Final Paperwork

Aphra saw the knife–a raptor claw of some gray matte space-aged metal–come through between the warped door and the frame, then flick upwards to toss the latch, but there wasn’t much she could do about. Caught flat-footed, about the only way you get caught when you’re sitting on a toilet and the stall door blows open on you. And who else but Townsend Hardley, once again barging in on her private participles?

Her eyebrow arched delicately as she regarded him over the fist he stuck in her face. The fist that came wrapped around another dull-metal object that reminded her of one of those rubber hand-exercisers with finger grooves, but had this thing like a cigarette filter sticking out between two fingers and pointing right between her eyes.

Never saw one of those little tricks before, but got no doubt it would blow somebody’s head off or poison their whole family or whatever shit it was supposed to do. So she said, “Could you be a little dear and grab me some toilet paper from the next stall?”

Townsend didn’t smile or blink, just kept the drop on her, held his hand out, and snapped his fingers. She’d thought she was home free, somehow getting off the airport jitney and slipping down here to the bus station in Belize 2-D scrambling, unaware of hawkeyes from Up. So here he was with compulsion in his fist, and there she was with her slinky little undies around her ankles and a roll of TP short. He didn’t want to speak to her and didn’t feel like he really had to.

“Can see you’re no gentleman, Townsend,” she said archly. “You didn’t hurt Copper on your way in here, did you?”

“No need. I know you have it on you. Give.”

With a world-weary sigh, she reached up to where she’d hung her traveling purse to keep it off the decidedly unsanitary floor. Slowly, carefully bringing it down to where she could reach inside.

And he quickly, carefully taking it from her. Took the straps in his teeth and plunged around inside it.

“You find that poisoned wolftrap I left in there?” she asked innocently. “Started feeling sleepy from the stuff I put on the strap?”

He came out with the camera, quickly flipped the little door open and felt for the memory card without taking his eyes off hers. Then boom, he was gone.

She sat motionless without a sound, waiting to hear the restroom door close before she moved. Then the stall door popped open again and he tossed her a roll of the local toilet sandpaper and hit her with a rodeo smile. “No hard feelings.”

Outside the nasty ladies’ room, he moved through the big, echoing, grimy terminal, heading for the chartered car waiting in one of the bays. He saw Copper buying bottles of water for their trip to the border and held the bag up for her to see, then dumped it on a bench and got in the car.

As he pulled away from the apron, Copper moved over to pick up the purse, looking nervously at the restroom door. But Aphra walked out, cool and collected, to reach for the purse, sling it over her bare shoulder, and give her a grin. “Whiteboy just don’t get up early enough in the morning to nab lil orphan Aphra,” she said and Copper laughed her fool ass off.

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