Honey Trap - a stratagem in which irresistible bait is used to lure a victim.
This short story was originally written as a basis for a novel with a heroine that has only one arm. An undercover agent for CSIS, Canada's spy agency.
Former decorated soldier.
Not only trained to kill, she is multi-lingual, a vixen, a genius and committed to revenge for the lose of her right arm.
This story was originally published on the Scribbler and is now part of my Short Story collection - A Box of Memories.
The Honey Trap
Bella Maggs weighed forty pounds when she was four years old. Her mother passed away from cervical cancer when Bella was eight and as big as a teenager. By the time she was twelve, she would be mistaken for an adult. Four days and two and a half hours after she received her high school diploma, her father was killed in a car accident. She was one day away from her eighteenth birthday. To suggest her childhood had not been propitious is akin to suggesting the Marianas Trench is under a lot of water.
The family doctor had diagnosed her immense girth as an eating disorder, prescribed exercise and a healthier diet. Her single-parent father spoiled her and couldn’t say no. Schoolkids bullied her in elementary school, but that stopped by the time she reached junior high. By then she’d stopped feeling sorry for herself and toughened up. Bella Maggs was not stupid. In fact, her Intelligence Quotient at 161 is considered exceptionally gifted; in everyday talk, she is a genius.
In high school she was not without a few close friends, all smaller than her. Possessing a round pretty face of the fairest skin, ruddy checks, and a pleasing smile, she tried hard to be liked but people still teased her. Standing at five foot ten, she weighed two hundred and twenty-five pounds when she entered Grade 10. Boys were scared of her, and she was rarely asked out. The only boy who wanted to take her to the prom was Kelvin Van Grut, the only other genius in her school. At six four and a hundred and nineteen pounds, loose limbed and bony jointed, he reminded people of a marionette. Everybody called him Pinocchio.
June 25, 1991, Bella and Kelvin arrived at the prom twenty minutes late at 7:20 p.m. The heckling began at 7:21. The snickers and whispers at the odd pair were not disguised. Mean-spirited teenagers openly taunted them. At 7:42 pm, Bella Maggs ran tearfully from the gymnasium. No one who knew her then ever saw her again. Her father’s funeral was handled by his only sibling, a younger sister. Bella managed the disposition of all her father’s assets from an undisclosed location. What couldn’t be sold was given to his sister to dispose of. Bella refused to surface.
In 2010, Rosa Vartanian moved to Treasure Island near the picturesque seaside community of Cocagne. She bought a rundown cottage on the perimeter of the island, facing east. During the first twelve months of occupancy, she convinced her four closest neighbors to sell her their properties. Everybody had their price.
Rosa now owns one quarter of the football-field-sized landmass. All the buildings have been given away or razed, the properties graded, large majestic pines groomed, scrap trees cut down and others replanted. A modest storey-and-a-half home occupies the center of her property. A separate three-car garage holds her vehicles, with the upstairs housing her training rooms. Picket fences and clever shrubs ensure her privacy without seeming snobbish. Multi-hued sunrises shimmer across the bay.
Vartanian can speak more than a dozen languages. She has been warmly welcomed by the curious Acadian population of the hamlet. When it is discovered she can speak French, she is invited into their homes. The fact that she only has one arm doesn’t faze them a bit. The rumors of her wealth seem unreal given her humbleness. When they politely inquire where she is from or ask any questions about her background, she cleverly changes the subject. Or they get the only-child-parents-deceased line. As far as the missing arm, she tells them it’s the result of a car accident.
No one needs to know that she lost it in the state of Lower Saxony in Germany.
Thirty months ago, she’d been tracking down a group of neo-fascists who fantasized of a renewed state, demanding a separate slice of Northern Germany. From university groups chanting left wing slogans against immigrants, they grew to autonomous groups fashioned after Islamic jihadism with no one commander, no head to sever. The racists caused havoc and death mainly among black communities, Muslim neighborhoods and gay habitats. In their attempt to garner worldwide attention, they kidnapped the son of Canada’s Prime Minister, who was attending the University of Cologne, demanding an exorbitant amount of money for his release.Underneath all the law enforcement activity of both countries, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had agents in action throughout Europe. None of them were more covert and better connected than Rosa Vartanian.
Within twenty-four hours, Vartanian uncovered a connection between the men in the security videos from the university that the Saxony State Police shared with Canada’s RCMP, and Rudolf Hoch, the slime she’d been sent there to shadow a month ago. Hoch was a skin
head, a rich skin-head. He had been charged with the murder of his parents,
owners of Hoch Shipping. Nine months later, Rudolph walked out of the courtroom
a free man. The prosecution had been unable to prove his guilt. His mother was
Canadian, well connected to the business elite and present political hierarchy.
