuition is a difficult thing to do, for only some have the right type, and no matter the type its like clearing a misted over mirror.’.”
“Shut you smart mouth.” She grumbles in response as yet again she loses herself in an attempt to figure out the mystery. “ Nat, did you say that Jokin was heading to the Grambiar neighbourhood?”
“Yes.” he snaps.
“I need to go there.” she leaps up wit agility one would have thought she had long lost. The young man is slower but not by much to gather his legs underneath himself. “No, you are not coming. He knows what you're doing here by now.” She reprimands, speaking as a mother would to her wayward child.
“I don’t care! Last time I let anyone one go alone they got abducted, and likely murdered!” His voice raises hysterie entering it.
“If you come we will both reach that fate, if you let me go alone I look no different from any other old woman. No one attacks a old woman. I will be free to find out where Jokin is.” She softly explains taking his calloused hand in her wrinkled one. “And, Nat? If I don’t come back don’t go looking for me, I’m old my dieing now is alright. You life is yet new.” He nods, crumpling back to the ground. She sadly smiles, with a whoosh of cloth shes gone into the crowded streets.
As her small feet pick their way through the crowd she tosses her cloak about, flipping it so the delicate silk lining shows. Then she slips on the neckless with the little clear rock. Smiling as she stops in front of a shop to cover her cheeks in a powder with a rosy tint and her lips in a cream the color of blood.
She continued her march through the buzzing city, but now its crowds part for her. Upon reaching the stately homes marking Grambiar she stops, glancing up and down the deserted road with its heavily laden chestnut trees she begins to work her way up and down the street checking each mail box. She counties in this way until she reaches one halfway down the block. The envelope she holds has Mr. Buiren written elegantly across its front. Her face glazes over as she places it carefully back in the box. Walking the three steps needed to reach the ancient tree she reaches up to grasp the first branch. Then the second as she begins to climb into the leafy hideout.
Light seeps out of the sky as carriages began to draw up and carry people out from various houses on the street. Each driver sending a groom to the door to help his client down the stairs. A carriage drawn by four horses whose coats gleam golden slows to a stop below a tree, a tree with a unknown occupant. Like all the other times a carriage has drawn up a ritual begins, one of the two young men clinging to to back of the carriage jumps down and runs under the line of the trees and up to the door of the house, knocking three times on what ever stately wood was present in the form of a door. When a person or a couple emerge dressed in silk and fine wool the man says their name, before ushering them down to the awaiting carriage.
At this particular door a young man dressed in a black wool coat trimmed in gold opens the door. He begins his walk to the road before the groom is done exclaiming, “Master Ryker Buiren, your carriage awaits!”
Up in that tree Irina begins to lower herself down as soon as the carriage door is shut, she has a boy to rescue.
Walking directly up to the front door Irina knocks with purpose. No hint of the turmoil of fear gripping her inside shows upon her pompous expression or slight frame with its disguise of billowing silk.
There is a great rush, someone running to the window above her, whispers ensue from just inside the door. After a long conversation in hush tones the door is slowly opened by a young woman. “What can I do for you ma'am?” The girls rich country accent betrays her as a servant despite her elegant dress.
“I’m looking for Ryker Buiren.” Irina smiles, warmth erupting from her face displacing the concocted expression. “I understand he’s out for the evening, but may I wait for him inside? My hotel is a long walk and I have already sent off my carriage.”
“Oh, yes of course Ma’am!” The servant exclaims throwing the door open. She leads Irin into the bowels of the fine home, up the stairs and past the door which must lead to the room over with the window over the door, and into the finely decked out sitting room. “Can I get you anything Ma’am?”
“No, dear, I’m sure you have plenty of work without me giving you trouble!” Irina laughly adds, taking in the faint line of a blade across the girls cheek, and the bruise just blossoming from underneath the neckline of her dress. The girl blushes as she turns to leave. Bringing a ring of keys into view. “Although I am quite cold, would tea be a trouble?”
“Not at all Ma’am!” She exclaims now rushing out the door.
When she returned carrying a tray of tea and biscuits, Irina leaps to her feet, carefully helping the girl lay it out, her well trained hands spilling a plate onto the floor.
“I’m every so sorry!” Irina exclaims as the girl bends to pick up the scattered biscuits. Quicker then one can see Irina reaches, using all the finesse she possesses, and grasps the ring of keys, plucking at the knot that holds them on a worn leather belt. gathering the plateful of ruined food the girl silently begins to walk towards the door, “No need to bring more dear, I’ve already causes much too much trouble.”
Once the soft footfalls of the girl have faded away Irina jumps nearly silently to her own feet, creeping to the doorway and down the hall towards the stairs. Stopping at the door she sorts through the six keys in her hand, grumbling as she passed one bronze key after another though her fingers. Finally she picks a worn one to grasp firmly and place in the handle of the door. A hearty click echos through the hall, bringing heavy beaten foot falls towards her from within the room she stand at the door for. Easing the door open she peers into the darkness, finding the short broad frame of Jokin. Resiting exclaiming his name, she slips into the room with him. His dull eyes track her every movement.
“Do you know how to get out of here?” She whispers as close as she dares to his ear.
“Yes” He dulley adds. “does me no good, all the doors and windows are glued shut or you need a key.” She raises the ring from her palm, pressing it delicately into his.
“Go to the alley behind the Three Sheep Pub.” She whispers, a sad smile playing on her lips. His eyes dart from this unknown woman to the door.
“Thank you.” He whispers before beginning to glide with the long learned grace of a cat towards the door. She follows, clicking the door shut behind them, her eyes watching him dart down the stairs, easily missing the creaking steps. Dejectedly she silently moves back to the sitting room.
There she sits, Stiring absently at a cup of lukewarm tea, the woman who Emilia said was looking for me.
“Hello, what can I do for you?”
“I let Jokin free.” Anger surges through my veins. “He's a good man, and a better spy.” her face seems to glaze, she slowly lifts the cup of tea towards her face. “I trained him myself. You had better leave him alone. But you can take me, Irina Jans, the one who never got caught.” She lifts the cup all the way to her lips as I take a forceful stride towards her, only to watch the life be snuffed out of her slowly.
“Jokin!” Natan exclams as the short man comes round the corner.
“Nat!” he reaches forward grasping him around his waist. “I knew I could trust that fancy woman.” He draws back, a smile spreading across his face.
“Irina must have found you.” Natan happy adds, looking expectantly for her to round the corner
“No, No, this was not Irina, far too old and…” As realization comes to his features, streak of terror crosses the rugged features of both men. For Irina was much older then when Jokin had last seen her. “God no, Nat! She.. She let him kill her for me.” A single tear on Natans cheek reflects the last ray of sun light.