This is a thing I wrote for Story in a Bag at #conquestkc .  Like, in an hour, and just this morning.  I got fantastic prompts, so I confess myself pleased (even though I had to fudge a bit to keep to the length limit).



This time there would be no witnesses.

Alanna Scott surreptitiously adjusted her Prada skirt as she regarded the abandoned farmhouse.  At least, she hoped it was abandoned.  The last site hadn’t been.  Three days it took to sort it out, and she’d nearly missed Fashion Week.  She listened intently.  No sounds reached her but the gentle whuffing of breeze blowing through wheat gone wild and the distant chatter of a flock of birds.  The animals could have been just behind the barn, or could have been several miles distant.  Sound traveled strangely across these flat plains, borne up on the dry prairie winds.

Satisfied, she slipped her weapon out of its tastefully patterned carrying case and assembled it with the smooth, familiar motions of long practice.  She fired a quarrel into the ground near the door, noting its trajectory and making a minute adjustment to the tension of her crossbow.  This wasn’t a strictly necessary part of the process, but it had become a little ritual for her at the beginning of these sorts of expeditions.  Not that she was particularly superstitious, but everyone has their thing.  

As she bent to retrieve the arrow and check the straps on her green leather boots, she paused, instantly just as tense as her taut bowstring.  She took an extra moment to secure the polished silver buckle, waiting until exactly the right moment to roll to the side.  A heavy metal bar thunked into the dust where her head had been.  She kicked hard, her thick heel nailing the hand wielding the other weapon, but it held firm.  Her assailant raised the club for another attack, but paused.  They stood frozen for a moment, fingers on trigger and handle.

“Kendall,” Alanna said curtly, an acknowledgement that wasn’t quite a greeting.  “I thought you were in Hong Kong with the Oscar de la Renta collection.”

Kendall Quintera lowered her silver clubs fractionally.  “He went with this boho thing instead.  It’s all maxi dresses and gladiator sandals.”

“Seriously?  What, is he designing for Urban Outfitters now?”

“I know, right?”  Kendall sheathed one of her clubs, checking her manicure as she did so to ensure that it remained immaculate.  The other club, Alanna noted, still remained handy.  “So you still with Stiletto?”

Alanna stood, visibly--but not actually--relaxing.  She brushed the dust from her clothes with one hand, still maintaining her grip on the crossbow.  “This is what you might call freelancing.”

Kendall grinned as much as she could manage with lips that had been nearly frozen by years of stern pouting.  “Well, I could use some backup, then.”

The breeze ruffled their artfully arranged clothes, the rustling of expensive fabrics the only sound as Alanna considered this.  She didn’t like sharing her finds.  But she also hadn’t planned on facing off with another agent on this one.  A team-up meant less clean-up, and she was supposed to be on a runway in Paris in about thirty-six hours.  “You think we’re going to run into trouble?” she said.

Kendall chuckled, spinning her club in a showy move.  “Ran into you, didn’t I?”  She seemed to acknowledge Alanna’s question as agreement and turned her attention to the barn.  “What does your intel say?”

“Guessing the same as yours, considering that you’re out here in the ass end of nowhere.”  Kendall waited.  Alanna sighed.  “There’s an entrance to the complex hidden around here.  Series of cellars, shafts, tunnels, going down about two miles before you get into Clarion.  Think you can keep up?”

“After you, sweetheart.”

Alanna glared, but raised her crossbow and turned her attention back to the barn.  If Kendall had gotten the drop on her, she’d probably already cased the place.  One less thing to worry about.  Not that she was thrilled about her rival’s involvement, but she hadn’t gotten this far in life without being adaptable.

The interior of the barn was surprisingly dark given the relentless sunlight just beyond.  It took Alanna’s eyes a few moments to adjust.  “Don’t suppose you have any idea what it’s going to look like?” she muttered.

“My guy said a lever,” Kendall replied.

“Oh, that helps,” Alanna said.  She stepped delicately through the rotting hay toward one wall, where a variety of sharp implements hung idly rusting.  “So what are you looking for in Clarion, anyway?”

“Oh, the usual stuff you find in an old research compound: old biological weapons, nuclear materials, that sort of thing.  You?”

Alanna hesitated, but figured that it couldn’t hurt.  Kendall’s bosses would have other concerns.  “They had apparently found some silver deposits near the barracks.  Were looking to start a mine before they had to evac.”

“That doesn’t seem like your line,” Kendall said.

Alanna just shrugged, and they went back to searching in silence.  After an hour of dust and decay and the skittering of creatures not used to being disturbed, Kendall sighed and sheathed her gleaming clubs.  “Well, hell,” she said.  “Waste of my damn time.  Although at least I get to bill for this.  Sucks to be you.”

“Usually does.  See you in Milan?”

“Probably.”  With that, Kendall turned on her Louboutin heel and stalked off into the field of wheat.

Alanna watched her go, waiting until all sound of her passage had ceased.  Once she was wrapped again in silence, she went back into the barn to check once more.  

Like she said, no witnesses this time.
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