It had been suggested to CSIS that Rudolph Hoch bore watching. They sent Rosa
Her inquiries led her into a pit of serpents. She had been captured by the same ruthless gang. Probing for information she did not have, it was Hoch himself who removed three of her fingers with a rusty knife making the young man watch, terrorizing his very soul. Before the fourth finger went missing, she and the son were rescued by Drake Alexander and his unruly cohorts. He had been her sergeant when she was part of the Special Ops during her time with the Canadian Armed Forces as a member of their elite Task Force 2 Commandos. Now Alexander hunts criminals. Her career with CSIS was put on hold during her rehabilitation when she lost her arm to infection and eventual gangrene. Some consolation was that Alexander and his band of vigilantes killed or captured the entire terrorist cabal. Hoch, however, was not among them.
Now she’s a one-armed gardener, sun worshipper and a thirty-seven-year-old retiree always looking over her shoulder. She is consulted occasionally by CSIS but only as an advisor. She misses the espionage, the rush only danger can bestow. More desperately than that, she wants the man who took her fingers, her arm. She knows from her sources, usually reliable, that Hoch was seen in Istanbul less than ten days ago. CSIS has agents searching for him.
In her training room over the garage, she studies her unclothed body in the mirrors on the gable end that has no windows. One of the dormer windows to her left admits the first stream of early morning light to paint her upper body the color of butter. The window is open and summer scents of pine sap and saltwater drift in. Bright blue workout pants, a white spandex top and red cotton panties are scattered around her feet like lost thoughts. After an intense workout, every square inch of the smooth skin that covers her big boned frame is taut, and beaded with perspiration. Her limbs are rippled with girlish muscle, flexible as a whip. All seventy inches of her physique is sensuously proportioned.
The only blemish is the missing arm. Turning to her right side, the faint scars around the flap of skin used to cover the amputation site causes her to yearn for her other hand. Not wanting to think of the ordeal that brought her here, she shakes her head, staring defiantly into her image’s bold eyes. The blue is the color of cold morning seas. Short curls, brown and loose, collapse on her wide forehead. Her square face is Slavic, making her an ideal agent for most of Europe. Again her thoughts turn to her former trade, the lure of intrigue.
Rosa kicks the panties away with her foot and strides toward the bathroom at the other end of the exercise room, bypassing the weight machine, the treadmill, a stair climber that is on the rim of “worn out.” An antique teacher’s desk sits against the guard rail for the stairway that separates the large room. Bella’s laptop is in the center, open and always powered up. On the edge is one of her throwing knifes. A nine-inch, double-edged sticker made of 440 Stainless Steel. Bella likes it because it’s easier to sharpen than the high carbon steel and it doesn’t rust.
She picks it up, caressing the sleek handle. Her index, middle and ring fingers grip the handle opposite the thumb. Arching her arm, she stares at the outline of a used dartboard on the far wall twenty feet away and throws. The knife spins perfectly vertical, striking the pockmarked board an eyelash away from the center dot. She doesn’t check where it struck, its close enough. She’s thrown the knife a thousand times since she lost her other arm. She was right-handed. Turns out she’s even better with her left.
The shower is hot, steam filling the small bathroom. The shower stall is brightly tiled in whites and blues, the glass door runs with beads of soap when she rinses the shampoo from her short hair. She lets her mind go blank while the water cascades over her. Her arm outstretched, hand against the tile, head directly under the stream. She’s feeling sorry for herself. She’s tried to make a life here, she wants for nothing financially. Her neighbors are kind and honest. She rarely locks her door. The waters where she lives are much like her temperament, at times calm and lazy as if on canvas and other times reckless and driven with passion. The owner of the gas bar in the village center has expressed an interest. She likes his smile and silly jokes. Raising her face to the streaming water she can’t understand why she isn’t happy here.
She reaches down to close the taps. The shower head sputters and drips. Shaking her curls, she grabs a thick black and white striped towel from the bar and begins drying herself off. While frisking her hair with the towel she vows not to give up. Not to give in to the sense of being unfit. She’ll prove to her superiors that she deserves to work again. Later that morning, after she plants the root cuttings she has been cultivating, she will practice with her gun again.
Slipping into a short purple robe decorated with silver dragons, she hastens downstairs to the mud room connecting the house and the garage. The walls are mostly glass and the warm sun glows, turning the water to the north a shimmering orange. Pausing only for a moment to admire her property, she thinks how peaceful it is, how unlike her spirit. She trots off to get dressed before breakfast, thinking about the adjustment needed on the front sights on her Beretta Tomcat.
Nelson Cartwright’s stance is severe like a steel beam, rigid and unbent even though he is seventy-four. His six-foot frame is clad in cargo pants tucked into paratrooper boots. A crisp white T-shirt is covered by a dark gray fleece. His narrow waist and barrel chest are echoes of his military past. He is the Defense Minister of Canada. The whole of the Canadian Armed Forces is at his command, including CSIS and all its assets. Activating one of their deepest agents is the reason he is meeting his boss outside the office, very late at night. Off hours, one might say.
