Yasmin gasped at the sight of a familiar man slouched in the one chair in her hotel room. She leaned against the door behind her, breathing heavily and wishing for a knife she didn’t have. Following recent events, she was lucky to have the clothes on her back.
His black gabardine coat lay across a nearby table, and he still wore the same black tee-shirt and blue jeans of their earlier meeting. Only the stubble on his jaw suggested that any time had passed.
Lacking any other direction, she chose the obvious. “If you were going to kill me, I’d be dead. So why are you here?”
His tone matched his deadpan expression. “You thought we’d met before.”
“I was wrong.”
“Why did you think that - that we had met?” Yasmin heard tension in his voice, and wondered if her life was still on the line, despite implications otherwise. Gut instinct and common sense briefly warred within her mind.
She decided to go with gut instinct. “There’s a certain… uncertainty about my past.” Which is true enough. “It causes confusion from time to time.”
“You’re very good.” He said, abruptly.
“Not good enough.” She grumbled, remembering her bruises and thanking fate that he hadn’t broken her arm – or her neck. It had been a near thing.
“Good enough. If you weren’t, I would have found you earlier.”
“How long were you looking?” He didn’t reply. She shrugged off his silence. Trade secret, I guess.
He shifted in the chair, his poker face giving way to a hint of discomfort. “Your… uncertainty. For how long?”
Yasmin knew better than to give the honest answer of almost a century. “A few years.” She suspected that he believed they had some commonality – or he wanted to believe that they did. Looking closer look at his body language, she noticed how he held his neck and shoulders and made a wild guess. “And I get awful headaches.”
That got a reaction, in so far as he would allow it – a widening of the eyes and a minute relaxation in the chair.
“When did you meet him?”
“About two years ago. In Los Angeles.”
“He was a chauffeur?”
“Sort of. He probably saved my life.” She admitted.
“And you fucked him?”
Yasmin blushed at the memory of a blurted comment. “Damn. You heard. I didn’t. It was wishful thinking on my part.”
Silence fell for a few moments and Yasmin held her tongue. Having recently been in a fragile mental state, herself, she didn’t want to disturb her companion unnecessarily.
“It wasn’t me.” She wondered if his insistence was for her benefit or his.
“It wasn’t.” she agreed. “You look a lot like him but you’re not him.” His features bore a strong resemblance to the man she’d met two years ago, but the body language, the tiny but vital cues were completely different.
“Alright. Fine.” Another hint of striving for self-reassurance, she thought. Then: “Do you know of the Treadstone Corporation?”
Yasmin blinked hard, dealing with simultaneous surges of déjà vu and newfound panic. Without understanding what prompted the answer, she said. “Yeah, but… I washed out.” Instinct often thinks ahead of conscience reason – roll with it.
It wasn’t quite a transformation, but he sat back in his chair and finally took his eyes off her. A concession had been made. Yasmin used the break to rapidly deal with shreds and shards of resurgent memory – a file read, a conversation had, rumors overheard – and put in on her mental list of things to discuss with Paul if she ever saw him again. It annoyed her that she couldn’t quite pinpoint the source of the memories.
“Those bloody headaches.” He sighed.
“You’ve been waiting here for how long, just to talk about that?”
“Not long. Simon let me know when you were on the way back.” Yasmin winced. Of course I’m still under surveillance. “The locks here are a joke.”
“This isn’t a safe house.” she shrugged. “Did you look around while you were waiting?”
“So I am.” The too bad, went unsaid.
“Alright.” There was no point in starting a fight she couldn’t win. “Then you must know that there’s a bottle of whisky over there.” She indicated a small cabinet by the bed.
“I do. You want a drink?”
“After the day I’ve had? Yes.” Bullying the head of British Intelligence and the Prime Minister in the same day had worn on Yasmin’s nerves. This current encounter didn’t help.
The stranger went to the cabinet, pulled out a bottle of Glenfiddich and poured drinks into two paper cups taken from a stack kept beside the bottle.
Yasmin was surprised. “You’re staying?”
“I think so, yes.”
She scowled. “Why? Is someone coming?” She couldn’t imagine any other reason as to why he’d want to remain. He had said that he didn’t want to kill her – that didn’t mean there wasn’t someone else on the way with that in mind.
“I doubt it. Simon said he’s finished with you.”
“That’s probably the literal truth.” She muttered unhappily.
“I don’t want to know.” He warned her. “But I’ve not met another Treadstone before, not even a washout.”
Another guess, scraped together from unspoken cues and partial remembrances. “Well, we’re not team players, are we?”
A hint of a smile, much to Yasmin’s surprise. “That’s true.”
Yasmin was on thin ice, and she knew it. She believed that she could probably navigate her way through the upcoming conversation, but should her companion contact this Treadstone group with her name… Yet another in an abundance of reasons to leave London – if not the United Kingdom - as soon as possible. In the back of her mind, Yasmin wondered where she was going to go next.