The sun-baked day did not auger well for the energy pent up inside her. Tara needed to cool down; back from the mission just the day before, she was not up for action yet. But she was summoned and it signalled something else.
It was a cat-and-mouse game all her life, abandoned and brought up at the mercy of state; she owed her existence to them!
Warily, she walked up to the Deputy Director of Operations, wishing he would send her to Tahiti – to some hidden beach – far from this maddening crowd.
“Team Zulu aced it in Zurich. You were fab.” He got to the point – straight. No minced words.
“Aye, Sir. It was planned perfectly. We eliminated the rogue agent. He had doubled us.”
“Good. There’s more action waiting for you in Morocco. You have to eliminate the head of the opposition,” said Dereck without blinking.
“Sir, we need recuperation. It was tough.”
“Sorry, Tara. The agency needs you. Can’t help it.”
Tara fumed inside, wanting to snap the shackles and break free. Three years and fifty missions plus, she had got tired of this life.
“You think we are some exterminator-machine. This is not done,” she looked ferociously in his eyes and said.
Her boss didn’t care. He was a battle-hardened son-of-a-bitch.
“I am not asking you, Tara,” he added coolly, “It’s an order.”
“I am not doing it, boss. You and your agency, XXXX off,” showing her finger she left, slamming the door behind her.
Tara pulled out her ID and casually scanned it in front of the machine. It beeped red – unauthorized access! She wiped it and tried again with the same result. She activated the iris scan mode and tried to access the exclusive elevator to the agency. It still beeped red.
She had to get to the agency. There was no other route. She wondered what to do?
She called up Arthur, her teammate on her encrypted phone. It rang. But no response. He would not answer if it was an unknown number: Rule of the Agency. But Arthur always answered before the third ring – always.
Heck, what’s the matter? She thought. She was at a loss for an explanation. She called Nalini. She didn’t respond either. Then she called every agency number and none answered.
Dejectedly she walked to the nearest coffee house, mulling what to do next. She settled down on the corner table and took out her laptop. She logged onto the wi-fi network and keyed in the agency portal. Some parts were accessible on the net, rest only on secured stations. She keyed in her ID and password and nervously waited for the response. She was alarmed. She was denied access – No such ID exists. She freaked out. They had locked her out!
She rushed to her apartment. There has to be some mistake. She slid into her workstation used for all her clandestine snooping; today she just needed to enter her account. She tried everything. She just couldn’t. Even the command line and back-doors failed her. For the first time, she realised it – it was done on purpose! Dereck – such a jerk – it has to be him.
Dejectedly, she gave up. Decided to just use Facebook for communication now. She would deal with him later. She tried logging in. Oh my God! She was aghast. No such ID. Want to create new account? She was miffed. She tried Google. Blocked. Oh shit. She thought. She could not access anything.
She tried accessing every single account she used. It was all under a lockdown. She was now trembling. How did he do it? This is crazy! She sank on her beanbag. She made some coffee and lit up. She thought hard. The hunger pangs made her realise that it was afternoon.
She walked down the alley towards her usual diner. Ordered some fries and cutlets and a beer she needed so much. The gravity of her situation had struck her. It was a threat, an in-her-face punch. They had asked her to fall in line. Would she?
She handed over the card to clear her bill. The lady at the counter swiped her card. Transaction denied. She tried again. No luck. Tara handed her the second card. Denied. She panicked now. What was happening? Fortunately, being a regular, she assured to pay in cash later and retreated.
Tara rushed to her bank. She checked the ATM. It failed. She went to the manager.
“No account exists by such name and number,” the manager said.
“Are you freaking nuts? I’ve over a thousand grand in my account,” she yelled at him.
“I am sorry Madam. I can’t help you.”
“How’s this possible? Please help me.”
“You can lodge a complaint with the police. They will investigate.”
Tara was now almost in tears. She knew even that would not help. She realized what had happened.
The agency – or Dereck in particular– had made her vanish in thin air – made her totally invisible. Wiped out every single trace of her!
* * *
Her phone rang at ten startling her. She was tired and wary after the shitty day.
“Hello. . .” she said sleepily.
“Hello Dear. Hope you know who you are. I am Dereck Mathews. Deputy Director Operations,” he said mischievously.
“You scoundrel. How can you do this to me?”
“I can do anything darling. I can make you vanish – just-like-that. The agency owns you. It made you. It can destroy you. Now listen carefully. . . you have twenty-four hours.” He briefed her and then hung up.
Tara assembled her team at the airport. Googled and smartly dressed, she passed the immigration using the Blue channel. They boarded the flight to Morocco.
For now, she needed to sort this out.
She saved Dereck for later.
Three days later, Tara’s assistant spoke from Morocco, “Sir, mission accomplished. But. . . Tara madam has vanished. . .”
Dereck knew – ‘Tara had cut loose’. And he was not safe – anywhere!!
Photo By: Molly Belle