Chief Warrant Officer T. Beers Jr. owns the house he waits in, on the outskirts of Ottawa. The man is Cartwright’s nephew. The couple and their two children went for dinner and a movie, a night at the Sheraton on Parliament’s expense account. They left four hours ago, running late for a 6:30 dinner reservation. The politician stands to the side of the picture window, shaded by the long drapes. The roadway is slick from a brief spring rain. The sodium glow of the streetlights makes it shine like a skin. Cartwright’s bald head gleams in the low light as if just polished. Deep set eyes are impossible to read. A jutted chin proclaims pride of an untainted past. The man he works for demanded an emergency rendezvous at a secure location where there is no possible chance of anyone eavesdropping on them. The Prime Minister of Canada said he would meet him at 10:45.
Cartwright steps away from the window when an unfamiliar light-colored cargo van wheels into the driveway, rocking from haste. Spray from the wet street swirls about the tires like pinwheels. The skidding of the heavy vehicle when it comes to an abrupt stop can be heard from the open side door of the house, the exit, which faces the driveway. Cartwright hastens through the living room, glancing at his watch. 10:44. It has to be the PM; he is never late. Dropping to the next level with six steps, he moves in long hurried strides along the dim hallway that leads to the garage and egress. The van has stopped right at the short walkway outside the door. The side light has been left off so Cartwright doesn’t recognize the stooped over figure wearing torn jeans and a black hoodie that opens the screen door. For a moment he is unnerved. Dropping his hands to his side, he steps back, his defenses instinctive.
The person stands erect and slips off the hood. Robert Mahovlich is a good head taller than Cartwright, slighter. His normally slicked down hair is disheveled from the head covering, the eyes are red veined, the skin frightfully pale. Cartwright takes the PM by the forearm, moving him inside to shut the door. The Prime Minister says, “The doctors committed my son today, Nelson. They took my boy away.”
“I’m sorry, Bob. Really, I am. I know how much you love him. You’ve done all you can.”
Mahovlich appears utterly defeated, chin sagging, lips slack. There is no gleam in his eyes, only sorrow. A spark ignites within his deepest psyche, instilling him with a need for completion. He raises a fist to his advisor, grits his teeth before he says, “I haven’t done everything. We can destroy the man responsible for this.”
“Follow me. We can talk safely here.”
Straightening his shoulders, the PM follows Cartwright into what looks like an open rec room. Toys, a large TV, pool table, stuffed couches, and brightly colored bean bags fill the room. The wall on the right has a simple bar area. Pointing to one of the chrome barstools for Mahovlich, Cartwright walks behind the pine counter to where a bottle of Glenfiddich sixteen-year-old scotch rests beside two glasses. He pours a measure for each of them.
“How did you get here?”
“Hunter is driving.”
The hand that Carter is not pouring golden booze with is raised.
“I don’t want to know anymore. Not when it comes to Hunter.”
He slides the thick-bottomed glass holding two inches of perfection toward the PM.
“I think I know why we’re here, Bob, but let’s cut to the chase. What’s going on?”
Mahovlich maintains a bit more grit in his demeanor. The politician is replaced by a father, a parent with a vast array of assets at his disposal. Swishing the liquid, he gulps down a good swallow. The bite makes him draw in his breath.
Looking directly at Cartwright, obvious distaste in his voice.
“What’s the latest on Hoch?”
“We knew where he was up until last Saturday, three days ago. We had our sights on him when he returned from Turkey but lost him…”
The men argue, scheme and banter for over an hour, until the bottle is half gone. With a thump of his fist on the bar, the PM says with finality, “I want that bastard behind bars or…or…”
Cartwright knows when to back down. He nods at the PM.
Mahovlich reaches for his hood, satisfied that more aggressive action against Hoch will begin. He eyes the Defense Minister.
“You have absolute authority to do as you see fit to make this happen.”
“And the responsibility if this goes sour.”
The silence is answer enough. Cartwright watches the man make to leave. The van waiting outside. Only one last thing to authorize.
“You want Hunter on this?”
“Vartanian? One-armed Vartanian?”
The Prime Minister meets Cartwrights questioning look with a stern nod.
“Definitely. Do you know where she is and what name she’s going by now?”
“Uh-huh. She bought a place in New Brunswick and she goes by Bella Maggs. Why her?’
The PM pulls up his hood and stares Cartwright in the eyes.
“She wants the bastard as badly as I do.”
Thanks for visiting the Scribbler today. I hope you enjoyed the short story. I'd like to know you're thoughts about turning this into a novel.
Thanks for visiting the Scribbler today. I hope you enjoyed the short story. I'd like to know you're thoughts about turning this into a novel.