It all started many years ago. I never really understood why it happened, well, in a way, I really do remember why things went from bad, to good, then all shit broke lose.
Molly, my wife of two years, started to complain about my always being gone. Hell, what did she expect, that I was going to clock in from 8 AM to 5 PM, no way Jose!.
I enjoyed my work, my boss was an asshole, but the guy way above me figured that he owed me for saving his life. Every once in a while I would get a call from Jack, asking me to do something SPECIAL, and not tell anyone. The asshole decided he was not in the loop and began a campaign to make me some kind of an idiot by not filling him in on the details of where I was going, what I was going to do and why. Like I said, he was a real asshole.
Molly did not help maters. One day when I returned from XXXXX, she handed me the divorce papers and told me that she could live better without me. It could have been worse. She was not 'cheating', nor did she refuse to face me when it was over. I wanted to deny that there was any problem, at first. Then, once things calmed down, I could see her point. I was not much of a husband. Don't get me wrong, this was not some 'guilt trip' she was laying on me, it was the truth.
We agreed to a settlement, she got the house, I got enough money to start a new life, and we parted. We were not 'friends', but there was no animosity in the parting.
The job was all I really had. I took a vacation, which really pissed my immediate boss off, so who cares? I flew down to Plano, Texas to speak to the head honcho. I felt that I owed him something, he always made me feel he would be in my corner if I needed help. Boy, was this ever the time I needed some help.
I was able to schedule some time on the early evening the day after I arrived. I called my friend/partner/competitor, Larry and told him I was booked into a room at the Marriott in Plano. Would he like to join me for dinner. No, he had a few problems of his own. His partner's brand new Learjet just blew up, killing the Senator and leaving a mess of Washington politics. What made it worse was he sat on the Staff of the Joint Chiefs and Larry was part of the NSC with him. Someone was playing hardball.
Oh, right, I should mention what I did. Well, I can't say. If I told you, I'd have to kill you. Let's just say, the President of the USA was a Level 17, Top Secret Crypto, my 'minders' were 'Ultra, Luna, Cosmic and Majestic', while I like to say I made it to 'Triad'. Enough about what Security Levels were, if you had to ask any question, there were too few people high enough to 'de-brief', let alone ask questions.
Our life together was a bit worse than what Molly had described. I often wondered how she and I ever got together. It had to be because she thought when we got married, she could change me. It was not in my nature to 'take orders'. This was probably why my boss got feed-up with me. I never cared about anyone or anything. It was not a decision, it was just the way it was.
Back to Plano. I did finally see the 'head honcho'. I told him that I was leaving and would be doing some 'contract' work to keep up the 'Endorsements'. I always liked him. He tried to get me to say why I wanted to leave, but the only reason I gave him was my split with Molly and a need to start over. I wanted to try more in Asia, The Middle East and China. I had visions of leading 'the good-life;, you know 'wine, women and song'. Well 'Dream On'. No such thing when you start over.
About the only thing I was able to arrange for was finding a 'super' home. I was near a small village in Spain, but walking distance to the beach. It was once owned by a 'baddee', the one nice thing was that no one wanted it and I paid cash for the lease. The five bedroom, 3 bath home was a steal. It had an indoor pool, sauna, hot tub and outdoor pool. It was cared for by a lady in the Village, and I kept her on. I told her that I was a 'consultant' and travelled often.
Marie looked at me a bit strangely but it turned out to be a good arrangement for both of us. She got between 100 L(Pounds, not Lire) and 400 L a month depending how often she would come in.
It was not too long after she came in, waking me up after a long flight, that we made a deal. 200 L per month and she could live in the house. To her, it was like an offer too good to pass-up. For me, it was great, when I was home, or gone, someone would be there. Board was something she never figured on. She had a large monthly 'stipend' for food, wine and personal items for herself. If I was gone she could have gone wild on that. She never did though.
Spain was a country with rules on top of rules. Money and time seemed to 'fix' many issues. I had a renewable, 99 year lease and soon, the local police were stopping by and keeping an eye out on the place. I think Marie had something to do with that, since I never seemed to have a problem there.
Getting to the airport was a bitch. The few times when 'my client' was well connected a helicopter landed near the house and away we went. If I had to drive it was 45 km, I bought her a nice used car(Mercedes 300-S) and had Marie or a 'livery' service pick me up, since I never knew how long I would be gone. Most trips were a few weeks, but once the 'job' lasted several months.
We had a couple of problems though. At first, several 'toughs' started hanging near the house. A few things went missing. The locals would come when Marie called them, but by then they were gone. It would be a problem for several months. then it finally came to a head.
I liked where I was now. It was sunny, warm, usually and fairly good transportation. What I did find out was that I was not happy. Marie felt like my live-in housekeeper. That was what she was. I could not tell her much about myself, but it was obvious I understood Spanish for that is what she usually spoke, and I understood her.
There was only one weapon in the house for each of us. Marie's was a double barrel 16 gauge shotgun. mine was a .22 long cal Colt Woodsman with a silencer attached. In the clips were a mix of hollow point, armour piercing and dum-dum rounds. They were meant for soft targets and at less than 25 feet were deadly. The pistol was made of graphite as were the bullets so metal detectors were not set off. When possible, I carried a diplomatic, Interpol and Vatican Security passport, but did not use them unless I had to. They all said I was James Beamer, a joke Molly coined when I wanted to buy a 7 Series BMW. I really felt a loss when she left me.
For some reason, work started to 'dry up". Maybe being so far away from Washington had something to do with it. I got several 'referrals' from private concerns but debated whether to take them or not. I had a decent amount of money saved, even with the divorce, but things had 'Gone South' on me. Little did I realize that in Washington, 'out of sight, meant out of mind'.
Marie was very kind to me when I started staying home for weeks at a time. She finally asked me what was wrong. I had a few tears in my eyes and told her, told her ... Hell, what could I tell her, that I felt like a failure. She asked me to go with her to see an old lady in the village. She had been known to help people. I put her off for a few weeks until I finally agreed to go with her.
We entered the lady's humbly home, more like a hut, where I noticed moldy bread and cheese sitting on a plate by the window. Seated on the floor, within the markings of a Pentagram sat, what could only be described as a haggard witch. She bade me to sit down with her hand and asked me a question. "What is it that you want more than anything, and what will you 'Trade' for it."
In itself it was a deep question, then I realized nothing had been spoken, I was hearing what she said in my mind. I was stunned. What she thought next really shook me up. She thought to me...